Review > Simon Belmont (Castlevania, NECA)

castlevania-wall

Being on something of a fantasy jag lately, I did one of those things where you look at a figure in  store for months and months and months and finally break down and buy it. In this case it was for NECA’s Simon Belmont from their Castlevania line, who oddly enough hasn’t had any major reviews as far as I can tell.

For the record, I don’t know anything about Castlevania. I vaguely recall playing the original NES game when I was seven or eight. I think this line is based on that game, or maybe NECA just picked and chose from among the various incarnations, since Alucard wasn’t in Castlevania.

I decided to pick up Simon because he looked like a cool barbarian figure–not so much Conan as Kull, another Robert E. Howard character. The clincher was all the articulation and accessories.

It’s worth noting that this is the second Simon Belmont NECA has released–the first was this goofy SDCC exclusive.

By defeating Dracula, Simon fulfilled the Belmont legacy. However, this was a ploy by Dracula, who sacrificed an early resurrection to lay a curse upon Simon- a curse that could only be broken if Simon found Dracula’s body. Despite efforts by Dracula’s minions, who hid parts of his body all over Transylvania, Simon located all the pieces. He then resurrected Dracula once more, fought him, and defeated him, breaking the curse.

Packaging: Simon comes in NECA’s standard narrow clamshell packaging. The graphics are a bit dull, particularly on the back, which is just photos of the figures themselves, with no information about the character or even the games.

Design & Sculpt: There’s not a lot of reference material for Simon Belmont, so NECA appears to have based on the sculpt on the original NES cover art and then, since the art only shows the character from the back, extrapolated the rest of his look from that.

The sculpting on the body and clothing is excellent, easily on par with the best we’ve seen from NECA. The amount of detail is astounding, from stitching of his loincloth to the texture of the hide leather in his outfit.

However, his face…I suppose we don’t know what Simon Belmont’s face actually looks like, but apparently NECA decided he was an ugly dude.

Plastic & Paint: NECA’s paint on its Player Select and Cult Classics line has been spotty at times, but it’s very sharp here. They’ve finally gotten a great fleshtone look and feel. The detailing is sharp around the loincloth and lower torso, though the paint is just a tiny bit splotchy on the chest.

The head, or more specifically the face, probably has the weakest paint work–it looks like the head was intended to have very sharp lines, but between the production process and the somewhat sloppy paint the edges were somewhat lost, particularly around the mouth and jaw.

Articulation: NECA should be commended for their continuing efforts to add well-hidden articulation wherever they can. Here’s a list of Simon’s articulation:

  • Ball-jointed head
  • Ball-jointed shoulders
  • Ball-jointed ankles
  • Ball-jointed upper torso
  • Ball-jointed wrists
  • Swivel biceps
  • Swivel elbows
  • Swivel thighs
  • Hinged knees
  • V-crotch

Overall I’m pleased with the articulation, with two exceptions: the V-crotch and the swivel elbows. The V-crotch is somewhat mitigated by the swivel thighs and the fact that the loincloth restricts a lot of the hip movement anyway, so there’s only so much you could have done had they been ball-joint hips.

But I don’t get why they went with the swivel elbows, particularly since they already had the hinged knees. Swivel elbows never look quite as good when moved out of their sculpted position. Also, the pegs holding the arms are loose, and the forearms tend to pop off pretty easily. My guess is that the tooling for hinged elbows was just outside NECA’s production cost estimate for this figure.

Accessories: Simon comes loaded with accessories. In addition to his iconic whip, he comes armed with a sword, a dagger, and a flail, as well as an alternate left hand, one to hold a weapon and one to recreate the iconic pose from the cover art.

He also comes with a jar, a cross (which doesn’t appear to be a Christian cross), and a pair of candles. I have no idea what these are supposed to be–perhaps a Castlevania fan could enlighten me?

Quality Control: As mentioned, the forearms tend to pop off their pegs, but they don’t break.

The outer cover of the dagger sheath on my figure came off the first time I took out the dagger, but it was easily fixed with some glue.

Overall: While I can’t say I have any real attachment to the character, he’s a great generic barbarian hero-type, and will look good alongside Kratos, Altair, Marcus Phoenix and other NECA videogame figures. His assortment of weapons and accessories are great, too.

In looking at this figure, there’s one thing I keep coming back to: here but for the grace of Mattel goes MOTUC. As much as I love MOTUC, I loved the 2002 designs too, and a line of MOTU figures with the level of detail and articulation as Simon here would be incredible. But at what cost? Hard to say. I paid $17 for Simon, but NECA has a tiny fraction of the overhead Mattel does (balanced somewhat by economies of scale).

He’s still an ugly dude, though.

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NECA’s credits for Simon Belmont:

Development/Direction: Randy Falk

Sculpt: Jason Frailey

Paint: Jon Wardell, Geoffrey Trapp

Fabrication: Four Horsemen Studios

Photography/Asst. Paint: Nicole M. Puzzo

Packaging: Jon Sprance

Comments now closed (19)

  • Candles appear in the background of the game as hittable objects. Hitting them gives you power ups, like secondary weapons and stuff. It's like hitting those question mark blocks in Mario.

    And his minions hid Dracula's body parts when they're needed for his ressurection? Is Dracula just making things hard for Simon, or are his minions dicks to Dracula for not trying to ressurect him?

