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Pikachu vs. Bulbasaur

by yo go re

You count on OAFE to bring you information on all the hottest new trends, so today we're introducing you to a fresh up-and-comer called "Pokemon." It's what all the kids are into these days.

Choose your Pokémon and battle to become the best! It's Pikachu against Bulbasaur in this showdown between two of the most popular Pokémon of all time! Build your Pokémon, and set the scene for battle. Then, prepare to let sparks fly when you unleash a shocking Electric-type attack. It's super effective!

Mattel has slightly changed their Mega Bloks brand, reserving that name for their toddler line, while renaming the toys for older kids "Mega Construx." It's like the difference between Duplo and Lego. Both versions rely on licensed properties much more heavily than Lego does, with original properties and generic bricks being a much smaller part of Mattel's output. But hey, that's how we get buildable Pokemon!

Might as well start with Pikachu, the face of the franchise. Although not a main character in the original game, Pikachu got a promotion when it was time to create the cartoon: it was decided that he seemed more like a pet than a fantasy creature, and so would bring the appeal of the familiar to young viewers. Plus, he's yellow, which is easy for even young children to identify at a distance.

Pikachu is built from 18 pieces, with paint on his ears, face and back to perfect the look. You can get a single-packed Pikachu, too, but to set them apart, that one has a playful, winking face, while this one is a bit angry and has his mouth open. Battle mode!

While normal Pikachus are quadrupeds, enough of the art and merchandise shows him sitting up that seeing him as a biped here initially makes sense. Plus, you can pose him on all fours if you want, thanks to the articulation: balljoints for the head, shoulders, and tail, and swivels for the ears and rear legs. It's weird that he doesn't have any back feet, just little stumps. If he did, maybe his belly wouldn't be in the way on the ground.

Although there's a real creature known as a pika, it didn't directly influence Pikachu; the name comes from two Japanese onomotopoeias: pika, the sound of electricty, and chu, the sound a mouse makes. So translated, his name would be the equivalent of "Zapsqueak." Personality-wise, Pikachu is more like a squirrel, using his tail to communicate and storing stuff in his cheeks (though in this case, it's electricity, not nuts). To portray Pikachu's electric abilities, you get to build a big translucent yellow lightning bolt that he can hold in his hands.

As we said, Pikachu wasn't even a big part of the first game - you got to pick from among three starters, each representing one side of the elemental rock-paper-scissors game that Pokemon shared with the original Battle Beasts. (And then your dick-ass rival would pick the one that trumped you, because Gary Oak is a bastard and a half). And forget about completing the trio, because you never find any of them in the wild.

The Grass-type starter in the original game was Bulbasaur, a frog with an onion growing out of his back. He's actually #001 in the Pokédex, and is just about the happiest, friendliest little fellow you'd ever care to meet. Look at the gigantic smile on his face! Bulbasaur is best in life! And I'm suddenly reminded of my friend who loved Bulbasaur so much that she got him as her first tattoo.

This Bulba retains his plant and of course has the vines that whip out from beneath it, but like Pikachu, he has no rear feet - I guess the idea here was to make it so he was always looking upward, and without any kind of neck joint this was the only way to do it? You can move all four of his legs, and reposition his ears if you want to, but the head is permanently in place.

Just getting two Pokemon would make for pretty small set, so we're not finished. After building the combatants, you get to build them an arena - or at least a chunk of land they can tear up with their brawl. This is some sort of vaguely tropical area, where rocky grassland meets a bit of sand. Other than a few large, irregularly shaped plates to get you started, this whole thing is assembled from normal small bricks.

A sizeable brown tree grows on the right side of the stage, with a smaller sapling emerging on the left. The two red things on the ground may be fruit from the tree; perhaps Pikachu and Bulbasaur are fighting over who gets to eat it? The instructions show Pikachu in the tree and Bulbasuar on the ground, but you can do whatever you like.

If you're only used to Legos, you'll find a lot of really oddball shapes in this set - stuff that obviously still maintains its Lego-compatibility, but provides shapes no Lego brick has ever had. And for the most part, the quality control is better than expected. It's not quite at Lego's level, but we've seen worse. Honestly, the worst thing that happened here was that one of the pieces that holds Bulbasaur's vine on is showing stress marks because the fit of a peg in its hole was too tight.

I've never had any Pokémon toys, because no one's ever made any good, articulated figures of my favorites. I didn't have super high expectations for this set (because who would trust Mattel over Lego?), but while it does have its weird little flaws, the build is fun and the final results are recognizable.

-- 09/19/18

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