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DVD Batles set 4 - "Pyramid of Darkness"

GI Joe Generation 3
by Monkey Boy

Hasbro's 25th Anniversary "Generation 3" GI Joe line is going strong, but one of the chief complaints from fans is that there are just too many damn repaints. Case in point: their "DVD Battles" packs, which typically feature four figures, one of which is new...if you're lucky. They also contain a DVD with one of the old Sunbow cartoon's story arcs, and a piece of the "M.A.S.S. Device," some kind of world-dominating contraption that can be built if you buy the first five DVD Battle packs. For a retail price of $20, you get a DVD, four figures, and a piece of a buil-a-contraption. Not a bad deal at all, considering the figures alone are inching up to $7 or $8 a pop at some retailers.

The first two battle packs didn't catch my attention much, featuring mainly scene-specific repaints and retools of figures I had no interest in. However, the second series caught my eye, as it featured some characters we hadn't yet seen in Generation 3 (like Dusty and Quick Kick) as well as some more cartoon-accurate versions of core characters I liked. I ended up choosing the "Pyramid of Darkness" battle pack, though I was tempted by the "Arise Serpentor Arise" set, what with its old-school Serpentor. Ultimately, I just couldn't justify "Montezuma's Skeleton" as an actual figure. The set I ended up with features Snake-Eyes, Cobra Commander, Major Bludd and Quick Kick.

Now, if there are any figures that have seen way too much play in the G3 line, they're ol' Snake-Eyes and Cobra Commander. In fact, the mold used for this set's resident would-be-dictator has already seen use eight (or nine? or 10?) other times since the line's inception, so far. This time around, Cobra Commander (or "Major Bludd" as his display stand would suggest - more on that in a minute) gets a newly sculpted head and left hand (it's no longer in a clenched fist). The new hooded head isn't quite as windswept as the previous CC hooded sculpt, but it's nothing special. In fact, it sits up very high on the neck and looks quite awkward, as if a Pac-Man ghost were floating atop a headless fellow in a blue suit. The bright blue paint scheme is supposed to be cartoon-accurate, but ultimately fails: the Cobra sigil on his chest should be much larger, and his hood should be a darker blue than the rest of his outfit. They did get the black belt/white belt combo right, though. CC comes with his pistol (which fits into a groove on his back, just like it did the other dozen or so times), a little silver serpent scepter microphone, and a control cube (aka a big translucent pink plastic square). Like everyone in the set, he gets a filecard and a display stand, although my set featured two "Major Bludd" stands and none for CC.

I hope you're still reading, because I really just wanted to get the bad out of the way first. The rest of the figures in the battle pack are quite nice. Take the ever-present Cobra mercernary Major Bludd, for instance. The first Major Bludd figure in the TFAC line was unanimously reviled. It was delivered late, and was little more than a sloppy repaint of the already controversial Zartan sculpt, right down to the chain link bracelet and skull belt buckle. Since then, there have been two more figures of Sebastian Bludd, one in this DVD set and one in the Desert Operations multi-pack. Each of them is quite unique, and each utilizes a different combination of parts... though they still all have that annoying techno-right-arm. However, instead of the Zartan torso, they both get the HISS Driver's torso instead, which works much better. While the Desert Ops Bludd gets a Cobra Trooper left arm and new legs, this Bludd keeps Zartan's arm and upper legs, though his lower legs are shared with the Desert Ops version. They also both get a new five-fingered right hand. Confused yet?

What it all amounts to is that this Bludd is a much closer match to the character of Major Bludd than the initial G3 Bludd was, though I still give the top prize to Desert Bludd. What really sells this figure is the paint. He's done up in cartoon colors! His helmet is a dark blue, his uniform is dark brown, his armor and boots are silver, and his shirt collar is even blue, just like in the cartoon. His face is also much nicer than the previous Bludd figure. Though it's the same sculpt, this time the teeth in his snarling mouth are actually painted white instead of left flesh-toned. It makes a world of difference. He comes with the same old accessories though: dogtags, rocket gun with four darts, backpack to hold the extra rockets. The dogtags fit worse than ever, and the rockets still fall out of the backpack too easily. Still, this guy is worlds better than the solo-carded Bludd.

