Alpha Draconis

Lego 6979 UFO Interstellar Starfighter unboxing and review

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Posted (edited)

Preface

This theme means a lot to me, even though I never owned any myself when I was a kid since I wasn't old enough at the release to be interested in these kind of sets. I did, however, have a lot of old 90s Lego catalogues from my older cousins, who passed them down to me. When I was a bit older I acquired a taste for this line, but it was discontinued for years at that time, so I had to wait.

Opening this set sealed really meant a lot to me, since I always wanted to do this. In the future I intend to hunt down all other UFO sets, preferably sealed and I might do a review on those as well.

I made this review so that you can see how it was like to unbox and assemble this set back in 1997 and because I never found a similar modern review of the set, when I was looking to buy it. There are a lot of reviews on it, but I couldn't find any that would include a sealed box. I tried my best to make this review as comprehensive as I can.

This is my first review so  any feedback you might have is welcome. I hope you enjoy this review!

Information

Set name: Interstellar Starfighter

Set number: 6979

Number of pieces: 292

Year released: 1997

Minifigures: 3

Price (then): 80.00 USD

Theme: U.F.O.

Introduction

Description of the theme on Brickipedia: »The UFO Aliens come from the planet Humorless. They spend their time fighting the Exploriens and Roboforce, and scare Earth farmers in their free time. They have the ability to read minds. They have droids do their work for them, though they usually steal those droids, like in Andy Droid's case. Alpha Draconis is their leader.« source

U.F.O. alien species is called Zotaxian. Their backstory differs from region to region - promotional materials back in the day weren't in sync and thus we get different backstories – in some versions Zotaxians even invaded then equivalent of Lego City, while in other versions the story was confined to space themes only. source 

A thing to mention is that aliens from Insectoids theme are also Zotaxians and come from the same planet as U.F.O. aliens. For different reasons, depending on the local promotional materials issued at the time they had to flee their native world and find a new home.

U.F.O. theme was also featured in Lego Racers video game from 1999. There was a racing map where both U.F.O. and Insectoids themes were interlaced.

I got this set sealed via BrickLink. The box was in overall good contention, aside from some print wear. But most importantly, no dents!

You can check BrickLink listings for this set here. 

The box

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Here's the front view of the box. Wear on the edges shows that it was sealed for almost 24 years but I guess that is a necessary evil and not really that important.

 

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This is the front of the box with its flap up, revealing transparent windows showcasing some elements of the set. Yes, I learned that was very common for Lego sets at the time but I grew up with sets that had simpler boxes with no flaps so this feels alien to me... I'll see myself out :laugh: 

 

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Upon closer inspection we can see what is showcased – 2 minifigs (Alpha Draconis on the right, Andy Droid on the left). Above them (the very top of the window) are 2 transparent neon-green circular pieces that the U.F.O. theme is most known for. They form cockpit canopy of the starfighter. Between the figures are alien helmets – black one on top (Alpha Draconis') and below it one in grey (Chamon's).

Fun fact is that Chamon (the 3rd figure in the set that the grey helmet belongs to and has shoulder pads, just like Alpha Draconis) is not showcased in this transparent window, but his helmet is. Instead, Andy Droid was chosen to be showcased. I wonder what was the reason for this?

On the very bottom of the largest window is the battery box that takes 9V battery. Yes, this set has electronic parts that produce visuals (and also some audio but I don't think that was the designer's intention – more on that later).

Immediately below is another tiny window, showcasing the cockpit lights.

Lastly on the very bottom we have a line of 5 small transparent windows. The contents showcased are (from left to right): electric wire with brick, 2 magnets, red electric micro motor, 2 magnets, electric wire with brick. 

 

Below are additional pictures of the box.

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The top of the box.

 

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An observation – I noticed a number imprint on the top of the box (4217). I have no idea what this was used for. Maybe something to do with production and/or distribution system back in the 90s?

 

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Left side of the box.

 

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Bottom side of the box.