  • Nice review, Poe – and this time I mostly agree with you. 😉 I really liked this whole series, and particularly Simon, ugly as he may be. Hey, being an ugly long-haired guy myself, I gotta stand up for the little dude.

    We even agree on the MOTU comparison: There is a second Simon in my closet as I type who I eventually intend to customize into my own interpretation of He-Man!

    As for the lack of reviews, I may be wrong here, but my web research revealed to me that the Castlevania series was originally scheduled to come out in late 2007 or early 2008; however, they were, for whatever reason, pretty much impossible to find. NECA re-released them in late 2008, which was when I got my set, but apparently some stores overordered and we are still seeing a few on the pegs (mostly the rather bizarrely-painted Alucard) a year later. Point is, this unusual case of under-release followed by re-release and saturation might explain why a lot of reviewers just missed the line entirely. I know that there was very little buzz on the series – I was actively on the lookout for news of them and was not entirely sure they had gotten a wide release at all until the second batch appeared in stores! Finally, This is all on top of some late changes made to at least one of the figures in the series.

    Still, just conjecture on my part…

  • Very cool figure, NECA are a great company. Pity they did not gige the Conan figures as much articulation.

  • @Mark: I interviewed NECA at one point for ToyFare regarding the Conan license, and at the time they said they were planning to release a more articulated Conan a la Kratos.

    I guess, perhaps due the cost of the license and the Arnold likeness rights and s forth, they decided against a super-articulated Conan. I agree, it's a terrible shame.

    On the other hand, can anyone think of any movie-based NECA figure with the level of articulation of their videogame figures? Their philosophy seems to be to use the highest possible realism on their human movie-based figures, hence the absence of good articulation.

  • actually.. that's not a cross at all… that's the Castlevania version of a boomerang, one of the cooler secondary weapons you could get in the game

    it's a nice figure, though mine has some major paint rubbing on his nose…

  • Don't care so much for the figure, but that is definitely one of the best video game covers/art pieces ever!

  • Wow… this guy is ugly! He looks like a mix between Cillian Murphy and Dominique Pinon. That said, he looks really cool!

    This looks like a great action figure. Once I get my ducks in a row with MOTUC, I might consider picking it up.

    I also second what JediCreeper said, thats definitely the boomerang. I never did very well with the Castlevania game, I think I came close to beating it once or twice. It was kinda tough, and I'm not much of a gamer. Though it was not as tough as the sequel (Go to YouTube and search Angry Nintendo Nerd, Castlevania 2 and you'll see what I mean).

  • Both action figure and game cover look like they sprang off the side of a van.

  • In looking at this figure, there’s one thing I keep coming back to: here but for the grace of Mattel goes MOTUC. As much as I love MOTUC, I loved the 2002 designs too, and a line of MOTU figures with the level of detail and articulation as Simon here would be incredible.

    Poe, you've made me so happy! Detailed MOTU figures. I thought I was the last person in the world who actually liked sculpting and detail in their MOTU.

  • Pretty cool figure,the paint on his lips makes him look like he is driveling.

  • I don't get NECA really. When they produce a good figure (say TMNT) the line is always in trouble, despite seemingly good sales (NECA TMNT's sold good here in the state, I don't care what they say) and they make some odd choices (B&W TMNTs) but then they get a cool license like Conan and they make a couple of statues or busts.

    I realize there is a market for statues and stuff too, but some Conan figures based off Arnold would have sold like gangbusters… Assuming it had articulation.

    Which brings us to Simon. Great review Poe and I almost got him a few times, but now I'm glad I didn't. Swivel elbows? What's the point?

    Every action figure that's even remotely articulated needs the big 5 plus hinge elbows and knees. It's just a requirement!

    NECA is like the Maxwell Smart of toys because they always miss it by ".." that much.

  • @JediCreeper:

    The boomerang IS a cross. It just flies like a boomerang. The only figure from this series I wanted (and still want) is Alucard. I don't play video games much anymore but Symphony of the Night is one of my top 3 of all time. The only problem is that if you played it right, by the time you get to Dracula you are Atomic Laser Jesus and he doesn't stand a chance.

    Also, @Prfkttear: It's not so much that Castlevania 2 was harder, it just demanded that you figure out how to do things that made absolutely no sense to get any further in the game. Like kneeling in random places with the right color crystal, etc.

  • @Newton Gimmick: Dude, I could not agree with you more, & by Crom, I know that, conservatively speaking, the whole world would have bought Arnie Conan figs had they been articulated like their TMNT figs.

    & NECA, if you're listening, make a classic Ryu Hayabusa fig already!

  • The jar is an invisiblity potion, wnich made Simon temporarily invulnerable to enemies.

    There was a clear plastic variant of this figure made to show the potions effects.

  • I just saw this figure for the first time the other day at FYE. This review has me tempted to pick him up.

    I'm surprised he didn't come with a jar of holy water, which was always a staple of Castlevania games. At least they got the dagger and boomerang cross. Holy water instead of the candles or invisibility potion and an axe instead of the sword would have been perfect (though the sword is cool as hell).

  • The holy water, axe, stop watch etc come with the other figures in the line – Alucard, Dracula, and Succubus.

  • Holy crap, I am so hot for this figure! He looks just like Punisher from ML 3!

  • I love the first "goofy" SDCC exclusive Simon Belmont; It's the game's 2D character sprite placed into a 3D mold. There was also a repaint of it as a pre-order bonus for the PSP game Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles.