Saturday, March 31, 2012

CHUN LI - Street Fighter IV Play Arts Kai Action Figure

He's a quick peek at the new Play Arts Kai Street Fighter Chun-Li action figure...

The packaging is consistent with Ryu's, and everything is well-displayed and appropriately protected. The box art is attractive and shows off the figure well. Chun-Li comes with alternate open hands, an open-mouthed alternate head, a fireball and clear stand (for the fireball). The fists pop off pretty readily, but the posts are fairly dainty for my taste, so I plan to be very careful when changing out the hands.
Chun-Li is a good looking figure. The face is attractive on both faces, and match one another pretty well. The hair buns peg into each head, so they need to be switched out depending on which head Chun-Li's using at any given time. The paint work is all good, with a high-gloss metallic sheen on the blue parts, and a flat maroon for the leggings. There's a good amount of airbrush highlighting to bring out the sculpt. All of the gold filigree is sharp, the boots have some nice gray airbrushing, and her face sports a great "makeup" application. The one I got had a brown spot above the left eye- annoying, but not really a huge deal. Otherwise, the paint is impressive.
The articulation on Chun-Li is plentiful, and she can take some great poses, but the hip joints are visible and pretty ugly. Also, I can't find rockers in her ankles, so her feet have a hard time staying flat side-to-side. The knees are relatively hidden when her legs are extended, but bend them and the enormous knee joint gives the figure a pretty odd look.
So, there you have it. Chun-Li is a good figure- she's probably a stronger offering than Ryu. She looks good, poses well, and includes the necessary accessories. That said, I actually prefer the NECA offerings. I like the sculpt, paintwork and articulation more on those smaller figures than on the Play Arts versions, and with these (though I do like them), I just don't feel like I'm getting $50 plus worth of figure...

Sunday, March 25, 2012

RYU - Street Fighter IV Play Arts Kai action figure

A year or two ago, I randomly ordered a pair of figures I knew nothing about, from a company I had never heard of for a property that I liked: Kai Play Arts Resident Evil 5. I pre-ordered the pair, despite a pretty hefty price tag ($35 each at the time) and promptly forgot about them. When they finally arrived at my home several months later, I was pleasantly surprised. The Play Arts figures exist in their own scale, with loads of sculpted detail, extravagant (sometimes overly so) paint applications, an interesting assortment of articulation, and some pretty cool accessories. They don't skimp, but they certainly don't come cheap. Chris Redfield and Sheva Alomar were a welcome addition to my collection- they were unlike anything else I had. So, when Assassin's Creed's Ezio came along, I gladly pre-ordered him, as well. He raised the bar even further- I was so impressed with him that I decided not to hedge any further on licenses I cared about. Hence, the topic of this review. I'm a fan of Street Fighter, but not the games- I never got into them. But, I think SOTA's action figure line is one of my favorites ever, I've gotten through the entire Udon comic collections more than once, and I've plowed through the animated movies and series' with glee. So, when Ryu and Chun-Li popped up for pre-order, it was a no-brainer for me. So, what did I get myself into...

Ryu comes in the "standard" Play Arts Kai packaging: a window box, with the figure and its accessories neatly displayed. It's collector-friendly in that everything can be replaced easily, and you can clearly see what you are getting. My Ryu's plastic "sandwich" insert didn't fit snugly against the holding shell, with the result being (as you can see in the picture) that his alternate face was spun around, and one of his open hands was rattling around in the package. Otherwise, the box is functional. Ryu comes with a fire-blast effect and a clear display stand to support it, as well as two sets of hands (fists and open) and an alternate "screaming" face. The face switch is pretty nifty, in that the front half of his head can be popped out by pulling on the chin, which will cause his face to separate behind the ears and just underneath the headband. Slide the face down and out, and replace in the reverse order. It's a cool effect, and it's so cleanly done that I never would have the seams.
Personally, I don't like the screaming "alternate" face at all. It doesn't sit as well in place, and there's something about how it makes the whole head look that doesn't agree with me. Speaking of the head, the stoic face doesn't quite match the prototype pics on the back of the box, either. The prototype seems to have narrower eyes, giving Ryu a more serious and mature look. The actual product has giant child-like doe eyes. Not terrible, but not as good as the box version for my tastes. The box back shows Ryu in several fighting poses, as well as a shot of the other figure from Series 1, Chun-Li.

Another way that the final figure differs from the prototype is the paint. My one consistent issue with the Play Arts figures has to do with their paint work. The basic features are usually sharp and clear, but the "washing" technique they use is so heavy and inconsistent, that it draws attention. Case in point: Ryu's knees (especially the left) are so dark that it looks like he's wearing protective knee-cap covers or something. There's no trace of that on the back of the box, but check out the pics of the actual figure and you'll see what I mean.
The rest of the work is good, despite an occasional "oops"- my figure has a glop of white paint around his tricep where it touched the white paint of his outfit before it was dried, I guess- with some muscle and creasing highlights. The lettering on his belt is clear and clean. The translucent-ish fireball is really cool, and the stand it sits on uses a ball-joint connection, so it can tilt well.

