Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Toy Review: Transformers United Seekers: Elites Thrust


Review:  #383
Name:  Thrust
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Decepticon
Line:  United
Year of Release:  2012
Size Class:  Deluxe
Mold Status:  remold of the Classics Starscream mold

PACKAGING:


As an Asia exclusive and forming part of the United line, Thrust came in the boxset named "Seekers:  Elites".


The pack included the three Coneheads, being Ramjet, Dirge and Thrust.


Carrying a premium pricing to match the premium packaging, it contains a flap to reveal the window showcasing the three figures.

JET MODE:


Thrust transforms into a heavily modified F-15 fighter jet, the obvious difference being the VTOL wings.


This is a well formed jet but by the time of its release, the mold was starting to become outdated.


Thrust is a Deluxe size and is pretty much the benchmark for this size class (above is a comparison with the later released Unite Warriors Shuttler).


The VTOL fans are actually detachable but the only other place they can attach are on the underside of the rear tailfins, so not much point there.  Also note that the fans are painted in a metallic red (more about this paint later).


The nose is also shortened compared to the Starscream release for robot purposes.  A strong jet mode and unique with its VTOL wings.

TRANSFORMATION:

Basic and tiring at this stage.  Extend the rear to form the legs, unfold the arms from the body of the jet, and then rotate and fold the nose to form the torso.  The robot head is the tip of the jet nose, and thus, you can see the robot face on the underside in jet mode.

ROBOT MODE:


Thrust's robot mode is spot on and looks fantastic.


To mimic the G1 character design, you can leave the wings untransformed and so sits on either side of his waist, rather than his shoulders.


The headsculpt is great, and the silver used to highlight the face is a good choice.


A quick size comparison and you can see that Thrust is at a decent height.


One of the drawcards of this set was that the figures have additional metallic paint applications.  Unfortunately for Thrust, the metallic red used is prone to fading (quickly) overtime and thus makes your figure look tacky.  The paint is on Thrust's shoulders, waist plate, knee caps and VTOL fans.


Poseability is average, he lacks elbow swivels which hurts this mold the most.  The heelspurs also don't do a great job of keeping him upright in action poses.


His nullrays are spring loaded missile launchers, which presents the main play value in this mode.


Leaving the wings untransformed, while accurate to the character, severely hinders his articulation.  You can fold the wings up (but cannot leave the VTOL fans it will get in the way of his shoulders) and peg the VTOL somewhere else, like the tailfins on his legs.

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An excellent looking robot mode, but the mold is showing its age since its design is not as strong as contemporary figures.

OVERALL:


This version of Thrust is nearly the definitive version of the character, unfortunately, the fading metallic paint holds it back.  While not doubt looking impressive brand new and when he was first released, the paint will continue to fade even if you don't open the packaging.  Otherwise, this is a classic mold and does the character justice.

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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Book Review: Dragonar Academy Volume 9


Review:  #663
Title:  Dragonar Academy Volume 9
Series:  Dragonar Academy - 9th volume
Author:  Shiki Mizuchi
Read Before:  no
Comments:  The 9th volume of Dragonar Academy turns out to be one of the better volume of the series.  In this, Ash’s first meeting with Princess Sylvia when they were young and attending the ceremony to accept their dragons is revealed in full.  While the whole story is split across multiple chapters and thus multiple flashbacks, it was kept interesting and we also get an explanation on Eco’s human form.  While the explanation is a bit of justification for the fan service, there are worse out there.  Perhaps the most surprising of which is both Eco and Sylvia expressing their love for Ash, which until this point is still hard to fathom what is so attractive about Ash.  Nevertheless, with this, Dragonar Academy has effectively turned into the romantic genre but somehow still makes you want to keep on reading to the next volume.
Rating:  6/10

Monday, May 29, 2017

Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth (Vita)


Digimon Story:  Cyber Sleuth is based on the anime franchise of the same name and features various Digimons from the various seasons.  As part of the Digimon Story series, it is more of a traditional JRPG with an original story taking place in real-life Tokyo.  The combat system of Cyber Sleuth is nothing special, it is a basic turn-based system with options for Attack, Skills, Change Digimon and using Items.  There is a paper, scissors, rock weakness system but it ends up being unremarkable.  It's functional and interesting enough to keep you going through the game but you wish that there was something to differentiate this from other JRPG games.


