Mega Review: Includes all releases
Packaging & Extras: (3.5-4.5/5)
The CMs packaging is efficiently sized (24.5 x 14.5 x 5 cm), made of thin cardboard, and usually has multiple tape strikes. Though there were 13 unique releases, there were only four different boxes made and stickers were placed on the boxes to help you determine which one you were getting, this made things trickier for those of us who can’t read Japanese. Please check the image above the Charm section to see each box, the sticker on it, and what is inside. There’s no collector’s style lid that lets you see the toy inside without opening. ALL ride armor toys came with a character figure and a bike. Also included in each release were:
1) Right and left handle bar grip hands
2) Saddle bags (top bag attached to bike, side bags attached to the hip armors
3) Bike-mode display stand (a black triangular piece)
Behind the plastic tray you’ll also find:
4) Armor-mode display stand (a plastic twig color-matched to the armor)
The hip armor and front gauntlets come detached and will need to be placed on the toy. If you’re going straight to armor mode, you can wait to attach them unit the toy is mostly transformed. Additional accessories depended on the release as follows:
VR-52T toys (Ray, Metallic Ray, standard soldier, Dark)
6) HUD that attaches to the chest in armor mode
7) 1 pair of plastic replacement swing-arm locks (original Ray and standard soldier LE VR-52T releases only)
8) Gallant in pistol configuration with hand to hold it (Dark releases only)
9) Warning about paint rub on metallic helmets (Metallic releases only)
The VR-52T General Military Use included a flyer advising users not to press down on the top of the wind screen as the screen breaking off was a common issue on the first two ride armor releases (Stick and Ray). Chrome/Metallic toys came with a flyer which I believe is meant to notify the owner that the Yellow version of the clear/metallic toy did not come with a head because CM’s was retooling to make the helmet accurate.
VF-52F toys (Stick, Metallic Stick, standard soldier, Dark) come with everything a VR-52T toy does and:
9) Heavy beam rifle attached to hand
Between the original release of the Stick toy and the later green variant and all subsequent versions, CM’s updated the hand holding the gun so it was no longer glued to the gun and could be removed. This solved a durability problem with the original hand falling off the original gun and also made it so the gun could be removed from the hand and attached to the front of the bike. Unfortunately, CMs only sold the gun attachment piece with Yellow’s VR-41H toy… which also included another gun. The general military-use release of the VR-52F also included:
10) An additional helmeted head with brown hair to swap out with the blue-haired Stick head on the toy
VR-41H toys (Yellow, Metallic Yellow) only had the two versions produced. The metallic version was rushed to be available at Summer Wonderfest 2008, launching before the regular version. As a result, CMs didn’t have the packaging or helmeted head ready for the event and sold the toy in a repurposed Stick/Ray box with a “Limited Edition” sticker on it and included a mail-away flyer for a proper box and helmeted head. Notable for the Yellow toy is how many of the accessories are intended for other ride armors. You get helmet-less heads for other characters and a new heavy beam weapon for Stick’s VR-52F, now with a better hand and an attachment piece for his bike.
6) Stick’s heavy beam rifle with hand (hand is not glued on like it was with original VR-52F release)
7) Piece to attach heavy gun to ride armor
8) 3 x helmetless heads (Stick, Ray, and Yellow)
VR-38L Shinobu toys came with:
7) Hand for camcorder
8) Helmetless head
VR-38L Houquet toys set the high water mark for accessories including:
6) Heavy gun (no hand attached)
7) Additional fixed posed hand for use with the gun
8) Helmetless head
13) Mint (Annie) figure in riding position(no head)
14) Mint (Annie) figure in standing position (head can be removed and placed on figure in riding position
15) Metallic helmeted head (a white pearl helmet comes attached to the rider)
The curious, final release of the line was a set of two rider figures without corresponding armors. One is the iconic Jonathan Wolfe (Robotech name) and the other is a nameless soldier. Since there are no motorcycles, the package size shrank along the width dimension to be: 23 x 14.5 x 5cm. To reiterate, this set does NOT include any motorcycles but it does include the two figures as well as:
1) 2x pairs of handlebar gripping hands
2) 2x hand holding a Gallant in pistol configuration
What’s included here seems like it would have been a fun convention item. It also seems like a better move would have been to just release Wolfe with his armor and print his name and info on the bike accordingly. As its own retail release, there are a plethora of other accessories that should have been included to make this more compelling: helmetless heads, HBT canisters, rifle style Gallants, a campfire, or even a Lunk figure (like Mint/Annie was included with Houquet).
