REVIEW: Samurai Mech

Set number:
9448
Release year:
2012
Theme(s):
# of parts:
452
# of figures:
3
RRP
GBP 29.99 / USD 39.99

Promotional image
9448 Samurai Mech promotional image

Send the Constrictai snakes flying with the awesome Samurai Mech!

Samurai X is on board the mighty Samurai Mech when she locates the Constrictai fang blade and closes in to claim it! Can scout Snike and warrior Bytar stop it with a catapult ambush? Or will the Samurai Mech’s massive blade, shoulder cannon shooter and bladed grabbers overcome the Constrictai snakes? Includes 3 minifigures: Samurai X, Snike and Bytar, Samurai Mech, catapult, Constrictai fang blade with orange anti-venom capsule and weapon.

  • Includes 3 minifigures: Samurai X, Snike and Bytar
  • Features massive blade, shoulder cannon shooter, bladed grabbers, opening cockpit, poseable

joints and golden spinner crown mounted on chest

  • Also includes working snake catapult
  • Weapons include fang blade with orange anti-venom capsule and weapon
  • Fire the shoulder cannon!
  • Launch the catapult!
  • Pose the Samurai Mech with poseable joints!
  • Measures over 9″ (24cm) tall
  • Catapult measures over 3″ (9cm) long and 1″ (3cm) tall

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Welcome to what was going to be my fourth Reviewers Academy review on Eurobricks, originally written at the end of July 2012. What happened was that the reviewing process dragged on for way too long, and I got fed up and moved on. The only reason I’m coming back to it is because of the “belated review” poll, where voters could pick which of my leftover sets they wanted to see reviewed.

In any case: today I’m going out of my comfort zone by reviewing a Ninjago set, and I should forewarn any readers that I’m not familiar with the storyline at all. This and many of the exciting sets lined up for this year were on show at this year’s AFOLcon/The LEGO Show in Manchester, and had it not been for one particular feature of this set I wouldn’t have picked it up.
What is this feature, someone at the very back murmured? Let’s have a look.

The Box

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The first very noticeable thing about this set is how small the box seems to be. On the day I went to buy this from the LEGO store I had completely missed it, thinking they’d either sold out or not gotten them in yet. It turned out they were at the very bottom of the shelves, virtually invisible among all the other Ninjago sets.

Back of the box

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A number of play features are shown on the back of this box: not only the many articulation points of the Samurai Mech, but the collectible dagger-like weapons (bottom left) and the included spinner accessory (incorporated into the Mech). The two featured characters are Samurai X (Nya) and Bytar; the third minifigure isn’t even mentioned here.

Sides of the box

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Instead, we find out who he (the orange snake character) is from one of the sides of the box. Right now I’m thinking “Snike” is a rubbish name, even if it is meant to be a play on snake-related words.

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Never mind the snakes though: SAMURAI X IS INCLUDED! Along with some not-so-good news for China-phobes. We are holding Max responsible for that.

The Contents

Just from looking at the box art, I knew I was going to have a wide assortment of parts to deal with and take pictures of: one reason why I prefer reviewing smaller sets. Unfortunately we will have to do something if we want to see this thing built!

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There’s some good news: we have numbered bags. This set contains three numbered bags, each corresponding to the different parts of the Mech as well as the additional model. We can see that the first bag contains the parts for the snake figures, as well as the gold spinner accessory and a smaller bag of parts.

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The second bag looks boring in comparison, with not a great variety of parts, but a smaller bag inside.

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The third bag also contains a bag of smaller parts, but most noticeable are two giant parts in black that look like they belong on the front of a train. Also shown here is a single DSS that survived being in the box. As usual I won’t be using the stickers in the review…

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…but here’s a close-up of the sticker sheet.

There are an awful lot of different parts in this set, most of them small (just how I like them). I’ve decided to group the parts differently for this review, which should hopefully make things manageable.

Black parts

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Here’s a selection of the big black parts used in the model, mostly for the Mech of course. Hero Factory joints make an appearance, as well as those weird plates with three-way handles and the two oversized train thingies (cow catchers). The cow catchers make an appearance in this year’s Monster Fighters The Ghost Train, but they date back to 2010 where it was used in a Space Police III set. Find these in BrickLink’s “Plate, Modified” category.

