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Street Fighter
by yo go re

It was 2004 when SOTA rocked the toy-collecting world by releasing their Street Fighter line, delivering quality on par with larger, more established companies. And it was 2009 when that line stopped, leaving fans with a long, long drought of the World Warriors. But finally, someone new has put a quarter in the machine!

Country of Origin: Japan
Fighting Style: Martial arts rooted in Ansatsuken

That's all the packaging says. These toys are made by a company called "Jada," which is mainly focused on making die cast cars, so we're not going to fault them too much for not understanding that when you make an action figure of a human being, it's handy to take some space on the packaging to explain who that human being is. Like, Ryu (not-Hayabusa) may be one of the most recognizable characters in gaming, but how many people actually know anything about him? You can copy the info from the manual if you want - it's not like we're asking for you to tell us Ryu is functionally homeless, spending all his time walking the Earth looking for people to fight and earning money to travel by doing odd jobs, or that his special talent is "hitchhiking," but you've gotta put something on there.

There have been a couple Street Fighter figures since SOTA's days, but they were either not very good, not very successful, not very affordable, or not very Street Fighter. But after two decades, we've finally got something that's up to standards. You'd think that could have happened at any point in the past 20 years, but apparently not. Guess the "make quality toys" secrets were simply lost for a time. Or copyrighted by a company that wasn't using them for anything, like Warner Bros. Games and that Shadow of Mordor "Nemesis System."

Like the SOTA toy, Jada's Ryu has an alternate head. It's not yelling wildly, but it is angrier than the standard head, with the teeth gritted and the eyebrows... well, his eyebrows are always shaped like that, so never mind. It is worth noting that these sculpts are based on the videogame designs rather than the comics, so this time it's not just the costume that looks the way it should. "Round 1: Jada wins!"

Going along with his "no home, no belongings, no cash" life, Ryu only owns a single set of clothes - he used to also have shoes, but he either lost them or sold them sometime after his first appearance. He's wearing tattered white pants, a white shirt with the sleeves ripped off to show off his arms, and a black belt with the furinkazan printed on it - reminder that SOTA's figure had that sculpted, but not painted, so you'll have to decide which you like better. He has his red boxing gloves, but they're neither sculpted nor painted by the joint, so we end up with a big blank space between the pad on the back of the hand and the band around the wrist. On the other hand, the entire gi has been sculpted with a texture to make it feel like rough cloth rather than smooth plastic.

For their Ryu figure, SOTA made his shirt out of flexible PVC to preserve the articulation. Jada does the same, but still manages to raise the bar. See, if you tug on the knot of his belt, you'll find it can pop off the peg that holds it in place; then the trailing end can pop off too, and then also the front flap of the shirt... this figure's entire top is removable! It's not exactly a standard look for him, but the torso is fully detailed under there and isn't, like, sized weirdly, so it's clearly something they were intending for you to do. Gotta love having options in your display!

The thing that made SOTA's Street Fighter toys so exceptional was their high level of articulation, on par with Marvel Legends at the time (which, let's face it, is always a goal to strive for). That was, as we keep stressing, two full decades ago, and so the style of articulation has evolved since then. Well, the good news is Jada Toys is still aiming for the top, which means several advancements over the old toys. Ryu has a barbell head, balljointed neck, pectoral hinges, swivel/hinge shoulders, swivel biceps, double-hinged elbows, swivel/hinged wrists, a balljointed chest, balljoint waist, balljoint hips, swivel thighs, double-hinged knees, swivel shins, and swivel/hinge ankles. Really, the only thing not duplicated on this figure is the mid-foot hinge, and that's fallen almost entirely out of fashion these days, so no surprise.

Ryu includes fists or alternate hands, ones that are more open yet still in a "striking" pose. Whereas the only accessory SOTA gave their Ryu was a softgoods duffel bag, Jada gives him what he really needs: a translucent blue hadouken fireball. And more than that, there's a clear plastic stand to allow it to move through the air as it should. That's terrific!

Whoever is in charge of the Street Fighter line at Jada has really done something impressive, here. The company has no existing track record with making action figures like this, which should lead to some hiccups along the way - messy or incomplete paint, loose joints, things like that. Designing a figure is one thing, getting it all the way through production with no issues is another; but Jada's managed, and has delivered a better toy than the old SOTA Ryu.

-- 03/17/24

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