Boys love robots and love Dinosaurs so the combination of the two as Robots that Transformed into Dinosaurs caused the Dinobots to be a HUGE hit and, to my mind at least, a large part of what made Transformers so successful. Grimlock (a Tyrannosaurus) and his four companions (three if you lived in the UK deprived of Swoop (a Pteranodon)) were first released in 1985 - the other three Dinobots are Slag (a Triceratops), Sludge (a Brachiosaurus) and Snarl (a Stegosaurus). Grimlock returned in 1989 as a Pretender and in 1990 as an Action Master where he was joined by Snarl. Grimlock, Snarl & Sludge had European classics re-releases then Grimlcok, Snarl & Slag return as Generation 2 recolours. Grimlock himself returns in the Beast Wars, one of the few original Transformers to return there. At this point some new Dinosaur Transformers were made as part of Beast Wars Neo, which were then reused at various times during the early 2000s.
Very soon after the Dinobots initial release they were opposed by Predacons who combined into Predaking. This immediately set Transformers fans wondering "why couldn't the Dinobots combine?" Takara would eventually produce the Dinocons/Dinoforce which did combine into Dinoking but had beast modes formed from Pretender shells, but the western version is substantially altered to form Monstructor (you can argue which came first, Monstructor or Dinoking). Beast Wars Neo's Magmatron is formed by combining three Dinosaurs and Energon's Mega-Dinobot, a poor toy formed from bad versions of Grimlock and Swoop (seriously,it's a very bad toy, don't pay the huge amounts it goes for these days) are the only two modern combining Dinosaur toys. So given that there haven't been many new Dinosaurs recently and that combining ones have been even rarer, a Dinosaur combiner makes an obvious candidate for the Power Core Combiners line. However many of the previous Power Core toys have had issues of stability and holding together in combined mode, how would a toy with a non vehicle design hold up?
Grimstone is a Styracosaur, like Beast Wars Neo's Killerpunch, not a Triceratops as the instructions say: he's need much longer horns for that. He's mainly grey, with a red underside, gold head, silver neck frill with gold spikes and some black joints. Ok, yes, there's the blue Power Core Connector blocks hanging off the legs.... But otherwise it's a great choice of colours, these are the same as the original Dinobots so an obvious homage is intended, while the name Grimstone automatically puts Grimlock into your mind. But there's not been an actual Dinobot Styracosaur so these colours plus a robotic styling to the beast makes him fit right in with the original Dinobots. Grimstone's limbs turn where they meet his body with the front legs bending at the knee while the rear legs bend twice and have a rotational joint - useless here but serve a purpose when the rear beast legs become the robot legs. The tail is fixed, with a Minicon port on the end, while the head sort of has an opening lower jaw formed from the robot head.
NOTE TO SELF: It's hard to write reviews while listening to the I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue Christmas CD. :-)
Transform: Fold the tail under the beast and stretch the rear legs back behind the beast. Rotate each leg at the thigh and fold down the heel spurs. Fold the front legs back, split the frill & back in two down the middle and fold out to the sides to form the arms. Fold the Dino head down onto the chest then fold the robot head forward,
Grimstone's robot mode immediately hits all the right notes with it's black head, red chest and grey limbs. The gold dino head has ended up on the chest so while he's unable to wear any Minicon chest armour he has his own built in. The Minicon peg on the tale has ended up on his back in between his shoulders, which isn't the worst spot it could be in. I've already mounted Chainclaw there and bent the missile tubes over Grimstone's head as well as using Chainclaw as a hand held weapon for Grimstone via the 5mm hole formed from his moulded hands. Sadly, like Skyburst the hole isn't that deep and has a panel at it's base preventing Grimstone from holding Chopster's axe mode. His articulation isn't bad: the head turns as do the shoulders, but these can be a little restricted by the frill halves hanging off the back of them. The shoulders also bend upwards and forwards, the arms bends at the top of the elbow and has a ball joint at the bottom, the hips turn & bend out to the sides, there's a thigh swivel and double bending knee.
