Thursday, 21 December 2017

Generations Power of the Primes Beachcomber

Generations Power of the Primes Beachcomber

The original Beachcomber was a 1985 Mini Autobot alongside Cosmos, Powerglide, Seaspray & Warpath. All 5 have a slight mystery to them they're the only 1985 toys that don't seem to be sourced from a previous toyline. Beachcomber stands apart from the rest as he's the only one that fits the Autobot car pattern established in 1984. When I first saw these I question what some of them, notably Warpath's Tank and Powerglide's plane, were doing amongst the Autobots.

Beachcomber's most recent remake was as a 2008 Universe 2 Legend which was generally held to be OK, but since then all four of his colleagues have been done, to varying degrees of success Combiner Wars Warpath I'm looking at you, in the larger Legends size which has been running since 2013. So Beachcomber was very due for an update.

Robot mode looks fab, just like a chunkier version of his original toy, more in line with his comic & cartoon depiction. My only real nitpick is the hands which are inexplicably painted grey. If they'd have left them moulded in blue plastic they'd have been fine!

Articulation: ball jointed shoulders, elbows & hips, bending knees and a turning head. Top stuff.

Transformation: Slide the body up round the head. Straighten the arms and tab into the sides of the body. Fold the heel spurs down under the feet and tab them & the lower legs together. Fold the lower legs back 180° at the knee, pegging the front of the roll cage into the rear.

As a replica of the original Beachcomber's vehicle mode, job done. No complaints.

My problems come when I try to get it to interact with the Primemasters.

Most Transformers Legends cars, bar Brawn, need an element of Transformation to get the driver in. I was somewhat expecting Beachcomber to beat it, thanks to the open driver's compartment. No. If it were the Titanmaster/Primemaster by itself then you could probably get the figure in. Unfortunately his backpack, his face/Prime symbol catches on the bars of the roll cage meaning you have to open it up to get the figure in. Annoying. Then on the back of the vehicle there's a 3mm peg. Presumably this is for mounting the weapon from a Primemaster's Decoy Suit. Unfortunately it can only face backwards! Beachcomber bares a startling resemblance to GI Joe's Awe Striker and they'll be several fans who'll be wanting to properly recreate that with guns projecting forward over the roll cage. Fortunately I have the Diaclone Reboot Powered Suit Dart Loader & Gyroseptor add ons, which both contain the necessary parts to build a 3mm socket riser!

Top stuff as a stand alone toy,

Future Repaints

Beachcomber's Generation 2 repaint is an obvious choice as is the previous Legends' Sandstorm redeco and the Energon Voyager original colour scheme found on Energon Cliffjumper.

I'm sure GI Joe fans won't say no to an Awe Striker repaint to go with 2015's Viper.

Generations Power of the Primes Windcharger

Generations Power of the Primes Windcharger

Windcharger started life as a Microchange MC04 Mini CAR Robo 06 Trans Am and I've been rather fond of him ever since I acquired my first one, a Joustra Trans Am - see for more on Joustra Transformers - from a pop up shop in Kingston in 1986 alongside his fellow minibot Gears. He's appeared more regularly the last few years than most Transformer characters outside of the big names: in 2011 he was a Reveal The Shield basic: this was during Generations "redesign the classics" phase so although he has the right legs his chest is a "fold the car front over the head" job. He's the only minibot done in that size, although which was cancelled just after depriving western fans of the new Demolition Rumble and a couple of repaints, Downshift & Bodyblock. In 2015 Windcharger turned up again as a Combiner Wars Legend repaint of the previous year's Tailgate. The chest is better this time but because Tailgate is modelled on his More than Meets the Eye design, the distinctive legs are now wrong! So you could argue that Windcharger was a Minibot who needed a redo, though perhaps not ahead of Huffer, Pipes & Cliffjumper who've only had one modern Legends sized version so far.

In robot mode the new Windcharger feels a bit of a chunky chap which doesn't rally suit him. Everything is the right colour in the right place, but the proportions are a bit off, too wide arms, too short upper legs, too small a head. The head looks very odd and I think that's down to it missing the rim that's generally surrounding the tops & sides of the face. The head is also set a little bit too far back and once you get high enough to see how far back it is a lot of space between the back and front of the toy is revealed.

Articulation: head turns. Shoulders raise at the body and are ball jointed at the arms. also ball jointed are the elbows & hips and the knees bend. 5mm fist holes, which look too large for him, enable him to hold weapons but the Prime Master Decoy Suits in weapons mode are way, way too big for him.

Transformation: Straighten the arms to the sides. Pull the back panel out of where it's tabbed into his backside. There's two hinges where the neck meets the body: in robot mode the body side is bent and the neck side straight. You want to reverse that by straightening the body hinge and bending the neck hinge, raising the neck up but bringing the head closer the front of the body. Fold the back panel, the car front, up over the head. Swing the top of the arms up, under the bonnet, bringing the arms into the sides of the vehicle. Unfold the heel spurs under the foot to become the car roof & windscreen then swing the lower legs back 180° at the knee to become the rear of the car allowing you to tab the front window into place.

This last step is an ideal point to sit a Titanmaster or Primemaster in the car's driving seat because you'll need to fold back the top of the car to do it later, a bit like how the same feature was accessed on Titans Return Bumblebee. Slightly annoying. Among the Titanmaster compatible Minibots Brawn is still the winner for ease of accessibility for a minifigure driver.

Windcharger's car mode looks decent enough. A little high off the ground, maybe, and yes you can see the chest hanging down under the car from the side, but you could put that down to the car's undercarriage hanging low. I can get the smoked clear panels in the roof are meant to be evoking sunroof but the odd design, with a rim only halfway down he door side, is distracting me. Those pieces might have been better in solid red plastic.

The most cartoon accurate Windcharger yet. Nothing really wrong with it at all and it's only a few subtle tweaks that would make it any better.

Future Repaints

Windcharger returns the favour done to his previous version by producing the as yet officially unrevealed Tailgate in Power of the Primes Legends Wave 2.

