Wednesday, April 22, 2015

So this is what 55 Megs looks like - A Neo-Geo post

Earlier this year I decided to get serious about my retro gaming and I did what I used to think was impossible...or at least out of my reach. I got a Neo-Geo Advanced Entertainment Console (AES for short). Yes, if you know anything about the Neo-Geo you know it ain't cheap. Thankfully however I was able to flip a handheld Turbo Express I acquired earlier this year and combined with the deal for the AES, I had very little out of pocket expense.

This makes the 16th home console in my collection. Trying to cram another system into my already crowded set up was challenging, but ultimately I was able to make a home for this monster of a console. Bundled with my system was a loose cart of a Fatal Fury fighting game. Fatal Fury Special I believe. While I'm not against fighters, I prefer other game genres...such as shooters, or shmups. Hence the topic of this post.

AES games aren't cheap. Well at least not now. Apparently I missed the boat on cheap AES games by a few years. Outside of a few common Neo-Geo titles, most of the AES games command $100 and up. Some even bring in 4 digits! While doing my research before pulling the trigger on the deal, I had compiled a list of games that I deemed worthy of purchasing an AES. I try not to buy a system these days for 1 or two games, though I've done that before (NEC PC-FX).

One of the games that hit my want list early on was a Capcom 194X style vertical shooter called Ghost Pilots. It was released on CD as well, but I've owned a Neo-Geo CD system before and I can't be bothered by the horrendously slow load times. I knew I wanted Ghost Pilots to be one of the first, if not the first AES game purchases for me. I looked all over the interwebs trying to find the best deal, ultimately landing at Classic Game Source, Inc.

This is actually my 2nd boxed, complete AES game purchase. I shouldn't have been surprised to feel the heft of box when pulling it from a sea of packing peanuts, but I was. I'm still amazed at the sheer size of these AES cartridges. Maybe it's just because I'm new to the Neo-Geo collecting scene, but man what a rush it is to receive a new game.

I've got a lot going on at work right now so I haven't actually found the time to play the game yet...but I'm aiming for this weekend. I know I'll never amass a huge Neo-Geo collection due to the cost of the games (and in some respects due to the size of the carts - I like to display my games in an orderly fashion), but while there may have been a small amount of buyer's remorse initially, I can tell you that feeling has been replaced with sheer excitement.

Even though my interest in retro gaming has increased ten fold over the last year or two, it doesn't mean I'm giving up on Transformers and the like. Actually I've been enjoying the Combiner Wars toys from Hasbro and there are a few 3rd party items that are on my radar as well. Trying to manage all my hobbies as-is was difficult, so imagine adding something like the Neo-Geo to that and you can guess I've got a lot of stuff fighting for my dollar these days.

Early on in my searches I found that certain games can be had for $40 or less if you're OK with a loose cart. This point has driven me crazy as I'm one of those collectors that like to have everything complete. I'm OK with loose NES games since the box was cardboard, but things like Sega Genesis...and now Neo-Geo AES games must at least have the case. I mean, they are just so beautiful and look so good displayed upon a shelf.

At least with Genesis games having the box only adds a few dollars generally to the overall price. With these AES games, it can sometimes double the going rate of a loose cart. Ah, #adultproblems
I still can't get over how huge these carts are!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Nickelodeon): Slash

I'm not the biggest TMNT fan in the world, but I was alive and young when the turtles first hit and made a splash in popular culture. The original toy line only held my attention briefly before large transforming robots quickly took over, but I remember enough about the classic toys and characters to still have some what of a connection.

Keeping an eye on the current Nickelodeon series of toys, every once in awhile there would be a new figure that I would deem worthy of purchase. If nothing else it would give me new review fodder for the blog. Well when Slash was released I knew he was one I should pick up.

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This version of Slash doesn't look as mean or terrifying as the original, but I still find him fascinating. Gone is the hunched over, snarly teeth evil looking turtle; only replaced with a large, bulkier version with a huge underbite with a spiked mace for a weapon.

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As you can see on the back of the packaging, the roster for each side was really starting to get rotund by the time Slash saw release in 2014.

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Slash is a turquoise-ish blue turtle with some girth. He's got some great design all over, but especially his shell. Articulation on these modern TMNT figures leaves a lot to be desired, and Slash is no different. You can move and pose his arms at the shoulders and his legs at the waist. Movement is limited however so don't expect to pull off many striking poses.

The original Slash had weapons similar to the other turtles (katana, sai), but this newer version comes packed with just one weapon; a large black spiked mace.

