Wednesday, 20 December 2017

The latest Converge news...

Bandai posted up some more pictures of the White Base and the new CORE versions of its complement of mobile suits on the Converge blog yesterday as the preorder phase is about to close.

The model will leave a very big footprint on your display shelf, 33 x 36 centimeters according to the blog. Some parts will also come on runners requiring some minor assembly. From the look of things the port side mobile suit hanger will only be modeled in transparent clear plastic. If that is the case it is just dumb since it ruins the overall aesthetic of the vessel.



The blog author also confirms that the CORE Core Fighter will only be available as part of this Operation V Strategy set. Still not sure if the CORE Operation V mobile suit team will be made available as a standalone product in the future, we can only hope for it. Such a nifty little figure and it even gets its own little stand (G-Defenser, I'm looking at you...). It looks a wee bit tiny for such a rare Converge figure though, it is not like they are supposed to be to scale anyway. Overall, very mixed feelings about the White Base set.

Also revealed at the end is the continution of the Gundam Wing line-up. Seems the Altron is coming in its Endless Waltz configuration sometime in the near future, which will probably please alot of fans out there.





UPDATE: December 27, 2017

Bandai posted up yet another mystery face on their blog. I don't think anyone will be surprised that it looks like the Psycho Gundam Mk-II will soon join the ranks. It looks like it will avoid the Geymalk treatment as well and become a "full-size" figure like the Mk-I before it, probably with transformation capability as well. Nice, I hope this will also translate into more rank and file mobile suits from ZZ Gundam making an appearance in 2018.


Sunday, 17 December 2017

SD Gashapon Senshi Forte 03

In the third installment of the Senshi Forte Gashapon series Bandai continues to mix and match from all over the place although this time around all the mobile suit choices tie in with figurines released in the previous Senshi Forte sets including the first of the exclusive EX figures.

Gashapon Senshi Forte 03 was released in June 2017 and comes as random Gashapon miniatures either in capsule machines or sold individually in randomized cardboard boxes. For this review I picked up a set from a seller who had already opened and arranged figures into a full set as well as stocking up on individuals from both physical shops as well as off the Internet. In total I needed a whopping 13 figures to create all the variations and armies that I coveted. Luckily the figures are cheap; the official price is still only ¥300, so it doesn't hurt too much to expand your collection.

Anatomy

Senshi Forte is a refinement of an earlier generation of SD miniatures. The figures come with what you could almost call an inner frame of sorts. So far all the figures seen in Volumes 1 to 4 share the very same skeleton and build principles, illustrated below by the Galbaldy Beta.

The average Senshi Forte figure has three major joint sections where a limited inner frame is put to use. The arms are attached to the shoulders through a dual ball joint, allowing for wiggling and turning freely (or until the arm hits some cumbersome detail like wing binders, backpacks etc.), an elbow which can bend like a real arm and beyond (although the compact design of the figures rarely gives the arms much room to maneuver) and the underarm is also free to rotate. The legs and armored skirt attach to a T-shaped frame which allows the stubby legs to dangle around and the torso to twist while allowing the skirt some limited wiggling room. Head and hands then follow on traditional round pegs enabling left and right turns.

One new feature introduced with Senshi Forte volume 3 is the revised action bases. Each figure still comes with a simple tripod-style base that pegs into its butt, but this time around the base is sturdier and features two plugs for unused accessories (which would typically be unused open or closed hands). It is a neat touch and good for storing overflow accessories, but I would never display my figures in this fashion as it detracts from the appearance and still doesn't solve the problem of other leftover bits anyway. I will continue to keep accessories in ziplock bags and if possible I will use the old bases over the new wherever possible.

F013 : RX-105 Xi Gundam

The Xi Gundam was been brought back to life recently in the Universal Unit figure series so it is not a ig surprise to see it appear here as well. It makes sense with the release of Mufti's grunt type Messer mobile suits in volume 02 as well.


