Saturday, 20 December 2014

Generations Combiner Wars Optimus Prime


Generations Combiner Wars Optimus Prime

When Optimus Prime was unveiled at Botcon 2014 he wasn't met with a lot of enthusiasm. But this was a toy with a secret which was revealed at San Diego Comic Con 2014 a few weeks later: Optimus was the core of a combining robot and indeed would be remoulded to form Motormaster.

Optimus isn't a stranger to combination over the years but generally his combinations fall into two types: combining with his trailer and combining with another robot.

Combining with his trailer pre-dates Transformers itself when Optimus Prime's ancestor Battle Convoy received a new trailer he could combine with Powered Convoy which in turn became the Transformer Ultra Magnus. Optimus' first new incarnation Powermaster Optimus Prime combined with his trailer as did the Optimus Primes from Robots in Disguise, Armada and Cybertron. A similar idea is used by the Victory Autobot leader Star Saber who is in no way shape or form Powermaster Optimus Prime but done as a jet!

The first Optimus Prime that could combine with another robot was the Japanese version of Powermaster Optimus Prime, Super Ginrai, who could combine with God Bomber to form God Ginrai. Star Saber could combine with Victory Leo to form Victory Saber. RID Optimus Prime combined with RID Ultra Magnus (Ultra Magnus' Japanese name God Magnus is a homage to both the original Ultra Magnus and the combining with Powermaster Optimus Prime God Bomber). All three Unicron Trilogy Optimus have a combining element: Armada Optimus combines with both Jetfire and/or Overload, Energon Optimus combines with either Omega Supreme or Wing Saber and Cybertron Optimus combine with either Leo Breaker or Cybertron Wing Saber. Even the Movie series has had a go at the idea with Revenge of the Fallen Optimus Prime combining with Jetfire.

But you say combining to Transformers fans and one thing instantly springs to mind: the Scramble City/Special team style of combining with 4 smaller robots forming the limbs to a body formed from a larger robot. Transformers has tried many other styles of combining and this is the one fans keep coming back to: the first combination system, as opposed to combining robot, used in the Transformers line. Transformers has returned to the idea more than once, notably with Energon's three combiners made of 4 basics and a deluxe but it didn't involve Optimus Prime. The closest Optimus has got to it was the Energon version which came with four drones that could be attached to Optimus to form a larger robot. Transformers fans, being traditionalists, didn't like it because, like Power Core Combiners the limb drones didn't transform into robots. Power Core didn't have an Optimus though you can argue that Smolder is meant to be one while Crankcase is all but a Nemesis Prime. Another close call is Cybertron Optimus Prime who is designed to have interchangeable add on arms. It's a great idea spoilt by only just one toy, the aforementioned Leobreaker, being released that took advantage of being able to combine with Optimus in this way. I'd have loved to have seen more Voyagers that combined with Prime in this way.

There is one other toy we should probably look at when talking about combiners & Optimus Prime and that's the Protectorbot leader Hotspot. If Hotspot were the natural cxolour for a fire engine, red, then he'd look at lot like Optimus Prime. Their head's are *very* similar. Have a look at Hotspot's repaint Fire Chief and you can see the resemblance, it's just a shame the chest is now orange and some of the blue has inexplicably remained. Was Hotspot meant to be a Fire Engine Optimus in it's original Diaclone form? We will never know.

So there's no previous Optimus Prime that acts as the core of a multi bot combining toy. However that's now changed with the Combiner Wars Voyager toy,

There's very little clues in his stock photos that Optimus is a combiner, though there are some pieces which if we'd looked carefully at at the time might have caused us to ask some questions, especially as we knew that Superion and other combiners were on the table for 2015. In retrospect it's quite a clever trick by Hasbro revealing the toy but not telling us everything about it at the time. What we know about it's combining ability comes from one not very clear picture and by inference from his remould Motormaster and Motormaster's combined form Menasor. Optimus Transforms by the front windows of his cab and first third of the cab sides splitting in two and folding back to form the shoulders. These are folded back against the middle third of the cab, with the exhaust pipes and the remaining cab third on his back. Now look at Menasor. There's the cab windows and exhaust pipes on his chest: so the front of the combined mode is the back of the robot mode. What of the last third of the cab? Well on Menasor that appears to be opened out across the chest and the car chest plate inserted into it. Sure enough a peak at Motormaster's vehicle mode and Optimus vehicle mode reveal hinges on the side of the vehicle and a split down the back of the cab to allow it to open out. Within, I suspect, is housed the combined mode head and perhaps the feet/hands. There's also some hatches on the robot mode legs that seemingly serve no function: they might also hide combiner parts. But if you look again at Motormaster's vehicle mode there's something attached to the back of the cab that looks like the combined mode waist plate. Sure enough Optimus has a piece there too which I can't see used on the robot mode. Finally Motormaster's weapons merge to become his combined mode sword: a look at Optimus' weapons makes it obvious that they too fit together to form a larger gun.

Lots of pictures of Menasor and Superion emerged, including a nice set of in hand pictures of the Aerialbots but we had to wait until the fiorst weekend of Decembver 2015 to see more of Optimus when he was shown at a Singapore Toy Event and then the combined mode was finally unveiled followed by an in hand gallery from Taiwanese blogger Blacklai.

The Optimus toy vehicle mode is, for the most part, quite traditional. He's a flat fronted truck, like the original Optimus Prime. The cab is red, the flatbed is blue with two wheels at the back and one at the front on each side so we've got the basics right. A lot of the front of the vehicle is made from two types of grey plastic, withthe window units being painted over. I think moulding the lighter grey in red would have worked better or at least applying red paint along the top of the front window and round the wide windows whichare themselves unpainted. There's painted windows on the back of the cab too, a feature similar to those on Cybertron Optimus Prime. These have a blue panel folded up in front of them. On top of the the flatbed is a trailer hitch/engine with pipes sticking out the back - this is formed from his robot mode guns. There's a 5mm hole on the back of the flat bed witha pair of tabs down each side, this matches the holes that the guns have been inserted into and the 5mm pegs with slots down the sides that form the handles.

To transform: remove the trailer hitch/guns. Fold the lower legs, formed from the flatbed, waist & upper legs, which are hidden inside the cab, down under the cab and fold his feet out. Again they're grey when maybe they should have been another colour, in this case blue. Customisers will have a field day touching this toy up! Fold the blue panel down onto his bottom. Pull the bottom of rear sides of the cab away and fold forward, then split the front of the cab down the windows. Pull out to the sides to form the arms rotating the arm round at the bicep so the wheels and side panel are on the outer edge of each arm and facing forward. Fold his head out of the top of the cab, the panel with the Autobot symbol on swings from side to side around a central pivot, and place a gun in each hand.

This Optimus is a bulky robot with large forearms somewhat reminiscent of Combat Hero Optimus Prime, thought sadly without the lightpipe feature that toy had. The panels on the side of the arms are inevitable reminiscent of Classics Prime but they work a lot better here almost forming a unit with the rest of the arm surrounding the cab's front wheels inside the forearm. If you'd like a thinner Optimus arm then fold the panels down under the arm: it presents a better profile from the front but looks a little odd when you raise the arms. The proportions look a little odd with the arms seeming too long, most of which is down to the grill of the cab forming the upper arm, but the legs and especially the body are a little too short too adding to the problem. No one piece is 100% to blame here but the result is the hands are around the level of his knees when his arms are hanging straight down instead of being around up/mid thigh level.

Articulation is good: the head turns, the shoulders turn and the arms can be raised to the sides. There's a bicep swivel and a bending elbow on each arm but nothing at the wrist, save for some upwards movement as part of a transformation we'll come to shortly. He has a waist, a universal joint at each hip, a thigh swivel and a bending knee as well as a bending ankle as part of the transformation. It's OK, but you feel a Voyager should have wrists swivels.

He comes with two guns, reminiscent of Powermaster Prime but in this case they're not identical. One picks up many design queues from the original Optimus gun including the butt and barrel while adding extra detail such as a 5mm peg hole on the top and another in the end of the barrel. The second gun, a new design, also has a 5mm peg hole on the top and a 5mm peg sticking out the back. Both have long 5mm handles, necessary to reach he peg hole in his fist and take into account the drop between the top of the arm and the top of the fist. Awkwardly they expose that the guns are made of red plastic instead of the black they're coloured: why not just cast them in black plastic? Sensing that the longer handles may be prone to snappin Hasbro has had a metal pin run up the centre of them to strengthen them, a step also applied to Prime's exhaust pipes behind the cab.

As a toy by itself Prime homages a lot of earlier designs but is subject to a few criticisms. But we're not done yet. Oh no.


