I've been working on several blog entries I hope to complete before Retaliation comes out. I'm pretty new to the review game and am trying to work some tactical assessment of GI joe vehicles as well. Keep in mind, I have no professional expertise. Besides books and wikipedia, I frequent military pilot/flyer forums and try to make sense of things.
Staff Edit: you cannot just post a link to your blog/site. You may post the review here with images and leave a link at the end to your site for now, but that may change later
GI Joe Sky Striker XP-21F
& 30th Anniversary Ace
When the Sky Striker was re-released over a year ago, I wasn't into collecting Joes. In fact, I hadn't thought about them at all for nearly twenty years. I missed the years of drama, expectation, and dashed hopes leading up to it's surprise unveiling at Toyfair 2011 as mentioned by Shin Densetsu in his well-done and epic review
of the new Sky Striker. In fact, I would invite you to read both Shin's review above, and Justin Bell's Skystriker Review
over at his site, www.GeneralsJoes.com
as this review is probably going to be no more than a shabby also-ran in comparison. Anyways.......
The first vehicle of the GI Joe line that I had ever owned when I was a kid during the 80s was the original XP-14 SkyStriker. Eventually it was sold at a family garage sale after I had left for my freshman college (albeit with my consent). By that time I'm sure the parachute was gone, lost in whatever tree it floated into while Ace went down "for a closer look" as in the original commercial in 1983:
I expect we all lost or wrecked our parachutes in the same way....
Strangely enough, I kept the Ace figure, helmet, and several of the missiles in a keepsake box that I rediscovered this winter when I got back (for the first time in over 20 years) into Joe collecting. On my way back from picking it up from storage at my parent's house (we all have those 'forgotten' things, don't we?), I stopped by Target to see what they had in the action figure aisle for the first time in decades. I stooped down to the lower shelf and picked up the same vehicle I bought when I was first getting into GI Joe decades ago, a SkyStriker, this time the new 30th Anniversary version. $34.99 + tax later, I carried it out the store and towards home.
A couple of things stand out from the original packaging. The box of the original Skystriker was colored with bright yellow and orange explosions while the new box has a cleaner color set of greys and blues. The new box shows the 30th Anniversary Ace figure through a clear plastic film and actual pictures of the product on what looks like a mockup of the USS Flag on the reverse side. The old box shows a simple three-color diagram of the plane and it's features. The new box, however, has excellent highly detailed product shots. Just as the box is entirely new, in many ways so is the Sky Striker in it.
While it looks like the old SkyStriker at casual glance, there are a couple notable structural differences: First, the body comes in two pieces instead of one as the cockpit snaps onto the body just aft of the canopy. Second, the body is made of a light-grey ABS plastic instead of the white, gloss polystyrene of the classic Skystriker. Third, the tail fins are black, which is a nice touch considering the box art on the original SkyStriker had black fins, unlike the actual toy's which had white fins. Fourth, the retracting wheels have been completely revamped. No longer are they mounted under easily removable plastic tabbed plates that pop off easily and are easy to lose. Instead, the wheels are mounted against the inside of the body.
Also, the plane was made into a one-seater, were as the original held two figures sitting in tandem.
If we really wanted to go into it, there are other differences we could cite (like the poor pylons that can barely hold their missles) - actually, lets go into this some:
My biggest criticism of the new SkyStriker is the ease of which the missiles fall off, particularly the largest two missiles. You might be able to see problem on the pylon where they would mount in the picture above. Notice the bit of flashing on the base of the protruding peg? This leaves the missile without a whole lot to grab onto. As a strange workaround, Hasbro has outfitted the socket of these large missiles with a rubber lining in attempt to provide better grip. The effectiveness of this hack workaround is limited and the missiles still fall off easily. I question whether this won't become worse over time as the rubber dries out and cracks. Hasbro could have and should have made these pylons a better fit for the missiles.
My next biggest criticism is the cockpit. It's not that I would be completely against a single figure cockpit, though it would have been nice if they could have swung the tandem seat just like the original. I'm not sure, however, that there is enough space for the larger modern figures without it looking uncomfortably cramped. The biggest complaint is the way they did it as they sat the pilot about three feet back from his console. There's just too much space there and I think it would look better if Ace were seated an inch or so further up the cockpit. At least this leaves ample space to lower the inexplicable florescent blue dinner tray?? (Yes I know it's supposed to be a HUD, but it's implementation is sort of strange)
On the other hand, there's a lot more detail in the cockpit than in the original version of the SkyStriker: HUD, a Multi-Functional Display (MFD), seat straps, ejection handles, side mounted HOTAS, and even a few rivets in the floor. Of course, it's lacking is the removable pegged ejection seat(s) with attached parachutes.
