Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Generations Power of the Primes Slash

Generations Power of the Primes Slash

There have been several attempts to add new characters and dinosaur forms to Transformers Holy Quintet of Dinobots Grimlock (Tyrannosaurus Rex), Slag (Triceratops), Sludge (Brachiosaurus), Snarl (Stegosaurus) and Swoop Pteranodon. Notable additions are found in Beast Machines, RiD/Armada, Power Core Combiners and Age of Extinction.

However in the Classics/Genertions line there's only been one real Dinobot previously, the 2006 Classics Grimlock toy. 11 years later all the Dinobots are being redone and they've got a new friend, the female Velociraptor Slash.

Slash's robot mode has got the Dinobot look of silver, black and red dead on but something doesn't feel right: the figure is far too slight for a Legends class toy with a thin body and limbs that feel more like an old Best Wars basic. This is most obvious in the hands, a thin strip of plastic round what looks like a huge 5mm hole. They look oversized and I'm worried that a few years down the line we'll see quite a few of these broken.

Articulation: ball joints at hips & shoulders. Bending knees & elbows. A turning head. Thigh swivels, which are used mainly for the Transformation. I'm wondering why we don't see ball joints at the elbows and knees, would have saved the need for those thigh swivels.

Transformation: fold the tail up off her back over her head. Swing each thigh round 180° then Tab the lower legs together. Bend both knee & hip forward 90° bringing the legs up over the chest where they tab in place. Fold the robot feet back. Bend the arms 90° at the elbow then swing each arm forward about 45°. Fold the dino feet out under the hands. Open the flap on her back folding out the dino head nd bringing the dino arms forward with it. Position both and close the hatch on her back.

No real complaints here about the dinosaur mode: it's a velociraptor done in the original Dinobot style. The small arms move up & down at the shoulder, the mouth opens and the head leans back as well as the arm articulation for the robot being carried over to the dinosaur legs.

My problem here is the Titanmaster compatibility: the Titanmaster is supposed to sit in the compartment on her back the dinosaur head is stored in during robot mode. The problem is it's not long enough to accommodate a Titanmaster with it's legs bent at the hips and stretched out in front. To seat a Titanmaster in there and secure it's ankle spur you need to bend the knees forward and keep the hips straight which looks wrong. There's no footpegs in the compartment so standing the Titanmaster in there isn't an option and it's difficult to seat it naturally on the back of the dinosaur with the legs inside the compartment.

It's nice but you feel she could do with being a bit bigger and bulkier. It almost feels downsized from a normal Legend by 10%-20% to make it clear she is a she rather than a he. Slightly larger would make her feel more appropriate for her size class and fix the problem with the Titanmaster not being able to sit in her properly.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Generations Power of the Primes Leader Optimus Prime

Power of the Primes Leader Optimus Prime

There's not been a Leader Class original Optimus Prime toy in Generations before: the cab only Classics, Combiner Wars & Titans Return toys were all Voyagers while the Classics 2 Pack, Reveal The Shield and Thrilling 30 Orion Pax were deluxe. The only Optimus with a trailer in the Generations line is Titans Return Powermaster Optimus Prime, clearly modelled on the original 1988 Powermaster Optimus Prime but missing the original's cab turns into a robot gimmick going straight from cab & trailer to Super Robot. This irked some people at the time and has led to at least one third party solution.

Straight out the box Optimus Prime is a leader sized version of the familiar 1984 robot. But even here there's bits that don't feel right: grey panels on the outer side of the arms and legs mar the appearance and indeed turning the toy side and to the rear on you discover he's nearly entirely grey on the side & reverse of the arms & legs as Adam@16bit.com's photos show. So straight off the bat this is a toy whose robot can only really be front on. The arms are especially annoying as there's a grey portion on the upper arm above the shoulder joint. Worse still the fists are grey: they've always been the same colour as the legs, usually a variant on blue, for 1984 Optimus Primes. The fists are grey because they're part of the lower arms which are painted red on the exposed surfaces: why not make them a separate piece in blue, on the same sprue as the legs & head and in the bargain give us a rotating wrist, sadly missing on this toy?

Articulation: ball jointed head, rotating shoulders that raise out & up to the sides, bicep swivels, bending elbows, universal hip joints with high thigh swivel beneath them, bending knees and ankles that bend forward at the bottom of the leg and forward, back & to the sides at the foot. As well as the lack of wrist swivels there no waist swivel either.

Optimus has two accessories: his gun and a matrix.

The gun is nice, possibly my favourite bit of the toy. Looks a lot like the original Optimus gun with an extra 5mm handle half way down. The barrel is a 5mm hole so you can plug extra weapons into the end and there's a pair of 5mm holes either side of the rear of the gun. It can be held in his hands or plugged into 5mm ports on the outside of his forearms. Personally I'd have put these on his upper arms so the super robot could use the Powermaster shoulder cannons!

The matrix is modelled after the movie matrix with a silver surround that unfortunately he can't hold, and a clear blue core, painted orange over the outside that glows when held up to the light. The core has the same proportions as as a Titanmaster head, Primemaster or Combination enigma so lots of odd swapping can be achieved as shown in these tweets: one, two & three. The Matrix fits into Prime's chest: open his cab windows and you find underneath..... another set of cab windows? Right ..... Open those too and there's a slot in there for the matrix. Manoeuvring it in is somewhat tricky though and is somewhat easier when the cab is removed and in vehicle mode without the second set of cab doors and rim of the body obscuring it.

