And now, Scary-Crayon reviews... Street Fighter IV Chun-Li

Figure Information Name: Chun-Li
Line: Street Fighter IV (Round 2)
Scale: 7 inch
Manufacturer: NECA
Year Released: 2009
Original Price: $13.99

Ah, Chun-Li. Chun-Li, Chun-Li, Chun-Li. How to open an article about Chun-Li? I don't know that I've always loved her -- I don't recall truly falling for her until Super Street Fighter II, likely because of her sexy new Kikouken and close fierce kick animations -- but I've been a fan of Little Miss Mighty Legs for quite some time... even if I never could use her effectively in any of the games.

At any rate, like any character I love, I was all about having an articulated Chun-Li action figure. Or perhaps I should say another articulated Chun-Li action figure, since there have been others. While SOTA's version was acceptable and had a good amount of articulation, that figure was a spindly little girl that barely resembled the strongest woman in the world as she appeared in the games. High Dream's Capcom vs SNK 2 Chun-Li was quite a bit better in that it actually looked the part, but it was missing some key articulation. There are other Chun-Li figures that I don't have -- the old X-Men vs Street Fighter version looks decent for its time; the old G.I. Joe versions were, well, Chun-Li in G.I. Joe form; the Microman version is tiny, superarticulated, and probably loads of fun (I have the Sakura and quite like her; she's currently battling Cobra forces alongside Flint); the more recent Street Fighter Online Revoltech Chun-Li, despite some fairly visible articulation, looks about as good as you're going to get in a 4.25" figure; and, for you richers out there, there's Medicom's Real Action Heroes version. But for whatever reason -- whether it's outdated articulation, a smaller scale, a less-than-stunning sculpt, all of the above (sorry, G.I. Joe Chuns), or an oversized scale and an insane price tag -- all of these fall short of being my ideal Chun-Li figure. Oh, I do have one of the Minimates versions, which is cute... but it's a Minimate.

You have no idea how hard that fight was.

Everything I'd seen about NECA's Street Fighter IV Chun-Li, however, convinced me that it had the potential to be the best Chun-Li figure yet -- and perhaps the best possible Chun-Li figure. Admittedly, given my high expectations and enduring affection for the character, the figure had some pretty big boots (or at least some roomy pantyhose) to fill! And yet, in all but one respect, I find myself utterly floored by this toy -- it's as if Chun-Li herself leapt into the room and lightning kicked me into sweet submission.

Packaging

Score: 5.5 / 10

Street Fighter IV Chun-LiI'm not a MOC collector, so don't expect this to factor heavily into my overall score (which is not an average) very much, but the packaging is serviceable at best. I much prefer window boxes to clamshells on so-called specialty market figures -- while I don't plan to put the figures back in their packaging anytime soon, it'd be nice to have the option of doing so. And whereas with carded bubble packaging it's a simple matter to either tear or cut the bubble off of the card (I prefer to slip a box cutter around the bubble where it meets the card, thus leaving me with a relatively unmarred card), clamshell packaging always seems harder to open than it needs to be. So there's that.

Moving on, there's the catchy SFIV logo at the top, and at the bottom we have the same Chun-Li artwork that's been circulating on the 'net for the last year -- it works, but it's not exactly mind-blowing. There's also a silhouette of the Chun-Li artwork behind the figure, which would be a whole lot cooler if the figure didn't cover it completely. I think if I were designing the packaging and had that idea, I'd try to have the figure posed like the artwork -- and it can be done -- so that the silhouette looked either like an outline or a drop shadow. Instead, they've opted to put the figure into the package perhaps in the least attractive way possible. This really is a gorgeous figure, but they've got her staring up with her left arm stuck awkwardly in front of her -- it just looks bad. The package advertises the figure as having 31 points of articulation, which is wrong by my count (I'm getting 35), and 5 hands, which is correct. And I suppose it's to the packaging designers' credit that the paper inserts manage to hide the most glaring paint issues with the figure, but I find it difficult to commend them for their deception.

