Mega Review: Crane game prizes
Packaging & Extras: (2.5/5), + 2 for Super/Strike Sets
Banpresto began what would become a series of 4 types of releases with a set of three Do You Remember Love toys. These toys came in a generic box (22.3 x 16 x 6 cm) that let you see what variant you were getting through a large window in the front. The large window also reveals all included accessories so the space beyond the window is entirely superfluous. There’s a string on top of the box, perhaps to help the game machine successfully grab the toy, as well as a tab to allow the toy to be hung on pegs. Each box included one VF-1 toy and:
1) 2x alternate heads so you could choose if your toy would be a VF-1A, VF-1J, or VF-1S
2) 2x fixed posed hands: right gun grip, left barrel holding (fists come pre-installed on the toy)
3) A gun
Behind the blue plastic tray you’ll also find black and white instructions printed on standard office paper.
Part 2 toys are TV themed and came in a box with the same dimensions but with a little more color. The box is again generic to all releases with the window revealing which variant is included. Contents were unchanged from the original releases.
The super releases encompass one DYRL release (Hikaru’s 1A/S), one TV release (Skull One), and a mass production VF-1 that could be from either property. The box is again generic and the dimensions are unchanged though the contents are expanded. The accessories included with the first two sets of releases are moved into a plastic baggy taped to the back of the tray to make room in the tray for:
4) Super parts (consisting of boosters for the backpack, forearm armors, and leg armors). The leg armors have removable rear landing gear installed.
5) A heat shield (may be installed on the toy or in the baggy with the attachment frames)
A second baggy taped to the back of the tray also includes
6) An attachment frame for the backpack boosters
7) An attachment frame for the leg armors
8) A peg-in front landing gear
The final set of releases were strike toys from DYRL. The boxes were the same for either toy again relying on the window to indicate the variant. Contents were the same as the super releases but with one of the boosters now having a strike cannon installed.
I don’t traditionally cover knock-offs (KO) on this site but I did come across this one and had to pick it up because of the unique color scheme. It makes the minimum effort to look official mixing different toy/model representations on the back of its card. The only accessory included is a gun; there are no extra heads or hands like the official toys include. Removing the toy from the blister reveals that this is a complete ‘remold’ of the toy, replacing numerous joints with solid parts. From the shoulder to the tip of the fist is now one part, hollow, with no back to it. The fists don’t have a hole to accommodate the gun (so you can’t use the gun in battroid/GERWALK) and are positioned so the thumbs will hit each other and prevent the arms from slotting together for fighter mode. The slot in the arm is too large for the gun grip so you can’t use the gun in fighter mode either. The head is one piece with the hinge which eliminates the head swapping gimmick, and prohibits lowering the guns or rotating the head for fighter/GERWALK modes. The legs are also one solid piece from the hip to the foot, eliminating the GERWALK and knee joints and the ability to achieve GERWALK mode. This KO only exists to prove anyone who said “This Banpresto VF-1 can’t get any worse!” wrong.
Charm & Collectability: (1.5/5)
These toys enjoyed a brief heyday as the cheapest perfect transformation (not deformed) VF-1. Toynami’s 1/100 VF-1 line introduced in 2006 was superior in all respects and relegated the Banpresto toys to a historical footnote. Though these toys did provide a rather expansive universe of paint schemes (see photo above for full release list) and do have perfect transformation, they contain no metal and, at about 11.5 cm tall in battroid mode, are a rather odd 1/110 scale. As a crane game (AKA UFO Catcher) prize, they were fun. As a legitimate retail release, where they generally sold for between 1,000 and 1,400¥, they left a lot to be desired.
Sculpt, Detail, & Paint: (5.5/10)
The smaller scale required concessions that negatively impacted how well this toy emulated the line art. There is some detail but nothing substantial and the paint on my samples seems average at best. Curiously, Banpresto went the extra mile and painted numbers on the wing for the DYRL schemes… but this conflicts with the concept of swapping heads. For example, Hikaru flew plane “011” as a VF-1A and “001” as a VF-1S. In fighter and GERWALK modes, the canopy sinks into the cockpit producing awkward edges. The way the vertical stabilizers attach to the rear backpack via large clips is a travesty of design and aesthetics… yuck. There’s one big screw very visible in the top of the backpack. The head sits below the ideal position in fighter/GERWALK modes.
