After famously crashing and burning with Lair on Playstation 3 and having a bunch of promising games cancelled, Factor 5 is finally back, or at least sort of. They’re releasing a set of ports of their classic Turrican games, but in a complicated way. Two physical limited editions are collecting all five main games (Turrican, Turrican 2, Turrican 3/Mega Turrican, Super Turrican and Super Turrican 2) plus variations, but the downloadable Turrican Flashback collection only features the first four. Even though I’m a big fan, I was a bit annoyed by this setup, but eventually bought it to show my support if nothing else. While I dislike the ”release old game to see if there’s any interest” thing, I do want a new Turrican. But hey, why not do a Kickstarter like everyone else?
As part of the Kickstarter campaign for To Shiver The Sky, Christopher Tin made a set of all three albums available. And since I only had the first two downloaded and because they are some of my favourite albums ever, I obviously jumped at the chance to get a signed set. And it is finally here.
I’ve written about To Shiver The Sky and the first two previously (in Swedish) and there isn’t much to add. All three contain some amazing music by a great composer, and while I still prefer the more varied tone of Calling All Dawns and The Drop That Contained The Sea, the last album is constantly growing on me and is even more refined technically.
It’s worth listening through the entire albums, and many of the tracks form a complete movement so that it’s hard to separate them. But here, in order of appearance, are my six favourite parts. Because it would be too hard to pick just one from one of them.
* I’ve listened to so many versions of ”Baba Yetu” over the years that it’s hard to pick a favourite, but that’s also the appeal. It doesn’t matter if it’s the original version from Civilization IV, or the album version performed by the Soweto Gospel Choir, or versions by Alex Boyé or Peter Hollens, or Angel City Chorale’s full concert performance, or the Stellenbosch University Choir, or the performance Tin conducted himself at Llangollen. It’s always filled with joy and constantly reinvents itself.
* The final four tracks of Calling All Dawns form an amazing suite across four languages and cultures. This is Tin at his most unique and pleasant, inviting people to explore new horizons. The most glorious part is ”Hamsafar”, sung beautifully in Farsi, but all of it is great. The interleaving of the very masculine, traditional Maori dances and the bright, uplifting choir parts of ”Kia Hora Te Marino” makes for a very rewarding combination.
* The Drop That Contains The Sea has a similar structure as the previous album but saves its singular masterpiece ”Iza Ngomso” for a bit. It’s a constant barrage of beautiful voices and some delightful flourishes in the middle bridge, like the little flute that sends chills down my spine.
* ”Waloyo Yamoni” finishes off the album in style, with a single 12 minute track that introduces several different themes before combining them all in a powerful conclusion. It’s like a short story in itself, and once the initial theme returns at the 9 minute mark it’s all fantastic from there.
* The opening 18 seconds of To Shiver The Sky are perfect: promising greatness and delivering over the next couple of minutes. Not only is ”Sogno di Volare” possibly the single strongest theme of Tin’s creations and the separate opening track magnificent, it’s used to great effect to cap off ”The Fall” and the poignant end of ”Oh, the Humanity”. The sky is shivering and so am I.
* The brief but powerful ”The Power of the Spirit” flows seamlessly into the epic ”We Choose to go to the Moon” at the end of To Shiver The Sky, and after the bleak, war themed section that reflected the early 20th century, these tracks create a hopeful story for the future. Despite the fact that the text of both songs originated during the Cold War, it’s worth remembering and celebrating that there is indeed a crew of American and Russian fulfilling Kennedy’s words in the International Space Station at this very moment. The final two minutes crescendo into a fittingly epic end for this trilogy of albums … for now.
You may recognize that these fantastic parts form large sections of these three albums. Yes. That’s my point.
Despite once being the most expensive, exclusive and elusive console, Neo-Geo is now actually the most ever-present classic format available to any modern gamer. As of September 30th 2020, 109 of the 148 official Neo-Geo titles listed on neo-geo.com have been re-released on at least one modern format. Now, I’m not generally counting any re-releases for Playstation 2, Playstation 3, Xbox 360 or Wii, because at this point they are probably as hard to find as an original MVS title (if possibly cheaper).
