NECA’s surprise hit series of retro video game figures is ramping up in 2015, and they’re starting off strong with a brilliant first release. Rambo (the game) was a 1988 side scroller by Acclaim, based loosely on First Blood Part 2… with the emphasis on “loosely.” In the video game world, John Rambo, after accepting his mission from Colonel Trautman, ventures into the jungle to murder copious amounts of giant spiders (?) and helicopters (!), racking up Zelda-style experience points as he goes. Then, you throw giant kanji symbols at one bad guy, and he turns into a frog. You could also choose not to accept Trautman’s mission… in which case the game basically just sits there.
In other words, this game was fan-goddamn-tastic.
And it’s obviously totally worthy of the love that NECA has poured into their Rambo game figure. Our NES style John Rambo is a repaint of the First Blood Part 2 figure, a truly phenomenal sculpt featuring a great Sylvester Stallone likeness, a highly articulated and well sculpted muscular body, and tons of accessories to lay waste to spiders big and small.
Rambo includes quite a bit of gear, much of which was included with the movie style figure. He sports his big knife with sheath on his belt, a bazooka, a grenade and three sets of hands, which swap out easily at the wrist. This version of our hero also features his compound bow, complete with working string and two arrows. This accessory may still get released as a pack in with the third Rambo movie figure, but the game style toy marks the bow’s first appearance.
While the bow is cool, the biggest selling feature on this Rambo is totally the video game inspired paint apps. And honestly, these are the best stylized paint apps NECA has done to date. Yes, the cheesy game trappings are well represented– Rambo is rocking his in-game red pants, after all– but the paint apps go way past that. There is some cast shadow/ cell shading work going on here that is truly remarkable. The black painted shadows on the left side of Rambo’s face and on his torso under each arm are so well executed, and work so well with actual lighting and shade that it demands the eye’s attention.
I count at least four skin tones making up the top half of Rambo’s body, and from the lightest to the darkest, each one adds depth and dimensionality in a way completely unlike the color work on the more realistic movie version of the figure. Somehow, this ultra-stylized paint job still works like gangbusters on top of the very realistic sculpt… and I love how the paint apps still serve to highlight the figure’s numerous details, such as the musculature of his chest and his multiple scars.
The ultra-stylized design continues to Rambo’s packaging, a window box which replicates the Nintendo game’s box art. The opening window provides a good look at the sealed figure, as well as a screen shot from the game itself, as Trautman offers Rambo his next mission. It’s a comprehensively great and super fun box, and I love that the packaging on this entire retro game series is as unique and stylish as the figures themselves.
I don’t think anyone– collectors, retail buyers, even NECA– imagined this retro game sub-line of figures would catch on like it did. What started as a semi-gag Comic Con exclusive has grown into one of the most fun and interesting toy lines to collect. And not unlike the games of the era these figures are based on, NECA’s toys keep on improving.
Whether you’re a fan of Rambo, or classic Nintendo, or, hell, just fun toys, 8-Bit Rambo is a surefire winner. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to add this guy to your collection. Will you accept?
There’s only one right answer.