NINJA Review: 6093 Flying Ninja's Fortress
Posted 13 May 2010 - 10:41 PM
Back when I was a student, I listed numerous big sets that I would do as some of my gold level reviews. But I didn't. So now it's finally time for a biggun…
Set Name: Flying Ninja's Fortress
Set #: 6093
Year of Release: 1998
Price at Release: $90 USD
Buy It? Inventory? Bricklink Peeron
From the flap of the box:
In the Hidden Depths of the Orient two Ninja teams are locked in a bitter struggle to control the precious treasure, and each side will do anything to win! Create traps, explore the secret surprises, and control the action with sets from the LEGO SYSTEM Ninja Collection.
Ninja didn't sell very well. I liked it at the time pretty well, and I got a bunch of small sets and one bigger one, but not that many overall. In 2000, I went into a TRU intending to spend about $100 on LEGO. There was the 6093 Flying Ninja's Fortress, two years after release, marked down to about $60 I believe. And then I saw something new I'd never heard of or seen before (wasn't using the internet back then), 6091 King Leo's Castle. So what'll it be, marked down awesome huge Ninja castle, or this new castle in the Knights Kingdom line that surprised me? I walked out of the shop with King Leo, and regretted it for ten years.
So, ten years later, I decided it was time to go on Bricklink and set right my old mistake. I was surprised at how relatively cheap the Ninja sets were, even ten years later. I guess even now not so many people care much about Ninja, and I got this set, not MISB, but in very good condition, for just $25 more than its original price including shipping.
(Some of these pictures are clickable to bigger versions for better detail)
This is a pretty big box, but it's not overly big for the size and price of the set. Its got a nice big not-too-computerized picture slapped on it. Like other Castle sets at least of the '90s, it has that orangy color and redtones in the background of the picture. The only actiony thing is the flying Ninja, everything else seems frozen in time. I especially love the little greenery towards the bottom and the ominous fog on the bottom right. It certainly conveys a Japanese feeling to me. One more thing to note is that LEGO did not even put the set name on the front of the box back then, perhaps because they wanted to show off their lovely picture. But then, why such a large advertisement for joining the LEGO club, couldn't that have gone on the side? I think that ad is really out of place here.
The box back features one large alternate model picture, and an inset with another alternate. Since this is a large set it has plenty of pieces to make reasonably nice alternate models, showed off by these two, which both like pretty nice to me. See, that LEGO Club ad is annoying here too, but at least it is the back of the box.
This is half of the box's top, and the only place where the set's name is displayed. It also has the disclaimer that instructions are only included for the main model. And look at that, it says "Made in Denmark." That's it, just Denmark!
The rest of the top is taken up with some action shots, and the same picture as the front. Notice there's no full-scale figure shot here.
The left side of the box shows another feature of the set: modularity. Without rebuilding, you can change the style of the fortress.
The bottom shows the same action shots as the top, plus this alternate model pic. What is that? Japanese Pegasus and a shrine? That's a bit more odd.
And then you lift up the entire front of the box, which is a flap. That's when the weirdness comes on. There's Japanese Pegasus, that shrine, a really odd dragon-like construction, and some bare towers. These look kiddish, but that's good inspiration I suppose!
Though I bought this set not MISB off of Bricklink, the instructions were in pristine condition! Woohoo, easy photography!
The front displays the same beautifully crafted picture as the box's front, minus the annoying LEGO club ad. Even though the set is somewhat modular, there is only one booklet. I've never understood why LEGO decided to switch to using two (or more) booklets, even for big sets. One is fine.
Also unlike instructions today, each page of this booklet is jam-packed. It saves space not to have piece callouts, which aren't necessary here; there is no problem building this set without them. Maybe kids have gotten dumber…
After the whole build is complete comes one of my favorite things in these instructions, the cute squishy drawings of the different ways to arrange the castle. It looks like a cartoon version of the set, so nice!
No parts list, but the two alternative mashups. Here's the crazier one from inside the box flap, complete with Japanese Pegasus, a dragon-like tower and an array of odd little buildings and shrines. Imagination prevails!
And on the back, a different type of fortress/stronghold. Something easily from a kid's mind, but it looks good since the set provides so many wonderful parts to build castles and the like. No Star Wars Droid Fighter-Chickens here.
This set is far too big for me to want to arrange the parts nicely to photograph. However, I selected some of the more interesting parts to show off.
