G.I. Joe: Retaliation - Ninja Combat Cruiser w/ Night Fox

As I mentioned in my review of the Tread Ripper tank, Hasbro seems to be redefining the concept of re-using tooling, even with the vehicles. They are reappropriating several other vehicles into some new ideas, and actually doing it pretty successfully.

The Tread Ripper was based on the HISS Scout, with a new roll cage and weapons. The Ninja Combat Cruiser obviously uses the 30th Anniversary VAMP, but the added parts essentially create an entirely new vehicle with some fantastic results. Essentially the foundation of the VAMP still exists, with the chassis, the wheels, and the front grill all remaining the same as the original vehicle.

However, from the surface of the chassis on up, this is almost an entirely different vehicle. Instead of a more traditional roll cage, the Ninja Combat Cruiser has an elaborate armored canopy. It's thicker and more protective than the previous version with the VAMP and almost makes the vehicle look like a completely different one. The armored doors help with that as well, and the rocket launcher, which mounts seamlessly in the back, completes the VAMP II/Stinger upgrade package very well.

Little touches on the canopy are very cool, too, such as an extra gun port in the middle, and some handlebars on the side (even if it's tough to have people holding them while on the sideboards). While there aren't a ton of new parts, the ones they chose make a very nice impact. The best thing about it, is enterprising collectors and customizers can swap this canopy on their previous VAMP and try to make something cool and different out of it. One of the coolest aspects of the vehicle is the customizability. The armor can be removed, the rear rocket launcher can be removed, and other weapons can be put in place. If you want to use the rear mounted chain gun, you need to figure out how to transplant the mount from the older VAMP, but if you can make that happen, it works pretty well. There are a lot of different options with this vehicle, and that's a big part of its appeal.

If I have any complaints about this vehicle, it's with the color scheme. Hasbro elected to go with a strange dark aqua, gray, and black color pallet, which ironically enough matches the G.I. Joe Collectors' Club 2008 Convention Set nearly perfectly, but really doesn't seem to blend with much else. Considering Hasbro design was pretty consistent with a lot of their other figures and vehicles (greens, straight blues, some tans, browns, and black) I'm a bit curious why this vehicle was made almost completely in contrast with most other vehicles. I know G.I. Joe as an organization has always been widely varied in their color schemes, but part of me thinks it would have been truly awesome if this vehicle looked more like a support vehicle for the rest of the Retaliation crew instead of the Cobra Headhunters.

Kudos to friend of GeneralsJoes Glenn for picking up on this color match!

Another point of consternation with many of the collector crowd is the fact that this vehicle is literally lathered with Arashikage symbols. For those folks who prefer their military vehicles without a ninja element, these are all stickers. So, yes you can totally elect not to place them on if you wish. Just for the sake of product accuracy, I put them on mine, but I won't lie, they may end up pulled back off after this review is done.

There are a decent amount of stickers, and surprisingly few of them are of the familiar "G.I. Joe" variety. Seems somewhat odd from a branding perspective.

Even with some odd color quirks, this vehicle is...well, spectacular. I love the PoC/30th Anniversary VAMP anyway, and this has all the coolness of that one with a great armored canopy. Some more customizable weapons for the top would have been neat, but there is still a lot of flexibility here, too. A great offering, and probably the best vehicle we've got for the G.I. Joe: Retaliation line.

I would have liked to have seen individual components be a bit more customizable... for instance, it would have been great if just the doors could fit on the previous VAMP (they can't) or if weapons had been a little more swappable without modification, but I suppose you then risk not changing enough to warrant another investment for the vehicle. Tough choice to make.

Night Fox

It doesn't seem that long ago that I was actually buying G.I. Joe vehicles because I wanted the figures, not in spite of it. That's right, I legitimately bought three 30th Anniversary VAMPs just for the Steel Brigade Delta figures. The shame is, if this vehicle had a better figure, I might have been tempted to buy some more of these as well, because I really like the vehicle itself. But without any potential figure fodder, it doesn't seem worth it.

Like Clutch, Night Fox has very nice detail work in the sculpting throughout the figure. Realistic baggy combat pants, straps, belts, and holsters. I really like the mask, goggles, and helmet combination as well. Some things to really like about this figure.

But then you get to the limited articulation and the figure really suffers for it, as one might expect.

Believe it or not, though, Night Fox is actually even more salvagable than Clutch. Not only can his head be swapped out, but his awesome flak vest is actually removable, too. This is a nice bonus, though it doesn't quite make up for the lack of a properly articulated driver.

Speaking of accessories, Night Fox also comes with a nice machine gun as well and his removable vest is exceedingly well detailed.

So obviously not a completely lost cause, but again some normal articulation certainly would have helped the case.

This vehicle is an impressive one. Great design with some awesome updates to the previous version. The color scheme is odd and the plethora of Arashikage themed stickers might put some folks off (but you can just...well... not apply them). I will say that the plastic quality of this vehicle feels quite a bit thinner than the previous release, but the canopy snaps down nice and snug and everything stays together very well.

Even with so much reused tooling this is a great vehicle update. It should definitely be on your list of vehicle purchases for the Retaliation line, even with the colors and the limited functionality of the driver.