Category: Previews

Preview : Bandai 1/48 Snowspeeder

Kit Info
Manufacturer: Bandai
Scale: 1/48
Media: Injection
Price: 192.00 HKD at Hobbyeasy

The Subject
The T-47 airspeeder was a model of low-altitude vehicle manufactured by Incom Corporation. When the Alliance to Restore the Republic was stationed on the icy planet of Hoth, a contingent of T-47 airspeeders were modified to become assault fighters called snowspeeders. A small, wedge-shaped craft, the Alliance snowspeeder was a two-man ship, with a pilot and a rear-facing tailgunner. It had two heavy, forward-facing laser cannons and a harpoon cannon fitted in its rear arc.

During the Battle of Hoth, snowspeeders were deployed to delay advancing Imperial forces and buy enough time for the Rebel forces to evacuate Echo Base.

Info adapted from Wookieepedia.

The Kit
I’ve been a life-long fan of Star Wars but it was only in the 1990s that high quality model kits of the vehicles were made available by Fine Molds. Last year though, it was revealed that Bandai has taken over the license and they quickly released many vehicles and even figure model kits from the Star Wars universe. I’ve been building Bandai kits for at least a decade now and have a very high regard for them. So expectations are quite high for this kit.

As per usual with Bandai, the kit is molded in multiple colors, sometimes in one tree. If you’ve ever built a Gundam kit, then there’s not much surprise here. Details are molded very well and panel lines are very fine and consistent. Also as per Bandai, this kit is pretty much a snapfit kit but the more serious modelers will definitely add cement.

Bandai also gives you plenty of options including:

  • Opening canopy
  • A spool of harpoon cable simulating being shot out of the rear harpoon gun (to trip up Imperial AT-ATs of course)
  • 2 clear red laser beams for the forward guns
  • Opening flaps above and under the snowspeeder
  • Pilot and gunner figures
  • A stand to pose the snowspeeder flying over a snowscape
  • Landing gear

As you can see, there are a lot of ways you can display your finished kit. And best of all with the pre-molded colors, you can simply snap the kit together, apply the stickers (more on that later), and happily put the kit up for display.

After seeing how detailed the kit is though, I’m sure most folks will want to give this kit at least a wash to pop out all the details.

Bandai has replicated all the gribbles that are the signature of Star Wars vehicles and they are very well done.

Two detailed pilots are included. They are molded in one piece and come with the restraining belts molded on. Kudos must also be given for managing to get the different designs of the suit legs correct. As the kit only allows you to model (I assume) Luke’s snowspeeder, so these figures are of Luke Skywalker and his (unfortunate) gunner Dack Ralter. No option to model a dead Dack though.

Bandai gives you 2 options for the canopy. The first is a clear insert under the canopy frame which is molded in gray. The other option is the frame and canopy in one piece. You are then required to decal/sticker the frame on. The clear parts are free of distortion and are done very well.

Unfortunately my kit came with a broken harpoon cable. Not a big issue for me as I wasn’t planning of using it anyway. Still, it shouldn’t be happening.

A very pleasant surprise is that you’re given a sheet of stickers and a sheet of decals. They are exactly the same except for type. So Bandai leaves it up to you how you want to finish off the kit. The markings are printed very nicely without any faked damage or chips on them. A small minus is that you’re only given the option of the plain gray stripes (which is prominently on Luke’s snowspeeder). In the movie there are units with orange stripes which I find looks more interesting.

This is a very nicely done kit as is usual with Bandai’s kits. The inclusion of the stickers and decals is a very nice touch too since it leaves the modeler with the option of how detailed he wants his kit to be. The amount of fine details on this kit really calls out for all out weathering and finishing though. Besides, a clean Star Wars vehicle just feels odd, especially ones from the original trilogy.

Highly recommended to anyone who can get hold of one.

Kit courtesy of my wallet

Preview : Hobby Boss 1/48 F-14B Tomcat

Note : this post gets a lot of hits so I need to mention that I’ve lost the images for this preview. The only images left are low resolution ones you see here. I hope to be able to bring back the originals.

