The Sparagen Collection: Mecha
by Marc Sparagen
1/55 Strike Valkyrie
I had some trouble settling on this figure as my transforming mecha representative piece. In the end, Valkyries are the slickest and best-designed transforming pieces out there. Alpha fighters are not. The differences among the 1/55 Takatoku/Bandai Valks are mainly cosmetic. (Exception-- the 1990 Bandai Super Valkyrie figure cut corners...). I picked the Strike Valkyrie because its red color scheme went well with the other figures in my mecha collection, but it could just as well have been a Miriya, a Bandai VF-1A, a Jetfire, or even another repainted figure.
Where to start on the amazing design of this piece? The little things first... 1) The gear-related foot mechanisms, 2) The spring-loaded landing gear, 3) The retractable fists, 4) The little tab that holds the wings to the back in 'Battroid' mode also holds the arms in place in 'Fighter' mode.
Then there are the main transformation features... 1) The cape folds over and becomes the wings, 2) The head is swallowed by the conjoining wing structure and chest shield, and becomes a rotating undercarriage gun turret, 3) Arms and legs fold back as thrusters, 4) The backpack folds out as the tail.
I have never seen a transforming piece whose components are so well integrated into both forms. I do, however, have mixed feelings about the add-on armor. While very attractive in 'Battroid' mode, the armor looks clunky on the plane, especially the clip-on wing missile clusters. Moreover, the clips for the armor are very fragile, and definitely weaken quickly from being added to and removed from the figure. Even if you choose to leave the armor on in 'Fighter' mode, the arm pieces need to be removed in order to withdraw the fists from their sleeves. I have to rate the armor as a pretty but flawed afterthought. Speaking of which...
It even has 'Gerwalk'!
The 'heat shield' on the Strike Valk was problematic. It was a screw-on contrivance, and so defeated the idea of a transforming cockpit area. I recently acquired a 'clip-on' shield made by Greg Lowery (?) which after painting worked just great. The white tips are to blend in with the 'collar' area.
Some extra shots:
1/40 Olson Special Orgroid
Formally known as Takatoku 1/40 Orguss II Drifand Orgroid Olson Special, this figure has a sweet color combination, smooth elliptical molding, and a transformable design that features 'More Joints than a Hemp Rally.'
The rounded look of the Orgroid is a fine counterpoint to the angular features of its cousin the Valkyrie. The barrel-like torso and bulky lower legs give a strange but impressive proportion to the figure. While this makes for a somewhat chunky 'Flyer' mode, it looks just great as the 'Tank.' It even has 'Gerwalk'!
The amazing flexibility of the Orgroid includes quintuple-jointed arms, a 4-part collapsible torso, and extendable shin pads with hidden wheels for the 'Tank' mode. Another nice feature is the double-shielded, removable cockpit (Olson is also removable). The cockpit is a nice offset to the figure's insectoid, helmeted head.
To do: if someone could send me a xerox / scan of a sticker placement diagram for this piece I would be very grateful.
1/8 Mospeada Cyclone
A unique design idea executed in complex and elegant manner... a motorcycle that rides YOU. No other mechanized armor comes close to the meticulous transformable design of this piece. The instruction set has well over 30 steps and substeps, and that's just one way (to go from armor to bike, it says 'follow these instructions backwards').) In lieu of written detail on the mindboggling transformation, here is a picture of the booklet
My other favorite features of this figure include the amazingly detailed motorcycle, and the 'all-inclusive' approach to the accessories (I even leave the 'kickstand ' on the armor and pretend it looks cool).
The piece is not perfect, however. First and foremost, Scott can't really ride his own bike-- no real hand or foot grips on it, plus his pop-up boots are too thick and clumsy (no doubt to support the armor). Also, the bike wheels look kind of weird as shoulderpads. Finally, the Gakken/Excite version that I have does not feature firing missiles. If anyone knows of a (probably Japanese) version that does have live ammo, I would gladly buy/trade-- even though I was lucky to have instructions in English at first!
Question: which came first, this or the Popy/Bandai 'Wingman Winner' motorbike robot?