While we’re about to get new consoles, both are backwards compatible so the library should theoretically port over to Playstation 5 and Xbox Series S/X.
With that in mind, the best place to get the biggest Neo-Geo library is the Switch or Xbox. Both have access to all 104 currently available ACA Neogeo titles, but only the Switch (and PS4) has the remastered version of Windjammers. Consider this the master list of available games (bolded are the major classics):
Switch and Xbox ACA Neogeo titles
2020 Super Baseball
3 Count Bout
Aero Fighters 2
Aero Fighters 3
Aggressors of Dark Kombat
Alpha Mission II
Art of Fighting
Art of Fighting 2
Art of Fighting 3
Baseball Stars Professional
Baseball Stars 2
Big Tournament Golf/Neo Turf Masters
Fatal Fury 2
Fatal Fury 3
Fatal Fury Special
Garou: Mark of the Wolves
King of the Monsters
King of the Monsters 2
Magical Drop II
Magical Drop III
Metal Slug 2
Metal Slug 3
Metal Slug 4
Metal Slug 5
Metal Slug X
Money Puzzle Exchanger
Power Spikes II
Prehistoric Isle 2
Puzzle Bobble 2
Real Bout Fatal Fury
Real Bout Fatal Fury 2
Real Bout Fatal Fury Special
Samurai Shodown II
Samurai Shodown III
Samurai Shodown IV
Samurai Shodown V
Samurai Shodown V Special
Shock Troopers 2nd Squad
Stakes Winner 2
Strikers 1945 Plus
The King of Fighters ’94
The King of Fighters ’95
The King of Fighters ’96
The King of Fighters ’97
The King of Fighters ’98
The King of Fighters ’99
It’s been almost exactly 25 years since I first came up with the character of Shaana, so it’s fitting that I’ve now completed the biggest Lego build of her by far. She was also the first custom Lego I made after my dark ages in 2012, when I looked up parts on Bricklink to build a minifigure of her. But this is bigger – way bigger. In fact, I can’t reasonably make her much bigger since this is a 1:1 scale bust.
The seed part was the 2×4 metallic silver tile that was made available in a Lugbulk deal almost two years ago now after having been introduced through the Aston Martin. I’ve always liked the metallic silver Lego colour, and it made me think: now what could I make if I had vast amounts of that part? Since Shaana is dressed in shining armor, it didn’t take long for an idea to take form. I didn’t have any specific design in mind, but I was inspired by the recent UCS figures of Yoda and BB-8, where the figure is built in sections on top of a Technic framework. While I was waiting for delivery of the parts, I started planning.
Since I wanted to make her to scale, the process began with drawing a 1:1 sketch of her to get the proportions right. I never really planned to make a full body build (because that would be crazy, right?), but I needed the full sketch to get it right. I then sketch built the face and stuck it onto some shaky Technic beams that went down to a boxy shape where I started to form her upper torso, basically a ribcage. This required some experimentation, and all the angles make for a quite complex structure, especially the two different slopes down her chest. Basically, the upper section hangs down from the shoulders while the lower one extends up.
It soon became apparent that I needed more silver parts to shape her. The 2×4 tiles would serve as the larger areas, but around her chest I needed something more … curved. Luckily such a part exists, the curved slope 6×2 (part #44126). However, it was only produced once, in 2005. There were three sellers with a decent amount of the part, but only one had a somewhat realistic price. So I ended up buying basically a third of Bricklink’s supply of the part. I also got several other useful parts, like the Windscreen 5×2 (only in an 2009 Agents set) and some 6×2 wedges (also only in the 2005 set). Hey, isn’t it great how Lego once produced one-off parts for all kinds of random sets and nearly bankrupted themselves?
Once I had the parts it was mostly a case of building everything in sections and reinforcing the structure as I went along. When I started adding features to the head, it soon became apparent that I needed to make the neck stronger. Ultimately it’s a sequence of 6×4 Technic bricks that go over a 2×4 structure of Technic beams, covered with curved slopes. It rests on parts of the shoulders, but to make this strong enough I basically needed an actual skeleton, so there’s collar bones in there, and for strength I eventually needed to make a core spine.
