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

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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.

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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.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Unite Warriors & G2 Swindle


Generations 2 Swindle

Take Combiner Wars Swindle, repaint him in orange and slap some purple camouflage on him. Job done, G2 Swindle is reborn.

Oddly it's this version is the one I can see the jeep front in the most!

Swindle comes in the G2 Bruticus Combiner Wars giftset.


Unite Swindle

Take Swindle, make his sand colour a bit, add some purple to the front of his roll cage and make the HDG the same sandy colour as the jeep.

If you have CW Swindle you don't need it but with have bought the Unite Bruticus set he comes with to get Blast Off.

Unite Warriors & G2 Brawl


Generation 2 Brawl

The first Brawl repaint that was revealed, but the second to come on sale, comes in the G2 Bruticus boxart and swaps 1986 Brawl's greeny brown for Generation 2 Brawl's bright green and his dark grey for purple and adding the traditional G2 purple camouflage to give a look very similar to Generation 2 Megatron

Judging by the mis-transformed waist in the official pictures I suspected the waist wouldn't be fixed but thankfully it seems fine on my copy of this toy.


Unite Warriors Brawl

Very similar in deco to the original Combiner Wars Brawl, bar a red & orange face, this toy unfortunately finds itself afflicted with the same waist problems as my original Brawl. Add in the deficiencies with Blast Off's colour, the wrongly assembled knees on Onslaught and the frankly shocking new rotor assembly on Vortex and you get a very unhappy experience for me with the Unite Warriors UW07 Bruticus set!

Monday, 22 August 2016

Titans Return Scourge


Titans Return Scourge

Scourge hasn't had a lot of luck with updates to his character. The first was the 2006 Titanium in a not terribly well liked line. The second, the 2011 Generations Deluxe, doesn't look too much like his robot, has a new more Earth like vehicle mode and didn't get a general UK release but was grey imported in mid 2011. His brother Cyclonus has done rather better with the much admired 2009 Universe 2 version, it's 2011 Reveal The Shield repaint and 2015 Generations Voyager all making it to the UK.

Both Scourge & Cyclonus were available in 1987 as Targetmasters and while the Universe 2 Cyclonus maintains that gimmick here Scourge finds himself as a Titanmaster, effectively a Headmaster. His Titanmaster is Fracas, the same name used for his 1987 Targetmaster. Moulded throughout in blue plastic he transforms & has similar articulation to all the other Titanmasters. Like Blurr's Titanmaster Hyperfire when in head mode he has a little extendable piece on top, this time shaped like the tube seen on top of the rear of Scourge's original vehicle mode and his head.

The robot itself is quite rounded, with effectively ball like shoulders and looks a decent interpretation of the look Scourge has in the 1986 movie. A certain proportion of his spaceship mode is on his back, as it's always been, which as usual provides the hint of him wearing a robotic cloak. Articulation is good: ball jointed head, provided by the Titanmaster, shoulders that shrug, stiffly, up at the body & are ball jointed at the arm, bicep swivels, bending elbows, universal hips, thigh swivels and bending knee. He comes armed with two guns, a short single barrelled one, little more than a detailed pipe, and a larger double barrelled one, which contains a seat for a Titanmaster in front of which is a peg hole so the guns can be combined into a triple barrelled weapon. The two barrels on the dual cannon both end in a 3mm peg hole which lets you plug Cyberverse weapons into it.

Transformation: pop the Titanmaster head off and unfold it into robot mode. Remove all weapons, fold the hands into the forearms and straighten the arms at the sides. Shrug the shoulders up and lock the arms onto the body courtesy of a tab on the body fitting a slot beneath the bicep joint. Now we get something a little innovative: pull down on the legs, revealing the spine. Fold the feet & heel spurs together so they point down out the bottom of the leg, Open the doors on the leg fronts, folding them round onto the inside of each leg. Rotate the legs round 180° via a waist joint on the spine, previously locked off inside the body. Rotate each leg in 90° at the thigh joint. Bend each hip joint up 180°, bringing the upper legs alongside the extended spine, and at the same time fold the knees down 180°covering the legs up and forming the front of the spaceship. Fold the "cape" panels down to the sides tabbing into the shoulders & what was the rear of the leg. By default the Titanmaster sits in the cockpit at the rear of the vehicle, the small gun mounts on the cockpit and the large double gun mounts in front of the cockpit but, as we'll see, all three are up for negotiation!

