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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Toy Fair 2014...deep pockets required.

The Toy God's have spoken and boy have they ever!

Since my last post, I have since sold a ton of my Joes, games, Legos and G1's and cleared out the toy room to convert into a playroom for the little man.  It was a fair trade and he needs a great place to play instead of a toy museum.  Everything is in storage in my basement.  All I'm saying is he will have a great set of birthdays from 5 on when he gets to dive into those boxes. But after this years Toy Fair, it's looking like I may have to add a few choice items to those boxes.  :)

Hasbro has had an overall disappointing year so far at least for me Star Wars-wise, still haven't seen wave 2.5 for the black 3.75 series...I mentioned in my last post in September about the Nikto guard I wanted and it looks like he is going to go the way of the Imperial Navy Commander that I so far haven't seen ever on the pegs.  I haven't seen any new stock for the 3.75 black series in any of the local retailers.  I did get the Boba Fett 6" and have seen him consistently at my local Target store.

All I can say is I hope Hasbro makes nice with the chain stores and gets their upcoming lines stocked and out for sale!  Toy Fair showed some impressive entries in all of their major lines.  Star Wars is an old school collector's dream come true with tons of vintage era original trilogy stuff in beautiful detail.  Transformers have a ton of classics and generations and some great voyager and leader class bots.  GI Joe is getting some proper love for its 80's characters and vehicles.

Beyond Hasbro, Lego is making some impressive entries as well as NECA and Funco whose ReAction figure line is giving amazing treatment to tons of 80's properties that never we graced with action figures.  You're going to need some deep wallets for 2014!

In the spirit of keeping this relatively brief, I won't go into listing off every single thing that has been unveiled nor will I go into my pessimism regarding crappy stocking and retailer stubbornness but I'll just list off a few wish items and things that caught my (and I'm guessing anyone else who shares my tastes) eye.

Start with the big guns and by far the best news of the show.  Star Wars.  Not only are there some strong showings for the new Rebels line just in time to reignite interest in Episode VII's release next year but there have been some highly anticipated figure announcements that I'm sure pleased a lot of collectors and fans, especially of the original trilogy.  The Black Series is showing some powerhouse lineups with the 6" line covering an amazing looking Darth Vader (with removable three piece helmet), Chewbacca, Jedi Luke, Biker Scout with Speeder Bike and Jabba the Hutt, additionally your going to see a standard Clone Trooper and Revenge of the Sith Anakin with good and evil face deco option and a repaint of the Sandtrooper with black paulderon. On top of this Hasbro's Q and A announced we will see an episode VI Emperor Palpatine for this line down the road, awesome.  Only sour note here is Jabba does not include Salacious B Crumb nor his dais which are rumored to be in a SDCC exclusive set going the way of the Carbonite Han...rrrr.

Moving onto the 3.75 line for the black series, we are seeing a dream wave.  I've never seen a wave since I started collecting where I literally wanted every figure and this one may very well be the first.  Luke in Dagobah gear with Yoda, Toryn Farr (never made), a new Vader, a rerelease of Hoth Luke, Snowtrooper officer (never made), Also never made for modern lines, we see Ree Yees and  my absolute favorite never yet produced figure, Sgt. Doallyn (I've been waiting for him for 30 years and Bane Malar was the closest we ever got to him) Slam Freaking Dunk! 


I'm glad the figure line is showing such OTC love since Lego is primarily going the route of the prequels with exception to a small mini set of a Death Star Turbolaser cannon early in the year (nicely with 2 Imperial Gunner and Royal Guard minifigs...strange no Death Star Troopers) however later in 2014 for the holidays we are getting some great treatments of the Snowspeeder, B-Wing, AT-AT, Star Destroyer and Cantina (FINALLY) along with minivehicles and a super detailed Sandcrawler (minifigs we haven't seen are Greedo, Cantina Band members, Nien Numb, General Madine, sleeker Storm and Snowtroopers, General Veers, Scanning Crew, New Imperial Officers of both green and black uniforms and an emperor's hologram!)...Also we are going to see rereleases of Batila Shan, Imperial Royal Guard, Dack Ralter, StarKiller and Darth Malgus for those who missed it.  I will, however, believe it when I see it.

