Friday, May 28, 2021

Age of Calamity: Expansion Pass Bonus Released

Link in the new gear at the Breach of Demise

Today the Prototype Ancient Short Sword and the Prototype Ancient Soldier Gear became available in Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity. This was already part of last week's update, but you can now actually obtain the Expansion Pass, which then unlocks these items. We still don't know on what day the first DLC wave will release in June and what exactly it will contain, where this might get announced at E3. We'll see.

Returning to this game after more than three months feels kind of weird. Normally we get these DLCs when the games are still fresh, but here there has been a significant gap, where many people probably have moved on to other games.

I left off in a state where the only thing left to do was leveling characters and building weapons, where I'm not even sure what's what anymore. This will take a little bit of time to get back into it, especially with what weapon seals I was planning to use for everyone... But as long as there aren't any new challenges to overcome, I probably won't bother.

And the new items of course aren't a real incentive to return to the game yet. I was never a big fan of the Ancient Helmet, because it looks so dorky, especially with that long hair. The Prototype Ancient Cuirass looks cool, though.

The Prototype Ancient Short Sword seems very basic on first glance. It has a base attack value of 36, which is half of what other weapons might offer, and it comes with an Attack Speed++ seal on it, which is nothing out of the ordinary, unlike the Training Sword for example. However, from what I've seen, this weapon has its own tier, where it grows quickly to over 160 damage, which is quite significant and ridiculously good for something that you can get right at the start of the game. So, it's definitely a weapon you want to hold on to in any case...

Ideally, at the end of the DLC, they'll add something where you can get the Lucky Ladle, Training Sword and this Prototype Ancient Short Sword, so you can get these items again. But for now you just want to save them in case they remain a one-time deal, so press that L stick.

It also seems that the DLC will offer some stronger weapons for what's to come and with that it's also possible that the first DLC wave will include the other ancient weapons and armor pieces from Breath of the Wild, including the real Ancient Short Sword, where it will even surpass this one and make it obsolete. But for now this is a good weapon. Maybe even too good. It's basically how the Master Sword should have developed, which even had the same base attack value.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: Spirit Hunting

Now, the last two months I've been primarily playing Super Smash Bros. Ultimate with a focus on clearing all Challenges, finishing all Classic Mode routes (both solo and co-op) and collecting all Spirits, thus "completing" the game. The only other Super Smash Bros. game where I've already achieved this was the original Super Smash Bros. on the Wii Virtual Console, where I revisited the game three years ago, but this was relatively simple.

With Super Smash Bros. Brawl in 2008 and early 2009 I also came quite close, where was I really invested in all its single-player activities. I've collected all Stickers and even cleared all but three of the more difficult Challenges, which I could have gotten at any time with my five remaining hammers, since I have the European version, where this is possible. But I was also missing a variety of Trophies from the bosses in the Subspace Emissary, where getting them was quite tedious and I lost interest at some point...

I couldn't be bothered with Super Smash Bros. Melee, mostly because this game can be ridiculous and I can't get used to tap jumping. And Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS & Wii U simply didn't entice me as much to even try.

Now, when Super Smash Bros. Ultimate came out, I wasn't really sold on the whole Spirit concept, as well as on World of Light, mainly because all of this was putting quantity over quality. And that is still true, where this is effectively just a gigantic Event Mode with glorified Stickers as the collectible, where the respective characters and things get substituted with whatever the developers had available. So, I wasn't really interested in doing any of it at first, but I also didn't have my own Nintendo Switch until now...

What also has changed is the fact that Min Min is now part of the game. And she made playing Spirit Battles so much more enjoyable, because her Arms make dealing with all those shenanigans much easier, like fighting multiple enemies at once. With that she turned something that's potentially frustrating into a fun side activity.

At first you can't use DLC characters in World of Light and when I was stuck with a Mii Sword Fighter as my best option, things didn't really go well. But from the moment on that DLC characters became available, I've exclusively used Min Min for the rest of World of Light and went through the New Game+ with her on the hardest difficulty.