Ultra Prime

To transform Optimus Prime into Ultra Prime's torso mode rotate each arm out to the sides at the bicep joint and turn till they face backwards. Bend each arm back at each elbow so what was the outside halves in robot mode are facing each other and are pointing upwards along what was the robot's front. In this position they slot and tab into place. Fold the hands up to expose the shoulder combination sockets. Fold each leg out to the side at the hips each at about a 45 degree angle to where they usually are. Rotate the thigh swivel 90 degrees so what was the inside of the leg faces fowards. Rotate the waist 180 degrees so the insides of the legs, where the grey panels are, are on the same side as what was the robot's back, which is now the combined robot front. Bend the knees so that the lower legs aproximately point straight down, but are actually slightly pointing toward each toher. Fold the grey panels up so the slots on the front of them meet the tabs on the upper legs locking the robot's knee joint in position. Fold the robot head down. Open the chest. Swing up the combined robot head bringing the grey panel it's attached to up to form thebase of the neck aand the top of the chest. Close the chest doors.

Slide Combiner wars deluxe limbs in to the sockets on the front of the legs and the tops of the arms. Peg Prime's guns together and place into the 5mm peg hole on either of the combined robot's hands.

Given that we're attaching all sort of other robots as limbs, the body needs to scream Optimus loudly to get over what this toy is. The head is definitely Prime with ear antenae so huge they beat even the previous winner, the much derided Optimus Maximus. The chest is red with larger blue windows so I's say we've got the basic details covered here. Like the smaller robot Optimus' comibined robot look is also reminiscent of other toys, with the chest reminding me of both God Ginrai and Star Convoy.

The chest itself opens up, revealing a matrix detail inspired by the Movie scene and copied on many other toys but here it's especially reminiscent of Energon Optimus Prime. Bellow it are two 5mm pegs in a 3 pronged cross shape which presumably allow Blackjack to be attached in the Menasor version of the toy. I'd lay money on that Blackjack getting a blue repaint as Roller for Optimus. In the meantime it leaves Optimus with Nipple attachment points, which guarantees him an entry into the X-rated Transformers pantheon, and I'm sure we'll soon seen picture with all manner of transformers Minicons/Microns attached. With some ingenuity several of the other Legends figures can also be attached as chest plates

Most of his articulation has been locked off for the combined mode torso but you can still turn the waist and head and have full use of the hips. Shoulder, bicep, elbow, wrist, knee and ankle articulation is provided by whichever limbs you've used and is the same on the selection of limbs I currently have: For a combined robot that's decent articulation.

I'm not so keen on the bent back fist sitting on the shoulders of the toy but it's not the first time this has happened with a combined toy: depending on how you position him Abominus has the same problem. Since the hands have the 5mm peg hole at the bottom facing up you might as well use them and raid your 5mm peg weapons box to tool Prime up with some shoulder cannons.

I've seen a lot of people saying "this is just a retooled Motormaster" and "why is there an Optimus Prime in the Combiner Wars line?". I like this toy. A lot. It does something new with Optimus we've not seen before. It challenges the established combiners play pattern by making a torso with no official robots that combine with him, you just attach any toy you want, but there's a lot of people out there not coping well with this idea at all who are fixed that A + B + C + D + E = Z in combiner terms. Personally I'd have been happy with an entire line of toys like this. EVERY Deluxe and Voyager is a combiner component and you put them together however you want, but I can see that being a step waaaaaay too far for many old school Transformers fans. Interestingly the coverage at SDCC boasted "16 deluxe and 6 Voyagers for 2015" which means that there's FOUR teams of four Deluxe limbs plus a Voyager body plus two extra Voyagers. Optimus is one, who's the other? We suspect that the other two team Voyagers are Hotspot and Onslaught and they might share a mould so possibly the sixth Voyager will be a Silverbolt repaint? Personally I think Hasbro may have shot themselves in the foot by doing a 2015 Megatron Tank as a Leader: I'd have loved a Megatron tank combining core and you could easily have got a Bludgeon repaint out of it. Of course if Hotspot is his traditional blue they could repaint that in red as a Fire Engine Optimus in homage to Robots in Disguise Optimus Prime/Car Robots Super Fire Convoy.

Optimus isn't without his faults: The stickers on the shoulders on mine are slightly lopsided. Being unable to position the legs pointing straight down is a problem in combined mode: you're having to position them slightly pointing in and relying on the lower legs touching each other keeping the legs the correct distance apart which in turn places the thigh plates under an amount of tension and causes them to pop off if you move it. That in turn affects the combined toy's balance: please don't get me wrong, it's got pretty decent balance, but Superion's is so much better: I had Superion stood on the desk, with 2013 Legends Optimus stood on Superion's shoulders, I was shaking the desk and Superion wasn't falling over. There's several pieces here that I'd have a different colour: Combined neck plate & matrix and front window panels should be red, not grey, fists & feet should be cast in blue plastic and guns in black plastic.

Voyager figure: Very good, much much better than people thought it would be. Combined figure: decent but Superion is so much better!


Future Repaints and Add Ons

Already slated to be remoulded as Motormaster I see no reason why this toy shouldn't return again as Ultra Magnus (is a repaint of this toy at the heart of the much rumoured Leader Magnus?) and Scourge. The Motormaster remould could be redone as his unreleased Generation 2 variant, recently glimpsed at auction.

As I said above I'd lay money on Menasor's Blackjack being repainted in blue as Roller for this toy.

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 Wal*Mart's computer has leaked the names of four toys that look like they fit this bill: Mirage, Sunstreaker, Ironhide & Prowl

Energon Optimus Prime offers some intriguing possibilities: 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.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Generations Metroplex


Generations Metroplex

When the Titan class Metroplex was announced at Toyfair 2013 - see TFU for more pictures from the unveiling - there was great excitement because base mode Transformer robots had been out of vogue for some while. Effectively there's been just THREE since 2000: RID Optimus Prime, Armada Optimus Prime and Cybertron Metroplex plus a few not so good attempts in the Cyberverse line including Optimus Maximus. Equally large single robots had been out of vogue for a few years except as larger versions of existing characters. So a large Metroplex was much anticipated.

Obviously this toy would invite comparisons with two older transformers: the original 1986 Metroplex and 1987'S 2 Foot High Fortress Maximus. As it happens my Generations Metroplex lives in a cupboard with both of these! I'd not got round to reviewing it at the time but two things have happened recently to get me interested in this toy again: Concept art has materialised which has made me think about certain features and a long awaited third party add on is now in my hands....

Metroplex isn't the only toy in the box: he comes packaged with Scamper, a new version of the six wheeled car transformer which was one of three extra toys packed with original Metroplex. His car mode follows the original by having two pairs of rear wheels and has a 5mm peg hole on his roof on which you can mount the red dual barrelled blaster that come with him. To transform him unpeg the arms from the sides of the toy, fold the rear of the car back to form the lower legs and reveal the upper legs then fold the waist forward before folding the chest down. The resulting black robot, with grey upper limbs and a red head, is a little smaller than most of the recently released Legends figures. There's ball joints at the knees, hips, neck, shoulders & elbows so his articulation is pretty decent. As well as the 5mm hole from his car mode, which is now on his back, Scamper's got 5mm peg hole hands that he can use to hold his gun. Fab little companion figure which will have some uses later.

Metroplex comes packaged in robot mode with one arm needing attachment. We'll start by transforming him into Aircraft carrier mode:

Straighten the arms and fold them out behind him. Push each leg in beneath the knee so the joint slides to the outer side of the leg. Bend the legs up 90 degrees at the waist and sit Metroplex down. Fold the kneepads down so they rest over the feet: there's some sculpted detail that their red supports rest against. Fold the front of the lower legs forward to form the front of the runway and reveal the rear. Push the upper legs together: there's some tabs on his left leg which recess into his right. Take the gun, fold the handle in, and recess the tabs sticking out the bottom into the slots at either side of the rear of the ramp. Extend the cannons out the front of the shoulders. Pull the ramp out of his right chest so it sits on the back of the launch ramp. Swing the head antennae so they point up. Fold the head forward and raise the targeting screen. Fold the top of his left shoulder forward to become a dual cannon and reveal a gunner station. Fold the front of his left chest down to reveal a moulded missile array.

Wow.

The shear size of this vehicle/base mode is incredible. I've seen it described as his Aircraft Carrier mode, and that's quite an appropriate description with the two long thin strips formed from the inside of his legs. You could eaily accomodate a couple of G1 jets on this, but using Legends jets of either the current or the smaller Legion size just makes it look even bigger. It's a shame that there haven't been any Autobot jets that can use it released recently. The runway deck is so big that it can comfortably accomodate the original Metroplex.