In this set we get ten of the printed slanty wall pieces, ten printed blue Ninja flags, and ten ornamental fish, which were only ever used in Ninja and in brightly colored Belville sets. There is also that nice jail door and frame, which came in a bunch of sets across several themes back then, and the big doors and wood-like wall pieces are nice too. This is just one of two sets to contain that wall piece in white, and this set has six of them!
Ah, besides ornamental fish perhaps the trademark of the line is the excellent Oriental minifigures! LEGO did not create too many different designs for this line, as you will see in multiple copies of the same figure in this set. But that's ok, because Samurai and Ninjas don't need to look too different anyway, right?
Let's start with the Samurai. There is the old Shogun, and three blue foot-men. The Samurai right next to the Shogun appeared only in this set. He is the only Ninja figure of the first wave to appear in just one set, and I think it's quite nice that LEGO decided to design him since his exclusivity adds an extra special something to the set. Bricklink calls him the Old Samurai, though he doesn't look so old to me, just older then the other two. Yes, the other two are exactly the same, but that's alright. They're the anonymous soldiers, so it might be nice to have an army of them.
Now the non-Samurai: Ninjas, a bandit, and a skeleton. The black Ninja and bandit are the only bad guys in this set, so they are far outnumbered. I love the worn-out look of the bandit's torso; it says to me that he may once have been a samurai, but he's fallen on hard times and fallen to stealing treasure. Again, two of the same grey Ninjas, but Ninjas especially shouldn't look different. Their identities remain a secret.
Hats off boys, show those nice prints! The shogun has a nice torso robe (no back print on anybody though). The hair and headbands are lovely details and add feeling to the figures, and the differences between the different eyebrows and mouths are quite interesting. Some have large, detailed eyebrows while others have little lines, and some have well developed mouths while others have just lines. I guess it does well to show emotion.
Overall, quite a nice Minifigure selection, and representative of the first Ninja wave since this set includes all but one Ninja minifigure. It's great that there is a figure exclusive to this big set, but I think the one thing the wave was missing was a female figure. How great would a Shogun's daughter or wife (or both) in traditional Japanese garb have been? It would have been really great, I'd say.
LEGO wasn't stingy on the arsenal back then. It re-colored the Pirates guns into black, which suits the Ninja feel very well. This set comes with four axes, six spears, seven katanas, two muskets, and one pistol. And for only nine (though one is a skeleton) minifigures! I don't think the castle axes work very well with the Japanese motif, but oh well. That amount of weapons is still nice.
The set also come with two Ninja flags, five cups, that printed Castle magic tile, a chrome rock, and some treasure. 'Cause that's what it's all about, hoarding the treasure!
And don't forget the horse, with the usual bricks to fill it in and saddle.
MINIFIGURES with ACCESSORIES
Let's battle, shall we? There's no way they can hold all the accessories, so I gave them appropriate ones.
BUILD 1 - NINJA FLYER
Here's where the set gets its name, the gray Ninja's flying contraption! The black Ninja got one also in two different sets, so if you have either of those you can create a Ninja air battle!
As you can see it's made out of wood, and armed with two spears for some reason. The wings are plastic with printing, but they look quite good.
From the back, you see the wings are attached by poles. It all comes together well, for a completely fantastical creation.
It'll fall over if you put the Ninja on, but with a little help he's ready for take off.
I'm flying so fast like a Ninja!
BUILD 2 - SHORT TOWER
(note - all build pics in four step progressions)
This one has no interior, and goes quickly.
BUILD 3 - MEDIUM TOWER
This one has two floors, so it take a little bit longer. Note the similar style of plants as the first tower.
BUILD 4 - TALL TOWER
At this point in the build, I was realizing that each separate floor was not modular. From the catalog pictures and the description toting "rebuilding" the castle without actually rebuilding, I thought you could actually rearrange all the floors. To my surprise, each tower is in fact one solid construction.
This being the tallest, it takes longer to build than the last one. It's straight up and down construction just like before without interesting techniques, but most LEGO sets back then achieved their look through parts usage rather than SNOT and other techniques and styling that we commonly see now.
BUILD 5 - THE CENTRAL BASE
At this point we're done with tedious towers and on to using those lovely green bases. Getting to this build signals a refreshing point since it's on to something different. To be sure, there's a lot of dot coloring going on in the instructions for this one. Don't know what I mean? Back when they actually used baseplates (*ahem* LEGO), instructions colored in studs to clearly illustrate where to put the parts. Quite nice of them.
This part was pretty fun since you build up these bare white columns, but then gratifyingly put the big wall pieces over them later. It's lovely to see the Fortress becoming more fortress-like.
BUILD 6 - THE RIGHT BASE
There isn't much to build on this side, but more of the lovely big pieces get used up.
