San Diego Comic Con 2014


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*REVIEW* Play Arts Kai Metal Gear Cyborg Ninja

Intro

INTRO

We love Metal Gear. LOVE it. We also love toys. Lo-and-behold, Square Enix/Play Arts Kai, one of the coolest toy manufacturers out there, has combined the deuce and created one of the most successful toy lines in their mighty arsenal.
Today’s figure has been around for awhile, but we’ve just now been able to spend the appropriate time due this self-degrading Cyborg Ninja. We’ve been big fans of just about everything Play Arts Kai has put out recently. Will Grey Fox make a killing or disappear into the cloud of smoke that is action figure mediocrity? 

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Did you never learn to read? Don’t enjoy viewing all the pretty pictures we put so much time into photographing? Would you rather watch compressed, grainy streaming video? Then you should check out our brief video review!

PACKAGING

Cyborg comes in the same sort of box all Play Arts Kai figures are packed into. A big plastic window gives you a clear view of the prize waiting inside. Metal Gear’s 25th anniversary logo adorns the bottom corner to remind us all how old we are. On the back there are a few photos of Cyborg posed to tease you with a bit of his sexy-self. A thimble of apologies for the empty box photo. We didn’t dally long enough to get any sort of unboxing images when we got Grey Fox in hand. We tore that sucker open and got to the good stuff as quick as we could!

WHAT’S INCLUDED

The anguished ninja comes with his trusty ninja sword (a high frequency blade) suitable for slicing and dicing. He has an alternate hand that you have to swap out in order to hold said sword. On top of that he comes with a snap on laser gun arm. One thing of note is that both the hand for holding his sword and the gun arm are intended to be right handed. Apparently Play Arts Kai doesn’t want you to dual wield with your toys. That being said, the laser cannon will fit on either arm if you’re feeling particularly rebellious, you go-against-the-grain-toy-collector you.

THE BREAKDOWN

The first thing that struck me about Cyborg Ninja, and in fact what I can say is usually the first thing that strikes me about any Play Arts Kai toy, is just how good he looks. The sculpting and details on him are really very nice. If you didn’t know better, you’d swear this little guy was built head to toe of shiny metal and circuits. The fine folks at Squeenix really know their stuff when it comes to modeling character details.

I love the spinal column detail on his back, it’s spot on from the game. I kept thinking how cool it’d be if it was articulated and moved as you twisted his back around. It’s cool in its current form, none the less.

The glossy paint work on Cyborg is basically two tone, lots of gold and blue with a dash of grey. He pulls it off really well. There’s not a lot to complain about paint-wise, as checking him up and down, I didn’t find any bleeds or smudge details, save a few small spots on some seams. I’d say of all my Play Arts Kai figures, Cyborg Ninja has the best paint app and the least flaws. There’s a ton of little decal that really sell the cyborg aspect of him.

He’s nigh flawless.

I say “nigh flawless”  because he actually DOES have one fairly significant scar on his spotless hide. On his forearm there’s this odd matte smudge of paint. It’s like someone at the toy factory noticed an unpainted spot on him as he slid by on the conveyor belt, dipped his thumb in some crappy grey paint conveniently laying nearby and smudged over it to cover it up. I didn’t bother photographing it as it’s not showing up very well. In fact, it’s not terribly noticeable unless you know it’s there. It’s just a little odd since it does actually appear that someone went through the trouble of patching a blemish… they just took zero care when they did.

Articulation on Cyborg is what you’ve come to expect with Play Arts Kai figures. There’s quite a bit of it, and most of it works really well for some dramatic and fun poses. It does seem like ol’ robo Ninja has a little less articulation than Snake did, which seems off since he’s a ninja and he should be able to bend and twist as such to kiss the back of his own knee caps if he felt the need. Despite that, I was able to get him in just about any pose I wanted to with only a few exceptions.

