Tuesday 8 August 2017

Toybox REVIEW: Super Mini-Pla GaoGaiGar Set 02

Release Date: June 2017
RRP: 3078 yen (3 boxes)

As anyone who's bought Bandai toys in the past can attest to, one is never enough. So when Super Mini-Pla GaoGaiGar was released earlier this year, it was inevitable that the model kit was going to be followed up with either upgrade parts of another robot from The King of Braves GaoGaiGar. Lo and behold a few short months later we have Super Mini-Pla GaoGaiGar Set 02, an upgrade set which includes GoldyMarg, Stealth Gao II and the Gatling Driver. With Super Mini-Pla GaoGaiGar now in possession of what's arguably his signature weapon, it's hammer time.

The three individual boxes of the set come packaged in a larger black case-style box, sporting a big GGG logo as well as some smaller Super Mini-Pla and GaoGaiGar series logos. Since it’s far less decorative than the outer box Super Mini-Pla Daizyujin came in (or even GaoGaiGar for that matter really), one can only assume Bandai didn’t feel the need to draw as much attention to an add-on set as they do the main robot.

That said, the smaller boxes inside are much more in line with what you’d expect from Bandai minipla. Though the same height and width of typical minipla boxes these are noticeably thicker than normal, which is unsurprising given the amount of big pieces packed away inside. The front of the boxes feature nice big animation images of both GoldyMarg and Stealth Gao II, while the back shows off these add-on pieces in all of their glory together with English text labels of the weapons/abilities.

With the exception of larger models that are spread across multiple boxes, minipla kits are usually fairly self-contained in their own individual boxes. This isn’t necessarily true for this set, even if the box spines would have you believe it. The first box contains the Marg Hand (which is made up of GoldyMarg’s body), the second the Goldion Hammer, Gattling Driver and Space Boosters while the third box contains Stealth Gao II. That sounds nice and neat, but since the Hammer is part of GoldyMarg and the boosters part of Stealth Gao then it’s still a bit spread out. The second box also contains a whole lot of loose parts as opposed to the usual runners. In addition to all the parts, inside you’ll find the building instructions as well as a single piece of soda-flavoured bubblegum.

The first part of this set is GoldyMarg, the Super-AI robo constructed to carry the Goldion Hammer and take the strain away from GaoGaiGar and, more specifically, Cyborg Gai. GoldyMarg can transform into three modes - robot mode, the "Goldy Tank" vehicle mode and the "Marg Hand" mode to connect with GaoGaiGar. Built from orange, red and grey plastics (with additional bits of black and gold for the tire and hammer parts respectively), Super Mini-Pla GoldyMarg is almost a perfect likeness to the larger toy/animation model. There's also very minimal sticker detail to keep things nice and clean. The few stickers it does have are either tiny or hidden under clear plastic panels to keep them protected. 

In typical minipla fashion GoldyMarg also has plenty of articulation to be a great figure even without the combination gimmick, featuring a neck swivel, rotating shoulders, hinged elbows, rotating fists, waist swivel, ball-jointed hips, hinged knees and even hinged foot sections to top it all off. Due to the way the head is fixed to the hammer section it doesn't have full 360° motion, but it's more than enough to pose the figure without it having to look constantly dead centre. GoldyMarg probably isn't quite as articulated as GaiGar, but the heftier build is enough to offset this. Balancing the figure in action poses isn't a problem either, as the hammer handle poking out of the bottom acts as a perfect extra bit of support. Though it would be odd to buy this set without owning GaoGaiGar first, GoldyMarg is definitely good enough to stand on his own.

The Goldy Tank is a powerful all-terrain vehicle which carries the Goldion Hammer in addition to wielding the powerful Marg Cannon through its handle. Transforming the model does require a little bit of part-swapping in the leg area, but nothing extensive enough to really consider the transformation as cheating. In this mode the Goldy Tank has six free-rolling wheels, and the hammer section can be completely removed to fully reveal the vehicle section underneath.

The second big element to this set is Stealth Gao II, an upgraded Gao Machine with UI-Tech Engines more commonly known as “Space Boosters”. Other than those additional parts the build for this model is largely identical to that of the original Stealth Gao, and even includes repeated parts for GaoGaiGar’s head and the mane pieces for the chest lion. Caution should be taken when connecting the red piece which connects the vehicle to the robot head – the piece is fragile and the connection tight, so it can very easily lead to breakage as it did with my model. Thankfully it isn’t an essential piece (and can be replaced with the one on the other Stealth Gao if need be), but it’s still rather frustrating given that you’d expect these pricier models to be a little bit more sturdy.