Charm & Collectability: (3.5/5)
2007-2009 was a renaissance for Mospeada seeing releases of the Aoshima New Century Allow Legioss, Toynami Beta, CM’s Legioss/Tread set, Mega House Ride Armors, these CM’s Ride Armors, and the Beagle/Toynami Masterpiece Ride Armors. The license that needed a little attention got a whole lot of it and the result wasn’t good for any of the companies involved. Despite having metal, intricate designs, near perfect transformation, and representing the most comprehensive line of ride armors ever made, the toys languished on shelves and were eventually sold out at clearance. CM’s did not survive the Great Recession which does help boost their collectability today as they have many elements of a fun toy and no possibility of being reissued. One of the more alluring aspects of the CM’s ride armor is its scale. At 1/18, the character figures stand a bit more than 10 cm tall and pair well with other action figures allowing you to blend genres and licenses on your shelf. The scale does mean that these toys are small. The bike is about 10.8 cm long while the armor stands just short of 12 cm. Though there is a bit of metal in the construction, the toy is very light at 75 grams (combined rider + bike). Some variants of the toy are more popular than others with the dark and metallic figures generally receiving the least demand despite their limited production run while the main cast can cost significantly more than their original MSRP on the secondary market. See the info graphic above for a full release schedule with MSRP and quantity produced.
Sculpt, Detail, & Paint: (8/10)
Beginning with the riders themselves, CM’s did a very impressive job. Though all of the figures are the same height, the hero riders do have the appropriate painted on details and facial features to make them readily identifiable. The unknown soldiers sold with ride armors had no painted details on their REF armor, the unknown soldier included in the Riding Suit Figure Set with the Wolfe character did get some details painted on the boots. Yes, the riders are a little thin in comparison to the line art, but given the needs of the toys, I was solidly impressed.
Despite their size, these toys are impressive interpretations of the art. Sure, the wheels come up too high in armor mode but to rectify that CMs would have needed another mechanism in transformation and this product is so fiddly you’ll immediately be happy they didn’t try to pull that off. The level of tampo-printed detail is remarkable. No stickers are included with the toys but you won’t miss them. Given their size and construction, it’s no surprise there are numerous, obvious screws, particularly on the back of the toy. The flap on the boots is a little large but it does a good job concealing the joint behind it. There is a large seam running down the chest in armor mode but ‘large’ is relative as the product is small and I find the seam less distracting in person.
The green soldier versions of Stick and Ray’s toys differ from their Stick/Ray counterparts only in that their undergarments are green and the painted on details, some of which were identifying, have been entirely omitted. The VR-52T rider has Stick’s face but with brown hair under his helmet. The VR-52F rider has Stick’s head with an additional Stick’s head with brown hair thrown in a baggy behind the tray.
The helmetless heads included with Yellow’s bike are not a very good likeness to the characters. Yellow did get two-tone saddlebags and his bike that look slick. Yellow’s bike also reflects the unique elements from the show including a sloped front fascia and a single exhaust pipe plumbed under the seat instead of off to either side. Yellow also gets a new helmet that reflects the differences in the line art; his visor extends to his chin where as other helmets have a chin guard.
Houquet’s bike has the updated fascia as sheen in the show and she receives a brand new, appropriately feminine, rider figure complete with different shoulder covers. Unfortunately, the shoulder covers CM’s went with don’t really comport with the line art and would have been handled better by having smaller red flaps that were part of the torso armor rather than connecting directly to the shoulder. The only knock on the bike itself are the large curved gaps in the front fascia which accommodates the shoulders in armor mode but look off in bike mode. The included Mint figure, which is not articulated, does a good job capturing the essence of the crew’s tagalong, right down to the “ET” on her hat.
Shinobu’s bike is a repaint of Houquet’s. The included camcorder is spruced up with painted buttons and a clear view finder. Shinobu’s face, like all of the other characters, isn’t particularly good but, given how small these toys are in the hand, it’s not as grave a sin as it may seem..
I like that CMs gave the VR/52F/T dark and soldier versions modified heads so they don’t look like the heroes. Both versions of the Dark Mospeada come with the same rider. The same head that was later used for the unknown soldier in the ‘riding figure set’ but was given brown hair in that release.
