YF-29 Durandal Valkyrie Alto Saotome Custom
Review by VF5SS
If you had asked me about ten years ago where my fascination with jets with arms would take me, I would never have guessed it would have reached this point. The many days of staring at the Studio Half Eye model kits posted to Macrossworld and excitedly gawking at upcoming toys from Japan made me dream of a world so far away. Now...
I imagine if you asked Macross creator (and snazzy dresser) Shoji Kawamori thirty years ago that he would be making appearances at events devoted to Macross and sitting confidently in front of a 1/1 scale model of one of his Valkyrie designs, he might have guffawed at the idea. Similarly, I never thought so many different kinds of Valkyries would ever be realized in toy form.
After the din of panic and cursing to the sky at Bandai, I quietly secured a pre-order for the second issue of the YF-29 Durandal Valkyrie from Macross Frontier: The Wings of Goodbye. In risking life, limb, and the chance of making the toy yellow just a little faster, I decided to take the YF-29 out on a nice day for the photo shoot.
Since the YF-29 appears in most advertisements for the second Macross Frontier movie, I don't feel like this review is too much of a spoiler. I mean what new Macross production doesn't feature a newly designed Valkyrie at some point? Much like the VF-9 Cutlass and VF-19 Excalibur, the YF-29 Durandal also features forward swept wings and is named after a sword. The overall design combines elements from the VF-25's Tornado Pack and the VF-27 Lucifer. The toy is appropriately weighty and feels very solid in fighter mode with everything neatly tabbed into place.
The YF-29 is a souped up prototype fighter specifically designed to combat the Varja evil space Dunbines. The extra engines and thicker wings advertise its nature as a hyper-tuned VF-25 chassis pushed to the edge. Note the articulated engine nozzles on each engine pod.
The outer wings can condense for high speed mode. The wing on the left is retracted while the right is left normal. The effect is rather subtle.
In many ways the YF-29 toy is also a prototype for the VF-25 Renewal toys. The overall structure and refinements to the transformation are echoed in the latest VF-25 toys. It has the extra seat hidden under a removable panel. You only get one Princess Alto with no extra figure for the rear seat.
Interestingly enough the visor on the head is visible even when stored in fighter mode. All major details are picked out with paint applications and tampo printing. The fold quartz transmitters on the chest plate are done with clear purple plastic over molded detailing.
For reasons only known to aeronautical engineers, the wing tips can angle up or down. This is done with a very audible "click" and there is no wiggle room in between positions.
The toy features fully-sized landing gear and requires no extra pieces for mounting the beam gun pod between the arms. The interior of the feet and the ankles are diecast metal with all the appropriate detailing within.
I find the open launcher ports on each that show a visible missile inside each hole to be great touch. A lot of Valkyries simple have the door closed with a plain black or gray paint application done on the door so this extra step tickles my mechanically-inclined heart. Also note that the legs are in dropped down as if the YF-29 was equipped with Super Packs which further reinforces the idea of how the Durandal is a Valkyrie with the add-on parts incorporated into the frame.
Like the VF-25 Renewals, the YF-29 comes with a basic and functional display stand. It's not the prettiest thing but it gets the job done with a few swap-out stand parts.
Personally I like to use a much more flattering Flight Pose stand.
Despite the supposed chunkiness of the extra parts, I feel like the YF-29 has very clean lines in fighter mode.
Both engine pods on the wings can rotate 360 degrees for extra thrust vectoring action to rule the skies. Again, this is a feature of the Tornado Packs the VF-25 employs in both Macross Frontier movies.
Following through with the idea of integrating functions of the Tornado Pack in the YF-29, this craft features a pop up turret. It swings up on a simple plastic armature.
The cannons extend to reveal long gun barrels and radiating fins. You can also rotate the turret a full 360 degrees to tag Varja as you kyuuun past.
Transforming the YF-29 to Gerwalk mode is straightforward and easy. The only major change from the VF-25 is that one needs to pop the dorsal turret up before swinging the wings up. The resulting Gerwalk is appropriately sleek and aggressive.
The included accessories consist of a full set of optional fixed-posed hands. Like the Renewal VF-25s, the toy comes with articulated hands already attached which are more than adequate for everything you would want to do with the toy. For the sticklers you get a pair of fists, weapon holding hands, and Nanto Seiken hands.
The shield is a bit more involved than the one included with the VF-25. In addition to the flap for the hands and the flap for the assault knife sheath there is a extending pair of tabs for securing the shield in fighter mode.
