Tilly's Zoids

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Brave Jaguar (with Metal Hopper)

Apologies for the randomly fluctuating quality/color of the building pics. I was playing with camera settings without paying attention and paid the price...)

Neo Blox have received a mixed reception in the fandom, just as much (or more) than their original Bloxy brethren. I was on the side of the "bleh" responses, and I still partially am—but there's nothing like a pointed cat to win me over, especially a pointed cat that comes packaged with a bug. The Custom Blox were proving universally well-received, and I had to nab at least my favorites before they pulled a Baratz on me.

The very, very redundant Brave Jaguar set has one difference from buying the two separately: the box. It's quite cool, folding open and having a carrying handle. I believe King G is the only other Zoid to do this, so beats me why it returned here. You're really better off getting a plain Brave Jaguar (which is found in shiny colors in the Byte Griffon and Valkyrie Caesar sets) and a Metal Hopper alone, but neither shiny Jaguar existed when I ordered mine. Thus, you get pictures of the special box, along with the ultimate in Zoid-building background noise:

Doctor Who on TVBrave Jaguar's box with Shieldy Mk.II

Open the box, and you'll find the contents all neatly spaced out. They include four frames of Brave Jaguar bits (one white, one blue, one gold, one silvery grey), one frame of Neo Blox-y connectorbits (black), three Neo Blox prebuilt bloxblobs, one translucent orange frame for the eyes, one loose white bit for the head, and a piece to pry unruly Blox out of their holes with (precut, unlike the original Blox ones). Metal Hopper is confined to its own baggie, conveniently pretrimmed like the rest of the Custom Blox line. There's instructions for each: a sheet for the Hopper and a foldout-style thing for Brave Jaguar. Said foldout also tells how to stick Metal Hopper to the Jaguar and do evil things with it, Hard Bear, and Hurricane Hawk to form Byte Griffon. There's also a remolded pilot that looks suspiciously like a Cyberman. And he's gold. Oh dear...

box contentsbox contents, removedbox contents, removed and openedNeo Blox bloxpilot comparison

Metal Hopper goes first. Really, there's not much to this guy. The only thing that could remotely confuse is the booster flaps going together in a certain order, and they're "numbered" 1-2-3-4 by the little details on the ends. Pop, click, poke, we have bug, and a cute little bug he is too.

Metal Hopper bitsbuilding Metal Hoppercompleted Metal Hopper

On to the cat! If you've built Blox, you'll know what's coming here: build all the various bits before building the core body and sticking the bits on. Indeed, there's no overall surprises here.

head bitshead togetherhead with the next bits built

The true difference I noticed was the joints themselves. They're stiff plastic, near impossible to cut from their frames. (I snapped them off instead.) This made for wonderfully tight joints as opposed to the floppy ones of old, though two shoulders were so tight I found myself shaving off a tiny bit of plastic lest they wedge.

feet with jointslegbits waiting to be assembledconstruction progress shotscompleted Brave JaguarBrave Jaguar dancesBrave Jaguar does a headstand

The plastic was very nice stuff, though almost scarily soft in that I had to be careful not to shave too much off. I think it's here I'll point something out that my nitpicky side demands I do:

Brave Jaguar is similar to Mk.II colors, but is not actually the same thing. The gold's a bit off, true Mk.II's didn't have silver (though Gunbluster did), and the blue is very different. They may photo similarly, but Mk.IIs have a deep royal in person. This guy's got a distinct turquoise feel to his royal, closer to (though not exactly like) Command Wolf Blue.

different bluesBrave Jaguar pokes ShieldyBrave Jaguar rides ShieldyBrave Jaguar stares at GunblusterBrave Jaguar rides GunblusterBrave Jaguar versus Blue Command Wolf

If you're not picky, this won't matter, but if you pick up on shades of color rather sharply like me, don't expect to fit this guy in with Mk.IIs, and don't expect Metal Hopper to match either - it's a more royal blue too. Lazy bums didn't even recolor it!

Back on topic! Joints, yes...a completed Brave Jaguar has movable bits between its three Neo Blox (a combination of ball joint and bars that can move up and down that makes for a lot of flexibility), at its shoulders (the same ball/bar joints), at one point on each of its legs (Saberlion style, though I really wish the back legs had two), at its ankles (ball joints, suffering from the same can't point far down when running issue as the KFM), the base of its tail (ball joint), its neck (ball joint again), its head (up and down), jaw, cockpit hatch, back gun mount (unsure if it's intentional, but it can swivel so I'll swivel it), both back guns, and the little pokey things on its hind leg armor. Whew. You can also turn the side and leg armor bits partially out of the way to better pose things...

Brave Jaguar bats Metal Hopper aroundBrave Jaguar tangled in my computer cordsBrave Jaguar shows offLeoblaze is melting

This makes for a cat with flexibility somewhere in between Leoblaze and the KFM Zero, with ability to hold a pose that makes them both look like wusses. Go on, let's see either of them stand perfectly balanced on one front paw for hours on end! This makes for a very fun cat to poke and pose wherever - probably a good candidate for a Zoid to leave on a desk. There's not much to fall off or lose, though the pokey gold bits and one of the guns on mine like to get loose.

Brave Jaguar tries to kill the computer screenMetal Hopper on my headphones' cordBrave Jaguar on my head

The overall conclusion? Metal Hopper is great, and I like Brave Jaguar a good deal, even if it doesn't look much like a jaguar (or even that much like a cat) and even if I'm more a fan of motorized things. I also really like the concept behind the Neo Blox - the framework, if you will, and think they're how Blox should have been done from the start. I really don't like most of the designs in the line, however: they feel like someone took that good foundation, repeated it a bunch of times, and stuck cobbled-together bits on. Even the Legend Blox, which are based on older Zoids, seem to be doing this, leaving Murasame with a stegosaurus' feet and Gojulas with long arms, both of which do little for otherwise clever critters.

Come on, guys, if you're going to give me a good non-motorized concept like this, give me some Zoids using it to like too, and stop being so lazy! All I have to look forward to right now are Byte Griffon and Valkyrie Caesar, mostly for the concept of a shiny Brave Jaguar.

If you're a Blox fan, you'll probably like these. I think Blox have mostly superior designs, mind, but these have far better joint systems. If you're not a huge fan but liked the SS critters or some Blox, pick a Neo one you can tolerate design-wise and give it a try for the sake of the cool ideas behind them. Then come join me in hoping for the line realizing more of its potential, and if you can spare a wish for some new motorized designs (or even a windup, those lost phantoms of bygone ages), that'd be cool too.

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