Yes, it is all about the Queen – Queen Amidala that is – the character that most Star Wars FOLs have been clamoring to see in minifig form for a very long time. For some reason or another, TLG has kept depriving us of this highly-requested minifig year after year after year. But after 13 long years, the big revelation came out at in last year’s San Diego Comic-Con that TLG will finally release a Queen Amidala minifig – to almost all SW FOLs’ delight and excitement! People wondered in what set this minifig would come in, until came the news that it will come with the set 9499 Gungan Sub, an updated version of the similarly-named 7161 Gungan Sub from way back 1999. Arguably this Queen Amidala minifig is the perceived highlight of this particular set, but one has to wonder, is it worth purchasing the whole set just to get this mighty fine-looking minifig? Does the set have more to offer other than the Queen Amidala minifig? Let’s all take a closer look in this set review to find out.
Name: Gungan Sub
Theme: Star Wars | Subtheme: Prequel Trilogy (Episode I)
Pieces: 465 Minifigs: 4
Price: $69.99 | £54.99
Links: Brickset | Bricklink | Peeron (not yet inventoried) | LEGO Shop@Home
The box is in the unusual vertical/upright orientation - because regular horizontal rectangular boxes are too mainstream. This wave will be the last we’ll see Darth Maul’s twisted neck mug in the boxart (thankfully, I’m just not a fan ) as 2013 will usher in the new Yoda boxart. The size is just about the normal size for a $70-set, and there’s one intriguing ‘surprise’ that came in this box (which we’ll see later).
Click on the images to see hi-res versions.
The hazy greenish background is a bit bland compared to other set backdrops, but it represents the dark murky waters of Otoh Gunga perfectly. The faint detail of the Opee Sea Killer creepily stalking underneath/behind the Gungan Sub complements the vehicle quite well in recreating the “There’s always a bigger fish” scene in the movie. I also like the little air bubble details that creates the illusion of being underwater. However, an unwelcome eyesore appears as a flick-fire missile inexplicably fires off from the sub (I do not even recall the Bongo using a torpedo in the movie ). The minifig line-up at the right side and the set details on the left complete the front look of the box.
Displayed at the back are the various playability features of the set plus a couple of movie scenes that can be recreated with this set. The layout is very professionally-designed, which I’ve always felt was under-appreciated and/or overlooked by fans. I like looking at these back panels, and I must say that the packaging designers really did a great job on this! (as well as with other SW sets) And look Ma, no push-off tabs! Now I wonder what could that mean…
As what has become the recent trend, the minifig line-up shown at the top of the box differs from the one in the front, featuring the alternate faces of Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi (with their underwater breathing mouthpiece). It’s also interesting to note that there is no 1:1 minifig panel as the minifigs are already shown in actual minifig size – first time I actually observed this in a set.
The box opens like a pizza box – quite an unusual way to pack the contents for a set this size. I’m really curious why TLG decided not to use the usual box with the push/pull-off tabs for this set. The contents of the box include five numbered bags of precious LEGO, two instruction booklets, a small sticker sheet, and four loose flexi-tube pieces.
The Instruction Booklets
The two instruction booklets came in relatively good condition without any folds and creases, even without any cardboard support.
Here's a couple of interesting pages inside the instruction booklets:
Left: A mini 4-panel comic strip showcasing the Gungan Sub in action and the obligatory Jar-Jar’s clumsiness scene.
Right: A page showing the minifig line-up and the playability features – just in case you haven’t seen them in the box.
A two-page spread displaying the sets (left) and minifigs (right) from this wave, subtly enticing the consumer: Gotta collect ‘em all!
Sticker Sheet and Loose Parts
Left: Who says “bigger is better” or “the more, the merrier”? Not with LEGO sets dreaded stickers, and I’m relieved to see only a small sticker sheet came in this set (though I would’ve preferred 100% printed elements).
Right: Unlike most sets where the loose parts are usually big plates and/or huge juniorized pieces, only four small flexi-tube pieces came loose in this set.
The LEGO parts
Bag #1 Contents:
As we might all know from now, the bagged contents are systematically packed together with respect to the chronological order of the building process. As such the first bag contains the parts to build the first “part” of the set. The Jar-Jar Binks minifig is included in this bag. Noteworthy part for me is the trans-orange half-sphere rock piece. Plus, free brick separator!
Bag #2 Contents:
This is the bag with the least parts content but with the “most monetary value” as the three new minifigures, particularly the Queen Amidala fig, is contained in this bag.
Bag #3 Contents:
Lots of bley and blue pieces in the third bag, giving an idea that these would (obviously) make up for majority of the vehicle’s build.
Bag #4 Contents:
Is this déjà vu? No you’re eyes aren’t deceiving you, this is not an error even if the contents of Bag #4 is almost exactly the same as those of Bag #3. They’re about 80% similar, the difference being the opposite orientation of the wedge plates. Know why? Hint: Symmetry.
