With a few of Nintendo's recent game releases piqueing my interest in Super Mario Bros. action figures and having checked
out Jakk's Pacific's mass market World of nintendo figures, I thought that I would also check out some higher end figures.
Fortunately Bandai has just the thing, as part of their S.H. Figuarts line they have produced figures of Mario and Luigi as
well as a number of sets of accessory pieces. They carry a bigger price tag since they are import figures. But if the quality
is good, perhaps they will be worth the higher price.
Packaging - Accessory sets with Pipes 9/10, others 8/10Each of the figures and accessory sets comes in a window box. The boxes for the figures and the small accessory set are surprisingly small, just five inches wide and under six and a half inches tall. The two sets with the pipes are larger in order to accomodate the pipes. That extra size works to their advantage as the parts are easier to see. The boxes don't have much for graphics, they rely instead on images of the toys instead. There are a few photos on the back as well, including one small photo showing exactly what is included in that set. The packaging is attractive, but having so many images of tons of accessories can easily set your expectations too high and leave you disappointed when you see that each set only has a couple of accessories.
Sculpting - 10/10The sculpting for both Mario and Luigi is as close to perfection as you can hope to get without going to a statue. The body proportions are more accurate than the Jakk's Pacific World of Nintendo version. They also did a very admirable job of designing the articulation to minimize its impact on the sculpt. The joints are still visible. But no matter what position they are in, they are designed not to leave any major gaps or parts jutting out. I particularly like how they handled the hip joints which are integrated in such a way to match the natural seams of the overalls. That is a very creative solution.
Paint - 10/10The paint work on both Mario and Luigi is impecible. Granted, they are not a very complex paint applications. But they match the character designs well.
Articulation - 9/10These figures use joints similar to those use in Revoltech figures. Each of these joints consist of a center portion which operates as a hinge off of which are two posts. Where those posts connect to the other parts, they create rotating joints on either side of the hinge joint. Mario and Luigi have these style joints at the neck, shoulders and hips. They also have hinged elbows and knees and rotating wrists. The ankles are formed from small plastic pieces that connect to both the feet and bottom of each leg with a ball and socket joint. They also have a pair of creative joints in their lower bodies which allow the hips to move from directly under the body to the front. These figures pack a lot of articulation onto such small bodies. And there are a few things that they cannot do, such as bend their arms across the front of their bodies, but the articulation is very well designed and works well.
Accessories - Mario & Set A 7/10, Luigi & Set B 8/10, Set C 9/10The accessories should be a real highlight for these figures, so much so that they decided to create two additional accessories packs that were released along with Mario and a third that was released along with Luigi. They didn't leave Mario empty handed though. He comes with a Question Block, a gold coin which has an optional, clear stand and a Super Mushroom. Those accessories all look great. I particularly like that the coin has a gold, vac-metal finish. The one thing that disappoints me is that there is no support base for the Question Block. So your only option is to have it sitting on the ground. With so many photos on the packaging showing blocks suspended in the air, it was a let down to find that this set didn't have that option.
Accessory Set A comes with two bricks, another Question Block, a gold coin, a Goomba, a display base and several support stands. It's a pretty simple set, but it gives you just enough parts to recreate the very beginning of the original Super Mario Bros. game. The included support stands include two supports for the coin, one that keeps it upright but on the ground and one that supports it about half of an inch off of the ground. There is also a stand that plugs into the included display base and can suspend either a single block in the air or three of them using another optional part. Finally there is an adjustable support that can plug into Mario's back (using the replacement piece included with the set) which can support Mario in jumping poses. The set is nice, but it doesn't feel like it gives to very many options.
Accessory Set B comes with a green pipe, another Goomba, a green Koopa shell, another gold coin, a spare set of hands for Mario and more clear display pieces. While it appears that the set includes both a short pipe and a taller pipe, in truth there is just one pipe with two options for the top. One has a shallow opening at the top of the pipe. The shorter pipe is actually an insert that will fit onto the top of the taller pipe and allow a figure to appear to disappear into the pipe. It's creative and looks nice. But I prefer to quantity over quality so I will use them as two separate pipes. The extra hands have small slots in them which can connect to the Koopa Shell using the included connector pieces. All of the parts look nice. But they could use more functionality. For example, it would be nice if the Koopa Shell came with an actual Koopa Trooper or could roll along the ground. At the very least, the figure should be able to hold it without needed a couple of small, easily lost connector pieces.
Bandai seems to have learned their lesson and picked the best of the accessories to include with Luigi. He comes with a brick block, a red Koopa shell, the same extra hands as Set B, a display base and support stand. That doesn't give you a lot of extras with Luigi, but they did include all of the extras that need the figure to be used which is nice.
Finally there is Accessory Set C which was released along with Luigi. This set comes with a red pipe, a pirana plant, another gold coina and a buzzy beetle. The pipe is the same as the green version from set B. And of course the pirana plant can fit neatly in its opening. Buzzy Beetle has not real features, but is fully sculpted and looks great. It would be nice if his shell was removable or just a shell was included. It would also be nice if they had devised a way for it to be positioned walking up the side of the pipe or underside of blocks as they do in the game and as shown on the packaging.
But if you don't want to buy the accessory sets, there is a decent alternative: Knex's Mario Kart toys. They sell individual figures as blind bags for about $4 each. Each series seems to come with one or two enemy figures like a Goomba, Bullet Bill and others. They are not quite as nice as the enemies included in the accessory sets. But the cost and ability to amass as many of them as you want make it a pretty attractive option.
Value - Mario & Sets A & B 6/10, Luigi & Set C 7/10These sets are import figures, so the price tag is going to vary depending upon where you buy them. The cheapest I have seen for a regular price is $20. And $20 to $25 seems to be normal. But depending upon availability I have seen them listed for as much as $50 per set. They are very nice sets and these are the best Mario and Luigi figures I have seen yet. But $100, minimum, to get the complete set is also a steep price. And for all the bits and pieces that the accessory sets include, you would need alot more of them to make even the basic displays shown on the packaging. So what's included here is just enough to make me really want a bulk set of brick blocks, question blocks and coins to make displays.
Happy Hunting:The S.H. Figuart Super Mario Bros. figures and accessory Sets A & B began shipping last summer. Luigi was released at the end of 2014 along with Set C. So they have been out long enough that finding them should not be too difficult. Surprisingly, Barnes and Noble stores have been carrying a decent selection of Bandai's import items including the S.H. Figuart line. That is where I bought Mario and the first two accessory sets. I ordered Luigi and Set C from Big Bad Toy Store.