Sunday, 1 January 2017

Gundam Converge CORE 007 / CORE 008 : Perfect Strike Gundam / Strike Rouge I.W.S.P.

The latter half of 2016 saw a string of hard to get Converge releases. Out of the ten different products that appeared during this period, ony one of them was a set of regular figures. The rest were various special editions, box sets and cross promotion items. This made life quite tricky for an overseas collector and it wasn't until October that I finally managed to get my hands on the two Strike Gundam figures. These were released as part of the expensive CORE brand as Bandai Limited Editions almost two months earlier. I then ended up having to wait for an unusually long time while both items were out exploring the postal network for an extended tour of duty.

I still cannot wrap my head around just exactly what CORE or COnverge RE-definition is all about. At its inception it seemed to be all about repainting and slapping decals on existing figures, then they began giving them different accessories and here we have arrived at two completely new mobile suits. I guess arguably you could say these are "redefinitions" of the old Strike Gundam figure but these still feel like brand new figures to me. I am kind of mystified why they were secreted away into CORE obscurity.



The two new Strike Gundam figures are priced at ¥ 2000 a piece which follows the trend of recent CORE figures. I picked mine up on the secondary market at a price of ¥ 2500 per figure, suggesting that these will not be so easy to come by in the future.



Both figures come with a fair number of components as well as printed assembly guides which are welcome as there are a few pieces in each box that left me a bit mystified upon first inspection. As Japan-only Shokugan items they of course also feature the iconic Converge chewing gum.


CORE 007 : GAT-X105+AQM/E-YM1 Perfect Strike Gundam

Out of the two Strike Gundam figure variations this is definitely the meatier one. The Perfect Strike Gundam belongs to the "let's cram all the accessories onto one figure" school of design, and is actually an amalgamation of the three variations in which it appears in the original Gundam SEED anime. The idea is that the GAT-X105 Strike Gundam is able to carry different equipment loadouts for different mission specifications. We saw three such "striker packages" in the series, one aimed at improving speed and maneuverability, one adding heavy fire power and the third centered around melee fighting.

Come Gundam SEED's sequel SEED Destiny, someone thought it a good idea to chock all this gear onto a single frame, creating the ultimate (or "Perfect") package. Suffice it to say that opinions differ on whether this was a good idea or not, but for Converge figure collectors it is definitely a jackpot!



As you can see from the images and component parts list below the Perfect Strike Gundam is chock full of gear choices, and features a new back pack to which most of it can attach. Somewhat surprisingly, the figure has no trouble standing up in spite of this mighty arsenal lumbered onto its back.

The multitude of components grouped together per Striker Pack family.




Although not technically accurate, it is quite possible to display the Perfect Strike in up to four different configurations. This is possible due to ingenious engineering on part of Fusion Works, but mainly because we have been given a pair of replaceable shoulder pieces. This makes it a quick job to whip up some alternate versions of the Strike, and this is also what makes this kit so much fun to mess around with. At the same time, a word of warning seems in order. Many of the components have pretty loose fits and will probably begin to degrade quickly so as always with these figures it pays to avoid unnecessary parts swapping.

GAT-X105 Strike Gundam

This is the most basic version of the GAT-X105, its vanilla configuration if you will. We reach this configuration simply by removing all accessories and make use of the plain white shoulder components with the nice O.M.N.I. logo.

CORE Strike Gundam (left) compared to the original Strike Gundam (right), which appeared as part of Converge Vol. 6 back in February 2012. How time flies.
Compared to its Converge ancestor the overall appearance isn't all that different. Apart from the logotype the new CORE figure has an extra blotch of black paint on the crotch not present in the original, other than that they are pretty similar. Most notably, the original Strike Gundam comes with the attractive red and yellow shield which is (somewhat sadly) not included with the Perfect Strike figure.


Above are some customizations that I made by stealing accessories from other Converge figures. The original GAT-X105 mobile suit is armed with two Armor Schneider knives. Although not exactly fashioned in the same style it is quite possible to steal the combat knife from the ECOAS Jegan to represent this weapon. Next up you see the shield from the old Strike Gundam figure applied to the CORE figure. The pegs are not of similar size though, so the shield will only stay in since I am leaning it against the arm of the figure. The last image shows the old shield in conjunction with the Aile Strike configuration, which brings us to the next figure mode:

GAT-X105+AQM/E-X01 Aile Strike Gundam

Arguably the most commonly seen configuration of the GAT-X105 is equipped with its Aile Striker flight pack. This conversion is only partially successful since the flight pack for the Perfect Strike is quite different. While it is possible to remove the hardpoints for the Launcher and Sword Strike components the new battery back arrangement in between the thrusters changes the look drastically.

