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Squirtle vs. Charmander

Pokémon
by yo go re

Our first Pokemon Mega Construx set featured two of the four famous starters - this set brings the rest.

Choose your Pokémon and battle to become the very best! It's Squirtle against Charmander in this match-up between two of the most popular Pokémon of all time! Build your Pokémon, and set the scene for battle. Then, singe your opponent when you unleash Charmander's iconic Fire-type attack!

Originally named Zenigame (the actual term for a baby turtle, from zeni, "coin," and kame, "turtle," referring to its size), Squirtle is one of many Pokemon that owe their existence to Japanese folklore: in this case, the minogame, which lives for 10,000 years and ends up growing a "tail" of algae and seaweed (mino being a straw raincoat, which its tail resembles). And that's why Squirtle has a cute little tail.

Squirtle is built from 18 pieces, with paint on his face, tummy, and shell. You'll want to pay attention when putting his stomach-dome on: the lines on his plastron are only mostly symmetrical, so it is entirely possible to put the belly on wrong; just remember, the flat line goes at the top.

It's possible for Squirtles to be either bipeds or quadrupeds, though this figure opts for an upright stance. But unlike the Pikachu figure, he actually gets feet, not just leg-stumps! Go Squirtle! Wiggle those toes! Other than that, the construction is mostly the same as we saw before, with the same articulation: balljoints for the head, shoulders, and tail, and swivels that allow the rear legs to go side-to-side, but not front-to-back. To create his distinctive curly tail, this figure caps the end with a hollow ring; not a perfect solution, but the best available with existing pieces.

Squirtle is a water-type Pokemon, as you may be able to guess. The set comes with two translucent blue pieces to represent his abilities. Rather than having a peg to hold, like Pikachu did, Squirtle's blast of water hovers in mid-air thanks to the inclusion of a clear T-shaped rod the water effects can plug onto. This does limit where you can pose Squirtle on the base, but it admittedly looks cool when you've got everything lined up right.

Charmander is the fire-type starter, weak against water types but strong against grass, because Pokémon really was just rock-paper-scissors with different names. And speaking of names, in Japanese, Charmander is Hitogame, which literally means "fire lizard" - but is also the Japanese term for a salamander. Salamanders, of course, are often associated with fire in mythology, making the connection a smart one and explaining why the basic type gets the "-mander" suffix in English, rather than the more common and more expected "-izard." That one gets saved for when he grows up and becomes a dick.

This figure is built from 19 pieces, and has a construction nearly identical to Squirtle's - his back is slightly different, with a slope instead of a rounded shell. This does have the effect of making him slightly back-heavy, especially if you pose his tail in any way away from his body. It's a good thing that over the years Charmander has lost the ridge of back-spikes he had in the initial design, or he'd have an even harder time standing! Nice work making the translucent orange flame on the tip of his tail, though.

At a glance, even Charmander's face looks the same as Squirtle's. Yes, he's orange instead of blue, but they're both displaying big smiles, have lines representing their nostrils, and have tiny eyebrow ridges in between their eyes. If you really take a close look at the spacing and the shapes, however, it becomes apparent that this is not the same mask tampographed on both times: not only are their eyes different colors, but Charmander has tiny fangs while Squirtle doesn't.

Charmander's primary mode of attack is breathing fire, so again, the set includes translucent pieces that he doesn't hold, but that rather "float" thanks to the inclusion of a clear stand to hold them up. Amusingly, they're the exact same mold as Squirtle's, just done in translucent orange. And while the water blast had the rounded edge at the front and the pointy edge at the rear, the flame reverses that: they're bigger near his mouth and trail off the farther away they go.

Just having to Pokemon figures wouldn't make much of a battle scene, so we also get some terrain, a rocky bit of jungle. It's made from 95 pieces, and uses a lot of hollow spaces to really build up the size.

Most of the ground is a sandy tan, but there's a patch of dark grass on the left side. The two-tone rocks at the rear of the scene have some plantlife growing out of their cracks, and a large vine snakes its way up toward the sky.

Although Mega Construx are compatible with Legos, and a lot of the pieces look totally familiar, there are also plenty of shapes here that you've never seen on a Lego brick. For instance, a 1x2 slope that has a 45° notch cut out of the low end, so you could form a corner out of two of them. Weird, right? The pieces fit together as tightly as you'd expect from "real" blocks, too. And this time there were no quality control issues!

There are currently 809 Pokémon, but let's be honest: no matter what your favorites are, Pikachu, Bulbasaur, Squirtle and Charmander are the four most important ones; so it's great that Mattel made sure you could get them all with just two purchases, rather than splitting them out into four different sets. (You know that's exactly the kind of thing they'd have done with some of their other brands.)

-- 11/14/18


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