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Review: Neptune Discovery Lab


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Poll: On a scale of 1 to 5 (56 member(s) have cast votes)

How do you rate this set?

  1. Poor (1 votes [1.79%])

    Percentage of vote: 1.79%

  2. Below Average (0 votes [0.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.00%

  3. Average (4 votes [7.14%])

    Percentage of vote: 7.14%

  4. Above Average (15 votes [26.79%])

    Percentage of vote: 26.79%

  5. Outstanding (36 votes [64.29%])

    Percentage of vote: 64.29%

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#1 ZO6

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Posted 29 April 2010 - 01:01 AM

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The Aquanauts must harvest the all-important hydrolator crystals to power their deep sea base - the Neptune Discovery Lab, as well as their subs, or risk being annihilated by the fearsome Aquasharks.  What will be the outcome?

I've waited fifteen years to get this set.  Now that I have a MISB copy, what do I think of it?

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Info

Set # - 6195
Name - Neptune Discovery Lab
Theme/Subtheme - Aquazone/Aquanauts
Year - 1995
Piece Count - 495
Minifigures - 4
Price - MSRP $89 US

Links

Brickset, Peeron, Bricklink, Brickshelf

Box

The front of the box shows the Aquanauts hard at work in their base.  This is set against a lovely deep sea background.  At the top right we can see the Aquanauts logo:
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The back of the box features a handful of alternate models.  Since this is a large-ish set, some of the alternate models are quite elaborate:
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By lifting the front flap of the box, we can see close-ups of some of the different parts of the base.  We are also presented with a story to set the mood - "Explore the ocean depths as you, the LEGO MANIAC, team up with the Aquanauts in search of the precious Hydrolator crystal that provides oxygen for the underwater world.  But be on the lookout for Aquasharks!  They will stop at nothing to take all the Hydrolator crystals for themselves!"
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Below this flap are some clear plastic windows to allow you to see some of the contents of the set.  Some interesting parts are displayed in a plastic tray at the center:
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Instructions

The front of the instruction manual features the same picture as seen on the box, however the additional info is missing:
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The back of the manual features some close-up pics of various set functions.  At the top right is a little tab that would have been cut off and sent in as part of a LEGO Magazine subscription request:
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Here is a random page within the manual.  There are no piece call-outs, so you'll have to pay close attention to where parts are added during each step.  There are several sub-models that are put together during the course of the entire build.  Colour differentiation is perfect:
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Pieces

The majority of the pieces are found within these 9 bags:
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These are some of the other parts that were loose within the box:
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There is also two large raise baseplates.  Though this style of baseplate does appear in other sets, this is the only one to feature this underwater pattern:
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Here are the contents of four of the bags.  These are the large and medium sized parts:
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This is the contents of another four of the bags.  These are mostly the smaller parts:
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The last bag contains some of the largest parts, including the door frame arches that the trans-blue doors will eventually be attached to:
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Remember the plastic display tray that was shown off in the box?  Here is a close up of its contents:
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Onto the parts of interest.  The set includes a large number of trans-blue windshields, canopies, and panels of different sizes.  The large trans-blue hinged doors are exclusive to this set.  There is a large quantity of the yellow octagonal bricks, which come in 5 varieties here.  There is one yellow corner panel wall piece that is only found in this set and Eldorado Fortress.  The large yellow octagonal cockpit is a rare piece, and can only be found in yellow here.  The crane bucket assembly has not been used much in modern times, and this is the only set that the piece appears in a colour other than yellow:
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There are not stickers in this set, instead we get these lovely printed parts.  A number of these can only be found within the Aquazone theme. Note: There should be two of the yellow computer slopes here but I had not discovered the second one when I took this picture:
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Here are some of the accessories.  We get lots of good old fashioned chrome harpoons and knives, 3 chrome crystals, a working compass, and 3 magnets:
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Minifigures

