Toy Fair 2018: My Highlights

I haven’t been to the Toy Fair in a long, long time, but I always like looking at the new trinkets it brings. After all, a good chunk of the toy market targets adults collecting new versions of their beloved childhood possessions. I usually abstain from actual purchases, but there’s no harm in looking at things you want and then coming up with excuses not to buy them. I do it all the time.

NECA makes dozens of toys based on Aliens, Predators, and the cinematic unions thereof, but these are different. They’re based on Capcom’s Alien vs. Predator game, a semi-obscure 1994 arcade brawler never ported to any home console. As the wrestling fans say, I marked out and marked out hard for these.

NECA announced Alien vs. Predator arcade toys last year, but they stuck to the actual Aliens and Predators, including the playable Hunter and Warrior predators, the Smurf-colored Mad Predator boss, and the vexing Razor Claws. The new addition is a two-pack of the game’s human heroes: cyborged-out Dutch Schaefer from the first Predator movie and technically original Capcom heroine Linn Kurosawa. Fifteen years ago, a Linn Kurosawa toy would’ve topped any far-fetched wish list I made.

But what’s the big deal with Capcom’s Alien vs. Predator? For my money, it’s one of the best brawlers around. It has that gorgeous spritework you’ll see in all Capcom arcade games of the 1990s, and the designers really make the most of the license: the environments are wonderfully grimy and bleak, the new xenomorph variants fit perfectly into the mix, and even the standard Aliens slink along the ground and creep out of the shadows with wonderful Gigerian flair.

Alien vs. Predator also dodges that common flaw of belt-scrolling beat-‘em-ups: repetition. Each character has a wealth of attacks, and the throngs of Aliens show careful variety. And just when you might get sick of fighting the creatures, the game pulls out that familiar Alien plot twist of the military exploiting the xenomorphs, leading you to fight off brigades of corrupt soldiers and their power-loaders. And then the Aliens come back for the finale.

For that last dose of mystique, Alien vs. Predator never appeared on any home systems. A 32X port and a Saturn version were rumored and canceled, leaving Capcom’s brilliant creation to arcades and emulation. Linn Kurosawa has recurring cameos in some later games, appearing in backgrounds in Street Fighter Alpha 2 and Street Fighter III while inspiring the lookalike Simone in Cannon Spike. For a brief time, she was my favorite video game character ever, and I’d hear no talk about how she was just a Capcom clone of recurring Alien vs. Predator comic heroine Machiko Noguchi.

Why I Probably Won’t Buy Them:
Neca figures tend to be expensive. Going by the pricing on similar two-packs, Major Schaefer and Lieutenant Kurosawa will run about forty bucks. That, and Linn’s waist is too high and her crotch is too big. Perhaps I shouldn’t be picky about a toy I’ve wanted for twenty years, but there’s money at stake.

I remain grateful that Capcom never exploited Mega Man toys when I was a kid. The Japanese market saw all sorts of action figures and little rubber effigies for every new Mega Man boss lineup, but North America had nothing like that. And thank goodness they didn’t, because I’d have bought them all and obsessed over them even more than I coveted Ninja Turtles or actual Mega Man games.

As a somewhat more temperate adult, I enjoy the recurring lines of new Mega Man figures that cover everything from the dubious new cartoon to the underrated Legends series. Bandai’s Toy Fair booth had plenty of Mega Man attractions, including heavily detailed Ride Armors straight out of the Mega Man X titles.

I’m more drawn to the smaller Mega Man figures, however. Cut Man and Mega Man capture the original games’ cartoonish Astro Boy aesthetics really well, and I like how Mega Man’s flying armor makes him appear as though equipped some special Canadian power like Maple Leaf Shield.

Even so, this brings up my one complaint with most Mega Man toys: they lean on earlier bosses like Cut Man (who, to be fair, was almost the star of the first game) instead of plucking from later games. Let’s get Crystal Man and Splash Woman into the mix.

Why I Probably Won’t Buy Them:
I already have a Mega Man amiibo and an Air Man figure somewhere.

I can think of plenty of toys I wanted but never owned as a kid, and I usually understand why. I couldn’t have expected my parents to spoil me with Trypticon or Snake Mountain or anything else packaged in a box larger than I was. And when it came to smaller toys affordable on my allowance, it was just a matter of prioritizing, of picking the G.I. Joes that came with animal sidekicks over the ones that didn’t. You can’t have it all.

Yet there’s one case where I felt cheated. Around 1987 Hasbro released little Decoy figures in their Transformers line. The same size as M.U.S.C.L.E or Monster in My Pocket toys, they cast the entire Autobot and Decepticon camps in red and purple rubber. They weren’t sold on their own, either. Hasbro bundled Decoys with various carded toys, simultaneous sweetening the deal and making it impossible for kids to own more than a handful of these bonus figures.

Well, I never had any Decoys. My family had moved to Germany by this point, and none of the Transformers I acquired there had the Decoy promotion. I wasn’t even aware of them until well after the whole thing ended and I saw a few at a friend’s place. I thought it a huge injustice. I had bought the same Transformers as my friend. I had paid my money. I had EARNED those dinky rubber robots.

Super7 offers restitution in their line of Keshi Surprise Transformers, little rubber figures clearly patterned off the Decoys. They don’t look as detailed, but they otherwise evoke the line ably. Well, that’s assuming Super7 makes them red and purple instead of casting them in that pink color that looks fine on M.U.S.C.L.E figures and hideous on everything else.

Why I Probably Won’t Buy Them:
Their existence disturbs me a little. Is there no real limit to how deep the toy industry will dive when it comes to dredging up the aged white whales of our youth? Will everything you even remotely desired as a child be recycled and revamped and force-fed to some reptilian, nostalgia-crazed brain sector that’s gone famished since 1991? Will the modern world’s economic uncertainties drive us to emotionally gorge on the latest revivals of Barnyard Commandos, Starriors, or Golden Girl and the Guardians of the Gemstones? Where will it all end?

Oh well. I still like looking at toys.

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