Friday, 15 December 2017

Generations Power of the Primes Prime Masters Vector Prime with Metalhawk, Micronus with Cloudburst & Liege Maximo with Skullgrin

The Prime Master size is the successor to Titans Returns Titanmaster. Both sizes use identical figures, down to footpeg holes, ankle spur, articulation, size and transformation. Gone is the Head on their back, replaced by one of the symbols of the twelve Primes, which leads us to believe there will be twelve Prime Masters. The Prime Masters bear the names of the Prime whose symbol is on their backs. The Prime Masters have replaced the chest screw with a pin which makes customising them much harder: several were intending to replace the Prime symbols with the faces of the Pretender robots that their Decoy Suit represented.

The Transforming accessory is now replaced by a Decoy Suit, about 5cm high x 3.5cm wide x 1.5cm deep, based on the shell of a 1988/1989 Pretenders Character. This opens up, via a hinge on the feet, to accommodate a Prime Master inside. Since Prime Masters & Titan Masters are the same size your old Titan Masters can also fit inside the Pretender Shell. The shell has holes in it's feet the same size as the Titanmaster footpeg holes, but the spacing varies from toy to toy. The shell's arms are articulated at the shoulders allowing them to raise. The hands are a 3mm peg hole which it can use to hold it's weapon. The weapon can also be attached to the Pretender's back via studs on the side of the weapon which fit dimples either side of a gap on the back. The gap size varies between the different shells so a shell can only store it's own weapon like this. The Pretender shell itself can transform into a weapon: the weapon on the back folds up so it's pointing out from the head and a 5mm handle folds out between the shell's feet enabling it to be held with the plainer back of the Pretender shell facing up. The transformed Prime Master can attach to the top of the weapon via two footpegs, forming a cube that powers the weapon, or the Prime Master can sit in it and act as a gunner. The weapons are perhaps a little large for a deluxe, suiting the Voyager and Leaders toys better.

There is something of a discontinuity having a different character inside the shell instead of who the shell originally belongs to!

Vector Prime with Metalhawk

Metalhawk is probably the most popular Pretender behind Thunderwing & Bludgeon, who both did stints as Decepticon Leader in the Marvel Comics. Thunderwing's popularity though is more based on infamy than anything else: he was a Japanese exclusive and the last original Transformer to feature die cast metal. In recent years he's been used by IDW in the Robots in Disguise comics and been released as a 2012 Botcon exclusive and another exclusive in Titans Return. We'll have some fun with this last toy later.

The Decoy Suit is a near perfect reproduction of the original Metalhawk's Pretender shell with the proportions slightly altered to fit the standard Prime Master size. The body is moulded in dark grey plastic with the arms & front of the suit in blue plastic, with generous paint applications to the front of the suit. He comes with a large silver cannon for him to hold. The Metalhawk decoy suit has no face, just a gap through which you can see the Primemaster looking out. Opening the shell reveals the Vector Prime Primemaster who is blue with a grey chest & lower legs and a painted silver face, which gives it a very different look to the original Metalhawk's inner robot and previous versions of Vector Prime.

The weapons mode essentially looks like and old Targetmaster gun, with a dark grey main body, blue arms to the sides and silver gun barrel.

This one has attraction just because it's Metalhawk. Unsurprised to see it repeated in the second wave. Works well for me.

Micronus with Cloudburst

Cloudburst was the flying Autobot Pretender in the wave of 1988 Pretenders distributed to the US and the UK and was also available for retail sale in Japan. His Decoy suit version has a grey body and red arms & front. Like Metalhawk he has a gap instead of a face for the Titanmaster to see out of but the gimmick doesn't work nearly as well here because the slot is smaller and positioned higher so all you can see is the Prime Master's forehead! He comes with a dual Gatling gun weapon.

Opening the suit reveal the red Micronus Primemaster, who has grey lower legs and chest, with a painted blue face. Thh grey and red may be moved round a bit but he looks much more like the Cloudburst inner robot than Vector Prime in Metalhawk does.

Thje weapons mode is proper 90s big gun madness and again feels very Targetmastery.

Another success. Cloudburst/Micronus is only packed 2 per case in wave 1, compared to the others 3 per case, and unlike them he doesn't return in Wave 2 either!

Liege Maximo with Skullgrin

Behind Metalhawk, Thunderwing & Bludgeon, Skullgrin probably counts as the most popular of the rest thanks to his distinctive appearance and starring role in a comics episode. The shell is a good rendition of him, but I worry for the longevity of the horns made out of hard plastic. Unlike the Autobot Decoy Suits there's no hole for a face, instead a series of smaller holes for eyes, mouth and oddly the side of the waist. His body is a much paler grey than the Autobots, with purple arms and chest which is again heavily painted. Since Liege Maximo is generally depicted as having horns in his comics appearances you can see why they chose Skullgrin to be his Decoy Suit!

The purple Liege Maximo Primemaster, with grey lower legs & chest, is probably the closest to the original inner robot of the Wave 1 Decoy suits thanks to some grey paint on the heads helmet and some moulded detail including tank tracks on the legs which makes him look just like Skullgrin's robot!

The point this toy falls down is the weaopon, a 3 pronged bent fork/claw. It looks odd hand held and odd attached to the shell in weapons mode. What little we can see so far suggests the Decepticon Primemaster Decoy suits turn into melee weapons and the Autibot Decoy Suits into guns but on the evidnce here the Autobots got the better deal.

Shame about the weapon, the rest is great!

Legends Grand Maximus

Grand Maximus is a Japanese repaint of Fortress Maximus that comes with an extra Pretender shell for the larger head robot, Grand. When Takara announced they were to recolour Titans Return Fortress Maximus as Legends Grand Maximus there were conditions: The first was it needed to reach 2000 preorders at TakaraTomyMall to get made. The second was that if it passed 3000 preorders then an additional Primemaster Decoy Suit would be included for Grand Maximus's smaller Headmaster, Gran, to use. These targets needed to be reached by midday on November 2nd 2017. Pictures of the toy showed us the Decoy Suit was superficially a recolour of Cloudburst, with the twin Gatling guns and clear green arms & suit front. Close examination of the details on the suit revealed that it was actually a repaint of an as yet unrevealed Waverider remould of Cloudburst:


On 27th October 2017 Takara announced the 2000 unit limit has been passed. However on 2nd November Takara announced that Grand Maximus had not reached the 3000 order level and thus the Decoy Suit for Gran was cancelled.

