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[UPDATED 7/12/2024] What's the deal with Armored Core?

[UPDATED 7/12/2024] What's the deal with Armored Core?

It's time for another entry in our "what's the deal with x?" series where we take a deeper dive into a line that's seen a recent spike in popularity. Where better to look than to the mecha franchise that's seen the biggest resurgence in its decades-long history? Our resident AC expert is here to share their knowledge!

With the surge in interest in Armored Core following the widespread success of Fires of Rubicon (thanks in no small part to FromSoftware knocking it out of the park with Elden Ring prior), the most frequent questions we’ve gotten are:

  • When are the 30 Minutes Missions Armored Core kits coming out? (September JP/October NA)
  • Aww man that’s so far away. How are these Kotobukiya Armored Core kits you have in stock right now?

As someone who has spent a good chunk of time tracking down and building most of the Kotobukiya Variable Infinity line over the past few years when reprints were very few and far between, I recommend them as a LEARNING experience. Although they’re still considered snap-fit model kits, I would personally argue that they’re closer to older, more traditional model kits especially when compared to Bandai’s more simple and straightforward builds. They’re definitely a challenge, and incredibly good practice for painting if you’re up to it!

Before you go picking any of them up, it’s best to temper your expectations in terms of plastic quality and engineering. Kotobukiya, for all their attention to detail, unfortunately does not deal in the same quality of plastic you find in Bandai’s model kits, as many parts are incredibly thin and fragile, and are prone to stress marks if you’re not using a two-step cutting process. It’s also best to know that the Variable Infinity line started in the mid 2000’s, and the majority of current reprints are centered around Armored Core 4 and For Answer’s NEXTs, the model kits of which were produced in the 2010’s, so expect no shortage of strange, very obvious seamlines and limited articulation.



This kit is almost a decade old now but Y E E S H.




We always harp on about building the backpack, accessories, and weapons first, and here is where we will shout it from the top of the Spirit of Motherwill. The original versions of these kits already came with so many options, from additional weapons to optional stabilizers and even entirely separate body units, but many of the modern reissues are “Full Package” editions that come with MANY of these optional parts from the various exclusive versions of each Core. The build is going to take you quite a bit and will wear you out, so make sure you build all the weapons and accessories before anything else. Thankfully but also unfortunately, the majority of the weapons will be two halves with a massive seamline all the way around, so the build for them will be quick, but detailing them is a whole other beast entirely.




OOB LAW MR-R100R and RAW MR-R102. 2-4 parts clamped together, definitely good painting practice.

As an antithesis to the weapon engineering, the Armored Core itself is very complex. Many parts that would be one or two pieces on Bandai gunpla would instead be four to five pieces here, which in turn increases the amount of nub cleanup exponentially. The reason for THIS is customization! If you’ve played any Armored Core game you know you can paint parts a vast array of colors, and Kotobukiya kept this in mind, keeping key parts separate for ease of painting instead of being masking hell!

The joints ARE on the polycap system, but DO NOT expect any crazy poses out of Armored Core kits. These kits are best displayed in stationary, neutral poses, maybe with weapons out in alternate fire modes. That said, Armored Core outside of VI isn’t particularly known for super dynamic, stylized poses in-game the first place. Mainly a lot of very menacing standing around while the camera pans over them or from behind at a low angle while looking at a MASSIVE, looming enemy.




Take particular care of the waist joint as well. Hilariously, they integrated the OVERWEIGHT game mechanic in their kits but it just straight up snaps your kit in half. The Cores of these kits take up a good 40% of the construction time with how solid they are all the way through, and boy are they HEAVY. Add to that the Back Units, Extensions, Arms, and weapons and you’re putting an incredible amount of stress on that waist joint. Many of the Armored Core 4 and For Answer kits come with a very integral part that limits articulation of the waist joint to a swivel instead of full rotation and it will VASTLY reduce the chance of breakage here.

That part popped off of my Aaliyah during a move and it was not pretty.