I always feel like I’m relearning something about action figures whenever I start to play with a Play Arts Kai figure. As per the usual, Cyborg is loaded with various points of articulation and much of it is pretty intuitive if you’ve ever played with a toy at any point in your life. However, there’s a few little tucked away hinge and rocker joints you may not catch on your first outing. One of these is located at his shoulders.. pull them in towards his chest and they pop away from his sides. While it gives him a bit more reach than he had before, it’s not super natural looking. One thing it IS good for is that it allows for a certain lonely Ninja to pretend he’s making out with a hot babe..

Grey Fox: “oooh baby.. ooooh sweet lordy.. muah muah muah…”
Snake: “dude…”

I think Snake’s on to him.

As I mentioned before, the hand that Cyborg holds his sword in is the same arm that you’re supposed to remove when you put on the laser gun arm. Thankfully, you can ignore that if you choose and toss the laser gun arm on his left side, leaving his other arm free to swing a sword around. If the scope of the canon being on the far side from his body doesn’t bother you, I think he looks particularly cool in this setup.

Play Arts Kai figures have always felt solid and well made. They have a heft to them that gives you the impression that the toys are built to last. For the most part that’s true. PAK toys are some of the higher quality figures out there. That being said, a few things continue to bug me about them. One is the articulation system. It’s not that the system itself is bad, it’s actually pretty advanced for this scale of action figures. The problem lies in the fact that most of the joints are held together by simple swivel ball joints which are unreliable in how well they stay in place when posing the figure. It works well in most cases, but on literally every PAK figure I’ve owned there’s been at least one that comes off in your hand the second you try to bend or twist it. With cyborg, I had two spots like that. The first and most noticeable was his right leg, which kept popping off at the hip. It’s incredibly easy to pop back on, but it’s annoying when you realize how well set in place the other leg is. Why couldn’t they both work equally as well and just STAY ON? The second piece is less a joint and really just a part of him that comes off absolutely every time I move his arm, his elbow pad. I imagine I could put a small drop of glue in there to keep it from happening if I wanted, but again, it’s strange to me that I’m having so much trouble with one while the other stays securely in place as you’d expect it to.

Arms or legs popping out of their joints is probably nothing new to those of you who collect Play Arts Kai figs. It’s a weird QC thing that I’ve heard countless people gripe about  all over the webs.. but I think they’re getting better at remedying at least the more common issues. In most cases, any QC problem you’ll come across will only amount to a small annoyance on an otherwise great figure.

The one thing that bothered me the most, however, wasn’t the randomly self severing limbs, but the tiny skinny baby elf feet Cyborg Ninja is cursed with.

You have to be some sort of toy balancing Jedi to get him to stand up and stay standing. The heft I was speaking about earlier that gives you that “quality” feeling whenever you pick up a Play Arts Kai figure is working against Cyborg in this case. Those little toes are just not meant to hold full grown Ninjas. I can’t tell you how many times I’d get him balanced on a shelf, where he’d sit for 30 minutes.. all the way up to a couple of days, only to have him randomly crash to the floor thanks to a rogue gust of wind. I had a similar problem with PAK’s Arkham Asylum Joker, which frustrated me to no end, until I finally relented and put him on a stand. I’m much happier now.
If you pick him up, I’d recommend either leaning Cyborg against something or getting a figure stand for him as well. You’ll save yourself some unneeded frustration and be much happier if you do.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Cyborg Ninja may not take Snake’s place at the top of my Play Arts Kai hill, but he’s still a very solid and awesome figure. If you’re a fan of Play Arts Kai and Metal Gear, then you should have him in your collection. At $60 plus, I wouldn”t give the recommendation lightly. I really do believe you’ll be happy with him chilling on your shelf.

Just remember that occasionally a limb or joint may pop off. At most, it’s a minor annoyance and not a big deal because they should pop back on really easily. Fox’s main demon is his inability to easily stand unassisted.. a truly strange problem for a ninja to have. Go get yourself a figure stand or pose Cyborg in a way that doesn’t require him to balance on the two legs Dr. Clark gave him and you’ll forgo many a stumbling frustration.

