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Friday, May 5, 2023

KoopaTV's Failed Attempt at Building THE MIGHTY BOWSER

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - Alternatively: Two people with no LEGO experience try building one of the most complicated sets of all time.

While most of KoopaTV's staff were in our Sierra Leone headquarters between April 19 and April 23 this year for a big meeting, we had some non-meeting fun activities. The most fun of those? We permanently blew KoopaTV's current and future budget buying the $270 LEGO The Mighty Bowser set that released last year. Was that worth it? Read this review to find out.

First of all, disclosure. Only two people on KoopaTV's staff actually worked to try to build The Mighty Bowser (set #71411) (ages 18+): myself and Witch Princess. Despite my frequent writing about LEGO Super Mario as a topic, neither of us have LEGO set building experience. To compensate for this, LEGO also shipped us the 4x4 Off-Road Ambulance Rescue (set # 40582) (ages 6+) as a free gift—normally a $20 value. I think it's because they thought an incentive to buy such a large purchase would be cool.

We treated the ambulance as a tutorial level in being able to read LEGO's enclosed instruction books. The ambulance had two bags in it, and we finished the whole thing in an hour (29:48.35 on bag one, and 27:07.50 on bag two) without having issues. (If you're wondering what's with the times, we decided we'd time ourselves for The Mighty Bowser, because no other review on the Internet—and we looked extensively—gave a time for how long it took them to construct the entirety of the set. We decided we'd be the first ones out there to report this information.) This was the wake-up call that The Mighty Bowser would take a very, very long time to build, so we would end up putting some of the meetings off and dedicate the entire Friday to building The Mighty Bowser. Still, despite the time investment, we felt confident that we were competent enough people that we could be successful, even if it would take a long time.

While the ambulance was only 2 bags, 162 pieces, and 48 steps, The Mighty Bowser has 22 bags, 2,807 pieces, and 555 steps. Its enclosed instruction book is basically a textbook. And with all of these bags and pieces about, the potential to step on a LEGO and die upon impact seemed high. (I've never actually stepped on a LEGO piece, but based on reading Internet comments, this is what happens.) It was a dangerous mission, but we would embark on it for the glory of King Bowser! (Who was also present in our meetings, so... there was definitely pressure on us.)

LEGO The Mighty Bowser set 71411 unboxed 22 bags laid out
Watch your step!
(We did watch our steps.)

The first four of the twenty-two bags involved building the semi-castle base that Lord Bowser would stand on. This base includes two pillars, with the pillars being purposefully weak and not very sturdy if you ever try lifting up the base. This is because that rascal LEGO Mario is meant to topple the pillars down if he ever comes and invades Koopa Kingdom. There is even a POW Block beneath one of the pillars, which seems like an odd architectural decision, assuming Master Bowser is in control of his own contractors. I blame the unions.

The way the enclosed instruction book describes their steps is entirely visual. Each step tells you which pieces to use for that step. You must find the pieces within the bags. It's reminiscent of pixel-hunting in an adventure videogame. Bags also include mini-bags, specifically for the smallest pieces, which is a nice way to keep yourself organised and hopefully not lose anything. (Though it took us several bags to fully realise that the purpose of the mini-bags was to hold the smallest pieces. We thought there was some other meaning behind them, like they're all supposed to be used in a certain step.) Some steps do have mini-steps, marked by coloured boxes, of things you need to construct before putting them onto the greater base. When they ask you to flip something over, there is a symbol denoting that. But the instructions usually do not specifically say to put something at this specific place. You pretty much have to compare a before-and-after photo to see where the pieces in the step go. (Before the step and after the step is done—the pieces you're working with are what's different, so figure out where it goes based on the picture.)

Our favourite part of the base (and the whole thing) were steps 36 and 37, where you had to place 51 x2 (102) small plates of five different shapes on the base of in order to decorate it. Clearly, an interior designer had a lot of fun with this. It was unclear how the included brick separator would end up undoing these plates if we misplaced them, since they're quite flat with nothing on top to grip on, so we had to concentrate. Witch Princess worked on the left side's 51 plates, and I worked on the right side's 51 plates, and we did them concurrently in a display of teamwork. Our teamwork would mostly be helping find pieces, pushing them into place hard enough, and making sure that we were putting places into the correct spot.

