Friday 13 May 2016

Toybox REVIEW: Power Rangers Legacy Collection Thunder Megazord

The 20th Anniversary of the Power Rangers franchise may have spawned a pretty terrible celebration in terms of the show, but as far as the toys go Bandai of America have been doing some pretty interesting things since. Although the strict focus on Mighty Morphin Power Rangers might be irksome to fans who want to see the other iterations receive fair representation, the Legacy Collection toy line has come a long way from beginning with a nice repaint of the 2010 Megazord release – now churning out high-end quality role play weapons and zords with better sculpting and detailing. The original Dino Megazord was followed by new versions of the Dragonzord, Titanus and the White Tigerzord, and as the trip through the three seasons of MMPR continued the Thunder Megazord came next. Initial pictures suggested this could be the most impressive Legacy Collection release yet, but at $200 it certainly doesn’t come cheap.

Really the first thing that should be said about the Thunder Megazord’s packaging is that it’s HUGE – so big that there wasn’t any chance it was ever going to fit in my makeshift light box. Aesthetically it’s done in the same vein as the other Legacy Collection releases, which in turn are based off of the packaging design for the original MMPR figures. Lots of green with chrome gold lettering, featuring plenty of images of both the zords individually and combined. Inside you’ll find the pieces individually bagged and safely tucked into a sturdy cardboard tray.

“Mastodon Lion Thunderzord Power!” 

On first glance the Lion Thunderzord is noticeably the piece to differ the most from the original toy. Not so much the Japanese Dairanger version, but the Power Rangers version replaced the green colouring of the face with a more ranger-specific black (for those unaware, Dairanger itself had a green ranger rather than a black one). Along with this and the newly moulded details come along some other colouring changes, with the legs also now sporting gunmetal grey panels along the side. The Lion Thunderzord also features the majority of the set’s diecast metal, located in the legs and making the zord as a whole a rather hefty piece. Another big change is that the green hemisphere on the top is now a solid coloured glossy plastic, as opposed to the translucent green on the original. It’s also now fixed while the original could open on a hinge. Other than that it’s functionally exactly the same as the original, albeit in a slightly smaller and more detailed package.

“Pterodactyl Firebird Thunderzord Power!” 

Up next is the Firebird Thunderzord, which continues the Pink Ranger’s traditional of having aerial zords throughout the entirety of MMPR. Structurally it’s the same to the original DX toy, right down to the segmented wings connected by three hinges on either side. However the sculpting of the figure is of course far smoother, not just because of the new detailing but also because the clips and pieces that hold it together when transformed are much less intrusive. The tailpiece is moulded in gold plastic not too dissimilar to the original’s, although early (and Japanese) releases of that did have a chromed piece instead. No chrome might come as a bit of a blow to some collectors, but the colouring looks nice enough here and it means there’s no worry of it eventually flaking (Gold Plastic Syndrome might be a different issue, but only time can tell with that). Finally the original toy also included some pathetic looking legs which clipped onto the bottom of the toy, which gave it stability but also made it look completely inaccurate. Thankfully the Legacy version omits these.

“Triceratops Unicorn Thunderzord Power!” 

Moving onto to the Blue Ranger, whose Triceratops has now transformed into the majestic Unicorn Thunderzord. However as the zord was actually a Tianma in Dairanger, it actually looks nothing like a unicorn making the whole naming rather baffling even to small children. Ignoring that the zord itself looks great, having really benefitted from having its stickers replaced by properly moulded panels and detailing. The base of the zord features rolling wheels and the head and neck are both jointed, so the zord features a minimal amount of play value on its own.

“Sabertooth Tiger Griffin Thunderzord Power!” 

What was previously said about the Unicorn Thunderzord can also be said about the Yellow Ranger’s Griffin Thunderzord, which in terms of build and engineering is identical other than the new head and neck piece. Like the Unicorn it also doesn’t even remotely look like a griffin, which is because in Dairanger it was actually a Qilin. Again the neck and head are both moveable, but other than that there isn’t a whole lot to say. The moulded details are where these leg pieces really shine, as the originals where covered in stickers.

“Tyrannosaurus Red Dragon Thunderzord Power!” 

Of course the real prize of the set is the Red Dragon Thunderzord, which in terms of engineering has definitely gone through the biggest changes - first and foremost being it's much sleeker build. Although it comes transformed into warrior mode in the actual box, first lets take a look at the dragon mode of this impressive piece. Not only have the details been significantly sharpened thanks to new moulding and more accurate colour choices (silver and gold instead of grey and yellow), but the neck and tail sections now have additional mobility thanks to extended sections that stretch outwards and can all move individually of each other. This is the same type of design that was previous used on the Legacy Dragonzord's tail and Titanus' neck. The segments are sadly far too heavy to properly hold a pose, but being able to bend them in places other than the middle and end makes a huge difference in both making it look accurate and dragon like. The original toy may be pushing over 20 years old now, but thanks to a little sprucing up it has never looked cooler.

