Monday, 29 August 2016

Combiner Wars Computron

Combiner Wars Scattershot (Boxset)

We'll come on to why this toy exists bellow when I talk about the combined form.

The Scattershot in the Computron box has had a number of changes made to him compared to the general retail version. Generally red has become a darker, almost burgundy red, but the red of the forearms is now white, to make them white in combined mode. However the fronts are still bright red thanks to a paint application. The bright red of the combined mode chest plates is now a cerise/cherry red. Most of the white parts have stayed white but the knee caps, upper arms, neck, hips, nose hinge and gun plastic colour have gone from white to burgundy red as has the combined mode head & antennae. The gun has a new paint colour becoming metallic cerise. Both vehicle wings and robot chest appear painted to me

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Robot mode in general looks much darker but the head is light years better than the original Voyager just by only having the visor instead of the whole face painted. Vehicle mode looks too dark too, and I'm not liking the red paint applications on the nose, and the flashes of white towards the rear which cause it to look a mish mash of colour. This is the only mode where the Voyager wins but it's a begrudging win because I have trouble with this being Scattershot's vehicle mode.


However you've not bought the Computron boxset Scattershot to have him in robot or vehicle mode have you?

Combiner Wars Lightsteed

Lightsteed, a name substitute for Lightspeed is probably the most controversial element of the Combiner Wars Computron Boxset. It's the only straight repaint of a retail toy in the box. By my count it's the 11th use of the Dead End mould, 5th of the Streetwise variant and 3rd of the Streetwise head so there is a distinct element of familiarity here. The feeling was in the run up to a number of pieces of artwork and pictures of a toy prototype being leaked that if an existing Combiner Wars toy was to be used for Lightspeed then Wheeljack was the best choice and indeed Takara agreed.

So as a toy by itself this doesn't feel like Lightspeed. However I like what I see. The red and white works as a sort of Fire Chief deco, more heavy on the red than Red Alert, who doesn't yet have a Combiner Wars version. My only complaint with the flat white moulding of the windscreen & roof: I think the roof and windscreen supports needed to be picked out in red.

Combiner Wars Afterbreaker

In the same way that Combiner Wars Brawl becomes Nosecone, because he's the only tracked vehicle in Combiner Wars, now Groove becomes Afterburner, because he's the only Motorbike. Even more so than Nosecone, I'm not sure it really works here. Groove is recast in the orange used for Afterburner's toy, with the top of the bike painted beige to simulate his canopy. Over that goes a new, more angular canopy piece to try to make you think of the original's enclosed Tron lightcycle mode but it doesn't really work as you can see the handlebars projecting out the sides! Since the canopy now covers the saddle hole for the Hand Foot Gun there's now a hole on the top of the canopy which in turn makes me think that either the bike alterations were designed by Takara, it is after all the only limb in both Hasbro & Takara's Computron giftsets, or they originally intended the HFG's to be in this set too. Afterburner comes with Groove's guns. They're painted white but are cast in clear green like the canopy, and that makes me think the Afterburner design work was done with Groove!

For all my moaning about the vehicle mode the robot seems to work well and, bar the upper arms being the wrong colour, isn't a bad match for the original Afterburner toy.

Passable. Very much an "it'll do" toy for the reasons outlined above, and that disappointing given he's in BOTH Computron sets and should have been the one the real effort was made on. There's been better lightcycle vehicles recently, Chromia. I'm even left to wonder if, given the money, Dragstrip could have been retooled into a better futuristic bike. No, hear me out: The robot modes are a very similar shape: mount a thick wheel in the centre of a new front piece and alter the legs so there's a wheel in the middle.

Combiner Wars Nosecone

The drill tank version of Brawl was first seen during January 2016 a number of pieces of artwork and pictures of a toy prototype were leaked that appeared to show a Computron whose boxback graphic was leaked on 9th March but it took till Botcon 2016 in April before Computron was officially unveiled, by which point some people had Ramhorn in hand. It's obvious to me that Nosecone was the intended use of the mould from the start. The tank mode looks quite simple with a brown body and yellow turret to which the same cockpit & drill piece used with Ramhorn is attached to. Transforming the toy reveals more of the yellow and some of the burgundy used on Scattershot & Computron. I've not seen burgundy & yellow used together since Universe.

I'm torn. This is the only tank treaded vehicle Combiner Wars has so it's obvious it was going to be Nosecone. But the problem here is original Nosecone is a big favourite of mine. They've done their best but it's not really Nosecone.

Combiner Wars Strafe

No toy better illustrates the difference in priority between Hasbro and Takara's Combiner Wars Computron sets than Strafe. There's a hint of it with the toy orange of Combiner Wars Afterbreaker vs the cartoon red of Unite Warriors Afterburner but with the new versions of Lightspeed & Nosecone it's more an argument of which toy better represents the character as a whole. However with Strafe Hasbro and Takara have chosen two totally different toys to remould to represent the different versions of the character.

Hasbro have started with the Air Raid Aerialbot limb, and it is the Air Raid version as certain detail on the robot chest & jet underside confirms even before we look at the pictures of a toy prototype leaked during January 2016 which clearly show Air Raid's black with new parts attached. We loose the nose and the wings which are replaced with new wings, large red ones at the rear and smaller off white ones at the front. The nose isn't quite as flat as the original toy and a little liberty has been taken modifying the black patch occupied by the rubsign on the original Technobot Strafe into an angular cockpit. Forward of the cockpit we have the twin orange guns, sadly fixed in place on this new version. He retains the peg hole in the middle of the plane's back and, somewhat oddly given he's got no extra weapons, also gains one under each wing. There's also a 5mm peg hole just behind the cockpit and in vehicle mode this can be used to mount Scrounge on him, almost as a AWACS disc (my thanks to my plane expert, The Kaptain, Karl Thurgood for pointing this one out!). Where Afterbreaker's vehicle mode was a bit of a poor effort, Strafe's is superb work.

Robot mode transformation is just as per Air Raid and, with the plane parts folded back, the robot modes are very, very similar. Most of the robot is an off white with the lower portion of the upper arms, crotch & combiner peg orange and the chest sides painted burgundy red. The big surprise here is a new head, with a visor and open face, which looks great. The head is painted white, with a red painted face, but the evidence of some slightly paint blemishes is that all the new pieces are on a red plastic sprue, the colour of the rear wings, which has been painted and then the toy assembled. Alas the robot has no weapons: like Titans Return Brainstorm he could really do with his guns being removable from his jet nose.

His limb mode is again nearly identical to Air Raid. The nose, cockpit and 5mm peg form kibble on the shoulder which can be further added to by adding Scrounge's saucer mode if I was brave enough to ever push his head down again, with the Cybaxx shuttle attached. The only problem with the arm mode is that the holes on the painted small wings are a little small for the tabs on the sides of the arms to fit into. Blame is firmly on the new wings: the tabs probably fitted snugly in the unpainted part but don't with the extra layer of paint added.

Bar the lack of removable guns, or any guns at all, and the slight problem with the tabs in arm mode this is a very very good toy. Air Raid was always my favourite of the Combiner Wars Aerialbot limbs and they've done a fantastic job modifying him to Strafe here.

Scrounge & Cybaxx

Scrounge as a character features in one issue of the Marvel Transformers comic where his role is to die and provide endless remorse for Blaster for evermore. The same issue, US 17/UK 66, also introduces fan favourite Decepticon villain Straxus and he got a toy in 2010. Despite being a relatively minor character Scrounge has developed a loyal fan following who frequently suggest him as a repaint of other toys.

Since Scrounge is shown partnered with Blaster it would almost have made sense to do Scrounge as a yellow Autobot tape warrior especially when the Fall Of Cybertron version of those turns into a disc, similar to Scrounge's alternate mode in the comic.

When Cosmos came out in 2014 some people, faced with the lack of potential repaints, suggested Scrounge as a repaint but I suspect even his most loyal fan didn't really believe it would happen. When rumours of a Legends Scrounge from Cosmos began to spread in late 2015 even then some people had trouble thinking it was actually going to happen so when Computron's boxset artwork was leaked fans were stunned to see a yellow saucer on his arm!Over the course of January 2016 a number of pieces of artwork and pictures of a toy prototype had been leaked but there was no sign of a Cosmos repaint. The boxback graphic was leaked on 9th March showing the toy in full but it took till Botcon 2016 in April before Computron was officially unveiled.

