Friday, 24 January 2014

Nightstorm Predator Review

Company: NECA
Series: Predators  – Series 10
RRP: approx. $34.95 AUD

Scale: 7”
The Background

In the 1990s, Kenner was a ubiquitous brand in the world of action figures. Though they’re probably best remembered for their Star Wars toys, they also produced figures based on child-friendly movies (or their cartoon spin-offs) such as Aliens, Predator, RoboCop and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.
I had quite a few Kenner figures as a youth in the 1990s (mostly Star Wars: The Power of the Force), and though many were pretty ordinary but today’s standards, they were fantastic at the time. Sadly, Kenner is no more – bought out by Hasbro some years ago, the brand has long since been absorbed into its parent company, the licenses it once held divvied up among other companies. But its legacy still lives on today, in some small part, every time an adult movie like The Dark Knight Rises or Van Helsing gets a toyline intended for children. But it’s rarely as off the wall as it was back then…I don’t think so many people see ultra-violent movies as potential kid’s cartoons, and that’s probably for the best.

So, why mention Kenner in a NECA review detail? Well, series 10 of NECA’s Predator line is a tribute to those often wild and wacky days of toy manufacturing – specifically, a modern update of some of Kenner’s Predator range.  This is territory we’ve seen NECA dip their toes into before, with Nightfighter RoboCop – how does it carry over to the Predators?  Read on and find out.
The Packaging

I’m a child of the 1980s and 1990s. Toy packaging in this era tended to be either RIDICULOUSLY BRIGHT AND GARISH (Ninja Turtles and GI Joe) or DARK AND EDGY (particularly after the rise of McFarlane Toys). All of it was intended to grab your attention, each package competing with many others on the crowded shelf. The artwork on this box is quite a deliberate throwback to that era, and one that I very much enjoy. The focal point is the illustration of the masked Predator face, which has been coloured in a style that definitely uses what professionals call “artistic license”. It’s very similar to the original Kenner cardback, though different enough to look quite cool on its own merits.

MOCers should be pleased, but they’ll want to be careful – with the card backing, it’s obviously more prone to damage than a NECA clamshell. The other downside is that the helmet is concealed behind the bottom paper strip, so you won’t be able to see that properly.    


The first thing you’ll probably notice is that this guy is big. He towers over my Jungle Hunter, and is massive next to Dutch. Apparently he uses the old “Super Predator” body – which to the layman, basically means that it’s taller and its legs aren’t as articulated as more recent Predator series have been (V-cut hips instead of balljoints). So you’ll have a little more trouble getting it to stand, but once it does you shouldn’t have many issues with it falling over, as the V-cuts tend to be stronger than balljoints.

In practice, it was quite tricky to get him to stand, as his leg armour, points of articulation and a seemingly sensible way for him to stand didn’t all line up very well. I would still advise that you don’t stand him anywhere he can fall too far. The trade-off is that his legs do actually seem far more poseable than my Jungle Hunter, which in spite of having “superior” articulation, is fairly immobile around the hips.    
In terms of the rest of the articulation, let’s see:

*ball-jointed head (more on that under “ISSUES”)
*swivel hinge shoulders

*swivel hinge elbows
*ball-jointed left wrist (right wrist seems to be intentionally immobile, beneath the gauntlet)

*cut waist  
*cut thighs

*swivel hinge knees

All of it works well enough, and it’s nicely placed on the sculpt – none of the joints distract from the overall look of the figure.  
Once the mask is on, the effect of the figure is not dissimilar to an animal-headed Egyptian idol.- specifically Khepri. I was (and am) a big fan of ancient Egypt, so the overall aesthetic is one I find quite pleasing. Stargate fans could perhaps even pretend that he’s some kind of villainous species within that universe, and despite the more realistic sculpt, I still think he’s cartoony enough to make a good enemy for the new range of TMNT figures.

As for the claws, they’re ridiculously huge and actually extend out a little further. I’m torn as to whether I like how big they are, or whether it would have been good to scale them back a little. As a tribute to 90s action figure style, it’s spot-on though.