Prime's cab is released by pushing down on a button on the rear of his waist and pulling the cab out. Once removed it's obvious that the cab has it's own arms and the blue flatbed forming the rear of the body is also a pair of legs: Leader Optimus Prime has Powermaster Optimus Prime's power up gimmick. Fold the legs down off the back of the cab: they're tabbed into the sides of the yellow rectangle. This reveals the smaller robot's chest. Rotate each leg 180° at the thigh and fold the feet out. Fold the chest down, fold the super robot head in and fold the smaller robot head out. Fold the chest back and fold the head onto the body. Unfold the arms and fold the hands out. Pull the gun apart and place one in each hand.

Oh dear, it's Orion Pax, Optimus' form pre Optimus Prime as seen in the Transformers Cartoon episode War Dawn. Cards on the table: I'm a Marvel Comics fan, in particular the UK version, where there's no Orion Pax so I'm not particularly fond of this aspect of the character. But Cartoon fans are equally entitled to their toys as are Comics fans, more so as it's arguably better known in most markets, so I'm not opposed to Orion Pax toys existing. I can see what they're getting at here: Orion Pax is remade in the cartoon to become Optimus Prime, in a similar way to how Hot Rod becomes Rodimus Prime or Megatron becomes Galvatron. But I'm not really liking the figure. They've done his curved form some justice here but that's going to cause trouble in a minute. Articulation isn't bad: head leans forward & back and turns, but isn't ball jointed. Arms are ball jointed at shoulders and bend double at the elbows. Ball jointed hips, thigh swivels and bending knees.

I think one of my big problems with this mode is the rest of the super robot, the vehicle's trailer, just sits there doing nothing. No base mode, no weapons platform, it's either the trailer or the empty chested super robot. Titans Return Powermaster Prime might have had a poor base mode but at least he had one!

Orion Pax becomes the cab of the vehicle mode. Unhitch the head from the body and fold it and the chest forward. Fold the arms up at both elbow joints and fold the fists in. Swing each arm back 180° at the bicep and fold the arms over where Orion Pax's chest was. Fold the feet down under the legs, turn each leg in 90° at the thigh swivel and tab the bottom of each leg together. Fold the super robot fake chest halves out to the sides and back to form the sides of the vehicle with the window parts then folding down to become the lower sides with their attached wheels.

From the front, great, and as I've hinted it's much easier with less obstruction to get the matrix in and out in this mode. From the sides and the back, a complete mess with the arms and Orion Pax chest & head hanging out the back of the cab. It feels like no effort has been made to conceal them. There's some indication the forearms for Orion Pax should tab onto the back of the chest: slots on the forearms match tabs on the back of the chest. However this does nothing to improve the look of the vehicle. Hopefully the trailer will:

Start by folding the exhaust pipes back into his shoulders.

Fold the knees forward about 20° and the hips back by about the same amount. Fold each foot forward 90° at the top ankle joint and back 90° at the rear ankle joint. Fold the sides & rear of the legs, made up of grey panels, out to the sides of the leg. At the first joint fold that up 90° so the second third of the folded up panel is level with the first. The third third is pointing down: fold the side of that forward 180° then fold the entire panel towards you 180°. Then fold the entire panel assembly forward & in 90°, meeting over the front of the legs to form the roof of the trailer.

Raise each arm up 180° to the sides: there's a grey flap at the top of the shoulder that will lift up to allow you to do this. Rotate each shoulder 180° so the grey rear of the shoulder and the truck strip panels faces forward. Fold the bottom of the truck strip panel down to cover the hands. Raise each arm 90° out to the sides and fold out a panel from the side of the arms to sit along the side of the fist. Fold the panel on the bottom of the arm down 90° so it's flush with the panels on th side of the arms. Fold the body panels the shoulders are connected to forward 90°: the arms now point forwards. Fold the arms down to the sides as best you can before folding the body shoulder panels in a further 90° so the shoulders are in front of the chest. Tab the panels folded out from the rear & sides of the arms, now both on the sides of the vehicle, into slots on the panels from the legs. Peg the gun halves into the roof. Fold down the trailer hitch from the front of the vehicle and hook into the back of Orion Pax's head.

That was a nightmare. A whole load of panels that need to be folded in the right order or you'll stress something trying to do the next step. But was it worth it? In one word: no!

To be fair the basics of the trailer is right with the silver sides complete with stripes and Autobot symbols. But there's far far too much red on the front, the top of the super robot's chest, and the top, the front of the robot's arms. This last part is particularly vexing as the robot's arms were spoiled by having trailer panels hanging off two sides of them and now the trailer is spoilt by the arms being exposed. Neither mode is right, compromised by the other. The original Powermaster Optimus Prime had the super robot arms exposed at the front of the trailer but that kind of word, more so on the Japanese version with the retracted fists. Functionally it's poor as well. There's holes in the rear of the roof showing a compartment inside but the trailer door, formed from the super robot feet, don't want to fold down to form a ramp and when you do get them open what looks like a big space is irritatingly too small to get a Legends sized car in. Trailer does have a pair of 5mm holes on the roof, for mounting guns on, and four Titanmaster pegs.

