Bandai 1/60 DX VF-171 & RVF-171 Toys

Bandai DX 171 Luca 7A

Review(updated): Includes Alto, Luca, Maruyama, and Nightmare  Plus

Packaging & Extras: (3.5/5)
While the box is attractive enough (36 x 23 x 10.5 cm), 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. Beyond the core toy you get:
1) 2x Fist covers for fighter mode
2) 6x fixed-posed fists
3) Optional ABS replacement antennas/guns (less bendy then the installed PVC ones)
4) Gun with swing out latch and handle
5) Pilot figure (same figure that was included with renewal VF-25F for Alto)
The plastic tray includes:
6) Display stand (consisting of base and arm)
7) 3 x display stand adapters (fighter, GERWALK, Battroid)
and a separate baggy contains:
8) Instructions

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. This release comes with everything from the standard Alto and Nightmare Plus toys as well as:
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. I’ll express my hatred for the second set of wings further in this review.

The Maruyama custom was a Tamashii exclusive delivered in their standard brown shipper box. Inside is a reasonably attractive box that’s deeper than the standard releases (36 x 23 x 14 cm) as this release is bundled with the armored parts accessory. As well as everything listed for the standard releases, you get:
9) 2x Wings with hard points (sigh)
10) 2x Mushroom peg replacements for the wings in case that horrible swapping method goes awry
11) Armor (2x back leg, 2x bottom leg, 2x top leg, 2x outside of leg, 2x back of arm, 1x gun, 1x chest)
12) 2x long range missiles
13) 2x sets of 3 medium range missiles
14) 2x other wing weapons (micro missile pods?)
The Maruyama pilot figure is the same as the cannon fodder Nightmare Plus toy.

Between 2015 and 2024, Bandai abandoned Styrofoam so their “Revival Version” Armored Alto VF-171EX release includes only plastic trays. The dimensions of the box swelled slightly to 37.5 x 24.5 x 13 cm. There are three trays included which house all the same goods that were included with Maruyama with one huge exception… there is no second set of wings! The toy comes with hardpoint wings installed and the wings without hardpoints have been unceremoniously discarded. It’s not often that removing an accessory is a huge plus but it definitely is here.

Charm & Collectability: (3/5)
Kawamori opted to use the 171 Nightmare Plus as cannon fodder instead of the 19 because the 19 looked too heroic… which doesn’t bode well for making a hot selling 171 toy.  Maybe this is why it took Bandai so long to make a DX 171 toy, shipping only after DX toys of the V1 VF-25, VF-27, YF-29, Renewal VF-25, Konig Monster and Macross Quarter. 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 suffered massive durability issues that drove down demand. Luca and Maruyama’s customs were Tamashii store limited which kept them from becoming shelf-warmers though it’s safe to assume neither moved in huge quantities. Other than the lack of memorable heroic moments in the anime, this toy does check the boxes for a potentially hot collectible. It’s perfect transformation, other than optional parts like the hand covers in fighter mode. It has metal in the joints (the biceps/elbows and feet are almost entirely metal) and decent heft at 330 grams. It’s about 27 cm in fighter and 25.5 cm tall in battroid allowing it to fit in with other 1/60 scale toys. Armored parts (reviewed separately) were sold for Alto’s EX and the Nightmare Plus toy. Nearly 12 years after the original Alto release, Bandai gave us a revival version (1.1) which finally addressed the stupid swap-out wings gimmick (more on that later) and transitioned to the new standard matte finish.

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.  Bandai deserves credit for how close their replication of the 3D model in physical form.  Bandai got REAL close to giving us a near perfect rendition of the toy in all modes.  The cockpit was the only area that looked plain to me.  I wish the odd yellow-ish triangles at the front of the wings were clear plastic inserts. 

Bandai went the extra distance by giving us a Nightmare Plus toy that features a different head sculpt and cockpit. The Nightmare Plus cockpit conforms more to the angular shape of the 171 while the EX cockpit has a more traditional shape. The eye visor on the head of the EX toy has two optical lenses separated by a bar while the Nightmare Plus has a single ‘eye’. Some painted detials, like the stripes on the wings and chest, are also updated to accurately reflect the animation. Since the base vehicle is now a darker blue teal (which is gorgeous) some black details on the EX toys are rendered in white here. Bandai also increased the painted details for the Nightmare Plus. Additional details include: gray hashes near the nosecone vents, circles behind the head on the back of fighter mode, dots next to the vents above the wings, “u” on the chest, “No Step” on the leading edge and “171” on the trailing edge of the wings (on both the top and bottom).

