REVIEW: Square Enix MASS EFFECT Play Arts Kai Series 1
Shepard And His Crew Assemble. Are They Ready?...
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Way back in 2008, after the debut of BioWare's radical new sci-fi video game Mass Effect, I put out a plea for action figures and collectibles (see my story HERE). It has taken the release of two extremely successful sequels to turn the toy industry's head, but fans at long last have a sizeable selection of Mass Effect collectibles to choose from. There's a variety of nice statues, stunning 1:1 scale weapon replicas and two great assortments of 6-inch scale action figures. The latter have fit the need of many figure collectors, but for those that want the very best the action figure market has to offer, Square Enix's new Mass Effect Play Arts Kai are currently where it's at. Hitting U.S. shores now, series one launches with the game's main protagonist in male form - Commander Shepard, fan favorite turian agent Garrus Vakarian, and the sexy, potential love interest Ashley Williams. However, be prepared to pony up a little bit more cash for the best. Each Mass Effect Kai figure retails for around $64.99, a far cry from the almost $20 a pop of the smaller figure series, but oh so much worth it. Well, almost...
The packaging for this series is a more elaborate affair than most Kai releases, featuring a nice fifth panel window box, like a larger 12-inch action figure. This allows for some great toy photography on the front, the design resembling the cover art for Mass Effect 3. Opening the panel reveals an informative character bio on the flip side and a clear look at the figure and its accessories. The inside panel, as well as the viewing window, also feature schematics on the two included weapons - a very nice touch seeing how Mass Effect is all about the small details.
The back of each box is your typical Kai design, starring the said action figure in multiple action poses and providing a peek at the remaining two characters in the wave. As is the norm, the packages are collector friendly - with reseable plastic trays for stowing your figure when not in use. It has always been an appreciated feature, a special something extra for that premium Kai price.
Size, sculpt, paint and articulation. Those have been the four main selling points of Square Enix's Play Arts Kai series, and for the most part, they succeed with Mass Effect. Starting with scale, 8 inches tall is what we get starting with Shepard. Ashley stands in slightly shorter, while Garrus towers in at 9 inches. I think it's the first time I've actually noticed such a true sense of scale in a Kai series, the results sure to please discerning Mass Effect fans.
Sculpt and paint, for me, is hit and miss. First the pros. The armor for each character is absolutely astonishing in detail. Like I said, Mass Effect is loved for it's many rich details - from its long roster of exotic alien races to the myriad selection of weapons and armor. Customizing your armor is one of the many thrills of the game, and while Square Enix went with more conventional armor choices for their figures, the results are still amazing. Paint is also very good, Square Enix deftly applying realistic shades of metallic silvers, blues and greys. With Shepard we get his classic N7 gun metal armor that pops with the use of red and white running down the right arm. Ashley and Garrus go a subdued blue. While nice looking, their color choice lacks the intense color variety I love so much in game. Some slick white armor or a cool camo pattern would have gone a long way in breaking up the monotony, making for a more visually pleasing display. I also wish Commander Shepard came with a helmet. Not just because it'd be a cool armor accessory to have (my game character usually had his on), but it'd help conceal my largest complaint...
...Shepard's head sculpt. Actually it's more of a paint issue, but however you cut it, Shepard just looks... ill. It's the heavy-handed black airbrushing around the eyes that gives our hero an almost undead look. Ashley fares a little better and Garrus is spot on aside from the need of some paint work to show off his battle-damaged facial scars.
Articulation, as is expected with a Kai, is generous, solid, and a blast to play with. Firm rachet ball-joints abound on these figures allowing for a crazy amount of poses you can achieve. Stability is for the most part good, but you'll have some fiddling around to do with Garrus and his funky "chicken legs". He can stand, but for how long is the issue. His bent ankles and small feet equal a standing challenge. Square also includes a variety of alternative hands for gesturing and weapon grasping, always a welcome extra with a Kai figure. These hands switch out well, though Shepard's were a tad tight. You'll need to get his off too for his awesome accessories, in particular, the Omni-Blade...
Accessories, oh how I love thee. Combined with articulation, accessories provide collectors with countless ways to display their toys. With Square Enix's Mass Effect Kai, each character includes no less than TWO (2) unique and awesome weapons. Collecting all three figures allows you to amass quite an arsenal. With Shepard you get the curvy N7 Eagle handgun, sweet two-barreled N7 Valkyrie assault rifle AND the Omni-Blade. Ashley packs heat with the M-23 Katana shotgun and the iconic M-8 Avenger rifle, while Garrus takes to battle with pinpoint accuracy: the M-29 Incisor sniper rifle and M-15 Vindicator. The figures can hold all six weapons with ease, making mixing and matching a fun part of owning this entire collection.
The only small issue I had was arming Shepard with his Omni-Blade. As mentioned, his hand must be removed to slide the device on, and that can be tricky. Removing the stubborn hand is one thing, but reattaching it once the Omni-Blade is slipped on proved a pain. Just be forewarned: Once you get that Omni-Blade on, you may want to keep it on. I wish it was easier to swap as the blade is very nice, cast in a translucent orange plastic and looking cool in numerous action poses. Another small quip I have is the inability to attach any of the weapons on the back of the figures. It's a big visual look of the game and with so many great guns included with this series, it leaves so many cast to the side unused. A simple peg and hole system would have worked wonders.
I LOVE Mass Effect and having such a variety of collectibles on the market today is a godsend. Those on a budget will no doubt stick with the smaller figure series from Big Fish. They are perfectly fine collectibles for their size and price point, though their lack of useful articulation has always bothered me. Square Enix's Mass Effect Kai have no such problem. These things MOVE like only a Kai can. They also have a nice meaty size and the sculpts and paint apps - aside from that horrid Shepard head - are amazing. I have a nitpick here and a nitpick there, but in the overall grand scheme of Mass Effect action figures, these new Kai succeed. Square Enix's pursuit for the perfect Kai figure is ongoing, but gosh darnit, they are getting so close.
Review and Photos by Jeff Saylor
Review Samples Courtesy of Square Enix
Last edited by JeffSaylor; 10-26-2012 at 01:47 PM.