Introduction

I fought with myself for some time to write this article. On the one hand I have a strong sentiment for classic Lego sets, but on the other hand, we have a new City series, in which something is missing, at least for me. Nevertheless, Lego bricks are still being snapped up and liked by kids. I saw them many times in a store jumping with joy as they see boxes of Lego looking pleadingly at their parents. It is simply pure magic. However, my childhood is the beginning of the 90s and I know first-hand how Lego looked like then and what impression was accompanied with it. Although many things I have already forgotten from childhood, one of the memories preserved are those when I got Lego bricks or when I played with them. Lego bricks were and still are inspiring, creative, functional and durable for decades. Lego sets are simply timeless. Is it 70s, 90s or present, bricks are still brilliant. I respect this company because of that and I think it should be a model for all of us. Doing something high quality with thinking about the future. I want to write this article, because I feel deficiency caused by lack of magnificence of Town series, what it once was. Probably most of you are thinking that this is simply the sentiment of childhood and nothing more. It's hard to disagree. Definitely what we discover in the childhood has the strongest impact on our psyche. In the end, as the children we discover the world and learn new things. Most wonderful memories we have from this period, of course eliminating bad ones. Memories from playing Lego we can classify only to those good ones. Sentiment is strong, but still I think that's not all. New Lego sets, of course, are on their way also great, but they lack something. In this article I will try to present my thoughts from the last few months since my passion for Lego awaken again after 15 years. Do not get me wrong, because I do not want to defame here by no means new sets of Lego. I will try to objectively compare the two series. 

I encourage you to read the article about the Evolution of city sets in Lego first!
I have described there how city sets evolved from the 70s to present year.

The differences between the series of Town and City

As a kid I really liked to assemble Lego bricks and I think it's the best toy I've ever got. I have dreamed many times about getting all the sets from Lego catalogs, with these excellent presentations, where every set perfectly matched to each other. Big container ships, racetracks or airports with long runways, not to mention the great constructions of railway tracks with various models of freight and passenger trains. As a child Lego bricks were something more to me than a toy. Countless hours spent on combining and disassembling bricks, laying out various city or medieval sceneries like one big puzzles. Those were definitely good memories. I know what it was like to experience at first hand getting and unpacking Lego sets from the 90s. I owned several sets of small medium and large sizes from different series, but mainly city ones. The desire to build and construct stayed with me even when I put bricks aside. There is something magical and inspiring about them. I would like to present what I consider to be great and important in old Lego sets from Town series and what is great and what lacks in my opinion in new sets of City series. I think new city Lego sets can be even better.

1. The new oval shapes

New sets of City series debuted in 2005. The evolution can be seen with the naked eye. The new vehicles are primarily rounder and bigger. It can be compared to the evolution of the real cars. In 90s real cars were smaller and squared, but in XXI century they are more oval and bigger. The same has happened here.
This picture speaks for itself. This step was definitely a hit. The cars are nice, oval, and most importantly, made up of many small bricks! Personally, I still prefer good old narrow and square vehicles from Town series, but objectively speaking, new vehicles style is definitely successful. New bricks have been created like rounded slopes 1x3 or simple small straight 1x1 slopes. There are also new car roofs and fenders are fuller. Large wheels has been used more often and they are present in almost every car. Small wheels have become a rarity, where in Town series every small car owned them. Generally cars look nice and have more details. One thing - lack of openable roof that could be found in each vehicle in the Town series. In the City series you have to disassemble the roof to put figure inside, where in Town you only had to open it up. Nevertheless, this design of vehicles can be counted as a good thing in new series.