Really this toy, and this mode, is one that needs other toys to be used with it for it to be properly appreciated. The gunner station on his shoulder can easily accomodate a Legends figure: I've had Scamper sit in there but have also used the Autobot'a gunner Bluestreak. The backs of his arms, now facing up, reveal a whole load of useful features. There's a helipad on the back of what was his left shoulder while his right shoulder has a command center. The arms are covered in both 5mm and 3mm holes so break into your weapons boxes and tool him up with Arms Microns, Minicon weapons, Mech Tech, Cyberverse and the like. A repair arm can be folded out the deck. And, because it is his vehicle mode, the entire structure can roll along on the wheels under the toy: two under each thigh and each lower leg, one under the waist.

So where does the big red gun go? Well you can peg the handle into the back of his right shoulder and have it leaning over the toy. But the intention would appear to have been for Metroplex, like the original, to have TWO of these weapons and, again like the original, for the weapons to be mountable on the deck. If you look to the outer sides of the rear of the runways there's a raised edge. There's two thin red pieces of plastic sticking out the bottom of the gun which are just the right size apart to slip over this edge and fit into a slot which holda the guns on relatively stably. Of course to do this and make it look right you need two guns and sadly the standard version of Metroplex has just one, presumably as a cost cutting measure. The gun itself is a nice piece of kit, some decent sculpting including a number of 5mm peg holes. Like it's predecessor the gun is a missile launcher :-)

Metroplex is probably most famous for being an Autobot City though: To transform him remove the guns and fold the ramp in. Fold the twin cannon back over. Separate the runways. Bend each leg back 180 degrees under the waist. Rotate the waist 180 degrees. Fold the top of each upper leg out to the sides. Raise the foot slightly so forms a tunnel down the leg. Dlide the cannons back into the shoulders. Fold his right arm forward. Rotate his right arm so the elbow would bend in across the chest, but don't bend it. Open the hand on the forearm revealing a cannon. Fold his left arm back behind his shoulder. Open the top of his his left shoulder blade out to form a helipad and fold the cannons out of it. Fold the handle of the gun down and peg into the rear of his right shoulder.

Whereas the vehicle mode looks like it might be made for planes this is a vehicle mode for cars with the legs being transformed into roadways. It's possibly to run a car from the ramp at the end of the extended leg right the way up to the knee joint, a distance of about 40cm. The bays folded out to the side also have a ramp leading into them, but this time at the body end of the toy. Lots of 5mm weapons mounting holes still on the legs and the body, a larger helicopter pad and another gunner station, this time at the end of the arm. You can fit a couple of Legends in there standing and when closed, although the clearance isn'rt too big, just about fit a smaller Autobot car in the cavity. Scamper will just about fit and I imagine the likes of the old Legends Prowl/Bluestreak will fit too. My only real complaint about this mode is that the ramp leading out the chest doesn't reach the floor! If I was picky I'd say "could we have some Micromaster ramp connectors please?" but I know that the chances of getting a connector for a 25 years old toy is minimal.

Let's transform him back into his robot mode: Fold the cannons down and fold up the left shoulder. Swing the left arm forward. Close the cannon on the arms. Fold the feet forward and fold the repair bays in. Swing the legs 90 degrees under the toy. Fold the front of the ramps up to become the front of the lower legs. Slide the legs out at the knees. fold the kneepads up. Turn the waist 180 degrees. Fold the head back. Position the arms. Fold the handle down from the gun, open the hand and slip the block on the side of the handle into the slot on the palm of the hand.

Actually I'm rather impressed with the gun handles: it solves the problem of how to have an articulated hand that can hold a weapon properly! It's not just the big red gun that has these on them: the two black guns on the shoulder have an identical handle that folds out from them allowing the robot to hold them. It would be nice if a third party manufacturer could make the handles on their own with a 5mm hole at one end and a 5mm Minicon peg at the other end. These would let Metroplex use standard Transformers weapons and act as additional buildings for his city mode. Stick hole on one side of the middle and a post on the other and you'd have a great universal adaptor for use with other toys too. The shoulder guns are held in place by a 5mm peg on them which sinks into the side of the slide out shoulder cannons. Properly attatched there's some black plastic tabs that stop the guns moving but if you pull them out slightly they can rotate just like the original Metroplex shoulder cannons.

At 2ft high Metroplex is aproximately the same size as Fortress Maximus: The top of Max's head is higher but when Metroplex's antennae are pointed straight up they are above the height of Max. Where he beats Max is in the articulation stakes: Knees bend, thigh swivel, universal waist joint, rotating waist & head, shoulders that turn at the body and raise to the sides, bicep swivel, bending elbow, rotating wrist, four fingers that bend at the first knuckle and a thumb that folds sideways.

The fingers are a little interesting as they look like gun barrels. The concept art indicates these are meant to be guns which form a cannon in base mode, replaced by the one that folds out the hand on the actual toy. Both of his fold out gunner stations can still be used in robot mode, but only the one on his lift shoulder is naturally at the correct level to sit a figure in: you need to raise his right arm so it points forward and rotate the bicep in 90 degrees to use the one there. Perhaps a swivel bellow the elbow might have been useful as well.

Hidden in his chest, as per the original toy, is a moulded array of missiles which are revealed by folding down the flap on the left side of his chest. The top of this panel is coloured grey, which is different from the black of the rest of the chest fronts. Yes the detail matches the original Metroplex, but this new version has it's chest modified so both sides are shaped similarly: I want to remove the grey panel and paint it black!

Another feature present in the concept art has made it to the final toy but isn't documented: The white kneepads fold down, with the bottom locking into slots in the leg to form platforms for smaller figures to stand on. There's a 5mm hole in the middle of the platform and I want some sort of elevated post mounted weapon to go there. Anything on top of the hand adpators/risers I describe a bove would do but I'm tempted to raid my Micronauts boxes and get the missile launcher from the Giant Acroyear

Metroplex has light & sound features which are available in all modes: To set them off you press down on the control cabin at the top of the chest which causes the circle on his chest and his eyes to light up. Personally I think it might work better if the control cabin itself lit up! He either says a mixture of voice samples or produces a sound effect. The voice samples run in this order with the sound effects between them:

Metroplex heeds the call of the last Prime.
Foolish Decepticons.
Decepticon deactivation commencing!
Target synchronizing initiated.
Target...obliterated.
These Decepticons scatter like cowards.
'Til All Are One.
Straight out the box Metroplex has few paint applications but is one of the first hasbro toys for a long while come with a sticker sheet to decorate the toy..... a VERY LARGE sticker sheet! I took one look at it and decided to give it a miss. To be honest the only ones I really miss are those for the cabin at the top of the chest but as I said above I'd rather this was clear light up plastic anyway!

The head on the toy, modelled after the original Metroplex but with a white face instead of the original chrome, is meant to have a couple of action features in it, but unfortunately neither works particularly well on mine. The antennae when raised & lowered are meant to raise and lower the visor. On mine it seems to be either up or down and personally I prefer it down over the eyes. Raising the panel at the back of the head reveals a small lever which rocks side to side. This moves the eyes in a manner similar to the eagle eye feature Action Man had. Unfortunately the effect is only noticeable when the eyes are lit up, and there's no way to make them stay lit up. Even when they are the effect is minimal. The plethora of 5mm and 3mm socket, plus the compatibility with smaller figures really makes you feel some thought has gone into playing with this toy with the rest of your Transformers collection

Summing up: I think Hasbro has learnt a lot of lessons from what is seen by many as the disastrous Optimus Maximus released the previous year. Metroplex has much better articulation, much better quality plastic, has many more features and is much much bigger. I really don't think you could hope for much more from a modern base mode toy. My two major problems are the ramp, which doesn't extend far enough in base mode, and the lack of a second gun, which I can easily see being a cost decision. What we've got is an excellent toy that actually feels like it's worth what we're being asked to pay for it. Adding anything else on, like a second gun or new versions of SixGun/Slammer, who were included with the original Metroplex, would have increased the costs of the toy.

Metroplex has had a lot of pictures taken of him. Alfe's Toy Blog has a number of entries on the toy covering various aspects:

2015 - unboxing
2016 - city & vehicle mode
2017 - robot mode
2018 - gun & base mode
Also see the TMUK Generations Metroplex thread for pictures of the Metroplex, belonging to Bogatan of the Toy-Fu team, out on his adventures at Auto Assembly 2013.

In the USA Metroplex was available on general release for $124.99.

The UK version of Generations Metroplex was released as a Toys R Us for $124.99. Unfortunately the UK version, identically packed to the US version, is missing the voice chip and only has the sound effects. To date there hasn't been any significant price reduction on the toy.


