Thursday, May 22nd, 2003 at 3:38pm by Jon, BZPower Co-Owner
"Find them, before they find you..."
"Houston, the Rahkshi have landed..."...and what a splash they're going to make.
The moment I caught wind that a couple of the new Fall 2003 Rahkshi sets had popped up at the Minnesota Mall of America LEGO Imagination Center, I wasted no time in getting some enroute to my front door.
Moreso than the Toa Nuva, Bohrok and Bohrok-Kal before them, these six new sets are rolling in on a tidal wave of high aspirations and rabid anticipation.
Hype is fine, but too much advance hype more often than not leads to disappointment. Do the Rahkshi live up to their hype and pay off where it counts? Read on.
This is a review is specifically of the "8591 Rahkshi Vorahk" set, but as it is the first Rahkshi review, it will also address issues common to the series of 6 sets as a whole. So as to avoid redundancy, future Rahkshi reviews which I author will reference some of the observations made here.
Regular readers are already familiar with my approach on set reviews (if not, you'll catch on soon enough), so off we go.
The the most superficial part of any LEGO product, but the one that often determines whether or not the set is a success or failure.
First the nuts & bolts; we're all already quite familiar with the cylinder container established by the Toa & Bohrok, and at first glance the Vorahk contianer (indeed all of the Rahkshi containers) are more of the same. Not until you go to open it up for the first time do you notice the slight departure from the formula.
Gone is the screw-off lid in favor of a simpler pop-top which is easily removed (after shipping tape is peeled off) via the finger indentation just above the lid on the back of the canister.
There seems to have always been an effort to make these cans an integral part of the sets. The Toa had lids intended to hold their respective Great Masks and the Bohrok containers served as pods to hold the hibernating menaces until they were awakened.
With the Rahkshi, though, while there are instructions to how Vorahk can be slightly disassembled to fit within the closed cylinder, it really doesn't seem to have much purpose.
UPDATE: Several folks have pointed out an item which I originally missed. The small holes around the inner perimeter of the lid are actually designed to hold a collection of Kraata.
As for the aesthetics, the decal features Vorahk in his now-familiar pose, looking just as menacing as can be and will surely attract first-time Bionicle buyers on cool factor alone. Seasoned fans may be wary, having been burned before by slick CGI can art with the figure in impossible poses, with pieces bending where they never would in real life.
The good news though, as I'll illustrate later on, is that this time around, CGI ain't got nothin' on this set's poseability.
WHAT'S IN THE CAN?
So you've bought it and taken it home (or at least made it to the car), peeled the tape, popped the lid and dump out the contents. What do you get for your money?
It's what you would expect:
45 LEGO Pieces
Vorahk Model Construction Manual
Vorahk Mini CD-ROM
Also, it's worth noting that instructions for one of two Rahkshi combiner sets is included in the Vorahk construction manual, if you're into that sort of thing. Personally, I always tend to find Bionicle combiner sets pretty convoluted & strained. (The Bohrok Va & Turaga combiners particularly come to mind. Yuck!)
Further, I've already started getting reports that CD-ROMs are not in every single Rahkshi canister. The disc itself is specific to Vorahk and contains info on both him and Takanuva (I suspect each Rahkshi CD will include the Takanuva portion as well). You may recall the original Toa all shipped with mini CD-ROMs, but later shipments of the Toa did not. I was surprised to hear that Rahkshi sets are already shipping without the CD-ROMs, but there you have it.
Here's where we start to cut to the heart of the matter. You didn't buy this box for all the glossy booklets & creative artwork. You want to know about the LEGO bricks & bits that are included, and what (if any) new & interesting parts you'll find inside. Here's also where I'll talk about any new and/or interesing pieces that you will encounter.
Holy Toledo! If you hate new pieces, then you'll absolutely despise the Rahkshi.
I'd guesstimate that 70-80% of the parts in Vorahk are brand new to the world of LEGO. Aside from standard pins, studs & ball joint connectors the Rahkshi has the feel of a figure built from the ground up with entirely new design & mechanics.
You'll see new thigh & shin parts, the kraata tray/Rahkshi spine, back hump & spine strip, head piece, new Technic liftarm shapes and even a ball joint connector in transparent orange which serves as the Rahkshi brain/skull (very clever).
The pieces here spark whole new avenues for MOC builders and I can envision serious designers buying multiple Rahkshi to get an arsenal of these new bricks.
And of course, at the center of the Rahkshi, there is the Kraata; slug-like source of Vorahk's power. According to the CD-ROM, when the Kraata come in contact with the Protodermis, a Rahkshi is spawned.