Ryu sports a considerable amount of articulation, but I must confess I don't find it easy to maneuver. His ankles are on balls, but don't seem to want to tilt side to side, so I can't get them to sit flat. The hands switch out on small, thin balls/posts, and I'm afraid to snap them. The base of the neck as a joint, in addition to the head's, but it looks odd, and doesn't work very well. As I mess around with him more, I hope to discover that the action poses I'd like for him to hold are possible, though I don't think I'll be able to get the looks I can get from my NECA Ryu.

Many of the joints are the "clicky" kind, and ratchet audibly to hold his poses. The makers declined to include a stand with Ryu (Chris Redfield and Sheva Alomar each came with one), so the jumping and off-balance poses are out without one of your own.

Ryu stands about 8 3/4" tall, and he's got some heft to him. He's well-designed and painted, for the most part. Is he worth his price tag? I'd be comfortable paying $30-$35 dollars for him. Sadly, he costs a bit more than that. There are very few figures I'd be happy paying $50 for, and he's not one of them. Nevertheless, I'm in for the long haul with this line. I've got some nits to pick with the final figure, but overall I'm pleased with him. I love the characters from Street Fighter, and if we're only talking about a few figures a year, I can see collecting this line well into the future. Play Arts Kai certainly put more care and thought into this than Jazwares did with their offerings, so I'm willing to go for the ride here.

Despite the fact that Ryu has had more action figure versions of him created than many characters would ever dream of I'm glad to add this one to my collection. His size, unique articulation, blast effect and detail set him apart from most of my collection. He looks terrific on the shelf, and I'm predicting that he'll be fun to pose and play around with once I get the hang of those joints. Not to mention how great he'll look surrounded by Chun-Li, and the upcoming Akuma and Cammy figures (heck, he and Chun-Li look awesome together now!). I can't wait to see what the future of Play Arts Kai Street Fighter figures have in store...

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Transformers Prime - SOUNDWAVE - Robots in Disguise

Soundwave is one of the big reasons that I enjoy Transformers Prime as much as I do. There's a quiet menace to his character, much like Boba Fett's when he was first introduced to the Star Wars mythos. Soundwave doesn't waste words, so I'll try not to, either...

The package is standard "Robots in Disguise": deluxe figures are packaged in alt-mode (Soundwave's is a Predator-style drone), rope-tied into their blister. The figure is shown-off well, despite his rather sizeable wingspan. Laserbeak is included, as stated in the yellow corner-ad. The artwork, as usual, is awesome: striking and colorful pose of our Decepticon anti-hero takes up the right hand side of the card. Soundwave is listed as a Level 2 (Intermediate) transformation, though I think he was very straightforward and simple to change. He bears item code Series 1: 004.

The card back shows Soundwave in both modes (here his alt is listed as a "Recon Drone Mode", with Laserbeak perched on the robot mode's arm. There's a very brief bio and the usual Autobot team shot at the bottom.

The recon drone mode looks cool, but to me it's a bit beefier than the on-screen version. The bulbous front end, and kibble-ridden back end are especially large to my eyes. In the show, Soundwave is sleek as can be. I can understand, of course, that the constraints of reality play a large part here, and it's entirely forgivable: he looks great.

The transformation itself is fairly simple, as mentioned earlier. The front half splits apart into his legs, the wings become his arms, and the back end becomes his torso, with his head on a strange little pop-up spring mechanism. That's really the only part of the figure I dislike: I don't see the need for the spring gimmick, and it leaves the head with no side-to-side articulation or tilt, both of which are very important to me in posing my figures on the shelf with some personality. Soundwave's faceplate are part of his cool-factor (also very reminiscent of Boba Fett's), but translated to toy-form, it's painted a slightly glossy black(?) I think. 

Many of the purple highlights you see on the packaging are absent, as well. Laserbeak sits snugly in Soundwave's chest, or attaches effectively to the drone. The wings are articulated, and it's a pretty cool (though necessary) accessory. Soundwave is an excellent representation of the character. His proportions (especially the needle-thin, gangly arms) are replicated nicely, and he looks good in both modes. The transformation is reasonable, and he's a much needed addition to the (so far) minimal Decepticon ranks...

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Optimus Prime - SDCC Exclusive Transformers Prime Deluxe Class

The Transformers Prime figures have (finally!) begun to hit stores en masse, and they are all great! So, why bother with this exclusive from last year's San Diego Comic Con? In a nutshell, if you are a collector, it's geared specifically to you.

The figure comes in an amazing and sturdy box, designed to look like Optimus Prime's chest. You can clearly make out the windshield panels and some of the design both above and below. A powerful circular magnet with the Autobot design holds the entire thing closed. The magnet is quite strong, but can still be removed easily. Once the magnet has been pulled away, the two front panels open to reveal Optimus Prime and his Matrix of Leadership packaging...

The inside of the left panel shares information about the Transformers Prime show, along with the same group shot that has appeared on all of the Prime packaging, whether it was the First Edition versions or the newer Robots in Disguise banner. The cardboard is fairly sturdy and the look is quite good. 

