Titan Wars Banner "accidentally" revealed at Botcon 2015, and then as a toy image leaked later that summer. He appears in silhouette in the NYCC 2016 Sneak Peak before being officially revealed at the event.
For a popular character there haven't been that many versions of Blaster and many of those that have have been retools of a previous Soundwave toy, which is perhaps understandable given the shared functionality. This time Blaster goes first and Soundwave is the repaint.
Blaster's major innovation is that he is now a Titanmaster, effectively a new Headmaster. I don't have a problem with this, existing characters received upgrades to Targetmaster, Powermasters and Pretenders in the original Transformers, and I've spent the last 18 months wanting 1984/5 car and jet combiners, so to me this is just another upgraded feature. To accommodate the standard Headmaster head there's a larger helmet that folds over the head. The head transforms into Twincast, effectively a mini blaster figure in colour and detailing. Now this does slightly wind me up, because Twincast is the name for the blue Japanese repaint of Blaster and the Titanmaster IS NOT BLUE!
To start the transformation into radio/tape deck mode, open the panel on his back and fold the helmet back into it. Due to the way the helmet compresses, it's impossible to store it with the head in place, but there's other options there. Fold the fists in and then fold the arms out to the sides. Pull the back of the lower legs away and fold the back & outer side forward. Rotate each leg in at the thigh. Unlock the knee and fold it down the leg so that the red piece of plastic that connects it to the leg is hidden behind the leg. Fold the foot & heels spurs into the foot and then fold the foot into the legs, like you did the knee. Fold the two leg panels projecting out the front of the toy up to cover the front of the sides, making sure the peg projecting out the side of knee joint is over the folded up ramp, not under it, and goes into the correct hole and the tabs and slots at the top line up. Fold the handle up. Peg the gun along the rear of the toy. Twincast then slots into the underside of the black block.
A surprisingly complex transformation to form what's effectively a block!
You don't see too many tape decks like Blaster around these days! The major question for Transformers fans is "does he hold tapes?" and the answer is "YES!". A new style iPod like tape was introduced with Buzzsaw in the 5th wave of Combiner Wars Legends and 2 new Autobot tapes, Stripes and Rewind, were released at the same time as Blaster. Blaster's tape door is spring loaded and opens courtesy of a button on his shoulder, and it's surprisingly fun to sit there and repeatedly open and close the tape door! The tape slides into a slot mounted diagonally in Blaster's body going from top front to bottom rear. In a change to how actual tape players work, where the face which is longest side x shortest side goes in, the Titans "tapes" go in so the shortest side x middle side face goes in first. For those of us who've used actual tapes this feels ever so slightly wrong but I suppose you could argue he's serving as an iPad dock or similar. The new tapes are bigger than the old ones - 7.3 x 4.3 x 1.5 as opposed to 5 x 3 x 0.8 so you can place an old tape in Blaster's chest, albeit not the right way round and it will rattle AND you'll need to tip Blaster upside down to get it out! The black block, containing Twincast, is the same size as one of the Titans tapes so it can be stored in the tape deck. If I have any criticism of this mode it feels slightly too wide compared to the original blaster, mainly caused by the large round speaker panels. Original Blaster's were much smaller but I've seen many stereos with a very similar design.
Blaster has a new third mode in Titans Return. Start by folding forwards the speaker panels, that previously formed the outer side and rear of the legs, to form a pair of flat decks in front of the toy. From the outer sides of these fold out a ramp. Swing the feet back so the body of the feet is level with the back wall of what is now the base and fold the detail panels out the top. Open the tape door. Fold up the rear clear plastic panel, and then the one that's under that before folding the first panel down in it's place. Rotate what were the arms back 90 degrees. Swing the arms in at the shoulder then bend the forearms so they face up. Bend the arms back 60°. Fold the guns forward from the forearms. Fold the handle up. Place the black tape block, with the moulded silver barrels facing forward and the silver paint is visible at the top, onto the handle with tabs on the underside of the black tape block recessing into the handle.
