The July release of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD on the Switch will include an expanded fast-travel system that removes the need for players to trudge to specific save points before taking to the sky. But Nintendo is locking that helpful new feature behind an Amiibo figurine the company plans to sell for $25. Nintendo revealed both the Amiibo and its in-game functionality in an official blog post late Tuesday.
In the 2011 Wii release of Skyward Sword, Link could only transition between the surface areas and the airborne world of Skyloft at specific Bird Statues, which also served as save points. In the upcoming remake, Nintendo says players will be able to tap a new Zelda and Loftwing Amiibo to the controller to hit the sky “from anywhere on the surface world… even within the depths of a dungeon. Scan it again above the clouds to return to the same spot on the surface.”
That’s bound to be a welcome feature for many players, alleviating what Gamasutra called “boring bits of navigation back-to-back with other boring bits of navigation” upon the game’s release. Nintendo itself suggests at least one practical use for the new ability: “If you run out of items while exploring the surface, for example, you can quickly return to the Bazaar in Skyloft to replenish your supplies. Once you’re done shopping, the Amiibo allows you to quickly zip back to the surface and pick up where you left off!”
But while many modern games include these kinds of fast travel options as a basic feature (or as an unlockable benefit through gameplay), Skyward Sword HD is tying the ability to the NFC chip found in the base of a physical Amiibo figure. What’s more, NintendoLife reports that the new figure will retail for $25 in the US, up from the standard Amiibo price of $16 (the figure is also more expensive than other Amiibo in Japan and Australia).
Using Amiibo to unlock in-game features is nothing new, of course—fan site Amiibo.life lists dozens of games with this feature across the 3DS, Wii U, and Switch. But the vast majority of those games use Amiibo to unlock special costumes and cosmetics or to provide in-game items and currency that can otherwise be accessed through normal gameplay (though some such items are exclusive to specific Amiibo).
In recent years, though, Nintendo and other Switch developers have started locking more significant bits of gameplay behind the Amiibo paywall. For instance, Captain Toad’s Treasure Tracker requires a Toad Amiibo to unlock a “Pixel Toad” puzzle mini-game hidden in each level. In the Switch version of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, Amiibo were the only way to unlock five exclusive chambers in the game’s “build your own” Chamber Dungeon mode.
Using a Bowser Amiibo in Bowser’s Fury, meanwhile, lets players skip the annoying wait for the gigantic Fury Bowser to appear. Other games like Shovel Knight and the Mega Man Legacy Collection use Amiibo to unlock special Challenge Stages.
In a sense, these Amiibo-unlocked features are no different from the kinds of DLC additions that have been offered by game developers for well over a decade now. Tying that kind of “DLC” to a physical figurine can be considered a cute marketing gimmick for a line of collectibles that are popular in their own right.
But in the case of Skyward Sword HD, we have to wonder whether Nintendo is holding back a basic quality-of-life improvement in an attempt to juice sales for its new, pricier collectible. That’s the kind of nickel-and-diming that can potentially sour players on the value of both the game and the Amiibo associated with it.