Competing with amiibo: the starter’s guide to Tagmo and Powersaves

Info dump incoming. This information also applies to Tagmo outside of competitive amiibo usage, such as speedrunning Breath of the Wild. Tagmo does not function in place of NTAG215 chips: you will have to buy chips even if you have Tagmo.

Most people are concerned about how to teach their amiibo and what moves to use. What stages do they play on? Who’s the best amiibo? These questions and many others are often the focus of amiibo trainers. They want to train their amiibo to send them to tournaments and win! That’s what we’re all here for.

Before you can win a tournament though, you have to enter one. That’s the tricky part, and it requires some external hardware in order to participate. See, amiibo aren’t as fancy as Nintendo would have you think. Amiibo figures are actually just a $0.30 chip inside of a plastic figure, and the rest of the computing is performed by the game itself. The chip itself is an NTAG215 chip, and you can order them from China by the dozen for a few bucks.

ntag215.jpg
This is what you’re being sold. This clocks in at about half a kilobyte but it contains your entire amiibo.

These chips are incredibly lightweight and don’t have much storage space on them. Thanks to that fact, most NFC readers can read these chips and edit the data on them if need be. The data on an amiibo is referred to as a .bin file. It’s just a plain ol’ spreadsheet that the game interprets.

In order to get your amiibo file to the tournament, you have to take the .bin file off of your amiibo figure or other NTAG chip functioning as an amiibo. There are two popular tools to do that, but they might cost you some money if you don’t already have them. You only need one of these, and they have mostly overlapping functionality.

  • Android with NFC equipment and Tagmo: pretty much every Android phone that can read NFC in some form can read a physical amiibo. Using the Tagmo app you can also save the amiibo as files on your phone, which you can then send to a tournament organizer using a file manager.
  • Datel Powersaves: this sucker plugs in to your PC (I believe a Mac update was recently pushed out as well) and edits your amiibo in much the same way as Tagmo. Unlike Tagmo, you have to get sneaky with your files to move them: going to your folder named “Powersaves for AMIIBO” will show you all your bin files that you’ve previously saved. These are generally only $25.

There is currently no iPhone alternative for Tagmo. If you don’t have an Android, you’re out of luck.

Tournament organizers typically prefer that you don’t mail your amiibo to them. Instead, they’d rather you just email the files so that they can replicate your amiibo on their end, which is why we have the methods described above. However, using these methods does require some setup on your first time. I’ll give you the short and sweet on how to use the two methods.

Android + Tagmo

tagmoexamplepicturealsofucktheamiibodojo.png
This is version 2.6.1, which is the most recent version of Tagmo as of this writing. It’s very functional and stable, and I haven’t had any problems with it.

Tagmo download (the .apk file that needs to be installed)

Unfixed-info Tagmo file

Locked-secret file

Tagmo is not an app that you can find on the Google Play store. Instead, you’ll need to download the .apk file and install it using a generic APK Installer app (that you can find on the Google Play store). Simply take your APK Installer app of choice, locate the .apk file for Tagmo, and install that file. Tagmo will then function on your phone the same as any other app, because it is any other app.

The unfixed-info and locked-secret files are basically decryption instructions for amiibo. While the actual information on amiibo decryption is a trade secret owned only by Nintendo, some smart people figured out how to do it and Tagmo makes use of that. In order to protect you legally, the decryption files are also encrypted. Ironic, that.

Once you install Tagmo, go to the gear in the top-right corner. That’s your settings menu. Press Load keys, and find your unfixed-info and locked secret files (probably in your Downloads folder) and tap them, and they’ll be added to Tagmo from now on. After this point, you can scan an amiibo and save them freely.

Most people don’t use Tagmo, instead choosing to use an app called “Amiiqo”. Amiiqo sucks. Tagmo is a far superior app, it just has bad menus. These are what the menu options all mean.

“Load Tag” – if you already have an amiibo file on your phone, you use this option to find that file with the built-in file explorer.

“Scan Tag” – if your phone’s NFC is turned on, hold an amiibo figure or card or NTAG chip and it will bring up the data on that chip. This and Load Tag are the most basic functions of Tagmo, the rest of the options deal with the amiibo that is now “active” in the white box above the options.

“Save Tag” – this makes a file of the active amiibo on your phone. If you’ve scanned a Mario amiibo with Scan Tag, this option will now save its files to your phone, in the “tagmo” folder. Once you’ve saved the file, you can then email it to a tournament from your phone. It’s a file all on its own, and exists outside of Tagmo now.

