25 Dec 2015

Review - Gundam Breaker HGUC 1/144 Gundam & Mass Production Type Zaku

I never had a PlayStation Portable. Always wanted one but to this day, I have yet to get one.

When Sony announced the PlayStation Vita in 2011, I was super-excited. This time, Sony would have a successful handheld game console, and this time, I would own one.

Well, half of that came true.

I pre-ordered the PlayStation Vita, which came out within a week of my birthday so I had a reason to spend NZ$600 on the thing. That was the price after getting a 16GB memory card (the biggest available in New Zealand at the time) as opposed to the paltry 4GB memory card that came bundled with the Vita. Of course, the thing came with Uncharted: Golden Abyss and I also bought the fantastic Gravity Rush separately.

I want to go on record to say that I love the Vita. It's a brilliant console with a ton of power, surprisingly good control inputs and a library that, whilst a bit small and underwhelming, is mostly good.
So when the Vita 2000 (the "slim" model) was announced, I knew I needed one. After all, it needed all the support it could get.

It wasn't all that tempting at first, but one day, I came across the PlayStation Vita Gundam Breaker Starter Pack on AmiAmi and this was my tipping point. An exclusive PlayStation Vita with Gundam decals and exclusive Gundam model kits? Oh hell yes.

PlayStation Vita Team-Up~!
PlayStation Vita Team-Up~!

Oh, by the way, I love Gundam too.

Fast-forward to today and I have had these model kits sitting unbuilt since their release in October of 2013. These things needed building but I was scared of screwing them up. I'm a fairly competent model builder, but I'm far from a professional. Paints are expensive over here and so those pesky sprue marks aren't always easy (or, at least, cheap) for me to get rid of.

But finally, I have built them! So how did they turn out?

These two model kits are not wholly unique. The moulds have been used many times before, so one could theoretically paint standard retail versions of these kits in these colours.
The kits included are the High Grade Universal Century (HGUC) RX-78-2 and the HGUC Mass-Production Type Zaku II.
The packaging is unique - a white box with blue text and no images - but the manuals inside are identical to the mass retail versions. A Gundam Breaker flier is included which, whilst unnecessary, contains instructions on the reverse side for applying stickers to the Zaku's torso.

Packaging aside, the most unique aspects of this set are the special Gundam Breaker decals (the clear sticker kind) and the moulded colours. Colour-wise, the RX-78-2 Gundam is laid out more or less identical to the original HGUC RX-78-2, but the colours themselves are a lot more washed-out. The Zaku II also has these washed-out RX-78-2 colours, giving it a more vibrant look than the usual mixture of greens and greys.
I found that in pictures, the RX-78-2-colours Zaku II looks pretty silly, but I like it a lot more in person.

As these are the exact same as the original model kits, colours aside, they come with all the same accessories.
The RX-78-2 Gundam comes equipt with two beam sabers, a beam rifle, a hyper bazooka, and, of course, a big tower shield. The non-transformable core fighter is also included.
The Zaku II has a heat hawk (the axe - part of the name probably comes from "tomahawk"), a zaku machine gun, a zaku bazooka, a shoulder-mounted shield, and two 3-tube missile pods.

Let's get the original Gundam out of the way first. I've built a few RX-78-2s before - most Gundam fans have - and there's really nothing new to see here. The colours are rather nice, especially when compared to the very dark colours of the original HGUC RX-78-2 (also, it looks so much better without the terrible panel-lining job I did on my old model years ago).
If you want to paint it, it's basically the same as the regular colours but a lot paler, so grab a pot of white paint and mix it into your red, blue and yellow.
The white is rather nice though, because it's slightly creamy, especially when compared to the stark white of the original.
Just like the original, the beam saber handles are hit-or-miss in terms of tightness, and on my copy, one of them is super-loose whilst the other stays in there rather snuggly.
The shield is still a pain to have the Gundam hold whilst it is attached to its arm, but it's still a nice-looking shield that works pretty well.
Some of the joints obviously don't hold up against newer high grades and this is especially highlighted by the HGUC Revive RX-78-2.
Finally, I hate the rear wheels on the core fighter. I've never liked them on any version because they always feel loose, as if they're meant to be able to fold up and down, except they're actually meant to stay in one place. Paint 'em up and glue them in place. That's my recommendation.
For a model kit that came out in 2001 though, the HGUC RX-78-2 is still pretty neat and, as ever, still a great kit for beginners. I'd recommend the Revive version over the original, just because it's newer, flashier, and about the same price.