Kit Info
Manufacturer: Hobby Boss
Scale: 1/48
Media: Injection
Parts: 490+

The Subject
In 1987, the Grumman F-14A received its first major upgrade in the form of the F-14A+. The original TF30 engines were replaced with the F110, which provided a significant increase in performance, range and reliability. With these new engines, the F-14A+ could take off from the carrier deck without afterburner. The other major upgrade was internal, with the installation of the ALR-67 Radar Homing and Warning (RHAW) system.

38 new aircraft were manufactured and 48 F-14Aâ’s were upgraded into the B variant. The F-14A+ was officially redesignated F-14B in 1991. F-14Bs will serve with distinction (with further upgrades) into 2005 with VF-11 Red Rippers and VF-32 Swordsmen being the last 2 US Navy squadrons operating the variant.

The Kit
Since the 1980s, the best 1/48 scale F-14 you can get is from Hasegawa. The Academy and Revell offerings cannot begin to compare with it. It’s detailed, the shape is accurate and once completed, it simply catches attention on any display case. Now there’s a new entry that’s trying to dethrone it, and it’s Hobby Boss, a Chinese company.

Variants of the F-14 were a simple reboxing of parts by Hasegawa with some added parts. The effort, to me, is half-hearted as Hasegawa doesn’t include all the tiny details that make the variants different from the F-14A. Now Hobby Boss has released the F-14B. Since the base kit is the same as the first release, this preview will only look at whether they have captured all the minor detail changes from the F-14A.

The biggest and most obvious difference between the A and B variants are the engines and Hobby Boss obviously has gotten this right. I’m not sold on the complete engines though. While it’s nice that you can display the engines separately, how many modelers would really actually do that?

Here’s a list of items they got it right for the F-14B:

  1. The GPS dome on the spine
  2. A reinforcement plate surrounding the step of the rear cockpit (this surprised me)
  3. Correct beavertail with sensor blister
  4. Correct NACA gun vent doors
  5. Correct nose gear doors with sensor blister

In addition to the above, Hobby Boss has included all the weapons that an F-14B can carry and various others that it won’t. Also included are:

  1. The AN/AAQ-14 LANTIRN pod that hangs off the starboard pylon
  2. The new BOL AIM-9 sidewinder pylons
  3. The bomb racks attached to the belly AIM-54 Phoenix pallettes.

In order to replicate these on the Hasegawa, you’ll need at least 3 boxes of their weapons sets.

The parts breakdown is very similar to the Hasegawa offering. There are however some differences. One, the wings can sweep in the Hobby Boss. Unlike Hasegawa however, they don’t include the parts to lower the flaps and slats. They also do not include the wing glove vanes as separate parts. Hobby Boss however, does give you the option to have the inflight refueling probe open and extended.

From what I’ve read so far on the Internet, the Hobby Boss kit fits quite decently. Frankly, this is more than I can say about Hasegawa’s F-14 which has fitting issues in the cockpit, front to rear fuselage and intakes.

Now the general consensus of the Hobby Boss F-14 is that even though it’s right up there, the Hasegawa F-14 is still slightly more accurate shape-wise, especially around the intake area. For me though, ease of build trumps the minor (for me anyway) issues with the intake.

The kit comes with 2 marking options:

  1. F-14B, BuNo 161435, VF-103, 2000
  2. F-14B, BuNo 162919, VF-74, 1992

There is also 2 sheets of stencils.

While the Hobby Boss does have a high MSRP, on the streets it’s quite competitive compared to the Hasegawa offering. And we haven’t included the cost of the minor scratchbuilding involved and the weapon sets you need to get to arm the F-14. Being a mold that has been redone over and over again, the latest Hasegawa F-14s also suffer from flash of some form on the parts.

If it turns out the Hobbyboss F-14 is really an easier build, I think the only conclusion is: if you want the best 1/48 F-14 Tomcat, get the Hobby Boss.

