Golden Axe: Skeleton Soldiers by Storm Collectibles

Last year, Storm Collectibles showed debuted figures based on one of my all-time favorite games on the SEGA Genesis, and I just about lost my damn mind. I was quick to pre-order Axe Battler and when I got the set it was everything I dreamed it could be. But was that going to be it? Just a one-off curiosity? Happily, the answer to that question is a big NOPE! Soon the Skeleton Soldier 2-pack reared its boney heads, and then variants of it, and then Death Adder, and then the rest of the playable characters. Holy smokes, Storm was going all in on this franchise, and I was beside myself with glee. But, as things tend to happen around here, new arrivals get buried and reviews get delayed. This past weekend Death Adder arrived and while I was itching to review him, I decided it was only right to swing back to that Skeleton two-pack and have a look at it first!

The packaging is pretty simple. The gruesome twosome come in a window box that shows off the figures and their accessories. I do love that there’s an illustration behind the tray showing the character select screen. I only had the thrill of playing the original Golden Axe a couple of times in the arcades, but I’ve spent countless hours with the home versions of Golden Axe 1 and 2. I still have my original copies, and now thanks to compilations and emulation, I can even play the arcade versions whenever I damn well please. But no matter what version you may have cut your teeth on, one thing remains the same… Skeletons are bastards!

With the first Skeleton out of the box, there are a few things that strike me. First, they’re pretty light, but they don’t feel at all fragile. Now, I’m not saying you should be reckless with your new skinless friends, but considering their just thin bones, they don’t make me feel afraid to handle them. Secondly, there’s no rubbery, gummy, or frail joints to deal with. Everything feels solid and strong. And with those handling impressions out of the way, they just look fantastic! The aesthetics haven’t been sacrificed in favor of articulation, and while I am no certified boneologist, I think they look pretty close to being anatomically correct. They are fairly clean Skeletons, without much in the way of rot, which is in line with their appearances in the game. Still, there’s some wash and overall, these fellas have a somewhat chalky finish that makes them look and feel more like bone than plastic.

The skull sculpt is excellent. I really dig the furled brows that give these guys some evil personality. The fact that the jaws are articulated is a happy surprise. You get more of that chalky finish on the skull, which does look a bit like there’s some left over flesh peeling off, and the eye sockets are painted in black to make them look like dark pools of evil.

As near as I can tell, there’s no differences in sculpt between the two Skeletons, but my sets have some slight variations in paint that keep them from looking too uniform when displayed together. Still, if I named them, I doubt I’d be able to tell them apart. As far as articulation goes, you get lots and lots of rotating hinges in all the expected places. Some sweet bonuses include hinges in the feet, and a rotating hinge in the spine, just below the ribcage. These boney bros are also extremely well balanced, and I’ve had a lot less difficulty getting them to stand than a lot of other fully fleshed out figures.

Each Skeleton comes with a total of five pairs of hands, which is pretty crazy! Hell, I just reviewed a Hot Toys figure that didn’t have this many hands, and they’re like the Kings of giving out too many hands! Anyway, these guys come with fists attached, but you also get your choice of accessory holding hands, relaxed hands, clawing hands, and pointing hands, which are my favorite as I call them the “I’ve got a bone to pick with you” hands.

Each Skeleton also comes with a sword and shield, and these are identical for each figure, with one exceptions. The skulls on the shields are oriented so that one shield is left handed and the other is right handed. The shields have gold faces and on the reverse they each have an arm strap and a grab bar. The swords have golden guards and pommels and silver blades. Despite having no meat on their hands, these guys can hold their gear very well.

One thing I was curious about was how well these would work with my beloved Mythic Legions figures, and I’m happy to report that they look great together. Many of the Mythic Legions Skeletons have a little more color going on, but I would have no problem integrating these two lines. In truth, I’m surprised The Four Horsemen didn’t think of putting out something like this a while back.

These Skeleton packs seem to have been pretty popular, as they were regularly selling out at all of my usual e-tailers. I had one set pre-ordered and picked up a second when they came back into stock. I would imagine that even people who aren’t as passionate about Golden Axe as myself will be buying these for their fantasy figure collections. Indeed, I highly recommend them. They’re great figures that look like they could have just as easily stepped out of the screen of Jason and the Argonauts as a Golden Axe cabinet.

The Witcher: Eredin Breacc Glas by McFarlane

Well, looky here! I actually made it back on a Friday for some hot and tasty end of week content! It wasn’t easy to carve out the time, but I’m glad I was able to. And hopefully, I can start to make this a habit again. Today I’m digging into another McFarlane release from The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and it’s the leader of The Wild Hunt himself, Eredin Breacc Glas!

Needless to say, I was pretty impressed by Geralt when I reviewed him a few weeks ago. So much so, that I quickly set about picking up some of the other figures in this line. The packaging is pretty much the same as we saw last time, sans the Gold Label. You get a collector friendly window box with a stylish red backdrop behind the figure, and a photo of the figure on the back. Nothing mind-blowing in terms of art design here, but I have to respect McFarlane for letting the figure do all the talking. Let’s get out The King of the Wild Hunt and have a look!

This character design feels like it was tailor-made to get the action figure treatment, and McFarlane did a fine job with it. Eredin’s nightmarish armor is fully realized in what is a pretty complex and layered sculpt. The crimson armor is designed to summon up the horrific image of a flayed man, with bronze accents giving off the hint of exposed bone amidst the quilted and armored plate red meat and muscle. And it is quite glorious! Easily my favorite thing here is the breast plate, which is not only adorned with a rib-cage like motif, but also has rib-like spikes protruding over it. These are cast in soft plastic, so as not to be brittle and breakable, and it just looks simply amazing. His forearms are protected by crudely hammered bronze bracers full of pitting and rough texture, while a series of brown “leather” strips cascade down from the center of his belt, both front and back. Intricate details include the sculpted rivets on his armor plates and stitching on the belts and straps.

The skeletal visage is carried over to his back, where more brass fixtures mimic his spine and the back of his ribcage, meanwhile his right shoulder is protected by a collection of boney barbs and a tattered textured cloak. The cloak is cast in soft plastic and is designed so as not to impede the arm’s movement.

