Thursday 12 September 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Power Rangers Lightning Collection Mighty Morphin Red Ranger & Zeo Gold Ranger

Release Date: July 2019
RRP: $49.99

If there’s one thing Hasbro know, it’s how to make a great convention exclusive. So when the company announced that they would be taking over the Power Rangers brand, naturally fans were eager to see what they had in store for San Diego Comic Con. They certainly hit the ground running with the Lightning Collection Mighty Morphin Red Ranger & Zeo Gold Ranger set, celebrating the forms of veteran ranger and original team leader Jason Scott Lee. The Red Ranger figure also depicts him wearing the Dragon Shield armour, passed on to him by Green Ranger Tommy Oliver following the loss of his powers.

Even among its retail releases the Lightning Collection has already shown off packaging designs that far surpass any of Hasbro’s other collector-orientated lines, as well as many other rival lines on the market too. For this exclusive set Hasbro have pushed that quality even further, creating a set that feels special just as much for its packaging as it does its figures. The central box is housed inside a lavish thick cardboard slipcase cover, with either side featuring full profile artwork from the ever fantastic Tom Whalen (@strongstufftom). These rigid sleeves feel like collectors items in their own right, and would be a perfect place for signatures should you ever have the opportunity to meet Austin St John. The sleeved box is then held together by a bottom piece which continues the artwork from the cases above as well as adding the Power Rangers Lightning Collection logo. The only issue with this amazing packaging design is that once those slipcase pieces are off, thanks to the raised tab section inside they are incredibly hard to get back on properly again.

Inside the sleeves is some far more conventional packaging, showing off the two figures through a nice bit transparent window with Whalen’s incredible art either side of them and on the corresponding spines. The back features a large central image of the figures in action poses, with bios of the respective powers and Jason’s tenure on each show on each side. Open it up and you’ll find both figures, along with their impressive array of accessories, laid out across a single moulded plastic tray.

Although the packaging simply refers to this figure as the “Mighty Morphin Red Ranger”, given that the Walgreens exclusive has been labelled the “Dragon Shield Black Ranger” it would make sense to refer to this figure the same way. Maybe it’s because Hasbro just wanted to make sure they differentiated between Mighty Morphin and Zeo with this set? In the past it’s also been known as the Armoured Red Ranger, but Dragon Shield is what Hasbro have decided to go with. Naming conventions aside the figure looks absolutely fantastic, but it would be worth first point out the two accuracy errors that most mentioned when official pictures of the figure first arose. The first of these is the silver “teeth” detailing on the helmet, which only wraps around the sides of the visor rather than the whole thing like it does on the real thing. While such an obvious inaccuracy is a shame, it certainly doesn’t spoil it. The rest of the helmet detailing is sharply done, and it’s glossy finish gives it that correct Power Rangers feel. The second of the inaccuracies (albeit a much lesser one) is the belt’s Power Morpher buckle, which as per the suit should be gold in this form rather than the standard silver. However as a detail that was sometimes overlooked in the show too, you could perhaps consider this a variant more than an inaccuracy.

Those issues aside, this figure really had a lot riding on it to impress. It was the first of the original five Mighty Morphin Rangers to be released in the line, and sets the template for the majority of the ones that will follow. The body is built with considerable more bulk that the slimline S.H. Figuarts figures, but without all that sculpted muscle that made the Bandai of America figures so ghastly to look at. The result is a pleasing and accurate-looking Power Rangers figure that could sit comfortably next to other Hasbro lines like Marvel Legends or the Star Wars Black Series. The sculpt even adds in billows and fabric folds across the body to give it more of a proper suit look. Then against that palette of red and white you have the golden Dragon Shield, giving the figure that same special charm it does to the suit itself. The shield is made of a soft, flexible plastic which doesn’t hinder any of the torso articulation, while the gold bands on the arms and sculpted on and painted. The shield part is removable, although you would need to remove the head and at least one of the arms to do so. For myself and I’m sure many others the Dragon Shield Red Ranger was the less interesting half of the set, but it really manages to impress despite a few inaccuracies and easily stands among the very best in the Lightning Collection so far.

The Lightning Collection is really showing off what it’s capable of when it comes to articulation too, as the Red Ranger figure manages to combine poseability and durability in a way that ensures that while it can pull off a range of great action poses, it won’t fall apart or inadvertently break whilst doing so. Altogether it includes swivel hinge shoulders, neck, hips, wrists and ankles along with double hinged elbows and knees, a ball and socked head and upper torso, a single hinge torso, butterfly hinge pecs and swivel cuts for the biceps, thighs and boots. Sadly the arms aren’t perfectedly suited to bringing the dagger close enough to the helmet to call forth the Dragonzord, but with a bit of angling and camera trickery you can get a close approximation. That shouldn’t feel like a detriment to anything else the figure can pull off though - when you buy a Power Rangers figure the very least you expect is the ability to pull off action poses, and the Dragon Shield Red Ranger certainly has that aspect covered.

The Red Ranger comes with two pairs of swappable hands (weapon holding and closed fists), as well as his Blade Blaster and the Dragon Dagger as stored side arms. The holster for the Dagger appearing for another Dragon Shield user is unique to the Red Ranger, and did not appear for Zack when he used the powers in An Oyster Stew. The Blade Blaster is included in both gun and dagger modes, the latter of which is the correct way to store the item in the holster although either will fit perfectly fine. This mode is also currently exclusive to the SDCC set, as both other original Mighty Morphin Rangers released (Pink and Dragon Shield Black) only come packaged with the gun mode. The extended blade sword mode has been omitted entirely, but given that most Power Rangers fans will only really remember it for the gun mode it hardly feels like a huge loss – unlike the Figuarts these aren’t going to come with everything. All three pieces are very nicely moulded and painted for their size and presumed price point. Naturally they’re not as sharp or detailed as the Figuarts versions, but are far more durable and still look the part.