Preview : Bandai HG 1/144 GAT-X105 Aile Strike Gundam

Kit Info
Manufacturer: Bandai
Scale: 1/144 HG
Media: Injection
Parts: 96 + 27 Polycaps
Price: S$21.00 (est. US$12.00)

The Subject
The GAT-X105 Strike Gundam was one of five experimental Mobile Suits developed by the OMNI Alliance to counter the mobile suits deployed by the ZAFT faction. It is the most versatile among the five units as it was given the ‘flexibility’ to be upgraded with weapons packs : Aile, Launcher and Sword. The Aile (‘Air’ in French) pack adds additional mobility in space to the Strike Gundam as well as flight capabilities on Earth. Weapons-wise, however, the Aile only adds two beam sabers to the Strike’s standard equipment list.

The Kit
Mobile Suit Gundam SEED just happens to be one of the first Gundam TV series that I’ve followed closely (I know the Gundam universe fairly well, but I haven’t seen stuff like Z Gundam, ZZ Gundam et al). I’m not much of Okawara’s fan when it comes to Gundam designs but on the whole, I do like his designs for Gundam SEED, with the Strike Gundam being my favorite.

This is the more complicated version of two 1/144 kits that are available in the mass-market. The HG series of Gundam SEED is equivalent to the HGUC Gundam series. Therefore, there are: covered joints, clear parts (well… in some of them anyway, not this kit), color-coordinated parts and ball joints. The Strike comes only with the Aile pack (you can use the Launcher and the Sword packs available in the No-Grade Strike Gundam kit if you want to arm your HG Strike although modifications are needed).

Because of the way the MS is designed and the way the parts are broken down, the kit’s legs will require a bit of planning to make the eventual painting of the kit easy. This involves a simple cut to the leg to separate the parts. Unlike most HGUC kits, this kit will require a fair bit of prep work due to a number of fairly obvious seamlines.

Construction looks to be fairly straightforward and based on the box photos, it will be a pretty poseable kit too. Quite remarkable considering the scale. While I would have preferred that they provided clear beam sabers, I tend to not display my kits with beam sabers anyway so this is a minor point to quibble about. Like the HGUC series, the fists are oversized for the scale and unless one buys the expensive resin hands or scratchbuilds a set, there’s nothing much that can be done.

Proportions-wise, this is in my opinion, the best looking (in my opinion anyway) Strike Gundam kit in the market right now. It even looks better than the MG version I think. The 1/100 scaled Strikes suffer from having big hips. This is probably because of the fact that they are compartments for the Strike’s daggers (officially called ‘Armor Schneider combat knives’ but I call them as I see them). The HG doesn’t have the compartments so the hips are much thinner and streamlined. Other design elements also make it one of the better renditions of the Strike in the market – smaller feet and less bulky shoulders.

As usual, Bandai includes a set of stickers instead of water-slide decals for this kit. Seeing as how the Strike is supposed to be devoid of markings, this is not really a big deal.

All in all, another nice little kit from Bandai. Their 1/144 scale kits are getting better engineered now and that’s good news for everyone.

Preview : Bandai HGUC 1/144 RGM-79D Cold Climate GM

Kit Info
Manufacturer: Bandai
Scale: 1/144 HGUC
Media: Injection
Parts: 92
Price: S$12.00 (est. US$7.00)

The Subject
The introduction of the MS-09 Dom by the Zeon forces proved to the Federation that while the RGM-79 GM was a capable MS, it needed to field a more maneuverable and better-performing MS to match up with the Dom. Late in the War, the RGM-79D was introduced. The RGM-79D has increased power and maneuverability and is modified for extreme weather conditions with a specialization on cold climate.

