Last modified: Saturday, February 8, 2003 7:07 AM

2037 a.d. An Iron meteor shower rained down from the sky brought the known human civilization to an end.

Years later, inside the enormous crater of Hongkong island. Some surviving scientists discovered a large meteorite floating in the air. The phenomenon was caused by the extreme force and temperture generated during the meteor impact, resulting a realiment of matter's atomic structure. The scientists named the anti-gravity meteorite as "Zero Metal".

2067 a.d. The new Hongkong declared independence, named itself "Gang Dao". A highly mobilized armour suit unit armed with Zero Metal technology is introduced as a force to police the region's security.

Anger and fearful Kowloon civilians united to fight these troops for their own sovereignty."

- Side 'O da Box

I thought that you should know the gripping tale behind this figure before I engage you with my mundane observations. Certainly, if I'd known the story while my wallet was open, I might have bought two or three more. However, in good conscience I could not, for these figures are a limited production and it would be morally wrong for me to deprive others of the opportunity to spend $150 so that they too could reenact the struggle of the angry and fearful Kowloonians of the not-too-distant future.

Ever since I first saw pics of this figure, I wanted one. The design is just too kewl to pass up. At the time, I had no idea that it would be such a pricey figure-- and this one's cheaper than the camouflaged one which was released first. Still, space considerations have made me a very selective buyer, and not that many figures come along which catch my eye... so I can rationalize spending this kind of money (even though there have been an awful lot of figures like that lately!).

There's an obvious similarity between this product and Nitto's Maschinen Krieger/SF3D line. The corrugated cardboard box, in dimensions and artwork, has some similarities to those of Nitto's 1:6 vinyl Super Armored Fighting Suits, as does the inclusion of the decal sheet... and (unfortunately), the pricing! Other than the conceptual similarity of a futuristic armoured fighting suit, that's where the similarities end. For one thing, this one's not made of vinyl (ABS plastic?), is prepainted with weathering and not very "garage kit"-like. There's no doubt in my mind that the producers were influenced by Nitto's products, but decided to take the concept further and give it a more harmonious marriage to the world of 1:6 figures. While some of Nitto's products are 1:6, they were obviously created in their own universe, oblivious to the idea that stock figures should be easily insertable into their armoured hardsuits.

Ahhhhh... there's nothing like the sweet smell of fresh lacquer. The figure comes packaged in three joined plastic trays stacked on top of each other (tray 2 tray 3). The trays are similar to those which package most figures, but lack a removeable top. The top of the trays are sealed with a sheet of plastic which has to be cut in order to access the contents. This will no doubt be distressing to some collectors since you can't play with the figure unless you do the deed... and then, forget about trying to pass it off as "mint". As they say, tough shit.

THE FIGURE: The first tray (demolished for clarity) contains the figure as shown at left (click for big pic), along with an SF3D-ish soft spring hose which connects the wearable Big-Assed Gun to the main body armour (both in tray 3) in back of the figure's right shoulder. (...Or the hole at the far back, left. All the pics show the gun worn on the left arm per SF3D convention, but it can be worn either way. Damned lefties...)

The outfit is made of a padded knit material, which reminds me of a diver's suit(?) The padding is fairly thick, as you can see from the rounded, puffed up legs. It's well tailored, with kneepads and two miniature zippers in the front. It's also fairly easy to remove, even though the hood is attached. Both the hands and feet are removeable (using a Dragon-style connector) which makes the job easier. With the wired "bendy-style" hands removed, you can slide off the bicep and forearm armour or attach the aforementioned BMFG (...which can be a challenge because the interior is detailed with a nifty pistol grip which the hand has to grasp if you want the weapon to stay put and have its cover close).

I'll spare you my opinion about his Neanderthal-ish head (LOL...which isn't technically accurate as a description, anyway); who'd wanna display the figure without its helmet? Likewise about the hips and its unusual pleasure portals. The most relevant failing is apparent through the layers of bodysuit and armour: His frickin' elbow joints have click-stops, and they're not even tight! (on mine at least) So much for brandishing the BMFG to frighten distant Kowloonians! It's only useful for blasting ankle-biting curs.

The armour contains a lot of neat articulation though, most notably the lower leg/feet armour. Not only are there a bunch of hinged parts which help you insert the figure's legs (even though I did a terrible job with the picture at top-- that was before I knew what it was supposed to look like), but the ankle mechanism has dual pistons with metal rods. It's very kewl and helps make the high price a little easier to swallow. In addition, the breastplate & backplate clamshells onto the figure's body, there's a hinge at the lower abdomen armor, and hinges at the shoulderpads (but it could use a second hinge there).

This is what could be considered a light armoured suit-- it's body armour worn by a figure and doesn't completely encapsulate the pilot like a SAFS. In this regard, it's similar to the Kerberos Panzer Cops figure (a review I haven't gotten around to yet). As with all oversized armour suits there are a few technical problems. In this figure, it's the thighs: The thigh armour is so hefty that the figure has to stand bow-legged. With the armour worn high as it's supposed to be, he can't bring his legs close together at all. It would take re-engineering of the human body to permit this... but it's probably just easier to design armour that doesn't cause this problem.

A second point is that the limb pieces slide over the padded bodysuit. Generally, this is adequate to ensure that the parts stay put. But the parts don't have any linkage to each other, which would mean that the human joints (if this were a real suit) would bear all the stress and weight. The ankle bone be connected to the shinbone with pistons, and it really should be that way throughout the suit. In the real world, at least.

Another real world point comes from the observation that this is at heart, a futuristic variation on the medieval armoured suit. However, the medieval suit covers the body more completely, with special thought given to vulnerabilities at places where armour plates intersect. It's a little bit odd that the shoulder and upper arms would provide such an inviting target whereas the crotch receives some of the heaviest armour on the figure. I can understand from a personal point of view, but really...

Finally, the big question: Is it worth it? Reread the introductory paragraph and ask yourself that question again! I've answered that question before with regard to Nitto's SAFS, and that's applicable here. On one hand, I can say that I've got some really neat 7" (?) Takara Cyber Cop figures with gobs of articulation in the figure, the armour they wear and their included weaponry... and they only cost $5.99 each at discount (prolly about $10-$15 originally). So companies can produce this kind of stuff far more cheaply. By that measure-- in terms of actual material and labor, it's waaaaay overpriced. But the company has to consider how big the market is, and the smaller it is, the higher the per-unit cost due to fixed startup costs. The fact that I was able to buy Cyber Cops at such a discount indicates that not everyone wants a highly-articulated and reasonably priced Cyber Cop. (The fools!) Bummer, huh?

This is a neat figure-- it's got great eye-appeal (to me), and is considerably nicer and more feature-rich than Dragon's upper midrange priced Kerberos Panzer Cop figure... which you'd expect, since it costs more! Basically, it's up to you and what you can painlessly afford. Yes, you could buy bunches of SOTW figures for the price of this figure... but you'd own a bunch of SOTW figures.

Many thanks to Mark B. for turning me on to a supplier (Ningyoushi) and for reminding me that I needed to blow some bucks (since deficits are GOOD, right?). If you're interested, Greg Brown of Eklyps is currently assembling an order for this White version (12/05/03--so you'd need to act fast). Greg's got an impeccable reputation and his price is better than the price I got. But that's okay because deficits are good, right? Right???


--Jimbobwan, 02/05/03