Regarding the future, only time will tell how Kotobukiya will do their line of Armored Core model kits in response to Bandai’s 30MM line. From what they’ve shown recently at Shizuoka Hobby Show, the Armored Core VI model kits may end up being significantly larger than any of their past releases, as the Steel Haze prototype stood at the same height as their Decoction Models Aaliyah, which is Kotobukiya’s version of Bandai’s Metal Builds. The model also seems to have part-swaps for the “in use” state of the Core of Steel Haze, which you can usually see any time you use Assault Boost or Pulse Armor in-game (and this in particular looks like SICK version of the Gundam F91’s radiator fins). On one hand with the increase in size, it’ll be interesting to see if their weapons will be fully articulated unlike Bandai’s part-swapping on Steel Haze’s Vvc-774LS Laser Slicer but we’d also expect it to be terrifyingly fragile with how intricate Armored Core VI’s weapons are.


(Hard to see but the prototype stands as tall as the Decoction Models Aaliyah behind it)
Image Credit: https://x.com/morizou61


(A customized Kotobukiya 1/72 Aaliyah next to the Decoction Model Aaliyah Supplice)
(Image Credit: https://x.com/RayN58925043/status/1672236861992075264)

Square Enix is also throwing their Ravens into the Arena with their Structure Arts line. Normally this line features small articulated models from the Front Mission video game series (absolutely peak turn-based mecha combat) but it’ll be interesting to see their take on Armored Core, especially since a lot of their previews are showing kits from old-gen games, some of which never got kits in Kotobukiya’s Variable Infinity line (Especially Armored Core 1 and 2, the only kit that exists from here is a classic version of Nine-Ball and Nine-Ball Seraph).





(Vol. 2 looks like it’ll have a CREST model, what I thought was Jack-O at first (definitely not), Aaliyah, and Absolutely Not White Glint (Trust me bro).)
Image credit: https://x.com/SQEX_MD_GOODS/status/1788034531855065182

We now have the true Armored Core experience: Choosing what to build from 3 different corporations. Oh and Bandai is releasing an SMP Armored Core line as well as an PVC Deform Figure line. Someday.

Armored Core model kits, in short, are a labor of love. Despite all their flaws and difficulty, their strengths lie in their vast customizability with universal part-swapping (Even AC parts from the early gens like Last Raven, Ninebreaker, Nexus are made to be compatible with Armored Cores from 4 and For Answer) and ease of painting with less time spent on masking (and more on clipping and sanding). Tons of expansion sets also exist for early gen Armored Core kits as well as the few kits that exist for V and Verdict Day, and though they haven’t been reprinted, they’re still fairly affordable on aftermarket sites like eBay, Mandarake, and Yahoo Auctions Japan. MAKE SURE YOU PREORDER THEM TO SECURE YOURS, because who knows when these will get reprinted again, and aftermarket for even the reprinted Kotobukiya kits is an absolute mess due to scalpers.




THINGS TO EXPECT

  • Prominent seamlines (Particular huge example, the top of the Aaliyah’s shoulders)
  • Weapons being simple in construction and unpainted but with a ton of molded details (Many handheld weapons are just two halves put together with a loooooooong seamline all the way around)
  • NUBS. Many pieces that would usually be one part are broken down into several small detail pieces that go on one large panel for ease of painting. There will be a lot of cutting and sanding.
  • PART SWAPPING. They really let you flex your creativity and let you mix even old-gen AC parts with more recent ones!
  • SIZE. Expect the size to be between HG and MG. If they were on the same scale as gunpla they’d be incredibly small models.

THINGS TO BE CAREFUL OF

  • Try not to wear out the joints!
  • Be careful of the waist joint, do not try to pose from the waist anything other than rotating the chest, absolutely no ab crunch here.
  • Optional Stabilizer parts and their pegs are very fragile and may require cement to stay properly
  • DEFINITELY build the weapons first. You WILL be fatigued after the lengthy build process and with how many weapons the Full Package versions come with, it’s best to get ahead of it.

