G.I. Joe: 25th Anniversary DVD Battle Pack #5
Best of the 80's
Hasbro's formula for the past two years (give or take) has been pretty familiar. Create somewhat generic parts, soup it up with added "secondaries" and try to get some serious mileage out of the molds. It's been a good formula, and Hasbro has made big steps in perfecting this method, really giving us some nice variety, even by re-using lots of tooling and getting creative with the parts.
Nothing exemplifies this methodology more than the DVD Battle Packs, which have been inundated with existing tools swapped around in such a way and mixed with enough new parts to really make something new. While there is a share of new parts on figures like Quick Kick, Dusty, and the animated Snake Eyes, those are complimented by using existing parts and adding some new colors or minor new tooling to spice them up. Well, the fifth Battle Pack continues this trend with very surprising success. I say surprising, because this set includes three figures that have basically been crammed down our throat, Duke, COBRA Commander, and COBRA Trooper. Yet in spite of this, it is a highly desirable set with some excellent figures in it, and became one of my favorite Battle Packs of 2008 because of the tooling changes.
I do have to say that I didn't end up especially thrilled with the DVD in this set, but I speak a lot more about that in this post on my blog, so I'll kind of let that speak for itself. This review is going to be focused on the figures themselves.
Let's face it, there are a few things to chuckle about with this particular Duke, and believe me, I've seen my share of jokes. Call me crazy, but I actuall think the newly tooled head is a neat choice. There was nothing wrong with the original Duke head, I didn't think, so we've already got a pretty plain jane Duke head, so I don't really have an issue with the way this face is sculpted. He could be yelling "Yo Joe" or...well... I guess I'll just leave it at that.
This particular version of Duke has the "fixed arms" that make a really big difference with the desirability of this figure, in my opinion. Not just from an appearence point of view, but also because of increased mobility and function. They make a big difference.
Beyond the minor structural changes, though, where this figure really shines is in the color scheme. For folks who wanted an animated-accurate version of G.I. Joe’s Top Kick, this figure really delivers. It almost looks like the colors were taken directly from a DVD of the G.I. Joe cartoon, these colors are almost a direct match. He looks like he stepped straight out of Sunbow, and I can definitely get behind that idea. Pretty cool.
From an accessory standpoint, there isn’t a whole lot new, but I dig the silver jetpack and animated-themed rifle. I’m not sure why Sunbow chose this gun as the “default” gun in the animated mythos, but for whatever reason, I am happy that Hasbro is producing so many of those weapons for my Sunbow display. The new accessory for Duke is the criss-crossed chest straps, which I really dig, and I think it looks pretty cool. I’ll probably try to track down a couple more for some other characters, most notably General Hawk, who wears the same gear in the movie opening.
We’ve gotten a butt load of Duke’s over the past couple of years, and really this one doesn’t offer a whole lot of new stuff, but the changes are still cool enough. Regardless, though, he’s still the weak point in this 4-pack.
Another Sunbow stalwart, Alpine and Bazooka were practically the Abbot and Costello of the animated series and played off of each other pretty well for comedic relief. Because of this, Alpine was an absolute must for me, if only to be displayed alongside Bazooka.
Alpine uses a lot of the same tooling as some other figures, mostly Snow Job, but with some new tooling as well as a new vest, you still end up getting a figure that closely resembles the vintage Alpine. I will admit, his little half-shirt vest is kind of strange, and much more noticeable on the 25th Anniversary figure than it ever was back in the day, and that leaves me with a bit of mixed reaction. Still, even with the funky half-shirt the figure looks the part and the reused tooling makes sense.
From an accessory perspective, Alpine’s got about everything you could ask for. He’s got that vest, plus a grappling hook and pike with his backpack. He’s got a black animated-style laser rifle, with a grappling hook that also sort of clips to the rifle to simulate the same weapon that Alpine came with originally.
It’s a close call, but believe it or not, I actually prefer COBRA Commander and COBRA Trooper over Alpine, but it’s still very nice to get a new character in the DVD set. There was a big hole in the 25th Anniversary and Alpine fills that nicely, though there are still some characters we’re all waiting for. Hopefully we can find a way to get some of those holes filled before the movie takes over in 2009.