BUILD 7 - THE LEFT BASE
This side is similar to the other one, although there is a prison to build too. Setting up the bars is not so fun, though, since it's hard to get them all straight.
CASTLE ARRANGEMENT 1 - EXTERIOR
Now that it's built, time to admire the impressively large fortress the way it's featured on the box.
Wow! The color-scheme works really well, and it comes off as an imposing fortified fortress. Just as a fortress is supposed to be, right?
And you thought that box was big on its own. The finished fortress is as tall, and the flag throws it over the box height. If I had the room, I would certainly display the set like this.
From this right angled view, you can see more impressive stone work on the side. It'll be hard to climb up that, you sneaky ninja.
And even more stone on the left, though that crystal does look tempting.
The doorway section looks great with those round red parts. This would be an obvious place for more flags, but with so many already decorating the whole fortress, the designer decided to do without them here. The middle black bar pieces on the door serve well as knockers, even though they cannot move.
Each end of the exterior features one of these decorations, found in all of the Ninja sets of any substantial size. In the second wave, they were black. I always took these to be some sort of lantern, but they could also just be little shrines.
Who left that vine attached to the Fortress? Maybe it was the samurai put in solitary confinement (see below). Of course, you could always take it out and use it for the Ninja to climb somewhere else.
CASTLE ARRANGEMENT 1 - INTERIOR
This big boy is packed with details and play features. Here's the overview:
I'll work my way up the castle, starting with the entrance way. There are four extra spears on either side, plus those red cones to store katanas. Right now, though, the samurai just sits and meditates.
But what if the bandits have guns, how can the samurai protect himself? He feels quite at ease knowing what awaits above his head…
Will it work? Can the four giant axes defeat the robber? Let's find out!
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The axes only work if you haven't pressed the robber down onto the studs. Still, if you were playing, you could drop the axes and flick the robber away and make little kid slicing noises. So I'd say yeah, it works well enough.
Let's turn our attention to the right. As you can see, there's some odd looking yellow thing (the only yellow pieces in the set) and… a bunch of empty space. But empty space isn't too bad.
Oh, that yellow thing is some sort of katana holder or hammering block, neat! This is one of those features that, while it doesn't cause the death of some robber, really adds to the Japanese feeling. It also makes the fortress seem occupied by people, instead of just being all about tricks and traps.
The katana holder is a bit tall, but I suppose the ninja can hammer all the way up there. You can see how the castle has a lot of little alcoves created by the hollow wall sections, which are great for playing with the figures.
There isn't much going on over in the corner, but you could set up a little figure conversation there. It would be hard to build and play with more details in there anyway because of the cramped space.
Up above the corner, there's the walkway to survey the land over the fortress' fortifications. There's no 'realistic' way to get up there, but we all know ninjas can run up walls and/or fly anyway. Even here there are details, in the form of a barrel for storing weapons or accessories or imaginary sake.
With the right interior exhausted, time to check out the left. I obviously screwed up and put the left lantern on the wrong side of the clip, but oh well. Ooh, is that a prison? Cool play feature!
Before we check out the prison, let's look at the other stuff. There's a ladder to realistically get up to the walkway on this side. So why isn't there one on the other side? Did the tricky grey ninjas take away the ladder so that only they could get up on the right side? Really, it just makes no sense.
It's even harder to get into the corner space on this side, which makes it a great hiding spot. Except the prisoner can see you.
Here's the side view. It was an interesting yet annoying solution from LEGO to use four tall bars on each side of the prison. They already had that bars-in-window-frame piece, but I guess they thought that was too small. This way looks fine when set up, but the bars are easily knocked out and don't look so great if they're not all straight, which is hard to set up in the first place.
The door piece is that excellent jail door that appeared for a while, and is just the right thing. And you get a sneak peek at the modularity of the castle.
The cell has quite a generous amount of floor space for those rotten robbers. I guess the architect was a compassionate person. And the shogun or somebody even gives his prisoners two cups! (It's in the instructions!) One to drink from, one to pee in? One for hot drinks, one for cool drinks? Just Imagine…
The central tower has nothing in it. Nothing at all. You can't even see out of it. Solitary confinement for misbehaving samurai?
The right tower is a bit more interesting. On its lower level, there is this little stand with two fancy goblets (normal yellow cups are good for everything) and a crystal plundered from AquaZone. Now where did the shogun get that?
But the evil black robber ninja is tricked! As he goes to snag the ginormous crystal, he's met smack dab with a decaying pirate! Who's sneaky now?