Scourge's vehicle mode is his classic Spaceship/Hovercraft/Soapdish design with a few extra fins and details on it. It's a pretty good update of the original design done in blue and pale blue. The illusion is only really broken when you turn the vehicle over and you see the folded back leg doors and exposed robot chest. But even then the leg doors have moulding on them for guns while the shape resembles landing gear.

One of the real joys of this mode is the ability to customise it's look. Both the dual cannon and smaller gun mount on 5mm peg holes so they can be swapped round or even combined onto the same post. There's two 5mm peg holes on each side of the vehicles which can also take the weapons. The Titanmaster is tucked away at the moment inside the cockpit but can be seated outside the vehicle on dual cannon. Finally if you look at the 5mm socket on top of the cockpit you'll see it's a slightly odd shape, square at the front. This enables you to plug the Titanmaster in head mode into the top of the Spaceship just like cartoon Scourge extending his head in spaceship mode.

I'm quite taken with Scourge: both modes are fun, and the interchangeability & combination of weapons & Titanmaster add significantly to it's play value.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Million Publishing Runamuck & Dogfight


Million Publishing Runamuck

So having done Runabout as a Japanese exclusive that sold out so quickly it was untrue, it couldn't get worse for Runamuck's availability ...... could it?

Yup. He and a repaint of Powerglide as Dogfight were offered as the mail away exclusives for the Japanese Generations 2015 book. There's been a number of these and they are never cheap, generally going for about $90-$100 per offering from BBTS. I've been tempted by several but the only one I have is Shouki who was offered by HLJ sometime after the book's release.

Fortunately I got lucky in this pair: I paid for them in early June and the cost was significantly cheaper than I'd estimated then I dodged customs on the package containing them and the Titans Return Legends Wave 2.

Runamuck is Runabout with the black plastic recast in white. The eyes are the only paint ops that stay red with the windows turning black and the other highlights becoming yellow. Decepticon symbols are in exactly the same place and the same size. He comes with an Adventures sticker on his chest/rear window but, like his brother, that didn't stay on long on mine!

I like him but he's not setting my world on fire. I certainly wouldn't want to leave a toy this white in direct sunlight! Like Adventures Runabout I feel the solid colour could have done with being broken up, like it was for the TFCC version. I don't have a red upper legs, back & spoiler frame for Runabout but the temptation to swap parts with Rodimus is very great with this one.


Future Repaints

As I've said above, 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, orange and red 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.

It would be nice to see the Legends Triggerbots completed with an Orange & Black repaint of Blackjack as Backstreet.


Million Publishing Dogfight

Having repainted Combiner Wars Groove, surplus to requirement in Japan, as Transformers Adventure Override alongside Transformers Adventures Runabout it made sense for Runabout's repaint Million Publishing Runamuckto also be accompanied by one of Override's Triggerbot team mates. But which one? Backstreet would have probably meant another Blackjack repaint so Dogfight won.

Runabout & Override were both Japanese exclusives that sold out so quickly it was untrue, it couldn't get worse for Runamuck & Dogfight's availability ...... could it?

Yup. They were offered as the mail away exclusives for the Japanese Generations 2015 book. There's been a number of these and they are never cheap, generally going for about $90-$100 per offering from BBTS. I've been tempted by several but the only one I have is Shouki who was offered by HLJ sometime after the book's release.

Fortunately I got lucky in this pair: I paid for them in early June and the cost was significantly cheaper than I'd estimated then I dodged customs on the package containing them and the Titans Return Legends Wave 2.

There's two plane moulds in the Legends line and neither of them look much like the original Dogfight. The Generations Starscream mould, extensively repainted as other Strike Planes in the west, was passed over in favour of the Combiner Wars/Adventures Powerglide mould. About the only things linking Dogfight & CW Powerglide are that they're planes and there's a vague weapons connection: original Dogfight had spring loaded gun pop out and Powerglide turns into a gun. A tenuous connection at best, as the plane designs are totally different Dogfight being a Grumman X-29 and Powerglide an A-10 Thunderbolt. If anything should be used for Dogfight it's Cyberjet Spacecase and now I think of it, it surprises me that repaint hasn't been done!

