Last modified: Tuesday, September 25, 2001 7:18 PM


I haven't reviewed much Hasbro stuff, which follows from the fact that I haven't been terribly impressed with anything of theirs in a long time. That's sad... Hasbro started it all and it was truly exciting to rediscover vintage Joe in adulthood. Even the clunky HOF Joe in the early nineties was kinda neat... not as neat as the vintage stuff but at the time, it was the only game in town.

But times have changed. 21C & Dragon's entry into the hobby shook things up. Not only did it doom many small commercial customizers, but their approach raised the expectation level of adult Joeheads who craved detail and authenticity at an off-the-shelf price. Hasbro's big honkin' guns were no longer acceptable and became an embarrassment, even for people who wanted to believe. But Hasbro makes toys for kids, right? Yes, they do... sort of. Except for the collector's stuff, which happened to to be packaged with those big honkin' guns. It's unclear who they were targeting with that stuff. They've had a hard time deciding who they were making stuff for-- Kids or Adults? Sort of like a bipolar disease. And so they seemed to be perpetually a step behind the newcomers.

Lately, it seems the lumbering giant has been more focused-- finally aware that they were pursuing two different directions. The "Weapon Tech" line is clearly intended for the adult Joehead. It competes directly with offerings produced by the likes of Yellow Submarine, BBI, 21C and Dragon...and fares very well!

These three sets-- Tactical Machine Gun, Covert Sniper Rifle, and Assault Shotgun -- are a cool concept, like "Erector Set" guns. You can assemble vastly different versions of a weapon from all the different parts. 21C hinted at this potential when their MP5 variants fell apart and Joeheads found that you could recombine the parts. Hasbro has formalized the concept and executed it in a mix of metal and plastic parts. The molded detail isn't quite as fine as Dragon's, but it's not far off. Yes, they include detail like the round sculpted in the magazine. There's some groovy working detail, like the Machine Gun's spring-loaded charging handle and the moveable fire select switch. They avoid the type of detail which would be delicate to recreate accurately in 1:6th scale, like sling attachment points. These are things which Dragon would produce accurately, regardless of whether they broke too easily. The metal pieces add to the durability, but curiously, they don't use it where it might be practical (like the slings). It's really more of a gimmick, and gives the guns some "heft" (whether that's good is debatable.)

These are really cool in an "engineerish" sort of way-- they're not practical for active play because there are way too many parts to get lost. What use do the spent rounds have except for someone who's setting up a diorama, or for someone who's just appreciative of the fact that they're included? Who wants a gun which might fall apart as you're trying to pose it in a figure's hand? These have the most play value for someone who appreciates that you can assemble the pieces in a variety of ways, much like an Erector Set. (I'm a tinkerer, so I think it's great.) To Hasbro's credit, on the back of the card they actually show how the weapon might be assembled, and even list the parts shown in the diagram! However, there are still a few parts that leave you scratching your head over... That's part of the fun though.

In the old days, things were simpler. Adults didn't buy toys... well, not like they do today. Vintage Joe stuff wasn't dumbed down and made fanatically safe for kids. Carbines had thin barrels which broke. So some of our disappointment with the "new" Joe stuff designed for 90's kids was very real: It seemed clunky because it was clunkier. Just like kid's TV shows today seem dumbed down compared to the shows for kids in the 60's. Like everyone else, Hasbro has had to adapt to the changing world. I think they may be on the right track now-- they finally recognize that today, products need to be produced specifically for their target markets. I guess they finally realized that the adult market was worthy of their attention?

Keep it up, Hasbro!