Superior Defender Gundam (part 6)

Endless Waltz Figures

And the Gundam reviews keep on coming. (Honestly, I am getting to the end of them for those who don't care for Gundam figures or just dislike the SD Gundam line. But then again, they probably stopped reading this already.) This time it is the characters from the Gundam Wing OVA: Endless Waltz. Given that the SD line seems to have skipped the Mobile Fighter characters for the full sized figures, these are also some of the most over the top character designs for the SD Line. (But if Bandai wants to give us a SD Tequila Gundam, I'll buy it. :-)

Packaging - Wing Zero 5/10, others 3/10

All of the figures use the same packaging design as the rest of the line. The bubbles is nice. It provides a good look at the product and adds some visual detail. The standard Bandai insert is present at the bottom giving the character info and the instructions. And the foolish insert at the top is still present pointing out that there is an action feature and giving you no clue what so ever as to what it is. Like the other deluxe figures in the line, the two deluxe figures have an additional insert for the logo at the top. But again, the insert serves no real purpose since to the casual eye it looks just like the basic figures. The card backs are what kill the scores here. The basic figures (Nataku, Sandrock Custom and Heavyarms Custom) all have the same cards; and not a single one of them is actually on it! Even the picture at the top is of the three core characters of the show rather than using the image that Bandai has of the Endless Waltz characters. Deathscythe Hell Custom would have done better here. It actually is pictured on the back of it's card. But they used the same deluxe card that they have used all along, including the big section in the center that says "Try Me". But there is no action feature there so they just left it there and didn't punch out the hole. That is just plain lazy on Bandai's part. Wing Zero Custom fortunately does not suffer from this problem which is why it scores better. However I still scored it lower than the other SD Gundam figures since it doesn't bother to point out half of the action feature, the ability to flap the front wings.

Sculpting - Deathscythe H. 5/10, others 7/10

This is a hard category to judge, there really isn't a frame of reference for what the characters are supposed to look like. (The characters may show up later in the show, I've only seen the first dozen episodes.) But if you compare them to the non-deformed versions, you can see where they managed to retain most of the details from the original character designs. They even sculpted Heavyarms Custom with opening missile pods on each leg. Wing Zero Custom is impressive for the excellent execution of the wing design. They can be moved effectively out of the way for normal posing and for the first time since the Perfect Grade figure, they can be posed in front of the figure for atmospheric reentry mode easily. The one let down is Deathscythe Hell's cape. Bandai managed to improve on the MSIA version by adding a means of locking the cape in an open position. But then they designed it with 14 screws showing on the inside of the cape. Molding the parts to snap together would have been a better way to go, or barring that they could have splurged for an extra penny or two for black screws.

Paint - 7/10

Once again, Bandai comes through with the paint. Each and every figure has a clean and consistent paint jobs. Both Heavyarms Custom and Deathscythe Hell Custom look great (except for the screws) Once again, the legs seems to have been overlooked on several of the figures. Wing Zero Custom, Nataku and Sandrock Custom's legs are all completely white. I'm not quite sure why, but it doesn't seem to be quite so out of place on these figures as it has been o some of the other SD Gundam figures. The lack of color on the legs just seems to contrast better with these body designs which have quite a bit of color. The only area I would like to see a change would be on Sandrock Custom's shoulder pads. A darker gray would have contrasted better with the white of the shoulder pads. Still, it is a very minor quibble.

Articulation - 10/10

This is one area where these figures do exceptionally well. It wasn't until I saw the Zako Soldier's inner frame that I realized just how articulated they were. The basic Superior Defender Gundam figure seems to have 20 points of articulation:
  • double jointed ankles
  • rotating and hinged hips
  • rotating waist
  • rotating neck
  • rotating and hinged shoulders
  • rotating biceps (just above the elbow)
  • hinged elbow
  • rotating wrists
Sandrock Custom has a total of 24 points of articulation, adding movable flaps on the underside of each shoulder pad. The ankle guards are also technically articulated but have almost no range of movement. The waist joint is extremely tight, so tight in fact that I didn't think there was a waist joint there until I noticed that the waist was not lined up with the torso.

The Gundam Nataku has a total of 34 points of articulation, adding movable ankle guards, two double jointed jaws on each dragon head and two joints for each dragon's neck. Once again, the ankle guards don't really have much of a range of motion, only a few degrees at best. And the neck has an even smaller range of motion yet. The two neck joints for the dragon heads are spring loaded as part of the action feature so they can only keep two poses, fully extended and locked in the retracted position along the arms.

Heavyarms Custom rings in at 32 points of articulation. Ten of those extra points of articulation come from the opening panels: two on each leg, the cover for the chest cannons, one on the back of each shoulder pad and one that flips up on the front. The extra two joints come from the racks on the backpack that fold down to store the handheld, double barreled gatling cannons.

