As the Joe line died at retail in the mid 1990's, there were a few stragglers that could always be counted on to be available. Shadow Ninjas and Ninja Force, of course. Armor Tech Star Brigade was another. The final faction that was always hanging around was the Street Fighter II figures. While these toys featured the G.I. Joe branding, the reality is that they were entirely different in concept from the standard Joe line. As a budget minded new toy collector, it was easy to pass these figures by. They didn't really match up with my vision of G.I. Joe. But, also, their odd construction and articulation was a severe detriment to their addition to my collection. Even the odd figure with black weapons was simply too far out there for me to really take an interest in the toys. I wasn't a gamer during the Street Fighter/Mortal Kombat craze and didn't have that affinity for the characters. All I saw was some oddly colored martial arts figures that were a pale imitation of even the Battle Corps Joes that I sought with such gusto. I passed the Street Fighter II figures by, even as they slowly disappeared from retail. And, even as an adult collector, I avoided them as they were cheap and easy to get should the bug ever hit me to track them down...until they weren't.
In recent years, the Street Fighter figures have taken on substantially more life. It's a combination of younger Joe collectors coming into the fold who had them as kids, older collectors running out of anything else to collect and a generation who grew up with the Street Fighter video games coming into the collecting world. The reality is that there's plenty of Street Fighter figures. But, the influx of new collectors seeking them out has created a perception of scarcity as many dealers and collectors long ago wrote the figures off as they were worthless and simply didn't sell. In time, these inequities will straighten out. But, it can create short term frustration for a collector looking to move into the Street Fighter line. If you like ninjas and other martial arts figures, the line is definitely for you. And, figures like Vega give you a nice diverse list of characters from which you can choose for your adventures.
At his core, there's not much to Vega. He's bare chested, wears purple pants with a yellow stripe and has golden highlights. His head provides most of his characterization. He's masked in a white obfuscation that shields his identity. He is golden haired and features a waist length, braided pony tail. It is a marvel of sculpting and the most ambitious hair piece Hasbro ever attempted. It is also the feature most often hidden in the few online photos you can find of Vega. So, his best asset is also his most mysterious. Not being a fan of the Street Fighter series, I know little else about Vega. So, for me, he's just another ninja who's available in the black market world of assassins, spies and hired muscle. His coloring is a somewhat match for the 1994 Night Creeper Leader. So, he might find use as his sidekick or something. But, neither figure is someone who appears all that often in my collection. And, aside from appearing in photos of other martial arts themed figures that I profile in the future, it will be rare for Vega to show up.
Vega features the spring loaded action features that were introduced with Ninja Force in 1992. He features a "Matador Smash" feature where, if you twist his waist to the right and release it, it snaps back into position. As ninja action features go, it's kind of innocuous. Unlike the spring loaded arm action, this feature allows Vega's arms to be used in normal G.I. Joe positions. That gives him more value as he's not stuck holding with sword at a specific height with no way to alter it. It's kind of hard to use the Matador Smash in any way that makes sense for playing with another figure. But, that wasn't really the point of the feature and the simple fact that the figure twists and moves like a He-Man figure from more than a decade earlier was supposed to the selling point that justified an extra dollar at retail.
Vega uses the entire body mold of Banzai. Bazai is also a bare chested ninja. He just wears hot pink instead of blue and yellow. The calling card of Vega, though, is the head. The character wears a mask to cover his face. But, the back of the head features a massive, flowing, braided pony tail. It's quite the feat of engineering and is, likely, the most elaborate hair piece Hasbro ever sculpted. A similar design could have been used for Cammy had Hasbro made a figure of her. But, it's doubtful that Cammy's hair was the stumbling block for an action figure of her. Vega did get an entirely new figure in the Street Fighter movie line. This figure is among the rarer figures from that line and features a new body and different head. The head has a human face and the figure includes a removable mask. It appears, though, that the Movie Vega's head uses the same hair piece as this original Vega. It's a solid reuse for something that probably took a great deal of work to design and implement.
Almost all the Street Fighter II figures included edged weapons that could be used with their spring loaded action features. Vega is no different. And, as the weapons were on a tree, he's got more than he can use. Vega's gear is cast in gold plastic. While gold figures tend to be very brittle, I've found the Hasbro G.I. Joe accessories in that color have managed to hold up relatively well. And, gold is a color that lends itself to metal weapons like the knives, swords and axe that are included with Vega. Along with his golden stand, Vega includes 7 edged weapons. Many of them were reused multiple times with the Street Fighter II figures. But, the swords are decently sculpted and look great with 1993 figures. The axe is small and useful. The knives work well, too. And, the sickle is a fun little weapon that is even more amazing when a string is attached to its base. In short, his accessory complement is top notch and matches the figure in both color and function. (If you are a fan of the video game, though, he's missing his most distinctive feature: the claw. It was, however, added to the Street Fighter Movie figure.)
All Street Fighter II figures have seen substantial price increases in recent years. Vega is no exception. Carded figures will now run $75-$100. That's a far cry from the figures that sat unsold for $10 just a decade ago. Mint and complete figures will run you $30 or so. And, just loose figures that are high quality consistently sell for $20. That's a lot for a figure with limited use. But, for Street Fighter II fans, it's also a good way to get the character. For me, Vega's one of those guys who might appear as background of a random other ninja I'm planning to profile. But, he's mostly just a box on a list that I can now check off. As a figure, he's fine. He works for what he was supposed to be and isn't too over the top. I still, though, don't really see him as a G.I. Joe figure. I can work some characters from Street Fighter into Cobra or as oddball side characters that the Joes and Cobras can both fight. Vega is not one of these, though.