Since Scrounge is yellow, that's what Cosmos & Payload's green & white parts are recoloured as resulting in a rather monochrome pair of toys broken only by some red detailing and an even smaller amount of blue & silver on the front of the UFO mode & robot chest.

Scrounge gets a new head, accurately modelled after his comic appearance but the head is a nightmare to reveal for robot mode, worse than Cosmos' which at least had a recessed panel in the back you could get a tool in to lift it albeit at the cost of scraping the paint. n the end I tipped the toy upside down and used gravity, a pair of very sharp scissor blades and long nosed pliers to get the head up. It won't be going down again!

Because Scrounge's base can fit on the peg on Strafe's cockpit roof it follows that the hole in Scrounge's base can take other 5mm pegs. This means you can peg Cybaxx into him as a UFO Death Ray cannon. This is good thing.

It also emerges you can do the same thing with Cosmos and Cybaxx. With a bit of force you can persuade Payload to mount on Cosmos the same way.

But will Cosmos mount on Strafe?


From eye it looks like the hole on Scrounge's underside has been made slightly, only very very slightly, larger resulting in a thinner rim but a socket that will fit solidly on a 5mm peg made from firmer plastic.

I'm of the school that thought we wouldn't see Scrounge in a million years and that Satan would be ice skating to work before we did so I'm really pleased to see his plastic incarnation. I know some people are less pleased to see him packed in the Technobot boxset as, surprisingly, there are some people out there who are not fans of Computron. But I think his speciality fits the team and the spaceship mode integrates well into the combined form. The only real downside is the head: I suspected t would be a problem due to difficulties with Cosmos but I didn't expect it to be out.

But still, I'm glad this toy exists.

Now what about Xaaron, Rack'n'Ruin & Skater?

Combiner Wars Computron

It would be fair to say that Transformers fans were not happy with the decision to release Scattershot without the Technobots. Over the course of January 2016 a number of pieces of artwork and pictures of a toy prototype were leaked that appeared to show a Computron, a position that was reinforced by the drill tank version of Brawl used there also showing up in the Botcon 2016 boxset and leaked images of Liokaiser. The boxset artwork was leaked on the 12th Febuary, and then the boxback graphic was leaked on 9th March but it took till Botcon 2016 in April before Computron was officially unveiled.

We probably should talk about the feet & hands, both of which are new to this set and cast in a slightly rubbery burgundy plastic. The feet work on the same principle as Victorion's with a stiff ratchet joint to each side. On Victorion it didn't make a lot of sense since the design of the toy all but fixed it in an upright pose since the the tops of Pyra Magna/Hotspot's legs form the waist of that combiner torso. Here, with the benefit of the shoulders formed from Scattershot/Silverbolt's shoulders this torso can make better use of the joint. Unfortunately it probably needs more finely graded cogs in both hips and ankles to make it worthwhile: the first click out to the sides positions the leg 1/16th of a turn, 22.5 degrees, resulting in a terribly wide stance. While the sideways ratchet on the ankle is solid the peg projecting from it is the only point of contact between foot and leg limb which can cause problems with the likes of Lightsteed/Dead End, whose peg hole isn't that secure in the structure of the leg. The added contact between the base of the leg limb and the foot does help. However I like the big chunky moulding design on the new feet, it suits the combiner.


The hands are probably not going to win many friends in the "we want more articulation" brigade. Where Victorion's new hands had moving fingers Computron's are big non articulated lumps with a 5mm peg hole. Very nicely sculpted lumps but there's less articulation here than on a Hand Foot Gun!

As with Victorion the hands can be stored in the feet, though getting them in isn't intuitive. Blacklai shows how it's done in his review: the front of the fist goes into the underside of the foot with the outer side of the fist towards the front. That then leaves a 5mm peg facing out of either side of the combined hand/foot for you to mount on any vehicle or robot in the set. As with Victorion, this feature is undocumented.

Assembly should be easy by now and since you've got a Silverbolt torso you're in for one of the better combiners. Scattershot's torso looks completely different in a new colour scheme: it's nearly all burgundy now with a cerise chest plate and white upper legs. In the midst of this the bright red painted crotch looks out of place. The sides of the chest have acquired some new tampograph detailing designed to look like details on Computron's chest. The head is still the Superion head but looks much much better in the burgundy distinguishing it from the original. Not repainting the head on the original Voyager was one of the biggest mistakes they made there. Yes a new head would be better but we can't have everything. I may have been inclined to buy a third party head for this but for the forthcoming Unite version but as it stands this colour head is probably the best we're going to get with this head mould.

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The default configuration is Afterbreaker(Afterburner) as his right arm, with his guns being mounted on the sides of Computron's upper legs. Strafe forms his left arm, with Scrounge plugged onto the 5mm port on Strafe's cockpit roof and Cybaxx plugged into Scrounge. Lightsteed (Lightspeed) & Nosecone form his right & left legs respectively which is a bit of a problem as both have relatively weekly supported 5mm sockets for the feet to plug into.

In robot mode any deficiencies the individual limbs have as their characters fade somewhat and it's a decent interpretation of the original Computron. The chest colouring no longer makes it look like hate plague Superion and the kibble sticking out of the shoulders of each of the arm limbs balances each other out. Mine's personally going to be displayed without Scrounge & Cybaxx. I like the way they attach but due to the nightmare that it extending Scrounge's head he's staying in robot mode for evermore.


A very, very good combiner. Probably the best Hasbro boxset so far. It'll be interesting comparing it to it's Takara counterpart in a few weeks time.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Unite Warriors & G2 Swindle

Generations 2 Swindle

Take Combiner Wars Swindle, repaint him in orange and slap some purple camouflage on him. Job done, G2 Swindle is reborn.

Oddly it's this version is the one I can see the jeep front in the most!

Swindle comes in the G2 Bruticus Combiner Wars giftset.

Unite Swindle

Take Swindle, make his sand colour a bit, add some purple to the front of his roll cage and make the HDG the same sandy colour as the jeep.

If you have CW Swindle you don't need it but with have bought the Unite Bruticus set he comes with to get Blast Off.

Unite Warriors & G2 Brawl

Generation 2 Brawl

The first Brawl repaint that was revealed, but the second to come on sale, comes in the G2 Bruticus boxart and swaps 1986 Brawl's greeny brown for Generation 2 Brawl's bright green and his dark grey for purple and adding the traditional G2 purple camouflage to give a look very similar to Generation 2 Megatron

Judging by the mis-transformed waist in the official pictures I suspected the waist wouldn't be fixed but thankfully it seems fine on my copy of this toy.

Unite Warriors Brawl

Very similar in deco to the original Combiner Wars Brawl, bar a red & orange face, this toy unfortunately finds itself afflicted with the same waist problems as my original Brawl. Add in the deficiencies with Blast Off's colour, the wrongly assembled knees on Onslaught and the frankly shocking new rotor assembly on Vortex and you get a very unhappy experience for me with the Unite Warriors UW07 Bruticus set!

Monday, 22 August 2016

Titans Return Scourge

Titans Return Scourge

Scourge hasn't had a lot of luck with updates to his character. The first was the 2006 Titanium in a not terribly well liked line. The second, the 2011 Generations Deluxe, doesn't look too much like his robot, has a new more Earth like vehicle mode and didn't get a general UK release but was grey imported in mid 2011. His brother Cyclonus has done rather better with the much admired 2009 Universe 2 version, it's 2011 Reveal The Shield repaint and 2015 Generations Voyager all making it to the UK.

Both Scourge & Cyclonus were available in 1987 as Targetmasters and while the Universe 2 Cyclonus maintains that gimmick here Scourge finds himself as a Titanmaster, effectively a Headmaster. His Titanmaster is Fracas, the same name used for his 1987 Targetmaster. Moulded throughout in blue plastic he transforms & has similar articulation to all the other Titanmasters. Like Blurr's Titanmaster Hyperfire when in head mode he has a little extendable piece on top, this time shaped like the tube seen on top of the rear of Scourge's original vehicle mode and his head.

