Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Combiner Wars Groove, Wreck-Gar & Rust-Dust and Transformers Adventures Override


Groove

At the point the Combiner Wars Protectobots were revealed at Toyfair 2015 there was a lot of talk that Hasbro were worrying about scale in the Transformers toyline and that a new limb version of Groove would be too big. So Groove is relegated to Legends size and forms a chest plate for Defensor while his place as a limb was taken by Rook and we counted ourselves lucky because Menasor was missing Wildrider, replaced by Offroad, and Superion was missing Slingshot, replaced by Alpha Bravo.

But between Groove's reveal and his release it all went wrong for him. First Takara Tomy teased in silhouette and then revealed a four jet Superion, then a 4 car Menasor and finally Hasbro Hasbro announced that the two new Japanese limbs would be a western Internet exclusive. These exclusives, renamed Brake-neck & Quickslinger, were released in May 2015, right at the same time Groove came out so even then there was talk of "Takara's going to do a proper limb Groove aren't they?". Indeed that very month Takara Tomy teased Defensor with a deluxe Groove and revealed him about a week later with the toy reaching Japanese retail in early December 2015 and getting a US exclusive internet release in May 2016.

So by the time people had the chance to get Legends Groove in hand he was already superfluous for forming Defensor and I day say a fair few people held off buying the Hasbro Combiner Wars Protectobots in favour of the Japanese Unite Warriors version. I however had already laid down my cash in a pre order before it was announced and indeed had it in hand at the end of April.

Hasbro need some credit here: they've done a really good job of capturing Groove in a completely different aesthetic. His back wheel is still inside his legs, his feet formed from the rear of the bike and the handlebars behind his head with the windshield and front wheel on his back. But this is a taller, thinner Groove than the original. There's three colours of plastic used here: white for the lower legs & bulk of the chest, grey for the upper limbs and black for the windshield chest, wheels, head, chest plate & sides. The forearms are painted silver and later versions of the toy suggest these are on the white plastic sprue as are the black painted feet which have a slight missing paint spot ion mine where they've scraped during transformation. His articulation isn't bad: ball jointed hips, elbows & shoulders plus thigh swivels, necessary for his transformation to combined robot accessory.

Transformation: Straighten the legs and tab together. Fold he feet up onto the front of the legs. Raise the windshield over the head. Fold each shoulder forward till they meet in front of the face, but keep the arms out to the sides. Bend the toy's lower body forward 90° at the mid chest joint and bend the arms, slotting them into the depressions on the side of the toy just above what were the lower legs.

Groove's Motorbike mode feels slightly too long and stretches out but all the basic details are there so we'll let it pass. The perennial issue of balancing a bike is solved by a permanently down kickstand on one side and a very low saddle box on both. You will struggle to tip this over. It's not terribly functional though, neither front wheel fork nor handlebars turn, but I suppose that saves me the trouble of having to moan that they turn independent of each other! An odd feature concerns the sides of the saddle boxes: the right side has a 5mm peg hole, level with where the fist has slotted in while the left side has a 5mm peg, but much lower down. What are they for? They don't seems to serve much purpose. There's no gun to attach, unlike the original Groove. Is there an abandoned weapons mode, like Bombshell? The round ends of the rear of the bike suggest something gun like might be meant to be happening.

As it is Groove's part in Combiner Wars Defensor is a very different one. Start by folding the robot shoulders forward in bike mode, bringing out the arms, which should then be bent at the elbow so they point down. Separate the legs, bend at the knees and then rotate each leg 90° at the thigh. Fold the legs up and out to the sides at the hips bringing them along the outside of the arm and slot the tabs on the sides of the arms into the slots on the legs.

What you have is a piece of chest armour for Defensor, like Blackjack forms for Menasor. The problem is all the official pictures of Defensor show the chest plate the wrong way up. Yes you can attach him that way up but the only thing holding him there will be a small thin peg so he won't be that stable! He'll still be a bit more stable than Blackjack but that's by the by! The seemingly correct way to attach him is to insert the small peg on Defensor's chest into the hole on Groove's bottom (behave) sliding Groove's arms either side of the centre part of Defensor's chest and then pushing the 5mm pegs on the inside of Groove's arms into matching holes on the sides of the centre of the chest.

The connection is relatively solid, the small peg is a very good fit and holds it all together with the arms just providing stability, but the arms are prone to coming away from the chest and the legs from the arms leaving a spread out mess on Defensor's chest.

But the main problem here is Defensor doesn't need it. It's there to give a Groove toy a role and, although different, Combiner Wars hasn't done a bad job at reinterpreting Defensor's chest plates and integrating them into Hotspot. They could have done a better job on the look and got them to hold Defensor together better but that's a matter covered in the Hotspot and Defensor review.

I have played with worse Transformers Motorbikes. I have played with worse Grooves, as one of my friends said "the first not rubbish Groove toy" (except he didn't say rubbish). But essentially this toy serves little or no purpose. We knew it would be superseded by the time it came out and it detracts from the look of the combined robot when added. I'd say avoid, and grab one of it's repaints, but neither of them have exactly proved easy to find.

Groove was first sold in Combiner Wars Legends Wave 3, where he was 3 per case with 3 Warpaths and two Vipers. He and Warpath were carried over to the Wave 4 case at 2 per case and Groove survives at 2 per case in the Wave 4 revision case. He is probably one of the easiest Combiner Wars Legends toys to find.

As we have said Takara Tomy released a deluxe Groove in Japan so the Legends toy didn't get released there, but rather amusingly when the Hasbro Asia version of Unite Defensor, containing deluxe Groove, was distributed it came with a special coin, housed in packaging shaped like Legends Groove's chest armour mode!


