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March 9, 2003

From Strength To Strength

Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 12:37 pm

You’ve been drooling over the pix in the hobby mags, scrimping and saving
for this Budget-Buster… and NOW it’s HERE. Bandai has pulled out the
stops with their latest SOC opus – GX-13 DANCOUGA (That’s how they
spelt it on the box.) The awesome experience begins from the moment you
lay eyes on the monster of a box right up till you finish combining the
big guy and putting that gleaming sword in his hands!

OK, how many of you have the old Chogokin or Godaikin Dancougar toy?
And actually love it? Bleahhh! From the flat, rigid design of the face,
I actually thought it was an escapee from Takara’s Transformers workshops.
The original appeal of the design for me lay in the impressive renderings
of the 4 individual Beasts/Machines. The sleek lines used to capture both
the essence of technology and living spirit came through best in the original
toy’s Land Liger and Couger (the feet…). The main body was a lumbering
block with terrible proportions, and the oversized head really didn’t
help. So it’s really amazing how Bandai have finally managed to do justice
to the original’s aggressive design, carefully balancing the looks of
all 3 modes for the components without sacrificing the final mode’s visual
impact and playability. Seriously, my pictures can hardly match the superlative
job done for the box and booklet. I thought I might share some pix of
certain things that weren’t explained too well in the instructions.

Let’s start with the box and contents. GX-13
comes in a BIG box
with a 2-tiered Styrofoam insert. After slicing
off the tape and removing some of the securing styro blocks, you’ll see
the 4
main robots packed in individual plastic bags
, plus some weapons small
accessories taped to the tray. Below,
the main item is the huge Booster
, along with parts for the Dankuken
sword and Daigan rifle. Some words about these parts – The Booster features
geared swing wings and requires 2 barrel extensions to be attached to
the cannons. Here’s where you experience Bandai’s touch of quality: Each
barrel extension has distinctive molded patterns intended to be canted
outwards. Bandai made sure that the cross-section of the parts to be mated
are exclusive to each cannon and extension. No chance of a mix-up. Equally
impressive is the hinge-action of the double handles on the Daigan rifle.
Pulling the handles out draws the breech section out of the fore stock.
Smooth! But the main
attraction is still the 4 robots
, of course…

The instructions begin with the Eagle Fighter, transforming
it from humanoid to beast mode
. While the old toy was already “small”
and spindly, the SOC’s Eagle is absolutely PUNY. Size-wise, think of the
SOC Daikumaryu’s little Gaiking… and then think of the crazy number
of hinges needed to fold it up into Dancougar’s head! The lower halves
of the legs are diecast while the hips are on ball joints. When completed,
the Eagle can hardly balance on its former arms. Bandai includes a mini
stand to prop it up if you want to show off the beast mode.

Next in the book is actually the Big Moth, but I’m going to touch on
the Land
and Land
first. These two differ the least from the old versions, with
the most obvious change in the transparent cockpits. In robot mode, both
sport better articulation than before, but still suffer slightly from
rather stout proportions. This is mostly made up for with the nicer styling
and joint-work, as well as the diecast content in the torso, legs and
claws. One thing to note are the 2 “hip blades” that need to
be repositioned in each mode. Tank
isn’t very spectacular, since the tracks are simply molded details.
The old toy did include mini roller wheels underneath, but to do so here
would arguably reduce stability in the final combination. Another similarity
to the old toy: To rotate the main cannons, remember to pull the turret
up slightly first. Beast mode is definitely more happening here. I like
the head sculpts, but find that they
tend to look down too steeply
. Nonetheless, the beasts are pretty
, although not in the same class as the Zoids Metal Action Liger
Zero :)

Now for the Big Moth. OK, I’ll admit it. I didn’t bother playing with
the Big Moth robot at all. After all, it’s going to be about 80% the same
as the main body for Dancougar… So I went right into transforming it
to tank mode. One really good thing about the visual design of the SOC
is that the big yellow “ears” of the Big Moth are actually 2
separate components – there’s a big angular version used for the chest
plate, and a smaller folded version, hidden on the sides of the mammoth’s
head. So when transforming into tank or beast mode, the big angular “ears”
are folded into the chest cavity. But… gotcha! The instruction booklet
doesn’t tell you exactly HOW to rotate/fold/push/pull/ the pieces. I spent
nearly 10 minutes figuring out the correct sequence so as not to scratch
the beautiful finish! The
way I figure it
, after rotating the head block upwards, you need to
rotate the outer tips of the ears inwards, and then gently angle them
into the cavity. Don’t ask me about taking them out!

Anyway, Big
Moth’s tank mode
is surprisingly tough to master, mainly due to the
need to accurately align the folded feet together and securing them with
a small flap/clip. It might help to know that the abdomen piece is mounted
on a soft spring and can be retracted to make way for the forward-folded
hind legs. The whole of the hip-joint actually moves along an L-shaped
slot to accommodate the change in height and clearance. Tip: From behind,
you’ll initially have the hind legs in a slight A-stance. Make
sure to pull the thighs outwards slightly
until you hear a “click”.
Now the legs are at proper tangents to the ground. If you don’t do this,
matching up the legs in tank mode is a REAL BITCH. From there, beast
is a snap… If you have trouble getting the snout to “flow”
where you want, make sure you haven’t accidentally rotated the middle
piece about its axis.

So now, we have all
the beasts ready to go
! The endgame is in sight. To
prepare for final Gattai
, return the Liger and Couger to tank mode
and rotate the “hip blades” upwards to mate with the slots in
the bottom of Big Moth’s feet. Big Moth only needs to retract its head
and feet. Eagle Fighter origamis into the new, sleeker, more handsome
Dancougar head, BUT requires partial disassembly! I was surprised to find
out that the puny arms have to be pulled out and re-plugged into a “neck
block”. The head sits on top of this “neck block” which
in turn plugs into the top of Big Moth. The main advantage is that this
block allows some nifty head poses, but on the down side, the small arms
tend to fall off by themselves. I ended up keeping the arms… This has
to be the only “sore point” of the whole experience for me.

Dancougar’s completed mode
, you can flip out the side rocket launchers,
plus his back-mounted main cannon for some immediate fighting action.
The main cannon is mounted on a solid double-hinged diecast armature.
If I haven’t mentioned them before, Dancougar’s huge shoulders are also

solid metal! And the range of movement in the arms is truly impressive.
The box shows the fantastic double-grip on the sword, but I opted to try
out some realistic gun handling action instead. It’s good to know the
super-combined rifle is well
within Dancougar’s abilities
. Finally, I clipped on the Booster and
Sword… The Booster fits like a glove with 2 plugs into the back, 2 over-shoulder
clasps and 2 side body clasps. One mistake in my pix… I forgot to flip
the Booster’s ‘nosecone’ down, but what the heck! He
still looks like a million bucks

On a final note, this has to be the most expensive SOC to date, retailing
at 19800 yen. There has been lots of talk about its “limited”
status. Whether it’s due to Bandai cutting back on production numbers
to stem overstocking losses, or dealers hoarding stock to jack up the
retail price, it can’t be denied that getting hold of one of these beauties
isn’t as easy (or as affordable) as it used to be for “new”
collectibles. I was lucky to have pre-ordered mine from my favorite local
dealer although it nearly burnt a hole in my pocket. I hope the all you
fans of this remarkable toy manage to secure one for yourselves! It’ll
be interesting to see how Bandai will be able to top this :)


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