This toy is a mess. It works if you want a large Optimus to look at front on or possibly an Orion Pax. The Pax compromises the vehicle's cab and the super robot and trailer compromise each other. The grey on the super robot arms stands out a mile and the grey fists is unforgivable on a toy of this size.

Effectively this is half of the gimmick they didn't stick in Titans Return Powermaster Prime done with a 1984 Optimus Prime and it hasn't worked at all. It almost feels like Powermaster Prime has been split between two toys, one in Titans Return and one in Power of the Primes with neither quite working properly.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Generations Power of the Primes Beachcomber

Generations Power of the Primes Beachcomber

The original Beachcomber was a 1985 Mini Autobot alongside Cosmos, Powerglide, Seaspray & Warpath. All 5 have a slight mystery to them they're the only 1985 toys that don't seem to be sourced from a previous toyline. Beachcomber stands apart from the rest as he's the only one that fits the Autobot car pattern established in 1984. When I first saw these I question what some of them, notably Warpath's Tank and Powerglide's plane, were doing amongst the Autobots.

Beachcomber's most recent remake was as a 2008 Universe 2 Legend which was generally held to be OK, but since then all four of his colleagues have been done, to varying degrees of success Combiner Wars Warpath I'm looking at you, in the larger Legends size which has been running since 2013. So Beachcomber was very due for an update.

Robot mode looks fab, just like a chunkier version of his original toy, more in line with his comic & cartoon depiction. My only real nitpick is the hands which are inexplicably painted grey. If they'd have left them moulded in blue plastic they'd have been fine!

Articulation: ball jointed shoulders, elbows & hips, bending knees and a turning head. Top stuff.

Transformation: Slide the body up round the head. Straighten the arms and tab into the sides of the body. Fold the heel spurs down under the feet and tab them & the lower legs together. Fold the lower legs back 180° at the knee, pegging the front of the roll cage into the rear.

As a replica of the original Beachcomber's vehicle mode, job done. No complaints.

My problems come when I try to get it to interact with the Primemasters.

Most Transformers Legends cars, bar Brawn, need an element of Transformation to get the driver in. I was somewhat expecting Beachcomber to beat it, thanks to the open driver's compartment. No. If it were the Titanmaster/Primemaster by itself then you could probably get the figure in. Unfortunately his backpack, his face/Prime symbol catches on the bars of the roll cage meaning you have to open it up to get the figure in. Annoying. Then on the back of the vehicle there's a 3mm peg. Presumably this is for mounting the weapon from a Primemaster's Decoy Suit. Unfortunately it can only face backwards! Beachcomber bares a startling resemblance to GI Joe's Awe Striker and they'll be several fans who'll be wanting to properly recreate that with guns projecting forward over the roll cage. Fortunately I have the Diaclone Reboot Powered Suit Dart Loader & Gyroseptor add ons, which both contain the necessary parts to build a 3mm socket riser!

Top stuff as a stand alone toy,

Future Repaints

Beachcomber's Generation 2 repaint is an obvious choice as is the previous Legends' Sandstorm redeco and the Energon Voyager original colour scheme found on Energon Cliffjumper.

I'm sure GI Joe fans won't say no to an Awe Striker repaint to go with 2015's Viper.

Generations Power of the Primes Windcharger

Generations Power of the Primes Windcharger

Windcharger started life as a Microchange MC04 Mini CAR Robo 06 Trans Am and I've been rather fond of him ever since I acquired my first one, a Joustra Trans Am - see TF1.com for more on Joustra Transformers - from a pop up shop in Kingston in 1986 alongside his fellow minibot Gears. He's appeared more regularly the last few years than most Transformer characters outside of the big names: in 2011 he was a Reveal The Shield basic: this was during Generations "redesign the classics" phase so although he has the right legs his chest is a "fold the car front over the head" job. He's the only minibot done in that size, although which was cancelled just after depriving western fans of the new Demolition Rumble and a couple of repaints, Downshift & Bodyblock. In 2015 Windcharger turned up again as a Combiner Wars Legend repaint of the previous year's Tailgate. The chest is better this time but because Tailgate is modelled on his More than Meets the Eye design, the distinctive legs are now wrong! So you could argue that Windcharger was a Minibot who needed a redo, though perhaps not ahead of Huffer, Pipes & Cliffjumper who've only had one modern Legends sized version so far.

In robot mode the new Windcharger feels a bit of a chunky chap which doesn't rally suit him. Everything is the right colour in the right place, but the proportions are a bit off, too wide arms, too short upper legs, too small a head. The head looks very odd and I think that's down to it missing the rim that's generally surrounding the tops & sides of the face. The head is also set a little bit too far back and once you get high enough to see how far back it is a lot of space between the back and front of the toy is revealed.

Articulation: head turns. Shoulders raise at the body and are ball jointed at the arms. also ball jointed are the elbows & hips and the knees bend. 5mm fist holes, which look too large for him, enable him to hold weapons but the Prime Master Decoy Suits in weapons mode are way, way too big for him.