Optimus's individual packaging is terrific. He resides in a clear (but sculpted) bubble in the center of the Matrix. Two handles just from the sides, and it even sports a strap, allowing the Matrix to be worn over your own chest, if you so wish. The plastic shell can be opened (and it looks like it can be re-sealed), and the front center part is flat enough to allow the whole thing to stand alone if you choose to display it that way.

The right hand panel features a cool shot of Optimus holding his Matrix of Leadership aloft, along with a brief narrative about his background growth from Orion Pax into a Prime. The colors, design and artwork all look great, and the whole package, taken together, is really nice and very collector friendly.

The back of the package gives a closeup "widescreen" version of the right panel's shot of Optimus, along with a quote from the show. All in all, a nice presentation all around!

Optimus himself looks great. He's pretty accurate to the show, from what I can tell, and even the face is nicely detailed and done. With the painted eyes, I actually like the way it looks more than on the larger Voyager class figure. He comes with his arm cannon blaster. I haven't opened him up to check out the transformation process or alt mode look yet- I'll post update pics once I've done so.

Optimus looks like he can be returned to the package at any point, which is a nice bonus. The two halves of the clamshell look like they pop together easily. All very collector-friendly and unique.

So with other versions of Optimus Prime currently available (Voyager Class) and more to come (Leader Class), why bother with this Deluxe-sized one? Well, the figure is exceptionally well-done, and might go pretty well with Legion Class figures as part of a display, and is sure to be loads of fun on its own. Also, the packaging is really nicely done, and is quite unique in and of itself. A super collector's-piece to add to your Transformers Prime collection!

Transformers Prime - Voyager Class Optimus Prime - In-Pack Peek

The Voyager Class rendition of Transformers Prime's main "man", Optimus Prime, is finally out, boy was he worth the wait!

Optimus comes packaged in a colorful and eye-catching window box which is suitable for display, and which does well to protect the contents effectively. He is easily visible inside the package, and his arm cannon weapon features a "try me" cut-out, along with a light-up feature (batteries included). The package features the new "Robots in Disguise" mantra that the entire Transformers Prime line shares. There's not much else to share here. The box looks great, and the back features some personalization. It isn't overly large or wasteful and does its job well. On to the figure!

Simply put, Optimus Prime looks brilliant. The robot mode, featured inside the package, looks really close to the screen version. The blue tinted windshield chest plates even feature some embedded detailing of their own. Some of the portions of his arms are cast in matching clear-blue plastic.

 I really like the color choices and, as I said earlier, he looks really close to the version featured in the show. Optimus comes complete with his blaster (which has the action feature) and his sword. Once he's out of package, I'll have a better idea of the alt mode and the conversion process, so I'll update with that info once I have it. There are two oddities with Optimus in robot mode. One is the face. It's close, but not quite spot on to the show. I think it's something with the eyes, much like with the Prime Megatron. The show face uses pupils to convey emotion, and the toy doesn't have any. Eyes are really hard to get spot-on in general, so I can certainly forgive any differences, which seem to me to be less pronounced than with Megatron.

The other oddity is with Optimus's back. He's got a large block-shape attached to his back. I know it's part of the constraints of reality that these really need to convert, unlike animated depictions, but it's really obtrusive to the look for me. Transformers Animated Optimus managed to stay so close to the source material, I just wish they were able to find a way to do so here, as well. I also liked the sliding face-shield feature that version has, and wish it could have been a part of Prime Optimus, too. After all, he spends SO MUCH of the show with no face-shield, it would have provided a nice display option. That said, Optimus is masterful. I love this version and think he's a terrific edition to the Prime line-up!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Transformers Prime - Megatron Voyager Class - In-Pack Peek

I love Transformers Prime. I've grown to really enjoy the show, and I've been waiting eagerly for the toys to hit, which they did...FINALLY!!! Megatron here is a Voyager Class figure, and should run you about $20 (except at TRU, where he'll cost you about 40% more). 

The sculpt looks great in terms of the likeness to the show- he looks generally screen accurate. The colored plastic leaves a bit to be desired, though. He's cast in grey plastic, which looks like what it is. On the show, he's got a much more metallic silver sheen. I'm sure a skilled customizer could do some amazing work here, but that might cut into the play value.
I've got a small nit with the face, too. It's not sharp, and crisp, so he loses a lot of the personality that the show's cgi incarnation carries. The eyes are so prominent on screen, and here they're, well...small and beady.

Megatron comes packaged in an attractive box along with his accessory weapon (batteries are included), which features a "try me" opening and a light-up feature. As long as it looks like the massive cannon on his arm that it's supposed to, I honestly don't care about the push-button gimmick or the lights.

The alt-mode looks like it should be fabulous, and when I get around to opening this guy up, I'll post some additional pics out-of-package. Overall, Megatron looks great. He's about the right size to intimidate the deluxe sized versions of the other Prime figures, and he's (of course) integral to the line up!