On the upper level is one of my favorite details of the whole fortress: the bedroom! This wasn't the kind of detail found in a lot of LEGO sets at that time, and it certainly adds to that lived-in aspect I mentioned before. Though it's got less space than the prison, it's just wonderful that LEGO put this simplistic cot and table in one of the rooms.
The clear cup also works well as a hat holder for the sleeping samurai. I think the cup looks better holding the hat than as a cup anyway, since the mold just doesn't seem very Japanese to me.
Continued in next Post…
Posted 13 May 2010 - 11:00 PM
Here's the a shot of the outside, middle section of the left tower. Notice something odd? That's right, two of the flags are misprinted upside down. Not a terrible misprint, as misprints go.
The bottom floor has little in it. Just two railings, a place for samurai to keep watch.
The middle floor has two precious rubies, just sitting right out there crying "steal me!" and a scroll. Perhaps the scroll is for meditating, or a history of the shogun's exploits? This is another piece that fits much better in a medieval setting, and does not transfer so well to Japan.
Did you notice something odd about the floor? You sure did… IT'S A TRAP! This piece always works well. (One pole taken out for better clarity)
Ah, but there's something clever and unique about this trap. If you noticed, I didn't pull the pin all the way out. That's because the designer cleverly put a technic piece on the end to block it, which is really a superb idea. The technic bit also allows the trap part to sit straight with the rest of the floor when not caved-in.
The top room of the tower holds the treasure chest, and nothing else. Maybe this is what those robbers are after, or maybe it's the juicy rubies or crystal across the way. There's plenty of treasure to guard/steal.
CASTLE ARRANGEMENT 1 - HEIGHT
Yes, this thing is really tall. I wouldn't want to be on watch duty on the top of the left tower.
The height also makes for some good play. The guy on the right tower thinks he's spotted something, so he tries to alert the guy on the left tower.
"What? I can't here you! You're too far away!"
Modularity wasn't invented for the Cafe Corner, they had it way back in 1998.
As you may have already noticed, the three base sections have pins and sockets.
Also, the towers are only kept on with a few studs.
Now, since the towers don't also split apart by rooms, there are only six different sections to rearrange: three bases, three towers. That means there aren't a whole lot of different combinations you can make, but there are some.
Rearrange it as the instructions suggest, and you get…
CASTLE ARRANGEMENT 2
Wow! That thing is long! (nobody said that) All that stonework is impressive, but it looks more like a great wall than a Fortress this way.
While this arrangement looks cool-ish from the front, the back reveals the weakness: there are hardly any side walls or depth. I wouldn't want my Fortress to just be a wall, so I certainly like the first arrangement better. With several of this set, though, you could make it this long and still Fortress-like.
You want to see how long it really is? Check it out: I took a similar shot for the first arrangement; this time, the far end can hardly be seen.
This set is certainly a big, beautiful boy. Price per part is a little high, but it's not really about that, it's about size for the price. The size is pretty good for a ninety buck set. I can't really say why this set didn't sell very well back in the day, like the rest of the Ninja theme. Maybe the set doesn't have enough pay features, without any catapults or things like that. The minifigure selection is a little weak only because it has two of the same Samurai, two of the same Ninja, and only one figure exclusive to this set that kids may think looks dang similar to the other Samurai anyway. I think the minfigure selection is fine, since LEGO didn't really create so many unique figures for themes back then, but a Japanese princess would have been doable and great.
Somehow, the finished Fortress has a 'quiet' feel. The colors blend very well together, but even with the primary red the color scheme is dark and subdued. The tan and blue color scheme for the second wave certainly pops a lot more. Not that I mind quiet. Now, I've come to love Ninja, and it really was a unique Castle-offshoot. Back when the line was out, though, I didn't love it so much. After all, I passed this set up on sale! And I guess a lot of other kids did too…
Pieces: 9/10 - Lots of the big print rock slope, lots of ornamental fish, lots of printed flags, those white wall pieces. The only problems are those Castle crossovers which do not crossover well: the big halberds, and that printed magic piece.
Minifigures: 8/10 - As I said, all are pretty common in the Ninja line except the exclusive older Samurai. That's not bad per se, since the figures are nice in their own right, but this Fortress really is lacking a female.
Build: 8.5/10 - As you can expect from a big set, there's plenty of different things to build. Still, on each separate part there are a lot of things that seem pretty similar to other parts before, and there are no interesting techniques. Also, with big hands it's too easy to knock some poles out of a tower and have to put it back together before you can keep going.
