Review: 2068 Nex 2.0 The Nex best thing?

Set Index: Nex 2.0


I see (Julius) Nex as the replacement for Jimi Stringer. In any case… Nex 2.0? Where’s the 1.0?! He’s got a nice cannister though, and those ships in the background makes me hope that TLG experiment with a system crossover line.


On the back is the usual combiner as well as the usual massive amount of text.


Read it all? As a reward, here is the parts list…


…and the parts themselves! Orange and white is a common colour blend for TLG, but I think the green is a new aspect.


I love the new metal colours. I think they are the same as the soldiers to the right, but I’m not the best a judging things like that. It’s a nice part too!


Random instruction page.


All of the Heroes have one of the new power cores. I’m a bit undecided if I prefer the unique colours over a consistent colour.


It’s held into the chest piece via the HF standard shaft. I wonder if anyone will make use of this part as an “I”…


I find the top of his mask part a bit odd; to me it’s a repetition of his arms!


The lower part make me think of a Grid-iron football player.


I like his ID panel. I think the printing works especially well on white.


Nex reporting for his next game! 10, 42, 36, hut, hut, hut!


Oh… he doesn’t seem so amused.


TLG are a bit conflicted about the correct configuration of this shield, but in this case I prefer the instructions over the cover photo. Thanks to the new ball joint panels the Heroes look quite decent from the side…


…at the usual expense of the back. It’s especially bad here due to the colour contrast.


The face part concept of this line is really smart. To me this one simple part make Nex look far more beefier in the face.


Flex!

Ratings

Posability:
It’s hard to complain about the posability of the heroes. All have elbows, knees, wrists and ankles. His shield weapon does make posing a bit harder though. 8/10

Parts:
Beefy look aside, at 76 grams he’s one of the lighter heroes. While the parts are well made I don’t like the new shield piece. 8/10

Looks:
It may be overused, but the orange/while look works well. However it does highlight how nothing the backs are. 8/10

Fudge:
A more solid looking character and excellent articulation! 9/10

Overall:
Let him join your team!. 8/10

Thanks go out to TLG for this exciting new line.

Review: 2065 Furno 2.0 The one with nothing to prove any more

Set Index: Furno 2.0


When he first appeared, William Furno was a rookie with something to prove. He even had a motorbike. Now he’s a geek with big glasses.


I bet he even sold his bike, afterall; how many geeks ride motorcycles? Nice canister photo though. Hopefully he’ll turn around soon and notice the guy burning stuff.


Geek+muscles=shoulder launched missiles? I do like these combiners.


Parts list. Most LEGO sets don’t look as impressive as a list of parts due to duplication…


…but I think this looks more appealing! Loads of the nice new HF parts.


The Heroes are built much the same for the first half; it’s just a matter of what panel goes where.


They all use this part as a chest plate. The HF armour goes on top, with the Power core on top of that.


Most of these new parts look really solid; note in particular the corner braces. The center ball joint receptacle looks strong too.


All things considered, shouldn’t this be Furno 3.0? Or was the bike version just 1.1? In any case it’s a cool print.


All jokes aside, this is one of my favourite head piece. I like how his eyes are completely covered.


He’s also one of the few that has possibilities of using it backwards.


Aside from the big glasses, he also has the gun-blade-thing that several other heroes have.


Overall I think he’s one of the line highlights. He really highlights how different you can make a head look with an extra element.


Since the head is shown more with him than the other heroes, the complete mouth looks more like a grin! Very smart. Shame he has the shield…


From the rear he looks far less impressive. Since his panels are all front on he looks rather sparse.


Billy gets back to his roots and wears his hat backwards. Cool dude!

Ratings

Posability:
It’s hard to complain about the posability of the heroes. All have elbows, knees, wrists and ankles. His shield weapon does make posing a bit harder though. 8/10

Parts:
He ain’t heavy, he’s a geek…. actually at 77 grams he’s one of the “bigger” ones. I think he’s one of the most appealing of the line due to his visor. 9/10

Looks:
He looks so different!.I can forgive the other flaws due to this. TLG has done some really smart things with this line. 9/10

Fudge:
As much as I like him, aside from the colour I don’t see how this is the same character. 8/10

Overall:
Love your inner geek! 8/10

Thanks go out to TLG for this exciting new line.

Review: 2194 Nitroblast I love the smell of Nitro in the morning

Set Index: Nitroblast

I like the presentation of this line, especially the interesting background that isn’t too distracting. I do have one complaint about this one in particular though; the right eye is glowing green… I realise that these images are always enhanced these days, but that’s a case that could cause confusion and/or disappointment.


