VF-1A Max DYRL Type (2001)
Review by VF5SS
Over the years there have been dozens of toys based on the venerable (some may say overexposed) VF-1 Valkyrie. The design that kicked off the Kazen Henkei craze of the 80's had its first genuinely modern toy back in 2001. Yamato's first 1/60 scale VF-1 Valkyrie was, for the time, the first new iteration of VF-1 that tried to step out of the shadow of the beloved 1/55 scale Takatoku VF-1 toy. In some ways it succeeded. Since this toy was reviewed a few times before on CollectionDX, I've going to try something different and take a retrospective look at the one old 1/60 I'll always keep.
I bought this toy when it was on sale at HobbyLink Japan. It used to be the rule of thumb that Max's DYRL Valkyries tend to go on clearance faster than others. That is until we got so many other color schemes that few people wanted.
I started this review almost a year ago. In fact it survived the transition from the old site to the new site. In an effort to keep the "retro" feeling of this review, all the pics are in 56k friendly 640x480. It's not like I forgot to switch my camera back to take bigger pictures or anything.
The original 1/60 VF-1 is almost nothing like its successors. Rather than being designed with computer aided drafting, it was prototyped by Billy Wong with the help of design house Flex. As such it is a somewhat rougher rendition of the VF-1. Originally meant to be 1/72 scale to go with the trio of Macross Plus toys, the size was enlarged in order to accommodate more gimmicks.
Accesories on this release were pretty standard. It came with four AMM-1 missile clusters and four UUM-7 box missile launchers. These simply pegged into mounts under the wing.
You may notice this toy is light on the tampo printing that would help define future Valkyries. A lot of key details have to be done with Yamato's questionable early stickers. These were never cut to the right size and didn't adhere well.
In fighter mode, this VF-1 is an absolute brick. The lower legs and parts of the chest are diecast, which makes it feel heavier than the old 1:55 toy. Fighter mode is solid almost to a fault as the unique design of the toy means every bit is locked to another so tightly that doing a fast change to any other mode is impossible. The only exception to this is the backpack. Unlike later VF-1s, it does not peg into the legs or arms leaving only friction to keep it in place if the plane is inverted.
Also the gun pod appeared to drag on the ground. Yamato would fix this problem with the first Super Pack release by adding a collapsible handle as found on the succeeding VF-1 toys.
This toy is the first time Yamato used their patented tail fin folding mechanism that eliminates large visible hinges while allowing both fins to fold down as tightly as possible. They always fold left over right.
Comparisons to the current Yamato VF-1A toy in inevitable. A lot of people have come to refer to these figures as V.2 (left) and V.1 (right). Officially, the new line is called the Perfect Transformation 1/60 Scale series. The Perfect Transformation is to distinguish it from the older figure, which required some parts swapping for its conversion process. Putting the two side-by-side in fighter mode, one can see which is the real winner. The old toy was never really considered more than just passable even in its time. While at first glance they appear evenly matched, the little details set them apart. The pilot figure in the cockpit, the extra tampo markings, and the general fit and finish is just so much better on the new toy. Also the blue on the new Max type is looks better for what it's worth.
I'm going to save the grittier details of the transformation for the video. Needless to say, it wasn't exactly fun. Not painful, but certainly not fun.
As the herald of perfect transformation robot toys, the VF-1 Valkyrie has always had a dirty little secret with regards to how the legs move from underneath the fighter to being attached to the little bulges (they're both cameras and hip joints) on the nose. It's not the most toy friendly design or at least, no toy has even been made to replicate this action. Admittedly, going through the actual motions of a VF-1's leg transformation would probably feel really redundant on a toy. Since the toy wouldn't have working pistons to move the hinges (yet), doing this would effectively equal what the original Yamato VF-1 toys did. You take the legs off and move them somewhere else. Honestly I am not against the idea of a VF-1 toy with removable legs as part of its transformation. The crux of the matter is the old toy just didn't handle this idea very well.
