Sunday, February 14, 2010

Dante's Inferno: Dante Alighieri Figure Review

When I first heard "Dante's Inferno" was going to be made into a video-game based upon something that I barely recall reading sometime in either high-school or college, I was highly skeptical.  Once those teaser trailers and movie clips of the game-play and story came out, I was partially won over (damn you Visceral!).  I've viewed upcoming video game releases with a "wait-and-see" approach to save myself loads of money.  However, when I heard that NECA would be releasing a "pre-order bonus/exclusive" of a Dante action figure (that would never be sold in the U.S.) with the game, I willingly opened my wallet...

Flavor Text*:

"Dante returns home from the wars to find that his beloved Beatrice has been murdered, and her soul pulled down into Hell by a dark force.  He gives chase, and vows to get her back.  he wields Death's soul-reaping scythe, and commands holy powers of the cross, given to him by Beatrice."

The Good:

  • Dante is loaded with articulation (17 points of articulation to be exact): ball-jointed neck, ball-jointed shoulders, ball-hinged elbows, ball-hinged wrists, ab-crunch joint, swivel hips, ball-jointed thighs, swivel upper thighs, ball-hinged knees, and ball-hinged ankles.
  • Dante also comes with several accessories: 1x additional (tighter-grip) right-hand, 1x holy cross, 1x detachable scythe, and 1x "spine" of scythe.
  • You can tell how much love and labor went into this figure.  The details of Dante's armor, bloody stitch-work, and even the inclusion of the "shredded" cloth (sculpt) wrapped all over his arms and wrists (actual cloth material) make this an exceptionally video-game accurate figure.
  • The "holster" which houses the holy cross accessory is attached to Dante's right hip, and it actually works pretty well.  It takes a little bit of patience to pull the straps out.  But once you get it out, it's very easy to insert and remove the cross accessory.
  • I'm glad that NECA removed their licensing information from the soles of Dante's feet and instead placed them on the "inside" of his torn "skirt".  You can see the continuation of the leather straps wrapped over the chain mail around his feet without any interruption.
  • I really like the inclusion of Dante's "holster" on his naked back which can hold his deadly scythe without trouble (you'll need to remove the top portion that has the blade from the "stem" portion in order to fit the entire scythe in the "holster").
  • While the material used for the top bladed portion of Dante's scythe feels like cheap plastic, the design mechanic (being able to move the blade itself) is pretty impressive.  I had a slightly hard time moving the blade so it would stick out a little further, but it works.

The Bad:
  • The "ab-crunch" joint doesn't really work.  If I try to have him bend forward, the ab-crunch literally springs him back to his upright standing position.  And the "ab-crunch" joint is designed in such a way that Dante can't even bend backwards.  Can someone remind me why Dante even has an "ab-crunch" joint?  EDIT: I finally got the "ab-crunch" joint to partially work, and it stays in place.  However, I'm still disappointed that it only moves a tiny bit.
  • Although the paint application is MUCH improved from all of NECA's previous figures, there are paint splatters (and dots) here and there.  But the ever-so-slightly annoying part are the joints.  For example, if you look at Dante's elbow, you'll notice that the front part of the joint is applied with flesh-colored paint.  However, if you look in the back, the joint is colored bright orange.  Whoops!
  • If you examine Dante's "armpits" (where the joints are), you'll notice under the left arm that flesh-color paint has been applied with a little red smeared on it (most likely from Dante's bloody stitching job).  However, something horrifying awaits you under Dante's right arm.  Apparently, Dante forgot to shave under his right armpit, because the black or brown smears all over the joint look kind of "hairy".
  • Due to the shape of the scythe's handle (the "spine" portion), I had a hard time placing it (aka shoving it) into Dante's pre-posed grip.  I really don't like shoving accessories into a figure's hand(s) because it may warp the grip over time, making the pre-posed grip pretty much useless.
  • While Dante's left knee joint is given slightly more leeway, his right knee joint lacks that mobility.  You can do better than that, NECA.

The Ugly:

  • There's absolutely nothing ugly here, folks.

Additional Notes:

  • This figure is a "pre-order exclusive" which you can receive by ordering through Blockbuster and Gamestop (this is the only way to get this limited item for those of you living in the U.S.).  Rather than coming packaged in your typical clamshell, Dante comes poly-bagged.  But don't worry, the accessories will more than likely arrive unmolested due to an additional piece of plastic molded to fit the "detachable" scythe and additional right-hand accessories.
  • Although I don't have a problem with Dante's facial sculpt, it would've been nice if he were given an "angry/battle-cry" face.  When you think about it, the calm but slightly grim face looks a bit ridiculous when he's about to brutalize some demons in the heat of battle.
  • I would've loved to seen an alternative Dante figure sculpted in his "Crusades" uniform and armor prior to his descent into Hell.
  • The "spine" portion of the scythe is actually made of bendable material.

As I mentioned earlier, this only came as a "pre-order exclusive" from either Blockbuster or Gamestop, so there isn't a price for this figure.  If I had to guess, I would say this type of figure would go around for at least $19.99 or so.  If you live in the United States, the only version of Dante you'll get is the poly-bagged one.  The ones in clamshell packaging* can be found overseas.


