Review: Not just a VF-31 with new wings
Packaging & Extras: (5/5)
The 31AX box has slightly different dimensions (24.7 x 37 x 12cm) from the original 31 toys (which were 24.5 x 37.5 x 12 cm). The Hayate custom comes in a sleeve that bundles the AX box and a special Walkure display stand (adding 4.5cm of depth to the overall packaging). While still constructed of sturdy cardboard, the DX 31AX packaging is a step back from the phenomenal packaging of the earlier DX 31 toys. These toys don’t have the flip-top lid that reveals a cover decorated with the pilot’s insignia and “Remover before flight” warning. Instead, the packaging is more standard fare with one side being opened, allowing you to slide out a Styrofoam tray with a vac-formed plastic cover atop a second plastic tray. Like the 31 toys, the Styrofoam tray includes the toy and an accessory bundle with its own cover. That bundle consists of:
1) Pilot figure
2) 2x knife with pivot gimmick
3) 6x pairs of fixed posed hands
The plastic tray beneath contains:
4) Display stand (consisting of a base and arm)
5) 3x clear display stand adapters (fighter, GERWALK, battroid)
6) Gun (with extension gimmic)
And behind it all you’ll find:
7) a color instruction packet
Items 1 through 5 are exactly the same accessories that were included with the DX VF-31 toys.
Hayate’s first release includes the Walkure display stand which will be familiar to anyone who purchased either Bandai’s DX VF-1J Hikaru Launch Version or DX VF-1S Focker TV. Instructions for the stand can be found on the minimalist black box housing a plastic tray which includes:
8) The Walkure display stand consisting of a base and arm
9) An adapter allowing you to achieve two additional banking angles (without it you can only position the toy flying level)
10) A fighter mode display stand adapter (for use with super parts)
11) A display stand conversion piece that converts the standard fighter mode display stand adapter (item 5 above) to be used with the special flight-mode display stand.
Mirage and Bogue followed. Bogue was a Tamashii exclusive so it came in a brown shipper box. As one would expect, the “launch edition” display stand was not included any releases other than Hayate’s original release. Otherwise, Mirage and Bogue come in the same sized box with the same contents as Hayate’s original release. Instead of coming in a clear plastic bag, Mirage and Bogue come in a satin-feeling opaque plastic bag.
After selling three accessories for Hayate’s 31AX, Bandai’s 4th 31AX release was… Hayate’s again. Bandai dropped the Styrofoam (seemingly across all their Macross releases) so while the box and contents are unchanged, the internal packaging is all plastic clamshells.
Charm & Collectability: (3.5/5)
I’m initially scoring this a bit lower than the TV (and Passionate Walkure) 31 toys as I’m not sure what kind of following the AX toys will have. Will the AX be featured in more media than one movie? Will Bandai make the entire squad or stop after only a few releases? in fighter mode, this toy also has a ‘fun factor’ issue: there’s not a great place to grab it for swooshing. Between the big swiveling guns below, the canards above, and the preponderance of the weight being near the rear, fighter mode is awkward to handle. These toys are about 35 cm long in fighter mode and 425 grams which makes them 1/60 scale and hefty for their size; aspects collectors should love.
Sculpt & Paint: (8.5/10)
Bandai stays true to their premium paint jobs with fine detailing throughout including legible warnings and identifiers and the sweet insignia on the back. My only complaints with the DX VF-31 toy was that the canopy was too cloudy and the cockpit was boring. The 31AX comes with a clearer canopy and now there’s even EX gear detail on the seat. It’s still not to the level of some other toys that include buttons and displays in the cockpit but it’s nice. The pilot sits a little low in the 31AX cockpit compared to other toys. The intake fan details are rendered in bare plastic without paint but it’s not awful because the plastic dark gray. The rear landing gear, carried over from the DX 31 toys, remain awful looking. This score has room for improvement. Frequent quality control issues prevent fighter mode from coming together properly, leaving gaps and misalignment around the arms and ar cannons.
The AX is not a 31A with a fancier paint scheme; there have been numerous changes. The cockpit and canopy have a different shape and the 31AX is strictly a one-seater. The 31A has red clear plastic inserts around the front of the canopy whereas the AX has metallic paint. After the stagger in the wings, the 31A wings are smaller and angle slightly downward while the AX wings are larger with a defined point and extend straight across.
In GERWALK mode the changes to the arms and mission pack are more obvious. The arms have a bicep cover and are thicker throughout making them look stronger. The mission pack holds the large gun on one side (which can be moved to the hand) and… a pointy thing. I’ll reserve judgment on the pointy thing until I can watch the anime but for now… it seems like a missed opportunity to do a missile pod or something like the guns from the VF-25 Tornado Parts.
Battroid mode benefits from the thicker arms and larger canards covering the shoulders for a more imposing look. The forearm guns that swivel around have also been enlarged and have new details. The gun looks to be inspired by the SV-262.
As with the DX VF-31 toy, the 31AX has the premium features you expect:
1) Detailed, removable pilot figures (no change from 31)
2) Opening canopy (you need to open it straight up before pivoting)
3) Perfect transformation. The only bummer here is that Bandai has carried over the articulated hands from the 31 toy with their pointer finger that doesn’t have a knuckle.
4) Integrated landing gear with separate spinning rubber tires (front landing gear locks forward and includes articulated tow bar)
5) Removable intake covers to expose turbine detail
6) Compartments on the back of the leg that slide forward to expose missiles. The door opens either pivoted upward or slid forward.