To allow the toy to stow the gun in fighter mode, Banpresto included a large notch in one arm and large protrusion in the other that look garish in battroid or GERWALK modes. Gerwalk mode is serviceable but seems to capture the worst of both fighter and battroid modes.
Of the three modes, battroid mode is easily my favorite. The folded over backpack conceals the odd vertical stabilizers clips. The proportions of the chest, shoulders, arms, and legs look good. There are some obvious shortcomings like the gap the head almost appears to float over, the long wings, the canopy clip up front and GERWALK joints, but it’s still decent. Banpresto also did a better job nailing the VF-1S head sculpt than Toynami did on their 1/100 VF-1 line and Yamato did on their V1 1/60 toys.
The Super/Strike version of the toys add some unique failures to the mix. The leg super parts include a bulky part that wraps around the front of the leg to create a sliding point for the rear landing gears. The rear landing gear are simply molded in gray, there are no paint accents, spinning wheels, or rubber tires. The backpack super parts attach via a large white plate that is pinched into place between the backpack and the top of the fighter. The silver lining to the super parts are the pre-painted details. TV versions come in a light hue with UN Spacy logos and red accents. DYRL versions are darker with Jolly Roger logos and silver accents. Super and strike sets also include a heat shield further cementing battroid as my favorite mode.
This toy features the good, ol’ fashioned, Takatoku design enhanced through the inclusion Bandai Hi-Complete Model style pivoting feet and ball-joints at the hips. Unlike the old Takatoku VF-1 toys, you can also attach the gun in fighter mode. Unfortunately, there are a lot of issues here:
1) Battroid mode doesn’t feel solid. The hatch behind the head balances on the back completely unsecured. Similarly, the backpack folds over but there’s no mechanism to keep it in that position so any movement or backward slope will cause it to fall.
2) Fighter mode doesn’t feel solid. The backpack doesn’t connect to the arms beneath it or arms beside it. If you angle the vertical stabilizers too far outward they can fall off their clips entirely. The arms attach securely too each other but do not connect to the legs, back, or backpack.
3) Like the Takatoku 1/100 toys, the fists don’t recess in fighter mode. You’ll need to remove them and store them with your other parts or leave them on, tucked under the backpack.
4) Though designed to move, the head lasers are made of a rubbery PVC instead of ABS. Trying to spin them will more likely result in torn guns than repositioned ones. See my comments in the next section on how to address this.
5) The attachment of the gun in fighter mode is good only in that it pegs in very securely. It’s befuddling that Banpresto didn’t make the gun grip a straight piece that could slide into a fist or a slot. Instead, they made the gun have a trigger, and housing for that trigger, which can’t slide into the slot in fighter mode so the gun danglings way beneath the plane. At this scale, the omission of the trigger would have been a much smaller sin than having the gun dangle so far down. The gun doesn’t even fit in the fixed posed hand well which makes the inclusion of the trigger even sillier.
6) The shoulders in GERWALK interfere with the wings. They really shouldn’t because the joint the shoulders attach to can pivot downward, but the placement of the legs interfere with the shoulder joint travel and create a conflict. This can be avoided by angling the shoulder back/arm forward or disconnecting the intakes to reposition the legs to a more natural position which will allow the shoulders to travel further down.
Features you wouldn’t expect and don’t receive include an opening canopy, visible/removable pilot, hard points on the wings and missiles, landing gear, or heat shield.
The super versions add more design deficiencies to the list of faults. The super parts are an obvious afterthought as the toy exhibits NO planning for them. On some toys I could not get the arm armors to stay on the toys at all. They’re supposed to pinch on but this seems like wishful thinking in most cases, particularly with the left arm for some reason. The leg armors were more successful thanks to a curious part that wraps around the front of the leg. In fighter mode the toy requires two big brackets to hold things together, one for the legs and another for the backpack. These sets added a heat shield. There’s a tab at the bottom of the heat shield but otherwise, it’s another part that relies on stillness and gravity to remain in position. The addition of slide-on/peg-in landing gear is definitely welcome but this is the clunkiest implementation of landing gear I can recall seeing on a VF-1 toy. In many instances, I had to rest the toy on the front landing gear because it wouldn’t peg in properly.