The head is a boxy structure built on top of that neck part, and then covered with sections of the hair and the face. Everything lifts off fairly easily so that I can work on the parts separately. The face was the very first part I built, based on the proportions of the sketch, and it changed very little. Getting the eyes right was the most important, and from there it was just a case of combining slopes to shape the jaw. For a long time there was just a flat surface, but once I had the head structure in place I built backwards. Ultimately, the face and cheeks are one piece that clip around the lower parts of the plates that hold the hair on each side. The hair itself required a lot of special orders since I didn’t have much of yellow slopes around, but it was fairly straightforward.
Moving on down, the upper shoulders are covered by her cloak, so it was mostly a case of finding the right black parts. Some roof parts from the Sydney Opera House helped here, making for great sweeping round corners in this scale. The neck guard is made from various parts in metallic silver, including the macaroni parts that only came with the Sopwith Camel plane. She needs to have a golden pin for her cloak, and luckily the recent Apollo 11 Lunar Lander introduced the 4×4 dish in metallic gold, and the 3×3 dish has been around some time. The front part of the cape used to sit on the armor section, but it turned out that the tolerances worked much better when it was simply hinged down 45 degrees from the shoulders.
The shoulder parts are a constant issue with her design and I haven’t ever quite nailed them down. I think she replaces them every so often, since they are reinforced leather and slightly bendable, so they’ll look different over time. For these, I considered making just a plate build on top of some structure, but large plates in orange are super rare. But there’s a useful curved Technic panel, originally from the Porsche 911. So basically she’s wearing a Porsche hood on her shoulders. The sides are other Technic panels, connected by a small section of plates and tiles.
Around this time I needed to decide what to do with the arms. I had lengthened the torso by twelve studs, but it still wasn’t quite long enough, and I didn’t want to go overboard. I had built a right hand for her, complete with posable fingers, and I started working on a lower arm but I couldn’t find a way to make it fit well within the proportions and the pose. So I finally dedided to just make this a bust, and the holes in the armor are covered up by plates.
Before I could finish up the armor, which was still mostly the front, I needed to make the cloak. It a huge sheet of plates, with some modifications around the shoulder pads, and mostly covered in roof tile slopes. It connects to the upper shoulders and along the spine.
After that, I knew how far I needed to extend the armor, and this was mostly done with the same techniques, fitting tiles onto plates and then attaching them to the Technic skeleton. After having finished the shoulder pads, I also got started on the dreaded armpit area. Having three planes of plates along her front is one thing, filling in the sides of that is another completely. The lower curve was easy as it conforms to the regular square structure. The middle section was harder, but I managed to fill it with small 1×2 curved slopes, originally from the Mini Cooper. This section slots under the first one. Finally, I cheated a tiny bit with the last triangular corner, which is simply built with grey bricks down from the tiles to fit snugly behind the shoulder pad.
As I needed some final parts to finish this up, I realized that there’s no simple way to move this around. The skeleton is stable enough, but she’s quite top-heavy with a partly solid head, and the armor parts don’t hold up too well to pressure. The best way to carry her was simply grabbing the spine, but that wouldn’t work once she was complete. I had left some spare Technic connectors in case I wanted to continue building more of her body, and I came up with a way to hook some Technic beams into these, attached to two large sections of a display base. These clamp together similarly to the Sydney Opera House base, and it’s rock solid. From there it was just a case of finishing it up and providing room for my previous minifig versions.
And then I thought that I was done, until I realized that it needed a little something extra. On my pictures of her, Shaana has her sword strapped on her back. So I needed to build that. The blade isn’t actually there, but the scabbard and hilt are based on my own sword and modelled to scale. And instead of using a line of hinges to form the strap, the obvious choice was to go for DOTS bracelets. It’s held on with Technic pins and the strap holds the sword in place. And while waiting for those parts to arrive, I had a few more additions to make. I added some more bulk to the hair and refined the face.
