Ultraman’s Robotic Friend
Playmates, Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad, 1994
At first glance, Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad looked like a high-concept knockoff of Power Rangers or Ultraman (for the few in the US that watched Ultraman: Towards the Future). You have a high school teenager who uses his magical (or so-super-futuristic-as-it-might-as-well-be-magical) device to turn into a superhero. But what do his teammates do. Well, depending on the episode, they try to guide him with high-tech input. Or, they Samuraize (hey, it was a kids’ show in the 90s; don’t judge) and become superheroes too.
The Xenon Program (this takes place inside a computer, remember?) is made up of the vehicles Borr, Tracto, and Vitor. Each is piloted by a different teen in the show. However, much like the lions in Voltron, they don’t amount to much individually, especially when compared to their combined form of Xenon.
In the show, Xenon appears to be a slower-but-stronger version of Servo. He appears to lack the agility of his mainstay counterpart, but is shown as far more durable (usually because he takes the abuse). Xenon has little bit any personality, and the individual vehicles get very little face time. The one exception to this, however, is in a single episode where Xenon and Servo end up having to fight one another.
Appearance – 3 out of 5
The toy’s representation of Xenon is simply okay. Adequate. While the individual vehicles look, more or less, appropriate, the figure of Xenon looks far blockier and unwieldy compared to his counterpart in the show. The toy’s proportions are so different from what we see in the show, it almost demands a double-take to make sure it’s the same character. The figure looks almost like a building while the character in the show looks more like an action hero.
Construction – 3 out 5
Playmates is more known for their children’s toys, so it may not be a surprise that this toy is fairly sturdy. The plastic isn’t the heaviest, but it’s well put together. The joints are all solid and when a joint is turned, it stays turned. There are some issues with the transformation-related movements, where it can be a little hard to tell if Peg A is aligned with Hole B, but it’s nothing too bad.
Movement – 2 out of 5
The figure has nine joints – the rotation of the neck, the rotation of the shoulders, the adduction of the arms, the adduction of the hips, and the rotation of the leg joints. There is movement of the hands, but as this is more connected to the transformation process than an actual articulation point, and seeing as the hands can’t hold anything (which is a shame), they aren’t included.
In fact, all the joints (save for the rotation of the neck) are as much a function of the transformation process as they are mobility to the figure. That the toy was designed to benefit from these movements twice is impressive, but it does leave the figure wanting in terms of posing.
Extras – 1 out of 5
Nothing. Xenon comes with no extra attachments (except for himself; more on that next week), no additional weapons for he or Servo to use.
Packaging – 4 out of 5
The one area where the toy does excel is in its packaging. Just as with Servo, the packaging is brightly colored and distinctive, as well as being unique to the toy. It brilliantly shows with just a glance who Xenon is, what he looks like, and gives a vague idea of just who he is.
Overall – 2 out of 5
This feels a little harsh. Xenon’s not a bad toy per say and the ability to break down into three vehicles is kind of neat. But the lack of point to the vehicles, plus the lack of much mobility or accessories to the combined figure, just makes this toy too much of a letdown. The toy ultimately proves to be just what the character on the show is: a vague Megazord to Servo’s Ultraman.
But as we’ll see next week, there was one saving grace to the Xenon figure, and it was the inherent strength of the entire Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad toy line.