Tag Archives: bandai

S.H. Figuarts Dragon Ball Kame-Sennin (Master Roshi)

The legendary martial arts master has arrived!

Collecting certainly has a gambling component to it. Sometimes, when a new action figure is released it can pay off to wait a bit and see if the price comes down or a retailer has a sale. Other times, that strategy can completely backfire. Such was the case with the S.H. Figuarts release of Kame-Sennin, better known to westerners as Master Roshi from Dragon Ball. A couple of years ago I started my Dragon Ball figure collection with a Goku from this line. Seeing how readily available he continued to be gave me confidence that a character like Master Roshi, a less popular though still much beloved figure from the anime, would play out the same way. It did not. Maybe Bandai had less confidence in the figure than it does some others, or maybe it had something to do with western distribution seemingly picking up after the figure’s release, but this guy came and went pretty fast. Subsequent figures have not, and I scored several this past summer on a sale, but Master Roshi was seemingly lost.

Well, I finally gave up. When Bandai released a Jackie Chun figure, which is basically Master Roshi in black and with a wig in place of his glasses, I figured that closed the door on a re-release. And thus I was forced to turn to the secondary market. To lessen the blow, I actually sold some figures from my collection that weren’t going to see a shelf which essentially paid for this one, but it still stings to know I could have had this figure for considerably less had I acted sooner. Is there a lesson here or did I simply just play the game and have it go against me? If there is one, it’s simply make sure you get the figures you don’t want to live without. I can have a Dragon Ball collection without a kid Chi Chi and be content, or without a version of Bulma that only appeared in the show’s ending credits. I cannot have one without Master Roshi though.

Master Roshi comes well equipped to add some sizzle to your display.

For this figure, Bandai opted to present Master Roshi in his somewhat official outfit: his orange and blue martial arts uniform. He has quite a few different looks in the manga and anime that are a bit more casual, and if I’m being honest that’s how I tend to picture him in my head, but by going in this direction it gives the figure a bit more versatility. You can go for a comic pose, pose him with his shell, or display him ready for a fight. He can’t do his bulked up Kamehameha pose, but that’s to be expected as it basically requires a whole new sculpt. The figure stands right around the 5 and a half inch mark which allows him to scale pretty well with the rest of the line. His trademarked red and green sunglasses are removable and fit on both of his heads and they rest well on the figure. The orange and blue are both plenty vibrant and it’s mostly just colored plastic. There’s no real paint flourishes on display here which is par for the course. Bandai certainly could have opted for something here to bring out the folds in the shirt, but it’s really not supposed to possess many as it hangs long and loose on the character in the show. I think it looks fine, but I know some others out there wish there was a little more flair to these figures as far as paint is concerned.

Note the plug inserted into the figure’s back to fill the peg hold needed for the turtle shell.

Master Roshi comes loaded with the usual assortment of articulation. It’s certainly needed to get him into various martial arts poses, but with this figure the articulation does detract some from the sculpt. The issue lies with the shirt which is very large relative to the figure. Bandai obviously felt it couldn’t do something like a soft rubber piece over an articulated figure and have it work, and they’re probably right. Instead, a lot of the joints have to be baked into the shirt and it does give it this choppy, scalloped, look. It’s unfortunate as it’s a bit of an eyesore, but ultimately, I think Bandai made the right call since the alternative would be to have very little articulation in the torso and arms. Perhaps soft goods could have been utilized, but that would have been just as, if not more, controversial a choice. The only area of the sculpt that does sort of bother me resides in the character’s elbows. There’s a big, circular, component that just jumps out and looks unnatural. The good thing is, simply posing him with bent elbows largely conceals this. Roshi does have a peg hole on his back to keep his shell sturdy, but if you don’t want to display him with that on, Bandai provided a little, orange, peg to fit into that hole to cover it up. Considering the hole is on the figure’s back, this really wasn’t something Bandai had to do, but it’s pretty cool that it did.

The old man can still move.
Though this requires little in the way of dexterity.

Master Roshi’s shirt may look a bit odd, but at least it does deliver in making this figure fully articulated. His head has the usual range of motion expected of this line. He can look up, but not down much as his beard hinders him a bit. There’s a joint at the base of the neck, but the head moves so smoothly that it’s hard to move the neck without taking the head off completely. The shoulders have terrific range and are also butterfly-jointed with that part of the articulation being completely hidden by the shirt which is pretty cool. There’s a bicept swivel and the elbows are single-jointed with his hands are on ball joints. They are buried a little in the sleeves so the range might not be as great as other figures in this line, but it’s fine. In the torso there’s a lot going on with upper torso articulation and waist articulation. The upper torso basically just allows him to pivot a bit without full rotation. The waist is similar though you could probably get him to turn all the way around if you were determined, but I wouldn’t advise it. The legs are on ball joints and swivel just below that joint. He has double-jointed knees and terrific range at the ankle with rotation and rocker action. Lastly, we have the toe hinge for when he needs to get a little taller, maybe to sneak his perverted, old, man eyes over a window sill or something.

It really is a nice looking shell.
Can’t forget about the Dragon Ball!

Master Roshi has a solid assortment of accessories and interchangeable parts. For starters, he has an optional head that’s basically his pervert face. It works with or without his glasses and it’s not hard to imagine many fans posing him in such a position. Only thing missing is a way to make it look like his nose is gushing blood. You can also swap the bearded portion on each head in effect doubling your range of available expressions. He also has five sets of hands to go along with the fists he comes packaged with. He has gripping hands for his staff, a set of pointing/pinching hands, a set of martial arts styled hands, an open left gripping hand for use with the Dragon Ball, a left hand making a “peace” symbol, a relaxed open palm left hand, and a firm open palm right hand. He has his trusty staff or cudgel and his three-star Dragon Ball. And then, of course, he has his big old turtle shell. It clips into his back and it also has straps that can pop in to make it look like it’s something the character simply slipped his arms through. The peg on the back of the figure makes it sit nice and I really like the sculpt of this thing. It has that very “Dragon Ball” look to it as far as the texture goes with lots of line work and I do enjoy the almost lilac color it has. Bandai even saw fit to make the middle panel of the shell removable so you can still use the action stand with the figure, whether he’s wearing the shell or not. Lastly, Bandai included an action stand for him which is always appreciated. It’s a real nice allotment of stuff that Master Roshi comes packed with. If anything is missing, I guess it would be Turtle? That’s probably asking too much though since he would require quite a bit of plastic. The only other obvious omission is the lack of Kamehameha style hands. I guess Bandai didn’t see the point since he can’t bulk up, or maybe they figured they’d include those hands with the Jackie Chun release. I can’t say I miss them since I wouldn’t pose him like that, but I can see that being a disappointment for some. Especially Dragon Ball Z collectors who may have wanted to line up all of the Z fighters performing Master Roshi’s signature technique.

Look who decided to join the party.
Of course, we have to bring in Goku too. These three look pretty great together.

Making use of Roshi’s accessories is not quite as smooth as it is with other figures. His head pops on and off just fine, though you do have to make sure the ball-joint is orientated properly. The hands are a bit trickier though. The cuffs of the shirt mean the pegs are recessed and they want to move all over the place when pressing a hand onto them. I don’t feel like I’m ever in danger of breaking anything, but it is annoying. The straps on the shell are also a bit troublesome. I find it’s easier to insert the top peg first on each strap before putting it on Roshi’s back. Then you have to kind of finesse the bottom pegs into their respective hole. It at least doesn’t need to be real snug, but if you don’t have patience for such things it could drive you mad. Once you have the setup you want, the hands at least all function the way they should. He can hold his staff with either gripping hand with no problem and the Dragon Ball rests in the open hand just fine. He also stands well with or without the shell on his back making the action stand Bandai included feel unnecessary which can free it up for another figure in your display, should you desire such.

I am so sorry, Bulma.
Maybe I should look into acquiring Lunch so he has someone of-age to menace.

Master Roshi fits in well with the other Dragon Ball releases so far. I maintain that the kid versions of Goku and Krillin are a bit too big, but it doesn’t stand out as much with Master Roshi as it does with Bulma. She’s still the odd one of the bunch though as she should probably be taller than Master Roshi, but instead she’s pretty close in height. It almost looks like he’s designed to scale to Goku and Krillin, with Bulma and the others scaling better with each other. The only other disappointing aspect of the display is just in the choice of attire. Roshi mostly wore this get-up during the training sequences where Krillin wore his yellow gi and Goku sported his blue pants and white tank top look. By the time the two get their Turtle School gi, they’re at the World Martial Arts Tournament where Roshi is in a formal, black, suit. Oh well. I’m definitely glad this version isn’t in the black suit, but I am still partial to his beach bum look when Goku and Bulma first meet the old man.

Yes, I realize I need a dedicated shelf for my Dragon Ball guys.

Acquiring this figure of Master Roshi more or less finishes off my humble Dragon Ball collection from Bandai. The only other figures released in the line include an alternate version of Bulma, Jackie Chun, Lunch, and kid Chi Chi. I don’t really feel a need to grab any of those, though if Jackie and Lunch ever make it to a sale I could be persuaded. The big omission so far is a Dragon Ball version of Yamcha and I would like to have him. Tien, Chiaotzu, Grandpa Gohan, Adult Goku, and Piccolo Jr. would all be intriguing as well. And if they could get an Oolong into one of those releases that would also be great. At least with Master Roshi in the fold I no longer feel like I have a major hole in my collection. He looks awesome and he really is one of my favorite characters from the show. Hopefully he won’t be my last acquisition from this line.


S.H. Figuarts Dragon Ball Z Yamcha

Look out boys, here comes Yamcha!

Today’s action figure review comes courtesy of online retailer Big Bad Toy Store. No, I have not hit the “big time” where I’m getting freebies for review. Rather, BBTS had a Twitter give-away for an action figure and yours truly happened to be selected. Which is pretty cool, so thanks go out to Big Bad for the hook-up because otherwise I would likely have never had the chance to talk about this figure.

Gotta love that window box packaging.
There aren’t many characters who get featured as a corpse as part of their own product shots.

Yamcha comes straight from the anime Dragon Ball Z. I have reviewed a few of the figures from S.H. Figuarts in the Dragon Ball line, but I’ve largely avoided Dragon Ball Z. That’s because I only have room (and money) for one high-end anime property and if I had to choose I’m taking Dragon Ball over Dragon Ball Z. If I were to reverse course though, and maybe one day I will, I’d probably prioritize the earlier episodes of DBZ like the Saiyan Saga, which is where this figure comes from.

What’s this guy have to smile about?!
I wonder what shampoo he uses?

