Saturday, 13 June 2015

Combiner Wars Ultra Magnus


Generations Combiner Wars Ultra Magnus

New versions of Ultra Magnus tend to fall into three camps: All white, like Battle in a Box or Classics were the most common for a while. Recently all new truck forms have been prevalent like Animated or Prime. But to me Ultra Magnus is a car transporter that turns into a large robot that isn't an Optimus Prime repaint. Yes the White Prime was part of the original toy but in the comics and cartoon that never featured. Car Transporter Magnus are rare: there's the Car Robots/Robots in Disguise version and the Titanium but really that was it till last year when Masterpiece Ultra Magnus was released. However at that point rumours were already in circulation hat there was a Generations Leader toy due in 2015 and there was much rejoicing when he was revealed at toyfair 2015.

Ultra Magnus comes almost in robot mode: out the box you need to rock his feet forward or they'll be difficulty standing him. His arms have been positioned so they'll fit into the box, both need a push up into the shoulders or you'll be left with an odd sideways joint on the upper arm that doesn't make sense. In the box with him are a missile pod that 5mm peg into shoulder and two guns which in theory he should be able to hold.

The other extra component in the box is Minimus Ambus, a tiny version of the robot that's inside the Ultra Magnus armour in the More Than Meets The Eye comic. This element has caused some controversy mainly because he's in this toy but a more traditional Magnus element isn't. He comes in car mode: to transform him into robot fold the front of the car forward to form the lower legs and expose the upper legs. Unpeg the sides of the car to form the arms. Fold the rear of the car forward and stand. As small Transformers go Minimus is tinsy tiny, waaay smaller than an old style legend. He's a comparable size to the Minicon companions that were appearing with the Generations Legends. I'd say his articulation was good for his size, with ball jointed shoulders & hips and hinged knees but that would be failing to take into account that most of the ball joints on mine appear to be made of plasticine and fall apart as soon as I look at them funny! Comparatively the hinges on his back plate are far, far too stiff.

Back to the larger toy: to transform to robot mode start by removing all the weapons. Lower the chest plate and then splitting the vehicle cab in two revealing where Minimus Ambus sits in Magnus' robot mode. Unfortunately the space is needed in truck mode for other things so he can't drive it and will need removing. Fold Magnus' head down into this space, close the cab halves and fold the roof panel down. Put the robot into a sitting position, it's not needed now but will make things a lot easier later. Fold the body back at the waist. Fold the cab up 90 degrees so it's sitting where the head was with the cab's front pair of wheels facing you. Rotate the Cab 180 degrees so the top of the cab faces you and he wheels face away, now on the same side as the rear pairs of cab wheels. Open the doors on the back of the leg and fold down behind the ankles. Pull the sides of the lower leg out slightly and rotate down 90 degrees, inserting the tab just bellow the knee into the side pane. Bring the legs together and fold the chest panel down into the rear of the trailer. Tab the red leg door panels into place as the sides of the toy. Pull both arms right the way through the shoulders, just like you would on the original Magnus toy. Fold the forearm armour forwards so it covers the hands. Hmm, can't really see why this doesn't just slide. Swing the shoulders up so the arms are above the toy and tab them together to form the top deck of the car transporter. Fold the arms back and tab them into the sides of the leg. Pull the cab forwards. Attach the missile launchers to the peg holes at the front of the transporter and

While not a complex transformation it's annoying as there's lots of issues with clearance that make certain points, notably folding the chest panel into place on the car deck, rather difficult.

Magnus' vehicle mode is a reinvention of his classic car transporter design in broadly the same colours as the original toy. The trailer is hauled by a 6 wheeled white cab but unlike nearly every other Transformers Truck I can think of the cab is actually attached to the trailer at the hitch point. The cab pivots at the hitch just over 90 degrees to each side. It's a flat fronted cab - hurrah, I really don't like Prime and Magnus with long nosed cabs - but the top is more rounded than the traditional design. The front and lower deck sides of the trailer are red with a white platform in between. The top of the front and all of the rear is clue with the upper deck being made of the white plastic of the arms. The upper deck is tabbed in at the rear but you can tease the tabs out allowing the upper deck to be lowered halfway, at the elbows, or all the way, from what was the shoulder joints. The ramp at the rear of the trailer folds down, again it's tabbed in so will need teasing out, but the rear doesn't quite touch the floor due to moulded detail on the underside so you can't easily roll cars up it onto the trailer. In fact loading cars onto the trailer is where the trouble really sets in for this mode....

