Review: Super Armed Pack (and lots of other) Parts
Packaging & Extras: (4/5)
These toy comes in a long and thin box made of very thin cardboard and features a window on the back that allows you to see the toy in battroid mode. Bandai continues to dress their Hi-Metal R boxes in beautiful art, this time the art is provided by Masami Obari, one of the artists that contributed to Macross II. The box is jammed with tons of stuff beyond the battroid mode toy:
1) Gun (with extension, flip-out hand guard, and flip-out grip)
2) Battroid (or fighter and GERWALK with SAP attached) smaller wings (one piece)
3) GERWALK-specific front toes
4) 3x pairs of fixed posed hands (gun grip, open, and fists)
5) 3x landing gear (1 front, 2 rear)
6) 2x replacement head lasers
7) Super Armed Pack (SAP): 1 backpack, 2x leg armors, 2x arm armors
8) 6x SAP open firing ports (4x for the end of the wings, 2x for top rack)
9) 2x open leg armor doors
10) 4x Squire drones
11) Mock gun protruding from forearm storage piece (to simulate being able to stow the gun there)
12) 1x battroid mode support piece (which is also a display stand adapter)
13) 2x display stand adapters (GERWALK and Fighter)
What isn’t included is a Tamashii Stage Act Trident Plus display stand and if you plan on having this toy on display in fighter mode with the SAP parts attached, you should definitely consider investing in one. The Trident Plus display stand gives you the ability to display the toy with the squires hovering nearby which is clutch for a truly awesome display. It almost feels rude of Bandai to include the squires with the SAP and not give us a way to show them off without buying something sold separately. The included fixed-posed hands are larger than the integrated hands and benefit battroid and GERWALK modes.
Nexx also comes in a beautiful box and includes the same tray with the same content as described for Sylvie above. Nexx adds to the bundle though by including a second tiny tray taped behind the first tray that adds:
15) Alternate leg armor with heavy gun storage
16) Heavy gun featuring a slide-out mechanism, pivoting front whiskers, and a fold-out grip
Nexx’s instructions (click here: Hi-Metal R VF-2SS Nexx Instructions) are also slightly different to cover the additional accessories.
Charm & Collectability: (4/5)
Consider the score here preliminary. It doesn’t seem like Bandai flooded the market with these toys as sales have been brisk very near MSRP. The toy is nearly perfect transformation but it’s not from a hugely popular series, it’s not in a common scale, and it isn’t so amazing that folks who aren’t familiar with the VF-2SS should seek it out. Speaking of scale, at 16.4CM tall in battroid, this toy is right in line with other Hi-Metal R toys at about 1/85 scale. That said, the toy does have lots of metal, it belongs to a heroine, and it’s one of the few interpretations of the VF-2SS. As far as the metal is concerned, there’s plenty of it in smart spots, meaning the wrists, ankles, and the back support that includes the shoulders and hips. For those of you looking for a hefty toy, this isn’t that, the metal is internal to build a better toy, not make something that feels like it’s from the 80s. So far there is only the one release but a Nexx repaint with additional gun has been teased:
VF-2SS Sylvie Gena Custom, November 2017, 14,000¥
VF-2SS Nexx Gilbert Custom, November 2018, 14,000¥
Sculpt, Detail, & Paint: (8/10)
This toy comes packaged in battroid mode which is kind of a shame since that’s its weakest mode. It looks a little like someone took a fighter mode model and kit-bashed a battroid mode. The shoulders are low, the hips are too wide apart, the heatshield doesn’t tuck in tight to the abdomen, the wings are laughably long, and the back and chest don’t seem to line up as they should. These flaws are more notable because they are not present on the Evolution Toys VF-2SS. That said, while it may not be a spot-on interpretation, it’s still a handsome enough battroid mode that looks dynamic and captures the angular 90s anime spirit. I particularly like the treatment of the big tabs on the chest. On the Evolution Toys VF-2SS, those tabs are exaggerated and then made even worse by including massive connectors on top of them. On this toy, those tabs are small enough that they don’t constantly interfere with your ability to see the toy’s head. This toy is far superior to the Evolution Toys VF-2SS in GERWALK and fighter modes. GERWALK benefits from proper placement of the leg intakes. There is some line art that shows the wings of the Valkyrie II angled up in GERWALK mode and the HMR cannot achieve this. Fighter mode looks very good. In my perfect world, the wings would be set a little higher so the intakes could come up even higher on the side of the craft but this certainly comes very close and looks MUCH better than the Evolution Toys offering. Nitpicks in fighter mode also include the overly long, overly slender wings and a neck/nosecone that is overly long and angles down too much. From a paint and color perspective, this toy has a nice creamy white in comparison to the pink hue on the Evolution Toys VF-2SS Sylvie custom. You also get some black trim bits, an ejection seat warning next to the canopy, and blue UN Spacy kites on the back and wing but that’s about it. The pilot is nicely detailed given the scale.
