Saturday, 22 October 2016

Titans Return, SDCC & Legends Fortress Maximus

Generations Titans Return Fortress Maximus

In 2013 I wrote this when talking about Metroplex and speculating about future reuses of the toy:
Could you retool him as Fortress Maximus? Maybe. But the retool would have to be quite extensive involving new legs, feet, his right chest and head
Then at Botcon 2015, in the midst of Combiner Wars, Hasbro "accidentally" brought with them a banner showing what many people thought might be the next Transformers line which included a new Fortress Maximus who was seemingly remoulded from Metroplex. A further leaked image appeared to show the toy in robot mode before the line was confirmed at NYCC 2015 and Fortress Maximus confirmed in an online release that November. All we saw of him that day was art, we had to wait until New York Toyfair 2016 to see the toy and it's official images. Thereafter Max was a regular in Hasbro displays at Botcon and the Australian Toyfair giving Transformers fans a look at how the toy was evolving and certain parts changed colour.

Fortress Maximus' Titanmaster is Emissary. The original Fort Max's Headmaster was names Spike, a human, while Emissary was the name used for Brave Maximus' larger robot which turned into his head. Pretty standard fare for a Titanmaster, in grey with silver upper legs and blue lower legs.

The robot Emissary merges with is called Cerebros, the same as he was on the original Fortress Maximus. He's a similar looking figure to the original but with a different colour palate: the original was varying shades of grey, the new one is grey and black with blue shoulders. The main difference to his look is provided by Emissary who turns into his Visored & Face-plated head, very similar to what was seen in the 1980s Marvel comic. The articulation is substantially beefed up: Ball jointed Titanmaster head, arms that turn at the shoulders, fold out to the sides and bend at a ball jointed elbow, hips that turns & bend to the sides, thigh swivels and bending knees. He has an open sided 5mm peg hand which can use the black dual cannon found inside the Fortress Maximus base mode as a weapon or any other 5mm weapon including the Master Sword which wasn't included with the Hasbro version but instead used as a promotion for a number of chains in the far east. Behind his head is a single Titanmaster peg which lets a Titanmaster look out over the head and is also useful in Max's other modes which Cerebros forms part of.

Cerebros has built in electronics which play a number of noises. There's three phrases "AUTOBOT!", "DECEPTICON!" and "FORTRESS MAXIMUS!" plus a number of effects sequences. The sounds Cerebros makes vary between the different versions of the toys.

To transform Cerebros into a mode used by both of Fortress Maximus' alternate forms start by removing Emissary. Straighten the arms and legs, with the peg holes facing forward. Fold the shoulders forward onto the front of the chest. Fold the feet onto the front and heels onto the back of the legs. Make sure the face is covered by the forehead and ears are folded in.

Onto Max.

Fold the ramp on his back up into the space where his head would be. Straighten the arms an raise them so they point straight up. Pull the sides of the waist away at the back and bring them together in front of him. Move each leg in at the knee slider, familiar from Metroplex, so they're closer together. Lay him down on his back. Fold the feet forward so the base of the feet rest on the bottom of the leg. Fold the front, towards the cannons on the leg, of the tower forward. Slide Cerebros, with the face cover forward and arms to the rear, down into the slot. Getting Cerebros in here properly IS the most frustrating thing about the toy! Stand Emissary on the Titanmaster footpeg as Captain of the Battleship Fortress Maximus.