Bag #5 Contents:
Being the last bag the pieces contained here will be those for the “finishing touches” of the build. Pieces of interest are the three trans-clear bubble canopies.
The set treats us with the three new minifigs, though it feels like that the Queen Amidala minifig is the only “new” one since she’s the lone new character in the line-up. The Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi minifigs have double-faced heads to justify their “new status”, while Jar-Jar Binks is the same one from the 7929 Battle of Naboo set. We’ll take a closer look at these minifigs shortly.
The Qui-Gon Jinn minifig has the same face details as the one from the 7961 Sith Filtrator set. Nothing much going on with the torso, it’s the same ol' jedi robe print. As stated earlier, this new version has an alternate face featuring the underwater-breathing mouthpiece (A99 aquata breather say the SW geeks). The torso has back printing, thought it’s concealed when the cape is used.
Comparison of the Qui-Gon Jinn minifigure with previous versions
Here’s the evolution of the Qui-Gon Jinn minifig throughout the years. I personally prefer the original yellow-toned version, which, despite its relative simplicity, perfectly captures the overall look of the Qui-Gon in the movie. The additional face wrinkle details of the newer versions make the Qui-Gon look too old and in the process reduced the resemblance to the actual look of the character.
Obi-Wan Kenobi (Jedi Padawan)
First thing I noticed in this minifig – Ewan McGregor’s
Comparison of the Obi-Wan Kenobi minifigure with previous versions:
The Jedi Padawan version of Obi-Wan Kenobi has also undergone various redesigns, five to be exact. The ‘99 version is still the best for me, as I prefer the more stoic, calm, and serious Jedi look as opposed to the more detailed but less Jedi-like expressive facial emotions of the newer ones.
“Ready for a swim, Master?” Just wanted to show the pic of Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon with their aqua-breather faces, which is true to the movie source material.
The only minifig in the set that is not “new” is Jar-Jar Binks, being the same version as the one from the 7929 Battle of Naboo set. If somehow you missed on that particular set, then this is a good chance to own this fig.
Comparison of the Jar-Jar Binks minifigure with previous version:
As there have only been two variants of the Jar-Jar Binks minifig, it’s quite obvious that the new printed one looks much better with detailed prints. And I just wanted to annoy you with that dorky Jar-Jar image!
“Gentlemen and Ladies, Her Majesty Queen Amidala of Naboo”.
The minifig that almost all SW FOLs have been waiting for, the Queen Amidala fig certainly doesn’t disappoint. Just look at those intricate pearl gold prints on the torso and gown, and the elaborate mold detailing of the headdress – quite impressive aren’t they? The “expression-less but with a hint of concern” look is also captured perfectly by the head face print.
For those who are curious, here’s a shot of the interior/underside of the leg/dress part. The circular area of the gown covers an area of 4 x 4 studs.
Comparison of the Queen Amidala minifigure with the source material
On the spot, I must say! Very accurate to the reference material but still retaining the LEGO look, despite the extravagance of the outfit.
And in spite of a couple of obvious but minor limitations (the inability to rotate the head and put the minifig in sitting position), the designers couldn’t have done a better job with this minifig IMO.
Bag #1 Build
First to be built is the back part of the Gungan Sub with the rotating tail propulsion. As we’ll see later, this also functions as a “mini-sub” a.k.a. “escape vehicle when all underwater hell breaks loose”. Jar-Jar Binks, two storage boxes, and an unidentified thingy (water bomb? Inflatable something?) also came from this bag.
Bag #2 Build
The base foundation of the Gungan Sub is built from Bag #2, together with the three new minifigs of the set. Not much to look at at this point, but it’s a start.
Bag #3 Build
The Gungan Sub is slowly taking its shape as the first half of the body is built from the third bag. It’s at this stage that some interesting techniques were employed to achieve the tricky curved and sloping shape of the Bongo – specifically with the clever use of hinge plates and curved slopes.
Bag #4 Build
To complete the other half of the sub, the steps from the Bag 3 instructions are basically repeated, but in the opposite direction.
Bag #5 Build
Lastly, the final bag comprises of parts to build the top part of the sub and the curved part at the back. The “mini-sub” from Bag 1 is attached in the rear end and the Gungan Sub is now complete!
The usual suspects – 1x1 elements as extra parts. Good thing to know there’s no weird ‘regular’ part left hence no “hey, doofus you forgot something along the build” moment.
Different Views of the Gungan Sub
Quarter Rear View
Just to give everybody an idea on the size of this sub, here’s side-by-side shot with the 7965 Millennium Falcon:
The main control cockpit is spacious enough to seat three minifigs – a vast improvement from the original version which could only fit one. The set shows the jedi can only be seated without the capes (left), but I was able to seat Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon even without removing their capes (right).
The two side cockpit cargo compartments have a 6 x 4 x 3 interior space where you could store stuff inside like the unidentified thingy and the capes (left).
There’s also a clip on both cockpits where the lightsabers can be placed (right).