Square Enix Play Arts Kai has released yet another high quality, awesome looking figure. While not cheap by any stretch of the imagination, these guys are less than most collectors’ toys go for and look just as good in many ways. I’m loving this toy line and how Play Arts Kai is handling it. I can’t wait to see which character they roll out next. At the very least, Cyborg has quadrupled my anticipation for when Raiden FINALLY comes out next month. I’ve been anxiously waiting for him to ship since I saw the prototype at SDCC this last year.

We’re counting the weeks!

Review to come!

Pros:

  • One of my favorite Metal Gear characters fully realized
  • Square Enix knocks the sculpt out of the park… again
  • Quite a haul of articulation
  • The paint and details are really well done, despite one odd blemish
  • Love the laser canon arm and displaying him with it and his high frequency blade.

Cons:

  • Skinny little baby elf feet are no match for Cyborg’s body heft – he topples easily
  • A few joints will probably pop off when you’re posing him
  • It’s probably isolated and unique to mine, but the shoddy paint patch work on his forearm is an real eyesore


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*REVIEW* Play Arts Kai Metal Gear Solid Snake

INTRO

Few video game franchises are nearer and dearer to my heart than Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear. I’ve played, if not beaten almost every game in the series including the port of the very first Metal Gear when it was out on the NES back in the 80’s (don’t do the math.. yes I’m at least that old).  There’s something about Kojima’s characters and their stories that are so compelling and interesting, I found myself constantly hungry for more. A few years later I found myself scouring comic shops and books stores for the artwork of Yoji Shinkawa. Along with Yoshitaka Amano of Final Fantasy fame, his artwork kicked everything else game art wise in the teeth with how crazy energetic and magnetic it was. I still have game guides from the 90’s simply because it was chock full of his work.

Growing up, Metal Gear and Final Fantasy essentially rented time shares at my house. I’d bounce back and forth between the franchises, squeezing as much gaming juice from them as I could until the next game rolled around. Other than perhaps Final Fantasy 7, few games can compete with how much time and energy I invested into Metal Gear Solid and Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. I’ve played through the fantastic Snake Eater at least five times front to back.

All that was written to simply express to you that I am a fan. A big, massive, huge, gigantic (loaded to the gills with redundant adjectives) Metal Gear fan. Now that I finally have in possession my first Metal Gear action figure of one of my favorite video game characters of all time, I came to an incredibly shocking realization. This is my first Metal Gear action figure.

Egad.

PACKAGING

Akin to Play Art Kai’s other figures, Snake comes in a big box with a front panel window to give you a peak at what’s in store. This is Metal Gear’s 25th anniversary and from the decal on the lower right on the front you can see that this figure is an official part of the celebration! The classic Metal Gear Solid Logo stands out the most while the bulk of the text is written in kanji. A few pics of Snake looking dangerous decorates the back of the pack and perhaps aims to inspire you once you break him out of his plastic cage.

WHAT’S INCLUDED

Snake’s default getup has him equipped with a little thunder and a little lightning. Also known as closed clinched fists. If you want him to actually HOLD the two guns he comes with, you have to switch them out with the included extra set of hands. One hand can hold the grip of his rifle or holstered side arm, the other hand is used as.. for lack of better term, “cupping”. I think it’s a little weird that they didn’t include a tactical knife in the arsenal since it’s always been a constant companion of Snake’s since day one. It’d also would have been cool if they threw in either the classic cardboard box that Snake used for bypassing baddies or the girlie magazine he used to distract them.

THE BREAKDOWN

I can’t tell you how much I anticipated this figure to arrive. It seemed to take forever since everything I get from 3rd party sources tend to ship to LA before it gets resent back to us here in Hawaii. Things from Japan tend to scoot right past us, touch down in California, then boomerang back our direction. This sometimes adds an extra week to my wait time in getting an order in. Since my wait has been so long, I’m not going to make you wait any longer to get the overall gist of my opinion of Snake. In fact, I’m going to risk electively ruining this whole review for you and cut right to the punchline. I’m really happy and impressed by how well Play Arts Kai rocked Solid Snake.