The robot itself is quite rounded, with effectively ball like shoulders and looks a decent interpretation of the look Scourge has in the 1986 movie. A certain proportion of his spaceship mode is on his back, as it's always been, which as usual provides the hint of him wearing a robotic cloak. Articulation is good: ball jointed head, provided by the Titanmaster, shoulders that shrug, stiffly, up at the body & are ball jointed at the arm, bicep swivels, bending elbows, universal hips, thigh swivels and bending knee. He comes armed with two guns, a short single barrelled one, little more than a detailed pipe, and a larger double barrelled one, which contains a seat for a Titanmaster in front of which is a peg hole so the guns can be combined into a triple barrelled weapon. The two barrels on the dual cannon both end in a 3mm peg hole which lets you plug Cyberverse weapons into it.

Transformation: pop the Titanmaster head off and unfold it into robot mode. Remove all weapons, fold the hands into the forearms and straighten the arms at the sides. Shrug the shoulders up and lock the arms onto the body courtesy of a tab on the body fitting a slot beneath the bicep joint. Now we get something a little innovative: pull down on the legs, revealing the spine. Fold the feet & heel spurs together so they point down out the bottom of the leg, Open the doors on the leg fronts, folding them round onto the inside of each leg. Rotate the legs round 180° via a waist joint on the spine, previously locked off inside the body. Rotate each leg in 90° at the thigh joint. Bend each hip joint up 180°, bringing the upper legs alongside the extended spine, and at the same time fold the knees down 180°covering the legs up and forming the front of the spaceship. Fold the "cape" panels down to the sides tabbing into the shoulders & what was the rear of the leg. By default the Titanmaster sits in the cockpit at the rear of the vehicle, the small gun mounts on the cockpit and the large double gun mounts in front of the cockpit but, as we'll see, all three are up for negotiation!

Scourge's vehicle mode is his classic Spaceship/Hovercraft/Soapdish design with a few extra fins and details on it. It's a pretty good update of the original design done in blue and pale blue. The illusion is only really broken when you turn the vehicle over and you see the folded back leg doors and exposed robot chest. But even then the leg doors have moulding on them for guns while the shape resembles landing gear.

One of the real joys of this mode is the ability to customise it's look. Both the dual cannon and smaller gun mount on 5mm peg holes so they can be swapped round or even combined onto the same post. There's two 5mm peg holes on each side of the vehicles which can also take the weapons. The Titanmaster is tucked away at the moment inside the cockpit but can be seated outside the vehicle on dual cannon. Finally if you look at the 5mm socket on top of the cockpit you'll see it's a slightly odd shape, square at the front. This enables you to plug the Titanmaster in head mode into the top of the Spaceship just like cartoon Scourge extending his head in spaceship mode.

I'm quite taken with Scourge: both modes are fun, and the interchangeability & combination of weapons & Titanmaster add significantly to it's play value.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Million Publishing Runamuck & Dogfight

Million Publishing Runamuck

So having done Runabout as a Japanese exclusive that sold out so quickly it was untrue, it couldn't get worse for Runamuck's availability ...... could it?

Yup. He and a repaint of Powerglide as Dogfight were offered as the mail away exclusives for the Japanese Generations 2015 book. There's been a number of these and they are never cheap, generally going for about $90-$100 per offering from BBTS. I've been tempted by several but the only one I have is Shouki who was offered by HLJ sometime after the book's release.

Fortunately I got lucky in this pair: I paid for them in early June and the cost was significantly cheaper than I'd estimated then I dodged customs on the package containing them and the Titans Return Legends Wave 2.

Runamuck is Runabout with the black plastic recast in white. The eyes are the only paint ops that stay red with the windows turning black and the other highlights becoming yellow. Decepticon symbols are in exactly the same place and the same size. He comes with an Adventures sticker on his chest/rear window but, like his brother, that didn't stay on long on mine!

I like him but he's not setting my world on fire. I certainly wouldn't want to leave a toy this white in direct sunlight! Like Adventures Runabout I feel the solid colour could have done with being broken up, like it was for the TFCC version. I don't have a red upper legs, back & spoiler frame for Runabout but the temptation to swap parts with Rodimus is very great with this one.

Future Repaints

As I've said above, I would very much like to see both Runamuck and Runabout redone with the upper legs, body and spoiler taking the secondary colours from the original toys, orange and red respectively.

It feels odd asking for this one but I think this toy would work as a Bumblebee, in a similar way to the Classics/Legends of Cybertron version. We've not had a Bumblebee in Combiner Wars and it would go nicely with Optimus Prime in a similar way to how Minicon Sparkplug (Micron Bumblebee in Japan) does with Armada Optimus Prime.

It would be nice to see the Legends Triggerbots completed with an Orange & Black repaint of Blackjack as Backstreet.

Million Publishing Dogfight

Having repainted Combiner Wars Groove, surplus to requirement in Japan, as Transformers Adventure Override alongside Transformers Adventures Runabout it made sense for Runabout's repaint Million Publishing Runamuckto also be accompanied by one of Override's Triggerbot team mates. But which one? Backstreet would have probably meant another Blackjack repaint so Dogfight won.

Runabout & Override were both Japanese exclusives that sold out so quickly it was untrue, it couldn't get worse for Runamuck & Dogfight's availability ...... could it?

Yup. They were offered as the mail away exclusives for the Japanese Generations 2015 book. There's been a number of these and they are never cheap, generally going for about $90-$100 per offering from BBTS. I've been tempted by several but the only one I have is Shouki who was offered by HLJ sometime after the book's release.

Fortunately I got lucky in this pair: I paid for them in early June and the cost was significantly cheaper than I'd estimated then I dodged customs on the package containing them and the Titans Return Legends Wave 2.

There's two plane moulds in the Legends line and neither of them look much like the original Dogfight. The Generations Starscream mould, extensively repainted as other Strike Planes in the west, was passed over in favour of the Combiner Wars/Adventures Powerglide mould. About the only things linking Dogfight & CW Powerglide are that they're planes and there's a vague weapons connection: original Dogfight had spring loaded gun pop out and Powerglide turns into a gun. A tenuous connection at best, as the plane designs are totally different Dogfight being a Grumman X-29 and Powerglide an A-10 Thunderbolt. If anything should be used for Dogfight it's Cyberjet Spacecase and now I think of it, it surprises me that repaint hasn't been done!

Another problem is the colour: Dogfight is blue and there's already been a Blue Powerglide, the GI Joe Homage Viper (Spacecase has never been repainted as any version of the GI Joe Grunman, the Conquest either! Sort it out Hasbro, cash left in GI Joe and Transformer fans wallets!) Putting the two toys next to each other I can see that Viper's blue, used on parts that were red on Powerglide, is significantly darker than Dogfight's though. Viper's grey, also grey on Powerglide, is now a pale Energon blue but interestingly the forearms and hands are now cast in the dark blue plastic. The head, chest and tail fins are all painted pale blue with the visor in a third blue and the faceplate in red. He comes with an Adventures sticker on his chest but, as with all the more Generations inclined Adventures toys I removed it as soon as I got the toy. This one was slightly more adhesive than most and I'm almost regretting takingit off as his chest is now an acre of pale blue without it! The wings have some silver & red stripes on them with an Autobot symbole on top of those.

It's a nice toy, my fourth Powerglide, but only the colours really says Dogfight to me.

Future Repaints

GI Joe provides us with an obvious choice in the Tiger Rat or the Thunderbolt but any of Joe's other repaint schemes like Night Force, Python Patrol or Sky Patrol would be good.

Powerglides have a couple of repaints during Transformers: the original became the grey and blue E-Hobby Badboy while the DOTM Cyberverse Commander became the green Ultimate Gift Set Powerglide which I need!