Now it may seem like I harp on this whole leg transformation thing a lot, but I've always found the VF-1 to be a microcosm for the whole debate of playability of a toy versus accuracy to the original design. It's one of the things that has come to shape the overall design of modern VF-1 toys. When a new one is announced (and there's always a new one) you see people asking, "how are they going to do the legs?" Like the Gundam's core fighter setup or the Scopedog's goofy Down Form, these iconic machines all seem to have a tricky aspect that confound and challenge toy designers to go that extra step.
Valkyrie toys live and die by their Gerwalk mode. From the legs up, this toy is decent. Once you try to do anything with the lower half, everything kind of falls apart. In fighter mode, the legs are secured with a tab in the calf area and a moving lock in the intake. Those calf tabs are actually doing most of the work keeping these dense, diecast legs attached to the fighter mode. In Gerwalk mode, all you have is the sliding lock in the intakes to keep the legs on. While they do usually stay on, you'll have to let the toy sit there because neither sliding lock snaps closed with a firm connection. And for some reason the hip pegs which sit nicely apart in fighter mode now knocked into each other. Strangest of all, their solution to achieving Gerwalk mode's characteristic "A-stance" was to put swivels on the black stripe just below the knee. This never worked well at all as lower legs can only be moved by mashing the intakes and their hip pegs together which does not involve the leg swivels at all. Because of this odd cut in the shins, the landing gear is split in such a way that the main door with the red or blue light does not need to be opened to expose the main wheels. I have to wonder if using the leg swivels to achieve the A-stance was Yamato's original intent or just something they found while messing around with the toy.
Again the new toy is just better. Granted it used the successful 1/48 scale Valkyrie as its base but the new 1/60 a few steps beyond that. I do kind of like the shape of the backpack on the old toy as well as its take on the front trapezoidal area. That part was a source of much debate as in the show it's just blank, while on the Takatoku toys it was filled with three verniers. Yamato did include a pair of small removable antennas for the old toy's backpack but it's very sad looking and not worth using. You get two in case you lose one.
Getting the old toy into Battroid mode is not quite an ordeal but again it's more of a project than it should be. This is where the figure's two instances of parts swapping occur. You have to replace the canopy with the cockpit shield and remove the small plug in the nose to allow the legs to slot in. One of the common complaints was that the legs were held in only with friction so it was too easy to slide them back out when posing. There's also the triple redundant chest lock that actually prevents the shoulders from moving without dislodging their hinges slightly.
One enterprising fan did modify one of these toys to have an internalized cockpit shield as seen here (may require login) which means there was enough room for the shield to store inside.
Proportions wise, the old toy still manages to have the dignity of the VF-1 Valkyrie. Each part is rather blocky, which evokes the style of Macross Do You Remember Love. One of the most common complaints was the tapered nosecone. The usage of those sliding locks in the intake/upper leg meant the actual hip joint had to be external. Because of this, the nosecone was tapered inward to keep the hips from appearing too wide. The hands extend using a classic sliding tab rather than the more modern forearm door method. Of the default hands, only the right one can hold the gun pod. Also included are an open palm hand for cupping the gun and the infamous hand with extended trigger finger which has no thumb.
The mystery of the missing thumb will never be answered.
While the old toy does not mess with the characteristic neck indent of the VF-1, the head and neck are smaller and more compact leading to the figure looking a little more squat. Like the rest of the body, the monitor turret is quite blocky. It still retains the VF-1A purity of one camera and one laser. The little arrows that points towards the enemy are painted on the sides of the head.
Because the first version of this toy used the entire handle to attach the gun pod, Yamato included fill-in pieces to give the arms a more solid look while the gun pod is not mounted. These little bits are kind of annoying to keep track of so it's not wonder they fixed it for subsequent Valkyries. In the series, there's enough of a gap between for the gun's handle without such a large cutout. On a toy the proportions don't scale down as nicely so a small cutout is generally required.