1/60 Gundam Wing DX
Choosing this Gundam for my collection as a model/toy crossover eliminated many other great figures. The Wing DX won out for two reasons: 1) I love the 'godlike' winged look (the Gundam Wing Zero Custom model takes this one step further by adding feathers!); 2) This is the only toy I own with sound effects, two of which are triggered by pushing the head down and by a button on the chest. Lights accompany these sound effects as well.
The Wing Gundam is a fairly 'Super Robot'-like mech, judging by the wings and by its stylized samurai armor plates & shield (also, Real Mecha Don't Wield Swords). The figure does a cheesy transformation into a bird thing, but there are a couple of cool features about that, too: talons come out of the arms, and the shield, once placed on the figure's back as the bird's head, has a push-button that sets off a third sound effect!
To do: the Gundam is probably the most form-heavy (on a form vs. features scale) piece that I have; as a result, it deserves special attention to its cosmetics. The 'Gundam marker' and paints will certainly help here.
1/24 'Red Shoulder Custom' VOTOMS Scopedog (reissue)
Real mecha don't come much more real than this. A great contrast to the stylized Chogokin. The Scopedog is very well outfitted. It has a bundle of boot-camp gear, including a sleeping bag for the pilot; also, an assortment of weapons and armor plates.
Some cool features of the Scopedog include the 'Dog' configuration (note the well-appointed cockpit), and the sliding wrist mechanism for mounting weapons.
To do: I almost feel like caking the Scopedog's feet with dirt for a gritty war-bot look. It will get an equal and opposite cosmetic treatment from the Gundam Wing. Chirico the pilot needs some paint as well.
1/24 Zoids Gorem
Gorem cuts the most impressive/striking figure out of all the humanoid pieces in my collection. The smooth white armor and intricate black underlying structure make for an interesting balance visually.
Like all Zoids, Gorem has the Frankenstein appeal of "build it from scratch and it moves once you're done." There are plenty of larger and more complicated Zoids, like King Gojulas and Mad Thunder, but none of those have the slick armored look of Gorem. Deathpion is the only other Zoid that comes close in that respect.
Some details on Gorem: the Stormtrooper-like pilot can ride on back or in the cockpit. The machine gun rotates on an ingenious spring mechanism when Gorem is walking (a front-arm heavy gorilla motion), and a menacing light appears as Gorem's eye.
SD VF-1S Valkyrie
Though some 1/55 model details are missing (retractable fists, gear-related feet, spring-loaded landing gear) the SD model duplicates most of the transforming features of the larger Valks. It even comes with Super Deformed pilot and Minmay figures.
Also, the SD incorporates the add-on armor in plane mode better than the 1/55, and has a wonderful flip-over cockpit feature that is miles beyond all other Valks' heat shield schemes.
Kamige may look like a cute little robot, but don't piss him off! For whenever Kamige becomes angry or outraged, a startling transformation occurs. His legs become a backpack, his old backpack telescopes out to become new legs, (the arms stay the same), and the final touch is the hidden spring-loaded head for the big green guy (even the trigger button for this is hidden!)
It even has 'Gerwalk'!
Motorized SD Dragon Gundam
The SD Dragon Gundam has the typically ornate 'samurized' armor set; the dragon fist covers and 'tail' are nice flourishes.
But this guy's main gimmick is the radio-controlled aspect. The big button on the Dragon's chest puts it in 'ready' mode (either the red or the green light on its chest blinks on...). Then it is up to you and your remote control box to set it in motion.
Turn the remote on (to red or green...) to start. The up arrow moves the Gundam forward, down rotates him backwards, left throws a straight-arm left punch, and right throws a right hook.
It was puzzling at first as to why the whole red-green thing was going on. The remote only signals the robot if their colors match (there is a switch on the robot's back to set it to red or to green). Also, the large activation button on the chest does strange things: one press turns the red or green light on, a second press turns the other light on, a third press makes both blink faster, and a fourth press makes the robot fly into an extended tailspin and then shut off automatically.
Another look at the box gave the answer. These things are made to fight, 'Rockem-Sockem Robots' style! Two Dragons can fight, and there are also RX-78 looking models that can fight Dragons or each other. Set one Gundam to respond to the 'red' remote signal, and its opponent to the 'green' frequency. Then, have them try to peg each other in the chest until one of them, having taken three hits, spins out and deactivates.
"You wouldn't like me when I'm angry..."
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