On the back, there's the usual fighting game profile info about Chun-Li -- fighting style, vital statistics, likes and dislikes, and so forth -- and the full three-figure roster for NECA's Round 2 series. Again, they're nothing mind-blowing, and a design that borrowed more from the game (a la SOTA's SFII packaging, which displayed a world map that recalled the old arcade machine) would be preferable, but at least the bio augments the presentation and seems like something you might find in the SFIV manual. In addition, there's a cool Vitruvian Man-style diagram that showcases the figure's articulation. Honestly, I've been wishing more figures would sport something like this, if only because I often find articulation on toys that I didn't know was there (or, more often, try to move something that isn't a true point of articulation). Unfortunately, this same picture apparently appears on the backs of all of the figures from the second series... even though Guile and Akuma are not Chun-Li, and even though they have slightly (though not exceedingly) different articulation models. As such, something that was initially pretty awesome instead seems lazy in the grand scheme of things.

Visual Appeal

Score: 8.5 / 10

Chun-Li has the misfortune of being the first figure reviewed in our new format, which merges the sculpt and paint into a single category. I mean, if a figure has a terrible paint job, the best sculpting in the world probably isn't going to make it look good... and a figure with an awful sculpt and an amazing paint job won't fare terribly well either in the looks department either. As such, given the relationship between the two categories -- and because I usually don't have a whole lot to say about paint and would prefer to say even less -- it just made sense to me to address both facets in a single section called "Visual Appeal."

"There is no chance for you to beat me! Challenge someone else."Chun-Li from the front.Chun-Li from the back."Yatta!"

But that's unfortunate for Chun-Li, since I'd easily have scored her sculpt a 9.5, if not a somewhat forgiving 10 -- I try to stick to 0.5 increments for simplicity's sake, but the sculpt would probably warrant a 9.85 score. It really is that good. People go on and on about the thighs, and indeed they are massive -- but that's a good thing. If you scroll up to the game screencap above (or just click here), you'll see that even in her first appearance Chun-Li was rocking some majorly thick legs. Hell, they might even be thicker than they are on this figure. In any case, the thighs have been the one aspect of Chun-Li that her previous toy incarnations have consistently gotten wrong (the Revoltech version is one notable exception, which is why I was initially so interested in it), so I love that NECA nailed them here. In fact, it was initially the calves that looked huge to me, since they're nearly as wide as the thighs. I think that's because they seemed much slimmer in Chun-Li's recent appearances, though -- in addition to the slimming effect that the games' side profile tends to have, her legs were tapered to chicken drumstick like proportions in Street Fighter III: Third Strike, Capcom vs SNK 2, and SNK vs Capcom: SVC Chaos. However, in SFIV (and apparently in SFII as well, judging from that screenshot) the calves are nearly as thick as the thighs -- and given that this figure is supposed to represent Chun-Li as seen in SFIV, the large lower legs are just as they should be. If you lift up the qipao in the back, you can even see that she's got some sculpted badunkadunk.

The rest of the sculpt is mostly spot on, too. The boots have tiny sculpted laces and other impressively sharp details; the qipao is rendered nicely with sculpted embroidery and various poofs and creases to enhance its appearance as clothing; the arms and hands are appropriately powerful; Chun's hair and brocades have a surprising amount of fine detail; and the face is just lovely. Some folks have taken issue with the expression, which admittedly does look a bit wide-eyed if you stare at her directly, but that's just it -- how often do fighting game characters face straight ahead? And whereas the CvS2 Chun-Li has a resolute expression head on, from the side -- in game poses -- she looks lazy or bored. By contrast, when viewed from the side or at an angle, NECA's Chun-Li looks as focused and determined as the strongest woman in the world should. Having seen how well the face works in these poses, I probably wouldn't have it any other way (though an alternate head with a softer expression would have been nice). And is it me, or is there a bit of Kristin Kreuk in there?

Chun-Li's Street Fighter II fighting stanceChun-Li's Street Fighter Alpha 3 fighting stanceChun-Li's Street Fighter III: Third Strike fighting stanceChun-Li's Street Fighter IV fighting stance

There are, however, two main hiccups with the sculpt. The first stems from the unusual thigh articulation. I'll talk about that a bit more below, but the sculpting of the leg around a post leaves a big chunk of open space near the crotch -- and if you turn the leg a certain way (which you need to do to achieve certain poses), it becomes quite visible and is not terribly attractive. Honestly, I'd have preferred simple thigh cuts. And there are the double-hinged knees, which look kinda weird when bent all the way. It's a common issue with figures sporting double knees, but it's not impossible for a toy to diminish the oddness of the appearance if the knee piece has more of an outward spike to it (as, say, with Hasbro's latest Juggernaut figure, not to mention a whole bunch of other Marvel Legends toys). NECA's SFIV figures have knees that are nearly flat, though, which makes their legs appear shorter -- and a bit like fat gummy worms -- when bent to the extremes.

