As I talked about previously, these figures remind me quite a bit of a minor toy from my youth known as Battle Beasts. These humanized animals were all about fighting each other and served different factions that were elemental-based. I still believe they have quite a bit of common ground with the Chima theme.
For background, here's the basic setup on the Chima universe:
Once a pristine, natural paradise, the Kingdom of CHIMA has become a battle ground for eight animal tribes. Best friends are now enemies. The animals fight for control of a natural resource called CHI, a powerful element that is both a source of life and potential destruction. Only a few brave heroes in CHIMA understand the true nature of CHI, and the possible downfall of CHIMA that will result from its misuse. Their stories, and the stories of those who seek to destroy them, are known as... THE LEGENDS OF CHIMA.
For a thousand years, animal tribes have ruled the land of CHIMA. Lions, crocodiles, eagles, wolves, gorillas, ravens, rhinos and bears lived in peace. They played and worked together, cooperated and prospered - until the outbreak of the CHIMA conflicts.
As the first species to drink from the Ancient Pool of CHI, the Lions had become its sworn protector. No one had ever challenged the Lions' custodianship of the Pool because the Lions had always been reliable and fair with the CHI. Animals throughout the Kingdom relied on the magical CHI orbs to energize their vehicles, gear, and themselves. The orbs were a power source that the Lions had always shared equally with everyone.
Eventually, some of the animals got greedy. A young, rogue Crocodile prince named Cragger demanded that his tribe should receive a greater share of the powerful CHI orbs. But the Lions insisted, as they had for a thousand years, that giving too much CHI to any one tribe would upset the natural balance of CHIMA. The Lions only wanted to be fair, and to protect the entire Kingdom. But the Crocodiles didn’t see it this way. A series of minor skirmishes over the Crocodiles’ share of the CHI led to bigger battles.
When the Crocodile Prince Cragger accused the Lions of getting rid of his parents and he became Crocodile King, full-scale conflict broke out between the Crocodiles and the Lions. As conflict spreads, the fate of the Kingdom of CHIMA hangs in the balance…
It sounds like they are establishing a pretty epic conflict here that is sure to interest children. I have to admit, most of the figures look pretty cool and there are some interesting parts that help highlight their animal characteristics. How about the sets though? Let's take a look at the first wave.
All of the vehicles for this theme tend to be modeled after the main animal pilots included with the set. This certainly makes for some interesting possibilities as we move along.
Razcal's Glider - The smallest brick-built entry features the raven faction. It's a small flying contraption with a Razcal minifigure added on. The birds are probably my favorite of the line so far and I think this looks like an excellent starter set. That said, the smaller sets do tend to be a bit limited in what you can do with the parts beyond the designed model, and the number of specialized pieces included here certainly are no exception to that trend.
Crawley's Claw Ripper - There's quite a bit going on here and the first thing I notice is a lot of teeth. The second thing is the good selection of olive green pieces. With the tank treads as well, this could easily be a good parts set for those who like to build military-style vehicles.
Lennox's Lion Attack - Most of the initial lion-faction sets do not impress me very much. The suspension on this looks a little fragile and might be prone to problems if played with heavily. That's an impression based just on the appearance and I have been surprised before by the traction of technic pins used to hold these types of assemblies together. The effect used to make the lion head on the front of the vehicle is cool though and the moving mouth is pretty clever.
Eris' Eagle Interceptor - Hands down my favorite set of the first wave and I will probably be picking one up as soon as a discount is available. If you watch the animation on the LEGO product page, you can see that there's a great deal of movement that this thing is capable of. It pretty much feels like a large eagle. I'm really impressed with the design on this one.
Wackz pack tracker - Another big wheeled vehicle to add to the line up. Things that roll are cool I guess, but I'm far more partial to swooshable vehicles. Much like the Lennox set, I'm a little concerned about the durability of the suspension on this. Also take note: Bad guy sets = lots of teeth.
Laval's Royal Fighter - This really just looks like a bigger version of the Lennox set, which is not a terrible thing. Again, cool lion head and moving mouth feature. The giant Gatling gun on top is also pretty impressive. I still have to question the weird angles on the tread pieces. It looks like it would have a hard time moving on any surface with resistance, such as carpet.
Cragger's Command Ship - There is just a lot of stuff going on here. The boat makes good use of the hull piece and this thing appears to be bristling with weaponry. I did not realize until now that the rear of the ship can actually detach and becomes an Osprey-style aircraft. This really is the flagship vehicle of the first wave and has tons of play features packed in. It also includes a pretty stunning array of figures as well.
There are at least two sets at this point that seem to primarily be available directly through LEGO only, at least for the time being. I'm assuming they will eventually end up being retailer exclusives.
Razar's CHI Raider - The only place I'm seeing this a RRP right now ($39.99) is at LEGO.com. I'm assuming it will be coming through another retailer eventually, so avoid the $60 someone is charging on amazon for the time being if you have to have this. It provides an excellent companion for the Eagle Interceptor, although it looks far more bulkier in comparison. It's interesting that this does actually include a little bit of terrain to go with the set, something most of the other sets appear to be lacking.
Equila's Ultra Striker - How do you take a bird set and make it seem like everything else in the line? Add tank treads to it. This seems like it would have been a great opportunity to make an even more impressive version of the Eagle Interceptor. Instead, we just get something else that looks like an animal tank. Yet another set that S@H appears to be the main option for right now.
I'm a little mixed on most of these sets at this point and I will be interested to see what young LEGO fans think. There are some interesting designs and the minifigures are pretty cool looking, but the theme seems very busy. Everything is bristling with weapons and is ramped up to make it look much bigger than it actually is. Most of the sets also look like they have a ton of stickers, which I know is a huge turn off for most collectors. We'll have to wait and see how these do once sales get rolling. As of right now, the only thing that has me saying "take my money" is the Eagle Interceptor.