Friday, 30 September 2016

Combiner Wars Dezarus & Liokaiser


Dezarus

There are not many options for repainting Sky Lynx. In fact your best bet might to be go something mad and shattered glass. But Hasbro managed to come up with a sane, albeit slightly off the wall, suggestion in a new version of Deathsaurus. The main connection here would appear to be likening Deathsaurus' upright dragon mode to Sky Lynx's 4 legged dino beast. It's odd, but it kind of works ..... and kind of doesn't either.

To be clear, throughout this review the original Destron leader is referred to as Deathsaurus, as that's the version of the name I'm used to, and the new toy is Dezarus as per the spelling on the box

The only real piece of remoulding in Dezarus' modes adds a sharper swept back crest to the top of Sky Lynx's head and shuttle, much larger than the small one which was already there. It looks like they've cut that chunk out of the existing mould and plonked a new piece in as there's a very visible gap between the old and new pieces.

Otherwise the differences are supplied by remoulding and paint. The head and jaw, previously white, are now an off white as are the combined mode lower chest & waist, which were blue. The new combine mode head *LOOKS* to be moulded in the same white plastic, but I wouldn't bet my life on it. The rest of the white all becomes greeny blue as does the red used previously on the lower legs. The red on the upper legs, and some of the neck joints, stays red which looks a little odd in "dragon" mode. The rest of the neck joints and all the grey becomes a pale blue. Blue paws become black. Black paint is used abundently.

For a new version of Deathsaurus these are some odd colours. Liokaiser fans will recognise them from Leozack which gives a hint at the combined form's purpose. I can see why they went Dezarus with the name. It doesn't quite fit the toy, but fits it better than Leozack would and helps maintain the Victory Breastforce connection than any other name choice.


Liokaiser

Liokaiser is a very much desired Japanese toy which would probably in most people's top 3 Most Wanted Japanese Reissues lists. Most of the components lend themselves well to repaints of existing Combiner Wars toys. Drillhorn & Killbison become CW Drillhorn & Iron Bison by repainting Brawl and his remould Nosecone while Hellbat & Gaihawkare turned into Combiner Wars Fellbat & Guyhawk by repainting Combiner Wars Skydive & his remould Air Raid. Guyhawk & Hellbat are so similar I'd have been tempted to use the same toy twice and the remoulding between the two Combiner Wars jets makes them feel slightly too far apart. In all cases the effect is completed by a new robot head but otherwise they're very similar to their Combiner Wars predecessors.

The problem is Leozack & Jaruga, who form the original Liokaiser's body. All Combiner Wars toys have had a single body and, for better or worse, the use of two new toys for a giftset combiner torso was ruled out, which is where our Sky Lynx remould Dezarus comes in. Whatever doubts you have about Sky Lynx as a new version of Deathsaurus it makes an exceptional impersonation of Leozack & Jaruga's torso mode. Dezarus' shuttle tail fins, and the rear beast legs when painted as they are do a great impression of Leozack's cockpit and chest formed from his wings aided by some gold paint in just the right place on the legs to hint at the wing details. We have a new head, similar to the last one, but looking a lot more like Liokaiser's head complete with faceplate. The sides of the head appear to be the same off white plastic used elsewhere on Dezarus but the top of the head is black, like other paint apps, where it might have been nice to have a green/blue paint app to match the plastic.

Throw a couple of extra CW jets dual cannons into the box and a preassembled Arms Micron Gul as Iron Scythe, to represent the Breast Force companions, and you've got a decent set. Yes there might be some doubts about the individual robots but, combined, this feels like Liokaiser even though the torso isn't formed out of Liokaiser's original two body components. I might hesitate if you want the individual bots buts for a combined Liokaiser I think this makes a really good attempt at the original which hasn't quite been captured by the photos of it out there.

An Entertainment Earth exclusive in the US, it was available from far east suppliers in late September 2016.

LioKaiser

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Titans Return Rumble


Rumble

Reusing the same toy as both Autobot and Decepticon robot cassettes has become a bit of a thing in recent years as Fall of Cybertron Rumble & Frenzy became Rewind & Eject in 2013 and then the following year second edition of the Transformers Subscription Service turned United Rumble & Frenzy into their Eject & Rewind. Here the favour goes the other way.

Rumble was first seen at Toyfair 2016 and immediately caused some concern when Rumble & Laserbeak official images showed Rumble with same head as Rewind. What had happened is Rewinds picture from the Wave 1 Official Images had been reused and New Rumble & Laserbeak images were later issued. The same fate also befell Ravage, who used a recoloured Stripes official picture even though he had a new, slimmer, head. Amusingly the wrong Rumble image does pop up on the rear of his packaging!

New head aside, Rumble is a simple recolour. Grey becomes red. The black of the lower portion of the upper arm, chest wheels & gun, becomes a *slightly* different red while the rest of the black stays the same. The flat chest detailing is changed to resemble Rumble's original chest so that the robot mode, which is the one that matters, is a top job. The tank gets a red turret & gun now which is OK and the tablet becomes black, with red slides. The sticker on the tablet feature some information about seismic imaging which is clever.

I think I like this toy better as Rumble than Rewind. The black & red works well in contrast. My one worry about it is how it's packed in the Wave 2 case: he's 2 per case so is packed shorter than Laserbeak or Ravage, who are 3 per case. He's the only one with a humanoid robot mode and, to date, the only one with no known Japanese Legends release yet, so he'll be in demand. As it is the current Legends Wave 1 is sitting, badly, and Legends is the only size class not to reach Wave 2 on UK shelves. I can see a scenario where Wave 2 arrives late, because of Wave 1 sitting, and Wave 3 (Bumblebee, Sharkticon & Kickback, absolute gold, three new moulds) DOESN'T come out here.

I think if it came to a choice I'd rather we DIDN'T get Wave 2 than Wave 3.


Future Repaints

Rewind as Eject and Rumble as Frenzy are obvious no brainers. At the time of writing neither is scheduled, or strongly rumoured, for either Titans Return, in the west, or Transformers Legends, in Japan.

Original Rewind has also been used as Flipsides, Rosanna & Solarbot. At push he'd make an OK Scrounge to pair with Blaster

Enemy is the other possible Decepticon robot tape repaint though I'm sure there's a few more cartoon variants out there.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Titans Return Blurr, Brainstotm & Chromedome


Titans Return Blurr

Blurr as somewhat mixed form with his remakes. The Armada version is fun and captures the spirit, if not the form and colour, of the original. Retool the hands, give it a new head and new colours as Cybertron Blurr and you're much closer the original though. Generations a mixed attempt at giving Blurr a more current rather than futuristic alt mode. The problem is he'd go for something sleeker and faster, possibly even a racing car, and being blue that takes us into Mirage territory. Kup does far far better taking this approach. A similar approach is taken for the Animated version, albeit with the twist of the animated style which I'm not keen on. So there's a hole there for a Blurr that looks like his 1986 version in both modes. Since Blurr was reused as a Targetmaster in 1987 it makes sense to do a new version of him in a line who's main focus is the 1987 characters.

The only problem is Titans Return's gimmick is effectively the new version of Headmasters so Blurr's Targetmaster partner Haywire becomes his Titanmaster Hyperfire. In head mode Haywire has a nice little feature with a pop up antennae/spoiler, a smaller version of what the original Blurr had. Transforming him into his Titanmaster robot produces an all blue figure matching Blurr. He is very plain, just like the monochromatic larger robot.