“Write Tag” – if you have an unwritten NTAG215 chip, this option will write your active amiibo file to that chip. Let’s say you’ve downloaded Mario and you want him on your brand new NTAG chip. You use Write Tag, and it will copy him onto the chip. Keep in mind that amiibo are not rewriteable, nor are their chips rewriteable. Once you make a chip a Mario, it stays as Mario. If you make it Toon Link, it stays as Toon Link. Everything else can change, but not its character. The only rewriteable amiibo hardware that I know of is the Powertag, which comes with the Powersaves when you buy it.

“View Hex” – most people won’t get any functionality out of this. This just breaks down the hexadecimal code of your amiibo. Ignore this.

“Restore Tag” – let’s say you scanned in an amiibo and made some edits to it. (Currently only Smash 4-formatted amiibo can have edits made in-app, to my knowledge). You still have to get those changes back onto your physical figure, right? So after making those changes you press Restore Tag and put your amiibo back on the NFC point, and it will make the changes for you.

“Show/Scan QR Code” – there’s not a lot of times where you would need to use this. This just makes a QR code of your active amiibo file so others can duplicate it by scanning it. Tournaments don’t ever use QR codes, so don’t worry about this option.

“Auto save scanned tags” – does exactly what it says. You scan an amiibo, and if the box is checked then it automatically saves that file. If it’s not checked, then you have to hit “Save Tag” to make it into a file.

“Allow restore to different tag” – this… is interesting. Let’s say you have a Bowser amiibo that you trained in Smash and he likes to use his up special a lot. Check this box, and you can scan that information onto any other amiibo. Want a Jigglypuff that uses up special? Scan that Bowser and overwrite your Jigglypuff and see if it works. (Obviously, the game interprets the amiibo data so the AI has the final say on how well that works.) This option was what led to my discovery of Brain Transplants, which is a fun but seemingly useless idea.

Powersaves

Powersaves downloads for PC and Mac

pdt-amiibo-1

If you’re going to use Powersaves, you have to buy the Powersaves device. It usually runs you about twenty to thirty bucks, and you can find them at pretty much every Gamestop. Buy it from them, they need the money.

The download links above have the manuals for using Powersaves, so I won’t go through and explain everything. It’s also a lot more specific to your PC, so just download the manuals and follow the instructions. It’s a normal program installation, so there’s nothing to stress over.

Powersaves are basically the same as Tagmo but they’re missing the QR code, Hex code and Restore to Different Tag features. It’s also much harder to make use of your amiibo files. Every time you save an amiibo, it saves to a “hidden” folder that is supposed to be only accessible from the Powersaves menu.

The idea is that you can only edit the .bin files of amiibo that you’ve scanned in so Nintendo can’t sue the pants off of Datel. Of course, Datel knows that people will buy their product to pirate amiibo files and use them as their own, so you can put .bin files into Powersaves. Go to your computer’s search function and find the file named “Powersaves for AMIIBO” (it’s usually under your login’s username but it depends on where you saved it to). Drop your .bin files in that folder and they will show up in the Powersaves program as any other file.

Little things to remember/Answers to FAQs

Amiibo are very tiny files. If you had a copy of every amiibo file ever released, it would come out to maaaaaybe 1 MB. If you are on a Discord server and there is an amiibo tournament going on, you could just privately message the person your amiibo file. They’re smaller than most text messages.

You can save money on buying amiibo figures using the information outlined in Doing amiibo on a dime.

Basically every amiibo file ever can be downloaded from nfc-bank.com. When new amiibo come out there is a few days’ buffer before the files are approved, but they do end up there pretty rapidly.

Your physical figures from other series can also function as that character in Smash. If you purchased an Inkling amiibo for Splatoon 1, it works as Inkling in Ultimate. In fact, I have a list of some of these characters here. This way, you can use amiibo in Ultimate before their Smash set amiibo are released.

Tagmo is required for writing to NTAG chips. If you want to “create” your own amiibo or amiibo cards by adding chips to a figure of some kind, you’ll have to have Tagmo.

If your amiibo is “unknown” by Tagmo, it means that the app hasn’t been updated since that amiibo came out. Many of the newer Smash Ultimate amiibo have that problem. Typically they’ll function normally, but if they don’t, it may mean that you’re using an edited bin file that wasn’t properly re-encrypted.