Transformation: Straighten the arms to the sides. Pull the back panel out of where it's tabbed into his backside. There's two hinges where the neck meets the body: in robot mode the body side is bent and the neck side straight. You want to reverse that by straightening the body hinge and bending the neck hinge, raising the neck up but bringing the head closer the front of the body. Fold the back panel, the car front, up over the head. Swing the top of the arms up, under the bonnet, bringing the arms into the sides of the vehicle. Unfold the heel spurs under the foot to become the car roof & windscreen then swing the lower legs back 180° at the knee to become the rear of the car allowing you to tab the front window into place.

This last step is an ideal point to sit a Titanmaster or Primemaster in the car's driving seat because you'll need to fold back the top of the car to do it later, a bit like how the same feature was accessed on Titans Return Bumblebee. Slightly annoying. Among the Titanmaster compatible Minibots Brawn is still the winner for ease of accessibility for a minifigure driver.

Windcharger's car mode looks decent enough. A little high off the ground, maybe, and yes you can see the chest hanging down under the car from the side, but you could put that down to the car's undercarriage hanging low. I can get the smoked clear panels in the roof are meant to be evoking sunroof but the odd design, with a rim only halfway down he door side, is distracting me. Those pieces might have been better in solid red plastic.

The most cartoon accurate Windcharger yet. Nothing really wrong with it at all and it's only a few subtle tweaks that would make it any better.

Future Repaints

Windcharger returns the favour done to his previous version by producing the as yet officially unrevealed Tailgate in Power of the Primes Legends Wave 2.

Friday, 15 December 2017

Generations Power of the Primes Prime Masters Vector Prime with Metalhawk, Micronus with Cloudburst & Liege Maximo with Skullgrin

The Prime Master size is the successor to Titans Returns Titanmaster. Both sizes use identical figures, down to footpeg holes, ankle spur, articulation, size and transformation. Gone is the Head on their back, replaced by one of the symbols of the twelve Primes, which leads us to believe there will be twelve Prime Masters. The Prime Masters bear the names of the Prime whose symbol is on their backs. The Prime Masters have replaced the chest screw with a pin which makes customising them much harder: several were intending to replace the Prime symbols with the faces of the Pretender robots that their Decoy Suit represented.

The Transforming accessory is now replaced by a Decoy Suit, about 5cm high x 3.5cm wide x 1.5cm deep, based on the shell of a 1988/1989 Pretenders Character. This opens up, via a hinge on the feet, to accommodate a Prime Master inside. Since Prime Masters & Titan Masters are the same size your old Titan Masters can also fit inside the Pretender Shell. The shell has holes in it's feet the same size as the Titanmaster footpeg holes, but the spacing varies from toy to toy. The shell's arms are articulated at the shoulders allowing them to raise. The hands are a 3mm peg hole which it can use to hold it's weapon. The weapon can also be attached to the Pretender's back via studs on the side of the weapon which fit dimples either side of a gap on the back. The gap size varies between the different shells so a shell can only store it's own weapon like this. The Pretender shell itself can transform into a weapon: the weapon on the back folds up so it's pointing out from the head and a 5mm handle folds out between the shell's feet enabling it to be held with the plainer back of the Pretender shell facing up. The transformed Prime Master can attach to the top of the weapon via two footpegs, forming a cube that powers the weapon, or the Prime Master can sit in it and act as a gunner. The weapons are perhaps a little large for a deluxe, suiting the Voyager and Leaders toys better.

There is something of a discontinuity having a different character inside the shell instead of who the shell originally belongs to!

Vector Prime with Metalhawk

Metalhawk is probably the most popular Pretender behind Thunderwing & Bludgeon, who both did stints as Decepticon Leader in the Marvel Comics. Thunderwing's popularity though is more based on infamy than anything else: he was a Japanese exclusive and the last original Transformer to feature die cast metal. In recent years he's been used by IDW in the Robots in Disguise comics and been released as a 2012 Botcon exclusive and another exclusive in Titans Return. We'll have some fun with this last toy later.

The Decoy Suit is a near perfect reproduction of the original Metalhawk's Pretender shell with the proportions slightly altered to fit the standard Prime Master size. The body is moulded in dark grey plastic with the arms & front of the suit in blue plastic, with generous paint applications to the front of the suit. He comes with a large silver cannon for him to hold. The Metalhawk decoy suit has no face, just a gap through which you can see the Primemaster looking out. Opening the shell reveals the Vector Prime Primemaster who is blue with a grey chest & lower legs and a painted silver face, which gives it a very different look to the original Metalhawk's inner robot and previous versions of Vector Prime.

The weapons mode essentially looks like and old Targetmaster gun, with a dark grey main body, blue arms to the sides and silver gun barrel.

This one has attraction just because it's Metalhawk. Unsurprised to see it repeated in the second wave. Works well for me.

Micronus with Cloudburst

Cloudburst was the flying Autobot Pretender in the wave of 1988 Pretenders distributed to the US and the UK and was also available for retail sale in Japan. His Decoy suit version has a grey body and red arms & front. Like Metalhawk he has a gap instead of a face for the Titanmaster to see out of but the gimmick doesn't work nearly as well here because the slot is smaller and positioned higher so all you can see is the Prime Master's forehead! He comes with a dual Gatling gun weapon.