Min Min in front of the Master Sword in the Sacred Realm

Since the Spirit Battles are rather bite-sized and beaten fairly quickly, playing through World of Light can actually get quite addicting and you often have this feeling of "one more", until you reach a point where it gets exhausting. Since there are so many Spirits, this can go on quite a while, but the map is sectioned quite nicely for a series of play sessions.

The Sacred Realm Map, looking like a Triforce

And here the highlight for every Zelda fan is with all certainty the Sacred Realm, where this part of the map looks really cool and even has some small puzzles to it. It's the same with Dracula's Castle, where this has been excellent as well, arguably even better than the Sacred Realm, because it provides a much more clever, map-wide puzzle with the cannonballs. They really went all in with the Castlevania stuff.

By now I've collected 1471 Spirits, where only two of them are missing, but those are the two Spirits that need save data from other games to be unlocked (Arthur from Ghosts 'n Goblins Resurrection and Sophia from Persona 5 Strikers), where I will have to wait until they become part of the normal rotation. And of course the game isn't done yet, where it will get two more DLC Spirit Boards and probably a couple of events with new Spirits.

Since certain Spirits can be enhanced or need to be dismissed to summon others, you will also have to collect some of them twice or even thrice to really have a full collection with all Spirits owned. That was also the main reason for me to go through World of Light a second time, since certain Spirits can only be gotten there and doing the Spirit Battles is a lot more fun there than on the Spirit Board with its annoying shield mini-game.

Clearing Classic Mode with every character was also as interesting as it was tedious. That every character gets a dedicated route is really great and an incentive to try them all at least once, but the repeated bonus game and the Master & Crazy Hand boss, which appears in a majority of the routes, can make things rather repetitive. So, like World of Light this was something where I could only stand to play it for so long and I had to split things up a lot.

The challenges were surprisingly easy this time around. I'm not fully done yet, where I'm still missing two challenges on the "Online" board, but these are just a matter of time. One requires me to play 200 Quick Play battles in total, where I'm on my way, and the other to use 30 different fighters during that, where I need like five more...

The latter is somewhat annoying, because my default Global Smash Power (GPS) is rather high thanks to playing Classic Mode so much. And in my area Quick Play already feels like Elite Smash, where everyone is playing "For Glory" style and super competitively at their best level, which is great, but it also means that I will get completely obliterated with every character I'm not really experienced with...

Otherwise the challenges require you some tricky tasks here and there, but nothing extremely difficult or tedious, like "Clear Century Smash with all characters". So, they were overall fun to do. I even have all nine hammers left, but there won't be any need of using them.

Milestones are a different beast, however, where I will probably try to clear what seems feasible at some point, without worrying about it too much. It does cover some stuff that got added via updates and therefore doesn't appear on the challenge boards, like the Home-Run Contest, so it still might be interesting to look into some of it. Other things might not be realistic, like the 50,000 games or winning an Online Tourney, but I will participate in the current one about the 35th Anniversaries, where this must be the first time that Nintendo ever acknowledged one of the Metroid anniversaries...

Update: I've won an Online Tourney right away. I thought these were with 64 players, where this would have been tough, but it seems to settle for eight quite often, where you only have to win to battles in a row. So, with a little luck it's doable and now I'm actually quite motivated to do more of the milestones.

But overall this has kept my me busy for quite some time, where my time in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is already rivaling that of Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity and will eventually surpass it. And even once I'm done with everything, I will probably keep playing to practice or just for the fun of it.

Monday, May 24, 2021

History of amiibo Support

all Super Smash Bros. Zelda amiibo

After looking at the History of Hero Mode, let's study another recurring feature of modern Zelda titles: amiibo. These NFC-powered figurines are for the most part a collectible, but also can be scanned to obtain goodies or access certain features.

amiibo have their origin in 2014 with the release of Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, where they are used for so called "Figure Players", which can be trained and go way beyond the difficulty of a Level 9 CPU fighter. But it didn't take long for other Nintendo games to support these toys and even come up with their own amiibo lines, which is also true for the Zelda series.

