Mechs have become an increasingly important facet of the NINJAGO theme, appearing in many different shapes and sizes. That may be partially attributable to the exceptional standard of 9448 Samurai Mech from 2012 which has acquired an impressive reputation and might be considered among the best sets of the range!
Its return for the Legacy subtheme is therefore not entirely surprising, although the vehicle has been scaled down for 70665 The Samurai Mech. That is somewhat disappointing but smaller mechs from NINJAGO are often appealing and a superb selection of minifigures are included, the most notable of whom are probably the Skulkin, Nuckal and Kruncha.
Before becoming an official member of the ninja team, Nya created the mysterious guise of Samurai X. This minifigure is fairly similar to the previous version from 9448 Samurai Mech, albeit with red armour and updated printing. The black samurai helmet looks wonderful and features a golden bucket handle that forms the crest along with a faceplate, including some brilliant moulded detail and concealing the samurai's true identity.
Nya wears red chest armour with large shoulder protectors. I like this component but prefer the printed design underneath, featuring a metallic gold symbol which corresponds with her mech alongside some small fasteners. The red and dark red colour scheme matches the original minifigure from 2012 but the armour design is more akin to the 2015 figure.
Removing the helmet reveals a double-sided head which has appeared on several previous occasions. Both expressions look superb but a new element would have been welcome. No weapons are actually included for Nya, although she can use the pearl gold katana which are attached to the Samurai Mech.
Many factions have opposed the ninja during the last nine years, commencing with the Skulkin. These villains remained almost unchanged when they returned in 70592 Salvage M.E.C. but the 2019 design features a new head and shoulder armour. Nuckal still wears a metal eye patch and tan spikes across the top of his head so is instantly recognisable, although these are now formed using a mohawk piece.
Kruncha also maintains his traditional war helmet, albeit represented by a separate component. I can understand why seasoned NINJAGO might favour the original design but I actually prefer the new one as the updated skulls appear more realistic and are readily customisable. The skeletal torso, arms and legs are impressive and Kruncha's waist now features a red sash, matching the animated series rather than the earlier minifigure which wore a dark bluish grey sash. The characters are armed with a sword and a bone axe.
The Completed Model
Smaller mechs are a recurring feature within the NINJAGO theme and this model, measuring 14cm in height, therefore feels more reminiscent of 70754 ElectroMech than 9448 Samurai Mech. However, its stocky shape has been replicated effectively and the requisite samurai styling is certainly present. The mech features a suitable combination of red, dark red and black pieces along with some lovely golden highlights that are visible in the earlier set.
The model is reasonably articulated, featuring ball-jointed shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips and ankles. I am often disappointed by the absence of knee joints but they are not really necessary here, especially since the feet have a broad surface area so provide adequate support. In fact, the mech can stand on one leg securely and running poses are certainly possible.
Samurai X fits neatly inside the torso and is protected by two golden robot arms around her shoulders. A round sticker is placed on the chest, matching the original model as well as Nya's torso printing. The set from 2012 featured a helmet which closed over the minifigure but that is absent here, unfortunately, despite being an important aspect of the earlier model. Nevertheless, I think the mech looks good with a minifigure in position.
Two stud shooters are mounted on the shoulders, representing the much larger cannons that appeared on the previous model. This flag, on the other hand, remains the same size and is decorated with a pair of stickers which show Samurai X's helmet beside two crossed swords. Moreover, the powerful jet pack which allowed the mech to fly in the television series appears here too, albeit with a simplified design.
The shoulder armour was among the most distinctive features of 9448 Samurai Mech and this rendition is fairly similar, making use of 1x2 plates with three clips rather than cowcatcher elements. I like the red stickers and the dark red 1x1 slopes along the arms are marvellous. The mech wields a pearl dark grey katana and two golden blades are fixed to its left wrist which look quite intimidating.
Faulds cover the hip joints and another sticker is applied between them, corresponding with those on the shoulders. The feet appear rather bland but I like the combination of red and dark red pieces and the golden 1x2 grille tiles on the toes look great, particularly since exactly the same pieces appear in the same position on the 2012 set.
Creating smaller versions of previous models is probably among the greatest challenges that a LEGO designer can encounter, especially when the previous set is extremely impressive. On that basis, I am satisfied with 70665 The Samurai Mech. 9448 Samurai Mech remains more appealing but that seems inevitable as the new mech only contains 154 pieces but captures the important design features of its predecessor in my opinion.
Furthermore, the updated Skulkin minifigures are excellent and I think this set offers reasonable value, costing £14.99 in the UK or $14.99 in the US. I would therefore recommend 70665 The Samurai Mech as an independent model but owners of the original mech might wish to focus their attention elsewhere.
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