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By Thomas Wheeler

The third assortment of SOTA's excellent action figures based on the
long-running series of STREET FIGHTER video games finally turned up in late August. These are not easy figures to come by. They're considered a specialty product, so you're not going to find them at Toys "R" Us or Wal-Mart. The first assortment, I ordered from the online toy store BigBadToyStore.Com. The second assortment turned up at Suncoast Video, where I'd been watching for the third assortment, which I ultimately found at Hot Topic, which is apparently the only other store in the local mall to carry these figures.

Hot Topic is an interesting store. Personally, I don't think anybody over the age of thirty has any business in the place. It is EXTREMELY trendy, if not downright edgy. It sells a wide range of clothes and jewelry, and yes, some toys. Everything is very edgy-pop-culture related. But there's the occasional cool retro product. The last time I was in there to purchase anything, it was when they were offering G.I.Joe and Transformers T-shirts. I got a nice Crimson Guard T-shirt in there, as well as shirts with the Transformers Autobot and Decepticon logos on them.

The store clerks for this place can be interesting. They tend towards
goth and frequently have a wide variety of piercings and tattoos. And
that's the girls. Interestingly, they also tend to be unfailingly polite,
as alarming as they may appear. Still, someone of my age and fairly
traditional upbringing and background -- I felt about as out of place as a tuxedo in a sporting goods store.

Ultimately, though, it was worth it, in order to obtain these figures.
SOTA's STREET FIGHTER figures are some of the most impressive pieces of action figure work presently on the market -- period. And the third assortment certainly lives up to the standards set by the previous two. Let's consider each figure in the assortment individually, shall we?

GUILE - One of my longtime personal favorites. Although technically the Street Fighter concept revolves mostly around Ken and Ryu, Guile gained a certain prominence at least in the American edition of the concept when he was the lead character, portrayed by action star Jean-Claude Van Damme, in the live-action Street Fighter movie. The movie was a bit of a turkey, but it gave the Guile character a greater emphasis, which carried over into a generally excellent weekly animated series on the USA Network that ran for two seasons.

And, given my longtime interest in G.I.Joe, it's also not surprising that Guile is one of my favorites, since clearly he's not only an American, but with a substantial military background. The character has the mother of all flat-top haircuts (it's worth noting that, just like the Hasbro Street Fighter Guile figure that was made part of the G.I.Joe collection, the SOTA Guile can stand on his head without bracing himself with his arms), an army green tank top, camouflage trousers, and army boots.

According to the book STREET FIGHTER ETERNAL CHALLENGE, which I regard as "the" authoritative work on Street Fighter, Guile is a major in the United States Air Force, and is searching for the truth as to what happened to his best friend Charlie, who Guile believes was captured by M. Bison during an investigation of the tyrant's activities in Shadaloo. Guile has connections with other Street Fighters. His wife, Jane, is the sister of Eliza, Ken's wife. And Guile's daughter Amy is close friends with Dhalsim's son, Datta.

Something of a divergence needs to be explained here. In the live-action movie, and USA animated series, Charlie was transformed into Blanka by M. Bison. That is NOT the case in the video-game storyline, where Charlie and Blanka are separate characters.

The Guile figure is excellent. The amount of detail, both in sculpting
and painting, combined with the articulation (and total lack of pre-
posing) really makes these Street Fighter figures a fantastic line. His
physique is muscular, and he's slightly larger than Ken or Ryu (who are arguably the most "standard human" in the line), but not abnormally or implausibly so. The camouflage on Guile's trousers is intricate and well-painted. The sculpted details on his boots is incredible. And as a nice bonus, the figure has an actual metal chain around his neck, with two little dog tags. Very nice touch. About the only point there this figure comes up short at all is the American flag tattoos on his arms, which don't have fifty stars. But they're pretty small, and I'm sure SOTA did the best they could. The flags, overall, are at least the proper configuration, and I've seen worse, and from toy lines that should've known better even more than this.

Really, the GUILE figure is a major treat here, and probably one of the coolest figures in the entire collection to date.

