Square Enix has been diversifying the Play Arts Kai by leaps and bounds lately, and one of their latest license acquisitions has been the Mass Effect series. Sure, BioWare totally dropped the ball with that thing they called an ending in Mass Effect 3, but that's something for Destructoid to worry about. We've got ourselves a trio of Play Arts Kai figures to review, and that starts with the main man, Commander Shepard. There'd been some concerns from collectors once color photos appeared about some of the sculpt and paintwork, particularly around the face, but when Square Enix sent him along to me, I figured I'd get to see if the concerns were really valid.
So how does Play Arts Kai Shepard stand up? I may have dropped a hint in the subtitle, but you should jump through the Tomopop Relay with me and find out what's on the other side.
Figure Name: Mass Effect 3 Play Arts Kai Commander Shepard
As always, we go to the box, and it's a pretty one. Borrowing from the art of Mass Effect 3, the box features a front flap that hides the window, but puts a large image of Shepard in its place. The sides feature the Mass Effect and Play Arts Kai logos, while the back has the usual photos of the figure and the others in the series. Behind the Velcro-secured flap is the actual figure window, along with the description of just who Commander Shepard is, in case you are totally unfamiliar with him. This box design seems to be the new look for the Play Arts Kai line, and it's a better look than the older boxes.
Out of the box, Play Arts Kai Shepard looks about how you'd expect him to be. About 8.5 inches tall, Shepard is in his trademark N7 Armor in the default colors he's worn throughout the game. It should be noted that this is BioWare's canon look for Shepard, since my Shepard looks entirely different and a lot more bad*** than this one.. but I digress.
You might also notice that, yes, he comes with no stand. I still don't get why these aren't available, but as a trade-off, I guess Shepard is pretty well weight-balanced and he can stand on his own without constantly tipping over.
The first place we're taking a look close up is Shepard's N7 Armor. I'll commend Square Enix here: the level of detailing on the armor is actually really, really good. There are a lot of little nooks, crannies and seams to get right, and it appears Square Enix has managed to do just that. The joints are also fairly well masked, especially around the shoulders and torso. There is a bit of paint missing from the collar of the armor on the neck part (you can see how it looks flesh-colored). Additionally, some of the paint on the stripe does look a little rough or thin in the red portion, but there are otherwise no serious mishaps or splotches well outside the lines.
Further down the N7 armor suit, you can get a glimpse at some of the sculpting detail on the legs. There's a decent amount of it, and it is pretty accurate based on the in-game models. Of course, some elements have been modified a bit to fit the joints. The joint layout is the usual Play Arts Kai set-up, featuring the ratcheting knee and ankle joints we've seen before.
However, what's new is that the hip joints have gone from ball and socket to a ratcheted-style as well. That design choice is an incredible positive point for Shepard, as he feels more stable than the past Play Arts Kais I've reviewed. Plus, you don't have to worry about a leg popping out of joint anymore!
From the back, you can see where the top part of his armor hangs over the bottom part due to the mid-torso joint, but it also happens along a natural transition in Shepard's armor from the bulkier gray part to the slimmer black part. The details on the N7 Armor here are, like elsewhere on the figure, pretty accurate within reason, and the paint is generally pretty clean.
Well, not so much awesome. At all. Yeah, it vaguely resembles Shepard, but something just doesn't sit right with me. Maybe it's the eyes looking a little rough with the paint? Could it be the faint black line that's supposed to be Shepard's goatee? The little bits of black smudging on the lips that dirty up the lips? All of the above? Whatever it is, Play Arts Kai Shepard's face looks really, really rough and unrefined. At least the problem with "dirt" like Kratos (reviewed) isn't a problem ... but the flesh tones for the neck and head are very, very slightly different shades. Shepard needs to get out of the sun.
In case you're wondering what my hand is doing here, I'm holding Shep up so you can get an idea of his poseability. He actually has a fairly nice range of motion and manipulation, with fewer problems than the past Play Arts Kai figures I've reviewed. Again, the new hip joints help a lot here. You can also see the chest joints allow for some decent side-to-side leaning.
On the accessories front, Square Enix has brought us an Omniblade for Shepard to slice fools with. Using a translucent orange PVC base with a yellow spray down the middle, it recreates the look of the Omniblade from the game as best as you probably can. On top of that, the Omniblade fits on Shepard's forearm exactly where it should be.
From the top, you can see how the Omniblade rests on Shepard's forearm. You do have to remove the hand to get it on there and the Omniblade slips over the wrist joint and forearm. It took me a bit to get the hand on there just right, but once done, it was a pretty seamless fit. Well done, Square Enix.
The next accessory to mention would be the N7 Eagle Pistol. The paint's a little rough in spots, but it's a fair replica of the N7 Eagle, scaled down properly and sculpted well. You can also see the right hand that comes with Shepard for holding his weapons. The detail there is nice as well, and I like how the index finger actually loops into the trigger of the N7 Eagle. So from here, it looks pretty good.
But when you look at it from other angles ...
... the damn N7 Eagle doesn't fit in Shepard's hand as it should. I spent 15 minutes trying to get it to fit in, but I could not get the grip of the N7 Eagle to fit inside the hand because the last two fingers on the pistol-holding hand would not move properly. This meant I couldn't fit it through the tight gap and I eventually conceded defeat because I was afraid I'd snap one of the hand's other three fingers off (namely, the thumb). Design-wise, it should be a lot easier to get the Eagle in there than it actually is. From here, you can also see the seam line on Shepard's hand.
On the other hand, the N7 Valkyrie rifle is wonderful. It uses the same hand as the N7 Eagle in the above picture, but get this: it works! Plus, on top of that, the butt of the rifle is sculpted in such a manner that it rests on Shepard's forearm without you having to do anything. The hand does bend a little more at the wrist than it probably should, but given the problems I had with the Eagle, it's a minor pittance.
Here, you can see some of the detail Square Enix have pumped into the Valkyrie. Great detail and the paint is within the lines consistently throughout.
The other hand Shepard has is an open-palmed hand that pretty much serves as a balance for the Valkyrie's weight. Not terribly bad here, but nothing that's going to sway you one way or the other.
So yes, Shepard with his Valkyrie rifle is a billion times better than the Eagle, and this kneeling shot really shows off how the balance issues have been fixed on some of the Play Arts Kai line. Doing this with the other Play Arts Kai figures I've reviewed is a little more of a crapshoot, but Shepard consistently held this pose without tipping over from when I shot him for the review until I put him away a few days later.
So where does that leave me with Play Arts Kai Shepard? Honestly ... disappointed. There's a nice step forward here with the ratcheting joints in the hips and Shepard feels like he holds poses much better than any other Play Arts Kai I've previously reviewed as a result ... but that face. The issues with the Eagle. It's the little things that continue to plague the Play Arts Kai line. The sculpt work around the face could be a bit better and like Kratos, the paintwork could be a whole lot cleaner, especially with that goatee. Play Arts Kai completionists and absolute, have-to-own-it-all Mass Effect fans will probably consider picking this one up, but beyond those two groups, I'm not really sure I can recommend hunting down Shepard.
In part, that's because I'm left with the same feeling I had with Kratos; that Play Arts Kai Shepard could have been something great, but isn't.
[Thanks to Square Enix for sending Shepard to us for review!]
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