The final build stands 70 cm tall including the base, 54 cm wide across the shoulder pads and 22 cm deep. I ended up using around 120 of the 2×4 silver tiles and 86 of the 6×2 silver slopes. There’s hundreds of Technic beams inside her and I actually managed to run out of Technic pins, which I thought would never happen. She is stable enough that I don’t need to worry about display, but for transport I will need to remove the head since it adds a lot of stress on the neck connection. Structurally, almost everything comes off easily in sections if I need to change anything.
But this is it. I’m very happy with how this turned out. Now I just needs to find her the perfect display space she deserves.
Okay, so it’s an inevitable result of several years of amazing Lego releases: I simply do not have room for them anymore. So even though I’m still actively buying, I’m also trying to sell a lot and keep some kind of balance. This makes it harder for new sets to really grab me, and only the really unmissable ones make the cut. That’s why I didn’t make a list of the best Lego sets of 2018 and why I don’t really have enough for a good 2019 list either. But having caught up on some stuff, let’s see what sets and figures were the best of both years.
MINIFIGURES (IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER)
Queasy Unikitty was the best release of the collectible Unikitty figures and allowed me to sell off my Seacow with the adorable Queasy Kitty included, since this was basically the same figure.
Nya Kabuki was caught up in TRU’s destruction and what should have been an easy set to find (since it was overshadowed by Marvel, Potter and Jurassic Park sets) became really rare. This was an awesome figure though and well worth tracking down.
Dragon Suit Guy was the greatest among many great costumed figures and I’ve built an entire squad of this guy.
Lobo is, in fact, the best minifigure of 2018. Or, he would be if Lego’s stupid printing quality issues hadn’t gotten in the way. Still a really cool figure and crazy that we got such an adult oriented character anywhere near Lego.
Hagrid rounds out the year with a custom body that really captures the character while staying within the system as much as possible. Although there’s several great Potterverse figures like Luna, Hermione, Remus and Mad-Eye, Hagrid takes the win here.
Monkey King is another nod to the Chinese community and a stunning figure on his own. I love the colours and all the detail, and I look forward to getting the plain but useful shoulderpads in other colours.
Sweet Mayhem is probably the coolest Lego figure in years, with her space outfit and pearlescent hair. The only major problem with her is having to decide to show that amazing helmet or the awesome hair.
Lenny was the standout of the already awesome nostalgia set that is Benny’s Space Squad. Getting a classic space guy in pink was a great treat and so was not having it be the token female one.
Hercules was the best of a big range of great Disney figures in this year’s collectible line. Jasmine, Hades, Elsa and Scrooge and the triplets also deserve mention, but Hercules took the crown with a great selection of colours and accessories.
Tracer led the line for Overwatch and the poster girl of the game got a great figure. Unlike Mercy she wasn’t ruined by poor printing, and she’s already a pop culture classic.
As for sets, 2018 was marred by a strange mix of themes. Elves was winding down with a subseries infected way too much by teal, Nexo Knights did the same but in black and green, and there was a specific Unikitty series as well as a short-lived Power Puff Girls line. The Brickheadz line focused on Justice League and The Last Jedi characters and is somehow still surviving. Friends went racing, City went arctic (again) and Ninjago went spinning in two separate directions (literally). 2019 saw the excellent The Lego Movie 2 release with a couple of amazing sets and many dull ones as the movie focused on three very distinct themes: post-apocalypse, gaudy blue-green space and colourful pink stuff. Hidden Side was the new action theme, replacing Nexo Knights and Elves. City went into space with a neat realistic exploration line and Ninjago went back to the classics.
5) Vestas Wind Turbine
I hesitated to get this at the original price but caught it at a sale, and it’s a pretty cool build. While the techniques are fairly plain, the sheer size of this makes it look great and it will be a fantastic backdrop for when I eventually build a full Lego city.
4) Lego 40 Years LEGO Minifigure
I grabbed this employee exclusive for a single reason: the Blacktron reissue hidden within one of the presents. But as it turned out, the build was a great oversized replica of Santa and his sled complete with reindeer and it will become a Christmas ornament from now on.