Next up are the transformers. I'll just preface this part with the fact that I hate the Bayformers and everything associated including the overcomplicated, messy, bone-like designs that don't even translate well as the toys they were inspired by and thus intended to be.  Transformers also apparently are too hard to transform for children so they are releasing a 1-2 step line that clicks into place like the Generations Slammer Cassettes for the newer players.  I'll just say they look hideous.  This is also not the Rescue Bots or Robot Heroes that are intended for little kids, this is a branch of the actual transformers line.  I'll just say, "kid, if a Transformer is too hard for you, go kill yourself." The Trans4mers figures look terrible as well.  Grimlock looks like an Academy Award and doesn't even look like he'd fit in with the Beast Wars line, Hound has a Beard (what?) and is not a jeep, Galvatron is some kind semi (okay)...whatever I won't even go on.  They are making a G1 cartoon inspired modern Optimus figure that looks nothing like the awful big-screen rendition because blue and red would be just too colorful for Bay's reimagining where the Transfomers are homophobic, racist and fart.   His bot mode is a little too Japanime but he does have a solid alt-mode so good for him.  Okay done with that onto the good stuff. 

As close as we'll ever get to the Valkyrie, It definitely will do!
I know he's not a Toy Fair reveal but I freaking love this figure!

We are seeing a ton of Classics and Generations figures coming out of the woodwork.  Some amazing Leader and Voyager class figures that look like pure revamped updates of their G1 counterparts.  Whirl, RoadBuster, Scoop, Jetfire (YYYYEEEAAAAAHHHHHHHH) are all looking like must haves.  I'm loving the Targetmasters and for those who you who likes the minicons, the Generation's line is releasing tons of them including Swerve, Windcharger, Tailgate, Gears and Cosmos among others including a three pack of minibots that are all combiners!  And It looks like we will see another SDCC/Toy's R Us exclusive re-release of Grimlock for the Masterpiece line for those who missed him.  He would like very nice next to my Soundblaster.  Let's hope he comes at a reasonable price tag as opposed to the Takara 200 dollar re-release we are seeing floating around on BBTS. Despite yet another terrible reimagining of the Autobots and Decepticons in theaters, we will see a strong showing of figures.  Lets hope the T4's don't take up too much shelf space which box out the guys we want.  You know they will though.

Finally to the third of my major brands...GI Joe...This franchise is celebrating its hallmark 50th anniversary this year so we will be seeing a bunch of relelases in the otherwise dormant line... A lotta repaints...meh and it doesn't look like we will be seeing any single figure releases other than three-figure battle packs and two-figure versus packs.  Even the vehicles are two packs with two pack in figures.  So down the line we see Blowtorch vs H.E.A.T. viper, Lowlight vs Night Viper (painted red not green), Lady Jay vs Baroness, Arctic Snowjob (redundant) vs Arctic B.A.T. and the three packs are Beachhead vs Cobra Trooper and repaint Viper and Destro vs Hawk and Leatherneck. 
 The vehicle sets are the Cobra WOLF with Ice Viper (my all time favorite vintage figure) vs a repaint Sky Hawk with arctic camo with another Snake Eyes in arctic gear...meh and a repaint Vamp Mk II vs Cobra Night Landing in two decos of repaints of Flint vs Cobra EELs all previously released other than the night landing boat.  Really Hasbro, this is some serious fleecing of Joe Fans by forcing them to rebuy figures they already have for a taste of some new product considering there are legions of characters specially from the late 80's you haven't revamped.  This is like the Star Wars threepacks that made collectors buy a second Tusken Raider and Fett for a single Snaggletooth figure....Do you want these things to be returned with "the Corps figures" switched in the boxes because that's where I see this going.

