Ninja Force Snake Eyes (1993)
Sometimes when you want a certain character when you’re a kid, you wind up buying some pretty subpar figures. By the time 1993 rolled around, KansasBrother had had his version of Snake-Eyes for a while and I kind of wanted my own version. While at the Toys ‘R’ Us near my grandparents’ in the south suburbs of Chicago, I thought Hasbro had me covered when I saw the brand new Ninja Force Snake-Eyes. I snagged him off the pegs and was very happy with my choice…until I opened him. In my excitement, I didn’t notice that some of that year’s Ninja Force figures had some new, more restricted articulation to accommodate the new action features, and unfortunately, Snake-Eyes suffered from this pretty badly. My first Snake-Eyes figure was kind of a bust, but it’s hard not to be impressed with some of the things Hasbro did with this figure. I think had this overall design been released as a standard o-ring figure, or even with articulation like Ninja Force Storm Shadow, he would have been a lot more successful.
The second year of Ninja Force brought some changes to the standard Joe articulation, and they really hurt Snake-Eyes. The overall design is actually impressively detailed, but the restricted articulation hurts him a lot. Unlike traditional Joe figures, this version of Snake-Eyes has a one-piece torso and the dreaded t-crotch. I didn’t mind it when Ninja Force figures had one lost point of articulation, but the double whammy of not being able to turn at the waist and not being able to move the legs beyond the front and back plane really hurts the figure. The legs are designed that way because his real ninja attack move, the Basami Slice, is triggered by squeezing his legs together. That then makes his arms move up and down. The arms are, mercifully, left with the standard Joe articulation, but unlike Ninja Force Storm Shadow’s arm mechanism, the one built into Snake-Eyes makes it hard to tweak Snake-Eyes’s arms into a natural position, leaving him with both arms up most of the time. Despite all the problems with the figure’s build, the detailing on the mold is excellent. The legs are fairly simple, with pointed kneepads and a dagger on his left thigh and a pistol on his right thigh. His torso is very well detailed, with a couple different layers of armor on it and straps absolutely loaded with grenades, flash bangs, and smoke bombs. The armored loin cloth is also very well-detailed and it adds some nice depth to the figure’s overall look. The arms have the same textured lower level of armor with some impressive forearm guards. There are also a few small grenades up on his right bicep, a nice call back to some of the early Snake-Eyes figures that had pouches up there. The head is designed to look like a tight ninja mask with a heavier face plate over it. It makes Snake-Eyes look very battle-ready and the look really spoke to me as a kid. This version of Snake-Eyes is what’s kind of maddening to me about the second year of Ninja Force figures. The design is excellent, but the new style of construction really hamstrung the execution here and that’s a shame because this is a solid Snake-Eyes figure that I feel doesn’t get his due because Hasbro did some bad things here with his action feature.
The underlying design of the figure is solid, but the rather simple paint scheme does mean some of the great detailing gets lost in a sea of black. The base of the body is done in black while the straps, forearm guards and loin cloth are done in a bright blue. All the grenades are painted silver and it does pop nicely against the black. Strangely, Snake-Eyes’s eyes are pure white. I remember thinking that was a little weird as a kid, but I think I just always justified it as something similar to Spider-Man’s mask—that he could still see out of them but no one could see in. However, all the nice detailing on the lower layer of armor does get a little lost because there’s no difference in the color between the two kinds of armor. The color scheme is something that definitely works for Snake-Eyes, but I think this could be a better-looking figure if Hasbro had found a way to justify one more color in the paint budget to make the other layer of his suit stand out a little better.
Like the other Ninja Force figures, Snake-Eyes came with a tree filled with generic martial weapons, but his gear load is still pretty solid, even if they’re pieces we saw a lot. The card art shows him equipped with a sword that looks like a large scimitar and a knife with a similar design. Those are decent pieces, but I recall them not fitting in my figure’s hands all that well. I tended to equip him with the long, thin-bladed sword and short, thick-bladed sword. They just seemed to work well together and that’s why I chose the pair. I also remember equipping him with the pair of claws quite a bit as well. I’m sure that was strongly influenced by the fact that the X-Men cartoon was also becoming a thing in my childhood and I liked the claws because they reminded me of Wolverine. His final accessory is the set of plastic nunchuks that Hasbro used quite a bit with the modern ninja figures. I’ve never really liked the nunchuks because I think they’re generally more effective when the cord is a string rather than just a piece of plastic, but they’re definitely a good looking weapon, even if it’s not the best ninja weapon Hasbro ever tooled up.
Overall, this is not a great Snake-Eyes figure. I’m generally the first to defend Ninja Force figures, but with Snake-Eyes, I just can’t. The figure’s construction just has too many problems for it to work. I love the overall design and would have loved to have seen the GIJCC take a crack at it, but because it’s so tied to a terrible Ninja Force figure, I think they’d have taken way too much heat for “wasting” a slot on this version of Snake-Eyes. However, if there’s one thing I’ve noticed as an adult about figures from the last couple of years of the line it’s this: The designs are solid, Hasbro just did a poor job of executing them and Snake-Eyes is the epitome of that maxim.