The strike releases made one major improvement: Banpresto placed a hole in the toy’s forearm and a peg in the forearm armor so those parts now attached much more solidly. It may not sound like much but it’s a HUGE improvement as the arm armors on Super toys usually had to be glued or taped on.
Durability & Build: (3/10)
Approach this toy with more than a fair amount of patience… it is, at all times, only moments away from falling apart. Most of the time, the parts that pop off are generally easily snapped back in. The materials are cheap and are easily broken so you should be aware a catastrophic meltdown may just be a tweak away.
As bemoaned a few times already, the head lasers are supposed to move but usually don’t (1A heads don’t have this problem). You can solve this by removing the head laser. The act of removing the laser could be enough to free it up so you can pop it right back in or give it a light sand before you do so. Trying to install the optional heads can be very difficult as the fit is so tight you’ll be concerned about breaking the toy in the process. I recommend using a drill bit to enlarge the size of the hole under the head to make the swapping easier. On some samples, the hands don’t stay in their sockets, on others it seems really difficult to get them in or pull them out. As you might expect on a toy this small, tolerances are a problem in any mode and do detract from the overall look of the product. Also don’t be surprised if some of the joints are so loose it ruins the toy’s articulation.
Albeit an extremely frustrating effort, these toys are quite poseable. Whatever you do, don’t pull on anything or rotate anything carelessly or you’ll end up with a limb in your hand and collapsed rubble on your shelf. With some patience and a rebuild or two you can eventually pull off some pretty nifty moves. Though the head is on a ball joint, theoretically enabling the head swap gimmick, the ball recesses too high into the head limiting movement to a left/right swivel. You can also get some angle up/down at the head using the hinge beneath that moves the head down for GERWALK/fighter modes. The ball-jointed shoulders are problematic. They let the arm spin all the way around in a circle and you can pivot the shoulder back or forward but they don’t offer enough resistance to have the Valkyrie lifting the gun. The arm connects via a ball joint under the shoulder so you can only pivot the arm away from the toy’s body as much as the shoulder ball and top of arm will allow. The elbow is limited to about 90 degrees and the fists can spin in their mounts. The hips are ball joints that allow a great range of outward movement and allow the leg to twist dynamically. The knee allows about 80 degrees of movement and does not have a twist point. The lack of a twist isn’t a problem in battroid, where the hip offers compensating abilities, but in GERWALK mode, where the hip is anchored, the lack of a knee swivel is a bummer. It has been pointed out to me that you can compensate for the lack of swivel in GERWALK by disconnecting the intakes so, if GERWALK is your jam, that might save the day. Seeing how fragile and sloppy this toy is without that swivel; it’s probably a good thing the swivel was omitted. The super/strike parts once taped into place won’t impede articulation.
Total Score: standard (25.5/50), Super/Strike (27/50)
At this point in time, there’s no reason to go hunting these down unless you’re a completist. They look decent but, as toys, they’re failures. The Toynami 1/100 line has faults but is easily superior. If you just want a small scale VF-1 and don’t need it to be cheap, the Hi-Metal and Hi-Metal R lines are vastly superior. If you absolutely must own one of these for some reason, get the strike release and avoid the super releases. Only grab the super releases if you’re okay gluing the parts to the toy.
June 21, 2020: Added 4K comparison to Toynami 1/100 VF-1 toys
June 14, 2020: Added 4K transformation guide. Included content related to strike releases and a KO I picked up. Clarified several observations.
May 8, 2012: Combined standard and super releases. Added new pictures, line art comparisons, HD video review, and content was updated to include reference to subsequent toy releases.
August 14, 2006: Original post for standard releases
June 13, 2006: Original post for super releases