Transformers Adventures Override

What's in the box?

It's Transformers Adventures Override & Runabout!

Override is one of the few Generation 1 motorcycles so it makes him quite an obvious Groove repaint. The other, which was announced beforehand, will follow in a bit. Essentially he's a simple repaint of Groove: swap white for blue and paint a few parts red.

However as soon as I get two of the same Transformers Motorbike now I immediately think of Reveal The Shield Wreck Gar and his repaints Scrapheap & Junkheap who can ride on each other. Sadly Override cannot ride Groove that well at all :-(

My Override also seems a little bit loose: both legs popped off at the hip, and one at the knee, plus the windscreen came off!

Nevertheless a nice fun toy, and I'm glad I got him preordered at HLJ in the few hours he was available there. He lasted longer than Runabout did though!

Override is Transformers Adventures toy TAV-26 and was released in Japan in August 2015. Good luck finding one!


Combiner Wars Wreck-Gar

When Wreck Gar's his official images were released everyone was excited because it looked really, really good. The some new stock images were released and our hearts sank.

It pains me to say it but Wreck-Gar's nowhere near as bad as I thought he would be.

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Yes the majority of him, including everything white on Groove, is bright orange. How bright? Brighter than last year's Huffer!

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New head is quite nice, can't do it justice with my limited camera skills! (apologies for all other photos: working with limited space, fading light, no flash, wobbly CMT affected hands and a lot of tiredness!)

Upper limbs are a dull palish yellow. For the large part black pieces on Groove remain black with heavy paint to the chest sides and windshield. Feet are now orange as are the arms, unpainted for the first time.

No combined mode on the instructions: Robot to bike one side, bike to robot the other.

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It's OK. Personally I think it's better than Groove. But this isn't a hunt it down toy, be happy if you find one, don't go out of your way. As it is I had to pay for a half case from Kapow to get him!

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Habsro: If you do this again and make it look just like this then I'll buy it!


Torchbearer Rust Dust

Of the six Rust Renegades/Torchbearers, Rust Dust is the only one with no new parts. She's a simple institution green for white and black for grey colour swap on Groove with a little red paint on her arms and a nice cracked deco on her windscreen.

Her main problem of course is that she is that nasty institution green and looks hideous! But unlike Groove this toy actually stands a chance of being used as the chest plate for Victorion, who I note still has the chest plate on the wrong way up!


Future Repaints

As I said above I'd love another go at Wreck Gar with the colours looking exactly like they do in his official images. With the right paint job there might be other Junkions or even Arcee in it but I don't think there's a lot more that can be done with it now.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Combiner Wars Blackjack & Rodimus and Adventures Runabout


Blackjack

Like Combiner Wars Powerglide Blackjack is designed to fulfil a function in one of the combiner teams. But unlike Powerglide, Blackjack's inspiration does come from the original Menasor.

This toy's name, along with the shades of black & purple used, point to Micromaster Blackjack although as we shall see that may not have been the original intention. For a start a visored and faceplated face doesn't match the Micromaster at all! The robot looks nice with a turning head, ball jointed shoulders that flex in and out, a low bicep joint just above a bending elbow, and ball jointed hips & knees. By Legends standards he's very flexible. Most of the toy is black, ish, with the upper legs, body and accessory being purple along with some purple and gold paint highlights. He comes with an odd axe hand weapon that at this stage in proceedings makes little to no sense whatsoever and indeed doesn't fully till his first repaint.

Transformation: fold the head & chest back into the backpack. Straighten the legs, tab together and then fold the entire chest, head & backpack assembly forward to tab into the lower legs. Straighten the arms to the side and fold in at the shoulders. The axe becomes a spoiler that tabs into the rear of the car with the handle pointing forward as a gun barrel but honestly I wouldn't bother here and put it away somewhere safe as it spoils (haha) the look of the car!

It's a car. Not a lot more I can say, it's the sort of solid ground vehicle that Legends spent 2014 producing.

It's at this point we discover one of the other origins for this toy because Blackjack's other purprose is to form chest armour for Combiner Wars Menasor just like Motormaster's little car did for 1986 Menasor. Simply mount the weapon sideways on the car roof, open Menasor's chest and place Blackjack on the pegs sticking out.

..... Or at least that was the plan!

In practice Blackjack will hold in place at best tentatively on Menasor due to the pegs tapering slightly far, far too early. At worst he'll just fall off straight away. As usualy your mileage may vary depending on how the Quality Control Roulette Wheel has spun for your Motormaster and Blackjack but anecdotal evidence suggest he stickcs better on the second edition Motormaster released in Wave 4.

Even if he did stick proper;y he woul;dn't quite be up to the job: his black isn't quite black enough, looking almost a metallic flaked black or almost brown in some lights and unlike the original Motormaster car he isn't solid black, his colours are broken up by gold windows and the purple spoiler axe accessory.

Top robot and great car, albeit with an odd accessory. His use as as a combiner add one is spoilt by problems though.

Blackjack was released at 3 per case in Combiner Wars Legends wave 2, returning at 2 per case in a Combiner Wars Legends Wave 4 revision assortment. This case was not released in the UK and Blackjack himself was not released in Japan.... although some of his repaints are exclusives there!


Rodimus

Our first hint at Rodimus' existance came from this piece of Toyfair 2016 promotional art showing a white version of Optimus Prime with a red car, with flames on the bonnet and a yellow spoiler, on it's chest. Suddenly the purpose of the odd accessory becomes clear!

