Strike Freedom Gundam
Review by Gunpla Rob
Although Gundam SEED Destiny came to a close more than a year ago, Bandai has continued to remind us that they are far from done with the series and every aspect of its legacy. They do so with their recent Master Grade scale offering of the Strike Freedom Gundam.
The ZGMF-X20A Strike Freedom Gundam is the reincarnated, upgraded form of the Cosmic Era’s legendary Freedom Gundam piloted by Kira Yamato. What some fans of the traditional Gundam universe (the Universal Century) claimed foul on the SEED universe (the Cosmic Era) that it relied too much on borrowing from past generations as the series progressed. Later persecution came as SEED Destiny began, from mirroring the machines of the One Year War with the ZGMF-X1000 Zaku Warriors and borrowed technologies such as beam shields from Gundam F91, even so much as comparing the Freedom to being a rehash of the F91 itself. However without trying to add more fuel to the fire, the Strike Freedom closely resembles the until-recently untapped image of the RX-93-2 Hi Nu Gundam (the upgraded form of the original Nu Gundam from the novel version of Char’s Counterattack). Still none the less, and petty bickering aside the Strike Freedom exists now as one of the most popular Gundams since its predecessor.
As Gundam SEED Destiny reintroduced the Freedom, it set off into the series’ third story arch (the first being the introduction of Shinn Asuka as a new protagonist and the second about Athrun Zala acting as a witness to all sides) which followed returning SEED stars Kira Yamato and Lacus Clyne along with the remaining crew of the Archangel heading out in order to halt the coming crisis between the Earth Alliance and ZAFT while uncovering the conspiracy set into motion by the new leader of ZAFT, Durandal. With Kira once again commanding the power and grace of his revived mobile suit, he made the machine’s presence known.
As good intentions run astray, the Freedom’s interference in multiple battles only begat more tragedy and loss. Kira’s actions in disarming other mobile suits ultimately lead to their destruction by enemy fire, and crippling warships would result in their destruction by the remaining mobile suits made no solution. In a later event, the Freedom was pulled into the devastating encounter with the Earth Alliance’s new mobile weapon the GFAS-X1 Destroy Gundam, piloted by Stella Loussier; Shinn’s attempted love interest and Earth Alliance guinea pig “Extended” pilot. As Shinn could not bring himself to defeat the menace, Kira forced Freedom’s hand destroying the Destroy and unwillingly killing the girl inside.
Seizing the opportunity following the event, ZAFT sets into motion “Operation Angel-Down” in which Shinn Asuka and his ship, the Minerva, were sent after the Archangel and Freedom Gundam with orders to eliminate them. Reeling from the tragedy of the Destroy Gundam incident, Shinn Asuka makes destroying the Freedom his top priority. Shinn ultimately succeeds with his first machine the ZGM-X56S Force Impulse Gundam using the beam sword from its Sword Silhouette weapon pack. Although Kira managed to disable Freedom’s nuclear reactor in time, there was no recovering for the legendary Freedom this time.
Meanwhile in space, Lacus Clyne leads her own ship the Eternal in a hunt for information about Durandal’s plans for the Earth while constructing new Mobile suits of their own. Among them are the new ZGMF-XX09T Dom Troopers and the new incarnation of both the Justice (ZGMF-X19A Infinite Justice) and the Freedom. After learning of their actions ZAFT sends orders to eliminate the ship, however Kira comes to their aid with the commandeered MBF-02 Strike Rouge. For his efforts, Lacus presents him with his revived wings, the ZGMF-X20A Strike Freedom Gundam. This machine would be his to pilot for the remainder of the series, and ultimately remain intact as one of the most power machines in the SEED universe.
Strike Freedom, Take 5
The Strike Freedom is the first machine of the Gundam SEED Destiny series to be recreated into the fifth scale. As standard to the series, Bandai gave it the low grade 1/144 scale and subsequent high grade treatment in both 1/144 and 1/100 scales. Additionally due to the Strike Freedom’s unique nature Bandai crafted it again in 1/60 scale utilizing an LED light up feature for its joints and vents. However all of these forms strayed from one end of the spectrum to the other without presenting a full quality version of the design that was equally available to the general public or worthy of the machine’s design in plastic form.
As proven with the ZGMF-X10A Freedom Gundam and the GAT-X105 Aile Strike Gundam from the past generation of the SEED legacy, there was success in the Master Grade market. As such the Strike Freedom Gundam was recreated into Master Grade form. As the first many machines from the SEED Destiny assortment of Master Grades (including the recent XGMF-42S Destiny Gundam and rumored Infinite Justice Gundam), the Strike Freedom sets an impressive benchmark for things to come.