 

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A closeup of legal and production information on the bottom of the box. It says the set was made in Billund, Denmark.

 

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Right side of the box.

 

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The back of the box, showing mostly alternative builds - a practice that is not that common for set packaging nowadays.

 

Below are pictures of box seals, which can be found on the front of the box, under the flap. This is where you are supposed to open the set. You have to take the cardboard with transparent windows off in order to access the box contents.

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Unboxing

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Like mentioned before, you have to open the box from the front, with its flap out of the way. I cut the seals with a knife along highlighted areas and the lifted the cardboard with transparent windows up from the box to access its contents.

 

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This how contents of the box are distributed in the box. The box is divided in several compartments (light green cardboard), each holding specific bags of parts or larger parts. Items showcased via transparent windows are held in a separate packaging which sits on top of the compartments. Instructions and promotional materials are located on the very bottom , under cardboard compartments.

 

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Another imprint on one of the green compartment cardboard (4107390).

 

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Here are all box contents stretched on a table.

 

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These are all parts that not packed in any plastic bags or additional packaging inside the box.

 

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Above 2 pictures show all the printed elements excluding minifigures and their accessories.

 

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On the left are the instructions, in the middle are promotional materials and on the very right is a ... poster?

 

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Indeed, you get a cool one-sided poster with this set. This was a very pleasant surprise and I guess that a much more common practice in the past.

 

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This is a separate packaging, containing all the elements that are showcased via transparent windows on the packaging.

 

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These are all plastic bags containing the remaining bricks. Plastic bags are of the old type, of course, with holes all over them to enable air circulation. Nothing remarkable otherwise. Note the bag on the very bottom right-hand side contains the only sticker this set has, 2 light grey 1 x 12 beams, along with 9 optic fibres (they might be difficult to observe in this picture).

 

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This is the only sticker in the set.

 

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For those unfamiliar with the theme – this sticker is somewhat special because it changes colour based on heat. The idea is that you put your finger on it and it then changes to green colour, revealing U.F.O. symbol as shown in above picture.

 

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These are optical fibres you get in the set. 9 in total, 8 to use and one spare.

 

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Above are shown all electronic components of the set. On top is the battery box, below it are (left to right) black electric twin lights, red micro motor and light grey fibre optics electric element. Lastly there are two black electric wires with brick. 

 

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Finally, you also get four black cylindrical magnets.

 

Minifigures

UFO Red Droid/ Andy Droid

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This is the only minifigure in the set without a helmet or a shoulder armour. It is the only robot in the set and supposed brother of more known Ann Droid from Exploriens theme. source

The minifigure sports quite interesting printing (front of the minifig only), with U.F.O. logo on the top left-hand side of the torso, remaining printing looking like exposed wiring and electronic components to me.

Below are additional pictures of the minifigure from remaining angles.

 

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Red UFO alien / Chamon

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One of 2 Zotaxians in the set, also referred to as the Red UFO alien. The figure sports grey alien helmet and a black shoulder armour. Printing on the minifigure itself is also only present on its front. The only other printing can be found on the front angle of the helmet, looking to me as a brain with interlaced cybernetic implants.

Below are pictures of the figure with all its accessories from the remaining angles. 

 

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Here is the front view of Chamon without its helmet and shoulder armour. The face is one of the more memorable ones for me – that grin makes the figure look both funny and creepy at the same time.

The printing on the torso and legs is also quite detailed but looks more organised to me that, say, the printing on Andy Droid's torso. Mandatory U.F.O. logo is also present on the torso, this time on the top right-hand side. 

Below are pictures of Chamon figure with no accessories from remaining angles.

 

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Alpha Draconis

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The only (consistently) named minifigure in the U.F.O. theme. Although his role is again not consistent in promotional materials between regions, he is supposed to be the leader of Zotaxians in some capacity (ranging from dictator of planet Humoreless to leader of the Zotaxian fleet). He was also featured both as a playable character and an npc in the legendary Lego Racers video game from 1999 (although he was missing his shoulder armour). He is most famous for his black helmet and grey shoulder armour. Printing on the helmet is the same as on Chamoin's helmet, but the torso and leg printing are a tad different.

