Field Report: Desert Battle Snake Eyes II
Every time a new wave comes around, there’s a dangerous temptation to name a new figure the best version of its character ever. During the Pursuit of Cobra line, Hasbro had this tendency to make an amazing version of a figure in one wave and then just a couple waves down the line make something even more amazing. However, when Pursuit of Cobra went back to Desert Battle for Snake Eyes (which is fine considering when it was shown at Joe Con, the first Desert Battle Snake Eyes was supposed to be part of the Arctic Assault theme anyway), I really do think they made the best version of Snake Eyes ever. Desert Battle Snake Eyes II really managed to capture everything that was great about the original two Snake Eyes designs and combined them effectively into one absolutely incredible figure. Like every figure, he’s not perfect, but he is easily the best Snake Eyes they’ve ever given us and this shows just how strong the work the Hasbro team was doing during the Pursuit of Cobra era.
The mold for Desert Battle Snake Eyes II is great and weirdly synergized with the DDP America’s Elite title at the time. Beware of possible spoilers of a story arc that I don’t think a lot of Joe fans, myself included, liked, but around the same time this figure was released, Snake Eyes had died and been brought back to life by the Red Ninjas (who were being run by Sei Tin in T’Jbang’s body thanks to some ninja mind swapping). After Scarlett and Storm Shadow helped him break free from the mind control holding him as the Red Ninja clan’s ruthless Phoenix Master, Snake Eyes didn’t trust his ninja ways and went back to his commando roots. The cover of the issue where he went back to basics had him dressed in a very similar style and I thought it was a great look for him. Then when I went to Target for a Joe run, imagine my surprise when Desert Battle Snake Eyes II looked like he’d stepped right of the page of that issue. Like a lot of Pursuit of Cobra figures, this version of Snake Eyes uses all new molds, but Hasbro has gotten incredible mileage out of them. He’s wearing your basic commando sweater like Beachhead, but they’ve redesigned it to make it look a little more realistic and added more detailing and articulation. Desert Battle Snake Eyes II picks up the great wrist articulation that I love. From the waist down, Snake Eyes is wearing a pair of pretty typical BDU pants. They might be a tad baggier than standard military issue, but they still look pretty basic G.I. to me. He does get removable kneepads, and honestly, I’ve never quite understood that move. Hasbro has done a pretty good job of building kneepads into the knee joint in the past, but on some figures, they get a wild hair and decide to do something different. I’ll admit, it does look marginally better, but I’m not sure it was worth the effort to come up with a new way to do kneepads. His legs have a functional holster and boot knife sheath on one leg and a pair of pouches for spare ammo clips on the other. It’s enough extra detailing to help flesh out his look without looking Liefeldian. It’s a great design and Hasbro did a top notch job executing it into plastic form. Snake Eyes also comes with two different heads. The first head (which he’s packaged with on his neck) is very much based around the original 1982 look. It’s a facemask with a pair of dark goggles covering his eyes, however, the look is quite a bit more streamlined and feels just a little more modern military to me. You don’t see a lot of soldiers wearing bulky goggles anymore. They’ve been replaced with a more streamlined kind of goggles that almost look like a pair of super-fancy sunglasses. It’s nice to see “Commando Snake Eyes” has caught up with that trend. However, if you want a “Ninja Snake Eyes” you’re covered there too thanks to his second head. This sculpt is based around the 1985 with the metal strip visor over a tighter, more ninja-styled mask. Originally, the plan was to only have one head per Snake Eyes and make variants, but mercifully Hasbro opted not to make a variant for a change. They never did variants much with the Joe line, but any Hasbro fan who has followed the Marvel Legends or Marvel Universe lines over the last few years knows just how variant happy Hasbro can be and how hard it can be to run them down sometimes. I’m really glad they opted for the swappable heads. I prefer the Commando Snake Eyes look and would have been rather disappointed if the only version I could find on the pegs was the Ninja Snake Eyes. The head swapping is easy and doesn’t feel like you’re going to break him doing it. I think the only time I’ve ever put the 1985 head on Snake Eyes for any extended period of time was to grab photos of it, but I think swappable heads is definitely the way to go instead of variants just because of how hard it is to run down product on the shelves these days.
I realize Snake Eyes has always worn a lot of black, but Desert Battle Snake Eyes II really seems to have taken it just a bit too far in my opinion. Snake Eyes has a lot of little details, but they ultimately get lost in the sea of black that is this figure. A few lighter gray highlights for the straps on this legs and arms and maybe even his gloves would go a long way to break up the black-on-black-on-black look he’s rocking right now. The details on both his head sculpts also get a little lost because of the lack of contrasting colors. While the all black look is iconic, parts of me wish they hadn’t run out of money when they made the original Snake Eyes just so we didn’t have all these all black Snake Eyes figures running around. As it stands, the only real colors this character has are his gray kneedpads, the red Arashikage symbol on his left shoulder and the white Pursuit of Cobra-era Joe team logo on his right shoulder. Even just adding some gray detailing to his impressive removable webgear could have helped. Again, there’s a lot of
detailing on there that just gets lost in the nothing but black. Plus, I question a Desert Battle figure wearing all black. Yes, I know the desert gets cold at night and that’s when he’d be operating, but an all black uniform in the desert is a really bad idea. If Snake Eyes gets delayed and can’t get back to base before sun up, who knows how long he’d last in the heat wearing nothing but black.