Another problem is the colour: Dogfight is blue and there's already been a Blue Powerglide, the GI Joe Homage Viper (Spacecase has never been repainted as any version of the GI Joe Grunman, the Conquest either! Sort it out Hasbro, cash left in GI Joe and Transformer fans wallets!) Putting the two toys next to each other I can see that Viper's blue, used on parts that were red on Powerglide, is significantly darker than Dogfight's though. Viper's grey, also grey on Powerglide, is now a pale Energon blue but interestingly the forearms and hands are now cast in the dark blue plastic. The head, chest and tail fins are all painted pale blue with the visor in a third blue and the faceplate in red. He comes with an Adventures sticker on his chest but, as with all the more Generations inclined Adventures toys I removed it as soon as I got the toy. This one was slightly more adhesive than most and I'm almost regretting takingit off as his chest is now an acre of pale blue without it! The wings have some silver & red stripes on them with an Autobot symbole on top of those.

It's a nice toy, my fourth Powerglide, but only the colours really says Dogfight to me.


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,

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Unite Warriors Blast Off


Unite Warriors Blast Off

I've always had a little trouble with Blast Off being a Space Shuttle. For a start Space Shuttles are all white & black, and Blast Of, being green, isn't although his Generation 2 Version nearly is. Then, despite a number of List of Space Shuttle missions flown for the military I don't see the Space Shuttle as a military vehicle and think a plane would be more appropriate in a combat team. So when Blast Off became a plane in Combiner Wars I wasn't too bothered and still think it's the best of the four substitutions in Combiner Wars.

However Blast Off has prior to that point usually been a shuttle so when Unite Bruticus was teased with a shuttle looking arm I was quite pleased. A leaked catalogue image appeared on 20th January followed by a magazine reveal later that day. Grey prototypes were shown at a Japanese toyfair on Feb 7th and all looked good so far. A small colour publicity photo at the toyfair provided the first hint of trouble confirmed by clear colour images of the combiner and a clear single image of Blast Off: he was the wrong colour! Blast Off has always been a sort of greeny brown colour. He's never been a sandy brown like what was used here, not even in the cartoon which is Takara's main inspiration for their colouring choices and has led to some of their more "interesting" choice. The colour choice is a mystery and we may never know quite why they went for such an odd choice. But until Hasbro does one in different colours Unite Blast Off is the only game in town for a Combiner Wars space shuttle so we're stuck with it in these colours.

In shuttle mode the sandy brown is used for the engine flaps, tail fin, trailing edge of the wings, top of the shuttle, tip of the nose and the robot's arms, which lie on top of the wings. The arms look a little odd here by since they end in a nozzle I can imagine they are some form of Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Booster. There's a hint these may not be attached the way they were originally designed as the wings have a notch in the top surface which perfectly matches the elbow hinge, which points up instead of down.

Most of the rest of the shuttle is a very dark brown, nearly black, save for some animation inspired purple on the nose, around where the passenger compartment would be. The shuttle mode is nearly complete out the box, all you need to do is peg the gun in under the nose, pointing to the rear, whose rounded detail provides a front landing rear to compliment the two towards the rear. The rest of the underside shows the typical combiner wars robot chest with fold out connector, which itself has an additional landing gear moulded onto it, with the rear looking like the legs pushed together. Each of the wings has a five mm peg hole in the underside and there's another pair of 5mm peg sockets, each set to either side of the combiner connector. Unfortunately there's no 5mm peg hole in the middle of the underside so he can't ride his hand foot gun which, with a blocky central core and two more pointed barrels to the sides, looks like a small stylised version of the Space Shuttle external tank and solid rocket boosters normally found under the shuttle at take off.

Turning the right way up the shuttle looks like a flattened version of the typical shuttle design, which is confirmed when you look at the rear: there's two main engines next to each other instead of the traditional three in a triangle formation. Both of the main engines and the two arms/rocket boosters end in a nozzle which is a 5mm peg hole. An upward facing 5mm peg hole is found on the rear of each of the solid rocket booster arms and another is in roughly the exact centre of the toy's roof. The roof was detail on it for the cockpit windows, with three odd nozzles behind it, but there's no cargo bay door detailing. Given the mix of three colours highlighting how the shuttle fits together there's an odd patchwork/jigsaw puzzle quality to it which wouldn't be so obvious if both the sandy brown and dark brown/black were the same green colour.

Transformation: remove the gun and set aside for now. Fold the shuttle nose & forward section of shuttle's roof back, noting the pegs on the rear of the nose that fit into slots on the shoulders. Spread the sides of the rear of the nose out, folding the shuttle nose back into it with a double joint ensuring the nose points in the right direction. Fold the compacted nose down onto the top of the shuttle to form the robot's chest.

