Thursday, 5 May 2016

Botcon 2016 Ratchet and Unite Warriors Breakdown

Botcon 2016 Ratchet

In the run up to Botcon 2016 a rumoured list of exclusives did the rounds. As it turned out the list was very accurate with just two mistakes:

The first was Airazor from Slipstream wasn't on it, replaced with Arcee from Legends Blackarachnia, which I thought made sense as there was a previous Botcon Arcee from Transmetal 2 Blackarachnia.

The other thing wrong on the rumours list was the identity of the Customise Class toy. The item the list had on it was Blue Bluestreak from Dead End/Streetwise. This made vague sense: there's already a Streetwise use in the Botcon exclusives and the customise class toy tends to be a reuse of one already in the exclusive packages. Blue Bluestreak is a "variation", although it only exists as a Diaclone toy with a lot of collector interest and by doing Blue Bluestreak here it allows a proper silver/anime Bluestreak to be done in the main Combiner Wars line or as part of another Autobot Diaclone Combiner boxset.

I wait to see any version of Bluestreak in any of his three colour schemes, but in particular the rumoured blue one, from the various customisers at work out there.

What we got instead was something of a surprise! Ratchet from First Aid is a pretty logical choice if you're trying to all 18 Diaclone Autobot cars in Combiner Wars but I'd have thought that it was considered worthy of a more main line release as part of another Autobot Combiner than a convention exclusive. Potentially this is a worse case of underestimating the potential of/demand for a toy character by putting it in the custom class than the amazing "How many toys can we homage?" Longarm/Shockwave and the "you could have sold this at retail and I'd have bought it" Universe 2 Generation 2 Sideswipe.

However there's an earlier Botcon Ratchet made from Energon Tow Line so perhaps we should have suspected this one more strongly as it fits the 2016 Botcon/TFSS 5.0 theme of looking back to past club releases.

In earlier versions of this review, when considering Future Repaints, I said:

First Aid MIGHT lend itself to being used as Ratchet if Combiner Wars goes for broke and tries to do all 16 Diaclone car Autobots. However the same comments I made in relation to Ironhide with the design not fitting with smoother lines of the Diaclone design apply here too. And, bar a new head, I'm not sure how to repaint First Aid to make it different enough but still Ratchet.
If you stripped the paint off either the Combiner Wars or Unite versions of First Aid then the resulting vehicles would look essentially the same. The differences in plastic used are only seen in robot mode. Yes there's a new head, in white, which was hinted at in First Aid's pack in comic. The combiner connector, upper arms, upper legs and knees are now grey with the shoulders, elbows, waist and knee/leg struts becoming black. The chest, like all these other parts, previously red, is now cast in white. The existing First Aid head is also included in this kit and it's grey, showing it to be on the same sprue as the grey parts above, but I'll be surprised if many people used it!

The use of the grey and the black on the parts colour choices may seem odd but it means that Ratchet is once again a White for Red Ironhide in robot mode.

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The Customise Class was given five sticker and paint options for their Ratchet: Marvel G1, cartoon G1, G2, Shattered Glass Ratchet and a fifth deco option using the First Aid head as Medix. The attendees at the class were allowed a sheet of G1 Ratchet stickers and one of the other choices.

My Ratchet comes from the assembled versions sold at the show so is lacking these stickers but to be honest I'm not sure I'd apply them anyway and my hand is a bit to wobbly for painting. I think they've done the perfect deco for Combiner Wars Ratchet's vehicle mode ALREADY and that was what was used on the Japanese Unite Warriors First Aid reducing the red to a stripe on each side & the lightbar and painting the windows blue. There's been too many Ratchets with far to complicated decos Universe Ratchet, I'm looking at you! The Original Ratchet is definitely the pattern to follow with minimal paint and sticker applications. That only leaves the rather vexing matter of the head, but given that I can't paint to save my life the one I have will be staying white all over whatever I think!

