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First Look: Masters of the Universe Classics Snake Armor He-Man and Battle Armor King Hssss

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Snakes, why did it have to be snakes?

2015 might be the Year of the Goat according to the Chinese zodiac, but if you look to the Masters of the Universe Classics line, the year is starting off with plenty of snakes. While the focus of 2015 is to finish off the “vintage” line-up, we are also starting the year with a few surprises and the February-shipping Snake Armor He-Man vs Battle Armor King Hssss was certainly a surprise when it was announced last July. So, while it does not further the quest to complete the vintage, this has been a hotly anticipated set as it will give us high-demand versions of two characters.

In addition to a vintage-heavy year, there are some pretty strong rumors that it will also be a pretty heavy “200x” year as well and this set, along with the tease of the Evil Seed accessory seems to back up that notion. For fans of the 200x look, this has been a long time coming in the Classics line, so I would imagine that many people are very anxious to get this set in-hand. Even if you are more of a vintage fan, there is absolutely no denying the quality that comes through in these two figures.

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There is a LOT going on with this set and I mean that in a (mostly) positive way. To put it simply: if you are a fan of these looks, you are likely going to love these figures; if you are not, well, you were probably not really anticipating this set anyhow. I do believe, however, that this set will win over a lot of people who were sitting on the fence when it was announced. My stylistic tastes aside, this is a great set and it continues some good quality that has been set forth during this first quarter of the year, so hopefully things continue on and we get a full year of figures with very few “issues.”

At the end of the day, I really don’t have many nits to pick with these two figures. Sure, I wish He-Man’s armor was removable (I know why it is not) and I wish he retained the twist at his boot and that Hssss’ ankle articulation was a bit smoother, but there is nothing glaring when it comes to actual production deficiencies. Taken as pure action figures, these are a lot of fun.

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It is kind of funny because while I know that SA He-Man has one of the most-liked looks from the 200x time period, it is actually one of my least favorite. I always thought that Ice Armor He-Man was, ahem, cooler, but to be fair, this look played a huge role in the final season of the MYP show. The giant shoulder pad, busy lines and asymmetrical design feels like it is trying to roll together too many elements all at once and it strays from feeling MOTU-ish to more 1990s comic book style. Now, normally I actually like asymmetry in design, but since this is supposed to be armor specifically designed to combat the Snake Men, it doesn’t make a lot of sense that one entire half of He-Man’s upper would be left exposed and not armored. This is particularly strange to me since all of that exposed meat in his shoulder is wide open for a perfect spot for snake man to come along and sink their teeth right in. So maybe my complaints come from a more functional place, but that can get a little ridiculous with MOTU, I suppose.

What I can say is that for the design that is given, the figure pulls it off really well while adapting it somewhat into the Classics style. There are still a lot of lines and straps and surfaces, but the parts are a bit chunkier to follow the current aesthetic.  He-Man does actually look pretty good all armored up and the armor surface and the “snake skin” surfaces from King Hssss are one in the same, so these two figures actually do a good job of sharing parts. The giant shoulder pad does not inhibit the articulation as much as I thought it would and the loincloth is made of soft rubber so it moves well with the legs. Due to the design of the overall armor, it is actually not removable which is a rare case for MOTU Classics. The actual torso needed to be painted two different colors to facilitate the look of the armor so it would look pretty wacky without the armor. Now, you CAN remove it with force or an X-Acto knife, but it is not designed to come off. Furthermore, due to the new pieces required for the boots and shins, the boot twist articulation has been removed from this figure. This is not optimal but I am sure it was done due to budgetary reasons since that would require four new pieces instead of two.

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He-Man also includes the 200x sword that was the standard at the time of its origin. It has since been retconned into serving a slightly different purpose in the Classics mythos, but the bio does not really explain why He-Man is using it now, but it is probably made to fight snakes. This is the solid silver version of the sword, not the one with green accents that came with the Man-at-Arms figure. The snake “pincher” is also included and aside from stealing Clamp Champ’s shtick, it is pretty nice. It removes from the sleeve easily enough, but it is also strong enough to grab and take down the serpent sect.

The big to-do about this figure is the fact that, for the first time ever, we have gotten the Classics take on the 200x He-Man head. We were told for a long time that 200x influence was off-limits for the line, but that stance seems to have soften and this head does a pretty good job of incorporating the design cues into the Classics aesthetic. He definitely has the “messy guy” hair that makes him look a little bit too much like a surfer dude to me, but I think it accomplishes the task pretty well. Coupled with the King Grayskull figure, this is the last piece you need to make your fully realized 200x He-Man, so I imagine there will be much rejoicing. Getting this head, and the alternate “vintage toy head” next month is pretty awesome as it will really diversify collections.

King Hssss in his 200x form (dubbed “Battle Armor”) is the other figure included in this set, and he is probably my preferred of the two. Frankly, my preferred version of Hssss is the vintage look, but I was recently presented with a situation that makes this version really awesome, and helps another character as well. He-Man fan  Kreann’ot suggested that this new look for Hssss is what he took on after possessing Nepthu to save himself from the Spell of Separation (that thing that killed all of the Snake Men). Personally, I think that is pure genius and I have certainly worked it into my own canon, but when you look at this Battle Armor King Hssss with the classic version and Nepthu standing by, he really does become a viable combination of the two. That is pretty cool to me!

Anyhow, the sculpt on Hssss is pretty much flawless and it captures all of the extra details from the 200x design. The face sculpt is particularly creepy and taken with Nepthu, the Egyptian influence begins to make sense. He has the same segments in his “armor” design as the classic King Hssss, but you can remove the armor from this version. The sandals and feet are well done, too, and they help push that Egyptian-influence that runs strong with this version of Hssss.

One think I want to note is that while you can separate the torso from the legs to accommodate a snake form, this is nothing like the other Hssss figure. What I mean is, you have to pull REALLY hard separate the pieces, at least I had to with this sample. In fact, I thought I was going to break it at first, but it finally did come apart, so that is a relief. It is completely compatible with the snake form from the previous figure…

This brings me to fact that both of these figures are essentially missing pieces that were originally shown for their debut. King Hssss is obviously missing his impressive new snake form, but that was promised to be coming to us later in the year. I am still wondering who will bring it and in trying to make sense of it, I have just assigned it to some random like Perfuma, so I will just expect it with her, haha. He-man’s shield is also missing but we were not given any indication that there are plans to release it later on. Since it is a unique piece, I am always saddened to stuff like that, but I am positive our 3rd Party friends will be helping us out and who is to say? Maybe we will eventually get that official version after all.

200x fans rejoice! While this is supposed to be the year of the vintage, it looks to be your year as well and this set will get you going in fine fashion. I think it is a great release and, aside from He-Man’s hair,  I really dig it, which is the first of what I would imagine will be many surprises in 2015. We look to be getting several two-packs throughout the year in 2015 and if they are all as solid as this one, we will be in good shape. This release opens a lot of doors and it makes me think that the rumor that a 200x Mini Sub will be announced in a couple of weeks has some merit to it. We will know at Toy Fair!

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*Thanks to the Mattel crew for sending these guys along and thanks to you for reading. Don’t worry, we have more goodies coming tomorrow!

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