2. Computer generated presentations in catalogs

We have digital age right now, computers are everywhere. Personally, I have nothing against computers. I use them and work on them every day. However, I do not understand why bricks presentations are so digitally enhanced? It's as if I wanted to sell the sculpture and showed rendered 3D object instead of a real picture. Of course, not everything is rendered, because real bricks can be seen in the presentations. Although sometimes there is a 3D model of minifigure standing in various poses, which of course can not be done using real figure. The background is often filled with artificial buildings. It's hard to distinguish which is made of bricks and what is simply painted decoration. Sometimes the presentations are also fabulously colored. Usage of computers to generate presentations is pretty common in our times. It gives us all sorts of possibilities and I understand it. I am an old gamer as well. I played in lots of games and I know some things about 3D programming. This world is familiar to me and I like it also. Nevertheless, when it comes to Lego, this should be different and more natural world. Is it worth to kill the charm and use artificial presentation instead of simply real photo? Just use advanced modeling for the creation of the land on which constructions from bricks stands proudly, nothing more. Was it not great? It would require a good camera with good lighting and we have an excellent presentation. There is actually no need to use 3D rendering and CGI. For comparison, below you can see some presentations from the 90s and a few from new City series. Do you also see the magic in old presentations? Was it not great to see photo of real bricks complemented with modeled elements of ground only?
Presentation of 2012 is not so artificial though, but in the background you can see the painted buildings. You can think that I am nagging now. I remember this magic of presentations as I was a kid till this very day. Will kids do the same in 20 years? I hope so. However, I think that catalogs could be improved and instead of using renders, it would be better to use ordinary modeling, good lighting and just shoot normal photos without extensive digital processing! Well, tell me honestly, wouldn't you like to see the presentation of new City sets, rounded cars, nice buildings, police and others in a nice good lit scenery, maybe in slightly darkened environment without digital objects or artificial background? Normal brick constructions from sets and modeled ground elements like mountains, grass and water only? Hmmm?

3. Lack of a consistent theme
Town series was one and consistent. Buildings in catalogs presentations were made out of bricks only and all were designed using the same patterns. You had no problem to locate what sets you need to buy to be able to create your own city. Small and large houses were available, holiday houses, restaurant or pizzeria. City services buildings such as car parking or fuel stations. There was no need to think about it, it was obvious. The main thing is strict adherence to the same patterns, thats why all sets in Town series always fit together.
Unfortunately, in a City series there is a shortage of residential and leisure houses. It is true that you can find service buildings such as restaurant Lego 7641 or storey car park Lego 4207, but the amount is negligible compared to the amount of cars and public service buildings released. The problem is that it is hard to build a city using sets found in City theme, you have to look to others as Creator or Modular Buildings. Well, it may end differently, because we can be sure that the patterns were maintained at the level of one theme and structures of the City theme will fit together. Are structures of the Creator fit with those from City?
They can and usually they fit, but that's not the same. The main difference is another way of construction. In Creator we have fully built structures and usually with greater degree of detail. However, in the City as well as in a Town series buildings have back opened, what gives easy access to the interior.
Usually we see more advanced and expensive city presentations using several two-story buildings like the hotel pictured above from the Modular Buildings theme. That's not all, because there are other themes, like Speed ​​Champions, where we can find some nice racing sets.
In summary, there is no promotion of one theme that would have everything needed to build the city. You have to reach to other themes and wonder if it will fit or not.

4. Lack of middle class

In a series of Town all sorts of Lego sets were released, from a tiny car consisting of 30 bricks to a big train consisting of 750 bricks. Sets were all kinds of sizes. Everyone could find something for himself and for his pocket.
The above table presents sets of the police in a Town series released over the years. You will notice that we have the whole bunch of sets. Anyone could buy for a kid a little cruiser composed of 30 bricks, because it was relatively cheap. High quality goes with a higher price and definitely it is worth paying because this quality you can see and feel! Police pursuit squad made up of 171 bricks was also available for many people because the cost per today's currency was probably about 15 EUR. I owned Lego 6540 Pier Police set as a kid,  consisting of 354 bricks. It once cost approx. 40 EUR. The price is already higher but still affordable. The largest set of police in a series of Town is a big police headquarters made up of 615 bricks. This set is truly interesting and worthy of attention, but still expensive. I suspect that in those days it cost something around 80 EUR. This price is slightly higher and not everyone was able to afford such an expense at once. It is possible that if, in the 90s there was no average set available such as pier police, I would not have police station at all to play with and I would not have the fun memories that I have now. Anyways, you had a choice and could buy a smaller police station and a kid was very happy even with such set of 6540 or 6386 cheaper and smaller by half. That was good, whole bunch of available sets with different sizes. Larger group of people could afford Lego bricks and make theirs kids happy.
For the past 10 years lots of sets were released in City series and there is a wide gap between them. Lets analyze the police sets as we did in the Town series. The smallest set of cruiser is composed of 59 bricks, but it is quite cheap because you can buy it for 10 EUR. The only set I have found to compare with police pursuit squad of Town series is a police helicopter carrier, which already is composed of 382 bricks. Just like a building in Town series. It sounds interesting, but the price is equally higher, it costs 42 EUR. Next set in line is large police station, starting with the 7237 set consisting of 600 bricks costing approx. 70 EUR and ending at largest police 7744 set consisting of 953 bricks and costing approx. 90 EUR. Prices compared to the number of bricks does not even seem that big. Although there is lack of a middle class, a set of smaller police station consisting of 300-400 bricks and costing 30 - 40 EUR. Purchase of a Lego building is definitely gives quite different impression than the vehicle. More people could afford the smaller police station and satisfy their children! The situation is similar with other sets as the fire station. Sets grown terribly and medium size is simply missing.