Complete release catalog of all existing / recently announced items:

ETA Stock Status Item
    -Bandai Hobby-
Oct Preorders Open 30MM Orbiter NIGHTFALL
Oct Preorders Open 30MM Nachtreiher STEEL HAZE
Oct Preorders Open 30MM Fires of Rubicon Weapon Set 01
Jan Preorders Open 30MM Melander LIGER TAIL
Jan Preorders Open 30MM Orbiter
Jan Preorders Open 30MM Fires of Rubicon Weapon Set 02
    - Kotobukiya -
Available Now Orders Open VI 1/72 Nineball Seraph (Armored Core: Master of Arena)
Available Now Orders Open VI 1/72 Algebra Soluh Barbaroi (Armored Core 4)
Jul Waitlist VI 1/72 Interior Union Y01-Tellus Full Package (Armored Core 4)
Aug Preorders Open VI 1/72 Omer Type-LAHIRE Stasis Full Package (Armored Core: For Answer)
Aug Preorders Open VI 1/72 Ambient (Armored Core: For Answer)
Oct Preorders Open VI 1/72 Rayleonard 04-ALICIA Unsung Full Package (Armored Core: For Answer)
Dec Preorders Open VI 1/72 Aspina White Glint (Armored Core 4)
Dec Preorders Open VI 1/72 Aspina X-Sobrero Fragile (Armored Core: For Answer)
Dec Preorders Open VI 1/72 GAN01-Sunshine-L (Armored Core: For Answer)
Dec Preorders Open VI 1/72 Lineark White Glint & V.O.B Set (Armored Core: For Answer)
Jan Preorders Open VI 1/72 Rayleonard 03-Aaliyah Kpachaя (Krasnaya) Full Package Version (Armored Core: For Answer)
Jan Preorders Open VI 1/72 Crest CR-C840/UL Lightweight Class (Armored Core 3)
Feb Preorders Open VI 1/72 Mirage C04-Atlas Foxeye Ver. (Armored Core: Nexus) (Armored Core: Last Raven)
Feb Preorders Open D-Style Lineark White-Glint (Armored Core: For Answer)
Feb Preorders Open D-Style Rosenthal Type-Hogire Noblesse Oblige (Armored Core 4) (Armored Core: For Answer)
Mar Preorders Open VI 1/72 UCR-10/L Agni (Armored Core V)
Mar Preorders Open VI 1/72 GAN01-Sunshie-E Feedback (Armored Core 4)
Mar Preorders Open VI 1/72 Armored Core Weapon Unit 018 (OIGAMI Large Grenade Cannon)
Pending Awaiting Information VI Schneider Nachtreiher/40E STEEL HAZE (Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon)
Released Sold Out / Waitlist VI 1/72 Nineball (Armored Core)
Released Sold Out / Waitlist VI 1/72 KT-104/Perun Hangedman Rematch Ver (Armored Core V)
Released Sold Out / Waitlist VI 1/72 UCR-10/A Vengeance (Armored Core V)
Released Sold Out / Waitlist VI 1/72 Crest CR-C89E Oracle Ver (Armored Core: Last Raven)
Released Sold Out / Waitlist VI 1/72 Rayleonard 03-Aaliyah Supplice Opening Ver (Armored Core 4)
Released Sold Out / Waitlist VI 1/72 Mirage C01-GAEA (Armored Core: Nexus)
Released Sold Out / Waitlist VI 1/72 C03 Malicious R.I.P.3/M Blue Magnolia (Armored Core: Verdict Day)
Released Sold Out / Waitlist VI 1/72 Lineark White Glint (Armored Core: For Answer)
Released Sold Out / Waitlist VI 1/72 CR-Hogire Noblesse Oblige (Armored Core: For Answer)
    - Other Brands-
Nov Preorders Open Tamashii Nations Robot Spirits AYRE (Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon)
Dec Preorders Open Tamashii Nations Robot Spirits Handler Walter (Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon)
Pending Awaiting Information Square Enix Structure Arts: Armored Core

 

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