At least that's what should happen. Unfortunately the nose is an "interesting" piece of design that doesn't hold together that well during movement. While transforming it the front of the nose, sides of the nose and head & neck under the nose all fell off and needed re-attaching!

If necessary turn the head round. Lift the arms out to the sides, folding the shoulders into place at the body then fold the arms back down at the shoulder's ball joints. Separate the rear of the shuttle in two down the middle, the tail fin will split in two with this action, and fold down via a knee/mid lower leg joint to expose the upper legs. Swing the engines down to form the feet. Fold the wings in. Rotate at the waist. Place the gun in his hand.

Blast Off's robot mode looks very odd compared to the other Combiner Wars deluxes. The designers have attempted to build Blast off's cartoon style chest from shuttle's nose, including the three nozzles along the top, and,it's not really worked resulting in something that looks far too big. It also makes him the only combiner wars deluxe without the combiner connector on his chest - if they've allowed that here then why not for Prowl & Mirage who both would have looked so much better with their car fronts on their chests? The feet look odd too, each formed from a main shuttle engine, but I always had that problem with the cartoon design.

Articulation is pretty standard for a Combiner Wars deluxe: ball jointed head & shoulders, bicep joint, bending elbow, rotating waist, ball jointed hips, thigh swivels and bending knees. The hands are worth drawing attention to: they have the traditional 5mm hole for putting a weapons handle into but, like Combiner Wars Trailbreaker and Rook, he has front facing holes as well enabling each hand to use two weapons at once. I think this is the first toy I can remember with this feature. Another pair of sockets can be found on the underside of the forearm which means you can have up to 3 weapons on each arm!

Since the feet are made from the shuttle's main engines and they have a 5mm peg hole at the core you can plug weapons into them too even though it does look ever so slightly silly!

The holes on the underside of the wings, now on the sides of the legs, and either side of the combiner connector, now on his back, make more useful connection points. The one from the top of the shuttle is now on the underside of his chest blot and all but inaccessible. Two more 5mm holes can be found on the back of the lower legs if you remove the tail fin halves. By my reckoning that makes SIXTEEN accessible 5mm holes in this mode plus a seventeenth that isn't.

Let's return to the matter of the notches in the wings. If we pop the arms off and swap them in shuttle mode we find that the elbows do indeed fit into the grooves. Transforming to robot mode then forces what was the robot's back, with the more combiner connector facing, to become the robot's chest. The rotating waist makes sure the legs face the right way producing a plainer, more traditional Combiner Wars chest. It looks a little odd in these colours but replace the colours with the traditional greeny brown and slap some purple paint on the chest surrounding the connector and it would look perfect.

In fact I'm pretty certain I prefer this to the out the box robot mode configuration. Yes I know this chest configuration is used on his remould Unite Warriors Strafe but that doesn't explain quite how the shuttle wings, which aren't reused on Strafe, have the notch for the elbows. I believe that Blast Off is designed to have the more traditional toy chest appearance, possibly for a potential Hasbro release which hasn't happened yet.

Blast Off also serves as a Combiner Wars limb. His leg mode is formed by taking the shuttle mode, folding the nose onto the back but not compacting it & folding the head into it. The combiner connector folds out, the lower arms are folded alongside the upper arms and tabbed into hold them together. The wings are folded in and the engines are folded back, as per the robot feet. Peg the Hand Foot Gun into the base of the shuttle.

Pretty standard leg mode with Blast Off providing a bending knee, thigh swivel and ankle swivel to the completed combiner.

Blast Off is more frequently found combined in arm mode. This is essentially the robot mode, with the legs pressed together, the head hidden in the folded back shuttle nose and the arms doubled up and folded out the way, both as per leg mode.

Again Blast Off makes the standard articulation contribution with the connector providing a turning shoulder and the ability to raise the arm to the side, the waist becoming a bicep swivel, hips & knees providing elbow articulation and the Hand Foot Gun Connector a wrist swivel. Unfortunately the two main engines project out somewhat and can hit the side of the toy.

This toy isn't perfect by a long way. It's three major issues involve how the nose/head hold together when transforming, how the default chest looks and the toy's colour. The chest is fixable with the alternate robot mode configuration, the other two you have to live with ..... for now.