Ultra Magnus is a car transporter, so you expect him to be able to transport cars. In the years since the original Ultra Magnus was released Autobot cars have somewhat grown in size. Ultra Magnus hasn't, in fact his trailer is a little bit shorter than the original. As a consequence you can only fit one deluxe car on each deck. You can fit two Generations Legends onto the deck but they don't look wide enough. You feel the toy does need to be larger to accommodate thedeluxe cars.

To transform back to robot mode start by removing the missile pods and weapons. Pop the top deck out of the rear of the toy and fold forward. Fold the sides of the toy back, and pull the robot chest up from the back of the toy. Fold the sides of the back of the transporter forward and down to become the legs sides and tab into place. Fold the trailer doors up to form the front of the legs and tab into place. Fold the feet out from under the truck/back of the legs and pull forward. Fold the sides of the truck up to become the rear of the legs and tab into place. Swing the legs down under the waist. Separate the top deck in two down the middle to form the amrs and fold the shoulderss out to the sides. Push the cab back so all the flatbed is under the front of the trailer. Rotate the cab on it's axis so the wheels at the front point up away from the wheels on the back. Fold the cab down onto the front of the trailer and then fold the cab and front of the trailer so they sit on the robot's waist. Open the front halves of the cab and fold the head out. Seat Minimus Ambus in the cab, close the cab halves and fold up the robot chest. Push the arms up into the shoulders. Fold the forearm armour back exposing the hands. Peg the missile launchers into the shoulders and put the guns into his hands.

In robot mode Ultra Magnus looks pretty much as you'd expect: all the distinguishing features from the original are there. There are some noticeable differences though: the chest, while similar to the original, has his More Than Meets The Eye stylised design which seems to involve a face on the chest. A similar motif is present on several of the Autobot Pretenders, perhaps serving here as a hint that Magnus contained another robot inside. His missile launchers on his shoulders, which were previously functional firing a single missile, are now just for decoration with two missiles moulded in place. Finally the upper legs are whit where previously they were the red of the body. This has caused some comment by fans online as his More Than Meets The Eye appearances, on which this toy is based, generally colours them red while most fictional appearances have depicted them as white.

What this Ultra Magnus has really got going for it over the original is articulation. Like the original the arms rotate at the shoulders, have a bicep swivel and bend at the elbow. In addition the fingers open on the hands and the arms fold to the side at shoulders, which is facilitated by the shoulder side panels also being able to swing up. The head turns to the side, which was a real surprise to me given how the transformation works by having it attached to a strut thatcomes out the back of the head. There's no waist joint, which i would have liked, but from the waist downwards this new version really wins over the original: universal hip joints, thigh swivels, knees and bending ankles. He will take a kneeling pose just fine :-)

Apart from the waist the most obvious missing point of articulation is the wrist. The fingers are a major problem here: the guns/hands don't work well together. Hands of the articulated fingers variety never work well for me, I much prefer 5mm peg holes in fists. Unlike some other toys with articulated hands, Cybertron Optimus Prime or Generations Titan Metroplex for example, there's no way to steady the weapon by pegging it into the palm. Even worse the handle is a bad fit into the hand. It might sit better in the hand if the trigger was a little shorter. However there does appear to be a sweet spot where they sit in the hands just fine: the lip on the underside of the handle is just tucked under the fingers. The lower end of the rear of the handle is resting against the palm. The bottom of the trigger is resting on the index finger. The grip is secure enough that I can pick Magnus up, shake him from side to side and the guns stay in place.

However I *can* see why the hands have fingers and no wrist swivels and that all ties in with the weapons' alternate mode. The back of the larger gun is a 5mm peg which plugs into the barrel of the other gun. The missile launchers the peg into the sides of the other gun to form a hammer, similar to those seen on Magnus toys since the Animated Version. The hand then needs to open to hold the hammer's shaft. The hand itself can't grasp the shaft so the hammer is supported by a pair of rings fitting either side of a odd slot cut in the underside of Magnus' forearm armour. This reliance on the slot/rings for a support make it clear that the hammer wouldn't really work with a wrist swivel. Maybe a swivel bellow the elbow would have been useful?

Speaking of the forearm armour.... Why the silly joint in the transformation using a piece of plastic pivoted at both ends? Wrap the armour right the way round the arm and have it slide! The only reason I can see for doing it like it easy is to be different from the original.

So it would appear that the reason for the hands that can't hold the guns and the lack of wrist swivel is the hammer. Is it's existence a worth exchange for their loss? I'm not sure. Maybe the hammer could have been constructed differently with 5mm pegs going into holes on either side of the hand. But then the hammer wouldn't have existed as a separate entity without the hand....