Effectively this is Max laid on his back where Metroplex's battlestation is him sitting with his legs stretched out but I've always had a soft spot for Fortress Maximus' battleship mode since it appeared in issue 49 of the US Transformers comic, reprinted in issues 206-207 of the UK comic. In that frame both Blaster & Powermaster Optimus Prime are stood on Max's vehicle mode as it floats in the sea emphasising the size of it. At that point I'd never seen the original toy, not sold in the UK! The floating scene there, and the forward facing cannons, has always made me think of it as a Battleship and indeed the Japanese version of the new toy names it as such. The raising cannons are present, as per the original version, and even house a little surprise which we'll come to in robot mode. The control tower is a shorter, bulkier structure than before which I'm not sure I like. I was fond of the the cockpit for Spike being up high, now the tower is lower and there's no cockpit for Emissary to sit in, he has to make do with standing on the peg on the top of Cerebros. The other thing the tower, like Brave Maximus, is missing is any weapons. No hand held cannons to attach to it. The arms stretched out the back are covered in ramps which makes a decent landing strip for Autobot jets. Guns, Legs and the rear of the vehicle are loaded with Titanmaster pegs for other Titanmasters to stand on to crew Fortress Maximus. The Battleship moves courtesy of some rollers under each leg and the back.

There's two problems I'm finding with this mode. One is the feet are a little droopy, just relying on friction to hold them in place in mid air. The other is that Cerebros is integrated into it where before he effectively formed a larger robot to crew it. Since he forms part of the city and super robot mode too there's now no mode that Cerebros is free to be used in robot form for.

To transform to city mode fold the robot's legs out to the sides Fold the clear panel back over the leg and the panel on the top of the robot's shoulder forward.

The Titans Return Fort Max city mode looks nothing like the city mode we're used to from the original version, in fact i's more like the mis-transformed battleship seen on the catalogues issued with toys in 1987 and 1988. If you're expecting a feature packed toy, like the original Max base, then forget it. There's a ramp to roll toys down and a recessed command centre under the raised clear plastic chest piece and that's about it in terms of features surviving from the original toy. No elevator, no ramp launcher, no rotating radar dish. This last one is especially annoying as they've even moulded a detail on the chest which looks just like the radar dish's turntable!

So what have we got? Inside the command centre door is the black plastic dual cannon we mentioned earlier in connection with Cerebros. A Titanmaster can ride in this and it can be pegged into one of a myriad of 5mm peg holes on the base's surface which can also be used with Titanmaster accessory weapon modes. There are Titanmaster pegs everywhere: two on top of the dual cannon, two behind the dual cannon and a further pair set into the base of behind the cannon, which need to be used by the same Titanmaster. There's two more on each upper leg piece, making 7 Titanmaster positions per leg. There's one on the Cerebros tower, two near the top of the ramp, one in the command centre and four on the dual gun on the side of the leg, which slides off to become a tank. So if I'm counting right that makes 21 different Titanmaster standing positions.

Then we have the ramp connectors, a feature I was very excited about in the run up to Titans Return release. There's a dead end connector, as in it doesn't lead anywhere except to a wall, on the rear of the Legs that stretch out to the sides of the toy. Another is found on the ramp that folds down for the left hand side of the front of the toy, but connecting to that is a little restricted by the main sloped ramp. Then there are then ramps that fold down from what would be the robot's shoulders. They're not long enough, following the tradition set by Metroplex's base mode ramp. They will physically connect to the ramps on Blaster or Soundwave but the combined ramp will be almost vertical removing it from any useful play value. The indication is the Ramps on Max should have been much longer. They stretch halfway across the shoulder without fully covering it, which looks odd, and the reverse has a slot on it which looks like it should cover an unused tab further down the shoulder. I await a Third Party ramp that does stretch fully across the shoulder. To top it off the ramps here are red which really makes them stand out!

Then there's the runways down the back of the arms. On the original Fort Max there were ramps on the ends which leg down to floor level. Here the runways are reused from Metroplex and are just flat on the back of the robot's arms. No ramp at the end, again meaning you can't roll a wheeled toy off the runway onto the floor, but also exposing the robot's hands at the front of the toy.

For a base mode that just sits there it has it's faults, many of which could have easily been fixed. Comparing it to the original Max base is just no contest. It only real win is the ability to use Titanmasters and other 5mm weapons with it. I'm not the only one to be dissatisfied with it either there are several Fan base modes out there including some that take advantage of a feature inherited from Metroplex, but not used here: the legs still open up.