We are provided with four Aquanauts to populate the base.  They all feature lovely printed torsos, complete with the Aquanauts logo on their chests.  The head with the headband print can only be found in around 8 sets, while the head with the green sunglasses is exclusive to the Aquanauts subtheme.  There is no printing at the rear, so all the minifigures look like clones  :tongue:  :
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Here is the team with some of their gear on.  There are two types of visors - the trans-blue ones, and the black ones.  There are enough flippers for the four minifigures, though I've only given them to two of figs at the moment.  At the back, their equipment features clips that accessories such as knives of harpoons can be attached to.  It would be easy to overlook these guys when compared to say the flashy new figures in the Atlantis theme, but upon closer inspection the Aquanauts are actually nicely detailed and suit the subtheme perfectly:
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As far as sea creatures go, there is one black octopus.  This guy is quite compatible with other LEGO parts:
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The Build

We start things out by assembling the sub.  The base of the sub is designed to fit nicely on a landing pad that will be constructed later on.  Note the trans-orange headlight brick, this will be used in one of the play features:
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The sub is built up some more.  A cockpit complete with a computer is added, and arms are attached.  The 3x3 black slopes are used to create a storage area for crystals that can later easily be access by the crane bucket (the rear two slopes are actually in the wrong place here and need to be place back one more stud):
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The arms received attachments in the form of a pincher hand, and magnet.  A hinged hatch is placed over the storage area at the rear of the stub, and some accessories are clipped into place:
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With the front canopy, hinged panels mid-ship, propeller and compass, and other details added, the sub is now complete:
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Here are some extra views of the sub.  It is not the biggest vehicle in the theme, but considering it is just a support vessel for the base, the sub is pretty well designed.  With only one propeller, the sub seems underpowered, however one could imagine that the octagonal pontoon bricks are water jets to help with propulsion:
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Construction of the base structure can now begin.  We place the two base-plates side by side and add some supports at the rear.  The long slopes at the center of the image will later be part of a play feature:
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We rotate the base around and build up the main structure a bit more.  The interior of the base is equipped with a computer, and the modified 1x2 plates with handles will be used for attaching flippers to.  Some black plates are clipped onto the bottom of the yellow gate and block the slopes mentioned with the previous pic.  As part of a play feature, crystals will eventually make their way down into the hole where the slopes are.  When the yellow gate is raised, the crystals will come sliding out:
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At the left of the image is the beginning of the landing pad for the sub.  At the top right is support for the soon-to-be-added conveyor belt:
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Here is a close up of the conveyor belt sub-model.  The chain is driven by rotating the round 2x2 brick at the rear:
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The conveyor belt is now in place.  We can also see tiles angled to create a chute to guide crystals that fall off the belt down to holding area mentioned earlier.  At the opposite end is a small area to place a crystal box that can also be filled using the conveyor belt:
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At the front of the base a small fueling station is added.  This will be used as another play feature (more on this later):
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Supports for a small secondary control tower are put in place (bottom right).  We can also see that the main base structure has been built up more, and a hatch has recently been placed:
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The base is really taking shape now.  Looking at the left of the picture, the landing pad for the sub is now complete.  The large arched door frames are put in place, as is the octagonal cockpit piece that makes up much of the control tower:
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This is how the base currently looks from the back.  We can see the knob that is used to operate the conveyor belt, a second hatch leading into the main structure, and above that a little control station:
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The large trans-blue panels have just been added.  I quite like that the designers of the set made the effort to make the base somewhat water tight.  Just up from where the flippers are attached, we have a better view of the control station that is perhaps used to operate the conveyor belt or the soon-to-be-added crane:
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Around at the front of the base, the lovely large trans-blue doors are added.  Above theses, a turntable for the crane is placed:
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Here is a close up of the sub model for part of the crane.  When the octagonal cones are rotated, the boom of the crane is raised or lowered:
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The extension on the boom is added, and is finished off with the bucket.  The bucket features a spring that makes it snap shut after it is opened and has picked up its load:
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With the crane finished, trans-blue octagonal canopy added to the control tower, and some coral placed, the base is now complete.  The two baseplates take up a fair amount of real estate, and though none of structures are incredibly large, it still feels like the space has been well used.
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As you can see, the main structure only takes up the rear/middle portion of the base, however the supporting landing pad, control tower, or fueling station give the set a complete look:
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Leftover pieces.  Nothing terribly exciting:
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Play Features

Here is a video of the crane and conveyor belt feature:

First the rear of the sub must be opened.  The crane can be used to grab the crystals from the storage area and then drop them on the conveyor belt.  Operating the belt in one direction drops the crystal into a container which can then be sent off for use elsewhere.  Have the conveyor belt operate in the opposite direction and the crystal gets sent into the base to have its powers extracted and then disposed of down the chute.  Open the doors and raise the gate to let the used crystal tumble out.