Opening the suit reveal the red Micronus Primemaster, who has grey lower legs and chest, with a painted blue face. Thh grey and red may be moved round a bit but he looks much more like the Cloudburst inner robot than Vector Prime in Metalhawk does.

Thje weapons mode is proper 90s big gun madness and again feels very Targetmastery.

Another success. Cloudburst/Micronus is only packed 2 per case in wave 1, compared to the others 3 per case, and unlike them he doesn't return in Wave 2 either!

Liege Maximo with Skullgrin

Behind Metalhawk, Thunderwing & Bludgeon, Skullgrin probably counts as the most popular of the rest thanks to his distinctive appearance and starring role in a comics episode. The shell is a good rendition of him, but I worry for the longevity of the horns made out of hard plastic. Unlike the Autobot Decoy Suits there's no hole for a face, instead a series of smaller holes for eyes, mouth and oddly the side of the waist. His body is a much paler grey than the Autobots, with purple arms and chest which is again heavily painted. Since Liege Maximo is generally depicted as having horns in his comics appearances you can see why they chose Skullgrin to be his Decoy Suit!

The purple Liege Maximo Primemaster, with grey lower legs & chest, is probably the closest to the original inner robot of the Wave 1 Decoy suits thanks to some grey paint on the heads helmet and some moulded detail including tank tracks on the legs which makes him look just like Skullgrin's robot!

The point this toy falls down is the weaopon, a 3 pronged bent fork/claw. It looks odd hand held and odd attached to the shell in weapons mode. What little we can see so far suggests the Decepticon Primemaster Decoy suits turn into melee weapons and the Autibot Decoy Suits into guns but on the evidnce here the Autobots got the better deal.

Shame about the weapon, the rest is great!

Legends Grand Maximus

Grand Maximus is a Japanese repaint of Fortress Maximus that comes with an extra Pretender shell for the larger head robot, Grand. When Takara announced they were to recolour Titans Return Fortress Maximus as Legends Grand Maximus there were conditions: The first was it needed to reach 2000 preorders at TakaraTomyMall to get made. The second was that if it passed 3000 preorders then an additional Primemaster Decoy Suit would be included for Grand Maximus's smaller Headmaster, Gran, to use. These targets needed to be reached by midday on November 2nd 2017. Pictures of the toy showed us the Decoy Suit was superficially a recolour of Cloudburst, with the twin Gatling guns and clear green arms & suit front. Close examination of the details on the suit revealed that it was actually a repaint of an as yet unrevealed Waverider remould of Cloudburst:


On 27th October 2017 Takara announced the 2000 unit limit has been passed. However on 2nd November Takara announced that Grand Maximus had not reached the 3000 order level and thus the Decoy Suit for Gran was cancelled.

I'm not convinced that this is the end for the Gran decoy suit and suspect it may show up as a convention exclusive down the line. If anything Gran's suit has confirmed to us that a Waverider Prime Master is in the works.

Generations Power of the Primes Jazz

Generations Power of the Primes Jazz

First there was the repaint: paint a Transformer toy in a different colour.

Then there was the remould: change some of the parts so the toy looks different.

As time has gone on the remould has got so extensive that the number of parts changed or replaced vastly outnumber the parts kept and it gets hard to see what's been reused. The Titans Return Blurr/Chromedome and Scourge/Highbrow/Windblade are excellent examples.

And now we have the case of Combiner Wars Dragstrip and Power of the Primes Jazz which takes it to another level again.

Combiner Wars Dragstrip only got two repaints in Combiner Wars, and he's the only Hasbro originated toy in Combiner Wars without a remould/retool so he rather stood out as everything else was reused and turned into something else. When Power of the Primes Jazz was unveiled at SDCC 2017 it took some while for people to notice he had reused parts from Dragstrip. Not many parts, just the Combiner Wars connector in his chest, with the ridges on the corners, and the wheels, larger at the back than the front, but nevertheless they are the same parts from Dragstrip. It's almost as if there was an acknowledgement when they designed Dragstrip that reusing it was going to be hard so they made these parts separate so they could be reused, and on Dragstrip they are obviously different colours to the rest of the toy. This is nearly at the stage where X is using Y's gun or A has B's Titanmaster head!

But apart from those parts Jazz is all new.

Part of the reason it took so long to spot the similarities is that Jazz is quite a departure for Combiner Wars style cars: his car bonnet folds over onto his chest! None of the other Autobots done in Combiner Wars who had this feature on their original version, like Prowl or Smokescreen, could mimic that on their Combiner Wars toy to the detriment of those figures.

I think the most important thing to remember when looking at this figure is that he isn't Reveal The Shield Jazz and he isn't trying to do the same thing. RTS Jazz was manufactured as an upgraded articulation version of the original Jazz and is generally thought to be he best Generations Transformers toy. Power of the Primes Jazz is being manufactured to be a Jazz that combines so there's slightly different priorities here. But nonetheless the comparison is inevitable. Putting the two next to each other reveals POTP Jazz is slightly shorter, but only slightly: I had it in my head that RTS Jazz would tower over him as memory says it's one of the largest deluxes. The other most obvious difference between the two is that POTP Jazz has no door wings. A couple of minor colour quibbles: I'd have moulded the hands and waist in black instead of white: the waist at least has it's front painted but it would have looked better solidly black. Going back to the SDCC pictures to see if these were originally black - a few years ago Combiner Wars Wheeljack changed significantly between SDCC 2015 and his release I see that they were the same there, but note the Combiner Wars connector has changed from silver, like Dragstrip's, to white, which blends in more in the small gap in the car bonnet chest. In fact it blends in so well you don't really notice the gap.

