The Transformer Classic (TFC) version of Mirage is one of my favorite toys, mostly because it was given to me by my best friend, but also because it's simply a great toy. Poseble, great color scheme, and generally looks nice next to Optimus Prime. He's had a place on my shelf pretty much constantly since I got him for my birthday about two years ago.
When the Drag Strip repaint came out, I got him right away. In retrospect, seeing how many of these black boxes are on shelf now, I probably could have waited half a year and seen him marked down. Then again, I know how "I wish I had waited" is much better than "I wish I had bought it when...". As a collector, better to have the toy in hand than wait for that better deal that may never come.
Anyway, the box Drag Strip comes in is much better than the normal Transformer Universe (TFU) cards. These are nice black matte boxes with great line graphics on front, product photos on back, and a nice flap for the blurb about the character. Open the flap and there's a great picture window with the toy displayed in robot mode. The great thing about the package is that it's not only great looking, but also re-useable, thus making very collector friendly. The toy is in between two molded plastic shells and pops right out or in, like the Playarts Final Fantasy figures. Which is probably why this line sells as a "Special Edition" at a higher price.
When you get him out of the box, Drag Strip doesnt' dissappoint. If you liked the Mirage and you don't mind re-paints (but then why would you buy this if you do...) then you'd like this toy. Quality wise, Hasbro seems to have had higher standards for these figures. The paint applications on the ones I saw weren't bad (not like that rash of Grimlocks or Cliffjumpers that went on sale) and really, most of the toy is cast in yellow plastic anyway.
The Henkei version is in a basic clam on card package, though it's a nice one you can again, re-use. There are some twisties, but easy to get to since he comes packaged in vehicle form. The card is just like most Henkei stuff; every inch packed with words or pictures, all jumbled up. I'm sure this is nice design in Japan, but it leaves me flat.
The joints are tighter Drag Strip than the TFC Mirage though, which is great since mine is a little loose now from play wear. I'm hoping it's not just the toy I bought, but a sign that Hasbro has implemented better quality control issues for material and paint in their toys. They've been improving and seem to be getting competitive now that the market isn't so great. For Henkei Mirage, it's just about the same as the American version.
Articulation wise, these toys are just about the most poseble Transformers I have. Double elbows and knees, along with an ankle joint of sorts make for a lot of great poses. They've got alot of ball joints in their arms, which is they gets so loose over time, but I hear that can be taken care of with some clear nail polish.
As with his joints, the fit of Drag Strip's parts when he transforms into the F1 racer is much tighter than on my TFC Mirage. When you swing up his "nose" in car mode on mine, it's much harder to match it up with the rest of the front assemble because things are so tight. Still, better than a bad fit. Mirage is perfect, as expected from the higher quality Henkei toys.
Compared to TFC Mirage, paint is a little lacking on both. TFC Mirage has the look of a racer with promotional ads and numbers etc. Even a nod to the G1 with "Witwicky Sparkplugs" written on his spoiler. Neither Drag Strip nor the Henkei version have any of that, save for some red "flames" and a number "26" respectively. Boring.
The Henkei version does have a plus point though. He's got nice silver parts that stand out and make him really pop! I don't know if they're vac-metallized or what, but they really do look good, especially on his "gun".
That "gun" is probably the only real negative in this mold. Granted, it's unique, and it fits into the vehicle mode nicely, but it just looks kind of ridiculous. The Henkei Mirage's version looks nicer because it's highlighted by the nice silver finish and bright blue accents, but still doesn't really look like a gun. More like a weird axe or spear.
This is still among my favorites sets though, and I'd urge any Transformers fan to get one of these toys. I'm still hoping to find a Fracture repaint, the one with the Gobot Crasher colors, pink and black, so I can have a two on two.
That would be awesome.