It may seem a bit odd that such a grand mobile suit is released as a standard figure only, especially when its predecessor, the RX-1044FF Penelope is released as an extremely pricey EX-figure. The reason can of course be found in this figure basically being a traditional non-transforming design whereas the Penelope is a more complex beast, but it still feels a bit funny to me.

The Senshi Forte version of the Xi is frankly rather unspectacular. It comes off as your basic Unicorn or Nu Gundam figure rather than something special. It is also quite weak in the accessory department, featuring only a beam rifle and a shield.

The RX-105 has some optional parts for attaching the shoulder armor in its beam barrier configuration. I found this assembly very confusing but fortunately Bandai have posted some assembly instructions online which are found here. It is a neat gimmick although I have resorted to leaving one shoulder folded and one spread, because this is something I will not want to fiddle with in the future.

Here the Xi Gundam poses with its Messer fire support team. It is a nice spectacle although the Xi feels even less imposing when paired up like this. A few extra millimeters to its height wouldn't have hurt. I will be posting more comparison shots with the Penelope once I get around to building it.

F014 : RX-178 Gundam Mk-II (A.E.U.G.)

The meat of this volume is arguably the Mk-II Gundams from Zeta together with their G-Defenser support craft. It remains a popular and widely covered mobile suit in most Gashapon and Shokugan figure lines.


The Senshi Forte Mk-II comes in two colour variations; white for the Anti Earth Union Group and dark blue for the Earth Federation Titans elite unit. Both figures have the exact same equipment, a beam rifle, a bazooka and a shield. They are also both compatible with the G-Defenser craft (more on that later).

I am a little bit disappointed that the shields come in only plain blue and white colours, the red trimming of the see-through hole on the shield is still omitted, something that the recent Converge figures had finally got right.

Size comparison between the old Converge RX-178 and the Senshi Forte Mk-II and G-Defenser. The Senshi Forte figures are definitely catching up.

F015 : RX-178 Gundam Mk-II (Titans)

Before we discuss the G-Defenser add-on for the Mk-II let's just get the Titans blue and black version out of the way. As you can see this figure is a simple colour swap of the white figure, all the accessories remain the same.


Here again the missing red paint on the shield is something that bothers me. I will definitely be making an effort to paint these up myself (now that the review is done) and I am also toying with the idea of affixing numbered stickers 01 to 03 on their shoulders. Although no such stickers come with this kit it shouldn't be too hard to source suitable white digits for this purpose. I am currently thinking of using leftover stickers from the Gashapon HG MS line, which were used for an RX-178 that appeared there.

Since there are a total of three RX-178s operated by the Titans you knew I had to get three of them. Thanks to the range of available accessories it was also easy to give them very different equipment (I even got a third G-Defenser figure for this purpose).

Here you already get a sneak peek on the Super Gundam configuration, let's continue to the G-Defenser first before we cover that in more detail.

F016 : FXA-05D G-Defenser

Although the G-Defenser support craft was only present as a single unique vehicle in the Zeta Gundam television series it doesn't stop me from stocking up on a couple. I enjoy the idea of using them as generic support fighters, much like the Gattle or Saberfish.


The Senshi Forte G-Defenser is a very basic figure with only a few components. Since the figure has no hard plastic framework like the regular mobile suit figures, the soft plastic makes the assembly a bit of a chore. This is a problem seen through all the Gashapon ranges and even features in Converge to some extent.

The Senshi Forte G-Defenser is fairly large; both when compared to other Gashapon versions as well as compared to the mobile suit it adds on to.


Sadly no action base is included with the G-Defenser figure and it is not compatible with the standard Senshi Forte tripods either. This feels cheap and a bit lame, but is par for the course. If you have Assault Kingdom figures lying around their action bases can be salvaged to create adequate support for the G-Defenser but it still feels like a lazy cop-out on Bandai's part.

Size comparison between G-Defensers from SD Gashapon NEXT, Gundam Converge (the old one) and Senshi Forte.

The Senshi Forte G-Defenser is fairly large; both when compared to other Gashapon versions as well as compared to the mobile suit it adds on to.


One neat feature of the G-Defenser is that it can act as a transport for a Mk-II Gundam. The mobile suit must first remove weapon and shield and then the G-Defenser is attached to its back after the legs have been repositioned a bit.