The whole topic has always been one of controversy. The amiibo figurines aren't always easy to come by, where they are often sold out very quickly, and some people might just simply not want to collect them for different reasons. At the same time Nintendo wants to offer an incentive to use the figurines you have, which can lead to problems, where either using the amiibo isn't really worthwhile, because they don't offer enough, or they are locking valuable content that should have been available to all players.

So, let's take a look at how the Zelda series has utilized the amiibo figurines and find out what solutions work the best and what should be avoided.

amiibo in Hyrule Warriors

The first Zelda-related title to support amiibo was actually Hyrule Warriors on the Wii U, which came out the same year as Super Smash Bros. 4. It uses amiibo in a very simple way, where you can scan up to five of them on the title screen per day to receive random materials and weapons. If you scan an amiibo related to a character playable in the game, you may also get weapons specifically for that character.

It's an easy way of obtaining some free stuff, but you can get this stuff by playing the game just fine, so the incentive to use the amiibo is probably rather low and you might just ignore this feature altogether. It's still a good way of collecting more weapons for a certain character, for example if you're looking for some special weapon skills.

This functionality has been carried over the whole series, where it's the same for Hyrule Warriors: Legends, Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition and even the new Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity. If it's not broken, then don't fix it.

Link using the Spinner against Stalchilds in Hyrule Warriors

However, the original Hyrule Warriors on the Wii U had an outlier, because here scanning an amiibo of Link was the only way to unlock the Spinner weapon type for him. This did receive quite some criticism, because it effectively locked an entire moveset behind a figurine, where in the later versions the Spinner got moved to the Adventure Mode.

Majora's Mask 3D and Tri Force Heroes

Much like with Hero Mode, the 2015 releases for the Zelda series on the Nintendo 3DS refused to follow any modern trends and didn't offer any amiibo support whatsoever. This is of note, because both games would have the perfect insertion point with their masks and outfits. There could have been a series of exclusive masks and costumes that can only be unlocked via the figurines, but GREZZO didn't implement anything like this.

That's not a complaint, quite the opposite, because it's nice to still have some Zelda games that don't require an extensive amiibo collection to unlock everything. For completionists, who want to collect all masks and outfits, it's much nicer if you can do it all on your own without the need of external items.

And that's not taken for granted, as proven by Metroid Prime: Federation Force later on. If you want to unlock all the "Paint Jobs" for the mech suits in this game, where some of them even offer unique abilities, you not only need all Metroid amiibo, but a whole bunch of Super Mario amiibo as well. And something like Super Mario outfits or masks could have easily been a thing for Tri Force Heroes and Majora's Mask.

amiibo in Twilight Princess HD

We have arrived in 2016 and Twilight Princess HD just found its way on the Wii U, where it got released and even bundled together with an amiibo of Wolf Link and Midna. This amiibo is quite special in many ways. It's the first amiibo that got made for the Zelda series and it also comes with some very unique functionalities. If there's one amiibo that you want to own as a Zelda fan, then it's this one.

Wolf Link and Midna amiibo

In Twilight Princess HD itself, this amiibo is the only way of accessing the "Cave of Shadows". This new dungeon is similar to the Cave of Ordeals from the same game, but it's a new series of challenge rooms, which can only be taken on as Wolf Link. At the end of certain checkpoints and the dungeon itself, it saves onto the amiibo how many hearts you still got left. This can be used to heal yourself in the dungeon, but you can also carry this data over to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Locking an entire dungeon behind an amiibo is rather questionable and it's by far the biggest content that you can out of these figurines in the Zelda series. It probably would have been a better idea to let all players access this dungeon and use the amiibo only for saving your record, should you want to use it in Breath of the Wild.

The Zelda characters from the Super Smash Bros. amiibo series also got supported by Twilight Princess HD, but most of them simply function as cheats. The Links let you refill your arrows, while Zelda and Sheik will fully heal you. Together with the Wolf Link amiibo, they are the only way of healing yourself in the Cave of Shadows (other than the rare hearts that you may be able to dig up).

The only other special functionality comes with the Ganondorf amiibo, which turns your hearts blue, now causing the double the damage and making the game harder. It's similar to the "Hero Mode", where you can even combine it with the game's actual Hero Mode for quadruple damage. It's an optional challenge that the player can activate at any time and which is nice to have.