A few miscellaneous weapons observations: If you don't want Magnus to hold his weapons then there's peg holes at the top and bottom of his lower leg to store them in. If you're still having problems with Magnus holding the gun then put the gun that forms the top of the hammer in his hand as you would in Hammer mode and peg the other gun into one of the holes meant for the missile launchers.And if you're missing the missile launchers in hammer mode then the 5mm sockets in his shoulders will also accommodate the launchers from the original Magnus launchers.

This toy has a lot of faults, most of them minor but they do stack up. Then there's a whole load of things about it which are very VERY annoying! The robot it fab ... but could have been better if it could hold it's weapons easier. The car transporter works by itself, but a car transporter is meant to work with other toys and this one doesn't really. The cab doesn't detach and form a robot.

But it is such a nice toy. It's fun to play with a transform.

I love it.

But it could be better....

Ultra Magnus was released May 2015 and was solid packed at 2 per case. At the time of writing he has not been seen on sale in the UK


Transformers Legends Ultra Magnus with Alpha Trion

Photos that have surfaced of Transformers Legends Ultra Magnus show it differs from the western version in a number of ways:
* The Upper legs are red, not white, like the original toy.

* The guns are white, not black, like the original toy.

* the front of the flatbed is blue, not red.

* the hubcaps are painted silver.

* Minimus Ambus has been repainted purple to become cartoon character Alpha Trion.

This is one of those Japanese toys where it's not clear which version is better, it's just different!

LG14 Ultra Magnus is due for release in September 2015.


Future Repaints

There are two obvious repaints for this toy. The first is as Diaclone Powered Convoy, Magnus' Diaclone Predecessor, whose colour scheme was reused as Movie Preview Ultra Magnus. The Diaclone toy has an additional accessory in the form of the Super Buggy which make an ideal red repaint for Minimus Ambus.

Interestingly while Superbuggy is red, and that's how people picture it, it wouldn't be red on a normal Transformers Ultra Magnus, it's be blue! On the Diaclone version it's the same colour as Magnus' forearms, shoulders, chest armour and head. when you look at the Diaclone toy it also becomes obvious that the Diaclone version has FOUR colours of plastic as opposed to Magnus' three! Two of them are the same on the Transformers version:

Parts Diaclone Transformers
Trailer Base/Robot Body Silver Red
Trailer Upper Deck & Doors, Robot Waist Black White
Trailer Supports/Robot Feet & Chest Plate Dark Blue Pale Blue
Forearms, Head & Shoulders Red Pale Blue

The other colour scheme which has been used on an Ultra Magnus repaint is Matrix Glow Ultra Magnus which would involve casting the toy in yellow.

For a substantial remoulding two other toys suggest themselves: The first is Power Master Optimus Prime who has never had a proper update. Generations Magnus' cab ends up in the right place but the whole trailer would need retooling. I'm not sure how this toy would go down wit a non transforming cab though. The other option is a perennial truck repaint request, 1992's Euro exclusive Thunderclash, which has recently appeared in More Than Meets The Eye and received a homage in Beast Hunters: Predacons Rising.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Combiner Wars Quickslinger (Slingshot)

See the Firefly review for more on the previous version of this toy.

Quickslinger

Even when Slingshot was left out of the original configuration of Combiner Wars Superion in favour of the the helicopter Alpha Bravo not all hope was lost: looking carefully at Firefly's jet mode it strongly resembles the missing original Aerialbot both looking like Harrier Jump Jets.

On 9th January 2015 Takara teased their Superion with 5 jets. On the 22nd January Unite Warriors Superion was revealed containing a white repaint of Firefly as Slingshot. I promptly pre ordered a set with HLJ, despite already having the other four toys, but later the same day a TRU computer listing for Slingshot & Wildrider was found. On the 23rd of March a Diamond website listing for Quickslinger & Brake-Neck, assumed to be the same toys under a different name, was located. The next day Hasbro teased them on their Facebook page before officially revealing them the day after. At midday EST on the 30th April an embargo was listed and many websites revealed galleries and availability information for Quickslinger and Brake-Neck. By then however certain online retailers who source their stock in the far east had already received their stock and dispatched them. My set from Kapow toys arrived May 2nd!

If you've got Firefly you know exactly what you're getting: this is the original toy with all the red, bar the chest, and all the grey turned white. The legs, shoulder joints, and combiner connector are now black. The head is a new mould much close to the original Slingshot.