3) Downtown Diner
The yearly modular wasn’t the best this year, but the Diner still deserves a lot of praise for some ridiculously inventive building signed Mike Psiaki. The way the side windows are attached still blows my mind.
2) Ninjago City Docks
Docks was a strange addition to the great Ninjago City itself, with even more crazyness spread over a wider surface. Eventually I will have to take down both these marvellous sets since they simply don’t fit with anything else, but for now, it’s pretty magnificent.
1) Roller Coaster
I waited a bit for this set too, but couldn’t resist a good offer. While the build is remarkably repetitive, the finished set is as great as it is huge. When motorized, it works splendidly, even though I’ve noticed it slowly deteriorating. Eventually, this will be the centerpiece of my fairground area.
5) Ultrakatty & Warrior Lucy!
While the post-apocalyptic The Lego Movie 2 sets mostly failed to excite me, the concept of Unikitty becoming a Road Warrior was too great to ignore. A huge figure taking lessons from the Elves dragons, with a unique five-wide piece for her face, Ultrakatty is worth picking up before these sets disappear forever.
4) Corner Garage
The obligatory modular only placed on this list because I missed several others (see below). It was fine and I enjoyed having a big building in dark orange again, but there were only a few really great designs in this.
3) Slave I
While most of the Star Wars anniversary sets were fairly dull, this was an amazing update to the Slave I design and almost as great as the UCS version.
2) NASA Apollo 11 Lunar Lander
We continue the space theme with an excellent set made to celebrate the anniversary of the moon landing. This set looks fantastic on display and will stay that way for a long time.
1) Benny’s Space Squad
But really, put three brand new classic space figures in a cheap set and watch me buy a ton of them. I lost count somewhere around the eighth of these and I will continue to grab them on sale as I find them.
And so that I don’t forget them entirely, here’s the top five sets I would have gotten if space had permitted:
5) Gingerbread House – I already have a Christmas display with the toy shop and various others so it had to wait.
4) Central Perk – I wanted it mostly for the parts and for selling off the figures so it was not a huge priority.
3) Chinese New Year’s Eve Dinner – it being region exclusive made it a little easier to skip it, but I really wanted this pretty little set. I did get a bunch of printed food parts to use later though.
2) Ford Mustang – Since I don’t really collect cars, I could skip this, but I may have to pick it up later since by all accounts it’s a great one.
1) Tree House – I didn’t look forward to this, but the finished set looks great. Once I find a deal, it will be mine.
When I visited Osaka this October, I wanted to benefit from staying in the entertainment district of Dotonbori and took a look at the local music venues. There were two very close by with performances on several of the days we were there, but ultimately we only went to see one: Chocol8 Syndrome. I knew nothing of them before, but after looking up their songs on Youtube I really wanted to see their show. We took a short walk to Music Club Janus and went up the escalators to find the band selling their merchandise. I wasn’t expecting that, but it’s fun to actually be able to interact with the musicians. I had managed to track down one of their albums at Book-Off and Shaon, the singer, was really happy that I already had it. Anyway, since it’s unlikely that I would get the chance again, I bought the other two as well and got them all autographed. Before long it was time for the band to get ready.
Except for the songs I had already listened to, I didn’t know what to expect. It turns out that the concert was pretty damn loud in that small venue. Luckily I wore ear protection. Overall, the show was fun and quite intimate. My Japanese is much too poor to really follow the stage banter, but I think they admonished the Osaka audience for not having sold out there, as a Tokyo band. They kept playing around with each other and the keyboard player (and backup vocalist) Kenkomobuchi appeared in increasingly silly outfits. Along with their song ”Dice Roll”, they also rolled a big fluffy dice into the crowd to see what to do next. Overall a bit surreal for a newcomer to Japanese music, but enjoyable still. I think their songs overall aren’t really strong enough for a mainstream breakout, but they are definitely skilled and have an interesting style.
Having returned home and slowly (and probably wrongly) translating the song names, I’ve been listening to all three albums: ”8”, ”Dappo Matatabi Rock” (also translated as ”Evasion of the Law Travel Rock”) and ”Ongaku wa Major ga Subete janai”. Each only has eight songs, but as it turns out there is a lot of really good music here.