BALROG - Like Guile, Balrog is one of the Street Fighter characters
that's been with the concept pretty much from the start. He's a muscle-bound boxer type with a mean streak a mile wide. Think of him as the Mike Tyson of the Street Fighter world. According to the book, Balrog is one of the main enforcers for M. Bison in Shadaloo. Although a powerful fighter, Balrog is not sufficiently skillful to really be a boxing champion. He was banned from the pro-boxing circuit after injuring too many of his opponents. He found work with M. Bison not long after, and travels the world as a mercenary for Shadaloo, making a ton of money in the process. The comic book has portrayed him as frequently living the lifestyle of a high roller in Las Vegas when he's not doing Bison's dirtywork.

The figure is huge, larger than Guile, but a bit smaller than T. Hawk,
who is the largest and bulkiest figure to date in the collection. The
figure is dressed in boxing shorts and a blue tank-top, and is wearing
boxing gloves on his hands. For those who would rather be able to see his hands, the figure comes with a second set of hands that can be snapped into place, that are more standard hands wrapped in gauze-like tape. The Balrog figure is superbly made, and if I have one complaint, it's that the back of the bead comes up a little short on the sculpt. This is to allow for greater head movement, but it looks a bit like the lower back of his skull is missing. Last figure I saw with this slightly creepy problem was the 18" 67-points-of-articulation Spider-Man figure from Toy Biz.

SAKURA - Most casual fans of Street Fighter, who have been familiar with the concept for long enough, are likely to be familiar with the core 16 or 17 characters, which would include those from Street Fighter II and Super Street Fighter II. These were the ones that gained the most prominence in the early to mid 90's thanks to the Hasbro toy line, the live-action movie, and the animated series. Sakura, although she did put in one appearance in the animated series, is one of a very small handful of characters that didn't come along until after this wave of popularity, that has nonetheless managed to earn a place among that upper echelon of most readily recognized Street Fighter characters, even though she wasn't officially introduced until the game Street Fighter Alpha 2.

Sakura has perhaps the least-likely physical appearance for a Street
Fighter. She's fairly small, and is dressed pretty much like a
traditional Japanese schoolgirl, even if her skirt and top are, I
suspect, a little skimpier than school dress-code regulations would
likely allow.

According to the book, Sakura Kasugano is an energetic high school
student growing up in Tokyo. On her way home from school one day, she witnessed a street fight featuring Ryu, and became obsessed with his skill and power, and became determined to master similar fighting techniques, and then seek out and meet Ryu and learn from his own fighting skills.

If there's a Japanese word for "spunky", it could likely be used to
define Sakura. In a world of musclebound, vicious warriors, she comes across as downright cute, but at the same time should not be
underestimated. She's basing her own fighting skills on one of the
masters of the game, and has enough energy and determination to not let much of anything, or anyone get in her way.

The figure is excellent. Certainly distinctly smaller than any of the
previous figures in the line, her slim build has allowed for double-
jointed articulation in both the arms and legs. Most Street Fighter
figures have double-jointed knees, but not elbows. Her face is somewhat more "anime" in appearance than most, but the sculptors have done a superb job rendering this in 3D. The blousy sleeves do not hinder her arm articulation very much. The same could not be said for the Series 1 Chun-Li figure, but then her sleeves were even more puffed up than this, soI'm not trying to find fault here.

Although the character is a little more cartoonish than some, SOTA has managed to find areas to put considerable detail into. Check the sneakers on the figure. Highly detailed right down to stitching and laces, and the front of the sneakers even have a ridged front to them. They certainly match the character illustration, but really, looking at my own footwear, if these weren't based on Converse All-Stars (a surprisingly trendy brand of shoe, I have discovered), I'd be very surprised.

ADON - Although most people believe that Adon first appeared in Street Fighter Alpha, Adon is one of a handful of characters that, while they might not have been part of the mega-popular Street Fighter II era, actually were first introduced, in a simpler form, perhaps, in the very first Street Fighter game, a rather primitive piece of work that many Street Fighter fans would just as soon sweep under the table.

Adon might be best regarded as "Sagat Light". He trained under the
massive fighter, studying the same "Muay Thai" fighting skills. But when Sagat lost the very first Street Fighter tournament to Ryu, Adon was devastated and grew increasingly bitter. Adon believes that Sagat disgraced himself and all those who follow the Muay Thai form of fighting, and now, Adon seeks his revenge against Sagat for this horrible dishonor.

