Mortal Kombat Klassics - Cyber Ninjas

   "The following is a guest review.  The review and photos do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Michael Crawford or Michael's Review of the Week, and are the opinion and work of the guest author."

Ridureyu checks in with a look at some nifty ninjas - take it away, R!

Did you know that Mortal Kombat started out as a vehicle for Jean-Claude Van Damme?  It was planned out as a video game mixture between Bloodsport and Bruce Lee's Enter the Dragon, but when JCVD said no, the Mortal Kombat team managed to fill in without him.  This is why Johnny Cage is a movie star with the initials J.C., who does the splits as his specialty.  For the rest of it, they played up the Enter the Dragon connection (did anybody ever notice how similar Goro is to Bolo?), and then added some pseudo-Chinese mysticism straight out of Big Trouble in Little China (hence a lightning-wielding man in a dinner-plate hat, and a shape-shifting sorcerer at the end).  They also cranked up the gore now that Jean-Claude was gone, as nobody had to worry about harming his image.

Now, for ANOTHER "did you know," most of the actor costumes were red!  This was so they would contrast properly with the green screen - for example, all the palette-swapped ninjas have always been performed by a man in a red ninja suit. It would then be re-colored accordingly - in the first game, with blue or yellow or green.  Occasionally, there was a rare glitch in the arcade version that displayed certain character graphics without applying the appropriate palette, thus producing a red ninja.  And another glitch caused an error message - "Error Macro," which the game text would shorten to "ErMac."  By the third game, Ermac was an actual character - a red-clad ninja, of course.  Ha ha, very funny.

And now, the THIRD random trivia-dump (and the last before getting to the actual figures):  The cyber-ninjas in Mortal Kombat 3 were the last characters to be named, and had the longest gap between character creation and naming.  Cyrax and Sektor's placeholder names were Mustard and Ketchup, respectively.  Their final names are "the ones we hated the least."  Personally, I would have been fine with Ketchup and Mustard.  they would have fit with Smoke, at any rate.  All three are members of Sub-Zero's clan of Lin Kuei ninjas (Sub-Zero, Smoke, Cyrax, Sektor), who are not to be mistaken for all the identical ninjas not part of the clan (Scorpion, Reptile, Ermac, Rain, Noob Saibot). At some point, the Lin Kuei decided that they should convert all their members into cyborgs, and in the main games, Cyrax and Sektor volunteered, whereas Smoke was transformed against his will and Sub-Zero escaped.  In the new game's new timeline, Sub-Zero was converted and Smoke escaped.  This figure set shows the original three robo-ninjas as they were in Mortal Kombat 3.

Jazwares has the license for Mortal Kombat, and as is the trend right now, they've started making figures in the 3 3/4" scale. Currently, the "mortal Kombat Klassics" line contains one boxed set of normal ninjas and one of the cyborgs.  It's a nice first attempt for the line, although it's not the first time Mortal Kombat has seen this scale - just like Street Fighter's early appearance as a G.I. Joe spinoff, Mortal Kombat toys first appeared as pseudo-G.I. Joes. I even still own the Goro from back then!  As these are not made up of reused parts from another toyline, they are already superior.  But that's comparing them with twenty-year-old toys.  How do they hold up right now?

Packaging - **1/2
At first glance, the packaging seems great.  But after looking at it for a bit, something just seems off.  Despite being a boxed set, the cardboard is rather thin, and mine was already pretty bashed-up when I got it.  This is not going to be good for MOC-collectors.  Or should I say MOK-Kollektors?  The packaging states that it's part of the Mortal Kombat Klassics line, and gives the names of all three cyborgs, although without accompanying pictures - any kid buying these will not know who is who.  The art on the back is a blurry screenshot of the Mortal Kombat 1 select screen, which is rather odd.  Both boxed sets are clearly from Mortal Kombat 3.  It comes off feeling like a dollar-store bootleg package, which isn't a very good first impression.  At least it gives a great look at the three figures inside.

Sculpting - ****
The part where these figures shine, and where most of their positive press has come, is the sculpt.  All three of them share the exact same body, and it would have been pretty blatant if anything went wrong.  All three ninjas eventually gained their own designs in future games, but in their first appearance, it was all one costume.