The real hook of the game is the ability to collect Digimon (short for Digital Monsters).  These are monsters that live in the digital world, which can digivolve into new Digimon as you level them up.  There are multiple digivolution paths for each Digimon and unlike Pokemon, you can freely go up and down the path which allows a tremendous amount of freedom which is the most addictive part of the game.  Digivolving will require special conditions in relation to that Digimon's stats and you may have to digivolve and de-digivolve multiple times in order to get to your desired Digimon.


Digimon gain levels through experience and they reset to Level 1 every time you digivolve.  Catching Digimon, so to speak, requires you to battle the same Digimon multiple times in dungeons as you scan their data.  The game has random encounters, which may seem unfortunate at first glance but the encounter rate is conservative.  You won't be forced into a battle every two steps, you can run through multiple smaller areas of a dungeon before you end up battling a Digimon.


Furthermore, you get access early on to various abilities which include removing random encounters all together or conversely, forcing one which is a boon for grinding.  Each area is comprised of smaller areas separated by a loading screen.  The loading time is short but since areas are so small, it feels disappointing.  The plot is probably another area where Cyber Sleuth could improve upon since it is fairly bland.  You can either choose a male or female avatar, the male being called Takumi.  In this world, a virtual world called EDEN where a person can create virtual avatars with their full consciousness and dive into the virtual reality.


Due to some malfunctions, Takumi's body become digitalized and ends up joining a detective agency to become a "cyber sleuth", specializing in cases involving the digital world.  The majority of the game takes place in Tokyo and allows you to visit familiar suburbs such as Akihabara and Shinjuku.  The other part of the game takes place within EDEN with a futuristic theme to the design of the dungeons.  One of the more annoying things is that the camera is fixed although the graphics are impressive.


During Takumi's quest to get his body back, he discovers more sinister plans involving the corporation behind EDEN.  Eventually gaining the power to recruit and use Digimon for battles, he tries to find the secrets of EDEN.  The story pacing is uneven with some interesting bits but is padded with more mundane story elements that don't seem to have a place in the larger scheme of things.  Even during the climax of the story, there's nothing surprising.  However, the plot heavily involves the Royal Knights (a group of high ranking Digimon) which is pretty cool.


The heavy nostalgia factor if you have seen the first three seasons of Digimon is what truly makest he game so much more addictive.  While everything is translated to English with some typos here and there, the voiceovers remain in Japanese.  There are 20 story chapters and it takes around 30 to 40 hours to finish the game, so it is a decent length.  Story is mainly told via dialogue with character models showing that they're speaking but occasionally there are CG scenes which look great.


There are plenty of side quests to extend the playtime even more but doing all of them means that there are heaps of backtracking in dungeons across the same maps which can be repetitive.  Plus, there seems to only be the few NPC designs as the game begins to reuse the same NPC designs early on.  The difficulty is set to be really easy early on but the first difficulty spike begins with a boss from Chapter 10.  You may need to end up grinding for a bit to digivolve your Digimon to higher levels before you can attempt to progress.  The high health of later enemies is frustrating since it makes it that much longer to defeat and forces you to end up relying on specific moves that ignore Defense in order to finish battles quicker.


There's not much postgame content, the main features being some superbosses and collecting the remaining Digimon.  There is a colosseum to face waves of Digimon, both offline against the AI and online against other players.  A New Game Plus option is available after finishing but you cannot skip cutscenes at all which makes replaying quite tedious.  Overall, Digimon Story:  Cyber Sleuth is a fun game.  It has an average story and battle system so it is only truly recommended if you at least have some idea and have an interest in Digimon already.

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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Toy Review: Transformers Unite Warriors UW-EX Baldigus (Ruination)


Review:  #382
Name:  Baldigus
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Decepticon
Line:  Unite Warriors
Year of Release:  2017
Size Class:  N/A
Mold Status:  repaint of Unite Warriors Bruticus

PACKAGING:


Baldigus is a TakaraTomy Mall exclusive (being the online store), although he comes in the same fancy box as the rest of the Unite Warriors releases.