Eredin’s head is fully enclosed in a helmet with a skull-faced visor that reminds of General Kael from Willow… and that ain’t a bad thing! The bronze colored helmet has its share of cuts and crags, no doubt the remnants of many battles. Nothing of Eredin’s face can be seen through the black void of the eyeholes, but his black coif of hair can be seen cascading out the back of the helm. The headpiece is punctuated on top by a series of tall spikes forming a crown.

The packaging claims Eredin sports 22-moving parts, and that certainly comes across in just how fun a figure he is to play with. Articulation points include rotating hinges in the shoulders, elbows, wrists, and hips. The knees have single hinges and the ankles have hinges and lateral rockers. There are swivels up in the thighs and the toes of his boots are hinged. Finally, you get a ball joint under the chest and another in the neck. The jointing on these McFarlane figures feel satisfyingly solid and chunky.

Eredin comes with one accessory and that’s his rather distinctive sword. This piece of plastic cutlery is a lot more impressive than either of the blades that came with Geralt, thanks mostly to a great paintjob on the blade and hilt. The turned grip is painted crimson to match his armor, and is extended to allow for double-handed wielding. And thankfully, the figure’s articulation is up to the task! The vicious looking blade includes multiple angles to the edge and a jutting spike, and I really dig the rather utilitarian hand guard that plunges parallel with the grip. It’s a great looking piece that clearly favors function over aesthetics in its design.

And finally, you get a figure stand, which is easily the least impressive thing in the box. Yup, it’s the same one that came with Geralt, complete with The Witcher III branding. It’s simple, small, and totally inconsequential. But it does a decent job of holding him up, and I’m never going to complain about getting a stand.

I absolutely have to keep resisting the urge to plunge into McFarlane’s DC figures. I just can’t open that floodgate again. I’ve been wronged too many times! BUT, THAT REBIRTH SUPERMAN SURE IS TEMPTING!!! So, it’s nice to have a small and manageable line like The Witcher to sample what has been some truly excellent work by McFarlane. And just for an added treat, when I went to hunt this figure down along with Ciri, I found him on clearance for about $11. Not too shabby, as I would have been perfectly happy with him even at the full $20. I don’t think I’m going to go nuts with all the repaints of Geralt that McFarlane is pushing out, but I’ll likely keep grabbing any new sculpts that come my way.

Halo: 12-inch Master Chief by Jazwares

I’ve had a bit of an unintentional video game theme going these last couple weeks. First it was Pac-Man, then The Witcher, and now Halo. Well, I wouldn’t read too much into it. I stumbled upon this figure for a crazy low price and decided to make it an impulse buy. Ages ago, I had that Joyride Master Chief figure, which was excellent, but did not survive a shelf-dive. Sadly, his leg exploded against the shock of the carpet, and he was beyond fixing. Sobbing, I turned to The Ebays to replace him, saw how much it was going for now, and gave that shit a big HECK, NO! But hey, now I’ve got The Chief back in the collection. Let’s see if this cheap sum’bitch is any good.

Straightaway, this release reminds me of those cheap 12-inch figures that Hasbro has done for Star Wars and Marvel. They’re sometimes referred to as Shampoo Bottle Figures, I guess because they’re hollow and cheap, and feel like the novelty themed recepticals that you might find containing kids shampoo. Most of those are terrible, some are OK, but this one looked a little better. But make no mistake, cheap this figure is! I got him off Amazon for $11, although I think the MSRP is around $20. And yes, that is about twice as much as Hasbro’s Shampoo Bottle Figures, so maybe it’s not fair comparison. The packaging is consists of a very long and narrow window box, that’s barely big enough to contain his Spartan might, but is otherwise serviceable. There’s a J-hook so he can hang from a peg, but I’ve never seen this guy in the Toy Aisles around here.

Out of the box, this figure actually impresses me. Now, let’s qualify that a bit, because my expectations were pretty low. The sculpt is excellent. Sure he’s got some unsightly seams, but they’re not any worse than any number of other figures on the market these days. And all the detail in the armor is certainly there. The plates have panel lines, and all the little bits and bobs that I remember seeing from the last time I played a Halo game, albeit that was probably five years ago. The green looks a bit bright under the studio lights, but in hand under normal lighting it looks fine. The undersuit is black with some texturing, and you actually get some silver dry brushing on the armor to signify wear and tear. It actually looks about on par with the stuff Hasbro was doing on their Transformers Siege figures. Take that how you want, but I think it looks fine. If I’m going to nitpick anything here, I don’t remember Master Chief having such small feet, but I’m really reaching for something to complain about.

The helmet also looks pretty good, with more of those silver abraisions on the green finish. The gold paint used for his visor looks excellent. I should also note that while the figure is hollow and not all that hefty, it doesn’t feel like junk either. And there ya go, Jazwares! Feel free to use that as a pull quote for the box!

What surprised me the most about this guy was his articulation. I was expecting retro five points of articulation, like Hasbro’s big bois, but this guy actually has rotating hinges in the shoulders, elbows, hips, and knees, and swivels in the wrists, and in the neck. He’s fun to play with, although give me a little articulation and I just want more. He would have been amazing if they sprang for a waist swivel and some ankle tilts. Still, what’s here is great, and he has a pretty decent balance.

Master Chief comes with one accessory and that’s his trusty assault rifle. Sadly, the weapon is not as impressive as the figure. The big fail for me was having it silver. Jazwares may have been trying to add a little more color to the package, but I would have much rather they left it black, and it would have saved them some money too. It’s fairly well detailed, even if the sculpt is very soft. It fits perfectly into his right hand, and it even has a peg that allows Master Chief to carry it on his back.

There have been plenty of good Master Chief figures on the market over the years, so if you’re looking for a nice collectible you can sure do a lot better than this guy. But, if you’re looking for a big, rugged Master Chief toy to knock around and have some fun with, I think you could do a lot worse than this guy. Hell, if Hasbro’s 12-inchers were more like this in terms of quality and articulation, I’d probably actually own some of those. Jazwares has a few other Halo figures in this line, but Master Chief is enough for me. He was definitely worth the $11 I paid for him, and hell, I’d even go so far as to recommend him at $20.