Alas, the near-perfect sculpt is diminished by paint issues. The paint is mostly quite good, with appropriate, vibrant colors and subtle airbrushed highlights, but upon closer inspection there are quite a few problems. The right leg has a lot of spots and areas with chipped paint, and, thanks to chipped paint on the lighter area of the knee looks terrible with the knee bent fully. There's a big spot of gold paint on one of Chun's brocades, and in general the gold on her qipao is badly applied with lots of missed areas and poor coverage. And then there are the boots, which have the splotchiest and most awful wash ever (and which was covered up in full by the packaging). While the paint obviously isn't so bad that it can bring my total score below 8.5 -- the sculpt really is amazing, and, since we're talking about visual appeal, I'm also factoring in how great the toy looks in a number of in-game poses (I'll talk more about that in articulation) -- the numerous errors on this particular figure lead me to wonder if (all other things being the same) I wouldn't have preferred a simpler paint job along the lines of Mattel or Hasbro's mass market fare. Say what you will about Hasbro's Marvel Legends offerings, but I can't recall seeing chipped paint (and certainly not right out of the package) on any of them.

Articulation

Score: 9.5 / 10

I'm still counting 35 points...

Whether you count 31 or 35 points of articulation, Chun-Li's got a lot of joints that make her plenty poseable. But for me, merely having plenty of articulation on a game-based figure isn't enough -- it's got to be able to effectively recreate the in-game poses of my favorite characters for it to really be a winning toy. SOTA's figures were well-articulated, but, more often than not, they fell short when it came to matching the games. NECA's SFIV offerings, however, excel in this category -- when I first got NECA's Ryu, I literally pulled up a Street Fighter Alpha 2 sprite sheet and sat here for hours matching him to the various sprites. He couldn't effectively emulate all of them, of course -- crouches and certain kicks would be pretty difficult for any toy to pull off, and of course you won't see a figure with biceps like Ryu folding its arms any time soon -- but I was able to recreate many of his various punches, kicks, and poses quite admirably.

Fierce punch emulation!"Kikouken!!!""Kikouken again!!!""Kikouken the third!!!"

I dare say Chun-Li was even more fun for me than Ryu. What you're seeing in this article is heavily trimmed for publication: I literally took over 1,000 photos of this figure. That probably only amounts to 150 or so unique poses given that I took each shot multiple times, photographed some poses from different angles, and tweaked some poses to better recreate the sprite art (I was mostly going from memory, but was able to see where adjustments were needed when I uploaded the images to my computer... and if I hadn't said ENOUGH, settled with what I had, and sat down to write this article, I'd still be down in my studio taking pictures of this toy), but still. Heck, I wish NECA would hire me to pose its figures for the packaging inserts and promotional photos (to say nothing of displays at conventions), because I could seriously look at game screencaps and pose these figures to match all day long. And with the exception of the minor looseness of the right wrist, the joints are mostly the soft-ratcheting kind and are thus nice and tight -- perhaps too tight; manipulating them sometimes feels like using one of those hand grip exercise thingies -- so Chun holds her poses quite well.

High-flying Chun-Li!"Hey, leave me alone! I'm a fighter, not a news reporter!""Why waste my time? You'll just keep losing!""I am the strongest woman in the world."

One problem, though -- the thighs. Well, the thighs and the qipao. Whereas the game animations assume that the qipao is made of cloth and don't allow it to restrict Chun-Li's movements at all, soft plastic pieces on an action figure obviously don't have that same luxury. The front flap of the qipao isn't frustratingly problematic in that respect, but it does sometimes get in the way and hinder Chun's motion. While you can sort of counter this by sandwiching the piece in between the legs due to the unconventional hip articulation, it doesn't look very good and you run the risk of damaging the soft plastic (not to mention scraping the poorly-applied gold paint). And about those thighs... honestly, I would have preferred the standard thigh cuts. What we have here preserves the integrity of the sculpt with respect to the massive thighs, but, due to the size of the pieces turning and their tendency to be blocked by the qipao, the crotch piece, or both, it's impossible for Chun to have either of her legs close to the body and turned outward such that the knee faces inward. (Like, see the image of Chun jump-kicking above? It's impossible to bring her leg down straight in that alignment.) And since many of Chun-Li's in-game poses involve just that kind of configuration, it takes more fudging and angling than it should to really pull them off. As you see in the pics, she can sort of hit the poses anyway, but Ryu and this Microman figure (and Guile, not seen here) had a much easier time of it due to their more conventional thigh cuts. And while some folks think the thigh cuts would've looked bad on Chun, I'm not convinced -- Ryu's thighs are just as big as Chun-Li's and he's wearing white, yet he manages to look just fine.

