Monthly Archives: September 2012

SAGA BAT

BEAST SAGA

Okay, I promise this will be my last Beast Saga review for at least a day or two.  I’m just very excited about this new line and I know others are too but there’s still not a ton of information on the net about them yet so I’ve been trying to do my part to shed some light on the subject.  Tomorrow I shall get back to G.I. Joes and whatnot but for those of you enjoying my Beast Saga coverage, fear not as I’ll be reviewing all these figures in the coming weeks.  I’ve already pre-ordered another 2 waves of figures from BigBadToyStore which should ship in October and November so I’m not too worried about reviewing my way through all the figures too quickly.  Hopefully this line will at least match, or even better surpass, the number of figures released in the original Battle Beasts line (88).

I’ve seen this guy on retailer sites and blogs  referred to as Morick Bat or Moriku Bat.  Until I have confirmation that these names floating around are the official character names I will be sticking with my simplistic naming system of “SAGA <blank>”,  this is SAGA BAT.

As I’ve been reviewing these figures I’ve been coming up with little backstories for each one as I go.  The first 3 figures I reviewed have all been assigned to my “good-guy” team.  I’ve decided that if there was a Battle Beast figure released in the 80s of the same species, that the new Beast Saga figure would be their offspring.  My Battle Bat figure was one of my favorite bad guys when I was a kid.  He was very smart and cunning; a spy, a strategist and a bit of a mad scientist all rolled into one.  He was Battle Ram’s right hand man (Ram was my bad guy leader).   I considered shaking things up my placing Battle Bat’s son, Saga Bat on the good guy team.  It would be casting him against type and would add some drama to the story line.  But I can’t do it.  This figure is so clearly a bad guy that I have no choice but to make evil.  However I can’t picture this guy as Battle Bat’s son.  I like that story line for Saga Lion but I don’t think it’s gonna work across the board.  Instead I think I’ll make Saga Bat a peer of Battle Bat.  Perhaps they both studied sciences when they were younger and both were slightly mad but Saga Bat went totally off the deep end and got himself committed.  Battle Bat went on to join the evil terrorist organization of Battle Ram while Saga Bat rotted away in a cell.

After years of battle an uneasy time of peace eventually came where both sides opted to simply stay out of the territories of the other side.  But now a new villainous upstart, Saga Shark, has decided that peace time is over and that the war must resume.  One of Shark’s first acts of terrorism was breaking into the cities prison and psyche ward to recruit soldiers for his army.  This is where he found Saga Bat.  Bat’s years locked away in a rubber room have made him loopier than ever but they’ve also made him ruthless with a thirst for vengeance and an axe to grind against the society that locked him up.  He’s not nearly as stealthy or cunning as Battle Bat but he’s just as smart and even more vicious.   Not bad…I’m starting to think that maybe Takara should hire me to write file cards for these guys.

The figure itself is pretty damn awesome.  I doubt he’ll ever be as dear to my heart as Battle Bat but he’s far more of an imposing villain than Battle Bat.  Back in the day I thought the Battle Beast bat looked like all kinds of nasty.  He had a cybernetic eye, an evil toothy sneer, a hook for a hand, black armor and an executioner’s axe that was taller than he was.  But when placed next to this figure that 80s one almost looks cute.  Saga Bat is significantly taller as Battle Bat was one of the shortest characters  in the original line anyway.  This new figure also has some nasty teeth but this is no sneer, this guy looks like he’s ready to bite into your neck with those big fangs of his. His teeth are painted white so they really pop visually where as the old figure’s teeth were unpainted.  The old Bat had one cybernetic eye but this guy has two.  I don’t know if the sculptors intended for the eyes to be pointing in different directions but the fact that they are definitely makes him appear to be a little unstable.  Both figures have big bat ears but this guy wins again because his inner ears are painted pink and have sculpted details.  Saga Bat’s face as a whole is marvelously sculpted.  There’s the furry texture, the ears, the teeth and the eyes that I already mentioned and he’s got a great upturned nose which puts this guy firmly in the ugly category unlike his cute predecessor.  This figure also has a much more impressive wing span.  The purple armor looks great with some nice detailing as well.  His weapons are simple but I really like them, they’ve got a very medieval vibe to them.  there’s even some nice sculpting done on his toes so this guy is cool from top to bottom.  I highly recommend you pick him up.  8 out of 10.

Before I take a break for a day or two I had a request from a reader to take a couple of pictures of some BEAST SAGA figures displayed with some BATTLE BEAST figures.  I keep my Battle Beasts in a plexi-glass display case on my man-cave wall.  I had hoped to add my Beast Saga figures to the display but it seems that they’re just slightly to thick to fit.  You can see from this picture how much taller the two Saga figures are but you can’t really see how thick they are.  As it is, the front of the case can’t be put back on with the Saga figures in the case.  I’ll have to find a new home for them, separate from my Battle Beasts.

