It goes without saying that Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s amiibo metagame is one of the most unique competitive scenes of all time. On the surface, the idea of raising a fighter and sending it away to do battle is highly accessible — and indeed, for tournaments that allow file submission, you don’t even need to attend the actual tour to see your Figure Player’s results! Unfortunately, hosting and entering file submission competitions requires the use of amiibo Powersaves, and while they aren’t all that expensive, it’s an additional barrier to entry nonetheless. For the longest time, we had no choice but to host file submission tournaments — that is, until Nintendo added amiibo compatibility to online Battle Arenas. You would think the struggles of hosting amiibo tours would end there, but that isn’t the case: Battle Arenas are actually quite difficult to work with, and for a variety of reasons.
File Submission Tours & Hack Checking
To understand why Battle Arenas are occasionally uncooperative, we must first understand why file submission tours work so well. As mentioned earlier, the host of said competition must own an amiibo Powersaves and a Power Tag — that way they can collect FP files and zap them onto their Switch consoles as if they had genuine amiibo figures! Each trainer who wishes to participate in this type of tour must have an amiibo Powersaves (or a mobile phone with TagMo or NFC Tools) to be able to retrieve their amiibo file, which they can then send to a tournament host via email or direct message.
The reason these kinds of contests work so well is that the tournament host can check the amiibo file prior to using it in-game. This means they can determine if the FP is using banned Spirits, a hacked spread, or even edited move values (which are possible via external tools, but not widespread at the time of writing). Banned Spirits, hacked setups, and edited personality values are all illegal in tournaments and can give sneaky trainers a hidden advantage. You can’t check for any of these in Battle Arenas — not even for Spirits. This means you have to trust whoever you’re up against that their FP is legitimate; most trainers will likely tell the truth, but there will always be some that try to sneak in an unfair advantage. At this point, there’s no way to find out if a player in a Battle Arena is cheating without watching how much damage their FP is dishing out and calculating if that is normal for an amiibo with a legal Spirit team. This is a pain to do, too.
To add insult to injury, Battle Arenas did not include hack checks for amiibo figures for several years after its FP-compatibility update. This meant that things as ridiculous as Giga Bowser FPs were allowed, which don’t even exist in real-life! Although we wish they did. This meant that trainers could use hacked setups, unreleased bonus effects, and more — not only did these improve their odds of winning, but they also were sometimes difficult to spot in matches if you weren’t already suspicious of your opponent.
AI “Corruption” & More
The biggest reason competitive trainers occasionally avoid Battle Arena tours is that they’re known to change the behaviors of FPs. It’s hard to say what exactly changes — but it’s believed that amiibo in Battle Arenas are uploaded to an external server, which could be responsible for unusual behavior. Said behaviors include FPs jumping more often than usual and even using moves they don’t usually rely on. As you might expect, these new behaviors often affect the match outcome — for example, a Ness that suddenly starts using down tilt for the first time would be left vulnerable to a smash attack that it otherwise might have been able to dodge. Not to mention the fact that amiibo jumping is generally a bad thing, since they have trouble landing and often fall straight into opponents’ up smashes.
In addition to AI “corruption” and the inability to check Spirit teams, trainers who have modded their Switch systems are capable of adding unreleased Figure Players to the Battle Arena. At the time of writing, this would mean fighters including Min Min, Pyra / Mythra, and Kazuya are actually possible to see in arena matches (though their individual AIs are not finalized). Of course, this gives trainers with access to mods an advantage of sorts anyway — especially considering the fact that Min Min and Pyra / Mythra are looking to be high-tier.
There’s another problem, too: it’s possible to crudely edit a Mii Fighter amiibo to include invalid Mii data that crashes the Nintendo Switch console. This means a hacked Mii Fighter amiibo can sort of act as a “virus” of sorts — all you’d have to do is join an arena with amiibo switched on, prepare to battle with a hacked Mii Fighter, and everybody’s Switch would crash. Fortunately, this issue isn’t widespread — and we’re assuming that none of you would do this with malicious intent, of course.
It’s also important to note that Battle Arenas didn’t support Figure Players until 2019 — and by the time this compatibility was added, amiibo training had existed for four whole years. This means that veteran trainers had been participating in file submission tournaments for a long time. This also means that time zones weren’t an issue for amiibo trainers until 2019, since file submission tournaments don’t require trainers to be present when their FP plays a match. Although the amiibo community isn’t terribly large, its members are spread out across several different timezones, and so Battle Arena tours that require trainers to be present generally don’t get as many entrants.
Now, given the recent pandemic, many competitive Super Smash Bros. players have had no choice but to participate in wi-fi tournaments over Battle Arenas. There’s one key difference here, though: human-versus-human events almost always have prize pools, no matter how small. Figure Player tournaments with an entry fee are notorious for receiving almost no entries (due to the random nature of amiibo AI), so tournament hosts can’t even use entry fees to create a prize pool — it all has to come out of pocket. Given how expensive most amiibo figures are these days, it’s easy to understand that most amiibo trainers are flat broke after buying a few figurines too many.
What do prize pools have to do with Battle Arenas, you ask? Well, Smash players entering online tours with a large prize pool might be inclined to stay up late or get up early to participate. Since amiibo tourneys usually don’t have big prize pools, there’s no incentive for trainers to stay up or get up early except for the chance of having bragging rights for winning the tour. Furthermore, the presence of a prize pool in the first place encourages trainers to enter characters like Incineroar and Terry, if they’re allowed — characters who often win even when trained poorly. Which means that top-level competitive tournaments lean more toward character selection than they do trainer skill. That being said, trainer skill is still important — but said skill doesn’t have to be as impressive if you’re entering a top-tier character.
For all of the reasons listed above, most amiibo tournaments you see on our site only allow entry via file submission. It’s easier for tournament hosts and trainers alike, and it doesn’t run the risk of changing your FP’s behavior. Furthermore, sneaky players can’t get away with hacked or illegal setups or unreleased characters. You could argue that file submission tournaments are difficult to enter for first-time trainers, and you’d be partially correct, but it’s important to remember that amiibo Powersaves – the device you need to be able to enter – costs as much as one year of Nintendo Switch Online, which you need to be able to use Battle Arenas. If you’d like to learn more about how to host file submission tournaments (or just want to learn how to enter one), please check out our tournament guide! If you have any further questions on how amiibo tournaments are run, please direct them to our Discord community. Thank you very much!
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