Blast Off was released as part of Unite Warriors UW-07 Bruticus. As yet there has been no single carded Hasbro version.


Future Repaints

To quote Dire Straits: That ain't working, That's the way to do it! Daim Choc reposts a custom painted Blast Off on Facebook with a much more traditional colour scheme that looks a lot better. HASBRO, make this toy!

Friday, 5 August 2016

Titans Return Fortress Maximus Master Sword


Metroplex is jealous of Brave Max's Matrix Blade:

But the postman has bought him a present to play with:

His own (for now*) Master Sword!

"Have at thee Brave Maximus!"

* Should I tell him it's for Titan's Max if the Legends version doesn't have one?

Fortress Maximus Sword

I don't really associate Fortress Maximus with a sword, if I think of Max and a weapon it's more his big gun that comes to mind. The sword is primarily associated with the Japanese version of Max and his repaint Grand Maximus, but not Brave Maximus: he gets stripped of all his weapons and they can only been found on the lucky draw/campaign version. However the sword itself is repurposed into the Matrix Blade used by God Fire Convoy. I have a knock off version of the Brave Maximus/God Fire Convoy sword in my collection, indeed all my Brave Max weapons are knock offs and the guns are in fact the wrong colour: Mine are the blue Fortress versions and not black like Brave's should be (but everyone thinks should be red to match the leg cannons!)

The first hint at a Titans Return Fortress Maximus sword came with the first leaked image of the toy which people quickly interpreted to mean that the regular version of Titans Max WOULDN'T have a sword but there would be as San Diego Comic Con version, like SDCC 2013 Metroplex, packed with an extra the regular release didn't get. In Metroplex's case one of the main draws was a second hand gun, carried over to the Japanese TG-23 Metroplex, so it was of no surprise to see Legends LG-31 Fortress Maximusteased with extra swords.

Four days after the SDCC 2016 Fortress Maximus with sword was officially revealed story takes a twist and leads to the toy I have in hand here. News broke that Hong Kong Toys ‘R Us were offering a limited sword to the first 100 preorders an offer subsequently emulated by Taiwan TRU's mailaway offer.

My copy came from Kapow Toys, bought when I started to have doubts about if the Japanese version will have a sword. The mail away master sword is mainly constructed from clear orangey red transparent plastic with a back plastic handle and edging producing a weapon that looks very similar to the original Master Sword but with the added bonus of being clear plastic which nicely caches the light.

The entire sword is 45.5 cm long, a little shorter than the knock off Master Sword I own.

The handle has two 2.3 cm long plastic struts along each side of the handle which are designed to lock onto rectangular gap on the inside of the hand of Titans Return Fortress Maximus or his related toy Generations Metroplex.

A quick experiment suggests that maybe the gap between the struts works better around the outer of the longer edge of the slot in the palm of the hand rather than both struts inserted into the slot. Your mileage may vary on this matter. The struts force the sword to be held side on, perhaps two more pairs at right angles would have been useful to allow a face on grip on the sword. The sword itself splits into smaller units. Just over half the total length, 23cm from handle end to sword tip removes to become a large sword for your Voyager & Leader figures. A second separation allows you to remove the tip of that sword to form an 11.5cm sword for Deluxe figures and Cerebros. The swords connect together by having the handle on the upper portion slide into an open sided tube on the lower portion with tabs and slots holding it in place. There's a significant tab on the base of the handle of the two smaller swords that passes through the open side of the tube the handle sits in. It's forcing the sword to be assembled the correct way round but does mean the two smaller swords can't be held by a toy with a closed fist which is a considerable shame. My only thought is that it's to prevent them being stuck upright in 5mm peg holes, like on Metroplex & Max's arms, and being snapped off.

I like this as an add on for Max, but the missing large gun is more a problem for me. I'm not 100% sure it's worth what I paid for it though! But I've bought it now, so that should ensure there's one packed in with the Legends version!


SDCC 2016 Fortreass Maximus Sword

We return to the SDCC Fortress Maximus, who was revealed before the Asia Exclusive sword, but in hand a little bit later. The Asia exclusive sword is recast in solid red plastic. The amount of black is reduced back to the handle and the very base of the blade.

Given the choice between the two I much prefer the clear Asia exclusive version.

This sword was only available with the limited edition SDCC version of Fortress Maximus which was later sold through Hasbro toyshop and other conventions worldwide.