Red parts

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If you’re not a fan of red, this model is not for you. We can see, however, that those 1×2/2×4 brackets that first appeared in the Shepherds Bush grand opening set are much more widely available. We’re not sure how much use we’ll get out of those grilled round bricks in red, however, in MOCs.

(Bluish) Grey parts

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Now we’re talking. Featured in this picture are four new parts for 2012, three of which I had no idea were present in this set: the three bracket pieces (1×2/1×2, 1×2/1×2 inverted, 1×2/2×2 inverted) and the one I was looking forward to, the 2×2 inverted tiles. I should thank caperberry for pointing out this model had them, because I hadn’t paid any attention to it when it was on display at The LEGO Show. This was the feature that made me want to get the set, and at the time it was the only set to have these pieces.
But while it’s a nice piece, and some demonstrations of its uses have been shown on Flickr, I’m still trying to think of instances where I’d use something like that. Here’s hoping that the often requested double-sided plate will be following in the near future, as well as this part becoming more common (and of course in a wide array of colours).

Tan/Yellow parts

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Only a small handful of Tan/Dark Tan parts, and unfortunately only two of those masonry bricks that people have been going crazy over. These are mainly for the submodel.

Pearly parts

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Lots of “shiny” pearl metallic parts in this set, of which these are the biggest. Very interestingly the cannon is in Pearl Dark Grey, and though it appears in a number of other sets I haven’t seen one before. Thank goodness whoever made this set had the decency not to incorporate flick-fire missiles.
There’s nothing else here I’m particularly keen on, mainly because I prefer metallic and chrome over pearly variants (especially gold). The grille tiles could come in useful for MOCs.

Dark Red/Reddish Brown parts

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There are also a few Dark Red parts in the set; mostly ordinary parts such as plates and bricks. Four plane windows could come in useful for anyone building vehicles. The barrel part, although it doesn’t look like it in this photo, is Reddish Brown.

Technic parts

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I guess the set wouldn’t be a Mech without the use of some Technic parts. The blue part in the middle is currently only available in this set and the fan-favourite Unimog.

Cheesy slopeage

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Moving on to the smaller parts, here’s where things start to get good from a parts perspective. There’s a total of 26 cheese slopes in Dark Red, and ten in Pearl Gold – there are also plenty of those cutout slopes in Red if you like them.

The Good Stuff

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And arguably the best has been saved for last: the small amount of tileage in this set comes in the form of five 2×2 tiles in Dark Red, two 1×6 Red tiles and ten of those gorgeous 1×1 round tiles we were going crazy over at the end of last year. We also have two printed Trans Orange round tiles for anyone who wants to collect them all from the Ninjago series.

Instructions

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You may be surprised to find there are two instruction books for the entire build. Apart from the obvious numbering, both look identical from the front…

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… but the back of the second book may give you a heart attack.

The minifigures

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Here’s your cast for tonight’s show: Nya (also known as Samurai X), Snike and Bytar. They all have front and back printing on the torsos, and Nya is blessed with a rather nice double-sided head: that scowling expression could come in very useful for other MOCs, although good luck getting hold of enough heads for that purpose.
The print quality is very good on all the parts, even on Nya’s legs, and I haven’t noticed any quality issues with the plastic on any of them. They’re certainly not as obvious as, say, the Minifigure Presentation Boxes.

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Here are the same figures but with their respective headpieces. Bytar’s head is a very detailed modified head, but unfortunately it covers the top half of his torso, making him look like a hunchback. It also doesn’t help that he has the “kiddy” short legs either. Snike’s headpiece is very cool.
Of course, Nya has her equally detailed samurai helmet complete with mouthpiece and bucket handle horns. The mouthpiece makes the helmet seem oversized, but I suppose it’s to be expected with toys this size.

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*smash* “I have to wear this?!

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To add insult to injury, both Bytar and Snike come with dedicated weapons (or at least, as is shown on the box). Despite being pictured with a massive sword, Nya has nothing… except the Mech, I suppose.

The Build

The set is divided into two builds, as with most other sets this size. The first build is a catapult, which is the snakes’ method of attack.

