|Axalara T9, First Look|
Posted by on July 11, 2008 at 12:26 PM CST:
Who better to ride this king of the sky than the toa who has made his home there, Axalara T9 is this years, if not one of the largest sets in the entire BIONICLE? toy line, and is piloted by a special edition Lewa Nuva. The makuta of Karda Nui can only hope Lewa cant aim...Most of us have had the general idea since the Metru Nui storyline that the friendly green toa are either daring, crazy, or some combination of the two and are probably the closest embodiment of a free spirit among the toa and matoran of their element, so when you put Lewa at the seat of the BIONICLE? equivalent of a high-end jet fighter your making a good choice.
This set being huge, it has alot of big parts, and comes with plenty of technic beams to hold it all together, along with a nice assortment of smaller parts to create the inner workings and mechanisms. Most of these parts are actually silver, black, and grey while the exterior has a red detailing. If you like red parts, you will find a good few to add to your collection while at the same time getting plenty of darker and grey colored beams and parts for other future creations, that is if you can bring yourself to tear this beautiful machine apart. However if you've bought it strictly for the parts, I strongly urge you to build the model before you scrap it for another creation. Most of the parts found within are actually older parts while the newer parts are the decorative exterior and hidden midak blasters.
Some of the newer parts are the red shells surrounding the body of the ship,
And then there are the shields at the front most end of the ship
These bars connect to the sockets with the spheres at one end which usually serve for holding rubbr bands. These aren't new parts but they are new to BIONICLE.
We also have Visor and Mask parts, probably the only thing special edition about the special edition Lewa Nuva.
These fins are sort of like the little brother of the wings that came with Kopaka Nuva (Phantoka). Both of which are in several of the Mistaka sets.
Heres a close up of the "Tripple Angled Slat", too bad only two of these are found in the set, but the directions for the tri-wings show us how to build larger tripple angled bars, which could be very useful for some MoCs.
Nothing else is really new, but the wheels may be worth noteing. The larger ones are mostly decorative
Yep, this thing merits a construction section. Ive taken several shots as I built it in hopes that I can show you some of the inner workings that intrigue us (and myself) since when we get pictures we don't really see construction phase shots when we're curious about the innards. Even at the Toy Fair preview I didn't get the opportunity to manipulate it let alone get a demonstration. The process of construction is well managed and mostly broken down into constructing sections and connecting them, I wouldn't call it a difficult build so much of a long build and even there I had to stop to take pictures and organize each bag of parts before building so you can imagine I wouldn't be able to say it takes an hour or to to build. Half the fun of course is building it and trying to guess what exactly your working on as you make the progress, but unlike other larger sets Ive built like the Bahrag Queens, it was more so entertaining to build than painstaking or annoying. Its been so long since Ive had a good set with mechanisms and gears, beams and connectors, as opposed to sockets and connecting limbs or generally more "organic" BIONICLE sets which I'm not sure technically qualify as "technic" sets.
The Axalara T9 itself...
I don't get to add a mechanisms section in my reviews much anymore, so I'm always lad to be able to do so when I get the chance. Axalara T9 has three separate mechanisms, not including the Midak Skyblasers. Each mechanism is controlled by and easily accessed by three wheels along the sides. the three wheels on the left side are attached to the three wheels on the right side, meaning you have access to the mechanism controls on either side. The first two smaller knobs positioned right above the handle (yes, it's so big they designed a built in handle, a little small for my hands though, but we could build an extension to it...) control the hidden midaks at the front of the ship, and the tri-arms in the rear of the ship (I understand these project a shield around the ship, but with Lewa at the helm you might call it a self cleaning windshield, you better watch out there, Bitil).
The midak mechanism, sadly doesn't fire them for you, rather it reveals them for you to reach over and pull the trigger mechanisms which are a hassle to reach and aim, even for me.
The knobs closer to the back of the ship trigger the Tri Arms to open from their resting position. Due to their manner of construction, from their resting position you can open them by rotating their knob from a middle position to either the left or right position. Theres no real difference in turning it left or right since both directions cause the arms to open at the same angle, since the arms are basically pulled open when the triple angled beam twists the connectors and pulls the arms to their open position. The arms themselves are very reminiscent of the stinger on the Nui Jaga scorpion set and don't really serve for anything other than decoration, But its very cool to look at the arms open and close. The shields covering the lower two arms compliment the design by how you can see the movement between the forks of the shields.
The last mechanism, controlled by the larger wheel flips out the landing gear. Two Bordahk staffs located under the vehicle rotate more than ninety degrees as they flip out from their position parallel to the sides of the ship to a very effective standing position. It's ingenious how well they work and they've been nicely reinforced with a simple, yet effective crossbar trick that Ive only seen recent years. By the way, don't let the toothed gears in the part pictures fool you, those are decorative. All the gears running the mechanisms are those odd four pronged cogs used strictly as right angle transmissions. These have proven very effective and don't easily come undone or skip like some of the toothed gears do. I should also point out that theres at least one "minor" difference between the ship on the box and the ship the instructions tell you to build. If you note on the box where the lower two shells (the ones with the slightly curved spikes) hinge open, you will see a red peg holding the hinge in place, while the instructions tell you to place a tan free swiveling peg instead, which stick out in color from the other parts. By the time I realized this difference, I had already placed the few spare pats in one of my bins, and I didn't check to see if you were given two extra red pegs to place there. I don't know why exactly they changed this, I guess the red pins put just a little too much friction on the mechanism to open the doors, which requires a fairly strong turn, or perhaps it just looked better on the box that way to the marketing department. Unless I missed a step that told me to place one of my un-used pegs somewhere to stop it at that position, my midaks open horizontally parallel to the ground. While visually not as appealing as the open position shown on box, they are easier to fire and load from this position. With a little practice however, you will find you can easily recreate the box's firing position without modifying the set's instructions by not turning the knob too quickly, and up to a certain angle the midaks will remain in that halfway opened position impervious to the effects of gravity.
Well, this thing is pretty impressive and has plenty of playability. For one, its got all those mechanisms. It's a big rocket and has a convenient grip, and is for the most part durable enough to play with, though you wont want to be smacking it into anything with much if any force at all, especially from the front of the ship as the two shields are flimsily plugged into the front. Airships like this are somewhat new to the BIONICLE toy line, but finally having something to "zoom" around the house unconfined to the floor has it's novelty, as you dive bomb the older sets from angles you probably couldn't realistically fire at from before. It is pretty heavy, and lets not forget it's bulk, this thing is roughly four cannisters long by nuva canister measurement, and about three inika canisters long, making it significantly difficult for smaller children to carry around. This is also an INSIDE toy like most LEGO? models, fire off the midaks in the grass, I dare you, You'll never seem them again. Sadly since this should be confined to indoors, you will need plenty of room to really play with it and a rather large place to store it.
It's dimensions make it tricky to store on a shelf and nearly impossible to fit it in a box, not that I would want to hide this beautiful and attention grabbing set out of view, except, perhaps to keep the dust off of it. And then theres Lewa of course, what over-sized Airship is complete without it's pilot? Lewa, or whatever pilot you stick in there, mounts it hunched forward (so as not to be knocked unconscious by the upper tri arm when it opens) and his hands grip a handle bar while the feet plug in by the ankles to a free swiveling axel. This keeps him pretty stable in the seat, while not restricting his range of motion too much. You will find you can squeeze a few satisfactory poses while he's connected to the ship. Lewa isn't too well constructed and could at least have used two pins on the upper body to hold it in place, rather than just the two at the hip holding the frontal plate on. He's very basic, and lacks any tools or interesting details other than the new mask and finned visor. Sadly my regular Lewa Nuva Phantoka is in storage, but I dare say it should have come with a regular Lewa Phantoka marketed as having the special edition mask. As far as I can tell, regular edition Lewa would fit just fine in the set and look better, and thanks to the unused section just before the hidden midaks, we even have an empty space that flips open where we could have stuffed his tools pre-flight. It baffles me though that this space was left unused while Vultraz's jet uses it's own empty space in a similar area to store extra midak ammo. I'm sure something even more clever could have occupied the space, if only a couple gears turning some engine thingy, or better yet raising a targeting reticule through the gap in the case up to Lewa's face since the transmission rod running through that section is hooked up to the midak's opening mechanism. Needless to say, other than playing with the set as is, you will find it has potential in the way of customization too.
