Saturday, May 19, 2012

REVIEW: GI Joe Basic Assortment Snake Eyes

Produced by Hasbo | Released May 2012 [Dollar General Exclusive]

Basic Assortment GI Joes?
As most GI Joe fans will know, GI Joe: Retaliation - and it's associated line of tie-in toys - is just around the corner. In a move presumably designed to cash-in on the movie hype, Hasbro has released a series of ''Basic Assortment'' GI Joe figures, a line up of six characters (Snake Eyes, Duke, Shipwreck, Storm Shadow, Cobra Commander and a Cobra Trooper) featuring limited accessories and retailing at a very impulse buy-friendly $6. Currently available exclusively though Dollar General stores in the US, the figures have become highly desirable due to the fact that a number of the figure designs appear to be based upon ''classic'' GI Joe uniforms, such as the subject of today's Review, a Snake Eyes figure sporting his Sunbow blue and black costume.

In an effort to reduce costs, the Basic Assortment figures all use the same standard back card, with a small insert within the blister pack featuring their name and alignment (a Cobra logo for the Cobra forces and, in a move echoing the movie line-up, the Arashikage symbol for the Joes.)

The back card is also much smaller than those previously seen, as the above comparison between the Basic Assortment and 25th Anniversary packaging shows. Given the somewhat darker tones used on the packaging (the red is nowhere near as vivid as the photos make it appear) and the smaller size of back card, it's very easy to pass-over the figures when scanning the toy displays, so if you happen to find yourself in a Dollar General looking for these figures, be aware of this - I almost missed the figures and only happened to spot them as I was leaving.

Sculpt and Design
Fans used to the modern era Snake Eyes figures may not immediately recognize this version of the character but anybody who's seen his (albeit limited) appearances in the Sunbow animated series will know exactly who this figure is based upon. Whether you actually like the design depends entirely upon your views of the A Real American Hero character designs. Personally, whilst it's a very different look than we've seen recently from the Ninja-Commando, I dig it and although I was never fortunate enough to own GI Joes as a kid this figure will certainly crank the nostalgia dial up to max for anybody who did own the any of the classic Joes or grew-up watching the animated series.

In terms of detail, the figure scores pretty well. I'm not even going to attempt to identify which - if any - of these parts were previously used by Hasbro to create other Joes but I do recognize a few parts as from earlier releases. But that's not really an issue, as the way Hasbro has combined the individual pieces - along with his new paint job - give Snake Eyes a strong enough look and identity without the recycling being particularly obvious.

Like I say, though, if you're not a fan of the earlier Snake Eyes design you may not be totally on-board with this look but I personally think it's an excellent, 25th Anniversary-style update to the character's classic look, modernizing it enough to make it a detailed, cool sculpt but without losing the essential ''-ness'' of the original.

Although they don't include the titling wrists and ankles, the Basic Assortment figures use the standard GI Joe set-up and from what I can gather they have a higher level of articulation than many of the upcoming GI Joe: Retaliation figures - which is strange, given they're actually cheaper...

I want to briefly comment on the quality of the plastic used to produce the figure, as I know some fans were worried that the Basic Assortment toys may use softer or cheaper-grade plastic. I'm happy to report that having played with the figure I don't feel any difference between this and any other Joe. I did wonder whether the figures would have the same soft joint plastic used by Hasbro on such toys as the Captain America: The First Avenger line but I'm pleased to report that the joints on all six figures are very firm - indeed, you may even find yourself worrying about snapping them, as some are rather tight. A quick play with each is enough to loosen them though and you'll find each figure more than capable of holding whatever pose you elect to put them in.

Snake Eyes' hands are nicely sculpted and he's more than capable of holding his weapon firmly. Indeed, he comes clutching his sword and I initially thought it was held in place with an elastic band, so tight is the grip.

Snake Eyes' paint app is solid. There's not a massive amount of paint detail but what's here is very cleanly applied - even if it does seem a little thick in places. The helmet detail is especially clean and although the color combination of blue and black is fairly simplistic, the extra detail such as his grey ventilator and red visor - plus the grey webbing - do a good job of breaking up the simple look.

