REVIEW: One big, bad, battle fortress
Packaging & Extras: (4/5) Matchbox(MB), +1 for Takatoku (TT)
The Matchbox Robotech Battle Fortress comes in a box that was exceptionally nice for the era. The box is bright with great artwork and a flip-top lid that opens to a window showing the toy within. The toy sits in a Styrofoam tray and also includes:
1) Two sets of stickers
The Takatoku version has an exceptionally nice box as well. Rather than having a flip-top that opens to reveal a window, Takatoku used two separate lids. The first lid is Taktoku’s premium texture-finished cardboard with beautiful artwork, the interior lid features windows that into the toy. In addition to the stickers and instructions the Japanese release also contains:
4) Mini planes (3x VF-1, 1x Ghost, 1x Lancer II)
5) Takatoku toy catalog
The stickers included with the Takatoku toy are different from those provided by Matchbox. Due to more lax child-safety laws in Japan, the Japanese version comes with some pretty nifty projectiles to accompany the inserts. Some of the projectiles are shaped like planes that can be launched from the two aircraft carrier arms. Projectiles may be any variation of blue, red, or green.
Charm & Collectibality: (4/5) MB, (4.5/5) TT
Being the only truly perfect variable TV version SDF-1 toy on the market both the Takatoku and Matchbox versions have remained quite collectible but don’t share the same fervor generated by classic VF-1 toys which likely explains why a more modern toy hasn’t been produced. At 38cm long in cruiser mode and 38cm tall in battle mode making it large enough to have an imposing shelf presence. The toy is also hefty at 715grams. The Takatoku version is more collectible since it comes with the launching gimmicks and better detail (discussed below). The Matchbox version is made by Bandai. Following the liquidation of Takatoku, Bandai picked up the mold and made it fit for consumption in the USA by removing all the spring-loaded projectiles and softening some edges. Since Matchbox had the Robotech rights they purchased and distributed the Bandai-made toy which is why the box says Matchbox but the toy’s foot says Bandai There was a period between Takatoku’s failure and Bandai’s acquisition where Matsuhiro, a company used by Takatoku in the production of their toys, produced unlicensed versions of the 1/3000 SDF-1 and other Takatoku products. Since these essentially are the Takatoku toy, you can expect high quality from these knock-offs. Many other knock-offs were produced over the years. If you don’t have a box and you’re not sure which version of the SDF-1 toy you have, the quickest way to determine the manufacturer is to look at the feet. If there’s no manufacturer’s mark or one that has been removed by a sander/drill, it’s a knock-off. All knock off pictures are stolen from eBay auctions over the years. Licensed releases were:
Takatoku, 1983, 5,800¥
Matchbox, 1985, $39.95
Sculpt, Detail, & Paint: (7/5) MB, (7.5) TT
As with other toys from the era, these toys favor durability to line art accuracy. Both toys represent merely average representations of the art. The wheels on the aircraft carrier arms are silly but understandable given that they are removable and there’d be some expectation that children would roll them around as separate toys.
The Matchbox toy looks boring without its stickers applied with huge expanses of bare white and blue plastic. The Takatoku version comes with some stickers already applied though it’s likely my toy also has some applied from the sticker sheet. The Takatoku toy also benefits from sharper details on the bridge and rail guns. It’s hard to imagine how Bandai felt the flexible antennae on the bridge and around it posed a safety concern and needed to be rounded. The toy has huge, crazy landing gear but this isn’t related to the show but rather to the perceived need of children receiving the toy to roll it around on the ground.
Design: (7/10) MB, (8/10) TT
Common design elements between both toys that are worth praising include:
1) Perfect transformation including bridge separation
2) Integrated landing gear allowing you to roll the toy along the ground while making “pew pew” sounds
3) Ratcheting joints where the toy needs them
4) Integrated storage bays beneath and aft of the bridge and behind the main gun.
5) Removable aircraft carriers
It does seem a silly the toy was advertised as having three mode transformation. “Attack Mode” is battle mode but with the guns brought forward and the chest flared out. Through two simple steps you ‘transform’ the toy but most people would consider that articulation related to “Battle Mode.”
