Sunday 14 June 2020

Toybox REVIEW: Power Rangers Lightning Collection Zeo Blue Ranger

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Release Date: February 2020
RRP: $20/£20

Now that we're four waves into the Power Rangers Lightning Collection collectors have a good idea of what to expect from the line, and while as expected the Mighty Morphin roster will likely be the first team out the door more and more are beginning to appear with each coming wave. Whilst Power Rangers Zeo's beginnings started with last year's SDCC-exclusive Dragon Shield MMPR Red/Zeo Gold Ranger two-pack, but wave four is where we get a first glimpse at the core team with the Lightning Collection Zeo Blue Ranger figure. It's not often we see a team kick off with a character that's a red or sixth/extra ranger, but given his past as the former Mighty Morphin Red Ranger the now blue Rocky DeSantos isn't too far off the mark.

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Returning to the general retail waves of the Power Rangers Lightning Collection, the Zeo Blue Ranger comes in the standard rectangular box featuring Tom Whalen's now instantly-recognisable artwork against a white background. The box specifically refers to the character as "Zeo Blue Ranger" rather than "Zeo Ranger III Blue" or any variation of that, which doesn't feel quite in the spirit of Zeo but does fit the naming convention for the rest of the Lightning Collection figures. Whalen's artwork continues onto the right spine where it is featured alongside the Power Rangers Zeo series logo, and repeated on the left spine. The back features a CG render shot of the figure, which doesn't feature any additional paint apps but does show it with a moulded trigger figure on the left hand (whereas the figure itself only has it on the right). Inside the figure, along with the accessories, are housed on a moulded tray with a striking Power Rangers lightning bolt backing card just behind it.

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From first glance the Zeo Blue Ranger looks like a pretty solid figure. We've previously seen the base body before on the Gold Ranger, but since that had a massive shield on the torso obscuring all the details this is the first proper look we've gotten at it. All the detailing is there, and even more impressive is that all the paint apps to go with it are there as well. It's a solid looking figure and the helmet sculpt is fantastic, but when you look at some of the finer details there are a few cosmetic problems that aren't quite up to the line's usual standards. The techno-detailing that adorn the suit's collar and glove/boot cuffs are very softly sculpted aren't quite as defined as the suit itself. It would perhaps be a bit much to expect it to have the black backing that the actual suit does, but then again Gold had it on his shield but it wasn't out of the realms of possibility.. A much bigger issue here is the sloppy paint QC and even paint rub - which is something I hadn't really experienced on any Lightning Collection figure prior to this. The Zeo Power Pod Sword included with mine already had a very noticeable glob of gold paint on the tip, and putting either of the accessories in the hands immediately results in visible smudges of black and blue paint on those crisp white hands. Both are annoying, but not really dealbreakers in the grand scheme of things. It's a pretty simple suit so there wasn't much to get wrong, and it very much looks the part.

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Four waves in now and the standard Lightning Collection body has been comfortably worn in, which means you're getting a pretty great range of articulation with this figure. Altogether the Zeo Blue Ranger has a ball jointed head, hinged neck, swivel hinge/butterfly shoulders, bicep swivels, double hinge elbows, swivel hinge wrists, a ball jointed torso, hinged waist, ball joint hips, double hinge knees, boot swivels and swivel hinge ankles. Everything works exactly as it should, and (on my copy of the figure at least) there isn't any sign of stiff or loose joints. Having the ends of the gold collar piece painted onto the butterfly joints is a little strange as it means the disappear entirely when you will the arms in toward the torso, but it was the most sensible way to do it without affecting the articulation. There isn't really anything particularly unique about the Zeo body in comparison to some of the other rangers the line has produced so far, but it generally seems to be the strongest elements about it without any potential design limitations.

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Zeo Blue's accessories are a very mixed bag, and not just because Hasbro's initial reveals suggested we'd be getting more with this figure than we actually did. To firstly address the elephant in the room - the Zeo III Power Tonfas, which were previously show on the plans for the figure unveiled at MCM Comic Con London, have been omitted entirely. This is not only a massive shame for this figure, but also doesn't bode well for the rest of the Zeo Rangers unique weapons when they get around to being released. The omission is likely due to cost reasons, but with these details rarely revealed we'll probably never know for sure. Maybe one day when we're closer to having full teams released Hasbro will consider additional weapon packs to fill out all the missing accessories, but right now that seems a long way off.

So what DOES Zeo Blue actually come with? Included here are a total of four swappable hands (a pair of closed fists and a pair of weapon holding hands, with the right hand featuring a moulded trigger finger), Zeo Laser Pistol, Zeo Power Pod Sword and a translucent blue sword effect part. Now including the standard Zeo Ranger sidearms makes perfect sense considering the belt features holsters for them - omitting them would make the figure look really incomplete. When holstered the sword collapses into a small pod-like shape, hence the name. However Hasbro have decided to only include the extended version of the sword with the figure, which looks utterly ridiculous holstered as it runs down almost the entire length of the figure's leg. The tonfas being omitted is somewhat forgivable, but the lack of a collapsed sword is a massive oversight on Hasbro's part. It's far more egregious than something like all the Mighty Morphin Rangers coming with folded-out Blade Blasters, because ultimately they don't look all that different from the collapsed ones when holstered. Not to mention the fact that there were multiple ways Hasbro could have handled this. As well as an entirely different accessory, they could have just had the blade piece remove or include a separate piece to peg onto the handle. Previous figures have done similar things, so why not this one? 

The effect part included here was previously bundled with the Beast Morphers Gold Ranger, and appears to be completely unchanged from that release. A sort of lightning spark effect, the piece slots over the tip of the sword. The problem is that Gold's sword has a flat tip, whilst Zeo Blue's is rounded. The socket hasn't been changed to accommodate this, so it takes a bit of forcing to fit on properly. Given how thin the rest of the blade is, you have to wonder how well it will tolerated repeated use over time. It might not break, but it's certainly going to stress the plastic.

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Finally for the last bit of salt to rub in the wound, you have the alternate Rocky DeSantos head sculpt. Now admittedly the quality of the Lightning Collection head sculpts has been hit or miss, but even with some of the worst ones you can at least tell who they're supposed to be and tell that Hasbro were at least trying even if they did miss the mark. Poor old Steve Cardenas wasn't so lucky, and what you have here is a head that only vaguely looks like Rocky if you either squint or just happen to be looking at it from a distance. The facial features have been puffed up and exaggerated to almost comical effect, as though this was a caricature rather than a supposedly realistic head. Steve/Rocky deserved much better, and it's just another knock against a repeatedly flawed release. Thankfully there are numerous other options for alternate Rocky heads in the future (season 2-3 Mighty Morphin Red, MMPR: The Movie Red or even season 3/movie ninja mode) so hopefully future efforts will improve on this. Of course, if you're aching for a season 2-3 Rocky in the meantime you can also put this head on the Lightning Collection Mighty Morphin Red Ranger release to fill the void.

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While there have been various issues with Lightning Collection figures over the past year, most have been fortunate to only be cursed with one of these. The Lightning Collection Zeo Blue Ranger figure however has been the unlucky one that seemingly has them all. Whether its QC issues, questionable accessories, omitted weapons or just a bad alternate head sculpt, these issues just mount up into what's overall a pretty underwhelming release. Usually all of these on a $20 figure might not be so bad, but the Lightning Collection has already proven itself to be capable of much better. Ultimately one real dud in its first year of figures isn't a bad track record at all, but hopefully the precedent set here won't carry over to the rest of the Zeo team. Power Rangers Zeo is my favourite series and my favourite team, and I'd hate to see them all turn out as disappointing as this.

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