G.I. Joe Cycle Armor w/ Ashiko

As impressed as I always am with the level of sculpting, detail, and articulation Joe designers can get into a 4" action figure these days, every once in a while, they take it that one extra step. That one extra step that goes above and beyond and seems to say "I'm doing this... just because I can."

You know what I'm talking about. Low Light's single bullet. Recondo's working bear trap. Snake Eyes' real elastic webgear and removable silencers. This is all stuff that might not be the most functional part of a figure at a 4" scale, but the Joe designers are doing it kind of because they can.

But in the grand scheme of things, just because they can, does that mean they should?

In some cases, yes. I think Snake Eyes' straps and silencers are pretty awesome additions to the toy, even if some of them only serve to be more items to lose. Low Light's bullet? Yeah, probably a little unnecessary. I'm not saying it's not cool, but not really necessary.

And then we get to the Cycle Armor. Then we get to a bad ass looking motorcycle that can be completely disassembled and then re-assembled into a freaking robot cycle armor suit of death. Okay, Joe designers, we get it. You can do some pretty cool crap at a 4" scale.

Ever since I first saw the early samples of this thing at JoeCon a couple of years ago, I was absolutely in love. While the staunch military purists bristle at things like Mega Marines, Venomized troopers, Accelerator Suits, and Star Brigade, I find myself really drawn to a lot of those strange out-of-the-box concepts. And frankly, you don't get much more out of the box than an Arashikage ninja who happens to ride a transforming robotic motorcycle. I've never even really been into Robotech, which all of my geek friends tell me was a direct inspiration for this thing. Eh, whatever. It's a suit of robot armor. I'm sold.

Well, now that I have one in hand (with much thanks, of course, to GeneralsJoes best bud Gyre-Viper, who knows the way to my heart is through transforming motorcycles) I can say that I'm still pretty sold. Not 100% completely and unequivacobly in love, but this is still a pretty neat looking toy. However, trying to pose and play with this, I immediately think back... just because you can, doesn't always mean you should. After all, in the G.I. Joe realm, the focus has always been on playability, and while this vehicle looks damn awesome, it's pretty tough to actually do anything with it.

In its motorcycle stage, the Cycle Armor vehicle is completely and utterly awesome. It's solid, sleek, nicely designed, and comes complete with twin nasty cannons of destruction mounted to the front. Angled armor contours the surfaces of this neo-futuristic two-wheeled speed bike, and I think on its own it makes for one heck of a cool ride.

But of course, the draw here is supposed to be the whole transformation, and honestly, this isn't so much a transformation as it is a complete disassembly and reassembly as something different. While this is certainly a unique concept, and is actually executed relatively well, but the end result is unfortunately really not a playable toy.

The Ashiko figure included in this set is mostly a repaint of Snake Eyes v.3 with some added armor. The torso armor and gauntlets are easily removable, and each contain either holes or pegs to attach the motorcycle armor after it is disassembled. Ashiko's thighs also have monstrous peg receptibles so the leg armor can attach there as well. Each element of the Cycle armor attaches separately, and some aspects work much better than others, but the end result is something that falls apart a bit too easily to really be functional.

The first steps involve separating pretty much every piece of the body of the motorcycle, with the rear of the bike pulling in half to become a pair of large armored legs. These pieces actually end up being the coolest part of the armor, in my opinion. They attach quite solidly to the holes on Ashiko's thighs, and there are some great stiff rotational joints right where the knees meet, so even in armor mode, the figure can bend his knees pretty nicely.

From there, a small backpack can be pulled out from within the Cycle and attached to Ashiko, with a rubber yellow harness swinging over his shoulders, which helps clip the front armor in place. This ends up being a pretty nice attachment point, but ultimately the fit in the holes on the front and back don't really keep the armor in place nearly as securely as the legs do. It's not terrible, but not perfect. On the back of this backpack, the two large main cavities attach as a means to bulk up the figure, and then the two wheels hook onto the back of those, simulating some large flight turbines, a look I really love.

But then we come to the worst offenders...the arms. Two more pieces of motorcycle body attach, one on each arm, with the cool front cannons clipping on the front as offensive weaponry. The gauntlets on the arms are small so they retain some articulation in the figure itself, which means these forearm mounted armor pieces just do not stay on very well, and fly off with merely a sideways glance. This is really too bad, because from a design perspective I really like how the forearm armor looks and really wish it was more functional. Adding to the playability issues is the fact that the torso armor has these large shoulder pads that totally restrict the movement of the arms, and when cobbled inside of this clunky suit of armor, Ashiko's arms basically just sit at rest by his side, which doesn't give him many options from an offensive or defensive standpoint.

These arms really negatively impact what could have been a very fun, very cool toy, if Hasbro designers had somehow found a way to get it all hooked together more securely and with more playable functionality. Look, I want to love this thing...I really do. It's crazed funkiness has this real appeal to me. This is a great display item, a cool conversation piece, and in motorcycle mode, I actually really love it. But the whole armor transformation thing just screams of an attempt to overthink the toy, overdesign the concept, and the execution just doesn't match up with the idea.

For those Joe fans who are much more concerned with look over play, this might just work for you. If you can find a static pose for the Cycle Armor, it looks pretty bad ass. The rub happens when you try to move him around or "play". Of course, we're all much too old to be playing with our toys, so...


Honestly, let's face it, the figure is mostly an afterthought. Cobbled together from Snake Eyes, Wraith, and some tweaked armor, he looks pretty silly without the armor attached to his reticules, but is barely functional once encased in it.

Initially I loved the idea of a seemingly Asian Joe trooper who wasn't a ninja, until it turned out that he actually was a ninja. The strange future-tech loving part of me likes that the overall design is a callback to the Accelerator Suits, and as one of perhaps 3 G.I. Joe fans out there who loves those toys, I do think he's a neat addition to that small corps of tech-induced super troopers. The colors match up perfectly, and he really has that look.

Unfortunately, even with just the figure's own armor, his articulation is restricted thanks to shoulder pads and forearm gauntlets. All of this is easily removable, of course, but you lose a big chunk of his tech-themed appeal. Again, without his Cycle Armor, too, it's tough to look past those huge junction points that are visible throughout the entire figure.

Ashiko comes with a buttload of accessories, even above and beyond the Cycle Armor itself, hefting a veritable arsenal of machine guns, swords, and even one of those knives and sheaths (though the sheath fits precisely nowhere on the figure itself). The helmet manages to look somewhat like the Cobra Elite-Vipers, and like the Accelerator Suit guys, so it kind of fits in with the Rise of Cobra aesthetic, even if that aesthetic was a couple of years ago and rings somewhat outdated compared to the newer fresher Pursuit of Cobra themes.

At the moment, this set is extremely desirable, mostly due to its limited release, and I am very excited to have it. As I said, he's a great conversation piece, an awesomely unique offering with a ton of potential. I love the motorcycle itself, but from a purely toy-based point of view, the armor doesn't quite cut the mustard. Granted, its very tough to design something like this in a small scale and make it work, which again, begs the question... just because you can, that doesn't mean you should.

Part of me is still glad they did, and if these do hit retail in abundance, I will pick up some more, purely for the motorcycle design. That is where this toy really shines.

GRADE (as Motorcycle):

GRADE (as Cycle Armor):