If comparing to the prior editions, the Strike Freedom Master Grade form has a multitude of differences, all courtesy of the Bee Craft design team and the Master Grade engineers at Bandai. The differences are present in both visual and technical applications into recreating the popular machine. However before finding these firsthand one must open the box.
All That Glitters is Gold
The Strike Freedom Gundam comes out of the box in the colors that can only be described as the native Freedom scheme. This includes white, pale blue, cobalt blue, yellow, and dark (near black) blue. What sets the Strike Freedom so far apart from its previous incarnation is the interior skeleton which is designed to be Gold, and so Bandai has once again turned to gold injection. Metallic injection does not have the sheen or value of the popular electrostatic chrome as seen with models such as the Hyaku Shiki, but it does possess the glistening qualities one could hope for. This injection plastic was used before with the previous 1/144 HG and 1/100 scale HG version of the Strike Freedom, as well as the Hyper Mode editions of the God Gundam and Master Gundam Master Grade model kits. Unlike the latter, Bandai has produced for the Strike Freedom in such quantities of the rare material plastic to create the Strike Freedom in its full chromatic detail. Even the Polycaps are gold, talk about “Bling Gundam.”
Construction of the Strike Freedom begins in the center, at its very core to be exact. In recent years, Bandai has miniaturized the Perfect Grade work load into the Master Grade line, with nearly perfect endoskeletons of the machines done with MG engineering without going into the extremes of the Perfect Grade technology, using fewer parts to create the same rich value. As such the Strike Freedom Gundam incorporates this same level of work. Nearly every part of its body is layered upon a complete endoskeleton frame. The only parts without this are the weapons and the head but these components share a wonderful attention to detailing and construction.
The head of the Strike Freedom in MG form is a much sharper interpretation of the design missed entirely by the 1/100 scale HG version’s rounder, long faced attempt. Construction follows the standard Master Grade method, and as such each part of a different color is a corresponding part. The parts count includes the two helmet halves (front and back), eyes, the nose and chin, face mask, cheeks, and the three parts needed for the crest. As standard, the head has a swiveling ball cup polycap for where it connects to the neck. Included with this standard work Bandai put in an extra ounce of work by giving us parts for interior vents. Molded in the gold plastic, these two short strips fit to the inside of the head and are exposed to see from the front. The eyes are a clear strip with a raised extension for the forehead sights, so the basic paint work is needed. Fully built, the head is extremely sharp, much sharper than the past incarnations of the Strike Freedom. Compared to both the Strike Freedom HG and the original Freedom MG, there are no overpowering or distracting features of the head. The head just looks right, and builds solid.
The Torso sports some of Bandai’s latest innovations of expanding on the limits of articulation. From the interior out the Strike Freedom has a swiveling neck and shoulders that have been standard additions in recent kits, but sports a newly designed hinged midsection. While other kits have shown progress and balance with ball socket construction, the weight of the Strike Freedom’s backpack and wing binders prohibit their use. As such, the Strike Freedom’s torso is constructed in sections: the lower abdomen which is hinged by the upper chest. Without using polycaps, this method relies on the primarily on the tightness of the union between the upper chest parts. However as a precaution, Bandai integrated a locking plate into the back to help hold the hinge in the upright position. When swung out, the plate allows for the torso to flex back to some degree. Combined with the rotation of the neck, this adds some real dynamic flair to the look of the Strike Freedom when posed. The shoulders are built with the standard double hinge, swinging horizontally at the base, and swinging vertically where they meet the arms. This construction works especially well with the design of the torso, and allows for some balanced rotation without getting too worked up with over articulation that can interfere with the wings or head.
The torso’s outer armor is molded in its individual colors, and construction is done in the layered process. The midsection and lower abdomen armor fit as sleeves over their respective areas and are locked into place by the armor of the chest. Another standard of MG tech is the inclusion of the cockpit into the design, and the Strike Freedom does not break the rule. Like its predecessor, the cockpit is in upper chest, and its door is built on a sliding rail that runs forward from the base of the neck. Despite being a ‘sliding’ mechanism by design, in practice Bandai fakes the motion via an arm that is hinged at the front most section of the chest to the rear most section of the door. As always, there is a molded figurine of the pilot in 1/100 scale that requires paint. Much like the original Freedom, this figure is recessed underneath the neck line and needs to directed light in order to be seen.