Below you can see the Perfect Strike attempting to simulate the Aile Strike Gundam. The latter is a combination of parts from Converge figures 34 and 35 (which are the Strike Gundam and Skygrasper respectively).

Save for the loose fit of the shield the Perfect Strike Gundam figure is compatible with the Aile Striker pack of the old Strike Gundam figure, as shown below.

I like how we have all these options to fiddle around with, however if you do not already own the old Strike and Skygrasper figures they can be a bit tricky to find these days.

GAT-X105+AQM/E-X02 Sword Strike Gundam

The next mode of the Strike Gundam is with its Sword Striker pack. This mode is easy to replicate if you want the figure holding the sword in hand. To store it on the back however you need to use the Perfect Strike backpack minus its wings, which is not exactly how the Sword Strike Gundam looked, but when viewed from the front it looks quite convincing.

GAT-X105+AQM/E-X03 Launcher Strike Gundam

The last mode is the Strike Gundam in its fire support role, with attached Launcher Strike pack. Here you can opt between having the figure holding the launcher in its left hand or use the intricate supporting arm which connects the launcher weapon to the backpack. Both these modes are of course also supported in the full Perfect Strike configuration.

MBF-P02 Gundam Astray Red Frame integration

As if all this weren't enough, we also get an extra connector piece that allows the Astray Red Frame figure to carry the Perfect Strike pack. So, if you own this figure (Converge EX 10) you can also exchange its flight unit as shown below. A nice touch which increases playability even more.



There are just so many things you can do with the Converge Perfect Strike Gundam. It is easily one of my favourite figures of 2016, if not the entire Converge range.


CORE 008 : MBF-02+P202QX Strike Rouge I.W.S.P.

The Strike Rouge is basically a clone of the Strike Gundam although it does feature some new equipment, mainly a new OS and improved power output, which has the side effect of making its phase-shift armor turn red when activated. The Converge figure is equipped with the Integrated Weapons Striker Pack, which does share a similar design idea as the Perfect Strike pack; that of the complete overload of equipment. The basic figure is similar to the Strike Gundam though, so the packs are readily interchangeable.


Although the parts count here is not as impressive as with the Perfect Strike Gundam there is still a lot of gear to mess with in this package.

Although technically the Strike Rouge can equip any of the accessories that come with the Perfect Strike I will not be going through all of them again. However, I'd just like to point out a few configurations:

MBF-02 Strike Rouge

The likeness with the Strike Gundam is clear to see when the striker packs come off. The basic Strike Rouge shares all figure aspects with the Strike, including the replaceable shoulders, although here there is really no reason to replace them. Somewhat surprisingly there is an O.M.N.I. decal on the back side of the figure's left shoulder. I am not really sure why FW decided to place it there; the shoulders have differently shaped holes for the left and right arm so it is not like you could change the logo as seen from the front.

Strike Rouge and Perfect Strike backpack swap; both figures are fully compatible.
Notice also how the Strike Rouge can wield one of its blades in its left hand, but not the right. This is the one gripe I have with this figure (and the Strike). Since the figure's beam rifle is molded onto the right hand we must feature it as part of the loadout. With the Strike being such a highly configurable figure it is a missed opportunity that we could not get an extra right hand which would have allowed both swords to be wielded.

MBF-P03 Gundam Astray Blue Frame integration

The Strike Rouge features the same Astray compatibility as the Perfect Strike. Here we are instructed how to attach the IWSP pack to the Astray Blue Frame figure (Converge EX 11) using a separate connector piece.





There is just so much integration going on between the Converge Strikes and Astrays, it makes for a lot of fun to be had once your Cosmic Era mobile suit armory starts filling up.

Conclusion

I think the general message has been received by now. I am very much endeared by the two Strike units, easily the best figures to have come out of the CORE line thus far. They are also somewhere in the top tier of the Converge figure line, not just in the strong year that was 2016, but at least the Perfect Strike Gundam could well aspire to an entry in the Converge all-time hall of fame.

The only thing holding these two figures back is the fact that they are CORE released with limited distribution. A poor fate for them when you consider figures such as the Providence and Destiny reaching mass market retail channels. The two Strike Gundams are pretty hard to come by and pricey when you do, but my general recommendation for these two puppies will still be "buy on sight", they are simply that good.

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