Extras and Accessories
There's a little clue in the name of these figures - the Basic Assortment - that will probably clue you in on what to expect in terms of accessories...

Snake Eyes features removable vest/webbing and a Katana. And that's it. Fans of the Pursuit of Cobra line may feel a little short-changed on the accessory front but what's here is pretty much on a par with what you'd expect to find with a 25th Anniversary figure.

Thankfully the included Katana is actually a pretty cool accessory. It fits fantastically well into his hand and although it lacks any form of paint app, Hasbro has at least cast it from a fairly sensible black plastic (rather than some garish powder blue or neon orange.) OK, so he has nowhere to store it but given he only comes with one accessory it's not that big a deal. [UPDATE: I've since re-examined the weapon in a different light and there is in fact a very dark green paint app on the sword hilt.]

Each Basic Assortment figure also includes a generic GI Joe/Cobra-themed stand (in other words, it doesn't include the character's name.) Although some fans may be disappointed by this - and the lack of clip and collect file cards - it does mean you can (A) use these stands for other figures should you so wish and (B) some of the Basic Assortment figures resemble other characters (Duke for example, could easily pass for Grunt), which allows collectors to choose just who is in their team.

Final Thoughts
I've avoided too many comparisons to the upcoming GI Joe: Retaliation figures, as I personally have yet to score any of the movie tie-in figures and I'd prefer not to base my comments solely on second-hand reports and online images. However, there are a few points I do need to comment on before I summarize, so here goes:

The Basic Assortment figures - despite their lower price-point - would appear to represent better value than the GI Joe: Retaliation single carded figures. In most cases they seem to have a higher level of articulation. Their accessories - although limited in number - have a more lifelike look. The Basic Assortment figures come with stands. And for existing fans, the character designs seem more in-line than what we'd expect over the movie-themed figures. But as I said, without having the two to compare in-hand, I can't - and won't - categorically state that these toys are better than the movie line.

So how does Snake Eyes shape-up against the other modern era figures? Very well, actually. Sure he's a little gimped on the accessories side but at least what we get is useful and nicely produced. An extra pistol with a working holster or even a second sword would have been nice but the limited number of accessories  works in a retro figure kind of way and if you're a fan of the 25th Anniversary line (or indeed, the classic era toys) then this won't be an issue at all.

It's also a credit to Hasbro that despite the cheaper price-point, this Snake Eyes doesn't really suffer in the quality department. Yes, the packaging is generic, he only comes with a single weapon and he's recycled from a few other figures, yet for all that he still manages to put Hasbro's other recent - and pricier - releases like the Thor figures to shame.

As for the sculpt, again, this is very much a figure designed for fans of ''classic'' GI Joe, particularly of the Sunbow era Snake Eyes. If that's you then you'll love this figure, especially at the lower price-point. Indeed, it's interesting that a line of toys designed as kid-friendly impulse purchases is actually closer to a ''classic collector line'' than the upcoming figures...

A great bit of modernized retro design at an attractive price that fans of classic GI Joes will love.

Final Score: A-

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  1. I actually plan on buying some of these soon due to them being more "simple" and the fact they are nice color variants which i just love plus the price point on these make them so much better for my budget....Hello Joes am back! lol.

    1. Thanks Kev am sure they will turn up at some point. : )

    2. I think they've only really been on sale for about a week, so I wouldn't be too worried.

  2. Snake Eyes actually wore that costume in the 90's DIC cartoon. It's based on the 1991 figure.

    -Head--POC Wave 3 SE alternate head
    -Torso--25th Anniversary '89-style SE
    -Arms--POC 'action-attack' Storm Shadow
    -Vest--ROC Aero-Viper
    -Sword--Hard Master comic pack/ROC City Strike SE

    1. Was it the DIC run? I remember seeing it during one of the ''movie'' episodes but I can never keep track of which company was responsible for which episodes...

  3. I finally got a Snake Eyes and a Storm Shadow from Dollar General woot!

    1. I saw that earlier! Nice score. If you can find Shipwreck he's awesome, too.


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