REVIEW: SONIC THE HEDGEHOG "TEAM CHAOTIX" THREE-PACK
While I may be a generally horrible video game player, it's impossible for one to not be involved in the pop culture world to a reasonable degree, and not be aware of a good number of the more iconic video game characters that are out there, especially when those characters have gone well beyond their video game roots and into other forms of media.
Such is certainly the case with SONIC THE HEDGEHOG, a cartoonish blue anthropomorphic hedgehog who for over twenty years has scurried his way through a host of video games, animated series, comic books, and more.
In recent years, an action figure line starring Sonic and his friends has come on the scene. The one point of concern that this line held for me was that it was produced by a company called JazWares whose previous efforts had not especially impressed me. I had found far too many reasons to fault their overall quality, and was extremely hesitant about picking up any of their product.
However, their Sonic line looked good, the characters were certainly accurate to their video game and/or animated counterparts -- no easy feat given the rather unusual bodily proportions in certain instances, and I decided to pick up a couple of them. While I wouldn't exactly put them at the pinnacle of the action figure world, they are of generally very good quality, and are likely the best product line that JazWares currently produces.
So I came across a new three-pack of Sonic Figures, part of their 3" scale line (they do have larger scales in their overall product line for Sonic, but this is the most diverse). The set was collectively known as TEAM CHAOTIX, and featured three figures that I had never seen before.
Let's consider a bit of the history of Team Chaotix within the Sonic concept, and then have a look at their respective action figures.
The Chaotix are a group who debuted in the game Knuckles' Chaotix as the main characters. IGN has described the characters as "charming". The group includes:
Charmy Bee, who is a bee and is the "scatter-brained funny-kid" of the Chaotix. He is cheerful, curious, playful, careless, and greatly energetic, often talking about things no one else cares about. Charmy's fooling around makes the rest of the detective agency staff look professional, and he is generally seen as a "cute mascot". Despite an innocent, good-natured and light-hearted personality, he uses his stinging tail on rare occasions that he gets angry. In addition being a playable character in Sonic Heroes and Shadow the Hedgehog, he made cameos in all three Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games installments as a referee.
Espio the Chameleon, an anthropomorphic chameleon who is a ninja warrior. He is described as the "opinionated number one" of the Chaotix, also being the calmest. He has a "militaristic discipline" while also being quiet and laid back -- interesting combo if you can make it work. Confident in his skills, opinionated and self-obsessed, he revels in training and self-discipline, He is not concerned by danger, and often yearns to face it in order to use his ninja skills. With his extensive training in ninjutsu and an ability to turn himself invisible, he is able to move around unnoticed. However, a blunder like a sneeze could cause him to inadvertently become visible.
Espio's debut was in the video game Knuckles' Chaotix. In the game, his color subtly changes while he moves to demonstrate the technical capabilities of the Sega 32X console. Espio was incorporated into Sonic Heroes as part of a move to reintroduce neglected characters, and because the development team considered him to have a unique, interesting personality. He was the designated "speed" character in Sonic Heroes while teammates Vector the Crocodile and Charmy Bee respectively represented "power" and "flight". Espio was added to Sonic Rivals 2 to help "round out our cast of characters", and because designer Takashi Iizuka appreciated the character's "stealthy agility". He also appeared in all three installments of Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games as the referee in various events like table tennis, athletics, and more. Guy gets around.
Mighty the Armadillo is a black and red armadillo who debuted in the arcade game SegaSonic the Hedgehog, and later appeared in the 32X game Knuckles' Chaotix. The character is described as a traveler who loves nature and desires to see every place. Mighty hates to see weaknesses in others and detests violence. He prefers to be gentle but undergoes a drastic change and is capable when needed. Mighty's only appearance as part of the Chaotix was in Knuckles Chaotix, he has not been present since the group has been reintroduced into the series with Sonic Heroes in 2003, and he is not included with this set -- poor guy.
Vector the Crocodile is a crocodile (and I'm glad we cleared that up because I have a heck of a time telling them from alligators, especially in cartoon form), who is the "head honcho" and brains of the Chaotix Detective Agency. Divided between being "bossy" and "easy-going," his rough speech and outward appearance mask his clear reasoning and ability to resolve cases. For the right price he will take on most jobs, unless they involve doing something immoral. Vector has a strong sense of justice and kindness, despite his argumentativeness. He often does unpaid work due to his charitable nature, leaving the agency constantly short on money. Vector hates having to work for the landlord, but he enjoys singing, and his trademark is a set of headphones. He is physically very strong and his powerful jaws are a formidable weapon, as one would expect.
