Saturday, August 27th, 2022 at 5:33am by Jason, BZPower Reporter
It's been a while since we've done a Ninjago review here. (In part because North America only got the set this month and LEGO didn't send us any this summer.) Still, the Ninjago Crystalize theme is quite exciting, so I'm eager to look into some of these sets. Still, our first pick is one of the more unusual entries: 71773: Kai's Golden Dragon Raider. Read on to check of the ins and outs of this vehicle and see if it's worth it, or check out Instagram for more photos and clips.
From the design of the box to the instruction manual, these are the first things you see before building the set.
The box is fairly sizable, and has a red / violet color scheme with gold highlights that the vehicle does sort of blend into. The front has a new logo with Lloyd in the corner and showcases the full cast of figs. The back shows off an alt view of the vehicle and a quick demonstration of the rotating turrets. Inside you get seven numbers bags, a bag for big parts, an instruction booklet, and a big sticker sheet (that goes unused in this review, sorry-not-sorry.)
The set sells for $89.99 USD and includes 624 pieces and 7 minifigures.
What kinds of interesting pieces are included with the set? What are the minifigures like?
You get 624 pieces with your usual spread of small extras. For the cost of the set, this does seem a bit low, and there don't seem to be a lot of big specialized pieces that would make up for that value. The most valuable would be the orange / gold blade element and the blue / gold wings, which are very nice. You also get a few of the new pink weapons with the Vengestone baddies, as well as a full set of Ninja gold weapons. (Most Ninjago sets appear to have a weapons pack that includes two sets of each weapon.) There are a few nice decorative gold and red elements, and the big wheels are generally rare. Still, none of the pieces are necessarily a "must have" from this set. (Although the 6x6 dish in red is one I'll be using to color up my Ferris Wheel; I know it's appeared a few times before but this is my first.)
You get a lot of figures here; seven are included, and three are exclusive. Three of them are Vengestone Warriors, who have the same legs and cool dragon head, which have trans pink molds that allow light to reach their eyes. Of the three, one of them has a different torso that has the pink vengestone covering the full upper half instead of just the left side. This guy has two trans pink arms too, while the other two only have trans pink left arms.
The unique baddie is General Mister F, who is a recreation of Mister E from the Sons of Garmadon wave. (He had less of a presence in that season than I expected.) His torso and legs seem to match the other returning vengestone villains, but he comes with his personalized head (with only two printed eyes) and a samurai helmet complete with a visor. His weapon is a pink blade that's supposed to hold the Shurikens of Ice. He's perhaps a bit underwhelming compared to some of the other returning villains in other sets.
The Dragon Raiders' pilots are none other than Kai and Skylor. Kai features a new red suit with gold armor. (He appears in the Ultra Dragon set, making this the actual cheaper way to get him.) Skylor is unique, and the first time she's appeared in a set since 2018. Her torso design is actually fairly similar to her previous versions, but a neat addition is the face paint on her alt expression. Surprisingly, it's the first time Kai and Skylor have appeared in a set together, but it's good to see another side character return.
It actually is astonishing that the true star of the set isn't even connected to the primary vehicle. Golden Dragon Zane is very impressive on all counts. Of course the wings are the most eye catching bit; the gold does bleed more into the trans blue than it does in the promotional images, but I think it looks better this way. The wing pieces are quite large and make Zane take up a lot of space, but it also looks realistic enough for him to fly. (I get that they reused these wings after first using them on actual brick-built dragons, but these still seem too big for a fig. We've seen smaller wings on other figs in the past, like in Nexo Knights, so we know it can be done.) Beyond the wings, Zane has transparent arms and legs, and his torso printing fits with the elemental powers covered in golden armor. His transparent head is nice, but the detailed dragon helmet may be my favorite Ninjago head accessory ever. I like how it's dual molded so the light can pass through. And he also stands out because he's the only Golden Dragon fig to have a contrasting color to the gold with his trans blue highlights, since the others use trans red, orange, and yellow. Golden Dragon Zane is exclusive to this set (I mean, all the Golden Dragon ninjas are exclusive to their respective sets) and was definitely a draw for me to pick this up.
Now that the set is complete, we can critique how it looks from every angle. New or interesting pieces can also be examined here.