Again like the Renewal VF-25s, the YF-29 has an additional fold-out support strut to keep the rear of the Gerwalk mode upright. It also features a slot for attaching the beam gun pod. When removing the gun pod you must turn the gun's handle towards the gap on the right side of the slot.
Multiple joints in the ankles and knee swivels give the YF-29 a very solid stance. Even with the extra equipment, the toy is very stable.
This one's for Adam.
The stand can be configured to display the Gerwalk mode in flight. Again, it's a pretty basic setup, but it works without a hitch.
Unfortunately the shoulder pauldrons on the YF-29 attach via a weak C-clip and tends to pop off while the figure is being transformed. They reattach with no problem, but I wish this part was done with more durability.
The YF-29's Battroid mode is very familiar as it is a descendant from the mythical YF-24 Evolution much like the VF-25 and VF-27. It is unmistakably a Valkyrie. Due to the fact that the forward swept canards end up behind the hips in Battroid mode, the crotch must be positioned forward on their ratcheted joint by at least one click for adequate clearance.
Of course all of the extra equipment adds up to an epic backpack, but the toy deals with this extra weight pretty well. As long as the hips are kept tight it has no problems standing. You cannot have the turret retracted in this mode as it interferes with the wings bending up.
"Alto Saotome, ready to sortie!"
This head of the YF-29 is one of the most Kawamoriest things I have ever seen. The double visor and chin in combination with the forward swept fin appear to be a reference to the VF-27's head design. The pair of double-barreled head laser cannons are made of soft PVC and no hard plastic set is included like with the VF-25S Renewal version. The soft set is ok but I would have liked the option for a hard plastic alternative.
Also I want to point out that on my YF-29 the whole neck setup is very fiddly. It can be difficult to extend or retract the gray collar area without applying excessive force or using a tool to move the double hinge that lowers the inner area down for fighter mode. It's this hangup that makes me tend stick with fighter or Gerwalk in order to avoid dealing with the neck transformation. It's not a deal breaker for me, but if this issue is widespread I can understand if it could be frustrating for people who like to transform their Valkyries with some modicum of smoothness.
The beam gun pod is a fairly intricate accessory on its own. When you slide out the gun barrel, a sniper scope pops up automatically. The barrel itself swings out into a forked Macross cannon style weapon. As the expanded barrel blocks the sight of the scope it can swivel down to the side to keep the enemies inside the crosshairs.
The interior of the gun has a fully detailed beam emitter apparatus and painted vent detailing along the barrel.
The shoulders can open up to reveal banks of tiny missiles.
Because this is a Macross Valkyrie, the legs feature even more missiles. Each outer side of the calves pops up and splits into two articulated launchers. As I said before, a pair of missiles line up with the opened ports on these launchers. My only issue with this feature is the doors can be difficult to pry up without a good fingernail and can sometimes pop off as you are trying to open them.
The stand also works in Battroid mode but it seems like the main arm is kind of short.
Even with the bigger backpack, the YF-29 can still strike a good pose. The gun pod is also happy about this.
When all of the YF-29's vast cache of weapons fail to work somehow, you can always rely on the dinky assault knife. A knife I totally didn't almost lose in the green grass surrounding the deck.
"It's time to die, Bob!"
"I wish to fly in a real sky..."
Bandai's YF-29 Durandal Valkyrie is a very competent piece. It does everything the YF-29 needs to do and feels solid while performing most of its functions. The minor annoyances I get with the design like the shoulder pauldrons or the neck combined with the unexpected rarity of the toy make me hesitate to wholeheartedly recommend the toy at the aftermarket prices. I was fortunate enough to pay MSRP for the YF-29 and in the end I've warmed up to it. For a reasonable price it is a great Valkyrie toy but the unforeseen hassle that erupted around it is kind of a drag. There's also the issue of the YF-29's Super Parts which were a Tamashii Web exclusive. As of this review I have not heard of Bandai will be reissuing the Super Parts set. Maybe someday I will try tracking down a set on Mandarake or Yahoo Japan auctions but right now I feel the toy is complete as is. As Valkyrie toys are a niche market, I can understand the frustrations from both manufacturers and buyers when it comes to these products. I don't know if Bandai is unable to produce these in greater numbers or finds it would be financially unwise to do so and it's hard for some people to sit and take these shortages in stride. The YF-29 is a toy worthy of my collection, but I think it is unworthy of the extreme prices it seems to command these days.
|Posted 18 June, 2012 - 20:36 by VF5SS|