Set Review: 70728 Battle for Ninjago City
Wednesday, September 10th, 2014 at 8:18pm by Andrew, BZPower News Manager
[Source: Nuju Metru]
Ninjago Month continues! Last week, we took a look at the smallest Ninjago set of 2014, and today we look at the largest. BZPower Forum Assistant Nuju Metru shares his thoughts on 70728 Battle for Ninjago City from the summer lineup of sets. Will this set win the battle and find its way into your home, or will other sets beat it into your shopping cart? You'll have to continue on to see our review to find out!
Hey guys, and welcome to the BZPower review of set 70728 Battle for Ninjago City from the summer Ninjago line! As always, I'd like to thank TLG for giving us at BZP free stuff, and thank Andrew for passing some of it on to me. Read on to see my thoughts - captured for you in both a video and BZPower's traditional text/image format - on this model. Is 70728 worth fighting for, or will it sit defeated on store shelves? Let's find out!
From the design of the box to the instruction manual, these are the first things you see before building the set.
70728's box is quite big and, per usual LEGO standards, rather pretty (the photos of this review are also, I hope, rather pretty; a certain BZP Blog Leader challenged me to take better review photos, so I've done my best). If there's one thing the box's front doesn't suffer from, it's being monochromatic. Orange industrial smog in the background is dynamically juxtaposed against a blue-and-white logo bar; both fog and logo bar, of course, take a back seat to the product, a red, green, and gold temple surrounded by dynamically-posed minifigs and vehicles. A few special effects are employed on the image, from glowing flames to swoosh-lines; most notable of these is the black-purple energies surrounding Overlord's walker (and the shout-out to his figure in the bottom corner).
The back of the box is divided roughly into two sections: the left-hand side bears a similar scene to the front of the box, while the right-hand side lays the main model out over a blueprint background. Working with the high-tech blueprint theme, play features of the set are called out in their own boxes and text, with square-angled tails tracing to where those functions can be found. The blueprint side of the box doesn't hold a monopoly on mini callouts, though: in the same area that Overlord occupied on the front of the box, the back has a cutout like a circular saw blade that shows off that 70728 comes with two of the special techno blades (evidently, numbers 2 and 3? I didn't know they were numbered), and a rectangle showcasing a Star Wars spring shooter. On top of the box, next to the Ninjago logo, Zane stares down death as a Nindroid lunges at him through what can only be a laptop-shaped window.
Across the top of the box, we get a view of 70728's eight minifigs, with Zane as the 1:1 indicator. Once again, we see Overlord surrounded by black-purple fire, this time draped behind him like a bridal train. It looks cool, but I don't think it's normal or (particularly honest) for TLG to add effects to the sacred top-of-box figure space.
Opening up the box, we're presented with a plethora of plastic. The bags are numbered, and go all the way up to 11(!). To my relief and satisfaction, the instruction manuals and the sticker sheet came wrapped up with a piece of cardboard to retain their flatness.
Following with the blueprint motif, the instruction manuals have the same image from the front of the box, but set on a blue grid rather than orange smog. We get three booklets; one's smaller than the others. The sticker sheet is notable to me in that the stickers are numbered - is that a new thing? - to make them easier to tell apart from one another. This is particularly helpful when it comes to applying all those evil-energy ones.
Enough of the trifles, though - let's get to the meatier stuff!
Half the fun is had building the set. How fun is it to build and how easy or challenging is it?
The first thing that gets put together is Overlord's walker; that's followed by the small archway, the glider, and the tree; then you get started on the main temple. Most of the figures are built at the beginning of the first few bags, with the exception of the hoodless Nindroid, which is built with the final bag, almost like a reward. I didn't take construction-in-progress photos, since there would have been far too many, so you'll have to take my word for it when I say that the build is fairly fun. There are enough treats here and there - the construction of furniture, the discovery of a new play feature, the designer's solutions to roofing at unusual angles - to alleviate any monotony from the build.
70728 took me around an hour and a half to put together, if I'm remembering right. Stickers were used most frequently on the Overlord walker; applying the ones to the flag took a little extra care, and it was hard to center the circular dragon emblems on the hanging banners of the temple. Other than these sticker tests, and four knots (an unusual number for a LEGO set), the build was straightforward. For most of the construction, especially when it came to the main model, things stayed generally in horizontal brick territory.
These are the extra parts, which I had enough foresight to photograph before I cast them into my bins. One of those probably shouldn't be extra - can you tell which one?
Now that the set is complete, we can critique how it looks from every angle. New or interesting pieces can also be examined here.
