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VINCENT VALENTINE, YUFFIE KISARAGI, RED XIII AND SEPHIROTH
Series: Final Fantasy VII
Toyline: Final Fantasy VII Play Arts Vol. 2
By: Square Enix
Cost: ~$25 each
Although my very first “Astro Toy” column was a review of Square Enix's Final Fantasy VII Play Arts Vol. 1 line, I'm not engaging in nostalgia by reviewing Vol. 2 just a few months later. No, I'm indulging my rampant, insane FFVII fanboy-ism, and if you don't like the game—or figures from the game—you may go somewhere else, because any time I can write Final Fantasy toys off my taxes, I'm gonna do it. Happily, the way Square's Play Arts toys sell, it doesn't seem like too many of you are not interested.
The 8-inch line includes Vincent Valentine, Sephiroth, Yuffie and, in his first figure since the old Bandai line of 1998 or so, Red XIII (who also comes with the traitorous robotic cat bastard Cait Sith). Other than Red, each of these characters were made previously for the second wave of the Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Play Arts line, although these more closely follow the original Tetsuya Nomura character designs for the game than the vaguely more realistic Advent Children look. Insanely, not a single piece of the old figures has been re-used for the new—these toys are 100% new sculpts.
We'll start with Vincent. If, for some reason, you're just looking for a Vincent Valentine figure and have no interest whether it's from the game or the CG movie, definitely go with the Play Arts Vol. 2 version. Admittedly, this Vincent has a smaller simpler gun; his claw and boots are more tarnished than the bright gold of the Advent Children figure; his cape is shorter and non-tattered; and he's missing about 80% of the extra buckles and straps Nomura added to his design. But overall, he's a much better figure. The game Vincent comes with a chest join, allowing him bend forward and back. More importantly, his cape is actually jointed at the chest—they raise up on either side to allow his arms to move—something the old Vincent couldn't do at all. Square also chose to a duller black matte on his body, which implies he's not wearing all leather, and which I feel is a good thing, more suited to the character. Last but not least, although Vincent's cape's collar now hides his mouth, rest assured Square sculpted one anyways.
On to Sephiroth, who is changed the least when he was redesigned for Advent Children. No one could have faulted Square for re-using pieces here, but they didn't—the extraneous shoulder pads now have dots much closer together; the arms are more muscled than in the Advent Children figure; and the legs have more of a manga interpretation of clothing wrinkles than the realistic version used previously. Additionally, Sephiroth's hair is also spikier, as per his original design, although how his hair gets partially translucent as it flows down his back. I'm not sure how well it works, actually, but it's not a huge negative. Square switched the Advent Children’s matte black to a shinier version for the new figure, which, contrary to Vincent, is also fine since Sephiroth almost certainly wears black leather. Still, the crowning achievement is the face; the beautiful sculpt captures a world of disdain in Sephiroth's expression, while the Advent Children figure looks wither slightly pleased of vaguely confused. Thanks to his haughty, cold stare, this Sephiroth is certainly the one to get.
Even without a previous figure to compare it to, the new Red XIII figure is gorgeous. It's obviously a wildly different and unique sculpt from al, of Square Enix's previous Play Arts figures, but they capture the mostly wolf-ish form of Red perfectly. More impressively, the paint applications on him are amazing—the figure's “fur” ranges naturally from bright orange to dark red, and it's incredibly smooth and natural. Likewise, his tattoos are shockingly crisp, despite the oddly shaped and fur-scored shoulder and thigh pieces they've been placed on. Red XIII has two neck joint allowing him to look down or bay at the moon, and his jaw opens too (they even sculpted his tongue and the roof of his mouth. While the leg and paw articulation is nice—and steady, allowing him to stand easily—the shoulder and thigh joints are weirdly awkward, Although they both allow the limbs to spread out or be pointed in, the weird design limited how far forward and backward the arms and thighs can move. Also, there's a weird peg in each thigh joint for the same purpose, and it's very noticeable when looking at Red XIII from above. Since most of us of will be him on a desk or shelf, it's not a big issue, thankfully. Also, the end of his tail—which is supposed to be made of actual flame—kind of looks like a Cheeto.
Then there's Yuffie, who looks the most dramatically different from her Advent Children redesign. Insanely, she's even thinner than her previous toy counterpart, who was already darned thin. Like Vincent, she also has a new chest joint hidden by her belt/shirt combo, although it only gives her about 30 degrees of movement. I had certainly been wondering how Square would handle her arm-guard thing, but they simply articulated it at her elbow, despite it still be a separate piece. This allows her arm to bend and rotate at the shoulder—her left arm can't much as much as her right, but it keeps the guard form looking weird or inaccurate and gives her a good articulation range. There might not be much to say about Yuffie, but it's still a great figure, and probably my favorite in the series. Again, her face is so much improved, with expressive eyes and just a hint of a mischievous smile.
Last and certainly least, there's Cait Sith.
Fine. Cait Sith is Red XIII's only accessory. For those who might not remember, Cait Sith is a robotic cat who rides a gigantic stuffed moogle in the game; it turns out the cat is remote controlled by a Shinra executive named Reeve, who also speaks through the cat, and helps you vaguely…but not before the traitorous bastard gives away the Key of the Ancients and screws everything up for you. He's absolutely the stupidest part of Final Fantasy VII, and I hate him with a burning passion. He comes with an alternate right hand holding a megaphone; since his arms are so tiny, it feels like they could easily break off when you're trying to put on or pull off the hand. For the record, it didn't, but it sure feels like it. His boots, legs, arms, hands, neck and tail are articulated. A fun game to play with this toy is to through him in the air, hit the figure with a baseball bat, and see if you can knock him into the sewer. I'll be playing this game immediately after finishing this review.
Speaking of accessories, Yuffie comes with her massive throwing star and four alternate hands (open and fists); Vincent comes with his gun and an extra right hand for not holding the gun; and Sephiroth has his long sword (more curved then his blade in Advent Children) and an alternate, non-sword-holding left hand. These three figures also come with the standard Square Enix toy base, which isn't necessary, since they stand up fine.
Overall, the Final Fantasy VII Play Arts Vol. 2 series is fantastic, and an improvement over both their Advent Children counterparts (on the left) as well as Vol. 1, released earlier this year. Part of this of this is because the characters’ designs are more intricate, which has given the Square Enix sculpting team more area in which to shine; part of it is purely because of Red XIII's excellent coloring, which is the finest painting I've seen from Square Enix. Most of all, it's the faces that makes these superior to me; without having to try to emulate the “reality” of the pretty faces of Advent Children, these figures’ faces have much more life, and much better capture the characters than any previous toy versions of them.
Now, Square says Play Arts Vol. 2 is supposed to be available everywhere, but the only place I can find them for actual sale and not pre-order is their own Square Enix Shop, where each figure is $24.99. So if you want these figures now, head over there. And do me a favor and while you're there, ask them to please make a figure of Cid and Barret, the only remaining characters left in the FFVII line-up. They seemed to have blocked my email address for doing exactly that every day for the last six months, or otherwise I'd keep doing it myself.