Yamcha is basically known to the fanbase as the punching bag of DBZ. He’s routinely one of the least powerful warriors and his most famous pose is lying dead in a crater. He makes himself an easy target because he’s often brash and quite arrogant, only to wind up getting his ass handed to him. He’s so bad that I even tried to make referring to someone as a “Yamcha” an insult amongst my friends back in my high school days, but I never really got the phrase over. Yamcha would change in later arcs and in Dragon Ball Super he became more self aware of his lot in life. This has made him actually endearing, to a degree, to the point where Yamcha may be able to refer to himself unironically as a fan favorite these days. After all, being outclassed by Goku is hardly meaningful anymore since virtually no one from those early episodes can hope to stand with him.

Now we’re getting serious.
Here comes the “dreaded” Wolf Fang Fist!

As mentioned earlier, this figure comes from the Saiyan Saga of DBZ so it depicts Yamcha in his orange Turtle School gi complete with big hair. He’s right at the six inch mark which I assume is pretty much average for the line and leaves him about 3/4 of an inch taller than the Vegeta from the same line (not factoring in Vegeta’s giant hair). It’s hard to say what Yamcha’s most popular look is since he’s one of the characters who seems to always change his look, but this one is certainly right up there. He maintained this look through the Frieza Saga before switching to an awful bowl cut that thankfully didn’t last long. It’s a simple look though and I suspect there’s a lot of parts reuse in this figure as he’s essentially Goku. I can’t confirm that though because I don’t have a Goku. The only real difference between he and Goku are the shoes and the lack of a blue undershirt, because Yamcha is first and foremost out to attract the ladies. The more skin showing the better.

I’m more of an energy blast guy, myself.
Solar Flare or “hands up?” Yamcha is not above backing down from a fight.

The S.H. Figuarts line from Bandai is known for its high quality and abundance of articulation. Yamcha is no exception as there’s very little he can’t do as far as posing goes. His joints are all nice and tight with none being too tight so he has no trouble holding a pose. His head sits on a ball joint with surprising range of motion considering the giant hair behind him. The hair keeps him from looking up, but he can do pretty much anything else. There’s a hinge in the middle of his hair if you want to make his hair more billowy than usual, though it doesn’t do much to free up the head any further. He has a joint at the base of his neck that honestly isn’t really needed since he can look pretty far down without engaging it. The shoulders are ball-jointed with butterfly joints as well to allow him to reach across his chest and form a proper Kamehameha pose. The bicep swivels and the elbows are double-jointed. The hands are on ball-pegs with hinges in them so they can rotate and turn in and out. There’s an upper torso joint under the gi that provides for tilt and rotation there as well as another ball-joint at the waist. The legs can go out, forward, and back pretty much without restriction and swivel there as well. The knees are double-jointed and the feet are on ball pegs. There’s a toe hinge and articulation at the knot in his belt, for good measure.

Yamcha with his former lover and the guy she left him for.

Were Bandai leaves itself open for criticism with this line is in the amount of articulation taking away from the sculpt. With Yamcha, it’s not much of an issue because the gi lends itself well to hiding articulation. It’s a flowing, roomy, garment with lots of folds to stash stuff in. Contrast this with Vegeta who is often in skin-tight outfits where the various seems and breaks in the sculpt really stand out. There are still odd parts where things look messy, like the crotch and mid-torso. The sleeves of the gi are also pegged into his shoulders and not attached to the main part of the uniform which is rather odd looking. The other frequent complaint I see is the lack of paint, and there, Yamcha isn’t much of an exception. Bandai sticks with colored plastic for the most part and almost never applies a wash or anything to bring out some of the detail. This figure though does have a wash applied to the sides of the pants, chest, crotch, and sleeves. I’m torn on if I prefer this look to what I’ve seen more recently in the Dragon Ball figures. Kid Goku, Krillin, and even Tao have really no wash applied to them and look mostly fine to me. The effect here does work in certain lighting and poses, though in others it stands out more than I’d like.

I had to…

Yamcha comes packed with an assortment of facial expression and hands to complete his look. He has four distinct expressions for you to choose from, and swapping is simple and effortless. The bangs of his hair pops off to gain access to the face plate and the seems left behind are minimal. For expressions, Yamcha has a cocky grin, an open mouthed yell, a teeth-gritting face, and a stern face. If this were a Dragon Ball version of the character I’d want a frightened/shocked look, or a love-struck one for when he encounters Bulma, but for a Saiyan Saga Yamcha this is a strong assortment. He also has four sets of hands: closed fists, wide open palms, Kamehameha open hands, and martial arts pose hands. There’s some room for criticism in this area as Yamcha really doesn’t need the wide open, Solar Flare, styled hands. What he could really use are pointing hands for his Spirit Ball technique. The Kamehameha hands and martial arts pose hands give him enough range for his other signature maneuvers though, the Kamehameha and Wolf Fang Fist.

He actually he let himself get killed by this!
There is some nice sculpting going on here.

Lastly, Yamcha comes with one other important accessory: the Saibaman. This little green guy is notoriously the one who killed Yamcha. Or rather, it was a Saibaman who felled him and left him dead in a crater and that creature was not distinct from any other Saibaman. This little guy stands a shade under 3″ and is positioned in a permanent crouch. He’s largely colored plastic with very little paint but has quite a bit of sculpting details all over. The eyes and claws on the hands and feet are basically the only parts painted. He’s at least cast in two shades of green so he more or less looks the part, but really could have used a paint wash to bring out the grooves in the skin and the veins in the head. He’s minimally articulated and it’s largely a what you see is what you get affair. His head can rotate side-to-side a bit and the arms rotate at the shoulders on simple pegs. Oddly, the right wrist is on a peg and can rotate, but the left does not. What he’s missing is articulation at the leg, because with a simple swivel there he’d be able to really grab onto Yamcha for his self-destruct attack. Instead, if you want to attempt that you basically need to make Yamcha hug the little alien, which looks a bit silly. This makes the accessory something to pose opposite Yamcha like the two are about to face-off. It’s not nothing, but it’s a shame Bandai didn’t sink a few extra pennies into the sculpt to make it really work. Though if we’re on the subject of small changes that could have made a big difference, I wish instead of the standard one-color backdrop in the box that Bandai had printed the infamous crater instead!

Seriously, Yamcha! This should be a freakin’ mismatch!
Well, looks like this one is over.

There’s room for nitpicks with this release, but at the end of the day this is easily the best Yamcha figure ever made and likely will ever be made, at least as far as the Saiyan Saga is concerned. It’s another high quality release from Bandai via the SH Figuarts brand. There are very few poses he can’t pull off and the screen accuracy aspect is fantastic. Sure, the Saibaman is essentially a foot note for the release, but it’s not as if Yamcha is missing anything. Sure, some might have preferred another energy wave accessory, but this is fine. Though I’m guessing there are some diehard collectors out there rooting for a proper stand-alone Saibaman figure. Until that happens, this will have to do. If you ever wanted to add Yamcha to your collection, it would be hard to pass on this one.


S.H. Figuarts – Dragon Ball Kid Klilyn (Krillin)

When Dragon Ball became Dragon Ball Z, many of the old heroes and villains got left in the dust as Goku ascended to a level of power far beyond anything anyone would have comprehended. One of the last holdouts though was Krillin (Klilyn in Japan). Krillin was never on Goku’s level in DBZ, but he always managed to hang around nonetheless. It wasn’t really until the Majin Buu Saga that Krillin finally dropped off and gave up the whole fighting thing, which is more than I can say for the likes of Tien and Yamcha.

In Dragon Ball Z, Krillin basically was there to play the role of Goku’s best friend. In the original Dragon Ball, he had a different role at the start. Krillin was Goku’s rival, a cunning, dastardly, trickster willing to do whatever was necessary to gain an edge. Goku was good-natured and naive, and Krillin was always willing to exploit those qualities in Goku during their training with Master Roshi. The two would eventually become friends and Krillin would, for the first time, see his existence reduced to tragic catalyst for a Goku arc foreshadowing perhaps his most famous role as the motivating factor for Goku’s transformation into a Super Saiyan. What an existence – everyone just remembers you for dying!

No Dragon Ball action figure collection would be complete without Krillin. The bald, diminutive, monk, is a fan favorite from Dragon Ball as he’s almost a constant source of entertainment. He’s one of the many go-to characters for comedy on the show, but when the need arises he can also throw down and even masters the legendary Kamehameha wave just like his more famous rival. It’s no surprise then that Bandai and Tamashii Nations decided to do a figure for its S.H. Figuarts line based on the young version of Krillin from the early days of Dragon Ball.

With how muscular the characters become in DBZ, it’s easy to forget just how round they are as kids.

Krillin is depicted in his fighting, Turtle School, gi. And since the only distinguishing features between he and Goku in the anime when both wear this uniform is their head and Goku’s tail, it should be no surprise that the two share the same traits in figure form. Krillin is essentially the same figure as the Kid Goku from before, so he possesses all of the good qualities of that figure, plus all of the lesser qualities. For starters, Krillin is probably a tick taller than he should be when placed next to some of the other characters like Bulma. This is likely a result of the scale in place as going any smaller on this action figure would probably mess up Bandai’s pricing structure. When your figures retail for $55, you can only go so small. It’s not a big deal, though I do find a little fault in the proportions. In particular, both Goku and Krillin are a bit too lean and muscular. In the anime their bodies are more egg-shaped than they are in action figure form. These figures mostly look the part when in fighting poses as they’re more spread out, but if they’re just standing around then it becomes more noticeable. Krillin also has those same, spherical, elbow joints that look a bit funny when the arm is straight, but fine when bent. The knees also lack kneecaps and look a bit off from certain angles. This is the result of the character being so short and it’s a shortcoming that basically comes with the territory. Aside from the head, the only other difference between he and Goku is Krillin has no need for a peg hole on his bottom for a tail, so one isn’t present.

Aside from those gripes, the figure is actually rather nice to behold. The folds in Krillin’s gi are integrated well into the articulation and all of the little details one would expect are here. The Turtle School logo looks sharp and clean and where paint is required the lines are sharp and defined. There’s little in the way of paint embellishments, which is true of all of the figures I’ve reviewed in this line, but the figure also isn’t really crying out for much. The head sculpts are also a spot-on likeness for Krillin. He looks great and this figure presents a dilemma as it’s hard to settle on any one expression. Krillin has a basic smile expression that’s more than serviceable, but also this smug expression that really gets at the heart of this more juvenile Krillin. And then of course there’s the open-mouthed yelling face which is perfect for battle poses. The determining factor will likely be what accessory you choose to highlight in your display, which is also a tough call.

For a little figure, Krillin is packed to the gills with articulation. He has a ball joint at the head with good side-to-side motion, but very little up motion. Unlike the larger figures in this line, there’s no additional neck articulation, but it’s also not something really needed. There’s a ball-joint at the shoulders as well as a butterfly joint which is crucial for achieving a proper Kamehameha pose. There’s a swivel at the bicep just under the shoulder and those kind of wonky elbow joints. They’re not double-jointed so Krillin can only go to 90 degrees when bending his elbows. There’s full rotation at the wrists and hinge joints as well. At the torso, Krillin has articulation in his diaphragm plus a waist swivel. There’s an additional abdominal hinge in there as well, but Krillin can’t bend very far back without exposing the joint in the middle of his torso. The legs are on ball joints and can swivel below that ball joint. Knees are single-jointed and the ankles are on balls that provide for full rotation, a hinge, and side-to-side. His tiny, little, feet even have a toe hinge.

