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Review: G.I.JOE NIGHT RHINO

This latest addition to the 2000-2001 G.I.Joe line, which is the only way I can think of to differentiate between that G.I.Joe series and the new one which started up in 2002, turned up at Toys "R" Us in late January. It's a repaint, as the bulk of that line has tended to be, but it's a pretty cool one.

The vehicle is the WARTHOG AIFV from the original line. In fact the corrugated shipment boxes for it even say "G.I.Joe Warthog Vehicle". However, on its own package, it's been given the new name of NIGHT RHINO.

It could almost be argued that this vehicle is an extension of the popular Toys "R" Us exclusive team of figures and vehicles NIGHT FORCE, which ran from 1988-1989. That popular and, these days, highly sought-after, series of toys featured G.I.Joe figures in dark, muted colors, and repaints of popular G.I.Joe vehicles done mostly in black and dark grey, with the notable if minimal bright red trim and glow-in-the-dark labels. Some of the most popular G.I.Joe vehicles of all time, including the SkyStriker Combat Jet, the APC, and the Cobra Moray, were all inducted into the Night Force line.

The NIGHT RHINO does not have any red trim, nor does it have glow-in-the-dark labels. However, it has been redone in black, altered from its original olive green, and its overall color scheme is quite dark. Similarly, the figure that comes with it, DUSTY, is also given a dark grey uniform. And certainly the name of the vehicle fits, as all NIGHT FORCE vehicles were given names that began with the word "Night".

However, this remains speculation which cannot be proven. What can be stated about the Night Rhino is that it is an effective and versatile vehicle, with plenty of "play value" for anyone who buys it. There's plenty of opening hatches, lots of room for additional figures, the missile rack on top swivels on its base, it rolls along the ground on wheels hidden behind its simulated treads, and according to the package, it floats! I personally haven't tested this last one.

It does require extensive assembly, as is the case with G.I.Joe vehicles, but there's nothing all that complicated about it, and for some of us, that's part of the fun. One recommendation I would make, however -- there's a number of labels that are designed to be inserted inside the vehicle, on control panels and the like. Do these before you assemble the vehicle. This is not stated in the instructions as such, and perhaps a child's smaller fingers could manage placing a label on a control panel through an open hatch in an assembled vehicle better than an adult's hands. But if you're an adult collector of G.I.Joe, trust me -- check the label instructions first, and get those labels in place before vehicle assembly. Otherwise you'll end up doing what I did, which was using tweezers and trying to watch my language.

The Night Rhino also looks like a proper military vehicle, which makes sense, since there are legitimate military vehicles out there that greatly resemble the Night Rhino. Lose the large missile rack on the top and you've just about got it.

The figure of DUSTY that comes with the Night Rhino is an interesting one. It uses the head and legs of the 1991 Dusty, but it uses the torso and arms of the 1986 Dial-Tone. That's not a big deal, really. It still makes for an effective figure, and the all-grey uniform somehow well-suits the character for being the driver of a big, bulky machine like the Night Rhino. It makes Dusty look rather "no-nonsense", and the vehicle certainly fits this description as well.

My one minor complaint about it all is that the file card for Dusty drastically changes the character's real name and background from any prior appearances. It's a totally different name and place of birth, etc. Given that the original Dusty was named after one of Hasbro's best artists, this has struck some as somewhat disrespectful. I personally don't know how intentional this change might have been, but I wish they had not made it.

Apart from that, however, I am very pleased with both the NIGHT RHINO vehicle and the DUSTY figure. They are both excellent toys, and will be superb additions to any long-established collection of G.I.JOE: A REAL AMERICAN HERO!