Accessories

Score: 5.5 / 10

Beware of falling bootheels."Spinning Bird Kick!!!""Ten Shou Kyaku!!!"

Chun-Li hasn't got much in the way of accessories -- she's got three extra hands (or two fists, two bladed chopping hands, and the victory pose right hand) and that's it. Being able to swap in either fists or bladed hands is both welcome and largely necessary for recreating in-game poses, but the victory hand sort of emphasizes what the figure is lacking. I mean, it's nice to be able to sort of emulate that win pose, but that pose also involves Chun-Li laughing, smiling, and looking happy... which this figure does not. An extra head would really have been helpful in that respect, and at this price point (Toys "R" Us has the figure for $13.99, but many retailers are charging even more) I wouldn't have said no to a yelling head as well. Considering that many of Chun-Li's signature moves involve her either airborne or standing on one leg, some kind of display stand to support her would also have been ideal -- heck, even one of those clear blocks with an indentation for the foot (the kind that come with many gashapon) would have helped to support her in a Lightning Kick stance. If NECA ditched the clamshell packaging, the clear plastic could go towards making those instead.

Your mileage may vary, but there was another thing here that caused me to knock the score down a point: flash on the pegs of the hands. I mentioned above that the right wrist was slightly loose -- well, initially, it was really tight. Like, prohibitively tight. So tight I feared that turning it would snap the peg off. Once I finally got the hand off (which was also rather difficult), I saw the culprit -- there was a huge piece of flash sticking off of the end of the peg, and one (but not all) of the extra hands had the same problem. I'm not sure if they were supposed to help the wrist ratchet in place or what, but since they prevented me from turning the wrist comfortably -- and given my fears about pegs on removable parts snapping off -- I cut those pieces off with a hobby knife. The wrist joint isn't quite as tight now, but the hands turn and swap much more easily.

Fun Factor

Score: 9.0 / 10

The Capcom vs SNK rivalry continues...Spins a web / any size / drools over / Chun-Li's thighsRock beats scissors, but thighs beat... whatever it is that Cammy has.

This is an amazingly fun figure -- especially if you're an old fan of the franchise. While no toy is going to be capable of perfectly mimicking every pose from the games (though a Microman or Revoltech offering might come really close), this Chun-Li does it exceptionally well and looks better doing it -- owing to the beautiful sculpt and meaty legs -- than any Chun-Li action figure to date. The extreme tightness of some of the joints and the hindrances provided by the qipao and odd thigh articulation do cut into the fun a tiny bit, and it's not fun to have to cut flash off of a toy to get it to behave, but this is still one positively delightful toy. I was initially disappointed by the decision to make the SFIV figures in a 7-inch scale rather than a 6-inch one, since so many of my figures are in the latter scale, but -- while I like Ryu and Guile -- this Chun-Li figure is so much fun that she's elevated the entire line in my esteem. I now feel the need to buy Marvel Select and other 7" figures just to accommodate her, and I'm willing to overlook any size issues with my larger Capcom-related lines (technically, Mai and Cammy should be a tiny bit shorter than Chun-Li... but then, Chun-Li and Ryu should be noticeably shorter than Guile) just to give her other figures to fight.

Unfortunately, the paint did diminish the fun to be had with the figure as well -- in addition to my initial balking at the paint chips and grimy boots, I cringed at the chipped paint under there every time I flexed that right knee. Also, I might never have noticed it if I hadn't been photographing the toy in a light tent, but handling and posing the toy causes it to shed flaking paint and paint "dust" that, despite not appearing to issue from any further chips on the figure (at least not in areas that I noticed), definitely showed up on the grey backdrop. It seemed like I needed to wipe the thing off after every subsequent pose at first, which definitely did not reassure me given my disappointment with the initial paint problems. Even so, once you get used to the paint imperfections and break the toy in (even with all the handling of the toy that I've done, it still seems to shed paint dust -- though much less so than at first), you'll have yourself an immensely fun figure... just don't let kids lick it.

