Sep 262007
 
CR-CR09U3 Cascade Range

Scale – 1/72 Full Action Plastic Kit
Series – Armored Core Variable Infinity Series
Game – Armored Core Last Raven (Intro AC Cascade Range)
Price – ₱1,298.00 (¥2,800)
Number of parts – Eleven large frames for parts and weapons, two frames for polycaps, one small frame for clear red eyepiece, one small frame for clear eyepiece. 257 pieces in all.
Stock colors – Silver, dark metallic gray, gunmetal gray, matte black, clear red, clear.


Opening remarks

The second model kit to be released in the Variable Infinity series, this AC is the one featured in Last Raven’s intro movie. My initial impressions about it were mixed. At its size, I thought it would be comparable in quality to any 1/100 HG Gundam kits, that the detail would be alright but not MG-ish. Imagine my surprise when I first opened the box and saw the insane amount of detailing on the pieces. Everything about the kit was leagues higher than any HG kit I’ve seen before. The little parts making up the details, the panel lines on the plastic: Heck, even the color molding itself is almost-perfect. Even now, a few months after first buying the kit, I still find myself staring at it for minutes at a time. It’s just that great.

The Head

The SR2 head is composed of twelve pieces plus the polycap. Decide first whether you want to use the clear red piece for the eyes or the clear one. After that, you just snap it onto the chin and everything else, except for the antenna on top and the back plating, goes on the sides. I’ve noticed that there is something Zeon-like about the head, with an almost evil glare to it that’s reminiscent of the Gelgoog Marine, the Gouf or the Gerbera Tetra. An annoying thing I noticed is on the front of the head. Unless you’re going to paint the kit and add some putty to mask it up, you can see one huge seam line running down the front of the head.

The Core

The U3 core unit of the AC is actually composed of two main parts: the front section which has the CAMS, which connects to the attachment-point atop the legs and the back section with the boosters and hardpoints for the back weapons, which, connects to the front section. Construction for the back section is a walk in the garage. The back section has a good amount of detail, with what looks like a propellant tank for the boosters slung under the main fuselage and situated between the boosters. The boosters themselves look cool, although I haven’t the foggiest idea about which make they are, as the manual doesn’t specify. Also of interest are what appears to be exhaust vents, cooling fins and heat dissipaters for the radiator on the upper part of the core, just behind the head. Most of the front part’s surface parts are mounted on an internal two-piece assembly, including the front and side armor plates, the attachment points for the shoulder joints and the CAMS assembly. Take care in assembling the shoulder attachment pieces as there is a couple of wire-like parts that have to be attached to slots in the core. Details are excellent: the heat vents on the sides of the core, the exhaust pipes in the rear and CAMS system in front. The construction for both pieces is rather simple, as all parts fit together easily. It’s only when you have to snap the two together that you’ll run into a bit of a snag as you have to make sure that all the connecting pieces, including the cables and the fuel drum, line up together properly or you’ll have a hard time jamming them in. Brute force is a liability here as you run the risk of snapping a couple of parts if you force them together. Ease them in gently and you’ll come out okay. Combined, the core has the most parts used in assembling it. One annoying thing is that the combined weight of the core’s rear portion and the weapons equipped on it sometimes causes the whole thing to tip over backwards.

The Arms

This is a big improvement over the MACAQUE arms in the GAEA kit, which could only be moved vertically. The XS arms here can be positioned any way you want, including to the sides instead of just aiming forward like in the previous kit. The shoulder armor (including the pauldrons) and upper arms are composed of twelve parts in all with a four-part elbow joint that connects it to the forearms. The elbow joints slide into a slot near the back of the forearms and thus has a tendency to slip off sometimes. I’d recommend gluing the two pieces together if you’re the type who plays with their kits often (like me :P).

Included with the kit are six hands. Two closed-fist hands, two with which to equip the hand weapons and two with angled joints for fully-stretched-out weapon-poses. Both arms have slots on one side where you can mount arm weapons like laser and parry blades, grenade rifles or shields. The hands end up in pegs, on which you have to place polycaps when you attach them to the arms themselves: meaning if you wanna change weapons, you’re gonna hafta swap out the hands themselves.

There is quite a bit of detail on the arms including hardpoints for any extension parts you can get from weapon sets or other VI kits on the shoulder, a vernier of some sort on the underside of the shoulder armor, some tubes the use of which I haven’t determined are mounted on the wrist armor and on the underside of the forearms. There’s even space on the shoulder pauldrons for emblems and logos if you really wanna customize your kit. In my case, I cut out something which looks like the emblems used by 10th-century Templars from a plain sticker sheet I had lying around.

One complaint I have about the arms in the kit is that they seem a bit disproportionate compared to the in-game XS arms. In the game, it was classified as one of the lightweight arms, reaching just a little past the waist area. Instead, the ones in the kit are bigger and reach all the way down to the thighs of the model.