5. The dangerous trend of designing large parts

I was disappointed when I saw the new airport in the Lego City series. In the foreground I saw a very elegant large aircraft. It's really nice looking model. Ratio is higher than in Town series, but it may be even better. In the end, planes should be big. However, the first question that popped up in my head is do I see is Lego, or a plastic model to glue?
These pictures are from the airport's instructions. Fuselage is constructed using four large parts. Those are no longer bricks. Cabin is similiar. It is one big part. At the expense of the most important Lego bricks feature, smooth and round appearance of the aircraft was achieved. In my opinion, it was not worth it. This is the same issue as in Juniorised, only in this case it looks nice. Minimizing the amount of bricks and designing large parts of which nothing else can be created. It has always been the biggest advantage of Lego - the possibility of constructring a plane, car or boat with one set of bricks. In this case, unfortunately, the airport set even though it looks nice, it loses a lot, because I am not able to create anything else out of it and there is less bricks to combine. For comparison, I present below the first set 6392-1: Airport released by Lego.
It's a casual Airport with an airplane and helicopter. However, this plane is made of standard bricks. The only special block used in the construction of aircraft is a small tail. The rest of the bricks can be used to construct a boat, a car, a spaceship, or whatever. Is it not the point of Lego bricks? Please, here is a snapshot of the instrructions of an aircraft scanned by www.toysperiod.com:
Difference can be seen, is it not? This is not the only case, because the same thing is with the trains.
I will use two sets of trains that are even identically named! High Speed ​​Passenger Train. Lego 60051 from 2014 and 7745-1: High-Speed City Express from 1985. There is a 29 years gap between them! Exactly the same thing happened here, a large part of the cabin has been designed. The train in 1985 was created out of universal bricks, except the base plate of the whole wagon.
In this case maybe it is not so bad, because only the cabin is one large part. Anyway, this approach scares me. I do not say the train is somehow bad, it has power functions and can be controlled remotely. It is also ingenious, but why direction of creating a specially crafted large parts has been taken instead of using ordinary small universal bricks? These are after all, not plastic models for gluing, those are the bricks! The next example I can think of is a helicopter skids which were previously made out of four universal bricks. The skids in new City models are one large part. In my opinion this is a very dangerous direction.

6. Lack of base plates

In a series of Town each set had at least one base plate. Each plate was the size divided by 8. Usually it was 32x32 plate, but sometimes 16x32, 16x16 or 8x32. When it comes to a building, base plate was always present.
Airports had runways with lights included in the set. Was it not great? 6396-1: International Jetport had everything you need and you could just assemble and play with it. The effect was also completely different, because you could feel set's largeness. Take a look at the photo above. New airport has no runways or full base plates. it seems, you would have to buy plates separately, but it is impossible! You can buy road plates only for City theme, which will fit with new sets. Those are Lego 7280 or Lego 7281, but airport runway plates are different, because they do not have crossings and they have continuous lines. Old Airport 6396-1: International Jetport from 1990 had three runway plates 32x32 and one more plate for helicopters landing. Terminal was built on 16x32 plate. In new airport Lego 3182 terminal was also built on 16x32 plate and that is all. You will not find any runway plates. Control tower was made on a regular normal brick board 8x8. I personally feel unsatisfied. I miss those plates badly. It should be available with the airport and control tower should be together and not as a separate structure layed out there somewhere. The airport is not the only example, because virtually all major sets no longer have base plates with driveways or at least normal 32x32 plate for buildings itself.
It may be noted that the base plates are chosen so there is enough space for building and nothing more. Please note that compared sets of Town series have baseplates 32x32 with driveway, what gives you easy method of connecting buildings with road plates to create nice big city!
The beginnings of this trend to use small plates under the buildings could be seen already at the end of a Town series, in the unfortunate Juniorised subtheme.
As you can see, buildings had small plates under the fire department already. It is a pity that this trend was preserved in the new City sets.

