Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Video Game Toys: Sonic the Hedgehog Part 1

So I like video games.  They're as much a part of my life as toys, though perhaps not as easily obtained for a good while.  My parents weren't big on getting me video games back in the day, and rightly so, because when I borrowed various systems from friends it was all I did.  I borrowed an NES and perfected Mario 3 and eventually got an NES for my own (an extra from a friend) and fought through Mega Man 3, TMNT, Zelda, Contra, and so on and so forth.  Not long after that I also borrowed a Sega Genesis from time to time and...well...Sonic the Hedgehog.  I mean, there were other greats on the Sega like Castlevania Bloodlines and Jurassic Park (depending on what you had access to; I was limited) but Sonic the Hedgehog was MY THING back then.  So much so that I can still turn on Sonic 3 hooked to Sonic & Knuckles and blast through it without much thought.

It goes without saying that my love of both video games and toys had planted in me the seed of desire for action figures of my favorite video game characters.  This was a problem back during the heyday of the NES, Genesis, and SNES (and other side items I can't remember).  They gave you numerous products in the form of cereals, clothing, lunchboxes, stickers, and sometimes trading cards...but on the toy front all we had was fast food kid meal toys.  My only Sonic was a little thing that just acted like a car; you pushed Sonic into his little shooter (looked like flames or smoke, I think) and pressed the button to launch him.  There!  Super speed.  All you need, right? 

Weellll.....I wanted more.  Somehow running around with that figure and bouncing off of "enemies" (whatever I had around at the time) wasn't cutting it for me; and standing the wheeled figure next to other figures didn't really seem like Soinc to me.  He wasn't ready to interact or do anything else like G.I. Joes and Superhero toys were.  Where were the Sonic action figures?  Where were any of them, for that matter?  Mega Man got a short-lived toyline that was...admittedly a little ugly lookin' (though I still wanted them badly), and well...Mario - arguably the most famous of them all - also mostly survived toy-wise in the fast food market. 

I wish I had some sort of answer to the question of why toy companies didn't feel the need to make toys of video game characters back then.  Maybe video games were already thought of as toys?  Maybe they thought: "Hey, if kids want to play with Sonic, they'll just play the game!  Why would they touch the toys?"  Who knows!  What I do know is where the video game toys went -

 - to the future!  Well, the future relative to my past childhood self, because the Sonic toys in question started a couple years ago, which would make that the past.  So the future compared to my childhood but the recent past compared to my adulthood (adulthood, anyway, in the very loosest sense of the term).  YOU GET ME anyway, what did you come here for, words 'n such?  On to the pictures!

That was my first pic of a Sonic figure as well as the first pic with my new camera at the time (still the camera I'm using today).  

The Sonic the Hedgehog toyline from Jazwares (a toy company that deserves its own post for many reasons) came out around 2009, and I was excited, to say the least.  I mean I've been waiting for Sonic toys since the games came out!  What was that...1991?  Yeah!  So 21 years and FINALLY some Sonic toys. 

....meeeyeah okay so that's not totally true.  They were pumping out some gigantic things around the time of Sonic Adventure, but the size and sculpts just put me off.  So far that I remember they only got worse and increasingly themed (I know there were some space suit versions with magic emerald staves or something).  The biggest problem was the huge size, honestly, because they pretty much dwarfed most other toys.  They had to be around 5 to 6 inches, but the proportions required the heads and hands to be big, so the large size just....ugh. 

Anyway, Jazwares started fresh with a 3 inch (or about) size that was just perfect!  Since the characters have always been smaller than humans, the size kinda works out for a lot of other action figures.  Granted, these aren't anywhere near as useful as they would have been when I was a kid ('cause these woulda exploded my head with rainbow mushroom clouds of excitement back then) but hey, I collect toys still so I'm still excited to get something I've always wanted.

One of the first items I was able to find was a two pack with Knuckles and a translucent blue Sonic.  Why color Sonic like that?'s cool!  That's pretty much it.  I heard that the manager for the toyline at the time liked translucent figures, so there you go - and hey, I can't argue with that logic, 'cause I love 'em too!  I'd say this could be a "speed" Sonic, or some such thing.  My young nephew Ian suggested that this be an after image for when he's running.

Now Knuckles was the star of this set, and I suggest you pick 'em up if you find him because he looks like he jumped right out of the artwork!

You can probably already tell, but these are old pics.  This is the same as the archive of He-Man jokes throughout the blog, as I'm trying to collect all the older photos I've taken over time.  This was, of course, back in 2009.  Knuckles is still one of my favorites from the line.  His "dreads" get in the way of the arms a bit, but it's no trouble to bend the arms under them and get some cool poses, as you can see.

The next one is an old comic I wrote up to make use of the translucent Sonic:

WHOA-HO, comedy!  Hot-cha-cha-cha.

