Monday, October 29, 2012

Play Arts Kai - God of War 3 KRATOS - Square Enix review

I've been trying very hard to restrict my Play Arts Kai purchases to Batman and Street Fighter characters, simply because of their cost. So I initially passed on their God of War Kratos figure. But after stumbling across one in a local toy store, I found I just couldn't pass him by...

Kratos comes in a sturdy window-box with a velcro cover flap. The packing is exceptional in every way: the box art, both on the front and back, is terrific. The box itself is sturdy and offers very little wasted space. The inside flap includes a ton of text outlining Kratos' back story in detail. 

The figure and accessories are held securely in place by a clear inner cover tray. No twist-ties at all. And everything is shown off perfectly through the window. The package does just about everything you could want it to, and does it well. The only down-side here is for MIB collectors who want to be able to see the figure through the window on the shelf- since a flap has been added, that can't be done. I like the "window only" look for the Street Fighter figures, but I think I prefer the "flap" for Kratos.

Kratos comes with a nice set of accessories. Included are: 2 open hands, 2 gripping hands, 2 Blades of Chaos (or Exile?), 2 sets of metal chains to hook into the Blades, and 2 Claws of Hades, along with a small gray post which can be used to attach the weapons to a hole in the figure's back. The Blades are beautifully sculpted and painted with an awesome level of detail from pommel to tip. The chains add a lot to the look, and plug in relatively easily. It took some work getting them into the gripping hands, but once there, they are thoroughly snug and secure.
The Claws look great, as well. They are full of fairly sharp spikes. No rubbery plastic here - these were clearly not made by Bandai. The gunmetal color is highlighted with purple airbrushing. They are nicely done, but probably won't be getting much display time other than being plugged into Kratos' back.

Like many of the Play Arts figures, Kratos looks awkward to me in a "vanilla pose". The Play Arts sculpts try to work most effectively with the articulation. This serves the figures VERY well in dynamic action poses, but standing straight with arms down at the sides aren't as aesthetically pleasing. For instance, the neck is thick and overly long with an over-abundance of detail. The shoulder and elbow joints are ugly. The hips don't usually want to sit symmetrically, and the abdominal muscles are overdone.

Once he's posed, however, almost all of the awkwardness disappears: Play Arts Kai figures are definitely meant to be displayed out-of-package! And the Play Arts articulation model suits Kratos well. The double-jointed knees allow for some great bend, though I still can't get the crouch low enough for my tastes. But once you figure out how to get the joints to work together, he's a blast to play around with.

Kratos has: ball-jointed head (tilt down is better than up), neck, ball shoulders with a forward/backwards slide, bicep swivel on the left arm (can't get the right one to rotate due to the Golden Fleece armor), ball elbows, ball wrists, chest crunch and swivel, waist crunch and swivel, ball hips, double knees and ball ankles. The sculpt of the skirt allows the thighs some room to move, while still looking natural.

Once he's got his weapons in-hand, Kratos looks great! The sculpt is full of fine details: plenty of creases, wrinkles, scars or whatever. The belt and skirt in particular are awesome. The Golden Fleece Armor is a little softer on detail, though it's a nifty golden color with airbrushed highlights. The shin and forearm armor and knicked and dinged, and he's even got bandage wrappings around his upper thighs.

For me, the weakest part of the entire figure is the face. I think the sculpt is ok, but the paint is more of a hindrance than a help. First off, I agree with the main complaint from everyone who seems to have this figure: the airbrushed gray across his forehead and cheeks is too dark; it needs to be subtler to work well. My other main disappointment is with his expression. Play Arts Kratos doesn't look "mad enough"- he's got a bland look, and I think it mainly has to do with his mouth. In the prototype pics I've seen, his mouth was sterner, grimmer, thinner and not painted red! The final figure wears a wonderful shade of red lipstick which doesn't quite make it from edge to edge. His jawline also flares out a bit, giving him a squarer rather than angular look. I think NECA captured the likeness much better, and the black lips and furrowed eyebrows on their version are much more wicked...

NECA Kratos
Side by Side

NECA Blades

NECA Fleece
Play Arts Kai has created a terrific, highly poseable Kratos figure. He's a lot of fun to play around with and pose. The sculpt isn't as strong as NECA's, but he's way more likely to strike a game-familiar pose. NECA's Kratos does an exceptional job as a statue, but Play Arts has created an awesome action figure...

Saturday, October 20, 2012

TMNT April O-Neil : A kid's perspective review

This review is courtesy of my 8-year-old: "April O'Neil is my favorite character in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles show, so I decided I wanted to get her and I already had Donatello so I thought they were a good match (Donatello falls in love at first sight). April is exactly four and a half inches (same height as Donatello). She has 8 weapons: A gun, two stink bombs, two boomerangs, a sword, a stick sword, and a bo stick.

She has four joints: a head swivel and wrist swivels (she actually has more- twist at the neck, ball shoulders, cut wrists and waist, along with odd ball hips; it's more, but still not nearly enough). Her right hand is open and her left is for holding her weapons.