To transform to robot mode fold the legs behind the base and slide the lower legs out to the side at the knees. Stand. Close the ramps and the clear chest cover. Remove Cerebros. Fold the tower halves back. Fold the arms down. Fold Cerebros' legs up to the sides and tab into his body. Turn the other way up. Fold the face cover up and his ears out. Attach Emissary if you wish. Attach head to Fort Max's body.

At first sight the new Fortress Maximus looks very very similar in robot mode to the original. When we first saw Fortress Maximus at Toyfair 2016 he had grey hands and red feet, which thankfully were gone by the time he came to production but there's still on real colour oddity there in the really noticeable red surrounds for the leg cannons! Everything else, fab. The new arm door on his right arm stands out a bit in red, but the opening doors on he original Metroplex arms were red too, so we can let that slide. Sadly they're gone on this version, as are the forearm guns hidden underneath, because his arms are entirely inherited from Metroplex. The black dual cannon will function as a substitute for one of the forearm guns but placing it there makes me think they should have gone for emphasising the connection with this piece and moulded it in red plastic.

We probably should talk about what Fortress Maximus has inherited from Metroplex. Here's a list I've drawn up:

lower legs, but swapped over
waist, but reversed
folding arm joint & shoulder
lower arms
bottom of tank, formerly Metroplex's shoulder cannon
runways on arms
As the hands are the same as Metroplex's he can't hold any 5mm weapons straight out the box which is a shame as the Hasbro version seemingly has no hand weapons of his own. Now I've been a Brave Max owner for nearly 16 years on and off so I'm used to weaponless a Max but it somehow feels wrong here. However he's only *Seemingly* without hand weapons: both the dual cannons on his leg slide off and have a fold down handle which allows Max to hold them as dual cannons similar to his original or even mount them on his shoulder.

But even so it still doesn't feel right having a Max without a nice big gun.

With a lot of shared parts his articulation is virtually identical to Metroplex: Knees bend, thigh swivel, universal hip joints, rotating waist & head, shoulders that turn at the body and raise to the sides, bicep swivel, bending elbow, rotating wrist, four fingers that bend at the first knuckle and a thumb that folds sideways. The major interesting point there is that the head still rotates, a major advantage over the original Fortress Maximus who was fixes looking in front. Indeed, as we said for Metroplex, the articulation is a considerable step up from the original Fort Max.

There aren't many Titanmaster pegs that are dedicated to this mode, or of practical use. There's two on his right shoulder and one on his left. That might seem like that but if his right arm is raised and rotated in 90° two more are revealed on the new cover for his arm compartment: they're obviously intended to be used here as in the other modes they're covered by the ramps on his arms.

Max has also inherited the two 5mm peg holes on each forearm that Metroplex had, which are useful for mounting the black dual cannon on, but there's another 5mm hole on top of the body portion of his left shoulder and one on the leg cannon pod/tank. Two more 5mm holes are inherited on each reused foot as well as five 3mm peg holes per foot, a peg size standard who's stock has somewhat fallen in the last few years.

The chest compartment I found annoying to start with: it's slightly too narrow for Spychanger Optimus Prime/Scourge, frequent occupants of Brave Max, to stand in and face straight forward. The reason for this only became obvious when I saw a picture in a photo gallery: by accident or design, and I'm suspecting design, the slot is exactly the same width and just slightly taller than a Titans Return "tape". One tape fits in the space with it's front face level with the outer edge of Max's chest before the door closes. It can't recess any further due to a rounded piece of plastic projecting out of the base of the compartment. This allow you to push in on the base of the tape causing the top to pop out for easy removal. Failing that, pop open the ramp on Max's left shoulder and push the tape out from behind.

Given the large parts reuse from Metroplex there's nothing wrong with the robot really that some paint a nice big gun won't fix. The Battleship mode is pretty good too though I'd prefer a taller, more dedicated tower with, again, a big gun on the side. The city/base mode is the only one that really lets the side down somewhat. It doesn't look a think like the original Max city/base and it's connectivity is hampered by short ramps on the shoulders and none leading from the runways on the arms.

