While we all ponder what happened to GI Joe Kre-O’s fourth collection of blind bagged mini figures, let’s celebrate that Collection 5 is out now at select Toys R Us stores, and they’re yet another amazing set of characters. Yes, we’re going a little more mainstream now, with ten of the twelve new recruits being straight out of the core Real American Hero collection… but how mainstream can a toy line be considered if it includes Bullet Man, the Human Bullet???
Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself… Let’s start with the basics. Once again, this Kre-O collection features a dozen figures, each packed two per case. There’s six new Joes– Dial Tone, Leatherneck, Iceberg, Lifeline, Outback and the afformentioned Bullet Man– and six Cobras– Zarana, Tele Viper, Techno Viper, Ninja-Ku, a grey suited Driver and a battle damaged B.A.T.
Each design is awesome, replicating the most iconic looks of these characters, and featuring some great mini-build weapons such as Zarana’s buzz saw rifle, Dial Tone’s communications backpack and the Tele Vipers’ wide-barrel guns. The Joes help round out the most classic 80s version of the team, while Bullet Man adds another figures to the totally charming 70s throwback corner of this brick-based universe. The Cobras not only add some cool new army builders to the mix, but focus them into service sectors perfect for the just-released Terror Drome playset, which is certainly in need of some technicians and comm experts.
Zarana is another major Joe player who now gets the Kre-O treatment, and Ninja-Ku serves as another fun, obscure choice to include, while looking styling in his black and gold ninja costume. Each figure includes some relevant accessories, as well as a Kre-O brick display stand, and they feature all the articulation we’ve seen on this mini figure construction.
So once again, Hasbro has delivered a solid character selection to make up a fun collection of GI Joe Kre-Os. That being said, there are a few logistical drawbacks to the assortment. First off, the production stamps on the blind bags have finally been corrected– gone are the unique stamp codes which would indicate which character was hiding inside. So now, like Lego’s mini figures, if you want to know which Kre-O you get, you have to take your chances or feel up a whole lot of blind bags in the store. It was a good, long run, matching Kre-O figure codes to determine which bags to buy, but I guess it had to end eventually. As some small consolation, if you find a full case and just want a set, I can confirm that each figure is doubled up, so just cherry pick every other figure in the display case and you’re good to go.
If you can find them, that is. I’m hoping this will change, but as of right now, here’s the biggest, most troubling thing about the Joe Kre-Os… only some Toys R Us stores seem to be carrying them. In my area, the larger, more robust TRU’s (you know, the ones that will stock stuff like NECA and Diamond Select toys) are actively carrying the latest Joe Kre-Os, and have been regularly restocking after each sell-out. The smaller stores, though, seem to be skipping this line entirely. That really sucks, because these figures are a Toys R Us exclusive. In my area, I have two stores within a 15 mile radius of me, and neither one shows any signs of carrying these figures. The closest store that DOES carry them is about 30 miles away, and presently has a false read based on a missing case or computer glitch, so they’re not getting any restocks. So that leaves me with about four other stores in state, all of which are 45 miles away or more. And as great as these figures are, it’s a tall order to make that kind of drive for them.
This is a tactic we used to see a lot with Wal-Mart exclusives, and it drives me just as batty now. It’s one thing for a retail store to opt out of carrying a product that’s available to the general public. Target doesn’t want to carry Guardians of the Galaxy toys? Fine. But when a store secures an EXCLUSIVE item, you’d think they would want to make it as readily available as possible, so they can profit from their captive audience. And that customer base would happily shell out for the product they want, so it’s a win-win. But I don’t see how limiting the distribution of exclusive items helps anyone. Toys R Us is shooting themselves in the foot here, because while I’m
insane dedicated enough to spend an entire morning making a cross-state pilgrimage to a far-away toy store that bothered to carry an item only they can sell… I can’t see many more casual customers, or even collectors, doing the same.
Here’s hoping Toys R Us can get their act together before Kre-O Collection 4 hits. If you’re looking for Collection 5, you can check your local stores, or place an order for a maximum of four of the twelve figures at ToysRUs.com.