Monday, November 27, 2017

Usagi Yojimbo (Antarctic Press)



Usagi Yojimbo
Antarctic Press
1998

Many people know Usagi Yojimbo for his numerous appearances in Mirage's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as well as the 80's TMNT cartoon - Which lead to the highly popular figure back in the day. However, Usagi is far more than just a here and there sidekick / ally to the Turtles. In fact, his real name isn't even Usagi Yojimbo. It's Myamoto Usagi.

Usagi began his comic book history in 1984 when creator Stan Sakai who conceived the character as a supporting role in The Adventures of Nilson Groundthumper and Hermy. However, as Sakai developed the character, he also created a world where he felt readers would be drawn into. Though he appeared in a few books here and there, it wouldn't be until 1987 that Usagi Yojimbo appeared in his own comic book title which is still being published today.

What has helped Usagi to become so popular is his inclusion in multiple crossover titles. This is made possible by Sakai who is the sole rights owner of the character. As such, he can determine when and where his character makes an appearance without having to first wade through the typical legal red tape which would accompany a corporate owned entity.

It's no doubt his appearance in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles made Usagi Yojimbo a household name among kids of the 80's, but it's only fair to say this is definitely not a one and done character. As we said above, he's by no means only a sidekick.

By 1998 Antarctic Press were struggling to find a foothold in the action figure market. They had released a few obscure lines since 1996, but had yet to produce that one item which would put them on the map. One of their last attempts was the very small, very short lived Usagi Yojimbo line.

The series is technically a one shot, with only Usagi being produced. However, it does contain some variants / exclusives. The mass market figure was produced on an orange card while the exclusives were produced on blue ones making them easily distinguishable.

If you're looking for a plastic version of Usagi Yojimbo which is spot on to his comic book iteration, then look no further. This figure captures all those details in magnificent detail with just the right amount of articulation. For added fun, the figure even comes packaged with a Tokage - Which for those of you who don't know, this is simply a dinosaur like creature which roams freely around the world of Usagi.

Fun fact: Tokage creatures have even appeared in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Dark Horse Variant (Limited to 500)*Platinum Edition (Limited to 2,000)

Unfortunately for Antarctic Press, 1998 was the last year for them. It seems they were unable to really make make an impact in the world of action figures, and like so many before (and after) them found themselves going out of business.

What makes this all the more unfortunate is the fact that these days the Usagi Yojimbo figure is not only scarce, but also rather expensive on secondary markets. The variants will set you back anywhere from $40.00 to $60.00 a piece. The orange carded figure will set you back anywhere from $20.00 to $40.00. Not a bad profit for a line nobody wanted when it was originally released.

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Thursday, November 23, 2017

Star Wars Battlefront II Review



Happy Thanksgiving The Toy Box readers.

I wanted to use today to post something I normally wouldn't do here - A game review of the recent Star Wars Battlefront II.

Okay, so we all know about all the negative press the game has been getting, or maybe you don't, at which point now you (somewhat) do. I'll talk a little about that in my overall review, but for the start I want to focus on the single player campaign.

Warning, there are spoilers ahead.

Starting now...

The game is advertised as being a focal point on the Imperial side of things. In fact, the advertisement even states, "Ignite the inferno and burn the Rebellion to the ground in Star Wars Battlefront 2's single player campaign. Take on the role of Commander Iden Versio in a story following the destruction of the Death Star II and the death of the Emperor."

Sounds like fun, no?

No...Sadly you are part of the Imperials for all of two or three missions when you suddenly switch sides to the Rebellion. Like flipping on a light switch, Iden does a complete 180 along the side of one of her squad mates. Now you're full on Rebel, blasting away at all the Imperials.

It doesn't help that this four hour long campaign rushes from point "A" to point "B" leaving little to no character development. When the game first starts you get the impression that Iden is an Imperial loyalist to her very core. So it turns out to be more so awkward, and down right disappointing, when she suddenly shifts sides. There is also no tension built up between her and the squad mates she turns her back on leaving little to no reason why she would also suddenly go on a killing spree of the Imperials. It would have made more sense for her to try and go into hiding, and the story focus on the faltered Imperials chasing after her for revenge - After all it is her flesh and blood father who she betrays when going AWOL.