The punch-to-open-box lingers on to my annoyance. Other than that it’s an OK rear, possibly too bland. Please note that the box shots have a different attachment position for the “fuel” hose than the instructions.


I find it interesting checking what TLG choose for the standard 1:1 shot. This choice is interesting as it arguably makes up for the cover implying the right eye is green!


De-boxed!


Random instruction page.


Set list; doesn’t look like much as per normal with this style of set, but I think the piece size and complexity make up for it.


Here’s the lot! The best aspect to me is the lack of pins/axels. This new line takes this genre in a new direction with panel parts being balljointed rather than pinned. It’s an interesting idea and at the least it’ll be great for MOCs. System integration could be harder with this line however.


This to me is the highlight; it’s a great looking panel with great potential; in this case it’s used as a flame thrower.


As you can see it’s ball jointed; no pins, no studs. However the two sets of two holes do fit the standard bar accessories (such as claws), and they are a studs distance apart. Thus system scale has not been forgotten.


This weapon is interesting; note the two holes. This seems to be the new HF accessory standard. (Interestingly an axle is still included.)


Here you can see that it is system compatible.


Like all of this line, there is a printed part in each set. At a casual glance I thought that the villians parts were all the same, but upon being told I was wrong I realised that aside from the fire and lightning the exact designs are very different.


On the subject of sharing, the head is interesting. This is the “front”…


…and here is the “back”. Two faces; this part is used in “reverse” for Jetbug. More on this later.


This is also one of the few new parts that is not ball jointed.


It’s building time! I stopped at this stage to highlight how different these sets are. Ball joints galore and a reduction (but not elimination) of pin holes. Looking at this I can’t help but think of the potential as a general mech frame.


Lower body panels fitted. They snap on firmly and are movable to a slight degree. (I got a bit confused and put one of the thigh pieces on wrong in this photo.)


It’s hard to tell in this photo, but the colour issues with yellow don’t seem fixed yet. (The top one is darker.)


The sole spare part! This is a negative side effect of the reduction of pins.


Finished! Like most of these figures, he looks great from the front…


…but not so great from the rear! In particular I find the “second face” a bit distracting.


The Zamor spheres are very nice in this set. It’s hard to appreciate how interesting they are from just one view.


So here’s more!


His head reminds me of the Aliens. (As in the Ridley Scott movie.)


The head however is too minimalisitic for it’s size so off front it doesn’t work as well.


It’s an odd hobby of mine to look for differences between the box shots and the instructions. In this case the hose has been moved. I’m assuming it was done to avoid forcing the hose at a bad angle, but I prefer it the original way regardless. This photo also shows how the head really needs more bulk on the sides.

Ratings

Posability:
Very. The left are has additional reinforcement that does reduce it somewhat, but it’s not a major issue. His big feet helps him balance as well. 9/10

Parts:
This set includes most of the new ball joint panel parts as well as some longer pieces that don’t come with the heroes. All the parts go together well, and the new ball joint system seems more sturdy than the last. 9/10

Looks:
From the front he’s perfect, from the side less so, and from the back he’s a bit freaky. But that’s nothing new for this line or for LEGO in general. Even so, I don’t think the villians are as good looking as the heroes this time. 7/10

Fudge:
I (think I) realise why TLG did it, but the double head is odd. It’s a great compromise… but it’s a compromise.
8/10

Overall: He’s my least favourite of the new baddies (I like DrillDozer), but I still think he’s a good buy. 8/10

Thanks go out to TLG for this exciting new line.

Review: 6753 Highway Transport

Welcome to my mega 6753 review! Please note that these are shown in the order I built them so I can’t provide additional photos of the first two models. (Unless I have already taken it, which is possible.) First off…

Car Carrier

This is the primary model of the set and it uses the greatest percentage of parts. (No model uses all the parts.) It’s sparse on details aside from the front and interior, but I think it’s still a quite good looking truck.


The top opens up to provide internal access.


Inside there’s the expected seats and steering wheel, as well as a coffee machine in a potentially dangerous place. I expected a sleeper cab, but the steering took up the room for that.


Steering? Yes! It works OK and it’s fun to use while “parking” the trailer. The steering circle isn’t best, but it’s still a nice feature for a Creator model.


The “Fifth wheel” looks the part and works OK as well, but you can see here the lack of much other detail in this area.


The trailer has supports so it will stay level when disconnected. The set comes with two cars which fit on the bottom…


…or the top. As you can see the ramp isn’t needed to hold up the second level; the beams in the middle do that. If you pull the pin forward…


…the top angles down allowing cars to “drive” off. TLG advertises 6743 Street Speeder as being compatible with this set.