Can you believe that until now, I have never built a Zaku of any kind? I've built a lot of Gundam model kits, but never a Zaku. At this point, I'm craving Zakus. How well does this one scratch that itch?
Well, it's okay. For a model kit that was released in 2003, it doesn't really do much to outdo the HGUC RX-78-2, released two years prior.
For starters, the HGUC Zaku II has absolutely no waist articulation, opting for a solid torso so that waist skirts could be included. The waist skirts work decently, and the clip on his butt for the bazooka is passable (but not as good as the RX-78-2's bazooka storage).
The more impressive parts are less obvious features.
The eye piece can rotate (though mine currently has no eye - I avoided applying any stickers because I'd like to paint these properly in the future. Plus, I hate stickers) and the pipes that line the Zaku II's body are bendy.
Let's talk about the pipes for a little bit. They're not rubbery plastic and yet they bend. In fact, you have to bend them to assemble the kit. Follow the instructions carefully to make sure you bend the pipes in approximately the right place. I'm not sure how durable the pipes actually are but the scary bending process which makes them feel flimsy doesn't break them, so they might be a lot more durable than is expected.
The Zaku II's legs are pretty bog-standard with some weird ankle joints that probably limit the articulation more than help it. They're set in perhaps a bit too far. Other than that, the legs work well, and so do the arms.
But now for some major annoyances, including a complaint about the colours. "Colours", you say? Why yes, they're a pain. Don't get me wrong - I love the colours on this little thing, but unlike the RX-78-2 where the colours are simply lighter than the original scheme, the Zaku II has an entirely new palette assigned to it.
What colours are you meant to use for the heat hawk or the targeting reticles on its weapons? Some of the colours are not immediately obvious. You can look at all the images on the included flier and the outer Gundam Breaker PlayStation Vita box, but it's very hard to see everything. This may require some guess work... and that's no fun.
The other annoyances come in the form of the heat hawk (which I desperately want to call a "beam axe") and the missile pods. The missile pods don't really lock into place and love to jiggle all over his legs. There's something you might want to glue after painting.
The heat hawk loves to pop out of its holster, and the holster itself has a long peg with a rather shallow slot on the left waist skirt piece, meaning the holster also hates sitting still. Yet another idea for things to glue down.
Finally, the Zaku II's weapons took me by surprise. They have two handles each and movable targeting reticles. Now that is interesting, especially considering its age and price.

In conclusion, these model kits are really fun, and their unique colours are just that - unique. Sure, you could achieve it with a bunch of paint, but did you ever imagine an RX-78-2-colours Zaku? I sure didn't.
I still think the RX-78-2 is the better model kit, given that it has more articulation and is likely the least confusing of the two to build, but you can't really go wrong with either. They're pretty fun little model kits, and they're cheap too!
Overall, you're buying this set for the PlayStation Vita and the Gundam Breaker game (which is rather good, even if I do say so myself) - the model kits are a bonus extra. Unless you're an obsessive collector, don't just buy the Gundam Breaker PlayStation Vita set for the exclusive model kits. They are neat, but they're not that neat.

Thanks for reading along and make sure you check out the image gallery above to see some photos I took of the models, along with some comparisons to other similar Gundam model kits.

You can also find me on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/c/TankedThomas - if you're in the mood to kill some of your brain cells.

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