Top 10 Toys of 2012

It’s that time again people! The end of 2012 brings with it the dawn of 2013, which gives us good cause to levy the hammer and proclaim our picks for the top 10 toys of the year! It was a little tricky compiling this list. For one, I’m slightly touched by a fever.. one in which cowbell has no power and only various heavy doses of sudafed seems to keep somewhat tamped down. For another, I realized going over my shelf that each toy in the list has it’s own set of qualities that seem to outshine some yet are overshadowed by others. While one toy may be incredibly fun to play with, another may look impossibly realistic thanks to an astounding sculpt and/or paint job. What merits equate “Toy of the Year”?

As with any review, 99% of it is opinion. In this case, the opinion happens to be mine. I hope you’ll find some common air here and there but even if you don’t,  I’d love to hear from you and get your thoughts. Let us know what your top 5, 10, or heck, 100 toy list is this year!

To qualify, the toys need to have been shipped/delivered within 2012, though not necessarily released (sold). 

Without further ado, the top 10!

10. 3A x Bandai Zaku Gundam Inspirational Model

I’ll say it now to get it out of the way, I’m a big fan of what Ashley Wood has done so far with 3A’s Gundam license.

The purest may disagree with me. Ashley Wood’s Gundam Zaku creation polarized fans of both 3A and Gundam when it was released earlier this year.  Many fans called foul after seeing that Wood unceremoniously got rid of the mono eye that’s been so inherent to the Zaku character. Others saw it as simply a hybrid of sorts, between 3A/Ash’s own gas mask-sporting Noms and Bandai’s iconic evil robot. While I could understand the disappointment some fans may have felt seeing the design stray so far off track from what was expected, I was more than blown away by just how dynamic the figure came out. As a friend of mine said, “Zaku looks like more of a giant space marine than a Gundam robot.”  So it’s called Zaku, but it doesn’t really look like Zaku? Strangely, I have zero problem with that. I truly hope it’s not the last we see from the partnership.

You can read our full review of Zaku here.

9. Play Arts Kai Metal Gear Solid: Solid Snake

As the only non-3A toy on the list this year, Ol’ Snake is the odd man out. Still, the joy of seeing Square Enix Play Arts Kai releasing such a great quality version of one of my favorite characters in video game history soundly earns him the spot. I can’t WAIT for more classic Metal Gear Solid figures to roll out from this line.

Read our review of Solid Snake here.

8. 3A Action Portable (AP) Zombs

We never did get around to writing a review for these little buggers, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t get around to playing with them to our heart’s content. The action portable Zomb infestation was easily one of the most exciting events for 3A fans this year.  With several blind boxed (carded) options to be hunted down, the BST action reached a fever pitch. Ultimately, the excitement died dramatically once they actually started to land on doorsteps. Fairly heavy saturation of certain variants caused their perceived trade/sell value to plummet and many can still be had for a song. Which is awesome, because these brain chompers are awesome!

So ready your vocal chords! The enjoyment of these little guys definitely continues and if you’ve yet to grab any yourself, they shouldn’t be too difficult to track down.

7. 3A HK ReVenture Old Guard Tomorrow King

I hesitated putting this guy on the list since they were relatively difficult to get a hold of. You either had to be one of the lucky souls to actually attend 3A’s ReVenture event in Hong Kong or be lucky at the draw to snag the few “left overs” dripped to Bambaland a few weeks afterwards.

The reason he’s here is because he is a classic Tomorrow King, through and through, the design of which is so near perfect, it’s difficult to explain what makes it so. Somehow, Ashley Wood and 3A have hit the nail squarely on the head with TKs, and fans claw at their screens and jazzercise in unison each time a new one  comes along.

While the red shirt variant wasn’t on the top of my list among the four available, I still count my lucky stars to have scored him. He’s earned a spot both front and center on my shelf, as well as right here in the top ten.

Read our Old Guard TK review here.

6. 3A WWRp/WWR Caesars

Yeah, I combined Caesars in both scales for my number six spot. The massive and mighty 1/6 WWR Caesar is astonishing to see on display. Since I went with an EMGY colorway, mine is set up with my other EMGY figures and he looks amazing. From the paint details to the articulation, everything is spot on. That being said, I don’t ever remove him from display or even try to repose him. He’s a little too cumbersome and tucked back behind other things to easily manipulate. Instead, he sits there to be admired in all his glory from a safe distance.

