Review by Chris Chung & Fred Meyer
Pics by Fred Meyer
Toy packaging has changed quite bit since the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero line dominated toy shelves in the 1980’s. Today, toy lines rely on static card art for an entire series of action figures and boxes for the few tie-in vehicles often rely on window packaging to show off the assembled product. Back in the day (said the “old” toy collector), things were different. Each character in the classic ARAH line was released on sealed cards that each had a unique original piece of artwork that showcased the packaged character in dynamic poses. Even more impressive, the vehicle box art not only featured a dynamic original painting showcasing the jeep/jet/boat/tank that was inside the box but it also featured several of the current characters from that year in a dynamic action pose. Instead of a static catalog product shot, kids were treated to a scene that sparked the imagination and made the products look all the more appealing. As I grow older and action figure lines grow smaller and smaller in scale, I find myself waxing nostalgic for that packaging of old. Thankfully someone at Hasbro must feel the same way because the presentation of the SDCC Exclusive Desert Duel set is a throwback to the glory days of the ARAH line!
Note: To make this easier to navigate I’ve split each component of the Crimson Strike set onto its own page. If you just want to jump to a favorite item, use the individual links below. Otherwise, there’s a “Next Page” link at the bottom of each page.
At first glance, the packaging for this set is going to look remarkably familiar and with good reason. The Desert Duel is comes packaging inside a smaller slipcase that is thematically the same as the one used for the SDCC exclusive Crimson Strike set. The outer sleeve simulates a battle-worn ammunition crate with the front graphics featuring simulated worn metal with a few cut-out bullet holes. It’s impressive in its detail but it’s hardly the best part of the presentation.
Remember the Crimson Strike review and how a certain web admin gushed over the dynamic battle scene that was painted on the front of the box? Well, to paraphrase the classic PSA’s,that was only HALF of the battle! That’s right Joe fans—the front of the Desert Duel box fits to the right of the Crimson Strike set and showcases the rest of the story! The Cobra Basilisk is dug in for battle while the brand new FOE Striker charges in, ready to take down Cobra. The AWE Striker variant is crewed by Chuckles and Night Fox while the Cobra Air Trooper and the Elite Horseman prepare to repel the attack… on foot! Whether it was intentional or not, once again the pilot of the Cobra vehicle isn’t depicted in his vehicle but is instead fighting with small arms which begs the question—does Cobra have automated jets and tanks?
In all seriousness—Hasbro really went the extra mile this year with the packaging. While the back of the box is a more traditional catalog diorama shot, it’s the front panel with its painted battle sequence that really helps to sell this. It takes the Desert Duel from a set with “exclusive colors” and really turns it into something more. Plus, the box is completely collector-friendly which means the contents can be removed without destroying the box at all. It’s a terrific detail and one that has me scratching my head with one simply question—which shelf am I going to have to clear off in order to display the boxes side-by-side? To the design team at Hasbro, I tip my hat and say “Bravo!”
As they used to say in the infomercials—“But wait, there’s more.” We’ve only just scratched the surface of this SDCC exclusive set!
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