Still, this is also true for the Hero Mode in The Wind Waker HD and this one didn't require you to own any additional figurine. It was simply an option on the game file and there is no good reason that Twilight Princess couldn't have done the same for its blue hearts, other than adding special support for this one amiibo.

The Legend of Zelda amiibo Series

For the 30th Anniversary of the franchises in 2016, Nintendo decided to release four more amiibo as part of the Zelda series, following Wolf Link from earlier that year. Three more then followed in summer 2017, where all of them are based on the major installments of the series.

Zelda amiibo series

From left to right, there's 8-Bit Link from The Legend of Zelda, adult Link from Ocarina of Time, young Link from Majora's Mask, Link and Zelda from The Wind Waker, Link from Twilight Princess and finally Link from Skyward Sword. That's a lot of Links, with Toon Zelda being the odd one out.

However, for the most part these amiibo will simply function as "Link", "Toon Link" and "Zelda" for the games that support the respective figurines from the Super Smash Bros. line. And the only game to truly use them all individually so far has been Breath of the Wild. Speaking of...

amiibo in Breath of the Wild

After the build-up from Twilight Princess HD and introducing the Zelda amiibo series, the new big The Legend of Zelda game really had to deliver when it comes to amiibo support. On top of it, Breath of the Wild even got its own amiibo series with five new amiibo available at launch in March 2017:

all Breath of the Wild amiibo figurines

Zelda, Archer Link, a Guardian, Rider Link and a Bokoblin got eternalized as figurines, where the highlight is by all means the Guardian with its bendable legs. Together with the Zelda characters from the Super Smash Bros. amiibo line, there were a total of 16 different figurines to support (Smash Link and Toon Link work the same as the Link from Twilight Princess and The Wind Waker respectively).

And Breath of the Wild employs a simple, but effective system for using all of your amiibo: with the amiibo Rune on the Sheikah Slate you can use each amiibo once per day to summon materials and a treasure chest. This is somewhat similar to Hyrule Warriors, but not limited to five amiibo, so you can scan your entire collection every day, which can be fun and become a small ritual. The materials and the content of the chest are based on the amiibo, where there is a series of unique items that can only be obtained with the respective figurines via their amiibo chests.

Well, out of the new Breath of the Wild amiibo, only Rider Link gives you the Traveler's Bridle and Saddle as unique items. But the Smash Bros. and Zelda amiibo all offer something that you cannot get otherwise, which includes Epona as a horse and a variety of weapons and armor pieces based on earlier Zelda titles, e.g. Link's shield and tunic from The Wind Waker or a Fierce Deity set.

Most of these are purely cosmetic, so their functionality is also covered by other armor pieces and weapons that you can find in Breath of the Wild. The biggest exception is probably the Twilight Bow, which you get from the Super Smash Bros. Zelda amiibo based on Twilight Princess. This one shoots a weak Light Arrow in a straight line, making target shooting games much easier.

So, overall these amiibo have a cheating nature to them, where they let you get powerful items quite early in the game. Together with the fact that these items are all from another era and shouldn't really be a thing in the game, it probably makes this more acceptable to have them as amiibo exclusives.

Later in 2017 Nintendo released four more amiibo for Breath of the Wild, the four Champions – Mipha, Urbosa, Daruk and Revali –, which were even sold in one package. They all offer "Divine Helms" based on their respective Divine Beasts, which can be used in combination with the Ancient Soldier Gear, where they offer some additional perks over the Ancient Helmet.

Now, the most interesting amiibo functionality in Breath of the Wild comes with Wolf Link, however, as already mentioned. You can use it to summon Wolf Link to your side, which perfectly captures the "toys-to-life" aspect of amiibo, without locking anything essential behind the feature. Well, ideally you would also be able to pet normal dogs in the game to make them follow and help you, where Wolf Link is just a special one, similar to horses and Epona. But it's not like you're missing anything crucial if you don't have this figurine.

