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REVIEW: MORTAL KOMBAT KLASSIC NINJA SIX-PACK
By Thomas Wheeler

It never ceases to amaze me how, in a world as astoundingly diverse as video games, some games, their concepts and characters, manage to climb up the very complicated and varied mountain of electronic playable entertainment out there, and rise to the summit of popularity -- and for that matter, pitch camp and stay there.

In my opinion, one of the hallmarks of the success of a video game concept is its ability to transcend its source material -- that is, the game itself -- and to achieve popularity in other aspects of the pop culture world. This is something that Mortal Kombat has certainly done. It's had an animated series, two live-action movies, a television series, a fair number of comic books, and -- action figures. Although it hasn't been quite as prolific in the action figure world as some other concepts.

The first Mortal Kombat action figure line was produced by Hasbro, in the mid-1990's. On the heels of their successful Street Fighter line, which was based on the 3-3/4" G.I. Joe action figure format, Hasbro followed suit with Mortal Kombat. This presented not only the very intriguing ability to team up entirely compatible versions of Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat characters, something that wasn't possible anywhere else, but throw in the forces of G.I. Joe and Cobra, if one so desired.

Alas, the line was relatively short-lived. After a second assortment that was semi-based on the first live-action Mortal Kombat movie, the line faded, and it never really got past characters from the first video game. A sincere shame, although it remains a very decent action figure line, and is to date the only Mortal Kombat action figure line to offer a figure of the four-armed monstrous warrior known as Goro!

Years later, a larger-scale line of Mortal Kombat figures was produced by a company called JazWares. Although impressive in appearance, the quality was quite frankly dreadful. The figures were made from a rather poor quality, lightweight, fragile plastic, and tended to fall apart rather readily, especially around articulation points. Word must have gotten out fairly quickly, because the line didn't last that long.

Now, there's a new Mortal Kombat line, or several, really, featuring both 4" and 6" figures of the popular characters, in their most recent as well as more iconic classic (or "Klassic", as they're spelling it) incarnations. My initial thought was "Great!" Then I learned that the maker was once again JazWares. And my enthusiasm had its brakes slammed on by a healthy dose of skepticism.

As before, the figures looked impressive. But how were they really? I ultimately purchased a set of figures, the three cyber-ninjas: Sektor, Cyrax, and Smoke (see separate review), figures which Hasbro had never gotten around to back in the 1990's, and as it turned out, I was pleasantly surprised. Most of the quality issues from the previous, larger line from years prior had been dealt with. The figures were far more solid, and articulation problems were certainly minimized. So, I decided, as I was able, that I would bring a few others in.

Certainly among the most popular characters within the Mortal Kombat universe are the ninjas, and there's certainly no shortage of them. Sub-Zero, Scorpion, Reptile, and others, have been among the top characters in the concept. Sub-Zero even warranted his own video game at one point. Although these days, they tend to have very individual likenesses, back in the "Klassic" days of the earlier video games, they all pretty much looked alike, except for whatever primary color their ninja costume happened to be.

This was obviously a bit of an easy way for the game programmers to get multiple characters out of the same fighting footage. Before computer animation design reached the point where it was more practical to create all of the characters within the computer, Mortal Kombat -- and I'm convinced this is one of the reasons the games were so popular from the outset -- actually filmed live footage of actors playing the various character roles, and then incorporated that into the game as the various playable characters. Inhuman characters such as Goro used small figures, probably not too dissimilar from those Rankin-Bass Christmas specials of decades past (and wouldn't Goro have added an interesting element to "Year Without a Santa Claus"...).

I've always liked the various Mortal Kombat ninjas myself, and JazWares made it very easy to round up a whole bunch of them all at once, by providing a boxed set of half-a-dozen 4" figures, all of them Klassic ninjas, featuring Sub-Zero, Reptile, Smoke, Noob, Rain, and Ermac.

Let's briefly consider at least some of the history of the Mortal Kombat games, and then of the ninjas themselves. Since the figures are all pretty much identical, I'll review them as a group.

Mortal Kombat was created by Ed Boon and John Tobias. The first four renditions and their updates were developed by Midway Games and initially released on arcade machines. The arcade titles were later picked up by Acclaim Entertainment for the home console conversions. Beginning with Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, Midway Games exclusively created home versions of Mortal Kombat up until Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe. Following Midway's bankruptcy, the franchise was picked up by Warner Bros. in July 2009 and became a part of the Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment Branch.

