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!

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