I'm not convinced that this is the end for the Gran decoy suit and suspect it may show up as a convention exclusive down the line. If anything Gran's suit has confirmed to us that a Waverider Prime Master is in the works.

Generations Power of the Primes Jazz

Generations Power of the Primes Jazz

First there was the repaint: paint a Transformer toy in a different colour.

Then there was the remould: change some of the parts so the toy looks different.

As time has gone on the remould has got so extensive that the number of parts changed or replaced vastly outnumber the parts kept and it gets hard to see what's been reused. The Titans Return Blurr/Chromedome and Scourge/Highbrow/Windblade are excellent examples.

And now we have the case of Combiner Wars Dragstrip and Power of the Primes Jazz which takes it to another level again.

Combiner Wars Dragstrip only got two repaints in Combiner Wars, and he's the only Hasbro originated toy in Combiner Wars without a remould/retool so he rather stood out as everything else was reused and turned into something else. When Power of the Primes Jazz was unveiled at SDCC 2017 it took some while for people to notice he had reused parts from Dragstrip. Not many parts, just the Combiner Wars connector in his chest, with the ridges on the corners, and the wheels, larger at the back than the front, but nevertheless they are the same parts from Dragstrip. It's almost as if there was an acknowledgement when they designed Dragstrip that reusing it was going to be hard so they made these parts separate so they could be reused, and on Dragstrip they are obviously different colours to the rest of the toy. This is nearly at the stage where X is using Y's gun or A has B's Titanmaster head!

But apart from those parts Jazz is all new.

Part of the reason it took so long to spot the similarities is that Jazz is quite a departure for Combiner Wars style cars: his car bonnet folds over onto his chest! None of the other Autobots done in Combiner Wars who had this feature on their original version, like Prowl or Smokescreen, could mimic that on their Combiner Wars toy to the detriment of those figures.

I think the most important thing to remember when looking at this figure is that he isn't Reveal The Shield Jazz and he isn't trying to do the same thing. RTS Jazz was manufactured as an upgraded articulation version of the original Jazz and is generally thought to be he best Generations Transformers toy. Power of the Primes Jazz is being manufactured to be a Jazz that combines so there's slightly different priorities here. But nonetheless the comparison is inevitable. Putting the two next to each other reveals POTP Jazz is slightly shorter, but only slightly: I had it in my head that RTS Jazz would tower over him as memory says it's one of the largest deluxes. The other most obvious difference between the two is that POTP Jazz has no door wings. A couple of minor colour quibbles: I'd have moulded the hands and waist in black instead of white: the waist at least has it's front painted but it would have looked better solidly black. Going back to the SDCC pictures to see if these were originally black - a few years ago Combiner Wars Wheeljack changed significantly between SDCC 2015 and his release I see that they were the same there, but note the Combiner Wars connector has changed from silver, like Dragstrip's, to white, which blends in more in the small gap in the car bonnet chest. In fact it blends in so well you don't really notice the gap.

Articulation: Head turns, shoulders raise to the sides at the body and also turn, ball jointed elbows - hurrah! Easy way to save on parts and still get a bicep swivel plus they're easy to fix, turning waist, ball jointed hips, thigh swivel & bending knee.

Weapons: Jazz come with a gun which kind of resembles his original shoulder cannon and missile. Sadly there's no peg holes to mount it on his shoulder but, in addition to his hands obviously, he has one on the side of each forearm, one on his bottom and one either side on the rear of his waist. His second "weapon" is his Prime Armour, a big black lump superficially looking the same as the one the Dinobots use. However the moulding is different here: gone are the knuckle spikes replaced with the tops of two large barrels. This improves it's usefulness as a weapon and also looks good as a jet pack, though mounted low on his bottom it looks a little odd. It would have been better mounted higher up the back where as a bonus you could have used the thumbs as shoulder mounts for the gun. I've seen it resting there, but the connection isn't solid. The official connection isn't too great either: the tabs on the thumbs, used for holding the armour on Swoop, peg into slots on the car front in the grilled inserts bellow the headlights. As per the other Prime Armours the cover, clear again here like the Dinobots, is removable as a square hand gun. Another connection that could be better is that between the body and the front of the car: if it's lined up right it's fine but it can be a bit tricky to line up ok.

Transformation: Remove the weapons, straighten the arms to the sides and fold the chest back 90°: You can see the slots either side of connector on the top of the body that tabs under the hole in the chest tabbed into. Fold the head down through the gap in the chest, and then the chest strip up through the hole,, straightening it out revealing a number 4 then tuck the striped end under th curved front window, you may need to bend the car bonnet forward a bit to do so. After that check the points at the back of the chest have tabbed in either side of the car windows: they may need some very gentle manipulation to get them to lock in right. Fold the arms back 90° at the shoulders so they're level with the car windows then fold down under the windows to become the sides of the car: there's a slot on the piece of plastic under the hand that locks onto a clear peg under the windows. Fold the robot's head forward under the bonnet between his shoulder. Fold the feet up into the legs. Open up the lower leg: it's hinged along the front inner side and splits along the rear outer side, and to be fair the whole process would have been easier with the hinge on the front outer side of the leg as the legs could have been locked together first. Instead you need to spread the legs out, fold the upper leg into the lower leg, close the legs and bring them together! The lower chest then, via the hinge on it's back, folds into the cavity under the windows and between the arms, with the rear of the windows tabbing into the legs.

Jazz vehicle mode isn't his original Porsche 935 Turbo, but he does appear to be a Porsche still, in this case a 962 variant, the Schuppan 962CR, or close enough to one to get it past the copyright lawyers.

The vehicle mode features another big step forward for modern combiner cars: clear plastic windows, which is very nice to see. He's got the traditional Jazz racing stripes over his roof and onto his bonnet with the number 4, his Japanese ID number, on it. There's three 5mm peg holes on the car: Centre of the rear of the roof and two slightly forward of that to the sides of the windows. The middle one is a perfect mounting point for his Prime Armour. On the flatter rear of the car, between the 5mm hole and spoiler, are 4 individual Titanmaster footpegs. An additional 5mm hole is on the rear of the car.

Leg Mode: From car mode swing the roof, sides & front of the car up & back to rest on the rear of the car. Tabs from the side fit slots just in front of the spoiler and the combiner socket is exposed. Place a foot in the peg hole at the rear of the car.