At the front/center of the base is the fueling station.  The octagonal trans-blue canopy is hinged allowing the placement of a crystal box.  Attached to this is a hose and nozzle.  Remember the trans-orange headlight brick on the sub?  Power from the crystal contained in the trans-orange box can be transferred through the hose and into the sub via that headlight brick:
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The cockpit on the sub can be opened revealing the controls and allowing the placement of a minifgure:
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Climb the ladder and open the canopy to gain access to the control tower.  Inside is a computer tile, clips for accessories, and plenty of room for a minifigure:
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The large front doors on the base are on hinges, allowing you to swing them open and get inside the structure:
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Around at the side of the main structure is a hatch.  Use the control panel to open the hatch and get inside the base or go out to the sub:
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At the back of the base is another hatch which can be opened or closed:
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Complete Set

Here we have all of the contents of the set displayed together.  The sub is resting on its landing pad, and the Aquanauts are hard at work collecting crystals.  The set has a very strong presence and looks incredible:
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Final Thoughts

Pricing and Value:  Unfortunately, many form their opinion of whether a set is good value or not based solely on the price to parts ratio, and at $89 US for 495 pieces this set would seem horrible.  Luckily this set has some incredible parts, and the finished product is truly magnificent.  I was incredibly lucky and managed to get a MISB copy of this set off of Bricklink for $90 US +S&H.  This means that thanks to the current strength of the Canadian dollar, I paid less for this set than I would have fifteen years ago!  However, Neptune Discovery Lab is a set that I would have gladly paid much more for - it's that good.  

Design/Build:  This is a magnificent looking set.  As mentioned earlier, it has a very strong presence - this is due to its sheer size, very cool design, and eye catching colour scheme.  The set works perfectly as an underwater base, but it wouldn't seem out of place in a Space theme either.  This is not a bad thing at all, it's simply a testament to the high tech look of the set.  The abundance of trans-blue looks fantastic against the large amount of yellow with supporting black.  The trans-orange details finish things off perfectly to create the beautiful colour scheme.  The sub is sturdy and perfect for swooshing.  It is nicely detailed, though I could have perhaps used a couple more props (again, one could imagine that some of the other parts are in fact jets).  Construction of the base is a lot of fun as you adds parts here and there to build up the various structures.  It's especially neat to see some of the play functions such as the conveyor belt come together.  

Pieces:  Included are 495 fantastic pieces.  Of these, the large trans-blue doors, baseplates, and crane bucket stand out the most.  There are no stickers in the set, instead you get a wide variety of ever loved printed parts.  There is a very large quantity of those yellow octagonal pontoon like bricks, but there is also plenty of more common parts such around round 1x1 bricks, and 1x2 bricks etc.  The overall selection is incredibly varied and provides great MOC potential.

Playability:  It took me longer than anticipated to write this review because I found myself constantly playing with the set.  The set provides endless fun thanks to both simple features such as opening hatches, or to more complex functions such as the working crane and conveyor belt.  The sub is great for swooshing around and features a magnet arm for picking up those crystal container boxes.  

Verdict:  I've wanted this set for fifteen years, and even though I thought I knew everything there was to know about the set, there will still so much new to discover and I was ultimately still blown away.  Though this may have been the first underwater base to have been made by TLC, it may very well still be the best.  6195 Neptune Discovery Lab has everything going for it - the set looks brilliant on display, and there is an unbelievable amount of playability to be had.


As always, comments and questions are more than welcome.  Cheers!

Edited by WhiteFang, 02 May 2010 - 05:00 PM.
Indexed


#2 Ricecracker

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Posted 29 April 2010 - 01:14 AM

This is looking like a great review, ZO6! I recently got this set in a garage sale lot, and it's a very set.

One thing I noticed right away is that some of the pictures of the box seem a little washed out. Other than that, it looks good to me.

