Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Assault Kingdom EX 03 : MSN-04 Sazabi (Premium Edition)

The Assault Kingdom series has been on quite a roll lately. Running for a little bit more than a year we've already seen five basic sets of four figures each, three EX sets and at least three variations and limiteds on top of that. This review is dedicated to the third and (for at least a few more days) most recent of the EX figures, the MSN-04 Sazabi.

Now, if there is one figure which lends itself well to a pricier and more excessive set, it is the Sazabi. A fact not lost on Bandai as they decided to capitalize on it by releasing two different versions of this totem Mobile Suit. The regular "EX 03" released in February 2014 and retailed at 1200 yen. A couple of weeks later it was followed by a Premium Edition, which was basically a souped up version of the standard version, and coming at a price of around 2100 yen.


Incidentially, this was the same sneaky pattern used with the recent Converge Revive set, which also received two versions, with the "Premium" set popping up a few weeks after the vanilla set had already been released. It is hard to see any particular reason for doing this set-up other than to maybe lure some people into buying both sets once they realize they ended up buying the wrong set. Customers who have not bothered doing particular research end up getting the short end of the stick.

Blah, blah, blah. You heard the exact same moaning in the Converge Review so I will try to avoid repeating myself. if you are planning to shop for Sazabi though, I suggest you take a very good look at and memorize the picture on the left, which is the smaller box containing the vanilla version of the figure. There are a couple of other identifiers, but the box size is the easiest. The Premium version sits in a box which is as large as the Zaku triple pack (EX 02) while the standard figure comes in a much smaller box. As always, when hunting online, watch out for sellers that may use stock photos showing the wrong figure. If the item description doesn't say premium edition, well then probably it isn't one.

Anyway, this review will be focusing solely on the pricier Premium Edition of the Sazabi. Although I don't have a vanilla version to compare it to, I will still be able to point out several differences quite easily. But first things first, let's just open up the box!

Alright, ladies and gentlemen, there you have it. Inside the box we find three plastic bags filled to the brim with parts. Now, we're getting somewhere!

After we've opened up everything we end up with a satisfyingly large lot of parts and accessories. The Assault Kingdom EX series really continues to deliver in this regard, if only the regular figures could be given some more optionals too.

As always, the sheer number of parts can be a bit confusing at first, and with the only assembly instructions available printed on the inside walls of the box, you may be in for a bit of puzzle mania to figure out which parts go where and what their exact intended use might be. The base mobile suit itself though, will give you no headache. Find the Sazabi's left leg, snap it into the joint then pick up a pair of hands and insert them into the wrist sockets and you're done.

The base Sazabi stands about 9,5 cm tall, nicely dwarfing the average AK figure which would reach about 8 cm. The bulky armour is presented well and must have given the designer a better challenge than all these skinny RX-78 variations we've seen pumped out during the Assault Kingdom adventure. Granted, the AK figures are primarily about superior articulation, and the Sazabi still performs surprisingly well in this regard. Without going through all the joints and moving parts in detail, let's just say there are quite a few. The bulky feet give the Sazabi very good balance and it has no problems standing up on just one of them, as long as you don't try to topple him too much. Then there is the action base of course, which can attach through sockets on the arms, on the back pack and in the groin.

The Assault Kingdom Sazabi compared to the old Ultimate Operation Sazabi, released in June 2006. What the FWUO figure lacks in articulation it makes up for with an excellent paint job and great weathering.
One area where the AK figures do not excel when compared to e.g. Ultimate Operation and STANDart, is in the overall finish. All AK figures really scream "I'm made of plastic!" and often have quite basic colour schemes. The molds though are often more detailed than you might first think, so if you like to touch up the models yourself there is considerable opportunity to improve their general appearance.

The EX 03 truly bristles with weapons. I haven't seen this many accesories in any other Shokugan figure save the Converge Awake Unicorn. Apart from the shield the Sazabi can equip two types of rifles. One is the short and stubby Beam Shot Rifle, which mostly resembles an assault rifle. Like all weapons included for the Sazabi, it can be equipped in either hand. A larger red and silver coloured long range beam rifle is also available, but this weapon is only included with the Premium version of the figure.Apart from the standard grip this weapon can also be held in a carrying mode. One of the Sazabi's hands has a plug in the palm where the rifle can be attached, offering some additional posing abilities.

For close combat, no less than four different weapons are included. There is one massive beam saber, two thin shorter ones and of course the signature Beam Tomahawk. Here the premium and the standard versions of the EX 03 Sazabi figure differ again. Although the vanilla version of the figure does get all four weapons, they are made from uncoloured transparent plastic, similar to the action base. The premium version though, gets translucent yellow beam weapons which considerably enhances their appeal. A similar thing happened with the Kshatriya figure released as EX 01. After the original release which featured transparent beam sabers had been released, a limited edition variant popped up with translucent green sabres. In my opinion, Bandai truly dropped the ball on the transparent weapons, saving a few pennies and devaluing the look and feel of the basic figures in the process. Coloured sabres should have been standard equipment, period.