7) The gun can be removed from the mission pack and held in the toy’s hand. The 31AX gun does not attach as firmly in fighter mode as the 31 gun does, the thin peg that attaches to the crotch is not enough to keep the gun from being bumped askew during handling. The gun features extension gimmicks front and back. To hold the gun, the handle is dropped down and then the hand is slid in over it before the handle pivots back up. The angle of the gun in the hand is a little awkward because of the U-shaped grip but it won’t prevent you from pulling off some really cool rifle poses.
8) The mission pack can be deployed in fighter mode or not deployed in GERWALK mode for a different look. It can also be removed completely for sold separately accessories or swapped out with VF-31 mission packs. The mission pack is a fairly cool bit of engineering that flips and rotates the gun around like a single barrel version of the Tornado Parts on the VF-25.
9) Guns that pivot forward on the forearms in GERWALK and battroid modes. These function a bit better than they did on the VF-31 toy as the gun can now pivot in either direction. On the original 31 toys, the way the forearm folded together left one direction much better for pivoting the gun around.
10) The ability to stow the daggers behind the forearms and leave them there through transformation
11) Ratcheting joints in the hips and knees (super useful given all that kibble that hangs off the back)
The new arms, fit issues ignored, are an interesting piece of engineering. They look beefier than the 31 arms do and don’t have a transformation rotation point in the forearm which is a minor positive for handling. There’s a flap that looks like a bicep.
The display stand is largely unchanged from previous DX toys. It will hold your toy aloft and be sturdy enough to alleviate concern that inadvertent bump to your display will cause it to go tumbling down. It can’t be angled or otherwise adapted for any cool pose you may have in your mind, it’s basic. You’ll need to deploy the mission pack when in GERWALK mode while using the display stand.
The special Walkure fighter-mode only display stand is a re-hash from DX VF-1 toys but it’s more limited. There are only three angles to choose from and there much less severe than those on the DX toy. The white plastic and logo look nice which is the only significant improvement over the standard included display stand.
Durability & Build: (6/10)
This toy suffers from massive fit issues which are primarily related to the new arms. Because of these issues, nothing seats properly around the base of the wings in fighter mode. While the DX 31 toy is both sleek and solid in fighter mode, the 31AX bulges and pops parts out of place because the tabs are all off by a millimeter. There hasn’t been a wave of broken toys YET but if you try to force everything to lay as flat as they do on a DX VF-31 toy then there’s a good chance you’re going to break something. It doesn’t fit, don’t force it, just find the positions that make the faults look least egregious. There is some variability from toy to toy. My Mirage release comes together so well that I might have been convinced Bandai fixed the issues after the first issue Hayate… but my Bogue release can’t get its arm cannon remotely close to the proper position in fighter mode. This toy would have been a lot better if the arm cannons were the same size as the 31 toy and had a tab on the forearm they locked into in fighter mode (a little blame for both Kawamori and Bandai there). That would have given us a better place to grab the toy while making everything lock together better. IF the tolerances had been perfect, the specter of worn paint would still loom large as this toy has numerous sharp edges that butt together tightly and are all covered with paint.
There was only one improvement that needed to be made over the VF-31 toy to make this toy an unstoppable force… but Bandai didn’t make it. That one shortcoming of the VF-31 toy was, of course, the inability to articulate the pointer finger. It’s always pointing…. It has no knuckles. The other fingers? They have knuckles. So, that is just about the only thing that continues to keep the 31 toys from perfection. Here’s what you do get:
Mission pack: Attaches via peg that allows 360 swivel. Gun can pivot up (transformation mechanism) or be removed and put in hand. The gun/pointy thing do not pivot independently like the VF-31 standard mission pack
Head: Ball joint full swivel and about 40 degrees of cocking
Neck: Forward/back pivot
shoulders: up/down pivot at body, 360 swivel at arm
Upper arm: up/down pivot at shoulder. 360 swivel at bicep. up/down pivot above elbow (transformation mechanism)
Elbow: double hinged for 110 degrees of motion. There’s also a double hinge on the bicep cover to get it out of the way for steep angles
Wrist: swivel left/right, ball jointed hand attachment
Hands: knuckles on all fingers except trigger, up/down pivot at palm including thumb
Waist: 60 degree swivel in either direction
Hips: ratcheting ball joints with 360 motion and nearly 46 degree of inward angle for wide stances
Thighs: GERWALK joint of about 45 degrees and 10 degrees in/30 degrees out swivel.
Knees: 90 degrees back, 100 degrees with extension, 60 degrees forward, 90 degrees with extension
Feet: ball joint allows 10 degrees left/right and in/out. Hinge allows toe to drop nearly 45 degrees for GERWALK mode.
Total Score: (41.5/50)
If you are a huge fan of fighter mode than this score is much too high and you will be let down by the Hayate release. Let’s all cross our fingers that Mirage rectifies the fit issues. If Gerwalk or Battroid are your jam, then this toy will make a much better impression on you. The biggest frustration here is that the DX VF-31A toy was so good and so similar. That toy with a Hayate paint scheme and a knuckle on the pointer finger would have made me swoon. Unfortunately, the AX needs new arms and those arms, which did require numerous changes to the areas around them in fighter mode, just don’t fit. Until Bandai gets that sorted out, this toy will always just be ‘so close to great’ that it will drive you nuts.