On the other hand, the 1/12th WWRp Caesars are the perfect size to pose and play with. While we still haven’t gotten an official review together for them, I’ll go ahead and spill the beans that these guys may be 3A’s perfect 1/12th robot toy. I can’t compare apples to apples as I chose the JEA and RIP colorways for my WWRp opposed to EMGY in WWR, but I can say that I’ve interacted with them a lot more. They look and feel more like toys and so I end up treating them as such.

So at one scale, 3A’s Caesars are astonishingly BA to look at, on another, incredibly fun to play with. In my eyes, it’s a tie. A win – win, whichever way you go.

Read our full WWR EMGY Caesar review here.

5. 3A Jungle Vet

We’re only at the halfway point of this top ten list, yet we also happen to be at the toy that I had the most fun with this year, Jungle Vet. Of the many “sold blind” new Adventure Kartel figures, he was among the most anticipated. I admit, I assumed he wouldn’t warrant such bated breath. Boy was I wrong.

Despite his kit-bashed appearance, the combination of articulated fingers and mono-eye contributed to making Jungle Vet one of the most fun and often posed toys in my collection. The photoshoot for our review lasted all day, and it was one of the few times that it didn’t feel that way.

You may be tempted to shoe-horn in here a member of the Finger Gang or even King Thumb himself as they share many of the same traits as Jungle Vet, but I think JV’s Ankou head with it’s rotating eyeball give him the edge. That and he was first!

JV is a goofy, and most importantly, FUN addition to anyone’s collection.

Read our full review of JV here.

4. 3A Real Steel Ambush

If you had asked me 6 months ago if I’d have a toy based on the Dreamwork’s Real Steel movie in my collection, much less in my top ten of 2012 list, I’d have given you a sideways glance that’d cleave you in twain. The movie was.. well, it was what it was. Big CG robots, punching each other time and time again to the tune of a thin script and a fairly silly plot. The idea of making kids toys based off the line is a no-brainer. On the other hand, the thought of making a high-quality, expensive, designer toy based on the franchise sounded nuts.

3A didn’t see it that way. They played to their strengths and showed the industry how it’s done. They took a mediocre, second rate, movie character and turned into one of the coolest, most surprising and detailed toys in my collection. If you have him in yours, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you don’t, good luck finding one for a reasonable price as they’re pretty scarce. The good news is, it looks like Atom is right around the corner. I wouldn’t miss out if I were you.

Read our full review of Ambush here.

3. 3A Queenie of 7 Bones

The 7 Bones collection from Ashley Wood’s Popbot line is one of the most readily collected amongst 3A fans. To the majority of Popbot aficionados,  it’s hard to go wrong with Tomorrow Kings. They’re basically samurai crossed with jedi in hip, urban gear. So, generally epic. They are assassins and warriors for your showcase that are as fun to play with and pose as they are awesome to have on display. Tomorrow Queens on the other hand, have always been relegated to simply standing there due to their vastly more limited articulation/clothing combination. To many, they come off as glorified if not overly sexualized barbies with bigger boobs and slightly more fire power. Many love them, but the love isn’t nearly as widespread. I’ve had a few in my collection over the years, but they’re always the first to go when some collection thinning is in order.

That all changed with Queenie. Unlike much of what we see out of 3A, from clothing to sculpt, Queenie is/was completely new. As the leader of 7 Bones, Ash thankfully saw it fit to give her a new, more articulated body as well as a bit more dancing room in her pajamas.  She’s also the only 3A figure to carry a bo staff and sport an eyepatch (other than Bleak’s dog, Custard). She’s still curvy and almost awkwardly big boobed, but she comes across as a no-nonsense tough girl who can handle herself on the battlefield.

Queenie feels like an individual and all her own. Among the  multiple variants of Zombs, Tomorrow Kings, Grunts, Dropcloths, Caesars and Popbots, that’s an incredibly refreshing thing.

