Thursday 31 January 2013

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Gosei Knight

SH Figuarts Gosei Knight 01

While we have the entire teams of Shinkenger and Gokaiger released in the Figuarts line, the Super Sentai series that falls between them hasn't been so lucky. At the time of writing, only one character from Tensou Sentai Goseiger has been released - the evolved Groundion Headder and sixth member to the team Gosei Knight. But with Goseiger have new life breathed into it via Power Rangers Megaforce, maybe this is the year we'll see the rest of the team. Gosei Knight was released as a Tamashii web exclusive back in April 2012.

Gosei Knight has a fairly simple packaging design, entirely in gold and with a faded image of the figure in the bottom right-hand corner. The spines also feature similar images, while the back has solid colour images of the figure and its accessories on top of a black background. Open it up and you'll find the accessories included on the plastic tray, although the cards are mounted to the back of the silver backing card in a plastic bag.

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Upon first glance Gosei Knight looks like he might be shorter than the average Super Sentai Figuart, however this isn't the case. His bulkier, armoured build plus lack of visible neck give the illusion of this. Technically not being a ranger (although Gokaiger seems to count him as a sixth ranger rather than an extra hero, so make of that what you will), his design and aesthetics are very different to any other Sentai figuart - in some areas feeling much more like a Kamen Rider release. Aside from the obvious bits of detail like the headder port on his back and segmented armour, there's some brilliantly done finer detail on him like his head crest and multi-tone red visor. Sadly, Gosei Knight is a figure that's become somewhat renowned for its quality issues and sadly mine is no exception - there's some mould flash on his side, and paint scuffs all over the place where the silver and black bits meet. If it were a mass release figure I'd perhaps let it slide a little more, but with web exclusives commanding a higher price tag its a more bitter pill to swallow.

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While the articulation is to the usual Figuarts standard, one element of the design severely hinders the poseability - his shoulders. Not only are mine loose and pop off at the smallest sign of movement, but they are an absolute nightmare to mess around with as they get in the way of most dynamic posing. I'm not quite sure how Bandai could have got around this, but I have no doubt they could have if they'd given him a little more thought.

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As far as the accessory count goes, things seem impressive but upon closer inspecting things aren't as special as you might think. Included in total are 12 hands (2x closed fists, 2x card holding hands, 2x open hands, one pointing right hand and a number of weapon holding ones), a closed version of the Leon Cellular, an opening version, the Leon Laser, the Leon Laser Sword, the Vulcan Headder, the Leon Laser with the Vulcan Headder and Leon Cellular attached finally a selection of Gosei cards. It sounds like a lot, but why exactly a second version of the Leon Laser with the pieces attached is included is baffling when you realise that the Vulcan Headder and Leon Cellular can be attached to the other Leon Laser and it looks EXACTLY THE SAME. So essentially the same thing has been included twice. It'd have been much better if they'd included a black-visored "Dark Gosei Knight" head as he appeared in episode 46 of Goseiger. The best accessory for Gosei Knight comes with Figuarts Gokai Green - Navi the robotic parrot.

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I really want to like Gosei Knight - it's a great design and significantly different to any other Super Sentai Figuarts that's been released thus far. But the problems are just too significant to ignore, especially considering this was a web exclusive. The shoulders are so awkward that anything other than "dramatic arm out" is difficult, paint scuffs are too common to ignore and the amount of accessories misleading. I don't buying this figure, but I'm glad I didn't pay the price it would have commanded on release and I recommend potential buyers seek out a similar deal before pulling the trigger.