Third Party Add Ons

Metropolex has attacted a number of third part manufacturers with improvements and add ons: Before & After (BBTS), TFC Toy (BBTS) & Iron Factory have all produced versions of Six-Gun and/or Slammer. Uniquetoys Head, Radar & Turrets set (BBTS) isa something I'm not really sure I can see the point of. MMM Productions Hands and Ramp (BBTS) look useful, with the hands forming guns and the ramp addressing the concerns I've had above.

But the item I have actually bought is X2 Toys Metroplex Guns. I bought the red version from BBTS to match the gun I already have with the toy but they also have a white version planned for production. As a second gun it's a really good match for the original: you have to look carefully to spot the differences. The X2toys version lacks a 5mm peg on the top of the toy, the missile & trigger but when Metroplex is holding the weapons together they look all but the same. A worth while buy by itself but it's also got a tank mode and a defence base mode which while they're so so are nice extras to have.


San Diego Comic Con Metroplex

We now enter the world of the different versions of Generations Metroplex ..... and there are a few! Metropolex himself had made his retail d├ębut around the time of Botcon 2013 and just a few weeks later an exclusive version was revealed for sale at the San Diego Comic Con. The toy included several changes from the retail version:
2 red guns instead of one
Chromed face and thighs
Metallic stickers
This toy also included a set of 12 non transforming minifigures representing the robot and vehicle modes of the following toys:
Orion Pax
Bumblebee
Trailcutter
Hoist
Megatron
FOC Starscream
The Autobots are coloured red, the Decepticons purple in an effect similar to the decoys sold with certain 1986 & 1987 figures.

The SDCC version retailed for $149.99 and was numbered 01 of 30 in the Thrilling Thirty exclusive collection. For more pictures see Seibertron's SDCC Metroplex unboxing and TFW 2005's Metroplex SDCC Gallery


Takara-Tomy Generations Metroplex

In late September 2013 Metroplex was released as part of the Japanese Generations line. The Japanese version includes a number of changes from the US version:
2 red guns instead of one
Chromed face
Silver painted thighs and many different paint ops
Lower legs cast in white plastic instead of black
Alfe's Toy Blog has several different galleries showing this toy off:
2073 - unboxing and comparison to SDCC
2078 - gun and Scamper
2079 - with 1986 Metroplex & Trypticon. Robot Mode.
2080 - base mode crewed by small toys
2081 - vehicle mode
2085 - vehicle mode comparisons
2086 - crewed vehicle mode
2093 - robot mode in action
2094 - robot compared with US version
Metroplex was Generations to TG-23 released on 28th September 2013.

AGC Hong Kong 2013 Metroplex

Exclusive to Hong Kong's ACG-CON 2013 this Metroplex is identical to the SDCC Metroplex but with glossy stickers, and gold/silver decoys instead of red/purple.

ACG-CON Metroplex is also included in the Thrilling 30 exclusive collection and is numbered 05 of 30. So to get the whole collection, which is yet to be completed, you have to buy TWO Metroplex's from different conventions on opposite sides of the globe.


Which Generations Metroplex do I own?

So how can you tell which version of Metroplex you own?

Here's a simple guide:

Toy Face Thighs Guns Stickers Minifigures
Hasbro White White 1 Glossy -
Takara-Tomy Chromed Grey 2 Glossy -
SDCC Chromed Chromed 2 Metallic Red/Purple
Hong Kong ACG-CON 2013 Chromed Chromed 2 Glossy Gold/Silver

Future Repaints

The obvious repaint for Metroplex is as the Japanese evil Destron repaint of the original Metrotitan. But I'd definitely want Micromaster ramp connections with that! Beyond that a number of other differently coloured Titans were featured in IDW comics in the 2012 More Than Meets The Eye & Robots In Disguise annuals and Dark Cybertron event.

Could you retool him as Fortress Maximus? Maybe. But the retool would have to be quite extensive involving new legs, feet, his right chest and head

And, given that they've done Metroplex, I wonder how a Generations version of Trypticon would turn out?

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Generations Springer & Sandstorm


Generations Springer

Springer's original toy, used in the 1986 Movie, the cartoon and the UK comics was a triple changer. But all his subsequent versions have tended to concentrate on one mode. His Energon (Bulkhead is meant to be Springer, it's obvious!), Universe, Movie and Generations GDO are all helicopters while his Botcon 2007 is a ground vehicle. Until the 30th Anniversary Generations line a triple changer hadn't been attempted....

Springer comes in robot mode: we'll start by transforming him to helicopter mode:

Fold the head down. Fold the chest plate up to form the nose of the helicopter, pushing the head through it and down into the chest cavity. Lower the front landing gear. Bring the legs together. pegging the upper parts of the lower legs into each other. Push the ankle joint back, raise the feet and push the heel spurs into the feet. Lower the rear landing gear. Pull the shoulders down locking them into the sides of the lower chest. Lift the clear plastic panel side of the lower arm, fold the fist into it, and close the panel over it.

Unfold the lower arm, the wing panel should fold out. Fold the clear plastic & fist section out round the underside of the elbow. Fold the wing panel in so it locks onto the outside of the upper arm - the joint connecting the two upper arm panels should be bent where it meets the clear plastic/fist panel, not where it meets the wing panel. Bend the legs forward slightly at the knee and peg the upper legs into the panel hanging down behind them. Split the sword in two and fold the halves out to the side. Peg the handle into the silver surrounded 5mm hole on the top of the helicopter. Fold the fins on the rear of the helicopter out to the sides.

So he's green, yellow and grey which works to start with. The rotor blade spins freely which is good and it looks like a helicopter. The back and the sides of the sides of the fuselage don't look right, the portions made from the folded out arm panels. I can see what they're trying to do with them but it doesn't really work. One of the problems with being a triple changer I guess, as are the wheels visible through the panels at the front.

Springer comes with a double barreled missile launcher. In helicopter mode this clips on under his nose: fold the landing gear back and up into the nose cavity and slot it into the space vacated by the landing gear. The hold is so so when you've got it slotted in but the slotting in is a bit tricky. Why they didn't just put a 5mm peg under the nose for the gun's handle I don't know. It also has the effect of loosing the wheel for the front landing gear which isn't great. There's a spare 5mm port on the roof of the toy but you can't really mount the gun there without affetng the rotor's ability to spin because the clearance is too low.

Broadly aspeaking I think we'll call his helicopter mode a success but some of the details are frustrating.

Transform to vehicle mode: remove the missile launcher/fold the landing gear up. Fold the cockpit and roof section back revealing a longer nose. Fold out the lower arms sections of the sides, with the wing pointing in, and raise the clear window sections. Swing the side sections forward and lock onto the sides of the nose, folding back the panels covering the front wheels. Fold the rear of the tail forward to form the rear sides of the vehicle and the rear wheels and then fold the tail fins out to the sides. Mount the cannon on thevehicle using the 5mm peg. Fold the swords together then slide into the underside of the car, between the outer halves of the shoulder blades, locking the landing gear into place on top of it.

While I can't quite get the panels on the front of the car mode to lock together as I'd like, this is a surprisingly solid car which I'm really quite impressed with. I've seen far worse car modes on toys that doidn't have a third mode and you couldn't tell there's a helicopter in there.

To transform back to robot fold the rear sides back to form the lower legs, tucking the folded up tail fins behind them. Fold the feet forward and heel spurs back. Pull the sides of the car away from the body and pull the car side panels out swinging forwards to cover the front wheel. Fold the wing panel outand onto the side of the car. Fold the fist out and then fold the side window panel down to cover it (one of mine doesn't qute fold into place properly). Pull the shoulders out to the sides. Pull the helicopter landing gear out. Fold the head up. Fold the front of the vehicle modes down over the head, forming the robot chest, folding the landing gear in under the head. Peg the sides of the chest in place and unpeg the arms from them. Fold the top of the vehicle up onto his back. Slide the back of Springer's shoulders up and out to the side form wings. Place weapons in hand.

Springer is heavily based on Nick Roche's design (he was rather pleased when he found out) for Last Stand of The Wreckers (read it if you haven't already). This design gets the crucial details right: yellow chest, green head anmd lots of green & gry on the limbs. He's shoved full of articulation featuring some ankle movement thanks to transformation, bending knees, thigh swivels, universal joint at each hip, a waist swivel, ball jointed head, shoulders that raise and are ball jointed, bicep swivels, bending elbowa and wrist swivels. The head is lightpiped in clear blue. Each hand is a 5mm peg hole but he also has storage space for both weapons on his back thanks to two 5mm peg holes there.

This toy is a really good Springer. Yes you have to make some allowances for the toy being a triple changer in the vehicle modes but that's to be expected. It's captured the character well, including all his essential features. But the real genius of this toy mould design is yet to come....

