Okay, sure, "Amiibo" is a weird name. And the premise is merely an imitation of what's already being done with Skylanders and Disney Infinity.
The more pressing issue is that the Wii U was launched with Near Field Communications capability right out of the box, and that Nintendo's strong lineup of character-based Intellectual Property means that this should've happened from the start.
And what's different about Nintendo's endeavor, and therefore exciting, is the concept that these (rather high-quality, from what was on display at the booth) toys don't just work with one series of games, like Skylanders or Disney Infinity, but rather a whole gamut of games, past and present. They'll work with Mario Kart 8, already in stores; they'll work with Super Smash Bros. in the winter, and whatever else Nintendo cooks up with their roster of iconic characters.
Nintendo makes no secret that licensing their characters for merchandise is a pretty lucrative market, so why not take a piece of that pie themselves?
2) OPEN WORLD ZELDA
Alright, alright - this one wasn't even at the show, it was only shown very briefly during Tuesday morning's Nintendo Direct. But this footage was all in-engine, and the promise of a truly open-world Zelda game? It's like Nintendo has actually been paying attention to the grander scheme of gaming in the universe.
The implications of an open-world Zelda are vast, and of course the game won't be available in any way until "2015." But, let's be honest here, the last time a console Zelda game actually met the first deadline it was assigned, Clinton had just taken his first oath of office.
Still, it bears repeating: AN OPEN-WORLD ZELDA GAME. It's like Nintendo opened a little door into my heart and stole the key.
And speaking of Nintendo paying attention to the gaming landscape outside of their own offices! One of the few surprises out of Tuesday morning's Nintendo Direct was Splatoon, a cartoony take on third-person shooters. As wacky as it sounds that Nintendo is making a third-person shooter, Splatoon is the right kind of wacky that only Nintendo could make.
The mechanics aren't particularly deep or involving, but the game is fast-paced, smooth, and outrageously fun. As a team of four transforming squid-children, your task is to squirt ink out of your paint guns all over the ground, whilst your opponents attempt to do the same albeit with a different color of ink. Whichever team paints the town the most, wins.
Sure, you can still blow your opponents away with a few well-aimed shots of ink or by lobbing an ink grenade, but the real part of the game that shines is the weird squid-changing mechanic; holding the left trigger will turn you into a goofy little squid, allowing you to swim through the ink you've sprayed, including up walls, while refilling your ink capacity. You're a lot faster and harder for enemies to notice in Squid Mode, so the game becomes a quick switch-off between bouts of frantic ink firefighting and squid-sliding.
The game was a blast; hard to say as of yet if it'll be a totally fleshed-out boxed product or a quirky downloadable game, but either way, Splatoon was my surprise of the show. And it probably wouldn't have happened if Nintendo were still rolling in success. We would've gotten Wii Music 2015 Edition: Conga Pants instead.
Previously by Brian Hanson: