MORTAL KOMBAT!!!!! Ever since the movie was released in 1995, I can't ever hear those words without the theme song from the movie immediately playing in my head. In fact, I'm writing this review while listening to theme song on repeat just to get me in the right mindset, because when talking about a property that is all about fighting, never has there been a song that gets you in that mood more than the theme song for Mortal Kombat. But I digress. Be sure to check out the hi-res images below in our GALLERY
after you read the review.
Jazwares is one of those toy companies that fans either love or hate. There doesn't seem to be much middle ground, in regards to the toys they produce. For a while now, they've been going strong with their line of Mortal Kombat figures. That is, their second line of Mortal Kombat figures. They had another one back in the early 2000's, but I digress yet again. They're concurrently releasing a 6" line and a 3 3/4" line of figures, for fans of either scale.
No doubt due to the less expensive nature of making smaller figures, the 3 3/4" line is getting fleshed out more, both in terms of character selection and diorama pieces. With what could no doubt become the centerpiece of anyones' Jazwares Mortal Kombat Kollection (I hate myself for that one), Jazwares has released a playset for the line: Shao Kahn's Arena. This playset is meant to recreate the final stage from the latest Mortal Kombat game, where emperor Shao Kahn observes the fights and battles the winner.
Due to the unique nature of this set, I'll be reviewing it differently than I would a normal action figure. I'll separate the review into two sections. The first one will focus on the bonus figure included in the set, Shao Kahn. The second part will focus on the playset itself. The two sections will pretty much be the same as any normal figure review by me, though some sections will be omitted for brevity's sake. The "packaging" and "overall" sections will cover the set as a whole. Likewise, the final score will be determined based on the set as a whole, and not based on the figure or the playset individually. Any other figures shown in the photos are meant to show off the display quality of the playset, and aren't actually being covered in the review.
So if you would, join me as I take a look at Jazwares' Mortal Kombat Shao Kahn's Arena playset.
The playset comes in a gigantic window box display. It's quite impressive, actually. Everything included in the set is plainly seen through the window, and Shao Kahn is even displayed, in package, sitting on his throne. This makes for a great MOC display no doubt, but it's not without its consequences (more on that later). We get the Mortal Kombat logo right on the front, with the indication that it's celebrating Mortal Kombat's 20th anniversary.
The back of the package gives us more of the 20th anniversary logos, and shows off several characters available in the 3 3/4" line. We also have a picture of what looks to be Shao Kahn's game render, with a picture of the in-game stage that the playset is based on. We also get a bio for Shao Kahn that should be very informative for anyone unfamiliar with him. While the pictures of the game renders are cool, I do wish that they were photos of the real figures, and the actual playset, since the renders tell you nothing of what the actual figures look like. And getting a real photo of the playset set up correctly might help those who would be confused to set it up correctly themselves, since there are no instructions included whatsoever.
What is cool is that the inside packaging has a thin cardboard backdrop that the playset sits in perfectly. You get the sandy floor, and the arena full of spectators in the background that really help sell the display. Unfortunately you also have the render of the throne in the backdrop as well, but displaying the real throne in front of it covers it right up. At any rate, it's something cool and extra to help you with your display.
Shao Kahn is meant to be a much larger than normal character, and even though the figure is on a 3 3/4" scale, he stands at about 4.5 inches tall, which is perfect for this line. The sculpt is undoubtedly Shao Kahn from the video game. Even in such a small scale, they managed to include a pretty good amount of detail into him. The texture on the armor, the spikes, the straps, the belt, and the helmet are all done well.
Head sculpts are usually the most important part of a figure, due to them being the focal point, and it's done very well here. The helmet is accurate, and there's plenty of realistic detailing in it as well. The sculpt in general is well done, though I would like to have seen better proportions, particularly in the hands, because they look too cartoony. Other than that, I can't complain.
The parts of his body showing skin are cast in a flesh tone, with the details painted in. There's no shading or highlighting on the skin, which isn't unheard of, but it would have been nice to get. There are some sloppy edges, such as the straps on his arm and chest, and missed marks as well. Look at the skull on the center of his chest and you'll see only one of his eyes is painted in. There's also some paint scuffs on the helmet where you can see the blue underneath showing through. The skull part looks awesome though. The paint detailing makes it look really good.
His eyes are pretty sloppy though, with the orange bleeding off, and the pupils doing so as well. There are a lot of small details in the paint job here, but I'm always a fan of washes and dry brushes to help bring out the sculpt even more. At least use stronger paints, or stop painting the joint discs. All throughout the photo shoot, I had small flecks of paint coming off of the figures' joints, like body dandruff or something.
He has a ball jointed neck, ball jointed shoulders, swivel-hinged elbows, cut wrists, floating ab joint, swivel-hinged hips, swivel-hinged knees, and swivel-hinged ankles. Every joint is nice and tight, which is legitimately surprising for a Jazwares figure. In recent memory, almost every Jazwares figure I've handled has had really loose joints, but this one stands up fine.
For a 3 3/4" figure he's got a decent amount of articulation allowing you to place him in various "I'm going to kill you" poses. The ab joint allows you to turn him 360 degrees, and also tilts back some, and left and right, but doesn't really go forward at all which is a shame. Even so, this is amount of articulation is pretty much par for the course with toy companies these days when dealing with 3 3/4" figures, and it's nice to see that implemented here.
There's one accessory included in the set for Shao Kahn, but it's really the only accessory he needs: His giant hammer. This is Shao Kahn's preferred method of destruction, and he wouldn't be the same without it, so kudos for including it here. It looks just like how you would expect it to look based on the game design. The grip is detailed red, with gold accents throughout, and you have the Mortal Kombat dragon insignia on either side of the hammer, the logo for Shao Kahn's tournament. It looks great, and can be held in either hand, or both hands at once if you prefer.
QUALITY CONTROL -
I talked earlier about how the permanent sitting pose Shao Kahn was in inside the package could be detrimental, and this is it. Because of that, it forced his tunic on the front to forever be sticking outward, as it would if he were in a sitting position. This can only be corrected if you have a hair dryer and blast it for about a minute or so. Even still, you shouldn't HAVE to do this, but if you want him in a standing pose, it's necessary. Otherwise if you have him standing in your display, your other Mortal Kombat figures might mistakenly think he's happy to see them or something.
SHAO KAHN'S ARENA PLAYSET:
The sculpt is fantastic, particularly on the throne. It looks near perfect to the game design, and I think maybe even cooler. It's made to look like all stone, with a giant skull backing it with ram horns coming out of the top. And what would a throne be if it were on ground level? You have four steps to get to the throne, just in case having a giant skull on the back of your throne didn't say "I'm better than everyone else" enough. As far as thrones go, this one is awesome.
Also included are four pillars, two tall ones, and two broken ones. Not too much to say about them. They're pillars, and they look like pillars. Very rocky, with jagged edges and cracks throughout them. You also get four links of chain with shackles, each one with its own designated pillar to plug into (as indicated by the tabs in the sockets on the pillars that correspond with each chain link). Again not too much to say. I do wish these were actual metal chains, or at the very least separate plastic chain links, to look more realistic. When hanging "at rest" on the pillars, they're just sticking out for no unearthly reason.
As great as the sculpt is, it's only as good as its paint job, and this is one area the playset falls apart. There is the sporadic dry brushing on the horns of the skull, and on the pillars. There's also the various blood spattering, but it still looks too clean. The blood spatters look too neat, and there's absolutely no washes or dynamic dry brushes to help the sculpt at all. The sculpt is beautiful, and if it had a proper paint job, it would look extremely impressive. The paint job it does have is better than solid molded colors, but it's a far cry from what it could have been.
It's a really fun display piece, no doubt. And if they had to make a playset of just one of the Mortal Kombat stages, this is definitely the one to make. Having Shao Kahn in his throne with two figures on either side about to fight makes for a fun display. There's not much else going for it though, outside of looking cool. You can place your figures arms in the shackles and have them chained to the pillars as Shao Kahn's prisoners, and since they're removable, you can have your figures break out of them, but outside of that there aren't really any play features.
It's all for show, but it's definitely more fun than having your figures standing on a bare shelf. Unfortunately, even that is partly diminished when you consider that the actual playset is just the throne and the four pillars. If I didn't take out the backdrop and use it for the photos, it would look like they were fighting in a void. I understand the high cost of items like this, but having a full on sculpted playset, or at the very least the ground, would have really helped here. Or at the very very least, having the backdrop fold out to be bigger.
QUALITY CONTROL -
No quality control issues with the playset.
If you're a huge Mortal Kombat fan, and are already collecting the Jazwares 3 3/4" MK line, I recommend getting it. You're already clearly a fan of the line, and having this as a display piece will certainly help spice up your display. If you do purchase it, definitely remember to take out the backdrop, otherwise your figures will look like they're fighting on a bare shelf with a random throne and pillars stuck to it, which is somehow weirder. As far as the sculpt goes, it looks awesome, the throne especially. If there was a 3 3/4" Masters of the Universe line, this would make for a pretty awesome Skeletor throne, what with the ram horns and all. Unfortunately like I said earlier, the paint job (or lack thereof) takes away from what could have been a truly impressive looking display piece.
Shao Kahn fits great in the throne and looks natural doing so, and also looks great posed fighting your other figures. He's pretty posable for a 3 3/4" figure, and comes with his awesome hammer as an accessory. His paint job is ok, but could be better, and unless you plan to have him posed sitting down all the time, or you want to take the time to use a hair dryer to make his tunic stay down when in a standing pose, that might be a problem. It's probably something they should have thought about when packaging it, but for the MOC collectors this is no problem.
Ultimately this will all come down to your personal preferences. If you're already into the line, you'll really enjoy having this display piece. If you're someone who just wants a 3 3/4" Shao Kahn figure without having to buy the playset, well then you're already disappointed. If you're someone who is a fan of Mortal Kombat, but is just unsure about the Jazwares MK line, you're probably better passing on it. Articulation and paint quality hounds will especially be disappointed in this. I'd be interested to see what customizers can do to paint this thing up and make it look truly awesome.
SHAO KAHN FINAL SCORE: 3.5 / 5
ARENA PLAYSET FINAL SCORE: 3 / 5
AVERAGE SCORE: 3 / 5