Such a big toy has obviously been photographed a lot: here's some of the ones I've seen:

Alfes Toy Blog Fortress Maximus galleries:

Blog Entry 2642

Blog Entry 2648

Blog Entry 2649

Blog Entry 2650

Departure Time Fortress Maximus galleries:
Part One

Part Two

Part Three

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 Fortress Maximus

We return to the initial leaked image. Studying the text and seeing words like "exclusive sword", "exclusive Titanmaster" and "Premium G1 deco & labels" with volume numbers for "3k in the US and 9K Globally" quickly led fans to deduce they were looking at something concerning an exclusive version of Fort Max. Since San Diego Comic Con had been the home of an exclusive Metroplex in 2013 and Devastator in 2015.

The image was leaked on 13th November 2015 following which silence from Hasbro. We learnt of another SDCC exclusive, Titan Force Boxset at Botcon 2016 on April 9th 2016 but nothing about a SDCC Fortress Maximus. Since the Hasbro version had been well seen by then and images publicising the Japanese version were by that point in circulation it was easy to guess that the SDCC version would have the same Toy & Japanese cartoon accurate Titanmaster head and, even though we'd not seen it on the Japanese version yet, the same sword, even if in slightly different colours.

So it proved when SDCC Fortress Maximus was announced on Facebook on the 17th June and stock images & boxed pictures were revealed shortly after. The Titanmaster was exactly as expected and the sword was identical to the Asia exclusive sword but recast in solid red plastic with the amount of black paint reduced back to the handle and the very base of the blade. Max itself was very, very similar to the Western Titans Return version, save for some white paint on the upper chest/base mode command centre.

The toy did have a hidden feature not present on the original version: pressing and holding any of the buttons that made the noise for 5 seconds causes Cerebros to play as version of the original cartoon theme music.

The SDCC version feels an odd toy. It's not different enough from the original toy in Robot mode and certainly doesn't fit any annoyances like the red leg surrounds. If you wanted the different Titanmaster & Sword you'd go for the Japanese version which does fix those problems. As such the toy has rather sat at some of the importers who've bought it leading to 33% discounts in sales.

Legends Fortress Maximus

On the 25th March 2016 a silhouette image from a trade catalogue was leaked showing Legends Fortress Maximus costing ¥25,000 and being released in September 2016. We saw it had a sword, indeed our first glimpse of any of the Fortress Maximus swords, but that was about it for a few months till on 13th May Official Images were released showing a colour scheme closer to the original Fortress Maximus with updated images following on the 24th June confirming the new head for Cerebros, which by that point we'd already seen on the SDCC version!

It wasn't until the 19th August 2016 that TFYuki & Dengeki Hobby Magazine revealed the Japanese Mastersword on Twitter, giving buyers of the Japanese version some months of worry as to why their sword had not been shown and had TakaraTomy changed their minds on including one. Broadly speaking the new sword is very similar to the SDCC version, both being cast from red plastic with black paint, but with slightly different paint applications.

The main Max toy is also very similar to the US version, and the changes are quite subtle. The red arm door and ramp becomes blue, with red being added to the arms to simulate the lost dual cannon covers and the red gun surrounds become grey, which looks so much better. The inner sides to the tower, which form the robot's outer lower body, used to be clear blue but are now clear red: looking at them I think the clear plastic should perhaps have been visible through the holes on the front of his body simulating the missing cannons.

The difference between Japanese & US Cerebros is more obvious with the colourful blue & black becoming a more muted and cartoon accurate grey as well as changing the Titanmaster's head. Cerebros also features a new sound chip with dialogue recorded by the original actor for the Japanese Headmasters cartoon. It includes "Transform!", the "Head On!" activation call from when the smaller robots become the heads of the larger ones and also plays the Japanese Headmasters theme tune.

