Saturday, 21 December 2013

Assault Kingdom vol. 3

It is starting to get crowded in the hero department. At least if you are an Assault Kingdom collector. With the release of the third set of regular figures we get no less than four epic Gundams, three of them collected from SEED storyline with the fourth older design dating back to Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory. Assault Kingdom volume three released in November 2013 and the set features some fine models which will no doubt go down well with the fans, though it does leave some room for improvment.

Above you can see the four figures available in the set. As usual they are sold separately, each figure coming with a chewing gum and one fourth of a set of parts which can be used to build a device (in this case it is the gigantic Zaft METEOR support system). The idea is of course to inspire the customer to purchase all four and construct the bonus item. Besides this, these construction parts also double as action bases for the figures, something they were designed for in the first place, to allow for spectacular posturing as evident from the box photos. Let's take a closer look at the four models in the set.

09 : Set opener is the ZGMF-X20A Strike Freedom Gundam from the Gundam SEED Destiny series. This is a development of the previous ZGMF-10A model which appeared in STANDart volume 13 last year. As you can see in the parts set above the figure comes with choice of open or closed hands, and a beam saber or two beam rifles for armament. As always the Assault Kingdom figures are a bit plain looking both when it comes to detail and colouring, but the golden hands are a nice touch and the figure itself is quite spectacular for the series.

The figure has all the expected articulation points as well as wings which can be spread or closed. Due to its heavy wing assembly, the balance of the figure is not very good and there are limited ways in which you will be able to pose it without using an action base. To this end the figure offers three connection points, on the small of its back and under the soles of its feet. To protect the delicate detail, the skirt armour and the crest on its head are made from bendable soft plastic.

10 : Trailing the Strike Freedom is its partner, the ZGMF-X19A Infinite Justice Gundam, from the same series. This is another striking design to come off the Assault Kingdom series, with its many coloure parts adding a lot of character to it. In some light though, the reds and purples do come a bit too close to each other diminishing the effect somewhat. The figure comes with open and closed hands in a nice silver metallic colour, and can equip a beam rifle, a beam saber and a shield. The shield plugs into either socket found on both of the figures wrists. On its back sits a massive flight pack with swinging wings which can be extendable to a 90 degree angle from the body. The figure has action base connectors on the back skirt, under the soles of its feet, and the sockets for the shield can also be utilized for this purpose.

Again the head crest and the skirt have been made of soft plastic to enhance their longevity. However, as you can see in the photos above this is not the case with the flightpack. Its two beam cannons are very delicate and one of mine is almost broken off as new from the box. I expect we'll see a lot of these figures with missing beam cannons in the future. All in all a striking figure although it also has a lot of trouble standing upright without an action base, due to its tiny feet and heavy flightpack.

11 : The third figure in the set is easily the coolest one, and the one I was really looking forward to try it out. The MBF-P02 Gundam Astray Red Frame, belonging to the Gundam SEED Astray series comes to Assault Kingdom in a striking three colour scheme and with articulation promising some really great posing. The figure comes with the usual open or closed fists and equips a sword which is available either sheathed or drawn. The drawn blade looks great in its two colour scheme and it is there fore a bit surprising that Bandai didn't go the extra mile and paint the hilt black also on the sheathed sword, though this is something you can easily remedy yourself.

The articulation of this figure is features an extra joint on the thigh. Normally the Assault Kingdom figures have legs attached on a ball joint, a feature also present on the Astray, although just below that joint the entire leg can be swiveled 360 degrees. This is needed to create some of the rather incredible samurai style poses.The feet also sit on a joint which can be extended out in a forward direction to give that extra touch of style. Of course, most of these poses do require the action base although you can use the empty weapon sheath as a balancing device as well. Overall I am pleased with this figure except that the ball joints for the legs are not very sturdy. The legs come off easily on the figure if touched, as long as it remains in pose this is not a problem but the figure does not lend itself well to being an action figure. Another drawback of the Red Frame is the limited equipment. The Astray Gundams have some very beautiful looking shields, so it would have been nice to receive at least a beam rifle and the shield for optional posing (perhaps this is something Bandai are planning for a future Blue Frame version of the figure...).

12 : The last of the four is a throwback to older Gundam technology. The RX-78GP03S Gundam GP03S, nicknamed "Dendrobium Stamen" is a massive hulking type of figure reminiscent of the grand daddy RX-78-2. Everything about it stamds out from the SEED figures in the set, it is mainly white, has bulky and massive limbs and massive weaponry. The figure's main point of recognition is the two large hip-mounted winged binders which add mobility to the Gundam. The binders can be extended backwards which of course will cause your figure to tip over if not supported by an action base of some kind.

The figure has the typical Assault Kingdom articulation and soft plastic parts for the helmet crest and skirt armour. There are five sockets where it can be connected, the back skirt, the soles and on the wrists (the latter also doubling as attachment points for the large shield. The GP03S comes armed with a beam rifle and a large bazooka as well as the typical choice of open or closed hands. It shares a lot of its features with the other older Gundams in the Assault Kingdom series. If you are a fan of this design I suggest you hunt for the GP03S from the old Ultimate Operation series (released September 2006) where the entire body is painted in an attractive light gray which easily trumps the appearance of this one.

Right, so with the four figures collected, you will have amassed the following construction pieces from each box. As mentioned previously these sets all work independently as action bases, each figure receiving a base plats and a jointed arm to allow for some free posing. As always with the AK series, the parts are more or less suited for this purpose as they are not really fully balanced but with some imagination you should be able to find a way to pose your figures in the way you want.

If you instead prefer to build the Zaft METEOR System, there are step by step instructions printed on the inside of each box. This is really awkward since this makes it very difficult to follow without cutting open the box, and it is probably better to go about this freehand. I myself have not yet bothered with it as I think these gimmicky set pieces look pretty silly, but I might give it a hand in the future and will then expand on this review.

In conclusion, the Assault Kingdom 3 set is a delightful expansion of the series and it brings a couple of "new" mobile suits that never made it to the STANDart and Ultimate Operation series. Personally I am more interested in the up and coming set number four, which will feature some wicked looking Zeon grunt units.

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