I like the look of the cars; especially the white one. The headlights are one of my favourite parts.


I’m assuming the panel on the red car is supposed to look like an air scoop, but it doesn’t really work for me.


Construction-wise the cars are pretty much squares with some front SNOT as distraction. For the most part I think it’s effective.


The scale in this set is weird; I looks to be about the right size for a Technic man…


…but it’s not. (I think it’s mostly due to a lack of leg room.)


Walrus scale seems wrong too.


The cars are even worse! Clearly the cars are too small for the truck, mostly due I think to the trailer being too small. It’s understandable why (price), but for this reason it’s not an accurate model.


On the other hand, scale is a common problem with LEGO, as Speed Racer proved.

Tow Truck


It’s a nice big heavy duty tow truck… so why is it paired with a sports car? :wacko:


Let’s get this out of the way; I messed up with the back of the car. I only realised it today. :blush: Just imagine the back SNOT plates being a stud higher.


The tow truck is probably the best detailed model of the three. The side fuel tanks in particular look great! They are actually built at a half stud offset so they align correctly.


I don’t think the car (even from the front) is as successful as the smaller ones. The squareness is too pronounced due to the extra width.


Imagine a crash. Screeech! Smash! Crash! Oh look; the rear of my car is mangled. Wake up!


First we deploy the winch….


…extend the boom…


…and connect the car.


With the winch pulling…


…the car is brought up to the wheel lift…


…but we’re not quite making it. I wonder why.


Oh look; the rear end is drooping. That was some crash!


We’ll need to lift it higher…


…and then retract the boom.


Hurrah! You’ll stop cheering when you see the bill; why you called a truck this big is quite beyond me.


Once again this has a confusing scale; the car is clearly not Technic man scale, but the truck seems to be. The roof in this model is not removable… and what’s that two-gears-on-an-axel supposed to be anyway?


The boom in this model is especially nice. It extends smoothly even though it seems rather short. The boom can be set low…


…or high by moving the strut.


The boom has a locking function, like the winch, but annoyingly it slips when the rope is under tension.


When retracted the boom drops though this hole; for this reason the boom can’t be much longer.

Mobile Crane


I love cranes. I love this photo too; from the thumbnail it looks like a real crane… or maybe it’s just me. Anyway let’s extend the boom…


…whoa; look at that bend! OK, I’m getting ahead of myself.


All things considered, I think it’s a good looking crane. (Please ignore the lifted plate….) As usual TLG make the boom too short, but as an alternate model I think it’s quite good.


Probably not the windshield though. Nice solution, but it just looks too weird to me. No easy access to the cabin in this model either, so I’ll be skipping the scale rant. (It looks close to Fabuland scale, and I tried to fit myself in the crane cab but my bottom was too big.)


The rear looks good though.


The crane has a decent height capability. The boom doesn’t lock in any way, but there is a grey pin provided which I saw as the given solution. It’s clunky but it does work. (It’s probably better than the 7249 lets-make-the-outer-too-small method.) The boom elevation is “locked” by two 2×4 plates which give you two settings. (Ignore the third one for now.)


The usual brush-leaning-on-a-gear method is used to brake the hook. It has stablisers too. In…


…and out. Hardly impressive or effective I know, but still! (Circular engine? Gas turbine?)


I’m not normally one to show construction photos, but this I thought was notable. There is no turntable provided with this set; so they make one from what’s in the set!


The carrier has an axle which connects to the cylinder in the center…


…which is then re-enforced. Does it work well?


First of all, it’s time to get back to that 2×4 plate. I wanted to be able to hold the boom lower, so I used a spare plate from the set to create an extra option! (Isn’t LEGO great!)


As you can see, the turntable lifts. This is because of the lack of counterweight (in a real crane, or a good model, the black part will be heavier), and to a lesser degree due to the weakness of the turntable. So it works OK, but not as good.


Pushing on the boom just a bit makes it worse. Maybe that’s why there isn’t normally a plate there?


So is it a good crane? Let’s compare! Enter 8288 Crawler Crane. :wub: It seems to have about the same height.


Well at first anyway!


Next; radius! Looks close!


Close enough I think.


Weight? I’d rather not; chance of part damage is too great, especially outside. But I will do the Domo test! Setting the weight over the center of the chassis as much as possible 6753 takes the load!


It is clear though that the turntable will fail soon.


Up goes Domo again!


No problem this time.


Time to let Domo rest I think.

