Monday, 5 March 2018

REVIEW: Alien Attack STF-01 Firage



Whilst putting this review together, I shared a couple of completed pictures of the figure with some friends of mine. "Who is that supposed to be?" came the immediate response from one of them, despite him having seen Dark of the Moon, the live action Transformers film from which the intended robot hails. Even when I pointed out that the character's name is Dino, they still had precisely zero recollection of him actually being in the movie, and it's perhaps not hard to understand why. If you check on Youtube, you'll find a video which collects all of the Autobot's scenes in that film into one handy package. It runs for a mere three minutes and fifty one seconds (by my rough approximation, that's about one hundredth of the total runtime, no? It just felt like it?), which is especially telling once you realise that most of that is spent in car mode or hanging around in the background. Still, Dino has seemingly made impression enough to be granted his own third party revision, and so here we are. Oh, and if you were wondering about the name, it's definitely not an unfortunate homage to that political pillock, Nigel Farage (puttup!), but instead a mash-up of Ferrari and Mirage, which was rather confusingly the character's name when he was originally realised in official toy form. And with all that cleared up, let's crack on with it!

Straight out of the box you're presented with Firage in his surprisingly compact vehicle mode. He's considerably smaller than I thought he might be in hand, but looks pretty good and is certainly evocative of a Ferrari 458 Italia as intended. Overall he comes across as quite sleek and sexy, which is pretty much what you'd hope for with the cars from the live action Transformers films. There's some nice detailing here & there, most notably on the rear bumper section and the wheels, though it wouldn't necessarily be hard to distinguish this as a third party item given the lack of official car logos etc. Still, no doubt they've given it a good old go, and the results are there to be seen.




Build-wise, Firage again stands out a little from the official crowd, as he's very light and the plastic looks and feels a lot thinner to the touch. That's not to say it feels bad, but it does have a slightly soft or bendy quality to it that sets it apart from the comparative robustness of the TakaraTomy MPM figures. You will no doubt also notice through handling that certain parts tend to flex a little during transformation and what-have-you, although I should stress that at no point have I felt like anything was going to break at all. The plastic is very shiny too, and there are a couple of bits that are slightly translucent. Overall, I would say that it's a nicely designed mode, but does feel a fair bit cheaper than what TakaraTomy are putting down at the moment. Equally, I did struggle a little with aligning all of the panels on returning him to vehicle mode, and there are also two relatively noticeable gaps on the rear section which are a little unfortunate. All of this might sound a little damning, but I think considering the relative cheaper price point for this figure, it's about on par really.




Stacking him up against the likes of MPM Bumblebee reveals just how small and compact he really is! Collectors have had to make their peace with bizarrely-scaled vehicle modes in the G1 Masterpiece line for some time now, with robot mode scale always being the key focus, but I do wonder what anyone jumping on board with the MPM figures might make of this comparison. For my tastes, I do think they could have made him a little larger overall, but it's by no means the worst thing in the world either. If anything, it's the look and feel of the plastic that sets him apart more than anything, for me.




Transformation to and from robot mode is a surprisingly intricate affair for a smallish 'bot, though not that complicated once you get your head around it. It's the classic thing where it all seems a bit baffling first time round, but when you come back to have a second look, you realise you can already do it without any help or instructions. I do think it's cool that the transformation allows for both cars doors to be opened, which actually isn't the only flourish that in many ways reminds me of some classic G1 characters. In essence the structure of the conversion is also very reminiscent of that era, with the bonnet forming the chest, roof ending up on the back, arms unfolding from inside, etc. However, some of the finer details are much more similar to the likes of MPM Bumblebee, for examples how the various panels on the chest rotate and slide to form the signature live action robot look, or the spikes on the rear of the legs (which I actually missed on first attempt!). Overall, I have found this to be a transformation that I am willing to do repeatedly without any real bother.




Once you're done, you are of course left with Firage in all his glory! It's fair to say that he's quite a distinctive looking little chap, a mish-mash of mangled robotic machinery and sleek car kibble. Fair play to the designers though, as I do think that they have captured the design of the character pretty accurately, and overall have crafted a very decent looking robot mode. Although there is a lot going on, it's still relatively clean (or about as much as you would expect for a Bayformer design), even from a rear view. I like it.




Once you started messing around with him, you'll realise that there are quite a few moving parts though, which can make him feel a little fiddly to the touch. It's actually no bad thing, as he does still feel like a lot of fun to mess around with, but no doubt there will be some adjustment of various pieces required from time to time. Stuff like the chest panels, and those rather bizarre wavy bits on his shoulders all have a habit of moving about a bit during regular play and posing, for example. Fortunately all of the joints seem tight enough though, and again I didn't find any real concerns in terms of quality or build to put me off here. He feels pretty stable, and is certainly capable of sturdily holding some decent poses.




Of course, the real fun comes once you start to play around with some of his accessories, the most obvious of which are the two sizeable blades that peg into his arms to recreate a similar ability from the movie. The blades look ace, with a really lovely shiny silver & gold finish, and add much to the visual appeal of this figure overall. Suddenly I found posing him to be even more fun as they make him feel quite unique in terms of display options. I do wish that the blades felt a little more securely pegged in, but they work well overall, in my opinion.




Now you can see some of the full potential for this figure to strut its stuff and show off a few more dynamic poses. Because of the amount of joints found in both the arms and the legs, there really is quite a bit of range to go a bit nuts and have some fun! You can also swap out the fingers for some alternate versions which gives you fully moving digits, but I declined to go there as I am happy enough with the stock versions.




Another accessory included here is a set of cables that also connect to his arms, meant to represent the scene from Dark of the Moon where Dino deploys a set of grappling hooks whilst battling with some Decepticons. Here you have a set of soft metal leads with a small articulated hook on the end of each. It's an interesting feature and one that works well for the most part, given how much potential for moving and posing the cables there is. However, I found that it was hard to keep them pegged into the arms securely, and overall difficult to find a way to pose them without feeling a little awkward or falling out. It is a fun inclusion, but I think it might have worked better if the cables weren't quite so long. Still, it's unique and definitely adds something to the overall package.




Looking at Firage with some of the official MPM figures, I'd say he again feels a little on the small side here. Having rewatched that video I mentioned with all of the scenes from the film featuring the character, he certainly doesn't look like such a diminutive 'bot from what I can see, standing not that much smaller than Ironhide on screen, but perhaps I have missed something. Regardless, I'll leave it to you to decide if the scaling works well or not here, though for my money I actually don't think he looks bad lining up with Optimus Prime & Bumblebee in spite on his pint-size-nature. Again, it's probably the finish of the plastic that is more of a standout than anything, but the style of the design and the look of the character and just about spot on to my eye.





So, in conclusion, Firage is a fun little 'bot and represents a decent enough experience overall. I do think he's hurt slightly by not having a more polished or premium-feeling finish, but again that is reflected in the cheap price, so I do think you're getting value for money overall. For a first figure there is a lot to credit Alien Attack with here, and I look forward to seeing more from them in the future.

What's HOT?
Great design overall, with a generally nice-looking car mode, a great representation of the robot, and a surprisingly-repeatable transformation between the two. He also has some fun accessories and is quite enjoyable to mess around with and pose.

What's NOT?
Whilst the quality is ok, the finish does not feel particularly premium and the plastic used is a bit soft & bendy for my tastes. Again, that is reflected in the price though, so it depends how you feel about it.


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