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    JeffSaylor's Avatar
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    FRONT MISSION EVOLVED Play Arts Kai

    Square Enix takes combat mecha to the next level...















    The Front Mission Evolved Play Arts Kai action figures are available now through Square Enix's online store and up for pre-order at BigBadToyStore.com

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    I absolutely LOVE action figures of futuristic combat mecha. Some of my favorite designs come from the Front Mission games; chunky, rugged robots packing an arsenal of oversized weapons. Called "wanzers," the mechs of Front Mission appeal to me in their more "realistic" form and function. These aren't brightly colored Gundams and their weapons don't consist of exotic beam sabers and lasers. We're talking military machines in drab greens and steel armed with shotguns, machine guns, missiles, and crude melee weapons, like the spiked Pile Bunker.


    Unfortunately, Front Mission action figures have been few and far between. Kotobukiya released an amazing 5" tall series back in 2000 and more recently in 2006, Square Enix (with distribution from Koto) offered an assortment of nice, but very small trading figures. Thankfully, that short list has just gotten longer with Square Enix's latest offering: Play Arts Kai figures pulled from the latest chapter in the video game series: Front Mission Evolved. Priced at around $45 each, the first assortment consists of wanzer units Enyo, Zenith and Zephyr. These were released overseas last month and hit the United States this April.


    LEFT: Front Mission Evolved Kai, RIGHT: Halo:Reach Kai

    First, a small word of warning: the larger size often associated with Kai isn't here this time - these figures measure about 5-6 inches tall as opposed to 8-9 inches. These new Front Mission Evolved collectibles are hyper-articulated and detailed like Kai, but fans going in expecting a huge figure are going to be in for a surprise. 5-6 inches tall is still a pretty good size and they pack some mass: stout and robust. Even better news is that these are darn close to the same scale as Kotobukiya's older Front Mission figures, perfect for play and display.


    PACKAGING: Like all Play Arts Kai, the Front Mission Evolved figures ship in a closed window box offering a great look at the toy inside. What's different is the horizontal way these are displayed: figure packed on the right with all its gear gear stowed on the left. Each box shares the Front Mission logo - the silhouette of a wanzer - and some stylish splash "damage". Colored bars and text - orange for Enyo, blue for Zenith, etc. - add some personality to each mech, as do the sides and back panels, the latter of which depicts the figure in several dynamic action poses.


    I wish the other robots in the line were shown on the back for those unaware of the complete series, but it is a small omission. Like the Halo:Reach Kai I reviewed recently (read the full review HERE), each Front Mission figure is collector friendly, allowing you to restore the wanzer and its accessories on the internal, slide out plastic tray. Kudos to Square Enix for another slick packaging presentation.


    SCULPT: In the tried and true tradition of Play Arts Kai, these Front Mission Evolved figures look phenomenal. Each of the three wanzers features a unique design taken from the game. Picking one true favorite is a bit of a challenge, as each mech has certain characteristics that I adore. Forced to choose, however, and I'd have to go with the Enyo; its stocky frame and mono-eyed head real standouts to me. He'd be near perfect if he had the "V" split feet of the Zenith, an awesome feature of that robot. Not to be left out, the Zephyr has these great protruding armored joint plates and a slick visored headsculpt of his own.


    PAINT: Paint-wise, each wanzer strides into battle with its own color scheme. Another reason I like the Enyo so much is its very militant olive green paint apps. Darker shades of greens and browns add to this "real world" military vibe. The Zenith struts its stuff in shades of cool metallic blue while the Zephyr dons baby blue and silver. Overall, some amazing paint apps and color choices, each mech brought to life with loads of subtle shading and weathering.