The debut album ”8” is a really solid one. The initial three songs are all interesting and varied, although I think ”Sutorobo” (or ”Strobe”?) was responsible for them running really painful strobe lights on stage. Please, no. That song has a good drive to it, while ”Glass no Beat” has a great bass track and cool vocals. However, the best tracks are at the end. ”Navigator” is overall a fun and speedy song with great keyboard and bass tracks. I also appreciate the backup vocals here. Then there’s ”Adulty Shonen Shojo” (or ”Adulty Boys & Girls”) which is a cool, action packed duet for Shaon and Ken. The album closes out with the very … eccentric ”Tsuramaro no Kiwami”, which we will unfortunately hear more of.
On to ”Dappo Matatabi Rock”, which opens with ”Multiverse”, a pretty good pop song with a punky edge. Perhaps the voice is trying a bit too much to sound cool? An immediate contrast is ”Mystic Mysteria” which is a jazzy tune with great bass and a strong vocal performance. There’s nothing else really like it in their discography so far but I would like to see more like it. ”Sakura no Cho” is a nice ballad with a good arrangement, but Shaon’s voice breaks up a bit towards the end as it isn’t quite strong enough. However, the next song quickly recovers and ”Teen Girl no Yuutsu” (”Melancholy of Teen Girl”) is a really good pop song overall with an intense refrain. ”Tsuramaro no kiwami” returns but now as a enga (Japanese classical ballad) version and Shaon nails the style, but it’s still a very weird song and enga is quite horrible. ”Europa” is uneven with some of the verses and the light piano track being really good but the refrains are a bit generic. Finally, the album ends with ”Kimi to watashi to metamorphose” (”You, I and metamorphosis”), which is a really exciting and fun pop song. I think I like this album best.
Oh, Chocol8 Syndrome. Baby noises never make a song good. ”Ongaku no Major ga Subete janai” opens with ”Baby Dance” which is a pretty fun song with good refrain but it’s a bit repetitive. ”Miracle ni Romance” is another great song with a great keyboard tune which carries the vocals to a great refrain. The video was my first impression of the band and Shaon running around Shibuya at night was suitably indie and interesting for me to pay attention. The rest of the album isn’t as strong. ”Kono yo de ichiban taisetsu na mono” is a standout, with the song going into rock opera territory with some playful duet vocals. I also like ”Yume wa samenai mama” which is a slower song that better uses the singer’s strengths. The third version of ”Tsuramaro no Kiwami” is techno-ish and not much better than before.
I enjoy these albums. Chocol8 Syndrome deserve some more attention, and their first two albums and a bunch of singles are available on Itunes. So you should check them out!
Right after watching Captain Marvel I went out and bought this set, but having my photo booth covered in Lego prevented me from giving this a review until now. So what do we have here?
Making superhero Lego sets is usually an exercise in pointlessness. With few exceptions, the heroes are what matters and any vehicle is usually just a way to get around the license issues, since Lego don’t normally own the ”action figure” rights. Some are actually relevant, like the Quinjets, the Milano and the Benatar, but usually we get a little generic piece of building or something. This set gives us yet another Quinjet, and one of the smaller ones at that. At the same time we have a bigger one from Avengers: Endgame, but this uses a more toned down design mostly in grey with red accents.
It’s a little dull and I won’t be replacing my original Quinjet anytime soon, but it’s a decent build. It’s strangely lacking in features with only twin batteries of missiles and a cargo door leading to a cramped interior space. It’s heavily reliant on stickers, and the outer parts of the wings are unusually brittle by modern Lego standards. It doesn’t seem like a lot of thought was spent on this one.
THe figures then. Carol Danvers herself is a nice movie version but on the lower side in terms of detail. The torso is nicely detailed, but she has no arm or leg printing, the face is reused from Qi´ra (Emilia Clarke’s character in Solo) and the hair is decent but not really accurate. There was a lot more they could have done here. A previous random set had a comic Captain Marvel who still had a secondary head even though she was just a side character there. This one actually works fine with that head. She also should have had an assortment of those power blasts that come in every other superhero set nowadays. As it is, she gets two tiny hand blasts.