Surprisingly stable as a leg, though the roof & sides keep wanting to pop out their tab holes.

Arm Mode: From car mode swing the roof, sides & front of the car up. Split the rear of the car in two, open each half up then extend them into the robot's legs. Fold the Combiner Wars connector out the chest. Transform the Prime Armour into a hand and insert in the hole in the rear of the car. Fold the car roof, sides & front back towards the body.

At this point the instructions are rather unclear, suggesting at one point that the front, roof and sides of the car should be folded back round the body and in the next that they should be sitting some way back. The second version is doable, with the advantage of freeing the waist up for movement, but the connection feels very tenuous on my toy with black tabs sticking out the rear of the body tabbing into the robot arms. I suspect I shall end up folding the car shell right the way down round the body even though it will hamper the waist movement.

Then there's the matter of who to use him with..... I am a great fan of the idea of doing all 18 of the Diaclone Autobot cars as Combiner Wars toys. Looking at Jazz he would seem to me to automatically gravitate towards the Wave 3 Voyager Inferno. The problem here is there are, as yet, no other Diaclone cars spare in Power of the Primes, though if you've collected all the Combiner Wars cars you should have a Blue Bluestreak and one of Smokescreen or Ratchet spare. However Jazz's card art shows him as part of Elita-1's Combiner, seemingly twice! However since Elita-1 has a ready made team in the Female Autobots, of which Moonracer has been revealed and Novastar leaked, I'd expect her team to be completed with another two of the Autobots seen with her in the cartoon, Greenlight and Lancer. Further complicating the matter is that Jazz is the first combiner limbs released on his own, and not part of a combiner boxset, in the Japanese Power of the Primes line. Since complete combiners in Power of the Primes are staggered through multiple waves of toys we may not know the answer to who, if anyone, Jazz is meant to combine with for some time!

So.... Car Design is a little different, but a reasonable choice for an update. However it doesn't tab together that well an issues which also affects arm & leg mode. Robot isn't bad but is missing the wing doors. As a Combiner Wars car it's a big step forward in terms of car front chest and clear windows. As a Generations Jazz it feels a step back from the RTS version. If you want a Jazz to be Jazz, track the older RTS version down, if you want one that combines, buy this toy.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Generations Power of the Primes Starscream

Generations Power of the Primes Starscream

The Decepticon planes were first done as Voyager toys in Armada, when the size was introduced and that line did their versions of the full 1984 trio of Starscream, Skywarp & Thundercracker. Starscream became a Deluxe in Energon, a Voyager again in Galaxy Force which was supersized for Cybertron, before returning to being a Deluxe in Classics, which was repainted into all the other 1984 & 1985 jets during Universe and Generations. By that time they'd been Voyagers in the the Movies, Animated and Prime. Generations then did them as everything but Voyagers: Their Fall of Cybertron versions were deluxe, their Thrilling 30 versions were far too small as Legends and then in Combiner Wars they were far too big as Leaders! A couple of Voyager fighter jets in Titans Return, Broadside & Blitzwing proved the concept of Voyager jets, and as a bonus gave us Titanmaster pilots sitting in the cockpit, but the 1984 trio were ignored during that line.

Starscream was first shown at San Diego Comicon 2017's Collectors Preview Breakfast and was immediately derided by certain fans for it's odd proportions. Then some of the pictures revealed Combiner Wars connectors in his boots which led to speculation of what his Combined mode looked like. We saw an illustration quite quickly on the side of his box but we had to wait until for a video review before we saw it in the plastic, Hasbro proving surprisingly secretive about the combining function in Power of the Primes.

Out of the box Starscream comes with two rather spindly null rays, which are far less bulky than the Classics missile launching versions, a shocking pink Enigma of Combination and a pair of Voyager Prime Armours/combiner feet. Starscream's Prime Armour is a different shape to Grimlock's and is also slightly different functionally: there's no hole on the underside replaced by a fold down handle which lets them be held as weapons a lot better. The hole in the rear end can have the null rays inserted into them as launcher and missile, but now the combined unit looks too big for his arms!

The initial opinions are right about Starscream: both his forearms and lower legs look far too big for the rest of him, but he is recognisably Starscream with all the grey, red and blue in vaguely the right places. The blue is particularly dark, almost Optimus Prime legs blue, but that's reasonably close to the original toy. I think because of the size of the forearms, and it extends back from the gloves over the elbow, there is an awful lot of it. The feet look a bit too big on the legs, totally the wrong shape and are made even worse by having a sticker plonked over the top of them obscuring some of the moulded detail and looking a mess because they're not on a flat surface. Those stickers may have to go. The ones on the knees work better but again bits of them are on moulded detail. The ones on the air intakes by his head are best but those areas inside the intakes I'd have painted black! The chest design, very similar to the Legend and Leader, is Starscream down to having a cockpit canopy in the middle. Unfortunately it's a fake again and not the jet's cockpit. I can just about see the owl face visible in previous versions in it!

Articulation: head and shoulders turn, arms raise to the sides at the shoulders, bicep swivels, bending elbows. No waist swivel. Hips turn and the legs move to the sides at the hip. Thigh swivels and the knees bend. The knees are quite clever: they're held in place on the inner side of the leg by a panel that fold up beside them with a peg on the top that fits into the leg. I do worry that that might wear over time though. Already giving me trouble in this mode are the jet's wings, which are mounted on Starscream's back and which turn in the middle for Transformation. There's a peg that should hold them in place in this mode but it doesn't. At all. Then there's the wings themselves, covered in silver stickers which as, you've guessed it, obscuring moulded detail. They're all peeling slightly at the edges already, I'm so tempted to pull them off!

Transformation: Rotate the wings on the back 180°. Fold down the panel holding the knee in place and collapse the upper legs into the lower legs, which tab together. Fold the feet up. Straighten the arms to the side and tab into the lower legs. Fold the jet nose off his back and into place over the head. Fold the panels beside the nose down and peg into the air intakes. Fold the wings out, tabbing onto the robot's lower arms. Mount the null rays either on the side of the arms or under the wings. Fold down the landing gear under his nose. Fold down the tail wings.