Below are pictures of the figure with all its accessories from the remaining angles.

 

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Here is Alpha Dracoins without his accessories. His face print looks to me almost bug-like. I wonder if this connected somehow with Insectoids theme? His torso printing is different from Chamon's and Andy Droid's. There are no electronics in sight, only a large U.F.O. logo in the middle of the torso. There are hints of electronics shown on his leg printing. Printing is, again, only present on the front of the figure.

Below are pictures of the figure from different angles.

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Building the set

I unfortunately didn't take any pictures of the set assembly but to be honest there is not much I can say on that except the instructions did not age too well. There are no required parts shown for each step of the building process so you have to have a keen eye for details and every step feels like a game of finding all the differences between pictures. My worst fear was that I would end up with an extra piece at the end that I knew I missed somewhere. Fortunately it did not come to that and I'm rather proud of myself for achieving this :classic:

 

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These are all the extra pieces of the set – one optic fibre and one trans-red electric light bulb cover.

 

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The back of the instructions. 

 

Assembled set

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This is the assembled Interstellar Starfighter. I'll try to capture as many angles as I can. 

 

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The front view – one of the best angles in my opinion.

 

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Angled front view. 

 

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You can clearly see black electric wires coming from the battery box just behind the main cockpit and going to micro motor and optics fibre element hidden behind a printed trans-neon green element located in the middle of the starfighter.

 

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The back of the starfighter.

 

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Another side view. 

 

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Front view of the fighter, more level with the ground. Definitely not one of the good-looking angles.

 

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Side view, more close to the ground. 

 

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Another side view from ground level.

 

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Top view. 

 

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Next to 6900 Cyber Saucer. 

 

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Another feature of the set is that it has a smaller detachable space craft.

 

The main ship 

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Magnets on the back of the main ship are used to connect main ship with the smaller detachable space craft. 

Below are some pictures of main ship only.

 

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Above is the bottom of the main ship. It is clear that the preferred angle to look this set at is from above.  

 

Detachable space craft

Below are some pictures of the smaller space craft. It is assembled from two smaller circular pieces with a trans-neon green cockpit. On the top of the latter is where the only sticker is located.

 

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Do the electronics work?

Not all. The twin lights in the cockpit work flawlessly, while red micro motor is dead, effectively rendering fibre optics in the back bust. The grey fibre optics element works on its own though.

Fibre optics in the back should flash one optic at the time. This is caused by rotating a Technic rod in the grey fibre optics element, allowing only one fibre optic to be lit at the time and providing flashing of all fibre optics. Rotation should be achieved by using the red micro motor, while grey optic element only provides red light. But since micro motor is dead only front twin bulb lights in the cockpit work. The micro motor is known to produce some noise so that's what I was referring to when I said there was some unintentional audio produced by electronic parts. Better working front lights and optic element than nothing! I have heard that these red micro motors are a bit iffy anyway, so this is something I was half-expecting.

 

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A gif and a picture showing working front cockpit lights, proving I am not full of... err... brick?

 

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A side note: when taking the battery box out of the set it's a good idea to utilise one of the holes in the plate below the battery box in combination with a Technic or a normal rod to push the battery box out of the set from below first. Otherwise the bottom battery cover might stick to the plate and you'll end up tearing the upper portion of the battery box out of the set while the bottom will be stuck to the plate. When this happened to me it caused me a mini heart attack (the crack noise mostly) but fortunately I did not break anything. Using this method is a safer alternative. Note that none of the parts used on the rod assembly on the picture above are a part of this set – I borrowed the tip of one of the s-foils cannons on my UCS X-Wing.

