AliExpress is a Chinese e-commerce site where sellers come together to offer their wonderful wares to the world at large. It's your go-to shopping destination for glow-in-the-dark Chairman Mao t-shirts and novelty condoms that come packed in Spongebob-branded tin cans, but it has two specific features that caught my interest: video game merchandise and a loose interpretation of international copyright laws. So, here are just a few of the treasures I found during a quick search of AliExpress. Did you know that they sell costumes of videogame characters? Well, you will after this lot.
At first glance I though this one might have been an official Nintendo product, but that's because I'd only seen the top half of it before scrolling down to reveal that Princess Peach is in the middle of putting her socks on. I understand that if Princess Peach wears socks then yes, at some point she must have put them on, but it's hardly the part of the Super Mario universe that you'd expect to see a figurine of. Do the other figures in the range include Luigi trimming his moustache, or Bowser filling in an application for a bank loan (hey, flying pirate ships aren't cheap)? No, this one is for a much more niche market, a niche that that would be, how can I put this? Excited by Peach's barefootedness. There are 450-ish results for "Princess Peach feet" on DeviantArt, and 99% of them would lead to severe embarrassment if you were caught looking at them. The creators of these images are presumably banned from every shoe shop in a twenty-mile radius of their house.
The worst thing about the figure is that Peach comes with two shoes but only one sock. That would drive me absolutely spare if I owned this.
Mad, staring eyes devoid of humanity are so common in these kind of toys that it's almost too obvious to mention, but that Mario keychain offers such an extreme example of the phenomenon it becomes impossible to ignore. You'd freeze in terror every time you tried to unlock your front door if that thing was dangling off your keys. Also, notice that Mario's colour palette suggest he has picked up a Fire Flower. Imagine a man with that expression and the ability to shoot fire out of his hands jumping out of your wardrobe and hissing "it's a me, Maariooo!"
Then there's Luigi. What's Luigi doing with his hand? He's either sniffing his finger - a nauseating thought, considering he's a plumber - or he's trying to offend some German tourists with a Basil Fawlty-esque Hitler impression.
Welcome to World 9-1: the cardboard box storage world! There are quite a few full-body Mario costumes on AliExpress. None of them look quite right, but this is definitely one of the better ones. The biggest problem with this costume is that Mario's ears are far too high up his head, but the tailor did at least capture Mario's famous child-bearing hips.
Much inferior on the dungarees front, these ones, but I appreciate the effort of the photographer in arranging the cardboard boxes in a less haphazard fashion. As Mario and Luigi gaze into each other's eyes, I can't help but think they're coming up with a sinister plan. There's definitely something conspiratorial about their pose. Their ears have already swivelled to focus on the invisible signals being beamed down from their mothership. Soon enough, the Earth shall fall beneath the springy boots of the Bootleg Mario Brothers.
Who the hell is this? It's not Mario, that's for sure. Mario has never dressed in green - we have a Green Mario for that, see above - and he certainly never wore a bowler hat. The bowler is the hat of the upper-middle class, and Mario is obviously working class. Okay, maybe he's not the salt-of-the-earth labourer he used to be because he does hang around with a princess a lot of the time, but still.
So who is this? He's got an M on his hat, angry eyebrows and a certain wild wooliness to his hair, so I'm going to say he's Mercutio, Mario's crank-addicted cousin who just got out of prison and who is known to children everywhere thanks to his famous catchphrase "it's-a me, Mercutio, gimme all your money or I'll cut you".
Okay, this one is just creepy. It's like the twins from The Shining, expect wearing trousers made from semi-inflated binbags.
Over to Mario's famous rival now with Sonic the Double Hand Amputee, apparently. Well, you don't need hands to go fast, so I suppose he won't mind too much. This picture, though... I personally find it rather unsettling: the grainy look of a photo taken with fifteen-year-old digital camera, Sonic accusingly holding up his stumps with a faint expression of disgust, the other costume in the background slumped in a cardboard box like a shed skin. You could make a good short horror film where this is the final shot, Handless Frowning Sonic intermittently lit beneath the flickering fluorescent lights. "You're too slo-ow!" says Sonic, and the screen fades to black.
Wait, he can't say anything because he doesn't have a mouth. Well, scratch that one then.
Nothing wrong with the figures here, they look like any pound-shop "fighting" toys that have been given a Mortal Kombat makeover. No, I just like the way they've been arranged for the photo, because it looks as though Reptile is trying to break up the fight between Scorpion and Sub-Zero. That's Reptile, always the calm, level head in the group. The calm, level lizard head hidden beneath a mask of human skin.
One thing I never understood about Mortal Kombat's ninjas were their outfits. Why are they quilted? "For warmth" would be the obvious answer, but they're running around and doing assassinations and other such ninja activities all day, would it really be advantageous to have half a duvet wrapped around you in those situations? It must be armour, which would explain why they have a big flap over their genitals.
"I am the ultimate fighter! I am the master of the Satsui no Hadou! I am... Steve! I work in the finance department, I think we met during that training session the other week. Yeah, I'm good, how are you? Cool, cool. Hey, how does my hair look? 'Like a volcano that's erupting candy floss instead of lava but somehow stupider than that?' Oh."