The original three games and their updates, Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat II, Mortal Kombat 3, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, and Mortal Kombat Trilogy, were styled in a 2-D fighting fashion, especially noted for its realistic digitized characters, based on live-action footage, which differentiated it from its contemporaries' hand-drawn characters. Mortal Kombat 4 brought the series into 3D, replacing the digitized fighters of previous games with CGI models.

Mortal Kombat started development in 1991 with only four people: Ed Boon, John Tobias, John Vogel, and Dan Forden. As Ed Boon stated in an interview with Major Nelson "The first Mortal Kombat game was 4 guys, literally, one programmer, myself (Boon), two graphics guys (Tobias and Vogel), and a sound guy (Forden) was the entire team, literally."

As to the name, Ed Boon stated for six out of the eight months while they were in production of Mortal Kombat, "...nobody could come up with a name nobody didn't hate." Some of the names suggested were "Kumite", "Dragon Attack", "Death Blow", and even at one point, "Fatality". Someone had written down "combat" on the drawing board for the names in Ed Boon's office and someone wrote a K over the C, according to Ed Boon, "...just to be kind of weird..." Steve Ritchie, a pinball designer at that time, was sitting in Ed Boon's office and saw the word "Kombat" and said to Ed Boon, 'Why don't you name it Mortal Kombat?' and according to Ed Boon, that name "just stuck."

The team switched from digitized actors to motion capture technology: "To make the characters in video games more realistic, actors are being recruited to serve as models. Midway, the video-game company that made Mortal Kombat, has created a special 'motion capture studio' for this purpose. A martial-arts expert with as many as 100 electronic sensors taped to his body sends precise readings to a camera as he goes through his moves—running, jumping, kicking, punching. The action is captured, digitized and synthesized into a 'naked' wire-frame model stored in a computer. Those models can then be 'dressed' with clothing, facial expressions and other characteristics by means of a computer technique called texture mapping."

Mortal Kombat title was released for Arcade during October 1992, having since been ported to over ten consoles. The sequel, Mortal Kombat II was released for arcades in 1993, featuring an increased roster and improved graphics; it was rereleased in 2007 for the PlayStation 3. Mortal Kombat 3 followed in 1995 in both arcade and console versions, later getting two updates which expanded the number of characters and other features from the game: Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, published in the same year, and Mortal Kombat Trilogy the next one. The following game, Mortal Kombat 4, was released in 1997, and ported to the PlayStation, Nintendo 64 and PC, while an update named Mortal Kombat Gold was released exclusively for the Dreamcast in 1999.

While to this point, Mortal Kombat games were only titled with their installment number, starting with Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, the series' naming scheme changed to favor the use of sub-titles instead of the previously usual numbering. It was also at this point that the series started being targeted at consoles only, with Mortal Kombat 4 being the last Mortal Kombat game to ever be released for the arcades and PC. Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance was thus released in 2002 for the Xbox, PlayStation 2 (PS2), and GameCube. Two ports for the Game Boy Advance were also released under the name of Mortal Kombat: Tournament Edition and another port called Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance during 2003. The sequel from Deadly Alliance is Mortal Kombat: Deception developed in 2004 for the PS2, Xbox and GameCube.

A port for the PlayStation Portable, Mortal Kombat: Unchained, was released in 2006 by Just Games Interactive. Mortal Kombat: Armageddon was published in the same year for the PS2, Xbox, and in 2007 on the Wii. On September 29, 2008, Midway released the Mortal Kombat Kollection, an anthology of the 3 most recent titles to the main franchise: Mortal Kombat: Deception, Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks, and Mortal Kombat: Armageddon. The eighth MK fighting game is Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, a crossover between the MK franchise and DC Universe released in 2008 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

A ninth main game in the series, a reboot known as simply Mortal Kombat was released on April 19, 2011. Personally, I hate reboots, and from what I read about this one -- I mean, come on, is it that hard to come up with a continuation instead? I'm glad to see the game and characters are still around, but -- sheesh...

