Armor Parts for VF-25S Ozma Lee use Renewal Version
Review by VF5SS
The surprising success of Macross Frontier managed to reinvigorate both the fans and the franchise with new characters, a familiar setting, and plenty of new Valkyries ripe for merchandising. Throughout the special broadcast of the first episode I found myself engrossed in the possibilities of what might happen and where the series was going. Eventually I focused on Ozma Lee and his striking Full Armor VF-25S and thought, "damn I want that." Bandai happily provided a toy of of the Armored VF-25S and now we've arrived at this wonderful moment...
Some readers may remember my review of the first DX Chogokin VF-25S Armored Messiah and how that toy was not up to par. In a very short amount of time the toy began to age very badly. With Bandai's main Macross competitor, Yamato, rolling out better products, the first round of DX Chogokin VF-25s occupied a sad niche of "with nothing else it will have to do" for fans of Macross Frontier. My own DX VF-25S suffered an unfortunate case of falling-apart-on-its-own-its.
After Bandai stumbled out of the gate with their first round of DX Chogokin Valkyries, they sought to put right what once went wrong and make the space fold straight into my heart with their Renewal Version VF-25S. With my faith in Bandai renewed I happily gritted my teeth in order to obtain the web exclusive Super Parts set in order to outfit my VF-25S with even more gear. One of the most endearing concepts in Macross is the idea of extra parts to dress up your Valkyrie for all kinds imaginary space battles. For Yamato's Perfect Transformation VF-1 line I sought to fill out all the variations of parts for my own little squadron. Bandai once again roped me into the Web Exclusive route with their set of Armor Parts for the VF-25S Ozma Lee Use Renewal Version. It's a real mouthful, but there's a whole handful of bits inside that pretentious gray-scale box! At the very least the accessories are easier to preorder than the main toy itself these days.
Straight out of the box you get quite a spread of parts. All of the parts are made out of sturdy plastic with no diecast metal.
Curiously you get two slightly different codpieces for your robot. The one on the left has a grove cut out for use with the stand adapter and groin bracer part. The one on the right has no cutout and is meant to look more anime accurate. While this is a nice gesture, both parts look roughly the same while attached and the more functional codpiece wins out in terms of practicality.
When you add in the bits from the Super Parts set you start to wonder just how many accessories does one Valkyrie really need? For more information on how the parts fit onto the toy, please check out my video at the bottom of the review. The overall experience is far more pleasant and intuitive than on the previous Armored Messiah toy with everything going on smoothly and next to no futzing required to make everything work.
I have to clean all this up too...
Rounding out the included accessories are a set of four stand adapter pieces and one groin support piece. Everything is beefed up from the stock adapter parts in order to accommodate the fully equipped Valkyrie. Starting on the left you have the Gerwalk mode rear fuselage support piece attached to the Fighter/Gerwalk front fuselage support piece. In the middle is the groin support part and then the Battroid mode stand adapter. Lastly you have the Fighter mode adapter.
The mystique of an Armored Valkyrie is one familiar to many different robots series. A normally lithe and mobile machine encases itself in chunks of armor in order to boost its firepower at the cost of speed. The VF-25 Messiah Valkyrie was the first mainstream Variable Fighter that is able to transform while wearing its heaviest armor package. While there has been discarded concepts like the Armored Gerwalk or video game only designs like the Stampede Valkyrie, the Armored Messiah is the first of its kind in a Macross anime.
From every angle the silhouette of the Armored Messiah is bulky and imposing. Massive boosters encase the wings showing that this time all sense of aerodynamics are eschewed for pure power. Only the set of four fins arranged in a vague X-shaped spread give some solidarity to the aerospace fighter nature of a Valkyrie.
A pair of articulated engine nozzles compliment the main engines of the VF-25S. Everything is pegged in securely in fighter mode so there is little chance of something popping off if one wants to grab the VF-25S for takeoff.
As I alluded to in my previous Armored Messiah review, I always believed that this modern Valkyrie design took its inspiration from a much older Valkyrie concept called the "Star Child." The space fighter motif coupled with the twin beam cannon mounts and specific fin design seem to point to some connection.
Other parts of the design appear to come from the Stampede Valkyrie which hails from the old Japanese PC game called "Remember Me."
Much of the toy's overall look is improved from the original Armored Messiah toy with many more tampo printed markings and more engraved panel lines and other mechanical detailing.
Even the small painted on sensor jewels underneath the rotatable antenna array seem much more vibrant than on the old toy, with the surrounding detail appearing much sharper.
The extra line detailing around the front of the booster makes the whole area pop out to the viewer.
The missiles on all of the opening launchers are leaps and bounds better than on the previous Armored Meissah toy. Each is done in dark gray plastic with a crips red warhead outlined by white.