SAGA SPARROW

BEAST SAGA

If you read my Beast Saga collection review from a couple of days ago then you know that I recently acquired 14 Beast Saga figures.  I bought two 3-packs and six single packed figures.  Those 12 figures make up the entire first wave of standard release figures.  The other 2 figures I purchased were blind boxed.  Blind boxed figures are very popular in Japan and a number of small collectables are released that way here in North America as well.  Blind box basically means that you don’t know what toy you’re gonna get when you buy the thing.  It’s like putting money in a vending machine and turning the crank, you never know what toy is gonna pop out.  When BigBadToyStore first made these figures available for preorder I wasn’t sure how many blind boxes I should buy.  At the time I had no idea what was going to be in them.  They might’ve been new figures only available in the blind boxes or maybe just the same figures that were already available in the single packs.  What they ended up being was versions of the single pack and 3 pack characters molded in translucent plastic.  The clear plastic molds make the characters appear to be ghosts or holograms or something along those lines.  I think the translucent figures are actually meant to represent the beast in “powered-up” mode.  In the Japanese commercial that you can view on the official Beast Saga website it shows the shark and lion draw power from their respective environments, light up and then release a huge blast of energy from the cube on their chests.  When powered up the characters glowed, engulfed in mystical flames of some sort.  So that’s what I think these figures are supposed to be.

In my two blind boxes I got translucent versions of the bird and the giraffe.  These versions are pretty cool but not cool enough to warrant me buying any more blind boxes and risk purchasing doubles.  Not to say I won’t purchase any more translucent figures but I think I’ll wait a while and pick certain favorite characters up on ebay eventually.  If I didn’t already get the bird who has become my early favorite, then I might’ve considered buying another blind box or two in hopes of scoring one.

Now while I could consider this a powered-up version of Saga Finch, that’s kind of a waste of a figure.  I’d much rather display this as an individual character.  This is why I couldn’t simply name Saga Finch Saga Bird because then what would I call this guy?  I don’t love it but I’ve decided to call this guy SAGA SPARROW, at least until a better name comes to mind.  (Don’t ask me what I’m gonna name my second Giraffe)

So now I need to come up with an origin for Saga Sparrow  like I did for Saga Finch and Saga Lion.  His is gonna have to be a little weirder to explain his see-throughness.   Perhaps the Beasts have a training facility in their headquarters like the X-Men’s danger room.  There the beasts hone their skills competing against one another in an obstacle course.  Since Finch is a loner who doesn’t like to train with the others he goes in alone and competes against a holographic ghost version of his best time like in Mario Kart.  Through some bizarre computer glitch the ghost version of Finch became an individual entity separate from the training program.  Since Sparrow is a hologram come to life he’s awkward and doesn’t understand emotion, like Data from Star Trek.  He feels connected to Finch and tends to follow him around in an attempt to learn from him.  Finch wants nothing to do with his digital clone at first but over time they  develop an unspoken brother-like bond.  Yeah….that’ll do.

As for the actual figure there’s not much to say that I haven’t already said about Saga Finch who is the exact same sculpt.  I really like the dark blue they molded him in.  He’s still see through and looks cool in front of a light source but the dark plastic keeps you from seeing the joints inside of him too clearly.  The transparent white armor looks pretty rad too.  A very nice twist on an already great figure.  8 out of 10.

SAGA FINCH

BEAST SAGA

Those of you not interested in this new line of Beast Saga figures from Takara will have to be patient with me for a couple more days as I joyfully nerd out to them.  I will get back to G.I. Joes and Transformers soon enough but for now I’d like to review a couple more of these BS figures.  Yesterday I covered the lion figure.  Using the uber-creativity that I was blessed with I have decided to name each of these figures on my own until I discover their official names.  I named the lion SAGA LION  which was easy enough to come up with.  However this naming pattern is not as easy to use as you might think.  When I decided to review this bird next my first inclination was of course to name him SAGA BIRD.  The problem with that is I already have 2 bird figures and have more coming so I was gonna have to get specific.  I’m not exactly a bird expert so I kinda took a guess on this guy.  I’ve opted to call him SAGA FINCH for now.  If anybody out there can better identify this type of bird please let me know.  I googled finches and I found some pictures that look pretty close.

There were no finch figures in the original Battle Beast toy line so this guy doesn’t fit into my “next generation” storyline.   The poor guy’s a fatherless bastard.   Maybe I can use that fact to develop his personality.  I could say that his father never served in the original battle of the beasts.  His father was perhaps a draft dodger and that disgrace has tormented Saga Finch all his life.  As a youth he was  ridiculed by his peers whose fathers had all served.  He grew up with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove.  He’s the type of guy who will stop at nothing to complete his mission.  He’s a bit of a loner who does not relate well with the other beasts on his team.  Yeah…I like that origin.  Not bad for off the top of my head. 

I actually really like that he’s an animal that we didn’t get in the original line.  It keeps the line feeling fresh.  I wouldn’t want a complete rehashing of what had come before.  This figure has emerged as my favorite from my initial set of 14 figures.  I didn’t expect to like him so much and I’m not sure why I even do.  I like him even more now that I’ve infused him with a name and some personality.  Is he destined to be my new Battle Fox?  Perhaps.  One of the things that made Fox my favorite figure of the vintage line was the fact that I established a rivalry between him and Battle Bat.  One of my 14 new Beast Saga figures happens to be a bat.  Maybe I’ll establish a rivalry between him and Finchy here.  And thus my little Beast Saga universe begins to take shape. 

But enough backstory, let’s get down to business and review this figure.   Let’s see if I can convince you that this is one of the must-own figures of the line.

One of the things that makes him stand out in my small collection at this point is the fact that he’s a bird.  The line is slated to be split up into three factions of land, sea and air beasts.  In the initial set of figures released so far there was a land 3-pack and a sea 3-pack.