Link in the Knight's Armor with Wolf Link at his side on a grassy hill

Wolf Link will follow you around and even teleport to you, should you get out of range. He will hunt down any enemies and animals that you come across. And he will eat meat or fish to heal himself. That's really it, but it generally feels great to have him around, even though the Twilight Princess sound effects really make him feel a little strange.

You can keep summoning Wolf Link until his hearts run out. And the number of hearts is based on your record in the Cave of Shadows from Twilight Princess HD, where this is a nice connectivity between these two Zelda games, making good use of the amiibo's ability to save some data onto their NFC chips. The only other Zelda title to do this is the following one...


amiibo in Link's Awakening

In the 2019 remake of the GameBoy classic the usage of amiibo is entirely confined to the Chamber Dungeon, a new feature that lets you build a labyrinth using predefined tiles, so called "chambers", which you normally obtain from beating the main game's dungeons. Here you put dungeons together on a grid to solve Dampé's challenges or to freely build whatever you want.

First and foremost, you can use your amiibo to save your creations onto them, where this is the only real way of sharing them between save files and consoles. It's probably best not to use Wolf Link for this, but it works with every other amiibo from the Zelda series. You could for example use this to create a Rupee farming dungeon, which you then can use in a second playthrough to get a lot of Rupees in the early game. It also saves a time record, where you can use this to compete with friends.

Link fighting a Ball and Chain soldier in a special chamber

Otherwise the Zelda amiibo are used to unlock up to five special chambers, which can only be gotten this way. You need five different Zelda amiibo for this, but the chambers have no real connection to the amiibo themselves, unlike the special armor items and weapons in Breath of the Wild. The amiibo are just used as keys here for a one-time unlock, which is by far the most uninspired usage for these figurines. Ideally, you would be able to get these special chambers via other means, e.g. by clearing challenges or from collecting Chamber Stones.

Link's Awakening Link amiibo

Link's Awakening also released alongside a new amiibo of Link in the art style of the remake, which is the only way of unlocking the "+ Shadow Link" effect for your Chamber Dungeons. Using it will spawn Shadow Link in the respective chamber, who then keeps chasing you until you defeat him, but also let's you earn some additional Rupees.

Unlike the Shadow Link battles in A Link Between Worlds and Tri Force Heroes, this doesn't utilize items in any way, so fighting Shadow Link doesn't really feel as dynamic or interesting as it used to be. So, getting the amiibo for this feature is probably not worth it, but in the least this feature does fit the figurine somewhat.

amiibo in Skyward Sword HD

From what we know about the upcoming HD remaster of Skyward Sword, you can now use amiibo via the interactions with Fi. However, the only amiibo truly supported by this is a new one, which again gets released alongside the game.

a figurine of Zelda petting her Loftwing

It's the Zelda from Skyward Sword with her Loftwing, which is quite the beautiful figurine, but its functionality in the game has sparked quite some controversy. Scanning this amiibo lets you use a new fast travel feature, where you can return to the sky from any location (even inside dungeons) and then return to this location by scanning it a second time. Not only is it quite cumbersome to use a figurine for this, such "quality of life" improvements shouldn't be locked behind a figurine, especially since they are not always easy to come by.

Otherwise Skyward Sword HD doesn't seem to support any other amiibo, not even the amiibo of Link from Skyward Sword, which was released in 2017. This makes it seem like the developers didn't know what to do with amiibo for this game, but had to come up with at least something for the new figurine.

Zelda amiibo in Other Games

While the Zelda amiibo are primarily made for Super Smash Bros. and the Zelda games, there are other titles where they can be used to unlock things. For the most part this is just costumes. There is a Link Mii outfit in Mario Kart 8 and a Link outfit for Bayonetta in Bayonetta 2, as well as a Link costume for Zoro in One Piece: Super Grand Battle! X. Both Miitopia and Yoshi's Crafted World offer costumes for Link, Zelda, Sheik and Ganondorf. Even New Style Boutique 2 has special items for Zelda and Sheik...