The Mighty Bowser LEGO set 71411 first four bags castle base pillars built
We completed the base and the pillars in 1:47:41.33, right before noon.
(Bag 1 in 18:48.32, Bag 2 in 26:08.46, Bag 3 in 22:42.60, and Bag 4 in 40:01.95.)

Regarding his base, King Bowser really, really likes light grey, grey, and black. The colours were sometimes a bit hard to discern from one another in the enclosed instruction book, especially because the background of the book itself is grey. Still, that would end up being the least of our problems as we moved onto the bags that began His Majesty's body.

Axles. Or, as we referred to them, rods. These are quite common LEGO pieces when building the great Koopa King's body, presumably because he needs some flexibility in movement due to how interactive his limbs are when fully built out. The alternate theory is that LEGO's designers just really wanted to flex how complicated they can make something that doesn't need to be so complicated. The mechanisms on bags 5 through 7 were quite...something, and we thought throughout that we were working on King Bowser's legs first. Actually, since it was only one, we thought we were putting a whole bunch of effort on just one foot, and we'd have to repeat this whole labourious task on his second foot later. For perspective, bag 5 took us 45 minutes (and 1.14 seconds), while bag 6 took us 1:21:46.51. (That's over an hour.) It was so long because we had to do some substantial rework with the axles and these green plated pieces that we mistook for other green plated pieces, so we kept struggling on how we were supposed to make it work. With such a large (but handsome, of course) body with a... limited (but striking!) colour scheme, it's easy to confuse some pieces for others and screw things up. Meanwhile, bag 7 took us 51:16.81 minutes:seconds, and as we were starting bag 8, we had been working on this for almost 5 hours. We were getting really tired and losing our focus.

And then came bag 8. Bag 8 immediately started with connector pegs and axles, which made me groan quite loudly. We were tasked with creating some kind of... device made of multiple L-shaped pieces connected by axles that we had to insert into a 4x6 rectangle and then peg that device inside the rectangle. The problem is that... we had to flip the rectangle upside-down when using it, but we didn't notice that detail, and the instruction book omitted the flip over symbol that we were trained to recognise from earlier in the instruction book. Ultimately, we noticed something was wrong when we had to connect that rectangle to two other 4x6 rectangles, and then have the super-rectangle with the strange middle device go on an upside-down Bowser “foot” that we worked on from bags 5 through 7. But that wouldn't work... because the rectangles were right side up. Then we realise this foot was actually Master Bowser's torso, and all of the complicated and strange use of rod pieces was to handle future bags creating his shell, legs, arms, and head off of this torso. The super-rectangle mess was directly important to the King of Koopa Kingdom's green and glorious shell.
But...there's a massive problem here.

The Mighty Bowser LEGO set 71411 step 92 bag 8 upside down 4x6 hole brick
Step 92 screwed us. Sure, it's possible to tell that the 4x6 holed rectangle is upside down in the white box in the enclosed instruction book, but it's far from obvious.
And since we didn't notice until it was impossible to continue, we can't get this piece in the middle out now that the device is pegged on both sides.

See, you can't just pull those axles out. Some other parts you can (and we did) pull out, but not those. They go into a snug hole in the centre device. The brick separator cannot help either, because the brick separator assumes that the axle isn't in something on the other side. But since BOTH sides have axles going through them, there's really no leverage that you can pull them out. It's impossible, and therefore, we couldn't make any progress. We were trying for over an hour (an hour, nine minutes, and 38.60 seconds... plus another 15 minutes and 26 seconds later). We even put the pieces in hot water thinking that'd do something, to no avail. We tried smashing the pieces to see if another force would get something to pop out, but this accomplished was permanently breaking the axles, making them unable to go through any holes (AKA becoming unusable). We had to stop.

Fortunately, LEGO does offer free replacements for LEGO pieces on their website based on the set. I ordered replacements for all pieces trapped in that device and rectangle, and when they arrive, hopefully we can continue. Of course, it likely wouldn't be as a big KoopaTV staff in the Sierra Leone office.

The Mighty Bowser LEGO set 71411 first seven bags built torso on base
This is the extent of what we accomplished after 370 minutes of building and struggling.
If you extrapolate that over the other bags, we'd have to multiply that time by three.