Springer was released in the USA in the first Generations 30th anniversary Voyager wave alongside Blitzwing. He has appeared in at least one revision of most of the Voyager waves since. You can see pictures of the US version in TFW 2005's Springer gallery

Springer was released in Japan as Generations toy TG-21 Autobot Springer, which had some paint differences to the US version. You can see pictures of the Japanese version at Alfe's Toy Blog entries 2039 and 2040


Dr Wu Rainstorm guns

A little diversion here: a third party kit exists for Springer: the Dr Wu Rainstorm gun set. One is a nice large solid gun that I can't find a direct reference for but the main selling piece is the gattling gun that Springer uses during the course of Last Stand of the Wreckers. Not essential by any means but a very nice add on to have.

Generations Sandstorm

The original Sandstorm, released alongside Springer was also a ground vehicle/helicopter/robot triple changer and also like Springer his subsequent versions have all ommited one mode: His Machine Wars & Botcon 2013 versions were helicopters while his Hunt For The Decepticons DOTM & Generations GDO were ground vehicles. However both vehicle types were quite different to Springer's so when a Generations Sandstrom was announced as a retool of Springer fans were interested.

Once again he's supplied in robot mode so we'll start by converting him to helicopter mode:

Transformation: Follow the same first paragraph as above. Peg the top of the helicopter into the rear of the side panels. Fold the orange tail & yellow fan section back against the legs (I can't quite get it to peg into place on mine so it has to just sit there) and fold out the tail fins. Rotate the fans so the yellow painted section faces up.

Broadly speaking the superstructure of the helicopter modes is very similar but the look ids totally different! The difference is that Sandstorm has a panel along the tail, which changes the look, and instead of rotor formed from a sword has twin VTOL fans out to the sides. The fans spin and pivot forwards and backwards. The design is a departure from we're used from Sandstorm but doing it like this does distinguish him from Springer. There's two 5mm ports on the roof, one roughly where Springer's rotor is, one on the new tail panel. You can use either to mount the single missile launcher or, like Springer, slot it in under the nose. This time, however, there's a non moving wheel moulded on the underside of the handle to act as a landing gear.

The transformation to vehicle mode is the same as Springer's with everything ending up in the same place. The rear wheels are formed by the fans with the fan wings reinforcing the structure. The tail panel folds forwards over the cab with the tail fins covering the side windows.

From the front some clever extra headlamp & bar moulding disguises that this is the same shaped vehicle as Springer while the rear is toatlly transformed by the larger wheels. These raise the rear of the vehicle and thus alter the angle you're looking at it, transforming it into something can belive is a dune buggy, like his original ground vehicle mode, albeit one of a different design. Very good work here Hasbro.

Sandstorm's transformation to robot mode is the same as Springer's: just fold the rear wheels up first and then at the end fold the roof & tail up to form a backpack with the fans out to the sides.

Sandstorm's robot mode is a mix of yellow, orange and black but it's isn't a straight colour swap for Springer's colours even on the parts that haven't been retooled. Sandstorm's original robot form never really appealed to me but this version is much better. It is extensively retooled so standing next to Springer they look similar in places. The biggest change is probably the fan backpack that Sandstorm has which makes him look much larger than his counterpart.

I wasn't really interested in getting Sandstorm until BBTS offered it up with the price reduced. I'm really glad I did: it's probably the better of the two versions of the toy anyway but having both helps me to apprecaiate just how clever the design is in producing two similar but different looking triple changers.

Sandstorm was part of the second Generations 30th anniversary Voyager wave with repacks of the first two toys. You can see more pictures of him in TFW 2005's Sandstorm gallery

Sandstorm was released in Japan as Generations toy TG-29 Sandstorm, which had some colour differences to the US version, notably a lot more orange. You can see pictures of the Japanese version at Alfe's Toy Blog entries 2156 and 2157


Cloud Rodimus

TakaraTomy's Transformers Cloud line is a range of exclusives shared between e-HOBBY and TakaraTomy Mall. They'd already shown some interesting toys, repurposing Generations Blitzwing as Starscream and here they repeat the trick with the Springer mould becoming Rodimus. Incredibly it works, on the robot at least. The vehicle mode isn't quite the sleek thing we've come to expect from Rodimus and you just don't associate Rodimus with being a helicopter. But well done for trying Takara.

As a Japanese exclusive Rodimus is commanding a premium. Online retailer BBTS is asking $89.99 for the toy which is waaaaay beyond what I'm willing to pay!


Future Repaints

I've seen it suggested elsewhere that the first wave Generations Voyagers should be repainted as the Decepticon Duocons, Springer becoming Battletrap while Blitzwing becomes Flywheels (still think the names are the wrong way round on the Duocons) - see here on the IDW boards for a custom version.

Another reasonably obvious candidate for a Red Springer would be Quickstrike, the red repaint of his Energon form Bulkhead.

Customiser Cheetimus loves the Springer mould having used it as Drft and two versions of Age of Extinction Drift: see here and here.

Sandstorm has less obvious repaints but the twin fans possibly suggest an updated version of Highbrow.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Generations Blitzwing & Doubledealer and Cloud Starscream


Blitzwing

Blitzwing has problems. Lots of them.

He comes in robot mode and looks lovely sitting there in the box but then you start to play with him the problems start...

Lets transform him to jet mode: Fold the head & the middle of the chest forward & down so it fits between the legs & locks over his backside. The head then needs pushing down into the nose so it's under the cockpit and the nose-cone folded over it..... at which point it becomes a bit of a struggle partially because the head doesn't fit too well in the nose cone & could have done with recessing further and partially because the nose cone is made of rubber, which is never good for a Transformer toy part. I get that it's a safety issue but why not just the tip? Swing the shoulders back & up so the tops of the body part od the shoulders face up and then swing the back of the body part of the shoulders up to join it. The sides of the shoulder then fold round the back. This whole process involves some pin joints in very thin piece of plastic and I can see potential breakage here in years to come! Fold the tank gun barrel from the back through the empty chest cavity - the rear of the gun barrel feels like it's fixed but it isn't though excessive force may be necessary to get it to move. Fold the purple fins out to the sides. Fold the covers out the forearms to cover the fists and rotate the arms at the bicep so the exposed sides of the fist & sides of the elbow face up. Fold each arm forward and lock the downward facing tabs into the plane body. Rotate the legs at the things so the tank treads face in and the wings face out. Pull the wings out and swing the little fin out the wing so it holds them open. Pegs the weapons under the wings or peg them together and peg between the engines on top of the toy. Lock the feet helves together to form the engines. Swing the legs back so they're alongside the body. There's a little tab sticking out the inner side of each leg part that *SHOULD* lock into a slot on the body: good luck with that. Why they didn's just make two minicon sized pegs sticking out the side of the body the tank treads could peg into I don't know.... There's two more tabs that stick up from the legs that should lock in under the tail fins but I've struggled to get these to peg in ok: the robot legs appear to be positioned too wide for the tabs to both meet the holes they're meant to go in.

I've seen worse looking Decepticon planes than this, much worse, but apart from a fold down front landing gear and an opening cockpit it doesn't do a lot! The instability caused by the poor tabbing is a major issue for me.

Remove the weapons. Unpeg the arms from the top of the toy and fold the forearms out to the sides 90 degrees. Fold the tank gun barrel through between them then lock the arms in place in this new angle with the tail fins folded in. Fold the plane's back through the toy and lock into place so it's hidden in the toy body. Pull each robot leg away from the body and then pull so the waist joints expand to the sides. Rotate each robot leg at the thigh so the tank treads face down and the wings point up. Fold the wings into each leg pushing the tank treads out a bit: they pivot at the back allowing an extra section of tread to fold out the front. Fold this section round the front of the tank mode, under each robot thigh where it pegs in place. Make sure the tank tread is fully pulled out at the back. A tab at the top of the side of the leg fits the same tab hole in the body used in an attempt to secure the tank mode, but a tab sticking out the body fits into the inner side of the tank tread giving this mode additional stability. Rotate the jet's engines so the tail fins are on the inside of the toy. Fold the flaps out the sides of the waist to complete the solid front of the toy and keep the hips from recessing.. Peg the sword into the top of the tank and the gun into the top of that.

Much more stable, thanks to both sets of tabs meeting. Blitzwing's second vehicle mode is of course a tank so it's time for the tank test!

Does the tank turret rotate? Yes! Gun barrel, shoulder assembly and arms are all on a plate that can rotate on the front of the robot's chest.

Does the tank's gun barrel raise? Yes! Ok the gun barrel sits inside the turret and you have to move the sides slightly apart to get it to raise but it does.

But wait! There's a bonus here we don't see on that many Transformers tanks!

Does the tank's gun barrel fire? Yes! Pull back on the tank's gun barrel (The words "Armada Megatron's special feature" are going through my head now.....) and it shoots a missile.

