In the past, I’ve written about the difficulty of growing up as a lover of both toys and Nintendo, yet never having the two really overlap in that most important of categories, action figures. This led to a lot of makeshift solutions, such as using the non-posable Applause figurines (who were also just pretty dang small to interact with most standards of the time), getting enemies from Happy Meals (and, if you were really lucky, the display to use as a playset), making my own “figures” and “playsets” from drawings on paper stapled to cardboard backing, and of course, potentially repurposing other toys altogether.
While I sadly didn’t have a Fortress of Fangs to use as my own Valley of Bowser/Castle Koopa, I did end up cannibalizing my Sewer Playset from Playmates’ Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line to use the pipes for my Mario Bros. to adventure through and around. They were green and had that lip at the top, so after moving some of the slime stickers, they were good to go. With those, anywhere could be a part of the Mushroom Kingdom.
Fortunately, alongside their S.H. Figuarts Mario and Luigi figures, Bandai has provided a more elegant and tailored solution to the problem of providing a backdrop for adventures and remarkable feats.
The first of three sets here offered by Bandai has packaging that feels a little on the plain side, but arguably oversells what you’re getting with a depiction of a multitude of the included components featured on its front and sides, as well as the Mario figure, which is of course not included. Ideally, they’d like you to pick up more than one of these packs so that you can construct a Mario stage setting that suits your heart’s desire.
What is actually included in the set is seen here: Two brick blocks, one ? block, a vac-metallized gold coin, one green base to attach various accessories to, a variety of translucent stands for the various blocks and coin, one translucent arm, a second translucent arm with four points of articulation, an interchangeable back piece for Mario, and a Little Goomba figure.
You can get complicated or stay simple with this set. You can attach a single block of your choosing to the long, unarticulated arm (planted in the spot on the green base) or attach the three-point base which allows all three to be attached, or mixed with a coin. The two smaller bases also allow you to have a coin sitting upright or even just hovering slightly.
The articulated arm and interchangeable back piece for Mario work just like the pieces which came with Luigi, which I detailed in those figures’ review.
Finally, Little Goomba is just a solid but sturdy piece with no articulation. He stands roughly one block high, or about half the height of the Mario or Luigi figures, which by default makes them Super Mario and Super Luigi.
Bring them all together (along with the Mario figure’s own coin), and you can set up something like this:
The main pieces are all sculpted and painted well, looking just like their video game counterparts. The brick blocks are smooth, flat blocks, but the ? block features sculpted detail, as does the coin. All in all, it’s a good little set to give your Mario figure more to do, to say nothing of putting the “jump” back into Jumpman.
Diorama Set B features packaging much like Set A, once again featuring pieces beyond what’s included to encourage more army-building styled purchases within the line.
Included in this set are pieces we’ve all seen before, but for three: A Little Goomba figure and coin that’s just like the ones in Set A, two more small stands for coins or power-ups, and a green version of the same Koopa Troopa shell which came with the Luigi figure, as well as the four translucent rods and two open hands for Mario to hold it.
The three pieces which set this apart tie back around to the opening of this review, and they’re all basically bits of piping:
One tube, a closed top, and an open top are the three pieces which make up the pipe. You can combine either top with the tube base, and optionally use the others as a smaller pipe if you wish.
The main idea, however, is to allow Mario, Luigi, a Little Goomba, or whoever as you wish inside. In the games, Mario and company are able to stand atop the pipes, and that’s basically what the closed top allows, while the open one conversely allows your chosen figure to travel into the pipe:
While the Goomba figure fits like a glove, so to speak, the Mario figure is unfortunately a bit of a tighter fit as far as going further into the pipe goes.
As for the open hands, they work much as they do for Luigi, and I invite you to check out the Luigi portion of the previous review for how that works. With these added elements, Mario can also now hold the Super Mushroom that comes in his own packaging.
As a handy bonus, the pipe makes a decent container for many of the smaller accessories included with these releases. The lid doesn’t snap shut, however, so you’ll still need to be careful if you use it for storage.
Finally, we come to what might be my favorite of the three Diorama Sets, Set C. By now, I’m sure you get how the packaging works, though you’ll notice Luigi now has a place alongside Mario on it.
As seen above, the items included in this set are red versions of the three pipe pieces which we saw in Set B, a gold coin, a Piranha Plant, and a Buzzy Beetle figure.
The Piranha Plant is almost surprisingly well-detailed, as you can even see some details deep inside its gaping maw that you probably won’t see in the games unless something goes horribly, terribly wrong. It stands atop a black base which allows it to fit snugly into either of the green or red pipe configurations, or even just stand on its own:
Sadly, the Piranha Plant has no articulation at all, so it’s unable to emulate its signature chomping action from the games. Even so, the open-mouthed pose still allows it to work well enough as either a play or display piece, since that’s likely how most people would want the plant anyway.
The prize part of this lot, for me at least, is the Buzzy Beetle figure. While Little Goomba is perhaps my favorite among the many different species which comprise Bowser’s army, I’ll readily admit that along with Koopa Troopa, they are the main merchandise-getters from the Koopa Troop. But Buzzy Beetle? Not so much.
I’ve always enjoyed him as the sort of “badass” tank of Bowser’s minions, from the angry scowl he carried back in the 8-bit era to the creepy glowing red eyes he sports today. Naturally, being based on modern renditions, the latter is the version Bandai has gone with here. He’s not articulated, and it’s probably recommended you keep fire away from him, but he still makes a nice little addition to the lot.
The more of these sets you get, the more you can do with them. Seen above is bringing just about everything I could into one shot for a little bit of diorama fun.
All told, these figures and accessories are the sort of things I dreamed about when I was a kid, and I’m glad to at least have gotten to experience them at some point in my life, even if it’s well after the point I’d be staging my own adventures with them on my bedroom or living room floor.
And that’s it: I’m finally caught up on the figures I was supposed to review so long ago. Once again, I offer my sincerest and utmost apologies to the folks at Bandai and Bluefin Tamashii Nations (should they ever read this) for any inconvenience, as this was never meant to take so long to get done.
If you’re interested in more of my recent figure reviews, you can find my aforementioned look at the S.H. Figuarts Mario and Luigi figures here, while the S.H. Figuarts Zero from Mega Man Zero (behind Mario at left) can be found here, and TruForce Collectibles’ Mega Man X (behind Luigi at right) can be found here.
The S.H. Figuarts Super Mario Diorama Sets are available now. You can find Set A for $19.61, Set B for $19.99 (on sale as of this writing for $16.99), and Set C for $29.99, and all three are eligible for free shipping on orders of $35 or more. Samples for this review were provided to me by Bluefin.
David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you’re interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.