Save for some black paint covering the panels on the outside of the fist this is pretty much dead on what you want and completes my Superion.


Future Repaints

The obvious repaint for most Aerialbots is as their G2 counterparts. G2 Fireflight however looks very much like his original version, with the exception of some detail on the wings and a silver robot chest which is already hinted at here.

Quickslinger could be redone as the gold G2 Slingshot, though hopefully in a more resilient non GPS prone version!

Both are strong candidates for a Decepticon repaint, possibly as part of a larger sized Combiner Wars version of Sixwing. I find it incredible that 30 years after the first combiner was released we still haven't had a full sized Decepticon Air vehicle combiner, forms more aligned to the original forms of the 1984 Decepticons.

Combiner Wars Brake-Neck (Wildrider)

See the Dead End review for more on the previous versions of this toy.

Brake-Neck

Lots of fans were upset when Combiner Wars Superion was released with Alpha Bravo replacing Slingshot. This was tempered slightly when Unite Warriors Superion, including Slingshot repainted from Fireflight was announced. I already had Silverbolt and the three limbs released in the west and I still pre ordered one.

We already knew Menasor was shipping with Offroad replacing Wildrider so speculation turned to which Stunticon mould would provide the new version of Wildrider in the Japanese Menasor: Dead End or Breakdown? I could see the argument for Breakdown being used: Wildrider is more angular than Dead End but Breakdown's vehicle mode is easily identifiable as a Lamborghini so thought Dead End was probably going to be the one repainted.

On the 22nd of January 2015 a Toys R Us listing for Slingshot & Wildrider was found, leading to speculation that there would be a western release of the limb recolours as an exclusive. The long suspected Japanese version of Wildrider using Dead End was revealed in a magazine on the 20th March. On 23rd March a Diamond listing for theses toys was found with Hasbro teasing them on Facebook the next day under the names Quickslinger and Break-Neck. The full versions were revealed the day after on 25th March by which time pre orders were opening up everywhere.

Although I get that for various reasons the name Wildrider and his persona might be wanted to be avoided the name Brake Neck seems a little odd given there's already a similarly named Breakdown on the Stunticon team.

Dead End becomes the first Combiner Wars mould to be used three times with Brake-Neck. Generally the car mode for Brake-Neck looks pretty good swapping Dead End's burgundy for grey/silver but the mid arm panels, coloured red, form part of the side of the vehicle and break up the grey body work. A little bit of paint to make the line of the top of the door the same colour wouldn't have gone amiss.

Transforming to robot mode reveals more colours. The Burgundy of Dead End's chest and chest panel are the only parts of that colour not to become silver/grey, they're more of a pale grey. The pale grey of the knees, waist and combiner wars connector become black. The darker grey of the upper legs, hands, mid arm pieces, neck and combiner connector become red. A new head, featuring Wildrider's signature spikes sticking out the side is cast in a similar colour to the car body with a painted red face.

Given that an exact car match for Wildrider was unavailable this is a pretty good attempt. The red breaking up the top of the door and not quite matching the rest of the red stripe does annoy me though!

Friday, 1 May 2015

Classics Legends Wave 3 Review: Cliffjumper, Skywarp & Ultra Magnus

On the first day of Philmas the postman brought to me six small robots from Hong Kong

Don't know how these got here to the UK so quickly when I only ordered them on Monday from Robot Kingdom in Hong Kong. And they dodged Customs!


Cliffjumper is the legend that's existed the longest abroad without making a western appearance: Henkei Cliff was released in 2009 in C-18 Minibot Attack Team with Beachcomber & Gong (Brawn)

Straight off the bat even before we get him out the packet we can see Cliffjumper has a larger Autobot symbol than his Henkei predecessor.

Once out another change is clearly revealed: all of Cliff's grey, including the tires, is now black. Sadly Cliffjumper has lost the red cuff paint app that Cliff had.

Vehicle mode shows the windows are more silver on Cliffjumper.

Like this, much prefer the black to the grey :-)

Mold group shot:

Universe BB, RTS Gold BB, EZ Collection BB
TRU DOTM Scanning pack, Dollar store variation, AoE/Classic Legion
TF GO EZ Collection, Henkei Cliff Classic Legion Cliffjumper


Like Cliffjumper, Skywarp has been available in Japan before as part of the Chronicle EZ Collection Wave 2 in 2011. Those who were clever bought in advance on the strength of a black and white picture, guessing and seeing how high Thundercracker went. Case sold out as soon as the colour picture surfaced and that was that as Skywarp copied his brother and then some. Demand for a western version increased when Thundercracker had a version with c-clip hands released as part of GDO Generations and then Starscream recieved the same upgrade as a dollar store variation.