The figure is rather top heavy, since Krillin has such a massive melon, so standing and positioning the figure can be a bit tricky. With just a little patience though, several poses are achievable without a stand, which is a good thing since unlike Kid Goku, Krillin does not come with a stand for the sole purpose of positioning him. He does come with an action stand for his Kamehameha effect which is probably to make up for the fact that Goku came with his Flying Nimbus cloud. Bandai included optional parts to turn it into a posing stand for Krillin, but why would you want to use it for that when you have a Kamehameha wave? He also comes with 11 different hands which include the following: a pair of fists, a pair of Kamehameha hands, a pair of wide open hands, a pair of peace sign hands, a set of martial arts posing hands, and a special gripping right hand for grabbing Goku’s tail. Beyond that, he has a six-star dragon ball and a Kame rock from when Master Roshi gives he and Goku a task of finding a particular rock.

Probably my favorite expression for Krillin.

The dragon ball accessory is basically the same as what is included with the other figures, and the rock is a nice touch, but the real star is obviously that effects piece. The Kamehameha wave has some nice shading on it to achieve that desired look of a blue energy blast. I do wish the paint was a little less heavy though to expose what I assume is translucent plastic underneath. The stand allows you to position the blast out in front of Krillin to simulate him firing the Kamehameha. It’s a fun thing to play around with and the articulated stand means you can angle the blast any way you want. If you have a extra figure stand, you could even position Krillin in the air firing the blast towards the ground. With Krillin being such a small figure, it was imperative that Bandai include something fun like this with the figure, and they made the right choice by going in this direction. And as stated before, there is an optional “grabber” piece that can be installed on the stand should you wish to use it for the purpose of posing Krillin or another figure.

Krillin is an outstanding addition to the S.H. Figuarts line of Dragon Ball action figures. While it is an easier figure to nitpick when compared with some of the others, at the end of the day this is still a great representation of the character from Dragon Ball. He looks right at home on my shelf with the others and I think the likeness here is even better than it was with Goku. He’s an essential character from the show, and I’m definitely glad I’ve added him to my collection. Hopefully, I can add a few more characters before all is said and done.


S.H. Figuarts Tao Pai Pai (Mercenary Tao)

This is the story of a man and his flying, pink, pillar.

We’re back with another Dragon Ball review and this one is another bad guy, maybe THE bad guy: Tao Pai Pai. Known to English-speaking audiences as Mercenary Tao, and for the rest of this review as simply Tao, Tao is a martial arts expert who has perfected the dreaded Dodonpa, or Dodon Ray, and is an adept killing machine. He’s even been known to kill people with his tongue, folks. Tao is quite possibly the most hated enemy from Dragon Ball since he’s a ruthless killer and also one of the few to defeat Goku in hand-to-hand combat.

The S.H. Figuarts version of Tao depicts the character in his most familiar form. He’s clad in a navy and pink martial arts uniform with the phrase “Kill You!” emblazoned on the rear of his tunic in a blood red font. He has a single braid coming off of the back of his head tied off with a cute little, red, bow. He’s not particularly intimidating to look at, but in the source material he projects an aura of confidence that’s a bit unnerving.

Tao stands a tick under 6″ making him taller than the likes of Bulma, but much shorter than someone like King Piccolo. He features a lot of the same articulation one would expect from this line. His braid is on a ball joint so it can lay on his back or be positioned in a wind swept pose. A ball-jointed head gives him some nice range of motion and additional neck articulation adds some side-to-side pivot and allows him to look at his feet. The shoulders are on ball-joints with butterfly joints that allow him to reach across his chest a bit, though the bulk of his sleeves hinders a bit. There’s bicep swivels and double-jointed elbows. The hands are on ball-pegs and hinges and can rotate and point in and out. The waist is on a ball-peg and there’s diaphragm articulation as well. Bend his upper body too far back and you will see an exposed gap in the chest, but you’re not likely to have need to bend him that far. The crotch area is the 2.0 Figuarts joint so it works well, but is quite busy to look at. Tao minimizes this with the skirt of his tunic which covers the front and back. His legs are on ball-joints with rotation in the thigh as well. His knees are double-jointed, but the bulkiness of his pants hinders some of the articulation gained by the additional joint. The ankles are on ball-pegs and can rotate and rock side to side. There’s also a toe hinge for good measure.

Unlike most Figuarts figures I have, Tao wasn’t quite ready to go out of the package. I’m used to dealing with stuck joints with figures from other companies, but not usually Bandai. My Tao’s right thigh was stuck at the hip so when I tried to bend the leg out, like a split, the leg popped right off. I had to grab the peg and really give it a good tug to get the joint in the inner thigh to start working. My Tao’s left food also didn’t have much side-to-side motion. The peg is a dumbbell peg in the foot, and I think what was happening is the ball at the top was moving, but the one in the foot was stuck. I popped the foot off and immersed it in hot water and was then able to rock the peg back and forth a bit. It’s still not great, but better than before.

The comparison shot.

As is the case with the other figures in this line, the paint application is minimal, but the sculpt work is otherwise damn near flawless. Tao comes with a neutral facial expression that’s perhaps a bit of a scowl. The paint on his tunic is sharp and clear and there’s no mess on the red detailing. The skirt piece is a soft, pliable, plastic that really doesn’t hinder the articulation much. I know some people want to see more elaborate paint applications with this line, but at this point it is what it is and I personally think the sculpt work looks great in natural light. The only aspect of the sculpt that doesn’t look great are the knee joints, but only from the back so it’s not really an issue.

He’s a master tactician when it comes to psychological warfare.

Tao comes with an assortment of extra hands and heads. He has a screaming head for when he’s getting serious as well as a tongue-sticking out head for when he needs to kill. The tongue is definitely a funny inclusion, though if I had to choose I would have preferred a cocky grin. Tao comes packaged with fists, like basically all of the figures in this line, and has two additional sets of hands: open palms and Kung Fu, forked, hands. The other additional hand is a pointing right hand for the Dodon Ray. He also comes with a seven star dragon ball. I know some wish he came with his cybernetic parts from Dragon Ball Z, but I wouldn’t display him in that form so I’m not really sweating it. That version of the character is better reserved for a stand-alone release.

The major accessory for Tao though is his big, pink, pillar. In the source material, Tao couldn’t fly so he’d just smash a nearby pillar or tree and throw it through the sky. He’d then jump on it to ride it to wherever he needed to go. It’s ridiculous, but definitely something that’s memorable. Bandai deemed it so memorable that it was essential, so Tao comes with a plastic pillar and a unique flight stand to position it on. This thing is perhaps needlessly complicated because Bandai is so committed to the aesthetics of the figures in this line that it decided exposed peg holes could not be tolerated. Instead, there’s an included set of plugs to place in the pillar when it’s not in use that conceal any and all holes. There are six holes in total so that Tao can ride it akin to a surfboard or stand with his feet together at the back or center of the pillar. The pillar is hollow and can split apart which is how you remove the installed pegs. It’s also handy for storing any plugs that in use, so long as you don’t mind the rattle.

To attach Tao to the pillar, Bandai included swap-able feet plates. I’ve never seen anything like this. Basically, you pop off the soles of Tao’s shoes and replace them with a set that have pegs on the bottom. There’s a set with pegs that go straight down and a set that are pointing out. The pointing out set is meant for when Tao is standing with his feet together on the pillar and will go straight into it when his feet are angled towards each other. And to add a little more pizzazz to the set, the flight stand comes in three pieces: a base, the piece that attaches to the pillar, and an optional joiner piece. The optional piece adjusts the pitch of the pillar so Tao is either flying at a horizontal angle or one with the front pointing up at a slight angle.

The best I could do with the angled foot pegs. Only the right foot is in.

The pillar is very ambitious and quite an idea, but it’s far better on paper than in reality. For one, as neat as it is to hide the peg holes on the pillar, it should be pointed out that it kind of looks like a piece of sidewalk chalk. It’s funny such care was taken to hide the holes when what was really needed was some shading or just additional paint to help sell this better as a chunk of rock. Tao’s foot plates also have a tendency to pop out, especially the angled ones with my set. I’d insert the right one and it would literally shoot out of the pegs. Perhaps they’re too tight? I’m not sure, because they also come out very easily when trying to position him on the pillar. I had a hell of a time trying to get the angled ones to work right. I think part of it was due to my Tao’s left foot being limited due to the stuck ankle joint, while some of it is likely just poor engineering. I got him onto the pillar in that position, but only if I just attached one foot and let the other float. It didn’t inspire much confidence. The “surfing” position works much better. It’s still finicky, but I at least achieved the desired position. I’m still a little disappointed though as I really wanted to display him in that more confident, nonchalant, pose of standing with his feet together, but oh well.

To better sell the flight stand, Tao also comes with optional skirts for his tunic. He’s meant to pull apart at the waist which allows you to lift off the pieces that he comes wearing by default. The tunic skirts are in two pieces, a rear and a front, and the peg holes were engineered in a way to prevent you from mixing the two up. Getting them onto Tao is easy and really does add to the figure’s presentation. They may not have hit a home run with this figure, but when you get it right it sure does look impressive.

I can think of a few more characters I’d like to add to this display.

Tao is an ambitious addition to the S.H. Figuarts line of Dragon Ball figures. He does stumble in some ways, but the overall package is still impressive. He’s a great villain in the series and a welcomed addition to the roster of characters. My Dragon Ball collection is rounding into form and there are only a handful of characters that I’d like to add to it. If you have one of your own, it’s hard not to want to add Tao Pai Pai to the ranks.


S.H. Figuarts Bulma – Adventure Begins

Toy collecting is something that will probably always appeal to me. I just love getting a new toy, even as an adult even though I basically pose it and forget it. It’s just one of those things that makes me happy, so I don’t question it. It can be an expensive hobby though, so I try to stay in my lane, so to speak. For the past few years I’ve largely just stuck with collecting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Bucky O’Hare. Then 2020 came and COVID forced everyone to stay home. I even found myself saving money as a result since my family and I couldn’t go anywhere and working from home meant I was saving money that was normally spent commuting to and from work. As a result, I’ve found myself behaving in a less disciplined manner when it comes to my hobby, which is why 2020 is now the year I’ve decided to expand upon my Dragon Ball collection!