Cyborgs in the Mortal Kombat universe look kind of like the Power Rangers if they played Paintball.  It is very, very '90s, but kind of endearing for that.  They have bulky plastic armor, masks with no visibility, and even Predator dreadlocks (which are probably USB cables).  The sculpt captures these details pretty well, and as a nice touch, is clearly based on the actual actor's costume and in-game graphics, not the drawn character art from the game manuals and guides.  There are very few differences between the two, but they are there, particularly around the ankles.  The sculpts are good not just for this scale, but for the characters in general.  Ideally, they would look exactly the same in a larger scale.  My only complaints surface under articulation and accessories, actually.

Paint - Smoke: **1/2, Everybody Else: ***1/2
The colors are fine, with one exception.  Smoke is slightly lighter here than he was in the game - periwinkle instead of purple, although the difference is kind of subtle.  Still, it is different, unfortunately.  Cyrax is the appropriate yellow and Sektor is the appropriate red, and the silver and black bits are where they should be.  All three of my figures suffer from some degree of paint slop, whether it's little black and silver marks on their chest pieces, or slop all over Smoke's ponytails.  I also suspect that their upper-arm paint is likely to scrape off against the shoulders.  Smoke's color itself is worth a star for the character, and the paint slop takes off half a star for everybody else.

Articulation - **1/2
The low score here is kind of hard to explain.  On one side, the figures all have pretty good articulation, virtually identical to Marvel Universe (although with no swivel thighs or biceps).  On the other side, everything is either too stiff or too loose.  It's ALMOST perfect, but fails in just enough ways to become mediocre by today's standards.  The arm movement is inhibited somewhat by the figures' shoulders, which is rather strange considering that they don't have big shoulders to speak of.  Likewise, some more swivels would have greatly helped in posing them.  The original characters only posed in ways that a human in a costume could, and you can certainly replicate some, like the mortal Kombat stock uppercut or high kick.  But they can't crouch, and they can't do many up-close moves, as knee or elbow strikes look oddly awkward.  What there is can work fairly well, but posing these guys takes a little bit of creativity.

Another problem is that the joints go loose very, very easily.  Cyrax's left arm practically falls free, Smoke's hips are loose, but my Sektor is still okay for now.  You can feel the joints loosening up after a little bit of posing, although they do tighten up again if you leave them.  My Smoke also has a bad left knee - part of the joint is warped, and the knee nearly pops out when moved.

The last problem with the articulation involves their dreadlocks, or rather the lack of articulation there.  They turn straight down, and cannot be posed with the ninjas.  Their plastic also feels a little stiff, which makes them feel rather unfortunately fragile.

And yes, their ball-jointed heads are quite removable.

Accessories - Bupkis
This is a genuine problem.  Yes, it's true that Mortal Kombat characters generally fight barehanded, and "weapons" only became part of the games starting with the fourth one.  However, the cyber-ninjas always used them.  Cyrax had little spherical bombs and a net, Sektor had missiles and a trash compactor in his chest, and Smoke had a three-pronged harpoon.  Ideally, we would have gotten some or all of these, and an opening panel in the cyber-ninjas' chests.  Swap "ideally" with "If Hasbro made these."  However, we get none- not even a single round bomb!  Another idea would have been open hands - the three robots have their hands closed in fists, l and all three of them had open hands for quite a few poses - including Cyrax and Smoke's neutral standing pose!

Really, it's too bad that they came with nothing, because there is a lot that they could have used to add value to this set.

And the final and most important one: No figure stands!  Their feet do not even have holes for generic pegs.  There is nothing to help the ninjas stand, which is bound to frustrate many people when they pose the cyber-ninjas.  The more dramatic poses in this review's accompanying pictures are not likely to last long without support, which is rather sad, and severely hurts the figure.

Value for money - ***
$19.99 is the suggested retail price for these figures, which sounds about right.  It's roughly equal to a Hasbro 3-pack, although these ninjas come with less than one of those.  It's not the worst value, though, and I have no real complaints about it.

Overall- ***
Despite some very glaring problems, these figures are fairly fun overall, and it's nice to have cyborg ninjas.  They could stand in among G.I. Joe or Star Wars, or just jump into a crossover with the recent 4-inch Street Fighter figures.  However, aside from that factor, they are disappointing.  Sloppy paint, problematic articulation, and a lack of accessories (especially stands!) hurts them a lot.  What tipped this from two and a half stars to three is the general cool factor, as they do look all right when posed.

Where to buy
Currently, Toys R Us and Amazon have them on-line, as well as all of the regular toy resellers.  I'd opt for the first few, as retail price will be better than anything you can get on the secondary market.

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This product was purchased for the review by the reviewer. Photos and text by Rideruyi.

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