Blaster's base mode seems heavily influenced by the original Powermaster Prime base mode but works far far better than that. It's essentially a central multilevel command centre with two walls, base pads and ramps extending out the sides. Now you may notice there's two parts I've not told you where to place: the Titanmaster and the gun. We'll start with the gun. There's FIVE 5mm peg holes on the base mode: one at each outer corner of the fronts of the base platform, one on each side of the tape block and one on the side of the open tape door. Take your pick. Any not used for the gun can be used by a Titanmaster accessory in weapons mode or any other 5mm pegs weapon. Then there's Titanmaster Twincast: he's got three seats, one on the centre of the tape block and one each on each arm to act as a gunner. Then there's the foot pegs. Each Titanmaster has a pair of peg holes in his feet. There's three pegs one the front half of each deck, a pair, as in use both for the same figure, on the side of the foot hinge forming part of the wall, another pair behind the seat on each of the arms, one on either side of the black tape block, one to the side of where the head would be and one inside the tape door, which is inaccessible if you've used the tape door peg hole for the gun pointing forwards. So I make that peg holes for 14 Titanmasters and seats for another 3! This sort of thing is just what I'm after from base modes. I had Star Wars and GI Joe toys when I was younger and they all had plenty of pegs and plenty of seats too!
There's another feature on the base mode which will be familiar to long term Transformers fans: the ramps to the sides, hinged at the base, have connectors on the end. The connector is a new design with, from left to right, a nine millimetre rectangular tooth with a peg hole on the inner edge, a 9 mm gap, a 9 mm tooth with a small dimple on the outer edge and a 9mm gap to the edge making the entire ramp 3.6 mm wide and giving it a connector which can mesh with another end on. Fabulous design. Two more connectors for these ramps can be found on the rear of the toy. All it needs now is some other bases to connect with!
Should you wish to homage another previous Transformers base then re-attach the Titanmaster head and fold the helmet back out to give a base mode with a head just like Star Convoy!
It' now time to return the toy to robot mode. Remove the black tape block, any Titan Masters and any weapons. Fold the handle back. Fold the Titanmaster up, place it into it's socket then fold the helmet out & up over the head: there's a pair of tabs on the hinge for the helmet that fit into the slots on the back of the Titanmaster's legs while the tab that serves as a heel spur on the back of the Titanmaster's legs fits a slot in the base of the hinge. Fold up the clear panel forming the floor of the tape deck door, fold down window at the front and then fold down the floor before closing the tape deck door. Pull both of the legs out to the side folding out the red connecting bar behind the knee joint and slot the knee in to one of the upright struts on the back wall. Fold the foot 90° in at the outer of it's too hinges and fold in the detailed panel. Fold the ramps in. Fold the double panelled front deck up 90° making sure the peg on the knee joint recesses into the slot on the lower of the folded up base panels. The top of folded up base panels folds back to seal the leg compartment with tabs sliding into the base's rear wall. Fold the legs down under the toys then swing out 90° at the thigh. Fold the feet out and stand. Fold the guns on the underside of the forearms back into the seats, fold the arms down and flip the hands out. Place the gun in his hand and the black tape block, or another tape. in his chest. Job done.
Blaster comes out of the box in robot mode with his gun and a black rectangular tape like object. He looks very very similar in size and colour layout to the original 1985 Blaster. The tape storage feature still works in this mode for those wanting to recreate the scene in Transformers The Movie where he launches his tapes from robot mode. The articulation is considerably enhanced over the original: his head turns as do his shoulders which also fold to the sides. His arms also have bicep swivels and bending elbows. The legs move forwards & backwards and swing to the sides at the hips, there's a thigh swivel on each leg, the knees bend and there's side to side as well as front to back ankle pivoting which can make standing him up a little fun at times! His blaster can be held in his hand by it's 5mm peg handle and, as noted above, there's also a peg hole on his back for storage. A 5mm peg on his shoulder and another on his rear seem to have little purpose here but official images suggest they may play a role on Blaster's recolour. One Titanmaster foot peg is still accessible in this mode, and that's the one by his head so you can have a additional Titanmaster stand there. One more on each shoulder might have been nice. The only other real criticism I have of the robot is the helmet: it's made of clear plastic, presumably to give him a see through visor gimmick. The eyes aren't visible through the visor so that's a waste of time. But because it's clear the rest of it's been painted at the red used is a slightly different shade to the rest of the toy.
Blaster is a good toy. The two gimmicks - tape and Titanmaster - combine to form a much more fun toy than many Transformers I've played with recently, almost harking back to the play features of Armada while maintaining the more articulated remake of original Transformers toys that collectors want. It's the best of the two wave 1 Titanmaster Leaders and probably the best Titanmaster Wave 1 toy, though there's some surprising competition at lower sizes.
I must resist.....
Future RepaintsIn Japan both Blaster and Soundwave got repaints in the Headmasters line: Blaster in blue as Twincast and Soundwave in black as Soundblaster. A toyline homaging Headmasters is an ideal time to do these repaints.
I have friends that would kill for a comics purple Soundwave.