Price: 10/10 - I think $90 is the reasonable price to expect from LEGO for a set that has this size when done. The recent Battle of Alamut was $10 cheaper for close to 200 more parts, but this one is taller and feels bigger all around. I would not expect any cheaper (though it was on sale for a long time at $60).
Playability: 7/10 - On this set, LEGO does not really 'help out' with playability. Besides for the two play features, you just have to use your imagination. One problem in the playability is that it's too easy to knock off the towers when you're turning the set around. No kid is going to take the towers off while they're rotating the set to see the back, but one wrong bump of the elbow and there'll be some rebuilding to do.
Overall: 8.5/10 - I know ratings are interpreted differently around the world, but to me, that is a solid 'B' grade. That means it's above average, a good set, but not stellar. And it isn't.
Posted 14 May 2010 - 12:21 AM
There's also something about the box art I love. I think it's the background. I will really have to get one.....
Edited by drdavewatford, 14 May 2010 - 12:22 AM.
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Posted 14 May 2010 - 03:11 AM
Thanks for putting so much effort into this, the result is spectacular! Japanese Pegasus FTW!
Posted 14 May 2010 - 03:44 AM
...and also bought up just about all of the 'Bandit' minifigures from Bricklink.
Posted 14 May 2010 - 12:26 PM
Sure would get some sets if they ever brought it back. Is it at all likely, anyone know info on worldwide sales, too low or something?
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Posted 14 May 2010 - 12:29 PM
A superb review of a set I now really want!
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Posted 15 May 2010 - 02:27 AM
Excellent coverage and photography
I thought all the ninjas are bad guys, but you said the black one and bandit are the only ones.
What about the Grey? And if they are good why did they betray their fellow ninjas and work with the samurai
I simply love all the ninja sets, they were all so good
I really hope LEGO decides to make them again. They would be highly popular.
Posted 15 May 2010 - 02:52 AM
I never understood why -Ninjas- had those weird glider things, it would be alot faster to teleport. If the -Ninjas- return, they might need better colors, the only ones that blend in well are the grey and black. Colors that are required to divide ninjas with -Ninjas- include Dark tan/Sand orange, Dark green, and Dark brown. (And a limited edition chrome one that's released as a magnet a few weeks later)
I've come back after a while, now that Summers over I need something to do.
Posted 15 May 2010 - 12:35 PM
This is such a beautiful set! Although that it was released during my dark ages (I didn't even know that a Ninja theme actually existed ), I was lucky enough to find it in a toy store last year, in MISB crisp condition. The minifigs look excellent (9 of them! -- those were the days...) and the whole structure is huge with lots of interesting and useful pieces.
Probably the crown jewel of the theme.
Thanks again for this spectacular review!
I'm sure that somebody in here is going to enjoy this set's review more than anyone.
"Bricks and stones, timber and tiles - are of no use when dumped at random..."
Xenophon - "Memoirs of Socrates"
Posted 15 May 2010 - 07:14 PM
As for the set, I'm going to go ahead and give this an 'Outstanding' rating. I really like how this set offers tons of playability and imagination, with modularity, all of the little alcoves, etc. While some of the colors and parts seem mismatched, this is still one hell of a set if you compare it to other late 90s sets. And it's not gimmicky, like some of the sets of today, IMO. The designers went all out on the design (for the most part), and the focus wasn't just on the figs or the play functions.
Posted 16 May 2010 - 02:53 AM
What about the Grey? And if they are good why did they betray their fellow ninjas and work with the samurai
That's a good question. I've always found the 'official' Ninja story line and faction divisions to be a bit strange, but when the theme was actually out I always had my own three divisions (spanning both waves): Blue Samurai with grey Ninjas, robbers with black Ninjas, and White Shogun with White Ninja Princess and Red Ninjas. Comparing catalog descriptions and write-ups, these are probably not the factions that LEGO had in mind, but the factions that they have are quite convoluted, so it is my own faction divisions that are reflected in the review.
I may write an illustrative article about this and the entire Ninja line, if there is interest.
Thanks everyone for your glowing comments!
Posted 16 May 2010 - 03:52 AM
Posted 17 May 2010 - 10:23 PM
Having owned it as a kid, I am pretty sure that there is no aspect of this set you haven't shown.
Even though it's a fairly good set (probably the best of that line) I wouldn't consider purchasing or rebuilding it though.
I've never really been into sets, just preferred taking them apart for MOCs
Still I can perfectly understand people who collect them when looking at this one...
"The better is the enemy of the good." - Voltaire
Posted 18 May 2010 - 03:54 AM
I'm sure that somebody in here is going to enjoy this set's review more than anyone.
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