Of course it wouldn’t be a proper Red Ranger figure without including the Power Sword, but the SDCC set goes far beyond simply including his own iconic weapon. Instead buyers are treated to the whole Power Blaster, which can break down into all five of the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers’ signature weapons – the Power Axe, Power Bow, Power Daggers, Power Lance (shortened and split in two as per the combined mode design) and the Power Sword. When the set was first announced many expected the Power Blaster to be one solid piece, so for it to be able to separate AND hold together reasonably well when combined is an extremely pleasant surprise. It’s also a nice little incentive for those looking to pick up this particular set but not necessarily the other Mighty Morphin Rangers, given the number of different toys they’ve had over the years. In terms of screen accuracy it’s only really the bow that’s had to suffer for the sake of the combination, sporting a few clips and peg holes to keep everything together. Finally the Power Axe also even has a sliding grip section – allowing it to switch between both gun and axe modes freely. As something Tamashii Nations didn’t even manage on the S.H. Figuarts version, I’m impressed. For many fans simply including the Power Sword and Dragon Dagger for the main weapons would have sufficed here, but Hasbro really have gone all out to make this set extra special.

Moving on to what for many will be the main event of this set - the Zeo Gold Ranger! After Bandai of America failed to deliver with the Legacy Collection figure in 2017, a collectors’ grade figure of this fan favourite was long overdue. Like the Dragon Shield Red Ranger it does suffer from a minor inaccuracy in that the visor shape is raised on the helmet rather than laying flat, but it’s barely noticeable at all unless pointed out and doesn’t take away from everything this figure does right. For a start the gold parts have actually been painted gold, and the collar section of the chest shield has even been given a black wash to properly bring out all that rune-like detailing. 

Again the chest shield is made of a soft but durable plastic that doesn’t impede the articulation whatsoever. Due to the way the figure is packaged the shoulder sections may have a slight bit of warping straight out the box, but it’s nothing that can be easily straightened out with some hot air reshaping. Under that shield is also a nice little Easter egg for fans, as the chest detailing for the main five Zeo Rangers has also been sculpted onto the body! This of course means that at least one of the other male rangers can’t be too far away. But back to this figure - black and gold is just a perfect colour combination in general, and here it’s pulled off flawlessly. The added billows and fabric folds are present here too, giving the toy more shape and definition as a person in a suit.

The Gold Ranger shares the same base body as the Red Ranger, so the articulation is identical. So to run through all that again it includes swivel hinge shoulders, neck, hips, wrists and ankles along with double hinged elbows and knees, a ball and socked head and upper torso, a single hinge torso, butterfly hinge pecs and swivel cuts for the biceps, thighs and boots. The butterfly joints are largely obscured by the chest armour so easy to miss, but their implementation adds a much needed boost to the arms for some truly great action poses. Balancing never proves to be an issue either, with the weight distributed evenly around the body to ensure the figure can comfortably hold any pose it should be able to without the aid of a stand.

The Gold Ranger comes with two sets of hands (weapon holding and closed fists, both of which are identical to those of the Red Ranger), two versions of his Golden Power Staff weapon and a golden energy effect part. The two versions of the Power Staff represent two different states of its activation – one has the ornamental hilt slid upwards and the top section closed, while the other has the hilt slid down and the top halves open recreating his signature ‘Gold Rush’ attack. It’s a shame that Hasbro didn’t produce one smaller functional staff that could move between the two modes as this method leaves the “blade” formation unaccounted for, but since it’s made of smaller parts than the Power Axe they probably took fragility into account. Though both versions are missing a few minor paint apps on the hilt, overall they are very impressive accessory pieces. The effect part is a gold/orange re-colour of the one included with Lord Zedd, however the fact it goes so perfectly with the staff too just shows how multi-purpose these pieces can be. It’s made of a soft, malleable plastic which wraps around the top of the staff, or really any other weapon or piece you wish to give the same effect. As a huge fan of effect parts in general, I’m really happy to see Hasbro making them standard with all Lightning Collection releases. 

When the Gold Ranger is eventually released as a general retail item, judging by previous patterns in Hasbro’s similar lines that edition will likely only include one version of the Golden Power Staff.

The accessories don’t stop there either, with these last two pieces intended to be used both figures in the set. With Hasbro including helmetless head sculpts with all of their ranger releases (with the exception of the Magna Defender) so far and this set celebrating Jason Lee Scott, it also comes with two swappable Jason heads – one smiling and another with a more stoic expression. While the smiling head initially drew some criticism from fans upon announcement, both bear a reasonable likeness to Austin St John and the inclusion of more expressive heads is far more interesting than just getting the same stock look with every release. Getting the helmets off the neck joint is really easy to do, and once they’re off the helmets then make great additional accessory pieces for the figures too. Though of course nothing it confirmed yet it seems likely that at least one of these head sculpts will be exclusive to this set, and there’s always the possibility that a general retail Gold Ranger figure might include a Trey of Triforia head instead.

Hasbro teased big things with the Power Rangers Lightning Collection and their first San Diego Comic-Con exclusive does not disappoint. This Lightning Collection Mighty Morphin Red Ranger and Zeo Gold Ranger set was worth its weight in gold (pun intended) for the Gold Ranger alone, but the exceptional quality on the Red Ranger proves that this line also has plenty to offer for the characters you’ve already bought a dozen times before. Throw in the collectors’ grade packaging and incredible amount of accessories and you have a really special set on your hands. If you don’t mind the figures being a little more bare bones then general retail versions are inevitable, but if you want the full package be sure to pick this set up before it gets even more expensive to obtain. Power Rangers figures are truly back, and they’re stronger than before.

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