It doesn’t fit with any scale of figure I have, I don’t plan on collecting any further MGS figures, and it was ridiculously expensive. But I’ve been curious about the Play Arts Kai figures from Square Enix for a while now and when they announced a figure of the hot redhead from one of my favorite video games that I absolutely suck at I decided to give one a try. It was more curiosity about the line than anything.
First, a bit about me and Metal Gear. I was terrible at the old 8-Bit Nintendo Metal Gear. It frustrated me to no end and I couldn’t ever get anywhere. I wanted to like it and just didn’t. Years later a girlfriend who was a complete lunatic but was very generous with gifts got me Metal Gear Solid and Grand Theft Auto III for either my birthday or Christmas. I didn’t care all that much about video games at the time, but somebody had told her that these were amazing. That person was right. I spent hours playing both, but it seemed like I never really got anywhere in MGS compared to my fairly decent and regular progression in GTA III. I did eventually finish MGS with the help of a strategy guide and copious notes from a friend. I don’t think I would have ever beaten Psycho Mantis on my own. But I loved the overall story and complexity of the game and the memories of playing it have stayed with me to this day.
I bought all of the McFarlane MGS figures when they came out. I’ve still got them packed up somewhere and the Snake and Meryl fish tank set is actually out in my office. That one is a great set. Obviously this figure doesn’t fit in with those, but there was just something about it that prompted me to preorder it from BigBad when it was offered.
First Glance: It may be hideously expensive, but this piece does come off like a fancy-pants action figure. From the eye-catching box to the look of the enclosed figure itself, I felt like I was getting something special once it arrived. This plastic lady is certainly presented like a high-quality item.
Articulation: This is going to be tough. I literally have to sit here and count off each joint because there are so many.
Head – ball joint
Shoulders – ball joint
Biceps – swivel
Elbows – double pivot
Wrists – ball joint
Upper Abdomen – ball joint
Waist – ball joint
Hips – ball joint
Thighs – swivel
Knees – double pivot
Ankles – swivel/pivot
Toes - swivel
This figure is articulated very thoroughly and for the most part the joints all work like they are supposed to. Each one has a very deep range of motion, yet still blends into the figure fairly well. That’s not to say the joints aren’t obvious, but they all look pretty good. The only ones that stand out are the shoulders, and even those work with the tank top.
The elbow pads are on tiny hinges, presumably so they can move with the elbows. The problem is that the clip joining the pad to the elbow is just a bit too open, so they pop off rather than moving. It isn’t a big deal, as I’m okay with how the pads look even when the elbow is bent, but they don’t quite work like I think they were supposed to.
The ankles swivel at the top as much as the boot sculpted around them allows. The depth of the pivot isn’t great and the point where the two halves of the boot meet has actually come apart a bit on my figure’s left boot. I think they could have accomplished a more mobile foot with a different joint.
Otherwise, the figure is excellently articulated and a lot of fun to pose and move around. I had to keep her on the desk for a while just to keep rearranging her parts.
Sculpt: The figure is hollow and made of a sort of soft-ish plastic. It’s not vinyl, but it’s similar. The level of detail is just amazing. This is another reason I had to leave it on my desk. This is one of those figures that you can just sit and stare at for a while, taking in all the details.
The head is excellent, more reflective of the concept art for the game than the game itself. The hair is detailed and very natural-looking. The face has anime proportions and a sassy smirk. I dig it.
The tank top is actually a separate piece from the figure, molded of a slightly softer plastic. I can’t quite wrap my mind around all of the different pieces that make up this figure. I’d love to see it completely disassembled, but I kind of doubt anybody is going to spend sixty bucks on this thing and then ruin it. The whole upper torso is full of detail. I like that Meryl doesn’t have giant anime boobs and the proportions – of the upper body, anyway – are fairly realistic. The sleeves, elbow pads, and gloves on the arms look great. I like the pieces of armor plating on the elbows and hands a lot. They have so much more depth being sculpted out from the main portion rather than just being part of it.
The junk in Meryl’s trunk is kind of mind-blowing. She almost looks like a Kaare Andrews drawing in that department. The sculpt and detailing are fantastic, with the hip joints blending into the folds and wrinkles of the trousers. The web belts are actually separate pieces, so I’ll get to those in Flair. The tops of the kneepads are the swivel joint for the thigh and the armor plate on the front conceals the double joint.