I was hooked right from the start; the articulation on these are pretty nice for the size, and you can get some neat poses out of them.  Sadly, getting Sonic in a mid-run pose is a little awkward, but I'm willing to let that go since that was just about all he did with the kid meal toys of old.

Next, Jazwares branched out a bit into a guy I was REALLY looking forward to...they just...made 'em a little big.


Now I don't usually go for giant figures like this, but Metal Sonic is one of my all-time favorite game villains, so I made an exception (evil-robotic-versions-of-the-hero are one of my weaknesses, if you remember). 

He isn't bad overall, but he's not amazing enough to track down now.  The articulation is a little awkward, and he's so heavy in spots (with loose joints) that he'll fall over more often than not. 

Giant Metal Sonic was, thankfully, a precursor to a normal sized version later on; in a comic pack.

Now would be a good time to say a little bit about Jazwares, as this figure displayed the standard Jazwares problems: Quality Control.  You may have heard the term, however usually matched with the word "No" and possibly in caps.  Toy collectors throw out "QC PROBLEMS" more often than they actually buy toys, so it's no wonder that you really have to take any comments about QC with a grain of salt - and that includes my own.  From my point of view - collecting across the board with any 'ol action figure that catches my fancy - I haven't noticed that many errors along the way.  I have, of course, but not many.  Takes a lot to get me to notice too, like Toybiz when they were doing Marvel Legends.  Out of all the broken toys I have, Marvel Legends take up the majority.  Dunno why those broke more than others.

The next in line is Jazwares.  I won't go into my history with them yet, but I'll say that the Sonic figures have some problems with the tiny joints they use.  You may be able to see the visible hip on the picture above; the peg is not completely attached to the rest of the hip.  It's hard to explain, but I'll just say that I could pull the legs right off if I wanted, and it would be tough to get it back together again.  This basically meant that I had to check the packages before I  bought them, and I noticed this problem a lot (I had to replace my first Knuckles for the same leg problem, and other figures are showing signs of coming off the peg).  They seem to have fixed the problem for the most part, but I still check all the same. 

In the same vein (though maybe not QC) the feet and hands were stuck.  If you moved them without running them under hot water and removing them first, then you could twist the pegs right off.  This is of course not a good example of Jazwares QC issues, but that's a topic for another post.

...of course, another problem I run into with Jazwares is that though the QC issues seem to pop up often with their product, I still can't fault them completely.  The leg on Metal Sonic never fell off, it just could be pulled off easily.  Also, once you loosen the joints, they work fine.  On top of that: WOW that is a nice sculpt!  What's more: Jazwares does listen when folks ask for improvement (at least; they were with Sonic):

The one on the right is the second Metal Sonic released; it came in a two pack with Robotnik (Eggman, for you younger folks).  Everything was improved!  I didn't have to warm up the joints in hot water, the joints were all secure, and they even spiced up the paint job a bit, making him darker and a bit more metallic.

So, though I complain about Jazwares, I can also say that this second Metal Sonic is one of my top favorite toys, which is awesome, because as I said: He's one of my top favorite game villains!  So making an awesome figure of a character that I've wanted since childhood certainly keeps me from being unhappy with Jazwares; especially since they go out of their way to fix problems that arise. 

Anyway, Robotnik follows the same quality of sculpt, so this looks just like the Robotnik you'll remember from recent Sonic games.  Kinda wish he were able to hold things, but I'm not gona count that against him.  He's around Joe size (a little bigger) so if you can fit his fat butt in something, then any vehicle you can find would look good with him.  He's Robotnik!  Chances are he's already built something like whatever you'll give him anyway.

Now as far as Sonic goes for me; I've been trying to stick to characters I know.  I haven't played many of the new games (or even some of the spin-offs like Knuckles Chaotix) so I didn't end up getting the other characters they put out around this time, like Amy Rose, Big the Cat, Vector, or Espio (even though I knew them from the comics).  I did end up with some side guys, however, when I picked up the Super Pack.

This was a three pack (that you may still be able to find at Toys R Us) that contained Super Sonic, Super Shadow, and Super Silver.  I knew of Shadow and Silver, but I didn't know much of the story behind them.  You'll notice in the first pic of this post that I ended up getting the normal versions of both guys, but I'll cover that in part two.  The main part of this set was of course, SONIC.

I don't know why, but somehow I never expected a Super Sonic figure, which is sort of another holy grail from my childhood days.  I was obsessed with the whole "collect the emeralds and become super" thing (and this was before I knew anything about Dragon Ball Z).  I worked it into a lot of stories when I was a kid.

Another cool thing about this set was that it came with all of the Chaos Emeralds!  Those were the extra collectibles throughout most Sonic games, where you can beat the game without them, but you get a special ending and (in most games) use of Super Sonic if you get all the emeralds. 