The waist area is a marvel of simple engineering to accommodate the hip mounted cannons and their articulation. The inner most assembly is built in halves and layered by the additional armor of the front and back. Unlike the original Freedom where the back skirt was a solid piece, the Strike Freedom’s armor is two skirts which fit the style of the front skirts with a flatter profile. The main rear block is mounted on a sliding bracket to allow the rear section to slide down so the swing arms of the hip cannons can fold back and lock down for displaying in their inactive mode. The cannon’s assembly arms are molded bricks with a ball socket crevice, and a cut-out to allow the arms to swing out and lock into place.
The limbs of the Strike Freedom take a couple of shortcuts in order to expedite construction, by the means of using duplicate runners and making paint applications necessary. None the less, there are hardly any faults with the design and application. The arms are built from an internal endoskeleton with polycaps at the primary connection points and sleeve-type parts for the outer armor. On the inside, the arm is articulated at the upper section of the bicep via a polycap sleeve to the interconnecting peg of the shoulder. The elbow is double jointed as to allow a near 180 degree flex in the arm, which really kicks up the display value when combined with the torso’s shoulder range. The forearm uses a simple double hinged arm to allow an action feature for exposing the Strike Freedom’s beam shield generators.
The areas of paint work needed for the Strike Freedom are in its shoulder armor. The first place is the ‘interior detail’ of the lower section of the shoulder armor which is molded in white plastic (that needs to be gold) and in the blue vents off to the side (again, needs to be gold). The last addition to the arms is the use of the Version 2.0 hands molded in gold plastic. These hands are individually jointed (but fused between the middle, ring, and pinky) digits on ball joints with an angled peg in the center of the palm used for gripping the weapons and built with a hinged wrist.
The legs of the Strike Freedom could literally be described as the combined technology of the original Strike and Freedom Master Grades combined. Using the endoskeleton for the legs as the base, the Strike Freedom has an articulated muscle structure for the knee. This is accomplished through the sliding block of the thigh as it joins with the knee which replicates the quadriceps muscle. From there the knee connects to front armor of the lower leg which shifts back the knee flexes. This assembly seems a bit tricky at first, but is really expressive the more the knee moves. The legs are connected by a separate hip block above the thigh which provides some much needed rotation for the legs, a feature missing in most kits where the hip and thigh share an assembly.
Additional articulation of the leg includes the added thrusters in the back of the leg. These thrusters are exposed on a hinge which is mounted to an armor plate with the basic vents and dividing plate in between. This plate is able to close down and fit to the contours of the leg with an accessible tab to pull it open. The feet are jointed at the toe, but have a limited range of swing to about 40 degrees upwards, but the missing motion is complimented by the double ball joint of the ankle assembly. While on the feet, the soles of the feet are molded in the gold injection as the rest of the legs’ endoskeleton, and provide some much needed detail to the Strike Freedom’s clean armor exterior.
The Wing binders are the Strike Freedom’s most noteworthy feature and it is really brought to fruition in its Master Grade incarnation. The Strike Freedom’s wing binders are concealed thrusters combined with powerful weapon system called “Dragoons,” the SEED universe’s form of guided remote weapon comparable to the Universal Century “Funnel” system. Compared to past editions, the binders were lacking in many ways, from assembly to display value, even the scale was a variable of quality. Fear not, for many of these problems have been corrected and truly made in the best form ever for the Strike Freedom’s unique form.
The scale of the binders is impressive, measuring at roughly 7 inches in length from tip to end, which gives the Strike Freedom an impressive 14 inch wing span. The assembly of the main binders is an astonishment of MG engineering. Built from the inside, the binders are interlocked by a series of clockwork mechanisms that respond to each other for showing the binders in their full open position. The main shaft which connects the gear work together also acts as the force that holds the binders together on the swing arm of the backpack. The shaft acts as a key which controls the binders’ motion. As the rear binder is rotated upward, the shaft activates the mechanism in both binders which then spread out the secondary arm of each unit. At its peak rotation of 90 degrees, the binders lock into their final place. While this is impressive, it does have some possible problems. As the assembly is molded in the gold plastic, it makes the binders susceptible to breaking. None the less, the assembly works well and is a magnificent sight.
Although ‘opening’ is a main feature, the MG Strike Freedom goes an extra mile for the binders’ action. The extension arms of the binders are mounted on grooved plates which allow the arms to be pulled outward. Once done provides some additional gold gear detail which is really impressive when colored in. The docking plates of the Strike Freedom’s Dragoon units are also mounted in the extensions, and molded with the gold plastic. This provides for an impressive display even without the Dragoons mounted. Fully built and loaded, the Binders are impressive as they are hefty which can often through the model off balance. Still the binders make up for past mistakes and attempts of the design.
