Super Mario Chess Set

So, there’s a Super Mario chess set that’s been out since 2009. These are the pieces:

Image of Super Mario chess set pieces described below.

On the hero side we have Mario as the king, Luigi as the queen, Princesses Peach and Daisy as the bishops, Yoshis as the knights, Toads as the rooks, and coins as the pawns. Coins?

On the villain side we have Bowser as the king, Bowser Jr. as the queen, Magikoopas as the bishops, Birdos as the knights, Goombas as the rooks, and green shells as the pawns. Shells?

I look at this setup and am immediately disappointed. Surely we can do better than having uninteresting inanimate pawns? But I’m actually having trouble figuring out a better setup.

See, this does appear to be following some valuable constraints. For one, there’s no characters from related sub-franchises involved - characters like Donkey Kong or Isabelle or an Inkling who make sense in Smash Bros or Mario Kart but aren’t primarily Mario characters. For another, only characters who have sometimes been portrayed as a race rather than an individual (Yoshi, Toad) may be doubled-up.

I’m not sure how to avoid uninteresting pawns while keeping those constraints satisfied, having all the pieces be somewhat intuitive, sticking to the hero/villain divide, and only using important/recurring characters.

Like, I’d definitely argue that Toads are frequently portrayed as hapless villagers and would make perfect sense as pawns. But then who should the rooks be? Rosalina and Pauline are both reasonable adds, but keeping track of which of the ladies in dresses are bishops and which are rooks could be confusing. Poochy is a natural rook, but he’s from a sub-franchise. There’s Toadette, but then keeping track of rooks versus pawns gets confusing.

The villain side doesn’t really have this problem. You could easily make Goombas the pawns and Koopa Troopas the rooks, for example. There are so many enemy types to choose from (I might vote for Boos over Magikoopas for bishops, for example). But if the hero side has inanimate pawns, it seems wrong for the villains to have living ones. Maybe the green shells are their pawns because the coins are the hero pawns.

I can’t come up with a solution I’m happy with. How would you fix this chess set?