The package is complete with the axe and Hand Foot Gun in clear blue, possibly a reference to the clear blue parts packed with Botcon 2005 Ratchet and Ironhide or the hands/feet used on the Energon Combiners.

I like that a Combiner Wars Ratchet exists. I'd like it better if it existed as a finished version with painted windows, a single red stripe down the side and a red Marvel head but it doesn't. Since one of the remaining ten Diaclone Autobots has fallen the remaining nine don't divide up equally into two groups of 5 with Inferno/Grapple as body. So it looks like my dream of owning all 18 Diaclone Autobots in Combiner Wars form has taken a severe dent.

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Unite Warriors Zombie War Breakdown

Lots of options for the identity of the Off Road were bandied around following Grand Galvatron's silhouette tease but when a picture from a Japanese toy show revealed it to be blue most people were sure it would be Animated Soundwave. So it was with some surprise that when Grand Galvatron was officially revealed we discovered this component was in fact Transformers Prime Breakdown

On the face of it this is quite a boring toy, just a blue repaint of Off Road with the original head sculpt, which hadn't previously been used in Japan. But the colours chosen really work well on the toy and there's some superb paint work on the head with a red face and yellow eyes plus silver paint on the crest making it look like a battle mask that pulls down over his face.

This toy surprised me, I like it a lot and think it works really well. You can see a gallery of it here.

CW G2 Deadend and Brakeneck and Botcon Unit-3

Generation 2 Dead End

We feel the Dead End mould is a bit overused in Combiner Wars having appeared in Waves 2, 3, 4 & 6 plus the Internet exclusive pair of robots. But the Dead End mould itself hasn't appeared since that Internet Exclusive wave, issued at around the time that the Wave 3 Protectobots became available that introduced the Streetwise shell variation. Indeed this is the third use of the Dead End car shell, and just the 2nd use of the Dead End head.

Whereas the original Dead End car is burgundy his G2 version is bright red and looks fab. Indeed by Generation 2 standards it is very nearly sensible! Transforming it to robot reveal some blue on the head & combiner connector, which can also be found on the pipe and Hand Foot Gun, but the majority of the extra pieces are black. Indeed compared to the original unreleased Generation 2 Dead End I'd say it was too sensible again and they should have gone fully radio rental by making the black blue and indeed standardising that blue over all 5 Stunticons.

Generation 2 Brakeneck (Wildrider)

Generation 2 Wildrider, packed in the same box as G2 Dead End is thus the 4th use of the Dead End mould version and the 2nd Wildrider head. Here he swaps the grey of the 1986 version for a a bright Bumblebee yellow. Ah, now this is a bit more like it! Transforming to robot reveals bright blue on the hidden limb pieces.

MUCH better, much more like the G2 we know and love. Dragstrip and Dead End are sensible and for the cars you need to go to Wildrider and Breakdown for some proper inanity!

Botcon 2016 Unit 3

In the run up to Botcon 2016 a rumoured list of exclusives did the rounds. One of the more insane items on it was a repaint of Streetwise as Under-3. Under-3 was the name applied to a McDonalds Beast Wars toy that transformed from a Lion's head to an unarticulated robot which resembled Optimus Primal. It was the very definition of the word obscure and was one of the items on the list that was treated with some scepticism. As it turned out the list was very accurate, failing to get Airazor from Slipstream and Botcon Custom Class Ratchet right. We'll come to what they thought Ratchet would be later ....

The name Under-3 is adapted to Unit-3, top fit in with a previous Botcon comic story. The Streetwise car shell, it's fourth use, gets cast in bright yellow with black and orange striped details, headlights and Maximal symbol on the bonnet. It looks amazing! Transforming to robot mode reveals the robot parts, and second use of the actual Streetwise head to have been moulded in black with orange and silver paint applications all but matching the original Happy Meal freebie.

Top, top toy. Left field choice but applied to a very appropriately chosen toy mould. Along with Tranatulas one of the highlights from Botcon 2016.