One feature they did carry over from the original was the removable panels over the wing gloves revealing the wing sweep hydraulic system.
The engine detail is also greater. The new Skystriker sculpts the exhaust nozzles and as well as the intake compressors on the removable turbofan engines. The original only had detail on the compressors.
(above: vintage SkyStriker engines, below: 30th Anniversary)
The one thing I distinctly remember about my experience with my original SkyStriker was the lengthy ordeal of placing the original stickers on. Perhaps 'ordeal' is a poor choice of words given that it was a very memorable childhood event for me. Spending all that time making sure all the 'NO STEP' stickers lined up just right and symmetrical with the stickers just placed on the opposite half of the aircraft....having to carefully remove stickers in order to reposition them just so.... stretching the tricky 'swoosh' sticker over the nose and around the underside of the canopy as to minimize the buckling and 'bubbling' of that sticker along the edges.....I remember spending hours doing this as a child and I felt the same nostalgia doing this again as an adult. As I recall as a child the 'ordeal' of sticker placement made my particular SkyStriker feel as if it were distinctly mine, one of the reasons it became my favorite toy of my childhood (before that, it was the original X-Wing).
lots of stickers with two themes (traditional red and the alternative gold - I think the traditional looks far better). Five different pilot options with their own special emblem and name sticker
As part of my affinity for the old Skystriker, Ace is one of my favorite characters of the Joe line. While the old ace wore something that looked more like a space-suit, the new Captain Ace looks very appropriately high tech/modern, if not a little more advanced -which is what GI Joe technology should be in my mind.
The two-tone grey is impressive, along with the intricate detail. The range of articulation is a bit constrained by the web gear and harness, but that may not be out of line for a real g-suit modern pilots wear.
The Helmet is a very good choice despite the fact that it is quite similar to the unique helmet pilots of the F-35 use currently in conjunction with that real-world fighter's digital aperture system. I'm hopeful it's used sooner or later in an up-to-date Slipstream figure included with the Joe version of the F-35B, which I hope to see in the next few years.
Here ace is holding his 9mm he keeps in his ankle holster. The hands are very well done with great detail. They can hold his sidearm realistically and have the index finger separated for a trigger-grip. The sidearm itself is quite common in the line, having no trigger guard but fairly good detail otherwise. The holster is a good fit for the weapon, but it can come lose if you aren't mindful.
Awesome sculpt that is shared by the previous few Ace figures. He just looks the part of a great pilot and air commander.
To sum it up, you could say that the new Skystriker is a mixed bag compared to the original. However, that's largely a complementary statement given that the original was one of the greatest toys created the past 30-40 years and possibly the most iconic in the line. I think it's more resistant to breaks (not that I plan on doing any drop tests) and the grey plastic *might* be a bit better of carrying the "dirty look" that toys get (not that I plan on playing for hours with this new one in the sand box getting it all scratched up like I did with my original one). However, I remember the original possessing a little more 'flash' as a toy with it's shiny white plastic. It certainly had more playability with room for two figures, removable seats, and parachutes. The new SkyStriker is an imperfect, but worthy reproduction of it's successor. The Ace figure, however, is head and shoulders above the original just in concept alone.
Grades and comments
Quality : B
very durable, more so than the original with less ways to break, but poorly formed missile pylons)
eye-catching black tail fins closer to the pre-original concept, but the grey color isn't the snazziest, sticker options
Missile pylons do not grip too well, larger missiles often fall off. Only one figure, poorly positioned in cockpit. Wheels really roll and gear retracts along with the sweep of the wing. large toy.
A definitive modern Ace modeled with a next gen flight suit. A great sculpt that will probably hold up for years.
Overall = B
A very good toy overall. Despite it's flaws, it's probably a must buy given it's prominence and history within GI Joe.
I hope to have that assesment of the Skystriker as fairly soon. I would appreciate any comments.
EDIT: thanks 46 Zone. mention of wing sweep action added.