The land pack had the lion and the sea pack had the shark whom appear to be the leaders of their factions.  When the air 3-pack comes out it will have the air leader in it as well plus a couple of other birds.  If I had that pack now then maybe this guy wouldn’t seem so special.  As it currently stands I have a bunch of land and sea beasts but as far as air beasts go I only have the bat (who seems out of place) and this bird.  I know I mentioned earlier that I had two bird figures but I’ll talk more about that in my next post.  Another thing that makes him stand out is his white armor.   Like the lion who is uniquely wearing red, this guy is the only beast in white.  I really like the white armor and coincidentally that was the color of Battle Fox’s armor.  The highlights of Finch’s armor are the armored tail and the wings on the sides of his head.  I’m not sure what purpose they serve but they remind me of Thor’s helmet.   This guy has great bird feet which are sculpted with lots of detail and his head is also super detailed.  He looks very realistic.  He also looks more like the old Battle Beasts figures than the lion does because this guy has solid colored eyes and a closed mouth.  However not too many vintage Battle Beasts received the multi-colored paint job treatment that this guy has.  The royal blue base with the golden yellow belly look great accented by the black facial features.

As far as accessories go this guy came with the same stuff as everyone else:  sword, shield, trading card, and 2 dice.  There’s nothing really noteworthy about any of them.

I hope you enjoyed this figure review as I’ve got a continuation of sorts coming up…

9 out of 10

SAGA LION

BEAST SAGA

Yesterday I gave a review on my first impression of the new Beast Saga line from Takara. I had intended to review one of the individual figures but rambled on so long in the set-up that I decided to keep it as a general review.  Today I shall be doing my first Beast Saga figure review.  I have opted to start with the Lion.  I kind of wish I hadn’t started with the Lion because another blog already posted a very comprehensive review of this figure however this is the toy that I took a bunch of pictures of yesterday so I’m gonna stick with him.  I will try to review another BS figure tomorrow for those of you curious about the line and wanting to see more than just the lion.

New leg articulation finally enables your battle beasts to limbo

The reason I chose to review the Lion is because he appears to be the main face of the brand right now.  I’ve seen a Japanese commercial and some promotional artwork and this guy is heavily featured.  As I mentioned in my collection review yesterday, the beasts are divided into 3 teams: land, sea and air.  The lion appears to be the leader of the land beasts and the shark seems to be the leader of the sea beasts; makes sense.  I’m not sure who will take top billing on the air team yet.

All of the promotional material that’s been released on these figures so far has been in Japanese so I’m guessing at a lot of this stuff.  I’ve seen this guy referred to as RAIOGA on other sites but I don’t believe that the name has been confirmed.  Even if that is his official moniker chances are it would be translated into something else if these figures end up being released in North America.  Since I don’t really know what to call him, for now I shall adopt my old Battle Beast naming method and I shall call him Saga Lion.  Until I know their official names all BS figures from here on out will be referred to as Saga Shark, Saga Giraffe etc.

I kind of like the clean slate aspect of these toys.  It’s like the Battle Beasts of old where I picked the beast’s teams, names and personalities.  I was tempted to try and give these characters cool names like “Thundermane” or “King Mustafa” but decided it wasn’t worth the effort.  Besides, I named all of my old BB figures  “Battle (type of animal here)” and if it was good enough for them so “Saga Lion” should be good enough for this guy.  When I first saw these figures online it appeared as though they would blend in seamlessly with my old Battle Beasts figures.  Now that I have them in hand I see that it is not the case.  The Saga figures are almost a head taller than the old figures and about 1.5 times as wide.  This kind of sucks because they can’t really be displayed together without looking a little wonky.  At the same time the bigger scale allowed for some new features to be added to the figures and keeps them feeling “new”.  Besides, the size difference isn’t so alarming that you couldn’t merge the two lines if you really wanted to;  It’s about the same as standing an 80s Joe figure next to a modern one.

Even though I don’t play with my toys anymore I like to have a story line in mind for them.  I was thinking that perhaps the Saga figures could be the next generation of Battle Beasts.  Many of them could actually be the sons of the 80s characters carrying on their fathers’ legacy.  The size difference kind of screws that up but I suppose there could have been some genetic tampering or even some sped up evolution due to radiation from a crashed meteor or something.  If I do go with the second generation idea that would make Saga Lion the son of Battle Lion, who is technically named Pirate Lion.

When I played as a kid Battle Rhino was always the leader of my good team.  Pirate Lion was featured on the packaging and he looked as though he had leadership potential but alas I didn’t own his figure during my BB universe formative years.  When I did eventually get him I made him a returning war hero who was presumed dead.  He had lead an army to war and never returned.  Upon Battle Lion’s return Rhino offered him the role of leader but Lion refused it seeing as Rhino had become such a great leader in his absence.  From then on Battle Lion was one of Rhino’s most loyal and honorable generals.   Seeing as I don’t have a Beast Saga Rhinoceros yet it would make sense for Pirate Lion’s son to be the one to step up and lead the next generation of beasts into battle.  This is the story line playing out in my mind.

Here you see the plunger. It only sticks out like that when he’s loaded with a dice.

Of the 14 Beast Saga figures I got the other day Saga Lion is somewhere in the middle of the pack for me.  The elephant is probably my least favorite and to my own surprise I find myself liking the bird the best.  He’s probably the one that I shall review tomorrow so stay tuned.  For now let’s get back to the Lion.  The basic construction of all of the Saga figures is pretty much the same.  They all have articulated arms and legs however the legs don’t move all that much and the added articulation doesn’t do much to enhance the figures.  I would’ve been fine with them having unarticulated legs like their Battle Beast ancestors but the extra movement doesn’t hurt the figure in any way and I appreciate the effort by Takara.

