Somehow in Zoids, the many awesome dinosaur robots have been replaced by the Shield Liger as top dog - not to mention this war machine's numerous variants. While Iron Kong, Gojulas, and the like make for amazing, legendary, and memorable toys there are Liger Zero, Liger Zero X, Energy Liger, Liger Zero Jaeger, Liger Zero Schneider, and many many many other flavors you can buy. Odds are we'll see a few more as Masterpiece toys if this line continues, because since their announcement nearly a year ago we've seen but one release and one other upcoming kit. This other upcoming kit seems to use many of the same parts, too. It's not unlike what happened with Transformers.
Costing nearly five times as much money as the regular edition of the Shield Liger (but on par or cheaper than the many collector versions from Threezero or Kotobukiya), this kit aims to bring back the play pattern of the original toys while offering the adult fan something more - exactly like the Masterpiece Edition Transformers. The basic premise of Zoids through most of their classic incarnations was to offer a model kit build with a wind-up or battery-powered motor to move at across a table. There may be retractable weapons, there are little pilot figures, and it was a lot of good fun. This figure has a hidden cannon in his mane - on a ball joint, no less! He's got two metallic gold drivers, too.
What you may not know - and what came as a surprise to me - is that this isn't a masterpiece edition of the original Zoids Shield Liger. This is kind of weird - it's based on the anime, rather than the original 1980s toy. When I got a look at the sticker sheet, my heart sank a bit because it turned out that this was meant to be an update of the 1999 "NJR" (New Japanese Release) Shield Liger, complete with the more obnoxious new-school Helic Republic logo rather than the original, simpler Helic Combat Team insignia. I'm not saying I might buy a recolor of this in the original kit's 1983 colors with matching stickers... but I'm not saying I wouldn't either. It's still neat... but it's a little less neat since it seems to be modeled more after the 1999 toy than the 1983 toy or the 1999 anime (which had could make a case for anime-specific pilot figures).
If you are trying to make this kit to walk around, be careful during the "roar" animation. The mane must be fluffed out, otherwise the head will catch on the front shoulders when he moves his head around. The tabs on the sides should be fully extended forward, otherwise you're going to hear some horrifying clicks. There is a warning about this on the instructions, but we're Americans and we can't read this.
Assembly is decidedly old-school, with a few changes. Each part is basically now several sprues' worth of bits and pieces. The tail is multiple hard plastic pieces encasing rubbery connective tissue. Paws have individual toes - and joints on the other ones - plus springs in the front heels to keep the figure moving along. There are silver teeth. The driver's seat lights up and fits two figures. The vehicle's mane is articulated. You even get a display stand so you can enjoy its considerably impressive walk, wag, and roar cycle without wobbling on the floor of your apartment. They thought of almost everything here, with one major exception. The rubbery caps that were the hallmark of nearly every single motorized Zoids kit from day one have been replaced by a hard plastic trio of cap sizes. It still looks cool, but it was one of those tactile things in a build that were unlike other toy kits I've had. It changed, now it's different. If you've never had an original, you won't miss it.
Strangely, Takara-Tomy didn't take the opportunity to upsize the kit. The 1:72 scale lion war machine is pretty much exactly the same size as the original toy from 34 years ago. The piece density is what you're paying for - individually jointed toes, spring-loaded heels, silver fangs, light-up eyes, and other ridiculousness to give you an Experience rather than just another toy. Putting together a normal Zoids kit is something you could probably do between dinner and bedtime, with time to spare.
Not counting the stickers, I spent hours putting this Masterpiece kit together. Seeing as that the upcoming MPZ-02 Saber Tiger - which I am going to guess will be on clearance within 18 months of release - shares tooling, I'm preemptively wincing at assembling another Masterpiece toy that's going to be about 90% the same as this one. If you get a lot of toys, or write a lot, this kit is a real time-sink. The identically sized regular Shield Liger can be assembled in a fraction of the time, but lacks the crazy electronics and lights and display stand. It still walks and it's cool, but this is really, truly an insane Executive Edition Zoids for the fan with money and a lack of desire to collect. If you do Transformers Masterpiece toys, I would say this one is proportionally a little more advanced because of the intense assembly process. Transforming some of those things is a pain - and assembling this is also a pain.
I've been fond of saying that assembling a wind-up or battery-powered Zoids kit is a rite of passage every toy fan should go through at least once. Seeing how a robot toy can fit together is a fascinating journey, and also seeing how one or two little moving parts on a motor can power multiple limbs and a head to come to life is a real treat. This figure does so much that some of those elements remain hidden in a central power block, but you still get to see how all the tabs align to bring it to life - and that's a worthwhile experience. I'd still strongly suggest a toy fan to build a kit like this one, but given the time involvement and overall complexity I'd probably nudge you to getting a mid-range wind-up kit first. And then get this one. If you've ever wondered what it's like to work in a toy factory (to some extent) - putting together the little pieces and springs and everything - you will no doubt walk away from this toy's assembly with a newfound respect for the time those people save you by selling prepackaged, preassembled robots and plastic men instead of kits.
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