The Legs

The 0S2 legs are composed of four main parts: the (for lack of a better term) crotch piece, the thigh section, the knees, shin and ankles sections and the feet sections. Snapping together the feet, the (excuse me) crotch and the thighs are easy enough compared to the lower legs themselves. This part of the legs are a bit complicated due to the inclusion of a board which mounts some sort of pneumatic-shaft-like piece and another one which mounts the verniers on the upper rear part of the lower legs. These two pieces go between the main halves of the legs and need some work to get them in right, especially if you decide to paint this kit (That’s alright just as long as you sand them edges to get rid of the excess paint as the insertion slots are sized just right for unpainted plastic). You have to be a bit careful in lining up these pieces or you’ll just end up with a set of awkward looking legs.

Both legs connect to the (ahem) crotch piece via two ball joints which go into the sides of the (I hate repeating this word) crotch piece. There is a ball joint on top of this where you mount the core unit. Detailing for the legs is good: the verniers on the backs of the legs, the pneumatic shafts on the insides of the heels and the rear of the legs and the fluting on the front of the thighs. A couple of complaints of mine are that the thighs could’ve been made a bit longer, as they seem kinda short for a mecha and that the heels on the back of the feet be extended a bit farther back as their shortness causes some stability problems when displaying the model, due to the bulkiness of the rear portion of the core and the weight of the weapons when mounted.

The Weapons

Ahhh, the weapons. What mech model kit would be complete without them? With this kit, you get an RP3 rocket launcher, a HYDRA missile pack, an LB4 laser blade and a PYTHON railgun. The RP3 has six parts, the HYDRA has nine and the PYTHON and LB4 have seven each.

Construction is simple enough as all parts snap together easily but you have to decide first where to mount the back weapons because that’ll be the deciding factor on which parts you’ll be using in building them. The HYDRA and RP3 have specific left and right parts so choose wisely, because once assembled (especially if painted), you’ll have a tough time taking them apart if you want to reposition them. Trust me as I first built the HYDRA for the left hardpoint. When I decided to switch parts so that I could mount them on the right, I damn near broke the attachment point in getting it off the missile pack itself.

All weapons are nicely detailed. The railgun has the three magnetic guidance vanes (those three barrels) flanking the discharge muzzle in the center. The LB4 has a very neat looking blade emitter while the HYDRA and the RP3 are picture-perfect replicas of the in-game ones. Painting is unnecessary for some weapons (as the LB4 and the HYDRA look just fine) except for the railgun and the rocket launcher. Both pieces are molded in dark gunmetal gray and need a bit of painting if you want them to look like the in-game ones.

However, for all their coolness, there are also some flaws. I just hate it that the HYDRAs front don’t open up to allow any missile-launching poses. In the game, you can clearly see the front covers opening up when you activate the weapon but not here. Also, there isn’t any laser blades included for the LB4 instead. Kotobukiya apparently decided to cut a few corners and didn’t add a transparent piece for the blade. Damn shame as I was looking forward to being able to replicate the slash-and-dash move that the Cascade Range did in the intro when it finished off the Alliance AC. Last complaints are the proportions of the HYDRA and the PYTHON: they’re just wrong, with the HYDRA being way smaller than the one in the game and the PYTHON being far larger and longer than you’re used to seeing. Forgivable actually, as they still look fine.

Summary and opinions

For about the price of a high-grade kit, you get a master-grade-ish one instead. Perfect for those looking to start collecting AC kits. Very high quality compared to similarly priced HG Gundam kits and what few flaws it has will be overlooked quickly enough. It really is that good. Plus, everything is modular: you can use parts from other kits to create your very own AC, just like in the game. Problem is, you’ll probably have to paint everything from scratch to make the parts mesh together well. Another plus is that if you get bored with the weapons included in the kit, there’s always the expansion sets released that come with assorted parts and weapons to further customize your kit.

Even if you don’t decide to paint the model and just snap it together, you won’t be disappointed. Model kit newbies may have a tough time dealing with the number of part while more experienced builders will find the challenge just right. Either way, once assembled, the kit has a very solid feel that is seldom seen on similarly-sized kits. The joints on the knees and the elbows don’t wear out easily and the full-range of motion is allowed: from kneeling to holding the weapons double-handed to outlandish victory-poses: the only limit is your imagination.

For those who do intend on painting it, a few days effort will leave you with a competition-worthy display piece. Buy this kit, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed because the quality is worth so much more than what you paid for.

Looks good right out of the box – You betcha!

Complexity – Moderate for experienced modelers, hard for beginners.

Detail – Let’s just say you’ll spend at least half an hour going over it with a magnifying glass.

Playability – Fully-articulated. Go nuts with the poses!

Final rating

4 out of 5 micro missiles
4starrating

  • Vhayste

    Awesome model kit.

  • Vhayste

    Awesome model kit.