Ratings

Functions:
Car Carrier: Steering, opening door, removable roof, removable trailer, ramps move on trailer
Tow Truck: Boom elevation, braked boom extension (geared), opening doors, braked winch
Mobile Crane: Boom elevation, boom extension, braked winch, crane slew without turntable piece

This set is a perfect example of the flexibility of LEGO. 10/10

Parts:
Nothing hugely exciting, but it’s a great mix. 9/10

Price:
At $149.99 AUD for 1294 parts it’s a good deal. Not as good as some prices of yesteryear, but that’s life! (I got mine for $100.) 9/10

Looks:
All of the models look quite good, but they all have their flaws. 7/10

Fudge:
Creator sets are a masterpiece. This set in particular contained special parts (such as the rope) especially for the alternate models. I like that. These sets are always a great buy as you know that they are good for more than just one model. However this set has one major defect; the yellow. I’m not one to go on about this too much, but the consistency of the colour wasn’t good. The mudguard pieces seemed semi transparent. 8/10

Overall: Buy! 8/10

Notes: I’ve been working on this since last year; I was delayed due to a house move. I ended up restarting so photos would be consistent thus this review is a lot later than I wanted. The set is still available, but I wanted this done last year. Sorry…

8466 4×4 Off Roader re-creation

It’s been a dream of mine to own a LEGO Technic Supercar… and it’s still a dream! (I’m not a big fan of spending large amounts of money on used LEGO.) But I have now achieved the next best thing; a recreation of 8466 using the parts I have. To make this several sets had to die; 8106 Aero Booster, 8292 Cherry Picker, 8838 Shock Cycle, 8145 Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano, 8297 Off-Roader and 8386 Ferrari F1 Racer are the most notable ones.

Mechanically it’s 90% the same, structurally it’s about 60% and externally it’s… well it’s close, but since I didn’t have many of the original fairings that had more holes in them I had to make bigger changes there!

In a lame effort to make it look accurate I used some of the clear engine blocks.

The gear box was my main goal. I’ve been studying the pictures and instructions of the supercars for a while, but I still was unclear what was actually going on. Making one and being able to observe one first hand has enabled me to finally understand them. This one in particular is cool as it has 5 speed and reverse. Supercar owners will notice that I don’t have the correct gearbox top piece.

It’s a big beasty of a model. To me the biggest failing is the smaller wheels; I might bite the bullet there and buy the real ones!

The doors to this are very cool. They can be controlled individually and you simply press the axle on the top…

…and the top lifts at the same time as the bottom lowering. Flashy, but not unbelievable.

For added proof how big this is; ‘Daddy! Can I drive? Pleeeease?’ Unlike the current Technic line, the steering wheel is not just decoration. The interior is the original design but I went for the leather option.


I used up most of the Ferrari 599 fairing and flexible axle parts on this!

The center diff; one of the rare true LEGO 4x4s. It was one of the main reason why I made this and not the Super Street Sensation. (I’d rather have made 8880 but it is older and I am missing too many parts still.)

Rear view. You can see in the foreground the mechanics for the doors and in the background the rear of the gearbox.

Front diff. The model uses an interesting (and rather wasteful) technique of having a gear as a spacer.

One of my big disappointments with the current 8297 Off-Roader is the suspension is way too stiff. Arguably this is correct, but it makes a poor technical demonstration. This model however has a much better suspension with better travel… however (at least with mine) the front seems slightly too soft. I’ll probably try to tweak it by adding a second shock later.

Here’s one reason why this model is far superior to most modern Technic sets; it has a four studded beams running for most of the length of the chassis. These beams are then cross reinforced. Thus no flexing. Note the lime parts in the steering; building this was a strain on my parts.

So does this mean I no longer want a real supercar set, new or old? Not really; in fact it makes me want one more! The amount of parts needed was stunning, but it does highlight that the parts are in circulation if TLG chose to make one. I suspect that they will in time. The new line of fairings should let them make a car that not only has great function but great looks as well!

I really love the way LEGO do suspension. Building this has been an interesting experience. I don’t own any of the older large sets and it seems to me that the instructions and the build itself have been simplified. Many of the steps needed more careful alignment than what is expected of today. I was dismayed how fast my collection of gears were whittled down, forcing me to pick more parts of other models and MOCs!

So what’s my rating? Well it seems rather silly to rate this set seeing I haven’t actually got it… but I’ll do it anyway!

Functions:

Shocks: Two front, two rear.
Drivetrain: 8 piston engine linked to the both wheels via 5 speed gearbox (with reverse), center differential, front and back differentials, plus universal and constant-velocity joints.
Steering: Rack and pinion via cab mounted steering wheel and hand of god on roof.
Doors: Damped gull wing doors with linked step.