A couple of years ago, I came across some S.H. Figuarts products in a local GameStop. I had never seen this line in person and I felt compelled to grab a Vegeta and soon after a Kid Goku. I’ve enjoyed Dragon Ball since I was a teen, first falling for Dragon Ball Z before discovering the series that preceded it. As a teen, I definitely strayed towards DBZ, but now I find I prefer the more whimsical Dragon Ball. As a result of my positive experience with the Kid Goku action figure I almost immediately wanted to add more, but these toys tend to run a bit high when it comes to cost. Because of that, I pushed it aside and mostly hoped to catch a sale eventually. I especially hoped to see Master Roshi go on sale, the hope being there aren’t as many Dragon Ball fans out there as there are DBZ ones. I never did see him go on sale though, so for the past two years my collection has consisted of one, lonely, figure.

The summer of 2020 has been much kinder to me as far as Dragon Ball toys are concerned. A recent sale has allowed me to expand upon that collection, and up first is Bulma! This is the second S.H. Figuarts of Bulma with the first being based on the artwork in the closing credits of the show where she looks like some Mad Max character. It’s a look that only exists in that one moment, which is odd because that’s the look Irwin chose when it made Dragon Ball toys back in the early 2000s. It was an easy pass for me, but more recently a new Bulma was released. Dubbed Adventure Begins, this is essentially a first appearance Bulma from when she meets Goku and runs him over with her car. She has her pink dress and her blue-green hair is held in a ponytail by a big, red, bow. She even has panties which is a bit pervy, but this is Dragon Ball after all.

Bulma stands at about 5″ in height with an extra half inch if you include her bow. She comes packaged in a nice window box display, as do all Figuarts action figures, and has numerous accessories. The goal of this line is to make a figure that both perfectly captures the source material while also providing for a ton of articulation. This is meant to be an expressive figure capable of capturing the spirit of the character. And Bandai/Tamashii Nations are pretty damn successful at doing just that.

Bulma is packed with articulation, even though she’s not a “fighter” who needs to be capable of getting into and out of numerous, dynamic, poses. Bulma’s head is on a ball-joint capable of full, rotational, movement. She can look down rather well, but not up. Her pony tail is also on a ball-joint so you can do a lot with that if you desire. Bulma’s shoulders are ball-jointed with a swivel joint in there as well for maximum rotation. She can reach forward and back and even over her head. Her bicep has an additional swivel at the sleeve and her elbows are simple hinges. They’re single-jointed but on a wheel so she can achieve the same range of motion a double-jointed elbow can, but that wheel is a bit ugly when her arm is straight. The hands are on ball and sockets and there is a single hinge in each. Bulma has a ball-joint in her mid-torso just below her bust to give her full upper body motion to go along with a waist swivel. Her belt is non-removable, but it’s also not glue down so you can slide it around. The skirt is soft plastic and her panties are even a separate piece of plastic. Bulma has ball-joints at the hips and her thighs can rotate in and out as well. She has single-jointed knees on those wheel joints again, though it’s hidden well from the front. Her ankles can swivel and she has hinges and can rock side-to-side at the ankle.

Bulma’s sculpt is fantastic and really captures the look of the character. She’s a bit slight, but that mixes well with the bigger characters. The paint detail is minimal, but clean. She’s also sturdy and easy to pose and stand. She can even balance on one foot, though it’s a bit tricky. The only thing missing from her articulation is a butterfly joint at the shoulders so she can properly aim the sidearm she comes with. Inserting one probably would have harmed the look of the figure too much, but having her grip her gun with two hands was the only pose I couldn’t quite get to work.

Since this is a Figuarts toy, Bulma comes with a whole bunch of additional hands and other accessories. She comes packaged with fist hands which are really easy to remove. They’re on little pegs and look kind of scary, but they seem rather durable as they’re the same pegs Kid Goku has. Getting another hand on requires some finesse as the peg wants to move on you, but it can be done. Bulma’s additional right hands include: a trigger finger, pointing, cupped hand (for holding a Dragon Ball), open hand with peg hole (for the Dragon Radar), and a hand holding a capsule. For left hands (the non gloved hand) she has a pointing hand and an open hand. The accessories to go with those hands include a Dragon Radar, a 2-star Dragon Ball, a gun, gun holster, and holster with a gun inside it. She comes packaged with the holstered gun on her belt, but it pops off easily and can be replaced with the empty holster. The gun cannot be inserted into the holster, but it’s pretty cool that both were included.

Scary!

Rounding things out are the extra faceplates. Bulma comes with a smiling expression as her default look and can switch to a more exhuberant happy face and a shocked or scared face. Obviously, the biggest omission is an angry face since Bulma is known for losing her temper, especially with Goku who’s ignorance in those early episodes frustrates her and crosses some boundaries as well. To change her expression you simply pull her hair off, which is really easy to do. The face then pops off as it’s on two, thick, pegs so there’s little chance of anything breaking. Seating a new one is painless and there you go! I like all of the included faces, though I don’t know if I’ll ever pose her with something other than her happy face. The scared face definitely lends itself well to photography and I do plan on snapping more pictures with that one eventually.

When thinking about the important characters of Dragon Ball, Bulma certainly qualifies. Even so, I wasn’t sure that I needed a Bulma since all she is going to do is stand on my shelf, maybe holding her Dragon Radar, and not much else. Now that I have her though I’m very glad I took the plunge. This is a fun figure and she looks great. I’m very happy with the articulation and accessories, and really the only thing missing from this figure is an angry facial expression. It would have been fun to have Bulma perpetually screaming at Goku on my shelf, but in the end I guess she deserves to be happy.


Bandai Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Megazord

It was now a couple of weeks ago I posted about some toys I always wanted as a kid, but never got. Shortly after, I rectified some of those decades old injustices by purchasing the Dragonzord with Green Ranger from Bandai’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers line of action figures from 1993. The Dragonzord was my number 2 miss, but number 1 had always been the Deluxe Megazord from that same line. Well, predictably, I have now made peace with the two biggest toy omissions from my youth by securing my own set of Dinozords!

The Megazord was always appealing to me because it was essentially five separate toys that could combine into two additional toys. That’s basically seven toys in one box, and the fact that it was pretty screen accurate made it appeal to me even more. I was just a casual fan of the television show, but those toys were just too awesome to ignore. The demand for the toys was something I couldn’t overcome though, so I learned to go without. As an adult though, I don’t have to.

“We need Dinozord power now!”

I purchased a Megazord secondhand. Unlike the Dragonzord set I acquired, this one did not come with a box, but it did come with all of the parts. In my search for an authentic early 90s Megazord I found it was common to find some missing the sword, shield, and especially the canons that double as feet for the pterodactyl zord. Some also would feature a broken gun on the triceratops zord or missing horns. I assume most of these that were acquired in 1993 were played with and not kept on a shelf so it’s not a surprise that it’s hard to find a fully intact Megazord. It’s also why these things end up being quite expensive. I don’t feel as good about the price I paid for this set as I did the Dragonzord, but it is what it is. I’m actually relieved the seller no longer had the box or else I probably would have had to spend more!

Like the Dragonzord, I had some options when it came to buying a Megazord in 2020. Bandai released two different versions of the Megazord in 2010 as part of the Legacy line of figures. That one, from what I can tell based on video reviews, is very similar to this one. The functionality is virtually identical as both basically transform as it did on television. The standard 2010 version has a pretty ugly sword, but there was an updated version with some diecast parts and a much nicer looking sword. Overall, the 2010 Megazord appears to be a touch smaller, but the thing that bugged me about it is the triceratops zord lost the gun articulation on its tail. It’s a really minor thing, but it irritated me because it’s a clear downgrade. The 2010 version should have been superior in every way to a toy released in 1993! Also like the Dragonzord, there’s a Soul of Chogokin version from Tamashii Nations. It’s fantastic looking and easily the superior Megazord, but it’s also upwards of $300 at this point. There was also a model kit, Mini-Pla, version that’s almost adorably small and still retains the five zords into one (unlike the Build-A-Figure version from the Legacy Collection line that’s just an action figure) that I would have loved to consider, but it’s long since sold out and now fetches around 200 bucks on the secondary market. Ultimately, it was the 93 Megazord that vexed me as a kid so it was the 93 Megazord that I should acquire.

On their own, they’re merely okay, but put them together…

In case you’re not familiar with the Megazord concept, please allow me to present this refresher. The Megazord is the combination of the five Dinozords. Each of the five original Power Rangers was aligned with a prehistoric beast and each Ranger controlled what is essentially a giant robotic representation for each beast. They are: Tyranosaurus, Pterodactyl, Triceratops, Sabre-toothed Tiger (sic), and Mastodon. In nearly every episode, the monster of the day the Power Rangers are fighting grows to roughly the size of a skyscraper, so the Rangers attack via their zords. They can attack separately, though rarely do. Instead, they combine their beasts into one massive robot: the Megazord.

The Megazord actually has two forms: tank mode and battle mode. Tank mode is the less elegant version as it’s basically just the Megazord, but sitting down without a head. The T-Rex serves as the body, and the sabre-toothed tiger and triceratops form the right and left legs respecitively. The mastodon zord loses its head and wraps around the T-Rex to form the arms of the Megazord while the pterodactyl zord just sort of rides on the thing. The feet of the pterodactyl become the canons which attach to the mastodon arms, while the mastodon head sits on the T-Rex chest and the whole thing rolls similar to a tank.

There’s the face you know and love!

When the Power Rangers want to switch to the more memorable battle mode, the tank basically just stands up. The mastodon head is removed and the pterodactyl becomes a chest plate. The T-Rex head folds down and into its chest revealing the Megazord’s head and hands pop out of the arms. The canons from before are affixed to the Megazord’s back and look like boosters or something. The Megazord can attack with its fists, or rely on the power sword. The mastodon head can also be utilized as a shield, though it rarely was used in the show in this fashion.

Both transformations are essentially identical in how they occur with the toy as they do on television. This is probably due to the designer of the Megazord having to account for future toys down the road. At least, that’s what I assume. The show really only takes liberties in that once the models combine on the show, they’re swapped out with a costumed actor and the proportions change slightly. The most notable being the head of the costumed performer is much larger than what ends up on the toy. The only other aspect of the toy that isn’t entirely screen accurate is the T-Rex tail, which kind of just disappears on TV but is folded up the back of the toy. And the actor is able to move in a far more graceful manner than the toy. The Megazord is basically only articulated at the shoulders and hips and they’re just hinge joints. The lack of ball-jointed shoulders and basic elbow articulation really limit the available poses for the toy as it basically can only assume one position on your shelf.

This version of the Megazord is composed almost exclusively of colored plastic. This means there’s less opportunity for paint-slop and chipping over the years. The graphics and highlights are all done with stickers so when buying secondhand you’re at the mercy of whomever originally put these stickers on. Like the Dragonzord, the stickers aren’t 100% screen accurate, but it’s really only noticeable when doing a direct comparison. It doesn’t look like the original toy asked too much of parents and kids when it came to applying them and my unit looks as good as one could expect of a toy from 1993. It was clearly loved and enjoyed by a kid long ago and it shows. The sword is quite attractive as it has a shiny paint-app and is probably the portion of the figure that would be most likely to show ware. Same for the similar chrome portions of the other zords, namely the mastodon tusks and triceratops horns.

