REVIEW: HALO 3 WAL-MART EXCLUSIVE BLUE HAYABUSA SPARTAN
With the advent of the Halo 3 game, followers of the popular series of video games were introduced to something that the previous games had not offered -- a surprisingly wide range of Spartan variants.
Previously, there was the core character, Master Chief, and there were other armored Spartan troopers -- all of whom pretty much looked just like Master Chief, except their armors were different colors. This, no doubt, pleased the toy company, at that time Joyride Studios, who could come out with a large assortment of Spartan action figures just by changing the color of plastic. And indeed, Joyride did a superb job with its figures.
With Halo 3, we were suddenly introduced to different Spartan divisions, and different armor designs. You can Scout Spartans, EOD Spartans, EVA Spartans, CQB Spartans -- all wearing not only a wide range of different colors within their own divisions, but somewhat different armor styles.
As much as anything, what the game company did was to keep the basic Spartan armor the same, but changed three crucial elements -- the shoulder armor, more significantly the design of the chestplate, and most significantly, the helmet.
I suspect the new action figure licensee, McFarlane Toys, was nevertheless pleased. They could create a core body design for the Spartan, mold and paint it in whatever color desired, and all they really had to do was change a few key parts. While it required a bit more effort than the previous games, it also expanded the possibilities exponentially.
Need it be said that across four series of Halo 3 action figures, even just paying attention to the Spartans, McFarlane has taken considerable advantage of the available variety.
Now, I can, and fully intend, to provide the "in-universe" explanation for this bizarre Spartan variation. As to where the game designers came up with this bizarre character that looks like a futuristic version of a Samurai warrior crossed with a nightmare.
And Wal-Mart decided they wanted an exclusive version of this guy.
So, what's the story behind the Hayabusa? According to the Web Site "Halopedia", the origin of the Hayabusa is this. First we need to look at the so-called "Hayabusa Project" -- it took an entire project to come up with something this strange? Apparently so:
Project: HAYABUSA was a UNSC project similar to Project: MJOLNIR. While it had different aims than its rival project, MJOLNIR, both programs resulted in powerful battle armor that boosted energy shields. The HAYABUSA's project was to develop self-contained power armor, and the project eventually culminated in the development of the Hayabusa Armor, which was developed by RKD on Earth in 2536 and apparently accepted by the UNSC Ordnance Committee.
The Hayabusa Armor's advanced materials decreased its weighty bulk by one-third and aesthetically is Japanese in design, with a Samurai-like design and spiked shoulder pauldrons (commonly referred to as s'ode' for the shoulder armor, and kabuto for the helmet in more correct terminology for Japanese armor of the era). The most likely reason for the aesthetic features of the armor might be to inspire fear to enemy soldiers. It was available for use by the SPARTAN-II supersoldiers, although its field deployment appeared to be limited.
Hayabusa is Japanese for "peregrine falcon," and is also the name for an unmanned space mission conducted by the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency set to return to Earth in 2010.
If this is somebody's idea of a "peregrine falcon", I'm surprised the Audubon Society hasn't gotten on their case for it.
I love that line about "The most likely reason for the aesthetic features of the armor might be to inspire fear to enemy soldiers." Now, the Halo games have some seriously creepy, freaky, scary-ugly aliens in them. Is the Hayabusa uglier than some of these aliens? No. Might it nevertheless be enough to unnerve some of them long enough to get a couple of good shots in? Well, if you consider that those aliens are probably used to going after soldiers that are dressed in the more, shall we say, traditionally-futuristic, tech-looking armor of the other Spartan variants, and then they come around a corner or zig when they should've zagged and they get an eyeful of something that looks like this -- hey, maybe.
Halopedia continues, discussing the particulars of the Hayabusa armor itself: The helmet features 7 angular spikes, or spokes, one to each side and the face plate is fused into a single piece and contour. The top rear guard of the helmet is pointed, revealing the protruding spike. The bottom rear, around the neck forms a sort of neck guard, like that of a samurai helmet. It has been noted for its uncanny resemblance to the Shredder from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Ryu Hayabusa from Ninja Gaiden. The 7 spikes are always silver.