Her boots are a little too big, but that way she can stand on her heels or toes. I like the way that they did her hair so it looks like it's swaying in the wind. I also like the "5" on her shirt.

I don't like the fact that her knees don't bend and her elbows don't bend (see, toy companies? Even an 8-year-old wants knee and elbow joints!!!), but all and all I really, really like the figure.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Play Arts Kai Armored Batman - Square Enix Figure Review

Square Enix continues their Play Arts Kai Batman Arkham Asylum line with figure No. 3: Armored Batman. With ultra-detailed sculpts, multi-layered paint applications, tons of articulation and a handful of useful accessories, it's hard to pass these figures up, despite their hefty price-tag. I initially passed on Armored Batman, but later gave in, and I'm glad I did!

Armored Batman comes in a standard Play Arts window-box. There's plenty of clear plastic to show off the figure, in theory, but there's a second plastic tray overlaid atop the figure. It keeps everything in place VERY securely, but it also makes it more difficult to see the fine details of all the goodies inside.

Armored Bats comes with 2 spare "open" hands, which can be swapped out for the fists he comes attached with. There's also a batarang and a grapple gun to round out his accessories. There's a small, unnecessary insert showing how to switch out the hands, as well.

The package is attractive and features lots of bright colors and designs, while also protecting the contents effectively and showing them off.

The back of the box shows some in-action poses for Batman, and a small shot of the "partner figure" of the wave: Harley Quinn.
Armored Batman stands a little more than 9 inches tall, which means he won't fit in with any of your other figures, except for the rest of the Play Arts Batman line. The larger scale demands a higher attention to detail, and this is where the line shines. The sculpt is fantastic. Armored Batman is ARMORED, from the super-sharp tips of his pointed ears to the protective overlays on the tops of his boots. The armor is textured to look like burnished steel, with lots of deep shading in between plates and crevices. The cape has a leathery look, with light blue highlights brushed along the raised edges. Shin guards, gloves and forearm shields are a deep purple, with plenty of nicks and gouges to make them seem well-used. Play Arts hasn't skimped on the "little things", either. The cowl has tiny steel rivets around the temples, the circular gauges on Batman's forearm guards have blue highlights in the recesses, and the gloves feature steel highlights at the knuckles. It's a brilliant sculpt, with an appropriately detailed paint-job.
The cowl and face are particularly well-done. There are more sharp edges to this cowl than the regular one, especially around the eyes. It makes for a more menacing look. I'm not thrilled with the jaw-piece, in terms of the look, but the face itself is incredibly life-like in appearance.

I've heard some complaints that Play Arts overdoes the washes on their figures, making them look "dirty", rather than allowing the drybrushing to highlight the details of the sculpt. I can understand the argument. 

I found the highlights on Ryu and Akuma to be too dark, but on a figure like this, it works well, with the exception of the thighs- I find the dark highlights too thick and deep there.

Every Play Arts figure I get seems to have one small paint "slip" somewhere- my Chun Li and Cammy figures each had a paint drip on their faces. Armored Batman here has an odd "run" under the tip of one wing on his chest bat-symbol. It looks like the paint was still wet and got smeared somehow during production. It's not a major issue, but it is annoying, especially on a specialty market figure that runs nearly $60.

Batman's cape is a 3-piece, articulated feature. The actual cape itself is split into 2 parts, each attached to the figure's back via a large ball-joint.

The joints are nicely hidden, and the cape can be adjusted to add a good bit of life to the poses. The tips are also stiff enough to help keep this back-heavy guy upright. Flared out, they give Batman plenty of intimidating girth. The top portion is a little less helpful. Despite being rubber, the way the sides drape over the shoulders really hinder the arm articulation. Batman's got ball-jointed shoulders, but his arms have little to no lateral movement, and forget about raising them above his head- he won't be shooting that grapple up to any rooftops here.

In terms of articulation, Batman's got lots. But the real question isn't how many joints are there, but how well do they work together? The joints are hideous, no doubt. The neck looks goofy and the balls at the elbow and wrists are hard to ignore, but this guy is a ton of fun to play around with.
The double-jointed knees allow Batman to take some really deep stances, and the cape helps keep him up. The bicep swivels were stuck and took some work to free-up, but once I did, I also discovered that the shoulders have an added joint that allows the arm to come across the chest a bit.

I've only got two real gripes with the articulation. One, the head doesn't have much upward tilt, which I would like. And two, the arms are too restricted at the shoulders. The rest of the articulation takes some getting used to, and my figure's left hip seems a little asymmetrical compared to the right, but once I got the hang of things, I really got a kick out of posing this guy.

If you're a fan of the Arkham Asylum and Arkham City games, buying this Batman is a no-brainer. Play Arts is creating a unique set of collector action figures that are fun to play with. I'm in on this line for the long haul, and can't wait for Catwoman and Arkham City Batman, despite the high price tag.