Thus far, we’ve found a few small AI changes with amiibo that have a major impact on the character itself. The Joker amiibo lost a recovery glitch, the Cloud amiibo uses Limit Charge moves better but gained a recovery glitch, and a few other small changes have been found.
Why are these patches happening now?
We’ve gone through most of Ultimate’s lifespan without having any major amiibo AI patches – aside from a few small ones in the 3.0 amiibo arena update, and the occasional minor rework of a CPU (which has an impact on the amiibo as well), there’s been no changes to amiibo AI. It certainly seemed like amiibo AI was, for the most part, set in stone and was going to be left alone by Nintendo.
Suddenly, as of the 8.0 update and continuing with 9.0, Nintendo is patching amiibo AI at a rapid rate. 8.0 introduced many pre-programmed combos into Bayonetta, Lucario, Captain Falcon, and more. This was completely unprecedented: I made the comment on the Amiibo Doctor Youtube channel that the meta should be divided into pre-8.0 and post-8.0 because of the massive impacts it had on amiibo.
Now 9.0 has come along with more changes – they’re smaller changes, but they often have significant impacts on the amiibo they affect. It’s very unusual to me that Nintendo is doing this at this time. I have two theories on why, all of a sudden, Nintendo chose the Hero and Joker amiibo release to go about the patches.
Nintendo knew that the Joker amiibo would need to combo
One of the most common comments that I receive are “your tier list is wrong, the Joker amiibo is S tier because he can combo”. It’s very clear to me that even before Joker’s release, expectations for the amiibo were high among the casual consumer. I predicted, correctly, that the Joker amiibo would be very popular, and probably one of the best-selling amiibo in Ultimate. Thus far, I’ve been correct.
Massive amiibo sales has the side effect of having more eyes on the amiibo AI: If the Joker amiibo couldn’t play like a human player to some degree, it’s likely that many customers would be disappointed and complain. Nintendo probably realized that their amiibo AI was missing the ability to combo, and started putting in pre-programmed combos into amiibo that they could program them into. Bayonetta receiving the ladder combo makes perfect sense: her character is built around the ladder combo. Lucario, Captain Falcon, Falco and the rest also have presumably easy-to-program combos, so Nintendo would’ve selected them first for the combo treatment as well.
Nintendo has noticed that amiibo AI is beginning to break with each new moveset change
One of the most famous examples of a move change completely altering an amiibo is King K Rool’s Down throw. When the amiibo was first released, K Rool’s Down throw was much stronger, and Nintendo put in a Down throw to Forward smash subroutine that was impossible to keep the amiibo from doing: if they have the opportunity to use a throw, they will always use Down throw and then Forward smash.
However, shortly afterwards the Down throw was nerfed, making it easier for amiibo to mash out of the bury effect. Amiibo now always mash out of the bury before K Rool can use his Forward smash, making Down throw useless on King K Rool. The subroutine still exists: when he gets a throw, he’ll usually use Down throw and the opponent will always mash out: nonetheless, he’ll use Forward smash even after the opponent has already mased out.
This has continued to happen to more and more moves, and gradually the amiibo AI has stopped understanding how all of its moves work – Nintendo’s original hitbox reference tables that the amiibo use haven’t been updated. So they’re taking the time to make sure that, while they program in the new DLC amiibo AI, the old ones will continue to work as well.
Personally I believe the first option is most reasonable. I’d like to hear your thoughts.