Tools of the Imagination

Tools of the Imagination — Ken Masters

Ken Masters
Street Fighter toyline, by Jazwares, released 2004

Player 2 Goes Nowhere

It’s not clear to me why the action figures of fighting game tend to have such a terrible track record, but boy do they.  Going back to the Street Fighter II line of GI Joe action figures to the most current figures on the market, the entire genre of video game-based action figures seems cursed to look terrible, handle terrible, and just generally be full of Teh Suck.  It doesn’t really make sense, because it seems like tangible incarnations of action video games – and especially fighting games – would be absolutely rife with opportunities to make some kick-ass toys.  Sadly, the theory rarely pans out to reality.

Ken Masters began as the palette-swapped second character in the original Street Fighter video game.  He hailed from the US, so naturally he was white and had blonde hair.  Dressed in red, he was identical to the 1st player option from Japan, Ryu.  Aside from the colors of the character, the decision to be Ken changed the starting opponents slightly, fighting the pair of US opponents first and the two Japanese opponents second.  Otherwise, the decision was essentially irrelevant.

With the arrival of the now-legendary Street Fighter II, however, Ken began his gradual evolution to becoming his own distinctive character, separating himself from Ryu in the annals of gaming history.  Ken would develop a more flamboyant style, reflecting the character’s personality but necessitating a more all-or-nothing playing style.

In the Street Fighter narrative, Ken is the wild ‘brother’ to Ryu, both having trained under the same karate master.  Ken is generally seen as an exceptionally well-rounded character, with solid offense and defense options as well as a wide repertoire of maneuver options.  He’s usually a little more flashy and high-risk/high-impact than his more conservative counterpart, reflecting the ideal in-game use of the character.
Appearance – 3 out of 5
This is a nicely colored toy with good texture and a solid representation of the character that inspired it.  Ken’s almost comically stereotypical ‘American’ appearance is held strong with the blonde hair and dark eyebrows, the solid jaw, and rippling muscles.  The detailed folds and creases of the red karate gi he wears are also quite well done.

Construction – 3 out of 5
This is a very sturdy toy, made out of solid plastic.  Nothing about it feels haphazard or unable to stand the rigors of play.  Even the black belt that Ken wears feels sturdy (at least for a comparatively thin strip of plastic).  The obvious joints and seams, along with the blind-person-can-tell color discrepancy between the face’s coloring and the rest of the skin, is what keeps this toy from ranking higher in the construction department.

Movement – 2 out of 5
What the toy gains in construction, it loses sorely in mobility: the figure can barely move.  The shoulder joints move on one, slightly angled axis, with only the rotation of the upper arms and the extension of the elbows giving any real mobility.  The hands are both clinched into fists and do not rotate at all.  The neck rotates, but only within a very narrow range.  There is no waist and while there are clearly hip joints, the sturdy plastic so praised in the construction portion of the review hampers all but the smallest amount of movement.  The knees bend slightly and the feet rotate (for some reason) but do not extend.  The character is largely impossible to pose and is saved from a ranking of One in this category solely because of the arms’ rotation.

Extras – 1 out of 5
None.  Zip.  Zero.  Zilch.  Nada.  This toy comes with nothing, not a stand (even though there are openings in the heels to place the figure on pegs), not a cap to go onto the fist to simulate Ken’s flaming dragon punch (for which he’s so well known), not a fireball attachment, nothing.  This is nothing to say about other colors of karate gis (this is intentional as at least one repaint of the character exists as a ‘Player 2 figure’) or even other costumes.

Packaging – 2 out of 5
The packaging is nice, but completely uninspired.  There’s very little to distinguish from one figure to another aside from the name on the front plate.  The back is identical between all characters and offers no explanation as to the story, the character bio, or anything useful.

Overall – 2 out of 5
In a lot of ways, this isn’t a toy but a statue that can be posed ever so slightly (and ineffectively).  Seriously, the legs might as well not even move and the arms’ movement is incredibly awkward.  The figure looks good, yeah, but not impressively so.  And when you take into account that this character is from a fighting game, the lack of any accessories hurts but it’s really the utter lack of any meaningful mobility that really is just unforgivable.

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