Yeah, I'd say he has a few screws loose somewhere. The figure is
outfitted very much like Sagat, which is hardly surprising. Boxing
shorts, with hands and feet wrapped in gauze-like tape.  However, the figure is nowhere near as large as the massive Sagat. Adon is about the same height as Ryu and Ken, and a bit more slender, although his physical build is of the type of someone who exercises so intensely that he appears slender just because he has maybe 3% body fat total. This is the type of person who has a deceptive appearance. They look slender, but punch one in the gut and it's like hitting a brick wall.

The scariest part of Adon, though, is his face, and it is certainly
reflected in the head sculpt. This guy has a grin that only The Joker
could love. In fact, it might be entirely possible to take this head
sculpt, get rid of the weird hair, and possibly use it as part of a
custom Joker figure. Although that strikes me as a little pointless, as
there's certainly plenty of Joker figures out there. But it would be possible.

Most Street Fighter figures come with a second head, that can be popped onto place. Generally speaking, the second head is a more extreme expression compared to the one that the figure is assembled and packaged with. Adon is an exception to this, as his alternate head actually has a saner expression -- its mouth is closed.

I'm not even going to try to figure out what's up with this guy's hair.

GEN - Like Adon, Gen is a character who didn't turn up until the later games -- specifically Street Fighter Alpha 2, but who has his origins in the original Street Fighter game.

Gen may look like an old goat in a bathrobe, but don't underestimate this guy. According to the book, Gen was a master martial artist and legendary assassin working out of China. Over the years, he mastered multiple martial arts and finally created two distinct fighting skills of his own. He taught some of his maneuvers to Chun-Li's father, who would in turn pass those skills on to her.

Now on the high side of 70, Gen recently learned that he has contracted a fatal disease. He has entered the Street Fighter tournament looking for worthy opponents, feeling that it would be better to die in combat rather than linger and suffer in a sick bed. Sounds like someone who's seen a few too many "Klingon" episodes of Star Trek...

The figure is very well done, and the long tunic doesn't hinder the
extensive articulation in the least. In fact, the detail on the robe is
impressive. There's a coarse fabric-like pattern on the reverse side of
both "flaps". This is a level of detail that I suspect most toy companies would not be prepared to go to, but SOTA has.

I suspect Gen might have been more of a challenge for them than some of the previous figures, as many of the prior Street Fighters have either been minimally dressed, or wear fairly tight-fitting clothes. Gen looks like he's wearing an Oriental bathrobe and pajamas. Still, the end result is impressive, and certainly accurate to the character.

About the only complaint I have about the figure is a bit of the paint
detail on the face. I think they were trying to indicate a bit of flesh
beneath the lower lip before the beard actually started, but given that
the sculpt takes the beard all the way to the lower lip, it looks more
like Gen has dribbled some ckicken soup from the corners of his mouth onto this beard or something. Wanna do something about those table manners there, dude? I mean -- eyyyeeww!

There's a few final comments I'd like to make. SOTA has done something very interesting in the painting of these figures. While the figures tend to hve a fairly flat painted finish (and they are painted from head to toe), SOTA has seen fit to paint the eyes in a glossy finish. This lends a certain additional air of realism to the figures that is extremely impressive. Take one outside and let his eyes reflect the sunlight. You'll think he's staring back at you.

Also, it's worth mentioning that the next TWO assortments of Street
Fighter figures have already been announced. "Round 4" should, I hope, be out before the end of the year, and "Round 5" can be expected in the spring. While this seems like a long ways between assortments, these are not inexpensive figures, and while the wait may often seem interminable, it's worth it when they finally show up, and hopefully you've had a chance to save up the money for them.

Finally, I would like to recommend the book STREET FIGHTER ETERNAL CHALLENGE. Recently published by UDON Studios, the people responsible for the Street Fighter comic book, this book, originally published in Japan but now fully translated into English, has everything you want to know about all of the Street Fighter games and characters. If you're enjoying the Street Fighter action figures as I am, but are a little hazy on some of the less-well-known characters, this will bring you up to date, It includes character profiles, game histories, interviews with the game creators, and tons of artwork. It's really a fantastic book.

And the latest assortment of STREET FIGHTER action figures are just as fantastic. They have my highest recommendation!