    ARTICULATION: Another Kai trait, the three wanzers star an abundance of articulation. The points are almost too numerous to count, but here is a quick run down: swivel head, swivel upper forearms and waist, ball wrists and a slew of hinged/swivel/ball-like joints in the shoulders, elbows, thighs and feet. Some, like the Zenith, even features a jetpack with rotating thrusters. Of the three, the Enyo was the most enjoyable to pose and play with due to his nice and tight joints. Unfortuantely, the Zenith and the Zephyr suffered from a case of slightly loose limbs. It's not extremely terrible, but the elbow joints were just loose enough to equal frustrating when trying to strike particular gun-firing poses (especially when firing the big honkin' bazooka and long rifle). There are some toy tricks - like working superglue into the joint - to fix this issue, but I found myself wishing these had the tight ratchet joints like the Halo:Reach Kai.


    ACCESSORIES: Wanzer design and color scheme aside, picking just one Front Mission Kai just got harder with the selection of weapons and gear. Again, the Enyo shines for me in this department featuring a HUGE bazooka, awesome compact submachine gun and shoulder-mounted missile launcher. The Zenith is a close contender with a cool stockless machine gun, forearm mounted Pile Bunker - a hydraulic nail/shield device used to punch enemy mech, and a large jetpack with moving thrusters. Zephyr packs a massive heavy machine gun, shoulder-mounted missile pod and a smaller jetpack.


    The coolest thing about all this gear is that it is easily swapped between the three Front Mission figures via a peg and hole system. The Zenith's Pile Bunker on the Zephyr? No problem. For the most part I was content with what each wanzer came with, but I did give my Enyo the smaller jetpack to up his cool factor. Plus he strikes me as more of a light infantry/recon mech with his submachine gun in hand. The bazooka I found too large and awkward for any figure to weild properily, its one pistol grip certainly not helping matters any. Missile pods can easily be placed on your shoulder of choice as well as mounted on the wanzer's forearms. The guns clamp firmly into either the left or right gun-firing hands provided with each figure (they also include fists). I should note here that swapping hands on the Front Mission Kai figures was MUCH easier than that of the Halo:Reach Kai. The interchangable hands in this case have the pegs already attached allowing for a struggle-free swap.


    OVERALL IMPRESSION: All said, these are some really cool mecha action figures. But are they true Kai? In sculpt and articulation, for sure, but their smaller size leaves one to question. Ideally it would be nice if Square Enix offered up one definitive scale for Kai - preferably 9 inches - to give the line more of a solid identity and sense of conformity with collectors. As it has been, Kai size has fluctuated from between 5 1/2 - 9 inches tall. As a brand, however, Kai still screams superior product - mid-range collectibles worthy of their $45 price tag. In the smaller scale of the Front Mission Evolved figures though, that price would be better suited at $35 tops.


    Regardless of scale and price, mecha action figure collectors will find it extremely difficult to pass these up. They're that cool looking and well-designed. Kotobukiya's first series of Front Mission figures have been some of my favorite robot toys for over a decade. At long last they have some very welcome company.



    The Front Mission Evolved Play Arts Kai action figures are available now through Square Enix's online store and up for pre-order at BigBadToyStore.com





    Review and Photos by Jeff Saylor

    Review Samples Courtesy of Square Enix


    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails FRONT MISSION EVOLVED Play Arts Kai-1enyopackback.jpg   FRONT MISSION EVOLVED Play Arts Kai-1enyoviews.jpg   FRONT MISSION EVOLVED Play Arts Kai-1fmall2end.jpg   FRONT MISSION EVOLVED Play Arts Kai-1fmbackpacks.jpg   FRONT MISSION EVOLVED Play Arts Kai-1fmcompareuse.jpg  

    FRONT MISSION EVOLVED Play Arts Kai-1fmeusetop.jpg   FRONT MISSION EVOLVED Play Arts Kai-1fmguns.jpg   FRONT MISSION EVOLVED Play Arts Kai-1fmpacks.jpg   FRONT MISSION EVOLVED Play Arts Kai-1fmsizecompare.jpg   FRONT MISSION EVOLVED Play Arts Kai-1zenithcompare2.jpg  

    FRONT MISSION EVOLVED Play Arts Kai-1zenithviews.jpg   FRONT MISSION EVOLVED Play Arts Kai-1zephyrviews.jpg  
    Last edited by JeffSaylor; 11-18-2014 at 11:01 AM.

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