The Mortal Kombat series takes place in a universe that consists of six surviving realms which, according to in-game backstories, were created by the Elder Gods. The Mortal Kombat: Deception manual described the six realms as: "Earthrealm, home to such legendary heroes as Liu Kang, Kung Lao, Sonya Blade, Johnny Cage, and Jax, and also under the protection of the Thunder God Raiden; Netherrealm, which fiery depths are inhospitable to but the most vile, a realm of demons and shadowy warriors; Outworld, a realm of constant strife and where Emperor Shao Kahn claims this realm as his own; Seido, The Realm of Order, whose inhabitants prize structure and order above all else; The Realm of Chaos, whose inhabitants do not abide by any rules whatsoever, where constant turmoil and change are worshipped here; and Edenia, which is known for its beauty, artistic expression, and longevity of its inhabitants." The Elder Gods decreed that the denizens of one realm could only conquer another realm by defeating the defending realm's greatest warriors in ten consecutive Mortal Kombat tournaments.

The first Mortal Kombat game takes place in Earthrealm where seven different warriors with their own reasons for entering participated in the tournament with the eventual prize being the continued freedom of Earthrealm. Among the established warriors were Liu Kang, Johnny Cage, and Sonya Blade With the help of the Thunder God Raiden, the Earthrealm warriors were victorious and Liu Kang becomes the new champion of Mortal Kombat.

In Mortal Kombat II, unable to deal with Shang Tsung's failure, Outworld Emperor Shao Kahn lures the Earthrealm warriors to the Outworld where the Earthrealm warriors eventually defeat Shao Kahn. By Mortal Kombat 3, Shao Kahn revives Edenia's (now a part of his Outworld domain) former queen Sindel in Earthrealm, combining it with Outworld as well. He then attempts to invade Earthrealm but is ultimately defeated by the Earthrealm warriors again.

And I could get into a lot more, but beyond this, the Mortal Kombat universe becomes very complicated, and doesn't really apply to the characters in this set as they are presented in this "Klassic" set. Now, let's consider the individual ninjas.

SUB-ZERO - arguably the most prominent ninja in this set. Sub-Zero is the name given to two video game characters from the Mortal Kombat series. The older Sub-Zero first appeared in the first Mortal Kombat game, being replaced by his younger brother in Mortal Kombat II and the subsequent games. In Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 and most versions of Mortal Kombat Trilogy, both the elder and younger Sub-Zero appear as playable characters. Sub-Zero also appears in many other Mortal Kombat media works such as the Mortal Kombat live action film series and animated series.

Being brothers, both of them were born in Earthrealm, and are blue-garbed assassins that descended from Cryomancers, an ancient race of people possessing the ability to generate and control the powers of ice, which gives Sub-Zero the innate ability to control ice in many forms. Sub-Zero has received positive reception and was featured on multiple lists of the best video game ninja characters, also inspiring the character of Glacier in World Championship Wrestling. (You know, I always wondered about that...)

The oldest of the two brothers who takes the name Sub-Zero, called Bi-Han, was introduced in the first Mortal Kombat game where he participates in the titular tournament as he was ordered by the Lin Kuei to kill the host Shang Tsung and take his treasure. He fails to accomplish his mission, and is killed by the specter Scorpion, who sought to avenge his own death.

In the direct sequel Mortal Kombat II, Bi-Han's place is taken by his brother Kuai Liang. Upon his brother's death in the first tournament and the survival of Shang Tsung, Kuai Liang is sent by the Lin Kuei to complete his brother's unfinished task. In Mortal Kombat 3, the younger Sub-Zero escapes from the Lin Kuei who wanted to transform their warriors into cyborgs. They program three cyborg assassins to hunt and terminate Sub-Zero, who by this time had received a vision from Raiden and agreed to join the rebellion against a new threat.

In Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 and Mortal Kombat Trilogy, "Classic Sub-Zero" also appears as a playable character. His biography states that although he was believed to have died after the first Mortal Kombat, he returned to try again and assassinate Shang Tsung. In Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero, which serves as a prequel to the first Mortal Kombat, sorcerer Quan Chi hires the Lin Kuei to find an ancient amulet. After the first Sub-Zero delivers the amulet to Quan Chi, he is sent back to the Netherrealm by Raiden upon learning it is the key to releasing the god Shinnok. Sub-Zero regains the amulet while fighting Shinnok and returns it to Raiden.