Now the emeralds were a little off, because the yellow and orange ones were very close in color.  Also, I don't think those colors were correct?  Maybe?  I know the emerald colors have changed over the years, so basically the only thing they did that was off in the pack was making two of them in too similar a color.  They fixed it in a later pack, and also removed those black lines from the whites of Sonic's eyes.

So that was my collection before the most recent offering from Jazwares, marking the end of part one.  Overall, there were problems throughout the toyline, but Jazwares made the move to fix them every time.  Granted, it requires you to buy the fix (though, if I remember correctly, Jazwares personally replaced broken Metal Sonics if you sent it in) but the fact that they did it is what counts.

I was quite happy with the figures they released during this time, and never gave a second thought to classic styled figures beyond a hope for a classic Robotnik.  The next wave of figures took me by surprise...

Join me in part 2!


  1. In a perfect world, all well known games would get decently articulated figures.

    A shame about Jazware's QC issues, I've only gotten the 1/18 MK figures they've put out and had to swap Reptile's lower arms (good they an easy pin joint system) and a wrong right bicep on Baraka (I guess she is a mutant).

    Hopefully Jazware's recent acquisition of David Vonner takes them to the next level upwards.

    But then it balances out with the perfection of the Cyber Ninja 3-pack. Those guys rule.

    1. Honestly, many well known games ARE getting decently articulated figures! It's just that the well known games are all first person shooters with space marine-lookin' people. Not much variation among them anymore, so they're much more boring figures unless you're specifically a fan of the games. If they branched out and did all sorts of figures from the many multitudes of video games then we'd have a much more colorful and interesting toyline; far beyond mostly black and brushed metal.

      Jazwares have gotten much better, but they still pull confusing stunts that make it seem like they have only a vague idea of how other toys are made. I mean, you don't wana copy people, but also there are standard articulation conventions that work and should be used across the board. Learn from your surroundings, Jazwares!

      Sadly the Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter figures seem to be on the low scale of quality, so far. I can't speak from first had experience, but just looking at them in the package is enough to turn me from "OH MAN I need the classic MK ninjas!" to ", I can live without 'em." Takes a lot to turn me away from classic video game ninjas that I know and love. I just can't be sure I won't get a dud, no matter how I turn the package to inspect them. Didn't even bother with the Street Fighter ones, which is also a shame. I'm still staring at them from time to time, trying to decide to get over all the paint slop and hands floating around in the package.

      And yeah, I heard of this David Vonner guy; looks like he has a sweet track record! I am also hoping he can bring his expertise to the table and give Jazwares a much needed boost.

      Finally: YES. I should post the pics I did of the Cyber Ninjas. Those were perfect; I dunno why the other single packed guys couldn't have been of the same caliber.

  2. I forgot about non-4inch videogame figures. And at that size we only have Jazwares left because Unimax is said to be kaput (Only got Crysis 2, AC: brotherhood and Red Faction 4 figures, gone too sooooooon).

    I have to order any Jazware figure online as they don't have them on shelves in New Zealand.

    1. Wow, Unimax is gone already? They made some nice figures! Well that's disappointing. Granted, it's not like I was buying many of them, but I got one or two, and I acknowledge the fact that they were good toys. That's too bad.

      Yeah, I've heard the woes of trying to get some figures overseas (mostly from the MotUC crowd). One way or another it sounds like a hassle. Do you get any cool stuff over there that we don't have here?

  3. The Unimax bad news came from Smalljoes. I was looking forward to... everything they'd listed, both Assassin's Creed Revelations and 3 (no 1/18 Red coat now), Ghost Recon because you can neevr have enough military fellas, Dragon's Dogma because that game is fantastic and I want more 1/18 fantasy figures and custom fodder. And now we'll not have the Starcraft 2 figures.

    What a waste.

    We do get a whole horde of the Power Team Elite World Peacekeepers at reasonable prices (like you can buy a jeep for the price of a Star Wars figure, $20NZ... but that's gst included).

    And thanks to the internet you can see what's coming and what's worth importing in regards to Joes and Transformers (do you wait for the local shelves to update with TFs or import a case as a group from TFNZ... or go for the Japanese import).

    Here's hoping the Hobbit figures are terrific.

  4. I'm glad for once that you haven't updated your blog sooner; I kept avoiding this post 'cause I don't care about Sonic, but since these two posts are still at the top of the site I decided what the hell, and I really enjoyed this!

    Off to read part two.

    1. And whoa, that was weird; this is the first time I've posted a reply on your blog from our new (cheap, shitty) computer, and it automatically signed me in under an account connected to a blog I forgotten I'd created and then assumed I'd deleted. Weird!

    2. Glad you decided to check it out! Yeah, even if you're not interesting in the particular toy, I do try to pad out the "review" with sorta universal jokes (though this is filled with Sonic jokes as well). 'Course I say "review" 'cause this is just a collection of the past Sonic junk I've done with some added commentary.