Tuesday 29 January 2013

Toybox REVIEW: Doctor Who "The Dalek Invasion of Earth" Sound FX Dalek

The Dalek Invasion of Earth Talking Dalek 01

While Character Options may have relegated the majority of their classic Doctor Who releases to Forbidden Planet exclusives, every so often a few slip through the net and manage to get a mass release. The 11 Doctors box set was one example, and now a wave of talking Dalek figures has been released.  The first wave features a total of six Daleks from various periods of the show's history, with representations from the following stories;
  • The Dalek Invasion of Earth (1964)
  • Power of the Daleks (1966)
  • Planet of the Daleks (1973)
  • Death to the Daleks (1974)
  • Revelation of the Daleks (1985)
  • Bronze Dalek (2005 relaunch)
With my Dalek collection continuing to fill my room, I've chosen to only pick up the varities which are seeing release for the first time in this wave. First up is the The Dalek Invasion of Earth variant. While the Saucer commander and pilot ranks have been released in the past, this is the first time for the standard drone variant.

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The packaging is a fairly standard blister, but a nice little touch is that the backing card is in the shape of a Dalek dome/neck. There's a hole in the blister for the Dalek's "try-me" function, which is activated by pushing down on one of the skirt spheres. The talking feature can be turned off via a switch on the base once opened.

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While the Dalek design is very similar to the one seen in the race's debut story The Daleks, there are a number of aesthetic changes. The most obvious of all is the larger bumper which storywise was to make the Daleks more mobile on Earth's terrain (remember, they were pretty primitive back in the 60s). Smaller changes are the rounder, silver/black eyestalk and the dish on their backs (to draw in power from their saucers). Its a very unique design in that not only does it have elements that wouldn't be seen in the Daleks again, but its also from the story that cemented them as a reoccurring part of Doctor Who at the height of Dalekmania. As usual the level of articulation isn't much, but it has everything you'd expect from a Dalek - the head can rotate 360 degrees, the eye move up and down and appendages move about. An extendable plunger would be nice, but no Dalek toy in general has been managed to pull that off yet.

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But this is the important section, just how good is the voice? The packaging boasts that the Daleks have era-specific sound effects and speech, and as great as this sounds its only half true. While the Daleks do have era-specific speech, they aren't story specific and the lines have been re-recorded. There's no "We are the masters of Earth!" or "We are the masters of India!", but instead "Daleks conquer and destroy!", which is in fact from Power of the Daleks.

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While I appreciate the (somewhat half-assed) era-specific lines, the effect is completely lost without the original audio (or atleast something close to it). Not every Dalek speaks like they do now - the ones from Dalek Invasion of Earth, as well as the ones from Revelation of the Daleks, have very specific speech styles that could have easily been recreated. A video of the various voice clips can be viewed below (the Dalek also makes a gun SFX noise, but the toy just didn't want to make the noise on camera).

So the verdict? It's a great toy that lives up to Character Options usual standards, but the speech element leaves a lot to be desired. Without the proper voice or story-specific speech, the promise of era-specific voice clips is pretty empty. Regardless of this, its nice to see more Dalek variants released as Character Options draw ever closer to releasing them all.

Friday 25 January 2013

Toybox REVIEW: Character Building Doctor Who Dalek Spaceship Set


Ever since Doctor Who came back to screens in 2005 and Character Options took the reigns with the toyline, there's one thing I've wanted to be made, and that is a Dalek Spaceship. Since they first appeared in the end of Bad Wolf, its one of the few things that has remained consistent about them (even when the short lived New Dalek Paradigm was around). Despite being the perfect update to the ship that originally appeared in 1964's The Dalek Invasion of Earth, it was constantly snubbed when it came to toys. A playset was never made (fair enough, not many were), and the micro universe ship range rejected it even though they seemed to have space to release Slitheen ships. But just when it looked like it would never happen, Character Building have come and saved the day with this 420 piece construction set!

The box is reasonably big (but not particularly thick), featuring a close up of the ship (top-off), a Dalek minifigure and then a fleet of ships in the background (the box is careful to note that only one is included). The back features a closer look at some of the different features the ship has and a little blurb on both the Daleks and the ship's capabilities. While the packaging states that the set includes two bronze RTD-era Dalek drones, the contents of my box came as quite the surprise. Inside was one Dalek drone, but the second figure was a NDP Dalek Scientist! I'm not sure if this was just a lucky fluke or a general error (I can't seem to find any verification), but this couldn't have been better for me since it was the only NDP I was lacking.

