Sunday, November 2nd, 2008 at 8:21am by Andrew, BZPower News Manager
[Source: Darth Vader]
Today we bring you a review of the largest set in this year's lineup. BZPower Blog Assistant Darth Vader has built the massive Axalara T9 and will be sharing his thoughts on it with you. So read on and see if this massive set is worth the hit to your piggy bank!
From the design of the box to the instruction manual, these are the first things you see before building the set.
Make no mistake, my friends, you will not miss this box. Even if this box were, say, on the top shelf (which is where I came across it), you'd be hard pressed to miss it. The box is huge. Easily one of the biggest Bionicle boxes yet.
The image on the box, for once, stands out quite nicely. Rising up from the swamp of the Universe Core we have a newly-adapted Lewa riding on his extremely large Axalara T9. The bright, bold red easily stands out from the greens, yellows, light blues, and slate blue found on the rest of the box. Lewa's lime doesn't hurt either. Unlike the other sets I've reviewed this year, the box image practically leaps at you. Couple this with the size, and, like I said, you're not going to miss this box.
The back of the box pictures the newly-adapted Lewa Nuva standing beside his vehicle. On the right are images of the Jetrax T6 and Rockoh T3, also available from wherever sets are sold. The bottom row of images are especially exciting, as they show that the set is not only huge, but it does stuff! Gloria, indeed, the return of functions is here! You can see in these images the pop-out Midak blasters, the landing gear, and the retractable attack prong-things. Also shown is a hand, holding the Axalara T9 by the handle. Handles are neat.
Perhaps, as was the case with my local Wal*Mart, the boxes have been set on the shelf backwards. Again the colours here stand out so brilliantly, you'd be hard pressed to miss this box. It's bright, it's happy, and now it's about to be opened.
Half the fun is had building the set. How fun is it to build and how easy or challenging is it?
Inside the box you find, not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, but seven parts bags. Not to mention two Midak Skyblasters, and two of those rounded booster pieces we saw with Toa Ignika. The bags are numbered 1 to 5, with another bag containing nothing but a stash of 15-length technic beams, and the other featuring the larger weapon pieces that will be placed throughout the Axalara T9. Other than these, you'll find three instruction books, numbered appropriately 1 to 3. On the cover of these books is the same image you'll find on the cover of the box. How unexpected!
Now, we start the putting of the pieces together into various shapes. Onward and upward, I always say!
First, we start with Lewa. He's a simple build, offering nothing too different from the Inika to the Mahri to the Phantoka to the Mistika. We'll touch on his design further down.
Once complete, we move on to bag numero dos. This starts the building of the airship Axalara, designated T9.
The process is, to be fair, long. It's the longest build I've seen in, I honestly don't know. It took me two full listens of Snow Patrol's "A Hundred Million Suns" to finish this set. But I'm not complaining. Unlike so many other sets these days, building Axalara T9 is a pleasure and, I must say, a privelege. I lost count of the times I said "Oh, I see what you're doing here LEGO! And I like it." The build is long, complicated, and quite ingenious. I loved putting the mechanism together and realizing how they were going to move to create the functions the set contains. How great to be able to say that about a Bionicle set again!
More than anything else, the set is puting beams together with pins. There's not a whole lot else to it, to be fair. Not counting the glorious functions, of course.
I'm interested in seeing how the target audience enjoys the sometimes frustrating build, with the hole-counting, and the length-checking they'll be doing at almost every junction. I didn't mind, but for those who prefer a quick and easy build they can jump right into roleplaying with... well, we'll see, I suppose. Here's hoping they loved it as much as I did.
Now that the set is complete, we can critique how it looks from every angle. New or interesting pieces can also be examined here.
I found four pieces to be of interest in this set, the rest consisting of beams, liftarms, axles, pins, and silver weapons. Here we have a red version of Onua Nuva Mistika's shield/Bitil's wings/Takanuva's chest armour, now in a vibrant and bright red. Next, we have the large red curved piece used to add shape and a solid appearance to the vehicle.
And of course, the mask pieces. The new visor piece, with the four swept outgrowths is exceptionally neat. Instead of being plain and solid like the old visor from the Mahri, this one has an arrow design going down between where the eyes will be seen through the mask. Though this works much better on Pohatu Nuva than it does here, as the newly-re-adapted Miru Nuva covers the entirety of the neat new visor markings.
Speaking of Mirus...