Value

Score: 8.0 / 10

"Yup yup yup yup!""KIKOU SHOU!!!!!!""Gomen ne!"Should this be called a "flash" kick?

Considering that mass-market 3.75-inch figures are currently retailing for $8-10, 6-inch Marvel Legends and Spider-Man figures run about $11 a pop, and DC Universe Classics figures are going for $12 and $13 (when you can find them, and I keep hearing about an upcoming price increase on that line), $13.99 (at Toys "R" Us; you'll pay up to $16.99 if you get her elsewhere) is a competitive value for a sturdy and highly-articulated specialty market toy in a 7-inch scale. That said, other 7-inch specialty market figures go for roughly the same price -- and whereas you only get three extra hands here, you tend to get multiple accessories and/or a base with other lines (see Mezco's Hellboy II and The Spirit figures, DC Direct's wares, Marvel Select offerings, or even some of NECA's other lines). That fact keeps Chun-Li from being an amazing value, though I think she's still a great buy given that she's the best Chun-Li figure out there. After all, for a Chun-Li that's even remotely comparable, you'll likely pay $20-25 -- at least -- and that's not even counting shipping fees.

Review Summary

Packaging
  • Hard-to-open clamshell packaging
  • Design is serviceable but uninspired
  • Deceptive inserts hide paint problems
  • Vital stats add to presentation; diagram would have been neater if not reused
SCORE: 5.5 / 10
Visual Appeal
  • Finally, a Chun-Li figure that gets the mightily massive thighs right!!!
  • Sharp and plentiful details, lovely face
  • Paint chips, spots, and poor coverage diminish the near-perfect sculpt
SCORE: 8.5 / 10
Articulation
  • Highly articulated and poseable figure
  • Capable of effectively recreating many in-game moves and poses
  • Joints are nice and (very) tight
  • Thigh articulation is slightly limiting
SCORE: 9.5 / 10
Accessories
  • Fists and bladed hands are welcome and necessary for game-based poses
  • Extra head(s) and a stand would be useful, but those are absent here
  • Had to cut flash off of hand pegs
SCORE: 5.5 / 10
Fun Factor
  • Great sculpt and fantastic poseability make Chun a real treat for SFII fans
  • So cool it makes me want more 7" toys
  • Glaring paint issues and paint "dust" from handling diminish fun at first
SCORE: 9.0 / 10
Value
  • Competitive value for a sturdy, highly poseable 7-inch specialty market figure
  • Still, other similarly-priced specialty figures have more accessories
  • But this is the best Chun-Li figure yet!
SCORE: 8.0 / 10

Overall

Score: 9.0 / 10

Chun-Li versus Jon Talbain's cousin?"Fighting ability is important... Handcuffs only go so far!"Gotta love that Falcoon artwork.
I'm tempted to call this threesome "Charlie's Angels."DISCIPLINE. JUSTICE. COMMITMENT.

Honestly, this toy should be scoring a 10 (or a 9.85). It's nearly perfect in every respect, but the paint chips and poor coverage and flaking paint take it down a point. As I noted earlier, I really do wonder what I'd have thought of the toy if it'd sported a simpler but less error-prone mass-market paint job -- and, all other things being equal, I suspect that I would've given it a perfect score. True, where it's not flawed, the smooth paint and airbrushed shading really do enhance the figure's appearance... but at the same time, it's the game-pose-enabling articulation and the fact that the toy looks (or rather is shaped) like the Chun-Li I know and love that really make it a winner, and that would be possible to achieve with very little paint (I love my little Microman Sakura, and she's mostly cast in the appropriate colors). Even so, if the Street Fighter series and the first lady of fighting games hold a special place in your heart, I highly recommend this toy. I'm very much looking forward to the gothic-flavored repaint -- and if NECA can fix the paint across the board, I could see picking up the green version as well. Paint and other minor issues notwithstanding, the figure really is that good.

-- Wes --

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