It’s easy to argue that Snake Eyes is the signature character of the A Real American Hero era of G.I. Joe. He’s been around since the 3.75” line debuted in 1982, has been featured on more covers of the Marvel Comics series than anyone else, and currently has 62 different figures according to the archives at YoJoe.com with more on the way. Some fans might be claiming that they suffer from “Snake Eyes overload” as he’s already got 3 figures released in the G.I. Joe Retaliation line. Where does it end? When is it safe to say “I don’t need another version of the character?” Is the Ninja Duel Snake Eyes worth the purchase or is he just another in a long line of variations on a theme? Read on and find out one Joe fan’s opinion.
If you’ve been reading JBL for any length of time then you’re probably aware of my feelings for the film G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. It was a stellar example of taking a successful property, handing it over to Hollywood, and watching a film made by people who utterly failed to grasp the concept. The same can be said of the original RoC Snake Eyes. Based off of the Sigma 6 animated design, the result was a man in black BDU pants whose upper torso was dipped in latex. Sure, it looked like a real-world version of the animation but it also looked campy and cliché and completely devoid of any sense of realism. With G.I. Joe Retaliation, however, the production team seems to have taken a sense of “gritty military realism” and really run with it. For the Ninja Duel Snake Eyes, the design team recreated the film’s design of a man in black BDU pants with modular body armor covering his upper torso and forearms. The figure is molded entirely in black with minimal paint applications but close examination reveals a surprising amount of detail. The forearms show simulate black arm guards held in place by straps, the shoulders reveal composite armor protection, and the entire torso is covered in a piece of body armor that appears to strap under the arms. Only the shoulders have any type of paint application with a touch of brown simulating what could be dark leather for greater movement. The design is topped off with an Arashikage hexagram on the right shoulder to produce a surprisingly plausible design for a mute ninja commando. Even the attached belt is practical with a functional holster and knife sheath. As with many of the newer figures in the line, Snake Eyes has both rocker ankles and hinged wrists!
As with the Rise of Cobra version, Snake Eyes has a head sculpt inspired by the original 1984 version 2 action figure. However, rather than appearing like a rubber casting of Ray Park’s head complete with a mouth this head sculpt replicates the film’s look of an armored helmet perfectly. The signature striated visor is present but the rest of Snake’s noggin is protected by what appears to be composite body armor. The only paint applications on the head piece are found on the two seams running along the sides of the head as well as the visor and mouth piece. It’s a great look—familiar and yet plausible as I’ve never figured out how the RoC version got in and out of his costume. The head sits perched a top a ball joint for maximum poseability.
When it comes to gear, Snake Eyes is loaded with both the requisite “action feature” as well as a practical kit for a ninja commando. In terms of the latter, he’s packed with two small knives, two “wood handled” swords, the same assault rifle that was last seen with the wave 1 Cobra Commander, automatic pistol, a sword sheath and a back pack. It’s a nice set of gear that plays both to his character history and the sense of military realism that seems to permeate this entire line. The pistol and one knife can be stowed on the figure’s belt while one sword slides neatly into the included sheath. What’s interesting is that the scabbard can then be plugged either into the included back pack or directly into the figure’s back. While he can only carry one blade at a time I’ve always felt that this is all Snake Eyes ever needed. Over the past few weeks I’ve found that I tend to display him more often than not with just the scabbard in place. The assault rifle is very evocative of a MP5 with a more substantial stock and completely the kit of the team’s premiere commando perfectly. In terms of action feature gimmick, Snake Eyes comes equipped with the same zip line gear as did the Red Ninja. Kids will love it and collectors will put it into the same bin as all of the spring-loaded launchers from Rise of Cobra. It does not, however, hamper the figure’s playability at all which is a good thing.
At the end of the day, the question remains: “Is this figure worth picking up when I already own 61 other versions of the character?” The answer I offer to that question is a resounding “Yes!” I’m one of those collectors that prefer to separate out movie lines from main lines in my displays and have done so with both G.I. Joe and Marvel collections. (OCD anyone?)As such, I would pronounce this figure as the DEFINITIVE movie version of Snake Eyes. The design perfectly captures the real-world aesthetic featured in the film and the addition of the hinged wrists and rocker ankles open up a tremendous range of movement. His gear is practical without being campy and the action feature is essentially removable. While I felt a bit cheated by the wave 1 Retaliation Snake Eyes I find that the longer I own this figure the more I like it. Of course, this could be heavily influenced by the fact that this is the Snake Eyes that is appearing in all of the amazing trailers for G.I. Joe Retaliation. Regardless, I see this figure as the perfect counterpart to the wave 1 Storm Shadow and would be hard pressed to find another Retaliation version that surpasses it. I can’t imagine too many collectors buying this figure, opening it, and experiencing that sinking feeling of Buyer’s Regret. So, if you’ve not already done so, snag this version of Snake Eyes when you see him—you won’t regret it. That’s just this particular Joe fan’s opinion.
End result: If you’re going to buy a movie version of Snake Eyes, this is the one. Spot-on likeness and great articulation make this the ONLY version you’ll ever need for a movie collection.