Tuesday, May 29, 2012

REVIEW: GI Joe: Retaliation Ninja Showdown Snake Eyes

Produced by Hasbro | Released May 2012

GI Joe: Retaliation Wave 1
Last week saw the first - and presumably, last (at least for a while) - of Hasbro's GI Joe: Retaliation toys landing at retail. As well as featuring an assortment of single carded figures, roleplay toys and vehicles, the line-up also includes two, three-figure packs: the Ninja Showdown and Ninja Dojo. In order to do justice to each figure, we've decided to focus on a single figure from each pack (rather than Review all three in one go) and, as he's one of the series' most popular and iconic characters, we're kicking off our six-figure run with the Ninja Commando Snake Eyes, as featured in the Ninja Showdown three-pack.

The three-figure set comes in a windowed box adorned with the movie-themed artwork (featuring Roadblock and Snake Eyes, plus an assortment of Arashikage logos and copy written in a weird, ''Chinese restaurant menu'' typeface.) The packaging has generally received a pretty negative reception from collectors, most notably for its lack of real depth, text-wise and the rather generic look the line sports (thanks to the repeated use of Snake Eyes and Roadblock.) I have to admit that as a GI Joe fan, it is pretty disappointing. But as a line for a movie, I can see why Hasbro took this approach and although it's not the best-looking of designs, it is eye-catching and the toys do stand-out on the shelves.

The figures within are mounted on a plastic blister, held in a slide-out tray (as seen above.) The plastic packaging does a good job keeping everything where it should be without deforming the figures (just watch for the clear elastic bands holding the figures in there) and whilst I'm not personally a fan of these kind of ''background'' dioramas, this one is actually pretty neat.

OK, so that's the box covered - something I won't have to do in the next Review - so let's take a look at the GI Joes' Ninja Commando, Snake Eyes.

Sculpt and Design
The Ninja Showdown Snake Eyes is a take on the character's modern/movie look and as such sports the armored plate/fatigues/visor ensemble we've come to expect of the character, topped-off with a pretty neat webbing/harness accessory and a plug-in pair of sword sheathes. It's a look we've seen many times but thankfully Hasbro's designers are aware of this and have added a lot of extra detail to enhance what could have been a fairly simplistic figure.

How much of this design is a credit to Hasbro and how much must go to the movie's designers is open to debate but whoever is responsible has done a great job of taking the essence of Snake Eyes and modernizing it without straying too far from the original concept. The visor is classic Ninja Commando (no lips!) and there's thankfully nothing here that sticks out as being a weird addition to the characters look. It's an evolutionary - rather than revolutionary - approach that works very well.

It's not immediately obvious but when you start to look closely at the figure you'll see there's a mass of tiny detail here: his balaclava hood has folds; there are tiny rivets on his knee-pads; his boots sport tiny buckles; there are seams on his shirt. All these small, but vital details do an amazing job enhancing what could otherwise have been simply a guy in a black suit and it's a credit to the sculptor that they were able to capture all these close-up details so well.

Put simply, the design and sculpt work here is superb.

When Hasbro announced it would be cutting the level of articulation on some of the movie figures in an effort to save money, fans were understandably disappointed. Thankfully Hasbro's cost-cutting is only limited to some figures in the line (something we'll be returning to as we look at the other figures) and so I'm pleased to report that the Ninja Showdown Snake Eyes surpasses the standard GI Joe articulation set-up and  even incorporates a few extras you may not have expected to see.

For starters, both wrists feature a vertical/up-down tilt. We've seen GI Joes in the past incorporate these wrist joints but it appears Hasbro has settled upon using the up-down joint on both wrists, rather than the more common combination of up-down/forward-backward seen on other figures. This allows for a wide range of very cool Martial Arts poses and gun-gripping stances and it's surprising how much this extra little tilt-able wrist adds to the figure's poseability.

Secondly, the Ninja Showdown Snake Eyes also features the ''rocker ankle'' arrangement, meaning his feet not only tilt up and down/forward-backward but can also be adjusted to incorporate wider stances. This is a fantastic addition for Martial Arts-themed characters like Snake Eyes, as it allows for a number of very dramatic ''long/wide'' poses.

The rocker ankles do come at a cost, though. Unlike the feet found on other Joes, the Ninja Showdown Snake Eyes' feet cannot be rotated horizontally and as a result, his feet point in whatever direction is dictated by the hip. It's not a huge issue but it's worth noting and although I've seen some comments about the figures in the Ninja Showdown pack being duck-toed (i.e. their feet point too far inward), it's not something I've noticed personally.