They all have the dice/plunger torso which probably wouldn’t have looked very good if the figures were as small as Battle Beasts.  The larger size allows the dice concept to add a new angle of playability without ruining the overall aesthetic of the figure.  Each beast has a unique torso piece as well as original arms and legs.  It would have been easy for the designers to cheap out and re-use parts and I’m glad to see they didn’t.  Apparently the limbs on these figures are swappable but I haven’t attempted to pull any of mine apart.  I quite like Lion’s armor.  He’s currently the only Saga figure I have with red armor so he stands out from the crowd of blues, greens, and purples.  The armor features dual bladed shoulders and a very bizarre looking crotch piece that resembles the face of a snake.  All the figures came with a bladed weapon (except one who’s packing heat) and a shield.   Lion’s sword and shield are pretty cool looking but nothing overly special.  I find the accessories to be molded in way too soft of a plastic and a few of mine seem to be permanently curved.  You can see how warped Lion’s sword is in some of my pictures.  Saga Lion and a couple of the other figures have open mouths which is something we never saw in the Battle Beasts line.  It almost looks like his jaw is articulated and could be closed but unfortunately that is not the case.  Another facial feature of Lion’s that separates him from the BBs of the past is that he has white eyes with black pupils.  All of the BB figures had solid colored eyes.  I don’t mind the change so long as they paint future figures with a steadier hand.  Lion appears to have a wandering eye which is kind of distracting. Lazy eye aside, I do really like the head sculpt; its far more detailed than Pirate Lions.  I’m not sure what the deal is with the green mane but I like to think its because he’s a punk rocker at heart.

When I read the review of this figure on that other Battle Beast blog that I mentioned earlier I was very surprised by that reviewer’s overall impression.  He liked the figure alright but said it felt more like a child’s toy as opposed to a collectable and that it lacked the freshness of the upcoming Battle Beasts figures from Diamond Select Toys.   I haven’t had a chance to physically check out the DST figures yet but I find it hard to believe that they will come anywhere close to as cool as these Beast Saga figures are.  I feel they’re just the right mix of old and new.  I’m team beast saga all the way.  Read Adam’s review here if you like:   http://www.16bit.com/fotd/120926-beast-saga-raioga-lion.asp  He takes better pictures  than me anyway. 8 out of 10.

SPONSORSHIP NEWS – SEPTEMBER

Hey gang, It’s time for me to fill you in on what’s new at Big Bad Toy Store, my gracious sponsor.  They get new stuff in every couple of days so there’s no way I can keep you up to date on everything therefore I recommend you check their site regularly.  The first thing I’d like to tell you about is there Fall sale.  They’ve got toys discounted from 20% off up to 90% off so check it out.

I’ve overspent my toy budget for this month but once I’m back on track I can tell you what my next purchases from Big Bad will be:  Transformers.  They’ve got a ton of  wicked cool modern figures of Generation 1 characters available in their store now or up for pre-order.  Ultra Magnus, Sideswipe, Swindle and possibly the rest of the Combaticons are who I have my eye on.

BEAST SAGA

Beast Saga collection

TAKARA

If you’re a regular reader of this blog you know I’ve been looking forward to these Beast Saga figures from Takara for months now.  I pre-ordered the entire first wave back in June from BigBadToyStore as soon as they put them up on their site.

clear variants

clear variants

The Beast Saga figures are, for all intents and purposes, new Battle Beasts figures; the first new series of Battle Beasts figures in almost 25 years.  I loved Battle Beasts as a kid.  I would rank them in my top 5 favorite toy lines of all time; ahead of even huge properties like Marvel and Star Wars.  To be honest they may even be in my top 2, second only to G.I. Joe.  Unfortunately the line never caught on the way Joe or Transformers or Masters of the Universe did.  In large part because there was no cartoon, no comic, little marketing, and the characters weren’t given any personalities or even names for kids to latch onto.  I’ve actually never met anyone else, in all my years collecting toys and hanging out at comic shops, who has a passion for the line like I do.

trading/gaming cards included with each figure

It’s almost hard to imagine now but there was a time when all the properties that I loved as a kid were dead in the water.  No toys, no comics, no cartoons, nothing.  However, as we children of the 80s became young adults with disposable income the toy companies started catering to us, reviving all the awesome 80s toy lines.

Since the early 2000s G.I Joe, G1 Transformers, Masters of the Universe, Star Wars, and other brands have been resurrected and have been going strong.  For years I hoped for a Battle Beasts revival but it seemed unlikely.  There was a glimmer of hope a couple years ago when Diamond Select Toys (DST) acquired the rights to make new Battle Beasts but other than a single Crocodile figure (which was only sold at conventions) they didn’t do anything with the license.  All hope seemed lost again.  And then just a few months ago I found out that not only was DST finally releasing a wave of Battle Beasts figures to retail but so to was the Japanese company Takara who created the original Battle Beast line in the 80s.  To promote the DST line (which is supposed to hit stores in November) IDW has even released a Battle Beasts comic book!  Just a few short months ago I never dared dream that I’d be reading new Battle Beasts comics.  The comic is pretty good and the DST figures show promise but other than the name, they don’t really have much in common with the beloved Battle Beasts of my childhood.   They’re constructed differently with Lego like bodies and there are human characters mixed in.  If the DST figures were to be all that I ever got in the way of new BBs figures I’d be happy to have something new but mostly I’d be disappointed.

