With the media coverage and insanity surrounding it, it is hard to believe that Nintendo’s amiibo line only debuted in North America less than six months ago. I never had an interest in other Near Field Communication (NFC) toys such as Skylanders and Disney Infinity, though the idea of having a physical toy of my favorite Nintendo characters sounded much better than… well, whatever this thing is.
I have never preordered anything prior to the first wave of amiibo. I had a strange experience when my brother got me a preorder for Golden Sun: Dark Dawn for Nintendo DS (that’s a story in and of itself), so I was reluctant at first, but knowing the excitement surrounding it, a preorder was the way to go. I went to my local GameStop and set up arrangements for the dozen amiibo four at a time until all of them were on their way!
The toys were announced for a November 2014 release, shortly before Thanksgiving. I went into GameStop with my receipts, expecting a large line. Instead, it was mostly empty. I presented my receipt to the cashier, and they loaded a huge bag of eleven amiibo. Wii Fit Trainer was missing from my entourage, and since she was not in stock at that particular store, the employees told me they would order her in from another store. I got her the following week!
I didn’t quite understand how I could have a preorder at a store and they could be out of stock when going for a launch day pick-up. Regardless, they got everything for me, so I was happy. I decided to continue my collection with the second wave, preordering all of them from the same GameStop.
The first wave had all the basics with several popular characters. It was odd to include the likes of Villager and Wii Fit Trainer in the pilot. Apparently, others felt the same way! To this day, getting Marth, Villager, or Wii Fit Trainer will cost a bundle on the second hand market. I have never seen them on store shelves.
The second wave had a fair amount of second bananas, such as Luigi and Diddy Kong. When they arrived, I got Diddy Kong (boo), Zelda (alright!), and Little Mac (awesome!!). Why no Weege? I can’t go to a store without seeing the Green Blunder, but at launch, he was unavailable! A few weeks later, I got a text from GameStop saying Luigi and Pit were in stock. I like Pit, so I was happy about that. About a week after that, Captain Falcon arrived. Honestly, I was looking forward to Cappy the most since I could make a Captain Falcon Mii in Mario Kart 8, complete with the Blue Falcon!!
Okay, first wave went pretty smooth. The second wave was a little staggered, but overall fine. Wave three is where things got funky.
The third wave had the clever idea of store exclusives. Shulk was available through GameStop, so he was easy to get (just preordered with the rest of them). I managed to nab Meta Knight on Best Buy’s website (making this the only time to date that I successfully preordered any amiibo online). The two that gave me the most grief were Lucario and Rosalina & Luma, available at Toys R Us and Target, respectively.
The local Toys R Us closed within the month prior to preorders opening, so that meant driving a good forty or fifty minutes to the next closest. No thank you. There is a Target around where I live, but they did not offer in-store preorders. So I waited for the day when the preorders hit the online store. I was completely confused when I woke up that morning and tried adding it to my cart. It constantly gave an error message and refused to move it to the checkout! Apparently, they sold out in a matter of minutes. Great, so now I wasn’t guaranteed Rosalina & Luma, and Lucario was selling for… wait, how much?!?
I did discover a way around this little obstacle: Amazon. It’s true, amazon.com did not have the amiibo in stock, but amazon.fr, its French equivalent, had both Lucario and Rosalina & Luma for preorder! The cool thing is amiibo are not region specific, so the only difference is the packaging. Using my mad high school French skills (they aren’t mad enough to be spelled with a ‘z’), I was able to navigate the site and net both exclusives!
When the third wave came in, I got Bowser. Just Bowser. I like Bowser, but this was still genuinely disappointing, especially when my main fighter is Toon Link. Well, that is until the guy at GameStop asked me if I went to Target yet. They got a shipment of Rosalina & Luma for those that did not preorder! I quickly went over and snagged one for myself (for those keeping score at home, I got both the European and North American versions). The rest trickled in slowly (still waiting on Ike…)
The Super Mario wave consisted of rehashes of the Super Smash Bros. run, though Toad was new to the mix. That being the case, it was obvious who would be the hot ticket!
