And that's the direction most companies have taken in recent years.
Whether that works or not though is certainly debatable. The only
video game based line I can think of that I'd consider truly successful in
the U.S. (making it through multiple series and having a true positive
impact for the company's bottom line) was SOTA's Street Fighter, where they
also had the nostalgia effect. There have been greater successes in
Japan, but they seem more attached to Nerd Hummels than American buyers are
NECA has been doing their best to tap this market lately with their
Player Select series. The latest release is Altair, the main character
from the very new game, Assassin's Creed. I haven't played it yet (the
only up and running video game system at my house right now is the Wii), but
the description and storyline certainly sound interesting, and I love the
basic character designs. I also found out that my current dirty old
man fixation, Kristen Bell, voices one of the characters, so I definitely
have to check it out.
Altair is hitting stores like Hot Topic or FYE in some places, but your
best bet is either the local comic shop or an online dealer. Expect to
pay around $12 - $15, depending on the retailer
Packaging - ***
NECA is sticking with clamshells, which is fine by me. The white
background, which fits the design theme of most of the game's packaging, is
a bit boring even with the inclusion of the graphics. Still, it's a
nice clean look, and I'm not going to complain too much. Even better,
the clamshell wastes very little space, a big issue these days in our newly
Sculpting - ***1/2
One of the most impressive aspects of this sculpt is the small detail
work. The pouches and containers on the belt, the small knives on his
shoulder, the intricate carving in the buckles and belts, all of it is
rendered in great detail in a very realistic way for this scale (6 - 7").
On this figure, in the battle between articulation and sculpt, the edge
went to sculpt. The upper arm and leg clothing is sculpted in such a
way as to hide the elbow and knee articulation, and it does that fairly
well. Unfortunately (just like you'd expect) this also means it
restricts the amount of movement the joints have.
The regular right hand is sculpted to hold a number of the accessories,
including the small knives if you place them between the thumb and first
finger. The alternate hand is sculpted in a gesturing pose, which
looks good with a number of stances.
The right hand is sculpted with the missing ring finger, and (just like
in the game) this accommodates the extending blade in his right gauntlet.
This blade moves in and out smoothly, and remains well hidden when
retracted, but it is a soft plastic, and ended up with a weird bend about
two thirds out right in the package. It's a tough bend to remove as
well, because the blade is so small and soft.
The head sculpt is a very good representation of the game character,
right down to the scar on the upper lip. If I have one complaint here,
it's that the front edge of the cowl doesn't quite have that 'bird beak'
look to it that you see in the game.
On the plus side though, the cowl is sculpted as separate from the body,
and goes deeply into the neck joint, so that you can pose the head in many
different ways, and the cowl still looks great.
This figure is much more detailed and accurate than the 12" version that
came with the special release boxed set. That figure was produced by
First 4 Figures for Ubisoft, and lacked much of the accurate sculpting on
the belt/harness and clothing.
He stands just under 7" tall, and should fit in nicely with other 7"
scale figures, including the rest of the Player Select line.
Paint - ***1/2
It looks like the factory is starting to produce the kind of paint work
that NECA has been striving for. There's still a few issues here, but
this is well beyond the work we've seen on some of the POTC or early Harry
The facial hair is clean and well done, the eyes and eyebrows are nice
and straight, and all the small details on the costume show clean cuts and
good contrast. After going over not just early promo photos but screen shots
(and having a reader mention it), I'm not sure that the soul patch is really
supposed to be a soul patch, at least from NECA's point of view. Yes,
that's a moustache, and they're trying to approximate that "I don't
have a moustache but always look like I haven't shaved in two days"
look. The character DOES have a slightly darker upper lip than jaw
line in most photos, including the one on the box cover.
But the soul patch? I'm thinking this arose from the heavy shadows
that we usually see him in. Most of the early photos (including the
box art) show a dark shadow on his chin. Perhaps NECA mistook this as
a soul patch when it wasn't. Even on the figure, from a distance, it
looks like a shadow.
But while they did a good job of getting the gray and white colors of the
uniform about right, this is still one of those cases where I think they
went a bit overboard on the wash. When it brings out detail and adds
shadow, it's good. When it looks like he's been wrestling with a pig
(as do the arms), then it's too much.
Articulation - **1/2
While it might seem like all was peaches and puppies with this figure, I was
a bit disappointed with the articulation.
Considering the character, I had in my mind that I wanted to do poses
similar to what you can do with the SOTA Street Fighter line.
I think my expectation was also set by the press releases from NECA,
which claimed ball joints just about everywhere.
The ball jointed neck is the highlight, and it does work quite well.
As I mentioned earlier, the way they designed the cowl allows you to pose
the head in many ways, and yet not goof up the look of the clothing.
The ball jointed shoulders (jointed just at the torso) work as you'd
expect, but the so called ball jointed knees and elbows are really the
peg/disk type of joints. That means the elbow or knee can bend forward
and back, and the lower limb can also turn 360 degrees around the joint.
However, the clothing has been sculpted to hid the articulation, with the
sculpt on the upper sleeves and upper pants coming down about half way over
the joint. It does hide the joint a bit, but it also restricts the
movement forward and back.
The waist joint works fine as well, but the hips are another downer.
They are also advertised as 'ball joints', but they don't look like it.
In fact, I'm not sure what kind they are exactly, since they are tough to
see under the robe, but they don't have much of a range of movement, and you
won't be able to do much in terms of deep stances.
Finally, both the wrists and ankles are billed as ball joints, and they
actually are. But once again, the sculpted clothing restricts the
ankles quite a bit, making them not much more than a cut joint. The
left wrist has no articulation (due to the retractable blade), but the ball
joint on the right wrist works great. In fact, after the neck joint,
this right wrist is the best joint.
This guy is an assassin - he has a need for weapons of subtle destruction.
NECA has loaded him up with some trademark goodies.
I already mentioned the retractable blade on his left arm, but that isn't
removable, so I don't count it as an accessory.
However, he has four more smaller daggers arranged on the front of his
cummerbund-like belt. These do come out, although once you remove the
small rubber bands on them, you might find you have to pull pretty hard.
The paint may have them stuck, but they do come out. He can hold them
as well, if you get creative with his fingers.
There's also a larger dagger that's really more small sword, and this
also fits in a cool scabbard, this time strapped to his back.
Finally, there's his full sized sword, which fits nicely in his hand or
in the long scabbard permanently attached to his body.
While that's it for the weapons, that's not it for the accessories.
He also has an alternate gesturing right hand. The post (inside the
arm) is made from a nice hard plastic, but getting the hands off and on is a
bit of a trial.