So far Bandai’s Real Grade line has been pure win thanks to an amazing amount of detail packed onto that very distinct frame design. When I mentioned some time ago that I felt an RG Zeta could see the light of day I was immediately reminded that it is a transforming mobile suit and that was something Bandai hadn’t yet pulled off in 1/144 scale form. Well, the 1/144 RG Zeta Gundam has arrived, has been built, and will now be reviewed.
Overall Look: 10/10
I’ve always liked the look of the Zeta. It seems such a departure from the RX-78-2 blocky look. It looks fast and it is meant to be fast. After all, it transforms into a plane type of vehicle. He also just looks meaner, especially the head. Bandai has done a great job of creating the Zeta in Real Grade form and this is even more of a feat wen you consider that this kit is meant to transform. Oh, and check out these details!
Again we see the blue, red, white, yellow but the use of the colors on the Zeta surpasses that of the RX-78-2 where the color scheme originated. The large amount of black used for the backpack balances out the abundance of blue.
No Hyper Mega Launcher. That was the most commented on aspect of the kit’s weapons when it was released. On the one hand that is a disappointment, but on the other, Bandai did release a transforming kit and did keep the price point reasonable with an MSRP of 3,000 yen compared to the 2,500 MSRP for previous Real Grades. The weapons they did provide aren’t lacking. You’ve got the four beam sabers and two handles, plus the rifle which features good detail and the movement in the handles needed to mount it to the gundam and the flight form.
And the shield looks great and comes with the extra missiles.
It also extends as well.
The rifle and shield both mount easily to the Zeta.
While those big, blue shoulders do tend to block the motion of the arm, the skirt armor is more than adequate in allowing movement in the leg. The design for the skirt is such that the front and side skirt armors move around the torso during the transformation but this also means that while playing with your Zeta in Mobile Suit form you will quite often see the side skirt armor look like this.
You’ll have to put it back in place after moving the leg around. The large backpack can also cause Zeta to tip over backwards but if you work at it you can still do things like this.
Build Design: 8.5/10
Let’s face it, the quality of the RG Zeta as a whole rests on its ability to transform. If Bandai had just released it as a mobile suit then it would be easy enough to evaluate it as such, but Bandai went for the home run with the Zeta releasing something ambitious. So the question is, does it work?
Yes, it does! The big difference between the RG Zeta transforming frame and those of the MG ReZEL and Delta Plus, for example, isn’t just in the size. The Real Grade line uses Bandai’s Advanced MS Joint frame, which I’m sure most everyone is familiar with by now. This frame is somewhat flexible but also, being small and having joints molded into it, fragile. If you mishandle something or exert pressure at the wrong place and angle it could damage the frame or break it entirely. Because of this Bandai is quite thorough in the instruction manual for the transformation sequence. If you follow the steps carefully, following along to the diagrams in the manual, you should be able to transform your Zeta without incident.
The critical side of me says that might be too much. That they should have made it simpler, in order to avoid people accidentally breaking something. However, from the opposite perspective, it’s quite amazing that they could engineer it to do what it does. I’m more than a little impressed actually. It is remarkable what Bandai have accomplished.
Many people have seen by now that I actually broke off the arm on my Zeta. I suspect this happened as I was folding the wings in trying to attach them to the shield. While it would be easy to say, ‘Stupid design! What the hell?!’, I feel more that it is a matter of me not paying as much attention as I should have.
Going back to the simple stuff, I should mention that the Zeta in Mobile Suit form is a little unstable. Because the feet are designed to transform there tends to be some play in them which, due to the weight of the backpack, can make Zeta start to lean, but Bandai designed in the little tabs on the back of the feet which counteract this.
All you need to do is adjust those little tabs in the heel and your Zeta will be standing securely. No repeat of the MG Delta Plus, which was something I secretly feared.
The use of the ball and socket connection on the backpack is also a simple idea put to good use.
When it comes time to move those wings around, eventually flipping them 180 degrees, the ball and socket perform admirably, and even provide you with the ability to complete remove the ball from the socket if you need more room to work with.
Perhaps my only real gripe with the design is in the previously mentioned side/front skirt assemblies. They are meant to move a lot during the transformation which means they will move around a lot even in suit form. Occasionally, those side skirts will pop off on you as well. But these are really minor grievances in the grand scheme of the thing that is the RG Zeta.
Fun Factor: 9/10
Is it as fun as other RGs? More? That’s hard to say. Though similar in design, I have found most RGs to be unique experiences offering something different with each one. The Zeta takes that idea add throws it out the window. About the only similarities you’ll see are the use of something called the Advanced MS Joint frame and smaller frame pieces to cover that MS Joint frame up. The design for the transforming Zeta MS Joint frame is almost entirely different from previous RGs and the assembly process is also just as original. I was bouncing around from torso to legs back to torso, then arms. At each stage I was presented with a unique assembly I hadn’t encountered before in an RG and it was fun to see the transformation engineering come together, literally, in the palm of my big, clumsy hands. That said, because the parts are so tiny, if you have big, clumsy hands like me, the RG Zeta may test your patience.
Bandai actually gives you quite a bit of extra stuff with the Zeta including a 1/144 standing figure, adaptors for action base so you can put your Zeta on the stand in either Mobile Suit or Flight form. They even give you landing gears if you don’t want to use an Action Base. Little extras that attach to the back of the arms, the extra molded hands that are much better than the MS Joint hands…
And even an RG booklet!
Despite the admission of breakage during the transformation process I feel confident in recommending the Zeta to Real Grade fans and Gunpla fans in general. It’s a bold move by Bandai and when you think that they released the MG Aegis, another complicated transforming kit only a month before, it’s ballsy but shows Bandai’s confidence in their products and means only bigger and better things on the horizon.
Bring on Destiny!