Then there are a number of other Transformer A-10s: the blue Micromaster Tailwind and his white and red repaint Hothouse plus Cybertron gives the white and grey/black Wingsaber and the camouflage Jetfire. For more options See the A-10 list on TFWiki,

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Unite Warriors Blast Off

Unite Warriors Blast Off

I've always had a little trouble with Blast Off being a Space Shuttle. For a start Space Shuttles are all white & black, and Blast Of, being green, isn't although his Generation 2 Version nearly is. Then, despite a number of List of Space Shuttle missions flown for the military I don't see the Space Shuttle as a military vehicle and think a plane would be more appropriate in a combat team. So when Blast Off became a plane in Combiner Wars I wasn't too bothered and still think it's the best of the four substitutions in Combiner Wars.

However Blast Off has prior to that point usually been a shuttle so when Unite Bruticus was teased with a shuttle looking arm I was quite pleased. A leaked catalogue image appeared on 20th January followed by a magazine reveal later that day. Grey prototypes were shown at a Japanese toyfair on Feb 7th and all looked good so far. A small colour publicity photo at the toyfair provided the first hint of trouble confirmed by clear colour images of the combiner and a clear single image of Blast Off: he was the wrong colour! Blast Off has always been a sort of greeny brown colour. He's never been a sandy brown like what was used here, not even in the cartoon which is Takara's main inspiration for their colouring choices and has led to some of their more "interesting" choice. The colour choice is a mystery and we may never know quite why they went for such an odd choice. But until Hasbro does one in different colours Unite Blast Off is the only game in town for a Combiner Wars space shuttle so we're stuck with it in these colours.

In shuttle mode the sandy brown is used for the engine flaps, tail fin, trailing edge of the wings, top of the shuttle, tip of the nose and the robot's arms, which lie on top of the wings. The arms look a little odd here by since they end in a nozzle I can imagine they are some form of Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Booster. There's a hint these may not be attached the way they were originally designed as the wings have a notch in the top surface which perfectly matches the elbow hinge, which points up instead of down.

Most of the rest of the shuttle is a very dark brown, nearly black, save for some animation inspired purple on the nose, around where the passenger compartment would be. The shuttle mode is nearly complete out the box, all you need to do is peg the gun in under the nose, pointing to the rear, whose rounded detail provides a front landing rear to compliment the two towards the rear. The rest of the underside shows the typical combiner wars robot chest with fold out connector, which itself has an additional landing gear moulded onto it, with the rear looking like the legs pushed together. Each of the wings has a five mm peg hole in the underside and there's another pair of 5mm peg sockets, each set to either side of the combiner connector. Unfortunately there's no 5mm peg hole in the middle of the underside so he can't ride his hand foot gun which, with a blocky central core and two more pointed barrels to the sides, looks like a small stylised version of the Space Shuttle external tank and solid rocket boosters normally found under the shuttle at take off.

Turning the right way up the shuttle looks like a flattened version of the typical shuttle design, which is confirmed when you look at the rear: there's two main engines next to each other instead of the traditional three in a triangle formation. Both of the main engines and the two arms/rocket boosters end in a nozzle which is a 5mm peg hole. An upward facing 5mm peg hole is found on the rear of each of the solid rocket booster arms and another is in roughly the exact centre of the toy's roof. The roof was detail on it for the cockpit windows, with three odd nozzles behind it, but there's no cargo bay door detailing. Given the mix of three colours highlighting how the shuttle fits together there's an odd patchwork/jigsaw puzzle quality to it which wouldn't be so obvious if both the sandy brown and dark brown/black were the same green colour.

Transformation: remove the gun and set aside for now. Fold the shuttle nose & forward section of shuttle's roof back, noting the pegs on the rear of the nose that fit into slots on the shoulders. Spread the sides of the rear of the nose out, folding the shuttle nose back into it with a double joint ensuring the nose points in the right direction. Fold the compacted nose down onto the top of the shuttle to form the robot's chest.

At least that's what should happen. Unfortunately the nose is an "interesting" piece of design that doesn't hold together that well during movement. While transforming it the front of the nose, sides of the nose and head & neck under the nose all fell off and needed re-attaching!

If necessary turn the head round. Lift the arms out to the sides, folding the shoulders into place at the body then fold the arms back down at the shoulder's ball joints. Separate the rear of the shuttle in two down the middle, the tail fin will split in two with this action, and fold down via a knee/mid lower leg joint to expose the upper legs. Swing the engines down to form the feet. Fold the wings in. Rotate at the waist. Place the gun in his hand.

Blast Off's robot mode looks very odd compared to the other Combiner Wars deluxes. The designers have attempted to build Blast off's cartoon style chest from shuttle's nose, including the three nozzles along the top, and,it's not really worked resulting in something that looks far too big. It also makes him the only combiner wars deluxe without the combiner connector on his chest - if they've allowed that here then why not for Prowl & Mirage who both would have looked so much better with their car fronts on their chests? The feet look odd too, each formed from a main shuttle engine, but I always had that problem with the cartoon design.

Articulation is pretty standard for a Combiner Wars deluxe: ball jointed head & shoulders, bicep joint, bending elbow, rotating waist, ball jointed hips, thigh swivels and bending knees. The hands are worth drawing attention to: they have the traditional 5mm hole for putting a weapons handle into but, like Combiner Wars Trailbreaker and Rook, he has front facing holes as well enabling each hand to use two weapons at once. I think this is the first toy I can remember with this feature. Another pair of sockets can be found on the underside of the forearm which means you can have up to 3 weapons on each arm!

Since the feet are made from the shuttle's main engines and they have a 5mm peg hole at the core you can plug weapons into them too even though it does look ever so slightly silly!

The holes on the underside of the wings, now on the sides of the legs, and either side of the combiner connector, now on his back, make more useful connection points. The one from the top of the shuttle is now on the underside of his chest blot and all but inaccessible. Two more 5mm holes can be found on the back of the lower legs if you remove the tail fin halves. By my reckoning that makes SIXTEEN accessible 5mm holes in this mode plus a seventeenth that isn't.

Let's return to the matter of the notches in the wings. If we pop the arms off and swap them in shuttle mode we find that the elbows do indeed fit into the grooves. Transforming to robot mode then forces what was the robot's back, with the more combiner connector facing, to become the robot's chest. The rotating waist makes sure the legs face the right way producing a plainer, more traditional Combiner Wars chest. It looks a little odd in these colours but replace the colours with the traditional greeny brown and slap some purple paint on the chest surrounding the connector and it would look perfect.

In fact I'm pretty certain I prefer this to the out the box robot mode configuration. Yes I know this chest configuration is used on his remould Unite Warriors Strafe but that doesn't explain quite how the shuttle wings, which aren't reused on Strafe, have the notch for the elbows. I believe that Blast Off is designed to have the more traditional toy chest appearance, possibly for a potential Hasbro release which hasn't happened yet.

Blast Off also serves as a Combiner Wars limb. His leg mode is formed by taking the shuttle mode, folding the nose onto the back but not compacting it & folding the head into it. The combiner connector folds out, the lower arms are folded alongside the upper arms and tabbed into hold them together. The wings are folded in and the engines are folded back, as per the robot feet. Peg the Hand Foot Gun into the base of the shuttle.

Pretty standard leg mode with Blast Off providing a bending knee, thigh swivel and ankle swivel to the completed combiner.

Blast Off is more frequently found combined in arm mode. This is essentially the robot mode, with the legs pressed together, the head hidden in the folded back shuttle nose and the arms doubled up and folded out the way, both as per leg mode.

Again Blast Off makes the standard articulation contribution with the connector providing a turning shoulder and the ability to raise the arm to the side, the waist becoming a bicep swivel, hips & knees providing elbow articulation and the Hand Foot Gun Connector a wrist swivel. Unfortunately the two main engines project out somewhat and can hit the side of the toy.

This toy isn't perfect by a long way. It's three major issues involve how the nose/head hold together when transforming, how the default chest looks and the toy's colour. The chest is fixable with the alternate robot mode configuration, the other two you have to live with ..... for now.

Blast Off was released as part of Unite Warriors UW-07 Bruticus. As yet there has been no single carded Hasbro version.

