Sunday, 1 March 2015

Gundam Converge SP01 : RX-93 Nu Gundam vs. MSN-04 Sazabi

The Converge Sazabi is one of those figures that appeared early on in the history of Converge and was then never seen or heard from again. It was released together with a version of the RX-93 Nu Gundam in the very first SP double pack in August 2011. While there have been a couple of versions of the RX-93 (the most recent in the Operation Revive boxset last year) the Sazabi never made another appearance. Until now that is.

Today we'll take a closer look at the SP01 double pack as well as its brand new overseas reissue.

Gundam Converge SP01

August 2011. Gundam Converge has exploded onto the Shokugan scene. With three sets released in the first six months Bandai take the series to the next level with its very first box set, a double pack of two high-profile combatants. The format seems ingenious and expandable. It also meant something of a mark-up; single figures were selling at ¥350 but the SP01 pack was priced at ¥1100. Fast forward to 2015 and you can still find this box set here and there. It isn't terribly rare, but the prices have skyrocketed; expect to see prices in the ¥7000-¥8000 range.

The figures come in the typical plastic bags, one each, slightly longer than what you would expect to find in a regular Converge box.

RX-93 Nu Gundam (Fully Equipped Version) : First out is Amuro Ray's hot ride, the Nu Gundam. The name "fully equipped" hints at the fact that the mobile suit now comes loaded with all the accessories which were evenly distributed between Converge 13 and 14, when the RX-93 was originally released as a double standalone figure (see a review of the original figures here). This is probably the greatest criticism against the RX-93, why did Bandai release two half-baked versions in June 2011, only to release an improved version just two months later, rendering them pretty much obsolete?

Anyway, the fully equipped version of the Nu is a brilliant Converge release, it gives you several accessories to fiddle around with; you can even do a vanilla unarmed version. Articulation is limited to the arms which rotate at the shoulder, and depending on how you equip the figure you can also rotate the right hand in its socket. The head however sits on a shaped peg which does not enable turning the head, which is a common feature of many of the early Converge figures.

Apart from getting a full set of gear the SP01 version of the RX-93 also received a slightly different colour scheme. Where the original Converge 13 and 14 figures are white and black, the SP01 replaces the black for navy blue. The unit designation is also stamped on its chest plate. If you are looking to get only one RX-93 for your Converge collection, this is probably your best choice.

MSN-04 Sazabi : Easily the main attraction of this package, the massive Sazabi could anchor the center of pretty much any Converge collection. Its striking colours and the intricate attention to detail in the mold makes this a first-rate figure. Just look at all the detail that went into that shield (and how I wish that the Jagd Dogas would have got the same treatment...).

With rotating arms and a fixed head, the Sazabi features the same articulation as the RX-93. No alternate weapons are included; the beam rifle is the only option available. I don't know if my figure is beginning to show age, but I've noticed that some of the connecting points are getting a bit loose, the head will fall off at the slightest nudge, and some of the other parts feel a bit too loose for their own good as well. We shall see how the Converge stable will deal with the passing of time.

The Sazabi dominates the Zeon Red Team. From left to right: Johnny Ridden's MS-06R-2 Zaku II (Converge 37), the Sazabi, the MSN-06S Sinanju (from box set SP02) and Char's Z'Gok (here the Operation Jaburo reissue with metallic style limbs).
Looking back at the half-dozen Converge SP-sets that have been released so far, I can say that this is easily my favourite. Well worth seeking out to add some oomph to any Converge collection. The current high price point is a problem. A problem that is now, at least temporarily, resolved with the new reissue set. Read on...

Gundam Converge SP01 Metallic Version

Right, so here we are, three and a half years down the line. Bandai's overseas division, or more specifically, their Hong Kong branch, are giving Converge fans a rare second chance to catch up on an old figure set. Released as an "overseas only" edition, I guess this means it won't be marketed in Japan, which is a pity for our Japanese friends. Hopefully they will be able to get in on the deal while still readily available. As I write this in the end of February 2015, the reissue is available from several Hong Kong and Taiwanese sellers, at rates of around ¥3000 to ¥5000 including worldwide shipping.

So, apart from the box getting a nice black makeover, what has changed in this 2015 reissue? Well the obvious difference is of course the metallic style paintjob applied to the two figures, but are there any noticeable differences? Let's take a look.

Again we see a RX-93 Nu Gundam in its Fully Equipped version, though this time with metallic colours. The figure retains the navy blue colour from the SP01 box, as opposed to the black colour used on the standalone figures (Converge 13 and 14). The same goes for the model designation, which is present on the chestplate again. The articulation points remain the same as on the original version, the head still sits on the same old square peg.

Parts-wise, nothing has changed when compared to the original SP01 release. Any hopes of receiving one of those spiffy translucent beam sabers for example, are thus quashed. Actually, the "fully equipped" moniker also is not entirely accurate anymore, since we received a second funnel assembly for the RX-93 when it featured in the Operation Revive Premium Edition boxset last year (review here). It would have been a really nice touch if Bandai would have included these pieces in the set as well, but it is understandable that they chose to run with the old design (still, a little extra bag with a beam saber and a second funnel set would have made this figure one of the best Converge releases ever).

Converge RX-93 crew, from left to right: Converge 13 (Funnel and + Beam Rifle version), Converge 14 (Bazooka + Shield version), the original SP01 Fully Equipped version, the twin Fin Funnel version from Operation Revive (Premium Edition only), and the brand new SP01 Fully Equipped metallic version.
So, in summary for the RX-93, I still think that the two versions found in the SP01 sets are the best ways to get it. Either will do the job, it really comes down to your preference regarding glossy metallic or standard paint application. Oh and there's the price difference to consider of course.

Sazabi-wise, not much has changed either. The reissue uses the exact same parts and articulation as the original version, with the glossy paint application being the standout difference. Again, the premier version here will be decided based on your own preference. As cool as the metallic version is, it wouldn't surprise me if most people would prefer the classic design after all.

Interestingly, when the Sazabi was released for Gundam STANDart back in January 2009 it came in two versions, side by side. I have seen them available for sale only a handful of times, and at those times it was mainly the metallic version available. It wouldn't surprise me if the same will go for Converge.

No matter how you look at it though, both SP01 packs contain two awesome figures, this reissue will give many people a second chance at acquiring this rare Neo Zeonic beast. Whichever version you decide to go for, you will find a lot to like in Converge SP01. Do not sleep on this one...

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