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C. Viper

Street Fighter IV
by Artemis

When you hear people refer to someone as a "suit," I don't think this is what they have in mind.

Fighting Style: Espionage (aided with tools)
Birthday: 7/18
Country of Origin: USA
Height: 5'9"
Weight: 123 lbs.
Measurements: 39/24/95
Blood Type: AB
Likes: Her daughter, money
Dislikes: Overtime
Hobbies/Skills: Magic

Okay, firstly - that's not a misprint (at least, not on my part), the packaging bio really does say she's 39/24/95. Those are some serious child-birthin' hips she's got there. Secondly, espionage isn't a fighting style, no matter what tools you use (I feel like Jamie Lee Curtis all of a sudden - "The London Underground is not a political movement!") Maybe the Street Fighter tournament's gone like the Olympics, with other disciplines posing as sports being admitted, like Synchronised Swimming and Dressage. No doubt in Street Fighter V we'll see fighters versed in the lethal arts of topiary, Warhammer 40,000 painting, and reciting the lyrics to Abba songs.

Still, whether or not she's biologically or combatively plausible, she's got an action figure, so let's get OAFEing (it's like reviewing, only better). NECA's not just up against random expectations here, they're going up against SOTA, who set the benchmark for Street Fighter back when they started their SF2 line - a bold move on NECA's part to take the SF4 license and try to muscle in on the action, and their boldness was rewarded by fate, as these figures are turning up not long after SOTA decided to really, really suck. It's the same as how no matter what Jeremy Irons did after Dungeons & Dragons, it'd look good (though I confess, I did think it a bit of a shame that he didn't bust out his Profion-style scenery-chewing insanity for Eragon, which would've suited it to a T). Anyway. Does Crimson Viper (or "C. Viper," as she's known in the first-initials-only world of Street Fighter) fare well against SOTA's fighters?

Well, I've owned her several hours and not had any desire to throw her at a wall, so yes. But let's be more in-depth than that, just for fun's sake.

She stands just over 7" tall - she'd be an even seven were it not for either her boots, or her crazy Mohawk/braid hairdo. NECA habitually go for fine detail, so she's a contrast to SOTA's animation-styled efforts already, with almost omnipresent fine texturing, predominantly her very tightly-stretched shirt, and the shallow texture of her pants and jacket. Her proportions are all as realistic as you'd generally find in a look-at-me-I'm-sexy action figure - physically, the only odd thing about her (besides her dress sense, of course) is the way her tie is sculpted rather thickly, which gives the impression that she doesn't really have a cleavage.

She's painted NECA-style too - the heavily tanned (shaded) torso really reminds me of their Lara Crofts, while the strong drybrushing on her shirt looks like other figures of theirs I've picked up such as Elizabeth Swann. The shirt may turn some people off - that kind of heavy paintwork is something you either like or you don't for its effect, because it never looks truly real - but overall she's painted very well, with good colour matching between parts, crisp work on the fine details like the buttons on her shirt and jacket, and mostly clean work on the dividing lines. The top of her collar could be a little better, but it's not worth getting het up about. The body of her jacket, which is soft plastic, is sculpted and painted a very close match to her sleeves and pants, so good work there.

Her face is... well, it's a bit hard to tell. There might be a bit of Angelina Jolie there in the facial structure, maybe a bit of Michelle Rodriguez in the expression, but what she's mainly got is a whole lot of sunglasses. Luckily they're a separate clear plastic piece, and they're meant to be that big, so they dodge the worst failings of most action figure specs. My figure's got an annoying spot of black paint on one of the lenses - on the inside - which obscures the right eye a bit, but it could've been worse; turned with her left side showing, it's not noticeable, but it's worth checking the paint if you buy in person just to be sure of getting the best available piece. Her hair - solid on her scalp, and soft plastic on the braid - is sharply defined, painted bright red and then washed to a darker crimson. I like the braid (although I should qualify that by saying that I like heavy washes generally), but the wash on her scalp is a bit half-hearted, and misses some areas, making her hair look streaky.

Now we come to articulation, SOTA's strong suit of old. NECA aren't McFarlane exactly - they know what a joint is - but while they've produced some credibly poseable figures now and then, you'd have to admit that generally they're more associated with display pieces than play-value toys. Viper's articulation is strong, I'll give her that - balljoint neck, swivel/pin shoulders, swivel biceps, double peg elbows, balljoint wrists, balljoint sternum, a swivel waist beneath the shirt (it's very stiff, but it's there), swivel/pin hips, swivel thighs, double peg knees, and shallow balljoint ankles. You can do a lot with that.

But, she's not a Street Fighter, not the way pre-suck SOTA taught us - moving her, you can see she's made for versatile posing, not the kind of play-with-me fun the old SOTA figures stood up to. As I said, the waist is stiff, and so were several of the other joints, needing careful coaxing, and I'm still not happy about how tough it is to move the shoulders without putting undue pressure on the rod inside the biceps - it's just a hunch, but that feels like a potential breakage point to me. Her hips, conversely, and rather loose - not won't-stand-up loose, but not what I'd look for in a play toy. They, and the shoulders, also feature NECA's great contribution to articulation suckage, the visible pin - why Diamond Select (several of whose Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica figures I picked up today as well) can do exactly the same joint inside a smooth, unbroken sculpt, and NECA have to have the damned pin showing in front and back of the ball, I can't fathom. They went to a lot of obvious effort to preserve the sculpt of Viper's pants around the hips as much as possible, and then plonked a great big joint right in the middle of each hip. Bizarre.

She has a second pair of hands as accessories - they pop off their balljoints easily, but grip firmly enough while in place, so no issues there. One pair is relaxed, the other clenched in fists, and both have the silver framework running over them which, I gather, is one of Viper's "tools," taser gloves. You're allowed to enter Street Fighter with those things? I know Blanka does roughly the same thing by himself, not to mention all the various fireballs and force bolts everyone else throws around, but this is getting silly - you'll have people just showing up with guns next. Both of Viper's feet have peg holes, but she doesn't come with a base - she can stand without one if you pose her properly, but it's not a bad idea to give her a base just the same, to prevent her trying her hand at shelf-diving.

Bottom line, this isn't a SOTA Street Fighter figure - but lately, neither have SOTA's figures been. Viper's got a different art style, a larger scale, and a different articulation mindset, but on the positive side, it's a good art style, scale, and the articulation's pretty decent, so long as you're not rough with her. She's also AU$10 cheaper than SOTA's Rainbow Mika, at least at my local comicshop where I got both, and all variables taken into consideration (and regardless of those stupid pins), she's the superior figure of the two. It's a shame she can't quite stand seamlessly alongside earlier SOTA figures, but better a good figure on her own than a bad one who fits with the group, I'd say.

-- 02/11/09

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