Square-Enix Final Fantasy XIII Play Arts Kai Vol.1
A bigger, better line of Final Fantasy collectibles...
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The first Final Fantasy game was released for the original NES system in Japan in 1987 as a last ditch effort by struggling software developer Squaresoft. The game ended up being a success, and with releases in North America and Europe, grew to be one of the biggest franchises in video game history with not only games, but also anime, manga, film and of course, collectibles.
Now Square-Enix has released the highly anticipated next installment to the Final Fantasy series, Final Fantasy XIII, and what better way to celebrate the exciting new chapter than with a great new collection of action figures based on the new characters. One of the first series of figures to be part of Square-Enix’s new Play Arts Kai line, Vol.1 includes Lightning, (Oerba Dia) Vanille, and Snow (Villiers).
The Final Fantasy XIII Kai figures come in packaging very similar to other entries in the Play Arts line, minus the J-hook and with a tad larger box overall. Each box features and blue and white, swirling design reminiscent of the Crystarium menu of the game. The front and side windows offer a full view of the enclosed figure and its accessories, which is protected and held in place by a clamshell tray. Each character also has their own uniquely colored insert behind the tray. On the outside, each figure package has an image of the character on the right side panel, as well as an assortment of photograph on the back and a look at other characters in the line.
The first thing fans should notice about the new Kai series after the bigger scale is the attention to detail and improved sculpting. Square-Enix’s sculptors are able to put in a lot more detail than ever before, proving bigger is certainly better. Each character in the set features a constuction that is a mixture of hard and soft PVC to recreate the amazing visual styles of the game.
Lightning, the main character of the game, has a soft PVC vest and skirt over a sculpted frame. While most of her outfit is fairly plain, she is all about belts and straps. She has a belt around her midsection, one around her waist, three straps on each boot, four holding on her side pouch, and two straps holding on the case that carries her sword behind her when she’s not using it. Each of the belts, and he costume in general, feature a wide variety of sculpted-in features such as buckles, rivets, zippers, and more. Lightning’s face captures her character’s focused and expressionless demeanor, but her hair, while detailed, looks unnatural and plastic and entirely too thick in the strands that fall in front of her face.
Vanille, while not as clothed as the other characters in the set, is definitely the most detailed and visually interesting. Vanille wears a “fur” skirt that is made of the soft PVC and sculpted to look really furry. But what stands out the most is her various bangles, necklaces and intricate beaded jewelry. All of the beadwork had been sculpted to give it the appearance of separate beads. She also features a set of straps on the back of her skirt to place her folded Bind Rod when not in use. While an improvement over Lightning, Vanille’s hair still looks a little thick in the bangs, obstructing her face. She does, however, feature articulation in her ponytails, a plus that allows for unobstructed movement of her head.
Snow, the least visually appealing of the group, is also the biggest. Most of his bulk is from his massive trench coat, which is sculpted from soft vinyl and includes hinges on the back to allow the bottom flaps of his coat to move outward when positioning his legs. Despite having a more plain appearance, Snow has a variety of small features sculpted-in such as the seams of his coat, zippers, buttons, and more. Like the two girls, the hair hanging in his face is a little too thick and looks weird sticking out from his head wrap. One of the nicer features of the figure is that due to his costume fully covering his arms and legs, it’s easier to hide his joints, unlike the girls where they stick out quite prominently.
One of the highlights of the Play Arts line has always been the articulation and the “Kai” series is no exception. Each figure in the set features an impressive amount of articulation, anywhere from 23-29 points, giving fans the ability to recreate some of the coolest poses from the game.
While improved over the original scale Play Arts line, the paint apps are still nowhere perfect. The set is still riddled by issues such as paint run-ons and bleeding, especially on the soft vinyl parts of the character’s costumes. But the larger scale does lend itself to painting a lot of the smaller details with better precision and we see even some of the smallest studs touched with a shiny silver. Each character in the set has also been accented by airbrushing, mostly on the characters skin, but also on various parts of their costumes. Once again, Vanille stands out as having the most impressive paint job, with most of her beadwork painted in a variety of colors and fairly clean. All three figures have perfect applications on their faces and the transfers used for their eyes and brows. Snow’s I’cie symbol (the only visible one of the three) is also applied perfectly. The only real complaint I have about the paint is on the two girls. Both Lightning and Vanille have unpainted joints on their arms and legs that stick out quite noticeably on both figures as they are white compared to the flesh tone of their skin.
Each character in the FF13 series features at least one or two accessories, but no more than four. Lightning includes two extra hands and both an extended and folded version of her trademark sword Blaze Edge. Vanille includes two hands as well and an extended and folded version of her game-found weapon the Bind Rod. Snow, who only relies on his fists, includes two additional hands, but no weapons. The three figures also include the newly designed stands that were seen with the Full Metal Alchemist Kai figures. These white, adjustable stands have a modular design and an articulated arm to hold the figure. But as I said in my Full Metal Alchemist review, these stands are confusing to set-up and too weak to hold a character mid-air. I find them unnecessary and less useful than the superior stands that were including with previous Play Arts releases.
Whether you love or hate the newest game in the Final Fantasy series, the figures based on it are some of the best Play Arts figures that Square-Enix has produced to date. The increased size, impressive sculpting and improved paint make these a must-own addition to any Final Fantasy fan’s collection. The Square-Enix Final Fantasy XIII Play Arts Kai Vol.1 is available now at most major online retailers including Square-Enix’s own online shop, as well as at retail at Toys R Us. FF13 Play Arts Vol.2 and the huge, transforming Sheva motorcycle are also available now, with the amazing articulated Odin horse coming soon.
Review Samples Courtesy of Square-Enix
Review & Photos by Michael Klein