Sunday, December 13th, 2009 at 6:16am by Andrew M, BZPower Reporter
All Things Must Pass
The news that the Bionicle set line that has enraptured us since 2001 is reaching its finality was a surprise to many of us, causing much consternation and discussion. Indeed, it seems (understandably) that all the membership of Bionicle Zone-Power can focus its attention upon currently is this announcement. For a moment, however, let us put that that aside and instead focus our attention on that last wave of sets, the Bionicle Stars. Today we kick off our final set of Bionicle reviews with a character that began the collections of many, if not most Bionicle fans back in 2001: Tahu. 8534 Tahu was the best-selling set of Bionicle's first year - is 7116 Tahu good enough to be the best-selling set of its last? Read on to find out. As is my modus operandi, a video review accompanies an in-depth analysis. Right-click on the icon below and download the video, or do the same to this link if you have a dial-up connection and require a smaller filesize. The videos are in .wmv format; if you are a Mac user, follow this link to procure the ability to play the video review. Please do not stream the vid - our server is shaky enough as it is.
Now that you've had that aural and visual stimulation, proceed to the more in-depth textual review. Allow me to apologize for the poor quality of some of the photgraphs in advance, however - as I noted in my Ackar review, my camera has difficulty processing red, which certainly has an adverse effect on a fire-themed character. Some of the photos turned out nicely - I tried several different settings on my camera - but some did not. If I can find a definitely good setting I may go back and re-shoot the poorer pictures. As for now, accept my apologies, and my hopes that the content makes up for them.
From the design of the box to the instruction manual, these are the first things you see before building the set.
Though they occupy the same 'impulse buy' price point that originally was enclosed in simple cardboard boxes (Turaga through Mahri-Nui Matoran) and later within plastic-capped cardboard 'half-canisters' (Av-Matoran through Agori), the Stars are packaged in full canisters, a first for this class of Bionicle sets. It is not an unwelcome upgrade: the cardboard boxes were economical but unattractive, and the 'half-canisters' were somewhat eye-catching but useless after opening. Going the route of full cans for this gladdens me, doubly so knowing this is both an 'all-star' line and the final wave of Bionicle product. These sets deserve a proper sendoff.
The can itself is quite well-done. Its height is roughly equivalent to the original Toa's canisters, though its width is nearly double. It features a pop-top cap with the "Skrall maze" motif that was common last year. The front contains a splashy CGI image of the set within, looking heroic and stern. Behind him is a backdrop of the classic Hau - quite a good choice for this 'retro' line - and scattered at his feet are the requisite piece counts, logos, and age recommendations, alongside a callout for the collectible feature of the Stars. This is a foray into the 'build-a-figure' concept common to non-constructive action figures. Each Star contains a golden piece, which, if all collected, can deck Tahu in gilded armour. Tahu comes with his golden Kanohi Hau.
The back of the canister contains expected information. The 'build-a-figure' version of Tahu is pictured, as are advertisements for the other five Stars and various legal notations in several languages. The ability to store Tahu in his can is highlighted too, though I must note that he requires much contorting in order to achieve this, not unlike most sets of the last few years. Of final note is the BIO Code which can be used to unlock content on the Bionicle web site. Our clever friend Kelly, webmaster of Bionicle.com, clearly had a hand in this - the code is 'Go Tahu' in 'leet' notation (which means no posting it on the forums, haha!). You're clever Binkboss; we love you.
Half the fun is had building the set. How fun is it to build and how easy or challenging is it?
The building is infinitesimally quick. Tahu contains only nineteen pieces, none of which are pins or axles. Every piece snaps together in an instant and there is nothing complex to be done. While this facilitates the 'quickly-put-together small action figure' motif of the impulse price point, it does mean that the build is regrettably forgettable. It is not an enjoyable experience; constructing this set is simply mechanical, and likely could be done simply by looking at the photo on the can; aid of the instruction booklet is hardly required. This is disappointing to a fan who enjoys Lego largely for the fun of building sets. As aforementioned, however, the point of this price class is simple and swift construction, at which is succeeds.
Roughly sixty-eight percent of Tahu's bricks are new-mould pieces or old ones recolored. In fact, only six of his pieces were previously available in the colour the possess here. New moulds include his armour, feet, and mask (yes, it is a new Hau - more on that momentarily). The Agori body and arms, as well as Ackar's sword, have been recoloured to either red or orange, or in the case of the last a two-tone semi-translucent red-and-orange. This is all certainly quite useful in MOCing circles.
The new Hau is both a boon and a disappointment. It is almost identical in appearance to the old one, which is absolutely wonderful - Tahu's visage is undeniably Tahu's (unlike that positively wretched Mistika version from 2008!) in terms of sculpt, only that it is a big 'longer' - like it has been stretched a mite - and that is has an axle rather than a stub belie its new-mould status. Somewhat saddening, however, is its size: it is quite smaller than the original Hau and thus cannot be fit on a classic Toa head: it can be squashed on, but pops off moments afterward. The mask does fit snugly on Metru, Av-Matoran, and Glatorian heads, however, and I cannot stress enough how lovely it looks. It looks great. The original Hau is a little too large for the Stars-size Tahu anyway, so downsizing a mite is forgivable.
Now that the set is complete, we can critique how it looks from every angle. New or interesting pieces can also be examined here.
Look everybody, it's midget Tahu!