Following the instruction booklet is fairly straightforward, although you might get a little confused between using grey and black pieces sometimes if you don't pay attention. The only thing it doesn't mention is where exactly the computer stickers (two featuring orange pattern and then another two blue ones) go on the finished model. Thankfully its pretty easy to work out thanks to the pictures on the box, but confusingly leaves two spare blue stickers. The finished spaceship is truly a sight to behold - adorned in bronze plastic and a translucent dome at the very top. The bottom features multiple rocket boosters, and four landing stands to keep the ship upright when displayed.

Open up the top (which can be a little tricky to take off sometimes - in which case just remove the translucent dome and pull it off from the centre) and you have a look at the inner workings of the Dalek spaceship. There's a lot of decoration in the form of sloping computer screens and bendable plastic wires, but also some functional parts including an articulated scanner...thing. There isn't a whole lot of room to move  it around unless you take out the middle (more on that momentarily) out, but it adds that little extra level of playability to the whole thing.

The central dish section (featuring four pikes rising from it) can be ejected from the bottom of the ship, giving a pair of Daleks a mini-ship that can be used for landings. It doesn't do a whole lot and unlike the main ship can't be stood properly upright, but again its a great extra feature to an already great looking kit.

But despite all its good looks, the ship isn't perfect. Character Building still has a way to go before its of LEGO standard, and this is clear but just how easily things will drop off. The gold boosters on the bottom have a habit of popping off, and the mini-ship section will drop out even if the tiniest amount of pressure is put on it. Of course all these things are easily fixable, but its a little bit frustrating to see parts drop off when you're only moving it from place to another. There's also a few design choices that are somewhat questionable - several sections made use of numerous small beams placed side by side...why not just use a larger piece?

In reality there isn't a whole lot of room on the inside either. Flowing wires look all well and good, but there's little space to actually firmly peg the Daleks down. The top also won't fit down properly when there are Daleks in any other place than the mini-ship (which is lower than the main floor). The latter is a minor complaint really, but I'd have liked to be able to have at least a whole Paradigm roaming around on the ship.

It has its flaws, but the Character Building Dalek Spaceship is fantastic. As the only Character Building set I was eager to buy I am not disappointed. The bronze shell looks great, it was extremely fun to put together and most importantly, probably the only way you're going to own a Dalek Spaceship. I can't comment on the quality of other Character Building kits, but this is a must have for Doctor Who and Dalek fans alike.

Thursday 24 January 2013

Character Building Doctor Who Microfigures Series 3: The 11th Doctor and Rory

A somewhat belated post (I've had these figures since the beginning of the month), but here's the third instalment in my collection of series 3 Doctor Who minifigures. This time its two characters who have each seen release at least once in the Character Building line, although this time they are sporting very different clothes. The Doctor is (as usual) a common figure, while Rory is among the rare ones for the wave.

The most striking thing about this release of the 11th Doctor (which is the fifth mass release version, and the eighth if you include the super rare figures) is that it isn't a variant of the standard twee jacket costume! A selection of the series six episodes saw Matt Smith's Doctor instead where a pea green trench coat, and here it appears in figure form along with suspenders, a blue shirt and red bowtie. Because of the coat the legs can't swing backward, but I feel that's a small price to pay to have a Doctor in a different costume for once. As usual, he comes with his trusted Sonic Screwdriver.

Series 3's Rory figure is the "badass" alternate universe version seen in the series six finale episode The Wedding of River Song, sporting army gear and a kickass eye patch. Having already done a number of army figures in their Armed Forces Character Building line, CO have done a wonders with the suit detailing. Rory comes packed with a black hand gun, although the mould itself is the same as the grey gun that comes with River Song.