Nick Fury is a decent character on his own. His torso is extremely useful as a generic cop, but I feel that the hair piece is kind of overused for any black character nowadays when his hair in the movie looks nothing like it. His face is also reused from the recent Cyborg. Then we have Talos, who was a surprising highlight of the movie. He looks decent, but the entire premise of the set misses the point of the movie. If he had come with an alternate smiling face, he would have been more useful, now he could represent any generic Skrull. Finally there’s Goose, who is a generic dark orange cat, which makes sense I guess.
Overall this set was surprisingly cheap but also a really disappointing take on the source material which screamed ”oh right, there’s that movie coming out too”. Captain Marvel was great, and she deserves better. Hopefully her next movie will get better Lego sets.
The new Harry Potter sets released slightly ahead of schedule, so I picked up this one without waiting for a better deal. For some reason, probably because it’s the best movie, the recent sets have heavily focused on The Prisoner of Azkaban, with the previous train set, this and a smaller Expecto Patronum set all covering events from there. Which is fine with me, since we’re getting new editions of several important characters.
Hagrid’s hut is a fairly compact but very detailed set, which uses some clever designs to achieve the rounded look. It reminds me a bit of Luke’s hut from the Ahch-To set, but it’s better overall. The two parts of the house can be taken apart, and inside is plenty of space for (fairly cramped) play if you want all the characters in there. There’s an unnecessary but nice feature with the fireplace lighting up if you press on the roof. Some of the random items inside include a whip, a cleaver, a spoon and, for some reason, Umbridge’s umbrella, which is a nasty little tease considering the figure herself is an exclusive from the Bricktober sets. Outside there’s a small patch of pumpkins with a pole to tie Buckbeak to. These pumpkins are new for 2019 and useful parts, and we get four in this set.
For a relatively small set there’s a nice selection of figures, although they couldn’t really have gotten away with fewer. Harry, Hermione and Ron are all appropriately designed for the time, using the medium length legs in different colours which is useful. The faces look distinctively older than the child versions which might be a little too soon for that period, but it’s nice to get alternatives. These are also different from the CMF versions (which look yet a little older), so overall we’re getting a ton of age options for these figures.
The minister is appropriately dull, so there’s not a lot to say about him. The executioner is a funnily dark character for a Lego set, but unfortunately he shares the same lousy production quality as several other characters with flesh print on dark parts, as he’s basically skeletal in appearance. Then there’s Hagrid, who is an awesome figure that was previously only available in the most expensive set.
I must admit that I got this set mostly for Buckbeak. When I finally watched the movies I wanted to get him in Lego form, but the previous one was really early and looked horrible, from before Lego revamped their creature designs. This one is really well made, simple but stylish. He has a unique body but lacks the posable rear legs of the horses and big cats. It’s great to have him, and I wonder why Lego spent extra on making him. Could we perhaps hope for a reuse for a World of Warcraft theme?
However, the good production values come at a cost. 699 SEK is quite high for a set of less than 500 parts. I wouldn’t have bought it at this price if it wasn’t an opportunity to get it early. For the volume of stuff, to borrow an expression from Jangbricks, it’s way overpriced. However, there are four currently exclusive figures (Harry also comes in the other Azkaban set), the awesome Hagrid figure and a great modern take on Buckbeak. So for the impatient Lego Harry Potter collector it’s worth it. For everyone else, I’d recommend waiting for a better deal.
The appearance of the ”80’s-something-spaceguy” Benny in The Lego Movie was a genius move to appeal to older Lego fans. It’s not even just Adult Fans of Lego since you’d need to be 35-40 years old to really appreciate the classic design of Lego’s first space theme. So we got Benny and the awesome nostalgia bomb of his spaceship and that was generally it. In the years since Lego has teased old fans occasionally like having a green Futuron guy in a City set and printing a part specifically to allow building a gray classic spaceman from other spare parts. But now in time for The Lego Movie 2 they’ve released another major nostalgia set: Benny’s Space Squad.