The articulation on the old VF-1 was above average for its time. While classic Battroid mode model kits had many of these features, this was the first VF-1 toy to have a functional waist joint. This is one advantage to having the legs attached only at the nose. The 1/48 scale VF-1 toy did have both the rear mounted swing bar and a semi-functioning waist but I was nowhere near as free moving. If there is one problem with the copious amounts of diecast in this toy's legs, it's that the weight is rather taxing on the simple ball-jointed hips and their basic friction connection to the nose. The result is the hips become loose very quickly.
Thanks to the wizardry of computer aided design, two airplanes of roughly the same length can become robots that are slightly different in height. The new toy's more well rounded proportions and natural stance make it a clear step ahead of its forebear. Some say while the new one isn't completely accurate, it still captures the VF-1 you see in your mind.
In terms of articulation, the old boy can only watch with envy as its successor uses its slew of free ranging joints in conjunction with the secret back-plate trick to pull off more dynamic poses. Well the new toy does feature less diecast, its plastic body allows for a more balanced action figure.
The early releases of the old VF-1 could not uses the FAST pack sets. It was still compatible with the quintessential Valkyrie accessory, the GBP-1S Armor Pack. JoshB reviewed this set back in the day and even then it was lackluster. The proportions are bloated, the crotch armor and thigh armor is so thick it forces the hip connectors out of their sockets, and the optional fists (not pictured 'cause they suck) are laughably huge. However, if robots are just dolls for men it is still always fun to play dress up.
Despite this GBP-1S set being less securely attached than the bleedin' classic Takatoku set, it did manage to include all the missile hatches. Just don't get upset when one of the leg missile clusters falls off.
And just because I'm a sentimental fool, I bought the new VF-1A Max DYRL type just so I could recreate this combination. One thing the new toy got right (after two tries), is that is was designed for both the FAST packs and Armor Packs. The major breakthrough was the realization that the pesky leg fin was meant to fold down to allow the leg armor to enclose around the lower leg. Without the folding fin, the leg armor would be bigger than it needed to be which often messes up the proportions of the entire set.
Still, both toys get the point across. This is a skinny robot wearing a huge set of armor that is loaded with missiles.
In the end, the first of Yamato's transformable VF-1 toys are just a stepping stone in their rise to total Valkyrie domination. Almost nothing was retained from these early toys. While the 1/48 scale VF-1 toys were the true genesis of Yamato's future toy lines, the original toys managed to step out of the shadow of the venerable 1/55 scale Takatoku toys. Well maybe it took a step and fell over, but it's the idea that someone looked at the old Bandai and Takatoku toys and thought, "We can try to do better." Of course the near total abandonment of what came before often invited a lot of ridicule in the toy community. Collectors are not generally opposed to multiple versions of the same character, but if you present them with improved versions of that character within the same toy line it can be irritating. When Yamato made small changes to the existing VF-1 toys people were incensed that they should either do it right or not fix what was broken unless it was a crippling flaw. Although there was some leeway when it was a new toy in a different scale (and therefore size), collectors were often leery that their initial investments had been made moot by these new toys.
More and more, toy companies are striving to create the definitive version of an iconic character. Improvements in toy construction and toy design have allowed for companies to take past experiences ,along with customer feedback, and create something that will (hopefully) be a better product. With this in mind, the question becomes does a company have to make a mistake to learn from? In the end we must accept that toy companies are staffed by people who can make mistakes just like any of us. And all the factors of time and energy spent developing these luxury items can only be stretched so far. With a handful of lineart and a helping of dreams, these companies are looking for new ways to satisfy their customers. Sure it'd be nice if we could just have one outstanding toy of a character that people could sell forever, but that's just a dream we had as we raced into the morning glow.
I still regard my old VF-1A Max Type as the figure that helped me get into collecting Japanese toys. While there may not be much left of its design in the current toys, future VF-1s can fold their tail fins with pride knowing that their ancestor at least got that right.
Comparison video between the two VF-1A Valkyries. (May still be processing)
Bonus Coverage showing both GBP-1S Armor Parts sets.
|Posted 26 October, 2011 - 16:28 by VF5SS|