Thursday, 5 February 2015

Skylanders vs Disney Infinity vs Amiibo - A Battle of Characters!

Back in 2011 the Skylanders figures hit a bemused market.  Who would want a system where you had to place physical images of your gaming characters on a ‘Portal of Power’ and use Near Field Communications (NFC) just to make them come alive in your game?  As it turned out, many gamers were intrigued by the notion and despite being slated for the lack of on-line multiplayer options, the system was well received by players and the gaming industry in general. The so called Toy-to-Life concept started with  Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventures but soon started to produce other titles as the gaming public too it.  The initial foray was quickly followed up with Skylanders Giants, Skylanders Swapforce, and Skylanders Trap team and the franchise started making serious money.  Plainly there was a market to be filled with these characters, and others were swift to follow on with the Skylanders success.

Disney quickly followed up on the success of Skylanders with its own Infinity system.  It featured a huge array of figurines taken from films as diverse as Pirates of the Caribbean to Monsters Inc. and followed a similar arrangement of NCF interface to the Skylanders game.  By swapping figurines on the connected base, you could introduce alternate players into the video game. Disney followed up on the game with Disney Infinity: Marvel Superheroes a couple of years later to huge approval from the market.  However cranky the system might have looked when Skylanders first launched, it was an undeniable success.

It was that success that led Japanese company Nintendo to develop the Amiibo system in 2014 in a bid to take on the might of the other two systems.  Each one has its own strengths and weaknesses, and what works for one games may not be what another is looking for in an NFC system.  Here we offer an honest appraisal of all three in several categories.

Functionality. 
The three systems split into two distinct sections here, with the Skylanders and Disney offerings using the standard NFC interface. Allowing fast swap-out between the characters.   There are a couple of distinct differences between the two though, with the latest version of Skylanders – the Trap team variant - allows capture of enemies via trap crystals, adding them to your own roster.  The Disney Infinity system has a true sandbox feature allowing the player to construct their own adventures featuring any character they own.   The Amiibo system is designed for use with the Wii U and the characters are activated by pressing them against the Wii U gamepad.  Once done, your character can be imported into Super Smash Bros., Mario Kart 8, or Hyrule Warriors Wii U Games.  This are the only three games that currently support the system though Nintendo is working hard to increase the player base with more titles.

So in terms of flexibility and gameplay, the Disney system tends to edge ahead of the Skylanders and both are way ahead of the Amiibo system, but watch this space as it could all change in the future.

Price
The Skylanders starter pack tends to be the most expensive of the three systems and is part of the game package and includes the base which you need to run as a minimum.  Additional figures are sold as either packs of three or two and a new game level.  There is also a roaring trade in preowned figures and with the Skylanders system getting on for five years old, there are plenty of second hand figures available out there.

Disney is the cheapest of all three but generally less than the Skylanders.  If you shop around you can find some amazing deals that really do make it a much more affordable toy.  The starter kit generally comes with two figures – that’ll be Merida and Stitch for the Toy Box 2.0 series or Iron Man and Black Widow for the Marvel Superheroes set.  Additional figures can be purchased individually or as playsets which give you two additional figures and extra story levels.

Amiibo figures are sold individually and are not associated with any particular games, and increase functionality of those figures within the games they are played in. For example, Hyrule Warriors Wii U will work either with or without Amiibo, but by adding the system, you will get further features and gameplay. The price is slightly higher than Disney but as a collector of these figures, they may well be worth a lot in the future – same can be said about Disney characters – these are the characters we will grow to watch and love and they will probably exist forever!

Fun Factor.
The Skylanders system is fun and easy to use.  Swapping characters is effortless and seamless within the game, making it a gas to play.  While the in-game characters may not be a instantly recognizable as the Disney or Nintendo characters, they have a certain charm and are likely to become collectable by those using it, so players will strive to complete the whole series, and with over 300 figures available, that could amount to a serious outlay.  And it is unlikely that it’ll stop anytime soon with more figures and increased variants in gameplay, so those who have already laid out for the system are only going to keep going.

The Disney system is just as good as the Skylanders one in terms of flawless gameplay and the figures obviously have the appeal of being well-known, they are finite in number and if the system is going to keep going, it will be via gameplay tweaks rather than by increasing characters endlessly.  But the good folk at Disney studios are certainly up to the task and the system is likely to see some really interesting updates for years to come.

The Amiibo is the new kid on the block and while it’s still in its infancy in terms of characters, Nintendo is likely to want to catch up with the others quickly, so you can bet that they will throw everything they have at the problem.  The main problem with the Amiibo is that it is essentially an enhancement to existing games rather than creating new games.

Where to spend your money.
All three systems have their pros and cons but gaming on all three systems is fast and fun, though undeniably enhanced in the sandbox modes of the Disney and Skylanders versions. Plainly the Amiibo system is at a severe disadvantage as it is so new and is so different from the other two.  You can’t help thinking that if Nintendo had copied – within the confines of Intellectual Property rights – the Skylanders and Disney systems and used their well known characters such as Mario and Zelda within a sandbox environment, it might have greater appeal, but perhaps the fact that it is different will be its making.That said, the figures work well in a number of associated programs and that number will only grow as Nintendo broaden their base, which will probably make the Amiibo system a lot more flexible as time passes.

If you are already a system owner – or the parent of a system owner - then you will appreciate the financial outlay associated with owning it, and are unlikely to want to start investing in one of the others as well as funding one you already own.  If you are new to the genre, then you are in for a treat and a not insubstantial decision as you try and figure out the best suited to your budget. In the end, it’s likely to come down to personal preference for characters or systems that you already own, but one thing is for certain, you will begin an experience that will keep you entertained for many years to come.  All of the systems will see future updates and expansions so really, whatever you choose, the potential is huge most likely be sticking around for a long time – If you are still undecided please do not hesitate to contact Hitari Customer Care via email address (info@hitari.co.uk) who will be be happy to help!



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