For additional armament you get two pairs of Reaction Missiles and their associated mounting pylon.
These missiles are well done with some effective tampo printing for the Reaction Warhead symbol and the black stripe. Their overall design echoes that of the VF-1's Reaction Missiles while looking suitably sleeker.
The extra pylons simply tab into a slot on the end of each main booster.
Due to the bulk of the Armored Messiah, the leg parts contain their own landing gear. The gear doors slide out in a neat little way along a pair of curved tracks. While the gear deploys easily enough, I've found they do not quite lock in place which forces me to wedge the rear door against the landing strut to help keep it open. It's a minor annoyance at best. Also note that the gray interior pieces on the leg armor have slots for storing the gun pod in Fighter mode! Such a simple solution evaded the previous Armored Messiah so it's a relief to see it done on the Renewal version.
One other minor annoyance is the use of a separate plastic bracket that is needed to bring the legs closer together for Fighter mode. This part simple snaps into a slot on each leg armor part. This seems to be one area where a more self-contained mechanism was sacrificed just for the sculpt. Without this bracket the legs don't quite get close enough for them to successfully hold the gun pod in place so perhaps this was a quick fix to an unforeseen issue.
The fully loaded Armored Messiah still manages to have just enough ground clearance to keep the gun pod from touching the ground. This is thanks to the proper length nose wheel.
Using two of the four extra stand adapter parts, the Armored Messiah can rise into the air on the stock toy's included display base. This whole setup firmly attacks to the gullet area of the fuselage with a wide bracket snapping solidly around both armored up legs. Again, a very simple display that manages to be sturdy.
With a little extra height I can show off the articulated beam cannons mounted on the tip of each booster. Each cannon can hinge straight downward while a swivel in the middle of each ball mount allows the cannon to move either left or right.
Using the every dependable Flight Pose stand, I was able to get the Armored Messiah into a clean looking flying display.
The Armored Messiah is purely a space fighter while in Fighter mode. It cannot gracefully hang in the skies, so it instead rams its way through space like a miniature dreadnought.
The secret to the VF-25's ability to transform while equipped with full armor is due to the simple way its forward fuselage folds under the chest and back plate. With the rest of the Valkyrie remaining on the exterior across all three modes, only the forward fuselage needs to remain unarmored. For me it almost looks like this spacey chunk of Fighter still has the proper business end like a spear.
Given the Macross franchise's past history with shoot 'em ups, I always find it fun to see which designs lend themselves to those heyday of arcade gaming. I've been told by an expert that the Armored Messiah resembles a ship from Batsugun. Also score one for the Flight Pose stand for being able to display the toy vertically!
Well look who bothered to show up!
Before moving on with the review of the current Armored Messiah toy (left), I want to do a few comparisons with the old one (right). I can only do this while both are in Fighter mode as the old toy would undoubtedly break even more if forced to undergo the rigors of Gerwalk and Battroid mode. Let me start by saying the armoring process for the old toy is downright atrocious. Even without comparing it to the great fit and intuitiveness of the new toy, very little seems to want to come together on the old one. I was getting genuinely irate at the wing roots repeatedly failed to peg into the leg armor on the old toy. Other parts like the extremely tenuous connection point between the arms and their armor (I think they wanted you to use two-sided tape) just frustrated me.
In terms of colors, the old toy's plastic looks more toy like and the smaller number of printed markings make it feel like a second rate children's toy. It doesn't even feel like it is a proud part of the Chogokin heritage but something from a lesser company.
Probably the most poignant area of comparison is the missile detailing. The old toy barely even tried with rows of missiles rendered in bare red plastic with the tiniest of paint applications. It's something the old Takatoku VF-1 Armor Parts pulled off with dignity while the old Armored Messiah just looks tacky.
Enough of lamenting the past for the new Armored Messiah is bringing something I doubt few readers are ready to behold and that is...
Yes that's right! The Armored Messiah Renewal Version can achieve a perfect Gerwalk mode (complete with A-stance) without any additional parts!
The secret of its success is that elegant little support arm that folds out from under the back plate and connects to the groin area. This simple bracing mechanism provides support for the fully outfitted posterior of the VF-25S. Neither the back plate nor the boosters will sag down in this mode. My only issue with the toy in this configuration is that all the parts around the arms and intakes are bunched together in a way that can limit articulation or cause something to pop off. Since parts pop back on quite easily on this toy I find myself forgiving a few minor hiccups.
It's still good enough to save a princess.
Swapping out the rear of the Fighter mode adapter lets the toy sit atop the display base in a basic flying pose.
The extra part fits snugly underneath and supports the bulked up rear half quite well.