Personally I think the story would have been better suited as an opportunity to show how the First Order came to be. See, in the game the Empire is grasping at straws, and trying to regroup against the Rebels who just destroyed the second Death Star. This is all great groundwork, and would be the perfect setting for Iden to decide she no longer can follow her father based on the disagreement of his orders. Instead of running for the Rebel Alliance, she instead uses her squad to rally other straggling Imperials behind her. This then leads to a Civil War of sorts between the remaining Imperial ranks where Iden comes out on top, and essentially reforms the Galactic Empire into the First Order.

I made that story up in the span of two seconds. Whereas EA had a year to develop their cliche predictable mess. But hey, what do I know, right?

At the end of the day, the campaign becomes more so a four hour tutorial for playing online, and even goes as far as to reward you fairly well in terms of credits and crafting parts which you can carry to your online game - Only backing up my point that it is nothing more than a tutorial.

The game also falters by taking you out of the perspective of Iden, and putting you in the roles of Luke, Leia, Han and Lando. If the game is supposed to be about Iden, then let it be about Iden. This only serves to hurt the story further because it shows EA really didn't have a story in mind for this character. Thus why they took the easy road of, "Just make her switch sides."

By the end of the game, I was actually really bored of it, and this is where things got worse with the story. Iden fights her way to the exterior of he father's Star Destroyer where you get the impression of, "Oh, she is going to kill him." Yeah, not so much. She then says randomly how she has to save her father. She attempts to achieve this by crash landing on the exterior of the airborne Destroyer, blasts her way through every Imperial troop - Who for some reason are outside of the ship as well - Only to have a sixty second conversation with her father that litterally went like this;

IDEN: Dad, come with me.

DAD: Nah. I'm good.

IDEN: Okay, bye.

She then runs to an escape pod, and leaves - All of which is just a cut scene. If this weren't bad enough, suddenly her and her one defector friend embrace, kissing deeply when he finds her escape pod. What? They were in love? There was not one single ounce of love story hinted in the entire game until the awkward ending.

Well, I shouldn't say ending because the game has an epilogue which is essentially sequel bait.

So, okay, you finish the single player campaign. You find all the hidden items...Which the game doesn't even bother to tell you what they are, and this results in rewards for online play.

I can't complain about this aspect because quite honestly the loot and crafting materials you get make it worth while to dredge through the shoddy story.

That is however until you actually get online.

Progress is painfully slow, and only made slower if you are bad at online shooters as rewards are dished out based on achievements - AKA kills. On average I get around ten to twenty kills per game which equates to very minimal progress in terms of experience points. This averages out to about 3,000 XP per game, in a game where I need 80K+ to level up.

This is made even more painful by the fact that EA drops you into whatever game it feels like. This means you most likely will end up on unbalanced teams where one of two things will happen. You will either mow over the opposite team in a landslide victory, or sadly be the receiver of said mowing. As I've said before to people I play with online, you either end up on the team of Idiot Savants, or just Idiots.

To put it bluntly - Playing online isn't fun when you make little to no progress, and each game seems more so like your only purpose is be fodder for the other team.

This could have been helped by buying loot crates which provide you with better gear, and sometimes weapons.Unfortunately this too goes back to reward for progress. See, the amount of credits you earn is also based on how well you play. So, when crates cost anywhere from 2,400 to 4,000 for one crate, and you earn (like me) an average of 150 to 300 credits per game, progress is once again halted.

This leads me to my next gripe with the game. The removal of micro transactions.

I don't mind them. I'm an instant gratification kind of guy, and personally my time is more valuable to me than a few bucks here and there for in game transactions.

