Toy Review: NECA’s Special 100th Edition Alpha Predator
Although the Predator Yautja creature design is iconic now, it almost didn’t happen. The original alien concept was a smaller, nimbler, buglike creature to be portrayed by Jean-Claude Van Damme. But many issues ensued. Everything from Van Damme’s health and ego, to his relative small size compared to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura, ultimately sent the monster back to the drawing board. Seven-foot plus Kevin Peter Hall donned a much larger monster suit, and the result became an instant hit. NECA, who have made toys of almost every variant of Predator to appear in any media, have long resisted making the original Van Damme design as too expensive and niche.
While Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles recently supplanted Predator as NECA’s top license, the Yautja ruled for a long time. So for their 100th Predator figure, they’ve done something special in tribute. It’s an ancestral Alpha Predator, whose organic armor looks made from the slain exoskeleton of that old bug design.
The figure itself, which, somewhat unbelievably, manages to hold down the same $30 price as most other NECA ultimates, boasts an all-new sculpt and accessories. And that’s not all: packed inside is a special mini-poster (with all 99 prior figures on the back), an original origin story, and a video game code to unlock the Alpha in Predator: Hunting Grounds. In terms of value for money, this is the most NECA toy for your buck in a long time. His armor and weapons being organic rather than technological, he lacks the usual inherent problem with NECA Predators of spindly, fiddly breakable spears and cannons. And he’s one of only a handful of NECA Preds to wear a removable helmet.
In the name of accuracy, the company usually points out that the actual movie suits switch out masked and unmasked heads rather than placing a mask atop the alien face. This being an original design, however, it can do as it pleases.
Per the new origin, Van Damme-style aliens bear the name Amengi, while the Yautja began as the Hish-qu-Ten. The story, written by sculptor David Silva, is one of rebellion against decadent overlords, and not dissimilar to Star Trek‘s Klingon legends. It’s unlikely to sway buyers either way, but for gamers who play using the code for the Alpha and want a method-style backstory, it’s fun.
Alpha utilizes a new body that, if one were to cut off all the armor parts, would look quite slim compared to most of his descendants. But he wears parts of a giant bug exoskeleton, so the overall effect is one of good size. Key differences in the body are single hinge/ball elbows rather than double, and knees that sport ball-hinge joints on the upper side but just hinges on the lower. The biggest change, however, is in the ankles. For the first time in a long time, this Predator has true ball-and-socket ankles, rather than hinge and rocker. This comes as a blessing for short term posing, but presents a potential drawback. Since ball-and-socket joints can’t ratchet, there’s a chance that a warm room might loosen them and make him shelf-dive. Invest in a figure stand; he’s worth it.
An especially cool factor going for Alpha is that he contains actual figural easter eggs, of a sort. The right wrist-skull hinges outward, and reveals a hidden spike underneath. And two long claw bones that plug into his backpack can also plug into the eyes on his left wrist skull, to make a classic Predator blade-style weapon. A loop on his belt can holster the scythe or starfish-like shuriken, but that shuriken falls out easily. (We lost ours during the photoshoot, so easily did it blend into the scenery.)
Three sets of hands include fists, open palms, and weapons-holding. The right holding hand is meant for the staff, and the left (closed circle) for the scythe. On this particular sample, however, the left holding hand didn’t stay in the socket especially well. Not as well as the open palm, anyway. If it’s a buyer’s preferred hand, a tiny bit of superglue applied to the wrist peg and let dry ought to tighten that. The mask works best when slid upward on his face from the mandibles, and may not always stay put.
It’s easy to tell the NECA folks had a lot of fun making this one. They rarely if ever make “original” figures, with a reputation mostly for making licensed figures look exactly like the reference material. Freed from that, and clearly able to do what they liked with the basic Predator template, they’ve created an awesome monster. Aside from the familiar toothy, dreadlocked face, this could easily be a creature from the glory days when companies just made random, elaborate scary creations because they could.
If the company can do this with other licenses, everyone should get excited. Check out a lot more pics in our gallery below.
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Toy Review: NECA's Special 100th Edition Alpha Predator