I’ve heard the clear/metallic offerings were an homage to Takara’s Microman series of toys. They generally feature clear bodies and metallic accents but the Houquet figure has neither, just a pearlescent sheen to her red and white colors. Whereas the white is transparent on the Stick/Ray figures, and metallic on the Yellow figure, it’s simply shiny white on Houquet (other than the bonus metallic helmeted head). Even the gray accents around the wheels which are metallic on all other releases were left the regular-release gray on Houquet’s toy.
These toys are feature rich for their size. You get:
1) Fully articulated riders capable of assuming natural-looking riding positions. Since CM’s beat MegaHouse to market by a month, they were the first ride armor toy that could claim this.
2) Integrated flip out foot rests for the rider
3) Integrated attachment points for the saddle bags
4) Removable saddlebags that really open (though they can’t store anything)
5) Opening visors on the helmets that reveal facial detail
6) Nearly perfect transformation (at a minimum, the gauntlets disconnect from the front fork and are tabbed into the arms.
7) Hip armors that connect to the knees to achieve the powered suit effect
From a more premium toy you would have expected:
1) An integrated kickstand
2) An integrated targeting scope (this toy is way too small for that so a separate plug-in piece is provided)
3) The ability to stow Stick’s heavy gun in bike mode (CM’s added an upgraded heavy gun and attachment clip with Yellow’s ride armor)
Not having an integrated kick stand isn’t a problem because the foot pegs are so large, even the included triangular scaffold is unnecessary. Unfortunately, while the concept of swing out foot pegs is cool, they attach by a tiny pin that is very easily unseated and can become a source of massive frustration. While it’s nice we received a targeting scope we could plug in, the shoulder armor doesn’t pivot away far enough from the shoulder to put the toy in a natural looking missile firing position. With a third party stand you can put the toy in a falling backward and firing pose that is good enough. I wasn’t thrilled with the fit of the helmet visor, it leaves a gap at the bottom (only on the 52F/T toys). The headlights don’t lock into position so you’ll need to constantly adjust them during handling. Inevitably, the parts popping out of position suck the fun out of the experience.
Many pegs are just too small to work as they’re intended, such as the pegs that affix the swing arms to the center of the bike or the chest armor to the center chest piece in armor mode. The worst evidence of pegs that are too small comes in the form of Ley’s gun which can’t connect to the front shock in bike mode (unless you pull the front cowl apart). This issue can lead to breaking the front fork.
These toys come with an awkward little twig for a display stand. For the male ride armor toys, which can almost function without it, the twig provides just enough stability to be ‘good enough’. Sadly, the hips on the female riding figures are very loose making the stand 100% necessary in armor mode. Since the stand only provides one very tiny point of stability, getting the toys to stand in armor mode can still be very precarious and frustrating. The 38L crotch armor doesn’t peg into the female riding suit adequately and the hip armor pegs don’t reach the knee slots unless in very specific position. Given how easily the female riding figures break, it’s best to just leave those pegs entirely disconnected. If you don’t like the disconnected look, don’t flip the pegs out from within the hip armor. Though it was nice to have a company give us female ride armor figures, they are easily the worst in CM’s line-up.
Never seen in the show but always daydreamed about, Yellow’s bike does incorporate his sabers into the gauntlets. They slide in and out without issue. Unfortunately, Yellow’s chest missile bays were not incorporated into the re-shaped chest area.
Yellow”s toy does include a replacement gun for Stick’s ride armor. The heavy gun now has a hand that looks like a more appropriate grip and is no longer glued (weakly) to the toy. CM’s also added an attachment piece to this release so the gun could be mounted in bike mode.
On a larger scale toy, I would have hoped for a way to reduce the big open area on either side of the VR-38L cowl. Though Stick and Yellow come with big guns that have hands already attached to them, Shinobu and Houquet don’t have hands attached to their accessories and do have the ability to stow them during riding mode. Both Houquet’s gun and Shinobu’s camera also have a peg that allows them to connect directly to the front cowl of the bike, unfortunately the peg and the slot are both round so it’s easy to knock the accessory out of position. Shinobu’s camcorder peg is thicker so it holds better. The camcorder also has a nice, flip-out visor.
Durability & Build: (3/10)
The first three toys CMs released had a common manufacturing issue that caused the windscreen to pop off (sometimes it arrived already popped off, other times it popped off at the slightest touch). A dot of glue remedied this problem when it did occur. Over time, I have found that any of the clear plastic inserts (instrument cluster and shoulder accents included) are prone to popping off and resolved with the same dot of glue. The covers on the shoulders also seem inadequately glued.