In the packet Skywarp's paint apps appear to be a more blue purple than his EZ Collection counterpart.

That's confirmed out of the packet where we can see he's also lost the blue pueple paint app at the front of the legs. Although he has the modified hands and wing holes from GDO Thundercracker sadly, as AOE/Classic Legion Starscream led us to expect, lost his null rays. So if a 3p company/Shapeways designer could oblige us in grey, black and silver I'd be most pleased.

Jet mode looks FAB, the bluer stripe along the wing really works together with the full colour Decepticon symbols as opposed to the silver ones his EZ Collection version had. The Null Rays are really missed here. His engines have the same inexplicable hole through them as all the c-clip/3mm peg versions of this toy do.

Very nice, and great to finally have a western old fashioned Legend Thundercracker but NEEDS NULL RAYS!

Mold Group Shot:

RTS Starscream, EZ Collection 3 Starscream, EZ Collection 2 Thundercracker, EZ Collection 3 Skywarp
Gum/Metallic EZ Collection Starscream, TF GO EZ Collection Starscream, AOE/Classic Legion Starscream
Generation Dollar Store variant Starscream, Generations GDO Legend Thundercracker, AOE/Classic Legion Skywarp


RTS Legend Optimus was released in late 2010/early 2011. How has it taken FOUR YEARS to get it repainted in white in Ultra Magnus?

The artwork asks a different question: why has there never been an all white G1 Ultra Magnus super robot? Hasbro/Takara, I have money for you!

Robot mode shows that like the Target exclusive Classics Magnus Hasbro have been unwilling to completely go down the all white route. The colour used on the legs is grey. Love the blue faceplate, crest and windows. He has GDO Motormouth's c-clip hands but alas not his sword.

Vehicle mode: oh to swap the white of the wheels and the grey of the flatbed round! The middle tire is evidentally painted too which look too great. Almost tempted to get a spare Optimus and do a wheel swap.

Very grateful to finally get one of these but you can't help feeling he could have been better!

Mold Group Shot:

RTS Optimus, EZ Collection 1 Convoy, EZ Collection 2 G2 Convoy
Dollar Store Legend variant Optimus, TF GO EZ Collection Convoy, Gum/Metallic G2 Convoy, AOE/Classic Legion Optimus
GDO Motorbreath, Japanese AOE Promo clear Convoy, AOE Classic Legion Ultra Magnus

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Combiner Wars Motormaster & Menasor

See the Combiner Wars Optimus Prime Review for more on the first version of this toy.

Motormaster

I'll get the big bugbear out the way first: an evil Optimus Prime is not Motormaster. An Evil Optimus is Scourge or Nemesis Prime, which I prefer. The Evil Optimus is Motormaster thing started in 2007 with Classics Legend Menasor and continued with Generations Legend Motorbreath, both names used when Motormaster was unavailable but we know what they mean. The Classics Legend is a repaint of Legends of Cybertron Optimus: If they'd have done it using the full size Cybertron Optimus Prime I could have just about managed with the smaller robot being Motormaster and the larger powered up one Menasor.

My main objection for using Optimus for Motormaster is that the originals are different toys. Optimus' robot is formed from the cab, Motormaster from the cab and trailer. Motormaster's cab is black but the bulk of his body is silver grey, from the trailer, with the black cab forming the feet. The look of the two robots is totally different.

However in this world of extensive mould reuse I could see why they'd want to do it. The problem is I look at the toy and just see Optimus. The Truck cab is a dark silver grey and generally is the same shape as Optimus. There's some newly moulded panels on top and the shape of the radiator and side panels has slightly changed but side by side it's obvious they are the same toy.

Transformation between both of Motormaster's modes is the same as Optimus Prime's.

Robot mode is a little better but the head used for Motormaster is terrible, a block with a face on it! It might be his cartoon appearance but it looks rubbish. The major concession to the original Motormaster design is a new chest swapping Prime's fake windows for some sculpted detail panels. The problem is the general shape of the toy is exactly the same even down to some of the Prime details like the distinctive vented panels on his legs. He's got a new gun and a new sword in this mode which look distinctly odd with an odd latticework sculptured quality. They tab together and can be placed on the truck mode.

Your mileage may vary but in my opinion this is just a bad Optimus repaint. I'd prefer a white Prime as Ultra Magnus' inner robot or a black Nemesis Prime any day.