WAVE 1: 6 single carded, 2 three-packs, 2 blind boxes

The Beast Saga figures by Takara are a totally different story.  These are the figures I’ve been hoping for and I didn’t even know it.  You see, for years when I dreamt of the possibility of getting new Battle Beast figures, these are not what I envisioned.  I always kind of hoped that some company would release 6″ hyper-detailed and fully articulated versions of the BB characters I had as a kid.  Kinda the way Hasbro has made modern G.I. Joes figures taller more detailed versions of the ones I had as a kid.  Mattel has done the same thing with Masters of the Universe.  The thing is though, when I got the new Joes and new MOTU figures my old ones went into storage.  The new ones were an improvement over the vintage figures and made for better display pieces.  When it comes to the vintage Battle Beasts figures I honestly don’t think they could be improved upon.  A new figure with a few extra inches of height and increased articulation wouldn’t warrant boxing up my old Beasts.  The old sculpts are fantastic as is and they hold up quite well.  It had never occurred to me just how awesome it would be if Takara revived the Battle Beasts line by simply continuing on and making new animals.  Essentially  that’s what they’ve done with Beast Saga and it is awesome.

It’s rather hard to give you much background on the Beast Saga figures since they’ve technically only  been released in Japan and almost everything I can find about them on the internet is written in Japanese.  I’m unsure whether Takara intends for them to officially be a continuation of their Battle Beasts line or something totally different, even though the homage is obvious.  What I have managed to piece together from other blogs and the Beast Saga website is that these creatures live on Planet Beast.  There are three rival factions of animals, the land beasts, the sea beasts and the air beasts.

The original Battle Beasts had a similar play pattern.  They were divided into 3 factions as well: Wood, Fire and Water.  Each beast had a heat activated emblem on their chest that when rubbed would reveal their allegiance.  The intent was for kids to use them as though they were playing paper, rock, scissors.   Fire burns wood, wood floats on water, and water extinguishes fire.  I never used my figures like that; I simply divided them into good and bad guy teams like every other toy line I collected.  The Beast Saga figures do not have the classic rub emblems but instead each figure comes packaged with two dice.  There’s a plastic plunger in each figure’s chest that you pull back to create a cavity to place the dice.  The idea is that you shove the plunger forward which launches the dice from the figure’s chest.  The dice have a variety of symbols and numbers on them and they come in different colors.  I’m unsure of what any of it means.

The back of a blister card

The first wave of figures that I ordered came in a variety of ways.  First there are the single pack figures.  Each comes on a small blister card that is colored either red, blue or green depending on the beasts’s faction.  The graphics in the margin differ depending on the faction as well.  Each single figure comes with 2 dice, a sword, a shield, and a playing card.

I also ordered two 3-packs.  I got a 3-pack of land beasts and a 3-pack of sea beasts.  The air-beasts 3-pack is due out soon.  Each 3 pack comes with 7 dice, sword and shields for each beast, 3 cards, a playmat and instructions.  The instructions have some cutesy manga style graphics but every word of them is written in Japanese so I have no idea what they say.  Clearly these Beast Saga figures are meant to be used in some goofy role-play type of dice game, which I couldn’t care less about.

Playmat

Lastly I ordered 2 blind boxes.  At the time that I pre-ordered these things I had no idea what I was buying so I thought 2 seemed like a good amount.  These are single packed figures but instead of being on blister cards they come in generic sealed boxes so that you don’t know what figure you’re getting.  As it turns out the blind boxes contain the same figures that are available as singles except they’re molded in translucent plastic.  So while my 2 blind figures are basically doubles they’re different enough that I don’t feel like I pissed my money away.

I had actually intended to go into an actual review of one of the toys now but I’ve rambled on so long that I think I will make this my first ever “collection” post where I summarize an entire series of figures instead of one individual toy.  I’ll post a character specific review for you tomorrow.  Needless to say I am very excited about these toys and the potential of the line moving forward.  There are a few issues I have but I’ll save them for the individual reviews.  My first impressions of this new toy line earns them a 9 out of 10.

Blind box

HULK

MARVEL UNIVERSE

I’ve got a busy day ahead of me.  As I type this its 1:30 in the afternoon on September 25.  I’m currently at work waiting to hear back from a client so I figured I’d try and cram out a quick review.  You see, directly from work I’m meeting a friend for supper.  I’m hoping I can extend that supper until about 6:30 because I’m supposed to meet another friend at the movie theatre at 7:00 to see DreDD 3D and I’d rather not have to go home in between the two stops.  That is unless Vanessa texts me when she gets home to tell me that the post office has left a delivery notification.  If that’s the case I’ll have to speed through dinner with friend one so that I can get to the post office, pick up my parcel and deliver it to my home before meeting friend two at the movies.  If it was almost any other package I would leave it until tomorrow, but I am currently waiting on my shipment of 14 Beast Saga figures which I cannot wait to get my hands on.  Also between the dinner and the movie I have to get to HMV to pick up bluray copies of two new movies that were released today.  Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (an animated retelling of the Frank Miller classic) and The Avengers.  I’ve already seen The Avengers twice but I cannot wait to see it again.  Not only do I want to see the film itself again but I also want to listen to the audio commentary by Joss Wheadon and watch all of the other bonus features.  I think Avengers was probably the best film of the year and I’m thrilled to be able to enjoy it again in the comfort of my own home.

So, seeing as this is an “Avengers Event” day of sorts I thought that I should review an Avengers figure.  I reviewed a bunch of them back when the film was released theatrically but one Avenger that I did not touch upon at that time ended up being the star of the show: The Hulk.