The Kit
I am a GM phreak so ANY release of a GM variant is something I look forward to. The OAV series Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket (0080) just happens to have some of the best designed GM variants. The original 0080 model kit line saw the release of the RGM-79G and RGM-19GS, a slight variation of the RGM-79D. The RGM-79D and the RGM-79SC GM Sniper II were only available as resin kits or resin conversion sets then. When Bandai announced the RGM-79D as part of their HGUC line, it was welcome news for me because this means the GM Sniper II is now a distinct possibility for a release in injection form. Anyway, here’s a look at the RGM-79D.

The kit comes in three trees of colored parts, as per Bandai’s practice. Parts breakdown for the HGUC series so far have been excellent. They allow the modelers to pretty much finish the kit in subassemblies, paint them and then do final assembly. Considering they are just 1/144 kits, the HGUC line’s poseability has also generally been good. I also like the fact that the visor is a transparent green piece, saving me the time of having to paint it.

One thing I’ve noticed is that this kit will probably build up into a much bulkier version than the original anime version. That’s not necessarily bad, but purists might have a problem with it. I don’t. I think the proportions look tight, without the roundness of the HGUC RGM-79 and the huge waist of the original 0080 RGM-79G/GS model kits.

As with most HGUC kits, accessories are bare: a Sten-looking machine gun (which can be held with both hands… COOL), shield and a beam saber with the hand molded in. There are pros and cons to this: It does look better than the regular fist, but it’s a pain to paint and choices of poseability with the beam saber is pretty much limited. Plus, you can only use the beam saber for the right hand (the beam saber hilt is on the left shoulder). However, this is easily remedied, as most Gundam modelers would have beam sabers lying around in the spares box anyway.

Bandai still refuses to include waterslide decals with their kits. This one comes with a sticker sheet, which naturally is too thick for any use if you do serious modeling. But, since the core audience for these kits is kids, a sticker sheet does make sense.

All in all, this looks to be a excellent kit and as mentioned above, this kit has since spawned a couple more variants from the 0080 world: namely the RGM-79G and RGM-79GS twins. Personally, I think that we can never have to many GMs. Bring them all on Bandai!

Preview : Akohobby 1/100 PGM-79 Powered GM Conversion

Kit Info
Manufacturer: Akohobby
Scale: 1/100
Media: Injection
Parts: 92
Price: S$25.00 (est. US$15.00)

The Subject
The Powered GM variant of the RGM-79C was developed by the Federation as a testbed for an enhanced backpack that provided very powerful thrust and acceleration. To compliment this enhancement, the legs were mounted with improved shocked absorbers. Because of this, the Powered GM looks more heavily armored externally, which wasn’t the case since the bulkiness was mainly due to the mounting of the backpack control systems and further improvements to the structure of the RGM-79C. At least 3 units were tested with this modification in the Torrington base facility in Australia in UC 0083.

The Kit
The Powered GM is my favorite variant of the Federation grunt MS. It appeared in the OVA 0083: Stardust Memory’s first 2 episodes. There is currently no injection kit of the Powered GM (what’s available are the expensive resin kits). The closest we can get is the RGM-79C GM Kai released by Bandai in the MG line. A lot of conversion work needs to be done to get a Powered GM though. Luckily for this lazy modeler, along came Akohobby and G-Options, who produced an excellent conversion set which was:

  • In injection plastic
  • Priced reasonably (compared to Resin conversions)
  • Of pretty high quality

The conversion parts came in two very nicely molded trees in a medium gray color. Advanced notice from a good friend of mine Evo (he of the masterfully done Gundam kits in the Guest Gallery) says that the fit is very good with no puttying required. But then again, he almost always NEVER needs puttying in his kits.

Initial impressions so far are positive. There are no visible flash or warped plastic to be found. While the panel lines seem a bit on the thick and deep side, these are negligible problems since the MG kit that is required for this set doesn’t have too many panel lines that will make the discrepancy obvious.

The animated version of the Powered GM didn’t come with any special markings except for a very unique orange and white color scheme (see lineart above). But that won’t stop anyone from making some custom markings for this badass. It certainly won’t stop me .

Akohobby’s website has some images of what the converted GM Kai would look like as a Powered GM. Do check it out.

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