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Kratos - Ghost of Sparta

God of War
by yo go re

A few months ago, NECA teased that they would be releasing a figure they'd worked on many years prior, but didn't have the chance to make. It turned out to be Devil May Cry Dante, which I assume did come out at some point? It never showed up at my TRU, because of course it didn't. Anyway, while we were all reminiscing about those lost prototypes, one of the ones that came up was a super-articulated Kratos. And hey, look who's suddenly joining Dante in the "uncancelled" club!

In the end, there will be only chaos.

Several of our past reviews have made fun of how slowly I play videogames, and it's not an exaggeration - I literally started playing the first God of War a couple months ago (I'm in Pandora's Temple, so... about halfway through, I guess?), so it's going to be a while before I catch up with this one. The box calls him "Kratos - Ghost of Sparta," which is his nickname, but was also the title of a PSP game (back when the PSP was a thing); however, the side of the box clearly identifies this as being from God of War III. Either way, it'll be ages before this figure means anything to me other than "hey look, an impressive Kratos." Not that I mind that much. NECA'd again!

Kratos is sold in a fifth-panel window box that's larger than the other NECA Ultimate figures have come in - those boxes are about 6⅜" wide, while Kratos' is nearer 8¾". BIG box! The front is designed to look like the cover of the videogame (an extreme closeup of Kratos' left eye and the tattoo thereupon), the right side has the figure in cool poses, and the rear gives information about the contents.

The inside of the front flap has a drawing of the figure as the Vitruvian Man, and the backdrop behind the toy's tray depicts what we can only assume is the game's version of Mount Olympus - big hill, city on it, lightning flying about, etc. This is a nice presentation!

The first thing you're likely to notice about Kratos is his size. Even just scrutinizing paint apps in the store I got the feeling that he was oversized, and comparing him to a human figure the store had nearby confirmed that. The figure stands more than 7¾" tall; doesn't that seem large? NECA's figures are done in a 7" scale, which means this toy works out to be 6'8". That's not so unusual, I guess, but it still seems large. Looking back at the older Kratoi they made, though, they're about this same height. So if this is wrong, it's not a new wrong, and if this is right, it continues to be right.

The figure and the packaging are both credited only to Neobauhaus Studios, who has (have?) a good history with NECA. That's not changing now, because Kratos looks great. He has a perfectly angry expression on his angular face, whether you're looking at the open-mouthed head he has in the packaging, or the closed-mouth head you can swap it for. His beard is pointy, the scar over his eye is ugly and jagged, and there are even thin veins sculpted on his temples.

Kratos' skin is sculpted with an amazing texture - lots of tiny pores covering everything that's not clothing or armor. His outfit begins with the standards: sandals, shin-wraps, bandage underwear, and a skirt that's half-cloth/half-straps and held on by a thick metal belt with a meander. Chains wrap around his forearms, though he seems to have padding beneath them now, rather than them just being seared into his skin. There's a wicked scar on his stomach, which definitely pinpoints this as coming after GoW2.

His normal costume has been accessorized with a few specialized pieces of armor. First, on his right arm is the Golden Fleece, which (instead of being, you know, a fleece) is solid metal. It's referred to as an "armlet" in the game, but it's three pieces of armor: a curved plate over the shoulder, a larger piece on the upper arm, and a small piece on the forearm; the one over the shoulder has a texture like hammered metal, while the two arm plates have ram's horn designs. Secondly, he's traded his normal greaves for the Boots of Hermes, winged accoutrements that give Kratos a quick dash attack and allow him to run on specially designated walls.

The release of the original Kratos toy was the point where NECA stepped out from McFarlane Toys' shadow - they'd always had the sculpts, but Kratos was the first toy they made that moved, too. Kratos set NECA on the parth of articulation that continues to this day, so an "extra articulation" version of that is something to look forward to. Ultimate Kratos has a swivel head, balljointed neck, swivel/hinge shoulders, swivel biceps, double-hinged elbows, swivel/hinge wrists, a hinged torso, swivel waist, swivel/hinge hips, swivel thighs, double-hinged knees, balljointed ankles, and hinged toes. This figure is as superior to the old Kratoi as the first Kratos was to everything NECA had put out before.

The paint is excellent, too. The surface of his skin is pale gray, as it should be, and his red tattoo is darker than before. All the low places in his skin - the lines of the muscles and even the pores - are a slightly darker shade of gray, suggesting the pale ashy color is just a drybrushing. His lips are pink, there are dark circles under his eyes, and his teeth are picked out excellently. The pattern on his skirt, which is sculpted in, has very clean lines. The eyelet in the end of each leather strip is painted black. His armor is all gold, while the cloth wrappings match the maroon seen on his skirt. There's blood on his shoulder, the wings on his boots are a brighter red than the cloth, and his toenails get grey paint apps (but not his fingernails).

A killer sculpt and top-notch articulation isn't enough: Kratos needs weapons - and "weapons" he has! We begin with the Blades of Athena, which (like the Golden Fleece) first appeared in God of War II but hung around for III. Unlike the old toys, the pommels are not removable, so you'll just have to work them into his hands the old-fashioned way. When he's not using the Blades, they can stow on his back - he has a specially designed shelf to hold them. Unfortunately, they rest sharp-side down, which would make them hard to grab over his shoulders, but that's from the game, not something NECA designed. The backpack is removable, and so he doesn't end up with two big holes in his back, the set includes a pair of tiny caps that can plug in back there. Forethought!

The set also includes the Nemean Cestus (which should be "cestuses" or "cesti," since "cestus" is singular), two lion-shaped battle gloves. His hands slip all the way inside, counting on friction to hold them in place. You do have to remove the lowest piece of the Golden Fleece to get the right arm in - that's probably why it's unattached in the package, so you know it can be done. The cesti are solid chunks of plastic, and very heavy, so posing him while wearing them will take some careful balancing.

So now here's the bad part. This is "Ultimate Kratos," yes? To my mind, that means he should be the ultimate Kratos, the one that puts every other version to shame. So in a perfect world, this version would come with the flaming blade extensions and the Medusa head that old toys came with, in addition to the new stuff. Sadly, due to differences in the way the figures are built, you can't even swap the parts from those older ones onto this one. Without all the cool accessories, this is really more of a Penultimate Kratos, isn't it?

However, that doesn't mean you shouldn't buy him. That's just my personal feelings on the matter, not a warning to stay away; this is the best Kratos any company has made, and he's absolutely great! It's just that he's a 9.5 out of 10 instead of a 10/10. [It's a good thing toy fans aren't as hateful and insecure as gamers are, or we'd be facing an angry petition for ruining his Metacritic score --ed.] And look on the bright side: if you have those older figures, then you're not being forced to re-buy weaponry you already own just to get an awesome new toy.

-- 05/28/16

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