I’m crossing my fingers that 3A has more unique characters like her in store for us in 2013.

Read our full review of Queenie here.

2. New Noms 4th and 27th

When I saw the new Noms at SDCC this year, I was ecstatic in the confident knowledge that I had broken down just weeks prior and pre-purchased both. Behind the shiny clear glass, they looked amazing. The new Noms consist of Nom 4th, a fit redesign of the orignal Nom De Plume and Nom 27th, a dark all new take on the classic design, under the guise of “disciple”.

In that glass case on the showroom floor, Nom 4th was the show stopper. Once the boys finally landed on my porch and I got them free of their packs, Nom 27th took the lead by a nose with his cool hooded shirt and substantially more menacing appearance. I bounce back and forth between which I prefer, thus the shared ranking on the list.

Ashley Wood claims these are the Noms he wished he could have made from the beginning, had money been no object. A generous host of gas mask hoses, actual laced boots, sheathed dual guns and baton as well as some truly lovely stitching support that claim. I still love the classic Nom designs with Jung De Plume being a prize in my own collection, but the new Noms certainly have the character and style befitting the Nom name.

If you missed out on 4th and 27th, don’t loose hope completely.  If you’re interested in grabbing a 3AA 2013 membership, come January, you’ll have a chance to grab Blanc Hunter as part of the deal!

1. Blind Cowboy and Ghost Horse Super Set

I knew what my number one was going to be long before I sat down to make this list. There isn’t anything else like it out there. This duo stands out in a room, regardless if they’re stuffed in a crowded display case or set up all Lonestar on top of a bookshelf.

Alone, BC himself is actually one of the more.. muted figures to come from 3A this year. He’s not perfect. His hat is a little on the puffy side and his white shirt lacks the fit that you probably wish it had thanks to a weird velcro strip. He’s also light on a few accessories that could have taken him to the next level. It’s not that he comes bare-arsed or anything. He’s got a gaggle of hand canons strapped around his waist, a cool red poncho draped over him and a dirty bandage covering his scarred visage. He’s got character, it just doesn’t come screaming out at you when he’s by his lonesome.

Paired with his trusty and very dead steed, Ghost Horse, they become a different thing altogether.

Few pieces can match the presence of this set. Toy enthusiast and annoyed wives alike have marveled at it on various occasions.

BC & GH summarize what makes collecting high end designer art toys so satisfying.  It’s a near perfect balance of something to play with and something to admire. You have  the action figure element, with guns and boots and bandages, and then you have the artistically and impeccably executed Ghost Horse sculpt that could make you question what exactly defines something as a “toy.”

If you want to read more about our opinion of this set, you can check out one of the thickest and most picture stuffed reviews out of the RtR chamber to date right here.

As an initially planned one-off, those who missed the set looked left to drink their own tears for the foreseeable future. Luckily for you, 3A decided to release a second run in 2013 dubbed the Dead Equine Super Set , essentially a monotone version of the same set.

That means that those of you chomping at the bit to add the Blind Cowboy Super Set, our official pick for 2012 Toy of the Year, to your collection have a very good shot at making that happen.

That also means that 2013 already has a Toy of the Year nominee!

Some Honorable Mentions:

3A Light and Shadow Oya Set – I’d have tossed this set in the top ten in a second but I feel that since they were gifted/awarded, never available for sale and are incredibly rare, they’re not really a release at all. They’re still awesome though!

3A’s Metal Gear Solid REX – He’s still set to ship out soon. A tiny handful of people somehow ended up getting their orders around the same time we got our review sample, but the official shipment hasn’t gone out and isn’t scheduled to do so until February of 2013. Keep your chin up REX, there’s always next year!

Thanks so much for a great year guys! We really appreciate you guys swinging by and checking out the stuff we’re doing. We have a few new things planned for 2013 that are sure to up the ante around here and we’re excited to show you!
See you in 2013 with more in depth, photo-filled toy reviews!

Happy New Year!

– Knives

Check us out on Facebook and Twitter to stay in the loop-de-loop!