So pretty good so far. But what's the combined mode like? We'll start with transforming Grimstone to torso mode. Lean the robot head back, and fold the beast head up to cover it. Lift up on the back of the beast head, revealing the face underneath. Swing the panel back and then fold forward to become the top of the combined mode's head. Swing the arms in over the body locking the lower arms and the beast neck frills, from behind the shoulders, together. Fold each of the front beast legs back at the knee pegging them onto the robot mode shoulder to form the shoulders of the combined robot Torso, at which point the Power Core Connector Blocks are folded out to the sides. Rotate each leg at the thigh then fold the lower leg up in front of the upper leg, folding the heel spurs in.
We now need the help of Grimstone's Dinobot drones.
Pachycephalosaur Drone: One of the two drones labelled as a Parasaurolophus Drone this looks nearly identical to Beast Wars Neo Hardhead/Beast Machines Dinotron and I know that's a Pachycephalosaurus so that's what I've labelled this as. It's a grey Dinosaur with red arms which move in tandem at the body, gold feet and silver guns & skull cap. There's a Minicon port on his back. It will just about transform into a leg by itself but the hole is behind the head and a little restricted so pulling the head and arms forward first may help.
EDIT: apparently Pachycephalosaur is a sub-species of Parasaurolophus - see Wikipedia's Pachycephalosaurus entry.
Ankylosaurus Drone: Again we have a Beast Wars Neo version of this Bazooka/RID Dinobot Slapper. Mainly grey with a gold back, containing his Minicon port, silver head & tail ball and black cannons. The head bends backwards on this drone, who like the Pachycephalosaur becomes a leg. The port for the connector is found at the top of the base of the tail.
Spinosaurus Drone: Now this one is a little odd. While the neck looks like a Spinosaurus the legs, body and tail are more like a Dimetrodon, such as Beast Wars Neo Sling/RID Dinobot Sludge. Again a grey body with a gold sail, silver head and read tail which terminates in a Minicon port. The top of the head folds back to open the jaw and the tail folds upwards. He transforms into an arm courtesy of a port on his underside, with the opening mouth serving as a hand.
Parasaurolophus Drone: The second Parasaurolophus drone is more like what I see on Wikipedia's Parasaurolophus page. A grey raptor like Dinosaur with an elongated crest projecting out of it's head, he has red ball jointed arms, silver feet & tail and pair of black cannons mounted on his back. Each cannon has a Minicon port on the side. To the best of my knowledge there's never been a Parasaurolophus Transformer before, and I don't think this has been used for a Zoid either. The Power Core socket is on the front of the toy under the neck, but you may want to pull up on the tale to help him turn into an arm, with the legs becoming a claw like hand.
Behold your Plastic Pontiff! Worship at the feet of the DINO POPE! Almost as soon as pictures of Grimstone were released he acquired the Dino Pope nickname due to the Mitre like crest on top of his head. The name has stuck :-)
Grimstone is more solid & stable than any of the other Power Core Combiners. None of the limbs show any signs of popping off and he's perfectly stable thanks to the large footprint presented by the Ankylosaurus drone and, thanks to it's tail forming a massive heel spur, the Pachycephalosaur drone. I've stood it on the table, shaken it and he's still stayed standing. He's stood on the sofa, he's stood on a mound formed from Mrs Toys' coat. You can move the arms without them falling off or him falling over. You can even pose him with his knees bent! This beats all the other Power Core toys I've played with so far. While the drones are a large part of this, Grimstone himself contributes by giving the toy the largest and most solid upper legs in the toyline. There's no mucking about here: Grimstone's combined mode upper legs are the single robot's upper legs. The articulation is great: knees bend, hips turn and fold to the sides, head turns and the arms turn at the shoulders which rise up to the sides. The neck frills of Grimstone's beast mode form a skull like set of chest armour here which is a nice touch. My only small complaint is that the toes of the Pachycephalosaur leg, formed from it's arms, can fall off easily.
You can of course use Grimstone with other drones, I loaned him the recolour Combaticons, and the Dinobot drones can be used with another core robot, I tried them with Icepick, with some success but really they form a team and come as a unit that you don't want to split. The style, using animals instead of vehicles, is different from the other Power Core toys and they don't match as well with the other toys whereas here they're a coherent unit.
Top toy, best Power Core Combiner by a country mile. Lots of call backs to the original Dinobots with the style & colours but by using five modes not used by the original Dinobots this becomes a decent addition to the team that you could happily place with the original Dinobots in any of it's modes. It's good, you need to buy one.
I see these being repainted as a unit, rather than split up. Maybe a black/purple Dinocon version would be good?