Articulation: Head turns, shoulders raise to the sides at the body and also turn, ball jointed elbows - hurrah! Easy way to save on parts and still get a bicep swivel plus they're easy to fix, turning waist, ball jointed hips, thigh swivel & bending knee.

Weapons: Jazz come with a gun which kind of resembles his original shoulder cannon and missile. Sadly there's no peg holes to mount it on his shoulder but, in addition to his hands obviously, he has one on the side of each forearm, one on his bottom and one either side on the rear of his waist. His second "weapon" is his Prime Armour, a big black lump superficially looking the same as the one the Dinobots use. However the moulding is different here: gone are the knuckle spikes replaced with the tops of two large barrels. This improves it's usefulness as a weapon and also looks good as a jet pack, though mounted low on his bottom it looks a little odd. It would have been better mounted higher up the back where as a bonus you could have used the thumbs as shoulder mounts for the gun. I've seen it resting there, but the connection isn't solid. The official connection isn't too great either: the tabs on the thumbs, used for holding the armour on Swoop, peg into slots on the car front in the grilled inserts bellow the headlights. As per the other Prime Armours the cover, clear again here like the Dinobots, is removable as a square hand gun. Another connection that could be better is that between the body and the front of the car: if it's lined up right it's fine but it can be a bit tricky to line up ok.

Transformation: Remove the weapons, straighten the arms to the sides and fold the chest back 90°: You can see the slots either side of connector on the top of the body that tabs under the hole in the chest tabbed into. Fold the head down through the gap in the chest, and then the chest strip up through the hole,, straightening it out revealing a number 4 then tuck the striped end under th curved front window, you may need to bend the car bonnet forward a bit to do so. After that check the points at the back of the chest have tabbed in either side of the car windows: they may need some very gentle manipulation to get them to lock in right. Fold the arms back 90° at the shoulders so they're level with the car windows then fold down under the windows to become the sides of the car: there's a slot on the piece of plastic under the hand that locks onto a clear peg under the windows. Fold the robot's head forward under the bonnet between his shoulder. Fold the feet up into the legs. Open up the lower leg: it's hinged along the front inner side and splits along the rear outer side, and to be fair the whole process would have been easier with the hinge on the front outer side of the leg as the legs could have been locked together first. Instead you need to spread the legs out, fold the upper leg into the lower leg, close the legs and bring them together! The lower chest then, via the hinge on it's back, folds into the cavity under the windows and between the arms, with the rear of the windows tabbing into the legs.

Jazz vehicle mode isn't his original Porsche 935 Turbo, but he does appear to be a Porsche still, in this case a 962 variant, the Schuppan 962CR, or close enough to one to get it past the copyright lawyers.

The vehicle mode features another big step forward for modern combiner cars: clear plastic windows, which is very nice to see. He's got the traditional Jazz racing stripes over his roof and onto his bonnet with the number 4, his Japanese ID number, on it. There's three 5mm peg holes on the car: Centre of the rear of the roof and two slightly forward of that to the sides of the windows. The middle one is a perfect mounting point for his Prime Armour. On the flatter rear of the car, between the 5mm hole and spoiler, are 4 individual Titanmaster footpegs. An additional 5mm hole is on the rear of the car.

Leg Mode: From car mode swing the roof, sides & front of the car up & back to rest on the rear of the car. Tabs from the side fit slots just in front of the spoiler and the combiner socket is exposed. Place a foot in the peg hole at the rear of the car.

Surprisingly stable as a leg, though the roof & sides keep wanting to pop out their tab holes.

Arm Mode: From car mode swing the roof, sides & front of the car up. Split the rear of the car in two, open each half up then extend them into the robot's legs. Fold the Combiner Wars connector out the chest. Transform the Prime Armour into a hand and insert in the hole in the rear of the car. Fold the car roof, sides & front back towards the body.

At this point the instructions are rather unclear, suggesting at one point that the front, roof and sides of the car should be folded back round the body and in the next that they should be sitting some way back. The second version is doable, with the advantage of freeing the waist up for movement, but the connection feels very tenuous on my toy with black tabs sticking out the rear of the body tabbing into the robot arms. I suspect I shall end up folding the car shell right the way down round the body even though it will hamper the waist movement.

Then there's the matter of who to use him with..... I am a great fan of the idea of doing all 18 of the Diaclone Autobot cars as Combiner Wars toys. Looking at Jazz he would seem to me to automatically gravitate towards the Wave 3 Voyager Inferno. The problem here is there are, as yet, no other Diaclone cars spare in Power of the Primes, though if you've collected all the Combiner Wars cars you should have a Blue Bluestreak and one of Smokescreen or Ratchet spare. However Jazz's card art shows him as part of Elita-1's Combiner, seemingly twice! However since Elita-1 has a ready made team in the Female Autobots, of which Moonracer has been revealed and Novastar leaked, I'd expect her team to be completed with another two of the Autobots seen with her in the cartoon, Greenlight and Lancer. Further complicating the matter is that Jazz is the first combiner limbs released on his own, and not part of a combiner boxset, in the Japanese Power of the Primes line. Since complete combiners in Power of the Primes are staggered through multiple waves of toys we may not know the answer to who, if anyone, Jazz is meant to combine with for some time!