In fact, in games I really want to play, but I'm not good at I actually look forward to buying them. This would definitely have been one of those games where I could see myself dumping a fair amount of real world money into online loot crates if for no other reason than to make some form of progress through the Star Cards you find in said crates. This way I could least stand half a chance of surviving.

Loot crates were unfortunately removed from the game on the day of launch when the online gaming community erupted in protest against EA for having the nerve to offer loot crates which provided an advantage to people who they deemed could pay to win.

For those of you not familiar with the term, pay to win, this is what gamers call a scenario where those with more money than them can essentially buy their way to winning the game by affording things such as loot crates which give them upgrades to better their characters at low levels (or in general). The backlash was so vast that for whatever reason people keep speculating about, EA pulled the ability for in game micro transactions.

The loot crate system is still in place. You just can't spend real world money to get them - Only in game currency - Which again takes forever to get for people with my skill level.

So essentially I have a game that I want to spend real world money on, but can't because people complained so much the option is gone. People call this a victory, but again fail to see that someone else loses when they claim to win.

Now add on top of this servers that just flat out suck, and problems only get worse. I literally have sessions where I rubber band all over the screen to the point I can't even play, and just shut the game off. EA makes millions of dollars in sales of their games, but can't afford good servers for people to play them on? Makes no sense.

Overall Battlefront II still may very well be as bad as the first installment. In its attempt to make strides to better the complaints from the last entry, EA has somehow managed to make other aspects of this new installment worse.

While the first game had no campaign, the second game's campaign is really bad. In the first game you could buy new weapons with credits. In the second one you have to earn them by achieving kills with the terrible weapons they give you to start with. If you get minimal kills each game, once again you face slow progression. In fact all of the games problems seem to center on an overall lack of progression. It takes forever to level up. It takes forever to get credits. It takes forever to get star cards. It takes forever to get weapons. It just takes too long to play Battlefront II.

As a Star Wars fan, this simply isn't a game I'm prepared to invest 100's of hours in playing. There are other things I want to do with my time...Like complain.

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Monday, November 20, 2017

The Dirty Pair (Dark Horse Comics)



The Dirty Pair
Dark Horse Comics
2002

"The Lovely Angels" - Kei and Yuri are the leading duo in The Dirty Pair. Though the characters were created by Haruka Takachiho, the figures we see today are based on the Dark Horse Comics versions which were adapted from Takachiho's work by Adam Warren when Dark Horse acquired the rights to release comics in the USA based on the characters. Since then, the Pair have been featured in numerous US released mini series, one shots and shorts.

Despite being a limited run of figures, Dark Horse's plastic renditions don't skimp when it comes to the detail, articulation, and in general the great design of everything form the package to the toy. These figures are fairly spot on to their inked versions, and each figure features eleven or more points of articulation.

In addition to the figures, Dark Horse released a few more items based on the characters. One such item was the below ten inch statue. Though we're not big fans of inarticulate "toys", we can definitely see the draw that this particular item would have to fans of the series. It's a pretty cool piece of "art".

10 Inch Statue

As we mentioned, Dark Horse also produced other items based on Kei and Yuri; a pair of shot glasses, and a pair of t-shirts. These items were all advertised on the back of the carded figure packaging - In addition to a handful of graphic novels featuring the two.

Much like a lot of obscure toy lines we've talked about here in the past, The Dirty Pair figures and statue don't sell for too much these days on secondary markets. However, this may be because most sellers are asking far more than people are willing to pay. At $30.00 per figure (mint on card), most buyers with any interest are passing. On occasion a figure will sell for about $20.00, but this is definitely not often. However, the typical price buyers seem willing to pay for these are $8.00 to $10.00.

The statue seems to fair a little better - Though it is definitely rarer than the figures. We've seen sealed ones priced around $80.00 (with no buyers), and opened ones sell for around $20.00.

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Monday, November 13, 2017

Jimmy Page (NECA)



Jimmy Page
NECA
2006

Today we're going to talk about a figure based on a little known guitarist. You may have heard of him - Jimmy Page. He was the strings behind such great bands such as The Yardbirds, The Firm and Led Zeppelin. Of course if we had to explain any of that to you, then you probably have no clue who Jimmy Page is in general. Most people, even those who aren't fans of his work, still know the name.