7. Simplified packaging

Recently, I had an opportunity to see new box of unopened police station set. Impressive. The big heavy box, nice drawings at the front, everything seems to be in order. However, I watched the box around closely and something is wrong. Where's the flap, which I could open and see the interior of the set behind the foil? Where are additional photos of the set at the interior side of the flap?
The difference is big and the first impression quite different. Each box in a Town series was sealed with small circular plaster. Next, two small perforated half-circles with diameter approx. 5 centimeters were present at both sides, which you had to break to open the box. After you opened the box from one side, you had to take out a solid cardboard drawer, where all bricks in bags were placed. This drawer was very important, because you could unpack bricks in it and assemble them. I surely was doing that when I was a kid. Furthermore, it served perfectly for storing bricks. How is it with new boxes from City series ? Perforated circles and plasters are still present with most of the sets, but cardboard drawer is missing! That is dissapointing. The best thing of the box was that cardboard drawer and the foil under openable flap. New boxes are far away from the quality of what was served 20 years ago. In a Town series each box was an important element of the set and you could feel it. It served very well for storing bricks. Besides, nicely prepared box is harder to throw away. In a City series on the other hand, I feel that purpose of boxes are to deliver the bricks only and after it just throw them in the trash. Sorry, but the deterioration is evident here. Too bad, because I would gladly see the new City set in box similiar quality that was in 90s.

8. Division into several instructions

Sorry, but the series City loses utterly in my comparison. Nevertheless, I want to be objective and will present all the benefits of the new series, which I was able to observe so far. One of them is instruction divided to several pieces. In a Town series each set had one instruction, small or big, but always one for the set. On the one hand it is easier to store, but on the other hand, only one person could arrange the set. In the case of new sets of City series, police precinct's instruction is divided up to 10 parts. One set can be assembled by couple of people, which is a brilliant solution for siblings. Every kid wants to construct out of Lego bricks, whether a girl or a boy. All bags with bricks are signed with its own number of instruction. This is definitely a cool idea.

9. Lack of alternative structures

In a Town series each set had couple of alternative proposals at the back of the packaging. If you looked at set reviews on Clabrisic, then you already know something about it. It is additional work made by designers, to choose such universal bricks in a set so you could assemble couple of structures out of it, not only one. This is the power of Lego. For example, in the 80s 6688-1: Ambulance set was released consisting of 72 bricks only, but many of them are universal thereby giving the possibility to create many other things from such a small set. What we can find at the back of the packaging in new City series?
Only presentations of the set, nothing else. Do alternative proposals were so unattractive, that the designers abandoned them? Perhaps it was simply due to the use of increasingly sophisticated large parts, so it was harder to implement alternative ideas? In the case of airport 3182, where we have cockpit as one giant part it is definitely going to be hard to construct something else out of it.

Summary

These are the main differences in a city series sets that I see today. Sorry, but to me the series City does not have the magic that accompanied with Town series. Although there are a lot of brilliant sets of vehicles and still, when I see "Brick Wall" my breath is taken away - this is something brilliant. Nevertheless, it is harder to build a city. Background buildings or roads in catalog's presentations are generated digitally, instead of being another set or a base plate. Presentations from Town series are possible to reproduce what my last sceneries Retor or Airporen proves. In addition, urban construction sets with the Modular Buildings or Creator theme are usually big and expensive, where a Town series had medium-sized sets of buildings also, from which you could build a city. Unfortunately, this is not the same. I'd like to see the magic again, a real picture of the bricks presentation, consistent base plates under buildings or even airplanes made entirely of bricks instead of the big parts.
In my opinion, the most important asset of Lego bricks is their quality and secondly, combining them! Possibilities of various structures made out of universal bricks, especially from one set. These capabilities, which we can achieve with simple bricks. This is most important and I think this is the best for imagination development!
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