Review by Chris Chung & Fred Meyer
Pics by Fred Meyer
G.I. Joe 50th Anniversary Desert Duel set
Dr. Meyer, aside from your Ph.D. in medieval folklore and poetry, you’re a fan of the Pathfinder game. So if you would be so kind, could you please enlighten our [non-nerd] readers what mythological animal the basilisk is supposed to be?
Wow… we’re going full-bore NERD here! Okay, to keep it brief—a basilisk is a reptile with the ability to turn living creatures to stone through its lethal gaze. In other words, in Pathfinder RPG terms they’re a right royal pain in the keester to fight!
From my standpoint, I don’t really know what to say about this. It’s a red and blue Snow Cat, complete with the frosted windows and skipedos. Made allegedly for the desert. Ok then. Computer: Activate Suspension of Disbelief.
I get what Hasbro was going for here. In order to flesh out the 50 th Anniversary line in its second year beyond some figure packs, the folks at Pawtucket needed to release, or in this case “re-release”, some vehicles. However, in a surprising example of role-reversal, Hasbro borrowed an idea from the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club who in 2014 repainted the Snow Cat as the HAVOC Mk 2. All that was needed was change in color and this once proud G.I. Joe vehicle would now fight for Cobra. The idea isn’t without precedent as the Python Patrol and Tiger Force can both attest.
The color pattern doesn’t scream “desert warfare” to me, and to be honest, this is another token vehicle we’ve seen too many times before. But unlike the F.O.E. Striker, aside from revised foot pegs that fit modern figures, there is nothing else new about the Basilisk. More of the same. Add in the fact the Elite Horseman has a hard time fitting in, and you have a vehicle that really needs to be retired since it’s not much good past vintage collecting.
To me, the Basilisk is a bit of a dichotomy. On one hand, the new color scheme works really well to distinguish it as a Cobra vehicle. On the other hand, the fact that the armaments are completely unchanged from the Snow Cat figuration comes across a bit stale. Some of this is because I’ve always found the Snow Cat to be completely under-armed with a very limited range of weaponry. Essentially the Basilisk has four missiles in the rack and two “ski-pedoes” (a weapon that only seems feasible on snow in the first place) and that’s it. Once that limited payload is expended all that remains is a small two-seater half-track vehicle with no real room for cargo or extra passengers. I find myself looking at this and wishing that Hasbro had somehow managed to scrounge up just enough tooling budget to put something different on the ski-pedo mounts to shake things up in the same manner as the FOE Striker altered configuration of the AWE Striker. It didn’t have to be anything major but just something to alter the profile so that the Basilisk reads as something more than “blue Snow Cat”. Yes, I’ll admit that the new decal sheet helps and I love the new basilisk sigil on the side. Still, I can’t help but look at this and wish for something a bit more.
At the end of the day, is the Basilisk worth a purchase? While Chris was surprisingly succinct on this subject, I’ll answer in a bit more detail. The Cobra Basilisk is a visually interesting vehicle with a vibrant color scheme. It’s also a vehicle that is a straight repaint of a very familiar G.I. Joe arctic missile wagon and it’s very hard to see it as anything other than what it is. While the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club got away with repainting the Snow Cat as the HAVOC Mk 2, having the vehicle switch sides without any significant alternation from the last release falls a bit short. However, rather than just writing this off as “Hasbro is lazy” I find that it’s more a sign of the situation in which the brand finds itself right now. G.I. Joe isn’t generating the sales needed to justify tooling up new vehicles and so Hasbro found itself having to get creative in order to flesh out a set such as the Desert Duel. While it’s easy to complain that the Cobra Basilisk represents Hasbro taking the “road less expensive” I prefer to think of it as the folks in Pawtucket doing everything that the can to give the remaining 1:18 Joe fans out there something new vs. just another AWE Striker. Sure, it’s a Snow Cat but the new decals and the new colors help it stand out from the other iterations of this former arctic half-track. I don’t think it’s an essential part of every Joe collection but it’s far more fun than I’d have expected.
The Bottom Line: It’s not an essential addition but the Cobra Basilisk does offer a new twist on a familiar Joe vehicle.
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