Twelve inches? No wonder he's blushing (I'm sorry).
I think this is a legit Nintendo product, by the way. Were people crying out for a plush toy of Link wearing an expression of transfixed lust? What is he even looking at? A red rupee? A hookshot? I bet it's the hookshot, they're always the most exciting items to collect.
This isn't even the worst Pac-Man costume I saw on AliExpress. One was just an orange mini-dress with eyes sewn onto it, so if you wanted to dress as the orange ghost for Halloween but, you know, sexy, then you're covered.
The twist with this costume is that you can tuck your head and arms inside which, if it's dark enough and you're wearing black leggings, could make it look as though you're a floating ghost. As long as you remember to crab-walk everywhere, anyway. If that's not enough of a thrill for you, with the application of some brown paint this outfit could easily be converted into a "piece of toast" costume. Two costumes in one! You can't argue with value for money like that.
Here's an interesting one - a copy of the Mega Man action figure from the Ruby-Spears cartoon, presented under his Japanese name of Rockman. You can tell it's the cartoon version because the button / lump thing on his forehead is a diamond instead of a square. There are no company names or logos on the packaging, so I'd have to assume this is a less-than-legitimate reproduction. This begs the question: why? Why make toys from a Mega Man series that wasn't very good and went off the air in 1995? I suspect the answer is that whoever made this came into possession of the original moulds - or copies of the original moulds, at least - and knocked this thing up, because that's how these things work. There's a joke in here somewhere about Chinese bootleggers caring more about Mega Man than Capcom do, but that's a bit too negative for me so instead I'll draw your attention the the sweet laser sword Mega Man is packaged with.
Nothing unusual about the item itself, a mobile phone case featuring stolen artwork of Terra from Final Fantasy VI is something I'm not surprised to see on this site. I am surprised, and childishly amused, by that description, however. Hey AliExpress seller, how's your FFVI mobile phone cover? Oh, it's pretty good. It could be better, it's a shame the cut-away areas are over Terra's head, but on the whole I'd say it's pretty good. Could be better, but it's not bad.
I am a terrible self-publicist - my CV is just a scrap of paper with "relatively competent human, no major neurological impairments" scribbled on it - but even I could come up with a better description for a product I'm trying to sell than "pretty good." Just "good" would have been more convincing, for starters.
I have to be honest, I kinda like this. I would hang a neon ShinRa sign from a wall in my house. No-one else would ever see it, because I'm the kind of person who would hang, in the place where they live, a tacky neon version of the logo of a fictitious power company. No, it's okay, I've made my peace with that.
One thing that looking through these item has taught me is just how ridiculous Tidus' outfit is. You don't really get the full scope of its stupidity until you've seen it in the flesh, so to speak. It looks like the result of running a toddler's wardrobe through a woodchipper and then randomly sewing the pieces back together.
"Ahem... I think you'll find that while Leon Kennedy was briefly a member of the Raccoon City Police Department, he was was never attached to the elite STARS unit. Furthermore, the picture of Leon used on this card was clearly taken during the events of Resident Evil 4 and by that time Raccoon City had been destroyed - are we really supposed to believe, ha ha, that Leon was promoted to the special police squad of a city that no longer exists? This sloppy fact-checking reveals a total disdain for the Resident Evil canon and thus I am forced to rate this item one out of ten."
Here, that bloke from Maroon 5 does a bit of modelling work on the side. Why is the idea of someone being barefoot while dressed as Wesker so repellent to me? Maybe it's because all the places Wesker tends to visit - biological warfare labs, Antarctica, volcanoes - are places where wearing strong, sensible shoes is a must. All I know is that this picture, which its lack of footwear and strange, doll-like pose, is creeping me out even more than Sonic's Cardboard Dungeon. If you're going to Photoshop something like this, please airbrush some shoes onto it.
"Oh, you're my best friend in a world we must defend, but mum and dad say I can't hang around with you any more. They say you're a bad influence, Squirtle. It's all those fires you start. You're thinking about starting a fire right now, aren't you? You've got that look in your eyes again."
Finally, there's this thing. This goddamn thing. You know how occasionally something catches your funnybone just right and you laugh and laugh and laugh at it despite it not really being that funny? That happened to me the first time I saw this Charizard costume. And the second time, and the third. I'm still chuckling about it now. It's that head, that freakishly elongated noggin with horns that defy their usual swept-back position on Charizard's head to stand tall and proud and extremely cumbersome when passing through doorways. If you cover the head up, the rest of the costume looks fine; if you cover the body up it looks like a vampire carrot. I think I'm going to ask the seller if they'll do me a custom order for just the head. There is literally no end to the possibilities when you have a fuzzy mascot headpiece that's supposed to be a fire-breathing dragon but which resembled the most terrifying root vegetable imaginable.
My AliExpress shopping trip is over, and such treasures I have found! All these items came to my attention during a only a quick browse of the site, so god knows what's lurking further in the depths. If you find anything particularly wonderful / horrible, feel free to share it in the comments. Unless it's one of those sex pillows that kept coming up when I looked for Tekken stuff. Don't share those, please.