Like those big pulsing cores the bosses in Gradius all bear, I have a giant weak spot for cool Japanese toys. In particular, cool video-game related toys. And I'm sure I'm not alone.
Thanks to a multitude of importers and special deals that Diamond Distribution has made with Japanese toy manufacturers, we're seeing more and more wonderful gaming-related figures and toys being brought ashore at record speeds and great prices. But, unfortunately, not all toys are created equal. Many a time I've seen a figure that looks super cool in preview pictures, only to be disappointed with the actual article itself. But sometimes the opposite happens as well - a toy looks uninteresting from pictures, only to be much cooler when seen in person.
Since a lot of us collectors frequently purchase these items through mail-order, it can be hard to tell what exactly you're going to get. That's why I've decided to start up an ongoing featurette, Heidi's Gaming Toy and Figure review, as an aid to those who share my deeply-seated love of three-dimensional game character renditions.
We're starting off this feature with...
Sega Gals Gashapon Collection: Volume 2
For the unfamiliar, you might be wondering, "What are gashapon?" Let me explain. Think of those vending machines you see around malls, grocery stores, and such. Put in some quarters, turn the dial, and some typically cheap piece of plastic jewelry or superball or a Homies figure or whatever comes out. These exist in Japan, too, and are called gashapon...except they have evolved beyond our wildest dreams. A typical gashapon figure costs around 200 yen and is non-posable, but has color and sculpting quality rivalling many larger, full-priced figures released stateside. Their pieces come encased in a small plastic ball, and you'll find machines full of these toy-holding spheres all over the country.
Perhaps an easier explanation -- do you recall the toys you could collect in Shenmue? Yeah. "Perhaps I should buy another..."
There's a multitude of gashapon types available, ranging from Disney characters to Star Wars keychains to Naruto phone straps to bizzare indie toys you only see at the most specialized of locales. Amongst all these sets are several collections of game-related items, ranging from miniature console replicas to 80s LCD games to figure representations of game characters, which is what we're looking at today. While Tecmo, Namco, Arc System, and especially SNK and Capcom have already seen several figure sets with their various female characters, Sega's a bit of a newcomer to the high-quality gashapon front. Sure, they've had some Sakura Taisen and PSO sets, but nothing that caters to the fan followers quite like the Sega Gals set.
A typical gashapon figure set generally consists of one or two very popular characters, a couple of second-stringers, a "hardcore fan favorite", and one or two that were dug out of nowhere and nobody really cares about just to round things out. Manufacturers don't put all the most popular characters in a single set, simply because they release new sets of a series every few months, and want to keep the fans anticipating and buying. Makes sense, right?
Companies also like to mix things up by throwing in a couple of "secret" figures (typically repaints or variants) that nobody knows about until the set is released. These secret figures usually aren't super rare, but still more uncommon and sought-after than others.
Sega Gals Vol. 2 pretty much fits this description to a tee: Six female Sega characters from past and present, plus two hidden variants. We're going to evaluate at and rate each figure individually and then give the set as a whole a score range from 1 to 10.
Let's start out with...
Probably one of the headliners for this set, and a damn fine one, at that. Thanks to a very nice sculpting job, Hibana strikes a genuinely alluring pose, showing off her fine figure without being overly servicey. The paint job is good, with the white part of her costume being done in an attractive pearl color. The mesh parts of her outfit, however, lack color...though most people probably won't be so nitpicky as to really be bothered by it. She comes in several pieces, but for the most part isn't too hard to assemble. Her daggers are a bit tricky, though, so I'd suggest getting those out of the way first.
Hibana comes with two different heads: masked and unmasked. While her masked face also looks very nice and is well-colored, I actually prefer to see her face.
Another notable mention, in spite of her pose, Hibana balances perfectly with the included base. The first Sega Gals set had a major balance imperfection, a flaw which thankfully has almost been corrected in this latest edition. More on that shortly.
Rating:8 out of 10. A solid, attractive figurine that any fan of the game would be pleased with.
Arsha and Peperogu (Monster World IV)
Now here's the fan favorite. Arsha is from Monster World IV, a spectacular action/RPG released only in Japan close to the end of the Megadrive's lifespan. It's a fine game that any Monster World fan should play, and Arsha is a real cutie. This figure manages to capture her character almost perfectly, hopping about as she carries her bouncy blue friend Peperogu. Since she's a cuter, more simplistic character design than the other girls in the set, her sculpt and paint accurately reflects this, with smooth curves and bright, distinctive colors. My only complaint is that her face doesn't look as good as it could - it's hard to see her lips and her features seem a tad smooshed together.
As far as assembly goes, Arsha's a bit trickier than she seems at first. Most of her lower body is a cinch, but her head and arms are a tad problematic, and attaching Peperogu can be a real pain. Still, she's a welcome addition to the set and will certainly spark pleasant memories in many a Megadrive fan.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10. Great job, but she could be a bit better.
Elwing (Shining Tears)
Now's a C-list character if there ever was one. I can understand Sega wanting to promote it more recent titles, but it's hard for anyone to get really excited about seeing her in this set. On top of that, her figure is pretty poor.
While Elwing has an decent pose (it lacks the action element that Hibana and Arsha convey, but it's not totally bland), when viewed from any angle except head-on, she starts to look rather poorly done. Her paint and colors are true to that of the original character design, but are horribly bland earthy green-and-brown shades. (Come to think of it, her character design is horribly bland, too. I guess it fits.)
The biggest problem with her, though, is that she's a total pain to assemble and has a tough time staying together. She has a bunch of attachments to he clothes, a huge green bow made of two loosely-connected pieces, and a set of "wings" in her hair. The wings snap into her headband, but have a nasty tendency to wobble around and fall out when she's moved. Her skirt also has a tough time staying in one place. But hey, she can stand by herself, so at least that part's satisfactory.
Overall though, Elwing's definitely the worst of the lot, and I can't really say that she deserves better...
Rating: 4 out of 10. A hassle to set up and fairly unappealing afterwards.
Honey (Fighting Vipers)
Inarguably the set's headliner, Honey is one of Sega's most popular and enduring heroines, beloved by fanboys almost 10 years after she first appeared on the fighting game circuit. Thus, it's no surprise that she is absolutely beautiful.
The sculpted design fits her character and is reminiscent of her respective introductory and winning poses. It looks lovely from all angles and provides the fanservice she's famous for in the back, as you can see from the pictures. The painting and colors on her are much better than typical gashpon fare - her lace and bows are all done with translucent plastics and colors, while her gloves and "wings" are done in a striking pearl-white color. Everything about this figure feels true and exact to the original character.
On top of that, Honey is much easier to assemble than she first seems (though her skirt can be a tad tricky). On top of that, her balance is perfect. Easily the best figure in this set, and something every self-respecting Sega fan would be pleased to have posing on top of their computer monitor.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10. Almost perfect!