I've got to hand it to NECA.  They've really done an amazing job with this figure.  The level of detail, the character-appropriate accessories, and fairly large amount of articulation make this figure a MUST-HAVE.  As expected, there are relatively few minor paint applications, but nothing too serious enough to detract the overall value of the figure.  These babies are being sold on eBay like hotcakes.  Better get yours before they're all sold out! 

Score (out of five):

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Masters of the Universe Classics: Skeletor: Evil Lord of Destruction Figure Review

Being a late comer to the "Masters of the Universe Classics" line, I had the misfortune of missing out on Skeletor when he was first released earlier last year.  When I heard that Mattel was going to re-release an "improved-version" of Skeletor as a "bonus" figure, I was given a second chance.  I used to own the old-school Skeletor, but had the bad luck of losing him (twice)!  I lost one while playing with him with the car window down (for some reason), and suddenly (due to a bump or my own clumsiness) dropped Skeletor on the road.  Man, that was really heartbreaking.

Although I missed out on He-Man, at least I would be able to finally get my hands on one of my most beloved villains.  When it was noon, I wasted no time and ordered myself Skeletor.  Surprisingly, my order went through very smoothly.  Even more surprising, Skeletor was still available a couple of days after his re-release.  He was made available for sale via on January 27, 2010.

Flavor Text:

"Skeletor, Evil Lord of Destruction

Real Name: Keldor

Mortally wounded in a battle with his half-brother, Captain Randor, Keldor turned to his dark-arts master Hordak to save his life.  Merging Keldor with the extra-dimensional being Demo-Man from Despondos, Keldor was forever changed into Skeletor, Overlord of Evil!  He gathered together many of Eternia's greatest outcasts and evil warriors in his quest to gain entry into Castle Grayskull and to obtain what he believes is the universe's ultimate power source."

The Good:

  • Skeletor has 20 points of articulation: ball-jointed neck, jointed shoulders, swivel upper biceps, hinged elbows, swivel wrists, ab-crunch joint, swivel waist, swivel/hinged legs, hinged knees, swivel "boots", hinged ankles, and hinged "side" (left) ankle.
  • He comes with four accessories: removable chest armor, sword, half-sword, and Havoc Staff.
  • This is yet another definite "nostalgia-inducing" figure from the MOTUC line (yeah, I'm aware it's called "Masters of the Universe Classics" for a reason).  The Four Horsemen have "modernized" Skeletor: his body is proportional (no more "neanderthal-looking" Skeletor!); his "loin-cloth" is wider and less "pointer-looking"; Skeletor no longer wears boots by showing off his beautiful three-toed clawed feet; and his armor is no longer plain purple, instead it has different shades of purple in certain spots.
  • Although I'm quite pleased that the Four Horsemen retained most of Skeletor's old-school appearance, I'm especially glad that Skeletor retains his "hyper-masculine" appearance (the impossibly bulging musculature).
  • You can see how much thought and detail went into sculpting Skeletor's face: the space between Skeletor's ghoulish face and his hood gives off the illusion that all there really is under that hood is a skull.
  • As advertised, Skeletor has a tight grip on both his right and left hand, which can hold the sword and staff in each hand.
  • Skeletor's Havoc Staff is extremely well-sculpted (the skull of the ram creature), and the staff itself is made of slightly thick, sturdy plastic.

The Bad:

  • The paint application on Skeletor has gone completely awry: purple-colored dots scattered all over Skeletor's body; a white dot on Skeletor's back (right above the ab-crunch joint); a visible streak of red paint on his face; "dirt" marks all over Skeletor's arms and legs; and "scuff" marks on Skeletor's sword.
  • Streaks of left-over dried glue can be seen on Skeletor's elbow joints and on one-side of his sword.
  • Due to the horrible weapon-packing design, Skeletor's "half-power" sword arrived curved inward.
    • I'm starting to notice a pattern here of weak ankle joints in the MOTUC line.  Skeletor has a really loose right ankle joint which on occasion decides to give-in, sabotaging Skeletor's pose.

        The Ugly:

        • You can see the letter "R" and "L" on Skeletor's respective hinged knee-joint area.

        Additional Notes:

        • Skeletor came packaged with a small plastic "rubber-band" wrapped around the ball-jointed neck for some reason.  I had to remove his head in order to get rid of the plastic.
        • This re-release (the second) of Skeletor has several running changes: his biography mentions "Demo-Man from Despondos"; there are slight changes in paint application for Skeletor's face; and his hands are sculpted to have a "tighter" grip on his weapons.

        I purchased this figure online via MattyCollector for approximately $28.00 (price includes S&H and tax).  Due to the popularity of this "bonus" figure, it is no longer available for purchase on MattyCollector's website. Your only recourse is eBay or other online retailers such as BigBadToyStore who will (once again) price-gouge you, because they can.  Don't go shopping for this on Amazon; the last time I checked, these unscrupulous sellers were pricing him at the $55.00 and up range.


        I feel bad for those on the MOTUC subscription (I believe the costs run over $100.00) because it seems Mattel has a habit of re-releasing their "limited run" supply of figures.  At the same time, I'm grateful because it allows collectors like me to get in on the MOTUC action.  Despite the paint application flaws, curved "half-sword" and weak ankle joint, I really love this figure.  Blame it on nostalgia and my love of skeletons.  This figure is one classic that you shouldn't pass on.

        Score: (out of five)