The photos I've seen of Blurr look OK but every time I see him on the shelves he looks the wrong shade of blue, almost with a greeny tinge to it. Apart from the colour Blurr looks fab in robot mode, they've got the design dead on, even down to him having a shield made from his vehicle nose like the original did. The only real complaint I have is the gun, here moulded in the blue and painted silver on ll but the handle. It's a bit generic, and reminds me of the gun used with the GI Joe figure Lady Jaye that Dapol sneakily reused with their Ice Warrior.

The shield comes mounted on his arm via a 5mm peg on the shield which plugs into a 5mm hole the outer side of either forearm or can be hand held. The shield can be attached to Brainstorm's back either way via a pair of slots in the shield that match tabs on the back. However it only looks sensible pointing down. As well as the 5mm handle there's a 5mm peg hole in the gun that lets you mount it on one of the pegs on the side of the shield. The shield can also be detached and, with the aid of a fold out landing gear in the soft off white plastic, be used as a separate vehicle

Articulation: like all Titanmaster toys the head is on a ball joint. The arms shrug up at the shoulders and also rotate. There's a bicep rotational joint, bending elbows and rotational wrists. Waist turns, hips are ball joints plus a thigh swivel & bending knee. Foot bends up as part of the transformation. The outer set of wings, on the outer side of the rear of each arm, are hinged, but the inner wings, hinged on previous versions to form the tail fins, are fixed in place.

Remove the Titanmaster and hand gun. Mount the shield on his back pointing down. Straighten the arms and point them up. Close the covers over the hands. Fold the feet up, revealing wheels, then fold the front of each lower leg out to the sides. Fold the tail fin out of his right (on our left) leg. Tab the lower legs together and then back at the knees so the lower legs fold round the upper legs then close the leg fronts back up. Open the chest front, fold the seat back and sit the Titanmaster in the cockpit before closing the chest front/canopy. Fold the shield up off the back to become the nose in place of where the head was. Pull the arms out to the sides at the shoulder, then towards the back of the vehicle and finally bring them in with the tab on the strut which connects the arm to the shoulder slotting into the inside of the upper arm and the pegs on the side of the shield fitting into holes on the inner side of the lower arms. Peg the gun into the side of the vehicle or under the nose.

Again the vehicle mode is spot on, bar the colour which needs to be a lighter blue maybe broken up a bit for variety. The canopy on the vehicle opens to allow the Titanmaster to sit inside. The car moves courtesy of some small wheels on the underside.

Dead on in both modes sculpt wise. Shame the colour isn't quite there.


Titan Force Brainstorm

The new deluxe version of Brainstorm is probably not onto a winner here. First he's been done recently, as Generations Thrilling 30 Voyager Brainstorm, which was a wildly successful and popular toy albeit at a completely different scale to the Titanmasters. Then he's a blatantly obvious remould of Wave 1's Blurr. Finally he's an exclusive, either as part of the San Diego Comic Con Titan Force boxset or, with an altered deco, as a single carded release through the American Drug Store Wallgreens.

Where Blurr's Titanmaster Hyperfire was all blue, Brainstorm's Titanmaster Teslor is cyan with an off white chest, which suggests the chest is on the same parts sprue as the robot's upper legs given the colour and quality of the plastic used. The face of the Titanmaster's head mode is all new: by the look of it it's painted all over and I'd guess it's grey plastic like all the new parts on the larger robot. Attached to the deluxe body the Titanmaster head looks slightly too big: this is my first deluxe Titans Return toy so I can't comment as to how this compares to the others.

Brainstorm comes in robot mode and here his similarity to Blurr is striking. The body & legs look identical to Blurr. Lower legs are a hard off white plastic, painted cyan on the shins, with the upper legs made from a softer off white plastic. Waist is the hard off white plastic again, this time painted cyan, while the majority of the body is a soft cyan plastic with the chest covered by a clear windscreen. The lower abdomen, later the vehicle seat, is dark grey plastic the same as the feet which are the only reused parts to be cast in this colour. The hands, forearms & elbow are inherited from Blurr, cast in cyan plastic (painted grey), hard off white plastic (painted grey) and soft off white plastic respectively. The upper arms, both set of wings, and the hand cover folded under the forearm are all made from a hard grey plastic, with the exterior of the shoulders painted off white. The hand guard hinges are the off white plastic.

Finally the weapons: the gun is the cyan plastic used for the body and, unlike Blurr, is unpainted, while Cyan shield is surprisingly moulded in the hard dark grey plastic and painted! Unfortunately the paint job on mine is a bit poor - could they not spring for a sprue of the cyan plastic to mould it in? So the gun barrels at the front of the shield, grey on this release, aren't an extra paint layer as was first thought (they're the same cyan as the rest on the single carded version) they're the native colour of the piece!

The shield, although physically different, maintains all the functionality of Blurr's shield and indeed the two can be swapped between the toys. The guns on the shield, which becomes the front of the jet, are a major problem for me. On the original Brainstorm they were removable as his twin handguns, a feature carried over onto the T30 Voyager. Here they're moulded in place and that's very very annoying. Worse his replacement hand gun is identical to Blurr's in all but colour and seems to be one of the parts reused on the Chromedome & Breakaway/Getaway remoulds too. Dumping that gun and moulding removable guns would have added significantly to the toy.

At the time of writing I didn't own Blurr, I was waiting for the Legends versions, but now I have him in hand the transformations are identical.

Given Blurr as a starting point, they've not made too bad a job of Brainstorm. The new nose, hand covers and wings significantly change the shape of the toy. However there's a price to pay with the wings: the new shoulders, which become side pieces in jet mode, have lost the Titanmaster footpegs. Blurr's spoiler is replaced by one single tail fin which looks very odd as we're used to him having two. I also found the canopy not stretching all the way back to cover the entire cockpit more than slightly annoying. The paint flaws on the nose, mentioned earlier, are particularly obvious here especially round where the landing gear folds out in the shield's stand alone vehicle nose. The off white of the landing gear now sticks out and makes you wonder why it couldn't have been moulded on the cyan sprue. But he maintains Blurr's wheels on his underside which makes rolling him along quite fun.

I can understand why Brainstorm is an exclusive and a remould: he's had his own general release Voyager version relatively recently. But he is a popular character through More Than Meets The Eye and as such probably deserved a little bit more love than this. The vehicle mode changes and choice of plastic for the nose particularly annoy me. This is a fun toy, but it could have been better.

Brainstorm was sold at San Diego Comic Con 2016 as part of the Titan Force Boxset which also contained a transparent version of Sentinel Prime and a redecorated RID Windblade. When this set was sold at the UK Film and Comic Con Brainstorm was renamed Charon due to a trademark problem.


Titans Return Brainstorm

Over the course of the start of 2016 various pictures of Brainstorm including a grey prototype were leaked, all of which indicated a remould of Blurr was on the way. There was disappointment when the Titan Force Boxset was revealed as it meant he'd be limited. Hope for a carded version was raised when card art was leaked indicating slightly different colours to the Titan Force version which was all but confirmed in this now deleted tweet from Walgreen's Toy Buyer Steven G Anne which is reproduced at 2005 boards.

As you can see in these tweets from Autobase Aichi showing the robot mode & the vehicle mode, this gallery, there has been some alterations!

Now that single carded Brainstorm is here I can see the differences for myself: The Titan Force version is closer to T30 Voyager Brainstorm in colour, but very slightly paler, whereas single carded is positively green by comparison. I say his "blue" is Aquamarine, Liz says Jade. Either way it's a more greenish tinge than we're used to on Brainstorm. The blue paint app has gone from the front of the legs and also the grey one from the hands which are now aquamarine/whatever. There's extra paint on the gun barrels, making them the same colour as the rest of the shield. The faceplate is now orange rather than yellow and there's added stickers on the front of the wings in robot mode and the back of the vehicle mode.