Silver? Okay, maybe. On the figure they look more like they're made out of bone to me, but we'll go with silver. What this description leaves out as far as its comparisons are concerned -- and I'm inclined to agree with the one about Shredder and can't really comment about the one regarding Ninja Gaiden since I don't know what that is, is that the face of this helmet -- and this may be my own anime preferences coming through a bit -- looks distinctly like a Gundam. To what degree any of this is intentional is anyone's guess except the designers.
The shoulder armor is certainly the most samurai-like aspect of the figure. Rather than the usual solid plate, whatever its shape may be from one Spartan type to another, there are three metal plates per shoulder arranged in an overlapping fashion, designed after the ancient armor of a Japanese samurai.
As to the chestplate, it is very different and in my opinion far more complex and somewhat ornate in design compared to other Spartan divisions. Once again, Halopedia's description is as good as anything I might say here: The Chest armor features a thick, round, "collar" piece protecting the neck; as well as an angular strip of armor that appears to be "strapped" down over the chest, featuring a small delta in the center.
The helmet is an interesting study from the side. Past the spiky protrusions, it looks like a fairly standard helmet of some sort. It's really only head-on that it looks as alarming as it does, almost as if the spikes were part of a "mask" on some respects. This doesn't bring the Hayabusa down that far in the weirdness department, though. The shoulder pads are still highly unusual, and the chestplate more -- ornate, for lack of a better term, than most Spartans.
There have been four Hayabusas to date, counting this one. The first one, a Red Hayabusa, was a general-release figure and can still be found if you're lucky. There's an Orange Hayabusa that was some sort of international exclusive, orange being a color mainly reserved for such uses. There's even a Pink Hayabusa out there, exclusive to someplace or other. I haven't researched that one too much, since a Pink Hayabusa just buries the needle on the weirdness meter a little too far.
And there is this Blue Hayabusa, exclusive to Wal-Mart. At least those Wal-Marts still carrying Halo. Honestly, as much as I dislike recounting local experiences unless necessary, it seems that not many stores are carrying Halo figures anymore, at least not locally. I have no idea what may be happening nationwide.. Some stores have some Halo merchandise, but not that much in the way of figures. Target has never carried these products, and it appears that only ONE Wal-Mart, one of the most distant ones from me, is carrying Halo merchandise anymore. I chanced across this Blue Hayabusa when there on a visit with a friend. I was sincerely stunned to see any Halo product. I have no idea what's going on with the line. I sincerely hope it's not in danger of cancellation.
Back to the Blue Hayabusa. Visually, the rest of the figure is pretty much standard Spartan. The "blue" is a dark, almost navy blue that Wal-Mart seems to have persuaded McFarlane to make essentially exclusive to them when it comes to Spartan variants. It's a cool color. The figure stands about 5-1/4" in height. McFarlane Toys clearly spared no expense on the detail, which is typical for them. The armor -- really regardless of which Spartan you bring in -- is very highly detailed and very intricate looking. Not just the obvious color armor, but just as much -- if not a little moreso in some respects -- the black protective undersuit underneath the major armor plating. This appears to be at least semi-armored, and most often looks like a thick mesh-weave with some armored aspects to it.
Overall paintwork is excellent, including on the helmet. I was especially pleased by this, since I have seen a few Spartan variants here and there where, at least on the helmet, the paint has been rather sloppy in some respects, and looks distinctly hand-applied. While I can't confirm this, I am of the opinion that the company arranged for proper paint spray masks to be created for the body armor, but left some of the helmet detailing to be done by hand. As intricate as the Hayabusa helmet is, hand-painting would've been darn near impossible, though. And is certainly appears to be very neatly applied here. A little bit of black "weathering" on the bony protrusions give them a more detailed look. I generally don't like this sort of practice, but in this instance, it works well.
Articulation is excellent. The figure boasts 26 points of articulation on his package, and I'd say that's about right. Head articulation is a little hindered by the helmet backflap and the high collar, and in fact I had the head pop off at one point (it also pops right back on) but it's still poseable. The rest of the articulation includes the arms, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, knees, ankles, and the front of the feet. There are various swivels and pivots along the way, too.