This is the best drivetrain of any supercar. 10/10

Parts: Going by the original, this is a stunning kit. 10/10

Price: Looking at the sets I had to buy to be able to re-create this, I do wonder if I should have just bought one! I do have a lot of spare parts now though! However since I didn’t buy this as a set the rating makes no sense. N/A

Looks: Looking at the set photos, this set always seemed un-impressive to me. It wasn’t until I looked though the instructions when I realised how good this set was. Personally I think ignoring the smaller wheels, my version looks better… but it could just be that TLG took horrid photos. Eitherway, the original loses points here. 5/10

Fudge: It’s a supercar. 10/10

[b]Overall:[/b] Recommended. [b]10/10[/b]

There’s more pictures here. Nothing special, just slightly different angles.

REVIEW: LEGO Articulated Plush


Ever tried hugging a mini-fig? Hurts eh? Well thanks to the $25 AUD LEGO Articulated Plush you don’t need to suffer any longer.


This guy is obviously a construction fig, and his hat is removable. Unfortunately only the arms are “articulated” which does limit his use.


Aside from the yellow hands he’s a very close match to the real fig.


He is however better in that he has a back print and a full belt.


There’s actually four in the set, but since I’d rather spend $75 on actual LEGO I just bought one. (I’d probably feel different if they had different themes… or a female.) However for completeness I took these photos at the local K-Mart where I found them.


They all have back prints; the generic guy is supposed to have a cap but it was missing.


Here’s how they are supposed to be displayed. (K-Mart didn’t pay me for neatening up their shelf.)


It’s the perfect addition to a geeks soft toy collection!

10186 General Grievous vs Tonberry: Quasi-Review

I’ve been wanting to take photos of this set for a while, but due to his size and shape it’s hard. Recently I decided due to a combination of his bulk, fragility and wanting some of the parts that it’s recycling time, and that caused him to run out the door.


But I was prepared; I had a tonberry at the ready.


Undeterred Grievous attacks!


The fight rages on…


…and the General senses an advantage…


…but it was just a diversion and they resume their positions.


The tonberry notices the weak spot…


…and moves in to strike…


…but it’s skillfully dodged!


Both combatants pause…


…and Grievous realises he may have met his match…


…and that he might be defeated by a soft toy.


Go tonberry!

My plan to break this aside, I think this is a very under appreciated set. As I said earlier, the model is very hard to photograph due to the size and complex shape, and I do think that this is a model that’s best appreciated in person. Even so, it’s a pain to keep together; parts fall off all the time, it’s hard to put in different poses, hard to dust… and that’s why I decided that I’d give him one last hurrah! Taking these photos was hard; balance is always a huge problem with Grievous, and parts kept falling off which is not a good thing when you’re outside. (A few are noticeably missing; especially the sabers.)

But I think that TLG did a great job making a model like this with relatively few pieces and if I had more room and pieces I’d keep him together.

Review: Final Fantasy XIII

N.B. This is a fanboy perspective, and in part it’s a rebuttal to some of the negative Final Fantasy XIII reviews out there. I’ve tried to keep it free of major spoilers, but as a review it’s hard to avoid minor spoilers. Also, I took the screenshots with a camera, so I they aren’t the best representation of how the game looks.

Adamantoise

Introduction

Finished! After around 80 hours I finished the latest Final Fantasy game. (I did some side quests in the middle; you probably could finish it faster if you tried.) I planned to write a review instantly while it was all fresh in my mind, but due to time commitments I was unable. Thus I’m writing and posting this few weeks after the fact.

So what was it like? Well I’ll tackle that question in multiple parts and I’ll start with the obvious;

Graphics

Obviously the answer here is “stunning”. This is (quite unfairly) the best looking RPG I’ve played. In particular the cut scenes have spoiled me; I’ll be expecting nothing less from games from now on! (Interestingly I was playing Halo 3 at around the same time for a bit of variety, and it was a rude shock how average theirs was. The game itself is less disappointing.) For the most part it was hard to fault the cut-scenes; lip sync, character detail, character expression, character movement, lighting… all perfect. I’d be happy if they don’t try to better this aspect in the next game. Sure after a while you pick out things like some aspects being squarer than they should be, but think it’ll be a while before hardware can achieve perfect textured circles in a home system.

I’ve already mentioned it, but the character movements were quite good also. With a lot of older games (especially FFX, but also more recent games like Lost Odyssey) there seems to be a limited number of movement patterns, which become obvious after a while. Not so with FFXIII! I might notice some next time I play, but not yet.