Honestly, if it were the only one available this toy would have done me as a Brainstorm but the I believe the Titan Force version is better and I can see this being moved on PDQ


Legends Blurr

As is usual for Takara the inspiration behind Blurr's colours are his appearance in the cartoon which creates a much more contrasting robot, almost a dark blue one covered by pale blue armour. The gun, and Titanmaster limbs, become grey here, with the Titanmaster chest upper legs & knees plus the back hinge becoming dark blue. The feet & hands are white while virtually everything else is pale blue. Unfortunately that last colour is *slightly* off, a bit *TOO* Vibrant a blue. But even given that it's a better set of colours for him than for the Hasbro version. Fandom agreed and, despite the lack of a Titanmaster accessory like the previous deluxe Legends, pre orders were snapped up. Good luck finding one now!

Blurr was released as Legends LG-25 atthe end of August 2016.


Titans Return Chromedome

Chromedome is a popular character at the moment thanks to his starring role in More than Meets the Eye and he always was a popular character in Japan thanks to his lead role in the Headmasters cartoon series. Surprisingly he's only had one real new version made Transformers Subscription Service 2.0 Chromedome, a repaint of Transformer Prime Wheeljack with a new head. So a new Titans Return version is welcome.

However Titans Return Chromedome isn't a remould of Combiner Wars Dead End/Steetwise/Prowl, as some people say he is, it just looks & feels like he is. A lot. It's only when you get them alongside each other, as this photo gallery shows, that you see how different the two are. In fact there isn't one shared part between them!

Titans Return Chromedome does share parts with another toy and, incredibly, that toy is Blurr as TFWiki's comparison of the two shows. Two sprues are shared between the toys, one containing the smaller of Chromedome's guns and the Titanmaster's head, arms and legs. This was blue on Titans Return Blurr, pale plue on Titan Force Brainstorm, Jade on the Walgreens Brainstorm Grey on the Legends Blurr and is red here. Another sprue, consistiung of the knees, upper legs, hips, hands & Titanmaster body is also used: Blue on Titans Return Blurr, Off White on both Brainstorms,and Dark Blue on the Legends Blurr is used here in brown. Such a small number of reused parts has provokoked a heated arguement on if this still represents a retool. In my view it does, and so he's reviewed wih Blurr & Brainstorm.

So the Titansmaster robot is an identical toy to the prveious uses, albeit with a brown body & red limbs, and the same articulation.

Transfromation: Here's what I wrote for Dead End:

Turn the waist 180 degrees. Straighten the arms & fold the hands into the wrists. Fold down at the shoulders to the sides of the body. Fold the front and outer side of each leg out to the sides. Bring the legs together with the combiner connector pointing towards the waist. Fold the lower legs up at the knees so they contain the lower legs then close the sides of the legs to form the rear of the car. Fold the back pack down to form the nose of thecar and fold the windscreen down. Fold the chest plate up to cover the face. Peg the weapon into the side of the car as an exhaust pipe.
Apart from the windscreen folding forward from the rear of the car and the weapons tabbing onto the roof, via some tabs that match the bottom of the larger gun, that's about right for Chromedome too. Of course the weapons COULD have pegged into the sides of the car if you'd chosen.

The car mode is a nice chunky representation of Chromedome with dark clear wheels like the toys from Velocitron, Transformers Cybertron's speed planet. The real fun here is folding the roof of the driver's compartment back so Stylor can sit in the vehicle. There's somethinf about sitting drivers in Transformers cars that appeals top me as a fan of the 1984/5 Diaclone cars!

Returning the car to robot mode highlights the Combiner Wars Dead End similarities: the arms physically looks very similar, including the 5mm peg hole in the shoulder and the small differently coloured elbow piece. The fold down chest plate and the way the upper legs look are very Dead End too but the lower legs here are virtually straight with a seperately moulded foot while Dead End's legs spread out the further down you get.

Articulation: I quote from my Dead End review again:

Articulation is good: bending knees, ball jointed hips, turning waist, ball jointed head, shoulders that raise at the body and are ball jointed at the arms, bicep swivels and bending elbows.
Weapons: Chromedome has inherited Blurr's gun, now in red. Chromedome's guns were never that distinctive t me so I'd have been happy with two of these for him. However he comes with a second, larger, gun that is capable of have a Titanmaster sit in it: a heel spur slot is provided. A 5mm peg underneath lets Chromedome hold it and 5mm pegsin the side allow it to be plugged into the car mode with it's Titanmaster gunner still seated properly. A peg on the top allows it to be wielded upside down and a 5mm hole in front of the Titanmster's seat allows the other gun to be combined with it.

I've enjoyed Chromedome a lot, in fact I think he's a lot better than the original which never really worked for me. This is a good thing as I suspect we'll be seeing it again for a few more car characters before Titans Return is done.


Legends Chromedome

Legends Chromedome takes the Titans Return vesion, gives it a new face, and pairs it with a brown version of Titanmaster Nightbeat's drill/jet accessory.

Legends Brainstorm

Legends Brainstorm takes the Titans Return vesion, gives it a new face, and pairs it with a blue version of Titanmaster Brawn's gun/jeep accessory. It's not the first blue jeep in Transformers and unfortunately it has brought the disturbing image of Energon Strongarm back to mind.

Getaway/Breakaway

Getaway is another character who has come to recent prominence due to More Than Meets The Eye. He's had another version previously, Wal*Mart/Asda exclusive Breakaway, a repaint of Cybertron Hotshot originally meant for the Universe 2 toy line.

A colour chart for Titans Return Getaway, and several other toys, was leaked in April 2016 revealing it to be a straight repaint of Chromedome with a new face. Hasbro then accidentally revealed Getaway, now under the name Breakaway again when product brought to Cybertron Con 2016 showed the toy on Hot Rod's cardback!


Future Repaints

Blurr & Brainstorm, with near identical robot modes & Car/jet vehicle modes, are considered to be the likely base for Autobot Clones Fastlane & Cloudraker.

Chromedome I think will be repainted till the cows come home. If he doesn't get done as Nightbeat I'll be very surprised and I can see him as Siren too, which in turn means he's a good candidate for their Japanese versions Minerva & Goshooter.

Concept drawings exists showing the original Chromedome repainted as Arcee and I've already seen a Titan Return Arcee digibashed from Chromedome which was also turned into a custom. I've also seen an Arcee from Blurr and another from Hot Rod!

Friday, 16 September 2016

Titans Return Soundwave


Titans Return Soundwave

I don't think anyone was remotely surprised when Titans Return Soundwave was revealed in January 2016 to be a repaint of Leader class Blaster. The appearance of Legends Buzzsaw in Combiner Wars Legends Wave 5 was by itself a good indication that his boss would be along at somepoint and so it proved.

As ever the renders used for the preview images don't tell the whole story. The Titanmaster is completely different colours, it swaps Blaster's red for dark blue and black for dark grey to produce a Titanmaster which colour-wise is bang on for Soundwave. The moulding on the leg fronts is a little strange, retaining Blaster's speakers, but the Titanmaster figure has a new head which is a dead on likeness to Soundwave. Depending on how much you like the Titanmasters this might be incentive itself to buy the figure and if so you're going to be in a lot of trouble shortly!

Be careful attaching the Titanmaster: I had a small scare where the clip got knocked off centre. Attempting to right the clip pushed it down into the body from where it was retrieved and, with the aid of the Titanmaster head, successfully reinserted but all it's held in by is a mild bump on the outer edge of the clip so be warned!

