November 1, 2013

Miracle Production MA-01 Vehicle Voltron Review

Hey all, it's Kool Kollectibles Khai back for Teksushi, this time with a review of the long-delayed and maligned Miracle Production MA-10 Vehicle Voltron. I received the "version 2" that fixed a bunch of QC issues with the initial review, so let's get into it!

The Miracle Production MA-01 Vehicle Voltron was released some time in late 2012 I believe. That was after more than a year of delays and strange teasers that never seemed to materialise into an actual product. After such a lengthy delay, fans were anticipating an amazing figure that would be considered the definitive Vehicle Voltron. Alas, the initial release was plagued with bad QC issues that almost threatened to derail the release and jeapordise the company on its very first figure!

I was one of those fans that had heard the announcements early, and was highly anticipating the release. But after hearing about all the QC problems, I wasn't prepared on shelling out the roughly USD$300 to get this figure. Even after some discussions from an apparent Miracle Production representative, I stepped away from ordering.

Fast forward to about June/July this year, and rumours abounded that Miracle had created a second batch of figures that had resolved many of the reported bad QC issues. This involved fixing weak joints / plastic components, paint slop issues, glueing / construction of diecast parts, among others. I was still reluctant on ordering the figure, but then recently in September, I noticed that one retailer I had my eye on promoted that they had the v2 at a lower price (USD$219), so I was interested again.

I posted a question about the figure on the Miracle FB page, and was contacted again by the Miracle representative that I spoke to earlier. After some convincing, I made an order of the figure from Toyer City International (which is apparently an official Miracle distributor), so here it is!

The box art is fairly nice, with decent pictures on most sides of the individual components, the combined teams, and the final Voltron robot. It all comes shipped in a brown cardboard box, which apparently should have the Vehicle Voltron labels and writing on it, but mine came as a straight plain cardboard box, so not sure what is up with that. I won't worry about that too much since the item box itself is OK.




When opened, all the components are packaged separately in their own plastic wrap, all inside a foam insert with a nice printed cover. I like that they packaged each item separately, but the biggest problem for me straight out of the box was that they included two identical helicopters, instead of one of each kind. They sent me two left shoulder helicopters instead of one of the right shoulder red helicopters. I emailed Toyer directly and they sent the replacement immediately so I was happy with that.




The set certainly comes with quite a few accessories, as you can see in the photo below. The silver and yellow swords are standard, but the blue sword seems to be included separately by certain retailers. The blue sword was packed outside of the clamshell that holds the other accessories (you can see it under the clamshell in the photo below). Nothing major, but I guess any extra accessory is always nice.




Out of the box, the whole set does indeed look very nice. The diecast and shiny paint apps really make each component pop, and the chrome on all the weapons is actually well done. It also includes a few pairs of hands to use the different weapons and vary up the poses, which is always appreciated with figures of this size.




AIR TEAM:

The Air Team components are perhaps the nicest looking along with the main cars in the Land Team. Each component has some diecast, with the main middle component and the red chest piece having the most. Overall, the paint application is pretty clean, with only minor slop and bleeding. My components also did not have any of the poor construction in the plastic, which points to at least blind luck or they really did do a v2 second batch.




With all of the components, the frustration definitely begins when you start to combine the components. And it's Vehicle Voltron, so who wouldn't want to!! The design of the combinations are fairly well-engineered, but it's the implementation of that design that is lacking. The instruction manual is pretty much useless, so resorting to online reviews, pics, and forums is a must to get a handle on the tricks.

To combine the Air Team into the Strato Fighter, the middle component has ratchet joints on the side that should be folded out to reveal a little black button. Pressing this will make inserting the helicopters much easier and safe from breakage (see my video review linked at the end here to see where the button is located).

The centre module and wing piece are both attached via magnets into their respective slots, which is just fine by me!! They are sturdy, and don't require any force or pushing to connect. Overall, the Strato Fighter is probably the easiest to form with its components.




