Most people wouldn’t know what NFC stands for if their life depended on it, but this season is changing that with hot toys that utilize it combine the appeal of physical figures and video games. We’re talking Near Field Communication, a form of wireless connectivity that makes information transfer over short distances easy. It’s the same technology some Android phones use to send pictures and other files to each other by pressing them against each other.
The series of Skylanders games and toys by Activision started the craze of utilizing small action figures with a NFC chip inside along with a scanner base to unlock characters in a video game, and things have only grown from there. The concept was a huge success and was quickly adapted by Disney for its Disney Infinity series. Last, but not least, Nintendo entered the fray with the Amiibo line of figures, which released just this month.
The plethora of figures lining the halls of the electronics aisle in your nearest department store can be overwhelming. Although each series utilizes the same concept, the NFC figures interact with their respective games differently, they have different prices, and every kid (along with quite a few adults) will be clamoring for them this holiday season. However, the best bang for the buck doesn’t mean that the cheapest solution when it comes to these figures.
Several categories are outlined here, comparing the three series so that you can make the best possible decision for your loved ones... or yourself.
Skylanders: The latest edition in the franchise is Skylanders: Trap Team. The starter pack comes with the game itself (which is a necessity), two figures, and two traps with an MSRP of $74.99. Some of the older starter packs can be had for less, but with the holiday push to sell Trap Team, they’re going to be hard to find in stores. The figures themselves typically come in packs of three for MSRP $24.99, or in packs of two, plus a new level for the game at MSRP $19.99. Trap packs are available for $14.99. Older figures can be found for a bit cheaper, and any previous Skylanders character can be used in Trap Team.
Disney Infinity: Disney Infinity’s newest starter packs come in two flavors. You can either purchase the Toy Box 2.0 starter kit which retails for MSRP $59.99 and comes with the Merida and Stitch figures, or the Marvel Super Heroes 2.0 Edition starter pack that comes with Thor, Iron Man, and Black Widow for MSRP $74.99. The individual characters come in at MSRP $13.99, and the playsets which feature two characters and a new set of story levels come in at MSRP $34.99
Amiibos: Featuring recognizable Nintendo characters like Mario, Samus, and Link, Amiibos work a bit differently from other figures in that they not tied to a specific game. Any copy of Mario Kart 8, Super Smash Bros. Wii U, or Hyrule Warriors will work with or without Amiibos. The figures come in individual packs that retail for MSRP $12.99.
Functionality and Gameplay
Skylanders and Disney Infinity: Both series utilize a base plate that uses NFC to detect a figure. Once a figure is detected, the character the figure is based on becomes playable in-game. The base plate is also used to unlock new levels for both games. Skylanders adds the addition of the trap crystals in its newest game, which are used to capture defeated enemies that players add to their roster. Both games feature a story mode, but Disney Infinity takes its host of features a little further with the addition of the Toy Box sandbox mode, which players can use to make their own adventures with any characters they own adding a much loved injection of replayability and imagination.
Amiibos: Unlike Skylanders or Disney Infinity, Amiibos are not the focus of the games they are used with. Once pressed against the Wii U Gamepad, they can: be imported into Super Smash Bros. Wii U as a CPU fighter and trained by fighting against or alongside the player; unlock new costumes for Miis in Mario Kart 8; or unlock random weapons and items in Hyrule Warriors. Those are currently the only three games that are compatible with Amiibos, but Nintendo plans to expand their functionality toward a number of upcoming titles.
Skylanders: While the series has become very popular, none of its all-original characters are going to be very recognizable to adults the way a Disney or Nintendo character would be. Some of the characters have interesting designs, but for the most part it seems to consist of a menagerie of tiny troll-like creatures. The series has more appeal towards kids who are riding the fad and those who have a “catch em’ all” mentality and just love to collect. The amount of Skylanders figures currently available is by far the highest of the three, weighing in at 300+ figures. The game itself is a simple affair, marketed for children, but adults won’t find to much here to enjoy.
Disney Infinity: Disney has been a hallmark of children’s lives for decades and Infinity appeals to children and adults alike. With the faces of Iron Man, Thor, Spider-Man, and others from the Marvel universe alongside Donald Duck, Maleficent, Elsa, Stitch, and friends covering the Disney universe, this series has the broadest appeal. However, like Skylanders, the game itself does not lend itself to adult tastes and is very easy. However, parents might appreciate the Toy Box mode, because it’s a fun way to creatively bond with their kids. Adults will love the nostalgia, but probably won’t stay around for the main game.
Amiibos: Amiibos are great for adults and kids alike, as everyone can recognize the likes of Mario, Pikachu, Peach, and other classic Nintendo characters. Some of the games that utilize the figures may be too tough for smaller kids, but the beauty of this series is that the figures work on a variety of games instead of focusing on one. Mario Kart 8 is great for younger kids, as it has very simple and intuitive controls, while Super Smash Bros. Wii U and Hyrule are great for older kids, teens, and adults, meaning that no one has to miss out on the fun of Amiibos.
Which is Worth It?
Each series has its own strong points. Skylanders has a huge variety of characters, Disney Infinity has nostalgia and creativity, and Amiibos have a wide age appeal and diverse utilization. Out of the three though, Disney Infinity and Amiibos stand out as the best choices. Although Skylanders is the longest running series, it simply has too much of a dollar investment with the gigantic amount of characters (it would take more than $3000 to collect the whole series), and it lacks recognizably unique traits.
Disney Infinity would probably be the best choice for smaller kids (7 and under), as it is tooled around providing the best experience for children that age, and lets them play as their favorite Marvel and Disney characters through a unique and age-appropriate story. The smaller number of figures and recognizable characters means that instead of a constant drive to collect more and more of them, a child can simply pick their favorites and be content. However, adults won’t find much here other than nostalgia, as the gameplay is just too simple to keep mature interests.
Amiibos are great for the teen or adult in your life who plays games regularly or just enjoys Nintendo characters. The are a welcome addition to existing games, and even if a person doesn’t have the games or even a Wii U, the figures are well-made enough to collect without ever touching them to a gamepad. However, the selection of games they’re compatible with, as well as the features they unlock, are not really enough to justify the price if a person wants them solely for their NFC features. This will change down the line as Nintendo releases more and more games with Amiibo compatibility.
Which set will you be buying this season? Let us know in the comments!
Look at you, hacker. Brittany is fueled by horror, rainbow-sugar-pixel-rushes, and video games. Until her dying breath she'll be wielding a BFG made entirely of killer drive and ambition. Check out her work at PfhorTheWin.com. Like a fabulous shooter once said, get psyched!