So.... Car Design is a little different, but a reasonable choice for an update. However it doesn't tab together that well an issues which also affects arm & leg mode. Robot isn't bad but is missing the wing doors. As a Combiner Wars car it's a big step forward in terms of car front chest and clear windows. As a Generations Jazz it feels a step back from the RTS version. If you want a Jazz to be Jazz, track the older RTS version down, if you want one that combines, buy this toy.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Generations Power of the Primes Starscream

Generations Power of the Primes Starscream

The Decepticon planes were first done as Voyager toys in Armada, when the size was introduced and that line did their versions of the full 1984 trio of Starscream, Skywarp & Thundercracker. Starscream became a Deluxe in Energon, a Voyager again in Galaxy Force which was supersized for Cybertron, before returning to being a Deluxe in Classics, which was repainted into all the other 1984 & 1985 jets during Universe and Generations. By that time they'd been Voyagers in the the Movies, Animated and Prime. Generations then did them as everything but Voyagers: Their Fall of Cybertron versions were deluxe, their Thrilling 30 versions were far too small as Legends and then in Combiner Wars they were far too big as Leaders! A couple of Voyager fighter jets in Titans Return, Broadside & Blitzwing proved the concept of Voyager jets, and as a bonus gave us Titanmaster pilots sitting in the cockpit, but the 1984 trio were ignored during that line.

Starscream was first shown at San Diego Comicon 2017's Collectors Preview Breakfast and was immediately derided by certain fans for it's odd proportions. Then some of the pictures revealed Combiner Wars connectors in his boots which led to speculation of what his Combined mode looked like. We saw an illustration quite quickly on the side of his box but we had to wait until for a video review before we saw it in the plastic, Hasbro proving surprisingly secretive about the combining function in Power of the Primes.

Out of the box Starscream comes with two rather spindly null rays, which are far less bulky than the Classics missile launching versions, a shocking pink Enigma of Combination and a pair of Voyager Prime Armours/combiner feet. Starscream's Prime Armour is a different shape to Grimlock's and is also slightly different functionally: there's no hole on the underside replaced by a fold down handle which lets them be held as weapons a lot better. The hole in the rear end can have the null rays inserted into them as launcher and missile, but now the combined unit looks too big for his arms!

The initial opinions are right about Starscream: both his forearms and lower legs look far too big for the rest of him, but he is recognisably Starscream with all the grey, red and blue in vaguely the right places. The blue is particularly dark, almost Optimus Prime legs blue, but that's reasonably close to the original toy. I think because of the size of the forearms, and it extends back from the gloves over the elbow, there is an awful lot of it. The feet look a bit too big on the legs, totally the wrong shape and are made even worse by having a sticker plonked over the top of them obscuring some of the moulded detail and looking a mess because they're not on a flat surface. Those stickers may have to go. The ones on the knees work better but again bits of them are on moulded detail. The ones on the air intakes by his head are best but those areas inside the intakes I'd have painted black! The chest design, very similar to the Legend and Leader, is Starscream down to having a cockpit canopy in the middle. Unfortunately it's a fake again and not the jet's cockpit. I can just about see the owl face visible in previous versions in it!

Articulation: head and shoulders turn, arms raise to the sides at the shoulders, bicep swivels, bending elbows. No waist swivel. Hips turn and the legs move to the sides at the hip. Thigh swivels and the knees bend. The knees are quite clever: they're held in place on the inner side of the leg by a panel that fold up beside them with a peg on the top that fits into the leg. I do worry that that might wear over time though. Already giving me trouble in this mode are the jet's wings, which are mounted on Starscream's back and which turn in the middle for Transformation. There's a peg that should hold them in place in this mode but it doesn't. At all. Then there's the wings themselves, covered in silver stickers which as, you've guessed it, obscuring moulded detail. They're all peeling slightly at the edges already, I'm so tempted to pull them off!

Transformation: Rotate the wings on the back 180°. Fold down the panel holding the knee in place and collapse the upper legs into the lower legs, which tab together. Fold the feet up. Straighten the arms to the side and tab into the lower legs. Fold the jet nose off his back and into place over the head. Fold the panels beside the nose down and peg into the air intakes. Fold the wings out, tabbing onto the robot's lower arms. Mount the null rays either on the side of the arms or under the wings. Fold down the landing gear under his nose. Fold down the tail wings.

Yeah, that was simple, but not fun. Getting everything lined up right takes some effort. The plane design is vaguely McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle but only very vaguely. The top looks a mess from panel lines, most misaligned, and peeling stickers. I'm tempted to pull them as I said but I like the Autobot kill heads, the D-22 designation, referring to his original Japanese ID number, the "Ghost Attack" reference to his cartoon season 3 and Beast Wars existence, and the amusing "No Step" marking right next to a Titanmaster footpeg! There's three footpegs per wing: one on the outer edge, one near the engines and one near where the wings meets the body. The final two protrude through holes in the stickers as does a slot, used in the combined mode. I'll be interested to see what Starscream looks like without the stickers. I'd hoped Takara would produce this for me but their their near identical Power of the Primes Wave 1 toys have poured some cold water on that idea.