I do express a little concern about some of the thinner points of articulation. I'm not saying that the figure isn't made well. Clearly it is. But the wrists are extremely narrow. I try not to move them too much. I have encountered a few Spartans here and there where some part is either so tight I'm afraid to move it, or slightly loose, if not distressingly so. I am pleased to report in the case of the Blue Hayabusa, that everything works "just right". Nothing sticks, nothing is loose, nothing seems in danger of breaking off. I'm abundantly pleased.
Accessorywise, the Blue Hayabusa Spartan is very well equipped. He comes with two handheld weapons called Maulers. I'm not sure if these things are of human design or alien design, or maybe a little of each. Whatever the case, they are very effective and dangerous-looking weapons. I would not care to be on the wrong end of them.
Then there's an interesting little gadget referred to on the package as a Drainer. I'm not sure what this does. I'm very much trying to avoid making any plumbing jokes here. This is a somewhat spherical device that, relative to the size of the figures, would appear to be about the size of a volleyball or perhaps a soccer ball. It is metallic grey and silver, with bright blue highlights. And if you pull on the little handles on the side, it opens up, not unlike (about the only pop culture comparison I can think of offhand) the Autobot Matrix of Leadership in the hands of Optimus Prime.
Precisely what the Drainer does, I have no idea. I have to admit I've never played any of the Halo video games, lacking both an XBox of any sort, and any measurable video game talent. At a guess, it looks like it may be some sort of energy-based weapon, and with a name like "Drainer", doesn't sound especially pleasant. At the very least, however, it's a cool little accessory of a type that I have never seen before with a Halo 3 action figure. At least this Blue Hayabusa didn't come with any of those teeny-tiny little grenades that practically end up in my carpet before I can pop them into a Ziploc bag. Neither the Maulers nor the Drainer are in immediate risk of being lost doe to excessively small size.
I did notice one thing mentioned on the Halopedia entry for the Hayabusa. Apparently another weapon -- if you can get access to it -- that the Hayabusa Spartan can made use of is a Katana, a Japanese sword. According to the entry, "The Katana is for aesthetic purposes only, and is only unlocked after all original Achievements (1000 G) have been earned, as the Katana has all of the requirements for the Hayabusa armor to unlock it."
To the best of my knowledge, none of the Hayabusas have come with a Katana. The Red Hayabusa doesn't have one, and neither does the Blue. The illustration of the Pink Hayabusa on the back of the package shows him with a large rifle. No sign of a sword. I have no idea about the orange one. Given the international exclusivity of that Hayabusa, if any of them came with a Katana, it'd probably be him. But I just don't know. While a Katana would not likely be especially effective in a battle of this sort, it would be sort of cool.
So what's my final word here? Well, there's no question that this Hayabusa Spartan is a freaky piece of work. He's going to stand out in any crowd of Spartans, regardless of which color you get, and at the moment, that's likely to be either red or blue. But he's one of those designs that -- he's so freaky, he's cool. And if, like me, you have a fair crowd of Spartans around, there's no question that he's a standout. Put this one and the Red Hayabusa at either end of your display and you've got a couple of interesting bookends.
Now, the Blue Hayabusa is a Wal-Mart exclusive, but the report I've heard is that Wal-Mart received "straight cases" of these, which means case lots that were Blue Hayabusas and no one else. So it's not like the Blue Hayabusa was one per case along with seven or whatever of other Spartans. And the display where I purchased mine did seem to have a fairly generous supply of Blue Hayabusas relative to other figures. And it's not like Wal-Marts are that uncommon, even if not all of them are carrying Halo figures at the moment.
Bring that sentence down to, "Hopefully, the Blue Hayabusa won't be that much of an ordeal for you to find as far as a store exclusive action figure goes". And strange-looking or not, he is part of an impressive action figure line based on a hugely popular video game, and he even comes with some interesting and unusual accessories.
With all of that said, the HALO 3 WAL-MART EXCLUSIVE BLUE HAYABUSA SPARTAN definitely has my enthusiastic recommendation!