Dragons have been a characteristic feature of the NINJAGO theme since its inception. 70666 The Golden Dragon is accordingly appropriate for a modernised version, particularly since its predecessor, 70503 The Golden Dragon, does offer some potential for improvement.
However, this design only contains 171 pieces which is considerably smaller than the previous 252-piece model. That may introduce certain issues so is disappointing, although its price has dropped to £17.99 or $19.99 and that seems reasonable. Hopefully this model will be a worthy successor to the Golden Dragon from 2013.
Season two of NINJAGO: Masters of Spinjitzu concluded with the emergence of Golden Ninja Lloyd and this minifigure has undergone several changes since 2013. The head wrap is new but resembles an earlier element, featuring an attractive dark green band. Personally, I prefer the modern two-piece head wrap which appears more shapely to me, although recreating the original design is appreciated.
Lloyd's clothing has also been updated and now includes a pair of metallic gold dragons beside some dark green straps. The original minifigure wore an impressive robe and shoulder armour which looked more appealing. The head, on the other hand, is excellent and features crackling green energy around the eyes along with two angry expressions. Lloyd wields a pearl gold katana which is fine, although the Sword of Fire would have been ideal.
However, I am delighted with this version of the Overlord. It shares comparatively few design features with the earlier minifigure but looks fantastic, capturing the character's mystical nature. I love the trans-purple head which is decorated with glowing eyes and bared teeth while the helmet features imposing horns, further exaggerating the Overlord's already enormous size!
The torso consists of two pieces and includes four arms, corresponding with the possessed version of Lord Garmadon from 70505 Temple of Light. Golden armour is printed on the Overlord's chest and the wraithlike component which replaces his legs looks great, although the transition between trans-purple and black where these pieces is rather abrupt. The villain wields a bladed naginata.
A single Stone Army Scout completes the minifigure selection, carrying a pearl dark grey crossbow and some additional bolts on its back. Similar figures have appeared in several previous sets but this example is unique and looks superb. The minifigure from 2013 wore a traditional conical hat while the updated version features a red coolie which is moulded with some lovely textured detail.
Moreover, the red armour on the torso is now more prominent, almost entirely covering the chain mail underneath. The yellow symbol at its centre remains intact though and the head is perfectly decorated with green facial markings. Another scout is found in 70669 Cole's Earth Driller but that figure includes yellow designs on its face and longer legs so you can easily assemble an army of different minifigures.
The Completed Model
Many different dragons have been produced for the NINJAGO theme and this rendition of the Golden Dragon is among the smaller designs, measuring 24cm in length with the tail extended. I think it looks good though and the balance between pearl gold and dark green pieces is very attractive. This colour scheme matches the Lloyd minifigure and improves upon the original Golden Dragon in my view.
NINJAGO dragons often included moulded heads when the theme began but they have subsequently been replaced with brick-built designs. However, two unique elements form the Golden Dragon's head and dark green highlights decorate either side, following the example of the 2013 model. In addition, a stud shooter is hidden inside the mouth and this is activated when the jaws are closed.
There is room to seat Lloyd on a white saddle which really stands out against the dragon's body. I like the stickered flag behind this seat and the surrounding pearl gold mudguards create a brilliant organic shape. Miniature ball joints connect each limb to the body and the resultant articulation is tremendous, especially around the neck, so you can create numerous dynamic poses.
70503 The Golden Dragon was certainly an enjoyable set but offered some room for improvement in my opinion. Its static feet were particularly unfortunate so I appreciate the individually articulated toes which provide robust support to the new dragon. The hip and ankle joints offer an impressive range of motion as well.
Furthermore, the wings are mounted on two ball joints so can move in any direction. They look great when spread for flight but I prefer to display the model as though it is walking across the ground, with its wings facing forwards and claws extended. The central blade can move back and forth but seems most impressive when situated at an angle, as demonstrated in the image below.
The tail is simply constructed using a series of ball joints and includes two pearl gold katana at the tip. Larger blades appeared on the earlier dragon from 2013 but these minifigure accessories are superb and match the innermost blades on each wing which is a charming detail.
Creating a smaller version of a retired set is probably among the most difficult challenges that a LEGO designer can encounter, particularly when the original model was very popular. However, I am pleased with 70666 The Golden Dragon. This dragon offers superior articulation and looks threatening, despite being considerably smaller than its predecessor. The updated head, for instance, is highly detailed.
This version of the Overlord is excellent as well, making fantastic use of a ghoulish element in place of standard legs. However, I prefer the previous Lloyd minifigure and certain details from the older dragon have been lost which is disappointing, although I think that can be excused to some degree as the price has been lowered in relation to the model from 2013.
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