Vector was originally supposed to be in the sound test of the first Sonic the Hedgehog game, but he, along with the feature itself, was removed prior to release. He was also part of Team Chaotix in Sonic Heroes and is featured in Shadow the Hedgehog. In all three installments of Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games, he is a playable athlete.
So, how are the toys? Very cool, and quite the diverse set. It features Espio, Vector, and Charmy. Some package artwork from older Sonic figures shows Espio and Vector separately on the back, as available figures, and perhaps they were at some point, especially since this set makes a point of advertising Charmy, who makes his debut with this set, but I've never seen any of these figures before I purchased this set. Let's consider the figures individually:
ESPIO THE CHAMELEON -- Well, the first thought one has here is -- a magenta pink chameleon?! A friend of mine had a chameleon for a pet, and while it was a fascinating, and useful, animal (dealt rather permanently with a number of bugs in a storeroom), I don't recall ever seeing it turn pink. Then again, the main character in this concept is a blue hedgehog, so who am I to argue the point?
Espio fits well into what I consider the standard physical format of most of the Sonic characters. Regardless of their species, they tend to have very large, roundish heads, relatively slender, small bodies, moderately long, and very slender arms and legs, and immense hands and feet relative to the size of their arms and legs.
Espio has large, anime-type eyes, with a downturned brow. His irises are rather narrow, and are yellow-orange in color. A distinctive feature of the character is a yellow horn-like nose. He has a very slight muzzle for his lower face, which is flesh-tone in color, with a sort of half-grin on one side of his face -- also not atypical for a Sonic-designed character.
Espio's body is magenta pink, except for a flesh-tone area on his chest, which looks rather heart-shaped. His head fans out to three points hear the back, almost making him look more like a cartoonish pink triceratops than anything. The very back of his head has been rounded off. He has three short black spikes running vertically down his back, and a fairly long tail that curls in tightly on itself at the end.
Espio has four fingers and a thumb on each hand, Actually, all three characters do, as do most of the Sonic characters, which sort of goes against some classic animal-type cartoon characters who only have three fingers. I suppose Sonic's Japanese creators never adopted that practice. Still, for someone more used to the more limited digits of Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny, it looks a little odd.
Espio is wearing white gloves, with purple trim on the back, and heavy black wristbands, that I suppose are intended to have a martial arts look to them, with silver and yellow detailing.
Espio has large purple shoes, with black details, and what I surmise to be white socks with black tops. The tops of the shoes are also black, with yellow studs around them, akin to the detailing on his wristbands.
Espio, like most Sonic figures, is amazingly well articulated for his size and proportions. Standing 3-1/2" in height -- 1-1/2" of which is his head, and only a little over 1/2" is central body, Espio is fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows, wrists, waist, legs, knees, and ankles. His legs and elbows also include a rotational swivel. This is extremely impressive for a figure of this size and these overall proportions, although a few of his articulation points are a bit loose -- not an uncommon occurrence from JazWares. Still, it's difficult to complain given the overall quality.
VECTOR THE CROCODILE - Although Vector is roughly the same height as Espio, his overall bodily proportions are entirely different, and rather atypical as such. Vector's head is less than an inch tall. The smaller height is compensated for with a pronounced, crocodilian snout that gives Vector a head length of nearly 2-1/4". He effectively has no neck. Rather, his head tapers right into his main body, which has a powerful upper torso, becoming somewhat more slender closer to the legs, after which it becomes a long tail, which extends over 2 inches in length behind Vector's main body. Vector also has a series of nine large tan-colored scales running down his back and tail.
Perhaps Vector's most unusual feature are his limbs. His legs are no larger than Espio's, in face they may be slightly smaller. He is wearing large black shoes on his big feet that I think are designed to look like some sort of stylish athletic shoe. They have white soles and gray trim. Vector's arms, conversely, are immense. His upper arms are fairly slender, but are still far larger than Espio's, and his lower arms are huge, ending on broad wrists with huge black wristbands around them, leading into white gloves, The length of Vector's arms, not counting his hands, is 2". These overall unusual proportions, I think, serve to make Vector appear larger than he really is relative to his height.
About the only not-too-unusual feature about Vector is his coloration. He's green -- not inappropriate for a crocodile, although I don't think the average croc is this bright a green. Most of Vector's body is a bright, intense green, while the lower portion of his snout, his arms, and the scaly central part of his torso, are an even lighter green.