      Going on the pics in the blog you mentioned, I'm gona guess this is...Monte?

    3. Ha ha, yeah, sorry, it didn't occur to me how non-obvious it was that this is me. Tis indeed Monte.

  5. Alexx, sounds like your childhood lack of gaming figures played out much the same as mine. My bro and I would scrounge for anything, ANYTHING we could use as video game characters. I had some old Burger King Mario toys. We used non-poseable PVC Sonic and Tails for a long time until replacing them with some stuffed ones. Sometimes I'd go through old Nintendo Power magazines or player's guides and see things - I remember seeing a couple of Mega Man figures in a picture of a pile of Mega Man merch once and totally freaking out. Then "Mario Mania" had all these pictures of mario merchandise that had come and gone before I was aware of it.

    It got to the point that we tried to make our own Zelda figures using chopped-up The Corps! figures. We got this big idea from ToyFare that we could use hot glue to mold new pieces, so we were going to make this one figure into Link by cutting off the top of his head and molding a hat for him. We got as far as painting him red, making boot cuffs from masking tape, and sawing off the top of his head, as well as painting his eyes white and painting pupils in there.

    My dad even made us a sword and shield out of metal. In retrospect, I'm not really even sure how that worked! But they were cool. Sadly "Flattop" was abandoned and ended up living in our Joe bucket for many years afterward, haunting us with his sanded-down head and giant buggy eyes. One of us might still have him somewhere! Fortunately, actual Zelda toys came out a few years after "Ocarina" hit the markets.

    Oh, one other thing. Whenever we played video game scenarios, we'd usually turn on some game that had a readily-available sound test and used it as background music. Sonic 2, Mega Man X, and Super Smash Bros. were frequent choices.

    1. Yeah I did similar things, but I didn't customize beyond adding stuff. For instance, I used G.I. Joes for everything, so I added pen grips to thier arms to make arm cannons: Bam, Mega Man figures! Sort of! I mean I tried to find figures that matched in color, somewhat. Otherwise certain games were easier to emulate, like TMNT games where I just used the figures and went to different places in the house for different levels. Also, the Micro Machine Star Trek ships were great for emulating side-scrolling shooters like Gradius and R-Type.

      I do remember those Zelda figures...I pretty much missed 'em save for the absolute TON of Impa figures that TRU was stuck with.

      Finally, I did the same thing with the sound tests! In fact my friend and I went a step further and recorded some songs on tapes to make sort-of soundtracks of our own. Now more than half that stuff is actually on my ipod. Even still, I can't believe how hard it is to track down some game soundtracks...

    2. No shit. We didn't record the game songs on tape, but we did that with cartoon opening themes. And unsurprisingly I also went on to have vast libraries of game music. When my brother and I discovered chiptunes, we amassed all the mood music in the universe.

      (I am not ashamed to admit that we carried our toy campaigns well into our teens. It helps when you have a younger brother whose interests pretty much match your own)

    3. Oh yeah, i'd say a large portion of my ipod is filled with game music (possibly the majority). Before that it was my dad's computer, and it was filled with MIDIs (back when downloading a single MP3 meant at least a good 20 or 30 minutes). The internet opened the world of game music to me, honestly.

      And yeah, I not lying about my toy habits; that shit went well into high school with a friend of mine. We had a huge Gundam story going with the MSiA figures back in the day - bascially taking the suits and making up a whole new story beyond what they were supposed to be. In fact that story is still floating around in our heads even though we haven't touched the toys in years. I really have a soft spot for it and if I ever get off my ass and learn things about how the world works I'd like to consider it for a graphic novel or a cartoon (of course, goes without saying that the suit designs would be completely different 'n all that).

    4. Yeah, we had a huge, complicated world that included all of our various toy universes. The volume of stuffed animals populating the world increases exponentially the farther back in time you go.

      So eventually we had this world where the most powerful being was a stuffed dog. Unicron escaped his prison by beating some Beast Machines characters and entered physical space through Eternia. There was a guy who looked like Luke Skywalker that could transform into a giant robot and used to pilot a Zoid. And so on, and so forth.

    5. Isn't dimension crossing useful? That was the whole basis for my main childhood story from the farthest back I can remember. Got more and more complicated as I got older. Most of it involved superheros pulled in from other dimensions, and Dr. Doom pulling a lot of antics (with personal creations creating more antics, like Metakomen, and ancient demon bent on ruling all of existence; he was a Mr. Sinister figure). I also cut through dimensions to bring in everyone I ever got figures of (or didn't) like Spider-Man went to the Mario RPG universe at one point, and somewhere along the way I got a figure of Cloud from Final Fantasy 7 and he joined up for a short time during the first Metakomen dimensional scare. WHOO boy that story is HUGE.