Yeah, that was simple, but not fun. Getting everything lined up right takes some effort. The plane design is vaguely McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle but only very vaguely. The top looks a mess from panel lines, most misaligned, and peeling stickers. I'm tempted to pull them as I said but I like the Autobot kill heads, the D-22 designation, referring to his original Japanese ID number, the "Ghost Attack" reference to his cartoon season 3 and Beast Wars existence, and the amusing "No Step" marking right next to a Titanmaster footpeg! There's three footpegs per wing: one on the outer edge, one near the engines and one near where the wings meets the body. The final two protrude through holes in the stickers as does a slot, used in the combined mode. I'll be interested to see what Starscream looks like without the stickers. I'd hoped Takara would produce this for me but their their near identical Power of the Primes Wave 1 toys have poured some cold water on that idea.

So yeah, both jet and robot could be better. Will the combined mode redeem the toy?

Fold the landing gear under the nose and fold the tailfins up. Fold the robot arms down & forward 180° at the shoulder. Swing each arm in 90° at the bicep so the large outer plate is facing the same way as the top of the jet. Lift these plates up. Fold the hands back 180° into the forearms exposing Combiner Wars sockets in their place. Fold the panels down, but further up the arms than they say previously, locking the Combiner Wars sockets in place. Look at the underside of the jet with the rear at the top. Separate the rear of the jets/robot lower legs and swing each half out to the sides at a 45° angle: effectively you've spread the legs at the hips and rotated at the thighs. Bring the lower legs together to form a V shape between them: a tab behind on knee will slide into a slot behind the other and the point of the V should be above the waist. The tab needs to be slid in from the side, it won't click in on my copy, but that does mean the connection is surprisingly secure. Fold the wings up so the nose wings tab into them and then fold the outer half of the wings back down. Fold the red panels along the rear of the nose so they tab onto the tail wings. Open the fake cockpit chest: in it is the combined robot's head looking out the through the Voyager robot's back with the top of it's head at the top of the Voyager robot body. Swing the head out and fold it into position between the V so it's looking out over the back of the robot's nose. Push down on the back of the blue neck panel and fold the head into the body cavity. Put the null rays wherever you want, I favour the sides of the Voyager robot arms still, now the Combined Robot's upper legs.

As yet Starscream doesn't have his own complete team. His instructions show him with the wave 1 deluxe, his boxart with Dreadwind and a Terrorcon with the rest obscured. Either way it looks like Dreadwind should be with him and if Dreadwing should then so should his twin Darkwing/Blackwing. Several theories exist as to the identity of the rest of this team. One says they don't exist, and you use whatever toy you want. Another says it's Thundercracker & Skywarp, using Combiner Wars Skydive with the Decepticon jet head seen on his Ghost Starscream repaint. A third says the team is completed with Dreadwing & Darkwing's own Japanese repaints Buster & Hydra. I'd be happy with either of the last two as it would give me my much longed for Decepticon Jet Combiner All bar one of the all jet combiners have been Autobot, mainly versions of Superion. The exception is Micromaster Destron Sixwing, who I thought would make a great repaint of Combiner Wars Superion.

So in order to form my combiner, which I'm christening Emperor Starscream, due to the Movie crown on the combined mode head, I'm using Dreadwind as one arm with TFSS 5.0 Shattered Glass Starscream, standing in for Power of the Primes Blackwing until wave 2's release, as the other arm. The legs are formed from Botcon Terrorsaur & TFSS 5.0 Fractyl.

What's surprising me about Starscream is quite how strong and stable he is structurally! I'd half expected him to be a bit of a floppy mess to be honest! Almost all this down to the tab holding the two lower legs together: I think it and it's slot are slightly wider at the top than the bottom, which is why it needs to be slide in from the side and not pushed in. Indeed pushing the tab into the slot like you normally do would probably wear the connection down somewhat making it less stable, and there's a nagging worry in the back of my mind that this might happen anyway. But for now it's rock solid, unlike the chest armour made from the jet's nose, back and wings. This locks onto the body courtesy of two tabs on the wings which the tops of the air intakes fold over. The connection, like when the structure was on the back of the Voyager robot, isn't great. Maybe if the moving post in the middle had pulled out & in and had a larger circle at the top of it's peg but with inserts in it so it could only sit in two positions? That idea has been used in Transformers before.

In many ways the torso design reminds me of Superion with Silverbolt's arms acting as the combined robot's upper legs. The head with a crown resembles the Galvatronus combined mode of Silverbolt's remould Cyclonus: that always looked a bit odd as Galvatron and I wonder if it was meant to be Starscream but the Hasbro designer got confused as to which henchman was possessed by Starscream's ghost in season 3 of the cartoon? We half expected Cyclonus to get a Starscream recolour, and some good repaints are out there, but it never happened. But Starscream finally has his combined form now and on the whole it's rather good. The head is slightly annoying me: it's just sitting there between the Voyager robot's lower legs, suspended in mid air on it's hinge: you feel like it should recess into or connect to the chest armour in front, which in turn would stabilise that piece somewhat. The chest armour itself gives the entire combiner torso something of a Movie Starscream look.

Yes there's no real weapon for the combined mode again here: the null rays for the Voyager look too small. The Primemasters should provide one but somehow neither of the Decepticon ones revealed so far, both melee weapons rather than guns, suit him. He can use his Enigma of Combination in this mode: twin doors in the nose just behind the cockpit open to hold it. I feel this could maybe have been done better using the cockpit itself and providing a space for a Primemaster to ride in the jet mode. We've had one wrestling match with the little doors and a pair of pliers already trying to reattach them when they came off!

If you're looking at Starscream, as a Voyager toy then the robot has odd proportioned limbs with a loose back and the plane is difficult to line the parts up properly plus is covered in stickers which look like they might peel off any second! But, wobbly chest plate aside, the Torso mode, which is really what I was buying this toy for, is great!

Monday, 11 December 2017

Generations Power of the Primes Dreadwind

Generations Power of the Primes Dreadwind

Hasbro seemingly went out of the way in the early days of Power of the Primes to conceal that there was a combining gimmick in the line. Unfortunately the San Diego Comicon 2017 Collector's Preview Breakfast where the new versions of Darkwing & Dreadwind were revealed immediately made it clear they were obvious retools of Skydive & Air Raid, himself a Skydive retool! However a closer look when in hand reveals an even more interesting story.

