Review(updated): Includes Alto, Luca, Maruyama, and Nightmare Plus
Packaging & Extras: (3.5/5)
While the packaging is attractive enough, I miss the boxes that had the flip-top lid that exposed a transparent window that revealed all the goodness within. Like the previous DX toys, the 171 comes in a Styrofoam tray with a separate plastic tray that houses the included stand and stand adapters. Here’s the goodies you get beyond the core toy:
2) 2x Fist covers for fighter mode
3) 6x fixed-posed fists
4) Optional ABS replacement antennas/guns (less bendy then the installed PVC ones)
5) Gun with swing out latch and handle
6) Pilot figure (same figure that was included with renewal VF-25F for Alto)
7) Display stand (consisting of base and arm)
8) 3 x display stand adapters (fighter, GERWALK, Battroid)
The gun isn’t nearly as exciting as the gun included with Yamato’s VF-17 toy but it looks decent enough. The stand is no longer an SMS stand as the VF-171 was used by the regular military (and the stand does a great job looking very regular). Bandai should have included extra wing plugs.
Luca’s RVF-171 was a Tamashii web exclusive so it comes in a brown shipper box. The inner box is attractive and the same size as the regular releases. As well as everything you get in the standard releases, you also get:
9) ELINT dish to be connected to the top of the vehicle.
10) 2x wings with hard points (WHY??)
11) Additional display stand parts (2x supports for additional arms, 2x additional arms)
Under the vehicle is another ELINT array already attached but removable.
Luca’s pilot figure is the same as Alto but with a green dot instead of a red one.
The Maruyama custom was a Tamashii exclusive so it comes in an outer brown shipper box. Inside is a reasonably attractive box that’s bigger than the standard releases since it comes with armored parts. As well as everything listed for the standard releases, you get:
9) 2x Wings with hard points
10) Armor (2x back leg, 2x bottom leg, 2x top leg, 2x outside of leg, 2x back of arm, 1x gun, 1x chest)
11) 2x long range missiles
12) 2x sets of 3 medium range missiles
13) 2x other wing weapons (micro missile pods?)
The Maruyama pilot figure is the same as the cannon fodder Nightmare Plus toy.
Charm & Collectability: (3/5)
This toy has quite a bit going against it but the Alto custom still sold out at or near retail. In the con category, this isn’t an extremely popular mecha. While the Alto custom 171EX could be considered a heroic paint scheme (if not momentarily) the Nightmare Plus was the cannon fodder for 95% person of Frontier. The reason the 171 was the cannon fodder instead of the 19 from previous stories was because the 19 looked too heroic to be a cannon fodder mech. The 171, being derived from the special ops 17, doesn’t seem a natural fit for the cannon fodder role except that it felt more natural seeing lots of them blow up than any other existing in-universe designs… which doesn’t bode well for making a hot selling toy. This is probably why it took Bandai so long to make a DX 171 toy since they’d already taken chances with the Konig Monster and Macross Quarter toys. Following Bandai’s spectacular renewal VF-25 toys (which were excellent and sold extremely well) collectors gave Bandai the benefit of the doubt. Alto’s EX was so popular that many preorders went unfulfilled. The Nightmare Plus toy didn’t pique quite the same interest and then had massive durability issues to further drive down demand. Luca and Maruyama’s customs were limited which kept them from becoming shelf-warmers though it’s safe to assume neither moved in huge quantities. Here’s a list of releases:
Alto’s 171EX, June 30th, 2012,MSRP 14,000Yen
VF-171 Nightmare Plus, April 2013, MSRP 14,000Yen
RVF-171 Luca Custom, October 2014, MSRP 15,120Yen Tamashii exclusive(includes tax)
VF-171EX Maruyama Custom, June 2015, MSRP 21,060Yen Tamashii exclusive(includes tax)
Armored parts (reviewed separately) were sold for Alto’s EX and the Nightmare Plus toy.
Sculpt, Detail, & Paint: (9.5/10)
Bandai went top tier on the level of tampo-printed details. The toy is gorgeous right out of the box. It’s not as hard these days to convert a CG model to a toy although it’s still a lot tougher than people give these toy manufacturers credit for. Bandai got REAL close to giving us a near perfect rendition of the toy in all modes. There are little areas that could have used a bit more attention, like the cockpit, but for the most part this toy is a superb rendering of the VF-171. I do wish the odd yellow-ish triangles at the front of the wings were clear plastic inserts. Bandai also went the extra distance by giving us a Nightmare Plus toy that features a different head sculpt and cockpit. The Maruyama version features an itasha on the back that is very impressive (though there’s better Sheryl art out there in my humble opinion).