Here we have all four of Lewa's masks, in chronological order. Lewa '08 has clearly traded in green for lime. The new Miru Nuva is interesting, if a little squat. I would have liked the mask to be a little taller, so as to resemble the original Miru Nuva more. As is, though, it posesses a look that is much more Miru Nuva '03 than that released this past winter. The visor spikes help greatly, in that respect.
We can also see in this image how the masks have changed over the past seven years. From a smooth, angled, clean design, to a very angled, very busy style. I prefer the original, personally. The new Miru Nuvas may be neat in their own right, but I don't see them holding a candle to the sheer beauty that was the original Great Masks. Shame.
There's not a lot new here, folks. With three exceptions, this is Lewa Phantoka, and if you already have that set, you know what to expect. This 'special edition' Lewa is missing his shoulder boosters, has a new mask (as we just saw), and, oddly enough, has lost his large, rightly-coloured feet for sleeker, better looking, yet silver Metru feet. Anyone who's taken a gander at my MOCs in the BBC over the years knows I love the Metru feet. They always seemed the most foot-like to me. But the silver confuses me. I greatly, greatly wish they had recast the parts in what we've become accustomed to calling dark bley.
The foot switch, piece-wise, makes sense, though, as the larger Mantax feet would not have fit on the Axalara the way the Metru feet do.
As I mentioned earlier, this is your usual, run of the mill Inika/Mahri/Phantoka/Mistika Toa design. Which means it comes with all the flaws those did. Sickeningly thin torso, arms that are just as large as the legs, and an overall goofy appearance. I really wish that TLG had scrapped this design by now, because not only is it boring and repetitive, the proportions just always look so goofy. A quick switch from the long double-sockets to the shorter double sockets in the upper arms helps greatly, and is such an easy fix, I don't know why TLG hasn't done it. Still, that wouldn't fix the fact that this design is still oddly and unpleasntly thin.
And boy, do I have enough lower Rahkshi legs in grey by now. Thanks TLG, I don't need anymore.
For the most part, I have little negative to say about the Axalara T9 itself. It's huge. It has functions.
Let me reiterate: It's huge. This is easily near two feet long. Do you realize how big that is for a Bionicle set? To compare, laying down, Takanuva comes only to about 2/3 the length. Amazing.
The vehicle is mostly a single barrel until the driver's seat. Inside this barrel are the two flip-out Midak skyblasters, triggered by turning a dial located right where the barrel length ends, under the handlebars. The flip out Midaks are neat, and it's fun to watch the panels flip open as they Midaks come out, ready to fire. The bummer here, of course, is that as Midaks, there is no way to trigger the blasters from afar, like there is with the built in Zamor launcher in say, Pohatu Nuva's Rockoh T3 (how many reviews can I reference that set in? Haha.) This of course is saddening, as it would be much more satisfying to be able to launch both Midaks at the same time, while also grasping the handle and swoosh-zooming the vehicle through the sky/air.
The last section of the barrel design features the flip down landing gear, and I am truly impressed with the way TLG designed this section. Turning the large wheel located half the length of the second barrel section flips the Vahki staffs down, and then another turn in the opposing direction flips them back up, to lie happily against the vehicle's undercarriage. They are unobtrusive, and truly neat.
The seat isn't really a seat, as Lewa doesn't really sit as much as he does crouch, Ninja motorcylce style. He grasps two red number two axles (which will come out when he 'lets go' off said handlbars), which are quite bare and lack the intricacy of the rest of the vehicle design. His feet press right up against the back of the open section, showing the happy set owner exactly why the switch from Mantax to Metru feet occured. The Mantax feet would not have fit, whereas the skinny Metru feet most definitely do.
Moving back one last section, we come to the tri-angled 'wings' (your guess is as good as mine). A quick twist of the second dial/wheel below Lewa's handlebars flip out what reming me of attack stingers, and a continued twist will bring them back down. But be careful! The Mahritoran blade attached to the top one will spear poor Lewa in the back if you're not careful. Quite a haphazard place to put them, I suppose. Occupational hazard, perchance?
The stingers/wings/whathaveyou are neat, and when extended, the ship has a pretty cool silhouette. However, the Nuparu Mahri shield pieces really look like an afterthought, and really hinder the awesomeness of said wing/stingers/whatever. They are oddly large and oddly rectangular, and really kill any streamlined look the back portion could contain. This back portion, however, is a joy to construct. Putting the pieces together and realizing how they're going to move is something I really missed from other larger Bionicle sets in the near past.
