Certainly one of the most popular series of fighting-style video games of all time has to be Capcom's STREET FIGHTER. It has been the basis for numerous games practically since they evolved past "Pong", a generous assortment of animated series both in its home country of Japan and in the United States, a somewhat debatable live-action movie , and several series of action figures of varying degrees of success.
The first action figure line for Street Fighter was produced by Hasbro, and was tied into (and used the same molds as) G.I. Joe. The second line was from ReSaurus, and lasted about as long as it took that company to go belly-up. The most recent line of Street Fighter action figures, already the most extensive, has been produced by SOTA (State of the Art) Toys, and has turned out some impressive product, unfortunately hindered by some quality control problems in one assortment and other delays.
With the most recent assortment, SOTA has changed the name of the line to "Street Fighter: Revolutions", and although it's technically supposed to be available, as were the other assortments, in so-called "specialty" shops, such as Suncoast, Hot Topic, and the like.
Fortunately, the figures can be ordered via SOTA's own Web Site, and as reluctant as I generally am to order toys sight unseen, it seemed to be the only means by which to get the current group of figures.
I am not certain what the future may hold for SOTA's Street Fighter figures. Hopefully, they'll last a while longer. Apart from being really excellent figures of these cool characters, there's another reason -- one I think is shared by a lot of Street Fighter fans.
Despite the presence of literally dozens of Street Fighter characters across a multitude of games, there is still a "core cast" of about sixteen or so characters, that have been established since the days of Street Fighter II and Super Street Fighter II. SOTA Toys has been splitting these "best knowns" across their various assortments, which is certainly understandable. But they're not quite there yet. There's one left, and SOTA did show a prototype of him at the San Diego Comic-Con a couple of years ago. I hope they get around to him.
That "core cast" would include: Ken, Ryu, Guile, Dhalsim, Zangief, T. Hawk, M. Bison, Vega, Sagat, Balrog, Chun-Li, Dee-Jay, Fei Long, Cammy, Blanka, E. Honda, and by extension due to their popularity and prominence, Sakura and Akuma. To date, everybody except Dee-Jay has been made, along with other Street Fighter characters.
Among the characters available in this Street Fighter Revolutions assortment, and the focus of this review, is -- ZANGIEF!
Zangief is a Russian, and whether or not "Zangief" is any sort of legitimately Russian name, I really don't know. Personally, given the size and musculature of this guy, I'm not about to tell him what he can call himself. Zangief is one of the most massive characters in the concept, and apparently part of how he got that way -- along with the scars on his body -- was from wrestling bears. And probably winning more often than not.
Zangief is a video game character created by Capcom. He is part of the Street Fighter series of fighting games. Zangief was the first "360°" fighter, whose main special move, a grappling move named the Spinning Piledriver, required spinning the joystick in nearly 360 degrees and pressing a punch button. The timing of this move is tricky, as Zangief will simply jump if the stick is tilted upwards for too long and often it has to be chained with another attack to get it to work properly. Mastering this maneuver would eventually pay off since, in the first few versions of Street Fighter II, the Spinning Piledriver is the most powerful move in the game for any character.
Zangief makes his first appearance in the original Street Fighter II as one of the original eight playable characters, appearing in all subsequent revisions of the game as well. In the Street Fighter II games, Zangief was characterized as a former professional wrestler who participated in the tournament to represent his country under the request of the Soviet President, an unnamed character resembling Mikhail Gorbachev (the actual real life Soviet President at the time). The subsequent home versions takes into account Gorbachev's resignation from office by having Zangief address the character as "Mr. Ex-President", although Zangief still represented the Soviet Union in the games.
Zangief would return in Street Fighter Alpha 2 and its follow-up Street Fighter Alpha 3. In the Alpha series, Zangief is a national Russian hero nicknamed the "Red Cyclone" who becomes acquainted with Gorbachev at the end of Alpha 2 (the Alpha sub-series being set before Street Fighter II) and ends up fighting Shadaloo in Alpha 3.
Zangief has also appeared in many of Capcom's fighting game crossovers with Marvel, including X-Men vs. Street Fighter, Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter, Marvel vs. Capcom and Marvel vs. Capcom 2. In the two Marvel vs. Capcom games, an alternate version Zangief named "Mecha Zangief" appears. Zangief also appears in Capcom vs. SNK and Capcom vs. SNK 2, as well as in the Street Fighter EX games and, most recently, the newest game, Street Fighter IV.
