Release Year: 2021
Cost: AU $499.99
Pieces: 5685 (with 20 minifigures)
Of all the sets to come out in 2021 so far, Ninjago City Gardens really got the fans talking. The scale, the detail and the fact that it joins to two of the most popular sets in recent times? Tick, tick, tick. It’s not only the biggest LEGO set I’ve ever built, but it’s the fifth biggest set LEGO has ever released. With multiple levels and 20 minifigures, this is one incredible build experience. It probably took me around 13 hours to build, over the course of around five nights. It’s a monster. More than just a standard baseplate, it’s a baseplate and a half. One shame though – it’s the first time I’ve every received a set that was missing a part! This isn’t one of those I’m-just-not-looking-hard-enough moments, it wasn’t there. I’ve since received the replacements in the mail, but the photos have already been taken and we’re in the middle of moving house, so the LEGO room has been boxed up, including this set! When I’m all set back up again I’ll add the parts in. For now, you’ll have to forgive the lesser quality images.
The box includes a whopping 43 numbered bags across 26 stages, plus another bag of the bigger elements. There’s the two dark bluish grey baseplates, and three manuals. Inside the first book you’ll find the Ninjargon alphabet decoder, for translating all those signs into English. Three sticker sheets are also included, with 66 stickers all up. It’s a lot, but they really do add a lot of detail and fun to the set.
Firstly, let’s check out the minifigures – all 20 of them.
Golden Wu – This one is exclusive to the set and looks great in all gold. The back of the head shows a plait ponytail and there’s excellent printing all over. He’s got a little black SNOT stand with a printed 10 Years tile.
Mei – traditional outfit in white with a black belt, but the highlight is the lavender hair – love it!
Eileen – Pretty standard citizen inclusion
Clutch Powers – the adventurer that was last seen in 40342 Ninjago Minifigure Pack from 2019. He’s got an eye patch, well worn jacket and a fantastic alternate face, with his eye patch lifted up and smirking. He’s also got his insignia on the jacket, front and back, and a satchel.
Christina – wearing an awesome Lloyd hoodie! Clearly a fan of the green ninja.
Young Lloyd – I’m not sure what’s going on with the green eyes, but the torso is great and the hair element is exclusive to the set.
Hai – the ice cream vendor from Ice Planet Ice Cream Shop. He’s got a great uniform, with the shop’s logo front and back, and a blue hat. Which should have been medium azure, like the uniform. Bummer. He’s also got an icecream scoop (spoon) and an ice cream ready to go.
Nya – in civilian clothes this time, and that hairpiece is excellent! The black leather jacket torso is good too. Shame about the legs.
The Mechanic – One of the enemies of the ninja, this half man half cyborg has some awesome printing on his torso and head. I like the bowler hat too – he’s got a massive weapon, although half of it was missing in my set, so it’s a bit stunted in the image.
Kaito – the mustachioed gentleman with the red shirt and tie. I like the torso, but he looks a little evil. Is there a backstory here I don’t know about? He carries a briefcase.
Zane – he’s got his white Legacy outfit on, and looks amazing. the gold accents are superb.
Kai – also with the Legacy outfit, but in red, it’s another nice design.
Cece – The Mechanic’s henchwoman also looks great in dark red hooded jacket. The dual moulded cap is a favourite accessory of mine – it’s so understated. Cece rides the fantastic flying scooter and carries a diamond.
Cole – also in his civilian clothes and looks awesome. The legs are awesome! He’s got a console controller in his hand – another favourite!
Jay – exclusive civilian clothes in this set, and they look great. The messy hair is brilliant, and he carries a flower, for Nya.
Tito – in a dark azure beanie and brilliant torso, which is quite rare. He’s got a printed 1×2 video cassette tile.
Ronin – so much detail! Wow! The face mask is fantastic here too.
Misako – Lloyd’s mum. A nice older lady minifigure. The torso is nice, but that’s really the only exiting bit. I think that’s everyone!
Jay’s gear – no character here, just an empty ninja costume with a trans-neon green headpiece. The printing is brilliant.
Ok, let’s take a look at this set level by level. There’s so much detail I could spend a lot more than one article on it, but I’ll spare you that. There’s also a ton of Ninjago lore in here. I’m not going to pretend to know it, so I’ll let the proper Ninjago fans check it out.
Just like the other two Ninjago City sets, the structure is built on what looks to be a swamp. There’s water all around the build, thanks to a whole heap of transparent 1×2 light blue tiles that sit on an arrangement of plates and wedge plates in black, dark green and green, to give the illusion of depth. There are also recoloured horns and weapons in green used for plant variants. I wish they did this more. It’s a great use of interesting shapes. The L shaped main structure surrounds a smaller island. There’s also the Tree of Destiny, with a seat surrounded by some very cleverly executed tree roots, and a large support structure using some very interesting parts indeed – a Technic gear rack housing in sand blue. It works really well! The tree uses lime green and neon light green leaves to great effect. The leaves end up being really vibrant. Add in some single stud with three leaf elements all over it and it looks super organic. There’s also a little dove in a nest on the interior branch.
One of the smallest details in the set that happens to be one of my favourites is the drain pipe and water pouring out of it, thanks to a transparent light blue Power Blast element. This little detail, using a spring shooter in transparent light blue is so effective. It’s one of the little things that makes this set feel so alive.