The tank rools along nicely thanks to some wheels embedded in the treads.

My only real complain about the tank mode is that the point of rotation for the turrent is somewhat forward of the centre of the turret base.

To transform from tank to robot mode start by folding the waist flaps in. Unpegs the legs and rotate down in front of the tank. Unfold the feet. Unpoeg the tank treads, fold up and recess into the front of the legs. Rotate the legs at the thjigh so the tank treads are the same side of the body as the cockpit. Pull the tank barrel up and out the turret. Fold the rear fins out and fold the arms back do they point out the back of the tank, top of the robot. Fold each shoulder 90 degrees out to the side, then fold forward and down so the meet the top of the robot's body. Fold the front of the side of the turret into the robot's forearms to reval the hands. Fold the nose-cone up & back then pull the head out the body. Fold the tank barrel so it points up behind the folded back nose-cone. Place the gun in one hand and the sword in the other.

Let's start the robot mode with looking at the weapons: The sword is good, in two tones of purple with a darker hilt and a lilac blade. 5mm peg hole handle with an opposing 5mm peg & 5mm peg hole either side of the hilt which makes it easy to store. A nice good size too ...... unlike the gun which is far too small. It'd be a good weapon for a smaller toy though. It's almost like they made Blitzwing as a deluxe to match the size of Classics Astrotrain and Universe Tall Tankorr/Octane, upscaled it and forgot to do the gun! A better option would have been to have the tank's cannon be his hand gun by being removable and have a 5mm peg that he could hold it by. Instead it sits on his back, no longer surrounded by the turret, useless in robot mode. Yes the original Original Blitzwing had the turret & barrel on his back back, but sometimes a slavish reproduction of the original can hurt a toy's playability. Unfortunately one of the features not found on the original also hurts the toy: I mentioned earlier that there were problems getting the head to stow in plane mode: this is because it's a bit too big and that's partly to do with it containing a "Man-E-Faces" face swapping gimmick as a homage to Animated Blitzwing. I like the idea here, but size of the head harms the toy when transforming it.

Articulation: posable feet, thanks to the TF, and a ball jointed ankle. Bending knees, a thigh swivel and universal joints at each hip. No waist :-(. Turning head. Turning wrists. Bending elbow and bicep swivel. Then we have the shoulders.....

Here's what the shoulders are designed to do: allow the arms to raise out to the sides and rotate at the shoulder joints. Because of the way the toy transforms the shoulders are made up of three bar hinged panels: the top, which is hinged to the back of the toy, a rear panel that folds down from top panel and sits against the back of the toy, and a side panel which is attatched to the rear panel and has the connection to the arm. Top and rear panels should lock into the the front of the toy behind the upper chest. They don't. You can just about wedge the top panel into the rear of the chest, but the side panels get nowehere near locking onto the tab they're meant to attatch to. It looks messy to start with, and gets worse when you try to use the toy. Trying to raise the arms at the shoulder means the entire shoulder assembly swings back and out the body which is just dreadful. I've remarked before that I'm not keen on arms that aren't solidly attatched to the body and this is by far the worst example I've seen yet. How it ever got out the factory I don't know. Trying to raise the arms out to the sides is even more worrying: the joint is quite stuff and, just like when you swing them forwards/back during the transformation, it puts A LOT of stress on some very thin panels and bar joints. Very, very worrying. A google for Blitzwing Shoulders will reveals some pictures and several attempts to fix the problem which seem to involve taking the toy to bits and sanding down some parts to reduce the width of the body but that's the sort of modification which is beyond my ability to make. The fix is described in Post 245 of the TFW 2005 Blitzwing review thread.

For me the minor issues all summed up and the major issue with the shoulders kill the toy. There's no way it should have got out the factory with this many problems! See also TFW 2005 Resources Blitzwing & TFW Blitzwing gallery for more pictures.

Blitzwing was released in the USA in mid 2013 sharing a case with Springer. He's popped up in several subsequent Voyager cases as well. He was released in Japan with a modified more metallic deco as Generations toy TG-22. You can see pictures of that at Alfe's Toy Blog entries 2041 and 2042.


SXS Generations Blitzwing Upgrade kit

I'm not keen on Third Party Transformer toys when they toy is a straight rip off of an existing Hasbro Transformer. However I'm OK with 3P toys that add to or improve an existing toy. With Blitzwing having so many faults it was inevitable that an add on for him would emerge.

SXS add on is a 6 piece set: I bought one off eBay and the set I bought is missing parts: a pair of two missiles, each pair mounted on a 5mm peg to fit on the wings or behind the shoulders in robot mode. Nice additions, but not essential.

The third piece in the set is a new gun, in purple, which is essentially an upsized version of the gun which comes with the toy. It validates every criticism of the original gun being too small by looking just right on the larger toy. So now you can give the original away to one of your smaller toys.

We then have a new head for the toy: the original one is relatively easy to remove, just slide it back (with some force) out of the slot it's mounted in and slide the new one in. The new head adds a ball joint allowing better movement but also includes just Blitzwing's usual face with an added lightpipe. It's a little bit smaller and fits better when you transform the toy.

The most important components in the kit are the parts to fit the shoulders. In other modes they peg into the new gun to form what look like radar screens. In robot mode they need to be slid over the top shoulder piece and occupy some of the empty space inside the shoulders. There's a hole in the side of these piece that the shoulder side panel fits into. Fitted properly it allows you to raise the arms with no problems at all. It's maybe less succesful with curing the problems raising the arms to the sides but probably highlights that this is maybe more due to the joints within the shoulder being too stiff.

I like this kit. Solves obvious problems and improves the toy.


Decepticon Doubledealer

Powermaster Doubledealer wouldn't be my first choice of a toy to use as a Blitzwing repaint (see bellow). His ground vehicle mode was a missile launcher which his air mode is a bird, not a plane. However you can see that both bear a resemblance to what Blitzwing's modes are.

Purple, beige and grey are swapped a pale grey, sea green, black, lilac and pale blue. The clear yellow canopy becomes an orangey red.

The plane mode features some bird mouth detailing over the nose-cone which unfortunately is broken in places by some moulded detail. The nose features a purple Decepticon symbol.

The tank meanwhile features an Autobot symbol on the front which kind of belies the Decepticon portion of the toy's name.

The robot mode features a new head with a lightpipe in the same orange red used for the canopy.

Unfortunately every moulding fault Blitzwing had with the shoulders and where the legs fit in the vehicle modes are still present here.

Decent inventive repaint. But still limited by the design.


Cloud Starscream

Again Starscream isn't the first choice of character I'd use as a Decepticon Blitzwing repaint. The robot mode works as a Starscream, apart from not having anywhere to plug his new null rays into. The Doubledealer head works well as a Starscream head. The plane mode works just by virtue of being Starscream's colours. The tank..... Hmmmm, looks OK but Starscream has no prior history as a tank, save for his association with the cancelled G2 ATB repaint.

It looks nice but you need to pay through the nose for it which isn't something I see many western fans wanting to do especially if the mould issues aren't fixed.

TF Cloud Starscream was available through the E-Hobby website during 2014.


Possible Repaints

I can't claim credit for this one as it never occurred to me till I saw the pictures: repaint Blitzwing as Duocon Flywheels alongside a repaint of Springer as Battletrap.

If I was repainting Blitzwing I'd do him in silver as Megatron: He'd have a Tank mode, like the G2 version, and a jet mode, which is appropriate as the leader of the Decepticons, plus being a homage to his role in the intended G2 ATB repaint mentioned above.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Generations Legends Skrapnel & Reflector


Generations Legends Skrapnel & Reflector

You'll probably be surprised to learn that this toy is the first proper reinterpretation of the Insecticon Shrapnel, which seems odd for a toy that was released 29 years ago and was a part of the earliest years of Transformers toy and media line! His colleagues both have newer versions: Bombshell became a European Actionmaster while Kickback featured in Fall of Cybertron. There were a few insects in Beast Wars, notably Waspinator who became the go to character for an insect, plus one in Energon and Prime: Beast Hunters but apart from that it's been a seldom used alt mode type till the 30th Generations line which has five so far .... OK two of those are Waspinator but....

Skrapnel looks pretty good in robot mode straight out the packet but lets concentrate on his insect mode first. Close the mandibles behind his head. Fold the chest upwards so his head is covered. Fold the feet down. Fold the sides of the legs onto the front of the legs. Peg the legs together. Fold the waist back 90 degrees. Turn the legs at the hips so they face forward and then bend the knees. There's a tab on the back of the combined lower legs which fits into the hole on the now exposed top of the waist. The back of the robot is now the bottom of the insect so lay it on it's back. Fold the pairs of insect legs out to the sides. They won't feel like they can fold that far but the base of the legs needs to be parallel in relation to the surface it's on: excessive force may be required the first few times but you'll get a nice satisfying click when they lock. Fold the arms under the toy, bending them slightly, and peg onto the underside of the toy.

