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What is amiibo?

Not to be outdone, Nintendo's decided to get in on this whole 'toys-to-life' bandwagon and it is hitting the pavement hard. Called 'amiibo (opens in new tab)', the plastic Nintendo toys are a little different than the competition - they're not made for a single set of games, but are made to interact with a variety of Wii U or 3DS titles in a bunch of different ways. If you're wondering what they do or which characters to buy, this beginner's guide should give you a decent crash course in what to expect.

What is it? Plastic toys based off a wealth of beloved Nintendo characters, from the popular (Super Mario) to the obscure (Wii Fit Trainer).

Who is it for? People who adore Nintendo's characters and own a few compatible Wii U/3DS games

What do the toys do? amiibo is a bit of a strange case. There isn't any one particular game that really requires amiibo (well, other than the lackluster Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival (opens in new tab), anyway). Instead, dozens of games on the Wii U and 3DS support various amiibo figures, unlocking content or providing bonuses you otherwise wouldn't get. Here's the official list (opens in new tab) of every compatible game.

How many different characters are there? Tons. There are characters based off of the Super Mario Bros. series (opens in new tab). There are a set of squids and kids from Splatoon (opens in new tab). There's a whole line based off of Animal Crossing (opens in new tab). The most varied set of amiibo is from the Super Smash Bros. franchise (opens in new tab), as Nintendo is producing a plastic toy based on every single current and future DLC character in its lineup, which includes characters like Mega Man (opens in new tab) and Little Mac from Punch-Out (opens in new tab), and eventually, characters like Ryu from Street Fighter and (most likely) Cloud from Final Fantasy 7 (opens in new tab). There are even amiibo trading cards (opens in new tab) - the first set is for Animal Crossing, while additional sets for Pokemon and other franchises are likely in the works.

What should I buy? Honestly, it's up to your own personal preference with amiibo, since the compatibility is based entirely on which games you have. In order to use them, you need a Wii U (opens in new tab), a New Nintendo 3DS (opens in new tab) (which comes with built-in amiibo support), or an NFC Reader/Writer (opens in new tab) for your older 3DS handheld, as well as a game that they're compatible with. Other than that, it's really just down to which characters you like.

Are they rare? It depends. Certain classic characters are incredibly plentiful and easy to find, but good luck getting your hands on Fire Emblem's Lucina or Earthbound's Ness at retail. You'll have to dig into the second-hand market for many of the rare figures, though Nintendo is trying to restock certain hard-to-find characters.

David Roberts lives in Everett, WA with his wife and two kids. He once had to sell his full copy of EarthBound (complete with box and guide) to some dude in Austria for rent money. And no, he doesn't have an amiibo 'problem', thank you very much.