Night Force! The name alone conjures images of Real American Heroes, clad in somber earth-tone fatigues, doing battle with Cobra under the cover of darkness. In 1988, with the help of toy store super-chain Toys R' Us, Joe fans all over were able to do just that, and no doubt, Cobra ran for its life.
Sixteen years later, and again with the help of the very same toy retail chain, G.I. Joe Night Force has been reinstated to turn the tides of the Valor vs. Venom conflict. Today, thanks to the speedy delivery service of Amazon.com, I shall break down this six-figure set! Cobra, watch out.
Before getting into the individual figures, I shall offer observations of the set as a whole. Just like the Python Patrol and Tiger Force (to a lesser extent) packs, each G.I. Joe figure's uniform (save for Action Man) has been recolored into a common scheme and pattern. That pattern is: black with greyish camouflage splotches for pants, dark green shirts with black gridlines, and is completed in detailing with silver, green, and brown. All Joes feature a tampographed (and it's tiny!) Night Force patch on their left sleeve, while having a reversed monochrome American flag on their right.
Common to all figures is the G.I. Joe lettering and tri-stripes tampographed on one of their legs. Finally, the set includes two AK- 103 rifles, two submachineguns ("Firefly style"), three pistols (" Tomax and Xamot style"), two machineguns, two walkie-talkies, two backpacks without panels (again, "Firefly style"), and one infantry backpack. All accessories are black and seem fairly sturdy for regular play. With all that out of the way (phew!) it's on to the figures.
BEACH HEAD (version 1, 1986):
This is the first time I've owned this version of Beach Head, and since being introduced to it the first time, I must say this: wow, what an ugly head. All that aside, this was a pretty sweet figure to make part of Night Force. Beach Head has the same pants style as described above, but with brown-colored pouches and straps, and green colored knife hilts and pistols. His vest is straight green, with black chosen to make the detailing on his chest stand out. Underneath, Beach Head has the same green with black grid-lined Night Force shirt, completed with red for his little shoulder cloth and black for his gloves and trademark mask.
FLINT (version 1, 1985):
Just like Beach Head, I had never owned this particular sculpt of Flint and it was a real treat to get it as part of the Night Force pack. This is one sweet figure that's even better when you consider the extent to which Hasbro has painted this figure. Flint boasts black boots with green sides, Night Force style pants with silver holstered pistol, and a brown belt with a gold-detailed (!) belt buckle. The figure's uniquely sculpted chest is also in Night Force stylings, but with a lighter green straps and shotgun shells. Red epaulettes are featured on Flint's shoulders, and his watch is even stood out in green. The flash on Flint's beret is still red, just like on his epaulettes. Finally, is this character dirty? Heavens no! Flint, like a few other figures, has black camouflage paint swiped across his face and arms, offering a commando look to everyone's favorite warrant officer.
ROADBLOCK (version 1, 1984):
I want to say something nice about this figure, I honestly do. But even I, the toy optimist, must face facts: this sculpt is OLD. It shows its age so much that it has no place whatsoever in the collection of the today's G.I. Joe fan. The arms are toothpick thin and the head is a bulbous mess of brown plastic. Why Hasbro hadn't opted to use a later version of Roadblock, such as the amazing version 2 that had came out in 1986, or the version 4 that had been released in 1993 is beyond my comprehension. This figure is old, hideous, and should never see the light of day again. Opinion aside, Roadblock is also similarly colored as his fellow Night Force members. The only difference is that the ol' Body Massage Man looks like he's wearing a skin-tight shirt and overalls. This isn't a night fighter, folks! This Roadblock's lanky cousin who's tryin' to hit the night club scene.
SHORT FUZE (was Downtown, version 1, 1989):
As the superfans would say, "Da Fuuuuuze!" The original mortar soldier, one of the first 13 soldiers to make G.I. Joe a household name, returns to duty in this fantastic repaint. As mentioned before, this mold did -not- originally belong to Short Fuze, but to another character (with similar specialty) named Downtown, whom was released in 1989. Many fans have suggested that Downtown was intended to be Short Fuze, what with the similarities in PMOS and hairstyle. In my opinion, Downtown was a pretty forgettable character with his teal shirt and brown pants. Yet the Night Force repaint, which is Short Fuze, is sure to remain fresh in the imaginations and memories of many fans. This figure has the same style pants and shirt as the other Night Force figures, but da Fuze's shirt isn't totally covered in gridlines. Perhaps this is to indicate that he's wearing a vest over his Night Force fatigues.. or maybe Hasbro's paint-masks just weren't sharp enough for them to do the entire chest. Either way, the effect will either strike you as cool or simply forgiveable. Fuze's torso straps and pouches are given a coat of lighter green paint to distinguish them from the rest of his clothing and his face has a few black camouflage smudges to finish the look. Let me point something out to you, dear readers: this figure rocks the hizzy! Seriously, do not show your mother this figure because Short Fuze is so fresh she'd slap you! Mere words and pictures fail to describe the fantastic, gritty operative look of da Fuze. You simply must see it in person, but make sure you bring a friend along, 'cos you're sure to faint at its awesomeness.