Rodimus is a slightly odd choice as a Blackjack repaint as in several ways he doesn't quite fit the toy. Basically it's a red for black and yellow for purple colour swap which is ok, and the new head isn't bad but even with the spoiler on the car it just doesn't look the right shape to be Rodimus. He's even worse in robot mode: the flame design from the bonnet is now on his back while his chest is a rear window he doesn't normally have. Then there's the spoiler....

It's obvious once you see it that a Rodimus repaint was intended all along because that explains the spoiler on the car. Given that the spoiler is included you'd think they'd make sure it could be mounted correctly on his back in robot mode wouldn't you? NO, they didn't and that's a major black mark against the toy.

Fortunately help is at hand and it comes from one of those clear elastic bands you find in many Transformer toy packages. Loop it round the bottom of the hinge connecting his backpack to the body. Draw it up over the top of the backpack with each strand of the band sitting in the v shaped gutters to the side. Pull the band down th back of the back pack and loop it back under the bottom of the pack so it runs under the bottom of where the windscreen is. Next slip each spoiler wing under the elastic band strands and draw them together so they run down the gulleys either side of the central shaft. The spoiler will now stay in place in what is approximately the right position with the method of attachment being ll but invisible.

The actual repainting on the toy is very, very good but the character and toy mould are not a good match.


Transformers Adventures Runabout

What's in the box?

It's Override & Runabout!

Interest was provoked in Transformers Adventure TAV-25 was announced as Runabout with an image that was considerably different to Blackjackand considerably closer to the 1986 Battlecharger of the same name. By the time of it's release the deco had been further tweaked and all preorders sold out in a matter of hours. As you can see I was one of the fortunate ones with HLJ!

The deco used here is nearly spot on for Runabout. I said at the time that I almost felt he could have do with a bright red spoiler instead of the grey used and since then, having seen a further repaint, have started to feel all the grey should be red. But the grey is better than the blue he was originally shown with and is darker in hand than in the publicity photos.

It's become clear now that the original intention was to make Blackjack Runabout as that suits Menasor better and indeed the head sculpt is a dead on match. But for whatever reason they didn't quite go through with that and co-opted another Decepticon car character.

Runabout works well in car mode and armour mode: he attached to my original wave 2 Motormaster and passed the "hold the robot chest down and shake" test so there's something going on there with some subtle remoulding.

His TF: Adventures Decepticon symbol app sticker comes off easy, no indent underneath, but I needed to clean some adhesive off afterwards

Top, TOP recolour. Fab toy, such a shame it couldn't be more easily available to more people. Now where's his mate Runamuck?


G2 Blackjack

A recoloured Blackjack appears in the Generation 2 Menasor set. He takes his cues from the unreleased original G2 Stunticons by swapping his black for purple like Menasor's car did and by using the pale blue which is common across all five members of the team.

Decent solid repaint, works well but still has issues staying in place.


Future Repaints

I would very much like to see both Runamuck and Runabout redone with the upper legs, body and spoiler taking the secondary colours from the original toys, red and orange respectively.

It feels odd asking for this one but I think this toy would work as a Bumblebee, in a similar way to the Classics/Legends of Cybertron version. We've not had a Bumblebee in Combiner Wars and it would go nicely with Optimus Prime in a similar way to how Minicon Sparkplug (Micron Bumblebee in Japan) does with Armada Optimus Prime.

Combiner Wars Powerglide & Viper


Combiner Wars Powerglide

Powerglide hasn't done too badly in recent years: he's had a Universe Ultra, albeit in a more real life accurate vehicle mode colour but a bit of an odd one for the character, which got a more character accurate Japanese USA Edition repaint and then another as a Wal*Mart exclusive which is even closer to the original still. Finally Dark of the Moon gave us a Cyberverse Commander.

The Combiner Wars version is a similar size to the DOTM Commander using the slightly bulkier Legends size. He's now attached to the Combiner Wars Aerialbot team and, though not a central component of Superion, does serve a role with the combined robot which we'll come to later.

The robot looks like a slightly beefed up version of the original Powerglide, everything is in the right place, no complaints there. He's got ball joints at his hips & shoulders, bending elbows & knees and, thanks to the Transformation, an ankle that bends forward and is actually of some use posing the figure. The head turns from side to side too, just like the original. His hands have 5mm peg holes so he can hold the standard Transformer gun size.

Transformation: straighten the legs, and tab the lower legs together as best you can. Fold the feet up. Slide the engines up the legs, though many people won't have realised they slide down. Fold the head & back up then forward then down slotting into place to become the plane's nose: there's two tabs on the inner sides of the chest that fit in slots at the bottom of the body. Now is probably a good point to fold the landing gear down too and turn the head 180 degrees to hide the face under the cockpit. Lock the flap over the upper legs. Bend the arms up as far as you can at the elbow then rotate the shoulders back about 45° and place the tab on the inside of the forum into the slot under the wing that forms the sides of the robot's chest. Pull the wings away from the body, they're tabbed in place and fold back with a hole at the base of the wing meeting a peg on the body of the plane.

Powerglide's vehicle mode is, as expected, a burgundy red A-10 Thunderbolt just like the original. No complaints at all on the vehicle design though there's extensive reports of this toy being subject to the quality control roulette wheel in that the legs don't tab together terribly well at the rear of the jet. Sadly I have one that's affected in that way. I can also report a certain amount of difficulty raising and lowering the landing gear in this mode, there isn't quite enough clearance for it to fold past the top of the robot chest in this mode.

On the plus side though, you can tool up the flight mode by taking advantage of some of his third mode features: untab the arms and fold them forward 90 degrees exposing the underside of the forearms under the jet which each contain a moulded missile array!