Ninjago (and Kai in particular) has had a lot of fancy cars. Most have been fairly standard designs with the usual Ninjago flair, although a few have managed to have some unusual designs. (The Ultra Sonic Raider comes to mind as an unusual vehicle.) Still, the Dragon Raider boasts an unusual design that I don't think we've quite seen in Ninjago before. (Although the Scuttler from the Batman Movie line does have some similarities.)
The main body of the vehicle consists of the hefty turret section behind the cockpit, with the back and front wheels connected via click joints. The Windscreen probably has the most interesting details, with an animalistic design that I can't decide is more like a lizard, a dragon, or a beetle. (It looks more like a dragon's head in the artwork with the stickers, but I decided not to include them this time.) It is a bit unfortunate that the windscreen leaves a substantial gap on the side when it covered the seated Ninjas. (I mean, it's not exactly a submarine or a jet where a sealed compartment is a necessity, but still.) There's room inside for two Ninjas to sit comfortably, although Skylor has to remove her swords off her back while Kai does not. (It's okay, there are clips for her to store them on the back of the vehicles.)
The rest of the body is rounded out with some slopes and curved windscreens, which hide the gear mechanism hidden inside. The two front "legs" are fairly compact but have some decent SNOT design to make them look impressive enough. The section of the rear wheels, alas, is the most barren part of the design.
The vehicle maintains a nice color scheme, with red as the primary color but with plenty of gold highlights. Black and gray pieces are scattered throughout the build, and there's some other colored elements hidden in the interior, but otherwise it's a fairly solid scheme. The gold / trans orange blades on the turrets are eye catching too; the blade pieces really stand out, and I'm excited to see how these will be used in MOCs.
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?
Most Ninjago cars have a few gimmicks, but usually they don't go too far in changing the shape of the vehicle. The Dragon Raider, however, goes all out. The back wheels are connected to hinge elements to lower them and give the car a considerable angle. It's actually a more substantial change than I expected. One concern was if you put them to their lowest setting that the bottom of the vehicle with hit the ground… which is does, but a small set of wheels were added beneath the main body that catches the Dragon Raider, so the designers were obviously prepared for this.
Next up are the front wheels / legs, which splay out to the side. For riding, this doesn't actually serve a purpose, since the wheels end up pointing in contrasting directions and essentially brake any forward movement. I suppose this could be an instance of the vehicle steadying itself to fire its launchers, since its movement would be restricted and wouldn't cause it to roll around while firing. And since the movement is only side to side and not up and down, it does give any additional suspension. Mostly it's probably just to get access to the cockpit, which folds forward. (Although you can still open it up mostly unhindered without moving the front legs.) For how much of the design went into this motion, I would have expected there to be more value to it.
The final gimmick is the rotating turrets. First, there's a section along the back that you can lift up to better access the main knob. (And the mini drone can be attached in there too.) The knob turns the gear system, although it has a lot of friction to it so it can be a bit tough. This spins the turrets about ninety degrees to be in a forward firing position. The blades might catch the attention, but the spring-loaded launchers are built in, and having them angled upwards (instead of level with the vehicle) can give them impressive distance. (Although when in the back position, the moving front arms can accidentally fire the projectiles backwards, which happened to me a couple of times.) It's not the most intricate action feature, but the size of the blades makes it seem flashy enough.
Once it's all said and done, how does the set stack up? Should I get it?
What's to like?
- Golden Dragon Zane
- And a good selection of other figs too
- A unique vehicle type compared to other Ninjago cars
- A solid color scheme
- Turret mechanism isn't too bad
- Did I mention Golden Dragon Zane
What's not to like?
- The unusual design is a bit less than practical
- Front legs splaying action is underwhelming
- Very spendy at $89.99 USD
- And a fairly low piece count for the cost too
- Not as iconic as other Ninjago vehicles
Overall, this might not be the flashiest Ninjago vehicle in this wave; while it is very unique, the novelty of the unusual designs and features might wear off quicker than some of the sleeker builds. And for the cost, I'd be hesitant to pick it up immediately. Still, it has a decent parts selection and a good cast of figs (especially Golden Dragon Zane) and it's hefty enough to get some play value with kids. This wouldn't be my first choice, but if you want to try for something different from the usual Ninja vehicle selection, this one does deliver.
Thanks again for following another BZPower set review. I hope to get my hands on more Ninjago sets and get some more reviews pushed. Next one might just be the mech.
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