Rumoured Botcon Customise Class Blue Bluestreak

It's odd including a toy that doesn't exist on these lists but I think this deserves a mention ....

Two mistakes occurred on the rumoured list of exclusives I saw. Airazor from Slipstream wasn't on it, replaced with Arcee from Legends Blackarachnia, which I thought made sense as there was a previous Botcon Arcee from Transmetal 2 Blackarachnia.

The other thing missing from the rumours list was the Customise Class Ratchet, which I would have considered worthy of a more main line release as part of another Autobot Combiner. The item the list had on it was Blue Bluestreak from Dead End/Streetwise. This made vague sense: there's already a Streetwise use in the Botcon exclusives and the customise class toy tends to be a reuse of one already in the exclusive packages. Blue Bluestreak is a "variation", although it only exists as a Diaclone toy with a lot of collector interest and by doing Blue Bluestrek here it allows a proper silver/anime Bluestreak to be done in the main Combiner Wars line or as part of another Autobot Diaclone Combiner boxset.

Alas it was not be and with Ratchet's appearance my dream of owning all 18 Diaclone Autobots in Combiner Wars form took a severe dent.

I wait to see any version of Bluestreak in any of his three colour schemes, but in particular the rumoured blue one, from the various customisers at work out there.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Combiner Wars Generation 2 Breakdown and Botcon Ravage & Tigatron

Generation 2 Breakdown

Breakdown is probably the most recognisable of the the Generation 2 Stunticons due to him being the only one that actually came out, albeit as a 1994 Botcon exclusive. Having got a Breakdown in Combiner Wars, I thought it an inevitability that the Transformers Collectors Club will repaint it as G2 Breakdown like they did with the universe version. However the entire G2 Menasor set/Stunticon team was released in 2016 as a shared internet exclusive!

Simple colour swap here: white becomes a bright light blue/green, dark blue becomes purple with the red paint op on the bonnet turning black. Like the other G2 Combiner Wars Stunticons the Hand Foot Gun is also cast in a pale blue.

You need to see the G2 Combiner Wars Stunticons in the plastic. People can describe them and show pictures but it doesn't remotely cover it. They're mad and I love them!

Botcon 2016 Ravage

Expanding the three member Tripredicus was always going to require adding two new members and since both Tarantulas and Ravage are shown to be agents of the Tripredicus council in the Beast Wars cartoon series they are the obvious choices. Ravage fits quite easily into the vehicle theme too, having been a car in Alternators with a Ravage beast head on a humanoid robot like the Beast Wars version had. There's a very indirect link to the choice of which Combiner Wars car here too: Alternators Ravage was a remould of Alternators Tracks. The Reveal The Shield Tracks was remoulded in Generations Wheeljack, who's Combiner Wars version is a remould of Breakdown. I did say it was indirect!

I've no real complaints about the black Lamborghini vehicle mode apart from being worried that doing one here might weigh against us getting a Combiner Wars Generation 2 Sideswipe down the line. At first glance the robot appears to be OK, within the limitations of the Breakdown mould, though the new beast head looks a little squashed from the front. Unfortunately it gets much worse from the side, showing that there's not much depth to the head at all with the back being virtually flat. What little detail there is on the back of the head looks like a simplified robot head. There's a nice touch with a Decepticon symbol on one shoulder and a Predacon symbol on the other but these then end up sideways on in car mode. I'm also finding the hips, a little dodgy in previous incarnations anyway, to be even worse here getting stuck in the wrong places and being very difficult to position in robot mode.

They've tried bless em, it just hasn't quite worked.

To compound things the club then failed to pack Ravage's Hand Foot Gun with the toy requiring it to be collected separately!

Botcon 2016 Tigatron

Virtually the moment Ravage was revealed I was pretty sure what one of the souvenir toys for Botcon 2016 was going to be: In 2000 the Japanese Beast Wars Ravage, with a beast head as used by the Botcon 2016 version, was repainted as Transmetal Tigatron so it was a given that the new head would get a further reuse and so it proved. As well as appearing in 2001 there was a second Tigatron, this time a car, 2006 making this a further homage to a past Botcon toy.

