*please note that this version of Kröte is a prototype and final details may change before ship date.
Just in time for Rad Toy Review’s 1st year anniversary, ThreeA shipped us their brand new Ma.K. Kröte prototype to play with. The bambaland.com drop fort the same item was just a few days ago, and has since come and gone. Never fear late bloomer, the retail version (the same version I’ll be reviewing today) will be available via 3rd party retailers very soon if you missed him the first time around!
I’ve been aware of Kow Yokoyama’s designs from years of building my eclectic collection of robot and game design references. His designs are instantly recognizable and in my opinion, nudge away from the status quo of what the future of robotics will look like. There’s something very physical about the way he creates his robots in that while still “from some distant future” they look very conceivable given even the limitations of today’s technology.
Kröte probably wouldn’t have necessarily been my alpha choice for ThreeA to push out the door. That would have been a version of the S.A.F.S with an accompanying pilot. (Because, how awesome would that be?) That being said, what ThreeA has done by releasing Kröte first, whether intentionally or not, is show how amazingly well they can handle the minutia of unique details packed into Kow’s complex designs.
As I received Kröte well before it’s estimated ship date, there wasn’t any packaging, posters or kittens included. Just Kröte loose in a well padded shipping box.
Consider this area a place holder for it’s future package art..
Not too surprisingly, Kröte is basically self contained without any accessories to speak of. The thin long antennae and small radar grid are the only loose bits. The antennae slides into a little hole on the side and stays in pretty well. The radar on the other hand, doesn’t so much as lock into place as allow gravity to sorta hold it there. After much wiggling about, I’ve determined that a small glob of paint must have snuck it’s way into the slot, preventing the radar from nesting properly. I’ll have to mess with it more later, perhaps simply glue it in place, but for now I have to remember not to bump into it for risk of losing it.
Kröte is one busy bot. Loops, chords, wires, bolts, switches, ladders, wheels, rivets. My eyes bounce all over the place on him and at first it’s challenging to find a spot to rest them. It’s probably a bit like beating a dead horse at this point, but by golly, ThreeA are the masters of their craft. There are so many incredibly small, yet detailed pieces literally head to tail on Kröte that I have a hard time believing it’s a mass produced product. It looks as good as what you’d expect a custom model maker to create.
If you’ve been collecting designer action figures for awhile, you may be a little jaded at just how well 3A bots are conceived and realized. Go to Target or Toys R Us and walk down the boys action figure isle. That should hopefully remind you.
Other than the various unique details littered all over Kröte, there’s a few new techniques I’ve not seen before on a ThreeA toy. The one that stands out the most is a pretty heavy use of “wielded steel”. Sections don’t just clip onto each other with a clean seam, they have wielded details to add to the believability that what you’re looking at is hard steel and not a PVC/plastic frankenstein.
One of the things I was surprised about is that 3A’s Kröte doesn’t feel especially fragile. Despite all the tiny details and things sticking out here and there, he feels solid. There’s places for your hands to naturally go so he’s pretty easy to grab and pose on a whim. In fact, the areas that you need to grab to move a joint seem to have details (like wires) that feature a little give so they don’t snap off should you need to apply a little pressure to pose.
The main thing to play with on Kröte is it’s legs. Honestly, I struggle a little bit with the look of backwards legs. It’s iconic and it’s a great design, but my stubborn “toes forward” brain rejects it. It took me some time to get used to it because as I mentioned before, Kow’s unique designs seem to ignore some of the standard norms of what robots should look like. For me, it’s at the same time, off-putting and refreshing.
The first thing I did once I had Kröte on the table in front of me was figure out what wiggles and what doesn’t. The head swivels back and forth like a tank turret to a full 360 if desired. Each leg has several points of articulation. The first is a ball joint at the hip that allows for the widest range of motion on the leg.
Following down the leg to the foot you run into 3 swivel joints, each with a different allowance for movement.
The joint next to the spring has very little range. Also, if you’re curious, the springs don’t actually do anything but add to the aesthetics. The “knee” joint will go from a 90 degree bend to almost completely straight. On the knees themselves are small adjustable shields. The ankle joint is also pretty limited in how much you can bend it, but they move enough to help keep Kröte balanced along side the heel flap that you can adjust up and down.