As with most of these characters, Sub-Zero's history continues through the Mortal Kombat games, but given that this set of figures presents them in their "Klassic" forms, I'm going to edit some of the entries a bit where appropriate, unless really vital details take place later, as you'll see when we get around to another one of the ninjas that has a connection to Subby here that I didn't know about.

REPTILE: Reptile is a video game character from the Mortal Kombat series. Created for Midway Games by John Tobias and Ed Boon, Reptile debuted in Mortal Kombat as a hidden boss and appeared in subsequent titles as a playable character. The character has also appeared on various merchandise, television media, and literature related to the series.

Reptile is a Raptor, a nearly extinct bipedal humanoid race of reptilian creatures and loyally serves recurring series villain Shao Kahn under the pretense his race will be revived. Reptile has been featured in almost every title in the series under the same pretenses, and until the 2011 game, he had yet to be rewarded for his efforts. Critical reception to the character has been positive with many publications commenting on his evolution since his debut as hidden character.

Included in the first game late in the development process, Reptile's character concept was conceived while Boon was driving back to work from lunch. Noting the success of utilizing a palette swap method for Scorpion and Sub-Zero's character sprites he and Tobias decided to include a "super secret hidden feature" in Mortal Kombat, choosing Reptile's green color as a contrast to Scorpion's original yellow and Sub-Zero's blue colors. Developed with the premise of being "a cooler version of Scorpion", the character's concept was completed in a single evening. Reptile's inclusion was intended as a marketing tool for the arcade game: as extreme conditions must be met to encounter Reptile, the designers hoped to rely on word of mouth to spread rumors of the character's existence

Reptile's appearance caused fans to speculate that he could be unlocked and used as a controllable character. Boon noted in a later interview that due to the popularity of the rumors surrounding the character, they decided to include Reptile in subsequent installments of the series as a playable fighter.

Reptile was originally depicted as a tall, muscular, light-skinned humanoid. Due to his origin as a palette swap of Scorpion and Sub-Zero, his attire was similar to theirs. His clothing consists of pants and boots covering his lower body, along with a black sleeveless shirt and open hood. Green light armor covered his forearms and lower legs, while an open V-shaped green vest protected his torso, extending to a matching small fauld and loincloth. While he appeared to wear a green facial mask, later titles revealed it to be an illusion concealing his true reptilian nature, as seen during his Acid Spit attack. Reptile stands 6 feet tall, and speaks in a hissing tone.

In Mortal Kombat 4, Reptile's appearance became more reptilian, with his head now mostly uncovered. His hands became clawed, while his feet were now three-toed talons. By Deadly Alliance, Reptile had developed a full reptilian head and tail, with gold and black armor to cover his legs, elbows, shoulders, and belt. Bone spurs extended from the base of his skull down his spine, ending at the tip of his tail, while a similar spur extended from his heel on each foot.

To fight Reptile in Mortal Kombat, players must win two consecutive rounds while fighting on the "Pit" stage without blocking or taking damage and ending the second round with a finishing move (called a "Fatality"). In addition, a silhouette must float across the moon in the background, an event which occurs every eighth cycle of the game's stages. Hints regarding these conditions were conveyed by Reptile randomly appearing prior to other matches, stating clues such as "Look to la luna." If the conditions were met, the next match would take place against Reptile at the bottom area of the Pit, awarding the player ten million points if they won.

In Mortal Kombat II, Reptile returns as a playable character and a member of a reptilian race called Raptors, who were pulled into Outworld and enslaved by Shao Kahn. Promised the revival of his people in turn for his loyalty, Reptile serves Kahn as Shang Tsung's bodyguard. Ordered to kill Kitana during the events of Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, he is defeated and exiled, but reappears in Mortal Kombat 4 as Shinnok's minion.

Reptile had an interest guest-spot in another video game: Originally included in NBA Jam Tournament Edition alongside other Mortal Kombat characters as an unlockable player, he was eventually removed from later versions of the game at the request of the NBA. Apparently the NBA has a thing about hiring ninjas...

SMOKE: Smoke (whose real name is Tomas Vrbada) is a video game character from the Mortal Kombat series. First appearing as a hidden unplayable opponent in Mortal Kombat II, Smoke makes his playable debut in Mortal Kombat 3 as an unlockable character. While Smoke is human in MKII, he becomes a cyborg in MK3, alongside Cyrax and Sektor.