Menasor

Motoromaster's Transformation to Menasor's chest is identical to Optimus Prime becoming Ultra Optimus. The sword and gun peg together to form a new larger sword which Menasor can hold using what was the gun's barrel.In chest mode we get a new black head, with poseable grey horns, a new opening chest and a new waist plate. Unfortunately the problems Prime had with his thigh plates not holding the legs stable in combined mode are much worse here and to compound the matter Motormaster's shoulders are very reluctant to stay locked together in Torso mode: the connection is very weak and they easily pop out when you move an arm. No attempt has been made at correcting the ratchet settings so the legs can point straight down in combined mode: you're again holding them under tension to keep them parted at the correct angle.

Menasor introduces a new element to the combined body transformation in the form of the Legends car Blackjack, an updated version of Motormaster's drone car which takes the name of a Micromaster Sports Car Patrol team member. Unfortunately what looked like a nice idea in the pictures turns into a nightmare when you have the toy in hand! Blackjack doesn't fit properly onto the the pages sticking out the combined robot's inner chest: the pegs taper at the end and Blackjack's holes to accommodate the pegs aren't that deep so as a result there's very little contact between peg and hole and he easily falls off.

Very disappointed.

This toy needed to be good for me to like it but it amplifies the flaws in the earlier versions and introduces some new ones as well. You'll buy it because you need the core for Menasor but it isn't as good as the original Optimus version. http://www.tfu.info/1986/Decepticon/Menasor/menasor.htm http://www.tfu.info/2007/Decepticon/SDCCMenasor/menasor.htm


Optimus Maximus

I had said I wouldn't be surprised to see some of the Combiner Wars limb bots being repainted as 1984/5 Autobots to accompany Optimus, with Dragstrip as Mirage is an obvious one, and sure enough in December 2012 Wal*Mart's computer has leaked the names of four toys that look like they fit this bill: Mirage, Sunstreaker, Ironhide & Prowl. At that point they were assumed to go with the existing Optimus Prime toy but in mid January this piece of toyfair promo art emerged seemingly showing a white Optimus Prime redeco. At that point rumours had been circulating for a while of a new Ultra Magnus toy for 2015 and everyone knows that a white Optimus Prime is Ultra Magnus. However at the start of March a new name appeared: Optimus Maximus and shortly after a larger version of the promo art showed up on the Entertainer's website showing the white Prime combined with the Autobot repaints.

The name Optimus Maximus isn't new: it was used before on a Transformers Prime battle mech for Optimus Prime. The Maximus suffix does have combining connotations though. During Energon three combiners bore it: Superion Maximus, Bruticus Maximus and Constructicon Maximus and it was also later used on the poorly named club exclusive Nexus Maximus.

So why a different name for a white Prime instead of Ultra Magnus? The main reason would appear to be that there is another Ultra Magnus toy due out at the same time. Personally I think this is a big missed opportunity to do a white Prime cab that when transformed forms the core of a Combiner with Ultra Magnus' super mode head. Throw in a new shield for the Voyager robot to use that then became a new red chest plate for Magnus and you're on to a winner. 3P companies take note: I have money for you for these items to convert my Optimus Maximus into Ultra Magnus.

As can be seen by the combined mode images Optimus Maximus has his own version of Blackjack, Legends Rodimus. I await to see if the connection between the two has been improved but don't hold out much hope.


Grand Scourge

This may take some explaining.....

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

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

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

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


Future Repaints and Add Ons

Although a repaint of this toy as Ultra Magnus is probably ruled out by the existence of Optimus Maximus, I can see no reason why this toy shouldn't return again as the more familiar Car Robots/RID Scourge, swapping Grand Scourge's gold for grey and doing the guns in black. Some way to hold both guns side by side in one hand would be nice to mimic Scourge/Laser Prime's dual cannon.

The Motormaster remould could be redone as his unreleased Generation 2 variant, recently glimpsed at auction.

I'd pay money for a version of Menasor's Blackjack being repainted in blue as Roller to accompany the original version of this toy.

Energon Optimus Prime offers some intriguing possibilities for limbs to accompany Optimus Prime: We've already got a Helicopter limb in Alpha Bravo, how about making Fire Engine, Sub & Drill Tank limbs to homage Energon Optimus? The Drill Tank could almost certainly be reused as Nosecone and Drillhorn as well as effectively being an upgrade for Rescue Force Mole. A new version of Energon Wing Sabre would go nicely with this toy too.

Cybertron could give us Leobreaker which would be a useful mould if Hasbro went down the Predaking route with this combiner system and I see no reason why they shouldn't.

