Nowadays, video games are a big deal. There’s a lot of top level talent that goes into producing modern games, and there’s a tonne of money involved in both the game itself as well as the marketing that goes with it. Merchandising likenesses of characters and vehicles from games is now a huge industry, so much so that it has achieved parity with, if not exceeded, the amount of market value attached to things like TV shows with their accompanying toylines.
It wasn’t always that way, though. It used to be cartoons and toylines that went hand-in-hand, both in North American and in Japan. This marriage of popular TV show-cum-commercial and its target toyline was the model and the goal of successful toy companies everywhere. The money used to get thrown at toys and cartoons almost exclusively, with live-action TV tie-ins and movie tie-ins coming second. Video games weren’t even really on the radar back then. Now it’s a totally different story, with video games spawning toylines, movies and yes, cartoons. What happened, you ask? Well, two things.
The first and foremost driver in this change was technology. It used to be that a game was 4 or 8 bits of graphics on a screen, and it struggled to portray what the designers wanted. Colours were few and detail was iffy. It was hard to tell an asteroid from a UFO from a ghost. Most games didn’t have (much of) a story or plot, so there wasn’t a lot to “get into”. Games were just that, distractions and something fun to do, but nothing around which a franchise could be based.
The second culprit was Xevious. If you’re like me, then you’re likely asking “What the what is (a?) Xevious? Is it a person, a cult, a disease? What?” Well, as it turns out, Xevious was a major turning point in arcade games and in the gaming industry in general. I will admit, I’m not into video games much, even now, but I wasn’t at all when Xevious first came out. I hadn’t even heard of it, but that puts me as one of the few of my age, it seems.
Xevious was a game introduced in about 1982. Despite the growing popularity of “home arcades” like the Atari 2600, Intellivision and Colecovision, Xevious was advertised as the arcade game you could NOT play at home. The reason; it was a lot more advanced than the home machines of the time could handle. It was also one of the first of the “vertically scrolling shooter” kind of games, and as such paved the way for so, so many games thereafter. For its age, the graphics were excellent, and the game was quite successful in North America.
In Japan, however, Xevious was HUGE. While I believe there was only the one Xevious game in North America, in Japan, over the years, there have been many. It was a very influential game, and references to is show up in many other places, such as other games and movies. In the game, you fly a small space fighter called a Solvalou and you have to defeat the GAMP, destroying enemy craft, tanks and bases along the way. I don’t know all the details of the plot or the gameplay; if you’re interested, Google will help you out.
However, what I AM interested in is cool model kits of space vehicles, especially when they have an anime flavour. That’s why, despite knowing zip about Xevious, I was eager to get this kit at a swap night my club (IPMS London) has once a year. So, whether you know and love Xevious, or you are curious to know more about how you make a kit of a space ship that exists mostly as a top view, follow right along!
This kit is made by WAVE, a company with which I have had no prior experience. However, they are a Japanese company, and they clearly know how to make awesome box art! The box for this thing is actually pretty big, a bit larger than a standard HGUC Gundam, and it’s a great canvas for some very energetic artwork! At the top left corner is the classic “Xevious” logo, which will create excitement for those who know/knew Xevious, and which is hard to read and pronounce for the rest of us.
Front and center, though, is the Solvalou itself. Seen from a front three-quarters view with both of its massive engines blasting at full thrust, it conveys a feeling of speed and purpose. This is clearly a compact machine; all engine what’s not cockpit, with stumpy wings and a big undernose cannon. The Solvalou is shown banking over a very verdant landscape (like that in the game, I’m led to believe) whereupon are also visible various enemy structures, some of which have already felt the wrath of the Solvalou’s attack.
At the top of the box is a burning… something. It looks like a flying city (like the City Ships of Alpha, for you TTA fans out there, or a Star Destroyer maybe), but it’s clearly on fire and heading for the ground. This large construct is apparently called an “Andor Genesis” ship, and is one of the level bosses in the game. They’re a big deal, because apparently they were one of the first examples of “level bosses” in video game history.
The side of this very shiny box shows us two views of the Solvalou; one from the front and one from the back. I assumed, at first that these were pictures of the assembled, but unpainted, model. There’s not a lot of colour in the largely exposed engine section, and that seems like a waste. However, the fact is that the stand is painted, and there’s colour on the canopy frame, so I guess the kit is fully painted after all. Still, the colour separation on the kit is so good that you’d get awfully close to what you see, even without painting. Man, it pains me to say that…
This shows the completed kit, in what appears to be a painted form, given the detailing on the base. The unfinished kit wouldn’t appear too different, actually!