On the surface, the set is a ”battle pack” as we know them from Star Wars. You get four figures with some minor build for a low price for encourage army building or just make for a cheap set for the kids. However, the figures are all brand new, super classic spacepeople based entirely on the original design which is now exactly 40 years old. There have been modernized re-releases of similar figures, but they’ve used the later, sturdier helmet design. But just like Benny, these other three people wear the exact same helmet type as introduced in 1978. Or, well, mostly the same. The very first helmet had the weak chin strap that caused Benny’s ”broken” design in the first place. It was later reinforced before beinreplaced entirely with the sturdy design. This set has helmets that, to me, look much sturdier than the originals while still keeping mostly the same design.
Coincidentally, Benny himself is the least interesting part of the set. He’s the same lovable guy from the previous movie but we already had a bunch of ways to get him. The white spaceman is actually a woman called Jenny, and a good thing to have since especially white figures tend to show wear and tear. The yellow spaceman is Kenny and besides being a reference to one of the original designs, it’s the first time in ages that we get yellow unprinted ”naked” Lego legs. Obviously it’s supposed to be a yellow spacesuit here, but it’s also an extremely useful part for making stuff like monochrome figures. Finally, we have Lenny in pink, which is another new colour since the original era. It’s cool that they didn’t go for the ”obvious” route and made the pink one the woman (which, it has to be said, they already did with the collectible pink space heroine a few years back). Obviously I’ll be buying tons of these and making all kinds of variations anyway.
The builds are small but neat. We get a droid which is the exact same as in Benny’s Spaceship! Spaceship! Spaceship!. Then there’s a rover which uses modern parts but clearly dates back to some similarly cheap sets back then, most closely the Space Buggy from 1979. The ship is also a classic design, with the logo on a slope, a wedge wing shape, thrusters, red lights, the old space seat and the ”guns” up front. Pretty much every part in this is classic!
It remains to be seen if Benny’s squad has an actual role in the movie or if it’s just an opportunity to release some heavy duty fan service, but in any case this is a wonderfully nostalgic little set which is cheap enough for anyone to pick up. Me, I intend to get many more.
A year after Cinema Music (and the short LP album Eternalist) Sarah Alainn returns with a ”best of” collection rather than a brand new album. This is a little disappointing and I had considered simply skipping it since I already own all of her albums, but it turned out to include a selection of brand new tracks so I had to get it. Curse my weakness!
It is a very good collection though. It’s missing a couple of my favourites like ”Turns to Light”, ”New World”, ”Angel” and ”Nandemonaiya”, but almost all of the selected tracks are among the best. We have the great ”To Love You More”, the amazing ”Little Doll”, the uplifting Yasunori Mitsuda track ”Dream As One”, Sarah’s own equally uplifting ”Sky’s Calling”, the quirky ”Shadows of Time” and ”Venetian Glass”, classics like ”On My Own” and ”Time To Say Goodbye”, and of course ”Beyond the Sky”, the Xenoblade track that started her career. While I would still recommend buying her entire discography (except possibly the first, Celeste), this is a good place to start.
What really attracted me was the seven new tracks. ”Ito” existed before, on the second album Sarah, but it has a new arrangement which puts it more in line with her other musical styled songs. I used to dismiss it, but in this form it’s well worth listening to. The next two songs, ”Waga Kokyou” and ”Voce Angelica” are both without lyrics and just have vocalizations, and they’re not really to my taste although technically skilled. ”Colours of the Wind” adds Sarah’s third Disney cover, and I think it might be the best. The style suits her perfectly and the orchestration is great. ”Taiyo no Aishita Hito” actually seems to be exclusive to the physical album, but it’s a fairly slow and boring song. ”Asa no Memory” is something completely different, playing to all of Sarah’s strengths with a great arrangement and dynamic vocals. On to the playlist it goes! Unfortunately the new tracks end with ”Ave Maria” which is another really slow song.
So considering that I already own most of the songs on Timeless, it’s strictly for collecting purposes. The new worthwhile songs ”Ito”, ”Colours of the Wind” and ”Asa no Memory” can be bought off Itunes for much less and the album doesn’t offer any other worthwhile bonuses.