There's plenty of scope for doing things with this Optimus for some while yet. If Hasbro don't I can see third party companies eagerly stepping in.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Combiner Wars Air-Raid


See the Skydive review for more details on the first version of this toy.

Air Raid

Air Raid & Sky Dive would appear to be the first examples of Combiner Wars' policy of remoulding where possible to produce a new toy. When you think about it, this makes a lot of sense: within the teams there are similar vehicle modes and similar vehicles crop up across some of the more mixed teams.

In robot mode air Raid and Sky dive don't look too similar until you look closely: it appears that the legs and the gun are the same shape and that's it. Everything upwards of the waist is new. Whereas Sky Dive was a mixture of grey lower limbs, black upper limbs, combiner connector & head and a had a red body Air Raid is all white, bar his body. Compared to the original 1986 Air Raid this looks a decent upgrade to the original. Articulation wise he's identical to Combiner Wars Sky Dive.

Transformation to jet mode starts off the same: open the legs and fold the upper legs in. From here on it gets different. Straighten the arms to the sides of the toy and fold the shoulders down, tabbing the arms into the sides of the plane. Fold the side tail fins and wings out. Fold the wings back.

The original 1986 Air Raid is an F-15 Eagle, the same as the original Decepticon jets and indeed the jet mode bears the same colour, black, as one of those Decepticons, Skywarp. This new version is a quite similar looking F-14 Tomcat. Despite looking completely different in this mode from Skydive incredibly they do share some jet mode parts: the nose cones and upright tail fins are identical. There's hints to a common origin elsewhere in the design, the way the tail fins fold down and a 5mm peg hole on the vehicle's back for their large weapon, a feature absent on Firefly. Like the other two Combiner Wars Aerialbot jets he has a 5mm peg hole under each wing to mount weapons in.

His weapons set is identically moulded to Skydives: the vehicle mode cannon/hand/foot even looks the same, bar a small joint in the thumb which is now white where it was black as is the dual barrelled hand gun. It does mean, with some swapping, that you can now give both jets paired weapons. Here's a summary of the shared parts

Skydive Air Raid
Leg Front Grey White
Upper Legs Black White
Waist Black White
Connector Black White
Dual Gun Black White
Thumb Joint Black White
Tailfins Black Black
Nosecone Black Black
Vehicle Gun Black Black

Transformation instructions to limb mode is identical between the two figures. It's almost tempting to use them both as the same limb so there can be a dual cannon mounted on each shoulder, like Powermaster Optimus, or each leg, similar to Fortress Maximus.

TOP remould, love him. I've got the first three waves of Combiner Wars toys now. They may have come first but to me the Aerialbots are still the strongest toys in the set and feel like they're punching considerably above their weight.

Air Raid is numbered 1 in the Aerialbot set and sold in the second wave of combiner toys. He is the lone Aerialbot in this wave and comes packed with the three Stunticons who do not feature in wave 1: Breakdown, Deadend and Offroad. This wave is was released in early February 2015.


Future Repaints

The obvious candidates for recolouring these two toys are G2 Skydive, in silver, and G2 Air Raid, in blue, coincidentally the colours of another early Decepticon jet, Thundercracker.

It therefore makes sense to me that Starscream, Sunstorm and Acid Storm would make good repaints for Air Raid. Thundercracker and Skywarp might be a harder sell given their similarity to the G1 and Combiner Wars versions but could be done if the body parts were changed too. Alternately another wing mould to precisely mimic the F15 would be good.

The swing wing F-14 design also automatically lends itself to doing Jetfire or his downsized Cyberjet version Hooligan.

Combiner Wars Breakdown


Breakdown

Stunticon Breakdown is the Lamborghini Countach of the Stunticon team so comparisons with Sideswipe and his brother Sunstreaker are inevitable.

He comes in robot mode but we want to look at the car mode first. Fold the forearms up over the front of his arms and fold the shoulders down to his side forming the doors on the side of the vehicle. Fold the chest, neck and head back into his backpack. Fold the back pack up to form the front of the vehicle, there's a slot in the back of it which connects to a tab on the top of the rotating barrel of the combiner connector. Bring the lower legs up, via a bar connecting the inside of the lower leg to the knee, so the lower legs are inside the upper legs. Peg the legs together. Fold the windscreen into place.

The transformation is somewhat hindered by some interesting robot hips. More later....

The car mode is a pretty good representation of a Lamborghini without incurring the wrath of lawyers. It's an off white/cream colour with a red bonnet and black windows. It looks exactly as you'd expect it to! His hand weapon, a sword, has a tab on it which pegs into a slot in the side of his door.

