G.I. Joe Kre-O - Arashikage Dojo w/ HISS Tank
I think in pretty much every Kre-O review I've done, I've explicitly stated that I'm not, and have never been a Lego collector, builder, or fan. Not because I have anything against them, but it was just something that I've never been interested in. I'm far more interested in actually playing, displaying and building my universe rather than just assembling a set. So, hopefully the Lego devout can appreciate how I view these Kre-O sets, much more as completed entities rather than focus on the actual build process.
Speaking of the build process, good grief, this set took me about four or five hours over the period of three nights in order to get this completed, and while it was definitely fun, I was also ready for it to be done when it was all over. The end result is a very fun and interactive playset that compliments my Kre-O collection excellently, and fills in the ranks of mini figures with indispensible characters.
If I had my druthers, I would have much prefered a massive playset like this be more focused on the G.I. Joe or Cobra side, and not be an Arashikage Temple. I can appreciate the place that ninjas occupy in the G.I. Joe mythology, but I would have loved for this to have been some sort of representation of the G.I. Joe Headquarters or a Cobra Terror Drome. That being said, this still ends up being a fantastic set with a lot of great play value, even for folks that might not be ninja crazy. It's a fairly large set with three different main pieces that can fold back, or extend to make the facade even more impressive. The two side pieces each have launching crossbows, and one of them has a collapsable wall that Snake Eyes can ride his motorcycle through. With a tall tower, the dojo is very impressive with multiple levels of places to station mini figures, various ornamental pieces and some great functionality.
On the inside of the dojo there is an awesome Kre-O style training dummy, and a great breakable board as well, which are really neat additions to this large battle set. Along with this, there are two large battle axes that stay in an upward position, but can be pressed lightly to swing down as a trap to any intruders that might come in the front door.
Aside from the main building itself, there is a small formation that holds the Arashikage sword that has a great push-button light up feature that is a neat feature. There's also a slide out drawer that holds a couple of purple crystals as well.
As mentioned, the set also comes with a motorcycle, much the same construction as the other two that came with Checkpoint Alpha and the RAM that came with the Battle Platform, so it's a bit tough to get excited about this one, but it's a neat addition to the set to tie in to the HISS battle.
Speaking of the HISS, I think most fans would agree this fantastic mid-sized vehicle is a definite highlight, looking very much like the classic Cobra tank of old with the familiar sloped armor, triangle tank treads, and twin battle guns on top. I am a bit disappointed in the turret design, which is very loose. I'm not entirely sure why so many of these Kre-O builds have some unfortunate aside to them, when they are so close to perfect. The Dragonfly has that weird nose gun, and the HISS has this loose turret. It's not a game breaker, but it does deserve some mention. Another neat element of the HISS I think is the blue color. Many folks would wonder why it's not black, but if you look at the rest of the Cobra color schemes throughout the first release Kre-O items (the ASP and the Cobra Armored Assault) the blue color of the HISS really fits right in.
So yes, from a build perspective, there's a lot to love about this set. A great, larger sized ninja temple and a terrific Cobra HISS Tank, but the funny thing is, these two items almost just seem like compliments to the real shining stars of this set. The mini figures.
The Mini Figures
So where do I start? As I was doing the pictures for this set, I was getting a bit overwhelmed. Holy crap there are a ton of great mini figures in this set. Commando Snake Eyes, Hard Master, two Gray Ninjas, and of course... who can forget the awesome Destro and Baroness.
These aren't optional mini figures, these are characters that are absolutely vital to anyone's Cobra cadre, which might rub some fans the wrong way, considering this set tops off at around seventy bones. I don't mind that situation, though. You buy the expensive boxed sets to get the core characters, but that gives Hasbro the flexibility to include some really great obscure characters in the blind bags. Heck, I might say that the general public would prefer having the main characters in boxed sets, because you know what you're going to get and can go out and buy it without taking a guess with the blind bag. Granted, those of us who are hard core fans know the blind bag codes, but not everyone does, and I'd think someone who wanted a Destro and Baroness would like to be able to go to the store and specifically buy the set that includes them rather than trying to buy blind bags and crossing their fingers.
Commando Snake Eyes is a pretty generic figure, but represents a necessary part of the G.I. Joe cast of characters, especially because so many of the original 13 have been done already. Using the same deco on his torso that other figures use, it represents his webgear well, and I like the gray gloves, too. He comes with an Order repaint in the form of Timber and his trusty Uzi as well as a fantastically designed shoulder pouch which fits perfectly over his blocky shoulder.
Hard Master was a wonderful and pleasent surprise in this set, and his inclusion does make a lot of sense. Hasbro needed some ninjas to fill out their Arashikage roster, and the Hard Master makes perfect sense, and is a cool little figure to boot. A great red colored uniform and twin Arashikage symbols make for a neat design element.
He also comes with some neat ninja accessories including a great hat with blades (made famous by the G.I. Joe: Retaliation Blind Master) and three swords, with his sheath.
Along with the Hard Master two Gray Ninjas were included in this set as well. One might ask 'why not Red Ninjas'? Well, we did get some Red Ninjas with one of the smaller sets (that also gave us Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes v.2) and if folks don't remember, the uniform above is what we saw Snake Eyes wearing when he was an Arashikage trainee. So it's obvious that they use this uniform in their ninja hierarchy.
The Gray Ninjas don't really come with many exciting weapons, pretty much just having a set of nunchuks, though there are plenty of other ninja weapons scattered throughout this set to make up for it.
Obviously the highlight of the mini figures assortment in this set (and perhaps the entire set itself) is the inclusion of Destro and The Baroness, two critical members of Cobra's hierarchy. I think this probably frustrates some people, and I can feel their pain. My eight year old daughter's favorite character is The Baroness, and she loves Kre-O, so I need to find a way to get a Baroness figure for her without having to drop another $65 on a Kre-O set. They are available individually on eBay, so that will probably be my ultimate solution.
Accessibility aside, I have to spend some time talking about these two figures, which are both nearly perfect. They are awesome Kre-O renditions of two timeless characters that retain all of the awesome style of the Kre-O universe, yet have just the right keys that hold them to their G.I. Joe looks as well. The vac-metal head and the grimace on Destro's head are both spectacular, as is the separate collar piece. I love the MARS briefcase (complete with cash money!) and the little touches like the painted on wrist missiles and boot deco. The same all holds true with the Baroness, with her painted on glasses and long hair, as well as the nicely applied paint representing her armor.
So yeah this set is fantastic. Lots of great playability, some invaluable mini figures, and even for non ninja fans there is a lot to love. Yes, it is an expensive set, but between the great temple, the awesome HISS, and the amazing mini figures this is a set that Kre-O fans must own and I highly recommend.