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The back of Slash's shell is very rigid and features some great detail and texture. Even the edges of the shell are ragged and "sharp". To me this is the one aspect of the figure that makes him look like the evil bad guy he is supposed to be.

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I'm not sure what to make of the face sculpt. The large jaw and huge underbite gives him a dopey look in my opinion. You can also argue that this makes him fall into that "stupid but strong" category that villains often get lumped into.

Slash does have a few short comings, but it's one of the few things that I deemed worthy of purchase. Now if you're a hardcore Turtles fan then I'm sure you've already bought this. If not and you want to add him to your collection, finding these 1st release at retail may be a little tougher. Worry not! There is a new series current on store shelves (1st quarter 2015 when this was written) where the figures have interchangable limbs. Slash is a part of this series and when he has his own limbs, looks identical to this release.

Monday, April 13, 2015

DiaRobo: Puriteradon DR-0008

I'ts been awhile since we've taken a look at the awesome DiaRobo series of transforming vehicles from Agatsuma. Toyota vehicles had been featured on many of the previous releases, but never the Prius...until now. Like many of the DiaRobo toys, this mold was repainted and slightly retooled for a total of 3 different releases.

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Today we'll look at another figure with a dinosaur alternate mode. Puriteradon, as best as his name translates that I can tell, features the alternate form of a pterodactyl...or is it a pteranodon? Like all releases thus far, the figure comes packaged in vehicle mode on a blister card with a removable clamshell bubble.

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I found the vehicle form to be quite pleasing once I got it removed from it's packaging. The plastic is thin and very light weight, but having just about every prior DiaRobo release I have come to expect this type of plastic to be used. The applied paint is nicely done and the vehicle holds together quite well. There is nothing that restricts the 4 free rolling wheels either so who's to say you couldn't use this mixed in with your Hot Wheels or Matchbox cars?

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Transformation is very straight forward. The car doors for the wings, with the wing tips folding out from behind the doors. The head is exposed when the roof and hood of the car are opened up and folded down. The legs are in the back section of the car, pulling out and down. The head and wings are all fairly poseable as are the feet.

I think I still prefer the vehicles with robot alternate modes, but kudos to Agatsuma for trying something different. The other versions of this toy change the head to made a white bald eagle and a black crow.

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alongside DR-1002

Friday, April 10, 2015

Transformers Generations: Goshooter w/ Go Shuta (Million Publishing Exclusive)

Million Publishing has previously released two exclusive Transformers figures in the form of Stepper and Artfire. The mail-away tradition continues with the newly released Generations figure in Japan, Goshooter.

While in the Generation One series, Goshooter's toy was a redeco Headmaster Siren from the U.S. series. This time however, Goshooter's new figure is based on Generations Bumblebee/Goldfire/Nightbeat.

Being a mail-away, the figure could pose some difficulty purchasing at or near "retail" price. There are several large online Transformers dealers offering the figure as well, but a contact I've used in the past for Japanese exclusives (Arthur) came through yet again for me. In fact, this was one of those figures I paid for quite some time ago and nearly forgot about!

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The packaging is done is a vertical style box in black and white. While the pictures may not make it look at that appealing, it really does look sharp in hand. However I feel the cardboard used this time around is rather thin. If it had not been for the form fitting cardboard insert, the box could easily be punctured it's so thin.

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One side of the box gives you Goshooter's tech spec rankings, while the other side shows how Go Shuta's transector form is now that of a helicopter as opposed to a Headmaster. Not just a helicopter, Go Shuta can also transform into a Plasma Power Rifle for Goshooter to wield.

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The aforementioned cardboard insert that helps give the box it's shape, not to mention protect this beauty of toy inside!

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Right out of the box I knew I was going to like this toy. I was always fond of the vehicle mold to begin with and even though it's a departure from his G1 vehicle mode, it works. You see more and more Police groups using muscle cars these days so it seems fitting that Goshooter would receive this modern upgrade.

My only complaint in vehicle mode is the blue section of plastic located just behind the front quarter panel on each side. I really wish this piece could have been cast in white plastic as it tends to stick out too much. However, that aside I do think this is a beautiful vehicle form.

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One of the first things I noticed are all the extra paint applications versus other versions of this mold. You'll see some comparison pics later on in the post. Obviously the lack of a light bar stands out the most as this is supposed to be a Police car of course. However Takara Tomy didn't let this go completely unnoticed. Check out the head lights. Red on one side and blue on the other. Awesome looking in my opinion.

In the G1 series, the original Goshooter toy had the number designation C-301. As a nod you see this tampographed onto the rear bumper and again on the roof of the car. The exhaust system also received a rich, semi-metallic looking gray paint.