The beauty of this set is that each room in the build is built separately, so is able to be taken off the main build. This is especially good for transport. Moving a set of this size in one hit is nerve-wracking to say the least. I tried it once because I didn’t want to take it apart again, but it was not a fun experience moving it in one hit. I was terrified of dropping or even tilting it! I got there, but never again. The rooms throughout the build are small but are chock full of details. At this level there’s a takeaway shop and Ronin’s pawn shop.
The shaping is clever, using 1×2 rocker bearings and plates to get the slight angle. As the buildings go up, the tiny details start appearing. Party hats as gold accents, book covers as window sills at the servery, and that’s just the bottom level.
The smaller baseplate is home to a red and black pagoda connected by two small angled bridges. There’s also a memorial behind the pagoda dedicated to Zane. It’s quite aesthetic. The bright red and green really offset each other well, and I love the small lillypads.
The second floor includes two more rooms plus the walkway to hold it all together. The walkway is built separately and as soon as it’s placed on the build, it adds some more rigidity. The walkway itself is rather boring, but the barricades are great. They’re so simple but the colours and details are great. There’s two in particular, the gold ones, that are awesome. Made from a snowflake, sword holsters, black skeleton bodies and hats, these two details are a great detail.
The rooms above the ground floor include a lovely tea balcony, complete with detailed traditional artworks. Outside is a brilliant window using a large brake disc that was seen in the Technic Ducati Panigale V4 R. It’s a different element to use for a window, but it works well.
The other room is an apartment of a clearly hard core Ninjago fan! Toys all over the place (I think these might be Ninjago LEGO sets maybe?) a lava lamp and even some hidden weaponry under the bed spread.
At the walkway level there’s two more rooms – a noodle bar and an ice-cream shop, and like the whole build, they’re covered in exquisite detail and nice parts usage. The blue of the ice cream shop is great – cold and clean.
The interior of the shop is well detailed, but the favourite details for me here are on the outside – the air-conditioning unit and the dropped ice-cream cone! I love it. Also, the verandah roof, using multiple black meat cleavers as tiles. This is just inspired and works so well.
Chen’s Noodle House is also on this level. It’s an example of another excellent verandah roof – this time with sausages and clips to create an oriental curved roof. Chen is also seen here in minifigure form, albeit missing his legs, as they’re backwards and hidden behind the curved tile. The signage here is great.
One more level up and we’ve got the biggest building in the whole set – the Ninjago City Museum.
There are loads of relics from the story as well as some great build techniques. One in particular is the corners of the diagonal wall. Using triangle roof 1×1 tiles, they fit just perfectly. There’s also a lovely turnstile to get in, and security cameras. The cleverest bit here is the glass display case using a lidless treasure chest. The facade is also bright – a crazy pop of flame yellowish orange and yellow. The teal windows are not only artistic, but a beautiful contrast. Add in the corner rollercoaster track, and it’s a statement floor.
There’s a small apartment next door, with some lovely details inside – an umbrella stand, TV on a shelf, and an easel with the City Gardens being worked on. The roof/awning of this apartment uses the new 1×3 arches and it looks great. There’s just so much in this set!
Going up yet another floor there are two buildings, and the curved top of the museum. The museum roof is a small build, but adds a nice detail point, in a skeleton hanging from the roof of the museum. Is that the Skull Sorceror’s bone dragon? There’s also a brilliant black trunked cherry blossom tree attached to the build section. To the left of it is a Zen Garden pavilion, using black treasure chest lids as a unique roof! The rest of the build is very simple. That roof though? I’ve never seen that before and I’m so impressed with it.
On the other side of the museum roof is the Ninja’s hang out, and this is chock full of awesome details. The best one, and possibly one of the most understated aspects of the whole build is the arcade machine. Inside the screen portion is a transparent 1×2 tile with a sticker on it. It sits in there loosely and sits on top of the end of the Technic pin in the rubber axle element.
Push the ‘joystick’ down and the tile goes up! It’s absolutely brilliant. It’s also great that the whole arcade machine can be taken out to show people. Outside this room is a large koi clipped to the wall. I’m not sure of the significance of the koi but I love that it uses orange Mario feet as sections of the body. These could have just as easily been round 2×2 elements, but the extra shaping adds more character to the build.
At the peak of the structure is a large tower, and the design is angular, modern and stylish. Using a combination of 8×6 wedge slopes offset from each other and transparent pink hexagon flags. It also has some black tiles in the centres of the top wedge sections that accentuates the brightness of the teal. Adding this section on also finishes the height, and boy, is it tall!
This is a monumentally exciting build. It seemed like it didn’t stop. I honestly think it took me around 13 hours to complete, over the course of a week. I’ve never built a set this big before and I really want the other two sets now. The minifigures are plentiful and exciting (at least for a non hardcore Ninjago fan) and when people see the set it always brings them over. I’ve got it displayed at Fremantle Library at the moment and there’s always someone checking out the cabinet!
If I have to pick some issues, there’s not as much detail around the back as there is at the front, but it also comes down to how the set is dressed with the minifigures after display.
I realise I’ve glossed over a lot in this set. There’s an insane amount of detail in this set in both the builds and the stickers, it’d be an article twice the size that it is already. I’d highly recommend getting a copy of this set, or if it’s outside of your price range, borrow one from a friend, or just take a good detailed look through one. It’s staggeringly good.
A special thank you to LEGO for sending me a copy to review. All thoughts on this set are my own and are not influenced in any way, shape or form. The provision of sets for review does not guarantee a favourable review.