The original Baldigus in the cartoon uses the "scramble city" style of the limbs to create two attack modes, a Flight Mission and Land Mission mode.


The front flap opens up to reveal the Commandos in their alternate modes and all their accessories, which makes it a really nice display piece.

COMMANDOS:


Baldigus is comprised of Dolrailer (Mega-Octane), Shuttler (Movor), Hepter (Ro-Tor), Dangar (Armorhide) and Greejeeber (Rollbar).


These guys are pure repaints (with additional weapons) of the Unite Warriors Bruticus release, but are very faithful to the RiD characters they are homaging.


Their color schemes are nice and are a little bit more realistic and fitting compared to the G1 versions of these molds.


This release uses the dedicated hands and legs of the Combiner Wars Computron release (i.e. better proportioned).  When not in combined mode, the hands can slot into the bottom of the feet.


In vehicle mode, they can peg (very tightly) onto the sides of Dolrailer.


In robot mode, they are pegs into the shoulders of Greejeeber.  Note these are the official placements, but each figure has various 5mm pegholes such that there are plenty of other places to peg them.

LIMBS:


Dolrailer forms the torso and it is solidly built.  The chestplate pegs onto the the sides to keep it in place, and the waist plate hides Dolrailer's small hips.


Shuttler normally forms the right arm and while the nose of the shuttle is flatter, thus not as pronounced as how the cartoon had it, it's not too bad.  The leg mode is just the shuttle with the nose pushed out.


Hepter is the left arm and the key feature here is the four-blade rotor, although situated a bit lower than you'd want to look good.  The leg mode is also fine provided you can tuck the blades in further, although it can easily pop them out if you're not careful.


Greejeeber forms the right leg.  Its arm mode is bulkier and shorter than Shuttler's or Hepter's.


Finally, Dangar forms the left leg, and unfortunately due to the way the mold was designed, cannot replicate the leg configuration of the original which had the front of the tank facing forward as a knee cap.

COMBINED MODE:


The standard and most recognizable configuration is the "Flight Mission", which has Shuttler and Hepter as the arms (i.e. the flight capable characters).


The combined mode is relatively kibble-free, although the limbs usually have their robot arms hanging off.


The headsculpt is fantastic, and it is on a balljoint but is restricted so that it cannot really look that far up and down.


True to stock photos, the chestplate and head are painted a metallic gold which looks amazing in person.  It's only slightly let down by the unpainted jointing plastic between the chestplate and waist plate.


A comparison against Combiner Wars Bruticus.


A size comparison against Generations Rhinox.  Being comprised of four Deluxes and a Voyager, the figure is tall and hefty.


The poseability is pretty good, since Baldigus has knees and elbows joints coupled with swivels.


The dedicated hands and feet are miles better than the hybrid ones that came with most of the figures in the line.  The feet also have ankle tilts to help keep the legs flat in various poses.


The multiple weapons from each character combines into two bigger guns.  While not as impressive as first expected, it's still a nice gesture and means that there isn't a heap of guns randomly attached to the combined mode.


The biggest weapon against Baldigus while posing is the weight since he's more than likely to tilt over.  Most of his joints are ratchets so there're no issues there.


The other sweet thing with the additional weapons this set has is that Baldigus gets to keep his iconic twist cannons behind his head.


The other configuration is "Land Mission" which has Greejeeber and Dangar as the arms.


The result of this configuration is a beefier look thanks to the bulkier arms.


Dangar's weak waist still causes a problem here since it likes to detach when you're posing his arm mode.


This mode has a few dedicated paint applications such as the thighs (which are hidden away in Dolrailer's robot and vehicle mode) and of course the chestplate.


Baldigus has an upside down G2 insignia prominently on his chest.


On the whole, this mode holds together really well and has heaps of play value.


A great homage to the character and one that was somewhat unexpected since it's a bit niche.

OVERALL:

A great set and combined mode.  It's the perfect homage to a lesser known character but one that looks amazing.  The molds are solid, each separate figure is good and when combined, still presents heaps of potential and fun.

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