But a great looking dragon mode isn't the only trick up this zord's sleeves. As stated earlier it also has the ability to transform into a humanoid warrior mode, simply called "Red Dragon warrior mode" in Power Rangers but named RyuseiOh in Japan. The transformation is incredibly simple and remains identical to that of the original DX toy's (with the addition of pushing the leg segments back together to keep them rigid), but the instruction sheet is very thorough should you have any trouble. In this mode the Red Dragon Thunderzord sports some impressive upper-body articulation, including rotating and hinged shoulders, bicep swivels, elbow joints, hinged finger sections and a newly added rotating head. The legs sadly lose the knee hinges from the original toy because of the new segmented mechanics, leaving them with only hinged feed, outward moving hips and upper leg swivels. The lack of any forward or backwards motion on the legs means the figure is very limited when it comes to poses, but all things considered it's still a lot more poseable than most other DX Power Rangers/Super Sentai toys. Also included is the zord's signature staff weapon, which fits snuggly in either hand.

Before we get to the Megazord itself, the Thunderzords also have a different "combined" form,  simply known as the Thunderzord Assault Team. When the original DX toy came out, the lesser four zords were sold together in a set named this while the Red Dragon was packaged separately (all five could also be bought in a larger Megazord gift set too). This mode requires an additional "sled" piece completely separate from each zord and the overall combination, but naturally included in the set. The sled is smaller and more compact than its original DX toy counterpart, making up what it lacks in rolling wheels with moulded support/security for each component. Once the four smaller zords have been put in their respective places, simply pop the Red Dragon into his designated foot holes and voila! There isn't really anything else to say about the Assault Team mode in terms of functionality, but it does make a nice display alternative to the Megazord that shows off each individual component properly.

And now onto the main event! The transformation into the combined Megazord mode remains unchanged from the original DX toy, however certainly areas now have far sturdier clips to ensure everything holds together as it should. To begin clip the Firebird to the back of the Red Dragon, wrapping the wings around the sides and front of the legs. Following that the top section of the lion clips onto chest using two fold-out brackets found inside, while the combined arms fold out of the legs and latch onto the Red Dragon's arms. After rotating the legs 90 degrees either side the legs then slot into the (stood upright) Griffin and Unicorn, who both have their silver thigh guards folded outwards. The sword sheath clips onto the side of the Firebird, and finally the helmet fits over the Red Dragon head. The helmet is actually designed rather differently to the original, now featuring holes on either side for the Red Dragon's "ears" to poke out, a hinged front section and a piece and the back to help hold it into a place.

There you have it - the Thunder Megazord in all its glory. Suddenly it makes sense why the box felt like it weighed the same as a small child - this is one hefty piece in both size and weight. Seeing all that brand new accurate detailing and colouring in one place makes you appreciate it all the more. It's a little disappointing that with all the lengths Bandai went to on this toy (and its price) that they didn't include some sort of alternate visor with glowing eyes, but that does feel like a minor complaint in the light of all the good they've done with it. The original DX toy is still great even to this day and to see that quality heightened even further is nothing short of magnificent.

However while it may have received a significant aesthetic upgrade, the Legacy Thunder Megazord is still a DX toy at heart - meaning it doesn't very much to offer at all in the way of poseability. However while the original only had the ability to move the arms at the shoulders, the Legacy version has three new (albeit minor) points of articulation on offer. The first is a fully rotating head, thanks to the fact that the helmet is no longer pegged down at either side. The second is hinged finger sections similar to that seen on the Red Dragon, which replace the wide fist holes on the original. Finally the first can now also rotate, making the Megazord able to hold the weapons to the side as well as upright. While the Megazord may only be really capable of "arms up/arms down" poses, the moving head and fists do help it look better from different angles and the newly moulded hands are just another example in improving the overall proportions of the toy.

In terms of weapons the Thunder Megazord comes loaded with its own version of the power sword - a thin-bladed sword with an extravagant hilt which is stored in a sheath connected to the left side of the Firebird. The sword itself features a chrome blade, while the sheath has been decked out with gold detailing and a metal chain to wrap around it like on the show. It also has it's less-seen staff weapon (known as the Dai Javelon in Dairanger), which is the combination of the Red Dragon's staff and the Firebird's tail piece. Both fit comfortably in the Megazord's hands, with the staff looking far more impressive than the original did thanks to its longer length.

But as impressive as the Thunder Megazord is, there is one big issue that most will probably be fully aware of by now – the infamous “Legacy lean”. Due to the hefty weight of the upper body and the fact the Red Dragon legs don’t really “lock” into place, the bulk of the figure leans forwards inside the Unicorn and Griffin pieces and knocks the thigh plates forward. Following complaints Bandai recognised that this is pretty unacceptable for a $200 toy and have adjusted the thigh plates on future shipments of the figure, but it’s currently not known if they have any plans to offer replacements for those who bought the set on release. It’s good that they fixed it, but really it’s an issue that should have never been there in the first place.

Other than the leaning issue, it’s hard to deny that the Legacy Thunder Megazord is a beautiful piece – arguably one of (if not) the best toy Bandai of America have produced for Power Rangers. Whether or not it’s worth the $200 asking price though is another matter entirely. It may be beautifully sculpted, but the engineering is still only DX toy level and a far cry from high-end Japanese mecha toy lines that command similar price tags (such as Soul of Chogokin). Bandai might be taking measures to fix the lean problem, but the price is where the real kicker is. It really is a fantastic toy, but it’s not $200 fantastic and for that reason alone many people will probably overlook it entirely – and that would be completely understandable. If you are willing to pay that or able to get a better deal on one though – this is a wonderful piece of nostalgia with a modern twist.

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