Whether you have instructions or not, transforming the Megazord is rather easy since you can basically just watch the show. The individual zords offer limited play. The mastodon and triceratops basically just sit there, though the triceratops has wheels. The pterodactyl also doesn’t do much, but since it’s a flier it doesn’t have to. The little canons can clip to it like feet, but they look stupid and I don’t recall seeing them in the show. The saber-toothed tiger has solid articulation though and it can emulate a running motion while also featuring moveable fangs. It’s a shame Bandai didn’t go the extra step of putting a hinged jaw on this one. The tyranosaurus has about as much function as you would expect, though it’s a little disappointing that it’s mouth has a big, red, wad, of plastic for the throat that makes it look odd. The connections are easy to utilize and pull apart just as easily, but they also won’t just fall off. The only complicated part is the mastodon which basically splits down the middle and clips around the T-Rex. Both of the leg zords are super simple, especially the triceratops which just has to fold its tail in and bend its neck, and even kids should be able to handle it.

In hand, the Megazord has some nice weight to it. It stands about ten and a half inches tall and is noticably larger than the Dragonzord, which is about nine and a quarter inches to the top of the head. Since it’s all plastic, it does get a bit creaky. The joints on mine are still fairly tight and I have no issues getting the Megazord to hold its arms out forward, basically it’s lone pose. On the individual zords, the tails of the triceratops and saber-tooth tiger are loose and getting them to stand in a blasting pose is a balancing act. The T-Rex tail is also a bit loose and doesn’t stay locked in place for very long. That’s also partly due to the toy needing to be bent forward at a pretty extreme angle so the legs don’t interfere with the tail. The little flaps that are the pterodactyl’s wings are also fairly loose, but they also don’t have to do much. All of the connections though are really satisfying and it’s a lot of fun to plug and play. It makes a nice clicking sound when things are put together and it’s really impressive what Bandai achieved since it seems like there’s little chance of forcing something into place at the risk of breaking it.

Of course, the fun doesn’t end here. If you have the Dragonzord, you can take advantage of that as well. The Dragonzord has a battle mode in which it basically assumed the role of the T-Rex zord in the Megazord construction. The mastodon becomes the arms as the chest piece is removed and the Dragonzord arms fold in to make a new chest piece. A face can then fall down from the Dragonzord head while the legs of the Megazord serve the same purpose here. The T-Rex and pterodactyl are free to do whatever they wish, and in the show the T-Rex would often fight alongside the Dragonzord in this battle mode, though in toy form the scale is way off. The Dragonzord’s tail also combines with the former chest piece and the included shaft to make the Power Lance, or Power Lazer Drill (as the box refers to it as). It’s pretty neat to behold, and like the Megazord the transformation process is really satisfying. The only thing I don’t like about it is the drop-down face on the Dragonzord has nothing behind it so it kind of just swings there. And while the lance is pretty cool looking, it’s functionally useless since it’s so huge. It has a handle that basically just rests in the hand of the zord, but the zord itself can’t actually wield the thing. Modern iterations make this aspect work better by fudging with the scale just like the show does by including an extra lance for play purposes.

If you wish to leave your Megazord intact though, you can still combine it with the Dragonzord to from the Mega-Dragonzord. This one is a bit less interesting as it’s basically the Dragonzord with the chest and tail removed and draped over the top of the Megazord. The tail can clip onto one of the sides, as can the discarded chest piece of the Dragonzord, though it basically just looks cool. This version of the character was deployed more like a tank in the show as it would just shoot a giant laser at the enemy as opposed to battling with fists and sword or whatever. It’s also this version that can combine with the unfortunately named carrier zord, Titanus, to form the Ultrazord. It’s another tank-like mode and the only change is the chest of Titanus is clipped onto the chest of the Mega-Dragonzord as it’s placed inside the carrier zord. I never really cared for the Ultrazord as a kid, so I have little compulsion to go after a Titanus so you probably shouldn’t expect a review of that one to come.

I don’t see myself getting a Titanus to form the Ultrazord.

There’s no doubt in my mind that had I been able to collect this line as a kid I would have loved the hell out of it. These are some of the best toys of the early 90s and it’s no surprise they ended up being incredibly popular. I could see myself transforming and de-transforming these things constantly and swapping in all manner of other action figures I had laying around as bad guys, maybe even big stuffed animals. I was also the type of kid that could busy himself for long stretches of time just playing with my action figures so imagination was never an issue. Not that these toys even require much since they’re so similar to what was presented in the show.

Acquiring both the Megazord and the Dragonzord has certainly scratched an itch for me. I don’t think it’s going to lead to much more from me where Power Rangers are concerned, but who knows? My kids have really taken to it, and I read Hasbro is looking to release a Megazord later this year so I may need to keep an eye out for that if my kids remain interested. In looking at the other iterations that have come, I’m certainly tempted to by the Soul of Chogokin version, but I likely won’t be able to justify the expense and take on another line of collecting. That’s fine though, because I have what I always wanted. It may have taken nearly three decades, but I finally have a Megazord!


Bandai Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Dragonzord

So a week ago I did a post that I titled The Toys that Got Away. It was about toys that I had pined for as a child, but for one reason or another, was unable to ever acquire. It wasn’t intended to be a sympathy piece or anything, because I had an awesome childhood and rarely was left wanting, and was intended to be a shared experience piece as everyone can likely recall a toy or other item that they wanted really bad at one point in time, but never attained. Well, the thing with toys is that they never go away. Sure, they disappear from store shelves (and in the case of toy stores, sometimes the very shelves disappear) and eventually go out of production, but there’s almost always a robust after-market for even the most obscure of toys. And once a kid becomes an adult, they usually have access to more money and that’s certainly the case for me so after making that post I went out and did the predictable: I bought a Dragonzord.

Back in 93, I found myself a fan of the show Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Many kids at the time could claim the same and Bandai was unprepared for the show’s popularity. And that’s important because Bandai handled the distribution of toys which meant that come Christmas 1993 a lot of kids wondered why there were no Power Rangers under the tree. I was definitely one of those kids, to a point, but I think my fandom took hold more in 1994. That’s when I found a flyer for the Dragonzord which came bundled with an 8″ Green Ranger action figure. I hung onto that advertisement for months telling anyone who would listen that I wanted that for my birthday when the summer came around. I figured that was enough time for my mom or grandmother to find it somewhere, but alas I was wrong. I couldn’t tell you what I did get, probably some Genesis games, maybe some X-Men toys, but I did not get a Dragonzord.

It’s been 26 years and I’ve hung onto that. Not that it has haunted me or anything, but any time I encounter the Power Rangers franchise I inevitably think about those old toys I was unable to acquire. Recently, I’ve started watching the original series on Netflix with my own kids and they seem to like it. The show is just as insane as I remember and it often feels like it’s making up the rules of the setting as it goes along. As an adult, it’s really easy to now notice when the old footage from Japan is spliced into the American production. It’s still pretty fun, in a good-bad way, but more than anything it just constantly reminds me how much I felt I had missed out when it came to the toys.

After doing some light research, I decided to just go for it. Going after a Dragonzord in 2020 presents more options. Bandai reissued the big guy as part of its Legacy line and Tamashii Nations has also released one semi-recently as part of its Soul of Chogokin premium collector line. There’s even a mini-one from a separate line of model kits that was really tempting, but in the end I felt I had to just get the one I had wanted as a kid. Maybe I’ll be tempted to upgrade at a later date with a more modern one, but I feel like I’d be doing my inner child a disservice by not getting the one I had wanted all those years ago.

I was able to score a Dragonzord complete in box on eBay along with the coveted Green Ranger (aka the best Ranger). I feel a little crazy in doing it since I don’t consider myself a Power Rangers fan. I have no idea where I’ll end up putting this thing, but I finally have a Dragonzord.

Before this guy arrived I tried to keep my expectations in check. This is, after all, a toy from the early 90s and it’s not going to compare to what I’m used to buying these days. It’s also the Dragonzord, a character that was pretty stationary in the show. He’s got stubby arms and basically no neck. He can kind of walk and has a tail with a drill-bit at the end, but mostly he’s supposed to just stand there and look cool (unless you have a Megazord to combine him with). And then there’s also the fact that this is a used toy with stickers that have already been applied that likely aren’t going to look great now.

The box the figures come in is pretty intense looking. Mine, being used and supposedly stashed in an attic, is pretty beat-up, but the graphics are all intact. There’s even some bios on the side of the box and, of course, advertisements for the rest of the line on the rear. It’s a pseudo-window box release as there’s a space for the Green Ranger to peek through, so buyers knew they were getting the figure as well. To see the main event though, you have to open the box up.

The Dragonzord comes packaged without his chest piece and everything is housed tightly in styrofoam. There are instructions for how to piece the thing together and also how to integrate it with other sets. There would have been a sticker sheet as well, but that’s not the case with a used set. His tail is in one pice, and there’s also a stand, base, and handle for the Power Lance for use when combined with the Megazord set. The Green Ranger comes with his golden shield on so he looks cool in the box. I assume his blade-blaster was holstered as well originally.

The Green Ranger stands a little over eight inches tall – let’s call it eight and a quarter. In 1994 this line represented a new era in terms of articulation, though by today’s standards it’s not quite as good. Tommy is articulated with a balljoint at the neck that actually sits below the neckline and in the figure’s chest. Mine is a little loose, but he holds a pose no problem and has a good range of motion there. His shoulders, on the other hand, are nice and tight and they’re on balljoints as well. He has a bicep swivel, and hinges at the elbows, wrist, and knuckles. The thumbs are frozen in place, and the index finger on each hand is a separate piece to give him trigger-finger poses. His legs are on balljoints with swivels above the knee. The knee is a standard hinge joint and there’s a hinge joint at the ankle as well. Excepting the neck, all of the joints are good and tight on my figure so he can hold any pose I can put him in. He doesn’t have quite enough articulation to achieve a wealth of posing options as he’s really harmed by the lack of waist and torso articulation, but if I had a team of Rangers I could probably get a decent display out of them.