Hecatoncheir

Pre-rendered scenes are especially stunning. I only have a 720 screen, yet I was wowed by the detail many times. Some scenes I suspect need a 1080 screen to be appreciated fully; I found the race track sequence a bit hard to tell what was going on at times, even on a second/third watch. (Advent Children is much like that too; the fight sequences make more sense on Blu-Ray.) Oddly the pre-rendered scenes in FFXII just didn’t seem “Square-ish” to me. I’m not sure why, but I suspect they (and the movies from Revenant Wings) were outsourced. Thus I was very pleased that the FFXIII scenes were to the same standard and style that I’m used to.

The fight scenes are spectacularly rendered as well. It was said that the goal was to have in a game a similar experience to Advent Children, and I think in regard to the fight scenes they succeeded. In particular there is lots of jumping, throwing and fast movement. Spells aren’t as flashy as they have often been in the past, but that I think is due to the faster nature of it all. However summons are very overdone, as usual and as expected. (More on the combat system later!)

Outside of fighting and just wondering around the worlds look beautiful as well. More than once I just stopped and rotated the view a bit to admire the sights. I found the The Sunleth Waterscape especially worth a half minute pause. The characters and backgrounds for the most part look the same in all four forms of the game, which adds a lot to the experience.

Sunleth Waterscape

Sound

First up, the voice talent is especially good by western standards. This has been happening more and more thankfully. The “Australian” accents are a bit annoying at first, but they made sense in the context of the story. While the music wasn’t by Nobuo Uematsu, it was still quite good. More subtle than I would like, but that’s better than being obvious and obnoxious! Masashi Hamauzu did most of the work on this one, he previously did Dirge of Cerberus for Square. (Now that’s an under-appreciated game… but that’s off topic!) Some parts I especially liked so I’m going to have to find the soundtrack. Other sounds I don’t have much to say about, but some aspects of the fighting sounds needed work. For example I found Hopes pain complaints especially annoying (they seemed the same every time and he made them a lot) and some of the character quotes linked to commands were played too commonly… especially potentially annoying ones line “We’ve gotta win this!” and “I have to see this through!”.

Whos' next?

The theme song was a pleasant surprise. I was smashing tables when I heard the double-blow news that Final Fantasy XIII would not only have a different theme song, but it wouldn’t be commissioned either. (Slight exaggeration.) However when I heard the song in the trailer I thought it was OK, and I must confess that after hearing it some more the song by Leona Lewis has grown on me somewhat. I still don’t understand why it needed to be changed in the first place though.

Polish

Lost Odyssey was a surprisingly good game. It persuaded me to buy a XBOX360 and when I first played it I found some parts of the combat system so beautiful that they made me cry. (True story; make fun of me if you want.) This may seem to be an irrelevant point but it’s not… because Lost Odyssey was let down by lack of polish. Much of the game felt unfinished to me, and certain aspects, such as the menu system, felt like they were designed for the Amiga 500.

Crystarium

Final Fantasy XIII for the most part is not a let down in this department. In particular the menus are beautiful (not tear worthy though) and there’s a nice flow to it all. The only aspect of the menu that I didn’t like was the Crystarium menu. (That’s the level-up system; it’s very similar to FFX.) By choice or design, I don’t know, it takes too long to open up and the process of switching another Role for the selected character seems clunky. That’s my only major complaint however; FFXIII even did good by showing in the inventory what is owned rather than just what is un-equipped and avoided my other not RPG-specific complaint of default-new-game-is-annoying.

I like the idea that you can complete the extras after the game. Sure this makes little sense from a story point of view, but casting Knights of the Round and winning each boss fight in FFVII with one summon is little better. This way at least you’re encouraged to finish the main game first at a less powerful level, and you can keep playing afterwards if you want. (As I am now!) I did however find annoying that yet again Square chose to not have easy access to movies and cut scenes. This is a feature that I really like as it means I don’t have to keep save games in certain spots to re-watch certain scenes… but Square hasn’t included this feature for a while. Why they do this I can only guess, with my best one being to encourage people to play the game again (or for the first time) rather than just watch videos.

Ready

On the subject of the extras, for the most part they are just “marks” otherwise known as really hard fights. Final Fantasy XIII does seem to have less diversity in mini-games, but since the main story can take 40+ hours I don’t really see a problem. (I’m almost up to 100 hours!)