Zangief is a close range character as he is a wrestling type. Many of his moves are more complicated to pull off due to the 360° motions input required to perform the moves, making him a character for advanced players. Zangief is one of the slowest of all characters in the Street Fighter games and presents a large target, yet compensates for this with his evasive techniques (Spinning Lariat and Banishing Flat) and can control large amounts of space whilst negating the ability of other characters to do so with their projectile moves, and his Spinning Piledriver can grab opponents out of most ground-based moves.
His "Spinning Piledriver" was the single most damaging special move in the original Street Fighter II series, until the introduction of T. Hawk, and is capable of 'sucking in' opponents from a surprising distance. Zangief's Flying Stomach block attack is the only standard move capable of dizzying a character in one hit in the Street Fighter II series. In most incarnations, Zangief is extremely dangerous against floored opponents as he is able to force them to block regular attacks so that he can pin them in place to deliver a powerful throw or hold. From Super Street Fighter II Turbo onwards, Zangief became capable of performing a dynamic rushdown with the addition of his Banishing Flat.
Here's an interesting little factoid: Zangief's prototypical name was Vodka Gobalsky.
Despite being a Russian, Zangief wasn't specifically intended as one of the bad guys in the early games. His alliance, admittedly, has been a little uncertain. Most of the early Street Fighter video games regarded the bad guys as being M.Bison, of course, along with Vega, Sagat, and Balrog. The live-action movie twisted things around a bit, by making Balrog one of the good guys, and Zangief one of the bad guys, admittedly somewhat unknowingly. He was portrayed in the movie as a hugely powerful individual without much brain power.
The Zangief character is portrayed by Andrew Bryniarski in the live-action Street Fighter movie, and is once again a lackey of Bison's, only this time, he truly has a good heart and believes that the A.N., and not Bison, are the enemies of world peace and freedom. During the climactic battle, Zangief battles E. Honda, who appears to have the upper hand. After the battle ends, he is told by Dee Jay that Bison, was in fact, the evil one, and had been fooling Zangief the whole time. To redeem himself, he helps Ryu and Ken hold the emergency exit door open for the hostages to escape. He is last seen complimenting Guile's bravery, and gives him the thumbs-up when he emerges from the explosion alive.
That battle between Zangief and Honda had one of the best laughs in the movie, when they're knocking each other around and trashing a scale model of the city that Bison intends to build, and Godzilla sound effects are played in the background...
In the American animated series that followed the movie, and picked up on some elements of it, Zangief was once again back in the employ of Bison for whatever reason. In the various Japanese animation based on Street Fighter, it seems that his high point comes in a major battle against Guile, where he is once again in the employ of Bison. So, maybe he's more bad guy than good guy, but I don't believe that was the original intent of the character.
For what it's worth, his "Alignment" on his G.I. Joe-era file card lists him as "Good". This would've been pre-live-action-movie.
It also lists his height as 7 ft 0 inches, and his weight at 340 pounds, which based on the figure, I'd have to say is a conservative estimate. One thing about SOTA's Street Fighter figures -- determine what scale to call them has been a difficult proposition at best. I'm reasonably certain they're to scale with EACH OTHER, although I do tend to think that the recent additions from the "Revolutions" assortment are slightly larger overall, we're also talking about a line that has everything from the fairly diminutive Sakura, standing a rather cute and perky 5-1/2" in height in her Converse All-Star replicas, all the way up to massive man-mountains like the 8" tall Sagat and T.Hawk, and now Zangief, who's more like 8-1/2" in height, and more powerfully built than either of the other two.
Arguably, if one takes Ryu or Ken as the "normal standard" for the line, if there even is such a thing, they measure about 6-1/4" in height, which makes Zangief a heck of a lot bigger than seven feet, proportionately. Whatever "alternate Earth" the Street Fighters come from, it's clear that there's a far greater -- um -- variety of humanity than we tend to find on our own.
Zangief, physically, is an individual with a really massive body and a surprisingly small head relative to the rest of him. The headsculpt is very nicely done, but a little peculiar in several respects. I have to keep in mind that SOTA Toys is not Mattel or Hasbro. And Street Fighter is intended as a collectors' line. There's a certain, almost "rough" look to the headsculpt, that makes it look more like a sculpture than part of a toy. Some might find this appealing. For myself, I wish it were a little smoother, but I can understand the appeal. Checking some of my other Street Fighter figures, it sort of depends on the individual whether they share these qualities. It doesn't appear entirely exclusive to this most recent assortment.
