There was a point in my life when I was about seven of eight when nothing would have made me happier than owning some Legend of Zelda toys. I often imagined them, what they would look like and what game features could be taken from the games and made into plastic form. I envisioned a Might Max-esque playset, perhaps with a little wall you could ‘blast’ open with bombs, or with a gravestone you could push to reveal a treasure or a Poe or something.
Sadly this wasn’t to be. Apart from a few Ocarina of Time action figures that I had heard about but never seen, there were no Zelda toys widely available in the UK. I had to make do with using Lego or Plasticine to have Zelda adventures without using a games console.
Fast forward eighteen years later and there is now so much Zelda merchandise available to kids that my eight year old self would probably have turned as green as Link’s tunic if I had known what would be available when I was no longer a kid and would be theoretically now too old too appreciate Zelda toys.
Luckily for me, the time to appreciate Zelda toys has not yet passed, so I decided to take a look at the closest thing available to the toys I imagined back then; Jakks Pacific Zelda Micro playsets!
These toys are all based on the The Wind Waker video game (first released on the Nintendo Gamecube in 2002). At the time I didn’t appreciate the game a great deal as I found the cell shaded cartoonish art style to be somewhat childish. After replaying it a few years later, I had new found appreciation for it. The music was fantastic, the gameplay was tight and felt a lot more fluid than previous titles. Even fifteen years later the graphics hold up surprisingly well just because of the art style, and it feels refreshing to play a Zelda game in a bright and colourful world instead of the often drab and gloomy pallet found in some of the other titles. The best part for me was probably traversing the ocean in a boat and having a whole world full of islands to discover and explore. It felt like an entirely new concept in a Zelda game and still feels pretty fresh now; the only other game that I can think of where you captain a sea vessel is Assassins Creed IV. Anyway, though I am not reviewing the game, The Wind Waker was a damn good one!
So these toys are all based on locations from the Wind Waker. The first one I shall look at is Outset Island, the place where the game starts off.
I have covered Jakks Pacific before (here and here) and their contribution to making toys based on Nintendo games. For the most part, they do a good job but I am usually too much of a finicky bitch to have been totally satisfied with anything that they have made yet, and these playsets are no exception. The idea with these are they are meant to work like a jigsaw puzzle, ‘clipping’ together so you can display and play with them however you want them. It’s a fun little idea but unless you own a few of these then there really isn’t much point.
Also, Outset island! If you have played the game you will know it is a fun and vibrant little place but there isn’t much there. It’s a quiet little village on a quiet little island. Do kids really want to re-enact that time that Link walked alone on a beach? Well some might. But I’m guessing most would rather be playing in some tomb, fighting off those zombies that scream at you and then hump your back if you get too close to them.
Outset Island comes in three parts, a jigsaw base with a hut on it, a jigsaw base with nothing on it and a jigsaw base with a treasure chest and a palm tree on. The hut door opens and so does the treasure chest lid.
Now I don’t like to compare stuff to toys from years ago (I’m lying, I fucking love it) but the Mighty Max playsets had similar things to opening doors and treasure chests in it’s series. Only behind a MM door you would find a corpse nailed to the other side, who had been strangled to death with his own intestines after being viciously ravaged by a cyborg demon. Or something similar. Now I know Outset Island isn’t a hellish Mighty Max landscape, but could they really have not come up with something more exciting than a hut, a tree and a treasure chest? It’s Zelda for goodness sake! There is nothing even inside the hut.
What adds to my annoyance is that Link is made of that rubbery, bendy type of plastic and refuses to stand up whenever you try and position him, so you have to get him to lean against the door or something. It’s okay I guess. It’s just not the Zelda playset I waited nearly two decades for!
The second Zelda set is the Open Ocean set. And it’s worse than the first.
This set comes with Tetra and is comprised of three ‘jigsaw’ parts like the first. One has nothing on it, one has a little pier and one has a little viewing platform on it. I don’t know if it’s it’s an intentional design or just the plastic they use, but the platform is kind of warped which makes it hard to stand Tetra on it.
The pier can be raised up and down which is the only feature this set has. That’s pretty much this set. Booooooring.
The final set is Hyrule Castle and it’s a little bit more interesting. But not loads.
Again, it’s just three separate pieces that clip together. A blank one, one with a treasure chest and one with a door.
The neat thing about the door is that it has a little lever on the side and if you slide it up and down you can open and close the door. It’s a fun little gimmick and is great for crushing Tetra, a character I never really warmed to whilst playing the Wind Waker.
The treasure chest also opens but like the other, there isn’t anything in it which is kind of boring. I feel like they could have done so much more with these sets had they really tried. And I’m not just being a nostalgic asshole who just likes stuff from my childhood (though I am mostly being that). I really think toy companies today could learn a lot if they just went and looked at stuff from a decade or so ago, at what made toys fun because there just aren’t many fun features put into toys I see these days which don’t require batteries.
The figures are all very basic and are not in any way articulate but are good enough, and are fairly detailed seeing as they are such a small size. It’s just Link and Tetra refuse to stand up most of the time.
Overall, the sets are okay. They just aren’t brilliant. They are a lot more fun when connected together which is the idea with these, but I feel that if a kid only had enough money for one set then it’s going to be a pretty boring playtime experience with just one figure included. I think it must be a sales strategy employed by toy companies because when I was a kid you often got bigger playsets say on the box “Action figures not included”. That was fine, but smaller sets like Micro Machines or Mighty Max always had an accompanying assortment of little figures to go with the sets. These days they don’t. Even Star Wars Micro Machines playsets (which have made a resurgence) come with just one figure and one vehicle now, where as they would usually come with four or five figures and a vehicle. I guess the idea is so that you will have to go and buy the figures separately. Which is what I had to do.
But they aren’t cheap. They come as a three pack, and at £5-£10 each, I really resent having to pay that. Especially as the one pack comes with a Link figure which I already own because of the Outset island set! I only got these two sets as I had a voucher for amazon, and the third set comes with the King of Hyrule, Tetra and Ganon. I would have liked to have owned the King as well, but wouldn’t pay that amount of money for one small figure when I have the other two.
Adding more figures to the playsets does make a scene look more interesting and fun but the figures should have been with the sets anyway seeing as they aren’t even that cheap in the first place.
There are a couple of other Zelda sets which are apparently ‘deluxe’ ones. I might pick one of ’em up in the future if I can find any at a decent price. There is also a whole load of Mario ones, which I think look much better as Mario started off as a 2d side-scrolling game, which lends well to clipping together different sets to make one long ‘level’. They aren’t as easy to find in the UK though and I am not prepared to fork out big importing any, so I guess I won’t be reviewing them anytime soon!
Anyway, if you like Zelda a whole lot and you also like little playsets, you might like these. Or you might get pissed off about them. I am somewhere in-between. They’re okay, they just certainly aren’t the Zelda Micro playsets that I imagined as a kid.