The sculpt for this figure is the same sculpt Bandai used for all of Rangers. For the males, it’s fine, but for the females it looked worse. He’s got some bulk to him, but nothing outlandish. A lot of the figure is molded plastic, save for the white diamonds on the body and the green ones on the gloves and boots. The only other paint is reserved for the helmet and it’s nice and clean. The shield is a hard, light, plastic and it clasps together at the top seam. It can easily be removed and if done so the chest features a power coin design, something Bandai did with all of these figures even though no such design is featured in the show. For the Green Ranger, the coin image also looks like Titanus for some reason, as opposed to the Dragonzord or the emblem he has in the show. Students of the show will also notice that the Green Ranger isn’t 100% accurate as he’s missing the gold bands around his biceps, and his gloves and boots should have gold trim. The green diamonds should also be triangles. This is Bandai just being cheap as they copied the same design as the other Rangers, just switching in green. Even still, he looks the part enough and is an attractive piece. The only other negative is those hands are a bit annoying. Articulated fingers were a bad idea, but we didn’t know it at the time. It can be more challenging than it should be to get the blaster into one of the hands and have it look right. The blaster is also unpainted, but that was pretty common of accessories back in the 90s. Also of note, there’s no dragon dagger! Oh well.

Now lets talk about the big guy. The Dragonzord is only slightly taller than the Green Ranger as he’s just a tick under eleven inches. Future zords in this line would come with tiny representations of the Ranger pilot, which actually would have made a lot of sense for this figure had Bandai thought of it since the Green Ranger sometimes stood on the Dragonzord’s head. The Dragonzord has a lot of stickers that I thankfully did not have to put on. Some have taken a beating and could use some glue, but all in all this guy looks pretty nice for an almost 30 year old toy. As anticipated, there isn’t a whole lot of articulation to speak of. He basically can move his legs only. The drill-tip of the tail can spin, and if you disengage the arms from the body you can kind of gain a little articulation there, but that’s pretty much it. The horn on his head can also slide back and forth as I think it’s supposed to position straight-up for the fighting mode transformation. He’s basically a dragon-shaped tank so he’s not supposed to do much aside from just stand there and look cool.

The Dragonzord disassembles pretty easily, and I presume attaching him to the Megazord components would be just as easy. Everything clicks together in a very satisfying manner, and the designer took care to make sure parts can only go in a certain way to keep things simple. Popping off the tail is a cinch and from there the whole body basically splits in two with the chest piece sliding out from there. The chest piece is battery operated and is supposed to blink and make Dragonzord sounds, but mine arrived with two batteries that long ago burst inside it so mine does not function. With the chest piece out, you can also drop open the Dragonzord’s mouth to reveal a robotic face underneath for when it’s combined with some of the Megazord parts to go into its fighting mode. It’s in that mode that it’s supposed to use the Power Lance, which is just the chestpiece affixed to a separate part and the tail attaches to the top. It’s a very cumbersome-looking weapon, but it’s still pretty cool. The whole unit has some nice weight to it. It’s a bit creaky, but doesn’t feel cheap.

That’s a big lance.

As a toy in 2020, this thing is actually still pretty cool. There’s not a whole lot that can be done to improve the Dragonzord. The tail isn’t entirely accurate as it’s supposed to be longer with more segmented parts, but then the Power Lance would look even more ridiculous. Modern toys basically just include extra pieces for the tail that get discarded when the lance is formed, but Bandai was likely looking to keep the extra pieces at a minimum since kids tend to lose them (plus they add cost). Some of the sculpting could be better, like the hands of the Dragonzord which feature stickers for the missile portions. For the most part though, this looks like the thing from my television so there’s little to nitpick. The Green Ranger could obviously have better articulation and a paint-job that better matches the show, but even he still looks pretty cool. Never underestimate the appeal of a shiny, golden, shield.

As a result, I have no regrets about picking this guy up. I do wish I had inquired with the seller regarding the electronics as that wasn’t disclosed in the listing, but I honestly don’t know if it would have stopped me from buying it. I could always buy another chest piece as loose parts show up on eBay from time to time anyway. And since this is an old toy, I don’t feel as much anxiety when I let my kids play with it. The only worry I have is that shield on the Green Ranger getting broken. Mostly, now I just wish I had a Megazord to combine with this one!


The Toys that Got Away

My whole life I have loved toys. Anytime I had money as a kid I wanted to spend it on a new toy, for my birthday I always wanted more toys, and when it came time to write Santa a letter I asked for more toys. Most kids like toys, that’s a given, but I feel like many mix in some other loves as well. Maybe arts and crafts, movies, books, comics, etc. And I liked a lot of that stuff too, but not enough to sacrifice even a tiny fraction of my toy allotment. As an adult, my love continues though I’m not as single-minded when it comes to my pursuits and hobbies. Though even now, few things thrill me in such a unique way as a brand new toy.

For a kid with a middle-class upbringing, I really wasn’t left wanting for too much. My parents usually delivered around the holidays and I had a grandmother that seemed to enjoy buying me toys as much as I enjoyed receiving them. It also helped that I liked action figures and they usually weren’t too expensive. Most Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cost less than a Barbie, and I never really got into more expensive properties like Transformers and Lego. Sure, I had a few from both lines here and there, but for the most part I focused on one major franchise.

Even though I rarely lacked for anything, inevitably there’s always something that remains elusive. Either the toy was hard to find or it arrived at an inopportune time, but there are a few items that vexed me as a child enough to still leave a lasting imprint. Now that I’m an adult, there’s sometimes a temptation to try and fill that void now that I have the means, even though I know doing such is often fleeting. A recent reintroduction of a certain property to my life has recalled some of these feelings though and is serving as the genesis for this post, and I’ll save those for last. This post though is about the toys I never got as a kid, but am sorely tempted to seek out now.

Venom II – Toy Biz 1992

Toy Biz had the comic book figure on lockdown in the 80s and 90s. It even held both the Marvel and DC license at the same time, before it eventually became owned by Marvel through one of the venerable comic book company’s many bankruptcy filings. Toy Biz no longer exists now, but it was best known for its Marvel action figures and the first line was simply referred to as Marvel Super Heroes. As part of that line’s second series, a Venom action figure was introduced. It came with a plastic spider that resembled the insignia on Venom’s chest. It could be inserted into a rather large hole on the figure’s back and squeezing it caused black goo to ooze from a hole on the figure’s chest. Eventually, a running change would be made to replace the spider with a generic red plunger that was instead intended to just use water instead of slime. The lame gimmick, combined with the giant hole it required exist in the figure, made this Venom kind of shitty.

Toy Biz rectified this with a new figure in 92. I recalled seeing it for what felt like a year on the back of other card-backs, but never could find it in stores. This Venom was leaner with a bit more articulation. It’s gimmick was a tongue-flicking action controlled by a little button on the figure’s back which was simple and didn’t detract much from the sculpt. It also came with a chest attachment that I guess was meant to create the illusion of a living costume, but it was kind of dumb. Venom would become my favorite Marvel character, due mostly to my dad taking me to a flea market where he bought me a copy of Lethal Protector #1. When the Spider-Man cartoon arrived in 94, it meant more Venom action figures so even though I really wanted this one, the sting of never finding him was mostly removed. This is the only toy on this list that I did seek out as an adult. Since I have him now, I can say if I had been able to find one in 92 it probably would have been one of my favorite toys for a long time, at least until the Venom II from the cartoon line with removable mask.

Monty Moose – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1993)

I had a lot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toys as a kid, most of which are now gone which is unfortunate (kids, don’t let your parents throw away your old action figures!). That line was fairly easy to collect because it was well distributed and also pretty affordable. When the first figures came out, they retailed for $3.99 in my area – that’s a mere two visits from the Tooth Fairy! Because for a few years Turtles were all I wanted I usually cleaned-up at Christmas and birthdays and as a result there were only a few I didn’t get that I really wanted. Some of them included really popular characters like Baxter Stockman and the Rat King, but for some reason the only one that bothers me a little today is Monty Moose.

Monty even got featured in a commercial, though he never made it into the cartoon.

I don’t know what it was about Monty Moose I found so appealing. Moose are kind of funny looking in general, and Monty Moose certainly looked a bit odd with his huge antlers and long snout. I also really liked the blue and red color combo as a kid, so he was just eye-catching to me. And I saw him in a store on one occasion. It was an Osco Drug, which I don’t think even exists anymore. For those who don’t remember, Osco Drug is basically like a CVS or Walgreen’s and it was a store that was never known for its toy selection. My mom and I had to go into one for a prescription for some reason, it wasn’t our usual pharmacy, and we walked down the toy aisle and I saw Monty Moose staring back at me. I tried to get my mom to buy it for me, but I think my birthday was coming up so she was in no mood to buy me a toy with that on the horizon. My birthday would come and go and I had to beg my mom to take me back to that specific store now that I had some birthday money. She thought it was silly to go to a pharmacy, of all places, to spend birthday money, but she took me and of course the figure was gone. I’d never see him again.

Batman Returns Batmissile Batmobile – Kenner 1993

Despite being a bit dark, the Tim Burton Batman films were a merchandising behemoth for DC and Warner Bros. I had a few toys from the first film and the supplemental series Kenner produced in-between, but what really caught my attention was the Batmobile from Batman Returns. If you recall, in the film, the Batmobile demonstrates a new ability to shed the sides of the vehicle to take on the form of a skinny, missile-like, vehicle to fit through a narrow alley. Kenner made a Batmbile that could do the same with the push of a button, and when I saw the commercial I immediately wanted it.

I do wonder how well this thing actually worked.

I had that toy on my Christmas list for 1993, and when Christmas morning came there was indeed a Batmobile under the tree. Only it was the wrong one. I was never one to complain about gifts, so I was happy to have a Batmobile. This was one was a re-release of the first film’s Batmobile with pop-up machine guns. It was pretty cool, just not what I wanted. It was somewhat overshadowed though by another gift that year – a Sega Genesis. Sometime after the holiday, I even saw the Batmobile that I yearned for at the toy store. I had some money and nearly bought it, but I did the smart thing and decided to be happy with what I had and put that cash towards something else. And I feel good about the decision even now and I mostly have it on this list because I’m still curious if the gimmick worked well or not.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Green Ranger and Dragonzord – Bandai 1993

And now we get to the real deal. Recently, my son has shown an interest in Power Rangers largely thanks to his best friend having some affection for the property. We’ve watched around ten episodes or so of the original run, and it’s stirring some memories. Painful memories.

Power Rangers burst onto the scene in the late summer of 1993. Saban Entertainment had found it hard to sell the property to American broadcast networks for years, and maybe because of that there was skepticism that the property would be a success. Whatever the reason, the show ended up being a smash hit, but Bandai of America was woefully unprepared to meet the demand for toys. Which sucked because the toys were awesome! The Rangers themselves were huge, around 9 or 10 inches, with loads of articulation. I had never seen an action figure with finger articulation before, and it blew my mind! I wanted them, but I wasn’t quite sure how much since the show was pretty new. I was also at an age where it was almost taboo to like it. I was supposed to be growing out of toys, but I found them way too compelling.

When these came out, I thought they were the most incredible action figures imaginable.