Yes, speaking about the Kshatriya. You may recall the EX 01 figure featured eight funnel weapons which could be posed in various launch style poses. This feature now also comes to the Sazabi. The two backpack funnel launchers are each available in two modes, with funnels stored or released. If released you also have the choice of posing the six individual funnels dashing away on wildly different trajectories.The funnels can be attached directly into the launchers, up to four of them can also be attached to the figure's back by attaching a transparent support piece to the figure's backpack. As with the Kshatriya I'm not really convinced by this whole idea but it is a nice and playable feature.

We have now covered the basics of the Sazabi figure, but the Premium package doesn't stop there. Apart from the unique weapon and nicely coloured beam weapons the fun has only just started.

In the picture above I have highlighted the pieces included with the Premium edition which are not avalable to the standard edition. The only exception to this is that the four yellow beam weapons are indeed available with the standard edition, but then only as colourless transparent pieces. Right, but what about the other gear? it doesn't look very Sazabi, does it?

Indeed it does not.

To get the full value out of your Sazabi Premium Edition, your Assault Kingdom collection hopefully contains a Nu Gundam and a Re-GZ (both released in Assault Kingdom volume 4 in January 2014) as well. I have to give Bandai credit here, this is also a slick marketing move, but it doesn't feel as outrageous as the sneaky way of releasing improved "premium" versions of figures a month after their original release.

The Sazabi Premium Edition set actually gives the RX-93 Nu Gundam access to a couple of new useful items. Most visible is the Fin Funnel weapon system for the right shoulder. In a move similar to the recent Gundam Converge Revive Premium Edition, the Nu Gundam here receives a matching piece for its right shoulder. Since the original RX-93 figure has no slot for this item it is plugged into the socket in the center of the figure's backpack. This steals away the storage option for the bazooka weapon though, not really an ideal side effect.

Apart from extra Fin Funnels, the RX-93 can also look forward to a nice and shiny red beam saber. Of course, this weapon really should have been included with the original figure (which still came with a beam rifle, a shield and a bazooka so not that bad). Anyway, this afterthought rectifies the mistake and adds a truly excellent beam sabre. I don't understand why Bandai will not always go the extra mile and make translucent coloured beam sabres for all the figures that wield them, instead of those horrible transparent or even opaque white and green ones.

Another peculiar weapon of choice is... a red ball. I'm not up to speed on the lore here, but I guess this item is somehow featured in the anime, since Bandai saw it prudent to include two pegged hands that can hold it. One smaller RX-93 sized hand, and one larger Sazabi-size. Its purpose is unknown to me but I like the feature, and these pegged hands are also useful for holding other items in new poses. So, three new accessories for the Nu Gundam, nice!

So what does the EX 03 Premium set hold in store for the Re-GZ?

Well, the RGZ-91 Re-GZ Mobile Suit is only getting one accessory, but... man, it is all the more advanced. Here a simple additional weapon didn't do, Bandai added the BWS, the Back Weapon System instead, which converts the Re-GZ to a heavy fighter for space combat. Just look at that thing, a truly ingenious piece of engineering.

The BWS is assembled by removing two parts from the underside of the craft. The mobile suit is then slid into the hollow inside and locked in place by placing the two removable parts on top of its shoulders and locking them in place using the shield. Hats off to the guys at the engineering department that figured this out. The end result is a sleek and slightly menacing looking craft.

Of course, this whole BWS thing is pretty static. If you want to play around with it a bit you can also create some alternate configurations just for the heck of it. Turn the BWS into a fighter jet or attach it on top of the Re-GZ backpack instead, to give the mobile suit a chance to wield a weapon or two.

In summary, the EX 03 Sazabi Premium Edition figure is really outstanding and deserving of its name. However, the format is not without problems. Apart from the misery of having a standard edition of the figure which misses out on some great looking accessories, the Premium Edition figure is actually more of a Nu Gundam and Re-GZ enhancer, than truly focusing on making the Sazabi itself that much greater. Surely Bandai could have made just one version of the Sazabi, complete with the best accessories, and then stuck the Nu-Gundam and Re-GZ components in their respective sets?

But... we're getting quite used to this business practice by now, and as long as you like to collect the AK figures you'll probably want to get your hands on this set. If you are only interested in the Sazabi figure itself however, you may just want to stick with the vanilla version and perhaps apply some customization to its beam weapons yourself.


  1. The red ball is probably supposed to represent the Sazabi's escape pod, as seen in the final scenes of Char's Counterattack.

  2. where did u get all the assault kingdom stuff?

    1. There are several online international sellers who offer Gundam-related products, usually located in Japan and Hong Kong. Some items disappear from the market quickly though, this particular figure was limited to begin with, but the regular Sazabi should still be available at a decent price if you look around.