Smoke started out as a Lin Kuei assassin. He was a friend and ally of the younger Sub-Zero, and had gone with him to Outworld on his mission to kill Shang Tsung. They did not accomplish their mission. When Sub-Zero and Smoke returned to the Lin Kuei, they discovered that their clan had chosen to transform their best warriors into cyborgs, already performing the procedure on Cyrax and Sektor. Smoke and Sub-Zero turned on their clan and fled. Sub-Zero managed to escape, but Smoke was captured and converted into a cybernetic warrior, designated LK-7T2. Under the programming of the Lin Kuei, Smoke was forced to hunt his old friend. During the events of Mortal Kombat 3 and Shao Kahn's invasion of Earth, Smoke's fortunes continued to fail him. Although he discovered, with Sub-Zero's help, that he still retained his soul and was in fact one of Raiden's chosen warriors and aided Sub-Zero in defeating Cyrax and Sektor, he was captured by Kahn's forces. The inert Smoke was transported to Outworld as a trophy and was locked away in the bowels of Kahn's fortress.

You know, most people just keep a suit of armor around as a trophy. This guy's gotta have an entire cyborg!?!

In the reboot Mortal Kombat game, Smoke is saved from being automated, but his friend Sub-Zero gets automated instead. These two have a real problem catching a break.

Smoke was an unplayable gray clone of Scorpion in MKII, and in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 he shared his uppercut decapitation Fatality with Ermac. In Mortal Kombat Trilogy, he was given his own set of Fatalities. His human form in UMK3, unlockable by entering a code after selecting his cybernetic form, was initially an actual part of the storyline. As his name suggests, he always has smoke flowing through his body.

Unlike previous hidden characters who acquired their own unique special moves and combination attacks upon becoming part of the standard cast, Smoke continued to use techniques identical or similar to other characters through the MK3 series, in both his human and cyber forms.

ERMAC - Ermac is an entity composed of legions of dead souls created by Shang Tsung, most likely out of souls he had previously taken; because of this, Ermac refers to himself in the plural form. Ermac served as one of Shao Kahn's greatest warriors, taking even more souls for his collection, and stays secretively in the shadows of the last Earthrealm Mortal Kombat tournament, which Liu Kang won. He is also noted for participating in the invasion of Earthrealm. On one mission for Shao Kahn in the Netherrealm, Ermac becomes acquainted with Shujinko. However, after Shao Kahn's defeat and subsequent loss of power, Ermac remains under Kahn's control and wanders Outworld without instructions.

During the events of MK: Deadly Alliance, Kenshi finds the wandering Ermac and frees him from Kahn's control. Ermac's newfound freedom enables him to choose his own destiny, and he decides to repent for his earlier ways and become a force for good. After making this decision, Ermac meets Liu Kang, who is not only in need of another ally, but also of assistance in freeing his enslaved comrades. Seizing the opportunity to atone for the evil he committed in Kahn's name, Ermac helps Liu Kang, and the pair successfully free Liu's allies from Onaga's control. In his ending in Mortal Kombat: Deception, Shujinko describes Ermac as being capable of battling all five by himself with relative ease. MK 2011 reveals that one of the souls within him is of King Jerrod, Sindel's husband and Kitana's father.

Although widely believed to be a 'secret character', Ermac's name actually means "Error Macro". In the original game, he would be encountered in a secret area and would appear as a graphically corrupted "Scorpion" with the name "Ermac". Due to this misconception, he was later ret-conned into an actual character and added to the Mortal Kombat canon.

NOOB - Noob Saibot is a video game character from the Mortal Kombat fighting game series. He debuted as a hidden character in Mortal Kombat II, although the later game Mortal Kombat: Deception established his true identity as that of the original Sub-Zero, who was killed by his nemesis Scorpion after the events in the first Mortal Kombat.

Told you there was a weird connection...

The character's name comes from the last names of the creators of the Mortal Kombat franchise, Ed Boon and John Tobias, spelled in reverse. Oddly, the toy package only calls the figure "Mortal Kombat Noob". I'm not sure why. It does the same for Rain and Smoke, adding "Mortal Kombat" ahead of their names, but I can understand why names like "Rain" and "Smoke" might be difficult to fully trademark and copyright. But Noob Saibot!?

