Review by JoshB
To say the Miracle Productions Vehicle Voltron was a highly anticipated piece is an understatement. We first got wind of it in 2008, making this 5 years of speculation from announcement to final piece.
Throughout the process we were updated by David of Toyfreakz.com. David was the agent of Miracle Productions in the US, and being a fan of CollectionDX, he was eager to share. I imagine if he knew then what he knows now, he probably would have kept this under his belt a lot longer. We all owe David thanks for his dedication in helping to bring this piece to life.
The story of how this toy came to be is a long and intricate one, so we will save that for another post. In this review we are going to talk about the toy itself. Can it possibly live up to the hype?
One thing we will do is compare version 1 and version 2. Version 1 leaked from the factory early and only a few hundred were released to the public. It’s not good. Version 2 fixes most of the issues to produce a reasonably solid toy.
I was a little underwhelmed with the outer packaging. It’s a thick cardboard box with colorful graphics on all sides except the back.
The back is just… black. Why this was ignored is beyond me. Another omission is a handle. It’s assumed that a toy of this size, with a box of this type, has a handle. This one does not.
Inside is a nice thick cardboard tray, with a cardboard lid. Lift that off and you get a very thin cardboard sheet with cutouts revealing the fifteen individual vehicles.
Below that is a clear plastic tray that showcases all of the accessories.
The Fifteen Vehicles
While in Dairugger XV each vehicle has a unique designation, I don’t think they do in the Voltron version. Each vehicle will be identified as it’s part on the Voltron robot. Also, unless otherwise noted, all images are of the Version 2.
The head ship is a small vehicle and part of the Air Team. It’s only gimmick is that it becomes the head of the robot.
The first version of this had doors that would not stay closed and actually came out if you tried to remove them. Version 2 attempts to correct this by making the doors non-removable and a little tighter, but still not tight enough to keep them from occasionally opening on their own.
Another change made to the Version 2 is an entirely new base that becomes the neck in vehicle mode. On the first version the base was poorly molded, painted, and angled inwards. Version 2 is now nice and sharp and molded in color.
The paint on the head is actually worse on version 2 than version 1. Version 2 has lots of bubbles and spots above the face area. It looks like Voltron has acne.
The chest ship is a large blue metal tank vehicle. Most of the body is metal, so the vehicle has significant heft. The two silver blocks on each side fold out, and the rear red plastic piece can raise up.
This piece has a few small QC issues that were not changed between versions. Mostly the issue is that the white door on the side does not stay closed, and the spring loaded panel on the other side can come out if pushed at an angle. However, the fit and finish of this piece is better on version 2 than version 1.
There were a few missed opportunities with this vehicle. On the bottom are solid plastic treads that are molded in one piece instead of rubber treads like the ones used on the legs. In addition. the cockpit is painted on instead of clear plastic like on the other vehicles.
The sleek red ship also has a good amount of metal in it but the finish is uneven between the plastic and metal parts. From a distance, it doesn’t really matter, but upon closer inspection the paint on the red metal is very thick as opposed to the molded red plastic of the wings. The wings are hinged for when in robot mode the arms want to reach out in front of the body.
The ship contains a very strong magnet which is used to anchor it to either the Air Team or Voltron in robot mode. The magnet is so strong that you can see metal shavings attached to it from the manufacturing process.
From the back, you can see how the top and bottom halves of the body do not line up quite right. This is just an example of the quality of this piece. It’s not terrible, but it’s not Bandai quality.
While appearing slightly different, the shoulder helicopters are essentially the same (just mirror images). Both feature a chrome rotor, clear cockpit, and metal body. On each body one pin is functional (to connect to the chest) and the other decorative.
At the rear of each helicopter is the tail section. This white plastic section has a satisfying click when turned. At the top of each piece is a black piece of plastic that looks like a button. However it does not seem to do anything.
The tail section features a small red center tail fin that is sort of useless. You can stand it up in vehicle mode, or fold it down when combining it. However, it's correct state should be about a 45 degree angle. The fins have no pegs or detents to keep them in place, so they just look odd.
An omission in the design is the side tail fins for each helicopter, despite being clearly seen in the line art and most other toys of Vehicle Voltron. QC is again an issue, with paint being sloppy around where the non-functional peg meets the body, and the doors for the shoulder movement not staying flush.
Like the helicopters, the hand cars are just mirror images of each other. The bodies are painted black metal with removable hand fronts. The only real difference between versions is that the rubber cup that attaches to the peg in the hands has been thickened a little to provide a firmer hold.