Being forced to stop like that is very disappointing and upsetting, especially when this was being done in the presence of The Mighty Bowser himself. You know, the real one. It... was definitely something resembling a teambuilding exercise between myself and Witch Princess, but maybe we're not much of a productive team together given the end result. That said, Bag 3 with its design panels on the base had significant room for error, and we did complete it perfectly among the two of us, so we at least have that to fall back on. But I consider what happened to us to be a design flaw on LEGO's part, and it could have been avoided with more clear instructions. (Witch Princess agrees with that sentiment.) It's one thing if you consider wrestling with the instructions to be part of the LEGO experience and part of the difficulty of being an 18+ set, but mistakes should be able to be undone as opposed to resulting in the physical equivalent of a softlocked game, with the way out of it having to order and wait for parts from LEGO. Too bad we can't go back in time to an earlier save file.

If you want to construct The Mighty Bowser, you'll need substantial amounts of time... and you should probably have a lot more LEGO experience going into it than we did!

Do you have tips for Ludwig and Witch Princess on how to avoid making mistakes like what screwed them out of progressing on Bag 8? Have you encountered similarly impossible LEGO situations, especially involving rods/pegs/axles? Should KoopaTV's staff have acquired more LEGO-building experience before trying to build one of the most complicated sets ever created from the company? Please submit your commentary down below!

KoopaTV's staff failing at making a LEGO set in his image ticked off Bowser so much he decided to end KoopaTV. Well, there's more to it than that.
Ludwig successfully obtained the replacement parts on Bag 8, and also compared The Mighty Bowser to Chinese bootleg versions.


  1. Ah, I think it's a common misconception you've fallen victim to re: stepping on a LEGO brick. From what I understand, it doesn't actually KILL you, it just hurts so much it makes you WISH you were dead.

    1. I dunno how a little block like that could hurt so much...!

      Well, I've never talked to someone who stepped on one and lived to talk about it.

  2. All those LEGO bricks are a nightmare to deal with with young children around. You never know if they took some pieces secretly and then cannot finish the project anymore.

    1. "Took" some pieces might also involve "eating" them...

  3. Bag 8, now with the pieces LEGO sent, took two hours, 54 minutes, and 51 seconds. Some part of the length is because we screwed up in several places, including which way the piece with the red axel on one side and red plus sign on the other was inserted into the green piece, which in order to flip those, we had to basically disassemble the whole bottom part of Bowser's torso (the shell base), going back steps from the earlier bags 5 through 7.

    1. Bag 9 was a relatively painless 55 minutes.
      Bag 10 was a very simple 27 minutes 34 seconds.
      Bag 11 was 28 min 49 sec, though the leg attached to the torso doesn't seem...uh... stable?

    2. Bag 12 (clone of bag 10 but the other foot) is 25:59:00.
      Bag 13 (clone of Bag 11, finishing his other foot/leg and attaching it) was 28 minutes and 10 seconds.

      MIGHTY BOWSER now can stand up. And has a tail.

    3. Bag 14 (the start of his head and eyes) was 1:08:53.

  4. Bag 15 had Mighty Bowser's eyebrows, hair, and his mouth (in two halves). It took one hour, 7 minutes, and 7 seconds.

    1. Bag 16 has King Bowser's neck collar and the remaining outer perimeter of his shell, taking 30 minutes and 42 seconds.

    2. Bag 17 has the middle four spikes and green shell plates of Mighty Bowser's shell. Took 37 minutes and 12 seconds.

    3. Bag 18 has the right third of Mighty Bowser's shell, with three spikes. Took 31 minutes and 28 seconds.

    4. Bag 19 has the left third of Mighty Bowser's shell, with three spikes. It's just the mirror image of Bag 18. It took 30 minutes and 32 seconds.

    5. Bag 20 was Mighty Bowser's two shoulders (one per side), so it's doing the same thing twice. It took two people 40 minutes and 34 seconds.

    6. Bag 21 was Mighty Bowser's two... upper arm / forearm? One per side. The directions actually said to just do everything twice. It took 42 minutes and 16 seconds.

    7. The final Bag, Bag 22, was assembling both of Mighty Bowser's two claws... and the fireball that goes into his mouth and can be shot out. We ended the clock when we figured out how to shoot the fireball out. It's like a crossbow.
      Fun fact is that the connecting rods for Bowser's arms / claws are vein-coloured.
      The time was 31 minutes and 42 seconds.


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