As intimated above Powerglide has gained a third mode, supposedly for use with Superion but in truth any robot with a 5mm fist can use it: he now becomes a gun.

Gun Transformation: Slide the engines back. Fold the tail fins down. Unpeg the wings, fold forward 90° and then fold into the body tabbing into place. Fold the panel on the back of the jet up exposing the sight. Use the landing gear as a handle for the weapon.

It'd a nice big chunky gun with three barrels, formed from the sides and central engine, a targeting sight, picked out in blue on mine, and two banks of 10 moulded missiles. Yes the QC roulette mentioned above also affects this mode and folding the sight up reduces the rigidity of the front of the weapon, formed from the rear of the jet/robots legs. He's also a trifle heavy for Superion to use as the weight tends to drag the arm down at the elbow and also cause the robot to lean forward. I'm also somehow a little unsure about Powerglide becoming a gun!

Quality Control issues aside it's a nice toy, the robot and plane are spot on for Powerglide and the bonus mode is decent, even it maybe doesn't quite fit the character.

Powerglide was part of the first wave of Combiner Wars toys released in late 2014. He has a Japanese release as Transformers Adventures TAV-19 which features lighter grey plastic and a scannable Autobot symbol on his chest.


Combiner Wars Viper

I like Viper.

Viper is a homage to the 1984 GI Joe toy/1988 Action Force toy The Rattler. Take the Rattler colours, put them on Powerglide with a couple of Cobra air symbols on the wings and you'd think job done.

Oh no. You then transform it into robot mode. I've heard some say they can see GI Joe's Viper in the figure but I can't. Other people say they see the helmet of the Rattler's pilot Wild Weasel in the head and there a certain resemblance there. But for me the entire package almost all blue with a red face looks too much like the Cartoon Cobra Trooper to be a coincidence!

It's not the first Transformers GI Joe homage: that honour goes to Energon Snowcat, a homage to the 1985 GI Joe Snowcat and it's 1987 Action Force equivalent. That itself gets another GI Joe homage in for it's repaint the Universe version in GI Joe Nightforce colours. But in a year with standard retail GI Joe toys Viper was a particularly welcome addition.

In the run up to Viper's launch he was advertised as a troop building figure, ie buy more than one of them. So when Combiner Wars Wave 3 Legends hit it was obvious he was the one to be packed at 2 per case while Groove and Warpath were 3 per case. Would you like to guess which toys were carried over into Wave 4? Yup, that's right, Groove and Warpath, which, made Viper probably the lowest distributed Combiner Wars Legend! If I were in charge Warpath wouldn't have made a second case, especially as he later reappears in Wave 6 and Viper didn't. Don't get people excited about a toy and want to buy multiples when you're going to restrict it's availability.

As you might be able to expect this toy then didn't get a UK release, with us skipping from Wave 1 Legends straight to Wave 4 Legends, though curiously the Wave 3 Legends case containing Viper has been found in abundance on the continent especially in Germany.


Combiner Wars Generation 2 Powerglide

So when Combiner Wars Generation 2 Superion was announced Powerglide was bundled in with it. One small problem: Unlike his original wavemates Beachcomber and Seaspray, Powerglide never had a G2 version. What Hasbro decided to do was follow the pattern set by Sideswipe's transformation into his Generation 2 version and swap the colours over resulting in something that looks a lot like Wikipedia's A-10 Thunderbolt picture and the Universe Ultra!

Slap a G2 symbol on the chest and job done. If anything it isn't quite mad enough!

And now I'm wondering what G2 versions of his remaining wavemates Warpathand Cosmos would look like though I suspect the later wouldn't be too far removed from the repaint we are getting!

It was at the point that I decided to do G2 Powerglide when catching up with my reviews that I realised I'd failed to review the original Combiner Wars version or Viper!


Future Repaints

GI Joe provides us with an obvious choice in the Tiger Rat or the Thunderbolt but any of Joe's other repaint schemes like Night Force, Python Patrol or Sky Patrol would be good.

Powerglides have a couple of repaints during Transformers: the original became the grey and blue E-Hobby Badboy while the DOTM Cyberverse Commander became the green Ultimate Gift Set Powerglide which I need!

Then there are a number of other Transformer A-10s: the blue Micromaster Tailwind and his white and red repaint Hothouse plus Cybertron gives the white and grey/black Wingsaber and the camouflage Jetfire. For more options See the A-10 list on TFWiki,

Monday, 16 May 2016

Victorion


Torchbearer Skyburst & Torchbearer Stormclash

When round two of the fan built combiner poll resulted in TWO helicopter being chosen I was a little bemused. Alpha Bravo was already out there, Blades was due soon and it was good money that it would be reused as Vortex. So voting for two more near helicopters and then finding they're near identically painted?

Actually there's some clever stuff going on here. Stormclash and Skyburst are actually mirror image twins, in the style of GI Joe's Tomax and Xamot. Gone are the existing gun and Hand Foot Gun. Both have new chest, with a box on the opposite side to the Autobot symbol, new forearms with open hands & wings and a new sword weapon. The colouring of the toys, a quite bizarre mismatch of orangey red and institution green, which isn't anywhere close to the orange and teal offered is also mirror imaged.

So the most obvious question about the two helicopters in the Torchbearers boxset is which is which!

Skyburst:

Autobot symbol on our left in robot mode.

Head has eyes.

Larger red patch on right in vehicle mode.

If edge of sword blade points to our left, then the peg is underneath

Stormclash:
Autobot symbol on our right in robot mode.

Head has visor.

Larger red patch on left in vehicle mode.

If edge of sword blade points to our left, then the peg is underneath

The observent amongst you will spot that Hasbro couldn't tell the difference and mucked up the labeling for their official photos!