In head mode the Titanmaster produces a Soundwave face with faceplate, yellow visor for eyes and above that some circuitry moulding that looks a little like robotic brain. This is covered when the larger figure's helmet is folded into place forming a REALLY good Soundwave head. If I was being picky, and since this is a repaint/remould I can be, the faceplate could have been slightly higher and the visor slightly shorter. From the sides & rear the hinge on the back of the helmet really stands out as it matches neither the rest of the helmet & bulk of the toy, blue, or the Titanmaster's legs/back of the head, dark grey, but is a very pale grey.

As expected we now find the 5mm peg on the shoulder occupied by Soundwave's Shoulder Cannon which stores on the other 5mm peg on the rear of his waist in radio mode. Great addition to the set but unfortunately his other gun is screaming "Blaster's gun in blue" at me. I'd have gladly lost this completely, preferably for Soundwave's other battery gun but I think the set would have worked without a hand weapon at all.

The red on Blaster's upper body now becomes blue, as do the black hands, while the black upper arms and & red forearms become grey, perfectly matching Soundwave's colour layout. The tape door here is now completely clear, and is a new piece. It looks a little odd projecting out from his body like it does as previous Soundwaves have had flat tape deck doors.. You can't see it on the renders but between Blaster & Soundwave the thighs have swapped legs! On Blaster the diagonal lines were on the outer half of each leg but on Soundwave they're on the inner. The lower legs are the part of the toy where Soundwave struggles the most: the fronts need to be flat, and original Soundwave's were anything but flat. There's lots of moulded detail but it doesn't capture the toy or cartoon leg designs in all bar one respect: there's some yellow ridged detail round the knee present on both animated & toy versions.

Legs aside, it's a really, really good Soundwave robot. It almost works better as Soundwave than Blaster. Almost.

When I first saw the Blaster design I wondered if an alternate arm/leg transformation might be possible to give Soundwave a thinner tape deck mode. Alas Hasbro weren't that clever but they've changed the leg panels that form the back & sides of the legs to form newly designed speaker panels. It's not your 1984 Soundwave in tape mode but it's the closest any non Masterpiece toy has got. It IS a tape deck and it's a tape deck that isn't just Blaster, coloured blue. But it's a tape deck that is demonstrably Blaster in origin. As I said before the battery shoulder cannon attaches to the 5mm post on the rear of the waist, evocative of the battery function but not replicating it. As before the gun also attaches to the rear of the toy but since I wrote Blaster's review I've seen it suggested you might want to tilt it up diagonally to act as an aerial for the tape deck. Be careful with the gun though: I snapped half the handle off removing it from Blaster's hands the last time I transformed him!.

From the renders the base mode looked the same as Blaster but there's some changes there too. The moulded patterns inside the flat panels are changed, which shouldn't be a surprise as these are the reverse of the new speaker panels. The pattern is very similar, but is different. The front edges of the base now feature a 5mm peg for you to mount the shoulder cannon missile battery on. Oh my goodness, I've played with Soundwave since 1984 and only just realised that the shoulder cannon formed from a battery contains a missile battery! I knew the design was there, just never put the word for it together with it's alt mode function! The inside of the platform formed from the tape deck is different too, now being a solid platform with one Titanmaster peg on it.

Why did they choose the robot's ankle hinges, only really visible here as the ends of the base mode walls, to be red? Matches no other colour on the toy so they could have been any colour like blue, light grey, dark grey, that was used on the rest of the toy but no they choose red which stands out a mile!

At the time of writing this toy has only showed up at Smyths in the UK and isn't on their website. We don't have a Smyths in Swindon so mine was obtained from the Cribbs Causeway Bristol store while en route to a week away. It was the only toy I had for the week so Soundwave's Battle Disco got more attention than many of my TFs do. I was expecting to think "this is just a Blaster repaint" but the changes to the moulding and colours work really well and elevate it beyond that. Definitely worth getting, even if you got Blaster!

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Titans Return Alpha Trion


Titans Return Alpha Trion

Alpha Trion isn't a character I have a particular liking for. My transformers fiction is the UK Marvel Comics, in which he didn't feature. I was aware of him from his cartoon appearances having seen War Dawn and The Key to Vector Sigma on video. But that was it: he was a character made up for the cartoon, he didn't have a toy and, till now, he hasn't had a retail toy release, just a number of convention exclusives who make a contribution to what we have here.

Alpha Trion's Titanmaster is Sovereign: He's moulded to look like Optimus Prime with a Prime like head and dual windowed chest design. The chest is purple, the upper legs grey and the rest of the parts a cerise pink, all colours used on Alpha Trion.

To transform Alpha Trion into his vehicle mode start by removing Sovereign, which can be a trial as the clip for him is VERY tight, the weapons and then lowering the horns at the side of the head. These retract into the body like Sentinel Prime's do. Prime's lock in place easily, Alpha Trion's do not. I ended up using Long Nosed Pliers to help them slide down and lock into place with a VERY satisfying click. Fold the feet so they point down and then wiggle them forward at the ankle so they fit into the bottom of the outer side of the legs. Rotate each leg out 90° and tab together. Turn the toy over so the back of the legs forms the top & the feet the front. Fold the plates that were on the side of the knees back so the tabs on them fit into indentations on the waist. Bend the arms 90° at the elbow, and fold out to the side at the bicep joint. Fold the grey inner shoulder sections away from the body and up 90°. Fold the shoulders down 180° so they're under the shoulder sections. The clear orange cockpit folds back to allow the figure to sit in it. A peg on the side of the sword allows it to attach to one of the shoulders while the Gun should be mounted on a 5mm peg hole in front of the cockpit but can be pegged on the other shoulder.

There is some confusion as to quite what Alpha Trion's vehicle is. Some say it's a space ship, and the long nose is very reminiscent of his Botcon 2008 toy, a new headed repaint of Galaxy Force/Cyberton Vector Prime. Personally, and not just because I've seen who his remould is, think it's a boat, and in particular an Air Craft Carrier. The long flat deck, especially with the gun remove, looks perfect for smaller Cybertronian Aircraft. You can increase the deck size by not folding the shoulders down during transformation, and folding the beast feet forward to act as extra support. There's four Titanmaster pegs on the deck, and a random check with Apeface suggests they do what they're meant to, a seat in the triple barrelled gun the toy comes with, plus the seat in the cockpit, covered by a superb clear orange canopy in the shape of a stylised Lion head making enough room for a crew of six Titanmasters.

Odd looking mode at first glance. But it's fun to play with.

From the documented vehicle mode start by folding the cockpit back 90° by the hinge at the rear, exposing the connecting strut underneath. At the hinge halfway along the cockpit fold the cockpit forward 180° then by the rear hinge fold the cockpit and strut back 180° so it's sitting in the robot's neck socket looking backwards. Untab the shoulders and, via the hinge between the inner grey shoulder and body, fold both shoulders in and tab together to form the beast head on the robot's back. Fold the landing gear in and the beast legs out to the sides. Pull the waist down & back till the pegs on the back of the cockpit fit into the loin cloth. Fold the pink rear deck plates back, separate the deck into the robot legs, and fold each leg 90° out to the side. Fold the foot back onto the rear of the robot legs. Bend the robot legs at the knee as far as they'll go back, which is about 60°. Fold front & rear beast legs into place. Slide the side of the hilt of the sword into a slot in the codpiece, oh dear that's going to cause problems in robot mode. Peg the gun into the hole on the underside of the beast.