Obviously his head and shoulders are new, as is his body, surrounding the combiner connector. The top half of the connector is new, to accommodate a fold out flap with a 5mm port underneath, and the bottom half of the combiner connector is different too: same basic shape as always but the detail at the bottom has changed from a slatted rectangle to an inverted trapezium. Upper arms look the same, but there's an added shallow tab on the side. Lower arms look very similar but there's now an odd shaped indent on the front and the slot on the side is now a 5mm peg hole. Looking on the back of the lower arm the internal construction of the piece has altered slightly. Most of the waist downwards looks the same but there's some new moulding connected to a bar, same green plastic as the shoulders, which is in turn connected to a piece of plastic which the wings are hinger onto. So there's lots of pieces here which are the same, a few new ones and some which are either close copies of the original or genuinely retooled.

The head and the shoulders are the defining feature of Dreadwind's robot mode and they've got these dead on. The pipes on the shoulders have a 5mm internal diameter enabling you to mount weapons on them. The front of his new combiner connector folds down revealing another 5mm peg hole and that's used to attach his Prime Armour. Dreadwind's Prime Armour is a different shape to the Dinobot one used with Swoop & Slug and different again to Jazz. The main body is purple, the cover/gun is the same green as the shoulders and the thumbs & peg are the same off white as most of the body. Gone is the dual cannon, now very familiar to owners of this mould but unfortunately it's replaced by only one gun. His original had two so the absence here is odd especially when his wave 2 team-mate Blackwing has 2.

Identical articulation to Skydive.

Transformation: Broadly similar to Skydive: Fold the jet nose off the back over the head. Shorten the legs using the internal hinge transformation common to many Combiner Wars toys. Straighten the arms to the sides and then swing them down on a hinge between shoulder & body so the shoulders sit near the middle of the chest. Then comes the new bit: fold the wings out to the sides and pull out to the sides, up and back in so they're over the shoulders: a tab on the back of the shoulders recesses into a slot on the base of the wing. Fold the tail wings down.

What you get looks very, VERY similar to Combiner Wars Skydive. All the wing bases do is move the wings maybe 5mm further out on each side and add a Titanmaster footpeg to each side of the jet. You'll notice the new shoulders under the wings and that will be that. The wings themselves are the same as before, changing them would have justified changing their attachment to the body but when you use the same wings was it really worth doing? This more feel like Hasbro has gone to a lot of trouble to produce something very similar to what they had before in this mode and Dreadwind's wings were behind his shoulders anyway in robot mode and from Dreadwind alone the reason for the new location for the wings and their new transformation isn't obvious. However Dreadwind was shown combined with Blackwing at SDCC 2017. There's no hint of this on the instructions for Dreadwind, but the picture on the internet suggest Dreadwind's wings should be next top the back of the jet for that mode. Oddly the only thing that is new in this mode, the tail wings, will escape people's notice!

The one gun is annoying again in this mode. You'd like two so one could go under each wing. You'd also like the back of the gun to be a 5mm peg so you could put one in each shoulder pipe. His Prime Armour mounts on the jet's back here using the existing 5mm peg hole to imitate Dreadwind's original Powermaster function if you have a Primemaster to use with him. Yes it looks like an unsightly big box on his back but turning the armour block round so it faces backwards with the peg at the front makes it look like the sound boxes found on Generation 2 Starscream & Ramjet

As per Skydive he can also form the arm or leg of Combiner Wars or Power of the Primes combiner.

Arm Mode: as before, but with the wings folded round the rear of the jet/robot legs. Unfortunately the robot arms have nowhere to lock onto any more and just sort of hang there.

Leg Mode: again as before, but with the wings by the rear of jet/robot legs folded forward next to the tail wings & tail fins.

Dreadwind doesn't have a defined combiner, like the Dinobots and Terrorcons do, but the theory is he & Blackwing are meant to combine with Starscream and two as yet unrevealed limbs.

I liked the Skydive limb and, if anything, Dreadwind is an improvement on it. They've captured the Powermaster well with limited changes.

Generations Power of the Primes Grimlock & Volcanicus

Generations Power of the Primes Grimlock

Grimlock is the only Dinobot to have been done previously in Hasbro's Generations ranges. In fact he's been done twice: In the second Classics wave as a deluxe that I have all sorts of issues with THE LOWER LEGS ARE THE WRONG WAY UP AND SHOULD BE WIDER AT THE BOTTOM and as a Fall of Cybertron Voyager which makes for a better Grimlock than the Classics toy. His head was also mode last year as Titanmaster Clobber and along the way there's been various other versions in various other lines. The problem is few of them compare well to the original or his Masterpiece, effectively the original upscaled with added articulation which is what I think fans really want with their Classics toys.

Grimlock comes boxed in robot mode, with a pair of Prime Armours and his Enigma of Combination.

The Enigma is a non transforming block of plastic roughly the same size and shape as a Titanmaster's head mode. It has a blank head sticking out the bottom, and tab sticking out the back the same size and shape as a Titanmaster heel spur. You can attach it to Titans Return toys as a static forward facing head. Grimlock's is silver with a red dot in the middle. I'm not that impressed with it to be honest. Although I don't think the Primemaster robots are as good as the Titanmasters some value would have been added to this by making it transform into a miniature robot even if they had to recycle the body!

The Enigma, or a Primemaster or a Titanmaster can fit in the slot on Grimlock's Prime armour: the cover guns from the deluxe Prime Armours can too but lacking the heel spur they won't secure. There's a 5mm peg hole underneath the Prime Armour, another towards the back of the top and one on the rear plus a 5mm peg on a side to side ratcheting pivot. The name suggests they're designed to be used as armour but all they do is sit there looking bulky. The ones on Starscream can at least be used with his weapons but these are all the weapons Grimlock has!

For the purposes of this review I want to start with the Dinosaur mode: bring the legs together and fold the tail tip down behind it. Split the chest in two straight down the middle then fold each half out to the sides, down and then back together round the upper legs: tabs on the side of the legs lock onto slots on the inside of the chest halves. Fold the hands into the forearms and the "wings" closed round the exposed body spine. Fold the dinosaur head over the robot head.