The extra wings cause an interesting problem in leg mode if left in their initial position: they hit each other between the legs! Fortunately each arm can be unpegged, rotated back 90 degrees and re-pegged in to give sufficient clearance.

Bar the colour, the helicopters are OK. I like the mirror image trick to compensate for two of them but with we could have seen the winged forearms earlier: they'd have been great on blades, replacing the missile arrays and making him a more peaceful looking helicopter.


Torchbearer Dustup

As we're keeping track this is the fifth reuse of the Dead End version of the car mode but it's had a few tweaks. Gone are the pipe weapon, which I'm thoroughly fed up with, and the Hand Foot Gun replaced by a bow that can also serve as a rather oddly placed spoiler in car mode. The mould itself has some minor tweaks: there's a new head, chest panel and hands which are now open at the sides.

And then there's the deco..... Oh dear.

But I think Dustup's biggest problem is the mould choice. As we said it's the fifth Dead End, but also Dead End's third boxset appearance and NINTH appearance of any variant of the car mould. Dragstrip has had 3 appearances total and no remoulds: surely it would have made more sense to use him?


Torchbearer Jumpstream

The Breakdown mould returns as Victorion member Jumpstream where it receives a new head, chest plate, remoulded hands with an open inner face and hand held shield. I'm struggling to think of terribly many other Transformers with a shield that's an accessory, rather than part of another mode, and Robotmasters Psycho Orb is the only one that springs to mind.

Essentially Breakdown is just another Breakdown/Sunstreaker, my fifth one this year and sixth overall. The annoying hips get more annoying every time and, like Deadend, it's been used too much. The problem is there are uses of this I'd like to see: 1984 Sideswipe, G2 Sideswipe and Red Alert none of which appear to be coming soon.


Pyra Magna

Pyra Magna is a red & green repaint and remould of Hotspot that forms the heart of the Victorion combiner.

The fire engine mode is, essentially, an orangey red version of Hotspot which makes me want to see Hotspot in bright red with a new head as Inferno or Car Robots/Robots in Disguise Optimus Prime even more! The green actually plays very little role in this mode, acting just as an accent colour on the fire engine. It's most noticeable appearance is on the new combined robot head which sticks out like a sore thumb as the cherry picker on the end of the ladder. The SDCC Breakfast reveal of Victorion shows Pyra Magna being the combined robot feet on the side of her turntable. These in turn have tabs in them that allow you to slot the hands into them for storage.

The robot mode is where more of the green appears and is really off putting compared with the red. Exposed here are a new robot head and chest plus remoulded hands and a pick axe weapon. Unfortunately the robot mode does expose a major flaw with the toy: the bar that connects the bottom of the upper leg to the top of the lower legs has been mounted incorrectly, meaning that a protuberance forward stops the knee assembly locking into the correct position in robot mode.

Flawed. But the vehicle mode is the best looking one in the box by some distance. It hasn't been overused like Silverbolt and his derivatives or the truck and of the three options available, even though fans went for the one they didn't have, they probably made the most sensible choice. It's a shame that moulding, assembly and colouring issues spoilt it.


Victorion

Victorion is the combined form of the Torchbearers team. The default combination shown on the box has both helicopters, Skyburst & Stormclash, for legs, but don't forget to turn at least their inner wings back so the don't hit each other! Dustup forms her left, our right, arm and Jumpstream her right, our left, arm. Just like Hotspot & Groove, it's impossible to mount Rust Dust on the chest as shown in the box, she needs to be the other way up to attach properly. Unfortunately that results in an upside down Autobot symbol on the chest and also covers up the new chest panels, formed from new sides of Pyra Magna's turntable base. These in turn have the same flaws as the parts they replaced on Hotspot/Defensor: The don't hold the shoulders in place when you turn them and make the panels prone to popping forward if you're not holding them in place. On the other hands they seem to want to stay on better than the ones on my Hasbro Defensor so that's some improvement!

The new head is tall and thin, reminding me a little of a headdress for an Egyptian Queen. It features the only use of clear plastic on any of the toys that form the combined robot, forming a clear blue visor over her eyes.

One of the major selling points of the toy is newly sculpted hands and feet for the combined robot. Let me nail my colours to the mast straight away and say I'm a fan of the hand Foot Guns used on the other Combiner Wars combiners. I don't see the point of articulated fingers on a Transformers toy: toys that have them, Combiner Wars Ultra Magnus, inevitably have some difficulty holding their weapons and frequently need some sort of peg & slot/hole arrangement to improve the weapon's stability. The same is true here, with a 5mm peg hole being provided that's set back from the fingers. To top it off the hands here look a little small for my liking.

Then there's the feet. Complaints that the HFGs didn't allow decent posing don't wash till well with me because, inevitably, your combiner is going to spend a large part of it's life standing straight up if it can manage it, and that in itself has proved to be a problem for the Hotspot/Onslaught mould with it's tendency to lean forward even when the robot arms are straight down to the sides. The new feet have a cogged rocker joint in the ankle which allows for side to side movement, but not front to back, so the only real new pose they're allowing is one where the legs are spread out to the sides. Having tried it it alarmingly destabilises the robot causing it to lean forward more than it had been already. About the best thing you can say about them is they are relatively stable in a standing straight position and they did give the robot some extra height though that is effectively done by having her wear high heels!

The other new part for the combined robot is it's weapon, formed from the weapons of the five main robot components:

Skyburst - a sword

Stormclash - a sword

Dustup - a bow

Jumpstream - a shield

Pyra Magna - a pick axe

The swords slot into either side of the pickaxe handle. The bow clips round the handle with the points pointing the same way as the helicopter swords who's handles have a slot for accommodating a tab from the bow. The shield pegs in over the bow providing the handle.