Deathscythe Hell Custom has 32 points of articulation. In addition to the ones listed above, both shoulder pads can be rotated on the shoulder and the gray section of the shoulder pads is on a separate joint. Then the cape has eight additional points of articulation, the two red spikes on the ends rotate up. Then the front section is triple jointed to the rear section: two hinges to allow it to fold it around to the front and a section that slides in or out to allow a bigger gap when the cape is wrapped around the shoulders.

The Wing Zero Custom has 32 points of articulation. The shoulder pads can rotate on the shoulders. The rear wings can be moved to the back or to the sides of the backpack. The large main wings have four joints each in the support struts. Each strut has about 20 degrees of vertical movement as part of the action feature, but they can be moved independently. The struts are then hinged at the backpack and have a rotating joint about two thirds of the way out to the wing. Finally the wings connect to the strut on a ball joint.

Accessories - 6/10

All five figures come with just the basic accessories but they are nicely done. Wing Zero has two beam sabers with removable blades and then the two parts of the buster rifle. The swords are nice, but since the handles can't be stored on the wings, the removable blades don't add much value. The buster rifles are going to be a love'em or hate'em thing for most people. While most SD figures have extra large weapons, the buster rifles for Wing Zero Custom were left more or less in scale with the figure. They are just slightly shorter than the figure itself. (Personally, I prefer the unaltered size as opposed to the huge rifles of the regular SD Wing Zero.) Heavyarms Custom has two large double barreled gatling guns that can be held in each hand or stored on the backpack. Nataku has the double beam trident with removable blades on each end that are cast in translucent green plastic. Unfortunately the hands are too soft to hold it securely. Sandrock Custom comes with the two large swords. Just like on the MSIA figure, the handles can be flipped upside down in order to store the swords on the backpack. The swords are a slight disappointment. First of all, while the blades are cast in translucent plastic like its MSIA counterpart, it is so dark that they may as well have been regular black plastic. Secondly, the blades fall off. They can just be snapped back on, but they shouldn't come off to begin with. Finally, Deathscythe Hell Custom has a beam scythe with a translucent green blade. The scythe has a light up feature which I will cover in the action feature section. But battery and LED in the head of the scythe require it to be extremely large and top heavy.

It should be noted that the backpacks for the Sandrock Custom, Deathscythe Hell Custom and Nataku are actually removable. I didn't consider them as accessories since they are attached in the package (except for Sandrock Custom's) and for most people, there is no reason to remove them.

Action Feature - Wing Zero C. 7/10, Nataku & Heavyarms C. 6/10
Sandrock C. & Deathscythe Hell 3/10

As I mentioned in the accessories section, Deathscythe Hell Custom's scythe lights up for its action feature. Unfortunately the feature is not very bright, tends to flicker in and out if the trigger isn't pressed down hard. This could be the result of the "try me" feature on the packaging, but these figures weren't on the shelf that long. The Sandrock Custom's action feature is to raise the arms up and down when a button on the backpack is pressed. It doesn't make a very convincing sword slash and results in both arms being link together. But I guess the figure can throw its hands up in surrender.

Heavyarms Custom and Nataku both have simple but effective action features. For Heavyarms Custom, the chest panel pops open when the button on the backpack is pressed. Nataku's dragon head shields are spring loaded. When the button on the forearm is pressed, they spring forward. Having the jaws of the dragons spring loaded would have made this a more impressive feature.

The Wing Zero Custom has the best action feature of the five. It isn't terribly elaborate, but it works well and makes sense for the figure. When a button on the backpack is pressed, the two large wing sections move up and down in a "flapping" motion. When the button is fully depressed, the chest sensor lights up. It may not be fancy, but it looks good and works well.

Value - Nataku & Sandrock Custom 5/10, others 8/10

The Nataku, Sandrock Custom and Heavyarms Custom are all basic figures and should retail for between $7.99 and $8.99. At that price, you are getting decent figures in both the Sandrock Custom and Nataku. But the Heavyarms Custom just seems to give more bang for the buck with the multiple opening missile pods and large gatling guns. The other two figures are deluxe figures and retail for $9.99 to $11.99 depending on the store. The Wing Zero Custom figure is simply a strong figure all around, with no particular weaknesses so the extra price is justifiable. While I wasn't thrilled with the light up feature on the Deathscythe Hell Custom figure, it doesn't really harm the rest of the figure. In addition, the execution on the cape makes up for the added price, silver screws and all.

Happy Hunting:

Once again, we come to the downside: finding the figures. Fortunately, these seem to be much easier to track down than most of the SD Gundam figures are now. Wing Zero Custom and Heavyarms Custom both shipped fairly heavily earlier and may still be available locally. (Toys R Us seems to have the best selection around here.) Both the Sandrock Custom and Nataku are still available from for $9 each.

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