Like all the Combiner Wars vehicles he comes with a way of mounting his limb mode hand/foot as a weapon and the obvious thing to do here is to plug the peg on it straight into the hole on it's roof. However there's a second vehicle use for the weapon. Turn it the other way up and bend the thumb down behind it. The thumb can then tab into a hole on the back of Breakdown's spoiler with two grooves on the underside of the weapon fitting around two tabs at the rear of his roof. This mounts the weapon further back and lower, making it look like Sunstreaker's Supercharger.

If I've one criticism of this mode it's that the rear of the car doesn't want to peg together seamlessly and there feels like there's a gap down the middle.

Reverse the transformation to return to robot mode. I like how folding the shoulders up locks the chest plate into position.

There's some interesting detail on Breakdown's robot mode. I like the chest plate because it folds down and mostly hides the combiner connector. However moulded onto it is what looks like a Police Car's Lightbar. I can see that in the Animation model but it's more pronounced here and is making me wonder if a VERY interesting repaint might be in the works. Other than that it's nearly exactly what I'd expect from a Stunticon,

Articulation: the ankles bend forward as part of the transformation. The knees bend and there's a thigh swivel. The hips are ball jointed and the waist turns. The head is mounted on a ball joint and there are ball joints at the shoulders. The upper elbow joint bends and the lower elbow joint is a ball joint.

As I said above the hips are "interesting" each hip ball joint pivots independently round a point in the middle of the waist. In vehicle mode they're as close together as they can be towards the bottom middle of his waist. Their maximum spread is the usual hip position opposite each other. However they can move up further than this on each side at a cost of lowering the position on the opposite side resulting in a very lopsided looking robot. It's a very odd joint.

As ever 5mm peg holes in the hand which allow him to hold his L handled weapon as a sword or a bladed gun. He's a decent enough robot who I'm sure we'll be seeing more of.

Breakdown also forms a limb for a Combiner Wars robot.

Leg mode: start from car mode, fold the windsceen back, fold the bonnet and it's contents back into the space where the windscreen was. Fold the combiner connector out flat as a foot and insert into the peg hole on the rear of the car.

Solid standard leg providing the thigh swivel, bending knee and turning ankle. Where the bonnet is bent forwards provides a nice level platform for Micromasters or Legion sized figures to stand.

Arm mode: start from leg mode. Remove the weapon and transform the rear of the car into the robots legs but keep the feet folded up. Tab the legs together. Insert the vehicle weapon into the hole in the rear of the car/bottom of the feet folded out as a hand.

All the Combiner wars limbs so far have provided us with a standard level of combined mode arm articulation: the arm turns at the shoulder and can be raised out to the side. The robot waist becomes a bicep swivel while the legs give it a double elbow and the peg for the hand wrist rotation. Here however the weird moving hips allow some elbow movement sideways which lets you use Breakdown as an arm side on, presenting a thinner more pleasing view from the front. The other thing that becomes obvious in hand mode is that the hand/foot/weapon is made from two different grades of purple plastic who's colouring doesn't quite match.

So decent enough in all modes. I'd gladly loose the odd hips though!


Sunstreaker

The first mention of a Combiner Wars Sunstreaker was in December 2015 when his name popped up on a set of store computer listing. At the start of March 2015 The Entertainer used a promotional banner on their website, a larger version of UK toyfair promo art seen in January, which showed the Autobot combiner with what appears to be the Dragstrip from Mirage limb as the left arm. Interestingly the repaints of Dragstrip and Breakdown appear to have effectively swapped their colour schemes to become Mirage & Sunstreaker!

Future Repaints

Having got a Breakdown it's an inevitability that the Transformers Collectors Club will repaint it as G2 Breakdown like they did with the universe version.

Most of the time a remould on a toy is to change it's appearance. However a remould to how this toy transforms would make the world of difference. I'd have the bonnet hinged at it's base, connected to the neck plate which is then connected to a hinge at the top, slightly covered by the windscreen. Result: a bonnet that will still fold back, for combined mode, but one that will also fold forward onto the chest to make Sideswipe. If you're doing Sunstreaker, you HAVE to do Sideswipe. That would then give us Red Alert as an EASY repaint and also things like G2 Sideswipe, Deep Cover and Clamp Down. Part of me thinks that Tigertrack wouldn't be worth doing but the thought of having TWO almost identical yellow Lambo that turn into different robots is quite tempting! See also red Diaclone Countach LP500S Super Tuning and Police Car Diaclone Countach LP500S Super Tuning and