Noob Saibot first appeared as Sub-Zero in the original 1992 Mortal Kombat, but was killed by Scorpion, being burned to death. He was resurrected in the Netherrealm as a servant of Shinnok and a member of the Brotherhood of Shadow. This was not revealed until Mortal Kombat: Deception. Noob Saibot (as his current form) was first introduced in Mortal Kombat II as a hidden opponent simply referred to as "New Warrior." His character was given the name Noob Saibot and was made playable in home versions of Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 and Mortal Kombat Trilogy. In the latter two games he allies with the emperor Shao Kahn while he secretly observes the emperor at the behest of the Brothers of the Shadow.

In Mortal Kombat: Deception, Noob Saibot is free to command his own group of assassins to serve him. He makes the cyborg Smoke his servant, with both characters appearing as early bosses, under the name "Noob Smoke". Here it was revealed that Noob Saibot was the resurrected form of the original Sub-Zero.

RAIN: Rain is an Edenian who was smuggled away during Shao Kahn's invasion while his adopted father stayed behind to perform his duties as a general in the Edenian army and was killed. Thousands of years later, Rain mysteriously returned during the invasion of Earthrealm and chose to side with Shao Kahn in the conquest of Earthrealm, either out of fear, cowardice, or ulterior motives. During the events of Armageddon, Rain learned of his true Edenian heritage from Quan Chi who informed Rain that he is actually a direct descendant to Argus, the protector god of Edenia. Rain then started to refer to himself as a prince of the realm, but he still chooses to fight on the side of evil, although he no longer serves Shao Kahn. Rain confronted Taven in Arctika, but he is beaten in battle, eventually escaping in a watery portal. In Rain's Armageddon ending, it is revealed that he is actually the half-brother of Taven and Daegon, being the son of Argus. Imbued with the power of Blaze after defeating him, Rain becomes a full god, and Argus proclaims him as the new Protector of Edenia. However, Rain instead uses this power to enslave the realm.

The character's name and outfit color were inspired by Prince's song "Purple Rain", according to Ed Boon.

So, how are the figures? Surprisingly impressive, really. Granted, I'll admit that a lot of the surprise comes from the fact that a company that disappointed me once managed to come back with something this impressive later on.

All six figures use the same basic set of body molds, as one might expect. Fortunately, it's a very accurate set of body molds.

Each figure stands an even 4" in height. They are dressed in black, sleeveless, fairly tight fitting uniforms, including a headpiece that only leaves the eyes and part of the face around the eyes exposed. Covering their lower faces is a fairly high-tech looking face mask, sort of a muzzle, really, in the appropriate color of each ninja, with some black details painted on it.

Each ninja uniform has flared shoulders, and what looks like segmented, padded body armor running down either side of the front and back of the torso, again in the appropriate color for the character.

Each ninja also has gauntlets that cover the entire lower arm, although leave most of the hands exposed, except for the backs of the hands. The gauntlets have a segmented pattern that blends black with the appropriate color for each ninja.

Their uniforms include a belt, black with color trim, and a colored length of "fabric" (plastic on the figures, of course), draped down in the front, to approximate knee level. The rear of each figure is in the appropriate color for each ninja, as are the backs of the upper legs. The fronts of the upper legs are black, as are the lower legs and feet.

Each ninja is wearing shin guards that cover the entire front of the lower legs. These are mostly the appropriate color, with some black trim.

Most of the ninjas have Caucasian skin, showing at their arms, hands, and around the eyes. Of course, in Reptile's case, this is a disguise. As noted earlier, Reptile is in reality a humanoid reptile. In his earliest appearances, he wore a human disguise, revealing himself only occasionally, during endings of rounds and such. In later games, he would abandon the human disguise the appear in his natural reptilian form. Word has it that the human disguise really itched.. And obviously, the figure is not capable of any such transformations.

The only exception, visually, is Noob Saibot, whose arms, hands, and face are as black as the rest of him.

As to the individual color schemes - Sub-Zero is blue, Smoke is a very pale gray, Reptile is green, Rain is purple, Ermac is red-orange (honestly, I've never been sure if this guy was supposed to be red or orange, and the figure uses a very bright red, and Noob Saibot is entirely black.