How well they've pulled the toy off is debatable: the toy is an off white, almost very pale grey, unlike the pure bright white generally used for Tigatron since the Japanese version of the original Tigatron. A large Maximal symbol adorns his bonnet with a smaller one on each shoulder. There's a blue highlights in car mode and mint green blue highlights in robot mode. The head possesses the same problems as it does with Ravage and I'm finding the quality control on mine to be slightly dodgy with wheels and spoilers popping off all over the place plus, like Ravage, the problematic hip arrangement is stiff in all the wrong places.

Sum the bits up and probably the worst toy in the whole Botcon 2016 set. Needs better colours, better QC and a better head!

Botcon 2016 Tarantulas and Unite Warriors Wandering Roller

Botcon 2016 Tarantulas

There's two points that need to be made about this toy before we look at it. The first concerns the choice of character: expanding the three member Tripredicus was always going to require adding two new members and since both Tarantulas and Ravage are shown to be agents of the Tripredicus council in the Beast Wars cartoon series they are the obvious choices. Tarantulas also fits nicely into the "reminiscing about the TFCC/Botcon" theme that runs through the club's toys in their last year, 2016: The club did a Tarantulas as part of it's third subscription series.

The second concerns the choice of toy to turn into Tranatulas: As repaints go I've had difficulty seeing the point of using Rook as a new version of Tarantulas. The colours are inspired by the Transmetal version and I've just seen the light! Tarantulas transforms into a motorcycle, like Groove so using Unite Groove would have been sensible. But Groove only exists in Combiner wars as a Legend: his replacement as a limb is Rook! So Tarantulas becomes a Rook repaint.

Tarantulas swaps blue & grey for black and white for a bluey green matching the Transmetal version quite well. The dark rook vehicle looks great but the robot is simply stunning nailing the Transmetal version to a tee!

I'd like to use the Ida Arms Micron, that came with Airachnid with him but sadly the peg on the rear of Ida doesn't project back far enough to lock tightly in the fist hole on Tarantulas. The peg under Ida does but that results in a right angled claw hand.

Other than that it's a fabulous toy and the real highlight of the Botcon 2016 Predacus set.

Unite Warriors Roller

Roller is the latest Rook repaint to be announced but the first time this toy mould has been used in Japan when he was released on April 30, 2016.

Google Translate describes the toy thus, from the TakaraTomyMall page for Unite Galvatronus which he's a part of:


And separated from one's fellow during the battle, the original Autobot warrior who was wandering Between dimension.

The deformation to Roku-rin armoured vehicles. I continued to wait for the relief of alone fellow he was torn absolute lonely soul. He was considered to be abandoned to the trust to have the fellow is dominated by despair and guilt, leading to soon have a strong grudge energy. It has been summoned to this world sensed the energy to Unicron. It had lost some of the stored by long wandering, we are holding a particularly strong hatred against the convoy commander is a symbol of Cybertron.

This sounds very similar to the version of Roller seen in IDW's More Than Meets The Eye and indeed the cartoon in the Grand Galvatron boxset shows him consuming an Energon drink through a straw just like in the MTMTE Comic.

In vehicle mode Roller takes Rooks white and swaps it for silver, mostly by virtue of painting over green and dark grey plastic, giving a vehicle mode that's the same colour as a variation on the Roller packed with the original Prime. Meanwhile in robot mode Rook's blue is swapped for grey and his grey for red with the non painted parts that were white now appearing to be green.

The resulting toy looked very nice in pictures, as you can see in this gallery but in hand the red is very VERY bright red/orange and your eye is drawn to them. MTMTE Roller is a shade more muted. I'm not sure about the green parts either, the illustrations I see make me think these might be better in pale blue.

The amount of silver paint scares me, I'm worried this will get scratched something chronic in years to come. It's a nice deco, but I worry about it's durability. And, for a toy that excited everyone when they saw it, I think it's probably the weakest of the Galvaron limbs deco wise in hand.