The Witcher: Geralt of Rivia (Gold Label) by McFarlane

I remember buying the original Witcher game, hoping to slum it with the graphics turned all the way down, but even then my computer at the time just laughed and spat out the disc. A short while later, The Witcher II came to the Xbox 360, and I rejoiced, as I would finally get to sample the series I heard so much about. But after jumping in, I quickly felt like I was dropped into the middle of the dense lore and missing out on a lot of backstory, so I decided that I would shelf the game until I could eventually experience the first. Time passed and eventually even my new mediocre computer was capable of running the original Witcher, which was at that point a rather old game. With all the settings turned up, I quickly lost myself in the deep and rewarding game world, and it was everything I hoped it would be. And the rest is history. I still haven’t made the time to play Witcher 3, but I have since enjoyed the hell out of the comics and the TV series was… well, it was OK. And that brings us to McFarlane’s Geralt figure!

his is the Gold Label release, which is proudly called out with gold foil on the top left corner of the box. What’s that mean? I dunno. It seems like just a repaint of the regular version. I think these were supposed to be some kind of premium chase figures, but I got mine on clearance at Gamestop, so I’m not sure how difficult that chase was. They had both versions, but I went with this one just because I thought the more colorful deco showcased the sculpt a little better. The window box is collector friendly, unless you want the stand, which is secured to the back of the insert under a sealed bubble. For that, you’ll have to rip and tear!

And here he is, Geralt of Rivia, looking intimidating as all hell. Straightaway I’ll say that I absolutely love the sculpting they did here, but then McFarlane has always been known for delivering great sculpts! As I already intimated, I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time in the first two games, but have still yet to crack open my copy of Witcher 3. That having been said, his armor appears to be patterened after the suit he starts the game with, and the one featured in most of the game shots I’ve seen, so I’m at least passingly familiar with it. The sculpt features some intricate detail in the chain mail, as well as some textured quilting in the upper legs. There’s stitching recreated on the leather bits, and boots, and the armor is layered onto the figure to make for a very complex and convincing look. When it comes to detail, it seems like nothing was overlooked. The torso armor is sculpted in soft plastic and wrapped around the figure, concealing the articulation in the chest. It’s executed very well, without making the figure look too bulky or throw off his proportions. Other cool little additions are his tiny amulet and the trophy hook hanging from his belt.

On his back, Geralt has two functional scabbards for his swords. These are partially open on the side facing his back, which is unfortunately a little unsightly, but they acommodate the swords very well. The scabbards are also the only place on the figure where the paint disappoints a bit. It just isn’t as sharp as it could be. The original version of this figure was quite drab and dark, but this Gold Label release features a more colorful tan and brown deco, which as I said earlier, really brings out the detail in the sculpt. The boots are black, he’s got a reddish-brown belt, and the silver paint used for the chainmail and the fixtures, is quite striking. I may still look at picking up the regular release, but right now I’m pleased that I went with this one.

They did a beautiful job on this portrait, recreating a solid likeness to the in-game model. The rather intricate hair sculpt is cast separate from the rest of the head, making for a clean hairline. His scar is carved right into the plastic, there are some subtle lines in his face, and the facial hair is quite remarkable. But beyond an excellent sculpt, the paint really turned out to be amazing. From the gray used for his hair to the gloss on his bottom lip, the life-like eyes and the razor sharp deep crimson gash, everything here is just superb. Even the skin tone is nuanced.

I was most curious to see what the articulation was going to be like, since the last time I was collecting McFarlane figures, they were little more than semi-poseable statues. Well, that certainly isn’t the case any more. The articulation here is well thought out and feels great. The double hinges in the elbows and knees are chunky and allow for tight bends. I was especially surprised to find there were even hinges in the toe of the boots! He’s capable of wide stances in the legs and his arms have the ability to reach back to draw his swords. My only gripe here is that the neck doesn’t allow for the head to look up enough. And that’s probably mostly because of the long hair.

Naturally, Geralt comes with his two swords. The “silver” sword features a sharply downturned crossguard, whereas the “steel” sword has the straight guard. These each have painted grips, but unfortunately the blades and hilts were left as bare gray plastic. I really think these needed actual silver paint to make them look more snappy, especially for a premium Gold Label release. Heck, even if they just painted the silver one to distinguish it, that would have been cool. The sculpts on the weapons are fine, and the blades aren’t too bendy, but they just look rather unfinished without the extra paint.

Geralt’s hands are sculpted so that he can wield the swords in either hand, or dual wield at the same time, for those particularly desparate battles against both humans and monsters! The articulation also allows for him to wield either weapon two-handed, which is excellent!

Other than the swords, Geralt comes with bubkis, so he’s a little light on the accessories. I would have liked to see a magic effect part or maybe some daggers. He does come with a branded figure stand, but it’s pretty small and unimpressive. Maybe I’ll dig into my Marvel Legeds effects parts to give him an Igni spell.

I was really close to passing on this line, since I’m trying to limit myself to what I’m already collecting, and not expand into new areas. But, when I’m face to face with a great looking figure on clearance, you just know it’s going to come home with me. And I’m glad I made that decision, because this is an all around wonderful figure. Yes, the unpainted swords irk me, but it’s nothing I can’t fix with a silver Sharpie. In the end, the best compliment I can pay Geralt here is that after playing around with him for about an hour, I went ahead and bought the rest of the line!

S.H. Figuarts Pac-Man by Ban Dai

I was still a young’un when Pac-Man made it’s arcade debut in the United States, and boy was I into it. It was easy to learn how to play, and that combined with the colorful graphics, and cartoony characters, had it sucking away every quarter I could wrestle from my poor parents’ pockets. But Pac-Man’s popularity quickly transcended the arcades, and it’s absolutely impossible to overemphasize how powerful and invasive Pac-Man Fever became. There were books, stickers, candy, t-shirts, ballcaps, games, puzzles, ice cream bars, gumball machines, pasta, a cartoon series, and even a hit record. It was nuts! And despite all that, there weren’t really any action figures, and that was disappointing. Many decades later, I’m an old man and I still love me some Pac-Man, and luckily the yellow chomper has had the staying power to still be crazy popular in an era where just about everything can get an action figure!

