As we reach the end of the year, everyone and their mother tend to release a “Best Of” list, which are usually subjective to some point. So please allow me to (hopefully) entertain you with my Best of 2012 list. I will admit from the start that this list will be subjective, related to items or lines that are of interest to me specifically, but I hope items might spark your interest enough to go look at them further.
Without further ado, let’s jump right in.
Toy line of the year: Playmates Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Being a child of the 1980s, I have a soft spot for the TMNT, and as I grew up and learned about their comic book roots, I found myself loving them even more. The line based on the new cartoon takes everything that Playmates has done with previous turtle lines, and brings it into the new millennium. The turtles themselves all have unique sculpts, incredible articulation, and a great array of weapons. Sadly, the rest of the figures in the line don’t fare as well as the brothers, which has generally been the case for each version of the line Playmates has produced. Scale is also an issue for adult collectors, as all the humans are around the same height as the turtles themselves, or shorter. A character such as Dogpound, who is massive in the show, is a shrimp in toy form, which might bother adults, but kids likely wouldn’t care; I never did as a child. Despite those small issues, this line has produced an array of figures and vehicles, and even managed to do something we haven’t seen in decades, a massive playset for the figures; in the TMNT Sewer Lair. For those of us who grew up with the original cartoon and toys, Playmates also released all four brothers in their Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Classic Collection.
Best Build/Construction Set of the year: LEGO Monster Hunters Haunted House
I reviewed this in November, and still stick by those thoughts. I am not a LEGO collector, but more of an admirer as I have no place to display all the wonderful sets that have been released within the last year, let alone the past few years. The DC Superheroes sets, and the Marvel sets all featured sets that grabbed me, but it was the Haunted House that made the absolute “must have” list. I grew up with LEGOs, and had quite a few then, but the level of detail that a lot of the most recent stuff has had is beyond my wildest dreams. An early front runner for potential set of the year for 2013 looks to be the upcoming movie theater set.
Company of the year: NECA
If you are a fan of video games, movies and toys, then NECA is the company for you. They have always been one of the leaders in terms of sculpt and paint work, but the articulation on most figures weren’t always what we toy fans would have liked. Granted, a chunk of that could be due to the license holder of the property they’re working on (Honestly, what does a movie exec know about the wants of toy fans?), but when they could work in articulation it was generally amazing. This year really saw NECA take a huge leap forward in articulation across multiple lines. Their Nightmare on Elm St. line featured some amazing articulation in the upper body, with albeit lackluster legs, but what they packed into the upper body was amazing for display purposes. They also released 3 regular Robocop figures, and an exclusive Toys R Us glow in the dark version that was a throw-back to an old Kenner figure.
Their Predators line of figures started with the movie of the same name a few years ago, but after they updated the articulation and began to produce figures of the “Lost tribe” of Predators from the end of Predator 2, fans began to go crazy. That group has now been completed, but due to popularity, I have been hard pressed to find the last 2 waves of figures. I can always order online, but I always prefer to see figures with so much paint work in person, so I can choose from the best if I have that option. Coming in 2013 is a wave with the Predator from Predator 2, “Big Red”, the Predator from Batman fan film, Dead End. We also have the 25th anniversary of the original Predator movie in 2013, which will see a release of the first version of Arnold’s character; Dutch, in a toy line, along with an updated version of the original Predator.
The other knock out line from NECA this year is their figures based on the “Rocky” films. We have gotten Rocky and Apollo Creed, as well as Drago and Rocky from “Rocky IV”. There are also figures coming out now, based on Mr. T’s character; Clubber Lang, and Rocky himself from “Rocky III”. Each figure features an amazing array of articulation points allowing you to get the figures into almost any standard boozing pose. Some figures have hips that are frozen slightly, but after freeing them, the soft rubber shorts they wear aren’t really a hindrance as you might expect. Another selling point is that NECA created 2 versions of each fighter, a start of the fight version (aka clean), and a bloody, mid fight version. This allowed customers to choose which version they wanted, or to get both versions to create their own miniature fight scenes.
Figure of the year: Figma Link from Max Factory/Good Smile Company
This category could have gone many different ways, and did as I was thinking about this article, but one figure jumped out at me more than any of the others that I’ve purchased this year; and that is the Figma Link figure. I have to make it clear; this is an import figure from Japan, so you won’t be able to stop into your local Walmart or Target and pick one up. He is also sold out at just about every online import store that carried him, so if you are swayed by this, be prepared to pay considerably more to get him from a reseller on either Amazon.com or ebay.
I’ve never really played any of the Legend of Zelda games for any of the Nintendo systems, as it’s always been more of a dungeon crawler type game, which never interested me, but I’ve always been a fan of Link in a visual sense. He’s always looked like a cool adventurer type character, and with my vast collection of characters from many different genres and properties, I felt he would fit in. Link is based on his look from the Wii game; The Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword, which means he looks a little older than some of his other game iterations. Since this figure is based in the Wii motion control game, he also right handed, so most gamers could control him. The thing is, in the previous games Link has been a lefty, but the company made sure to include 4 extra sets of hands for Link, so you can have him wielding his sword/shield in whichever dominant hand you feel he deserves. He also comes with an alternate screaming face, and some messy hair to hang out from under his hat. His articulation is bar none some of the best you’ll find on a figure in this scale. His soft rubber skirt allows him to get into some wide stances, and the rest of the articulation works amazingly well. The only drawbacks are that the wrist pegs can get a little loose, so he has trouble holding his sword up, and I’ve seen reports of the thin sword blade breaking, so keep that in mind if you seek him out.
So there you have it; my brief rundown of some of my Best of 2012 toys. The new year looks to hold some amazing things to come, so be sure to come back in the new year for a hopefully more robust schedule of some amazing toys.
I’ll see you in the toy isles.