Tomopop Review: Square Enix's Play Arts Kai Kratos
4:00 PM on 06.08.2012
The Play Arts Kai line really has been something of a mixed bag for me, in part because of the various issues I've encountered with them. Usually, it's just one thing, like not being poseable, or having a propensity to fall over, or just some small painting mishaps or, recently, a bent silencer barrel. So perhaps that's why when Play Arts Kai Kratos arrived at my front doorstep, I wasn't quite sure what to expect.
Getting him out of the box and assembled, though, allowed me to take a look at Square-Enix's most recent Play Arts Kai release. What I found was perhaps surprising, and where Kratos slots in on my Play Arts Kai experience list might also be a bit of a shock.
So, starting things off, we've got ourselves a box! It's very stylized, with lots of cracked stone in the background, Kratos emblazoned on the front with the God of War III and Play Arts Kai series logos. But ... no window? That's because ...
Boom! It's flip-open! The left-hand side has the background story for the God of War franchise, while the right side features our window with Kratos on the inside. What's interesting is that the cracked stone pattern continues to the inside, along with a chain pattern spread across parts of the window, too. Square-Enix really likes to print stuff on corners of their windows, I've noticed.
Time to crack this bad boy open!
Pulled fresh from the box, Kratos' bare-chested and ash-colored profile looks mighty impressive. It's like muscles on top of muscles, all sculpted with lots of detail, down to the veins and scars on his skin. You can, however, also see most of the joints on Kratos' body, which is the same thing we ran into with Ryu during out review of him. If that's a distraction for you, then Kratos won't do anything to divert your attention away from his joints.
Also worth noting, and you'll see this throughout the review: Kratos stands on his own without need for a stand. Not saying I wouldn't mind one so you could do more animated poses with him, but this is perhaps the least trouble I've had getting a Play Arts Kai figure posed and stable ever.
The most important thing for Kratos is perhaps his face, and here, you can get a glimpse at it. The sculpt detailing is nice and the paint job is good except for one thing: the dark gray color used for his forehead is a little too dark/heavy in my opinion. Beyond that, you can see that his eyes have that rage-filled look they should and are free of paint defects, and his skin is even detailed with a worn look befitting a man who knows has been through hell and back. Quite literally.
I don't quite think he looks angry enough, though. That's my one complaint. I think the mouth could have been made to just look a little angrier.
Look at those abs. Look at them. He's literally a mountain of muscle, and Square Enix has sculpted him as such. The mid-torso joint operates freely, and a second waist joint give him a nice degree of poseability. You can also see the neck joint in both this picture and the one proceeding it, which give Kratos the ability to look down or up a little better than most of the Play Arts Kai figures I've dealt with to date.
You can also see some of the sculpting and paintwork on the belt, which again bring out little details that are key for a figure with as little to look at as Kratos has. The only problem I have is there's a bit of a stained look on parts of his torso, and while it's not distracting because it gives him a grimier, war-worn look, I'm not sure if its supposed to be like that.
Kratos' big, meaty chained gauntlets again have considerable detail on them, especially with the chains wrapping around his arms. The color choices here also sync up with the actual color of the chains you'll see in a bit that are part of his weapons, helping to give the illusion of them being one and the same from a distance.
On the opposite side are Kratos' golden pauldrons, crafted so that they don't bump into each other and allow his right arm's elbow joint to move in a full range of motion. Oh, and did I mention the nice touches like the "burn marks" painted onto the gold plating? Yeah, there's no mistaking Kratos for someone who sits back from the front lines of combat.
Below his waist, Kratos' Spartan warrior outfit looks ancient, and that's a good thing. The leather looks rough and is painted a worn dark brown color, and the outfit actually pulls apart to allow his right leg an extended range of mobility. You can also see some of the detailing on his fingertips here, complete with fingernails.