One of the main reasons I was drawn to 70728 was its array of valuable pieces. While I don't just see sets with the monomania of a parts-hungry MOCer, I accept the reality that almost all of LEGO sets I own will end up in my bins, being put to creative use, so the selection of parts that compose a set is important to me. Here are some of the gems I extracted from 70728, which are all either new or recolored elements, or just flippin' cool (vaguely from left to right and top to bottom):
- The two component parts of the newish trap door design, in dark green (2x)
- 4x4 circular plates, in dark red (2x)
- Jedi Starfighter wing flaps, in red (2x)
- Axe blades, in trans-red (2x)
- A bottle, in trans-green (1x)
- 1x4 rounded inverse slopes, in black (2x)
- Small leaves, in dark red (2x)
- 1x3x3 gothic arch halves, in reddish brown (6x)
- 45-degree angle plates, in black (10x)
- Norbert the Norwegian Ridgeback, in gold (2x)
- Lightsaber handles, in gold (2x - one comes extra!)
- A Technic-adapted minifigure torso accessory part, in black (1x)
- Legends of Chima spider/scorpion legs, in gold (4x)
- Cinderella carriage wheels, in gold (2x)
- Constraction figure smooth blades, in gold (2x)
- A claw-shouldered minifig torso accessory, in gold (1x)
If you're able to stop yourself from immediately putting those parts to work (it was a hard thing to not do), you'll end up with a set that looks something like what you see above. The completed model is about as large-feeling as I expected, but heftier. All together, the various hues of the main temple, the tree, and the Overlord walker make a nice-looking scene.
Now let's put on our monocles and take an in-depth look at all the component parts, in their turn.
We get four good-guy minifigures: Nya, Lloyd, Jay, and Zane. They all go by monomers, which isn't always typical of LEGO characters (remember the Monster Fighters' delightful surnames?), but which also isn't news, seeing as Ninjago's been going on for years now. The torso printing on all these figures is new for the wave, and I believe that Nya and Zane's particular prints are exclusive to this set. It's too bad that only Nya gets leg printing. All four have back printing on their torsos, but not their heads. The pure red-blue-white-green (a reliable combo since the Toa Mata days) looks classy when the team is all lined up like this, and I like the unity that their mutual silver Katana-packs and black hands bring.
70728 also gives us four bad guys: three Nindroid goons, and the exclusive figure of Overlord. The Nindroids are nothing terribly special - two have masks, one doesn't, and that one also lacks leg printing, poor guy - but Overlord is something else. A printed dress element and torso give him an elongated, skeletal look, with ribs that mimic the golden LoC spider legs we saw earlier, which are part of his craft. A wicked leer hides beneath that (unfortunately mundane) Knights' Kingdom helmet. The gold shoulder armor and the beautifully printed torso outshine the helmet and head for me, taking the whole figure down a notch.
Speaking of Overlord, here's his walker. I've got some mixed feelings about this; on the one hand, it makes great use of those aforementioned 45-degree angle plates to make a three-legged walker; on the other hand, the legs themselves leave a lot to be desired, what with their mismatched, stumpy design and deserts of unused SNOT space. I also feel sorta "meh" about the spring shooter; while effectively incorporated, it can't help but feel like a late addition to the model.
The body of the walker is much better realized for me, though, especially in how it integrates and accentuates the Overlord figure. The curved "shells" that can open or close over the fig like armor are quite cool, and the rounded slope that comes up and meets Overlord's dress part being stickered is also a nice touch. I like the design of the flag, even if it uses a lot of stickers; a rubber attachment part was probably employed instead of two thin Technic pieces so that the flag is a lot less delicate during rough play, which I appreciate.
Zane's glider gets the job done. Small, simple, and effective, it uses its parts efficiently to make a fun and very sturdy vehicle. The flickfires aren't the easiest to launch - they feel more like a ceremonial gesture at this point - but as they're unobtrusive, I can't hold much against them.
The last of the smaller models of 70728 are a short red Japanese-style archway - which, like the glider, doesn't waste pieces, and contributes to the atmosphere of the set; though I do wish that the baseplate had been something other than black - and a tree. The tree is lovely; it's not a monocot, but it's got other things going for it than being wheat, especially its angled, autumnal leaves. The shaping on the tree is excellent considering its size, and it acts as the end of the zipline that comes off the main model. Unfortunately, the tree isn't really heavy enough to keep the line taught without a little help from your hand.
And now, the real gem of the set: the Ninjago City Temple. Look at this thing; ain't it pretty? A monolithic structure, a brightly painted dojo raised from the earth on a stony foundation, the main model definitely sets us in a world of ninjas. We've seen Ninjago temples akin to this before, but none have been so beautiful. The red, dark green, and gold set one another off perfectly, creating a dignified yet lively palate that really conjures an eastern feel. The shape of the structure itself is unmistakable and well wrought, too, especially in the roofs and abundance of vertical lines. It looks good, looks "correct," from every angle.
I'm a big fan of several specific details: the leaves protruding from the rock faces; the little shuttered basement windows on either side of the staircase; the red railings on the first storey; the Cinderella-carriage windows, and draconic paper screens; the hanging lanterns; the golden ridges defining the gables of the roof; the door handles; the dragon's head. The finished structure has a tremendous sense of unity to it, enhanced by the external symmetry of the temple.