Future Repaints

To quote Dire Straits: That ain't working, That's the way to do it! Daim Choc reposts a custom painted Blast Off on Facebook with a much more traditional colour scheme that looks a lot better. HASBRO, make this toy!

Friday, 5 August 2016

Titans Return Fortress Maximus Master Sword

Metroplex is jealous of Brave Max's Matrix Blade:

But the postman has bought him a present to play with:

His own (for now*) Master Sword!

"Have at thee Brave Maximus!"

* Should I tell him it's for Titan's Max if the Legends version doesn't have one?

Fortress Maximus Sword

I don't really associate Fortress Maximus with a sword, if I think of Max and a weapon it's more his big gun that comes to mind. The sword is primarily associated with the Japanese version of Max and his repaint Grand Maximus, but not Brave Maximus: he gets stripped of all his weapons and they can only been found on the lucky draw/campaign version. However the sword itself is repurposed into the Matrix Blade used by God Fire Convoy. I have a knock off version of the Brave Maximus/God Fire Convoy sword in my collection, indeed all my Brave Max weapons are knock offs and the guns are in fact the wrong colour: Mine are the blue Fortress versions and not black like Brave's should be (but everyone thinks should be red to match the leg cannons!)

The first hint at a Titans Return Fortress Maximus sword came with the first leaked image of the toy which people quickly interpreted to mean that the regular version of Titans Max WOULDN'T have a sword but there would be as San Diego Comic Con version, like SDCC 2013 Metroplex, packed with an extra the regular release didn't get. In Metroplex's case one of the main draws was a second hand gun, carried over to the Japanese TG-23 Metroplex, so it was of no surprise to see Legends LG-31 Fortress Maximusteased with extra swords.

Four days after the SDCC 2016 Fortress Maximus with sword was officially revealed story takes a twist and leads to the toy I have in hand here. News broke that Hong Kong Toys ‘R Us were offering a limited sword to the first 100 preorders an offer subsequently emulated by Taiwan TRU's mailaway offer.

My copy came from Kapow Toys, bought when I started to have doubts about if the Japanese version will have a sword. The mail away master sword is mainly constructed from clear orangey red transparent plastic with a back plastic handle and edging producing a weapon that looks very similar to the original Master Sword but with the added bonus of being clear plastic which nicely caches the light.

The entire sword is 45.5 cm long, a little shorter than the knock off Master Sword I own.

The handle has two 2.3 cm long plastic struts along each side of the handle which are designed to lock onto rectangular gap on the inside of the hand of Titans Return Fortress Maximus or his related toy Generations Metroplex.

A quick experiment suggests that maybe the gap between the struts works better around the outer of the longer edge of the slot in the palm of the hand rather than both struts inserted into the slot. Your mileage may vary on this matter. The struts force the sword to be held side on, perhaps two more pairs at right angles would have been useful to allow a face on grip on the sword. The sword itself splits into smaller units. Just over half the total length, 23cm from handle end to sword tip removes to become a large sword for your Voyager & Leader figures. A second separation allows you to remove the tip of that sword to form an 11.5cm sword for Deluxe figures and Cerebros. The swords connect together by having the handle on the upper portion slide into an open sided tube on the lower portion with tabs and slots holding it in place. There's a significant tab on the base of the handle of the two smaller swords that passes through the open side of the tube the handle sits in. It's forcing the sword to be assembled the correct way round but does mean the two smaller swords can't be held by a toy with a closed fist which is a considerable shame. My only thought is that it's to prevent them being stuck upright in 5mm peg holes, like on Metroplex & Max's arms, and being snapped off.

I like this as an add on for Max, but the missing large gun is more a problem for me. I'm not 100% sure it's worth what I paid for it though! But I've bought it now, so that should ensure there's one packed in with the Legends version!

SDCC 2016 Fortreass Maximus Sword

We return to the SDCC Fortress Maximus, who was revealed before the Asia Exclusive sword, but in hand a little bit later. The Asia exclusive sword is recast in solid red plastic. The amount of black is reduced back to the handle and the very base of the blade.

Given the choice between the two I much prefer the clear Asia exclusive version.

This sword was only available with the limited edition SDCC version of Fortress Maximus which was later sold through Hasbro toyshop and other conventions worldwide.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Titans Return Hardhead

Titans Return Hardhead with Furos

Hardhead has had a better go than most of the 1987 Headmaster in hat he's had a new version, the Wal*Mart exclusive Universe 2 Ultra that was a repaint of OnslaughtOnslaught. He nearly had a second one too: in 2011 Generations Warpath's instructions revealed 2011 an alternate Hardhead head and a Generations Deluxe Warpath was found in computer listings in 2013 but no toy ever was released until now.

Straight out the package Hardhead looks good. Hasbro have gone for the 1987 toy look with the face using visored eyed and a faceplate. Removing the head and unfolding it reveals a Titanmaster that is the spit colour wise of the original Headmaster Duros. For unknown reasons however Titans Return Deluxe Hardhead's Titanmaster is called Furos.

Hardhead's head, body, hands & gun are cast in a green colour with the arms, hips and lower legs in a near black while the upper legs, face plate and shoulder cannon are a dirty grey. With the exception of the oddly black hips it's done a really good job of recreating the look of the original Hardhead but once again the deluxe size feels slightly too small. The hips are a poser: My guess is that they need to be a certain sort of material, and they are a different feel of plastic to the rest of the upper legs and this type of plastic only exists in black not making it cost effective to produce a sprue of it in grey for just those two parts. Later evidence suggests the hips are on the same sprue as the wrists, gun hinges, gun seat hinge, shoulder connectors, elbows & lower knee.

Hardhead has a peg on each forearm for a Titanmaster to stand on. So far the only Titanmater that I've successfully stood on them is Furos himself, all the others are too loose. Testing Furos on other Titanmaster pegs suggests that his peg holes are slightly smaller than other Titanmasters which is a shame.

Hardhead comes with one green handgun whereas the original, like the other 1987 Autobot Headmasters, had two. His cannon is mounted on his shoulder on a double hinge and can be folded onto his back so just the gun barrel protrudes over his shoulder. There's a 5mm hole in the top of it for mounting his gun or any other 5mm peg weapon on. The cannon is itself mounted using a 5mm peg so is removable and can be hand held and likewise the hand gun or any other 5mm peg can be mounted on the shoulder instead. The cannon's got a few other features as well that can be used here but I'll cover them in the tank mode.

Articulation is generally very good: he has a ball jointed head from his Titanmaster, shoulders that shrug up, though his right shoulder is limited if the cannon is folded down, ball jointed outer shoulder joints, bicep swivel, double bending elbows & wrist that fold inwards & turn. No waist, mainly due to part of the tank mode securing in the rear of the waist piece, ball jointed hips, thigh swivels & bending knees. Balance is good, I've posed him holding two Terribull tanks, and the legs are substantially better than Skullsmasher.

Transformation: If you've played with an original 1987 Hardhead this will not be a challenging toy! Remove hand gun & Titanmaster. Actually you don't NEED to remove the Titanmaster but you will end up with a head in a silly place if you don't! Fold the back up 90° so it's on level with the top of the body and then fold the top of the body forward so the tank's upper surface is formed from the back, body top and body front and is pointing down towards the legs. Fold the feet back 180°. Pull each lower leg out to the sides and up so that the connecting bar within the lower leg tabs into the upper leg. Fold the legs & waist back 180°, while keeping the green tank armour straight pegging a tab on the underside of the body's top into a slot on the grey inner back piece. The inner face of the upper legs attach to tabs sticking out from the underside of green back piece. Fold the waist plate back. Fold the hands into the sides of the forearms and the elbow joint into the rear of the forearms. The silver elbow screws surrounded by a plastic rim fit into a hole on each side of the tank's front. The cannon slides inward and stretches back to sit alongside the driver's compartment which Furos can sit in. The hand gun pegs into the top of the tank barrel.

If you had left the Titanmaster in place he would be looking out over the front of the tank now!