Zangief has a pretty scary face regardless of how it's sculpted, His eyes bulge out a bit, his head is shaved except for a black mohawk, and he has a fairly thick beard and mustache. This isn't something made up for the figure. Artwork of the character and his appearance in the game all reflect this. Suffice to say that the toy has captured the look superbly well. If I saw someone with this sort of massive muscular build coming at me with a face like this, to say nothing of the almost insane angry expression, I think I would find myself capable of retreating at a speed never before achieved by yours truly.
The paint detailing on the head is -- a little mixed, to be perfectly honest. The eyes are neatly painted, and fairly intricate, as is the detailing around and within the mouth. The hair is another matter. Both the mohawk and the beard seem to have been hand-painted, and while I've certainly seen far worse work than this when toy details are hand-painted, there's an inevitable bit of sloppiness that's going to occur regardless. It's nothing I can't take care of, though, but one sort of wishes SOTA had sprung for a few more paint stencils.
The rest of the body is -- interesting. Some of the artwork for Zangief shows that he likes to flex his muscles. The figure reflects this, but it has resulted in some interesting body proportions as a result. The figure tends to stand slightly hunched over, has an absolutely massive back, a comparatively small chest, a huge abdominal region, and gargantuan arms and legs that make one think that if he did get that way from wrestling bears, he probably got into the Street Fighter tournament because the wildlife figured out to stay well away from him.
Zangief may have mostly shaved his head, but he has a bit of hair elsewhere. There's a clump of black hair sculpted to his chest, and a bit more at the tops of his boots, of all places. Zangief is dressed like a wrestler, fairly minimally. He is wearing dark red trunks with a gold belt around his waist, red and gold wristbands, and dark red boots with yellow tops, white tongues, white soles, and white laces. The paint detailing on the boots is really very nicely done. The eyelets of the boots where the sculpted laces come through are painted in black, and the laces are almost an off-white compared to the white tongues of the boots. Excellent work, overall.
Zangief has some spray detailing on his body to accentuate his muscles, as well as a series of fairly large scars on his arms, legs, chest, and back, which are painted slightly darker than the rest of his body. One assumes these are the result of some of his bear-wrestling sessions where his opponent got in a lucky shot or two.
Articulation on the figure is excellent. Zangief is poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles. One might expect that the arm articulation might be hindered somewhat by the fact that the shoulders are pointed slightly forward, emulating his "flex" pose, but really, they're not. The rest of the arm articulation compensates for any hindrance in this area, which really doesn't exist.
Zangief comes with a spare pair of hands in an "open" position. The hands attached to his arms in the package are fists. He also comes with a printed advisory, the details of which I've heard before, with regard to any number of action figure lines, but never before seen it specifically recommended by a toy company. It reads as follows:
Attention: If your Street Fighter Revolutions Series 1 Action Figure is "stuck" at any of its joints, do not force them! Heat up a container of water (120 Fahrenheit / 49 Celsius) that the figure can fit into and completely immense your figure within the heated water for 60 seconds. While warm, move your figure's joints through their full range of motion. This should remove any paint seizing without breaking any joints.
Fortunately, this wasn't a problem on Zangief. If anything, though, I had the opposite problem, and here might be my one complaint with the figure. His right leg is REALLY loose at the hip. Pick the figure up and it just sort of sways back and forth a bit. I'm sure some of this can be attributed to the weight of the leg, and it's NOT the first time I've encountered it on a Street Fighter figure, but while it doesn't really affect the look of the figure or his ability to stand up or assume a good measure of poses, it's still unfortunate and a quality control issue that should be looked into.
However, I find it hard to gripe too much. Overall, this is a cool figure of an interesting character from a cool concept. And I am pleased that this note that came with him says "Street Fighter Revolutions Series 1 Action Figure." Hopefully there'll be a Series 2, and it'll round off the "core cast", whomever else it might include.
So, what's my final word here? If you'd been enjoying SOTA's Street Fighter figures and thought they were long gone -- good news, they're not! You can not only get Zangief, but E. Honda, Dhalsim, and R. Mika in this assortment. If you're any sort of Street Fighter fan with an enjoyment of action figures, you'll enjoy this figure. He's well-made, well-designed, certainly well-articulated, and most definitely a good representation of the character. Your best bet really is to order him online, even if that's something that in general I am reluctant to recommend. But so far I've received both Honda and Zangief without difficulty.
The SOTA Toys' STREET FIGHTER REVOLUTIONS ZANGIEF figure most definitely has my enthusiastic recommendation!