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The undercarriage of the car is pretty compact and flat. It does a good job at hiding most of the robot parts. You can see the lower portion of the arms and hands, but that is about it.

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Like with previous releases of this mold, Goshooter comes with two flame shooting guns. They can attach to the sides of the car if you prefer that type of thing. I guess you could also reverse the direction of the guns to and use as a type of flame powered booster.

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Transformation into robot mode is pretty straight forward and painless. Pull out the doors; separate the hood; flip back the hood/roof of the car; fold down the legs and flip the feet around; pull down the torso to reveal the head.

Believe it or not this is the first time I've transformed this mold. I own Goldfire, but never bothered to transform him as I opted to display him in car mode. Generations Nightbeat was still MOSC before this review as well. More on him later.

Goshooter looks awesome. This mold surprisingly fits the character to a T. Goshooter sports a good deal of articulation, basically what you've come to know and expect from a modern deluxe size Transformer. However if you've been reading my posts for awhile then you know by now that I'm not the best with dynamic poses and what not.

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The headsculpt was reused from the Nightbeat release, however the eye color was changed from red to blue. They also went with a translucent blue in order to take advantage of some light piping. While I'm glad they went with the translucent plastic, it should have stayed red to better match his G1 self.

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Go Shuta has gone through his own transformation of sorts. No longer is his Transector a Headmaster head, but now a Police helicopter. The toy used here is based on Blazemaster who was originally packaged with Bumblebee.

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In true Transformers fashion there is more than meets the eye with this new upgraded version of Go Shuta. In addition to his robot mode, he can now transform into a Targetmaster style gun for Goshooter to wield in battle!

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I never cared much for the robot mode of this mold. The new colors are an improvement over Blazemaster's in my opinion, but it doesn't help much. Perhaps if the robot head wasn't on the end of the helicopter's tail piece.

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I plan to keep Go Shuta in gun mode, displayed as such. Goshooter looks pretty tough. I prefer Go Shuta as his weapon of choice over the flame guns he also comes packaged with.

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Which weapon do you prefer?

Now of course this wouldn't be a proper review without some comparison pics, would it? We'll start with Go Shuta and Blazemaster.

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I kinda like the look of a dual wielding Targetmaster Goshooter. I wonder how the Decepticons would feel about that?

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I opted to use Generations Nightbeat as the main comparison piece for this post for a number of reasons, but if you look carefully at my Nightbeat you'll see he's a little different. Yep, he's pretty much a convertible! I mentioned earlier that I had not opened this toy until the other night when I took the pictures. Upon transforming him from his packaged bot mode to vehicle mode is when I discovered he was missing part of the car's roof. D'oh! Change of plans.

Now what's interesting here is that in the US G1 series, both Nightbeat and his fellow Headmaster, Siren, would be repainted into Minelba (Minerva) and Goshooter. However in the US Generations series, it would be Nightbeat that would be repainted into Goshooter. It works well obviously, I just find it a little ironic the way things worked out.

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Goldfire (I still hate that name, can I please call him Goldbug?) works OK as a emergency fill in, but man had I wished I would've opened Nightbeat earlier. Of course now he's not as readily available at retail as he once was. At least he serves his purpose here. Great mold, but looks so much better as Nightbeat or Goshooter.

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Thankfully Nightbeat looks alright in robot mode so we can continue to use him as we compare the two figures. As you can tell not much as really been changed here outside of the colors. Same head (minus the translucent versus solid plastic used for the eye visor). Goshooter just looks better in my opinion due to all of the extra paint apps. The headlights, chest piece, legs; even the rear painted windows stand out more and help make this figure just plain look better than other versions of this mold.

The burning question many may have left however is how does he compare to his original G1 self? Well I just happen to have myself a loose G1 Goshooter in my Ikea Detolf case so let me go and grab him real quick.

(this is a great time to remember to tell you that you can click on any picture for a larger view)

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There we go. Nice. However upon taking these pictures I realized my vintage Goshooter is no where as white as the new Generations version. It's not yellowed, it's just not bleach white. That aside, the most glaring and noticeable difference is the lack of a light bar on the modern version. I really had wished Takara Tomy would have sculpted a new light bar piece for this release. Perhaps some 3rd party company will come to our rescue. Anyone?

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Takara Tomy did a pretty good job at matching the original Police design for this release. From the door stylings, to the black bar across the rear quarter panel with the Police in silver paint. The windshield too has the matching silver stripe across the top. The hood emblem is very close to the original. Here, let's take a closer look at that.

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On the left we have the Generations hood emblem while on the right we have the vintage G1 hood emblem. While there are very close to one another, you can spot the minor differences. The new emblem obviously features a tad more detail than the original.