Hardhead's vehicle mode is the original's but smaller. With the 4 tread pods at each corner of the vehicle he feels a bit similar to Generations Warpath so you can see why they were considering a head retool of that toy as Hardhead. However the tops of both characters are very different: where Warpath has a rotating turret Hardhead has a forward facing cannon with a clear orange canopied driver's compartment next to it. The pegs from the forearms have ended up on the front pair of tank treads and there's an additional set, with the same slightly too small peg for most Titanmasters, on the rear treads too. The tank mode moves courtesy of a pair of small wheels mounted in each of the rear treads and a grooved roller mounted under the front of the vehicle.

The cannon elevates in this mode but it has a few other details that can be used in robot mode too. The back of the cannon opens up & folds back revealing a compartment for a Titanmaster to sit and act as a gunner. It's a nice feature and it adds something to the toy. The top of this compartment can be folded back over the Titanmaster to cover it but you can't close it since the Titanmaster is too big. The intention is it should hang behind the gun, as evidenced by a pair of Titanmaster pegs inside the compartment which face up when it's folded back. Unfortunately they're the same gauge as the rest of the ones on the toy. Even more unfortuntely they're mounted on a slope, rising to the rear, which means a Titanmaster can't stand on them & face forward because his heel spur prevents the pegs from recessing far enough into the feet!

Issues with footpegs aside this is essentially a smaller more articulated version of the original Hardhead toy. There's a lot of fun to be had with it.

Legends LG-21 Hardhead

I've not bought many of the Legends line so far: Jetfire, because he didn't have the dreadful chrome the Generations version had, Sky Byte, because he looked much better, and Ultra Magnus, for the white guns and different small robot are the only 3 I have that there were also western versions of. I also purchased Blackarachnia & Starscream Super Mode/Thundercracker but they DIDN'T get western releases. However Takara have gone down a slightly different route for their Headmaster characters which swayed my hand especially when Kapow offered the initial releases at £20.99!

The first thing is the deluxe Headmasters have different faces and Hardhead's is an obvious change. Instead of the visored face used on Titans Return version we now have a fully exposed face on Legends Hardhead just like his Marvel comic, cartoon and IDW versions.

The other major difference here is that there's a little extra in the box for the Japanese version of the toy. The Titanmasters size class aren't getting distributed in Japan in the Titanmaster/Head with accessory sets that are in Titans Return. Instead the Head goes with a Legends figure and the accessory goes with a deluxe, but only the deluxe toys that were originally Headmaster in 1987, Autobots Brainstorm, Chromedome, Hardhead & Highbrow and Decepticons Mindwipe, Weirdwolf & Skullcruncher, are having the extra Titanmaster accessory included with them. Thus far LG-25 Blurr & LG-26 Scourge are the only Deluxes not to have them. It'll be interesting to see what will happen when the Wave 3 Titans Return deluxe appear in Japan as by that time there will be new Titanmaster moulds available for them to use.

Hardhead's accessory is called Tankette, a green version of the tank/jet that comes with Titans Returns Terribull and was was remade as Skytread. There's some silver paint on the tank treads and turret. Unfortunateky the issues with the peg/hole gauge come back to haunt us here as Furos can't sit in the tank and lock onto the pegs inside the turret.

Since the tank is gang moulded with it's Titanmaster it'll be interesting seeing what the Bullhorn with LG-37 Jaguar looks like as Green isn't a colour associated with Horribull!

There's been some tweaking of the colours on the Hardhead toy itself. The green & black are broadly similar but the grey has gone replaced by a pale brown/tan colour. In order that the upper legs match the same colour has been used for one of the black sprues and this results in the wrists, gun hinges, gun seat hinge, shoulder connectors, elbows & lower knee also becoming pale brown/tan. This makes certain parts, notably the wrists in robot mode and the what were concealed elbows in tank mode, really stand out when they shouldn't do which is a real shame.

Given the choice I'd go Titans Return, because I think the grey works better than the tan. But I prefer the comic head and wanted the extra accessory so went for the Legends version. I suspect, now that I have the Legends in hand, this might be a case of having to double dip on this toy which would then give me two guns and an extra Titanmaster that can use the footpegs.

Future Repaints

The Transmissions Podcast rumours that Hardhead will be repainted/remoulded into Quake. I'll be honest, I'm not sure I can see this for very similar reasons as I thought Generations Warpath would work as Hardhead. The same podcasts rumours a new Perceptor, a character I could see as a Hardhead remould due to the similarity of cannons over their right shoulder.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Titans Return Skullsmasher

Skullsmasher with Grax

Before we start I probably should mention that the original 1987 Skullcruncher is my favourite Decepticon Headmaster. So this new toy has something to live up to!

Skullsmasher's Headmaster retains the original name Grax and comes attached in robot mode. The head mode's face resembles the original but with a prominent gold ridge between the eye where previously there was a straight visor: I'm not sure where that came from as the portrayal of Skullcruncher's face has been pretty consistent over the years! Detaching and unfolding the Titanmaster reveals a robot with a black head, arms & lower legs and green chest & upper legs, contrasting with the original's black head & body and green limbs - just the head & upper kegs have stayed the same colour.

They've gone a much better job with the robot though with the colours all but matching the original, though the green has a slightly more metallic sheen and the waist & upper body seem a darker grey/off white than they were. He comes with a gun, as per the original, but the tail is um.... actually I'm not sure what the tail is! It's certainly not a sword any more! It can be held by a peg in it's rear or a fold out handle in the top if you turn it over which then lets you plug the gun into it and seat a Titanmaster in it. The "shield" does really need to be held because it looks odd pegged into either shoulder's 5mm hole and if you stored it using the 5mm hole on the toy's back then the robot would be considerably over balanced.

Balance is something of a problem as it is: the toy is slightly back heavy carrying a crocodile head on it's back, a situation not helped by notoriously floppy knee & hip joints. The knee looks a particularly bad design: it's a double bending knee, which isn't necessary for the transformation, but the top joint is VERY stiff and the lower one is VERY loose - it's like having both versions of the Combiner Wars Brawl waist on one leg. the lower knee joint is the only one that needs to bend so I wonder why they moulded a separate knee pad especially as it's in a colour, green, that isn't present there on previous depictions of the character.

LATER EDIT: I've been told that the knee pads lock into the lower legs and indeed they do with a very satisfying click. Getting them to unlock again for Transformation is something of a trial though!

Above the knees there's a thigh swivel, again quite loose, and above that ball jointed hips. The waist turns and, like all Titanmaster heads, the head is ball jointed. The shoulders shrug up & are ball jointed, there's a bicep swivel, bending elbow and another swivel at the top of the lower arms. This is particularly useful as it allows you to rotate the lower arm so the outer edge, which has a Titanmaster peg on it, faces up letting you stand a Titanmaster on each of his arms.

The robot mode isn't a disaster by any means but the floppy joints on the legs, not aided by small feet that keep folding back in and a lack of heels spurs do mean the balance is a bit wanting.

Transformation: remove gun, shield & Titanmaster head, the last of which needs transforming to robot mode. Straighten the legs then fold the lower legs back at the lower knee joint over the back of the upper legs & tab together. Place the gun into the tail and put the 5mm peg hole on the base of the tail on the 5mm peg, half of which is on each leg's knee: a thing ring of plastic round two peg halves which are pushing apart? Gonna be a lot of broken Skullsmasher tail pieces down the line. Fold the shoulder up over the space where the head was. Hold the toy so you're looking down on the Titanmaster socket with the toy back towards you. Manipulate the shoulders so the tabs in the back of them sit in a slot each side of the body. Fold the crocodile head forward so the tabs on that fit in the tabs just bellow the shoulder's 5mm holes. Rather confusingly the shoulder peg holes also have a matching tab slot across them! A hint of a beast mode retool down the line perhaps? Fold the hands in and pose the front paws.

At this point it's necessary to go back to the original Skullcruncher. All the Headmaster toys accommodate their Headmaster as a pilot in alternate mode. This is easy when you're an Autobot vehicle as they all have a cockpit or driver's compartment of some sort. Most of the Decepticon animals settle for the Headmaster riding somewhere in the body. Skullcruncher however has the pilot sitting in a seat IN THE CROCODILE'S MOUTH! How radio rental is that? Now admittedly not all of you may share my fear of crocodiles, caused by an early exposure to Peter Pan, but I think anyone will admit that putting ANYTHING in a crocodile's mouth IS A BAD IDEA! This mad feature is one of the reasons I like the original toy so much.