The moment you take him out of the box you’ll notice how amazingly well sculpted and detailed he is. All the little straps and buckles are perfectly painted,the rivets in his shoulder and knee pads are neatly placed. Snake’s expression is one of thin lipped determination. He’s an impressive site, wholly true to his in game persona. I’ve heard Play Arts Kai mess around with their scales quite a bit on their figs but I have nothing to compare that to other than Batman and Joker. Snake is a pretty big fellah and measures just the tiniest bit taller than his DC buddies.

To continue the comparison of Snake to Play Arts Kai’s Joker or Batman, I’d say he feels more solid that they did. All of Play Art Kai’s figures seem to have significant heft to them, but even the thinner bits like straps and packs feel sturdier on Snake than Bats or J-money. Something else I’m learning about these figures is that they all have a floating midsection that’s not really attached to anything underneath the surface and just sort of sits to cover the tops of the hips/legs. It works pretty well and looks fine for the most part, but on this particular figure, his mid section seems to favor one side quite definitively, over the other leaving a good deal of the top of his right leg exposed. I had to adjust it every time I posed him or it would move itself to one side and look completely out of whack. (I know, I know, double entendres for DAYZ.)

Solid Snake’s face is relatively well done as they captured his in game likeness almost perfectly. He looks stern and ready for anything. However, his eyes are painted to point slightly up. I assume so he appears to be intensely peering up from under his headband. It works fine in most cases, but in some poses he can look a little unfocused. In fact, they might not be painted QUITE as aligned as they should. A bummer considering how “cool” Snake should look. Hard to look cool and cross eyed at the same time. Speaking of the headband, the straps in the back can be rotated left or right which is a cool touch to get that “wind blown” look you’re after. The frown marks sculpted on the band as well as the hair sculpt are also pretty well done.

The default fists Snake is sporting are a little odd simply because they not particularly dynamic or useful. They don’t look aggressive like the sorta fist you’d hit somebody across the jaw with nor can they hold anything. A set of more dramatic hand styles would have been appreciated. The hands also appear a little small, but that could just be my eyes playing tricks on me. The other odd thing is how the hands sit inside the forearm. They’re not centered on the wrist but are substantially offset to one side. I’m not sure why this is. I don’t get the added benefit of this other than making the joint all the more apparent.

Snake comes with a single hand that can hold a weapon. It’s capable of handling the task, though it’s not as tight as I’d like it to be on the pistol grip. It’s also kind of a pain to get him to hold his rifle given the unforgiving plastic of the weapon and the general bulk of Snake’s torso. The open or “cupping” hand is a little more interesting than the tiny fist, but it’s kind of a one trick pony. I’ll restate that I really wish Play Arts Kai would have included another set of more dramatic hand sculpts.

Moving around the figure, I’m really impressed (once again) with all the detail Play Arts Kai managed to squeeze into Solid Snake. I love the details on his boots, particularly the cleats along the sides of the toe. Most impressive of all is the sculpted detail in the various straps, pads and buckles. Even in hand, you may find yourself convinced that some of these are actual cloth and not plastic. The gun strap is a great example of this.

Getting Snake to balance, while not necessarily difficult, can be a little tricky. I’m sure there’s an industry term somewhere I could use but I’ll describe the joints as clicking/segmented joints. What this means is that there are only certain positions around each joint that will allow it to hold in place. Like the ticking of the seconds hand on a timepiece. This gives you a sturdier lock onto a pose, but the trade off is that you lose the ability to finely adjust the particular joint.  You have to click the figure into a pose, and then see if he stands. If the weight is off and you need to slide a leg forward a millimeter, you most likely won’t be able to because the joint won’t lock into that increment. Long story short, when you get Snake standing make SURE he’s actually going to remain that way. Sometimes he’ll stand there for a few moments until one of those joints settle into place sending him toppling over.