The catapult

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This model uses the majority of the Tan and Dark Tan parts, including the masonry bricks, and at first it looks like it’s a throwaway addition to make up the set’s price point. However, the catapult has a very nice flicking action to it, and in the right hands could send something flying. The weight of the basket (under which goes one of those inverted tiles) is sufficient enough to return it to its pre-launched state.
The one downside is that it’s not very easy to keep the basket lifted for photographic purposes, at least not without attaching other parts. The inverted tile used under the bucket means that you can’t place anything under it (it’s slippery!), and there’s not enough room to place something over the lever.

I guess the general idea is that the snakes will use the catapult to try and hijack the Samurai Mech, or give it a good smashing up from the top.

The Mech

I’m as curious as anyone to see how this mech is built, and more so how flexible and articulate it’s going to be.

It all starts from this “core”:

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The first step is making the body of the Mech, with the remaining parts from bag #1.

Step 15

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At step 15 you’ll see the body starting to take shape, and we can see how those new bracket pieces are being used in conjunction with the older bracket part to make a studded “wall”.

Step 24

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Step 24 is a little tricky, as you’ll have to add these two hinge plates to the body. I found it a little hard to place them correctly; we have to make sure those bracket pieces are lined up properly.

Step 30

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After the 30th step, we have the completed body. Already it’s starting to look like something out of Power Rangers… you know, back when it was a fresh idea.
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On to the second bag:

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We start to build these two things, and I’m left wondering: what could this be?

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It doesn’t get any clearer as we keep at it…

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Ahhh, it’s some kind of limb.

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There’s another part to build, which looks a lot like an arm. Note the use of staggered cut-out slopes for an armoured texture, which is rather clever.

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Now it’s become more obvious: we’ve been building one of the Mech’s legs. Its right leg, to be precise.

It’s a slightly different build for the Mech’s left leg, but once we have both we require something to join them together…

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The waist is a very simple build, although I wasn’t sure what it was at the time of building. Using the joint pins on each leg, we can now attach the legs to this waist piece for a pair of legs that stand on their own.

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Carefully slide the body onto the leg assembly, threading the axle piece into the spaces made by the round plates. We’re making very good progress!

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At this point I couldn’t see how it was possible to build the rest of the Mech with so few parts left. I couldn’t wait to see this one, and we’re going to as we’ve reached the end of the first instruction book.

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This is the Mech’s left arm, which uses the cartoon standard of three fingers and a thumb for its hand. The four teeth act as a claw, making the hand very useful for grabbing things. We can also see one of the inverted tiles making an appearance here.
The Hero Factory joint impatiently waits for the connection to the rest of the body…

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The Mech’s right arm is almost identical to the left, except the fingers have no claws.

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Let’s add them to the Mech, and now it’s really starting to take shape – although be careful not to break anything while snapping the ball and joint together. Fortunately it wasn’t hard to connect them.

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(From the back, this Mech isn’t so pretty.)

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Those four rounded bricks you saw earlier are for making this giant samurai helmet, complete with giant golden horns. It looks very bulletproof, but even so I’m not sure how it’s going to suit the Mech.

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To be able to attach the helmet to the body, we’ll have to employ some hinge plates. You might remember the two black hinge bricks at the back of the Mech’s body…

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… but before we add it, you didn’t forget there was going to be a jet pack, did you? They look more like fireworks than heavy-duty rockets, but no Mech should be operational without one.

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Jet pack fitted, let’s add it to the model.

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Halfway through the second instruction book, you’ll come across this double-sided infomercial. The middle has a checklist of all the weapons you can obtain (read: buy and collect) from this Ninjago series: some being completely lame (such as the dynamite and the hammer) and some worth checking out (such as the snakes, the dragon sword and the scythe). It’s likely you’ll have to buy all the sets to get them all, but obviously some of them can be made with your own spare parts.

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After the infomercial, it’s time to pimp our mech with some long-range weapons. This is where the cow catchers come into play: one of them has the cannon mounted onto it with the help of one of those robot arms, while the other has some other kind of weapon on it. I have no idea what it is – could it be a laser gun? A bazooka? Perfume?

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Those too are attached to the body, this time by way of hinge plates.

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A basic samurai flag, or sashimono, is formed out of some Technic parts to attach to the back of the Mech.

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Here’s the final part of the build: the Samurai Mech’s main weapon, a giant spanking paddle sword. I particularly liked the way the handle was crafted using Technic pieces, all of the main parts being fairly common in Yellow.

