Hotspot comes in robot mode: as ever I'll start in vehicle mode because that's how Transformers used to be packaged straight out the box and that's how I'm used to doing things. Rotate each leg at the thigh 180 degrees then fold the upper legs into the lower legs and bring them together, tabbing into the bottom of the body Fold the feet down to form the vehicle cab, clipping the hooks on the outer rear of the cab round the tabs on the bottom of the leg. Open the chest, fold the head in and close the chest. Remove the weapons. Fold each arm out to the side at the shoulder and tab into the shoulder armour. Rotate each arm so the front faces up. Unhitch the ladder turntable: It's connected to the main body of the toy by a connecting rod hinged at each end there's a small hook at the rear of the base holding it in place. Fold the turntable base up, but keeping the ladder pointing down. Close the arms above the body around the connecting rod to the turntable. Place the vehicle on it's wheels. Open the wing panels to the side of the turntable and fold the ladder over the turntable. Close the panel wings and swing the ladder round over the body of the vehicle. Attach weapons in a position of your choosing.
Firstly lets get this out the way WHOEVER HEARD OF A BLUE FIRE ENGINE? There are TWO reasons for Hot Spot being blue: The original Hotspot is blue, presumably to distinguish him from Inferno who was still on sale at that point. Even so not all subsequent versions of the toy have been blue and it is a more realistic colour for a fire engine so I'm guessing they're keeping him blue to keep a red version back for a future repaint.
He's not the first Fire Engine Transformer I've received this week: he and Pyro are a similar length and width in vehicle mode but Hotspot is a lot lower with a ladder mounted on top. The front of the vehicle is much more rounded than the original mirroring modern fire engines. He's mounted on eight wheels, four on each side in pairs at the front and back. The ladder turns a full 360 degree and elevates at it's base. There's no extension at the end but at the top there's a small cherry picker compartment for rescue purposes with some fire fighting equipment mounted at the sides.
One of the nicer features of this toy is the shear number of 5mm ports on him: 1 on each side of the rear of the fire engine, one on each side of the turntable and one on each side of the cherry picker. So his guns, which have a 5mm peg handle and a 5mm peg sticking out the inner side can be mounted at various points on the vehicle. The first drawing of Hotspot we saw shows the guns mounted on the side of the vehicle, as if they were fire fighting equipment in storage while official pictures show them mounted at the sides of the turntable base. When they're mounted on the sides of the cherry picker they look like a pair of giant water cannons. It's a little thing but it's a nice touch being able to reposition the weapons in this mode as it adds to the playability of the toy.
To transform back to robot mode start by splitting the rear of the vehicle and folding out to the sides to form the arms. Fold the front of the vehicle forward to form the legs. Rotate each leg at the thigh. Fold the front of the vehicle forward to form the feet. Turn the turntable so the ladder up from the back of his head. Fold the turntable down onto his back. Fold the ladder, and the inside piece of the turntable down towards his feet, then fold the ladder back up onto his back, closing the wing plates round the cherry picker so the pegs lock into it.
Hotspot is a similar height to Combiner Wars Optimus Prime, maybe slightly shorter, but is much thinner and less bulky. They've captured the look of the original robot perfectly with the Optimus like double windowed chest panel and the head, which here is cast in cartoon blue rather than toy black.
Articulation: ball jointed head. The shoulders raise up at the body and turn while the arm raises to the side beneath the shoulder, turns at the bicep and bends at the wrist. Like the other two combiner core moulds he doesn't have rotating wrists and like the Silverbolt/Cyclonus mould he doesn't have a waist. His hips turn at the waist and bend out to the sides, there's a thigh swivel and the knees bend. Unfortunately the knees don't seem to lock into place which means it's difficult to pose the legs without the other joints used for the transformation inside the legs coming into play.
As mentioned earlier he comes with a pair of hand guns, like the original did. These are almost a mirror image of each other with, in addition to the 5mm handle, a 5mm peg on the inner side of the weapon and a 5mm peg hole in the barrel, which allows a variety of other weapons to be attached to them Unfortunately only one has a 5mm peg on the rear spoiling the symmetry some what! There's two pairs of 5mm holes that are useful in this mode, one hole on each of the shoulders, if you feel like simulating Prime's exhaust pipes, and one on each side of the turntable for storage. There's another pair of shallow 5mm holes exposed on the ladder base but these aren't really much use here.