The articulation on Snake is pretty darn good. I think I’m STILL discovering the seemingly random swivel joint here and there. One thing I really dig in how they handled masking Snake’s joints opposed to the way they engineered Batman and Joker’s. They ingeniously covered up the double knee and elbow joints with knee/elbow pads. It’s so much more natural looking. Even in more extreme poses, Snake doesn’t look ridiculous. Snake has a collar around his neck that, while cool looking does impede his range of movement a little. I don’t mind it too much since I haven’t put him in too many poses that stress the turning of his neck, but you might.

Another touch that puts Snake in the “win” category a little higher than Joker or Bats is that his shoulder joints are hidden from site thanks to his shoulder pads. Joker’s were just absolute eye sores that killed any sense of a cohesiveness in his suit jacket. Batman’s shoulder joints were covered by his cape, but the heavy rubber used there limited his movements pretty substantially. Snake’s solution is probably the best compromise. The shoulder pads do still hinder his movement a little bit, but they looks great and the trade off is well worth it.

I had a problem with Snake’s pistol silencer. Since it’s packed attached to the pistol and holstered at his side, pressure from the packaging caused it to deform and bend. It leans slightly to the left, so to say. I’m sure it’s a pretty easy fix, heating it up a little with a hair dryer then putting something heavy on it to straighten it out should do the trick, but we shouldn’t have to “fix” our new toys the second we get them. Packaging it by itself would have resolved the issue completely.

My current favorite setup for Snake is having it swung over his shoulder while he holds his silenced pistol at the ready. I really like the straps on the assault rifle, both functionally and visually.. but had some trouble getting Snake to actually HOLD his assault rifle. Part of the reason I had such a difficult time getting the assault rifle to fit is because for whatever reason, Snake’s right arm keeps detaching at the elbow.  I wouldn’t call it broken since it can be popped back in, but it certainly doesn’t hold in place like it should. This is very similar to what I experienced with The Joker with his shoulder constantly popping off. Throughout the entire photo shoot I had to work around this little issue. It’s a shame because all of the other joints on Snake hold extremely well! I’m beginning to wonder if this is just a “thing” you have to put up with if you collect Square Enix/Play Arts Kai figures or a fluke.  I’m tempted to contact the shop I got him from and see what my options are for a swap as it’s become pretty darn annoying at this point.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Overall I’m impressed with what Play Arts Kai pulled off with Solid Snake. I’m extremely happy to have him on my shelf. That being said, I’m a huge Metal Gear Solid fan and this particular figure is that of my favorite video game character. It’s possible that I may turn a blind eye to some of his faults. Not to the degree in that I didn’t note them, or don’t care about them.. but that I might more easily overlook them. If you were just picking this guy up because you heard of the series or just thought he was a cool looking toy to add to your collection, you might find these or other issue with him more pressing and they may more readily rub you the wrong way. From the lack of fun or interesting accessories (smokes, box, girly mag) and unimaginative hand options to the misaligned eyes and right leaning midriff… or in my case, the freaking arm constantly popping out of socket… Snakes certainly not perfect.

But for me, Solid Snake rocks, warts and all. I love the classic MGS story and characters and really hope Play Arts Kai plans to release each and every one of them. I honestly can’t wait to have a shelf full of them. We’ve already seen a few teases of Meryl Silverburgh, Solidus Snake and Raiden. Based off what I’ve gathered so far, they’re going to be worthy additions to any fans collection!

Pros:

  • Faithful likeness to the in game character based off Yoji Shinkawa’s character designs
  • Some really impressive sculpted details
  • Great articulation throughout
  • Really nice solution to the otherwise ugly double jointed knees and elbows
  • The beginning of a classic line of Metal Gear figures

Cons:

  • Arm popped off at elbow right out the box.
  • Crazy bent silencer. Had to straighten it with hot water. Shouldn’t have had to do that.
  • Eyes are painted slightly off
  • Unexciting hands and accessories.. where’s the box, smokes, magazine?
  • Can be a little difficult to balance


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