When the Totaku line of small, plastic figures were announced it was hard to know whether they’d stick around for long. For many the initial response was to compare them to Nintendo’s amiibo line of figures. They’re roughly the same size, sold at about the same price-point (if you ignore the crazy prices for amiibo online) and both collected together popular characters from across the gaming world. To some the lack of functionality is a missed opportunity, though for many in-game functionality is a bonus to owning a cool, affordable model of your favourite character. Given the love-hate relationship shoppers have with NFC toys keeping them as collectibles only is no bad thing.
The initial wave of Totaku included a great mix of popular characters, from the recent to the fairly retro. Some of the stars of the gaming world rendered into small plastic form included Sackboy from Little Big Planet, Parappa the Rapper, Crash Bandicoot, Tekken‘s Heihachi and even God of War‘s Kratos. There were also signs of the diversity of the series by featuring the hunter from Bloodborne, a much more recent hit, and even a tiny plastic space-racer from the Wipeout series. With video game statuettes and figures frequently being priced at prohibitive levels it was nice to see an affordable line of merch that featured so many of gaming’s big names. In the UK they seem to be exclusive to GAME, with only secondary sellers offering them on Amazon on eBay.
As one would have expected the toy-line expanded, moving away from its Playstation-focused line-up. Characters like Sonic the Hedgehog, Street Fighter’s Ryu and Spyro the Dragon joined the figure collection later, continuing to make the series seem like an all-star line-up. Not to mention Ryu and Sonic are working a double-shift; available as both amiibo and totaku figures. Video game merchandising has grown exponentially since I was a teenager. To take perhaps the most recent example, Fortnite, it felt like mere weeks after the game blew up that toys and t-shirts were appearing all over the place. Games like Minecraft and Five Nights at Freddies received way more merchandising than even the biggest games would have 20 years ago. That means even if you’re actively looking there’s not much from games of that era, so its welcome to see some appear now.
As the series has expanded some of its inclusions seem a little more questionable. Characters from the Yu-Gi-Oh! series, for instance, seem a little out of place among the likes of Sonic and Kratos. Similarly entries for some of the most recent titles seem lackluster compared to some of the other figures. A character from Battlefield V and an enemy from Horizon: Zero Dawn might be from popular games but they do not make totaku seem like a collection of beloved characters. Later in 2018 new Totaku were added that really showed the strength of a series like this, particularly when it is not aligned to any one company. Banjo Kazooie is a great example of a game with almost no merchandising that is fondly remembered by many. They may lack NFC functionality, but if there’s a game you’re fond of its well-worth checking out to see if has a totaku figure.