Grax does not sit in the crocodile's mouth in Skullsmasher's beast mode :-(

Yes, OK, he crocodile's mouth now open to reveal a wonderfully sculpted grey tongue but my favourite feature is gone. What's worse is that there's a black strip down the crocodile's head to remind you of the original toy's feature. Then to compound things the new method of storing the Titanmaster is rather poor. There's a compartment half way down the body with a rubber canopy that folds backwards. Already the alarm bells should be ringing as rubber is a material I don't like to see on Transformers toys as it's perishable. Since only one side of the compartment is open, the top, you effectively have to drop the Titanmaster into it which is a bit hard because he then needs some manoeuvring to tuck his legs under the control panel. Then you need to fold the panel back down. Which doesn't want to fold down, doesn't want to sit in it's slot and when it does go in immediately wants to spring back out again. A piece of solid clear plastic wouldn't of done that! It is an absolute disaster. The only reason I can think of for changing the pilot's location is that the head on the hinted at remould can't accommodate a pilot necessitating the seat in the body which will be used on both toys but even then there's no excuse for it not closing properly. Fortunately the Titanmaster foot pegs, previously on the forearms, are now relocated to the forelegs so you can stand Grax there instead and don't open the body compartment because you will never get it closed properly.

But apart from that.....

Yeah it's a decent crocodile, again with all he colours in the right place. The back legs are wedged into spaces in the body - look at how they're stored before touching them - but can pull out to the sides revealing they're ball jointed at the hips. The front legs are fixed in a diagonally splayed angle but can still move at the robot's bicep, elbow and forearm joint. We've mentioned the mouth opening but the head can raise and move from side to side. The tail also moves from side to side, courtesy of the 5mm peg it's attached to but see previous comments about the long term viability of the connection which can only be harmed by moving it.

There is some fun to be had with the tail in this mode though. Firstly the handle for holding it can fold up and since the 5mm handle is a hollow tube it can be used as a Minicon peg. Next, the hole for the gun's peg, stored inside the tail, is bored straight through. Pushing the gun down slightly will give the sides of the hole enough friction to hold a 5mm peg weapon on top of the tail and store the gun. For a better hold remove he gun entirely, which can itself be mounted on the tail. Finally the entire tail can be mounted the other way up forming a gun station mounted on the rear of the tail as shown in Departure Time's Skullsmasher gallery.

Hmmmm. Bar the problems with the hatch it's a decent enough crocodile Transformer. However, for me, to be Skullcruncher it really needed that distinctive feature with the pilot in the mouth. Couple that with the looseness in the robot legs and you end up with a slightly disappointing toy. I tried to ignore this with Titan Force Brainstorm, because I felt I was comparing him with a previous version, but I wonder if Skullsmasher and the rest of the 1987 Headmaster could have done with being made at the larger Voyager scale?

Legends Skull

I've not bought many of the Legends line so far: Jetfire, because he didn't have the dreadful chrome the Generations version had, Sky Byte, because he looked much better, and Ultra Magnus, for the white guns and different small robot are the only 3 I have that there were also western versions of. I also purchased Blackarachnia & Starscream Super Mode/Thundercracker but they DIDN'T get western releases. However Takara have gone down a slightly different route for their Headmaster characters which swayed my hand especially when Kapow offered the initial releases at £20.99!

The first thing is the deluxe Headmasters have different faces and Skullcruncher's more closely adheres to what we're used to on the toy, in the comics and in both cartoons. It's not a huge difference here but is when you compare Titans Return and Legends Hardhead.

The other major difference here is that there's a little extra in the box for the Japanese version of the toy. The Titanmasters size class aren't getting distributed in Japan in the Titanmaster/Head with accessory sets that are in Titans Return. Instead the Head goes with a Legends figure and the accessory goes with a deluxe, but only the deluxe toys that were originally Headmaster in 1987, Autobots Brainstorm, Chromedome, Hardhead & Highbrow and Decepticons Mindwipe, Weirdwolf & Skullcruncher, are having the extra Titanmaster accessory included with them. Thus far LG-25 Blurr & LG-26 Scourge are the only Deluxes not to have them. It'll be interesting to see what will happen when the Wave 3 Titans Return deluxe appear in Japan as by that time there will be new Titanmaster moulds available for them to use. At it is from that list Both Skull and LG-34 Wipe are paired with Crashbash's Dragon/Dinosaur accessory, albeit in different colours. Already owning Crashbash & Clobber this is the third version of the toy I own. If I get Legends Wipe and Titans Return Overboard I'll have five of them!

Skull's companion/accessory is called Batora. The colours used here, Skullsmasher's pink for Crashbash's purple and purple for Crashbash's grey look nice but using Skull's Titanmaster with it results in adding an extra colour, black, to the dinosaur's lower jaw & arms and the loss of the lower jaw's teeth. It''l be interesting to see how the production colours for Cancer, the Japanese repaint of Crashbash who is packed with LG-24 Shockwave, match the accessory.

Eleswhere on the Skull toy I can spot several minor colour changes. Inside the mouth the grey has become transparent pink and this extends up through the eyes, no longer painted, which now glow when the toy's mouth is opened which you can see in Departure Time's Skull gallery. The off grey of the claws, gun, waist and the lower legs becomes a much cleaner white. The annoying hatch on the body becomes transparent red.

Yes this is a more expensive version of the toy. But I feel the fiver extra I paid more than covers the enhanced deco, extra accessory and new head.

Legends LG-22 Skull was released in Japan on July 23rd 2016.

Future Repaints

Skullcruncher never had a repaint itself but the first toy that usually spring to mind for a Skullcruncher repaint is Actionmaster Krok, despite it being the companion who is the crocodile and not him! The only other Crocodile/Alligator toy I can think of in Transformers is Beast Wars VS Pack Megatron. Since Mindwipe exists as a Titans Return toy the temptation to replicate that Vs Pack with a deluxe Optimus Primal bat is almost too much to be ignored, especially for a convention. Then there's also the possibility of doing the Japanese exclusive versions of purple Megatron Alligator and the red Convoy Bat.

As said above the moulding & some of the design choices on Skullsmasher indicate a remould as a different beast is likely and Beast Wars basic Megatron provides some ideas as he was remoulded as Beast Wars Iguanus and Beast Wars Neo Crazybolt.

Finally another crocodile exits in the Transformers cartoon. recently made by a 3P Company, a version of Optimus Prime, Alligaticon, would make another good toy with appeal to long term fans and thus another possible convention exclusive.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Titans Return Wheelie

Titans Return Wheelie

Originally released in 1986 Wheelie and featured in that year's Transformers The Movie, Wheelie is a character that divides Transformers fans somewhat. He's cropped up fairly regularly in the last decade or so being reissued in Japan in 2005 where he was packed with Targetmaster Kup to form Transformers Collection #20 then receiving a new Legends Version, now known as Legions, in 2009 as part of the final wave of Universe 2 which was near impossible to find! A slightly too yellow version of the toy was then released in Japan as part of the Henkei C-19 Minibot Spy Team alongside his western wavemates Warpath & Cosmos. Given their rarity in the west this was snapped up pretty quickly. Most recently in 2012 he was a Generations GDO Deluxe, a repaint and minor remould of Reveal The Shield Jazz. 2016 is the 30th anniversary of the Movie and most of it's major participants have either recently received or will get an update so Wheelie becomes a Titans Return Legend.

Wheelie's robot mode looks pretty good against his animation model. The upper body, arms & head are moulded in a yellowy orange plastic while the waist & lower legs are a brighter orange. Upper legs, forearms, hands & top of the body are white plastic with the chest panel being made from a piece of dark smoked plastic. The articulation on it is very good: ball joints at shoulder, elbow, hips and knees give a good range of movement plus the head and the waist turn. Unfortunately the shoulder ball joints are somewhat loose, possibly due to being open at the top & the side, which means the arms are somewhat prone to popping off when you move them.