I’ve always liked Hulk but he’s never ranked very high on my list of favorite super heroes.   Neither Doug or myself have ever collected his comic book which is saying something considering we pretty much collect the entire Marvel Universe between us.  I always found the fact that he’s a dumb brute when in Hulk mode (most of the time) rather limiting story wise.  Plus I’ve never been a big fan of most of his rogue’s gallery and a hero is only as good as his villains.  I enjoyed both the Eric Bana and the Edward Norton Hulk movies but they were not in the same league as Iron Man, Thor and Captain America, all of which I loved.  So nothing could have surprised me more, walking out of the Avengers film for the first time, that it would be the Hulk who left me absolutely blown away.  The whole thing was great but that computer animated big green giant stole every scene he was in.  All my biggest nerdgasm moments involved the Hulk.  The scene on the Hellecarrier, attacking the jet, fighting Loki, Smashing the aliens…it was awesome.  If for some reason you still haven’t seen it, nows your chance to go buy a copy.  Do it now.

Avengers Hulk toy. No thanks.

While The Avengers movie produced the best looking on screen Hulk ever, The Avengers toy line failed to produce a worthy action figure.  The 3.75” Hulk figure from the Avengers line straight up sucks.  He doesn’t have great muscle definition, his color is bland, he’s wearing brown pants, and his face sculpt is weak.  Past 3.75” Hulk figures have similarly missed the mark.  The first Marvel Universe Hulk released had a terrible face sculpt, kinda like a retarded Frankenstein.   The next one released in a Secret Wars 2-pack was better but was  painted far too bright a green.  I passed on them both.  The one I ended up buying was the Hulk figure based on the mini-series “World War Hulk” in which the Hulk wore a gladiator style uniform.  It was a cool series and a cool toy but hardly acceptable as my go-to Hulk figure.   I began to wonder if a great Hulk figure would ever come?

Previous MU versions of Hulk. meh.

About a month ago that great Hulk figure arrived.  The most recent Hulk figure released as part of the Marvel Universe line is totally awesome and I finally have an iconic  Hulk for my display.  He’s not based on any one movie or storyline but instead takes all the best elements of the Hulk and merges them into this definitive Hulk figure.  He’s big,  making even my slouching Red Hulk figure look short by comparison.  He’s green and it’s the perfect Hulk shade.  His pants are purple, yes it would look silly in real life but I’ll take a purple panted Hulk over a blue or brown one any day.  He’s ripped, the sculpted muscles on this guy are great, probably the best I’ve seen on a MU figure yet.  The face sculpt is perfect iconic Hulk.  He’s got the right hair, the right face shape and the right expression.  I love a figure based on a favorite  artist’s specific art style but there’s something to be said for a figure that is just so perfectly undistinguishable and normal.  This is a fantastic Hulk figure.   9 out of 10.

P.S.  It is now 12:30 at night and I am finally getting this posted.  I enjoyed a tasty club and a couple of beers for dinner, picked up my toys at the post office, dropped them at home then went to HMV, bought Avengers and Dark Knight Returns, saw Dredd 3D which was pretty entertaining, then came home and opened my toys which are awesome and I will start reviewing them soon, then I watched the Dark Knight and its bonus features and now here I am.  A busy day indeed.

SOUNDWAVE

TRANSFORMERS: PRIME

After a very boozey Friday night I had planned on spending my Saturday afternoon in bed.  If all had went according to plan I wouldn’t have even put my pants on that day.  I did not expect to  find myself out toy shopping with a hangover.  But my brother Doug called and said that he was heading into the city to hit up Monster`s Comic Lounge and he asked if I wanted to join him.  Monster’s is one of the local comic shops that I don’t get to very often so I figured what the hell.  I manned up and got dressed.  So after he picked me up, Doug, my lil nephew Lucas and I headed to the Lounge.  As usual it was packed full of Magic card collecting weirdos which always makes me appreciate my shop, Strange Adventures, all the more.  The reason for the trek was that Doug had realized when bagging and boarding up a pile of comics that he had missed picking up an issue of Captain America from a few months back.  After verifying that Strange didn’t have one in stock Doug was hoping to find one on the shelf at Monsters.  No such luck.  He did find a Marvel Legends figure he was looking for though, U.S.Agent.  I had really just tagged along for the ride and had no expectation of finding anything but I don’t think any of you will be shocked to hear that I did manage to find something to piss my money away on.  They had a fresh batch of Transformers: Prime figures, based on the computer animated cartoon of the same name that currently airs on Saturday mornings.  There were a couple of car guys, Dead End and I forget the name of the other one.  They  looked pretty cool and that I was considering buying them but after some thought decided against it.

I consider myself to be a pretty strict Generation One (G1) Transformers fan, and an early G1 fan at that.   Meaning basically that I like the characters introduced from the toy line’s inception up to the 1987 movie.  After that I kind of lost interest.  And I couldn’t care less about Beast Wars, Armada, Energon, the live action movies, or any of the other various off-shoots of the line.  I like to keep my Transformers Universe simple.  Megatron, Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Grimlock, etc.  The Classics.  One of the most classic and iconic Transformers of course being the Decepticons communications officer: Soundwave.

When Soundwave was first introduced to us via the comics, cartoon and toy line he was a cassette player which was pretty cutting edge back in the early 80s.  The toy came packaged with a cassette tape that fit inside of him when in tape deck mode or in his chest when in robot mode.  The cassette itself transformed into a predatory bird known as Buzzsaw.  A slew of other cassettes were released shortly afterwards including the panther Ravage, the robots Frenzy and Rumble and even a Buzzsaw repaint named Laserbeak who quickly overtook the original bird in popularity.  While Soundwave’s alt mode quickly became dated, it was still a really neat idea and it made him stand out amongst the dozens of cars and jets in the line.  The tweaked voice acting of Frank Welker on the animated series really solidified Soundwave’s uniqueness and made him a cherished and enduring character that long outlived the walkman.

