Why do amiibo behave strangely on other consoles?

Have you ever taken one of your Figure Players to a friend’s house and thought they played odd on your friend’s Switch? It may not be a coincidence. For the entirety of the amiibo competitive scene’s lifespan, there have been occasional mentions of unusual behavior when amiibo are sent to tournaments or used in arenas. Why would this be the case? Well, no one knows for sure, but I have proposed a theory as to what may be responsible for this.

Please note that this is only speculation based on observations – nothing presented here is definitive or proven.

What does “unusual behavior” refer to?

Unfortunately, there is little concrete documentation on FPs behaving in abnormal ways outside of their home Switch. Almost all mention of this is anecdotal, and so it is very possible that all of this is because of the placebo effect. That being said, there is some evidence here and there, and most trainers have seen or heard of this happening.

The most infamous source of these claims is from online arenas. Ever since amiibo compatibility was added to Battle Arenas, trainers have been reporting that their well-trained FPs seem to act “worse” online compared to offline. From using moves they otherwise wouldn’t, to jumping a lot, rolling a lot, or other such deviations, it’s become a widely accepted idea that arenas negatively influence FPs in some way. This is part of the reason why arena tournaments are unpopular, as offline tournaments don’t run into these issues. Or do they?

Offline tournaments, also referred to as .bin tournaments (due to entry being done via obtaining and sending a .bin file of your FP to the host) don’t come with the stigma that amiibo arenas hold. However, it is still possible that they come with the same risks. Offline tournaments are typically run using the honor system, where the host runs the matches on their switch and just posts a screenshot of the result for the entrants to see. This means that most of the time it is impossible to watch your amiibo play in an offline tournament. Despite this restriction, trainers have noticed some variance in performance in offline tournaments. It’s hard to say exactly how much compared to online, but similar effects may still be at play.

A possible explanation

As of writing this, it isn’t super clear why any of this happens. It may in part be caused by CPU opponents themselves. If you didn’t know, the AI that FPs use is the same AI as the CPU opponents will use. You can see this in hard-coded behavior, such as follow up attacks out of a grab, recovery patterns, and other actions. What does this have to do with amiibo acting strange on other consoles, then? Well, CPU fighters themselves are thought to be somewhat variable between systems as well. The reasoning for this is that their behaviors may in part be influenced by the player. If that is the case, then it makes sense that since FPs use the same AI as CPU fighters, so they’d be slightly variable as well.

A very strong example of this is taunting. For most of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s history, it was common knowledge that level 9 CPUs would not taunt. However, a user known as Skully was able to document a CPU fighter taunting on two separate occasions. You can watch the original clips here and here to see for yourself. If these videos are real, then that means it is possible for CPU opponents to taunt after all. Unfortunately, as of now these are the only well-documented examples of this, and they are both of the same character, Joker. It’s possible that this may be an attribute exclusive to the Joker CPU, however that seems unlikely.

So how do online arenas play into this? It’s at least plausible that different systems have slightly different CPU AI, and therefore slightly different amiibo AI, but that leaves out the issue of online. It is possible that the online arena issue is separate entirely, but I suspect that may not be the case. Separate Switches having differing CPU AI wouldn’t matter online normally, but when you allow the use of amiibo, it would be very important to make sure that both consoles participating operate the same to prevent an error. For this reason I suspect that in battle arenas, the CPU behavior is set to either only use the host’s CPUs, or to use a “default” that would be present upon first launching the game. That would explain the variable actions that amiibo seem to take when playing online.

It’s possible we may never know for sure if anything stated here is true. Once again, do note that much of the information presented here is completely theoretical and based only on anecdotal evidence, so be sure to take it with a grain of salt. If any of this was confusing or you have anything you’d like to discuss in more detail, feel free to join our Discord server and ask any questions you may have! As always, happy training!

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