G2 Dragstrip

G2 Dragstrip

Original Dragstrip had a cancelled Generation 2 repaint which would I thought would make a nice convention exclusive down the line. Turned out that this went in a G2 Menasor set which is an internet shared exclusive.

I'm starting to feel a bit sorry for Dragstrip: this is only his third repaint when others, Dead-End, are nearly in double figures! The other two Stunticon cars even appear together in Victorion but he gets ignored. He's got no remould, his weapon is one of the worst in the line and he shelf warmed in the UK by virtue of being the only Stunticon released here and not being the Aerialbot that UK fans needed to complete their Superion. His Japanese version is disliked due to a shoddy attempt with paint at giving him six wheels. Even his repaint is somewhere down the liked list due to some engineering decisions on the original preventing it from forming a more accurate Mirage.

However G2 Dragstrip is very nice. The black and blue work well together with the yellow cockpit being reflected in robot mode by the yellow combiner connector on the chest.

Great redeco. But, somehow, by the standards of this set Dragstrip isn't a winner in the box purely by virtue of not being mad enough!

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

G2 Skydive & Air Raid, Botcon Cicadon & Terrorsaur and Unite Warriors Ghost Starscream & Curse Armada Thrust

Generation 2 Skydive

After lying fallow since the first two waves of the line the Skydive/Air Raid mould gets a large amount of usage early in 2016. The first time we see them again is in the Generation 2 Superion set which was hinted at in May 2015, revealed at SDCC 2015 pre show breakfast and finally on sale very late in December 2015/early January 2016.

As the name suggests, this is the the G2 Skydive colours mapped onto the Combiner Wars Skydive mould and it looks great.

Generation 2 Air Raid

Similarly G2 Air Raid's colours are then used on the Combiner Wars Air Raid toy.

As ever I'm reminded that while 1986 Air Raid looks like Skywarp, G2 Air Raid's colours remind me of Thundercracker!

The Superion Boxset was available through online retailers such as Amazon.

Botcon 2015 Cicadon

Reusing Sky Dive as a vehicle version of Cicadon kind of makes sense as both are flyers though the red colouring chosen doesn't match how people remember the toy and is purely from his few seconds on-screen during the Beast Wars story Agenda. Nevertheless a red jet is always welcome and he looks very nice even if, unlike some of his team mates, he doesn't have a new head.

Botcon 2015 Terrorsaur

The reveal of the Botcon 2015 Giftset artwork set a precedent for what was to follow at the show by unintentionally revealing a toy before it was intended when it showed a small jet Terrorsaur in the top left of the drawing. Botcon then, a month before the convention, revealed their attendee figure before the show for the first time revealing that Terrorsaur was a red repaint of Air Raid with a new head.

Just like Cicadon above this toy looks good in red and makes a great companion piece for the above set. There's a superb orange pant job on the nose which makes you think of Terrorsaur's beak.

Unite Warriors Ghost Starscream

As you might be able to see from the above, I think that the Air Raid version of this toy makes a better Decepticon jet than Sky Dive. So when Grand Galvatron was revealed it was a little bit of a surprise to see Starscream from Sky Dive, even with a new head.

Even more surprising is it's a clear Starscream, as a version of the character post his movie elimination at the hands of Galvatron! Now I'm a sucker for clear repaints but with Transformers they have a habit of not lasting too well with repeated stress on the joints causing cracks. However the plastic used on this toy feels different to that on other clear repaints with a slightly rubber feel to it. Almost the entire toy is cast in clear plastic, bar the dual gun, upper legs & arms, which are solid grey, and the waist which is red. It's not obvious what colour the head is here because it's painted, but my guess is it too is red, matching the waist, because all the other versions of this toy have had matching heads and waist. The combiner connector, which will get some punishment, is also wisely solid plastic and moulded in yellow meaning in robot mode it does a great job of impersonating Starscream's cockpit which is also usually on his chest.

