Today is the premier of a new Mobile Suit Gundam show on Cartoon Network which can only
mean one thing, new MSIA figures. The first nine figures are hitting the shelves now and among
them are five versions of the main Mobile Suit, the GAT-X105 Strike Gundam. It is available
in both active mode and deactive mode paint schemes as a basic figure. There are deluxe
versions with the parts for the Launcher Strike and Sword Strike forms and a box set with
the parts for the Aile Strike form and the Skygrasper plane. From the looks of it, the
Strike Gundam seems to be designed to be able to use different add-on components depending
on the situation, similar to how the Core Block system in the original Gundam series was
able to form the Gundam, Guntank and Guncannon. Well, two of the variations
of the Strike Gundam are out now, the Launcher Strike Gundam and Aile Strike Gundam which
comes with the Skygrasper plane.
Packaging - Launcher 6/10, Aile 8/10The Gundam Seed figures get the same packaging as the other figures. The card is fairly basic but the figure and parts are nicely displayed in the large bubble. The figure isn't particularly cleverly displayed, it is just placed in a neutral standing pose in the center of the card with all of the parts spread out around it. A sticker with the logo for the series is applied to the front of the bubble at the top while the insert at the bottom gives the name of the Mobile Suit. The card has a bright red spot, like a light source centered behind the figure which illuminates various technology based images before fading to black around the edges of the card. The back of the card has images of the first basic and deluxe waves of Gundam Seed figures, a promotional image of the Aile Strike Gundam with two of the characters from the series and a brief introduction to the series. The back is functional though not very informative and the fact that for some reason they used the image of the Earth with the Gundam Fight ring around it from Mobile Fighter G Gundam behind the story write-up suggests that they didn't put a whole lot of effort into the packaging.
The box set use the same basic design as the carded figures, but manages to avoid the short comings that plague the carded figures. The front of the box is predominately taken up by the window which allows a clear view of everything that comes in the set. The box uses the same techno images as the cards, but doesn't have as much dark space as the cards. The images of the first wave of basic and deluxe figures are still included, but moved to the side panels. That leaves room on the back for images of the three different armor configuration for both the Strike Gundam and the Skygrasper. They even included short descriptions of back story behind the Strike Gundam and the Skygrasper. The only shortfall is that the box itself is fairly thin, I don't think these will hold up as well to shelf wear as some packages.
Sculpting - 7/10The Striker Gundam figure that is included in both sets is the same figure. The figure follows the same tradition as other MSIA figures, retaining the simpler nature of an animated character while still providing plenty of detail to avoid seeming dull. The proportions look pretty good, though since I haven't seen the show I not sure what it is supposed to look like. The sculpt also incorporates the articulation nicely which is to be expected on a mechanical design like this.
Paint - 5/10The paint work here is solid but not on par with some of Bandai's recent releases like the Buster Gundam. The design of the figure offers less contrast in the colors than figures like the Buster Gundam. The large white areas would be improved with some subtle panel lines. But beyond that, the quality of the paint job on the Strike Gundam is slightly weaker than I'm used to seeing from Bandai. Both of the Strike Gundam figures I got had problems with uneven paint lines and an occasional paint splotch. The problems aren't enough to detract from the looks of the figures unless viewed in extreme detail.
Articulation - 7/10Strike Gundam is articulated as follows:
Accessories - Launcher 5/10, Aile 7/10The Launcher Strike Gundam and Aile Strike Gundam share many of the same accessories in addition to the add-on components. Both come with two folding switchblades, a beam rifle with front handle that can be adjusted to either side for left or right handed use, a large shield and three sets of hands (open, fists and trigger fingers). The shield is similar to the original RX-78 Gundam's shield and can be clipped either to the back of the figure's forearm or along the side of it. It also has a handle that can be adjusted to multiple positions along the bottom half of the shield. Both the shield and rifle are well done. But the blades of the switchblades don't lock into an open position so they tend to flop around.
The Launcher Strike Gundam then adds three additional accessories: a shoulder mounted cannon, a large cannon with a spring loaded firing mechanism and the backpack to store the cannon. The shoulder mounted cannon clamps over the top of the shoulder armor and has two fins that can be positioned but due to the sculpt, tend to stay in just one position. The cannon is nicely detailed and has a handle on the front that can be extended for two handed use. The firing mechanism works much better than the one for Buster Gundam, but is still pretty weak. Fortunately it can simply be ignored and doesn't really hut the sculpt at all. The back pack is very simple. It clips onto the figure's back and has a manipulator arm that attaches to the cannon. The manipulator arm also adds five additional points of articulation.
The Aile Striker and Skygrasper sets add quite a few additional accessories. First of all you obviously get the Skygrasper plane. Rather than just being a single lump of plastic like the Core Fighter and Core Boosters were, the Skygrasper actually has a rotating gun turret on the top and two adjustable thrusters on the bottom. Unfortunately the wings are made of a plastic that is too soft to support the weight of the engines, much less the add-on components. There is also a display base included that is shaped like an OMNI insignia. (Too bad I have no clue who or what OMNI is.) The Aile component that is included is a large winged backpack and thruster assembly. It attaches snugly to either the Striker Gundam or the back of the Skygrasper. The thrusters connect to the rest of the Aile unit by both a ball joint and rotating joint that gives the thrusters and large amount of poseability. There is also storage for two beam saber hilts and the removable beam saber blades are included. There are clips included to attach the beam rifle and shield to the Skygrasper as well.
Value - Launcher 3 or 6/10, Aile 6 or 8/10I gave both figures two scores since the value here is going to depend on whether you already have the figure itself or not. Since the first 9 figures to be released for the Gundam Seed line include 5 variations of the Strike Gundam, if you are going to end up buying five copies of the same figure, the accessories have to really be top notch. The Aile Strike and Skygrasper set just adds more play value and display options in that category. The Launcher Strike is a solid figure, but since you'll soon be able to get the same figure for $3 less as a basic figure, just without the cannon and shoulder cannon.
Happy Hunting:I found the Launcher Strike and Buster Gundams at Target on the east side of Madison, WI. Gundam Seed figures are also starting to show up at Kmart stores. If you want an online option, Big Bad Toy Store has the deluxe figures for $10 each and flat rate shipping of $4.99. If you buy several items to combine shipping, their prices become fairly competitive even with the discount chains and their service is excellent.