Arguably the biggest usage of Zelda amiibo outside of the series is in Animal Crossing: New Leaf, however, where you can unlock a bunch of Zelda items and even four special villagers: Ganon, Epona, Medli, and Wolf Link.

It's of note that so far this hasn't been going the other way around, meaning that Zelda games only really make use of Zelda amiibo and not amiibo from other series. You can use any amiibo in Breath of the Wild, but the ones from Super Mario, Animal Crossing, and so on will only give you some random materials.

The Future of amiibo

It's safe to say that amiibo will accompany us for a while longer. The remasters and remakes of the past five years all came together with one new Zelda amiibo, while Breath of the Wild had an entire collection dedicated to it... And with that we can only hope that Nintendo will follow practices that are fun and fair for utilizing these figurines.

Luckily, the Zelda game that did it best so far was arguably Breath of the Wild, where this should be used as a template in the future. Summoning Wolf Link just felt like the perfect "toys-to-life" usage and using the other amiibo to obtain (special) items felt more like cheating, where none of the exclusive items should be part of the world of Breath of the Wild anyway. This way using amiibo was fun, offers something special based on the figurine, all without taking away anything of importance from the main game.

The Zelda remakes and remasters on the other hand used amiibo to lock game features, collectibles (with no connection to the figurines) and even an entire dungeon behind them, which is simply not okay. This type of amiibo usage should be avoided at all costs in the future.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Age of Calamity: Expansion Pass Bonus Revealed

On May 28th we're getting the first bit of DLC for Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, a sword and a costume for Link as a bonus for purchasing the Expansion Pass. There have been many speculations about what those could be, but today Koei Tecmo revealed the set on Twitter:

Link wearing a weird mix of the Stealth Set and the Ancient Armor, as well as an Ancient Short Sword with cables coming out

It's the Ancient Short Sword and Ancient Armor... or at least some prototype of these items, because there are some clear differences compared to the variants from Breath of the Wild. You can see some cables around the thin handle of the Ancient Short Sword and the Ancient Soldier Gear looks like it was fused together with the Stealth Set. Link is also wearing a Shield of the Mind's Eye, instead of the Ancient Shield. According to the tweet these items even have "prototype" in their name, so they are probably called like the following:

  • Prototype Ancient Short Sword
  • Prototype Ancient Helmet
  • Prototype Ancient Cuirass
  • Prototype Ancient Greaves

This does make sense, because Robbie didn't develop the actual ancient weapon and armor set until the events of Breath of the Wild. So, it's cool to see some sort of prototype set here. At the same time this is an alternate timeline, where Robbie could develop these items much earlier, and the first DLC Pack will most likely revolve around Robbie and Purah, where it's possible that we will be able to unlock the real deals there. Or else it would be kind of weird to get these items out of context.

In the very least it's not exactly the same bonus as for the second Fighters Pass of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, which has been the Ancient Helmet and Ancient Soldier Gear Mii costumes. Well, it kind of is, but not exactly...

Today version 1.1.0 of the game has been released as well. It probably already contains these bonus items as a preparation for next week (or else there has to be a version 1.2.0 next week) and also lets you check out the Expansion Pass from within the game. This now gives an English title to the two DLC waves:

  1. Pulse of the Ancients
  2. Guardian of Remembrance

In addition they've fixed some parts of the English and Dutch narrations. I decided to check this out and they've actually fixed the part where King Rhoam says that Zelda's party is going to "Purah's research facility in Hateno" in the first chapter, which obviously was a mistake, since they are going to the Royal Ancient Tech Lab to the west of Hyrule Castle. If you now start the "Road to the Ancient Lab" scenario, he only says "Purah's research facility". There might be other fixes for the English narrations, but this is the one that came to mind immediately.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Skyward Sword HD: Steelbook

dark purple steel book with the Master Sword and Hylian Shield on one side and a key artwork on the other

If a new pair of Joy-Cons and an amiibo isn't enough merchandise for you, Skyward Sword HD will also come with a steelbook, as shown above. This will be available as a pre-order bonus at certain shops and retailers, so keep an eye out.