Alpha Trion's beast mode is a lion, a beast mode he's had a long association with. There was a proposed OTFCC toy, repainted from Beast Machines Snarl, which unfortunately didn't get made (see the Transformers at the Moon gallery) but for Botcon 2014 Alpha Trizer, a repaint of Transformers Prime Thundertron, was made. The articulation here is a little limited, with the feet bending, turning to the sides on the front legs which also bend and turn to the sides at the knee while the back legs bend back at the knee & the hip. The lower jaw formed form the hands is quite clever but the overall colour scheme of cerise & purple, plus the small horn on the head..... are a little odd. The cockpit isn't well secured, hence the need to force horns to retract properly because they're mediately underneath and can force the cockpit up. One of my beast paws on the front leg is also a little loose and has fallen off once or twice.

Just like the vehicle there's some alternate moding here: split the lion head and fold the halves to the side folding the lion shaped cockpit forward to form the head.

To return to robot mode start by removing the weapons then splitting the lion head and folding the head halves out to the sides so that the grey inner shoulders are between the lion heads & the body. Fold the front feet back, and then the front legs. Fold the robot waist down into place. Fold the rear beast legs onto the front of the robot's legs and the robot feet under the legs. Unfold the arms. Fold the cockpit onto the robot's back. Place the head into the socket, a somewhat tricky task due to the tight clip and restrictive space to the sides. Press the orange button on the robot's chest to raise the horns. Place the weapons in his hands

In robot mode the design cues from earlier toys continue with the round chest being reminiscent of the Botcon 2008/Vector Prime toy which is complemented by Alpha Trion's main weapon being a sword again. His shoulders are each half a lion's head, making him look like a strange coat of arms, with two lions looking sideways framing a warrior in the middle. I'm trying to think of a similar looking Transformer and the closest I can come up with is Transmetal Rhinox, but his head halves face back. The head is surrounded by a pair of Fortress Maximus style horns and the effect works quite nicely here. Unfortunately neither of his hands have a particularly tight grip on his gun which wobbles side to side a bit here and can easily drop out. When not being held both weapons store behind the shoulders via 5mm peg holes on the rear.

You are advised not to attach the sword to the codpiece in this mode.

Articulation: head turns 360° with the horns lowered but like Sentinel Prime will only move a few degrees to the side with the horns raised. In fact the neck collar the horns sink into is very similar to Sentinel Prime's. The shoulders turn and the arms raise to the sides inside the lion head shoulders. Each arm has a bicep swivel, bending elbow and rotating wrist. The legs move forward & back at the waist VERY stiffly but easily move to the side even though it looks like that joint should be ratcheted. There's a thigh swivel, bending knee and double bending ankle on each leg.

As with the other modes there's an alternate transformation here. Remove the head, lower the horns, turn the arms round at the bicep and raise the cockpit onto the neck to give an odd looking robot controlled by a seated Titanmaster.

This toy has faults: the vehicle is odd, the lion is all but immobile, the horns were difficult to retract, a foot fell off and the gun won't hold properly. BUT all throughout it's entertained me massively so despite the problem I've liked it a lot. Having a vehicle & beast mode is encouraging, especially for those of us hoping to get Voyager scaled Apeface & Snapdragon.


Titans Return Broadside

A prototype has been leaked for a Titans Return version of Broadside which appears to show extensive reuse and retooling of Alpha Trion parts. The feet, hips, upper arms, elbows & deck plates on the side of the legs look the same while the rest of the legs look similar enough to Alpha Trion's to make you think a near identical boat landing deck will be produced. The presence of wings on the arms and a new chest hints at a new plane mode replacing the lion.

Titans Return Tidal Wave

A Titans Return version of Armada Tidal Wave was strongly rumoured as a Broadside repaint and looking at some of Broadside's design choices you can see that this is a strong possibility.

Future Repaints

I'd be VERY surprised if Alpha Trion wasn't repainted as Lio Convoy. The Primesque Titanmaster and the Lions heads on the shoulders both suggest a repaint of this nature.

Friday, 9 September 2016

Unite Warriors Computron


Unite Warriors Afterburner

Of all the Combiner Wars Technobot Limbs, Afterburner is the closest to being the same in both sets. Even then there are major differences: Afterburner is red & white, to match the cartoon, which to my eye just looks odd. His canopy is clear blue plastic as is the lightpipe on his head. He comes with two new black plastic weapons, painted with red, which resemble the original's Incendiary Missile Launcher & Plasma Pulse Cannon.

Afterburner is pictured with the Unite Warriors Lightspeed Hand Foot Gun. I can't see any reason why the toys should play musical HFGs in this set but I can good reasons for Lightspeed, Strafe and Nosecone to have theirs so Afterburner gets the same one Groove does, the dual Gatling first seen with Alpha Bravo, which the box & publicity pictures think Nosecone should have!

Takara have gone down the cartoon accuracy route, and it's not working for me here. Afterburner is orange. So I think Hasbro wins this round.


Unite Warriors Lightspeed

The rounded passenger compartment, pointed front and passenger compartment chest of Combiner Wars Wheeljack make him an obvious candidate for a red repaint as Technobot Lightspeed. However Leaked images suggested that a version of the Streetwise mould may be used instead for the Combiner Wars version while the artwork was non committal showing the Lightspeed leg bent back and out of sight! The boxback graphic was leaked on 9th March confirming the use of Streetwise.

Takara however revealed their Lightspeed as the mould we thought should be used, Wheeljack, who at this point hadn't appeared as Wheeljack in Japan.

Lightspeed is shown on the publicity material as using the Unite Warriors Blast Off/Unite Warriors Strafe mould HandFootGun. However this means it can't do the "over the spoiler" supercharger trick that previous versions of this mould can. So Strafe gets his HFG back and in turn Lightspeed's co-moulded HFG is taken back from Afterburner.

Takara have got this one dead right, a lovely mix of red & burgundy in both modes. A new head in robot mode helps complete the appearance. There's a lovely little touch in vehicle mode where the positioning of the small Autobot symbol on his chest means you can see it through the bumper grill on the front of the car.

Hallelujah! The sword is gone! Lightspeed comes with an identical pair of guns, cast in caramel coloured plastic. Thin tabs on each side of the gun lets them be tabbed into the sides of the car while 5mm holes on the rear allow them to form part of Computron's combined weapon.

They've nailed it here, got Lightspeed right. Not just as good as you can get using Combiner Wars components, they've got it looking like an updated version of the original. Top Marks, and a clear win for Takara in the Hasbro vs Takara Technobot stakes.

There's one small problem though....

I looked at Lightspeed and thought "this is a red version of the CW Lambo toy" and mediately mourned for the Combiner Wars Sideswipe which doesn't exist :-(


Unite Warriors Nosecone

I had thought that a remould of the front of Rook, together with a plug in drill would make a decent Nosecone but was slightly disappointed when Combiner Wars Nosecone was revealed to be a remould of Brawl. Takara however thought the same as me but too the concept a few stages further....

At it's heart Unite Warriors Nosecone is Rook. He's lost all; six of his wheels which have been replaced by moulded track sections, with small wheels built into them. Gone too is the large piece that forms the top of the vehicle front, replaced by a series of panels down the spine of the toy which are shaped to resemble Nosecone's cockpit. Onto the front of this is pegged a MASSIVE DRILL. The drill, painted silver for most of it's length, does spin but the motion is a very stiff one. The pointed end is spring loaded and retracts. The drill is moulded to fit over the front of Rook's vehicle and, if you fold up the 5mm peg it's attached to the spine by it will fit onto the original Rook courtesy of a raised ring surrounding a 5mm peg hole at the rear.