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*Review* 3A’s ZAKU Gundam Inspiration Model

INTRO

Living in Hawaii has it’s perks. With fantastic weather, beaches and outdoor activities galore it’s one of, if not the best places I’ve lived. The one thing I’ve yet to find here however, is a decent comic book shop.  One of my favorites is in Columbia, SC  where I lived around 2002/2003 with a good friend and fellow comic book geek. Since it was Columbia, SC and not Hawaii we’d pass the time by frequently hitting up what was then the coolest comic book shop we’d ever known. The large portion of the comic shop held true to it’s name and had thousands of comics. A small strip of wall space was dedicated to Japanese imported obscure anime action figures and an over abundance of old yellowed Spawn toys that nobody collects anymore. They also had a baffleing array of Gundam Model kits.

My buddy and I had been eyeballing them for some time. Both of us had vague memories of watching the anime as kids and the models themselves looked amazingly intricate. One weekend we caved and decided to get the most expensive kit we could find. At the time it was $85.

To make a long story short, we spent the next 3 weeks, in our spare time, putting that beast together. Thus starting a chain of more trips to the comic shop, more expensive kits bought and more spare time over the course of many weeks tied up in deciphering the kanji instructions and piecing the giants together.

We loved it.

That year or so period of time of my life is pretty much the total sum of my knowledge of Gundam. So please don’t read this review in hopes for some trumpet blowing, alarm ringing guardian of Gundam lore, because I’m not that guy. Not that there’s anything wrong with that guy. Read on if you want to know what we thought about this 3A/Ashley Wood wink/pinch/nudge at the essence of Bandai’s Gundam Zaku.. if only in name.

Now where’d I put my monocle?

PACKAGING

Coming to us in the biggest package I’ve received via post in a long while, Zaku arrived with some lovely box art on front. The sides and back are basically blank white with only a few small titles and logos dotted around.

I was a little miffed that part of my box was crushed by some gorilla (or blind monkey) who works for the Postal Service. Thankfully nothing was harmed inside.

WHAT’S INCLUDED

Even though all the bots you get from 3A are incased in a plastic clam shell, for some unknown reason seeing Zaku in his kinda took me back. Like seeing Han in carbonite. He’s such a big dude!

Zaku’s free! Dang he’s bulky. He’s pretty much one piece save two bags hooked to his sides.

His weapons of choice include an absolutely massive (and awesome) rifle..

and a large (yet skinny) battle axe.

You also get one of the largest posters I’ve seen come packed in with a 3A figure. As you can see here, my dog Murphy is feeling a little oppressed by how much space it’s taking up on his couch.

THE BREAKDOWN

I honestly didn’t know where to start with this guy. Everything on him takes a little time to move around and pose simply due to his overall heft. Posing him with his (again, HUGE) rifle is a bit of a feat because length wise, it’s practically bigger than he is.

That’s what.. she said?

And wouldn’t you know it? The first thing I attempt to move  greets me with a “crack“.

Yes, it appears that the supposed “moveable” part of the joint was actually more fixed in place than the “un-moveable” part. Thankfully it was only a flesh wound and took just a tiny bit of glue to patch and get back on track. On to brighter things.

The one thing I do know about Bandais age old design of Zaku is that he has a somewhat iconic “mono-eye”. Ashley Wood tossed that out the window to the chagrin of those that chagrin that sort of thing (note: Please know that I’m not knocking the reaction. If someone decided to do something like give Optimus Prime some terrible paint job with purple and orange flames going down the front of his truck cab or gave him an actual mouth, I’d be.. huh? What’s that you say? Michael Bay.. yeah, I’ve heard of him.. HE DID WHAT??”)

So yes, the mono eye is gone and we’re left with what I’d call a pretty typical 3A-esque head sculpt. Gas mask inspired with two round eyes and tubes flowing out it. It’s tiny too when you compare it to the rest of the body. I think it looks cool that way. If one thing is clear about the design of Zaku, it’s all about exaggerated proportions.

Despite my first attempt at wiggling it around ending with a temporarily broken (and expensive) toy, I really love the shield Zaku has mounted on his person. That thing looks seriously heavy with the massive bolts on the outside and thick hard edges. 3A could have been lazy and left the inside portion  clean and simple. Instead, they took the time to sculpt some really nice lines, paint some contrast details and weather it up.