I like combine weapons and I honestly think this is probably my favourite part of the toy. The very first Combiner Wars review I wrote, for Optimus Prime, said I thought the combined mode could do with a sword and there is one here.

The major problem this toy has, and it's been one that's common to all the components, is the colour. It's DREADFUL! The red orange, now that I can live with but it's the institution green that it's mixed with that's the problem. It's not that neither is quite the orange and teal which was offered, it's more that the green is foul and they just don't work together! An obvious solution swapping the green for black would have worked wonders.

Victorion is a deeply flawed boxset. We knew the colour would be a problem from when we first saw it and there's been plenty of time to say that doesn't work, change it. I don't feel the new hands or feet add anything. All three limb moulds have been overused by now. The central torso component has a major assembly error and it still plagued by problems that affected it's general release version. This could have been so much better. Given a choice between Victorion and the similarly priced recently released Grand Galvatron then Galvatron, even with one Legend less, is a much better buy.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

CW Hound, Smokescreen, Trailbreaker & Wheeljack

A quick look at the sidebar reveals I forgot to post my Wave 6 Autobots reviews here and missed them againin the recent batch of updates!

Hound

I'd also thought that if you're trying to do the original 18 Diaclone Autobots in Combiner Wars then recolouring the Swindle version of the toy as Hound is a possibility. Well I got it right that Swindle became Hound, even if I'd been thinking Swindle, and thus Hound, would be Off Road.

As expected Hound is Swindle in green with the black of Swindle, which was Rook's blue, swapped for grey. He's got a new Hound head and it's here the jeep front chest helps reinforce that this is Hound, though some silver or grey paint on the upper half of the combiner connector as a radiator might have helped.

Looks very nice, good repaint.


Smokescreen

Someone at Hasbro likes the G1 Smokescreen colour scheme. There's Armada Minicon Prowl's repaint, an Unreleased Battle In A Box version, Cybertron, Movie Fast Action Battler, ROTF Legend and Predacon Rising Legion. And that's before we get onto proper homages like the Masterpiece and Universe versions.

To my mind the Universe 2 Smokescreen is an epic misfire. It was the third airing for that mould as a Datsun brother and needed to be a spot on deco. It wasn't. The white stripe separating the blue, which was far too dark, and the red, too orangey, was far too wide, the number boxes were squared and not rounded and neither the red or the blue quite worked for me. In robot mode there was too much red on the chest and the lower arms and the the legs, which should have mainly been red, were a multicoloured explosion. By contrast the Henkei version is a lot closer to what it ought to be.

Which is something of a long winded introduction to this toy. I have a history of low tolerances to bad Smokescreen homages. Like Prowl, Smokescreen uses the Streetwise version of the Dead End mould. This in itself brings problems in the form of the moulded lightbar, which suggests that maybe Dead End himself with the Prowl head may have been a more sensible choice for Smokescreen and Bluestreak. However now I'm looking at the car itself I don't think it looks too bad, blending in moulded in red like the rest of the roof of the vehicle. The white stripe, which troubled me so much on the Universe version is far smaller here and neatly follows a wavey line along the side of the car while the race car number are the right sort of size and font and on an unbordered rounded white rectangle like the original. I'd like the door ones bigger and further back but that would plonk them right on parts that transform. Sadly the annoying vertical stripe down the door seen on Dead End and Brakeneck is back but understandably so due to the transformation. And, truth be told, I'm not missing the lack of a spoiler here which for some is a feature that distinguishes Smokescreen from his brothers.

Smokescreen's robot mode is blue. The head is spot on for the original toy, a blue Prowl head with a yellow crest. A wide red stripe forming the middle chest plate does a decent impression of the bumper. Like the Universe version he's got red forearms but somehow, possibly due to the more cherry shade of red, they look far better here. The same colour is used for the top of the shoulders. From the waist down it's all blue which looks a bit samey. It's a shame because if you spin the waist round the rear of the legs introduces much more red and does a decent impersonation of the shape and layout of the original Smokescreen legs. Not for the first time I find myself wanting an alternate transformation for these toys which would allow the top rear of the car to become the front of the legs and the knees to bend the right way and there's a bit of me that hopes this mould shows up in the Botcon custom class and someone experiments with it.

The triple barrelled shotgun has been painted silver here which adds to the effect of making you think it's Smokescreen.

This isn't a perfect Generations Smokescreen: for that buy the Henkei version and get a third party gun. I don't even quite think it's the best Combiner Wars Smokescreen there could have been. But I like it. It's got something that somehow that dreadful Universe 2 version didn't have and feels much more Smokescreen than the Universe 2 version did.


Trailbreaker

I had thought that the most obvious repaint for Off Road would be Swindle and that would explain where that peg hole on the original Off Road's flatbed came into play. A Combiner Wars Swindle was found in compute listings in April 2015 but we were somewhat surprised at Botcon 2015 when Swindle was revealed to be an extensive remould of Rook. I'd also thought that if you're trying to do the original 18 Diaclone Autobots in Combiner Wars then recolouring the Swindle version of the toy as Hound is a possibility. Well I got it right that Swindle became Hound!

The same story that revealed Swindle also listed a Trailbreaker which could be have been made from this mould. Which version depended on if you want a pick-up or something approximating his camper version. Botcon 2015 solved this one by revealing Trailbreaker is the Offroad mould.