While I don't imagine the Kraata sparking the same collectors' frenzy the original Kanohi did, they are still pretty cool to look at, and are molded from a similar plastic/rubber material as the Krana with a slight metallic sheen (not unlike the Krana Kal shipping in the Bohrok Kal). The most interesting facet, though, it the multi-color molding process so that no two Kraata are every exactly alike.
It'll be interesting to see how collectors respond to the Kraata, and we shouldn't have to wait long to find out, as the Kraata canisters are already available at LEGO Shop@Home which means they'll start showing up at retailers within a month or so.
Once I finished drooling over the assortment of newly designed pieces, though, it was time to put Vorahk together...
What can you expect while putting this model together?
The first and most striking thing regular Bionicle builders will notice different about building Vorahk compared to earlier figures (and when I say figures, I'm speaking of action-figure-sized bipedal entities; Toa, Toa Nuva, Bohrok, etc.) is the lack of the focus on a torso. The Toa all have the signature central torso piece, and the Bohrok are similarly centralized to the built torso ball, to which the limbs are tacked on.
With Vorahk, though, a single new-shaped liftarm serves as the center of this Rahkshi to which the shoulder assembly and legs are attached. Arms attach to the shoulder assembly and his head connects to the Kraata pan. It may sound a little confusing in print, but my point is that this design gives the Rahkshi a more dynamic feeling: they're not just limbs snapped onto a static body -- they're more logical and life-like creatures.
Here's a good example that you'll experience early on in the Vorahk building process.
The animation at left is the central body of the Rahkshi Vorahk. By comparison, this would be the single body piece of the Toa, or the central body assembly of the Bohrok. With the Toa, of course, the single block has no movement, and with the Bohrok the central torso's design is dedicated to making the head & neck snap forward.
Rahkshi design is all about play value, flexibility & articulation. At top you can see the Kraata pan and the front ball to which Vorahk's head will attach (more on why this is important ltaer). The swiveling portion is the Rahkshi shoulder piece to which arms will be affixed at either end, and at the left you can see the pin I'm twisting to operate the gears which rotate Vorahk's shoulders.
Now in the early days of Bionicle, this would be it: we have a gimmick, his shoulders can rotate. This was the way of previous figures. "The Toa can swing an arm (or two), put some legs on him and you're done." "The Bohrok can snap his head forward, make him roll in a ball and you're done." Not so fast, my Rahkshi friends; Vorahk has more pleasant surprises ahead.
Here's a look at Vorahk's leg assembly. How many pieces in a Bohrok leg? Two. How many pieces in a Toa leg? Two. (Except for Pohatu, but his extra pieces are all in his feet and don't contribute to articulation.) How many pieces in a Rahkshi leg? Seven. Are you starting to get the picture? This guy is poseable, and I don't mean a little bit!
This isn't an afterthought limb slapped on to clever torso design, this is an integral part of Vorahk.
Okay, hang on while I digress and explain myself. You may notice that I'm being pretty rough on the Toa & Bohrok, and you're right. And it's not that there is or ever was anything wrong with them. The problem is the Rahkshi will spoil our previous perception of great figure design and there's no looking back now without comparison.
Early on, the Bionicle franchise was viewed as LEGO's foray into the world of action figures, but the Toa were really more figure than action. They did have simple hip & shoulder socket articulation, but their shortcomings are illustrated in their CGI counterparts which, in order to create dramatic poses had to bend in ways that the real sets could not. I'm not down on the Toa, and Onua's still my main man, but oh what time and ingenuity have brought to Bionicle...
Looking back now through Rahkshi-colored glasses, I can only imagine the splash Bionicle would have made if the Toa had the sort of brilliant design and structure of the Rahkshi. If I close my eyes I can almost envision a board room at LEGO where the big-wigs are ranting at designers, "Now why didn't you guys do this in the first place!"
If the early Bionicle figures were LEGO formed into action figures, and Galidor was a line of action figures built on some LEGO design, the Rahkshi are the middle ground that finally does it right, and better than both of the others.
There's no way now to view previous Bionicle figures without comparing them to the Rahkshi. Quite simply put, they've raised the bar.
So, as I now awkwardly try to bring this back around to the original topic of Vorahk building experience, let me cap off that insightful analysis with a slight criticism. Vorahk's arms have seen very little improvement over his predecessors. It's the same one-piece limb with a ball joint on each end, but it's still not enough to make me upset, because what we lack in actual arm mobility we make back, in some small measure, in the ability to twist Vorahk's shoulders as seen above.