Takara Tomy have done a great job on the entire Grand Galvatron set but Starscream is one of the real standouts as you can see in this gallery.

Grand Galvatron is Unite Warriors set UW-07 and was released as a TakaraTomyMall exclusive in late April 2016.

Unite Warriors Curse Armada Thrust

Various identities for the two jets were bandied around after Grand Galvatron's silhouette tease but Armada Thrust wasn't one of them. Just like Starscream and his repaints are better suited for Air Raid, Thrust's original jet shape lends itself more to Sky Dive. However a cracking deco mixing two shades of grey with green makes up for that with the green combiner peg aping the central green stripe on Thrust's chest and a paint app on the left hand side of his chest matching the original. The job is completed with a brand new head, reminiscent of the original but also resembling Revenge of the Fallen Dirge.

I think Thrust will be overshadowed for many people by the others in this set but he really is a crackingly good toy as This Gallery shows.

Future Repaints

I've already remarked on the resemblance between the Air Raids in jet mode and Thundercracker & Skywarp: I'd like to see these two done properly from that mould with the right colours on the robot too. It therefore makes sense to me that Starscream, Sunstorm and Acid Storm would also 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.

The Armada Thrust head could be reused on one of Thrust's repainted in red or blue, in the Armada line, or in yellow and white as Universe Sunstorm or reused to form Revenge of the Fallen Dirge or his repaint Hunt For The Decepticons Jetblade.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Botcon 2016 Ramhorn

Botcon 2016 Ramhorn

Combiner Wars Brawl's first revealed repaint was his Generation 2 version but the first to market was his use in the Botcon 2016 Predacus boxset as a new version of Tripedicus' Ramhorn. As someone who's only experience of Brawn was as a floppy waisted mess that wouldn't lock together I wasn't looking forward to trying this....

The good news here is that Ramhorn is better. Much, much better. There's no obvious moulding changes here but the waist, at least the problematic lower hinger, is much MUCH better purely by virtue of being an awful lot stiffer on this toy than my Brawl. A lot stiffer to the point that I need to turn the waist rotational joint sideways before I move the hinged piece because the toy is more likely to move at the hips first!

As well as being a red and grey repaint of the original Brawl the toy features two new pieces. The first is the head, exclusive to this version of the toy, very accurately modelled after Ramhorn's fleeting on-screen appearance in Beast Wars: The Agenda part 1. However I worry about the ears: they're VERY thin pieces that I can see being broken quite easily.

The other new piece included with Ramhorn with be reused on the Technobot Nosecone. When Ramhorn was revealed his drill bit and cockpit was shown mounted on the rear of the tank but leaked boxart for Computron shows it mounted instead of the tank gun on the turret. So which is it? The answer is both! The drill, one solid unit I'm afraid: the drill bit doesn't spin, has the two shallow slots on it slide that enable it to fit in the turret front and indeed even be elevated a bit. There's also a 5mm peg rising up from the very rear of the drill unit and in front of that a 5mm peg hole recessed down from the top. This peg hole can then take the hinged 5mm peg on the back of the tank turret, locking it in place over the back of the tank. The drill works with the Brawl version of the toy too, in either position, so you can end up with a tank gun on the turret and a drill sticking out the back!

I am led to wonder is there has been a slight error with this piece: the handle is on the underside of the Brawl turret gun but the top side here. It looks very odd using it as a proper gun handle as it shows the exposed face of the drill to the top when using it as a weapon. Best to have it plugged into the bottom of the fist hole or the hole on he side of the arm. In vehicle mode I prefer it plugged into the front of the tank with the turret moved forward so it projects beyond the body for drilling. It's position in combined mode is less certain: you can't leave it in the turret in Ramhorn's prescribed arm mode or it'll hinder the arm's movement at the shoulder. Official pictures suggest mounted on top of the turret facing outwards.

Better than I expected it to be by some distance. A more solid spinning drill would have been even nicer as would some more thought as to how the drill would be held.