Modern dinosaur theory suggest Tyrannosaurus Rex had a horizontal body, and this Grimlock can achieve that pose just fine. But I'm a traditionalist and want my Grimlock in a more upright Godzilla pose and he can do the too by rotting the legs back a couple of ratchet clicks and bending the tail back at the robot knees by the same amount.

From the front, the T-Rex mode looks like a slightly wider version of the original Grimlock, with the head being a highlight. His jaw opens, his tiny dinosaur arms are ball jointed at the shoulders and his legs turn at the hip & bend at the knees. The hips also bend to the sides but that was no use here. Early pictures were at pins to hide the rear of the toy, prompting fear of a square tail end. It's not, there's a distinct point to it but only after a distinct jump down from the blocky section of his legs that makes up most of the tail. It could have been worse, but it could have been so much better with a more smoothly sloping tail. A pair of Titanmaster pegs can be found on the base of the tail and another pair is on a panel halfway up his back. The back of the dinosaur body is a bit of mess with lots of red, gold, black and silver grey parts mixed together. On his gold neck there's a slot, used to secure the neck in other modes. Here it's exposed and it's exactly the right size for a Titanmaster heel spur to fit in, enabling a Titanmaster to ride him. This can be also used to store his Enigma of Combination in Dinosaur mode. The mouth opens and there's a designed slot for the Enigma there too but since Enigmas have the same tab as a Titanmaster heel spur you can stick disembodied Titanmaster Heads in hi mouth as if he's just ripped them off a body. The only place you can really mount the Prime Armour in this mode is the side of the legs, which makes him look very wide indeed!

Returning to robot mode is easy enough, with the possible exception of pulling out the fists - there;s a groove on the back of the hand you can get a finger nail into though. Be careful when joining the chest halves up though and don't rely on the small pegs at the front to hold it together: the black body core has a tab on each side at the back which needs to sit in a slot on the body halves. A good tight connection there now will save you some grief later in combined mode.

Grimlock's robot mode is undeniably Grimlock, but it's a case of having got the basics right but a lot of the detail could be better. The head is fabulous, they've nailed his vaguely Prime-like black head with red visor down to a tee. I'd had plans to see if a 3p could come up with a way of integrating Titanmaster Clobber but I much prefer this head sculpt. The head is on a ball joint.

The look of the chest is a bit odd: they've gone for the clear plastic with gold paint underlay used for parts where the original Dinobots were chrome under clear plastic. Grimlock's chest was straight gold chrome however and the clear plastic gives it an strange colour. It also means his chest panel, previously clearly defined as the only bit of the chest which was clear plastic over chrome, blends into the rest of the chest. Perhaps they might have used a darker background here rather than the gold paint, to make it stand out more? There's a clearly discernible line down the front of his chest, used in the transformation when the chest splits in two. I can see it's function but not sure I can see why they've done it that way instead of having the chest fold down to the front as a solid unit. I'm guessing it's to be different for difference sake but it's unsightly here and can cause problems in his torso mode. There's also two odd looking vertical slots on his chest which are used in combined mode but they impact the look here.

The arms are generally really good too: they look good from the front, though from the back there's a little bit of bulk behind the forearms, which is used to house the Combiner Wars sockets for the combined form's arms. The shoulders turn and swing out to the sides, he's got a bicep swivel and double bending elbow. 5mm peg hole hands allow him to hold his Prime Armour as weapons, via their 5mm peg, there's another 5mm peg hole on the outside of the wrist to mount them on there, and a 5mm peg too if you want the gap facing out. If I'm picky I'd say I'd like 5mm peg holes on his shoulders like the FOC version does. The problem here is the Prime armour are his only weapons: Starscream also has his null rays which can be hand held, plugged into his arm and plugged into his Prime Armour. Grimlock has nothing: no Galaxial Rocket Launcher, no Twin "Stunner" Lasers, no Energo Sword. Nothing! Even the Fall of Cybertron Voyager did better than that, having a sword. The temptation is to steal that sword and get hold of another ArtTek Rex Blaster but I think the unstated insinuation here is that you're meant to use the Primemasters Decoy suits other mode as his weapons. Cloucburst/Micronus twin Gatling gun would be a possible substitute for his twin gun, but they're in red so Cloudburst's probable repaint/remould as Waverider , accidentally revealed through the cancelled Grand Pretender shell, would work better. But the problem here is Grimlock's sword and twin gun are so iconic that something looks missing when they're not there!

His waist is picked out in red, looks good and rotates where the wide belt piece meets the thinner groin. I'd have cast the D shaped hip pieces that turn at the waist and the legs swing out to the sides on in black rather than red so they blended in with the upper legs. Similarly the knees, with a low thigh swivel at the top and a bending joint at the bottom, are also red where they would have blended in better as black. Since the patchwork quilt that was Titan's Return Hardhead's upper legs I'm getting quite picky about hips, thighs and knees all being the same colour!

Then there's the lower legs..... Well they got the colour right. From the front they're straight up and down, no spreading to the sides and only a poorly defined foot at the bottom. It spreads a little to the back, the only area where most Grimlock legs are reasonably flat! Not only are the lower legs the wrong shape they're also too short. In a straight standing pose the top of POTP Grimlock's head is level with the line above the chest box on FOC Grimlock, who is a full inch taller. Although the upper legs could be a bit longer most of this difference comes from the lower legs which are far far too short. Looking straight at the toy the proportions between his top and bottom half look very strange: It almost seems like he has a Deluxe's legs on a Voyager's body! Since the legs also caused problems as the tail in T-Rex mode this is an all round design fail and in my opinion they should have stuck to the fold the lower legs over the upper legs approach that worked for the original and the Masterpiece. I know *why* it's been done like this, in order to accommodate the very visible Combiner Wars sockets in the sides of the ankles but there's two or three examples here of Grimlock also being a combiner core that have seemingly harmed the Voyager figure, which is a shame because Power of the Primes Swoop and Slug re great and hide their Combiner role REALLY well.