Overall construction of Rahkshi Vorahk is as simple and straightforward as you'd expect from a 45-piece model. You won't have any trouble and won't spend time counting notches or holes as you might in more complex sets (Cahdok & Gahdok come to mind), and in fact you're liable to have a few "ah-ha" moments as you see how they cleverly designed some pieces to serve multiple functions. An example is the Kraata tray which also provides Vorahk's neck, where in the past, a Krana tray was just a Krana tray (again, more on the importance of this a bit later).
Okay, so we've got him built and had our perception of what Bionicle action figure design can be turned on its ear; time to play!
So you've got the model together, but is it more like playing with a block of wood or an interactive toy?
Cool. Cool. Cool. Just freakin' cool.
I could just leave it at that, but I haven't earned a reputation for being long-winded by displays of brevity, so allow me to expand on "just freakin' cool."
All along I've mentioned how well articulated Rahkshi Vorahk is, and I'm not kidding. Even a current-day McFarlane action figure (which is not limited by being built from LEGO bricks) would be hard pressed to rival the amount of poseability the Rahkshi enjoy.
Let me break it down. Ankle, ankle, knee, knee, hip, hip, waist, chest, shoulder, shoulder, wrist, wrist, neck (yes, neck finally!). Overall, twelve points of articulation; eleven ball and socket and one swivel. What this all equates to is the abililty to pose your Vorahk exactly like you will see him posed in CGI renderings. It's about time!
Vorahk's staff is quite a weapon to behold (I only wish we'd been treated to a silver axle rather than black, to match the staff ends), and the ability to twist his shoulders to swing that terrible weapon in quite convincing style.
Futher, the ability to finally have a figure with a fully poseable head gives Vorahk the chance to display real attitude.  with his head tilted slightly it gives that sort of, "You want some of this?" statement to his gaze.
"So with all of that power, strength and attitude, how could our heroes ever hope to defeat the Rahkshi?" Glad you asked.
At the risk of sounding corny, the Rahkshi are defeated (are you ready for this?), and I'm not kidding here, by bonking them on the head.
That's right. Knock Vorahk on the noggin and his Kraata comes popping out.
I know it sounds a bit undignified for a creature of such ominous stature, but that's how it works. You can see this illustrated in the animation at right.
Note that I asked Vorahk to kneel for this demonstration, and because he's so well articulated, he had no trouble complying.
The Rahkshi hump/spine assembly snaps securely in place on the Kraata try most of the time, but because the Kraata tray and neck ball are one in the same, and the fulcrum is just below the the head, pressing down on the head un-clicks the spine hump, lifts the Kraata tray and ejects our slimy little friend from his comfortable home.
Thus, as seen in the final shot at left, our poor Vorahk is beaten thanks to a simple club to the cranium.
Of course, I'm making light of how the Rahkshi are defeated, but in reality I'd imagine getting past that fearsome staff, ferocious shoulders and agile legs to actually reach his head will be the real challenge.
This all adds up to tons of play value. I spent at least half an hour just playing with poses.
Vorahk's broad feet assist to keep him balanced even when put in otherwise awkward stances, and the mass of his upper body can be easily compensated for and balanced by shifting his waist ever so slightly.
For even more poseability (if you can imagine such a thing), you can remove the #10 axle which joins Vorahk's hands and forms the center of his staff giving both arms free reign to go where they wish. The gives the Rahkshi a more Toa Nuva-esque appearance with two separate hand-held weapons rather than the single staff.
How you play it is up to you at that point. Does the staff still function the same when not connected? Must the ends be joined in order for Vorahk to drain his opponents power? Until we learn otherwise, you'll have to make the call.
Hopefully, then, this expanded explanation both clarifies and punctuates my original assertion...
Just freakin' cool.
Here's where it all boils down to whether the model is worth your money and time or not.
Are you kidding me?
Any Bionicle fan worth his salt has either already ordered his Rahkshi, or is saving up in anticipation. Vorahk, and his friends, are more than just the next in a long line of figures, they're the crowning achievment to date.
They're so cool, in fact, that for the first time, I almost want to root for the bad guys! (Sorry, Onua...) Be warned, though, you can never go back. Once you expose yourself to the Rahkshi, everything before will just not look quite as good as it once did.
The final footnote here is my trepidation about the next Rahkshi I open. Will they suffer the curse of the Bohrok? With such integrated design, can we see enough variation between them to keep each set fresh? I'll let you know as I experience them.
At any rate, I can't recommend the Rahkshi highly enough. Not only are they a welcome addition to the Bionicle universe, but they set a new standard for what Bionicle can be and re-invent the yardstick by which future sets will be measured.
So go get your Rahkshi, or Vorahk will get you...
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