 

Conclusion 

Opening this set was a very interesting experience for me and it was hard for me to be objective when reviewing this set. The price of this set sealed is also something that a lot of people would find hard to justify. But for someone like me, who adores the theme it was worth it. I would not recommend this set sealed to anyone however – you have to be either a big fan with the means to buy it, otherwise just get a used set. Sure you'll miss all the fun unboxing experience and the parts might be in poor condition/broken but it's going to be way cheaper. On the other hand, if you are a big fun with a budget – go for it, just don't expect all electronics to work. Hopefully this review will make you help make the decision whether to buy this set either sealed or used.

Design: 8/10. The front of the fighter looks really nice but the main issue I have is with detachable space craft. No full circular shape - what were they thinking?

Parts: 8/10. Electronic parts, along with circular parts and minifigures are really nice, it's a shame that the red micro motor is not working though.

Build: 5/10. Oh how building instructions have improved. Hats off to any former kids building large sets before required parts for every building step were established as a norm. It's a game of concentration and patience. The build itself is nice but it's the instructions that bring the experience down significantly.

Minifigures: 10/10. The helmet design, shoulder armour, printing... these figs have it all in my view. Still one of the best figures TLG ever produced and they aged really well too.

Playability: 8/10. Lots of functionalities present on this set. From flashing lights and detachable smaller space craft to alternate builds – you decide how to play!

Price (sealed): 6/10. I don't think I paid an unfair price for this set but it was still substantial. I know other older sets with higher demand sell for way more, so I can't complain too much. The price could always be better though.

 

I hope you enjoyed this review and that you got to know more about the theme in general or just learned something new about the set.

 

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On display.

 

Edited by Alpha Draconis
removed links. So many links - pt. 2

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Great, detailed review! Thanks for sharing the unboxing process for such an old set. It really is a shame that these days we don't have the box displays as Lego used to do.

I think I really liked this set as a kid. But like you said, I think that ship has sailed for MISB sets, unless you are a really die-hard fan paying for a must-have set.

By the way, how do you feel this set compares to Alien Avenger 6975? I really like the fiber optic design of this set, but the Alien Avenger seems like it has a more complete structure.

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I'm glad you enjoyed this review! 

58 minutes ago, BrickHat said:

By the way, how do you feel this set compares to Alien Avenger 6975? I really like the fiber optic design of this set, but the Alien Avenger seems like it has a more complete structure.

I actually don't have Alien avenger yet, but I'm working on it - I hope to also get a sealed set and doing similar review once I have it. I'll be sure to compare the two sets!

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Awesome to see a review like this for an older set.  Thanks.  My biggest complaint about this set was the name.  Why is a Starship being called a Starfighter.  :wacko:  The UFO theme did have the original V-Wing Fighter.  6836 was a great small set.

 

7 hours ago, BrickHat said:

By the way, how do you feel this set compares to Alien Avenger 6975? I really like the fiber optic design of this set, but the Alien Avenger seems like it has a more complete structure.

As someone that owns all of the main UFO sets I would say both have their pros and cons.  I like the overall look of the Alien Avenger better but I think the Interstellar Starship Starfighter has a better overall build.  The Avenger is mostly hollow underneath but it does have a nice down facing "engine" that everyone probably just used as an "Independence Day" (the movie) style mega laser.

 

13 hours ago, Alpha Draconis said:

 

 

This theme means a lot to me, even though I never owned any myself when I was a kid since I wasn't old enough at the release to be interested in these kind of sets. I did, however, have a lot of old 90s Lego catalogues from my older cousins, who passed them down to me. When I was a bit older I acquired a taste for this line, but it was discontinued for years at that time, so I had to wait.

I was in the opposite position.  I was an older teen when UFO came out.  Unlike most I never had a "dark ages" where I wasn't into Lego.  UFO and Explorians were the first themes that I had a job and could intentionally buy multiple copies of the smaller sets like the V-Wing.  Sadly that was near the end of the continuous Space theme.  :cry_sad:

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Yikes! You opened a new copy... lucky.
The boxes with the flaps stopped because people were stealing all the good pieces out of the sets.