NECA know how to do a great paint job, and this one is particularly good. The Predator’s base colour is a midnight blue, highlighted with a lighter blue. Lots of little details (is it meant to be chest hair, or just spots? I’m never sure) are picked out across the body, and he’s sans-netting, so no issues with paint slop there.

The face is of particular note, with the purply-pink colour on the mandibles complimenting the dark blue hues quite well.  Gold is the other dominant colour, and the work here is also quite good. A grey wash has been applied over the gold to give it more depth and (I assume) a somewhat aged appearance. Pretty good in theory, but in practice the wash is a bit uneven and will probably vary quite a bit from figure to figure. I didn’t have any major issues with mine – but it’s something to watch out for.
As a minus, taking the mask on and off will slightly wear the paint down around the mouth -- just something to be mindful of. You'll probably want to stick with a mask on or mask off look, for the most part.

Nightstorm Predator comes with three accessories – a mask, a staff and a shoulder cannon.

This is the apparently the first Predator to have a removable mask in the whole NECA range. I think the removable mask is a good thing, and I might even say it’s long overdue. Getting the various masked and unmasked versions of the same Predators across multiple series might not bother some people, but I tend to think that it would be better to just include some removable masks and/or interchangeable heads. Hopefully we see a lot more of this in future.  

The mask is concealed behind the paper insert in the box, so it will be a little bit of a gamble as to the paint job on it – mine was fine, though. The sculpting is intentionally reminiscent of a scarab beetle’s pincers, which further ties in with the pseudo-Egyptian theme. Scarabs were quite important to the ancient Egyptians, so it’s not too much of a stretch.    

The inside of the mask is also filled with sculpted detail – this is a great touch, when you consider that they could have easily left it blank, and no one would have complained. Overall, I think it looks great. The only real downside is that the mask does seem to cause a bit of paint wear around different parts of the face. I keep mine more or less permanently masked, but your mileage may vary.

The staff is similarly cool – incorporating a skull and what one other reviewer described as a Xenomorph tail, it fits the pseudo-Egyptian vibe quite well. It’s moulded in a sturdy plastic, and didn’t seem to have any issues with warping. His grip is a little tight, but once it’s in it should hold nice and steady.

The shoulder cannon is on a simple balljoint post that clicks into the armour – it’s not a full backpack like some other figures. The supporting post does pop out of its socket a little more easily than I’d like, but on the upside, the barrel actually rotates, which is nifty.

I don’t know if it’s something I did wrong, it’s unique to my figure or if it’s a problem across the range, but as soon as I took Mr Nightstorm out of the package, his head fell off.

No biggie – it’s a balljoint, it should pop back in pretty easily, shouldn’t it? Not so simple. From what I can tell, the shoulder armour flares up in an area very close to the neck – and when the dreadlocks come into contact with it, it doesn’t quite come together as it should.

With this said, I can turn him upside down and his head won’t fall off – I just need to be careful with how it’s posed.  I’ve read a couple of other reviews and they haven’t mentioned this issue, so it may just be mine. As it’s theoretically repairable, it’s not a dealbreaker, but it’s highly irritating nonetheless.

To be quite honest, I probably would have hated this figure when I was actually a child. Though I thought some of the many variations of Batman that did the rounds were quite cool, the Kenner Aliens and Predator lines typified some of the worst trends in 1990s action figures – namely, a thin basis in source material, little to no resemblance to the character/s and ultimately quite gimmicky.
I generally tend to prefer figures that look more or less as they do in the source material – extra accessories are nice, but they should be removable. Kenner’s Combat Belt Batman from 1993 is a great example of this kind of figure, as are the basic TMNT figures currently doing the rounds. 

But every now and then I’ll see something a little more unusual that just grabs me, and this was one of those figures. The reception of the Kenner-style figures seems to have been quite good, so it’s likely that there will be more – I’m hoping for a glow in the dark one, to be best buds with Night Fighter RoboCop.

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