#3 Mac-K

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Posted 29 April 2010 - 04:08 PM

Incredible review of an equally incredible set, ZO6. :thumbup: This set made such an epic Christmas gift way back, especially in the days before the Internet when you didn't have all these months of foreknowledge about upcoming sets. Aquazone was such an exotic introduction to the Lego world, I still get fascinated just taking in the set designs and the incredibly bold color scheme. :wub: Thank you for sharing!

#4 CP5670

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Posted 29 April 2010 - 06:17 PM

Good review. This set is just about perfect. It's full of play features (I especially like the conveyor) and is very large and imposing, comparable to the largest Space bases. Despite the size of the structure, it's still essentially watertight. The sub is also well designed and has a pretty large cargo bay.

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I was incredibly lucky and managed to get a MISB copy of this set off of ebay for $90 US +S&H.

Yes, many of the Aquazone sets are still surprisingly cheap today. I got an unopened one of these a few years ago for $60. It's certainly an underrated theme, but that's good for us. :grin:

#5 Rufus

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Posted 29 April 2010 - 09:06 PM

Fantastic review, Z06, and a great way to go gold in style!

This is a lovely set - there seem to be a lot a features, and it looks great fun.  I've never really encountered the Aquazone theme before - it was right in the middle of my dark age - but you've done a great job of bring the theme to life.

Nicely done!  :thumbup:

#6 Commodore Hornbricker

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Posted 29 April 2010 - 09:14 PM

Great review.  I have never been a big fan of this theme but it does look more interesting in your review.  :thumbup:
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#7 TheBrickster

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Posted 30 April 2010 - 02:14 PM

Nice review.  I find this to be an interesting set.  Starting with the baseplate(s), I like the colors.  The sub makes a neat little transport vessel and I especially like the use of yellow combined with the trans blue window elements.  The four minifigs are like a little army of divers - neat helmets reminding me a bit of those from the Atlantis theme (but less bulky).  The base may not be the best design, but it certainly offers a lot of play with components like the underwater gas tank.  The large doors and dome piece look pretty neat adding to the aquatic feel.  I was just looking at the conveyor belt - that's certainly an added value component.  $90 over 10 years ago seems a bit high, but there are a lot of unique pieces, including all the printed parts.  

This set reminds me a little of the base/lab from Aquaraiders Invasion (7775), not so much in design, but rather in concept.

#8 Skulls_Eye_Schooner_Sailor

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Posted 10 May 2010 - 10:35 PM

Awesome, awesome review of the legendary Aquanauts' base that many of us dreamed of owning back in the day.  I had quite a few of the sets but never managed to pick up this one!  I like how you went into detail about all the play functions and details of the set.  It really has some neat features about it.  

Although, is it just me or did you make a mistake in your building?  There is a 1x2 stud instead of another 1x3 slope at the end of the conveyor belt. :tongue:

Also, I think the small clear blue windows (such as the one on the side of the conveyor system) are a nice detail, as well.

A great base with tons of play features and that tower, and a sizable support vehicle!  Can't ask for much more!

#9 ZO6

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Posted 10 May 2010 - 10:47 PM

Thanks for the comments everyone!  I was thrilled to be able to open a MISB copy of this set and document my build.  I've got many many more Aquazone sets still to review.

 CP5670, on Apr 29 2010, 02:17 PM, said:

Yes, many of the Aquazone sets are still surprisingly cheap today. I got an unopened one of these a few years ago for $60. It's certainly an underrated theme, but that's good for us. :grin:

I've always really loved most Aquazone sets, so I bought most of them when they were first released.  However, the Neptune Discovery Lab was about the only one that I missed, and all these years later I couldn't bear not owning it any longer.  It was such a unexpected, but very pleasant surprise to find this set for so cheap.

 Skulls_Eye_Schooner_Sailor, on May 10 2010, 06:35 PM, said:

Although, is it just me or did you make a mistake in your building?  There is a 1x2 stud instead of another 1x3 slope at the end of the conveyor belt. :tongue:

Hehe, yup, it is built correctly.  I do agree that a 1x3 slope would have seemed more appropriate though.

#10 Algernon

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Posted 12 May 2010 - 03:59 PM

This set really stands out from the other Aquazone bases. It's got some really clean design and awesome features. Thanks for the extremely thorough review, makes me wish I had the money to pick this up!