While the COBRA Trooper was one of the better figures of the initial 10, he quickly faded into the background as better designed and sculpted figures made their way onto store pegs. Well, Hasbro took the bulk of that COBRA Trooper and by only making some minor adjustments gave us a whole new figure that is actually a huge improvement, in my book. For whatever reason the COBRA Troopers who parachute through the sky amidst balloons, fireworks, and other parachutes really had a design scheme that I loved, even with that Nazi-ish helmet. Because I love that design so much, and how well it translates into plastic, this is a figure that, with only minor changes, it ends up being a fantastic update, even though the base figure is the same one we’ve gotten so many times already.
I’m not sure what else to talk about as far as the figure itself, since it is pretty much the same thing we’ve seen so many times before. But the newly sculpted head with a full complement of hair, and the newly designed, well-fitting helmet are both very nice changes that make a big difference to me in the appreciation of this figure.
While part of me would have loved to have seen the same typical webgear that the standard COBRA Troopers come with, I really love the parachute pack, from design all the way to execution, even though COBRA already seems to have their “paratrooper” specialty locked up with the recent release of the Para-Viper. He also comes with the standard COBRA Trooper cartoon inspired laser rifle, too, that adds another nice touch to this Sunbow themed soldier. I’m sure some folks will find it hard to believe that a simple addition like a new head and helmet can so drastically change one’s opinion of a figure, but in this case it has.
And honestly…the Trooper isn’t the only one. Like his cannon-fodder counterpart, COBRA Commander has also undergone a transition from the neck up. While most of the figure is the exact same one we’ve gotten time and time and time (and time?!?) again, this time around we’ve got a somewhat larger, more oval sculpted head with a vac-metal finish, and a very nice updated helmet. Like the Trooper, they’re small touches, and like the Trooper they make an absolute WORLD of difference.
The original release of the battle helmet COBRA Commander was pretty cool, I thought, but he had a tiny head that looked totally unrealistic and negatively impacted the rest of the figure. Some people had issue with the clenched fist (I didn’t) but by and large the complaints centered around the head sculpt. Well Hasbro fixed that in a BIG way, and I end up with a figure that is my definitive version of COBRA Commander (which is saying something when there were like fourteen dozen versions of this character released over the past year and a half). The chrome finish is great, the new sculpting is great, the helmet is great. Pretty much the perfect animated translation of COBRA’s leader.
As far as new accessories goes, this version of the Commander comes with a parachute pack that allows the CLAW to hook into it so he can appear to be flying on it like he does in the G.I. Joe: The Movie opening. Upon first glance it would appear that this parachute pack is glued together in such a way that it’s not removable, but thankfully with a little elbow grease, you can take it off and end up with a default Commander without that pack.
That being said, I actually find myself really enjoying how COBRA Commander looks with the strapped parachute pack on and perched on the CLAW. It’s a neat look for him, even if this CLAW is merely an exact duplicate of the one we already received in Wave 3 of the Vehicle sets. In fact, it actually is a little below that one in the fact that it comes with no stickers. Still, it’s a neat addition, certainly better than Montezuma’s skeleton from Arise, Serpentor, Arise.
As with the other DVD Battle Packs, there are some other little treats here and there, most notably the video camera and camera stand. I’m not sure where the idea came from to include this, but it is a neat little accessory, even if it seems strange. Obviously I know where the inspiration came from, just not sure why Hasbro felt it necessary to immortalize that in plastic.
I would also be remiss if I didn't at least mention the MASS Device. With this fifth Battle Pack, we now have a complete version of the immortal MASS Device, complete with all three elements. This was a fantastic idea on Hasbro's part, and the execution was excellent. While this isn't 100% to scale, it's good enough that the figures can stand with it and at least sort of look like they belong, even though in the cartoon the device was mammoth in scale. This somewhat smaller version still strongly resembles the cartoon version with all of the right components, and from the crystalline tip to the control panels, this is one nicely executed “prop” for any G.I. Joe collection, especially the Sunbow fans. A great piece, and a nice additional “nod” to be mixed throughout the Battle Packs, even though the packs stood pretty strongly on their own.
All told, I think these DVD Battle Packs were a raging success. The “Build-A-MASS Device” was a brilliant concept and executed very well with Joe fans very much having a “gotta get ‘em all” mentality about the sets. Each pack came with unique figures patterned after the DVD’s that were included, and it’s awesome to have DVD’s of all of these 5-parters in easy access. While I’m not a big fan of the episodes on the “Best Of” set, and would have much rather had a DVD quality version of the movie itself, the figures within (even with limited new tooling) ended up pretty successful over all and I think the Battle Packs really gave Joe fans (especially the Sunbow folks) a lot of what we wanted.
Great sets, and this is a very nice cap to the first five. Hopefully we can get more some time.
GRADE: out of 5