Though I never heard of the locks breaking, CMs felt the plastic locks on the swing arm for the wheels was too easily broken so they included a second set in the baggy that included the armor-mode display stand with the first three releases. Subsequent releases had metal locks.
Take special care with the plastic peg on wheels. Your desperation to get this toy to stay together in bike mode may cause you to apply too much pressure which can break it (I suspect the diameter of the hole it goes into is a little small). As mentioned in the design section, the VR-52T toys have a very awkward fit of the gun gauntlet to the front fork. I snapped the front fork off of my dark VR-52T while trying to get bike mode together and disconnected the pin on my Ray version (which can be pressed back in but never stays as well as it did when new). Be smart, don’t connect the 52T peg to the front fork… it’s not playable but it’s better than broken.
A longer-term durability issue to watch out for is thin cracks on hinges. Many of the hinged parts are made of very thin plastic so the slightest pressure in an unnatural direction can cause stress marks or cracks.
If you own the metallic/clear releases, use extreme caution in transforming them. The metallic coating on the plastic changes the tolerances just enough to make things problematic. As the insert warns, sliding the helmeted head into the armor can cause scratching on the metallic coating (so remove the head and reinstall it) and sliding the hip pegs through their opening can cause the connector to crack so be sure to remove the armors and carefully line up the peg with the hole before applying any pressure. Avoid removing and reinserting the pegs the hip armors attach to as much as possible to avoid cracking that housing. This may have been why the final clear metallic release, Houquet, has no metallic coating (though it doesn’t explain why she has no clear parts).
There’s a manufacturing defect or materials issue with the female riding figure joints that causes them to break from only the most minor handling. I’ve heard that the problem is a tolerance issue but I think the real root is a poor design coupled with poor materials. The wrong screw size was used in the swing arms of the VR-38 toys which creates slop in armor mode (thanks to Drifand for pointing that out). A less severe but very annoying issue is the lack of resistance in the flap of armor above the shoulder which causes it to flop down and look limp.
The underlying rider figure has robust articulation. The head is on a ball joint at the base of the neck and a swivel at the top of the neck. The ball joint allows the head to twist and cock and look up/down while the swivel extends the up/down movement which is particularly helpful for bike mode. The shoulders peg into slots in the body that pivot up/down about 30 degrees. Since the attachment is a peg the arm can spin entirely around and there’s a joint at the shoulder that allows the arm to angle away from the body. The bicep houses a first elbow joint and a twist point while the forearm features a second elbow joint allow for the toy to nearly touch its shoulders with its hands. The hands are on ball joints but there’s not much clearance so all they can really do is spin. The chest connects to the abdomen via a ball joint that allows the upper body to spin entirely around and to crunch or lean back. There is no waist but the hips function similar to Revoltech joints allowing the leg to spin, spread, move up/down. Movement of the leg in any direction is hampered by the thigh armor. The knee allows about 90 degrees of range provided you have it angled appropriately before trying to bend it. The ankle joint is similar to the hip joint allowing articulation on seemingly ever axis. While the range of movement isn’t extreme, it shouldn’t be the point that stops you from getting that pose you really want.
Total Score: (32.5-33.5/50)
These toys are so cool in so many ways… but they fall short because they just aren’t fun and they fall apart. You can take amazing photos with them, and set up some real eye-catching displays, but it takes a lot of work to get there. Choosing between these and the MegaHouse toys is an effort in compromise. Since CM’s completed the line and I prioritize great displays over fun handling, they would be my choice. If you’re just in the market for a Stick Bernard version, know that both MegaHouse and CM’s are poorly executed first efforts.. Of course, if you had the money, the later releases by Beagle/Toynami and Sentinel EASILY eclipse these toys in all respects (and demand a sky-high price for doing so).
The following posts were condensed into one review on September 22, 2010:
1) Clear/Metallic Releases
2) Dark Releases
3) Fuke/Shinobu Releases
4) Soldier Limited Edition Releases
5) Yellow’s Release
6) Stick/Ley Releases
7) Riding Figure Set Review
Sorry about the deleted comments but I assure you this post won’t be deleted like the posts that were rendered obsolete by the mega review.
April 5, 2020, added a release collage to make it more clear which releases came in which boxes, updated content to reflect long-term observations, added 4K photos and bike to armor transformation guide
April 19, 2020, added 4K review of the VR-52F/T toys.