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Posted (edited)

Great review: great effort in taking all of the photos and documenting all parts of the packaging and model so nicely. I realise why they don’t, but wouldn’t it be great if so much attention and care was still paid to packaging. Great work keeping it displayed so nicely.

 I was a bit disappointed for you when I read ‘do the electronics work’ and the next line was ‘not all’. Is there a third party part available to replace the 9V   micromotor?

Edit: https://www.toypro.com/au/product/32787/electric-motor-9v-micromotor-2-x-2/red have (albeit out of stock) a micromotor product which I believe is a third party version. I am not sure if they are reliable but could be worth investigating.

Edited by Stuartn

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9 hours ago, Stuartn said:

I was a bit disappointed for you when I read ‘do the electronics work’ and the next line was ‘not all’. Is there a third party part available to replace the 9V   micromotor?

I have not thought about that tbh. I was thinking about getting the same motor from Bricklink that works and I probably will get it at some point. It's a shame really, since every other component seems to be working just fine.

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17 hours ago, Maple said:

The boxes with the flaps stopped because people were stealing all the good pieces out of the sets. 

I think that was the excuse. They almost certainly stopped doing those kinds of boxes due to costs. But corporations don't like to say "We are giving you less value to save that money for ourselves." Better to blame the consumer.

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8 minutes ago, danth said:

I think that was the excuse. They almost certainly stopped doing those kinds of boxes due to costs. But corporations don't like to say "We are giving you less value to save that money for ourselves." Better to blame the consumer.

I sure cost was also an issue but if you walked into any Toys R US USA in the 90s they had several sets with the plastic film ripped off, or even cut off and just the minifigure or one piece missing.

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So interesting that you find old instructions frustrating. I find new instructions totally tedious and vacuous because of how simple they are. There's no moments where my brain has to work, or make a connection of any sort. Books and plays always do well to flatter an audience by not filling in every detail for the audience, because then the audience feel clever. It's also how the best comedy works - it's in the gap between what is said and what is meant. That little frisson of pleasure is the pleasure of working something out. And I think it applies to instructions too!

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On 4/1/2021 at 7:12 PM, Celloguy said:

So interesting that you find old instructions frustrating. I find new instructions totally tedious and vacuous because of how simple they are. There's no moments where my brain has to work, or make a connection of any sort. Books and plays always do well to flatter an audience by not filling in every detail for the audience, because then the audience feel clever. It's also how the best comedy works - it's in the gap between what is said and what is meant. That little frisson of pleasure is the pleasure of working something out. And I think it applies to instructions too!

An interesting take for sure. A comparison with comedy is an interesting one but I can't say I agree with it. While you may deduct on the (un)said what the joke was really about you cannot do the same with a few extra pieces you may got with old Lego instructions. I mean, sure you can put those extra pieces whenever at the end of the build and not really care about it, but on the other hand this may prove difficult if you tend to be a bit OCD with your build (like me :classic:). Not to mention that the bigger the set is the more missed bricks become a problem. And to err is human.  

As far as keeping your brain working - I agree with you here, sometimes it does feel like your brain feels like on off mode with newer instructions - until you can't find a piece you are looking for in a pile of other pieces and I start to frantically looking if it fell from the table :grin: This may not be a bad thing though, you can do other things in the meantime with reduced possibility of missing a piece. I personally like to listen to music while building large sets and this feels like a good combo to me. 

What I think this boils down to is what you and I are used to. I assume you grew up mostly with old instructions and are used to them, while I grew up with (mostly) new instructions. We both prefer different styles of instructions since you experience building differently to me. And that is okay, we both know what we like and nothing can change that! 

I would actually like to build more medium-sized sets like this since it's a different experience, but for larger sets I would definitely take newer instructions over old ones everyday. 

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I always liked the UFO theme, especially the minifigs, but this set is not as good as the Alien Avenger or Warp Wing Fighter IMO. The lighting and fiber optics are great though. I got an MISB copy at one point too and keep the boxes for everything from this era.