Story

No actual details will be given here, but it’s obviously a variant of the usual “group of people (often young) get thrown together and save the world” type. Considering the limitations of this kind of story (it has been done before after all) I think it’s a good version. Each character has their own motivations and they all are involved roughly equally. Unlike previous Final Fantasy games there is no non-audio dialog which does increase accessibility. (Some people just don’t like reading story text.) Probably due to this there is a small amount of additional text in a database that expands/clarifies certain story elements and characters which while not required reading it’s smart to do so. Some reviews make out that this is a massive undertaking but I don’t agree; I just spent a few minutes each session “catching up”. It’s funny; JRPGs often are insulted for having too many cut-scenes, but at the same time reviewers are saying that the database should have been made into one. Go figure. (As a side note/comparison, FFXII had more database text but it was less required from a story point of view. For example FFXIII doesn’t have any text for the monsters, and while it was mostly pointless, it was also one of the parts I liked about the FFXII.)

Sheep

Final Fantasy XIII has been criticized by many as being linear, and for the most part this is true. It’s very similar in FFX in that; the story is constantly driving you forwards. Sure you can go back to a limited degree, but the story will generally progress in a way that prevents you going too far. Contry to most reviewers though, I preferred this to what they did in FFX. In FFXIII there is no way to go back most of the time so there’s no time wasted checking. As I found out after I played FFX, there are often good reasons to go back to previously visited locations, and some things can only be experienced/found prior to certain story points. Since up till near the end of the game you have no easy transport, doing so involves retracing your path, and suffering low-level random encounters the whole way back. So yeah, until Square return to a world map system (supposedly in Final Fantasy XIII Versus) I’d prefer things this way. (I strongly suspect that most of the game reviewers haven’t played FFX.) Besides, aren’t stories linear things? I realise that multiple endings are cool in their own way, but what’s wrong with a set story? To me Final Fantasy games have (in recent times) been about being part of a story and in that FFXIII succeeds.

Not everything is explained at the end however, but I think all Final Fantasy games are guilty of that. For example in FF7 who is Jenova? Is Jenova alive or is Sephiroth controlling her… or is the reverse true? Are there more Jenovas? In FF8 the obvious question is; Who landed and converted the Gardens? Why? How did people forget that these giant structures could fly? Do they run on EverReady or Duracell? I could go on, but in short unanswered questions is part of the Final Fantasy tradition.

Combat system

This has been a very mis-understood aspect of the game. Some reviewers I suspect have not played the game long at all as I’ve read things like…

You can finish the game by just pressing Auto
Characters don’t level up
Paradigm Shift is optional
Eidolon fights are un-winnable the first time
Fights are too long
The fight system is too different to other Final Fantasy games
The fight system doesn’t get good until the end

…and I agree with none of them. Some are sort of true, some are false and other are proof that the game isn’t for you. What follows is my take.

Preemptive Strike from the rear

In Final Fantasy XIII Square decided to increase the pace of the fighting without going for a “look mum, no hands” approach like in FFXII. (Every major fight in FFXII I left the room and came back a few hours later. My presence was not needed.) To achieve this they gave all character three main classes and instead of choosing what they do you choose what the can do. Once they are told that they just do it. What’s more, they do it locally. If you’ve met a monster before and he was immune to a spell it won’t be cast. I see this as a good thing; it ups the pace and reduces the tedium. To increase the pace further (and add to the strategy aspect) you pick the roles in groups (known as Paradigms) and you can only set six. It becomes clear soon that this is not enough, and you need to be careful when selecting. (You can change Paradigms only outside battles.) Aside from selecting Paradigms, you can select the actions of your party leader. Most of the time it’s impractical; you’re simply too slow. Thus unless you have an allergic reaction to pressing a button labeled “Auto” you should just press it. You’ll be too busy monitoring the enemies and the rest of the party and Shifting Paradigms to suit to feel guilty. The only time you should manually select what to do is if you want to use a special attack, an item, or summon an eidelon.

Eidelon? Oh yes, as usual, there is some form of summoning. It’s been a long time since summoning was as absolutely kick-arse as FF7… and to be honest it’s a good thing. They were so powerful and so unrestricted there that I often banned their usage in boss fights to make things seem more fair! Ever since summoning has been more restricted and/or less powerful. In FFXIII it is both. It takes time to build up a gauge to use them, an when called they are more useful as a tool than a weapon. For example they can be used to instantly weaken some enemies, and when they leave the fully heal the whole party. Their actual damage is rarely impressive… except in a visual sense! Like many Final Fantasy games they need to be won or defeated, and they vary. But that aspect is not as hard as some think. All you need to do is scan them (it’s an ability) and then that will tell you what you must do to impress them. Easy!