Consistent with the HMR VF-1 release, there are some concessions/compromises for price/scale you should know about right off the bat:
1) This toy is not quite perfect transformation (you can skip the foot swapping for GERWALK)
2) Landing gear are not integrated
3) Integrated hands are very small and cannot hold the gun
4) SAP attachment requires popping out very tiny parts from the arms and legs to expose the anchors
When you pull the toy from the box the chest will likely flop around on you. The instructions tell you to flip the toy over, unplug a piece of plastic under the nose cone, grab the battroid connector piece/display stand from the tray, rotate the legs out, slide the plug in, pinch the hips back in, and push the nosecone back down. You can do all that and it will make the battroid toy more stable but you can opt out of that noise and just press the chest firmly into the one exposed metal peg on the back and that should do the job for moderate handling. You’ll also notice that the toy comes with gigantic wings that look ridiculous but you can swing the wings by each other and cross them over to minimize the visual impact from the front. You can swap the long wings out for battroid-specific wings which is not something I do regularly on the VF-1 toys, which have a similar gimmick, but is something I would do here. Unfortunately, there’s no part that helps solve the gap between the heatshield and the canopy below it. It’s just… a gap. They should have made the heatshield and canopy from fighter mode removable and given us a battroid only heat shield that replaced the canopy… that could have even allowed them to make a pivot point in the chest to achieve some of those crazy Macross II dynamic poses.
Transforming the toy from battroid to GERWALK mode for the first time is an eye-opening experience. It starts seemingly familiar and quickly goes to realms of very impressive engineering. There’s a lot of folding and pivoting and ultimately you arrive at a very dynamic GERWALK mode. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really lock together and just about every part underneath the back of the craft has some sort of a pivot mechanism to it. For most people, this will simply add to the fun factor as you can make this toy do a lot of cool poses in GERWALK mode. For others more determined to achieve a more stationary look, it can be very frustrating to try to get everything symmetrical.
Going to fighter mode from GERWALK mode is again, an impressive feat of engineering, and again, the result is a little more dynamic then I would like. The intake connectors peg into position but that only keeps a ball joint connected to a swivel secured to the body of the craft. There’s nothing that helps you line up that swivel or that ball joint or keeps you from skewing them during handling. The legs have a fold out peg that attaches to the arms but the arms open if you move the legs too much and the arms and legs can both skew together. These issues with not locking together are compounded when the SAP is in place as it leaves a void between the arms which reduces stability. Symmetry matters a lot more in fighter mode so having so many points you need to coax can be frustrating. Imagine spending 15 minutes to get the toy to look perfect and then realize you need to pop the bay doors open on the legs and install the landing gear… you may need to spend another 15 minutes to get it all lined back up again.
To install the SAP you need to press out covers in the arms and pry covers out of the leg. Do this somewhere well-lit with a dark surface; otherwise you could very easily lose one of these covers. Fortunately, the anchors work well though the arm armors could have been more secure and the leg armors are so secure I fear I’m going to rip my legs apart when I remove them. The giant backpack piece installs via one tiny peg but it sort of wraps around the back of the toy to feel secure. The giant backpack did come unseated several times during handling and I’d have to apply pressure on one side or the other to pop it back into place.
The SAP does have some nice gimmicks related to the weapons ports. Installing the lowest leg open-missile-port is done via popping the closed-door out and swapping it. I had to remove the leg armor to get the closed-door panel off. There is a part made to look like the toy is drawing its gun from one of the SAP gauntlets but the gun cannot actually be stored internally and the door doesn’t actually open, you have to swap out the closed-door with an open-door piece. Similarly, you there are 4 weapons ports on the big backpack that allow you to swap the installed closed-door pieces out for open-door parts. The parts on the backpack are very small and will present another item you’ll need to keep a very close eye on. Of course, you also get the gimmick where the backpack separates and comes over the top of battroid mode like a giant strke cannon.
As I understand it, there isn’t much in the way of art that shows where the VF-2SS stows its gun when armed with the SAP. Evolution Toys and Bandai both arrived at a similar conclusion, that the gun should peg into the backpack. On the HMR it pegs in a little off-center but it works nicely. The HMR also features an opening canopy and includes a removable, nicely detailed pilot figure within.
