Wow! When Hasbro produces a multi-pack of figures they sure don’t skimp on the value. The TRU 6-packs are proof of this; where else can you purchase 6 figures with their accessories brand-new for $20.00? I used think it couldn’t get much better than that but Hasbro proved me wrong with my last Joe purchase of 2004. On New Year’s Eve day, at 2:15pm CST I became the proud owner of a Ninja Battles set and descended into “new Joe bliss” one final time that year.
Where to begin? This set is “chock-full” of Joe goodness and it has a SRP of $15.00! Five figures, new accessories, a diorama display base, a comic and a DVD all in one box—it’s enough to send me into a plastic coma! To do this set justice I’ll have to take this set component-by-component so I’ll start with the base.
We haven’t had a REAL Joe play set in a long time. (I refuse to call that mish-mash of the Geonosis Arena a Joe play set.) As such, it’s fairly simple: one base with molded detail and foot pegs for five, two breakaway pillars, and one cross piece. As play sets go, there’s not a lot to work with—except for the fact that there is some really nice detail on the base! Whereas the craptacular “Cobra Mountain” set featured Star Wars battle droid parts in the base, this set features a large Arashikage clan symbol and martial arts weapons. Molded into the base are a pair of Sais and a set of nunchucks, which give the impression of a training ground. The support beams for the clan arch are detailed to resemble wooden beams and the breakaway cuts are jagged rather than straight giving the impression that the beam has been shattered instead of cut. The arch itself resembles arches seen at shrines and parks all across Japan. There are five-foot pegs (two on each side and one under the arch toward the back) so that the figures can be posed exactly as they were packaged. There are also two cross-shaped holes flanking the front steps that hold the ends of the two enclosed glaives. For a simple display base, it is remarkably well thought out and surprisingly detailed for something of this price point. If Hasbro produces more display bases like this I’ll be a happy little Joe fan in 2005.
The figures themselves are all repaints of previously released molds. Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow get new color schemes, the Cobra Ninja Trooper is recolored and now called Shadow Strike, Kamakura v2 is given a new color scheme and is now named Tiger Claw, and the black Iron Grenadier is now known as ‘Black Dragon’. For the most part, these are good repaints although I feel that one or two is pretty much unnecessary.
Okay, I realize that Snake Eyes might be the most over-produced character in an action figure line outside of Wolverine and Toybiz. It seems that we just can’t stop by a toy aisle any more without a Snake Eyes figure or seven looking back at us, begging to be liberated from the pegs and taken home. I have to admit—I’ve grown weary of the constant reuse of what was once the most mysterious member of the GIJoe team. That being said, I actually like this repaint quite a bit. For some reason the dark blue-gray color of his uniform works for me. It seems to be a color that would blend in more places than the stark black that we’ve grown accustomed to with the Joe’s premiere commando. In fact, the whole color scheme of this figure works for me in a way that the all-black deco of this mold didn’t. The black SE looked great but wasn’t practical with all of the REALLY SHINY SILVER detailing on him. It just screamed “Hey Vipers, shoot at the reflections from my visor!” to me. This figure is much more subdued—which works for a commando. He’s got to be able to blend in with various backgrounds and cover and this figure accomplishes that in spades. The blue-gray uniform, with gray belts and straps, and some extra olive drab detailing is just fantastic in my humble opinion. Add in the fact that he’s got an Arashikage clan sigil on his right arm and I’m all over this figure like army builders are to blue shirt six-packs!
One other really nice detail about Snake Eyes is his sword. If you look closely this blade might seem familiar. It took me a moment to realize that this is an update of the eagle-pommel sword that came with Snake Eyes v2 all those years ago! While the blade is much more diminutive that the original, it’s a terrific homage to the most-revered version of Snake Eyes yet released. One minor grievance, however, is that the handle is almost too small for the figure to hold solidly. I’d recommend using the hot water/cold water trick to reshape his hand into a tighter grip. This should alleviate any problems with dropping the accessory.
Fans of the new VvV Storm Shadow sculpt were having a good year in 2004. The mold finally got the o-ring treatment and then managed to be released three different times with three slightly different paint decos! This mold builds on the previous two—the head is identical to the other two releases but the dragon is now gray and the neck scarf is red. The kneepads and forearm and calf wraps are black and the boots are white. The cloth beneath the forearm wraps is now colored red and there is a red Arashikage sigil on his arm. I’m actually torn as to which Storm Shadow release is my favorite—there are fantastic points to all of them. If I could build my ideal I’d probably take the arms from this one and put them on the first o-ring release of this wave, as I really like the red and black on the forearms as well as the clan sigil. However, all three are very strong color schemes and it really is hard to pick a winner. Storm Shadow comes with the same accessories found on the first o-ring version of this sculpt with the exception that all pieces that would appear to be made of wood are now painted brown. His staff and the pommels of his swords are now more detailed than in any previous version. Again, this is another repaint of previously released figure but it is an extremely SOLID repaint!