Tuesday, 19 April 2016

The Demise of Gundam STANDart (and possibly also Assault Kingdom)

-So, you two were the last ones to make it out alive?
-Yes, although barely. Tell me Maester, will he recover again?
-Son, I have to be frank with you. At this point there is nothing more I can do for him. I cannot even save myself.
-But... but I don't understand... we had the best technology, the superior piloting skills...
-You cannot go up against Bandai's executive team and expect to fight your way through. You need to be eloquent and very articulate about it. Besides, how else can they get away with releaseing yet another 1/220 RX-78-2 figure?

I think it is pretty clear at this point that there will be no STANDart revival and no further excesses in the form of massive limited edition figures. The last STANDart figure to be released, the mighty Sinanju, arrived for Christmas in 2014 but even though that year was very active with three figures waves and both the limited mega-figures everything went quiet after that. It was like the FusionWorks development team burned all their remaining fuel in one last mighty assault.

The final hint appeared in the end of March 2016 when the Bandai Shokugan website launched two new figure series and sneakily changed the product categories at the same time. Compare the old and new Category quicklink pages below and it seems that not only STANDart is being relegated to history, but Assault Kingdom appears to be going the same way.

Girl power!
While there are still a couple of Assault Kingdom EX figures to be released, the telltale sign that there has been no wave 10 announced ever since volume nine hit the market back in July 2015 does make the situation seem rather grim.

The final nail in the coffin for both STANDart Assault Kingdom though, is the advent of the Universal Unit figure collection (or UN2 for short). These figures are made from a harder type of plastic which allows for more detailed figure sculpts (while at the same time making the figures more brittle or fragile one would suspect). The UN2 figures with their roughly 85mm height will be reasonably comparable in size to the present 1/220 collection so it would seem unlikely to have multiple series of articulated figures going in parallel. The first UN2 figures will hit the market in August 2016.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the dev teams at FusionWorks and Bandai for a beautiful run with Gundam STANDart, it was fun while it lasted and there are still so many awesome mobile suits it could have featured.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Assault Kingdom EX 07 : AMX-004 Qubeley

Hot on the heels of Quattro Bajeena's Hyaku-Shiki mobile suit, the Assault Kingdom line continues to storm through the Zeta line-up with another remarkable design, the Axis Zeon Qubeley. Supposedly designed by Haman Karn herself (what was she smoking?) it is Axis' next-gen Newtype mobile suit, incorporating a deadly Funnel type weapon system evolved from the bit-weapon technology on earlier Zeonic test beds such as the Elmeth.

Given its sheer size it comes as no surprise that the Qubeley is featured as an EX figure. It comes in the same large box type we have seen used for the Hyaku-Shiki and the Full Armor Unicorn. At first glance I thought the figure seemed a bit barren in comparison to previous EX releases. There are after all not a whole lot of accessories for the Qubeley.

Opening this sucker up I realized what was eating up all that space; it is all those clear parts and pieces. It almost looks as if the Qubeley itself could be persuaded to be stuffed into a regular Assault Kingdom box. And since this is a Japanese product we do of course find the classic shokugan chewing gum inside the box.

The Assault Kingdom Qubeley released in Japan in February 2016 with a suggested price tag of ¥2000. My particular figure comes from a Japanese shop where it sold for ¥1500 though, so I am not quite sure just how Bandai are going about with their pricing system.

So what are my impressions of the actual figure itself? Well, after some initial fiddling with assembly -the wing binders proved a bit frustrating to attach to their swiveling supports- I was quite impressed to see it in action. The articulation on this monster is much better than I had expected and although this figure is primarily a space type suit it stands firmly when on the ground as well.

The poseability of this figure is very impressive and easily outperforms the Hyaku-Shiki here, which seems odd considering how the latter has a very slim and traditional build. The large transparent action base included with the Qubeley is also of the very steady type (comparable to that of the Kshatriya) and is an extremely useful accessory for any Assault Kingdom figure to benefit from. The EX figures are almost worth getting for these items alone.

As great as the Qubeley is, it comes off a bit lacking in the accessory department. This is purely in line with the design of course, when you pack ten funnel weapons under your pants that tends to be enough, but at least we can also enjoy two very long and translucent beam sabers (again highly usable for any Assault Kingdom figure).