While the main difference between the two versions of Stealth Gao is of course the (removable) Space Boosters, Stealth Gao II’s frame also sports a longer tailpiece and no visible cockpit area at the front. A more subtle difference is the GGG symbol on the wing, which is now a metallic green as opposed to the original’s gold.

The final pieces of this set are of course the weapons, including the main reason collectors will be going out and buying it in the first place – The Goldion Hammer. As previously stated this is actually part of GoldyMarg himself, but splits off and then extends to form the full-sized hammer. Secondly the set also comes with the Gattling Driver - an upgraded version of the Dividing Driver with mounted articulated tines in place of the blade. Finally a translucent yellow plastic energy nail is also included, created as part of the robot’s improved “Hammer Hell & Heaven” attacks.

Prior to combination you also have the option to switch out the opaque black thrusters pieces on Stealth Gao’s Space Boosters with translucent green ones, meant to simulate GaoGaiGar bursting with energy. Thanks to how tightly model kit pieces can fit together these aren’t always the easiest things to remove, but carefully prying the two sections away at the seam should get the job done eventually. Not only do these pieces look a lot more flashy and give Stealth Gao (as well as GaoGaiGar in general) a bit more colour variety, the translucent plastic also gives you a good look at the nice inner engine detail built inside.

With Stealth Gao II connected in place of the original GaoGaiGar now becomes Star GaoGaiGar, and with GoldyMarg transformed into the Marg Hand the King of Braves is stronger than ever before! But you only need to take one look at this formation for one question to immediately come to mind - how well does this thing balance? Well the addition of the Marg Hand certainly makes things difficult, but the added weight of the Space Boosters keep things a bit more balanced on the sides. The bigger concern is the connection between the arm and the Marg Hand, because that thing wasn't especially tight even at the best of times. But again, surprisingly the whole thing holds together and the Marg Hand isn't half as fiddly as the crumbly regular arms. On top of all this the new parts even make a few minor cosmetic changes to improve the overall kit - for example the lion mane now has stronger tabs to keep them properly in place.

With all these new pieces and the addition of the Gattling Driver, Super Mini-Pla GaoGaiGar is finally a force to be reckoned with. Yes, both the Soul of Chogokin and Super Robot Chogokin versions have these option parts, but now the Super Mini-Pla finally feels like the best of both worlds. It's still pretty expensive for a model kit all things considered, but at least now it feels complete.

The Goldion Hammer can be held either by an additional fist provided as part of this set, or of course in the far more impressive looking Marg Hand. The hammer plugs directly into the hand via a peg to keep it in place. Whichever option you choose the sheer size of the thing means the figure can only hold it in so many ways without the whole thing toppling over, and even then it helps to have the clear stand disc plugged into the bottom for extra support. But who cares if it can only pull off a few poses? It's a giant freaking hammer and GaoGaiGar looks INCREDIBLE with it in hand. There's a reason the Goldion Hammer has gone on to become one of the most iconic weapons in the super robot genre, and you don't have to look much further than these pictures to see why.

Finally the Phantom Rings can be removed from Stealth Gao II and reattached to GaoGaiGar’s arms, simulating the Broken Phantom and Protect Wall attacks. The pieces clip on via a hidden translucent joint hidden inside the rings, which flip out and attach onto the same sockets that connect the arms/turbines to Stealth Gao. Unlike wielding the Goldion Hammer using these pieces don’t cause any balance issues to the figure, and still do an excellent job of conveying an improved GaoGaiGar decked out with newly enhanced abilities.

Super Mini-Pla GaoGaiGar was a good little set in many ways, but its fiddly nature and unnecessarily high price tag kept it from being as good as it could have been. However thanks to the addition of GoldyMarg and Stealth Gao II, things have definitely improved. Yes the giant hammer makes balancing awkward, but you just can’t deny the impressive amount of extras the kit suddenly has thanks to these two upgrades. Not only that, but GoldyMarg is a pretty fantastic model on his own as well. This set isn’t going to be much use to those without GaoGaiGar to go with it, but if you did happen to buy it then you’ll definitely want this set to make things all the better.

1 comment:

foldabotZ said...

Does StealthGao II include parts to convert it into the regular StealthGao?