Sadly there is a downside to the Japanese version. The legs don't open up. It appears as if the two halves were glued together during assembly removing a level of customisation in the ability to create different base modes from the toy. The opening legs isn't an intentional feature and is purely one available from the recycled Metroplex parts but it's still a shame to see it gone.

As with the US version there's been plenty of photos taken of this toy, here's Alfes Toy Blog Galleries:

Blog Entry 2683

Blog Entry 2686

Blog Entry 2694

Blog Entry 2695

The Legends Max was the version I went for: I thought the colours worked better, it had the Titanmaster I wanted and had the sword. These lift what was already a good toy into a really good one. Yes the base mode isn't as good as the original and even then still has problems with not long enough ramps. Yes he still needs a big gun. But this is a really good big, fun toy. It's not just an articulated robot, there's opening panels, points for adding on extra weapons, removable leg weapons, electronics and the Headmaster gimmick. In a direct showdown with Metroplex, Max is easily the winner.

Third Party Add Ons

As with most larger Transformer toys, and many smaller ones, that people think have missed something the original had there are a number of third party add ons available.

Perfect Effect, one of the more productive 3p companies, are making PC-13 Titans Return Fort Max master sword. I suspect this particular product was dreamt up before it was realised how easy it would be to get a Fort Max with an official Master Sword, as I can't see too many people who want one not buying the Japanese or SDCC versions.

However their PC-14 Titans Cannon I can see getting much more business providing a much needed big gun for Fort Max. In fact, given that there are knock off original Fort Max guns in circulation and 3P Metroplex guns I'm very surprised to see nobody taking the handle off the later and attaching it to the former.

Shapeways now have a wealth of goodies available:

I'd been hoping to see an adaptor to let Metroplex's hand hold 5mm guns for some while and finally with the release of Fort Max one has been made! OK, at the moment it's missing the Minicon post at the other end which I'd really like but I've suggested that to the makers along with a similar adaptor to let Titans Max hold original Max's weapons.

The issue of the "too short shoulder ramps" is partially addressed by this ramp extension. I suspect there may be some sag in the middle where this ramp is attached resulting in a not straight connection but they'll be useful. Longer versions, at multiples of that length, would also be useful. Personally I'm hoping someone redoes the shoulder ramps so they stretch across the full width of the shoulder, and not half way, with the tab hole on the back correctly positioned over the tab on the shoulder.

A number of other Titans Returns Ramps exist from the same seller including a curve, right angled junction and crossroads which I'm looking to try out very soon.

I'd really like to be able to link my Titans Returns bases to the previous base mode standard for Micromasters. To that end I'd like a ramp with a Titans Return connector on one end and a Micromaster base connector on the other. Who's going to make it for me?

Which Fortress Maximus is which?

So how can you tell which Max is which just by looking at it? Here's a helpful table:

Part Hasbro SDCC TakaraTomy
Head Horns Grey Grey Blue
Chest Door Green Blue/Green Green
Upper Chest Grey White Pale Grey
Lower Chest Middle Grey Grey Blue
Lower Chest Sides Blue Blue Grey
Lower Chest Outer Sides Clear Blue Clear Blue Clear Red
Knees Grey Grey Blue
Leg Outers Red Red Grey
Ramps & Arm Hatch Red Red Blue
Dual Cannon Black Black Grey
Cerebros Comic/Rebirth Toy/Headmasters Toy/Headmasters

max compare

Here also is a comparison of the swords. From left to right we have SDCC, Legends and Asia Exclusive:


Future Repaints

Fortress Maximus has two obvious repaints: Masterforce Grand Maximus and Car Robots Brave Maximus. Of recent there's been several toys that could make good Car Robots/Robots in Disguise repaints: CW Hotspot as Super Fire Convoy/Optimus Prime, CW Bruticus as Baldigus/Ruination and CW Optimus Prime/Titans Return Voyager Optimus Prime as Black Convoy/Scourge so the possibility of a Brave Maximus to go with them isn't so much of an unlikely suggestion.

No comments:

Post a Comment