Review: Official Set 8998 - Toa Mata Nui
This week, we’ll be building set 8998, Toa Mata Nui. This set is considered by many to be the holy grail of Bionicle sets, and was released as a Toys ‘R Us exclusive set back in 2009. Getting a hold of it in this condition was a massive challenge.
Mata Nui, in short, is the Great Spirit of the Island of Mata Nui, who was originally tasked with overseeing the wellbeing of the island’s inhabitants, the Matoran. However, Makuta put him into a deep slumber and his essence was placed into a colossal robot body. When the Mask of Life was eventually cast off the planet, it crash landed on the desert world of Bara Magna, still containing the Great Spirit. As for the 2009 storyline, Toa Mata Nui found himself in a world in turmoil, torn by tribal conflicts. He befriends a few of the Glatorian and Legends, which ultimately guides him to becoming a symbol of hope and leadership for the Agori.
As for this set, it deserves its own lore. This set was like I said, released in 2009 as a Toys ‘R Us exclusive. To many fans, including my younger self, Toa Mata Nui was a dream set since 2001. It’s something you always wondered about early on in Bionicle, and I’m disappointed that I was not engaged with Bionicle when this set came out. It came with a price tag of $50, which by today’s prices makes it one of the biggest missed opportunities of the time.
The front of the box gives us a great look at Toa Mata Nui in all his glory on the sands of Bara Magna. In the background we can see a very large ball joint, which is a reference to the enormous robots that come into play during 2010. There is also a very small silhouette of Toa Mata Nui leading the Glatorian Legends. Also on the front of the box is a large rock with a Scarabax Beetle encrusted on it. The Scarabax Beetle I’m assuming is a reference to the Scarabs, which were beetles in Ancient Egypt that symbolized birth, life, death, and resurrection.
The left side of the box is a continuation of that rock with another image of Toa Mata Nui and the Scarabax Beetle. The right side of the box is a continuation of the desert sands which once again provides the name of the set and a Scarabax Beetle.
The back of the box presents a very large image of Toa Mata Nui alongside the backside of the rock we saw on the front. I’m geeking out over the graphic designers making the entire box art one continuous image. In the bottom right there is a large ad for the Bionicle: The Legend Reborn movie with some still shots. The top right gives us a look at the six Glatorian Legends as well as a code for the set and a preview of the play features.
Inside the box are three numbered bags as well as two instruction manuals.
After a 45-minute build, the set is complete. The build experience was nothing spectacular, just a pretty standard Titan build. One thing I did do was save the mask for last even though it came up at the end of Bag 1. It just felt right to me.
I’ll go ahead and say it right away, this set is spectacular. The construction is incredibly well put together, and the proportions were absolutely nailed. He looks strong, agile, and powerful all at the same time. As if there’s a human resemblance to him that stretches into something much more developed. The color scheme works, but there is a caveat for me. We all know that the bright light orange pieces should be gold. There’s simply no way to deny that. There are a few gold pieces included throughout the body, but it leaves me wanting more of them. The bright light orange parts include the chest armor pieces, shoulder pads, forearms, leg accent pieces, and a weapon hilt for his left hand.
Jumping up to one of those gold parts is of course the mask. It’s actually the only piece exclusive to this set. And after all of the build-up, all of the story that led to it, the mask was worth the wait. It’s noble, the details are very sharp, and it just has a look to it that can’t be mistaken for something less significant than it is.
While the mask is going to get a lot of the love, one of the more underrated parts to this set in my eyes are the hands. I can’t think of better executed hands for the previous titan sets. We actually have individual, adjustable fingers that are proportionate with the rest of the set. It’s a small detail that really pleased me while building this set.
Another area that I really like for this set are the pistons that bridge the legs to the torso. Not only are they functional with the legs as we’ll see later, but they aesthetically are perfect to the eye as a mechanical transition that makes this set feel more robotic.
I also really like the yellow armoring on the calves. They’re very effective in creating a larger scale without adding a ton of weight or additional parts.
The weaponry included in this set is the pretty standard sword and shield combo. The shield does have a nice shape to it thanks to the weapon pieces used to make it. These pieces can actually hinge in and out to change the profile and I assume grab a hold of larger enemies. It also has a built-in Thornax Launcher that operates as essentially wrist rockets.
If you’ve seen previous Titan reviews that I’ve done, you’ll know that I can be quite critical of bad articulation, and very pumped up about good articulation. This set is the latter. The articulation is peak Bionicle. I truly can’t think of a model with smoother, more organic articulation. The shoulder joint has been perfected for larger sets that utilize double sockets.The rest of the arms function exactly as human arms do at the elbow and wrist. And as for the legs, just perfection. The hips, just like the shoulders, have no restrictions for being attached with two sockets, and have the exact amount of range of motion that you’d need. The knees and ankles have great range of motion as well. But perhaps my favorite part about the articulation is the amount of friction. I’m hoping this isn’t just due to these parts being brand new, but the friction achieved at the different joints allow for nearly any display option without worry of limbs slipping or falling down under the weight of themselves.
However, amongst the many great things about this set, it didn’t avoid a major pet peeve of mine, the back. The back was left essentially bare aside from the piston pieces that connect to the legs. There’s also two life counters, honestly I think it would’ve been hilarious if they put like 4 of them on here to signify how much of a beast Mata Nui is. Just as I always say, one or two armor pieces here would add that extra step to the model, however this one manages to still look great without them.
Current Pricing & Final Thoughts:
When it comes to the price of this set, it’s simply insane. Just the mask will cost you over $200 on Bricklink. That point aside, in used condition, you can pick this set up for approximately $630, in used condition! In brand new sealed condition, these are VERY hard to come by, but you can expect them to be priced around $2,000. It’s the holy grail for a sealed collection, or if you’re insane like I am you’ll open that up and build it. Don’t spend $2,000 on this set if you’re going to open it, unless money is a big joke to you. I obviously only did it to be consistent for this series, and frankly you guys deserved it, I would absolutely not open it otherwise. I still can’t believe that I actually did.
While at the time it certainly wasn’t meant to be, this is truly the culmination and perfect penultimate wrap-up that this Generation of Bionicle deserved. Looking at it right now, I wish I had gotten this set as a kid. It’s the manifestation of my childhood, and I am so thankful that the designers did it justice. If there were more gold pieces and back armor on this set, we would honestly be at a 9.9 out of 10. Call me crazy but I can see the entire history of Bionicle in his mask. The shades of 2001 all the way through 2009, it’s all there.
Looking back at the 2001 Toa Mata, this set feels like the peak evolution of those sets. I am proudly going to keep this displayed in the new studio, which you’ll see soon. And while this feels like the last Bionicle set, there is still one more video to make for Generation 1! The Bionicle Stars, a.k.a the Spiderman: Far From Home to this Avengers: Endgame. I know there are a ton of questions of what will come after that, and I promise that those will be answered after we wrap up Gen.1. Just stick with me, there is a plan.