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Super Mario Diorama Playset A

SH Figuarts
by yo go re

When I was a kid, the entire family would gather at my grandmother's house for Christmas, which was nice. Unfortunately, Nintendos aren't the most portable things in the world, so whenever I'd get a videogame, I'd never be able to play it until we went back home a few days later. During that time, all I could do is read the manual, as though that were a substitute for actually enjoying my new gift. Kind of sad, honestly. But it does mean that I sometimes remember things about games other people never learned.

One day the kingdom of the peaceful mushroom people was invaded by the Koopa, a tribe of turtles famous for their black magic. The quiet, peace-loving Mushroom People were turned into mere stones, bricks and even field horse-hair plants, and the Mushroom Kingdom fell into ruin.

The only one who can undo the magic spell on the Mushroom People and return them to their normal selves is the Princess Toadstool, the daughter of the Mushroom King. Unfortunately, she is presently in the hands of the great Koopa turtle king.

Mario, the hero of this story (maybe) hears about the Mushroom People's plight and sets out on a quest to free the Mushroom Princess from the evil Koopa and restore the fallen kingdom of the Mushroom People. You are Mario! It's up to you to save the Mushroom People from the black magic of the Koopa!

In order to keep the price of their SH Figuarts Mario down ($25 MSRP, but a few bucks less on Amazon), Bandai released the figure with just a few extras, and accompanied it with some accessory packs to spice up the display - it's the same thing they do with the MonsterArts toys.

Diorama Playset A features a 3⅝" x 2⅞" green base with a beveled edge; a 5¾" clear post with a lip near the top; a 3⅞" x 1" clear tab (the snowboard-looking thing); a gold coin; two clear stands to hold the coin; a Question Mark block; two brick blocks; a small blue tab; and a three-piece clear plastic rod with four hinges.

The green base has three holes in its surface, two of which are closed with plugs when you take it out of its bag - two on the sides, and one at the back. The holes are sized for the two clear rods, and the plugs mean you don't have to suffer the heartbreak of unsightly holes cluttering up the ground when you're not using them all. Plus, three spots to plug in the stands means more options for your display, and that's always good!

The solid post and the "snowboard" piece fit together to form a floating platform for the three blocks - and it's not like they just sit on the platform either, there are specifically shaped pegs that hold them in place. In fact, they hold them tight enough that you can even hang the blocks from underneath, which is a great way to achieve the "block bouncing upward because Mario just punched it" look.

The brick blocks are the same 1⅜" cubes as the Question Mark block, and perfectly smooth. They're painted with black lines to create the bricks, and the pattern is designed to tile (very well side to side, not so much up and down).

I always found it rather weird that all the bricks in Super Mario Bros. were actually transformed Mushroom Kingdom citizens (something you only learned if you read the instruction manual), and yet you're encouraged to jump around and destroy them all. Isn't that killing them? And was there no sort of infrastructure in the kingdom until they were cursed? Was every stair, sewer, ceiling and citadel made from the petrified bodies of Princess Toadstool's subjects? Creepy! In any case, that random little piece of trivia means this set comes with two more characters than it seems like it does!

A mushroom who betrayed the Mushroom Kingdom. One stomp and he dies.

The Goombas betrayed the kingdom? Those dicks! That's not a pun based on their appearance, either: yeah, they kinda look like weenies, but that's to be expected when you're dealing with mushrooms, isn't it? He's sculpted nicely, with big black eyebrows, sunken eyes, and a wide frown with two tiny fangs poking up from within. He's unarticulated, without even a swivel where his, uh, neck(?) would be, but that's true to the character. He stands 1⅝" tall.

The coin is the same as was included with Mario: 1⅜" diameter, slightly more than ¼" thick, and fully vac metallized in gold. There's a hole in the bottom so the included display stands can hold it up. Unlike the Mario set, which only had a "ground level" stand, this set also includes a ¾" tall stand to make the coin look like it's popping up into the air as it's knocked out of a block. That's fun!

The small blue tab we mentioned ages ago goes along with a feature that we purposely neglected to mention in the Mario review: a panel in the figure's back can be removed, and replaced with the one from this set. Why would you want to do such a thing? Because the original one is smooth, while this one has a slot to accommodate the thin tab on the end of the four-hinged clear display arm, meaning you can display Mario leaping into the air, as opposed to just standing flat on the ground. It really adds a lot of personality to the display, and the joints are stiff enough to hold the figure up.

If you get Mario by himself, you'll be getting a very nice figure with some decent accessories. But if you pick up Diorama Playset A to go with him, you'll get iconic scenery, an enemy, and a way to really show off the cool poses the toy can achieve - in other words, a much better display!

-- 06/28/14

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