Miracle Productions added a nice little touch with the painted headlights, but completely dropped the ball on the cheap plastic wheels. The wheels feel cheap, are unpainted, and still have flash from the mold on them. Also, instead of using properly sized axels they used the same size front and back, resulting in a lot of play from side to side in the wheels.
This small blue sub has a big job in the formation of Voltron. It's fair to say everything hinges on this little guy. It's no wonder then why it was radically re-tooled for version 2.
Version 2 of the sub features the same diecast metal body, but the side engines have been redone in different plastic with a better joint system. On the first version, you could not twist the joint at all. Version 2 moves with a satisfying click between positions. The engine on the other side provides the chest hinge and now moves easily (maybe a little too easily).
In the process of upgrading this ship we also lost a feature. Version 1 has small movable wheels on the bottom, while on version 2 it is a solid piece of plastic.
This is another piece that went through several revisions, more than two I think, before arriving on the final version. But as I only have the two versions, I will just compare those. This is an intricate piece with some really great engineering. While I didn't have huge problems with the first version, the second version improves on a few things.
The ship basically unfolds to reveal the solid hip joints. You unfold the vehicle origami-style, rotate out the legs, and assemble it back together.
Version 2 allows for more movement in the panels, higher quality plastic, removal of the metal bars on the hinge, and re-designed pins on the leg connectors. Despite having molded tank treads, this is one of the few vehicles I can see it being near impossible to use actual treads.
These two little submarines were one of the biggest issues with the first version of the toy. The method used to hide the nose cones in robot mode was innovative, but the execution was flawed.
In vehicle mode the bottom of each submarine is diecast metal with a sliding panel that should be forward. The tip of the nose of each sub is silver plastic, and on mine the blue one was assembled incorrectly. It's easily removed and positioned properly.
The big flaw in the first version was in the pins that held the nosecone in place. The pins would push out and allow the nosecone to separate from the body. Since this joint is the connection piece for the legs to the body, the legs would just fall off. On the second version, the body has been re-sculpted to provide support around the pins so they stay securely in place. In this version, there is no problem with the joint.
Loaded with diecast metal, the large leg submarines provide a significant amount of weight to the combined Voltron. Each features real rubber treads and moveable parts.
The first version had issues with the cockpit section not clicking into place in a level position. This joint has been fixed in the second version, and the joint is a bit easier to move.
The bottom of each vehicle features a sliding panel that fills in the gap in vehicle mode. However there is no “catch” to keep the panel from coming out if you push it too far.
At the back of each vehicle is a large ugly black panel that serves as the connection to the feet of Voltron. There's no detail here, and no attempt made to hide it for it's vehicle mode. I can't help but think there could have been a better way to hide this joint, maybe make it rotate 180 degrees to hide the connection until needed.
The black and yellow vehicles are the feet of Voltron. Both vehicles are simple but carry out their intended purposes just fine. Both feature rubber wheels with painted hubcaps.
The black panels on the top of each can be reversed by pressing the button on the back. These panels don't pop out, they need to be coaxed out with your fingernail or a small tool. While the black panel works on the black vehicle, it looks odd on the yellow one.
The combination into air team is straightforward and once you are done you are partway to the Voltron transformation.
Begin by rotating the base of the head ship so the head drops down a bit. The base plate hinge is not in the center, so you can rotate it into different positions. Then you press the button in the center of the blue chest ship and rotate the treads below. Attach the head to the spring loaded panel on the side via magnet.
To attach the helicopters, first extend the side panels of the blue vehicle. Press in the button and then attach the helicopter to each side. You'll notice that pressing the button makes the joint connect easier. This is a common theme throughout the toy. If you are having trouble making a connection, press the button.
Attach the red ship to the chest via the magnet.
Air Team looks great and you can begin to see where the individual flaws begin to fade in favor of the combined package.
The Sea Team has one of the trickier connection points in the whole assembly.
First, rotate the front cockpits of the large blue submarines so that the connecting hole is facing out. Take each white submarine and open it. Use your finger to press down on the panel inside as far out as it will go. Insert this peg into the leg hole until they click into place. You may need to keep the white submarine open and use your finger to brace it until it clicks. Push out the white panels on the sides and place the small blue submarine in the middle.
The Land Team is the weakest of the three, with ill-fitting parts and a questionable combination method.
First you have to take the black waist vehicle and transform it so the leg posts are out. Attach each of the hand ships to their respective posts (while pushing the buttons in), then rotate the panels out of the top of the foot ships. These panels will now have tabs on top which attach to the bottom of the black ship by friction only, into little indents. It's not secure at all.