The biggest departure from the original mold is Luca’s RVF-171EX with its huge and spikey lower sensor array and upper radome. I have a real softspot for Elint models so I find this toy absolutely gorgeous. The Luca pilot figure is the same as the Alto figure but with a gleen dot instead of red on the shoulders, a bit more black paint on the face, and white gloves intead of black. The toy retains the additional paint applications that Bandai introduced on the Nightmare plus.

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). Whereas Alto and Luca have colored striping (red and green respectively), Maruyama’s stripe is such a dark gray its almost lost in the black. The lack of color makes the itasha stand out more but that’s the only ‘pop’ the toy offers making it look more drab from angles where the itasha isn’t front and center (like battroid mode). The additional paint details that first appeared on the Nigtmare plus, and then on Luca’s 171, carry over here. See my separate review for the armored parts accessroy for addtional comments and photos related to the toy with the accessory attached.

The biggest visual change from the original release to the revival (1.1) version is the change to a matte finish. The finish goes better with other revival Frontier toys as well as the DX Delta toys. I was sad to see many of the additional paint details Bandai included on all releases after the original Alto were gone with the exception of the “No step” on the leading edge of the wing (though only retained on the top of the wing, which makes the most sense). There are no longer wings without hardpoints but the hardpoints included here have minimal visual impact. I like that the canopy is a little clearer and the pilot is easier to see. The head lens is also a true yellow on the revival version while it had a green tint on the original release.

Design: (6/10)
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. Exercise patience when trying to open the cockpit and make sure you pull straight upward before swinging it back. The first release Alto canopy can be very difficult to slide upward the first few times you handle it.
6) Perfect transformation with a huge range of movement (more on that in articulation). Beware! Bandai did a poor job on the toleranaces of the first release Alto EX. The scariest part of transformation for my EX toy was 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 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. Later releases improved on these tightness issues improving the transformation experience.

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)

Okay, that’s some good stuff but almost all of it is to be expected from a $100+ toy these days.  Bandai significantly softened some of the negatives in their revival version toy which comes with wings that have hardpoints permanently attached to the toy, dropping the frustrating wing-swap gimmic. Here were the negatives I originally listed for the pre-revival toys:

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 original Alto EX toy seemed absurdly tight, later releases are better). 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 the Alto EX 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. Even when transformation goes smoothly, battroid mode never feels as solid as many other DX toys with the hip swing bar prone to not locking adequately in position and the chest not locking in position.

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).

The stand is an eyesore without much flexibility but it lifts the toy and supports it well.

The lower array can be removed from Luca’s RVF-171EX. 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. The bottom array rotates and folds allowing the toy to sit on the landing gear in fighter mode.

While the handling of the lower array is elegant, Bandai wasn’t as successful up above. There is a permanently affixed support on top of Luca’s toy that prevents it from obtaining a normal VF-171EX look. The upper array can spin for a bit more ‘play-ability’.

The bottom array should be removed for transformation and a separate piece is required for transformation to battroid mode (assuming your using the sensor arrays) so it’s not perfect transformation… that’s a big bummer.

The stand gets even worse for the Luca version, adding additional supports for fighter mode which look horrendous and block the view of the lower array. Fortunately, the supports are only needed in fighter mode. The battroid mode adapter is reshaped to accommodate the lower sensor array. While you can use Luca’s battroid adapter with other 171EX toys, and you can use the normal battroid adapter when not using the sensor array with Luca, you must use the special Luca battroid adapter when using his arrays.

Durability & Build: (6/10) – 2.5 for Nightmare Plus
For the Alto toy, most flaws were minor and I have yet to see any catastrophic failures. Slightly warped wings appear to be a common issue for all releases. If you look at it from straight ahead, you may notice a gentle curve. The Nightmare Plus toy has seen frequent issues with the black triangles (see the picture above). Fortunately, 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. As you can see in the picture above, mine has formed cracks near the pin. Oddly, this doesn’t seem to be an issue with the any of the EX releases although the parts look the same. Beyond the triangles, I felt like I was going to break my toy a couple times. 