Well -- more or less. I have to say I was impressed by the fact that in the case of Noob Saibot, JazWares didn't just stamp a figure out of black plastic -- which most of the figures use anyway -- and then paint the eyes white. In sufficient light, you can see that some of his details, such as the segmented body armor and the like, are painted a very, very dark gray. If the majority of Noob's form is 100% black, then these details are probably 93-95%, but there is a difference. A lot of credit to JazWares for this.

The figures that have more standard-colored arms have had those arms painted, but once again to JazWares credit, the actual articulation mechanisms were molded in flesh-tone plastic, which is a good thing, because they were also painted, but the paint along the rotation areas at the shoulders comes off very easily. Not a big loss, fortunately, but it would have looked like heck had those portions been molded in black.

Most of the paintwork is done very well, and through proper stencils. There are a couple of instances where the stencil wasn't lined up quite as well as it should've been, but these are few and far between, especially given the complexity of some of the designs, and for the most part it works extremely well.

One of the thing which sets each ninja apart from his colleagues are the eyes. This is even more interesting given that I believe the eyes have been hand-painted. Normally I disapprove of such practices since it can result in sloppiness, and I'm not saying that these figures' eyes are perfect, but they're very impressive, especially given the small size, and even moreso given the distinctiveness of them.

Sub-Zero has normal, human-looking eyes, complete with blue irises and black pupils. Smoke and Rain have reasonably human-looking eyes, but they're both entirely black. No apparent colored pupils. Rain's pupils are distinctly smaller than Smoke's, but whether this was intentional or just how it happened to work out on the figures I bought I really don't know. At least they were consistent on each figure.

Noob Saibot's eyes are a solid, blank white, the only really distinctive color on the entire figure. Ermac's eyes are an eerie solid green, which is certainly a contrast to his uniform color. Perhaps the most distinctive eyes of all belong to Reptile, who has yellow irises, and black, slit-like pupils. If my guess about these being hand-painted is correct, then somebody out there in a toy factory has one heck of a steady hand.

The figures are very solid-feeling for their size, and they have an excellent range of motion. They are fully articulated at the head, arms, elbows, including a swivel rotation, wrists, mid-torso, legs, knees, including a swivel rotation, and ankles, including a swivel rotation. It sort of looks like the waist should move, but it doesn't appear to. At least I'm not going to try to force it. They also stand up on their own very nicely.

Any complaints? Not really. A couple of very minor criticisms. A few of these figures had upper arms that were facing the wrong way. Fortunately, this was an easily correctable situation. Just raise the arm up, turn it around at the shoulder, rotate the elbow, and lower it back to the side. One compliment in here is that the arm articulation is nice and tight on these figures.

The strip of "cloth" hanging down in the front of each figure is more rigid that it really needs to be. It's not especially flexible, and it does hinder leg movement somewhat. But it's possible to get around it, as well. The leg articulation is just a little loose on some of these guys, but it's nothing where I think they're going to suddenly fall apart on me the way their larger cousins did years ago.

The set does not include accessories. This isn't a big deal to me at all. And if nothing else, the figures' hands are closed fists. They can't really hold anything anyway.

Conspicuous by his absence in this set, and causing a bit of ire among some fans as such, is the very prominent ninja known as Scorpion. He and Sub-Zero were really the first two major ninjas, and he's just not here. There's some fans that aren't too happy about that. Fortunately, a "Klassic" Scorpion figure, using the same set of molds as these six, is available individually on his own card, so it is possible to round up all seven Klassic Mortal Kombat ninjas for your collection. Although I tend to agree, from a marketing standpoint, it's a little -- annoying.

So, what's my final word here? I'm sincerely impressed. More and more video games seem to be getting action figure lines these days. Look at the massive success of Halo. It's about time there was a new Mortal Kombat action figure line, and at least in the 4" scale, JazWares is doing a very decent job this time around. I've rounded up ten figures to date, and have had no major issues with any of them. I'd like to think the line will be around for a good long while. At the moment, it's a little on the limited side, and I've only seen it at Toys "R" Us.

However, I have to say that if you're any sort of Mortal Kombat fan, and perhaps long enough of a Mortal Kombat fan to remember the full spectrum of ninjas, then you'll be truly pleased with this set.

The MORTAL KOMBAT KLASSIC set of ninjas featuring SUB-ZERO, SMOKE, ERMAC, NOOB, REPTILE, and RAIN definitely has my highest recommendation!