There is a large number of 5mm holes on the toy, 1 on each track, one on the rear of each side, one on the front of each fist and one on top of the cockpit, plus a concealed one behind the drill. This is a good thing because Nosecone is significantly tooled up: a pair of gun barrels/missiles fit into the front of of his exposed fists, plus a yellow handgun which need mounting on the toy. All three parts are moulded in the same caramel plastic used for the tracks, spine, drill and Lightspeed's guns.

Nosecone is illustrated with the HandFootGun which is co-moulded with Afterburner The HFG that is used with the Rook mould is packed with Strafe.. I've swapped them all round so everyone has the HFG their mould is associated with because Lightspeed, Strafe and, to a lesser extent, Nosecone need their usually associated weapons at some point. To symmetrically mount Noscone's weapons the HFG needs to be plugged into the cockpit and the handgun into the HFG. The Strafe/Blast Off gun will let you do this as it too has a 5mm hole in the palm but since Strafe wants to pull the same trick, he should nave his original weapon and thus so should Nosecone.

There's a lot of things done right with the vehicle mode, the drill and the tracks especially. I can see what they're getting at with the robot arms representing the large raised area towards the rear of the vehicles but they're a bit flat for that and not yellow. The cockpit too feels a bit flat not projecting up terribly much from the new spine piece. The front of the spine looks like a big silver splodge at the front. But the worst problem is the massive space between the spine and the majority of the deck of the toy formed by the existing Rook legs.

The Transformation is essentially the same as Rook's: start by folding the head back and the arms out to the sides then transform the legs as per Rook.

The problem is with the robot mode is it's essentially a repainted Rook. Yes it's got a new head and track replace the wheels at the side of the chest but it's still just Rook repainted. Most of the colours are vaguely the right place, thought the arms could do with being darker. In fact the whole toy could do with having the predominantly caramel colour a lot darker brown, it's just not right for either toy or cartoon. Looking at it front on it's a big solid lump of white on the chest, which indicates that Takara is aiming for the cartoon like they usually do, but I do think he would have been helped if the Combiner Connector could have coloured yellow to match the original toy and break up the solid white of the chest, which also could have down with some silver painted detail. The missile/gun barrel weapons are usually shown on the shoulders but I think they make better sense mounted on the sides of the legs. The hand gun, as well as the 5mm peg handle which Nosecone/Rook can't use, has a 5mm peg on the back of it, which he can. In fact of all the weapons in the Computron set only Afterburner's don't have 5mm pegs in the rear. The Drill can be held by him, but won't attach centrally on his arm without the aid of a 5mm peg adaptor which is a bit of a shame. I wonder why they didn't put a peg there as it fits over a peg hole in vehicle mode?

I love Rook, I think he's the best Combiner Wars limb. But somehow this version just doesn't quite capture Nosecone right. The colours are off, for either toy or cartoon version. I've seen a digibash in both sets of colours and both look better than what we got.

He might not have such a large drill but, for me, I think it's a narrow win for Hasbro's Nosecone here!

The one thing this toy does so is prove the concept of a tracked Rook. I saw Brawl originally as a Rook remould and, with a new front top of vehicle, I could still see that working.


Unite Warriors Strafe

No toy better illustrates the difference in priority between Hasbro and Takara's Combiner Wars Computron sets than Strafe. Combiner Wars Strafe is a remould of Air Raid who in turn is a remould of Skydive. Takara, on the other hand, have remoulded their thus far exclusive Blast Off to be Strafe.

On the face of it there's very little of Blast Off in Strafe. There's a new nose, top of the jet, new separate removable tails, new wings, new guns. The only hint at Blast Off are the robot arms down the sides of the spaceship and even then they're the other way up to the arms on Blast Off as we discussed at the time. All the new parts are moulded in white plastic and unfortunately it shows on the mid wing hinges which are insufficiently painted in red.

Strafe is pictured with the HandFootGun that's usually with Rook/Nosecone. Strafe/Blast Off's HFG is pictured with Unite Warriors Lightspeed so a big move round is necessary to get everyone's HFG with the right toy. Strafe's can mount on top of the space ship with his hand gun plugging in the top of the HFG.

Transformation is nearly exactly the same as Blast Off. The only difference is the engines now fold to the opposite side of the leg and it's the reverse of the toy to Blast Off's standard transformation that faces front. The new tail fins fold against the front of the legs.

In robot mode Strafe looks like a missing Aerialbot with lots of white and red on the chest & upper legs. It's a dead on likeness for the original in toy or cartoon form. The back of Blast Off's robot mode makes for much better robot than the front with much cleaner lines. He comes with a handgun that can be held or plugged into the end of his fists. In addition the guns for his spaceship mode are also removable and, again, can be hand held or plugged into the ends of his fists. Put together with his Hand Foot Gun he has FOUR possible hand weapons which allows for you to use a large number of the 5mm ports on this toy ..... or so I thought until I totalled them up two under each arm (4) one on the end of his hand (6) one on each fist hole (8) one on each side of the chest (10) one on the front of each leg, used by the tail fins (12) one on each of the wings (14) one on each side of the space ship nose (16) and one on his back making a total of 17!

Very good toy, far better than Blast Off. When it comes to vehicle mode it's a toss up between Hasbro & Takara as to if you prefer the toy or cartoon Strafe. But the robot mode it's a win for Takara both in likeness and in beating the Hasbro version by having removable weapons.


Unite Warriors Scattershot

My expectation was that Unite Scattershot would be similar to Combiner Wars Scattershot. We knew from when a new Computron chest was teased that there would be some remoulding but I thought it would just be to the combined mode. Scattershot's grey prototype reveal told us otherwise: we've got a new chest and new twin guns, with a 5mm post on the back, corresponding hole on the back and a 5mm peg on either side for combination purposes.

His 8th April colour revealshowed some minor differences including white hips and red forearms, with the back panel painted white for the purposes of the combined mode upper legs. The only change to the Voyager's head is the face is painted silver now.

The chest is closer the original, the deco is a variation on a theme but the real winner here is the new guns.


Unite Warriors Computron

Some notes are necessary on assembling Computron: ll the limbs & the torso transform & assemble as before. Computron's gun is formed by combining weapons from the individual toys: Scattershot's guns combine front to back, with the rear gun's 5mm peg handle facing down and the front one facing up. The holes on the side of Lightspeed's guns fit onto the posts sticking out the rear Scattershot gun. Nosecone's gun mounts on the handle of the front gun. Nosecone's missiles then mount on the side of Computron's upper legs. Strafe is shown keeping his weapons, but I then mount the the gun in the front of the combined Computron gun. That the leas the rather cumbersome Afterburner guns. The suggestion is the dual barrelled one mounts on his wind shield peg hole but I can't see where the other one goes: I've mounted it on the outer edge of Nosecone.

The remoulding to the Scattershot elements of Computron are a major reason for getting the Unite Warriors set. Gone is the Superion head that both Combiner Wars Scattershots had, albeit in different colours, replaced by a new head modelled after the original Computron. We also get a new chest. In fact the entire front panel of the toy is new, with the section between waist & chest looking rather odd as it pokes in like some giant belly button.

The problem with the toy is the colour. There's no hope of getting the Strafe arm looking as red as the cartoon arm does so we'll let that go but there is far too much white up the top of Computron, over the shoulder's, formed from Scattershot and into Afterburner. Afterburner is a major problem: they went for his cartoon robot colour, red, but that makes his arm mode red and even the cartoon thinks Computron's Afterburner arm should be orange. Afterburner's lower arm just refuses to stay together on mine when you do anything drastic like bend the arm! In physical form Unite Nosecone makes a better leg than Combiner Wars Nosecone but, as I said in the individual robot's review, the colours just aren't right. I'm happy with the new chest but somehow the head of the new Computron just isn't right. Proportionally I think the face should be a bit bigger and the forehead a little smaller. I'm not sure the gold works for the face either, it was varying shades of orange on the toy & cartoon. I'd almost have been tempted to stick with the existing Computron head but remould the faceplate into a face.