The boots look great as far as detail goes, but the joint they chose for the ankle is kind of weird and distracting considering how streamlined the rest of the figure is. I’m also not a huge fan of the swivel joint mid-foot, as once it’s moved it doesn’t line up and it really doesn’t make much sense anyway. My shoes do not swivel like that regardless of how I am standing or squatting. So from the knees down I am not entirely on board with the choices Play Arts made with this figure.
Coloring: As good as the sculpt is – for the most part – the paint job is what’s really wowing me with this figure. I don’t know how many apps we have here, but they would likely cause an apoplectic fit in a Mattel budget planner.
The head is remarkable. The hair not only has several different shades, but the differing colors are applied in a way that suggests life and movement. The paint compliments the sculpt very well. The facial details are also excellent, with an amazing attention to the area of the eyes. Everything is very vibrant, but the designers stopped just shy of making Meryl look animated. I mean, the sculpt obviously is, but the paint app is slightly more reserved.
The skin tones of the figure are similar to how Mattel does the Masters of the Universe Classics, but more subtle. There are bits of color to represent muscle tone and the exposed skin all looks very good. It’s an appropriately light tone for a redhead rather than any kind of tan.
The clothing all has a certain amount of wear painted on. Not filthy or anything, but just enough washes and depth to look real as opposed to cartoony. The detailing on the armor plates is good, and they all match styles. The boots are solid as well, with just enough detailing to not look bland.
The only negative here are some blotches on the front of her tank top. They're not okay, but they don't bother me that much.. All of the various parts are tightly detailed and accurately placed.
Flair: Meryl’s web belts are separately molded pieces and look great because of it. They perfectly conceal the waist and hip joints and are beautiful sculpts. The webbing is intricate and precise and all the buckles and grommets look amazing. The pouches on her waist are nice and bulky and so well done that it took a close look to realize they do not open (which is fine – I don’t have anything to put in there).
There is a holster and a knife sheath attached to the right side of the belts. The holster looks awesome and has a small strap the hold Meryl’s pistol in place. This is one fo the few real problems with the figure. It is almost impossible to get that strap snapped into place. It has a little peg on the end that is meant to push into a hole in the side of the holster, but it’s soft plastic and basically just won’t go in if the pistol is in there. The knife sheath has the same problem. These two bits are beautifully detailed but don’t quite function the way they are supposed to.
The paint on the belts is great. All of the little details are fully rendered and honestly this is one of the highlights of a great figure.
The pistol is some kind of heavy automatic. I don’t know if it’s based in reality or is some made-up video game thing, but it is chock full of sculpted detail that is also painted tightly. It fits perfectly into the figure’s pistol grip hand and the holster.
The knife is also a very nice sculpt with each part meticulously painted. It fits into the figure’s knife-gripping hand as well as the sheath.
Meryl has a set of relaxed hands (or perhaps “ready for action” hands) and a set of gripping hands. They all look good and switch out easily at the wrists.
Packaging: Meryl comes in a fairly fancy-pants window box. The art on the exterior is very nice and made me feel like I was getting a high-end item. The Japanese are much better about crediting their toy creators than we are:
The interior tray held the figure nicely without any of those irritating ties, and held its shape well even after the figure was removed.
Value: I don’t feel all that great about spending sixty dollars plus shipping for this figure. Don’t get me wrong – this is a fantastic, high-end, collector quality figure. But it just isn’t something that I feel like I should have spent that much money on. It might be worth it to you, but I can’t say it was to me. Although when compared to the forty-five bucks plus shipping I just paid for the Arkham City Mr. Freeze (review coming soon) Meryl doesn’t seem so bad.
Overall: Odd foot decisions aside, this is a truly fantastic figure. Meryl is a great example of Japanese ingenuity and craftsmanship. From the detailed, dynamic sculpt to the incredible paint job she really does feel like a high-end collectible. Except, of course, for the fact that she’s sturdy and you can actually play with her. If you are a fan of the Metal Gear series and of toys I highly recommend you track down this or one of the other MGS Play Arts figures. You won’t be disappointed. You’ll be poorer, but happy.
4 out of 5
As a matter of fact, you can probably buy mine on eBay. I simply can’t justify hanging onto such an oddly-scaled figure that was so expensive. I don’t have anywhere to put her and I’m pretty sure I can get most of my money back selling online. She goes right back into that box, so with a note that she was removed “For reviewing and photography purposes only” I think I can undercut the prices for brand new ones just a bit and make a sale. We’ll see.
Side Note: I got all the way to starting a listing and decided I couldn't do it. This figure is just too cool. I might sell it someday, but I have to hang onto it for a while.