I've had a softspot for Trailbreaker for years ever since I saw the original Tranmsformers cartoon and couldn't find the toy. It's quite ironic that Ironhide and Trailbreaker now share a pick-up mould as Universe Gobot Ironhide is generally accepted to be Trailbreaker in all but name.

Naturally Trailbreaker gets a new head and they've got this one all but spot on for his cartoon appearance, complete with pale blue eyes. Like most of the toy it's moulded in black plastic but the upper limbs are a lovely bright red. His left forearm remains the same but the right one has had a retool, loosing the fist and now ending in a painted silver pipe with a 5mm peg hole in the end. This type of arm worked great on Rook in 2015 and is just as good here too. Sadly you can't plug his axe handle into it because the sloped axe end doesn't provide enough contact on one side but anything with a proper 5mm peg will fit just fine, simulating the swappable missile weapons the original had.

Very pleased with this toy, it works and is probably the best version of the mould yet. As I've already admitted Trailbreaker is a personal favourite and having waited for ages for one we've now had two decent deluxe versions in 3 and a bit years!


Wheeljack

Now I can see why you might want to do Wheeljack as a remould of Sunstreaker. The original toys both have the car nose for feet, car roof as a chest with the windscreen pointing down and a vaguely similar transformation. However Combiner Wars Sunstreaker lacks both of those features in robot mode so a vague similarity in vehicle mode seems to main reason for remoulding between them.

Wheeljack is cast in a creamy off white plastic. Now you may remember that the original of this toy mould Breakdown is also cast in a very similar colour. I've had these two side by side and Wheeljack is definitely the whiter of the two. The car mode really is a very good effort looking very similar to the original with slightly straighter lines than the Generations version. The rounded windscreen is captured better here too. The only parts that are obviously shared with his predecessors are the wheels and the turbo charger which looks very odd mounted on a non Lamborghini. Sadly the sword gun is also still included here, I'm getting slightly fed up of the Stunticons melee weapons and wish they'd been replaced with guns especially when the toys got to the remould stage.

Transformation remains the same as before with the neck plate still being locked in place by the shoulders. There's a new head which is a pretty good representation of Wheeljack's cartoon appearance, and a new chest plate shaped to resemble the top of the passenger compartment but shrunk down. The red and green stripes are present in the right places and can also be seen on the front of the legs to simulate the bonnet. However the rounded bottom of the chest, what would be the car windscreen, could use some black paint to differentiate from the rest of the chest and bring it in-line with the car mode. A little more black paint on his forearms and hands would bring the robot more in line with it's traditional appearance and break up what is effectively solid white arms. It wasn't always like that however: the first official images show Wheeljack with black elbows and shoulders. Between then and now the parts frame which contains these, the waist and the lower portion of the knee joint has changed colour from black to white and I don't think it helps the toy at all.

One small build quality problem on mine: the windscreen piece has a habit of falling out something I didn't encounter on earlier versions of the toy.

The car mode here is a very, very good effort. The robot needs a plastic swap to bring it closer to the original images and just a touch of black paint in a couple of crucial spots. I will be interested to see the Japanese version of this.

Unite Warriors Grand Scourge and CW G2 Motormaster & Menasor


Grand Scourge

This may take some explaining.....

Energon Optimus Prime, the most combiner orientated Optimus before the Combiner Wars Voyager, was released in Japan as Superlink Grand Convoy. Superlink Grand Convoy had a model kit version and that in turn was recoloured into Grand Scourge, which you can see a gallery of here. It's this version of Scourge that provides the inspiration for this toy.

Now I'll be honest: I was expecting this mould to get Scoured/Nemesis Primed but the version I thought they'd do first was the more familiar Car Robots/Robots in Disguise version. I didn't expect this slice of Japanese repaint madness!

As this gallery on Autobase Aichi shows, Prime's red and blue both become black while the grey becomes gold. The gun is now cast in lavender while he comes with an extra red sword, previously available in grey with Beast Hunter Ultimate Optimus Prime, which appears to be a nod to the sword wielding Car Robots/RiD Scourge. To complete the cacophony of colour the truck has metallic teal stripes!

Due to be available from E-Hobby in September 2015 this toy is a bit too busy colourwise for my liking but it's a Japanese exclusive recolour and was easy to pre-order from HLJ even if it wasn't cheap!


Generation 2 Motormaster

When Optimus was first released I predicted that the Motormaster version could be redone as his unreleased Generation 2 variant, that has then been recently glimpsed at auction. And sure enough....

It would be fair to say I had issues with Motormaster when he was first released. But the Generation 2 version is superb. A mad combination of purple and blue plastics works to a tee on this mould, far better than it did on the original. Photos do not do it justice.


Generation 2 Menasor

The madness doesn't stop with Motormaster though. Throw in the rest of the Stunticons, especially Dead End & Wild Rider in bright Red and Yellow respectively and the G2 Menasor looks amazing. A complete riot of 90s colour clash.

You need this combiner.

CW G2 Silverbolt & Superion, Botcon Seaclamp & Predacus and Unite Warriors Cyclonus & Grand Galvatron


Generation 2 Silverbolt

Combiner Wars G2 Silverbolt is an interesting toy when you look at the details.

Original Generation 2 Silverbolt is a straight repaint of 1986 Special Teams Silverbolt with white becoming blue and gold chrome becoming red. Combiner Wars Silverbolt is not a straight update of the original, some of the colours have moved around a bit. Yet Generation 2 Combiner Wars Silverbolt isn't a straight up swap of the Combiner Wars colours, the red and blue are placed exactly where they were on the original G2 Silverbolt.

I'm struggling to get find much to say about the G2 Silverbolt repaint: given the mould they had they've got the details dead right. The only thing it could have done with is, like the original, a pair of additional missile launchers.