Next up in the set is another figure we've seen way too much of: Snake-Eyes. Hasbro knows everybody likes Snake-Eyes, and what's not to like? He's a commando, he's a ninja, he's silent and mysterious, he has a pet wolf, he's all super-scarred and hardcore... and that's the problem, I guess. He's too cool. But that hasn't stopped Hasbro from giving us 10 Snake-Eyes figures so far since the 25th Anniversary line, with more to surely come. Most of the SE figures released thus far have shared some of the same parts; "Pyramid of Darkness" SE gets the standard SE torso, though his legs, arms, belt and head are new. This time, Snakes is meant to look more like his famous 1985 figure, one of the best and most sought-after figures in the Generation 1 Real American Hero line. What's that, you say? There's already been an '85-esque Snake-Eyes in the G3 line? Well yeah, sure, but see, it just wasn't fanboyish enough. So Hasbro gave us this one, which seems to be the closest Hasbro has come to what Mattel is doing with their "Masters of the Universe Classics" line: this SE features a more streamlined, less detailed sculpt than his previous G3 incarnations, with a more rounded mask and a much more tight-fitting outfit. He also gets the wrist-darts and ankle canisters of the '85 SE, plus a new simplified version of his three-grenade bandolier.

And yet, you can still hear that faint cry of fanboy moaning. Why? Because Snakes here is purple. A very dark, muted purple, but purple nonetheless. The reasoning is that technically he's cartoon Snake-Eyes, not '85 Snake-Eyes, and in cartoons flat black doesn't show up too well. It's not nearly as bad as the early Generation 3 comic packs with Play Doh-colored Cobra Commander and Duke, but it's not quite the ideal version that fans wanted. Fear not though, because there's a black version of this sculpt coming soon in a 5-pack. That version will also get an uzi, while this version gets a weapon sculpt reminiscent of the rifles the Joes used in the cartoon. He also gets a wicked curved sword, which is a nice nod to the '85 version of the figure. No pet Timber, though. For that you'll have to wait for the 5-pack.

The final figure in this set is the only character not to have seen release yet in the Generation 3 line. In fact, he hasn't had a figure since 1985. This is the second ever version of MacArthur Ito, GI Joe's own stuntman-turned-soldier, Quick Kick. And like his original release, he features an all-new sculpt, with no parts appropriated from other figures. It's a nice nod to his vintage figure, with a shirtless upper body and standard black pants, with a belt and red sash thrown in for good measure. He also bears a striking resemblance to Bruce Lee, and if it weren't for the headband, this would be an awesome 4" scale Bruce Lee figure. His intense expression, his sinewy musculature, it's all very Lee-ish. Oddly, his left hand is sculpted in a chopping pose, so he can only hold one of his weapons at a time. His nunchaku fit nicely in his right hand, while his sword can slip into a slot in his backpack... which plugs right into his bare back. There's no sculpted webgear to mimic a connection to the backpack, so I imagine Quick Kick is in a lot of pain.

Articulation on all figures is standard G3 Joe fare, with two exceptions. Everyone has a balljointed neck, balljointed shoulders, balljointed elbows, pegged wrists, balljointed torsos, balljointed hips, double-hinged knees, and balljointed ankles; except for Major Bludd, who lacks an elbow joint in his right arm, and Quick Kick, who has peg joints at his pant cuffs but no ankle joints whatsoever. Come on! He's a martial artist, let him point those toes! Hasbro has actually claimed that the designers wanted to make sure the feet looked good on a figure whose name was "Quick Kick"... Really? That's your answer?

The set also comes with the tread portion of the M.A.S.S. Device and a DVD which I foolishly tried watching. See if you can get past the introduction of the "Fatal Fluffies" without clawing your eyes out. They're cute little creatures who inexplicably morph into giant, horned, gun-toting, fire-breathing beasts at the sound of a whistle. They infiltrate GI Joe's... space... station... and are introduced when one of the Joes dictates aloud a card from Cobra Commander that clearly reads "I hope you enjoy thier [sic] 'split' personalities" despite the fact that the Joe in question clearly says "I hope you enjoy their deadly secret"... man, they must have thought kids really didn't know how to read. Somehow I managed to get to the scene where Shipwreck and Snake-Eyes, disguised as Cobra agents (despite the fact that Snake-Eyes is still dressed as a medieval ninja and both men still have their respective animal sidekicks in tow), fail to convince a voice authorization test administered by what appears to be a vacuum cleaner with legs. Did I ever really like this show?

Regardless of the unebelievably silly DVD, this set is actually worth the price of admission. I'd probably buy three of the four figures if they'd been carded and sold separately (which I'm sure they eventually will be), and that would already put me over the price of this set, what with most outlets carrying these figures for at least $7. So for less than the price of three individual figures, I can get that - plus a Cobra Commander to throw in the garbage, as well as a DVD that makes me think my entire childhood was a sham viewed through a haze of nostalgia. And don't forget the tank treads to a useless generic death ray I'll never complete! No but seriously, it's a chance to get a much better Major Bludd than the single card release, a pretty cool Snake-Eyes, and a new sculpt of a character not released in over 20 years. Not bad for twenty bucks.

-- 12/12/08

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