The only other minor downside is that the head joint is a lateral twist, rather than a tilt-able ball joint but again, it's not a major issue. Everything else is as you'd expect it to be, though, with the quality of the joints being particularly good: Snake Eyes holds his poses with ease and I'm pleased to report there are no loose (or overly stiff) joints to be found here.

Snake Eyes is rendered in his standard black/silver combo. It's not the most exciting of looks but what's here is very cleanly applied, with the Arashikage symbol tampo on his arm being a nice splash of color. But given he's a Ninja Commando and infiltration expert, it makes sense that his palette is so limited and that's not intended as a criticism at all (indeed, I'm glad to see the movie version of Snake Eyes hasn't been re-fitted with a suit of silver armor.)

Extras and Accessories
There have been a number of criticisms leveled at the Retaliation toys, chief of which is that they don't include bases. This is, of course, true (so sorry if you saw the pictures and thought Hasbro had done an eleventh-hour U-turn on that) but does that mean they're under-equipped? Not in the case of the Ninja Showdown figures.

As you can see from the above image, Snake Eyes comes with a pretty decent amount of gear. Sure, it's not to the same level as seen with some of the Pursuit of Cobra but it's no worse than some of the 30th Anniversary figures. Personally I think it hits a good balance and allows for a variety of poses and play experiences without the figure feeling as if it's going to lose pieces every time you look at it.

There are two SMGs, both of which can be equipped with the included silencer (although sadly there's only one), two swords, a sword sheath (which clips into his back port) and a removable webbing gear/vest. Note that in the above image both the vest and sheath are attached, as I found getting the latter through the webbing and into his port took a little wrangling and I didn't want to have to repeat the process.

The SMGs fit into either hand beautifully. They're also both cast from a sensible black plastic (so unlike some of the single carded figures, his accessories look realistic) and seem pretty durable. Similarly, both swords are pretty flexible (without being too soft or bendy) and are also cast from this same dark, lifelike plastic. However, it's worth noting that the hilts of both swords are slightly thinner than those of the SMGs. As a result, you may find Snake Eyes has some problems holding the swords in some poses if he's previously been posed with the pistols. A little warm water and some pressure will close his Kung Fu Grip to the point where he can hold the blades without any problems but it's a little oversight that I wish the designers had given some thought to.

As previously mentioned, there's no base.

Final Thoughts
The above Review may seem to be somewhat negative or overly-critical but in all honesty I have tried to be a little more subjective about this figure's details because - minor points aside - this is a phenomenally good figure. I could dwell on its shortcomings: the lack of a stand; the lack of SMG storage; the perceived lack of accessories, but really, none of those things matter because as a whole this figure is superb. Indeed, I'm going to go and say this right now: the GI Joe: Retaliation Ninja Showdown Snake Eyes has set the new benchmark for the character. This is the new, definitive Snake Eyes figure.

Ignore the haters and those who can't see past the movie packaging and lack file cards. This is a fantastic figure that captures the Ninja Commando's look, style and spirit perfectly. The sculpt is great, the articulation is spot-on and the gear level is perfectly balanced: enough to make him interesting but not so many accessories as to leave him over-burdened. He's that ideal combination of fun toy and cool-looking collectible that will appeal to both younger fans wanting a figure to fight evil Ninjas and collectors looking for something to display on their shelves.

Am I saying the Ninja Showdown Snake Eyes is perfect? No. He has some minor foibles you may find irritating at first but a few minutes of posing (or playing with) this figure will win you over and you'll find it very easy to forgive these quirks as you see just how freaking good this toy is.

Buy this figure. Now.

Final Score: A

Image Gallery


  1. Glad you really like this guy. I just ordered this 3 pack yesterday, and a big reason I ordered it was because of this Snake Eyes.
    The single card version does not come with that great webgear or sword scabbard, and I don't want to spend $40 on the amazon pack.

    Also the red ninja (or mostly black) ninja that comes in this set looks more visually interesting to me than the single carded version. So for $20 this set seems like a deal, especially when the single figures are $9 each at the cheapest price.

    1. I don't want to really spoil what's to come later this week, but I think you'll be pleased with all three figures.

  2. Great review...would like to see a side-by-side with carded, this one, and the alpha bike versions

    1. Glad you enjoyed it. I may pick-up the bike one sometime down the line but I'm probably going to pass on the single carded one.


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