Essentially Skrapnel's insect mode is his G1 robotic stag beetle but with better inset legs: job done. Actually there's a nice nod to the very poor legs on the original toy here: each heal has a wheel moulded into it., Due to the size there's not much in the way of poseability here: the mandibles move out to the sides and that's it. The toy's pose in beast mode is on a slant front to back with the front slightly elevated. On the top of the toy is a single 5mm peg hole that can be used to mount Skrapnel's companion.

Whereas Skrapnel has his origins as a Waruder in the Diaclone toyline (he was Kuwagatorer) his companion comes from the other side of the fence: he was originally a Microchange toy. Skrapnel's companion is named Reflector which was originally the name of the combined camera mode of Spectro, Spyglass and Viewfinder. The cartoon and toy designs for these characters differ, and indeed in the cartoon they look very similar, but the presence of a camera lense on his chest suggests he's based on Viewfinder with the colours being close to what was used in the animation. Reflector's articulation is a little limited but his arm do swing up from his sides.

His alternate mode is the combined camera mode of the original Reflector with a MASSIVE telephoto lense: Lay his robot mode on his front with the arms folded down to act as handles for Skrapnel or another toy to hold. Alternately turn Reflector the other way up and use the fold out 5mm peg for Skrapnel to hold him... but it does look more like a canon than a camera this way up.

But we're not done yet: Reflector has a proper weapons mode: from the upside down camera mode fold the camera lense down which will cause the spring loaded front of the robot mode to fold forwards forming a gun to peg into the insect mode or be hand held by Skrapnel. The gun itself is a very similar shape to the Shrapnel's original grenade launcher .

Reflector's a nice package: a character that's not been done before, ok robot (for the size), good alt mode and clever weapons mode. One of the better companions in the Legends line.

To transform back to robot mode unpeg the back of the insect and stretch out to form the legs. Separate and move the top of the back out to the sides. Fold the feet up. Unpeg the arms and fold out to the sides. Fold the rear legs back behind the toy. Fold the chest down, revealing the head, and fold the mandibles out to the sides.

They best way to describe the robot mode is to say "Just like the original, but with more articulation". He's got ball joints at his knees, hips, elbows & shoulders, plus the bending ankle used in the transformation and, unlike his case mate Tailgate, a head that can turn. I've found it hard to get a grip on the head so have ended up turning it by slipping a screw driver into one of the moulding holes on the back. The head matches the original in that both the face and the visor are silver: it's a bit hard to distinguish them so I think some red on the visor to make it match the cartoon version wouldn't go amiss here, but that's an easy change to make if you've got a steady hand. The arms, previously formed from the original Shrapnel's impersonation of insect legs, now have an insect leg hanging off each of them with both rear pairs of legs folded behind the toy. The chest hatch was previously clear and could open to accommodate a Diaclone driver. Now it's just a yellow paint application on the black body.

Verdict: Accurate articulated Shrapnel makes for a good toy, with Reflector being the icing on the cake. It's probably in the cold light of day a better package than Swerve but there's something that's just soooo good about Swerve that he's still my favourite toy this year.


Possible Repaints

The easiest thing to do here would be to paint Shrapnel various shades of green and release him as Beast Wars Insecticon. But if you removed the mandibles and remoulded the chest & head he could make a decent Bombshell: Swap the black and purple colours on Skrapnel and you're most of the way there. Then have Bombshell's antennae formed from his gun that plugs into a peg hole on the under side of the chest armour and can be mounted behind his head.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Generations Legends Tailgate with Groundbuster


Generations Legends Tailgate with Groundbuster

Tailgate originally started out as a repaint of Windcharger. Unfortunately till now neither of Windcharger's subsequent versions (Alternators and Reveal The Shield) resulted in a new Tailgate. The only new Tailgate that there's been since 1986 is The Prime Cyberverse Legion, a repaint of Cliffjumper. However in recent years Tailgate has become a popular character in the More Than Meets The Eye comic so we now have a new Legends version.

As usual for Transformers toys these days he comes packed in robot mode. I'm still sticking to my ancient review style of looking at the vehicle first so we've got to transform him: Fold each foot back and rotate each leg in 90 degrees at the knee. Rotate the thigh pads so the wheels face back. Fold the back panel down. Swing the legs out to the sides and fold the waist back to form the rear of the car. Straighten the arms and then rotate the forearms in at the elbow so the fist holes face inwards. Swing the shoulders up above the head so the shoulder halves lock together forming the front of the car and the arms lock into the back panel as the doors. Fold the legs under the car: the thigh panel should tab into the back panel & doors while a groove in the foot should lock into the inside of the doors.

The thing that strikes me about the transformation is that both limbs need rotating round a ball joint something you don't see happen too often!

Tailgate's vehicle mode is a white car designed to look broadly similar to, but not exactly the same as, his original Trans Am form. The rear of the car has an large exhaust arrangement made from the waist of the robot. The white of the car body is broken by the grey of his windows and some cyan blue flames on his bonnet, a detail inherited from his recent Transformers Prime Cyberverse Legion version. I'm not keen on them. Any ideas on how to remove them without harming the rest of the toy? They panels they're on are just the shoulders so I could easily pop them off their ball joints and soak them in something without harming the rest of the toy. On the central panel of the bonnet is a small cyan blue Autobot symbol and a 5mm socket which can be used for mounting his companion Groundbuster.

I've seen people say that Groundbuster is loosely modelled on Micromaster Neutro but I think 2003's Japanese Crush-Bull is a better colour match, both being blueish bulldozers. Transformation to robot mode is easy: stand on his rear with the underside facing forward and raise the treads as arms. The arms are moulded inside the treads but don't take up all the space and when swung up the treads look too big as arms: maybe having the arms as a cut section of the treads would have worked better. There's a hole on the inside of each arm at about the level of an elbow but annoyingly it's slightly too small for a 3mm Cyberverse peg.

Groundbuster's weapons mode if formed by folding the top of the bulldozer forward and folding a 5mm peg down from the back of the vehicle to form a grabbing claw thing. I'll be charitable and say it looks like a piece of bomb disposal equipment, maybe a small nod to Tailgate's supposed function in the More Than Meets the Eye comics. It can be hand held or mounted on Tailgate's bonnet using the 5mm peg hole but, to be honest, it's the most useless companion weapon yet in the Generations Legends series.

Just for a laugh I tried putting my clear blue Feral Rex FOC Grimlock "Frost" blaster on the front of the toy: he looks quite fun with a giant cannon!

Really the only negative comment More Than Meets The Eye fans might have about the vehicle mode is it is a traditional Tailgate Earth vehicle mode rather than his Cybertronian one seen in the comic.

Transform back to robot mode: remove the weapon, pop the legs out from under the car. Fold the sides of the car out and down to form the arms. Rotate the lower arms outwards. Fold the back panel up. Fold the waist up into place. Fold the feet down and rotate the legs in at the knees. Swing the thigh panels round so the wheels face front.

Tailgate's robot mode is definitely Tailgate but it's not quite his original robot mode and it's not quite his comic robot mode, as seen on the MTMTE#12 cover, either. We'll start with the head, which is the MTMTE version in white as opposed to the silver of the original toy. This had worried me in the pictures before I got the toy as it seemed to merge with the white panel behind it. That's not the case when you see the toy in the plastic with it being distinct from the reverse of the back panel, actually the underside of the car's front window. In fact there's moulded detail on the panel that's been completely hidden in all the photos I've seen. The shoulder lack the pointedness of the original car and the comic versions having wide flat tops formed from the front of the car. We've got the front wheels on the sides of the shoulders as per both versions. The chest is a pale blue like the comic, but the waist is grey and has the odd looking exhaust pipes sticking up from it in a vaguely suggestive manner. The upper legs are grey, reminiscent of the thin silver chrome legs on the original toy, but with the rear of the car sides hanging off them. This doesn't quite work for me, I prefer MTMTE's bulky white thighs with the wheels on the side. Aesthetically I prefer the robot with the car sides reversed so the wheels face backwards. The lower legs and feet are a close match for the MTMTE version, except the lower legs are blue here and not white. Note the sloped ridges on the front of his legs, reminiscent of the slatted rear windscreen of his original vehicle that formed the lower legs on the original robot.

Articulation: ankles bend forwards and back, and he's got ball joints at the knees, hips, shoulders, which also shrug at the body, and elbows. No head rotation sadly..