Enter S.H. Figuarts… OK, I wasn’t expecting that! It’s a brand known for some highly articulated collectible figures. When I first discovered Figuarts, it was mainly focused on anime characters, but it’s since branched out to include lots of different franchise. Pac-Man comes in a beautiful little window box that shows off the figure inside and features some nice artwork of the maze, as well an approving Pac-man on the front. Obviously, Pac-Man sports a rather unique character, so I’m pretty excited to see what they did with him!

Out of the package, and we get Pac-Man’s large spherical head-body with short arms and lugs jutting out from it. The eyes and eyebrows are sculpted as well as painted, and the mouth has some depth to it and includes a big red tongue in there. His portrait is rounded out by a jutting nose. Pac-Man has been stylized in a lot of ways over the years, but I’m really glad SHF went with this one. It’s simple, it’s iconic, and I think it captures the character perfectly. It’s also the design used for Namco’s 3D Pac-Man games on the PlayStation, and I really dig those games a lot.

For such a simple design, SHF managed to cram a decent amount of useful articulation in here. There are rotating hinges in the shoulders, elbows, upper legs, and knees. The hands are mounted on ball joints, so they can be swapped out, and the ankles are not only hinged, but also have lateral rockers to keep his feet flat in wide stances. Also impressive is the way the legs can shift forward and back on tracks along the bottom of his body. These tracks help to put him in running poses. All this makes him a surprisingly fun figure to play around with!

Pac-Man comes equpped with two bulbous fist mittens, and these can be swapped out with a set of open handed mittens, and even a right hand giving the thumbs-up!

You also get a swappable face plate, which is actually the entire front hemisphere of Pac-Man’s head-body. This extra face has Pac-Man offering a wink, and while it’s a bit limited as far as expressions go, it does look fantastic with the thumbs up hand! I can easily see this being the way I display him most of the time.

Pac-Man does feature a socket where his Pac-Anus should be, and that’s to attach him to a standard SHF-compatible figure stand. No, he doesn’t come with one, which feels kind of like a big omission, but I’ll come back to that at the end of the review. He absolutely does not need support to stand in most poses, but it’s a nice option for some more dynamic stuff.

Pac-Man does come with a couple of simple accessories: Some pixelated cherries and a Ghost. The cherries are a nice display piece, and they have a socket in the back to suspend them using an SHF stand. The Ghost is just too small to be any fun, but it looks good displayed beside him, and it can also be socketed into a stand. No pellets are included, but I found that Airsoft pellets are a decent stand in.

Honestly, the only downside to this set is that I want Ghosts! I’m actually kicking myself for not picking up the Funko Pop! Ghosts, because they would have displayed pretty well with him and now they go for crazy money. I’d love to see them get the SHF treatment, even if the only articulation would be in their arms, and how about a Ms. Pac-Man? And while we’re on the subject, I would be all on board Figuarts doing similar figures based off the Saturday morning cartoon designs. Sure, I griped about not getting a stand, but not really, because this figure cost $20, and that’s a pretty amazing deal for this quality of toy. I’ve wanted a figure like this my whole life, and to finally get it for so cheap, I can’t be anything but happy!

Golden Axe: Ax Battler and Red Dragon Mount by Storm Collectibles

To know me is to know that I was a SEGA kid. I reveled in my Master System when I was a teenager and the first purchase I made with my very first credit card when I was in college was a Genesis console. I drifted away from SEGA for a little while after that, but I was welcomed back home with my nearly fanatical love of the Dreamcast, which just celebrated it’s 21st birthday here in the US last week. 9.9.99 FOREVER!!! And yes, my love for SEGA still burns brightly today. So when a company like Storm Collectibles comes out of nowhere with an action figure set based on Golden Axe, you can be damn sure I’m going to be there to support them.

I don’t know how many of you toyhounds cross over into retro video gaming, so let me take a moment for some background. Golden Axe was a Sword-and-Sorcery themed beat-em-up, which I first played on the SEGA Genesis. Actually, it was the third cartridge that I bought for the console. And boy did I drop a lot of time into this game. Hell, I still play it fairly regularly on one of my many Genesis Collections. It’s pretty great to have it portable on Nintendo’s Switch too! Storm Collectibles is a company that has made its mark developing highly articulated, 6-inch scale action figures based on various video game properties, but most notably Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter. I passed on the figures from both of those franchises, because I’ve been burned so many times by other companies which have started lines but don’t see them through, and I didn’t want to start over again. And so it took the most unlikely of franchises, Golden Axe, to finally give me an opportunity to see what their figures are all about. So let’s check out the Barbarian, Ax Battler, and his Red Dragon mount!

The packaging is… well, fairly subpar. The figure set comes in a window box, which is pretty flimsy. Mine was actually torn in two places, and it came from a retailer that prides themselves on careful packaging and catering to the picky nature of collectors. There’s some grainy artwork on the front and back, and the window isn’t very useful because the contents are wrapped in so much plastic, that I couldn’t see anything until opening it. The picture I snapped looks better than it did in person, because I have since removed all that interior wrapping. About the only props I’ll give the presentation is the illustrated cardboard tray is a mock up of the character select screen in the game. Granted, I’m usually looking for an excuse to get rid of packaging so none of this really phases me, but it would have been cool to get some background copy on the character… Naw! I’m kidding. Golden Axe franchise has had about a half dozen games and spin-offs in its catalog, but none of the characters are anything more than avatars to let you beat the shit out of medieval assholes.