While not as versatile as the smaller sets to display, this is far more impressive, but requires a bit of space. Try to find yourself a toa inika, mahri, or phantoka canister and lay it flat on the ground. Just accommodating the landing gear you will need roughly the space of four of the larger/flatter canisters. now measure out-wards one canister from the square space created by the four canisters from the middle side of one square. This is about how much more space you should have so it isn't sticking out over a table where it can get knocked off, if its closer to ground level. Just to be safe you might need two or three more inches because at this point, the front-most of the Axalara T9 still sticks out a little bit. Now, measure one of the taller/flatter canisters up from the ground, then turn it sideways and measure by the width of the canister up-wards from the previous hight measured. The main body of the ship on it's landing gear is roughly one canister tall, accounting for Lewa and the upper tri arm is the second canister on it's side from the top of the last canister measurement. Even with the tri arms opened, when the sip is sitting on a flat surface with this much floor, the tri arms are forced to being just an inch or two short of their fully opened position.
While these measurements will vary a bit, this is roughly how much space you need to store or display this thing. For storage, the only thing you can remove to get more clearance without a major disassembly are the frontal shields and the two turbines at the very front of the ship. It's not much but it's significant. The Axalara is best displayed at eye level on a platform with the landing gear holding it up, theres really no other way unless your willing to trust the strength of some string and mount it mid-air to the ceiling somewhere. If you have the parts you can even create a custom display to keep it off the ground in flight position with the tri arms open, but expect that to be a MoC in itself since it will require a sturdy build to hold this up. Thankfully the underside poses several optimal positions to attach the mount to, but I would suggest building one that you can easily lift the axalara right off of to show your friends, and design it to hold it at the very front and back ends so you could open close the landing gear while mounted. I would just as gladly pay twenty dollars or so for a stand kit that would allow just that, preferably one with the little information card like the ones you see with the star wars ultimate collectors edition sets produced by the LEGO company. It's a little on the hallow side but it's design for the most part draws the attention away from those areas, you might consider leaving the shell panels open so people can see inside, but theres not much other than it's own framework to make it interesting enough to leave it that way. I personally would have covered up more of the area around the pilot's seat and the control knobs for the mechanisms. I see several spots that would have been helped with a bohrok shield or some toa nuvu upper leg armor, even if they were just slapped on.
Another drawback, those little curved spikes? Those are NEVER a good detail when their sitting in free swiveling plugs, especially since their in a door that pops open and closed they constantly and easily get knocked out of their intended position, so you will find yourself fixing them every other time you walk by it unless you block access to it's immediate are with a rope or your friends get tired of messing with it, or YOU...somehow people find it amusing to go into my room and reposition odd things on my displayed sets when I'm not looking just to watch me spot the adjustment and correct it.
Well, it does have it's drawbacks and leaves some things to be desired but thats mostly after you look at all the cool things this set gives us and consider what else would have made it better. It has plenty of not so common MoC parts that are more common to the bigger LEGO Technic sets than the more recent BIONICLE sets, so this brings us back to BIONICLE's origins as a theme produced under the technic devision. It combines function with detail nicely, and is particularly fun to manipulate even if your not the type to play with them. Its got great MoCing potential and has some techniques to teach us about building. Its a great piece to display and collect. It's probably the best BIONICLE set in recent years, if not one of them.