Just like with the Kshatriya (and to an extent the Sazabi) the Assault Kingdom Qubeley has been armed with ten optional funnel weapons, attached to equally many curved transparent sticks. The latter are intended to clip on to a ring assembly which attaches to the Qubeley's back skirt (or optionally into slots on the action base itself). You can use these add-ons to simulate the launching of the funnel type weapons. I am not a huge fan of these Assault Kingdom funnels as I think they clutter and busy the whole look of the figure, but it is nevertheless a pretty cool feature if you avoid going completely overboard.


Overall I was pleasantly surprised by the Qubeley although its lack of awesome accessories makes it a little less impressive than the previous EX figures and the fact that Bandai plan to recycle it as the AMX-004-2 and AMX-004-3 irks me a bit but I guess that was to be expected. It is a great figure though, and a lot of value is added by the superb action base, so I can still easily recommend it to Assault Kingdom freaks out there.

"What do you mean shoulder pads are a thing of the eighties?"

The rather impressive Assault Kingdom Zeta Line-up at this point. Still, I will remain fantasizing about a Nemo, a Gabthley and a Marasai too...

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Gundam Converge EX 08 : RX-78GP00 Gundam GP00 [Blossom]

As far as EX reviews go, this will be a rather short one. Looking back on the Converge EX line we have seen some spectacularily configurable (and perhaps overproduced) figures with whole slews of accessories and two to three different display modes. Then came the Converge CORE series, which featured carefully repainted basic figures at higher cost. Converge EX 08 lands somewhere in between these and the generic Converge figures; it is a new sculpt with a fairly detailed colour scheme, but offers no transformations, optional accessories or gimmicks. At its heart this is a basic Converge figure elevated into grandeur for no apparent reason. But, I am getting ahead of myself again...

Converge EX 08 released in March 2016 with a suggested price tag of ¥1800 which puts it at the same level as the recent CORE figures, i.e. distinctly overpriced for what it is. It also comes in the same slightly oversized boxes as the other single CORE figures, although without an embarrassingly large brown cardboard box wrapped around it. Kind of interesting when you think of it, if it costs as much as a CORE figure, why does it get less packaging? Or perhaps Bandai are simply correcting a prior packaging overkill.

The contents of the box are not too spectacular; it looks very much like your average Converge figure. Perhaps a more detailed examination will reveal why this figure costs four times as much as a regular figure?

The RX-78GP00 or Gundam GP00 Blossom is something of a dark horse and a really surprising but welcome inclusion into the Converge line up. With the recent released of the GP04 (and the Gerbera Tetra) we can now really flesh out the Gundam Development Project development tree. It is a rather controversial mobile suit from a lore perspective though, starting its life in a hobby magazine and later being written into the universe through unofficial material. The different sources that do mention the GP00 cannot even seem to agree on how it ended its career; was it in a firefight with Zeon forces, a freak accident or a prototype test flight failure?

The GP00 figure itself is a highly conventional Converge model I would say. Sure, we have a really nice colour scheme on this guy and lots of nifty features such as the logo'ed antenna dish (also known as a Minovsky Particle Interference Wave Searcher), a massive long range beam rifle on a swiveling assembly and half of a Core Booster II craft attached to its back.

The articulation follows your traditional Converge pattern; rotating arms at the shoulders and a head that can look from side to side. The aforementioned beam rifle assembly also allows it to be repositioned in various directions however there is no means for the mobile suit to actually wield it, not exactly what you would expect from a Converge EX figure now, is it?

A Converge Gundam Development Project selection, left to right: The GP00 Blossom (EX 08), the GP01 Zephyrantes from Converge volume 8 (released October 2012), the GP02 Physalis (from twin pack SP 05 released in December 2014 which also contains a GP01-Fb Zephyrantes Fullburnern variant), the recent GP03 Stamen from the EX 07 box (released in November 2015, but the GP03 has also been released as a regular figure in volume 13 in December 2013) and lastly the also recent GP04 Gerbera from Converge #01 (December 2015).
Looking down the flight line we can also see the development history of the Converge brand itself. The GP01 figure, released three and a half years prior to the GP00 is still doing just fine in a side by side comparison. Not bad for a ¥350 figure. Most telling though is the comparison between the recently released GP04 and the GP00. These two figures are contemporary to each other (although the GP04 was part of the Converge reboot) and it seems odd that one of them should be four times more expensive than the other.


I have whined a lot about the pricing of the Gundam GP00 in this review, and I guess that is also its main sore spot. Sure it would have been nice to see some more features or gear choices for it, it being an EX figure at all, but it is a lovely (and enticingly unusual) mobile suit that will sit well in your collection. If you can overcome its unnecessarily high price point I think it is a given for the collection.