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The red axle sticking out allows the sword to be attached to either of the Mech’s hands, by way of the brick with an axle hole, on some Jedi-power stuff.

The Completed Model

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Nya (a.k.a. Samurai X) stands proud next to her brand new Samurai Mech, fresh from the factory. It’s hard to believe that something like this could have been made from so few (and so small) parts.

Poseability

So how pose-able is this Mech?

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Thanks mostly to the combination of friction hinges, it’s fairly easy to bend the legs in the directions you want them. The ball joint between the legs and feet slightly resemble a knee joint, but the most articulation is at the hips, where the torso can also rotate.
The arms, while being very flexible at the ball joint, are heavily restricted by the cow catcher shoulder pads, but otherwise they are able to bend in all kinds of directions, with the benefit of having elbows.

When I’d first built the model it was fairly simple to pose the Mech, but I did find that the ball joints for the feet became more slippery, and although it’s possible it’s not easy to have the Mech stand on one foot.

Leftovers

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A small handful of nice parts are left from the build: best of all we have four of those dinky round tiles to play with or hoard, as well as a few extra cheese slopes and Technic parts. For a GBP 29.99 set it’s not bad at all.

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At the back of instruction book 2, this literal beast of a set is advertised. I wouldn’t consider getting it, except for the collector there are going to be a number of unique parts.

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Three new spinners are yet to be announced, but this time you can customise your spinners with all kinds of strange plastic parts.

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And if you visit ninjago.com today, real life LEGO sets will come out of your laptop, phone and iPad.</lies>

Fun with the set

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The snakes are planning to capture an unarmed Samurai X and her shiny new Mech.

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“Gimme that basket!”
“Agh!”

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Dibs! Now how d’ya work this thing…”

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*CLUNK* MEGAZORD ACTIVATED

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“RUN!”

The Verdict

I think this is a pretty good set, and not just for the parts. The Mech and even the catapult were very well designed, especially with the number of pieces in the set, and you can tell that a lot of thought and expertise went into building both. There are quite a few building techniques using small parts that I wouldn’t have thought of (such as the staggered cutout slopes on the legs), and many demonstrations of how parts we (read: I) wouldn’t think of as being useful can be used.
The Mech itself is very articulate, and thanks mostly to the joints and the large feet it can be posed in almost any way. This is a great starting point for anyone interested in building mechs or robots.
If you’re picking this set up for parts, there aren’t many places you can get hold of so many round tiles and cheese slopes in these colours outside of BrickLink. The addition of the shoulder-mounted cannon is great for anyone who’s bored of flick-fire missiles.

The only downside with the Mech is that it would have been great to have a turning head, although whether it’s important or not depends on what we’re using it for. It would have also been nice to have one of those printed tiles for the flag (sashimono), but it was obviously more appropriate to use an actual flag. Would this larger flag part have been too big? Probably!

As for the figures: although Nya has the Mech, I still think she’s missing a weapon for when she’s not inside it. Both the snake characters suffer from having the short legs, especially Bytar, but they can always be replaced with regular legs to be more dynamic.

Rating breakdown

Design: 9 out of 10
While the Mech was very well designed in terms of articulation and appearance, credit also has to be given for a well-designed secondary model.
Build: 7 out of 10
Building the Mech can take a while with all those small pieces, and it takes a little time to figure out what exactly it is you're building, but you'll get into "the zone" once you realise how the parts fit together.
Parts: 8 out of 10
Many of the parts in this set have a purpose and are not just there for decoration. Some of them may be difficult to incorporate into other MOCs, such as the cow catchers.
Playability: 8 out of 10
There's plenty to do with the Mech and the catapult, the only limits being your imagination and the flexibility of the arms. Eventually you may want to strip it for parts or have a go at building your own Mech.
Price: 9 out of 10
Considering the kinds of parts we get in this set, I think the pricing is pretty good. Certainly get a hold of it if it's ever discounted.

Based on these scores I’d give this set 8.2/10, which is very well done indeed.

As a closing note: I had to buy two copies of this set as I’d screwed up taking pictures of the box (and probably the sealed bags). One copy is parted out in my collection; the Mech assembled for this review was passed on to someone even more enthusiastic about it than I was.

Thanks for watching.

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