Pursuit of Cobra Snake Eyes continues that line’s tradition of great quality accessories in a great quantity. Plus, Snake Eyes can carry almost all of them on his person at one time, which is something I always like in a figure that has a lot of accessories. You have to get a little creative with a couple weapons, but you can have him carrying all but one gun (and his spare head) and that’s pretty impressive. Starting off with what he wears, Snake Eyes has a brand new set of webgear. It’s got a definite commando vibe to it, with lots of straps and pouches, yet they look like they belong there instead of just being a design flourish. The webgear also has two ports that let you plug his sword sheaths into it as well. He doesn’t have to have them on there, but it’s an option you can use and it means he can carry two of his three swords while not in use. The webgear does have one oddity, real elastic straps. I loved these on Jungle Assault Duke, but I don’t understand their functionality here. They’re not long enough to stretch around to the outside of his legs and you can’t really carry anything in them because they hang between his legs. It’s times like this I wish they would have included a little sheet of instructions in with him like Hasbro does sometimes when you need to assemble accessories just to clear up how they’re used. As they stand, they’re another one of those things on an otherwise perfect figure that just kind of bugs me. His webgear also has a functional knife sheath up by his left shoulder. They really placed it well, however, to make it functional it just seems a little too big up there. Much like Taurus’s chest holster, it seems like it would block Snake Eyes’s peripheral vision a bit up there, but it’s still not the worst thing I’ve ever seen. For weapons, Snake Eyes also has a lot. This commando is definitely ready for any contingency that may come up on his mission. The two swords that fit in his sheaths share the same mold and are your basic G.I. Joe sword. The blades are painted silver, which is a nice touch, but at the end of the day, they’re just swords. His third sword, however, is great. It’s the eagle-pommeled sword like the 1985 Snake Eyes carried. It looks great in his hands and that’s good because the way the blade is designed, you really can’t put it in either of his sheaths. For firearms, Snake Eyes also comes with a lot of great weapons that work well for a commando. Starting off small, he has a pair of pistols. However, the pistols are different molds. One is a basic pistol but the other is designed so that you can fit a suppressor (more commonly called a silencer) on the end of it. Snake Eyes has two suppressors and the other can be attached to his Uzi. The design on these suppressors is great. They’re removable, but at the same time they feel substantial enough that I don’t feel like I have to worry about them breaking if I feel like popping the suppressor off the Uzi and letting Snake Eyes make as much noise as he wants when taking down a squad of Cobras. I look back on these suppressors fondly because until I got Pursuit of Cobra Low Light, those were probably some of the smallest accessories I’d seen on modern figures, so I was very concerned that one of them was going to go AWOL in my carpet never to be seen again.
If only I knew what was in store…Since the Uzi can also accommodate a suppressor, it is also a brand new mold. It’s new but it looks enough like Snake Eyes’s old standby that you’d never really notice it. For a little heavier (and noisier) firepower, Snake Eyes also carries a modern assault rifle with a forward grip. It looks great in his hands and I really do like the use of real world weapons in the Joe line. For quieter work, Snake Eyes has a pair of small knives that can fit in the sheath on his webgear and the sheath on his boot. Finally, we come to the accessory only that I don’t really like, his “Boom Pack” explosive demotion satchel charge. It’s a nice nod to Snake Eyes’s old bag of explosives, but its design is just a little odd. The strap is designed to only go over one shoulder and so it hangs rather awkwardly there. It’s also, for lack of a better term, hollow. Only one side has detailing. The other side is just open. That seems a little cheap to me. I realize it’s only designed to fit on him one way, but it just seems like they ran out of money half way through the process and just gave us what they had and I think it really detracts from the accessory as a whole. It’s a nitpick, I know, but with all the added details Hasbro has given us over the modern line (like the nightstick clips on the back of the Alley Viper’s shield or Jungle Assault Duke’s backpack with a slot for the flashlight), it just seems an odd step backwards. It wasn’t the start of a trend of cheaping out on accessories or anything, but it just seems strange and is slightly distracting.
I’ve gone on for almost four pages of document text at this point singing the praises of this particular version of Snake Eyes. That’s how good it is. When I write a long review, I’ve either taken a lot of random asides or have a lot of negative things to say. It’s a lot harder to write long when you’re writing positive for some reason, but here we are. I’ve said a lot about Desert Battle Snake Eyes II, but it really can be boiled down to one simple statement: This is hands down the best modern Snake Eyes ever. If you passed on it, first of all, shame on you and secondly, now that I’m done shaming you, get on the secondary market and find him. I can assure you, you won’t be disappointed. Even with the changes in articulation made in the 30th Anniversary line, this Snake Eyes holds up well. He’s an excellent figure and 54 versions in, they’ve still managed to make a Snake Eyes that crosses off everything on the Snake Eyes design list yet still stayed fresh and interesting.