Transformers has gone through many changes over the years but those “classic” characters I mentioned usually end up in nearly every variation of the property.   Soundwave has emerged time and time again in these alternate Transformers universes but to stay relevant his alt mode has had to change.  He’s been a van in the Animated line, a satellite in the live-action movies and most recently a cybertronian truck.  I have an action figure of him as the truck which is based on his appearance in the console game “War for Cybertron”.  It’s a pretty sweet figure and it retains a lot of the original’s design so it was good enough for me to become my default Soundwave figure.

But then here I was at Monster’s Comic Lounge convincing myself that I didn’t need Dead End and the other guy because as neat as they were, they weren’t G1 and I don’t want to open that can of worms: collecting new and unknown characters.  But no sooner did I put them down did I notice another intriguing Transformers Prime figure on the pegs, Soundwave.  Now this did not look like any Soundwave that I’ve ever seen.  Usually when they change a character’s alt mode they try to retain some of his overall design so that he’s at least recognizable.  But this guy looked nothing like Soundwave in either robot or alt mode.  At first I scoffed at the design  but the more I examined it the more I liked it and felt compelled to share it with you.

So here we are, $25 later  and I’m reviewing my new Soundwave figure.  I keep all of my Transformers in their robot modes on my shelf.  To be honest I wouldn’t even care if they transformed, I like the robots.  For that reason I don’t get to bent out of shape when Hasbro changes a characters alt mode like they did with Bumblebee, from a VW Beetle to a Camaro (though that did kinda piss me off).  Oddly enough though, it was this Soundwave’s alt mode that won me over.  His vehicle mode is recon drone like those used in modern warfare.  The fact that I hear about these things on CNN on a regular basis just made this thing seem so current and relevant.  I also like that it ties into Soundwave’s espionage background .  The drone mode looks great, and from what I know of them, quite realistic.  His robot mode is quite strange looking.  It’s so scrawny that it looks more like a guy in a suit of armor as opposed to a giant robot.  He does have these long gangly arms though with long creepy fingers that  give him a quite alien appearance.  His legs have an animalistic appearance giving him a gorgon like stance and he has a number of fins/wings all over his body which is quite the contrast to his original boxy appearance.  I wish the face was more familiar as that would have been easy to do and scored a lot of points with me;  this one lacks personality and really doesn’t do much for me.  I do like that they kept the character blue even though most drones I’ve seen are white or grey.

One of the coolest aspects of this toy, and was the feature that really convinced me to shell out my hard earned dollars, was the inclusion of Laserbeak.  Soundwave’s airborne companion bears little resemblance to the original Laserbeak but I appreciate the nod non-the-less.  Laserbeak is a small winged  accessory that isn’t really recognizable as a bird or vehicle.  He snaps onto Soundwave’s back in drone mode or onto his chest in robot mode (another nice nod).  He blends into the chest so well that you would hardly know he’s detachable.  Once removed Laserbeak can fly solo or perch on Soundwave’s hand.

This figure walks a little too close to the movie-aesthetic line for my liking but I find myself digging it anyway.  This would never cut-it as my default Soundwave but he makes for a nify addition to my Transformers shelf.  6 out of 10.

HARDTOP TORTOISE

BATTLE BEASTS

This is Hardtop Tortoise, or as I called him, Battle Turtle.  As I’ve mentioned in previous Battle Beast figure reviews, I had no idea that these characters had names when I was a kid.  There were no names on the packaging, and no comic books (that I knew of) or cartoon shows to educate me on the character names.  Every time I got a new Battle Beast figure he was a totally clean slate.  I could choose to make him good or bad, an enforcer or a spy, english or french, whatever.  That’s one of the things that I really liked about the line.  It wasn’t until years later, once the internet came to be, that I discovered that these characters had individual names and a somewhat surprising history.  Apparently there was a poster that you could order that provided the names of these characters but I never knew about it.  I’d love to find one now and have it mounted and hung but they’re quite expensive to purchase these days.

I also discovered that 4 black and white issues of a comic book were published by a basically unknown comic company called Blackthorne.  Those are also quite expensive to purchase these days.  The most interesting thing I learned about Battle Beasts from the internet was that they are directly related to the Transformers.  They were originally conceived by the Japanese toy company Takara as a spin off to the popular transforming robot toy line.  The Battle Beasts actually appeared in an episode of the Transformers cartoon that only aired in Japan called, Rebellion on Planet Beast.  Over there they were known as Beastformers.  It was a pretty neat little discovery seeing as there were no ties made between the two lines once the Battle Beasts were imported to America by Hasbro.  Those Japanese Transformers episodes  were recently released on DVD in America for the first time and I was finally able to see the Battle Beasts in all their animated glory.

Back when Dreamwave and Devil’s Due had the publishing rights to the Transformer and G.I. Joe comic books they would publish an annual crossover event where the two properties would interact in a comic book mini-series set in an alternate world, separate from the main Transformers and Joe books.  I loved these series because since the books weren’t considered “canon” or “in-continuity” the writers could explore some of the zanier aspects of the properties.  In one series the Joes and Transformers had to infiltrate the planet-eating Transformer Unicron to stop him from destroying Earth.  Inside of Unicron the heroes were attacked by Battle Beasts which acted as antibodies in Unicron’s body.  It was a very cool little nod to the fact that these properties are linked in other parts of the world.