TUNNEL RAT (version 1, 1987):
Tunnel Rat was one of those figures that was so damn cool that he didn't need a new sculpt after three seperate years of sales. Even with an excellent (if tall) Spy Troops rendition, the original Tunnel Rat remains definitive. Don't let his short stature and do-rag deceive you, this Joe is one tough hombre. Just like with the others, Tunnel Rat is colored in the same Night Force pants and shirt scheme, with brown accentuating the straps on his legs and belt. Silver is used on his belt buckle, whereas a darker black is used for the hilt of his sheathed knife. The real treat of this figure, though, is on the chest, where Tunnel Rat has a good deal of supplies strapped to him. The grenade canister, pistol, and spare ammo are all painted silver. The holster is black, his bandolier is light green with dark green bullet-holders (for lack of a better term..!), and the straps holding all his gear to his chest are light green. A really cool point is that Hasbro made his do-rag and scarf the same color of a dark olive, ensuring that they will won't easily be lost by all the color on his body. Tunnel Rat still has the striping on his forearms and face that made him unique back in 1987, and one could easily construe that this style was what influenced Tunnel Rat's fellow Night Force members. An excellent addition to any collection.
Now you may be thinking to yourself, "Five figures in uniform color schemes and accessories for 20 dollars? Surely that must be it, Harlan. Hasbro can't possibly add more to this set!" Well think again! Hasbro has passed the ball onto you with an overseas operative helping G.I. Joe's Night Force in their battles with Cobra! That operative is..
ACTION MAN (was Tracker, version 1, 1991):
Our good friend, on loan from England! Action Man is on assignment with G.I. Joe Night Force in search of a rogue agent (Dr. X, perhaps !?) who has taken up the good graces of Cobra. Will he the international super agent (and man of mystery!) succeed? Only you will decide that. And until you do, let's get on to how awesome this figure is. Action Man is completely unlike the other Night Force members in the sense that he wears what he wants! He has no extensive camouflage patterns on his clothing, opting for simple black paints and his iconic orange shirt. The knife strapped to his right thigh has a green hilt and is secured by a brown sheath and strap. His silver grenades and pistol holster are kept tight to his chest with the aid of a green strapping and the handle of his gun is done in black.
Action Man's tri-colored M patch is retained just above the figure's right pectoral which leaves no question as to his identity. Action Man has some nice camouflage paint-striping on both arms and his face, giving him some matching with the rest of Night Force. The most peculiar thing on this figure, though, is the fact that he has the G.I. Joe tri-striping on his left thigh! It's a touch weird, considering Action Man has simply joined Night Force for this one mission and not indefinitely. However, my good friend Luke Jaconetti points out that perhaps Action Man's pants weren't regulation for the Joe team, so they just gave him a pair of Tracker's pants! Ha ha.. hey, stop throwing tomatoes! Bringing Action Man to the United States as part of the G.I. Joe line is a brilliant move by Hasbro. This is one of the figures to own in 2004, so make sure you get one.
Phew, what a lengthy look at each figure. Now to wrap things up with my conclusions of this set's pros and cons.
1. The unified Night Force color scheme is excellent.
2. The value of the set cannot be beat.
3. Action Man, Flint, Short Fuze, and Tunnel Rat are at the top tiers of quality.
4. Nice mix of favorite weapons and accessories.
5. The inclusion of a foreign exclusive character. I can only hope Hasbro has more plans to bring such characters as Glenda, Ninja-ku, Shimik, Sokerk, Sparta and T.N.T. from Argentinia, Blades, Jammer, and Red Laser from the U.K.'s Action Force, and Cobra de Aco from Brazil into the mythos of the North America line.
6. The Night Force insignia on the five Joes are great!
7. Looks great with your Night Attack Chopper!
1. The Roadblock sculpt needs to be retired!
2. No figure stands!
3. Lack of sculpt-unique accessories hurt (i.e. Downtown's helmet and mortar, Tracker's raft)
4. The reversed American flag on the Joes. I'm not entirely sure if it is correct or not, but it just looks weird to me.
By a difference of three, the pros outweigh the cons. I really like this set and I think you will too.