I kid of course. The politically-correct term is 'dwarf.' But no, seriously, Stars Tahu is a lovely little pocket-sized version of the Toa we've known and loved for nearly ten years. His face is the same, his colour scheme is identical; nearly everything is just right. He is entirely unmistakable; even his weapon (excuse me, 'tool') looks like simply an enflamed, 'powered-up' version of his original firesword. Lego finally redesigned a character and actually made him look like that character - who'd have thought?! I'm inordinately pleased.
This is not to say he is without flaws. As with many Bionicle sets, his proportions are rather inhuman, though at least Tahu here has limbs that are shorter than his legs, unlike his Agori compatriots of yesteryear. Even in his case, his hands would still hang past his orange knees were he able to unbend his elbows. I also find his hips to be too wide, and his shins too bulbous (making him something on an inverse-Torgo).
Another problem is the colour of his eyes/head piece, which is an "avtoran" head. Our beloved Tahu has pink eyes, of course. Lego, however, seems to have quit producing trans-pink pieces and primarily only allows trans-orange and trans-lime. This is understandable, I suppose, for economic reasons. But that is all right; just give Tahu orange eyes, right? That's close enough the the pink, so everyone will be happy, right?
Wrong, apparently. For unfathomable reasons, Tahu comes with a lime-green eyepiece. I find myself truly bewildered. It clashes horribly and sticks out miserably, ruining the colour aesthetic of the set and just looking all-around BAD! The colours got a little washed-out in my photographs, making it seem more yellowy (and thus far more palatable), but be warned: it really is awful in reality. Luckily the piece exists in orange, and thus can easily be swapped out in favour of this much, much, much better-fitting colour. I was moved to replace mine immediately after constructing Tahu.
Another bad colour choice was the silver pommel for Tahu's sword. I recommend swapping it with the gold version from Skrall, or just discarding it entirely. There are also some mild colour layering issues, but those are entirely forgivable, as the set still looks good. And hey, if you get bored of Tahu you can easily and quickly convert him to Stars Ackar with a simple head-swap!
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?
Lacking any gear-driven 'action functions' like his predecessor, or even a launcher like his most recent incarnation (not that I would prefer to remember Tahu Mistika, as I made clear earlier - and not that I consider the lack of a dreaded, abnormally oversized launcher to be a bad thing), or even a "BIONICLE ACTION FIGURE GAME" like the 2009 sets, Stars Tahu does not 'do' much in the way of interactivity. He has nine points of articulation: he can move on balljoints at the neck, shoulders, wrists, hips, and ankles. This allows for a fair range of movement. Tahu can be placed in a wide variety of poses and do role-play battle against Stars Rahkshi, for instance, for properly-scaled fighting.
The collectibility feature of the Stars, as mentioned previously, is not Kanohi or Krana as in ages past. Rather, each set contains a different piece that can be applied to Tahu to create golden armour. Tahu himself comes with a golden version of the red Kanohi Hau his 'normal' form possesses. It was a very wise choice to put the gold Hau, of all pieces, in Tahu's can rather than another Star's, as it allows the buyer to build not only 2001 Tahu in Stars form, but also '02 Tahu. Simply swap the red mask with the gold and Tahu looks ready to take on Makuta in the Mangia or the hordes of Bohrok attacking his island. I must also note that the new gold is quite a large factor superior to the sickly pigmentation of the '02 Golden Kanohi.
Of course, no Stars review would be complete without a comparison to the original set it homages. New Tahu stands just above Old Tahu's shoulder, looking almost like a 'younger brother' of the wizened old set from 2001. The two sets have roughly the same amount of articulation (with New Tahu having simply one more point, as the neck), though Old Tahu has the edge when it comes to playability, given his gear-driven action functions (anyone who was a Bionicle fan in 2001 likely has great memories of crazed limb-swinging battles among their Toa and Rahi). Still, they make a great pair, and both are worthy incarnations of the Hero. I would take a group shot of all four released versions of Tahu, but my Tahu Nuva is in pieces and I never bought the one that looks like a bus hit it, as you've probably gathered. Stars Tahu puts a great cap on the Tahu brigade, all in all.
Once it's all said and done, how does the set stack up? Should I get it?
What's to like?
- New Haus
- Two-toned firesword
- Great colour scheme
- Lots of new and recoloured pieces
- Great character and definitely recognizable as him
- Nostalgia is powerful
What's not to like?
- The lime eye-piece is bloody terrible
- Proportions are ill
- Silver pommel is undesirable
- New Haus don't fit on original Toa heads
Tahu is not a perfect set, no. He does, however, succeed. Would you like a pocket-sized version of everyone's favourite Toa of Fire? Here it is, for $7.99 USD. Stars Tahu has a fairly good design and looks very pleasing aesthetically (with the exception of that bizarre but easily-rectified eye colour). I find it difficult to complain too heavily about him.
Nostalgia also is, as I noted in the bullets, a powerful factor. The original Tahu was, as for many, the very first Bionicle set I ever received. To have him also be my last really brought the whole saga full circle for me. I confess, I was really struck when I opened that can and saw the red-and-orange pieces and that all-too-familiar Hau 'face' looking back at me. The only thing more I long for would have been that all the original Toa were released in Star form. If only...
The bottom line is that I recommend Tahu whole-heartedly, despite his few flaws. Even if just for his status, he belongs in every fan's collection. He is inexpensive and satisfying - a good buy and a very fitting end. Here's to you Lego - thanks for a great run with Bionicle. I, for one, appreciate it - and you folks may share your own thoughts in the Talkback thread.
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