Saturday, 4 June 2016

Assault Kingdom EX 09 : FA-010S Full Armor ZZ Gundam + FXA-08R Mega Rider

Assault Kingdom is nearing its end of the line and I am playing catch-up with the recent string of rather expensive EX-releases pumped out over the last five months. I get the feeling that the engineers had a stock of prototypes in their cupboards which were all grabbed and finalized as quickly as possible once the project got the axe. EX 09 was released in May 2016 at a suggested price of ¥3200, making it one of the priciest Assault Kingdom kits (not counting the oversized Psychos of course...).

Just like the recent Hyaku Shiki kit we are presented here with a rather well rounded mobile suit with loads of extra parts and a stylish ride to go with it (if you can come to terms with the outlandish concept of space horses or space motorbikes, that is...)

The box is absolutely loaded with stuff. It has to be said that unboxing the Assault Kingdom figures is always a treat involving slightly hysterical giggling and rubbing of hands. No shokugan gum was present in my box, typical for the Bandai-Asia versions coming out of Hong Kong. The only thing I am missing here is a leaflet with assembly instructions, instead it is going to be the tired glancing into the box and trying to figure out what is printed on the inside walls.

Just look at all those colourful parts! In total, we will be able to create three different machines from the ZZ Gundam timeline here, two versions of the titular ZZ Gundam, and its space horse... eh, Mega Rider.

MSZ-010 ZZ Gundam

Almost ready to go straight out of the box, the MSZ-010 only required some minor assembly. The only part that will give you a slight headache here is the backpack, which has a novel construction in the form of a jointed arm which extends out from the pack to attach to the figure's back. This was rather fiddly to attach and doesn't feel all that stable. The figure is a bit back-heavy thanks to this, so the included base plate is going to see a lot of use here.

Articulation in the ZZ Gundam is decent, but a bit cumbersome. Apart from the backpack getting in the way, the shoulders and other assorted huge fins and crap make everything a bit tricky. The legs and feet are much easier to work with, but overall the ZZ can get the job done.

The Assault Kingdom ZZ Gundam compared to the old Ultimate Operation figure (FWUO Plus 4, released in June 2006).
As far as equipment goes, the ZZ does come up a bit short. We get the iconic Double Beam Rifle of course, which has two different attachment points. It attaches to the forearm or can be hand-held, which is rather nifty. We also get the oversized Hyper Mega Cannon (sigh...) intended for the Full Armor ZZ of course, which can also be swung around as your average Beam Rifle if you feel like it. But do you see those towering beam saber hilts on the back? Wouldn't it be awesome if you could remove those and instead place two extended huge beam sabers in the figure's hands? Apparently not, because Bandai decided not to go down that route. You can always borrow someone else's sabers I suppose, and you can flip the saber hilts down 90 degrees to create an illusion of the saber being in use (as long as the figure is facing its audience directly ahead that is).

So, let's make things more interesting. Time to attach all that extra armor. This also involves exchanging and removing the shoulder pieces and the rubbery belt-like part strapped around the figure's waist. A lot of thought has clearly gone into this and the engineers have done a really commendable job here.

To install the Hyper Mega Cannon you remove a piece of the back pack and attach it this way. It was very fiddly and I didn't really get the hang of how to do it properly. I had considerable problems getting the figure to be able to reach the cannon's grip. I was considering detaching the gun from the backpack but in the end I somehow managed to do it. The slightest twist of the arm and the link will pop though. Perhaps a rubbery component would have been more useful here.

FA-010S Full Armor ZZ Gundam

The Assault Kingdom Full Armor ZZ is really a beast. It towers over the smaller figures and the extra bulk makes it look even more formidable. The figure retains most of its articulation in the Full Armor mode, although if you want to equip it with the Hyper Mega Cannon this will limit what you can accomplish with it. Attaching the Double Beam Rifle instead (see pictures further below) will give the figure more room to maneuver.

As I mentioned earlier it is a shame that the figure doesn't come with more accessories, here I have borrowed one of the awesome beam sabers that come with the Qubeley figure. I have also disconnected the Mega Particle Cannon to be able to create some different poses. As cool as that thing is, there's not a whole lot you can do with it.

The Assault Kingdom Full Armor ZZ Gundam is a true behemoth. Here it towers over its namesake in the STANDart figure line (released in volume 9, March 2011).

As you can see in the above pictures, the Assault Kingdom ZZ-figures compare quite nicely with the normally much more colourful figures from other lines. The recent Assault Kingdom EX-figures have been very good in this regard, coming very close to the static painted figure standard.

Assault Kingdom A.E.U.G. Gundam development, from left to right: RX-178 (the slightly chunkier reissue from volume 9, released July 2015), the MSN-00100 Hyaku Shiki (EX 06, January 2016), the MSZ-006 Z Gundam (Volume 6, September 2014) and the new FA-010S.
Overall, the ZZ Gundam is an excellent Assault Kingdom figure, in either of its two modes. Now I am considering picking up a second figure just to be able to display one of each type, perhaps even repainting the Full Armor variety into a knock-off FA-010S FAZZ from Gundam Sentinel.

FXA-08R Mega Rider

The last item in this package is the odd Mega Rider support craft. If this isn't the result of toy maker merchandise interfering with story development I don't know what is. A mobile suit space motorcycle? Really? Honto? Surely a contraption such as this can only stem from the desire to sell expensive toy accessories?

Anyway, moving on... The Mega Rider is an odd fusion of a spacecraft and a giant Mega Particle Cannon. The design itself is actually not that bad, it works well as a generic support craft and can easily be thought of and displayed as a generic spacecraft if Space Easy Rider is not your thing.

"You want me to sit on that... thing? Man, this is awkward... it feels like every Zeonic kid is staring at me."
The only thing I find a bit lacking in the presentation of the Mega Rider is that we got an action base in dark grey. This should have been transparent. It has been accomplished on so many of the regular figures though, so you can always swap it out (which I have done here and there in this presentation) but it seems like petty cost saving for a figure this expensive.

"Two-seater!? Forget it kid, you're walking!"
The main idea of the Mega-Rider is that your ZZ Gundam is supposed to straddle it like a horse or bike, its feet resting on extending footrests and the hands held forward to simulate holding a space motorbike handlebar (as stupid as that sounds yes). Well, I looked at the photos on the box, and I came to the conclusion that Bandai are cheating. It is absolutely impossible for this thing to sit down on the Mega Rider, thanks to the rigid fins on the backpack getting in the way.

"Aaahh... much better!"
There is just no way these two were designed for each other. Smaller figures like the RX-78-2 or Hyaku Shiki should fare better, but that is really beyond the point when you box and market these units together. In Universe, the Mega Rider is supposed to carry up to two mobile suits... yeah sure, keep dreaming.

"This feels oddly satisfying..."
I do really like the Mega Rider model however. It is a faithful representation of the vehicle, and as I mentioned earlier it looks really good when displayed as a generic attack-role spacecraft (my Gundam Collection 1/400 A.E.U.G. team features several Mega Riders acting as support ships and fill that role well). But I don't think it goes that well together with the ZZ Gundam figure as far as Assault Kingdom is concerned.

"Yes ma'm, only one previous owner. And if I may say so, orange is really your colour!"
In conclusion, the ZZ Gundam box is in my opinion a clear purchase for any Assault Kingdom collector. There is a lot of fun to be had just messing with the two modes of the ZZ Gundam, and I am sure you can put the Mega Rider to good use with the smaller figures in the collection. So, ladies and gentlemen, grab it while its hot, the Assault Kingdom series is bound to enter obscurity (and a pricy secondhand market) very soon now.

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