Rating

Characters do level up in FFXIII, but there’s no shown level, much like FFX. You are given points after each fight that you can spend on upping stats in a role, which also give you abilities, also much like FFX. (Any further explanations would be too convoluted.) Weapons can be upgraded as well, but this is better left to later in the game as money is really rare. But at the start you don’t even level up and many hours need to be spent (5-20, depending on speed and perspective) before the fight system gets good; prior to that you’re mostly pressing “auto” feeling sheepish. Even so, that’s always been the nature of Final Fantasy. It wasn’t until the last quarter of FFXII that you could get some of the best Gambits. Square give you one ability at a time to ease you into the game, and they do that as they change the system every time, no matter how popular the last system was.

Summary

Rating

I’ve said a lot and I have more I could say but I probably should leave it here! In short though, I think this is the best Final Fantasy yet. Sure, I’ll probably have Buster Swords thrown at me for saying so, but please note that this is a holistic point of view. I love Final Fantasy VII, and for years I’ve seen it as the best, but the combat system of FFXIII has won me over. FFVII is a great game, but after playing it 5+ times it’s really clear how unfinished and unpolished the game is. If Square ever get around to re-doing it and making the game characters look the same throughout the game (even Minfigs don’t have block hands!) and clean up some of the translations and other oddities I might feel different, but for the time being I have a new favorite! (In order; 13, 7, 10, 8, 12, 9, 10-2. Others are too old to compare and I haven’t played 6.) It’s not a perfect game, but it is a great experience and a lot of fun.

Paradigm Shift

One final word; if you have a choice, don’t buy the 360 version. While Square did a great job porting it over in a short time, it runs at a lower resolution and the videos are compressed. Why pay the same for a lesser experience?

852759 LEGO Ruler, How does it measure up?

Believe it or not, this has been a dream part of mine for a while, and thus I bought one of these at my earliest opportunities. As it turns out that was about six months after release and by then it was half price. (It still is.) In any case, on with the review!

Ruler, top
Here it is. The red colour is a good one as it allows black printing to be easily readable.

Ruler, bottom
The reverse side is a bit of a letdown. I think they should have found some use for it… but I must confess that I can’t think of anything aside from technic ratio formulas.

Ruler Mini-fig comparison
Here it is compared to a mini-fig so you can get an idea of its size.

Ruler usage
In use. It works well for measuring axels and beams of both varieties.

Ruler, height measurement
It’s less effective when using it to measure height as you can’t sit it flush with the bricks. (The leading edge should have been a half-stud-gap width.)

Ruler, other applications
But the uses don’t stop with LEGO; you can use it to measure anything you want!

In summary this is a great tool for measuring LEGO… but it really is at it’s most useful when building technic models from PDF files. (Which is mostly why I wanted it.) In most other cases TLG either have 1:1 comparisons or have colour differences to avoid confusion. Thus I think this has very limited appeal.

Arealight Twi’lek Quasi Review

I recently bought some Arealight Twi’leks and I thought I’d share some quick photos of them!

My girls
They are very well moulded, have great colour matching, and the printing is excellent. The waisted torso is an especially cool concept that I wish TLG would do; if you’re going to print breasts and hips you might as well use a different piece! You can find more photos of these lovely ladies on the Arealight Flickr page.

Twi'lek torso bottom
Here you can see inside the torso. It’s much the same as the TLG parts, but with a hip. I’ve given it a few test squeezes and it seems strong.

Twi'lek torso back
What appears to be a moulding mark is visible at certain angles. It isn’t overly noticeable normally.

Rematch
“Two against one? No fair!”

As a bit of trivia, all of the Twi’leks are based off “real” characters.

White: Lyn Me, Max Rebo Band dancer in Return of the Jedi Special Edition.
Blue: Aayla Secura, Jedi Master.
Red: Darth Talon, Sith Apprentice in Star Wars: Legacy comics. (Never read so I don’t know any more.)
Orange: Ayy Vida, General background nobody in Attack of the Clones that someone seems to like a lot. (She’s supposed to be yellow and red.)
Green: Oola, The rancors lunch.

Also I bought some hair and a blank torso .

Hair inside
Looks very standard on the inside. It’s hard to see but there seems to be a “makers mark” on the inside of the inverted stud. A stylised “A” and “L”?

Tight fitting clothes!
Some of the hair pieces have a relatively obvious mould mark on the top. (You can see it in this photo.) It isn’t a major concern though, and I suspect it’ll improve with handling/fondling.

Even so, I highly recommend Arealight’s work.