So yeah, both jet and robot could be better. Will the combined mode redeem the toy?

Fold the landing gear under the nose and fold the tailfins up. Fold the robot arms down & forward 180° at the shoulder. Swing each arm in 90° at the bicep so the large outer plate is facing the same way as the top of the jet. Lift these plates up. Fold the hands back 180° into the forearms exposing Combiner Wars sockets in their place. Fold the panels down, but further up the arms than they say previously, locking the Combiner Wars sockets in place. Look at the underside of the jet with the rear at the top. Separate the rear of the jets/robot lower legs and swing each half out to the sides at a 45° angle: effectively you've spread the legs at the hips and rotated at the thighs. Bring the lower legs together to form a V shape between them: a tab behind on knee will slide into a slot behind the other and the point of the V should be above the waist. The tab needs to be slid in from the side, it won't click in on my copy, but that does mean the connection is surprisingly secure. Fold the wings up so the nose wings tab into them and then fold the outer half of the wings back down. Fold the red panels along the rear of the nose so they tab onto the tail wings. Open the fake cockpit chest: in it is the combined robot's head looking out the through the Voyager robot's back with the top of it's head at the top of the Voyager robot body. Swing the head out and fold it into position between the V so it's looking out over the back of the robot's nose. Push down on the back of the blue neck panel and fold the head into the body cavity. Put the null rays wherever you want, I favour the sides of the Voyager robot arms still, now the Combined Robot's upper legs.

As yet Starscream doesn't have his own complete team. His instructions show him with the wave 1 deluxe, his boxart with Dreadwind and a Terrorcon with the rest obscured. Either way it looks like Dreadwind should be with him and if Dreadwing should then so should his twin Darkwing/Blackwing. Several theories exist as to the identity of the rest of this team. One says they don't exist, and you use whatever toy you want. Another says it's Thundercracker & Skywarp, using Combiner Wars Skydive with the Decepticon jet head seen on his Ghost Starscream repaint. A third says the team is completed with Dreadwing & Darkwing's own Japanese repaints Buster & Hydra. I'd be happy with either of the last two as it would give me my much longed for Decepticon Jet Combiner All bar one of the all jet combiners have been Autobot, mainly versions of Superion. The exception is Micromaster Destron Sixwing, who I thought would make a great repaint of Combiner Wars Superion.

So in order to form my combiner, which I'm christening Emperor Starscream, due to the Movie crown on the combined mode head, I'm using Dreadwind as one arm with TFSS 5.0 Shattered Glass Starscream, standing in for Power of the Primes Blackwing until wave 2's release, as the other arm. The legs are formed from Botcon Terrorsaur & TFSS 5.0 Fractyl.

What's surprising me about Starscream is quite how strong and stable he is structurally! I'd half expected him to be a bit of a floppy mess to be honest! Almost all this down to the tab holding the two lower legs together: I think it and it's slot are slightly wider at the top than the bottom, which is why it needs to be slide in from the side and not pushed in. Indeed pushing the tab into the slot like you normally do would probably wear the connection down somewhat making it less stable, and there's a nagging worry in the back of my mind that this might happen anyway. But for now it's rock solid, unlike the chest armour made from the jet's nose, back and wings. This locks onto the body courtesy of two tabs on the wings which the tops of the air intakes fold over. The connection, like when the structure was on the back of the Voyager robot, isn't great. Maybe if the moving post in the middle had pulled out & in and had a larger circle at the top of it's peg but with inserts in it so it could only sit in two positions? That idea has been used in Transformers before.

In many ways the torso design reminds me of Superion with Silverbolt's arms acting as the combined robot's upper legs. The head with a crown resembles the Galvatronus combined mode of Silverbolt's remould Cyclonus: that always looked a bit odd as Galvatron and I wonder if it was meant to be Starscream but the Hasbro designer got confused as to which henchman was possessed by Starscream's ghost in season 3 of the cartoon? We half expected Cyclonus to get a Starscream recolour, and some good repaints are out there, but it never happened. But Starscream finally has his combined form now and on the whole it's rather good. The head is slightly annoying me: it's just sitting there between the Voyager robot's lower legs, suspended in mid air on it's hinge: you feel like it should recess into or connect to the chest armour in front, which in turn would stabilise that piece somewhat. The chest armour itself gives the entire combiner torso something of a Movie Starscream look.

Yes there's no real weapon for the combined mode again here: the null rays for the Voyager look too small. The Primemasters should provide one but somehow neither of the Decepticon ones revealed so far, both melee weapons rather than guns, suit him. He can use his Enigma of Combination in this mode: twin doors in the nose just behind the cockpit open to hold it. I feel this could maybe have been done better using the cockpit itself and providing a space for a Primemaster to ride in the jet mode. We've had one wrestling match with the little doors and a pair of pliers already trying to reattach them when they came off!

If you're looking at Starscream, as a Voyager toy then the robot has odd proportioned limbs with a loose back and the plane is difficult to line the parts up properly plus is covered in stickers which look like they might peel off any second! But, wobbly chest plate aside, the Torso mode, which is really what I was buying this toy for, is great!