With legs fully extended as far as his balance would allow, Kröte stood just over 12 inches. Pushing one leg back and the other forward and bending the joints to their extremes I was able to get him as low as 9 inches. (Antennae not included)
“Kröte, a toy for every any display case.”.. TM.
I do feel like there are perhaps a few missed opportunities where moving parts are concerned. For example, there’s a wheel in the engine detail that looks as though it should turn, but doesn’t. More starkly, the radar up top looks practically made to rotate, yet it’s stuck fast. There’s a few other small examples, none of which ruin the toy of course. It would have just been cool to have a few more things to figit with.
Overall, I’d say you get the appropriate amount of articulation for a bot like this. He won’t be pulling off any Jackie Chan moves, but I wouldn’t expect him to.
One thing about this review is that it should have come out days ago. But since what I received was the figure and nothing BUT the figure.. I had a difficult time figuring out what batteries were used for the lights and gun as their are no labels or symbols to guide me. I’m sure this won’t be an issue for the version you end up with as it’ll most likely include some well illustrated docs that clearly light the path. Me on the other hand.. I ran back and forth to town to grab sets of similarly sized camera batteries over the course of three days attempting to power this bugger up!
I finally caved and dropped Kim of 3A a note, something I probably should have done right away. He promptly sent back some photos showing that Kröte uses not two single batteries, but 6 stacked coin batteries.
Palm to forehead.. moving on.
To install the batteries you must first open a hatch on the side of the head. This is also where the two switches for the electronic bits are. It’s a little strange that 3A decided to hide them in a spot that’s not easy to reach. Most people will just want to be able to tap an easy to access button to make the gun work. Instead, you have to remove the side hatch, then flick a switch on/off. It’s not as intuitive as it probably could be.
You can watch our short and sweet video of the switches and lights in action below.
As you can see, the gun rotates and the barrels flash as they “fire”. The barrel rotated a little slower than I expected but the barrel tip lights are pretty cool. I like how the yellow lamp light is set back and gives a sort of yellow eyeball effect.
I think it’s a really cool feature done fairly well, I just wish the buttons to turn them on and off were in a place easier to get to.
The paint application 3A dolled out onto this version of Kröte is in the general ballpark of what you’d expect from them. Overall, it’s solid with some really nice weathering (particularly on the legs) and a few sharp decals. I really dig the white patina that’s added to some areas, really adds to the realism.
I think where it slightly misses is in the faint camouflaged areas. I used to work with a company that designs camo prints so I might be a little biased here. The patterns are so softly applied that they look more like random color smears than actual faded, rusted over camouflage. I tried to find some official Kow examples to see if this is how he designed the color scheme or if it’s purely a 3A design but couldn’t find anything conclusive. This criticism could also just be my preference in wanting a little cleaner of a bot for once. But making clean-ish robots isn’t really 3A’s thing.. making dirty, rusty, big robots is.
So if you came for that show, I think you’ll be very happy.
THE FINAL WORD
With Kröte, ThreeA continues to push the boundaries of what is possible in collectible toys. I say this knowing full well that I’ve claimed the same thing in the past three or four consecutive RtR 3A toy reviews. Full discloser I’m going to keep saying it until it isn’t true. Kim and his crew at ThreeA’s Hatchery definitely know their stuff. But more than that, they show no signs of slowing down new development. Like Ambush and REX before, Kröte isn’t made up of a bunch of premade pieces. Most, if not all, of him is built brand new from the ground up.
As usual, through the fog of compliments and positive impressions, I did find a few things to complain about. Not everything perfectly hits all the notes with me, but it comes pretty darn close.
If you’re a fan of Kow’s Kröte design, then I really believe you’ll love how ThreeA respected it with another incredibly impressive (and obtainable) toy. It’s certainly has me looking forward to seeing how ThreeA handles the rest of the Maschinen Krieger Universe!
- Holy grandma, is this guy detailed. The level is such that a custom hand made model would struggle to match it
- Kow Yokoyama’s design is almost perfectly realized
- Light and gun rotating effect, while a little sluggish, looks really cool
- Solid feel, despite delicate appereance
- The most unique looking toy I have on display
- The switches for the lights and gun should be easier to access and not hidden away in the battery case
- The radar piece didn’t fit securely on top of the turret
- I wish the painted camo details were a little more crisp and defined
- A few small details look as though they should easily move, but don’t
A big thanks to Kim and 3A for sending us an early taste of Kröte to play with. Much respect!