RX-178+FXA-05D Super Gundam

The main gimmick of Senshi Forte 03 is how the RX-178 and the G-Defenser combines into the Super Gundam mode. In this form the fighter craft attaches to the mobile suit's back while the suit discards its weapon and shield, instead making use of the Defenser's long beam rifle and missile launchers.

Although no build instructions are included with either figure Bandai have uploaded a helpful guide on the official Senshi Forte page here.


The Super Gundam mode comes together easily and is relatively sturdy. it sits comfortably on the regular tripod without any need for extra support. As with most things Gashapon though, parts deformation is a distinct reality you have to deal with.


Here the Senshi Forte Super Gundam poses with the Converge CORE Super Gundam which uses the slightly smaller old sculpt.

The Senshi Forte Zeta line continues to grow and together with the figures from the FW SD NEO series the selection grows even larger. The line-up will continue to grow in Senshi Forte as well, with the Psycho Gundam, Hyaku-Shiki and Dijeh set for release in the coming months.

F017 : FD-03 Gustav Karl

The lovely Gustav Karl design (with a hopeless name seemingly a wordplay on the current Swedish monarch Carl XVI Gustaf) returns to Gashapon format and this time in the bright blue colours as seen in the SD Gundam G Generation videogames. Although the suit also featured in Unicorn it originates in the Hathaway's Flash side story where it serves as an army builder on the Earth Federation side.


The Gustav Karl is the only true army-builder figure in Senshi Forte 03 although its equipment doesn't allow for much variation, coming only with a single beam rifle and a shield attached to its left shoulder.

I really like the chunky look and light blue colour of this suit, it makes it a really unique looking thing. Of course the asymmetric head with its half V-Fin also means there is no unseeing it.

We already have a less bulky Gustav Karl available in the Senshi Forte NEXT Gashapon series (released in May 2014), painted in the modernized Unicorn gray and dark blue. You can get a good idea of the development of the Gashapon lines by comparing the two.

Overall the Gustav Karl is easily my favourite from this set and although I have stopped at three this far the thought did occur that it might be really cool to have the upgraded figure repainted in the UC livery as well. All these projects... we shall se. Stay tuned also for more updates once I get around to building the Penelope, which is supposed to fight side by side with these suits against Mufti.

F018 : Musha Psycho Gundam Mk-II

Repeating again for the third time the set concludes with an SD reinterpretation of a classic mobile suit. In this case it is the Musha Psycho Gundam, a total conversion of the MRX-010 Psycho Gundam Mk-II, existing only as a super-deformed figure as far as I know.


I don't really know a whole lot about this figure but I would expect it has been featured in some games, trading card sets and perhaps also in anime format. Basically it is an evil-looking cross between a samurai and Jaws of James Bond fame...

As usual with the Musha-style figures in Senshi Forte we are treated to a lot of detailed paint apps including generous use of gold and silver (why we can't get that red blot on the Gundam Mk-II's shield I'll never know).

The figure comes with two built in gimmicks. One is the grinning face mask which can be removed and replaced with a more traditional Gundam-style face (which I think looks way better y the way). The other is the fact that the huge club reveals a sleek sword which seems to be of questionable use in combat. The two pieces fit together very tightly and at first I wondered if I would end up bending the sword while trying to fit it inside the club. I would avoid playing with this feature excessively, for fear of the paint on the sword being rubbed off.

Here is the Musha line-up from Senshi Forte this far; Musha Gundam Mk-II from volume 01, Musha Nu from volume 02 and Musha Psycho Mk-II from volume 03. More figures are coming...

Conclusion

The third volume of Senshi Forte contains several great figures that I can easily recommend to Gashapon lovers. The really great thing about this set is how it builds upon the figures released in previous waves. The Xi Gundam and the Gustav Karl go together with the Messer and the Penelope, the Mk-II's flesh out the Zeta Gundam line and the even the Musha character helps expand its own little line. I ended up buying a total of five Mk-II's and three G-Defensers to be able to display the two Super Gundams as well as the G-Defenser itself. The relatively low prices of these figures make such investments easily possible.