Freed of his package, Ax Battler is a fairly non-descript character, but very faithful to his video game counterpart. He’s a muscle-bound Barbarian in a pair of blue underwear and blue boots. There are silver buttons on the front of the boots, a silver belt running around the tops of the undies, and silver wrist bracers, but otherwise this dude is just a slab of musclebound meat. But, like I said, very faithful to the character’s appearance in the game. And for what is a pretty minimalist design, Storm did a wonderful job with the sculpt. His musculature is all very well defined, you get some veins running through his arms, and they even sculpted him with a permanent wedgie, which is probably why he’s so angry all the time.

The figure comes with two heads, one neutral and one angry, and while both are pretty good, I think I prefer the neutral one the most. And here’s where Storm probably got to exercise some creative license, because I’m not sure what source material they used to model the portrait. You sure don’t get that great a look at him in the game, as his head is just a collection of tiny pixels, so I’d guess they used the cover art from the Genesis cartridge case. Either way, I’m not complaining, because what we got is pretty good, albeit generic. He has a strong nose, high cheekbones, a jutting chin, and a determined, pouty lip. The eyes that are set deep under his prominent brow are painted very well, giving him a pretty realistic spark of life. The long hair is sculpted separately from the head, complete with some unkept strands that cover his forehead. He doesn’t look overly bright, but I’ve never seen anything in the game that suggested otherwise. All in all, a damn fine portrait for a figure in this scale.

The heads are mounted on ball joints, so swapping them out is pretty easy. The angry portrait is pretty good, but I don’t think it quite conveys the ferocity that I would have liked. He’s gritting his teeth, but it looks more like he’s forcing a smile while posing for a SEGA promotional picture. Or just smiling in a wind tunnel. The rest of the face just needed some more evidence of fury here. Maybe squint the eyes a bit, furl the brow more, and put some wrinkles in the nose. It’s always nice to get the option of a second portrait, and what we got here isn’t bad, but could be better. I think I’ll likely stick to the neutral portrait for display.

Ax Battler has articulation in spades, and this is one of those examples of how all that extra articulation can sometimes affect the look of the figure. Some of the joints here are a little ugly, particularly the fronts of the elbows, the backs of the knees, and the wrists in general. Still, I wouldn’t change anything because this is a crazy fun figure to pose and play around with. In addition to double hinges in the elbows and knees, he has ball joints in the hips, hinges and lateral rockers in the ankles, and even hinges in his feet. The shoulders are ball jointed and have lateral crunches, he has swivels in the biceps, and his wrists are on rotating hinges. There’s a ball joint under his big muffiny chest and his neck is ball jointed. All the points work quite well and offer up a satisfying range of motion, which is pretty ironic because the character animations in the game were pretty stiff!

As you’ve already seen in the pictures, Battler comes with a surprising four sets of hands. You get fists, accessory holding hands, relaxed hands, and grabby hands. Honestly, I was not expecting this man hands! Like the head, they are extremely easy to swap out, but with those exposed joints in the wrists, they sure should be!

Besides the passel of hands and an extra noggin, Ax Battler also comes with his trusty sword. Wait, what? Why isn’t he called Sword Battler? Always wondered that. Anyway, this is a really nice accessory with a beautiful painted silver finish on the blade, crossguard, and pommel. The grip is painted gold, and there’s a gold decorative fixture rising up from the crossguard and extending up for about a third of the blade. I love how the blade swells a little before coming to a point. The sword can be held securely in either of the accessory holding hands, but the grip isn’t long enough for him to go two-handed with it. There’s no scabbard or anywhere for him to stow it, but then again, this guy has his sword out pretty much all the time. All in all, they did a nice job recreating this weapon from the game cartridge’s cover art. OK, I’ve gone on long enough about Ax Battler, let’s move on to his Dragon Mount!

And that’s this beautiful red-scaled sunovabitch! At various points in the game, Ax Battler (or whoever you are playing) can hop onto different types of mounts and use them to move more quickly and deliver heavier attacks. At least until you get knocked off of it too many times and it runs off screen. It was kind of a fun play mechanic because whenever there was an empty mount on the screen, the game turned into a power-struggle to claim it and stay on it, which was easier said than done. The first mount you can acquire in the game is a really weird two-legged pink parrot-salamander-looking thing and part of me wishes they had attempted that figure because the design is so goddamn bizarre and totally unique to the game. But then I cast my peepers on this beauty and I knew they made the right decision. I mean, holy hell just look at him!

This is an absolutely beautiful sculpt with a scaled texture over most of the body and a smooth, ribbed strip running from his neck, down his belly, and to his tail. The fingers and toes are armed with hooked claws, there’s a stripe of ridges running down his back, from head to tail, and there’s some nice attention to detail in the muscles, particularly in the legs. He actually requires one bit of assembly when he comes out of the box, and that’s attaching the tail to the double-ball joint. It goes in pretty easy and can be removed again if you want to return him to the box for storage. The body is packed with articulation, mostly in the form of ball joints and rotating hinges. The arms and legs each have three points, and he even has hinges in his toes. The only disappointing thing about his articulation is that the legs attach to the body with only the means to rotate. I would have loved to see ball joints up there to give him a wider stance. Still, the balance on this guy is pretty nice, and he stands quite well on his own.

The head sculpt is a work of art, and it’s pretty damn cool that Storm got this much detail out of some pixels and whatever promotional art was available. The dragon sports two segmented horns sweeping backwards and up at the tips, and I really dig how they flow into the ridges over his deep set eyes. The dragon’s mouth is punctuated at the snout by a beak and an smaller horn jutting upward, while the jaws are studded with some impressive teeth and a giant tongue. And yes, the jaw is indeed hinged. The portrait is rounded out by the two fin-like fans that protrude backwards from the sides of his head. The coloring is also worthy of note. The bulk of the dragon is a mix of red and orange, with the two colors blended beautifully throughout the various features of the head.

The dragon comes equipped with his riding tackle, which is cast in soft plastic, painted brown, and textured to look like leather. The gear includes a saddle with stirrups coming off the sides, and a harness for the head, with reins for the rider to hold onto. One of the coolest things about this figure is that all the tackle is sculpted separately from the dragon itself, so you could theoretically take it all off if you wanted to make him the kind of dragon that prefers to guard treasure hoards, and doesn’t like to be ridden. Whether it could be reattached is another matter, and while I’m not going to attempt it on this figure, I may just keep an eye out for the set to turn up on sale or clearance to pick up a second. So how does the Ax Battler figure work as a rider?

