G.I. Joe: Retaliation - Red Ninja (Ninja Showdown 3-Pack)

I'm not a huge Ninja fan, I must admit, even though it's so indoctrinated into every single angle of the G.I. Joe mythology. I'd much rather have science fiction and future technology then medievil martial artists and mystic assassins. That being said, I understand that the foundation of G.I. Joe was built in this elaborate ninja storyline, so I can accept it.

Especially if this ninja storyline is going to give us figures like this.

One of the finest figures we've gotten over the past few years is without a doubt the 30th Anniversary Storm Shadow, so it's no surprise that the Red Ninja (which uses much of the same tooling) is just as cool a figure. Actually, if you get right down to brass talks, it's almost a better one.

Now part of the draw of the Storm Shadow figure is that he had the look and feel of the classic Cobra ninja and was loaded with some great accessories, and that stuff isn't necessarily true here, but one thing the Red Ninja does is to take the great Storm Shadow foundation and actually improve on it with some nice armored lower-legs and the new and improved rocker ankles that everyone loves so much.

Yes, while everyone focuses on the negative aspects of articulation changes, there are several figures throughout the line that are using this great new articulation point, and it serves this figure very well.

Beyond that minor change, most of the figure is the same 30th Anniversary Storm Shadow we got recently, with the awesome sculpted detail on the baggy uniform, the great range of motion, and those fantastic separated fingers that work so well for various ninja tools of death and destruction. Where the single pack Red Ninja has just a straight red uniform deco, this version mixes it up a bit, using black as the base, with just the right hints of red throughout. I really like this look, and I think using this figure as a supplement to the more common single-packed versions is a cool idea. Heck, with the great Japanese hat (called the "Kasa") this figure comes with, I can see these Red Ninjas as guards of a sort, watching over the Arashikage temple. Add in the long spear, and it only works better (even though the spear actually is supposed to come with Storm Shadow).

As I've said a few times already, keep in mind the above accessory compliment may not be 100% accurate. According to the press images it looks like Storm Shadow comes with the long spear and the bow that is included in this set, so by process of elimination, this is what we've got left over.

Red Ninja does not come with the vintage accurate sash that the Storm Shadow originally came with, instead the relatively plain looking cloth sash of the Renegades look. This is fine with me, as it suits the Red Ninja well. Along with the Kasa, he has the familiar fencing mask of Slice, and a terrific looking newly tooled attack claw. This claw looks different than others of a similar type.

Last but not least is the spring-loaded monstrosity... only it's not so much a monstrosity. It's actually, believe it or not, kinda neat.

A little back story here. As a kid, I used to tie string from my front porch to a tree down a hill. I would then bend a paper clip around a G.I. Joe's wrist, and also create a "hook" on the other end. I would then proceed to "zipline" my Joes down this string and into an unsuspecting group of Cobras. I loved this activity, and could spend hours doing it... perhaps for that reason, I actually like this little feature.

The spring loaded launcher can feed the pretty durable string through two guides, and there are two "carabeener" type clamps on the other end of those strings. You can fire the hook and essentially create a twin "zipline" between two points.

Once that zipline is created, the launcher can hook onto the two strings, and also hook onto the Red Ninja's forearm, and he can whip down that zipline had a pretty good speed.

Maybe I'm just a kid at heart, but I LOVED this feature. Sure, the zipline could be done without the huge spring-loaded launcher probably, but I still dig it, and judging by some scenes from the G.I. Joe: Retaliation film, it's nicely in line with what happens in the movie.

I know it's not popular opinion, but anything (in my mind) that makes G.I. Joe toys fun again is a bonus. To us collectors, we love the highly detailed, highly accessorized, very poseable action figures...to a kid, sometimes that "play value" is what keeps them coming back, and these little zipline activities are pretty neat, I have to admit. So neat, that I felt compelled to make a little YouTube video to demonstrate. It's awful. No giggling.

The things I do for you people.

The Red Ninja manages to cover all bases. It's a nice looking figure, a nicely accessorized figure, and it has some cool play features to boot. Unlike Roadblock, if you don't like the zipline stuff, you can pack it away and pretend it never existed. I guarantee you, though, if you know any kids like mine, they'll play with a figure for a few minutes. Give them a zipline, and they're not only play for longer, but they'll ask for more.