I didn’t get any Power Rangers toys in 1993 and I spent much of 94 chasing them without much luck. I would eventually get a Power-Morphing Green Ranger, but that was nearly all I got. What I really wanted was the deluxe Green Ranger who came bundled with the Dragonzord. I even found a page from a flyer sitting outside at my grandmother’s house advertising the set. I carried that thing around and clung to it reminding my mom and grandma that I really wanted that toy, but try as they might, it just didn’t happen.

He’s practically a statue, but damn does he looks cool.

I never once saw that toy in a toy store. To this day, I’ve never seen it in person. None of my friends had it, and because of that I still kind of want it. Looking at the set now, I still think that Green Ranger is pretty slick. The Dragonzord impresses me less, but he’s still a delightfully, chunky, robot dragon and robot dragons are pretty awesome on their own. It doesn’t do much beside just look cool, but that’s basically all I ask of my toys in this day and age.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Deluxe Megazord – Bandai 1993

As much as I wanted that Green Ranger and Dragonzord, I think the toy I wanted most that I never was able to my hands on was the Deluxe Megazord from the same line. Tommy the Green Ranger was my favorite of the Power Rangers for the time I watched this show (basically up to the first movie), so I naturally wanted the best toy based on him along with the zord. The White Ranger was cool too, but not as cool as the Green Ranger. The Megazord though, was just too awesome to ignore. It was five robots that combined into one massive robot – how awesome is that?! Yes, I realize this made the toy very similar to Voltron, but the Voltron toy from the 80s didn’t impress me much because it didn’t really look like the cartoon. It had to fudge with the scale of the lions a bit to work in real life, and that’s the type of thing that would bother me as a kid.

Now you can re-enact that same transforming sequence you see every episode!

The Megazord, however, seems like it was designed to be a toy from the very start. The toy basically imitated the transforming sequence from the show to perfection. The only compromise really was in the articulation of the finished product. The show would feature models to assemble the Megazord, but once formed it then swapped that out for a guy in a costume who would battle the monster of the week. He could obviously move in ways a clumsy toy could not, but that seemed like a small price to pay for such accuracy.

Robots that combine to form bigger robots are arguably the greatest toys ever made.

Unlike with the Green Ranger/Dragonzord set, I did actually see the Megazord in the flesh. A kid in my class brought one into school, maybe for show and tell or something, and he showed it to me at his desk. Cruelly, he wouldn’t let me touch it, but he at least demonstrated the transformation including both the robot and tank modes. I was floored by it and I wanted it so bad, but it was just so impossible to find! I never saw the thing in stores and I’m sure my grandmother likely never did as well.

I was able to get the Red Dragon Thunderzord (left), but never did get the rest.

When the showed moved on from the original zords, the toy supply improved. For Christmas, my grandmother was finally successful when it came to Power Rangers and she was able to get me the Red Dragon Thunderzord as well as some of the roleplay toys (blaster and morpher). The Red Dragon was pretty cool, and if I’m being honest, a better toy than the Dragonzord would be. I was never able to get the other zords though to form the new Megazord, and by the following Christmas the fad had passed for me. I would put all of my energy towards video games at that point, leaving toys behind for a few years.

In 2010, Bandai re-released the original Megazord, now often referred to as the Dino Megazord. It was almost an exact recreation of the 93 toy with a few changes to make the set cheaper to produce. The wheels were removed from the Triceratops and Sabre-toothed tiger, as well as the articulation on their guns. Otherwise though, it’s basically the same. It retailed for $75 and I am kicking myself now for not just buying it then. The 93 version, if you can find one in good condition, easily fetches thrice that on eBay and the re-releases are expensive too. I was tempted to buy one when I was first on my own, but got cold feet and didn’t really know what I would do with. Maybe my son or daughter will become obsessed and force my hand, or maybe Bandai will re-release it again when the show turns 30 in three years and I’ll finally take the plunge. Or maybe the Megazord is just a toy destined to haunt me for the rest of my days.


Dragon Ball Z – Budokai HD Collection

budokai hdOh, you thought we were done with DBZ?! Oh no, I have some more Dragon Ball related material to share with you and even though we’re done with the movies, I thought now was as good a time as any to talk about some video games. If you’re a usual reader, you may recall I did a post earlier this year on Super Dragon Ball Z, the Street Fighter inspired fighter for the PS2. It was the upcoming release of Arc System Works’ Dragon Ball FighterZ that inspired me to revisit that old game, and the same can be said of the Budokai series.

In case you need a refresher, Dragon Ball Z – Budokai was the Infogrames fighting game franchise of the early 2000’s and it was also the first real entry point for DBZ into global gaming. Prior to Budokai, the only Dragon Ball video games to make it out of Japan were the NES platformer, renamed Dragon Power in the US, based on Dragon Ball and the PSX fighting game Dragon Ball GT – Final Bout. Yes, somehow a game based on Dragon Ball GT made it to American soil before a Dragon Ball Z game. That early Dragon Ball game for the NES was simply a case of anything being available in Japan was brought over to other markets. It was altered so that it barely resembled Dragon Ball and there’s a chance that gamers who owned the abysmal title and went on to become fans of the franchise likely needed to read about it later in life to make the connection. Final Bout was likely released outside of Japan because it coincided with the 3D fighting game craze and the first real attempt at bringing the anime to America as well. It was a truly abysmal game that sold poorly. The anime was a flop initially so it kind of went away, but once the show became popular via Cartoon Network the after market price on Final Bout went crazy as it was the only video game released in the territory and fans wanted something, even if it was terrible.

dragon power

Technically, this was the first Dragon Ball game released outside of Japan, though you wouldn’t know it by the cover.

Of course, if you were living in Japan you had plenty of options when it came to DBZ fighters. The Super Famicom especially had a bunch of them and the PSX had an additional 2 and all were based on Dragon Ball Z as opposed to the far less popular Dragon Ball GT. Fans desperate for some DBZ content for their video game machines, like myself, turned to imports and emulation to get their fix, but in truth few of these games were worth playing. The only ones I can recommend half-heartedly were Dragon Ball Z – Hyper Dimension, a 16-bit fighter that didn’t control particularly well, but the visuals were impressive. On the PSX, Dragon Ball Z – Legends was a pretty ugly looking early PSX game, but it’s 3 on 3 simultaneous combat was really interesting and the simple, timing based, combat was actually pretty satisfying. It was just a shallow experience and once you saw everything the game offered there was little reason to return.

Once the show finally became popular around the turn of the millennium, there was a substantial rush to get content to the newly created global audience. Irwin Toys started cranking out new action figures and accessories while clothing and posters started popping up everywhere. The games took some time, and Bandai was awarded distribution for Japan while Infogrames, and later Atari, received the North American license. Dimps was selected as the developer and they got set to creating Budokai. Simultaneously, a Game Boy Advance game was also developed and released as The Legacy of Goku, an action-RPG that was at least interesting though not particularly fun. Because there was such an appetite for DBZ anything, Budokai really didn’t need to be a good game to sell well. It also didn’t need to be particularly good to immediately become the best DBZ fighting game ever released. Review-wise, it received a somewhat ho-hum reaction from critics, but fans seemed relatively pleased. It sold well enough to spawn two sequels, and 10 years after its initial 2002 release it received a high-definition makeover alongside Dragon Ball Z – Budokai 3.

hyper dimension

If you absolutely need to import a DBZ game, I’d suggest Hyper Dimension.

If you have never played a Budokai game, then let me tell you how it works. At its cores, it’s a simple 3D fighter. Characters can move in the foreground and background and are capable of attacking, blocking, firing ki blasts, and charging up their power meter. Each character typically has multiple health bars so stronger fighters will have additional health over weaker ones that’s clearly illustrated. Characters can also fly, but not at will. Instead, if a combo attack sends a fighter into the air they’ll kind of just hover in place once they recover from the attack. Simply pushing the directional pad towards an airborne fighter will cause the player-character to take to the air in pursuit.

final bout

Before Budokai, this was the best American fans had.

The main criticism of the original Budokai was the lack of beam attacks. Rather than simply ordering Goku to unleash a Kamehameha wave, the move was affixed to the end of a combo. A series of punches would end in Goku performing his signature attack, but at very close range so it was hardly spectacular looking. Instead, the eye-catching attacks were left to the super moves which are the moves that are designed to be difficult to pull off, but when successfully deployed, unleash devastating amounts of damage via a cinematic. These moves include Vegeta’s Final Flash and the like.

goku vs vegeta

The original Budokai does a decent job of laying the groundwork, though the visuals were never considered great even for the time.

Dimps seemed to target two important factors when creating the game:  make it look authentic and make it easy to play. As a result, all of the fighters essentially feel the same and have the same move-set, just with different results. In order to make the game feel authentic though, Dimps made sure to include various transformations in its games. Once advancing passed the Freiza arc, Goku could unlock his Super Saiyan transformation and use that in battle. Prior to getting it, he also had his Kaio-ken technique. Dimps even gave Piccolo his fusions from the series with Nail and Kame as transformations. The game featured a story mode that went up through the Cell Games and featured a roster of 23 characters. Later games would focus on expanding upon the roster to include practically anyone who ever partook in a fight during the series.

budokai story

The first game does at least boast better presentation in terms of its story mode, though these visuals are kind of “yuck.”

Budokai was a success, and it soon became an annual franchise. Budokai 2, released the following year and not included in this collection, corrected a lot of what people disliked about the original. Ki blasts and flying were now more manual than before and the story mode received more cinematics and was overall more rewarding (though it featured a weird board game interface). The roster was also greatly expanded upon due in large part to the game featuring the Buu Saga. More transformations were available and the game was largely just more fun. Budokai 3 arrived the following year with even more characters and moves and yet another revamped story mode. Instead of playing through the events of the show, players could select specific characters and experience the story from their perspective. And doing so also allowed the player to simply fly around the world looking for the next event as well as hidden ones. It felt less restrictive, and was thus pretty exciting.

budokai 3 story

Budokai 3’s story mode was more engaging, if lacking in the presentation department. It makes up for it though with much improved graphics and styling.

So how do these games hold up in 2018? Well, not surprisingly the original Budokai is showing its age. The visuals have been upgraded to HD, but the textures were so bland and basic to start-off that there’s virtually no improvement. It makes everyone look like vinyl dolls and the empty battle maps are even more boring than before. The simple combat is easy to grasp, but also not particularly engaging. This game is basically here as a nostalgia trip and to illustrate how the series began. Fire it up if you either never played it or just want to relive it, but after that you probably won’t play it again.

Budokai 3 is the main attraction of this set. There’s still a section of the fandom that considers it the best DBZ fighter ever released. It was the last main Budokai title as the many sequels saw the series move in a different direction, sometimes for the better and sometimes not. There was a PSP edition of the franchise called Shin Budokai and some place the 2006 title Infinite World in the Budokai series, but this was the last numbered entry. It’s quite easy to see how refined the game is in comparison with its predecessor. The visuals took on a more cell-shaded approach with additional detail and the move to HD doesn’t highlight the imperfections like it does with the first game. DBZ has a pretty simple, yet distinct, look and it doesn’t require incredible processing power to do it justice.

dragon rush 2

Dragon Rush adds some chaos to battles, but at the cost of skill.