There’s no question that the HMR is superior to Evolution Toys’ effort. However, there are certain things the ET effort does that the HMR does not:
1) integrated weapons ports doors on the backpack (both lateral support and rear weapon pod)
2) SAP antenna
3) integrated arm armor doors (above the fists)
4) the ability to stow the gun in the arm armor
5) integrated lower missile bay doors
6) Pivoting wings to achieve that GERWALK look with the wings angled upward
Of course, given the size and price, these are minor concessions and I would say they are all easily over-shadowed by the quality of the product. The HMR performs better in all modes and the SAP has one huge improvement: you gain the ability to pivot the lateral extensions backward (among other angles) in battroid mode. Of course, the overall tactile experience with the HMR is also leaps beyond that of the Evolution Toys product.
Durability & Build: (7/10)
Handling this toy at the same time as the Evolution Toys VF-2SS, there’s no question that this toy has superior build attributes. There is far less flashing and far fewer instances of the toy’s plastic feeling like it’s bending. Most of my problems with the HMR toy stem from the joints being too stiff. The shoulders barely moved on my toy when I removed it from the box and I was certain I was going to break something when I tried loosening them up. The nose cone consists of two pieces and it looks like it can easily separate at the front of fighter mode. The biggest problem here is the host of tiny parts you need to keep an eye on, including those SAP anchor covers and open port effects I discussed in the design section. I did have an issue with the arms often opening unintentionally and I also managed to accidentally knock off the visor on the SAP rail gun. Both easily pop right back into position so it wasn’t anything to cause concern. The mechanism for removing the wings and replacing them with the battroid-only part is funky and seems prone to breakage. There are little plastic tabs with pegs on them that rotate out and you must pop the wings off those plastic tabs. Everything in the area is metal except for this plastic tab and its pegs that have to endure the force of installing and removing the wings. In general, I’m a little worried about the long-term durability of the toy since handling it and transforming it is such an involved process. If you’re a stickler for symmetry you’re going to fiddle with this toy… a LOT and that pretty frequently leads to looseness on many other toys.
Articulation starts impressive from the head which has guns that pivot out and are independently articulated. The head itself is on a ball joint and the neck also spins and pivots. The incredibly stiff shoulders spin around and have a cover that opens up to allow articulation of the arm away from the body. The elbow is extremely impressive offering a twist and double joint that allows articulation unlike what we’ve ever seen on a VF-1 toy. On the downside, the elbow has an integrated twist that is very stiff and can occasionally make achieving that perfect pose a little more clunky as you try to figure out how to get all the joints lined up. The hands attach via a metal peg so they can pivot and rotate. The hips may not be much to look at but the do offer a great range of movement and the ability to swing away as part of transformation which can be used to further enhance dynamic posing. Since the hips are set so far apart the toy has an excellent ability to achieve a wide stance. The hips also attach via a ball joint so you can angle the leg out or inward as you desire. Things get a little weird in the knee. It can get nearly perpendicular but it also has two hinges and a twist housed behind the giant knee cap. The knee cap itself can angle inside the lower leg or move in front of the knee to facilitate movement. Behind the knee is a large panel that pivots backward as to not encumber articulation. The twin hinged parts allow the leg to extend a good deal at the knee for GERWALK mode but it can have both favorable and unfavorable, unintended consequences in battroid. As mentioned previously, you do not have the ability to angle the wings upward in GERWALK mode. If Bandai really cared about this they probably would have included swap out angled wings.
Total Score: (39/50)
Opening the toy in battroid mode and seeing all the line art deviations and all the tiny parts had me thinking that the people who have raved about this toy must just be desperate for some Macross II merchandise. As I handled it more and more it grew on me. It’s a complicated piece with a unique look and, while it made me miss the stability of the venerable VF-1, it does have quite a bit of charm to it. Certainly all fans of the Valkyrie II or Macross II should grab this toy as there are no flaws here big enough to ruin its enjoyment. If you hate tiny parts or toys that don’t ‘lock’ together into their modes, this may not be the toy for you. Considering how well it handles and the complexity of the transformation, I’m definitely impressed… I just wish handling it didn’t so frequently lead to wasted time massaging it to get it to look right again.
Original post: January 15, 2018
Updated: December 16, 2018 – added content relating to the Nexx variant and a brand new 4K video for both toys. The previous 4K Sylvie review wasn’t the best quality since I was still learning a new camera.