SEA TEAM:

The Sea Team components, particularly the two main modules, have perhaps the highest diecast usage. The two main modules eventually become the shin / knee area of the robot, and so the weight and strength in the ratchet joints are appropriate here. Again the overall paint app and QC is pretty good with the modules I received.

The two main modules come with working rubber treads, which is a nice touch, but I won't be messing around with them too much. The other modules come with fake treads and little wheels which don't rotate very well at all. I guess this isn't too big a deal since there's no real intention for collectors to go around playing around with these rolling on a table/floor.




To combine the components into the Aqua Fighter, the smaller red and yellow components are opened up to reveal a spring loaded joint piece that is pushed out (see video review). The two main modules then utilise their heavy duty ratchet joints (the knees of the final robot) to fold back 180 degrees into themselves, revealing a hole into which the front two components can be inserted. When inserting them, make sure you press the white buttons that you can see in the photo below near the "speaker" looking part. This should make inserting them much easier.

Once the two sides are formed, they are then connected to the small centre piece, which is another source of frustration. In the instructions, the orientation of the centre piece is such that the little nodule on top is facing forwards, but no matter how hard you press, the two sides simply cannot be inserted (eg. red on the left and yellow on the right). Instead, as you can see in the photo below, the centre piece needs to be flipped so that the nodule faces backwards, and then they yellow and red sides connect as shown.

Again, some force is needed, this time with no buttons to help that I can see, so try to be as gentle as you can. When I connected mine for the first time, and in the video review, it made a sound like something was breaking, but it all seemed OK. Either way, be very careful!!




LAND TEAM:

The Land Team components are also fairly nicely done, and I particularly like the two cars that end up being the feet. They are almost made entirely out of diecast, and more importantly the paint app on both are nicely done.

The most problematic component in perhaps the whole figure set is the centre component (eventually the hips in Voltron mode), which in this case is mostly made up of plastic, and this is where the problems lie. The plastic used feels very thin and flimsy in the hand, and since this is the central component to which many things attach, the force needed to actually attach things borders on breaking this component.

The two forearm / hands are also quite nicely done, with only my blue one having a slight paint bubbling in one spot as a blemish. Other than that, all the wheels on these components are nicely done - not rubber, but spin nice and smoothly.




To combine the team into the Turbo Terrain Fighter, the ratchet joints need to be exposed from within the centre component (see video review). But by far the most frustrating sequence for any of the teams is attaching the car clips and the forearm components to that centre component.

If you watch my video, you'll see how exceedingly difficult it is to push and connect the forearms to the exposed joints on the centre component. I tried off camera, which was easier, but in the video you find that you'll need to simultaneously press the button at the bottom of the forearm components and push into the centre component. The amount of force required to make a firm connection is just ridiculous. I will not be trying that again any time soon.

Then there's the added frustration of attaching the clips that flip out of the roof of the cars to the centre component. This time it's not so much force, but you need the perfect angle and push technique that will get the clips to sit in properly.

But once everything is connected, the Turbo Terrain Fighter holds together fairly nicely, and looks pretty good despite the forearm components perhaps sticking out a bit too far. Either way, I won't be keeping these in their combined team modes, and probably won't be attempting it again for a very long time, if ever.




VOLTRON MODE:

Now after all the frustration in combining the separate teams, things don't bode too well for the full Voltron robot mode, and yes, it does indeed have its fair share of frustration.

For the most part, forming the legs is actually quite easy. The car clips slide into slots at the base of the Sea Team main components, and the thigh components fit into them in the same was as in the Aqua Fighter mode.

The thigh components are then flipped inside the module itself, and this is where the frustration starts again. Just as it was extremely difficult to attach the forearm components to that centre module in the Turbo Terrain Fighter mode, this time the legs take their turn in trying to connect to those joints.

And again the force required is a little ridiculous, and again I could not do it on camera despite trying (see video review!) In fact, I recommend removing the thigh modules from the rest of the leg, and connect them to that centre / hip module before attaching the rest of the legs. This was a much easier and potentially safer method of combining that did not require so much exerted force.