#11 FinalFeature

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Posted 12 May 2010 - 04:04 PM

I think this is now my favorite underwater base. I love the special and printed elements.
Thanks for the great detailed review ZO6.

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#12 RoryoCox

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Posted 12 May 2010 - 04:36 PM

This is a great set with all of it's features.
Thanks for the review, nice pictures  :classic:

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#13 Skulls_Eye_Schooner_Sailor

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Posted 20 May 2010 - 01:00 PM

Wait a minute, you mean to say the unprinted yellow wall corner is more rare?  That's most interesting!

And I now know why the Crystal Explorer Sub (I think that's what it's called) had the transparent neon orange headlight bricks in the sides!  It can interact with the bases refueling system as well!  Very clever, TLG!

I'm also surprised that the guy with the green glasses comes with this set.  I had assumed that guy didn't come in until the second wave of Aquanauts sets, but I guess he was just available in the base originally.

Although, I have to wonder, why isn't Aquazone, Atlantis et al considered Sci-Fi?  I am perplexed as to why the futuristic underwater themes are in this "Action" section.

#14 NewRight

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Posted 22 May 2010 - 05:11 PM

That is quite a set. Thanks for the review ZO6!

#15 Cardinal Brick

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Posted 19 June 2010 - 09:17 PM

Thanks for the review, thi is one of those sets I've always wanted but have never gotten around to getting though you've moved it up a few places on the list! I always think it's great when you've wanted a set for year and you fianlly get it and discover it's even better than you thought it was going to be. I'm impressed with nearly everything i think for the size of the set the support sub is well made and a good size. My only comment is I don't quite understand the play feature but hey its a play feature and looks fun for kids so it doesn't really matter does it.
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#16 Mr. Elijah Timms

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Posted 08 September 2010 - 07:50 PM

Another one of those sets from the past that everyone loves, but no one seems to have had back then.  I had most of the Aquanauts theme save for this gem.  Great review!

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#17 Sir Fred

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Posted 09 September 2010 - 02:36 AM

This was by far the largest set I had as a kid and even today parts from it easily work their way into any MOC I do since it's got such large sentimental value to me. One of my fondest childhood memories was building the sub model for the first time. I was just so fascinated by all the little moving bits in it.

#18 tomie satoshi

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Posted 18 August 2011 - 11:16 AM

beautifull

#19 Aanchir

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Posted 18 August 2011 - 02:02 PM

This is a set I have fond memories of from childhood. In fact, the pillow on my bed is decorated with a picture of this set on one side and 6339 Shuttle Launch Pad on the back.

I do have to admit that I don't know if I quite as much fun with this set as I have had with many more recent sets. The conveyor is a nice feature, and one that gets more fun the more Aquazone sets you have, but it only has slightly more of a "destination" for the crystals than the endless cycle gold and silver crystals go through in the more recent Dwarves' Mine. Also, the baseplates make this set take up a lot of space, whether displaying or playing with the set. Admittedly, it's better than the shabby-looking Aquasharks base, but still I find some later sets like Pharaoh's Forbidden Ruins, Fort Legoredo, and Flying Ninja's Fortress to be more fun overall (and I'll admit none of these sets are all that much later, but I'm listing them because they're large stationary bases, whereas more recent sets I've had a lot of fun with are often mobile bases like the SP3 Galactic Enforcer, the Agents Mobile Command Center, or the Atlantis Exploration HQ).

The architecture of this base was nice and outshone any other Aquazone bases IMO. In addition, the underwater baseplates made the environment very mysterious compared to the plainer sand beds of Atlantis or 2007 Aqua Raiders. The sci-fi story behind the theme was nice, although awfully complex for its time-- if the characters had consistent names then it would have been every bit as complex and unorthodox as some of today's themes like Ninjago.

Overall, this was a very fun set from a very fun theme. Even if I've had more fun with some more recent sets, I still have fond memories of Aquazone, particularly the early Aquanauts vs. Aquasharks sets.

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#20 johnnyvgoode

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Posted 08 September 2011 - 10:27 PM

I used to overlook this set as I wasn't a fan of Aquazone. However, I now find it incredible! I think that I would even like to own one.  :grin: Aquazone might as well have just got a new fan!  :classic:



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