If there was one thing that soured on me on G.I. Joe more than anything in the early 90s it was all the goddamn ninjas. The florescent colors of the figures, the constant reuse of characters and the fact that I was going through puberty played a hand in it as well I suppose. But seriously, the ninja thing was out of control. When Snake-Eyes was first introduced he was a commando. It wasn’t until the introduction of Storm Shadow to the Cobra team in issue 21 that comic writer Larry Hama began to explore the shared martial arts background of these two characters. Snake-Eyes was suddenly much more interesting and Storm Shadow became the most intriguing of villains. Jinx was the next full on ninja to join the Joe ranks a few years later and I was fine with it. Jinx was cool. And then Cobra began working with the hired ninja mercenaries the Night Creepers. The dojo was getting a little crowded at this point but it was still cool. And then, Ninja Force. Bushido! Slice! Dice! Nunchuk! Tjbang! Banzai! T’Gin Zu! Ninja Vipers! Red Ninjas! Scarlet was a ninja! Firefly was a ninja! Zartan was a ninja!…enough already!! What ever cool ninja factor that Snake-Eyes and Storm Shadow had brought to the table had been watered down to the point of ridiculousness. Even the long running G.I. Joe comic was renamed Snake-Eyes featuring G.I. Joe for a short while. And thus the brand died a most un-honorable death in 1994.
When G.I. Joe came back around again in 2002 after nearly a decade of hibernation I was hoping that Hasbro would downplay the ninja angle. For the most part they did. They introduced a new apprentice for Snake-Eyes named Kamakura but he was well developed in the comics being published at the time which made me and other fans warm to him. The night creepers reappeared as well as Slice and Dice but overall the ninjas remained a reasonable minority of the quickly expanding rosters of Joe and Cobra. There was no overbearing ninja force to speak of.
Then in 2005 Hasbro released the Ninja Battles set. I feared this might be the beginning of the end -again. Luckily it wasn’t. That era of G.I. Joe met it’s end naturally not long after the release of this set as the modern era 25th anniversary Joes were ushered in. As the last hoorah of ninjaness of the new sculpt era I actually quite like this set. It featured decent repaints of Snake-Eyes and Storm Shadow, a new version on the Black Dragon ninja, as well as new apprentices for SE and Stormy, Tiger Claw and Shadow Strike respectively. The set also included a cool collapsable display base as well as a DVD and comic book which delved into the origins of these characters. You got a lot of bang for your buck with this thing. The new characters of the set were all just repaints of existing molds. Tiger Claw was a straight repaint of a figure of Snake-Eye’s previous apprentice Kamakura released in 2004. The repetitive use of the mold could’ve been viewed as cheap but it created consistency amongst Snake-Eyes’ trainees so it worked. Besides the color change Tiger Claw also featured a Tiger print emblem on his chest to help differentiate him from Kamakura. The sculpt is a pretty good one, at least for the time. The head’s a bit small and the shoulders are a bit bulky but I like the padded forearms and shins, they look like something you might wear while training. He came with a sword and sheath as accessories. The two toned sword is surprisingly detailed with the most elaborate hilt I’ve seen on a joe weapon to date. As a stand alone figure Tiger Claw is alright but the set is a must buy if you can still find one. 5 out of 10.