Slightly disappointed in the Takara Computron if I'm honest. It's not light years ahead of the Hasbro version as I was expecting it to be and on some ways, Afterburner and Nosecone, it's missed the mark somewhat. The colour choices on both bring down the combined form. Afterburner's Groove remould doesn't feel good enough on either toy except in robot mode, so Hasbro's wins as a combiner component by virtue of being orange. Hasbro's Nosecone has got the colours much much better so wins there. Takara's Lightspeed looks better as a leg, no white, and is a more solid leg. The Strafes are probably a dead heat limb wise. Takara's Scattershot should be a better torso with the remoulding but to my eye the Hasbro colours look nicer. Going to have to call that another draw. So 2 points for a win, 1 each for a draw: 6 to Hasbro, 4 to Takara. A surprising Hasbro win for the combined robot, even without Scrounge's contribution taken into account. A combined robot of Hasbro's Nosecone & Afterburner, Takara's Lightspeed and take your pick from the other two might be interesting to see.

A fascinating experience to see one combiner done two different ways though!

Monday, 29 August 2016

Combiner Wars Computron


Combiner Wars Scattershot (Boxset)

We'll come on to why this toy exists bellow when I talk about the combined form.

The Scattershot in the Computron box has had a number of changes made to him compared to the general retail version. Generally red has become a darker, almost burgundy red, but the red of the forearms is now white, to make them white in combined mode. However the fronts are still bright red thanks to a paint application. The bright red of the combined mode chest plates is now a cerise/cherry red. Most of the white parts have stayed white but the knee caps, upper arms, neck, hips, nose hinge and gun plastic colour have gone from white to burgundy red as has the combined mode head & antennae. The gun has a new paint colour becoming metallic cerise. Both vehicle wings and robot chest appear painted to me

RIMG0001 RIMG0003

Robot mode in general looks much darker but the head is light years better than the original Voyager just by only having the visor instead of the whole face painted. Vehicle mode looks too dark too, and I'm not liking the red paint applications on the nose, and the flashes of white towards the rear which cause it to look a mish mash of colour. This is the only mode where the Voyager wins but it's a begrudging win because I have trouble with this being Scattershot's vehicle mode.

RIMG0005

However you've not bought the Computron boxset Scattershot to have him in robot or vehicle mode have you?


Combiner Wars Lightsteed

Lightsteed, a name substitute for Lightspeed is probably the most controversial element of the Combiner Wars Computron Boxset. It's the only straight repaint of a retail toy in the box. By my count it's the 11th use of the Dead End mould, 5th of the Streetwise variant and 3rd of the Streetwise head so there is a distinct element of familiarity here. The feeling was in the run up to a number of pieces of artwork and pictures of a toy prototype being leaked that if an existing Combiner Wars toy was to be used for Lightspeed then Wheeljack was the best choice and indeed Takara agreed.

So as a toy by itself this doesn't feel like Lightspeed. However I like what I see. The red and white works as a sort of Fire Chief deco, more heavy on the red than Red Alert, who doesn't yet have a Combiner Wars version. My only complaint with the flat white moulding of the windscreen & roof: I think the roof and windscreen supports needed to be picked out in red.


Combiner Wars Afterbreaker

In the same way that Combiner Wars Brawl becomes Nosecone, because he's the only tracked vehicle in Combiner Wars, now Groove becomes Afterburner, because he's the only Motorbike. Even more so than Nosecone, I'm not sure it really works here. Groove is recast in the orange used for Afterburner's toy, with the top of the bike painted beige to simulate his canopy. Over that goes a new, more angular canopy piece to try to make you think of the original's enclosed Tron lightcycle mode but it doesn't really work as you can see the handlebars projecting out the sides! Since the canopy now covers the saddle hole for the Hand Foot Gun there's now a hole on the top of the canopy which in turn makes me think that either the bike alterations were designed by Takara, it is after all the only limb in both Hasbro & Takara's Computron giftsets, or they originally intended the HFG's to be in this set too. Afterburner comes with Groove's guns. They're painted white but are cast in clear green like the canopy, and that makes me think the Afterburner design work was done with Groove!

For all my moaning about the vehicle mode the robot seems to work well and, bar the upper arms being the wrong colour, isn't a bad match for the original Afterburner toy.

Passable. Very much an "it'll do" toy for the reasons outlined above, and that disappointing given he's in BOTH Computron sets and should have been the one the real effort was made on. There's been better lightcycle vehicles recently, Chromia. I'm even left to wonder if, given the money, Dragstrip could have been retooled into a better futuristic bike. No, hear me out: The robot modes are a very similar shape: mount a thick wheel in the centre of a new front piece and alter the legs so there's a wheel in the middle.


Combiner Wars Nosecone

The drill tank version of Brawl was first seen during January 2016 a number of pieces of artwork and pictures of a toy prototype were leaked that appeared to show a Computron whose boxback graphic was leaked on 9th March but it took till Botcon 2016 in April before Computron was officially unveiled, by which point some people had Ramhorn in hand. It's obvious to me that Nosecone was the intended use of the mould from the start. The tank mode looks quite simple with a brown body and yellow turret to which the same cockpit & drill piece used with Ramhorn is attached to. Transforming the toy reveals more of the yellow and some of the burgundy used on Scattershot & Computron. I've not seen burgundy & yellow used together since Universe.

I'm torn. This is the only tank treaded vehicle Combiner Wars has so it's obvious it was going to be Nosecone. But the problem here is original Nosecone is a big favourite of mine. They've done their best but it's not really Nosecone.


Combiner Wars Strafe

No toy better illustrates the difference in priority between Hasbro and Takara's Combiner Wars Computron sets than Strafe. There's a hint of it with the toy orange of Combiner Wars Afterbreaker vs the cartoon red of Unite Warriors Afterburner but with the new versions of Lightspeed & Nosecone it's more an argument of which toy better represents the character as a whole. However with Strafe Hasbro and Takara have chosen two totally different toys to remould to represent the different versions of the character.

Hasbro have started with the Air Raid Aerialbot limb, and it is the Air Raid version as certain detail on the robot chest & jet underside confirms even before we look at the pictures of a toy prototype leaked during January 2016 which clearly show Air Raid's black with new parts attached. We loose the nose and the wings which are replaced with new wings, large red ones at the rear and smaller off white ones at the front. The nose isn't quite as flat as the original toy and a little liberty has been taken modifying the black patch occupied by the rubsign on the original Technobot Strafe into an angular cockpit. Forward of the cockpit we have the twin orange guns, sadly fixed in place on this new version. He retains the peg hole in the middle of the plane's back and, somewhat oddly given he's got no extra weapons, also gains one under each wing. There's also a 5mm peg hole just behind the cockpit and in vehicle mode this can be used to mount Scrounge on him, almost as a AWACS disc (my thanks to my plane expert, The Kaptain, Karl Thurgood for pointing this one out!). Where Afterbreaker's vehicle mode was a bit of a poor effort, Strafe's is superb work.

Robot mode transformation is just as per Air Raid and, with the plane parts folded back, the robot modes are very, very similar. Most of the robot is an off white with the lower portion of the upper arms, crotch & combiner peg orange and the chest sides painted burgundy red. The big surprise here is a new head, with a visor and open face, which looks great. The head is painted white, with a red painted face, but the evidence of some slightly paint blemishes is that all the new pieces are on a red plastic sprue, the colour of the rear wings, which has been painted and then the toy assembled. Alas the robot has no weapons: like Titans Return Brainstorm he could really do with his guns being removable from his jet nose.