Let’s hit the strengths first:
1) Integrated landing gear that includes front tow bar and elevates the toy enough to accommodate the gun in fighter mode and Luca’s lower radar array in collapsed form
2) Ability to attach the gun in fighter mode (with two connection points so it’s stable)
3) Pivoting guns to either side of the pilot (nipple guns)
4) Integrated articulated hands (hand covers are optional)
5) Opening cockpit with separate pilot
6) Perfect transformation with a huge range of movement (more on that in articulation)
7) The toy is put together in such a way that it’s conceals the method of construction (this will turn into a big negative if you ever want to take it apart)
8) Specific to Luca’s RVF, the bottom array rotates and folds to allow the toy to sit on the landing gear in fighter mode.
Okay, that’s some good stuff but almost all of it is to be expected from a $100+ toy these days. There are also some negatives:
1) Wings are removable to facilitate the sold-separately super parts that contain wings with hard points to attach armaments. The lack of hard points alone is enough of a negative but to make matters worse the method used to keep the wings attached (two plastic pegs) are flimsy and become easily dislodged on the EX toys. When the pegs fall out, pray you don’t lose them… and they will fall out of Alto’s EX toy (they were tighter on later toys). I had pegs shooting out before I even made it all the way into GERWALK for the first transformation of my Alto 171EX. Conversely, the wings stayed on too well on my Nightmare Plus toy; one of the pegs broke when I attempted to remove it and replace it with the wings with hard points. The design is horrible and Bandai should feel great shame for this misdeed they’ve foisted upon us.
2) The transformation is complex… seemingly overly complex and since everything is so tight you’re going to find yourself in some awkward moments (the EX toy seemed absurdly tight, the Nightmare Plus toy was more livable for me). I can almost guarantee that your first time through the transformation you’re going to think every reviewer who has said lots of positive things about this toy is a masochist. I thought I had outgrown the point in my life where I’d want to strap fireworks to a toy and send it off in a fiery explosion but this toy has revealed that, with just the right amount of frustration, that urge still lives within me. Things just get worse and worse as putting your fingers on the front of the chest causes the cockpit to slide upward and when you go to fix that a peg will go flying out of the wing so you’ll grab the front of the toy to put the peg back in only to have the cockpit slide back up again… it’s a cycle of hate. Since Bandai seemed to get the wing connection stronger on later releases, those toys aren’t so confounding. You can achieve the VF-17’s “stupid GERWALK’ (the VF-17’s arms raised above the vehicle GERWALK) mode if you want but you have to angle the arms upward a bit and it manages to make the stupid GERWALK mode look even less appealing… but I don’t think the 171 ever actually uses stupid GERWALK mode in the show.
3) The gun seems pretty basic in comparison to Yamato’s VF-17 gun and the VF-25 and VF-27 guns… but this might be a non-issue as I don’t remember the gun being very exciting in the show either. Still, it’s the least gimmicky gun since the VF-19 (and Yamato has found ways to make even those guns fun).
4) I’m not really including it in the score here because it’s a bonus item, but it’s worth noting that the stand is an eyesore without much flexibility. The stand gets even worse for the Luca version, adding additional supports for fighter mode which look horrendous.
5) Speaking of Luca’s toy, it’s nice that the lower array can be removed. Though the array does require an attachment point that eliminated the front gun slot, Luca can still carry the gun in fighter mode with the array removed using only the back holder. Unfortunately, there is a little support on top of Luca’s toy that prevents it from obtaining a normal VF-171EX look. The bottom array should be removed for transformation and a separate piece is required for transformation to battroid mode so it’s not perfect transformation… obviously that’s a big bummer.