At the time of writing this review I have already received the fourth set which goes deep into UC Sidestory mode with several designs from The Blue Destiny and Side Story: Missing Link. I love how the Senshi Forte series goes out of its way to pick up on more unusual figure choices and will stay with it for as long as I can.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Gundam Converge EX 18 : MSA-0011(Ext) Ex-S Gundam

These days the Converge EX-series is all over the place. We've seen gigantic Neo Zeon mobile armors, large transforming mobile suits and even some smaller figures. The EX 18 entry in the Converge line is definitely one of the smaller variety. In fact when I first pulled out the bags from the box and saw the main body of the mobile suit my first reaction was; "wait, that's all?".

After us having been spoiled with many large EX figures lately this package is going back toward the Converge series' roots. The figure is basically an old-era (before the brand relaunch) S Gundam enhanced with some new trinkets and gear. Bandai and FusionWorks didn't decide to bring the S Gundam into the era of redesigns, and rather taking the old figure and tweaking it to suit their needs.

As you can see from these photos the parts count is pretty low, but there are a couple of fiddly features which require some parts swapping to get the mobile suit to perform all the intended poses.

Notice the return of the old clip-style clear support piece and the blue Shokugan chewing gum. Bandai replaced these with white gums some months ago across all Gundam Shokugan series and here the blue one is sneaking back in again, which I find oddly amusing. I should of course point out that this figure is purchased from Japan, otherwise the gum would not be included (and there would be ugly safety stickers on the back cover of the box).

Mode 1

This is the classic Gundam Converge pose. The figure stands on the ground holding a rifle of some sort in its right hand. The Ex-S Gundam can perform this feat also, but requires the clipping support piece since its large booster pack is too heavy for the figure to carry while standing upright unsupported. Not even the long beam smart gun can balance it out.



My figure seems to have some issues with the lining up of the binders dangling from its shoulders. It looks a bit distracting when you move the arms up and down and there is not a whole lot you can do about it.

The closest match for the Ex-S Gundam would be the base version of the Deep Striker figure (Converge EX 03 and CORE 011). You can easily see the kinship between these miniatures even though the Ex-S Gundam is receiving larger weapons and boosters.

Mode 2

Next up is an alternate variation in holding the large smart gun. The weapon has two special slots where it can be attached to the figure's two hands. When not in use, small pieces are inserted into those holes to cover them up which is neat.


I like this mode better than the previous one, the smart gun is just so long it looks a bit weird when it dangles in front of the mobile suit.

In this mode the closest comparison would be to the original S Gundam figure from Converge vol. 13 (December 2013). The two definitely have a lot in common.

Mode 3

The final mode described in the assembly instructions is perhaps also the more interesting one. Here we get to replace the feet and the left arm and get to place the mobile suit on that nice looking clear action base. This eliminates the clumsy look which came from the clipping support piece in use while standing.



The way the beam smart gun is held is sometimes referred to as the keyboard pose but if you don't like it you can just as easily change the pieces around to have the figure holding the rifle in any of the other two configurations we saw earlier:




With so many different poses to choose from you should find something to your tastes quite easily. I definitely prefer the flying poses which also show the mobile suit in its true element.

Conclusion

There isn't really a whole lot to say about this figure, it is a pretty basic Converge figure with some minor posing variations. Is it worth the ¥2500 that Bandai think you should spend on it? Well, when you consider that you can get the transforming Super Gundam (which is a P-Bandai at that) for ¥2000 the price seems a bit high for this figure. When I purchased mine from Mandarake the price was already down to ¥2000. If you like the design it should be a worthy inclusion into your figure line-up but it probably pays to shop around.

Converge S Gundam lineage: MSA-0011 S Gundam from Converge vol. 13 (released December 2013), the basic form of the MSA-0011(Bst) Deep Striker (Converge EX03 released June 2014), the CORE 002 S Gundam with blue livery (August 2015) and the new Ex-S Gundam.