 On the other hand, if you like the GI Joe Kre-O Line, wow.... there are some beautiful additions.  First off, you can get a Kre-O sized Terror-Drome with cobra trooper, Gung-Ho, Mainframe, Tomax, Xamot, Corbra Trooper, Sky Hawk vehicle and Serpentor.  Also coming up is a Firebat, Wolverine, Python Cycle with some great Kre-ons like Snow Serpent, Lady Jaye, Scrap Iron, Torch,Wetsuit, Alpine, Doc, Footloose, Lowlight and Night Creeper.  Looks like a pretty strong showing but again, the stocking of this line as a Toys R Us exclusive has been abyssmal as of now as I've only ever seen the blind bag Kre-ons for Joes stocked ONE TIME in the last 2 years.   So, if you can find these guys, they are definitely worth checking out.

When else can you contextually have your figures "bring out the Gimp"?

The Funco production of Pulp Fiction, Terminator, Goonies, Back to the Future, Universal Monsters, Nightmare Before Christmas among other popular 80's lines all piggypacking on the very cool Alien figure line released earlier in 2013.   They look straight out of the late 70's/early 80's Kenner lines with limited articulation and nice rubbery sculpts.  I love the vintage look however the playability of these lines seems limited and only geared at a small collecting base.  At 10 bucks a figure, it still seems reasonable to get a few nice desk pieces and I'm sure many fans of each property will enjoy seeing their favorites get some proper action figure conceptualization.

See the Rocketeer in the corner!?!?

The bigger scale/ pricier  figures lines such as Kotobukiya and Neca are all producing some nice stuff. We are seeing additions to Gremlins, Robocop, Godzilla, Planet of the Apes and Alien.  I'm eying the Aliens-line with a nice Bishop, Kane and Power Loader planned for release and apparently a soon-to-be Ripley since Sigourney Weaver finally granted her likeness to be made in toy form, yay!  Koto is making quite a few new Marvel and DC figures along with a nice Star Wars lineup. Hot Toys is making a great looking Batman, Joker and Iron Man stuff.   Not my cup of expensive tea so check it out on your own if interested.

Holy Sweet Mother of God!

My show stopper and where I end it is with Lego...did you see the Lego Movie Sea Cow????? It's essentially the airship to end all airships and is set at a beastly 250 bucks!  I acutally built a similar creation back in the day with my friends who put all our castle and pirate sets together to build a massive multi storied airship and even that, as awesome as it was, doesn't hold a candle to this amazing beast!  Additionally, for those of you wanting some Lego to go with your Ghostbusters fix, your long awaited prayers are answered with the fan-created Ecto-1 with the likes of Venkman, Stantz, Spengler and Zeddemore for a paltry sum of 50 dollars.  Hell to the Yeah.  Also we can expect the Lego Simpsons house coming along very soon as well as Simpsons action figures commemorating their best guest stars including James Brown and Tom Hanks.  Credit card debt will be well worth it with the likes of all these amazing toys coming around this year.  If I had to choose; Ecto-1, 6 inch Speeder Bike, sgt. Doallyn and Ree-Yees and the Jetfire Leader Class and I'd be good for the year.

PS3 Game Review: Last of Us DLC: Left Behind

Just finished the first DLC add-on to the amazing Naughty Dog PS3 exclusive, The Last of Us entitled Left Behind.  This story focused on a vignette of Ellie immediately after Joel takes the tumble on the rebar in Colorado from the original game and she has to fix the hole where the blood's coming out so to speak.  While we are guiding Ellie through this add-on of the Winter Chapter, we take intermittent flashbacks of Ellie's days in military boarding school  in Boston with her best friend Riley who, up until now, was only briefly mentioned.