Pretty damn well! There aren’t any tricks to attach him to the beast. You just sit him in the saddle, put his feet through the stirrups, and he can hold the reins in his accessory holding hands. He fits perfectly and stays on pretty well too. At least until one of Death Adder’s assholes comes along and knocks him off of it.

The Dragon Mount comes with an effect part to recreate the fireballs that he can spit in the game. It’s cast in translucent yellow and orange plastic and it looks good! There’s no special trick to attaching it to him. You just kind of shove it in his mouth and tighten his jaw around it.

As someone who has been collecting toys pretty hardcore for the better part of 25 years, it’s amazing to still be both surprised and impressed by a release like this. I never in a million years would have imagined that someone would release an action figure set of this quality based off a thirty-one year old video game beat-em-up. And yet here we are. Life is good. It’s an amazing time to be alive and collecting toys. I think Storm did an amazing job here and I’ll even say that at $59.99, I don’t think the price is too bad either. Especially not for something as niche as this set. And even more surprising, this was not a one-off release, as they have also produced a Skeleton Warrior 2-pack from the series, and I’ll be checking that out within the next week or so. As to whether there will be any more, who can tell? I think the Skeleton 2-pack will get a lot of traction well beyond fans of the game, and I can even see people picking this set up to integrate the dragon into their Mythic Legions collections. I would love to see the another two-pack featuring Gillus the Dwarf and the super hawt amazon Tyris Flare. Or maybe repaint the dragon into the other flavor dragon mount in the series and give him the appropriate fire stream effect part.

Female Mercenary Heart King Sixth-Scale Figure by Very Cool Toys

With all the Hot Toys and TBLeague figures waiting for their turn at the review table, I probably shouldn’t be going off on tangents like this one. But, I picked up a couple of figures from Very Cool Toys to see what they were all about and as long as I had them accessible, I thought I’d take a look at one before finding a space for her up on the shelf. Very Cool seems to specialize in pseudo-military-style figures, usually ladies, many of which appear to be based on characters or skins in Wefire, a shooter from the Chinese megacorporation, Tancent Games.

Suffice it to say I know absolutely nothing about these games, but a retailer I deal with was having a sale and the figures looked pretty cool, or maybe they looked… VERY cool! . I didn’t know what to expect, but when they arrived I was fairly impressed by the packaging. It appears to be an enclosed box, but it’s actually more like a box in a slipcase with a little strip of ribbon to help pull it out. The slipcase is illustrated on all sides, has a picture of the figure on the front, and a lot of Chinese writing on the back. The spine simply identifies the figure as NO.VC-TJ-04 which sure is catchy. Indeed, the only reason I know that she’s called Female Mercenary Heart King is because that was the name of the listing on the site where I purchased her.

Heart King requires a fair amount of work to get her all kitted out and ready for action. Basically she comes out of the box wearing her basic clothing, and all her gear is placed around her in the foam trays. It took some doing to get everything on her, but I don’t mind. It gives me some quality time with the figure before she’s ready for display. First off, let’s talk about the body, which is a hybred of the seamless stuff we usually see from Phicen/TBLeague and a regular jointed figure. OK, actually nothing on the figure is seamless, but she does make use of a silicone covered torso, which mean’s the exposed skin is squishy and has more of a life-like look and texture. The limbs are all jointed and the costume does its best to cover these joints. So, the swivels in her biceps usually line up with her sleeves, and the jointing in her elbows are covered by sleeves and elbow pads. Similarly, the joints in her knees, which tend to show through the super tight pleather pants, are concealed by soft cloth sleeves and armor pads. In the end, the arm joints do tend to show from time to time, but it’s not too unsightly.

Her uniform consists of the yellow-orange pants, a white sports-bra kind of thing, and a crop-top jacket that matches her pants. I like the color they went with here, as it really does look like something a character in a video game might be wearing. There’s a shoulder patch on each of her jacket sleeves to give it a little bit of a military vibe. Her brown pleather boots sip up the sides and have pretty high heels, which demonstrate the figure’s balance quite well. I never had to rely on a stand for her when shooting the pictures, which is impressive. The tailoring on the clothing is all very well done. The stitching is neat and and everything fits the figure perfectly. The only downside is that the super tight pants inhibit her hip movment a lot. It’s hard to get anything resembling a wide stance out of her without fear of popping that stitching, so I”m not even going to try! The sleeves have a cool honeycomb pattern on them, she has a pair of matching WeFire bracelets, and her fingerless gloves are sculpted and painted onto her hands.

The attention to detail on her gear is also quite nice. She has a trio of magazine pouches strapped ot her left thigh, which holds in place by friction and doesn’t show any sign of slipping. Her right thigh has a hard plastic holster, which pegs into the plate that’s strapped to her leg. Again, this holds in place perfectly. There’s even a retaining strap for her pistol. Her backpack attachces to her shoulder rig, and can be removed while leaving the shoulder rig in place. There are straps with working buckles holding the top flap down and non functional pouches on the sides. And finally, she has a studded belt, which is worn loose on her hips and does it’s best to conceal the straps of her G-string peeking out of her pants.

I really dig the head sculpt here. It’s a great compromise between realism and stylized game character. The skin texture is good, albeit far from Hot Toys or Sideshow quality. The paint used on the eyes and lips, however isn’t too far off. The sculpted red hair features some fine detail and it’s sculpted from a separate piece of plastic to allow it to hang over the head and give it some depth while framing her face. The head is ball jointed, but it is an absolute chore to get it off and back on again. Fortunately the only time I had to do that was to put on her dog tag and choker.

