Pokemon is a relatively new visitor in my house. Believe it or not, the franchise has been around since 1995! I’ve always been aware of it, but I was just never a fan. I never get sucked into the video games, collectible card game, or animation.
But it’s still around . . . and still more popular than ever! And, thanks to school, my kids have now discovered Pikachu, Ash, and all the rest. As of now, their exposure has been limited to the shows available on Netflix and a few cards they’ve picked up from who knows where. But somehow they still know the names of about 1,000 different Pokemon.
Ash’s Arena Challenge is a playset in which kids can pretend to be Ash and send Pikachu into battle against Wobbuffet (that’s his name; don’t blame me). I mean, the set comes with a Wobbuffet figure, but you could very easily swap him out for any toy you’ve got lying around. Want Pikachu to battle Papa Smurf, Batman, or Rainbow Dash? Done, done, and done.
Here’s why. Ash is positioned on one end of the arena (where he serves no actual function except to look cool), Pikachu slides onto a plastic arm that runs the length of the arena, and Wobbuffet (or whomever) stands on the end opposite Ash. Three buttons (cleverly designed to look like Pokeballs) activate three different “battle modes.”
Quick Attack, Thunder, and Iron Tail are the three moves that send Pikachu into battle and knock over his opponent in different ways. Each is also accompanied by music and sound effects. Take a look:
As you can see, Wobbuffet could be any character, and Ash is merely window dressing. Pikachu is the only character you don’t really want to lose here. Let me be clear, though: I see this as a positive. You’re not stuck with these two characters.
Like I said, put anyone on the other end of that arena, and go to town! And Ash? He’s standing in place on a small plastic peg. Any action figure with holes in its feet should be able to take his place.
Want Obi-Wan Kenobi to send Pikachu into battle against Bullseye? Easy peasy.
Now let’s take a look at Battle Moves Pikachu.
This one scores points for simply being a decent-sized, well-constructed Pikachu. Just like Ash’s Arena Challenge, Battle Moves Pikachu comes with three “touch-response” attacks: Quick Attack, Electro Ball, and Iron Tail.
Push his tail down, push his ears down, and press the stripes on his back (which are buttons) in different patterns, and you can activate the three attacks. Since two of the attacks involve Pikachu rolling across the floor, he doesn’t work too well on carpet. But on hardwood or tile? Watch out! He can really move.
All in all, these toys are well constructed, and I don’t think either will break easily. PIkachu’s tail and the plastic arm on the Arena Challenge are the weakest parts of each, so it’s possible they would be the first parts to break. Unfortunately, if either of those were to break, that would essentially render the set useless since those are the critical pieces.
My kids got some good play time out of both, but the novelty (as with most toys) began to wear off relatively quickly. These toys basically do only three things. Neither is good (nor intended) for long-term, extended play. At this price, though ($39.99 for each), that might make you think twice.
However, if your kids are Pokemon fanatics, then they’ll likely go wild for them. For me, the Battle Moves Pikachu works best when it’s in the OFF position. He’s adorable, but he says exactly two things and repeats them ad nauseum. I get it. This is Pokemon. The creatures don’t say anything other than their own names. But that gets old incredibly fast.
(Disclosure: TOMY provided The Roarbots with review samples of these sets. All opinions remain our own.)