The Takatoku version adds:
6) Spring-loaded catapults on the aircraft carriers
7) Spring-loaded projectile launchers in the main guns
8) Concealed spring-loaded projectile launchers in the legs
What would be on my wish list for a future toy release? These would be cool additions:
1) An opening front hatch to the Daedalus
2) A removable panel to show
3) Swap out battle damage parts
5) Individually rotating and pivoting guns in various places on the body
Durability & Build: (7/10)
Here are the problem areas to watch out for if you’re buying second-hand:
1) Broken rail guns on the shoulders. This is very prevalent and some were probably broken in activities as innocuous as putting the toy back in its styrofoam tray
2) Broken antennae behind the bridge. They are rubbery so that helps but it’s not unusual to find them either completely broken free or wilting limply because they’ve cracked at their root
3) Broken antennae above the bridge. It’s just dangling up there and it’s not hard for an errant hand to abuse them.
4) Broken off arms. I received a toy after seeing pictures of it in the box, pulled it out of the Styrofoam only to have both arms drop right off. Before you buy one, make sure you see a picture of it out of the tray. Sadly, a repair wouldn’t be straight forward either as the arms connect to the chest via along peg that is molded into the chest. At the base of that peg is a flush piece of plastic where the metal swing bar slides by for the big gun so the head of any screw used to replace the peg would then impede the path of the guns. I’m 100% certain you can figure out a fix if you wanted to put in the effort but avoid it if you can.
5) Broken spikes on the storage door behind the bridge
6) Broken center landing gear door
The great thing about these toys is that they are VERY easy to disassemble and reassemble so if you wanted to take two broken toys and make one great toy, it wouldn’t be hard to do. Not a real durability issue but another thing to look out for is missing aircraft carrier. They were removable so many were lost. At this point, yellowing is another obvious issue. Be sure to ask for pictures from all angles before buying one of these online.
“Dynamic” probably wouldn’t be the word you would use to describe the Macross so it’s no surprise this toy is stiff. The head doesn’t move in any direction. You can bring the gun ‘boom’ from behind the head to a forward position either flat or at an angle. The shoulders do spin all the way around and you can bring the arms out at the shoulders and pivot the rail guns in any direction you like. The elbow allows 90 degrees of movement and the aircraft carriers simply peg into place so they can rotate beyond the elbow however you please. The hips can move one position forward and one position back but can not flair out from center in any capacity. There are no knees but the foot does pivot to have the “toe” up or down to take advantage of the ability to move the leg forward/back at the hip. To sum it up, there’s enough here to choose from a handful of poses for the shelf but you may find yourself wishing for more if you’re trying to get a convincing Daedalus attack pose. While it’s nice that many joints have ratchets, the ratchets are very pronounced and you’ll sometimes wish you could use the space in between each ratchet.
Total Score: (34/50) MB, (37/50) TT
You want a large TV version SDF-1 toy? Well, here are your only two choices and one is a simplified reissue of the other. In Japan the DYRL variant of the SDF-1 is more popular and it took a long time for Yamato to consider making that toy (and when they did it MSRP’ed for over $400). Allegedly BigWest (the Japanese Macross rights holder) told Yamato they could make a TV/DYRL hybrid variant by slapping on a Daedalus and Prometheus to their DYRL version of the toy with a different paint scheme (which would make it like the Macross currently being depicted in the Macross The First manga). Yamato balked at this suggestion as it’s not clear if fans would buy this compromise. The Yamato toy did sell well enough to warrant a reissue by Arcadia after Yamato folded and even a “premium finish” version with an astronomical MSRP so it’s not inconceivable that a manufacturer will take the plunge on a TV version some day. If you don’t care whether or not you own a DYRL or TV version of the SDF-1 then you’re better served by Yamato’s 1/3000 DYRL SDF-1 although these classics are still very good offerings.
Original Post Date: June 30, 2006
Updated: December 17, 2006 added pictures of Matchbox toy
Updated: March 30, 2011: Added much larger and more detailed pictures, a video review, size comparison to similar toys, and line art comparisons were added. Content was updated.
Updated June 16, 2019, added 4K transformation guide, all new 4K resolution photos, updated content
Updated July 7, 2019, added a 4K review