The Strike Freedom’s arsenal is another prominent feature which has been improved with the MG treatment. These include the Dragoons, the beam sabers, hip mounted cannons and the beam rifles. The sabers have seen some slight changes but remain remotely the simplest bit of work in the Strike Freedom’s assembly. As singular tubes they require no assembly but can benefit from paint and detailing. Following another trend in most Master Grades, the saber’s beams are curved which adds some much needed flair to the static tubes of past kits. Upon closer inspection of the sabers, one will notice that they have the feature of combining. This is done through two clips on the ends of each saber that allow them to snap together. Also present are grooves at the center of the sabers that fit into the peg in the palms of the hands. Simply put simple construction into simply one of the finest changes.
The hip mounted cannons have been improved and they are reconstructed with the Master Grade treatment. Originally, the cannons simply unfolded in the front and back, but now extend in the same nature as the Dragoon binder arms for the forward section. Also worth mentioning is that they are not hindered by the wing binders whether the wings are open or closed. The hip cannons have a lot more going when factoring in they also have the mounted docks for the beam sabers and their ability to swing around and dock onto the back side of the waist. This exposes a feature for the next weapon set.
The beam rifle of the original Freedom was scrapped along with the wing mounted cannons and in their place exchanged for a pair of beam rifles. The beam rifles for the Strike Freedom have a combination feature to create a more powerful beam weapon. In model form this is done through simple detailing to recreate the complex mechanics. In application, the right rifle becomes the forward section and the left rifle as the rear. For the combination, the right rifle extends its barrel on a slide rail, folds in the trigger and rotates its rear block to be a primary sight on the side. The left rifle then extends its rear section to be the stock and is then is inserted at the barrel into the rear of the right rifle. The completed rifle can then be held by one hand, however due most often to the weight of the rifle the hands lose their grip. After a balancing act of arranging the arms, the rifle displays well.
There are some minor gripes with the rifle, no matter how small or big parts can be made, or how many there are in a kit, the striping on the rifles needs to be painted cobalt. No matter though as the rifles are much needed and welcome features of the Strike Freedom. On the final note, the rifles sport a set of arms on the sides to allow them to dock onto the hips of the Strike Freedom for when not in use. Unlike previous attempts, the revised proportions of the Strike Freedom’s torso combined with the rescaled rifles do not impede on the range of body motion.
The Dragoon units of the Strike Freedom are not as complex as they are tedious. There are eight of them, with two halves for constructing one each needing their share of detailing. The Dragoons of the Strike Freedom MG are much richer in detail and scale when compared to past incarnations, with details present such as vents and panel lines as well as the much needed barrel to define them. While defining the exterior detail can be accomplished with Gundam markers and fine-line pens, the interior section where it docks to the wing binders can simply be ignored or filled in with paint.
Last but not least is the Strike Freedom’s energy shield. The weapon has no defined form other than the two red jewel shaped blocks on the forearm. These are mounted to simple snap arms that rise up into position. Included with the kit is a clear, soft plastic sheet with the details painted. Connecting the shield to the ‘generators’ takes a bit of disassembly and reassembly as they are to be docked in between the two halves making the generator’s casing.
Like all of the Master Grade line, the Strike Freedom has its own set of dry transfer decals, but due to the optional nature of the SEED line, placement of the decals is not mandatory as much of them are for the declaring the machine’s name. Also, choosing simply one or two decals can prevent the Strike Freedom from being NASCAR-ed. The Strike Freedom also comes with a base stand much like the original Freedom did. This base stand connects to the underside of the waist, and features a series of grooves cut into its assembly to allow for the Strike Freedom to pose in a modest range of poses on the stand. Unfortunately these ports are stressed by the weight of the final build of the model.
It goes without saying that the Strike Freedom Master Grade is one of the finest incarnations of the legendary design. From the application and the practice of past kits and incorporating the newest features, it stands out as a mark for Master Grades to follow in future endeavors. For those interested, there are two versions of the Strike Freedom available. The first is the standard version as reviewed here and a second edition called “Full Burst.” The Full Burst edition is a much more expensive (early release) version that includes a set of chromed parts and a full Dragoon display arrangement of clear tube parts. Also included in this version is a crystal blue “ACTION BASE,” Bandai’s most recent accessory for display purposes which was first released with the limited edition of the 1/100 scale Legend Gundam. Despite the rare nature of the Full Burst Strike Freedom, Action Bases are cheap and easily available to compliment this amazing kit. Unfortunately the retail Action Base does not come with the corresponding mounts to park Strike Freedom in its base point. None the less, this is a minor grievance to an outstanding model. Let Strike Freedom Ring.
|Posted 23 January, 2008 - 09:40 by Gunpla Rob|