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by Artemis

Okay, so you're a bio-mechanoid - that's cool. An alien bio-mechanoid with a culture based mainly on the Maori, who are pretty kick-ass themselves - cooler still. But if you ain't got yourself a set of wheels, really, just how cool do you think you can be?

Mounted on his ultra-fast skyfighter, the evil Vultraz fires devastating bolts of shadow from its front-mounted blaster. Can the Toa Nuva survive his sudden strikes, or will he bring their mission in Karda Nui to a crushing end?

Wheels, wings, same difference (it often it in sci-fi). Vultraz may be just a weedy little Matoran (or Shadow Matoran, rather) without even any hand weapons to call his own, but he's got a ride, so there. In the high school movie of life, he's the weedy, seedy little guy who's no bigger or cooler than anyone else, but he's managed to get a rusty old two-door from somewhere, and now he's cruising around impressing the bimbos while the honest goody-two-shoes Bionicles look on in envious fury. Then haul off and put a Midak shell through his head - high school or not, it's still Bionicle; the solution to all problems is to kill everyone else.

Vultraz, as alluded to somewhere amid all that rambling, is just a Matoran, and thus his figure is capable, but nothing impressive. His dark red mask, with a black crest, looks pretty good, especially with the orange inner head showing through quite brightly in the eyes, but aside from that he's got the same construction as everyone else - one-piece body, arms, hands, legs, and feet. He doesn't even have the wing pack his fellow Shadow Matoran have, or anything to fight with, and with his arms and legs both being the relatively compact right-angled parts - and his entire body a uniform red, with no contrast colour - he's not going to be picked first for any Shadow Matoran sporting teams.

But, of course, there's the skyfighter. 14" long and with a 10½" wingspan, it turns Vultraz from a no-consequence also-ran to a badass mothereffer, for while it may not be the biggest or most heavily armoured vehicle - in fact, it's the smallest - in the skies of Karda Nui (or wherever the hell these things live) the whole design of the craft is that of an assassin. Speed and killing power - the whole thing is just a big gun with wings and engines, designed not to withstand attacks itself, or even dogfight with enemies, but to come screaming out of its prey's blind spot and send them to whatever afterlife they believe in before they even know they're in a fight.

The central frame of the skyfighter is a simple black backbone, with grey braces on either side to support the add-ons. At the front there's a streamlined winged nose - I wouldn't go ramming other vehicles with this thing, but it'd certainly inconvenience any soft, fleshy targets it hit, and this kind of craft could very well be swift and maneuverable enough to make ramming attacks on infantry. Behind that is the gun, a Midak skyblaster slung beneath the fuselage, mounted solidly on supporting rails and braced at the back. The black hull above it opens to reveal extra ammunition - four more spheres, in addition to the four that the Midak can hold within itself. One slight flaw in the design is that, if you open the ammo bay doors too wide, the spheres can drop down between their inner edges, blocking them from closing again. It's not a problem unless you open the doors fully horizontal, and the spheres can be easily reached without doing that.

Further back the wing assembly extends to either side, with a sculpted armour plate concealing the join between the horizontal strut and the spine - the twin wings at each side are mounted on a three-way spoke piece, with the upper wing then tilted over ninety degrees, for a thirty degree difference between the wings in the end; it looks pretty cool. Vultraz hangs on by way of a pair of handlebars mounted just behind the wing assembly, and that's all so far as pilot amenities go - no seat, no footrests, just the rear engine pylon beneath and behind him, to which he has to hold on with his knees unless he wants to wind up trailing out behind his own vehicle during high-speed manoeuvres. If you've got a few Bionicle or Technic sets, though - all of which come with spares of several of the smaller pieces - you'll probably have a couple of spare plugs to attach his legs to the craft one way or another.

The skyfighter is as stripped down and basic as Vultraz himself, with the bare minimum number of adornments necessary to make it look good - but they do make it look good, just getting over the line from ‘basic' to ‘sleek'. This set alone won't offer much in the way of rebuilding potential, but it's relatively inexpensive, making it a good way to add a few extra parts to the pile if you have other sets, and if it's display value you're after, Vultraz and his ride make a striking little set.

-- 01/26/09

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