Vector's eyes are somewhat smaller in proportion to his head than Espio, although they're still fairly large. The eyes are somewhat angular in appearance, and he has yellow irises.
Vector is wearing a set of black headphones, and has a yellow chain around his neck (also delineating the articulation point). He has black wristbands with yellow orange buckles and trim lines, and white gloves. Interestingly, all of his fingers are separate from each other. That's some impressive molding.
Overall, it's an excellent figure, although mine has slightly loose legs, and he has just a little trouble standing precisely upright as a result. He does have a superb level of articulation, including his head, arms, elbows, wrists, waist, legs, knees, ankles, and tail. He lacks the elbow rotation, but given the look of his arms, it might not have been possible.
CHARMY THE BEE - If it's impressive that a figure with such unusual bodily proportions that doesn't even stand 4 inches in height can have the level of precision, detail, and articulation in it that both Espio and Vector manage, what does it say that a figure that's a scant 2-1/4" in height, with similar odd bodily proportions, is very nearly as impressive. If Jazwares would pay as much attention to quality control of their final product as they obviously do to the design phase, they'd be one of the top toymakers around.
Charmy is the smallest Sonic figure I've ever encountered. Next to this guy, Miles "Tails" Prower, Sonic's young double-tailed fox friend, is a basketball player.
And consider these proportions. Charmy's head is a full inch of his height. That's nearly half. His body is barely half an inch, and the rest of his height is legs. His arms and legs are astoundingly slender. The assembling teams at the manufacturing plant must've loved dealing with this one.
Charmy is a fairly colorful little fellow. His face and arms are a very pale yellow orange. He's wearing a black helmet with a red border around it. The helmet has a pair of goggles, orange with blue lenses, which are framed in black. Charmy's two antennae protrude from the front of the helmet, and in some impressive paint work, are black and yellow striped.
Charmy is wearing what appears to be an orange, sleeveless shirt, with a white collar, a yellow zipper down the front, and a bee-like emblem, very nicely detailed, on one side of the shirt front. He has little translucent blue wings on his back.
Either his trousers or his lower body is black (with animal characters, it can be hard to tell, and it seems the wardrobe choices of a lot of the Sonic characters tends to be varied, with a lot of them seeming to wear gloves and shoes, and little else, but some other apparel turns up here and there), with narrow yellow stripes on the front and back. A tiny stinger amounts to Charmy's tail.
He is wearing white gloves with black cuffs -- and like Vector, the fingers are all separate. And he has big orange shoes, with black tops, yellow zippers, and grey sides, toes, and soles. The soles of his shoes are amazingly well detailed.
Charmy's face has huge, oval eyes, that essentially meet as one. His irises are orange, and he has a tiny black nose and a pleasant, centered smile on his face.
I am sincerely amazed at the amount of both sculpted and painted detail on this figure. It's nothing short of incredible. Charmy easily has more painted detail than either of his larger companions.
Charmy doesn't have quite as much articulation, but that a figure this small, with such narrow limbs, has any at all is pretty impressive. I can think of other toy companies where Charmy would not have fared as well. Charmy is poseable at the head, arms, wrists, waist, legs, and ankles. Not bad for such a little guy.
Any complaints on the set? Loose limbs notwithstanding, there were a few paint applications that could've been neater. Some portions of these figures were obviously hand painted. The most glaring instances are the stripes on Charmy's lower body, and the trim around Vector's wristbands. Also, there's a certain amount of mold creasing on Charmy's face. This is a problem that plagues a number of toy companies, and I find it rather aggravating because it's not something that needs to happen.
Each figure comes with an accessory. Espio has a small knife, Vector comes with a hand-held music player, and Charmy comes with a tall flower -- that's the same color as Espio. JazWares must've gotten a good deal on magenta. The accessories are nicely designed, well made, and neatly painted.
So, what's my final word? I really like this set. I'd thought I was mostly done with the Sonic line (although I never have found a modern figure of Amy Rose and I know she's out there), and then along comes this cool new set of characters, and they are indeed very cool. If you allow for a few minor quality glitches, you'll be abundantly pleased with this set. They're well made, nicely designed, certainly well articulated, and are truly excellent action figure incarnations of their popular video game counterparts. If you're any sort of Sonic fan, you'll definitely want to bring them in.
The TEAM CHAOTIX three-pack from the SONIC THE HEDGEHOG line, featuring ESPIO THE CHAMELEON, VECTOR THE CROCODILE, and CHARMY THE BEE, definitely has my highest recommendation!