That’s right, Gold Mario!!
Toad preorders sold out quickly since he was new to this wave, but he is easy to find at the one Toys R Us.
Since we couldn’t get enough of store exclusives, Walmart was designated as the sole provider of Gold Mario, who was only announced a few days before the release date. Does he do anything different? No, but he’s a different color! Again, quickly sold out online. I searched at least five different Walmart stores, all with the same negative results. It was the first time that I had to order an amiibo on the second hand market. I felt… dirty…
The rest of the Super Mario collection came in without a hitch. Interestingly, Toad was the only one that had to be ordered online through GameStop’s website (which I did in-store), and he was mailed directly to my place. Neat!
The fourth wave is the most recent and due for release next month or so. The release date is really ambiguous. In fact, a lot of information on this wave was only announced on April 1st, which is really, really, really poor planning. Preorders were said to go live the following day, so I expected to go into GameStop like a chump and get turned away. Instead, I was greeted with a much frazzled but nice employee. The computers were running slow all day due to the online preorders, meaning every transaction took several minutes and became a tedious process. I always have a good experience at my GameStop, and the fact that they were still helpful and pleasant that day was a testament to their customer service!
Unfortunately, only Ness, Pac-Man, and the Splatoon trio were available…
Buh… but I wanted Wario…
Additionally, there were three store exclusives: Ness (GameStop), Greninja (Toys R Us), and Jigglypuff (Target). Of the three, I’m most happy I got Ness. Why would Greninja and Jigglypuff be exclusives? Jigglypuff has never been a very popular character (pretty sure she was meant as a joke character like Pichu in Melee), and Greninja is… ugh. I checked amazon.fr, and neither was available. I even checked using their French Pokémon names found on Bulbapedia, but still couldn’t find a listing. Just a note, ‘Amphinobi’ is a WAY cooler name than ‘Greninja’!!
As far as Lucina, Robin, Charizard, and Wario, I had one more trick up my sleeve. I tried the Japanese Amazon site, amazon.co.jp. I was able to translate enough to get through, but a few curiosities happened. For starters, unlike amazon.fr, the Japanese site was not able to use my American login. I had to create a new login. I snatched each of them that I needed and went to check out. Here was the second issue: none of the sellers would ship to my address in Pennsylvania.
If you want to order through amazon.co.jp (who has not only preorders for the current wave, but some others from previous waves in stock at more reasonable prices), there is another option. I went through Tenso, a website that will give you a Japanese address which is really a mailbox in their warehouse. Once the goods arrive, you pay them the additional shipping fees, and they ship it to your local address! There is no initial or monthly charge, so that works great for me! Once Japan gets their late April release, I’ll be able to train up the fat man!
All in all, are amiibo worth it? I can easily beat the highest difficulty on Super Smash Bros. for WiiU and 3DS, and amiibo fighters are much stronger than that. In fact, my victory against a Level 50 amiibo has about 50/50 odds. They have the ability to learn and tailor their fighting style to match and defeat your own, so it is great for training and challenges. In other games, they mostly unlock costumes. Quite a few, like one of my favorites, Mega Man, are awesome and easy to find in stores. I would suggest finding your favorite character and training them up. Going for a collection if you didn’t start at day one is going to be a monumental (and financially draining) task, though I have heard from Nintendo Direct that Marth will have a rerelease, so there may be hope in the future.
In other words, exercise patience for the more expensive amiibo. Aside from Gold Mario, who was just a color variant, each of them will likely have another release (it has been less than six months, so it is difficult to say that any amiibo has been completely discontinued).
That being said, when Ganondorf and Dr. Mario come out, could you please make sure you leave at least these two for me? I’ll give you five… no, six internet points! Appreciate!!