Tailgate's had a rough ride at the hands of some fans who are decrying it as the worst of the Generations Legends, usually without being clear why. I like it. A Lot. It's definitely Tailgate in both modes despite the robot's deviation from the MTMTE character model. The articulation is good, bar the head, and the transformation does something interesting with the ball joints that you don't see too often.

Good toy. Another hit for Generations Legends line.


Possible Repaints

The obvious way to go here is a repaint, and remould, as Windcharger, his G1 anticendant. alternately break out the all black repaint as Wipe Out, a Japanese Transformers United toy which I discover was Trypticon's minion in Marvel Transformers US #27/UK #111 & 112.

Then of course there's a whole world of Mexican Minibot repaints......

Friday, 4 April 2014

Cyberjets

Transformers Cyberjets

Transformers Cyberjets


Phil loves the Cyberjets.

I can remember the day I first saw them: I was working in Merton Park and used to drive to Wimbledon for a walk around the shops at lunch time. In the town centre, where The Entertainer is now, was a little independant toy shop which was on my regular route. One day I walked in there and they had a range of new small Transformers jets on the shelf. Now I have a thing for small TF jets: It amazed me that there never did them in the early years of the line as a counterpart to the mini Autobots. The first range of small jets, the Aerialbots in 1986, went to the Autobots. The first small carded Decepticon jets are Triggercon Windsweeper and Dual Targetmaster Needlenose in 1988, and the first range of small carded jet is The Predators in 1992 followed by Skycorchers in 1993 afteer which it had gone quiet again for a couple of years. So confronted by small jets I decided I could only really afford one of them. Which to buy? Hooligan, Skyjack or Spacecase? I went for Hooligan, mainly due to the plane mode's resemblance to Jetfire.

I went back to the office, I think I may have been there by myself for the afternoon, and decarded my new toy. And was absolutely blown away by it:

1) Ball Joints ! Ball joints had showed up the previous year (1995) on the hips of the Laser Rod cars and the Stealth Bomber/Fighter. The Cyberjetss are the first to use ball joints for all their joints (with one exception) This represents a huge step forward articulation wise for TFs. Some of the larger early TFs were quite well articulated but in general articulation on G1 TFs isn't good - especially bellow the waist - as each point of articulation requires multiple parts and thus has a cost at assembly. Some TFs are effectively bricks - Powermaster Optimus springs to mind as a G1 TF that would be stunning with a few more points of articulation. Ball joints allow a full range of articulation with just 2 pieces - each limb part involved. You even get some bonus articulation thrown in - a ball jointed elbow effectively serves as both an elbow and a rotational bicep joint in that it allows the lower part of the arm to move up and down (which you'd expect at an elbow) but also allows movement from side to side. They pop out easily preventing breakage for the most part and a worn ball and socket joint can be easily restored with a bit of clear nail varnish. Make no mistake, this is a gigantic leap forward for TFs as you can now get some good action poses out of your toys - this is the point where TFs truly become action figures.

2) Light Pipes ! I love lightpipes. It's a simple action feature adding real value to a toy. This is where there's a piece of coloured clear plastic running from the eyes/visor etc on a toy through to the back of the head. Light shines through and makes the eyes glow. The only down side is a clear coloured panel in the back of the head but to me that's an OK price to pay. It's also been used effectively on Star Wars Jawa figures and most modern R2 & R4 units. Light pipe eyes first show on the Euro G1 Turbomasters and Predators in 92 so were quite common by the time the Cyberjets showed in 1995

3) Marble missile launchers ! We'd had a string of weak missiles, then huge oversized missiles. These missiles are long, yes, but they look a reasonable size for the launcher, and don't have any springs involved. Nice touch.

4) Landing Gear ! Each plane has 3 sets of fold down landing gear (which previously would have been a treat on larger toys)

5) Missile storage ! It's a small thing but each of the Cyberjets can stow their spare missiles on the vehicle mode.

6) Swing Wings ! Swing Wings had been done precisely ONCE on Transformers before and that was on the much larger Jetfire. Never has such a feature been attempted on a transformers toy this small and it's this that puts Hooligan above the other Cyberjets.

To this day Hooligan is in my top 5 Transformer toys EVER and I don't think the design has been topped for a jet toy. I think there's better decos of the toy mould but Hooligan still wins out because he was the one I encountered first, he's the toy that is the big step forward.

Of course the next day I went back and grabbed the other two. They're fabulous toys in themselves but inevitably they're overshadowed by Hooligan. And as much as I loved Hooligan what I *really* wanted was that same toy done in the Jetfire colours. When a repaint of Hooligan appeared as Jetfire it was frustratingly in the wrong colours. It wasn't until 2004's Robotmasters release of R-Blade that I got what I wanted. Robotmasters, in the same initial release in July 2004, also gave me Ligier, the correct Mirage colours of Machine Wars Flipchanger Mirage which was another repaint I'd been yearning for for years, so I'm extremely grateful to that line.

Since the initial release Cyberjets have been redone en masse several times, first in Generation 2 as Autobots in contrast to the initial Decepticon release, then Robotmasters (two Cybertron and one Destron) and finally in Universe (one Autobot, two Decepticon). Hooligan also makes a solo repaint appearance in the Botcon 2005 set,

Here's how each toy is named in each release:

  G2 D G2 A RM TFU Botcon
Swing Wing F-22 Raptor Hooligan Jetfire R-Blade Wind Sheer Ricochet
Lockheed F-117A Nighthawk Skyjack Air Raid Delta Seeker Air Raid  
Sukhoi Su-47 Berkut Space Case Strafe X-Gunner Space Case  

Now because these toys have been released in series together, and the same parts appear in the same colours across the series, we can come to the conclusion that these toys are in general gang molded. In fact the only part that seems unique to each jet is the main colour of the jet body:

  G2 D G2 A RM TFU
Upper Limbs & Bodys Red Blue Red Burgundy
Landing Gear Black Black Black Yellow
Launchers & Hooligan's Wings Black Black Black Burgundy
Missiles Yellow White Yellow Yellow
Lightpipe Eyes & Canopies Orange Yellow Blue * Yellow
Hooligan Orange Grey White Silver-Grey
Skyjack Black Black Blue-Green Blue
Spacecase White Green Silver-Grey Grey

* The Robotmasters release of the Cyberjets has different lightpiping for each jet: R-Blade is Blue, as per the normal for Autobots/Cybertrons, Delta Seeker is red and X-Gunner has purple eyes but a blue canopy. We'll conclude that the clear blue is thecolour used for the set, because it appears on more than one toy and either new or extra pieces were made. Somewhere in parts bins there may be several colours of unused Cyberjets lightpipes & canopies. But the Robotmasters and TFU sets would be in production at around the same time: it's possible new parts may have been made. The TFU set is the only one where the landing gear isn't the same colour as the launchers.

But seeing this information laid out brings to our attention something that completely passed me by on their initial release. After the colour of the jets themselves, the second most dominant colour is the upper limbs which unites them as a teamset. For the Decepticon Cyberjets it's red, which is a colour most commonly associated with Autobots. Seen by themselves, not an issue. However then look at the Autobot repaints: the colour used there for the upper limbs is a pale blue. Really you'd have to say that that's more of a Decepticon colour.

Has there been some sort of factory mistake and the wrong toy been released at the wrong time under the wrong names?

From just the limb colours you'd be thinking probably. But there's another factor in play here too. Both Jetfire & Strafe feature G2 Decepticon symbols on their rear stabilisers. These are the only toys in the first two sets of Cyberjets to feature faction symbols. So I think you have to conclude that Hooligan, Skyjack & Space Case are actually Jetfire, Air Raid & Strafe and vice versa!

So Jetfire is now Orange, Air Raid Black and Strafe White, all with black limbs. Black & Red is sensible for Air Raid: the black suits his vehicle mode, and both black & red were used on Aerialbot Air Raid. So now I'm looking at Jetfire and thinking "Why is he orange? He'd be better in white. Like Strafe is." Now White and Red kind of make sense for Strafe as they were used on his original Technobot version. But is you look at the Technobot he's got orange missiles, a frequently used colour on the Technobots. Is there a second factory muck up here? Should the swing wing jet have been white and red, with blue highlights, as a Jetfire homage and the Space Case repaint been the one in orange with the Tigerstripes?

I'm forced to conclude that Cyberjets have been at home to not one, but two mistakes. The Autobot repaint set, looks designed to be quite a tight homage to the original names used once you swap the colours round. Unfortunately they came out the factory wrong. Then, either to cover the initial error, or as a second mistake the Autobots get released as Decepticons and vice versa. which further leads me to think .... If they've got the Autobots wrong should the proper version of Hooligan be green and Space Case grey?

Now I've got my authentic G1 Jetfire courtesy of Robotmasters..... But how about a Strafe with an orange tigerstripe vehicle mode?