The figure which NECA showcased page in his infamous Black Dragon suit, hoisting up a double neck guitar. The figure also includes a set of amps with Page's nonsensical "Zoso" symbol - Which to date the guitarist has never said what it means to him.

Editor's Note: Zoso was originally used as a magickal sigil by Cardano to represent Saturn. He first used this in 1557, and the version used by Page is slightly altered from the original design. As such, Page's Zoso is considered by many to be an adapted occult sign.

The figure essentially is what it is - Jimmy Page memorialized in plastic form ala NECA. As we've said before regarding toys such as this, there is a strict niche audience looking for these.

Unfortunately, said niche audience is going to pay quite a bit for it if they want to obtain one these days. The figure can sell for anywhere from $70.00 to $140.00 mint in the package. We're not sure why there is such a large margin of price point between high and low values as the figure isn't too uncommon by any means. We've even seen one sell for $200.00.

Whatever it is that keeps fans paying prices all over the map, there is one thing for sure - Get yours while you can if it's a figure you're interested in.

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Monday, November 6, 2017

Germs (Worlds of Wonder)



Germs
Worlds of Wonder
1988

Worlds of Wonder aren't known for much these days, but back in the 80's they were the group behind the highly popular Lazer Tag and Teddy Ruxpin. Unfortunately that seemed to be their only popular items. Though the company released other toys here and there, none seemed to grab the foothold in toy isles that their laser guns and talking bear did.


Germs were released in 1988, on the tail end of the company's production of Lazer Tag. Though it was a fairly unique and cool concept, at the end of the day, these little guys were nothing short of colorful rubber toys that had no cartoon or comic book support. Additionally, they didn't have any action features. Short of displaying them there wasn't much to do with them, and what kid wanted to do that?


In total, twelve Germs were produced; Ahahchoosiosus (a sneeze), Winkyblinkyigoopiola (eyeball goo), Huppahickasillia (a hiccup), Gidgygidgyitus (a giggle), Oochiachitickleorum (an itch), Grumblerumbleosus (a tummy ache), Innyoutyitis (bellybutton lint), Hackahackasilliae (a cough), Bubblebuppilitus (a burp), Muggywympiosus (smelly feet) and Sweatystinkiosus (body odor). Wow...Even as adults we can't pronounce half of those names.


Each figure came packed in a blister card inside of its own test tube. The only other item included was a fold out lab report which went into over the top details of the germs lifestyle and habits.

Admittedly, these days it is rather cool to display these in a test tube holder on a shelf. So, you know, if you're a collector of unique toys don't rule that option out.


Germs aren't too common on secondary markets, but you can put a set together over time with persistence. Carded ones will run you about $20.00 to $45.00 a piece, and loose ones sell for around $10.00 to $15.00 dollars a piece (with or without the lab report). We have seen a few full (loose) sets sell here and there for around $100.00 to $150.00. However, most sellers typically ask around $200.00 to $300.00 before being talked down in price. To date we have not found a seller with a complete carded set.

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Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Fifth of November



Remember remember!
The fifth of November,
the Mountain Beanie seizing and plot
I know of no reason
Why the Mountain Beanie seizing
Should ever be forgot!

 
Harold Mountain and his ex companion
Did the case involve
To divide up their Beanies,
Judge Hardcastle had to solve.
In the courtroom a pile,
Did lay on the floor
While each partner took it in turn,
Picking the one they adore
Maple Bear was the first
To be swooped up by the wife
A three digit value in the year of 99
Now not even worth retail price.
Holloa, boys! Holloa, boys! Take your Beanies from this place!
Holloa, boys! Holloa, boys, your family is disgraced!
Hip, hip, hoor-r-r-ray!

A poem by The Toy Box
Inspired by a true story, and The Fifth of November.

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