Both the chest and back have hoses running over them and the affect is really cool looking. Zaku has layers of detail to him that I haven’t seen on other 3A bots. There’s a lot of interest pretty much anywhere you look.

I really love the back pack. It doesn’t come off to my knowledge, but has enough mass to it to look believably integral to the rest of Zaku’s design that you’d probably want to keep it on all the time anyway.

Sparring for the spot of MOST exaggerated body part would be the fingers. They’re extremely long, thin and spidery. My wife called them “creepy.” From some early shots of them, I thought they needed to be beefed up to fit the rest of Zaku’s massive form, but now that I’ve had him a few days, I think they work really well. If I had one complaint it’d be that the thumb is the exact same size/piece as the rest of the fingers, which just looks odd when you spread all his phalanges out wide. On a possitve note, they’re awesome for “I’m-a-gonna-gitch-ah” gestures.

I love the way the arms and legs are designed with bulk overlapping layers that give you that feeling that there’s more “machine” underneath the exposed shell. The left shoulder’s armored “pad” is almost as awesome as the larger shield. It’s also slightly articulated. You can really tell 3A took their time with this guy, getting all the angles and curves to coexist just right. Once again, everything looks heavy like any self respecting war machine should.

Speaking of war, lets get back to that BA gun Zaku leisurely strolls about with. The whole deal is made up of 3 parts. The gun body, a extra long clip and side grip. I thought making the side grip left/right swappable was a nice touch. Lefty’s and righty’s can join hands in mutual celebration with this guy.

The gun itself is beautifully sculpted. Coupled with the overall bulk of Zaku’s frame, it really gives the sense that it’s capable of unleashing all varieties of hell on his enemies.

I have mixed feelings about Big Z’s axe. On one hand, the blade is cool and having him hold it in a sort of neutral guard duty like pose looks dangerous enough. The problem arises when you try to get him to take a swing with it. The handle of the axe is a series of cylinders. Zaku’s fingers are long and spindley and can wrap around the handle easily. However, it’s difficult for him to get a firm grip on it since there are no edges to run into his flat fingers. While I could get it to stay occasionally, at most angles I put his arm/axe at, the weight of the blade would immediately cause the axe to swing down with gravity. Had there been some sort of flat surface on the hilt to wedge against the grip of his fingers, this wouldn’t be an issue. I found a place to “sheath” the axe between some of the tubes on his back that I think works really well, which is most likely the way I’ll display him.

As for articulation, Zaku is up there with 3A’s finest. Just about anywhere you’d expect a ball or swivel joint to be, there is one. Even with the heavy shields on his shoulders, you’re able to extend his arms out quite far and get some nice dramatic motion out of him. The only surprise was the lack of any sort of forward/back waist joint. I’d assume this is the result of the heavy layering of details on his torso that I was praising a few paragraphs earlier. Giveth and taketh away.

Zaku is relatively decal free. He has a few dotted around his massive body, but he’s a lot more “plain” than I’m used to from 3A. Most of the interest comes from his dynamic proportions and layered sculpt. What’s there is cool, however. I’m unsure of what nods, if any, his decals hold for long time Gundam fans. Fill me in if you know!

I’ve mentioned how big Zaku a few times this review. He is big. I was surprised to find that my EMGY Caesar is actually a little taller than him. Regardless of that technicality, Zaku appears more massive than any other 3A bot in my collection, even my Heavy Bramble. He also has a more solid feel than other bots in that scale. For 3A, he’s quite heavy. Here’s a quick shot so you can get an idea of scale.

So what chinks in this massive bot’s armor did I find? To be honest, I really had to work at finding some anything negative. I did keep coming back to his head. There was something there that was bothering me but I was having difficultly placing what it was. I like the double eyes and tiny sized noggin. The hoses running from the sides down his back. It wasn’t until I started going over the rest of the fantastic details sculpted into his arms, legs and torso that it hit me. There’s zero details around the base of his head/neck. It’s smooth, flat and looks like a part someone accidentally skipped over. If it was covered up by other pieces that’d be one thing, but other than the two hoses draped around the area, it’s completely visible. There’s no transition between shoulder, scrawny neck and tiny head head. With so much careful detail sculpted everywhere else, the lack of any at all in such a large area really stands out and to me, looks unfinished.