As a Mercenary, this lady comes with some essential Tools of the Trade. First off, she has her trusty automatic pistol, and this is a fantastic piece. The detail is absolutely exquisite, from the brown checkered grips to the silver painted trigger. Even more impressive is that the slide actually works and the magazine is removable. They even painted the bullets that can be seen in the top of the magazine. This scaled pistol is every bit as good as any that I got with my Hot Toys or Sideshow figures, and that’s no small boast! The figure comes with two sets of hands, one relaxed set and one for working with the accessories.

Next up we get a couple of canister grenades. These are fun with a cartoony skull-and-crossbones printed on the side of each. They have clips to attach to her belt and actual rings to pull before she throws them!

And finally, our Mercenary comes with an AK-47, which is another beautiful piece of work. The stock and foregrip are painted brown and the rest has a blued finish. The action on this thing actually works thanks to a rather tight spring inside the receiver. The sites can be flipped up and the magazine is removable. Actually, she comes with two magazines for the rifle. The detail is impecable, right down to the paddle to eject the magazine and the fire selector.

I have to say that I’m fairly impressed with the way this figure turned out, especially for a figure that is priced at around $140-150. Very Cool didn’t skimp on anything. The costume tailoring is great, the attention to detail in the gear is solid, and the weapons are absolutely fantastic. And this is all coming from someone who has absolutely no connection to the character or game that the figure is pulled from. I’m not sure that she’ll spend a whole lot of time displayed on my shelf right now, but if I can clear off a corner somewhere, I may actually wind up putting her in with my Resident Evil Sith-Scale figures. I think she would fit in perfectly. I’ve got another one of these ladies to check out, and I hope to get back to her in a week or so.

Fate/Grand Order: Caster Nitocris “Super Premium” Figure by SEGA

I’ve recounted recently about how I’ve pulled back from buying Prize Figures, mostly because they were starting to get out of hand and I had no space to display them. All in all, I’ve been pretty well behaved on this newly imposed restriction, but I still had the odd pre-order pending here and there, and I decided to let most of them ride. I still dig these figures a lot, they look great, they’re inexpensive, and they come in handy for days like today where I don’t have a lot of time and need something quick and dirty to feed that content beast. So let’s check out this Caster Nitocris Super Premium Figure (SPM) from SEGA!

Nitocris hails from the Fate/Grand Order game, and I like to call this purchase a Consolation Prize Figure, because I really wanted to pick up Amakuni’s Scale Figure of her, but I just couldn’t bring myself to pull the trigger on that price, and so I satisfied myself with this figure instead. Yup, there’s more of that self control again. I’m not entirely hopeless. As with most of SEGA’s SPM figures, Nitocris comes in a very colorful and fully enclosed box, featuring some nice shots of the statue and a bit of English copy on the box to help you know what you’re looking at. Inside, the figure comes wrapped in plastic and requiring some minor assembly. Here you attach the head and the right arm at the elbow, plug in the support piece for her hair, and then plug the figure into the base. All told, she measures about 9-inches tall and now that she’s all set up, let’s have a look…

There’s something about chicks in Egyptian costume that does it for me, and this is indeed a very beautiful figure. Nitocris stands proudly with one leg in front of the other, her left hand resting on her hip, and her right hand clutching her staff. Her outfit doesn’t leave too much tot he imagination, and I ain’t complaining. She has a white top to cover her Upper Deltas and a sculpted blue sash to conceal her Lower Nile Valley. Her hips are covered in plastic pink “fabric” and the whole ensemble is held together by some sculpted beaded chains. She has some brown wraps on her forearms, and her plastform sandals have sculpted wraps that reach up to just under her knees.

Nitocris’ curvy figure is framed by her copious coif of cascading blue hair that balloons out in the middle and comes to an end with a chunky red ring. This hellacious waterfall of hair looks cool and distinctive from the front, but sadly covers her entirely from the rear view. Seriously, from behind she looks like just a big blob. Besides the excellent sculpted detail on this figure, I think the colors are probably what I dig the most. The combination of white, pink, and deep indigo blue all looks so lush and striking against mocha colored skin. But what really shines is the wonderful gold leaf paint they used. Just lovely!

The portrait is suitably adorable, as Nitocris features a pair of Anubis-like ears, large printed purple eyes, and some face paint on her cheeks. She has a cute pointed nose and her mouth is pressed into a grin. Her gold and blue gorget and headpiece both frame her portrait perfectly. And as if she didn’t have enough hair pouring down the back of her, she also has two bunches running down either side of her head and nearly reaching her hips.

Her ebony staff is quite striking and is permanently attached to her right hand. I also dig the loose bangles that hang on her wrists.

The base is a simple translucent disk with the game’s logo printed on it in vibrant blue lettering. It’s simple, functional, and doesn’t take away from the beauty of the figure.

And that’s it for this Wednesday’s admittedly brief review. It’s always a treat to take a look at a new Prize Figure, especially since I won’t be doing it all that frequently here any longer. If you’ve been kicking around with me on FFZ for a while then you probably already know that I’m a big fan of SEGA’s SPM figures. At around $20-25, they offer plenty of bang for the buck and Nitocris here is no exception to that. I’m not even a big fan of the game, but I do love me my Servants and this one in particular has been calling to me for a while. I pre-ordered this lady a little while back, but she’s been available on places like Amazon for a while, and to me this one makes for a nice alternative to those pricier Scale Figures. Now, if Max Factory should happen to release a Figma of her, well I’d probably have to come back for seconds.

Aliens Vs Predator Arcade: Chrysalis Alien by NECA

With only time for three reviews a week, my backlog continues to pile up and stretch way back into last year. One of the areas of my collection reviews that has suffered most is NECA, and I really feel like I need to throw them some extra love in the coming weeks. Way back in January I had a look at their Arachnoid Alien and Razor Claws Alien from Capcom’s 1994 Alien Vs. Predator arcade game. But there was one alien missing! At the time I couldn’t find the Chrysalis Alien anywhere, but just when I had given up all hope I spied him out of the corner of my eye while I was making a cat food run to Target. So let’s finish off this Xeno Trio and open him up today!