I like the toy, it's a decent update on the original Hotspot. Yes I'd like the ladder to extend but I can see why it doesn't as you'll see from when we transform him into combined robot body mode. Two criticisms: first the plastic doesn't feel quite as good as the earlier Voyagers with the black and white pieces having a distinct rubbery feel to them. Then the wheels, which are clip on ones, pop off far too easily. I've come close to loosing some during transformation.
This is all you really need to form Defensor: I'm a traditionalist and Defensor has two guns but, like other Combiner Wars Voyagers, it's possible to combine the two weapons into one larger one, in this case a gun. You can also add the demoted to Legends size Groove as an add on chest plate: a peg on Defensor's chest, the same size as Bandai's display stand pegs, fits a hole in Groove's bottom and his arms peg into shallow 5mm peg holes on the sides of the chest. But again, I prefer the traditional all black chest shields.
The chest shields though are slightly larger than on the original Defensor, to the point of looking far too big now. The increase size is intended to fulfil a function: they're locking Hotspot's shoulders in place via the tabs and slots at their rear. Unfortunately, much like Prime & Menasor's waist plate, these tabs are prone to popping out! I've seen them pop out by themselves let alone when under pressure when turning the arms. The only credit I can give this fault is that it involves the arms, not the legs, so at least your toy will remain stable while fixing it. If you need to pose the arms I'd turn them with one hand while using the other to keep the chest shield locked in.
Articulation: Hotspot provides Defensor's turning head and hips which turn and bend out to the side. Anything else comes from the attached limbs.
Defensor is relatively stable in a standing position, more so than Optimus or Menasor, and the legs are spaced a little further apart so they're not touching if two car limbs are attached. However, even stood straight, there's a slight lean forward which is compounded if an arms is swung forward. He looks like he's going to topple over if the whole arms are turned forward at right angles to the body but incredibly will hold the pose for a few minutes before keeling forward.
The head looks like a decent representation of Defensor, but I'm not keen on the sides of the cherry picker just sitting there at an angle on top of the shoulders. To my eye he looks better with the panels folded up besides the head.
Defensor then: there's a few bits I would tweak, notably making Hotspot's shoulders more secure in combined mode. They've done a good job updating it and I think I'd be more happier if I'd have got him first. I didn't though: He's better than Motormaster, who's legs go squiffy every time you move him, but nowhere near as good as Superion. I'm not so bothered about the lack of a Groove limb here as I was with the other which is odd because I think he had less chance of being replaced in the Japanese version.
RepaintsLets' start with the mad repaints of original Hotspot that I know we won't get! He has a Japanese 1992 version named Fire Chief who looks like an attempt to do a red Hot Spot that they didn't quite finish repainting the blue parts on. Then there's his mad unreleased Generation 2 version which again involves a lots of red, this time with teal and orange!
Not one but TWO waves of Combiner Wars Autobot cars have been found in toy store computers which makes fans think that Hasbro might have a serious go at doing all 18 Diaclone Autobot cars in the Combiner Wars line. One of these, Inferno, is an obvious Hotspot repaint and minor remould (I'd change the head and the chest plate) and if you're doing Inferno from Hotspot it's not too large a step to get to his remould Grapple providing bodies for two sets of Diaclone Autobots and handily reducing the remaining ones to 16 which would be four groups of four limbs.
Another repaint choice would be to play on their robot mode design similarity and do an Optimus Prime fire engine. There's already been one in Car Robots/Robots in Disguise (2001) and indeed there's links between the two toys with an abandoned Botcon Hotspot/Defensor repaint of the 2001 toy who's colours were then reused on a Target exclusive repaint of Titanium RID Optimus. so the question is do you just repaint the toy in red as original Optimus or do some chest remoulding for RID Optimus? Either way both Optimus options are close to the Inferno one.
Both Inferno & Grapple have repaints that could be made from modified versions of their moulds: Inferno becomes Targetmaster Artfire and Grapple Hauler. A green version of Grapple as a Constructicon Combiner core is tempting, despite the imminence of Generations Devastator. RID Optimus in turn has a yellow airport repaint
But I suspect the first reuse of this mould will be heavily remoulded as his opposite number Onslaught. Many have commented over the years in the general design similarities between the two original toys. I could almost see Onslaught being a reversed Hotspot with the back end of Hotspot's vehicle serving as Onslaught's cab with the weapons, replacing the ladder, behind it and a remoulded Hotspot cab forming the rear of Onslaught, possibly with a fold down loading ramp. I await the Onslaught reveal with interest....