I personally never really cared much about steelbooks until the Nintendo Switch, where now I can't get enough of them. I do have some older steelbooks for a couple of Nintendo 3DS games, e.g. the one that came with the Special Edition of Majora's Mask 3D, but those never really enticed me. They were just clunky and ugly for the most part.

With the small size of the Nintendo Switch game boxes, however, these steelbooks turn out really good looking and I've somehow ended up with a small collection already. I have the ones from the Collector's / Limited / Special Editions of Fire Emblem: Three Houses, both Xenoblade Chronicles games and Link's Awakening, as well as the one for Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury from earlier this year. And this will be another nice addition.

I really like the side with the Hylian Shield and Master Sword. That does look very nice. The dark color scheme doesn't really fit Skyward Sword all that well, but it makes for a good steelbook.

But at this point Nintendo really should have made a Limited Edition for the game, where it comes with the special Joy-Cons, the new amiibo and this steelbook. Now you have to be fast and lucky enough to get pre-orders on three different items, instead of just one.

Zelda & Loftwing amiibo Announced

Zelda from Skyward Sword with her Blue Loftwing

Finally, there are some Zelda news to talk about... Sadly, it's not exactly good news. With the release of Skyward Sword HD on July 16th, we're also getting a new amiibo: Zelda & Loftwing. It looks really beautiful and will be a perfect addition to the current line-up, where from Skyward Sword we only had its Link so far. Getting both the Skyward Sword Zelda and a Loftwing in one is a really nice idea.

So, what's the bad news? Well, watch for yourself. There's a catch. The problem is not that we're getting this amiibo, the problem is what it does inside the HD remaster. If you scan it by calling Fi, the game will let you ascend back to the sky from any point on the overworld. And if you scan the amiibo again, you will be able to return to this point. This even works in dungeons...

If you look at my three year old suggestions for Skyward Sword HD, then you'll see that improving the whole traveling and warping system was one of the key points there, including the ability to go back to the sky at any point. And locking such a quality of life improvement behind an amiibo figurine is simply not okay, no matter how you put. Even if you own the amiibo, it will be highly unpractical to use it for this. Such a feature should be easily accessible and not require you to keep a figurine around for the entirety of your playthrough. It's just really bad design.

We're speaking about a new teleportation feature here, after all. Imagine, if you had to scan an amiibo in order to use the Travel Medallion in Breath of the Wild. This would be ridiculous as well, but that's exactly what Nintendo is doing with Skyward Sword HD now. And in Breath of the Wild this was already bad, because that feature was locked behind DLC.

But what's next? In order to use the new button controls you'll have to scan the Skyward Sword Link amiibo when starting the game? We can probably be happy that The Wind Waker HD released before the age of amiibo or else you would have to scan a Red King of Lions figurine each time you want to use the Swift Sail..

A better idea would have been adding new Medals to the game, where some of them are amiibo exclusive. The one from Zelda & the Loftwing could have given you additional blue wing icons for your Loftwing to increase its stamina. That still would be a terrible practice and such items should be available without amiibo, but at least it would be more convenient and the Medals were a really underdeveloped feature, where this would hit two birds with one stone.

In general, I've enjoyed using the amiibo loot system from Breath of the Wild, where you scan all your amiibo once per day and might get some cool cosmetic items out of it. But using amiibo to perform regular ingame actions isn't exactly enjoyable, it's just cumbersome. And normal game features should not be locked behind these figurines in any case.

You also have to consider that these figurines don't get made in sufficient numbers and are usually sold out online within minutes. So, a majority of the Skyward Sword HD players won't even be able to make use of this (legally). What was Nintendo thinking here?

And overall you can only wonder how badly Nintendo is doing these days. Apparently they are doing fine, but stuff like this looks incredibly greedy. Ten years ago you would get the full new game with a golden Wii Remote and a CD with orchestrated music for the same price as they are selling this lackluster remaster now in two months. And if you want the figurine or the new Joy-cons on top, you'll have to pay extra.

Update: According to Nintendo's press release, this is the only amiibo supported by the game. Feels like Nintendo didn't know what to do with amiibo in Skyward Sword HD and then simply slapped one of the remaster improvements onto it.