Durability & Build: (6/10) – 2.5 for Nightmare Plus
For the Alto toy most flaws people have found out of the box are minor and I have yet to see any catastrophic failures. The Nightmare Plus toy has seen frequent issues with the black triangles (see the picture above). The good news there is that those black triangles aren’t pivotal to the structure of the toy and in battroid mode it would be hard to notice if they were absent entirely. Some purchasers are reporting broken triangles right out of the box, others are noticing them after several transformations. Oddly, this doesn’t seem to be an issue with the Alto release although the triangles look the same (I haven’t heard of any broken Alto black triangles but I do think I can see hairline cracks if I have them in just the right light). Beyond the triangles, I certainly felt like I was going to break my toy a couple times. The scariest part of transformation for my EX toy was definitely the hands. I had to put a tremendous amount of pressure on the slider to push the hands free of the sleeves where the tolerances are RIDICULOUSLY tight. I thought for sure something was going to crack… but nothing did. There’s also a lock to keep the hands extended which might cause further complication if you don’t notice that lock sliding shut while you’re trying your damnedest to free the wrist. Other people have had similar experiences with different parts of the transformation since there are lots of little parts that are connected very tightly and need to move throughout the transformation process. My Nightmare Plus seemed to have a much better level of tightness out of the box with things moving with a more reasonable amount of force. Even the little black tabs within the giant shoulder pads were very difficult for me to move in my first transformation of the EX toy and they’re tucked in so awkwardly it’s a puzzle figuring out how to apply any pressure to them at all. I’ve already dinged this toy’s design for the poor choices made for the wings but I didn’t initially dock the durability score for that as well until one of the pegs broke on my Nightmare Plus toy. Things only got worse for my Nightmare Plus toy. I noticed one day that one of the legs seemed to spin more freely at the knee rotation point than the other. A few days later, the lower leg fell right off the toy. I handle these toys very sparingly so there’s no way I should see a catastrophic failure like that. You’re also going to want to be conscious of scraping the paint since there’s so much painted on detail here. Exercise patience when trying to open the cockpit and make sure you pull straight upward before swinging it back. Any toy that is this tight right out of the box is going to get loose with handling because you’re going to have to apply excess pressure to free things up and excess pressure leads to additional wear. The shoulder armors on my Nightmare Plus have also gotten a little saggy making battroid look less aggressive when not in an extreme action pose.
Battroid mode is like playing with an exceptionally well articulated non-transformable vehicle. There’s so much mobility in the hips and ankles that you can do one foot stances despite all the bulk at the top of the toy. You get a twist at the knee, extensions at the knee for greater mobility, and arms that bend and twist in every direction. Upon the first time you handle the toy you might find it a bit restricted but that’s just because many joints are so tight they seem like they don’t exist. You’re going to have to patiently loosen things up.
Total Score: (37.5/50) 171EX, (36/50) Nightmare Plus
From what I understand, the DX 171 toy was actually designed BEFORE the Yamato VF-17 despite Yamato beating Bandai to market by more than half a year. Allegedly Bandai had been toying with the idea of a 171 for a while but was a little shy about it and kept it on the back burner for a while. This story is a little more fun because I hear the same group/person that designed that 171 for Bandai was then contracted by Yamato to do the 17. As you can imagine, the two toys have a lot of similarities. Of course, there are also plenty of differences to keep both toys interesting for you. If I had to choose one, given the disparity in MSRP, I’d go with the Bandai offering (assuming I could get it for MSRP). There’s no doubt though that 17 has a different level of polish. On the eyeball factor, comparing the 17 to the 171 in the extremely scientific “which of these is sexier?” test my wife pointed to the DX 171. If I had to choose between a 171 and a renewal VF-25 toy I’d go with the 25 toy without hesitation. The 171 is a very pretty toy that is very fun to pose in battroid mode… but it’s annoying and overly difficult/finicky and while I did get better at it over time it never seems as fluid as the other Frontier toys. While the Nightmare Plus toys do look great, and while they are a lot of fun to pose in battroid mode, I can’t recommend them due to the frequent durability issues. here’s how I ranked the Frontier releases:
3) VF-25 Renewal
5) VF-27 Renewal
This review has been updated February 18, 2017 to add an HD VF-171EX Maruyama + Armor Parts gift-set HD video review.
This review has been updated January 28, 2017 to add an HD RVF-171 Luca custom video review
This review has been updated January 21, 2017 to add an HD battroid to fighter transformation video. Also added content and pictures for the Luca & Maruyama releases
This review has been updated September 22, 2014 to catalog ongoing Nightmare Plus durability issues and to add an HD video review that covered both the EX and Nightmare Plus toys.
This review has been updated September 12, 2013 to include information about Nightmare Plus durability issues.
This review was updated May 22, 2013 to include pictures and info on the Nightmare Plus toy.
Original post: July 11, 2012