His limb mode is again nearly identical to Air Raid. The nose, cockpit and 5mm peg form kibble on the shoulder which can be further added to by adding Scrounge's saucer mode if I was brave enough to ever push his head down again, with the Cybaxx shuttle attached. The only problem with the arm mode is that the holes on the painted small wings are a little small for the tabs on the sides of the arms to fit into. Blame is firmly on the new wings: the tabs probably fitted snugly in the unpainted part but don't with the extra layer of paint added.

Bar the lack of removable guns, or any guns at all, and the slight problem with the tabs in arm mode this is a very very good toy. Air Raid was always my favourite of the Combiner Wars Aerialbot limbs and they've done a fantastic job modifying him to Strafe here.


Scrounge & Cybaxx

Scrounge as a character features in one issue of the Marvel Transformers comic where his role is to die and provide endless remorse for Blaster for evermore. The same issue, US 17/UK 66, also introduces fan favourite Decepticon villain Straxus and he got a toy in 2010. Despite being a relatively minor character Scrounge has developed a loyal fan following who frequently suggest him as a repaint of other toys.

Since Scrounge is shown partnered with Blaster it would almost have made sense to do Scrounge as a yellow Autobot tape warrior especially when the Fall Of Cybertron version of those turns into a disc, similar to Scrounge's alternate mode in the comic.

When Cosmos came out in 2014 some people, faced with the lack of potential repaints, suggested Scrounge as a repaint but I suspect even his most loyal fan didn't really believe it would happen. When rumours of a Legends Scrounge from Cosmos began to spread in late 2015 even then some people had trouble thinking it was actually going to happen so when Computron's boxset artwork was leaked fans were stunned to see a yellow saucer on his arm!Over the course of January 2016 a number of pieces of artwork and pictures of a toy prototype had been leaked but there was no sign of a Cosmos repaint. The boxback graphic was leaked on 9th March showing the toy in full but it took till Botcon 2016 in April before Computron was officially unveiled.

Since Scrounge is yellow, that's what Cosmos & Payload's green & white parts are recoloured as resulting in a rather monochrome pair of toys broken only by some red detailing and an even smaller amount of blue & silver on the front of the UFO mode & robot chest.

Scrounge gets a new head, accurately modelled after his comic appearance but the head is a nightmare to reveal for robot mode, worse than Cosmos' which at least had a recessed panel in the back you could get a tool in to lift it albeit at the cost of scraping the paint. n the end I tipped the toy upside down and used gravity, a pair of very sharp scissor blades and long nosed pliers to get the head up. It won't be going down again!

Because Scrounge's base can fit on the peg on Strafe's cockpit roof it follows that the hole in Scrounge's base can take other 5mm pegs. This means you can peg Cybaxx into him as a UFO Death Ray cannon. This is good thing.

It also emerges you can do the same thing with Cosmos and Cybaxx. With a bit of force you can persuade Payload to mount on Cosmos the same way.

But will Cosmos mount on Strafe?

NO!

From eye it looks like the hole on Scrounge's underside has been made slightly, only very very slightly, larger resulting in a thinner rim but a socket that will fit solidly on a 5mm peg made from firmer plastic.

I'm of the school that thought we wouldn't see Scrounge in a million years and that Satan would be ice skating to work before we did so I'm really pleased to see his plastic incarnation. I know some people are less pleased to see him packed in the Technobot boxset as, surprisingly, there are some people out there who are not fans of Computron. But I think his speciality fits the team and the spaceship mode integrates well into the combined form. The only real downside is the head: I suspected t would be a problem due to difficulties with Cosmos but I didn't expect it to be out.

But still, I'm glad this toy exists.

Now what about Xaaron, Rack'n'Ruin & Skater?


Combiner Wars Computron

It would be fair to say that Transformers fans were not happy with the decision to release Scattershot without the Technobots. Over the course of January 2016 a number of pieces of artwork and pictures of a toy prototype were leaked that appeared to show a Computron, a position that was reinforced by the drill tank version of Brawl used there also showing up in the Botcon 2016 boxset and leaked images of Liokaiser. The boxset artwork was leaked on the 12th Febuary, and then the boxback graphic was leaked on 9th March but it took till Botcon 2016 in April before Computron was officially unveiled.

We probably should talk about the feet & hands, both of which are new to this set and cast in a slightly rubbery burgundy plastic. The feet work on the same principle as Victorion's with a stiff ratchet joint to each side. On Victorion it didn't make a lot of sense since the design of the toy all but fixed it in an upright pose since the the tops of Pyra Magna/Hotspot's legs form the waist of that combiner torso. Here, with the benefit of the shoulders formed from Scattershot/Silverbolt's shoulders this torso can make better use of the joint. Unfortunately it probably needs more finely graded cogs in both hips and ankles to make it worthwhile: the first click out to the sides positions the leg 1/16th of a turn, 22.5 degrees, resulting in a terribly wide stance. While the sideways ratchet on the ankle is solid the peg projecting from it is the only point of contact between foot and leg limb which can cause problems with the likes of Lightsteed/Dead End, whose peg hole isn't that secure in the structure of the leg. The added contact between the base of the leg limb and the foot does help. However I like the big chunky moulding design on the new feet, it suits the combiner.

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The hands are probably not going to win many friends in the "we want more articulation" brigade. Where Victorion's new hands had moving fingers Computron's are big non articulated lumps with a 5mm peg hole. Very nicely sculpted lumps but there's less articulation here than on a Hand Foot Gun!

As with Victorion the hands can be stored in the feet, though getting them in isn't intuitive. Blacklai shows how it's done in his review: the front of the fist goes into the underside of the foot with the outer side of the fist towards the front. That then leaves a 5mm peg facing out of either side of the combined hand/foot for you to mount on any vehicle or robot in the set. As with Victorion, this feature is undocumented.

Assembly should be easy by now and since you've got a Silverbolt torso you're in for one of the better combiners. Scattershot's torso looks completely different in a new colour scheme: it's nearly all burgundy now with a cerise chest plate and white upper legs. In the midst of this the bright red painted crotch looks out of place. The sides of the chest have acquired some new tampograph detailing designed to look like details on Computron's chest. The head is still the Superion head but looks much much better in the burgundy distinguishing it from the original. Not repainting the head on the original Voyager was one of the biggest mistakes they made there. Yes a new head would be better but we can't have everything. I may have been inclined to buy a third party head for this but for the forthcoming Unite version but as it stands this colour head is probably the best we're going to get with this head mould.

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The default configuration is Afterbreaker(Afterburner) as his right arm, with his guns being mounted on the sides of Computron's upper legs. Strafe forms his left arm, with Scrounge plugged onto the 5mm port on Strafe's cockpit roof and Cybaxx plugged into Scrounge. Lightsteed (Lightspeed) & Nosecone form his right & left legs respectively which is a bit of a problem as both have relatively weekly supported 5mm sockets for the feet to plug into.

In robot mode any deficiencies the individual limbs have as their characters fade somewhat and it's a decent interpretation of the original Computron. The chest colouring no longer makes it look like hate plague Superion and the kibble sticking out of the shoulders of each of the arm limbs balances each other out. Mine's personally going to be displayed without Scrounge & Cybaxx. I like the way they attach but due to the nightmare that it extending Scrounge's head he's staying in robot mode for evermore.

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A very, very good combiner. Probably the best Hasbro boxset so far. It'll be interesting comparing it to it's Takara counterpart in a few weeks time.