The Beasts attack Cosmos inside Unicorn

Now as for Hardtop, or Battle Turtle or whatever you want to call him, he’s pretty awesome. I’m a little biased though as I think that they’re all pretty awesome.  Battle Turtle though does have a little added cool that places him on a slightly higher pedestal than the majority.

First off the sculpt on this guy is killer.  It never ceases to amaze me the amount of detail that the sculptors were able to squeeze into these tiny figures, especially in the 80s when these were intended for children and not for collectors.  His leg, arms, and head are all textured with a scaly bumpy turtle skin.  His back has an intricately armored shell with each plate sculpted separately.  His face is great and very lifelike and his armor features some nice detailing as well.  In place of his left hand he has an imposing mechanical claw.  Another thing that I absolutely love about this toy is the choice of colors used.  Green would have been the obvious choice for a turtle and this sculpt would probably look awesome in green but the black is such an unexpected choice that I just love it.   The orange armor with a couple of green highlights is an excellent contrasting color choice and it gives him a halloween kinda vibe.  Top notch figure.  9 out of 10.

On this cover of the short lived comic we see Hardtop Tortoise duking it out with Rocky Rhino and Triple Threat Snake.

I’d just like to add that my first 14 Beast Saga figures that I pre-ordered from BigBadToyStore shipped a little over a week ago so I’m hoping to be able to review one of them for you this week.  These will be the first new Battle Beasts characters released in over 20 years so I’m pretty damn excited about it.  If you like what you see be sure to head over to BigBadToyStore.com (the link is on the right side of this page) and order yourself a few before they’re gone. 

FISTO (2002)

MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE

When it came to naming the characters of the Masters of the Universe toy line I don’t know if those responsible at Mattel should be scolded for their laziness or heralded for their genius.  A bee man named Buzz Off, an evil crab man named Clawful, a skunk man named Stinkor.  These sound more like they were conceived by children from the short bus as opposed to marketing executives.  And yet these names, along with less clever but just as simple names like Mer-Man and Beast-Man have become classics and to guys like me who been fans of these characters for so long, they don’t even sound silly any more.  But there is one character whose name still incites snickers.  How can you not crack a smile when you’re introduced to a strongman named Fisto.

The original Fisto had a metal gauntlet on his right hand that when pulled back would spring forward to knock any opponent on their ass.  He was wearing little furry shorts as many of the Masters were and he had purple and silver battle armor.  With his brown beard and slicked back hair he reminded me a bit of my dad when he was younger.   He seemed rather dapper and well groomed with an epic old timey  ‘stache.  Doug owned Fisto when we were kids and he probably still has him.

I didn’t get my first Fisto until the MOTU revival of 2002.  I absolutely fell in love with the dynamic new character designs.  I think almost everything they did in those days was an improvement over the originals.  I was extremely disappointed when the 2002 cartoon show and toy line ended prematurely.  I really wanted a complete set of MOTU figures based on those designs but sadly that never came to be.  As far as Fisto goes, he’s one of the few 2002 redesigns that I’m on the fence about whether it was superior to the original design.  I really like the new look but it changes the personality of the character a bit too much for me.  The original looked clean and proper, like a knight almost.  The 2002 version is much more reminiscent of a big burly Viking.

The 2002 figure is obviously Fisto but his name was changed on the packaging to “Battle Fist”.   I don’t know if this was done because Mattel lost the rights to the name or to avoid giggles but regardless he’ll always be Fisto to me.  In his appearances on the 2002 animated series he was still known as Fisto, not Battle Fist which honestly sounds just as funny.  In the updated cartoon they supplied him with an intriguing new origin story.  He was the disgraced brother of Man-at-Arms and was thought long dead.  They even hinted that Fisto and the Sorceress were Teela’s birth parents. 

This figure, while a departure from the original is still pretty awesome.  His metal gauntlet is now extremely oversized and clearly intended to be a mechanical enhancement as opposed to just a fancy glove.  Instead of the pull back and release action feature of the original, this one has a button that when clicked extends the fist forward a couple inches.  His hair and beard are longer and shaggier than before and he has a new metal tiara type deal on his head.  He’s still got the purple and silver color scheme on his armor though there’s more detail in the sculpt now.  He’s rocking some wickedly massive fur boots which is probably my favorite change made to the character.  All of the 2002 era figures were designed to rest in a slight action pose instead of a static upright stance.  Usually I don’t like pre-posed figures but the MOTU poses are subtle and the slight hunch given to Fisto adds even more personality to a toy that’s already oozing with character.

I do like this updated look but I was glad to see that the Fisto figure recently released in the MOTU Classics line was modeled after the original version instead.  I think this version nailed the Viking like look of the 2000 era Fisto but I’ve never owned the original ‘clean’ Fisto and now’s my chance.  The Classics version sold out uber-fast when it was released on MattyCollector.com a couple months ago and I missed out on him but I’m sure I’ll snag him eventually.  In the coming months there’s also a Jitsu figure being released in the classics line which I’m really looking forward too.  When Fitso first came out Jitsu was released as his evil rival, a nasty Asian dude with a golden karate chop glove.  I never owned the 80s original or the 2000 era Jitsu so he will be a most welcome addition to my classics collection.  It will be nice to finally be able to display these arch rivals fisting each other.  Er…..   7 out of 10.

A great comparison shot of vintage 80s, Classics, and 2002 era Fistos. Stolen from some other site.