Thursday, March 13, 2014

Kit Insight: RG 1/144 ZGMF-X20A Strike Freedom Gundam (Straight Build)


Hi everyone,

In the beginning, Real Grade (RG) kits didn't really appeal to me that much: the sheer number of stickers and decals that were required to be applied turned me off from the series, in addition to its higher cost as well as limited variety. Plus, runner previews unveiled a plate count of at least twice the usual Gundam-type High Grade (HG) kit, an important factoid for lazy ol' me.

Then the Strike Freedom came out, with its chrome gold electro-plated wings and dirty gold inner frame. I always had a soft spot for the Freedom-series of Gundams (and also shiny things), so naturally I took a second gander at this particular RG kit. Before I knew it, the box was in my hands and an order for its add-on expansion had been placed.

Thus began my RG collection.



Overview

Fear my guns!
Be forewarned: RG kits are not for the faint of heart. If you've read this page, you'd know that RG kits combine the best aspects of the three main grades of Bandai model kits. The inner frame is indeed a revolutionary innovation for HG-size kits, but at the same time it becomes a bane as you are working with certain pieces that are smaller than usual HGs for the sake of detail. Nonetheless, the building process and the finished product will cause you to take a step back and involuntarily say "Wow".

Construction


RG kits come with a ton of runners, there is no doubt about that. Each colour is molded rather than reproduced with stickers, and multiple shades of the same colour can exist in the same package. The emphasis on RG is to recreate mobile suits of old using modern technology, allowing modelers to see how such suits will be constructed in the present day. For the Strike Freedom, its design is almost a decade old, and comparing with the more recent Gundam designs, it is really starting to show its age. 

The RG Strike Freedom is many times better than its HG Seed counterpart, featuring vastly improved articulation, updated specifications, refined proportions as well as having an immense level of detail. I dare say that the level of detail is on par with even the PG 1/60 Strike Freedom, having a labyrinth of panel lines, indentations, valleys and other aesthetic markings. 

Be prepared to spend hours just putting the kit together, as almost everything has to be built: from the shoulder flaps to the armor covering the calf verniers to the Super Dragoon System. At first, you will be surprised or even taken aback by the sheer amount of work you have to do.  But as you go along, you will find yourself enjoying the process, especially when fitting individual armor plates onto the amazing inner frame. It really feels like you are assembling a fearsome war machine, albeit one that fits into your palm.

Detail


No matter how advanced Bandai's model kit technology gets, the eye-sticker is never going away. The Strike Freedom provides two sets of eye-stickers for this purpose: the standard, super-foil version of the usual one-piece eye-sticker, as well as two individual "eyes" printed in the same shiny super-foil. Due to the ridiculous onus on detail, the head parts can be frustratingly small, and it might take you a while to properly position the eye-sticker before you are satisfied. 

A gripe I have with the Strike Freedom is the gold used for the inner frame. It's the same gold used for the HGUC 1/144 RX-0 Gundam Unicorn 03 Phenex, although a little brighter and less repulsive. It's a pity that Bandai hasn't come up with a matte gold finish for their gold-coloured kits, it would be infinitely better than the gold we are so used to being disappointed with. 

Panel-lining buffs will have a field day doing up the Strike Freedom, as mentioned earlier the whole kit is brimming with lines and lines and lines. You don't really have to do much with the head though, the details are already there after construction, including the goddamned vulcans. That's how detailed the kit is.

Another defining feature of the RG is the realistic decals that allow you to adorn your kits with warnings, weapon names and code numbers. An evolution of the decals of old HGUC kits that gave you the option of pasting numbers and formation patches on your kits, these realistic decals are actually simplified versions of MG water decals and scaled-down versions of PG decals. Due to the fact that they are so damned small, tweezers and narrow head cotton buds are REQUIRED in order to properly apply these. Also, it is recommended to undertake decal application in a well-lit place with minimal air movement - a single gust of wind can send one of your tiny decals to the next dimension.

Articulation


Inner frame technology has its merits: it provides the Strike Freedom with a whole range of motion that its HG Seed cousin can never hope to accomplish. Its forearms can almost touch the shoulders, it can kneel unassisted and it can adequately perform all the crazy-ass maneuvers that are so characteristic of the Gundam Seed series. 

However, as with MG kits, this inner frame can also cause some frustration. Armor components are "grafted" to this inner frame, which rub against each other when the kit is moving. Sometimes, parts just pop off, and it can get really annoying when you are executing a delicate pose that can only be captured once. Thankfully, these incidents are few and far between, if your kit has been constructed well, posing shouldn't be a big issue.

One of the top confusions I have is the Action Base mounting method for the RG series of kits. What is wrong with the modern one-peg hole used for HGs? Why must you change it to a weird-ass part that doesn't even support the kit at all? To circumvent this, I had to resort to using a traditional, four-pronged peg to fit the Strike Freedom onto Action Base 001. Like the development plan of Bandai Hobby Division, this is another mystery of the universe.

Extras


The Strike Freedom comes with its dual high energy beam rifles, the hip-mounted Xiphias-3 rail cannons, two Super Lacerta beam sabers with long blades, 8 Super Dragoons and ONE beam shield. Yeah you read right, it only gets one silly beam shield with the beam part achieved via a four-piece sticker. It is beyond me as to why Bandai doesn't just mold the thing in clear blue.


A P-Bandai exclusive for the Strike Freedom is the Wings of the Skies special effect part along with a Smoke-Clear Action Base 001 with parts to display the Super Dragoons. This is really a fantastic add on to the kit as it truly showcases the full ferocity of the Strike Freedom, showcasing all of its Super Dragoons on attack vectors. The Wings of the Skies themselves are pretty solid parts molded in clear plastic that display a veritable spectrum of colours under light, and fit amazingly with the wings of the Strike Freedom.

Conclusion


I'd admit, the RG Strike Freedom gave me more than I bargained for. I knew it would take a long time to finish this kit, but I actually spent six hours on it. For contrast, I finish a standard HG kit in around two hours, without any extra work of course. Decal application took the bulk of that time, but without those decals, a RG kit cannot be said to be complete.

For a first RG kit, the Strike Freedom is a great choice, delivering the most value for your $52.95.

Happy building!