Attaching the lower torso component is easier, but make sure you use the little button that is hidden under the silver groin patch door. Press this and inserting the lower torso module is a lot easier, after opening a little door at the centre of the hip module (which I mistakenly left open in the photo above!).

Similar to the Sea Team Aqua Fighter issue, the orientation of the module contradicts the instructions because it only fits in one way. And this I believe is an actual design flaw / error. This lower torso module only has a rotating ratchet on one side, and with the way it inserts, the rotation is at the top. This provides effectively a swivel joint to allow the upper torso to rotate, but since it is at the top, and not the bottom that is attached to the hips, it simply looks wrong. I strongly believe the module was supposed to insert the opposite orientation so that the rotation joint is at the hip end to make the hip swivel actually look natural. Unfortunately this has not been done.

Connecting the upper torso component also requires a bit more force than I'd like, pushing it down onto the other end of the lower torso component. I then recommend fully forming the arms before attaching to the torso, as again excessive force is required to attach the forearms to the upper arms. The forearms, as used in the Turbo Terrain Fighter mode, have a button that can be pressed before inserting into the tail end of the helicopters, but pushing them on to get a correct flush connection is difficult.




Once done, before attaching the arms, again make sure the ratchet joints on the side of the upper torso module are opened to expose the little black button (see video review). This will allow much easier insertion of the arms into the sockets of the upper torso module.

The good thing about this particular shoulder joint area is that the helicopters have a ratchet joint that allow the shoulders to splay out a bit, and this creates a more natural arm pose. Unfortunately I only found this out after taking these pictures, but I have his arms out wider in the display cabinet now.

Once the arms are on, the rest is easy. As per the Aqua Fighter mode, the head module and the chest piece attach simply by magnets that are strong. Then you simply open the tabs on the head to expose the face. A widely reported QC issue on the first release was that the cross painted above the face was not centred. On mine, it's not perfectly centred either, but doesn't appear to be so off to really bother me that much.




Once combined, the figure actually has quite a bit of good articulation, as you can see in the photo below. The joints are all adequately tight to hold the weapons and poses in place, which is a great thing. The one big frustrating thing (again!) is that the figure is so heavy due to all the diecast. This just makes moving and adjusting the figure into a decent pose more a chore than something to be enjoyed.

I would've much preferred more pragmatic use of diecast, than simply adding diecast to all components in the guise of "diecast = quality". Sure the use of diecast from the hips down would help stability in keeping a low centre of gravity, but the use on the upper body components creates a very heavy figure that seems to stress joints beyond what I would normally prefer in a pose.

I'll probably only put the figure into a dynamic pose for photo opportunities, but in the display cabinet he'll have a pretty static pose holding this sword. I guess this is in line with the straight up pose of the original 80s toy, so that's OK with me. At least this new modern variant allows for a wider leg stance, ankle rockers, and splayed arms to make it appear more natural, even if it is a static pose.




In summary, if you're anywhere close to being a Voltron fan, I recommend this figure. It certainly has its design flaws and frustrating components, but once combined, I don't think you'll be messing around with it too much more. I mean, 99% of collectors will be getting this to form Voltron, and once it's done, it looks pretty spectacular on display.

The current going rate for this figure is now about USD$200, and I would not pay any more than that! The design flaws are there, and the risk of breaking something while combining is a very real risk. I perhaps was quite lucky that nothing broke when I tried doing it on camera!

If you do get it, I suggest very carefully going over each component to check for QC issues, and then combining them into each team's combined Fighter mode. This process pretty much takes you through all the steps needed to adjust all the joints, ratchets, sockets, and buttons on the figure, and will give you a sense of the build quality of the item you've received. Just go slow and steady!!

For an overview of all the components, how to combine them into their Fighter modes, and then the final build to Voltron, hope you can all watch the video review below! If you like what you see, don't forget to subscribe to the channel, like, and comment on the video!!

Thanks again Teksushi, and talk to you all soon! :)




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