Game wise, it's a one hour/hour and a half quick solid play through.  We pick up right in the middle of the action from the original game setting a nice sense of continuity.  I didn't really know what to expect but it was a good choice on the developers to add onto the only part of the original game were we did have control of Ellie.  I was not expecting to play anything additional to the original story's time frame so this was a nice surprise.  It makes sense in many forms and I'm glad they went this way to keep a harder,  weapon wielding, resourceful Ellie in the game.  To have her doing this stuff in a flashback really would undo her hardened character as the original plot developed and it also serves as a great way to juxtapose the powerful solo Ellie mission against the much lighter Summer rendition of the character before she even knew she was immune and still much more of an adolescent.  Even when you play as her in the flashback, you aren't really playing as much as guiding her through a story as she interacts with her friend and sets up a bitter-sweet bond that sets the precursor to the character we later meet in the full game.  There's no real "action" so to speak until the end in the flashback scenes leading right up to the fatal attack on Riley and the events that immediately precede the final scene really puts the hook in you and their meeting and exploring still sets an atmosphere that hangs heavy with the rank and file anticipation you've come to expect.  It shows that although these are characters that have grown up in this hellish world, they are still very green and act carelessly that you as a player of the first game are thinking to yourself, "be more careful...don't turn on the lights...oh man, don't play that stereo!"    The creators of this game handle the girls' character development, interactions, dialogue and facial expressions in a way I've yet to see in a game and nothing seems forced at all.  Very rarely do you get to live out such honestly youthful and sweet moments in a game like listening to a mixtape, playing an imaginary video game, telling jokes, messing with a magic 8-ball and playing "guns" with supersoakers...I couldn't help but smile since they were directly playing with the Supersoaker 50.  A lighter side of the Last of Us but a necessary side nonetheless.  The cut scenes flow with the game play so well they don't seem hamfisted or unnecessary and Ellie has been hashed out so well in the previous content that you really want to see what she is doing and thinking.  A lot of love was put into this character and it definitely shows.

Our two leading ladies

I don't want to give too much away but it evokes some true emotion, not so much as the first games bigger moments but it still holds its own in my opinion.  It looks amazing and really feels like its own separate story within a story.  It is delivered in content in a way I only think could be in an add-on chapter and if it were spliced into or included in the original story wouldn't have worked nearly as well especially since it would have majorly taken away from the power the original games first playthough had when you start the Winter chapter with just Ellie and have no idea what happened to Joel.   We are really only playing a real-time hour of Ellie's life from two different moments and this hour show us so much in character development that 6 hours of cut scenes in Metal Gear could only dream of.  (Metal Gear is great, don't get me wrong but...) 

Plenty of this to go around too.
The majority of the action is held in the segue of Ellie finding medical supplies for Joel's massive wound.   They are hiding out in a mall in Denver and we see their second run in with the cannibals. This is the only thing that doesn't work for me because this shows that Ellie is aware that the attackers from the college are still looking for them and would have taken the gravity out of David's confession to her in the first game since she would been likely to be much more "onto" him than when he tells her his true intentions.   The action is solid and the setting is nicely developed.  You are mainly getting a medkit from a Med-evac helicopter crashed through the skylight.  You get a nice set of background notes about the demise and fate of the surviving crew and I found it to be an "aw man" moment when you finally find the remains of much talked about Ellis who had his arm amputated by his commanding officer.  It made me immediately think of the character of Ish in the sewer tunnels as you read so much about him and then his story line just vanishes.  At least here, you get a "fleshed out" end to a small little story within a story. There's one very cool element added to this that the entire first story doesn't really touch upon was the occurrence of enemy survivors coming into contact with the infected.  You'd think this would happen all the time but you never really see it in the sense of a three way battle.  Here you get two specific instances were you get to use the infected as a tactical weapon in just as much sense a nail bomb or Molotov. It's a gameplay mechanic that sings and I loved every minute of it.

I've seen a few complaints about the pricetag of 15 bucks around this game but I very much enjoyed it and thought it was well worth it...I've paid much less for games on sale that had way more content that bored me to tears (Brothers in Arms: Hells Highway for 5 bucks comes to mind) and didn't have a fraction of the enjoyment this game fostered in me.  As a story, it was great.  Production was completely on par with the super high levels of the full game and the game play was a natural addition to the what made the full game many critics game of the year.  I can only hope this isn't the only bit of DLC we see for this game.  Maybe so since I'm hearing a sequel is planned.