Around back, the symmetry is broken, but that's to be expected. Inside the dojo, we find a few rooms. In the basement, there's a prison on one side and a treasure cave - the wooden chest has four gold studs in it, ooh - on the other. On the next storey, we get a dining area resplendent with a small table, a barbecue, and what looks suspiciously like a minibar. Ninjas, set better examples for the kids!
Across the foyer on the same floor is a control room with a computer and swivel chair. The brown box, stickered on one side, didn't need to be included, but also doesn't detract from anything. I actually think it does a good job of tying this techie room to the more traditional setting of the dojo, so I approve of it. Above the kitchenette, in a loft-style room below the ceiling - and within easy reach of an opening panel on the roof - there's a bed for tired ninjas. There's nowhere for our heroes to hang their kimonos, but you can't always get what you want.
Briefly, before we look at 70728's play features, we return to the outside of the temple to get a closer look at the dragon's head. Look at it. Enjoy its masterful sculpting. I know I do.
The other half of the fun is in playing with the set. How well does the set function and is it enjoyable to play with?
First feature we'll examine is the Star Wars spring shooter included on Overlord's walker. Like all spring shooters, this one works very well. I much prefer these to flick-fire missiles. As I said above, the implementation of the shooter in this set leaves a little to be desired, but I'm still generally happy to have it there.
At the base of the temple, two sections of the rocky wall come on pivots, allowing them to turn 360-degrees. The sides opposite the rough-hewn rocks have clips that hold weapons; the one not pictured here holds a pair of golden knives. A minifigure without accessories can stand on the weapon side without impeding the rotation of the secret entrances, which makes these walls about twice as cool.
The stairs come with a defense feature that, while unassuming, works well. By pushing down on an extended lever in back of the temple, three Technic pins will rise a teensy bit up through the top step and so annul any stud connections on that plate. It's designed to detach minifig feet in this way. If a character stands on the trap portion of the floor and the pins come up, that character gets knocked down without much force. I wish that the pins rose more visibly - it'd also make them more powerful - but the end result achieved here is nevertheless effective.
The temple has two catapults installed on either side of its central tower. By rolling a wheeled lever down against the wall, the axle of the catapult arm turns, and so dispenses its ammunition (which can be stored below the roof on the side opposite the bedroom). Though the mechanism of the catapults is nice, the throwing arms are too short to make these catapults really more effective than glorified rock droppers.
Between the two catapult triggers, another wheel, this one treaded, sits against a few long tiles. This is the mechanism to dispense another projectile from the temple: disks. The disks, 4x4 circular plates with 2x2 circular tiles on top, just get laid on the long tiles with the wheel on top. By spinning the wheel with your finger, you send the disk shooting out along its little runway. This works pretty well, and it's great fun. The disks are stored next to the bed.
Lastly, on the second storey across from the bed, the dojo's final defense lies hidden behind another opening roof panel: a spring-loaded blunt shooter. Shooting the cannon with the roof door closed has little effect on its trajectory; the shot goes through the roof like it's a doggie door.
Once it's all said and done, how does the set stack up? Should I get it?
Well, that was my in-depth monologue. Let's review how the set stacks up...
What's to like?
- Fair parts-price ratio ($120 USD for 1223 parts)
- Instructions and sticker sheet come sealed with cardboard; pet peeve alleviated
- Build not monotonous even across 11 bags
- Set is a treasure trove of interesting and recolored pieces
- Includes eight fairly good minfigures
- Glider, short arch, and the tree are valuable exterior models that don't use too many parts in the process
- Main model is flippin' gorgeous, with a definite eastern vibe
- Dat dragon head doe
- Interior of temple is fun and thoughtful
- Plenty of play features
What's not to like?
- Few new molds
- Minifigures are just fairly good; sense of wasted potential, especially on Overlord
- Overlord's walker's legs are under-designed, lameify the rest of the vehicle
- Some play features are a little underwhelming (slack zipline, short stair-pegs, dinky catapults)
- Still no monorail, c'mon LEGO
70728 is one of the best (perhaps the best) Ninjago sets I've ever encountered. It's a lovely-looking and cohesive product that, due to its abundance of action features, minifig characters, quirky details, and small (but sometimes weak) vehicles, makes for an ideal playset; and if you're not the playing sort, the selection of interesting LEGO elements included here is excellent, too. I'd recommend it to Ninjago fans of all intensities as well as people who're just looking to score for their parts bins.
Already putting those sweet parts to good use...
Big thanks to Aaron for tackling this mighty review - I hope you all enjoyed it. Questions and feedback can go into the Talkback, as per usual. We're only a third of the way through Ninjago Month, so you can expect plenty more set reviews in the near future along with other Ninjago content, right here on BZPower!
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