So as a robot he's pretty good. However here's where it starts to go wrong....

To transform into car mode start by folding the head back 270° into his back. Fold the rear of the legs out to the sides and round to the front, revealing the wheels pointing out to each side. Rotate the waist 180° - the waist can be a little reticent to move so it's hard to get it lined up precisely and it does need to be done precisely! Rotate each lower leg in 90°, so the wheels are facing each other, and then fold each leg back at the knee locking together round the waist, then fold the knees pads closed to form the front of the vehicle. Rotate each arm in 90° at the elbow so the contours of the moulding line up exactly. Fold the clear chest forward, unlocking the upper body which stretches out to form the rear of the vehicle. Bring the arms in and attach to either side of the waist. Fold the underside of the chest down to form the rear of the vehicle roof and the the clear chest front to form the wind shield.

The problem here is there are lots of tabs & slots that need to be precisely aligned and even when they are there's several that don't quite fit forming a slightly unstable vehicle mode. Transforming it now to describe it is probably the most solid vehicle I've achieved with it. It's a pretty good representation of the original Wheelie vehicle with the front in the bright orange and rear in the more yellowy pale orange. The wheels here are made from the same dark smoked plastic as the wind shield.

This year's Legends are designed for interaction with Titanmasters and Wheelie is no exception: the clear wind shield folds forward and the rear of the vehicle folds backwards to reveal a compartment for a Titanmaster to sit in and drive Wheelie.

Good Robot mode. The car mode is good if you can get it to stay together but manipulating everything into place is something of a trial.

Future Repaints

Original Wheelie has been repainted as Dion while the previous Legends Wheelie became Shadowstriker. Both would be fine repaints for this toy.

Titans Return Galvatron


Having had Galvatronus, a combining take on Galvatron, released during Combiner Wars in 2015 one could argue that another Galvatron in 2016 is a bit soon. But the combiner aside, new toy Galvatrons that aren't the line's Megatron repaint are rare and the most recent, the Universe 2 Deluxe, is not a favourite toy amongst fans. Titans Return Galvatron was officially unveiled at NYCC 2015 to much rejoicing from Transformers fans. Well apart from those who didn't want their Galvatron sullied by a gimmick!


Like all the Deluxe and larger Titans Return toys Galvatron is a Titanmaster, effectively a Headmaster. To build up the standard size Titanmaster head Galvatron has a purple frame fold out round the front of the face to produce his crest & horns. The effect doesn't really work in hand though with the face being recessed slightly too far and the mask severely limiting the head rotation: the head turns only slightly side to side with mask up but can rotate the full 360° with the mask down. The mask folds down into the chest revealing a pretty decent silver head that, with the addition of some purple paint, would probably do the job OK by itself. Pop the head off and transform it into Titanmaster mode and he robot you get, named Nucleon after the Actionmasters energy source, is revealed to be a mini Megatron!

To transform Galvatron start by removing the head, as above, and the cannon from his arm. Fold the fists into his forearms and bend the arms at the elbow, tabbing the wrists into the shoulder. Swing the tank treads down under the elbows. Raise the shoulder panels up, swing the arms so they point up and then swing the sides of the chest back 90°. Rotate the waist 180° folding the purple panel down to fit in the square gap on the lower torso. Next open the back of each leg and rotate out 90° at the thighs. Pull the knee joint out of it's socket and swing the lower leg up so the knee is inside he lower leg and then fold the feet in before pushing both legs together. Take the gun and fold the grey rear up & forward over the barrel. Fold the connector underneath back behind the barrel. Plug into the front of the toy.

What you get is a pretty good representation of Galvatron's animated cannon mode. It doesn't do much, it just sits there. The only interaction with the Titanmaster is that there's two pairs of foot pegs for it to stand on the back but on my copy they feel far far too loose.

Fortunately that can be fixed by using his alternate cannon mode, which isn't in the instructions but is implied by an undocumented feature....

As before, starting from robot mode, remove the head, as above, and the cannon from his arm. Fold the fists into his forearms and bend the arms at the elbow, tabbing the wrists into the shoulder. Swing the tank treads down under the elbows. Rotate the arms forward 90°. Next open the back of each leg and rotate out 90° at the thighs. Pull the knee joint out of it's socket and swing the lower leg up so the knee is inside he lower leg and then fold the feet in before pushing both legs together. Take the gun and fold the grey rear up & forward over the barrel. Fold the connector underneath back behind the barrel. Plug into the front of the toy.

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The grey rear of the gun has it's open underside facing skywards now and, although it's not obvious, this form a Titanmaster cockpit position over the base of the gun barrel. This isn't documented in the instructions or officially used anywhere but the precise fit of a Titanmaster into the slot surely insinuates that it's an intentional feature?

Both cannon mode can also, just about, serve as a gun by folding down the jet nose cockpit and using it as a handle.

From official cannon mode remove the gun. Fold the jet nose into the space vacated by it and fold the jet tail fin back. Fold the shoulder pads along next to the base of the jet nose. Fold the connector back under the gun, and then replace the rear of he gun and peg under the jet nose. Swing the chest sides back into place, then the tank treads under the uppers arms and position the arms so the tank treads face down. I'd almost be tempted to stop here with the same vehicle rear as the cannon had but the instructions indicate the legs should be parted and the knees, still within the lower legs, bent 90°with a corresponding counter movement at the hips which let the knee pads tab into the sides of the shoulders forming "wings" from the legs. Open the cockpit canopy and seat the Titanmaster inside.

Spaceship! I can see what they're trying to do but it looks a mess from behind and none to pretty from any other angle either! I think they're trying to make Galvatron into a Cyclonus like jet for him to ride in bu it doesn't work!

To transform into robot pull the knee out the leg and tab into it's correct place. Fold the foot out, twist at the thigh so the leg faces down and close the panel at the back of the leg. Fold the jet tail fin over the jet nose & cockpit. Remove the cannon. Lift the panel covering the lower torso and then rotate at the waist 180°. Fold the panel onto Galvatron's back, fold the shoulder pads down, fold the forearms down and unfold the hands. Peg the cannon into the arm. Place the Titanmaster in place. Open the chest releasing the spring loaded mask.


Aforementioned head issues aside this is a pretty good Galvatron going down the purple body & arms and grey legs route with a huge rounded clear orange cannon on his right arm, it looks the part and is definitely the most cartoon accurate Galvatron we've had so far. The articulation is good: we've already mentioned the head but the shoulders turn and swing to sides, there's a bicep swivel, double bending elbow, rotating waist, hips that turn & swing to sides, thigh swivel, bending knee and ankles that rock back & forward and side to side. 5mm peg holes on the front of either upper arm allow the cannon to be moved round. Personally I like it on the front of the arm, though I've seen some arguing it should be on the side to free the arm up. If you want it can also be hand held: Galvatron has no other hand weapons so he's an ideal candidate to wield one or more of the Titanmaster weapons.

The only real problem I have with the robot, apart from the head, is the panels on the back of the legs. They get in the way in two modes and are obviously doors in the robot mode by virtue of being moulded from a completely different colour of plastic! Moulding them in the same colour as the rest of the leg would help.

My feel for Galvatron is he's a decent toy brought down by the poorly executed head gimmick and, given there was some opposition to Galvatron being a Titanmaster and that the comic character has been shown to be against Headmasters, it did really need to be executed perfectly here. It isn't and it detracts from the look & functionality of the robot which is a great shame.

Galvatron was released in Titans Return Voyagers Wave 1 alongside Sentinel Prime and anecdotal evidence suggests he's the hardest of the two to find despite the two toys being packed evenly in the case.

Legends Galvatron

Legends Galvatron is the Titans Return Voyager redone with the purple replaced with what my wife Liz describes as "cornflower blue". It looks nice but for my taste I prefer the purple of the Titans Return version.

Future Repaints

A repaint in the original Galvatron grey would be nice.

I think the major problem with this toy is salvageable by removing the gimmick. Replace the Titanmaster connector and flip up mask with a complete flip up head stored in the chest.