The micromotors are unfortunately very prone to breaking down. I have 3 or 4 dead ones, and they tend to break even if just left alone on a model for several years. The one I have on this set works, at least so far.

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On 4/2/2021 at 8:45 PM, Alpha Draconis said:

An interesting take for sure. A comparison with comedy is an interesting one but I can't say I agree with it. While you may deduct on the (un)said what the joke was really about you cannot do the same with a few extra pieces you may got with old Lego instructions. I mean, sure you can put those extra pieces whenever at the end of the build and not really care about it, but on the other hand this may prove difficult if you tend to be a bit OCD with your build (like me :classic:). Not to mention that the bigger the set is the more missed bricks become a problem. And to err is human.  

As far as keeping your brain working - I agree with you here, sometimes it does feel like your brain feels like on off mode with newer instructions - until you can't find a piece you are looking for in a pile of other pieces and I start to frantically looking if it fell from the table :grin: This may not be a bad thing though, you can do other things in the meantime with reduced possibility of missing a piece. I personally like to listen to music while building large sets and this feels like a good combo to me. 

What I think this boils down to is what you and I are used to. I assume you grew up mostly with old instructions and are used to them, while I grew up with (mostly) new instructions. We both prefer different styles of instructions since you experience building differently to me. And that is okay, we both know what we like and nothing can change that! 

I would actually like to build more medium-sized sets like this since it's a different experience, but for larger sets I would definitely take newer instructions over old ones everyday. 

I think you're probably right. I'm really into classical music and I find when I grow to love a piece listening to a particular recording, I can't help but compare other recordings to that version, and usually don't find them as satisfying. I never know how much this is me, and how much this is a thing other people experience too!

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This is an era I’m entirely unfamiliar with. By the time of the UFO sets, I was „too old“ for Lego and by the time I returned, those sets were long gone. 
 

Thanks for the review. It really is a nice set. I particularly like the fact that Lego was still using prints instead of all those horrible stickers nowadays.

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On 3/28/2021 at 7:29 PM, BrickHat said:

By the way, how do you feel this set compares to Alien Avenger 6975? I really like the fiber optic design of this set, but the Alien Avenger seems like it has a more complete structure.

Now that I had a chance of building them both I agree with you - AA does seem more complete and it's packed with play functions, while IS lacks in those areas. However to me IS looks to be build for high speeds (maybe I have this impression from promotional media) and looks to be a more lean machine than AA. I can't really decide which I like better tho - I love'em both! 

I think the design of both translates well to their roles - AA is a command ship while IS is more of a fighter. 

Anyway, I made 6975 review too, where I briefly touch on comparison between the sets - feel free to check it out here

On 4/11/2021 at 5:34 PM, Tom_Brick said:

Thanks for the review. It really is a nice set. I particularly like the fact that Lego was still using prints instead of all those horrible stickers nowadays.

My pleasure, I hope more people get interested in the theme! I agree on prints part. But on top of that, even a sticker in this set felt to be of a good quality - I forgot to mention that in this review. I had no trouble applying it and the glue seal on the sticker sheet was intact after 24 years. It's true, this sticker was special and can't really be compared exactly 1:1 with modern stickers but still it felt of a better quality. I wonder how a sticker from a set released this year will feel to apply under similar circumstances in 24 years?  

Edited by Alpha Draconis

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Those old fiber optic elements were stinking cool.

 

It's too bad about the micromotor - I think the last time I saw one was in a university-owned prototype Mindstorms kit my dad (a professor) had on loan from a friend at MIT. Rather than shopping for replacements, I also wonder if there are tutorials anywhere on repairing them?

Edited by elfprince13

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There was a discussion here a long time ago. Some people managed it but I ended up not bothering with mine.

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54 minutes ago, CP5670 said:

There was a discussion here a long time ago. Some people managed it but I ended up not bothering with mine.

Thanks for sharing =)

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