Generation 2 Superion

When I first looked at Superion I said:
There's two obvious routes I could see Hasbro going down for repaints here: The first is obvious Generation 2 Superion. I'd not be surprised to see this as this year's SDCC boxset.
On 6th May 2015 the artwork from a G2 Superion box, assumed to be the San Diego Comic Con exclusive, was leaked. It came as something of a surprise when the 2015 exclusive was announced as a Titan Devastator with an upgraded paint job, but maybe that shouldn't have been a surprise given SDCC Titan Metroplex two years previously. Instead the G2 Superion set was destined for a wider audience as the first in a series of online exclusive Combiner Wars boxsets and was itself officially unveiled on July 9th 2015 at the 2015 SDCC Hasbro Breakfast and released in late 2015/early 2016.

My supplier had a little delay with their stock: it appears a large quantity of the first run went to went to Amazon so I actually received it after the second set, Combiner Wars G2 Menasor. Maybe Menasor's colours being so mad and it not being actually released in Generation 2 has biased me, or that the original Combiner Wars Superion was such an amazing update, but of the first two Generation 2 Combiner Wars sets I prefer Menasor. Superion is good, very good, and a great translation of the G2 colours onto the Combiner Wars toys, and the inclusion of a Universe Ultra coloured G2 Powerglide is great but it isn't setting my world on fire.


Botcon 2016 Seaclamp

I think it's necessary to step through the decision making process here.

Combiners are in, it's Beast Wars anniversary, so let's make the Botcon boxset a Combiner Wars version of Beast Wars Combiner Tripredicus.

Fine so far.

The Beast Wars cartoon is really, REALLY popular so let's make the members of Tripredicus red like we saw them in the episode Agenda.

OK. Ish. There's some debate about if the redness is their colour or caused by the light in the camber and it's not the colour of the toys, but fair enough.

So Seaclamp, who was previously a Sea Scorpion, what shall we make him into? Cicadon as a jet makes sense and Ramhorn as a drill tank kind of makes sense. I'll admit my money was on Combiner Wars Scattershot.

Now Scattershot, for reasons of not originally coming with his team to combine with, having the same head as Superion in torso mode and generally being a quite lazy repaint, is not the most popular of the Combiner Wars torsos. He also has a big problem in relation to one of the previous decisions: he's mostly red.

So superficially Cicadon and Scattershot look very, VERY similar. So similar that you wonder if an all red Silverbolt or Cyclonus might have been a better choice of mould.

If anything Cicadon is even more red than Scattershot, with some moulded dark grey and painted silver detailing. Nice new head in robot mode. But far too similar to Scattershot: needed radically different colours or a different toy.


Botcon 2016 Predacus

The advantage of using a Silverbolt derivative as your Voyager is it does give you a nice solid body. He's the red used for the other two modes but wit a blue chest and grey waist. The red perfectly matches the red used for Ramhorn and Botcon 2016 Cicadon. Botcon 2016 Tarantulas and Ravage provide non matching but dark enough coloured for it not really to matter legs. The designated arms both have red Hand Foot Guns to match their bodies while those on the legs are painted black. A newly sculpted silver head tops the toy.

Here the red works, it makes the combined toy more cohesive and stand out from a crowd of other Combiners.


Unite Warriors Cyclonus

I'd honestly not expected to see Cyclonus in the Japanese line since he was a remould of Silverbolt. When the tease was released on Twitter there was some speculation about the identity of the central component, with an alternate Starscream paint job being a common theory, but a picture from a toy show seemingly confirmed it was Cyclonus from what little we could see of the colours and was confirmed by the team's full reveal.

Whereas the Combiner Wars Cyclonus is a deep purple the Unite Warriors version is more metallic pale blue with a colour scheme much closer to the cartoon. His gun is now clear orange plastic, with the stock, handle and shield painted silver, the reasons for which will become apparent in combined mode.

I want to like Cyclonus but he's really not doing it for me and the extent of the metal paintjob is scaring me slightly got future chips and scratches!

As with the rest of the Grand Galvatron set, here's a gallery of the toy.


Unite Warriors Grand Galvatron

As with the Cyclonus component, when Grand Galvatron's silhouette tease was released there was some speculation as to the combined robot's identity. This picture from a Japanese toy show seemingly sealed it with the clear orange cannon on his arm, aping the original Galvatron toy. The Grand Galvatron officially reveal gave us a closer look: Unusually for Takara they're going for a toy look here with the chest plate and head in original toy grey and a red stripe across the chest. Unfortunately that then makes the torso resemble Starscream, and the resemblance of the head to the crowned version of the Movie Starscream has already been commented on!

The composition of the combiner is somewhat eclectic compared to the themed teams of 1985-1992 or the newer Autobot gatherings of Combiner Wars:

Ghost Starscream - a post Movie version of G1 Starscream
Curse Armada Thrust - a remake of, shockingly, Armada Thrust
Zombie War Breakdown - Prime Breakdown
Wandering Roller - an interpretation of IDW Roller
But combined together..... Oh what wonderful madness! The set's default configuration is the jets for arms and the vehicles for legs, as you can see in this gallery gallery which, by a strange coincidence, means Grand Galvatron has the same legs as my spare parts Galvatron combiner. However here's a picture of the alternate combined mode.

Yes whichever limb is Starscream looks a bit odd due to being th only clear one but I don't care!I haven't seen Japanese repaint madness this good for some considerable time, possible since the glory days of Beast Wars II through to the Dimension X Minicons. There's something to recommend all five robots in the set and the combined form is just great. If you possibly can treat yourself to a set.