The joints, especially the hip ones, are all very sturdy, not popping out of place or losing the pose they're supposed to be holding. It's also hidden, but there's a joint on the upper thigh of Kratos allowing you to rotate his legs around. It lets you do some of the cool poses you always wanted to do, like Kratos crouching down a bit, ready to tear into minotaurs and harpies alike.
There's detail here on the foot, but it's also where we see the worst paint job problems on the figure. Just really slopping looking, and it looks less like grime and dirt and more just like they screwed up in the factory.
But what is a warrior without his weapons? Kratos comes packing the Blades of Exile and the Claws of Hades, along with metal chains for the Blades of Exile. Speaking of those blades, that's where we'll start:
As you can see, lots to look over here. Square-Enix have done a good job of taking the in-game models and transferring them to the real world, making sure to bring along all the details like the scary-looking hilt and the rough handles. The glowing effect of the blades is indeed airbrushed on, but there's no real paint problems with how it turned out, so it actually looks very nice!
Just a little close-up on the Blades of Exile's hilt so you can see the details. Even the eyes have been recreated properly.
Also included are the mighty Claws of Hades, with a cool light-to-dark fade on the tips and lots of pointiness to go around. Don't put your eye out when handling them!
Now I mentioned those metal chains, and if you looked close on the Blades of Exile and Claws of Hades, you would have noticed holes. Those serve two purposes, one of which is to serve as the plug for the ends of each chain. The chains are made of what feels like a pretty durable metal and painted with a weathered bronzed look. They attach at holes on the inside of Kratos' wrists, and with a little bit of patience, they slide right on in without much problem. They also stay quite securely, and make for a great look:
Like this. Here, you can also see a few things. One, Kratos' alternate hands, whose only job are to hold his weapons. They do it pretty well, and while you have to figure out the right way to back the weapons into his hands, they stay secure when moving him about.
Two, the joints on Kratos did feel a tiny bit loose, especially around the shoulder areas, but by and large they were stable, secured and not very fragile.
Just a close-up so you can see how everything looks with the Blades of Exile in-hand. Quite well, wouldn't you say?
Getting Kratos to a more aggressive pose? Not a problem. As mentioned before, this figure really holds its shape well, though the legs can be a bit more of a pain to pose, as they're a bit less flexible than I'd like at the foot/ankle connecting joint. This is one of the three poses on the box, with all three actually possible; the second one looks pretty bad***, too.
Here Kratos is with the Claws of Hades in hand! The third pose on the box, Kratos looks ready to go kill some gods that are in his way and ... wait, what's that behind him? On the back?
Yes, the Blades of Exile (and the Claws of Hades, if you're not using them) fit into Kratos' back with a simple peg piece that fits into the holes I mentioned before. The peg then fits into a hole in the back of Kratos, and it actually does two things well. One of those is hold the weapons in place. The other is actually keep Kratos stable; even with his Blades of Exile strapped onto his back, Kratos didn't have much of a character as a figure that leans back. I'm quite happy about that.
The facial sculpt just really doesn't look as snarly and angry as Kratos should look, there's some tiny paint problems here and there (which the battle-hardened Kratos manages to make look more intentional) and the paint for the grime and dirt on his face is a little too thick/dark in parts ... but you know what? This is a Play Arts Kai that I happen to like. He looks good, the detailing is nice, everything works as it should (though the joints on his shoulders are a teeny tiny bit loose) and most importantly, he actually balances while standing well. In fact, I left him out overnight after I shot him, and when I woke up the next morning, he hadn't moved an inch. Finally feels good to say that.
My only wish really is that he came with a second, raging face so you could have him look like he's about to slay an entire army of monsters. Had Square-Enix thrown that in there with the rest of the stuff, I think we'd be talking about a very, very good purchase. He's still worth your money if you're a God of War fan, and as an overall assessment, Kratos is the nicest Play Arts Kai figure I own, with Ryu in second and Solid Snake and Cyborg Ninja tied for third.
Well, at least until Akuma and Cammy are in my collection.
[Thanks to Square-Enix for sending Kratos along as a review sample!]
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