The realization of Battroid mode is where the new Armored Messiah falters just a bit. Without a sturdy built-in lock for the groin area, I find my toy needs help from this extra piece that locks the Battroid mode at maximum crotch thrust. Perhaps an internal swing out support strut could have been devised or at least something less conspicuous than this part. It is essentially the same as the Battroid mode stand adapter just a little streamlined without an attachment point. Something as simple as making it match the color of the armor rather than the stand would have gone a long way to making it seem like a natural part of the overall equipment. I don't hate it but I just think it could have been better.
When I got the Armor Parts set in the mail I immediately put it on the toy for display in Battroid mode. Even in this candid shot from the couch, the Armored Messiah is in a word: intimidating.
The unmistakable aura of an Armored Valkyrie weighs heavy in the air around this figure.
With everything now in a more vertical orientation the whole figure feels heavier.
For some extra support I used the fold out gun pod mount as a brace between the back plate and the canopy. To ensure stability after the Super Parts review, I used a single coat of Testor's silver paint to strengthen the simple ball and socket in the hips. Getting at the hip joint is an easy matter of removing one Phillips screw from the back of each intake. With strong hips the VF-25S toy can stand up while wearing its armor.
The only strange omission in the base toy is a way to easily lock the wings pointed upward in their Battroid position. While some have fretted over this matter or cursed the Armor Parts set for not including a separate bracing piece like the 1/72 scale plastic model, I managed to wedge a piece of folded up index card in between the wing's existing hinge tab and the edge of the back plate. While it is admittedly irksome to have to do this, I am not losing my mind over something that can be solved with less than a dime's worth of paper. For the most part I just used the elbow guards and a little luck to keep the back boosters upright. As much I can see a lot of care and planning on how the Renewal Version VF-25 would handle attaching the armor, I think there could have been more care taken to ensure it could handle it without relying on extra parts.
I find there is a genuine romantic feeling of the way this lithe machine manages to heft massive chunks of armor on the strength of its joints alone. Sometimes I wonder if Shoji Kawamori's imagination has exceeded the grasp of current toy technology. I think most of the problems with the base toy and its equipment is trying to adhere to the sparse mechanics of a CG model without giving some consideration to how all this stuff works out on a twelve inch toy.
With all I've said about the structure of the Armor Parts, there is still more to say about their beauty. Again all the extra touches work in tandem with the revamped VF-25S Renewal Version to create A visually striking piece. All of the additional detail only compliments things such as the excellent use of clear parts on the VF-25S head.
The leg armor is almost immaculate in execution. The two halves clamp securely around the legs with negligible difficulty. The red lettering on the missile pods indicate which one goes where with a "UR" or "UL" for upper right or left and "BR" or "BL" for bottom right and boy's love.
Flipping up the door on each missile pod reveals clusters of tightly packed warheads all ready to launch.
The chest plate features an inspired extra feature that allows the toy to emulate the curious inconsistency with the chest missile pods.
Two sets of interchangeable doors and matching plates of missiles let the toy have either inward or outward hinging chest launcher doors. It only goes to show that even with CG models, consistency never gets in the way of perfect scene composition. So if you feel like the chest doors are blocking the head out in a particular shot you can easily swap them out for doors that work with your own amateur directorial skills.
Ladies and gentlemen I present to you all: The Full Bomber!
No, Ozma never said anything like that when unloading the trademark Itano Circus into some unsuspecting enemy, but I feel like this is what a passionate Fire Bomber fan might say given the chance. It makes about as much sense as him calling out names of various Fire Bomber songs as attack formations.
With some careful posing I was able to get a decent picture of the Armored Messiah on the display stand. With a full load out optimized for space combat, this Valkyrie can engage enemies at any angle. Having culled the technical archives for the Armored Messiah, I can confirm that this Valkyrie is equipped with exactly "a whole lotta missiles."
Brothers in armor.
Overall my experience with Bandai's VF-25S Renewal Version toy and its full range of accessories has been far more positive than my experience with the original VF-25S toy. Even with some issues that arise when displaying a fully equipped Battroid I find the good definitely outweighs the bad. A few more tweaks to the accessories and the base toy might have really knocked it clear out of the park, but what I got was a definite home run in my book. Tracking down Bandai's Macross Frontier toys has become more of a chore than it needs to be so I may not pursue any more VF-25 toys in the immediate future. I am certainly glad to have this figure as I feel it and its accessories are what the VF-25 Messiah Valkyrie deserved from the start. The traces of the original toy's failure may stick around, but I commend Bandai for putting forth a lot of effort in trying to make amends with a truly satisfying product.
Here is the first video showing how to attach the armor.
Here is the second video showing how to transform the toy into Gerwalk mode and Fighter mode.
|Posted 5 September, 2012 - 20:36 by VF5SS|