From a gameplay perspective, the game is not quite as fast as I remembered. You will still spend most fights dashing at your opponent to unleash combos attacks and build towards bigger moves. I had forgotten how odd the gameplay structure was. Much of the fights hinge on your ability to pull off super moves and Dragon Rush attacks. The Dragon Rush is a bit convoluted, but it’s essentially a follow-up attack from a teleporting move. There’s a lengthy tutorial section in the game that’s not particularly helpful. It’s one of those things you just have to perform for yourself to get a feel for how it works. When connecting with one of these maneuvers, a quick-time event is enabled that’s basically a version of Rock-Paper-Scissors. The attacker selects a face button and the defender does as well. If the defender guesses right, the attack is thwarted. If not, it continues with both players now having only 3 face buttons to choose from. If the attacker is able to string together three successful attacks via this encounter, then a big move is unleashed and the opponent’s stamina (as well as some health) is knocked away leaving them more susceptible to damage. Actual super moves are done fairly easily by holding a shoulder button, but it starts a slow animation that can be tricky to connect with. And if you miss, you lose all of the energy stored for the attack. Connect and you get treated to another cinematic while also doling out some big damage. There’s always another QTE spot, this time with a meter rapidly filling and decreasing that you have to time properly, that determines how much damage the attack does.

gogeta fusion

There are lots of power-ups that take the form of transformations including fusion.

Fights have a tendency to be very reliant on those two moves. Whoever is better at pulling them off usually wins. The QTE spot injects some chaos as it’s entirely random, unless you’re playing against a human opponent and look at their controller. It’s not the most rewarding system, or perhaps it’s more appropriate to call it frustrating if you’re on the losing side. If you’re on the winning end then at least the cinematics are typically fun to see. The interesting change for the third game though was mostly in the stored energy each character has. Energy will gradually accumulate up to a certain point so you really need only charge your ki if you want to go for the biggest moves possible. This was a smart addition as the constant need to charge in other games was always the least enjoyable aspect. Transformations also aren’t the energy hogs they were in prior games so there’s more incentive to use the best ones.

The story mode felt revolutionary in 2004, though now it does feel more limited. Basically, you pick a character and fly around the world. Your character has a map and can also find a Dragon Radar to look for Dragon Balls. Activating your “senses” can sometimes turn-up hidden spots on the world that usually contain an item but sometimes contain a small story event – an easter egg, if you will. Various cities and popular landmarks appear on as well but you can’t really interact with them. If the name of the place displayed when flying over it then you can enter, but it just leads to a brief exchange with another character who may or may not provide an item. These are all done with still images and text – there are no cinematics in story mode which is rather bizarre. The most interesting aspect of the mode is that it can change depending on how many playthroughs you have done and if you have finished another character’s. Goku’s is the most robust, and if you play it a second time after getting through some of the other character’s stories you’ll take on some GT villains and even unlock Super Saiyan 4.

budokai 3 cooler

Budokai 3 expands upon the roster by drawing from the movies and Dragon Ball GT.

The goal of story mode is obviously to see it through, but it also features some RPG elements in the form of experience and stats. Leveling up a character gives you an ability point to place in various offensive and defensive categories. Each character also can equip a set number of items, with stronger items taking up multiple slots. This has been a feature in most DBZ games and allows for some level of customization. Frustratingly though, transformations always have a prerequisite that includes the prior transformation so if you want to use SS4 Goku you’ll need to devote 5 slots to transformations. If you want to fuse into Vegito then you’ll have to give up something. Characters can unlock a special Breakthrough capsule which contains all of their unique moves and abilities at the cost of taking up all of the ability slots. For a character like Goku who has the most unique capsules, it won’t include everything though which is kind of a bummer. The other short-coming of story mode is that it doesn’t include everyone. A lot of characters are playable including surprises like Tien and Yamcha, but only one villain has a story mode (and it kind of sucks) and characters you would expect to have one (namely Trunks) do not. There’s enough here to keep you busy for awhile, at least.

After getting caught up with these games, my main take-away was that anyone who thinks Budokai 3 is the best DBZ fighting game released has not spent enough time with newer entries. It’s not a bad game, but I’d rather play the Tenkaichi Budokai games over it. This game wants to capture the unique combat of the anime and sacrifices skill and control to do so. The Tenkaichi games were not difficult games to play, but their arena fighter approach made the games even more authentic and the super moves weren’t huge factors. With that out of the way, I will say I still had fun with Budokai 3. It took me a little while to get back into the flow of combat, but once I did I had a good enough time. There is a shallowness to the gameplay present so it doesn’t have the staying power of a more robust fighting game, and I wish they had dropped the Dragon Rush, but it does right by its license. I do wish the story mode featured actual moving images to tell its story, and the rewards for summoning the dragon are kind of lame. Considering I didn’t have to pay much to get this collection, I’d say it was money well spent. As for the original Budokai, it didn’t need to be included on this collection and I’m surprised it is. I would have much preferred Budokai 2, even if that game is pretty similar to 3. At least it featured a different story mode while including most of the gameplay enhancements featured in the third entry.


Bandai Dragon Stars Super Saiyan Trunks

IMG_2529Dragon Ball Super did to me what basically every cartoon/anime does:  it made me want toys based on it. It’s a compulsion I’ve never outgrown, apparently, and Bandai has made it fairly easy (but not cheap) to get what I want. Months ago I did an entry on the SH Figuarts Super Saiyan Vegeta. That line is like the premium action figure line for Dragon Ball Z (as well as other franchises) and a single figure from that line routinely sells for over $50. Not all fans are into 6″ figures at such a price point, and even though I have two such figures I can’t say I’m really into it myself, and for those fans Bandai has its Dragon Stars brand. These action figures are more in-line with what you would get from Hasbro. They’re super articulated figures that run for around $20, which is sadly the going rate for such toys in this day and age. They often have a few interchangeable parts and also come bundled with a piece of another figure. Collect the whole line and you can assemble a sort of bonus figure. Back in the days of ToyBiz and its Marvel Legends line that bonus figure was often a giant figure twice the size of a standard one, but in today’s world it’s just a standard sized figure.

The Dragon Stars line has produced a few waves at this point. The first was basically a Dragon Ball Z wave, but the second was all about Dragon Ball Super. When I was really into DBZ and collecting toys from Irwin, I always found the majority of Future Trunks figures a bit underwhelming. When I saw the Future Trunks from the Dragon Stars line it immediately caught my eye because it felt like a figure that had eluded me for years. Even so, I passed on it several times before it finally won me over and I’m sure that was at least due in part to the Future Trunks arc airing on television from Dragon Ball Super. Eventually, I caved, picking this guy up at my local GameStop and now I’m going to tell you all about it.

Trunks stands roughly 6″ with the tips of his hair taking him a little beyond that. He’s more or less in scale with the other figures in the line (from what I can tell) and he even looks fine with the Figuarts Vegeta next to him. Since this is from Dragon Ball Super, he’s in his attire from that show which doesn’t differentiate much from his look in DBZ. He still sports charcoal gray pants and yellowish boots, the main difference being now he has a denim coat that actually fits properly and he’s tossed in a red ascot for good measure. His clothing is torn in places reflecting the harsh life he’s had to live in his future battling the likes of Goku Black. He’s in his boosted Super Saiyan form from later in the arc, which is kind of like Super Saiyan 2 in terms of looks only Trunks is way more powerful. The show never gave this form a proper name, but Wikipedia refers to it as Super Saiyan Rage. He’s armed with his trusty sword once more and his figure actually comes with two: an unsheathed sword to swing around and a sheathed one that pops into his back. He comes packaged with a pair of fists, but he also has a pair of hands that can hold the sword and a pair of open hands in a Gallick Gun/Burning Attack position. Lastly, he comes with the head of Fused Zamasu which looks pretty awesome and does kind of make me want to collect all six figures in the wave to complete the figure.

Trunks’ range of motion is pretty typical of a modern action figure. He has ball joints virtually everywhere and his hands pop off and on easily enough. His head is really limited though and I think it’s due to the collar on his jacket. He’s kind of always looking down slightly. His arms are also hindered a bit and he doesn’t possess as much range of motion there as one would think. For instance, he can’t really do a proper Gallick Gun pose or really cross his arms. The cuffs on his sleeves also prevent his hands from pivoting back much. The legs on my figure are also a little loose, but not enough to make it hard to pose or stand him. In the end, he can do just enough to make it interesting to mess around with him on a shelf, but I can see feeling a bit let down as far as the articulation is concerned.

When a figure feels a bit lacking in the pose department, I often turn to the sculpt for value. In truth, the sculpt is the most important part for me since my figures just end up on a shelf. In the case of Trunks, the sculpt is pretty good for the price. If this were a $60 figure, I’d probably be disappointed, but as a $20 he’s solid. The hair looks good and it’s a nice, vibrant, yellow. He has a determined, serious, expression on his face which is befitting the character. The jacket and pants look good with enough little texture details to make them interesting. The sculpt also hides the articulation well giving him a clean look. The boots, oddly enough, are perhaps my favorite part as there’s some nice detail here. His sword and scabbard also look nice and clean. I’m guessing Bandai opted for this approach over a traditional sword that fits into a scabbard so that it didn’t have to compromise on the actual size of the sword. Cartoon swords tend to be illustrated much larger than the actual scabbard they’re supposed to fit into so I consider it a nice touch.

So what’s missing? Well, in addition to the articulation shortcomings it should be pointed out that this figure could have wowed in other ways. Not having a non Super Saiyan head is kind of a disappointment considering it doesn’t look like we’ll get a figure of that down the line. It’s not even really a cost issue as he has a second head, it’s just not a second Trunks head. It also would have been neat to see him come with his Hope Sword, but it also wasn’t something I expected.

Considering this is the first Dragon Stars action figure I purchased, did it sell me on the line? Yeah, it kind of did. I don’t really want to get too far down the line with another series of figures, preferring to stay in my lane of TMNT and Bucky O’Hare, but I could see myself getting a few more. The other five figures in this wave were mostly good, the only one I did not care for was Super Saiyan Blue Vegeta who has a weird face sculpt. These things tend to sell out though, so I don’t expect to run across any in a discount bin other than maybe Zamasu or Hit. I do like this look for Trunks though, and I really enjoyed his arc in Dragon Ball Super. I enjoyed it so much that I’m really tempted by the upcoming SH Figuarts version of this same figure due out later this year. That one actually has the things I would have loved out of this figure including a normal head and the Hope Sword. About the only thing it lacks is a standard Super Saiyan 1 head and an affordable price. At $65, it may just be too rich for me, but at least I have this one which is pretty good on its own.


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