The packaging is right in line with what we saw last time. You get a collector friendly window box with a personalized portrait on the front. The interior tray is printed as a pixelated image to reference the video game… how cool is that? Yup, I love the colors and presentation here, but I simply do not have the space to line these boxes up on a shelf, so this box is going to have to go bye-bye once I get Mr. Chrysalis out of his tray.

If you read my previous review then you know I really liked Razor Claws and Arachnid, and yet it’s still easy for me to see why Chrysalis was the hardest to find. He really is that good! Even on a shelf of Xenos, his design stands out thanks to the armor-like carapace on his head and forearms. His body is a grayish-blue color with a nice black wash to bring out all that amazing detail in his exoskeleton. And despite the unique features, the rib-cage and the exposed ribbed panels on his legs and torso all perfectly evoke the Giger design that runs through every type of Xeno. This guy is also distinctive for not having some variation of those tubular protrusions coming off his back, instead it’s shrouded in two plates of reinforced exoskeleton. I find myself getting lost in this fella’s anatomy, turning the figure over in my hands, and marveling at the beautiful sculpting.

Chrysalis’ meat-hooks may not be as pronounced as Razor Claw’s, but he still features some sharp bone-colored claws, as well as raptor-like talons on his toes, and a scythe-shaped blade at the end of his long tail. Those bone-like guards on his forearms look to be perfect for deflecting Yautjan blades and his claws seem adept at ripping Predators and humans to shreds. His articulation includes the usual collection of rotating hinges, which make him an agile hunter, even if he can’t exactly roll up into a ball for the goofy spin-attack he employs in the game. His long tail includes a wire so it can be bent in various configurations, and while the tail can come in handy to support him in some extreme poses, he’s surprisingly well balanced on his own two feet. I didn’t have to use a stand for any of my shots.

The head sculpt is quite familiar, even if it is partially hidden under that impressive bone dome. The carapace features a raised crest running down the center like a spine and a mass on the front, which is probably perfect for ramming his pray. As always, he sports a toothy grimace, the jaw is articulated, and there is a secondary mouth in there that can be pulled out. I love all the sinews and details NECA sculpts into the Xeno mouths, and this fella is no different.

The Chrysalis Alien makes a fine addition to this amazing threesome of Aliens. It’s fun to just line them up on the shelf and explore all the little differences between them and see just how diverse Xenomorph anatomy can get. I’ve always been a fan of NECA’s video game figures, but since a number of them tend to be simple repaints, I have to pass them over because I can’t spare the space for repaints.  But here, it’s cool to see them craft three new Xenos around their appearances in this token-munching coin-op, and even cooler that they matched them up with three Predators from the game as well. And yes, I hope to be swinging back around to check out those Preds in the next week or so. Not to mention the human characters from the game as well.

Marvel Legends (Demogoblin Wave): Gamerverse Velocity Suit Spider-Man by Hasbro

It’s a new week and that means a new Marvel Monday, so I’m continuing to dip into the relatively new Demogoblin Wave of Marvel Legends. Last week I had a look at the Mark III Spider-Armor from the PS4 Spider-Man game, and since we got one more figure from the game in this assortment, I decided to open this one up next. Today we’re checking out the Velocity Suit!

Other than the snazzy white GamerVerse boxes, I’ll confess to not being all that excited about these figures. The prospect of giving Peter Parker 1,000 different suits like Tony Stark’s armor just doesn’t appeal to me, but I guess it makes sense as an incentive gimmick in a video game. Plus, having a bunch of different suits to make action figures out of probably had Hasbro licking their collective chops. Speaking of which, the Spider-Man game remains sealed on my shelf, because I just haven’t had the time to play it. And yes, I do see the irony in that since the majority of the country is under lock-down vacay, while I am just working more hours. Nonetheless, I wound up liking the Spider-Armor well enough, so here’s hoping I can find something to love here as well.

As the name suggests, the Velocity Suit gives Peter a speed boost. The figure doesn’t make use of any texturing, instead giving the suit a smooth and slick surface all around. That combined with the high gloss finish makes this one look as much, if not more, like armor than the previous figure. Maybe they were going with the idea that smooth means less friction and that leads to speed. Or more likely they didn’t put that much thought into it. The deco consists of a red and dark blue base, which is fairly familiar, but adds some light blue lines and integrate the spider emblem into their design. Virtually all these light blue painted lines on the suit are part of the sculpt, which is cool. Based on how they’re executed on the figure, I’m going to assume these channels glow on the suit in the game. Whatever the case, I have to confess that the high gloss paint looks great and goes a long way to sell me on a figure I don’t really care about.

The head sculpt strikes me as being very Stark-like in design, perhaps even more so than the last figure. There are even some faint panel lines that seem to form a mouth, although they are very subtle. The eyes feature more of the light blue piping around them. What else can I say, other than to admit it looks good.

As with the Mk III Spider-Armor, the articulation here lacks the shoulder crunches we see on most Legends Spider-Man figures, and that makes the figure feel a little more stiff than I’m used to my Spider-Man figures to be. But the rest of the articulation is there, making him fun to fiddle about with. Here too, we only get the hands that are attached to the figure, one right fist and one left thwippy hand. The only other noteworthy thing about the articulation is that the ab crunch doesn’t seem to have as wide a range as usual. I don’t know why, all the points are there, but this one looks a little stiff when posing.

I don’t imagine that it’s a coincidence that Hasbro chose these somewhat uninspired Spidey figures to be the first to get web effects included. The Mk III armor came with webbing to cover an adversary’s face. This one comes with a loop of webbing to tie up a foe and it’s pretty great. I usually keep effect parts bagged with the figures they came with, but I think I’ll be keeping these on hand to use with future Spidey figure shoots.

Conceptually, I just don’t give a crap about this figure. The idea of a go-faster suit for Spider-Man is just kind of stupid to me. Nonetheless, I can’t deny that it’s an attractive figure. The sculpted lines and the brilliant new-car finish really makes the red and blue pop splendidly. In the end, I bought these for the effect parts and BAF parts, and because I got them super cheap, but both this one and the MK III Armor managed to win me over in the end. I’ll certainly find a place for them on my Spider-Verse shelf, but they’ll probably be towards the back.