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.

There are two panels that pivot beneath the chest that you should be careful not to knock free when handling the toy. One fell off my Nightmare Plus toy and I didn’t notice until it was lost forever. You’re also going to want to be conscious of scraping the paint since there’s so much painted on detail here. 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.

Articulation: (9.5/10)
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. On the negative side, the swing bar the hips sits on doesn’t lock firmly enough in place so things can get sloppy when attempting to do dynamic poses.

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 (see what I did there?) with the idea of a 171 for a while but was a little shy about it and kept it on the back burner. 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.  The 171 is a pretty toy that is fun to pose in battroid mode… but it’s frustrating and overly difficult/finicky and, while I did get better at it over time, it never feels as fluid as the other Frontier toys.  Though the Nightmare Plus toys look great and are a have better tolerances that make them less frustrating, I can’t recommend them due to the frequent durability issues. Here’s how I ranked the Frontier releases:
1) VF-19Advance
2) YF-29
3) VF-25 Renewal
4) YF-30
5) VF-27 Renewal
6) VF-171

This review has been updated February 18, 2017 to add an HD VF-171EX Maruyama + Armor Parts gift-set HD video review.
Original post: July 11, 2012
Updated May 22, 2013: included pictures and info on the Nightmare Plus
Updated September 12, 2013: included Nightmare Plus durability issues
Updated September 22, 2014: more Nightmare Plus durability issues. Added an HD video review that covered both the EX and Nightmare Plus toys
Updated January 2017: Added HD RVF-171 Luca custom video review and Battroid to fighter transformation guide. Added content for Luca & Maruyama releases.
Updated March 2024: Added Revival Alto content, additional detail & observations for previous releases, additional higher resolution photos


12 Replies to “Bandai 1/60 DX VF-171 & RVF-171 Toys”

  1. Great pictures and a great review. As for the idea of using the wife as the source of a purely subjective, yet unbiased, opinion: genius.

  2. I had to pop out all of the grey tabs; (2 in the front chestplate, 1 near the neck), becase they hindered conversion from battroid to valkyrie. Much smoother transformation without them.

  3. Just curious, but how’re your 171’s holding out? After I transformed my Cannon Fodder for the first time, I noticed the two black triangles on the plane’s underside both began to crack, so I dabbed some superglue on them as reinforcement. During my second transformation, one of the NUNS triangles on the topside began to crack. As I attempted to unscrew it to apply some superglue, it broke into two pieces.

    All of these black triangles seem to be made of cheap plastic, which is a bad choice since they’re relatively thin parts. On top of that, they’re thin parts that need to be folded out/in every time the toy is transformed. I’d be interested to see a longitudinal review of the 171’s.

  4. I just got my VF-171 and the first thing I broke was the canopy and then one of the black triangles. Aside from wanting to punch kittens while attempting the transformation, I am very impressed how everything locks, folds, and connects together. The joints are crazy tight but articulation is great.
    Those black triangles are the cheapest part. I thought I was being so very careful, and then “click” pieces fall to the floor (i cried). I know it was the cannon fodder unit but to me it just looks awesome.

  5. Excellent review of the beautiful model!
    When I first saw vf-171 nightmare, I immediately wanted to buy it. But feedback about the quality stopped my. And now i decided to buy a model …
    From the box two triangles with cracks! Pulled out the model, began to turn his legs – i saw that on one gray plate hangs on the legs. Removed the plate, saw that the fastening element was broken. The quality is just awful !!! Tell me, please, maruyama has the same quality as a nightmare?

  6. You bought the green one? That one definitely has the worst issues, not sure why. My Maruyama seemed very solid, as did my Luca, I think Bandai learned from the problems with the Nightmare Plus release.

  7. No, i bought Nightmare Plus and now i think that it was a big mistake from me. Since NP nice looking for me, it is not acceptable to use it because it manufactured from glass plastick!

  8. I interesting, now i faced with 3 issue (one upper broken treangle, one bottom broken triangle and one broken gray peace on the right legs). How many isssue i will encounter with this model?
    Has Maruyama, for example, any another issue? The materials in the treangls and on the legs in the maruyama is the same like in Nightmare Plus?

  9. In which mode are you referring? They can’t swing very far forward in fighter if that’s how you mean.

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