I can't help but wonder how the set would have looked with some wings somewhere on the large front barrel-shaped section. Perhaps where the Lewa Nuva '03 Katanas are located, a different, large, silver weapon piece could have been utilized as sticking out wings? Add a little touch of aerodynamic happiness to the set? And just like the Rahkshi legs, TLG, how many of these katana pieces do you think I need? There are at least four in this year's lineup. Good graciousness!
The large boosters on the back are at least as effective looking like a means of propulsion as the ones on the back of the Ignika skyboard and the Rockoh T3.
My gripes here are just few, but still worth note.
I just cannot understand why the colours are always so jumbled on these larger, more Technic based sets. The back half, sans Lewa is a jumbled mess, and looks ridiculous. Just a few colour swaps would have straightened that right out, leading to a much higher aesthetic value. I just don't understand why this is missed out upon so often.
Second, the glut of silver weapons is still as annoying as ever. And while there are less, and the majority are less offensive than in other sets (the Nuparu Mahri shields are just ridiculous here, still), it's still baffling as to why we get so many so often in these sets. They always look so goofy. I wish, that like the Onua Nuva Mistika shields being recoloured to red here, some of the other silver pieces could have been as well (and really, the removal of the Mahri shields would lessen the silver impact so dramatically, I might not have much of a complaint at all on this front.)
Third, this set is just too large. I had an exceptionally hard time attempting to photograph this set, I can only imagine the difficulty in storing this vehicle, for those who keep and display their sets, as opposed to tearing them apart to use elsewhere. Where in the world is one going to find room for this behemoth?
The other half of the fun is in playing with the set. How well does the set function and is it enjoyable to play with?
I like that Lewa doesn't match the vehicle, colourwise. He stands out, and that's a plus for playability, I think. He just looks neat riding the set, and that definitely helps the swoosh-vroom fun of flying this set through the air. And yes, I totally did that for a good ten minutes with a few of my housemates lounging around my room with me. They were amused. And that's what it's all about, right?
The functions add so much to the playability. I can retract and, er, tract the landing gear, I can open hidden compartments, I can flip-out weapons (the launchers make so much more sense in these vehicles than they ever have in the canisters!), and the flip out wings/stingers/insert-name-here are fun. And of course, Lewa can pose as well as this Toa design has always been able to pose. And that's a plus.
The playability does take a sad hit with the lack of a button to launch both Skyblasters at once, though. You'll need three hands to launch the Skyblasters, and swoosh the Axalara through the air. And that's disappointing to this college Senior.
The fun can only grow exponentially when you have another vehicle to swoosh-zoom through the air with, imitating WWII dogfights in the comfort of your own home. Though when surprise attacking unsuspecting roommates, the ability to quickly trigger the launchers is again wished for.
Once it's all said and done, how does the set stack up? Should I get it?
What's to like?
- Neat new visor piece
- Mask looks more like the Miru Nuva '03 than the Phantoka Miru Nuva did
- Neat, complex, intricate, functioning build
- Good part selection, both old and new
What's not to like?
- Lewa is the same recycled design we've seen the past few years. Boring!
- Lewa's proportions are still goofy
- This set is prohibitively expensive at around $80+
- Still tired of silver weapons that look slapped on to add some 'cool factor' that they don't really add
- The set is so large, storing and displaying could become an issue
- The lack of firing mechanism is disappointing
Overall, the cons are pretty small, and the pros are pretty grand. The building process alone is worth it, though whether or not it's ~80 USD worth it is another story entirely. Remember that at almost 700 pieces, I'd say a good third of those are just pins and axles. Whether or not that's worth the price tag is up to you. I had the extra cash, so I went for it. If you are on a limited budget, you may want to spend your funds on something less expensive, yet still fun and a great build. Andrew the lesser tells me the Jetrax T6 is worth the price, and I can attest that I really enjoy the Rockoh T3. Downgrading isn't necessarily a bad thing. All in all, though, this is a fun build, with fun play opportunities. Lewa is most definitely not worth re-purchasing, and I would definitely say stay away if you are looking to complete a Kanohi collection or somesuch thing. There have to be better, cheaper alternatives for the re-adapted Miru Nuva.
In the end, I recommend the set on the vehicle's worth alone. But only, I restate, if you have the extra money to blow. Completionists beware, this set is expensive!
And that wraps it up for Axalara, be sure to thank Darth Vade in the Talkback. It also, conveniently enough, wraps up the majority of our set reviews for this year. We still have a couple limited edition-type sets we may try share our thoughts on, but aside from that the rest of 2008 has been reviewed. That's ok though, because the 2009 sets are just around the corner! Keep checking back for those and all the latest Bionicle news!
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