FINAL WORD

Most of what I’ve said about Zaku has been pretty positive. Guess what? Most of what I THINK about Zaku is positive! I genuinely really  like him. His exaggerated proportions are going to be up to personal taste. Some will hate them, while some (like myself) will love them. I’m sure my lack of history with mainstream Gundam lore probably plays heavily into my arms wide open approach to this guy. But come on, even the nay sayers out there have to admit that it’s really cool to get a 3A toy that doesn’t feel kit-bashed or has all it’s pieces borrowed from previous toys. While he screams designed by Ashley Wood and there are definitely a few familiar touches, head to toe Zaku is pretty much all new! Yay new! Who’s with me?

This is 3A’s first released 3rd party licensed figure after ABC Warrior’s Mongrol. If they can keep the quality of their licensed figures up to this caliber, you and I are in for some treats down the road.

 

Pros:

  • Fantastic sculpt and layered details
  • Massive bot with practically all new parts head to toe
  • Impressively articulated
  • Ridiculously huge gun. This is a good thing.
  • Exaggerated proportions. I give ’em the thumbs up.
  • Figure has a good weight to him. Looks and feels solid.
  • Nice use of sparse decals and excellent weathering.
  • Love the shoulder shield and pauldron

Cons:

  • Mine broke immediately. It was an easy fix, but I stand by the concept that I should never have to fix new things I paid good money for, including toys. Use more glue or whatever on fragile, moveable bits 3A. Build those parts to last.
  • Axe design is cool, but Zaku can’t hold it very well given how smooth and round it is.
  • No forward back torso/waist articulation
  • No sculpted or decal details top of shoulder to base of neck. Looks odd/unfinished.
 

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Wednesday’s Wallpaper of the Week

Today’s wallpaper comes from the ever talented Kaiserfrog19.  He previously contributed in February and I’m happy to have more of his shots to share with you! ThreeA/Bandai’s love it or hate it Zaku is the focus of his images today. Kaiserfrog19 was fortuneate enough to be one of the few who was able to grab his Zaku early at Wondercon this year while the rest of us suckers have to sit slack jawed and wait for him to hit our doorstep.

Enjoy!

click on your desired screen resolution to download!

Kaiserfrog19's Zaku 1024x768

Kaiserfrog19's Zaku 1280x800

Kaiserfrog19's Zaku1920x1200

 

Bonus iPhone wallpaper!

Kaiserfrog19's Zaku iphone4

 

 

See ya next week!

Let us know how we’re doing! Follow us on Facebook and Twitter and stay updated!

If you’d like to contribute to Wednesday’s Wallpaper of the Week and have your name go down in history as someone who’s image is a wallpaper on a website (which is also awesome) drop us a line at radtoyreviewATgmailDOTcom with your idea and/or image sample.

NEW 3A RELEASES!

1/9/2012 Update: He’s gone 😦

1/7/2012 Update: Zaku is still up over at bambaland. Word it he’ll be staying up for a bit to give more people a chance  to (sell off  bodily fluids for cash ) grab him. He could come down without warning though so if you’re on the edge.. JUMP man!

New 3A releases!

Head over to bambaland on Jan 6th (today!) in a few @ 9:00AM HK to snag the first of 3A and Bandai’s collaboration on it’s infamous Gundam series.. Zaku!

This guy is a monster, standing some 16 inches tall. From the images, he looks amazing. I haven’t paid attention to Gundam since high school but this guy caught it!

Hopefully he’ll be up for 24 hours to let whoever’s hankering to snag him.

$330 USD includes international shipping

3A retailers just started stocking the all new ghillie suit sporting BBICN Exclusive Bot Sniper Punter!

I love the massive sniper gun and of course the ghillie suit. Nice to see a little camo on the face too. A must have.

Prices vary, but seems to be in the $140 – $150 range

A few great shops to check out if you’re interested – Fallen Regime, Vinyl Purgatory, One Sixth Bruce (UK), This is Vinyl.