LETS GO VOLTRON FORCE
Throughout this review, I've shown you all the details of each individual vehicle, and I've pointed out quite a few flaws. If this sounds negative, it's not. Because Voltron is greater than the sum of its parts. What is important to me as a collector and fan is that it makes a good Vehicle Voltron, and it does. It enables me to overlook all the nitpicky issues and see the big picture for what it is.
From the Air Team, all that is needed is to remove and rotate the chest ship and rotate the treads on the back. Open the panel on the bottom of the blue chest ship (it likely fell open anyway) and push it into the body. Attach the small blue submarine next with the clicking hinge at top.
Attach the hands to the back of the helicopters while pushing the buttons in.
Open the door on the already transformed black vehicle and attach to the bottom of the blue submarine.
Take the already assembled legs and open the panels on the back of the white submarines. Flip down the nosecones, hold in the black buttons, and attach the legs to the pegs.
Finally, slide the feet into the notches at the bottom of the legs. The foot connection is temperamental. The yellow car slides out easily but the black one stays just fine. Also there is no way to "lock" the wheels in place so Voltron rolls freely.
Voltron stands about 15 inches tall and is about 50% die cast metal. You can really feel the weight when you pick it up. It feels GOOD.
It's reasonably stable, meaning that when posed properly it's not going to fall over. If you have the arms out towards the front the chest joint has a tendency to click forward on its own so you will have to position the feet out a bit to accommodate for this.
The articulation is fantastic considering the complexity of the combination. You have to remember that you are combining 15 die cast vehicles here which also have to include articulation for the larger robot.
- ball joint head
- detent shoulders (rotate)
- detent chect pectoral hinge
- click-out shoulder panels (to allow arms to move out from side)
- detent bicep swivel
- detent elbow
- ball joint wrist
- click chest hinge
- swivel waist
- multi-function detent hips (forward and back, out and in)
- rotating upper hip joint
- detent knees
- rocker ankles
Due to the sheer number of parts, and the multitude of joints, Voltron does have a tendency to "wiggle" a lot. Rest assured, he stays together, even when held up in the air by the chest.
FORM BLAZING SWORD
Three blazing swords are included - chrome, blue and gold. Early rumors had a die cast sword included from the set but this was not to be.
You can see that by using the sword holding hands Voltron can grab his weapon with two hands. This is really the main reason the arms swing inward and the chest ship has movable wings.
Spinning Laser Blades
In the show, the propellers on each shoulder become laser weapons that are held in each hand. Individual chromed weapons are included to replicate this effect. However, the existing propellers on the helicopter are not removable. It looks like you can disassemble the shoulders and unscrew them from behind if you are daring.
You can use the variant open hands to look like he's grabbing them right off the shoulder.
The hands separate into two pieces to allow the cross section of the blades to fit.
Solar Combat Spears
In the show, the Solar Combat Spears start out as small lances that eject from the white panels on the legs. While they do not eject in toy form, Miracle Productions included 2 short lances and two long lances.
The short lances fit in either of the hands with removable fronts.
The long lances have solid metal rods in them, giving them significant weight. One lance is two sided, while the other is more of a spear.
The chrome at the end of my spear is significantly worn despite being brand new.
Ray Beam Whip
This weapon has a hard plastic handle with a soft rubber whip. This whip is too soft and holds no shape, so no matter how you pose it, it droops down. It would have been better with a wire inside for posing, or a solid, molded piece in some kind of wild flailing action.
This has been a hard toy for me to review. I've been waiting for it for years. I studied each prototype and CAD drawing so I was already intimately familiar with the design prior to even holding it. I even ordered backup copies in case licensing kept it from seeing release.
When my first piece arrived (the backup, coincidentally), I was crushed about how poor some of the parts were. I quickly learned that I had the dreaded version 1. I arranged to have another sent and decided to keep the first version for comparison's sake. When the new version arrived, it was like night and day. The crushing depression was replaced with optimism as I assembled the piece for the first time.
It's still not a great toy, but it is a good toy. There are a million tiny flaws on this thing that if you obsess over the minor ones you will miss the big picture. The fact is that we have a fully transforming, 15 inch tall die cast Vehicle Voltron. That in itself is worth it in my book.
But I realize that most of you are not as obsessed as I am. If you are going into this expecting Bandai quality, you will be let down. I would compare this to a Third Party transformer instead. (as an aside, it shares some shoulder joint connectors with one of the not-devastator toys. Hmmmm....) It's an overly ambitious toy by a company that may have bit off more then they could chew. Thankfully they had the good sense to fix the major issues as soon as they were discovered.
I'm glad to have this on my shelf. If this does well, lets hope it encourages other toy makers (ahem - Bandai) to also put out their take on Vehicle Voltron.
|Posted 17 October, 2013 - 17:25 by JoshB|