What is interesting is that the Solvalou doesn’t come with landing gear, but it does have a stand. The stand, as it turns out, is one of the “Andor Genesis” ships, or at least represents one. That’s actually pretty cool. The other side of the box shows a few of the features, such as the differently poseable wing thrusters (with open or closed airbrakes) and there’s a close-up of the stand, which looks really well detailed. There’s some Japanese text that I’m sure makes all of it make sense, but my Japanese is non-existent. Sorry.
Inside the box, one finds six racks of parts, as well as a sheet of metallic stickers and the instruction booklet that features full colour on the front and back. The first thing I noticed is that, like all good anime kits (at least those from Bandai), this one comes moulded in colour. There are white, blue, black and even one clear orange piece! The second thing I noticed, and which is immediately apparent upon arranging the parts for picture taking, is that there’s really not much to this kit.
Yes, it’s a nice kit of an interesting subject, but for all the size of the box and its original cost, there isn’t much to this thing. There are two white racks, but one is dominated by the top and bottom fuselages, while the other is very small. There are blue pieces for the wings, but there aren’t many, and the black engine detail consists of only a few pieces with lots of moulded- on detail. This is necessarily bad, but it’s definitely the polar opposite of some of the Kotobukiya Super Robot Wars OG kits I have, where there are almost too many separate pieces!
The moulding looks good, though. All the panel lines are nice and crisp, and the detail that’s on the engines is pretty cool. The two engine “inserts” with their petals and turbine-like centre are very catching, and I think with the right paint treatment will look amazing. The clear canopy is very clear and very orange, with no defects on it anywhere.
The cockpit, looking at the pieces for it, is pretty Spartan. I know that this is a “non-scale” kit, but it looks like the seat is about 1/48, making the Solvalou very, very tiny. It’s even tinier than a Natter in the same scale! I will admit to being put off by the apparent lack of effort put into the cockpit. At this size, there’s no excuse for not putting in some consoles or other wall-mounted details! However, there’s none of that. It makes the kit feel a bit unfinished, like they wanted to do more, but the budget ran out. However, for superdetailers with lots of spare photoetch, this cockpit is a good canvas for your abilities!
I wish I could say more about this kit, but there really isn’t all that much more TO say. The low piece count and good detail seem to indicate a model that should go together quickly and look good with some attention to detail. However, it’s clear that this model isn’t aimed at modellers, but more at fans of the game who have minimal modelling skills, and who may have never modelled in their lives.
Instructions and Decals:
The instructions are very simple. Given the low piece count, that’s expected, but it’s still nice to see. There aren’t a lot of instructions in the instruction booklet. The outside pages are in colour, the inside in black and white. All drawings are rendered clearly and there’s no way to confuse what you’re doing, or at least it looks that way. One astounding thing to me is how big the “boxes” for the individual steps are. I know they’re trying to fill some space, but it gives me the impression that Wave is trying to make the kit look like a better deal than it is. I’m sure all of the instructions could have been fit on two or maybe three pages (at most); this booklet feels like an exercise in using too much white space.
The colour pictures on the instructions are largely the same as those on the box, but they show enough detail to help with painting accurately. The decals, though, are a different story. They’re not even traditional waterslide decals; they’re foil-based self-adhesives. They’re basically the same thing as old ‘80s Transformers decals. If you are familiar with these, you know that they are NOT appropriate for a real kit; they don’t conform to surface details well and they cannot be moved easily once applied. For a serious modeller, they are utterly unacceptable.
I like this kit. While I don’t know a thing about the Solvalou or Xevious, but the design is unique and quite cool. I am impressed with the quality of the few parts it does have, and the moulding is crisp and fine enough without being ridiculous.
This little model is a good kit for any skill level. It looks well engineered and you can get a good replica even without painting. However, this is definitely a kit that will benefit well from the ministrations of a more experienced modeller. There’s a tonne of opportunity in this kit; superdetailing, or even normal detailing, will really set it off, and with some paint tricks, or weathering, I’m sure this thing can be made into quite a stunner.
The Solvalou’s low piece count means that there’s not a lot of work to be done in the assembly part of this kit, and that’s great for beginners. For those, like me, who like to paint more than anything else, the simple assembly means there will be more time for painting, and that’s always a good thing. This isn’t a kit for someone who wants to agonize over every detail, but it is a great little model to just get you into the swing of things, and break the monotony by being something different.
Whether you know Xevious and the Solvalou or not, this kit from Wave is definitely a neat piece for your collection. It’s just different enough that it’s a great conversation starter, and it’s just simple enough that you can do almost anything with it. What else could you want from a kit?