The detachable “mini-sub” is a non-canon feature of this vehicle, included in the set simply to provide additional playability. It is attached to the main body using clips in the front and slides in and out of the body with side rails. It can comfortably fit a minifig inside during escape situations, though one has to wonder how in Neptune’s world can the pilot see without any windscreen?
Cargo Boxes and Compartment Slots
Two cargo boxes with a trans-blue item each is included in the set, though I don’t know what their specific use is. Probably some valuable Gungan artifact that needs to be safely transported by the Bongo? The cargo boxes fit in designated slots on each side of the sub
The ever notorious flick-fire missiles, in this case torpedoes, can be found underneath the side edges of the sub, which, as is the case in most vehicles, can be easily removed according to the user’s liking.
Rotating Tail Propulsion
This is a pretty neat feature that’s accurate to the source material, though I’m not a fan of the flexi-tube tails which look too thin. I think Pepa Quin’s solution in his Tribubble Bongo MOC is much better in this aspect (though I don’t know if it’s sturdy enough for this set).
Comparison with the Reference Material
So how does this new LEGO Gungan Sub compare to the source material? Let’s break it down with this comparison:
The Good: The overall shape, proportions, and color scheme are pretty much accurate. For a blocky medium, the designers did a good job maximizing the use of curved slopes to achieve the overall curved shape of the Bongo. Even small details like the front navigational sensor (anchor thingy), headlights, sidelights, and rotating tail propulsion are true to the source material.
The Bad: Two things: (1) I would’ve preferred printed bubble canopy pieces (like in the original version) over the bare and detail-less ones that came in this set. I felt this was the only step-back from its predecessor. (2) Like what I said earlier, the use of flexi-tubes for the tail is too thin for my liking and I would’ve wanted a broader set of tail propulsions.
The Ugly: This might be a limitation of the technique used in the design, but it’s hard to ignore the gaps on the curved part of the sides.
Comparison with the 7161 Gungan Sub
Instead of unfairly comparing this new Gungan Sub with the original 7161 version, let’s just highlight the significant improvements we’ve seen in this updated Bongo:
- Improved overall shape using curved slopes and hingle plates to achieve the curvaceous finish of the Gungan Sub versus the use of blocky slopes in the original version.
- More space in the main cockpit to seat three minifigs instead of only one in 7161.
- More and better details (front headlights, navigational side lights, etc.)
Rating the Set:
Design – 8/10 The design of this new Gungan Sub is a vast improvement from the original version, maximizing the use of curved slopes and some nifty angling using hinge plates to approximate the overall curvaceous look of the source material. I’m only bringing the score a couple of notches down due to the lack of printed bubble canopy pieces (which make those parts look bare) and the thin tail propulsions which could be still be improved IMO.
Build – 7/10 Aside from a couple of clever techniques, majority of the build is pretty straightforward and there’s not much complexities involved.
Parts – 8/10 I like the fact that for a Star Wars set you’ll get in this set a significant amount of useful blue parts as opposed to the usual bleys, blacks, and whites of other ‘regular’ SW sets. The rich selection of curved slopes and wedges are also very much welcome to my parts collection.
Minifigures – 7/10 If not for the majestic Queen Amidala fig, I would’ve given this set a failing grade in this aspect. The trio of Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan and Jar-Jar, however compulsory in this particular set because of the movie material, just doesn’t appeal to me like what other new minifig-centric sets do (ex. 9496 Desert Skiff). Now it makes perfect sense why TLG decided to include the Queen Amidala fig in this set, and it’s quite ironic that the minifig that doesn’t have anything to do with the vehicle is the one which made the minifig line-up interesting.
Playability – 7/10 For its size as a set it has a pretty decent amount of playability, at par with the play features of other SW vehicles of similar prize range (X-Wing, Y-Wing, ARC-170 Starfighter, etc.)
Price – 8/10 The $70 price tag is justified with a well-designed vehicle plus the highly-anticipated Queen Amidala fig along with the three other characters. Its $0.15 price-to-parts ratio is 36% higher than that of the original 7161 version, though that’s quite an acceptable price increase for a long 13-year gap
Going back to the original question, is this set worthy enough to purchase aside from the “I really want that awesome Queen Amidala minifig badly” motive? I’d say yes, but only if you’re really a fan of well-made SW vehicles. I have a bit of a bias with this set since for some weird reason I like this Tribubble Bongo ever since I saw it Phantom Menace. I would’ve wanted to have gotten the original Gungan Sub set back in ’99 but I was in the middle of my “financially-challenged” college years back then. This may not be one of the popular vehicles in the SW universe, but no one can deny how sleek and cool-looking this vehicle is, and if you appreciate the merits of the vehicle’s design then it’s more than enough reason to buy this set, and the much-hyped Queen Amidala minifig will just be the proverbial “icing on the cake”.
As a parting shot, let me share with you this very cool "Building Video Review" of this 9499 Gungan Sub made by the great Artifex Creations. I think this is a nice way to appreciate the build of the set if you wouldn't get the chance to purchase this set.