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All that is left is to look at the two robot modes. While the new Generations version is smaller than the original G1 toy, the similarities carry over into robot mode. The only thing that I didn't initially catch myself was the use of blue paint on the chest piece of the Generations figure. See how the blue paint helps recreate the white chest piece on the G1 toy? This piece of course reveals the Headmaster's tech specs on the G1 toy. Very nice, yet subtle use of paint there Takara Tomy.

Overall this is a beautiful piece and I can't recommend him enough...that is if you can get him for a decent price. I'll leave it up to you as to what is a decent price however. I may be a little late to the party when it comes to this particular Generations mold, but I find it to be one of the better molds I've messed around with. Great car mode, great robot mode. Slap on the new deco for Goshooter and we have ourselves a winner. No buyer's remorse here. I'm very satisfied with the latest Million Publishing mail-away release. If I have anything left to add is that I kinda wished I had held onto Generations Artfire and Stepper now. And one last thing...I should pulled out the black backdrop for this photo shoot. Oh well, live and learn. Thanks for stopping by everyone!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Machine Robo Evolbine: Mugen Storm

When Bandai launched the Machine Robo Mugenbine series in Japan of October 2003, who knew the line would carry on for so long? I was a very early adopter of the series and imported just about every single release. However when it came time to buy a house and move move of my Mugenbine items ended up on the chopping block. This was long before this blog existed and I had wished I held onto some of those sets if nothing else so I could have photographed them for the blog.

During the line's existence, the focus seemed to change overtime. The Evolbine series is more or less a spin-off from the main series, yet the premise is still basically the same. Each kit was sold individually in grocery stores in Japan, similar to the way baseball cards are sold in the States. Each kit would contain pieces that you build the various forms. Buy all the kits in the series and you could form a combiner type figure.

The Evolbine series differed in the sense that the kits form an egg, similar to the egg shaped containers that housed little toys and such found inside vending machines. Then the kits would "evolve" from a hatchling into their final animal form. Interesting concept if I do say so myself. There were a few sets in this series, but I only managed to import Mugen Storm back in 2012.

I've had these photos sitting on my hard drive for years so I apologize that I'm just now getting around to this post. I realized while I was editing the photos that I never snapped any shots of the animals in their egg or hatchling forms. I apologize for this oversight on my part. I've scanned in the flatten boxes for each set so hopefully you can still get a good overall idea of how these work.

Storm Scale | water drake

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The egg shape pieces were used very well with Storm Scale as it gives him some girth as a water fowl. The combiner's sword doubles as the tail. It's not my favorite animal in the set, but stands up on it's own none the less.

Storm Fang | wolf

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Looking at this one I get a Transformers Ravage vibe based on the colors alone. This is one of the better sets in my opinion. He's not too bulky and he doesn't have too much kibble. You can pose in somewhat due to the construction of the figure. I had him in a ready to pounce stance...not sure why I didn't take a picture.

Storm Crow | crow

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Storm Crow is pretty cool too. Here you can see the combiner's chest piece is front and center as Storm Crow's chest. His wings can be re-positioned due to the nature of his construction as well.

Storm Stag | stag beetle

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Storm Stag reminds me a lot of a previous Mugenbine release. I was always partial to the Transformers G1 Deluxe Insecticon, Chop Shop, so I like this guy...even if he is rather simple.

Storm Horn | bull

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Storm Horn is hands down the best figure in the set. I just love the long, slightly curved horns. He has a very menacing and evil look to him. The piece you see pegged in on his back can be removed. I believe this is part of the sword's hilt. The instructions how the piece there. Each set uses all the parts in the final evolved animal form.

Mugen Storm | combined form

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To assemble Mugen Storm, each set has to be disassembled. The instructions are printed on the reverse side of the boxes. At times it can be a little confusing as to which pieces to use when putting the combiner together, but with a little patience you'll have him built in a manner of minutes.

Most of the parts just peg into one another. This allows you to freely move his limbs and gives him a surprising amount of articulation. He basically has elbow, knee and ankle joints when combined. Mugen Storm is armed with a decent sized sword. He stands at around 9 inches or so. Not terribly huge, but still one awesome (and evil) looking robot.

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Mugen Storm surprisingly has escaped many collection purges over the years and still remains in my collection as of this post. I've seen the blue/white redeco of this set on eBay from time to time, but the Mugen Storm deco must've been popular as I can't say I've seen him for sale anywhere in a long time. 

The Evolbine toys seem like a nice departure from the rest of the Mugenbine sets. Highly recommended if you can find him.