In both modes it looks more like the original Grimlock than any other mainline non Masterpiece Grimlock toy, but still falls short on the details. The legs needed to be bigger and better and it needed weapons. The Grimlock design is iconic and they got it so right the first time that any messing with it is obvious and none of the messing here is for the better. Yes it gives him a new function but this is the first really good go at a Generations G1 Grimlock for a few years and you can't help feel that it falls slightly short of the mark.

Generations Power of the Primes Volcanicus

Every since 5 member combiner teams were introduced in 1986 fans have wanted a Dinobot combiner. I can remember the subject coming up regularly in the UK comic's letters pages. Japan got a Dinosaur combiner in 1989 in the form of Dinoking, albeit a Decepticon one. Hasbro combined Energon Swoop & Grimlock in 2004 to form Mega-Dinobot and then paired a new Dinobot, Grimstone, with 5 dinosaur drones in Power Core Combiners. So there's been some skirting round the subject for years.

The initial set of Power of the Primes leaks in July 2017 showed the Dinobots and the presence of several other combiners in the range leg to speculation they would combine. Volcanicus was announced at the Hascon Transformer Brand Panel, shown as a resin prototype at a private function at the same event, and revealed in colour at New York Comicon 2017 where it was also on display.

So to form the torso of Volcanicus, start with Grimlock's robot mode. Fold the T-Rex head up covering the robot head. Leave the hands folded in, don't be tempted to turn them in. Turn each arm in 90° at the bicep so the outer side of the arm faces forward. Raise the arm 90° out to the side. Fold both elbow joints on each arm down 90° so the forearm is under the shoulder: there's a tab under the shoulder and a corresponding slot on the forearm that need to connect. Check the tabs at the rear of the chest are securely connected. Fold the wings on Grimlock's back forward so the slots in their underside meet the tabs on what was the top, now the rear, of the shoulders. Pull the armour plate on his backside away from the waist. Rotate each lower leg out 90° at the thigh swivel. Bend the hips out 45° and the knees in 45°. Rotate the waist 180°. Fold the armour plate down into a lower position than it was sitting before. Pull the waist away from the body, down & forwards, exposing a hinged joint and two tabs which went up into the body. Fold the body forwards 90° so the waist tabs lock into the slots on his chest. Fold the grey panel on what was Grimlock's back forward 90°. Fold the red panel behind that, at the rear of the top of the torso, back 90°. Fold the grey panel forward a further 90°, bringing Volcanicus' head up & out with it and tab the grey panel into the back of the T-Rex neck. Fold the red panel at the rear back down. Fold the head down onto the chest. Choose which Power of the Primes deluxes will be your legs, attach Grimlock's Prime Armour to them as feet and slide into place. Peg the legs' Prime Armour into 5mm peg holes in the sides of Volcanicus' chest.

I suspect the default configuration for my Volcanicus is going to be Sludge & Slug, remoulds of each other, as the legs and Snarl & Swoop as the arms. But as of Power of the Primes Wave 1, when Grimlock was released, there's only Swoop & Slug available. In order to make Volcanicus look as Dinoboty as possibly at this stage I'm using them as the arms with substitutes Tigatron & Unit-3 serving as the legs. They were on my Botconicus combiner mainly made up of Botcon and TFCC spares paired with Grand Scourge. However it's other two limbs Terrorsaur & Fractyl have been half inched to give Starscream an all jet combiner they were the easiest to get hold of.

Be careful attaching the arms: the downward movement and, in Slug's case, the weight can cause the shoulder tabs to pop out the wings. If the tab between chest half and black core isn't good Volcanicus will completely collapse at this point. The weight pulling down here at Volcanicus' shoulders looks like it will eventually be pulling on the chest halves which as we've seen are clear plastic. Really this feels like it need a larger longer tab at the front, possibly a 5mm peg, and a second connection at the back onto the wrists. I've had Volcanicus for 4 days now and unfortunately I've had to retab the shoulders nearly everytime I've touched the toy and especially if I've moved the arms. Now I'm used to combiner toys with shoulder problems: Combiner Wars Optimus Prime, Motormaster & Hotspot all have slightly suspect shoulders which cause things to pop off if moved in a certain way. But here I could see the chest halves distorting under the weight if not properly secured. Worrying.

Fortunately things are a lot better functionally lower down the toy. The legs are like Optimus Prime/Menasor but without the locking plate holding them in a fixed position. The knee/hip ratchets are excellent so you've got the option of going between shorter widely spaced legs, longer legs closer together or anything in between. You also have the option of spreading the legs to the sides thanks to the rocker joint in the ankle.

Then there's the look of the toy. I quite like it actually, with some reservations. Most combiners with a unified colour scheme looks good and we know the Dinobots silver grey, red, gold and black works. Yes it is perhaps a little spoilt by the very visible blue on Swoop which is peaking out from the shoulder. I like the T-Rex head folded forwards on the chest, less keen on it looking out, don't think it looks too bad with the jaw opened and the Enigma inserted. For comedy, replace the Enigma with Titanmaster! I'm not as bothered by the way the body tapers in in the middle as some people are: we've seen similar on other combiners. The thin lower body can be bulked out by spare Dinobot Prime armour attached via 5mm peg holes in the sides of the chest. I am bothered by the square holes either side of the Dinosaur head, cut outs on the top of the Grimlock chest to enable the folding down to the side hinges to pass through in Dinosaur mode. Using a 1985 style Grimlock chest would have avoided this problem. The head is great, a beefed up Grimlock with a silver chin strap and gold crest.

Like Grimlock, Volcanicus has no real weapons to speak of. The Dinobots hand weapons look tiny on him so I'm guessing you're meant to be using the Primemaster weapons with him. Unfortunately as soon as you give Volcanicus a weapon and raise an arm the familiar lean forward seen on many combiners is visible. There's nowhere for the Primemasters to stand in this mode though which is a shame: The waist plate is too close to the waist to use and even then the head would be hidden with the T-Rex head/jaw folded down. A couple of pegs on the shoulders or in front of the neck would have been nice.

I like the concept of a Dinobot combiner and , bar the holes in the chest, I quite like the look of the combiner, but the shoulders really don't work functionally and are desperately in need of reinforcement which is a major down point and a great shame because the Grimlock Voyager feels compromised in order to make him a combiner, which in turn is the complete opposite to the deluxe where I don't think they'd have been much different.

I want desperately to like this toy but through beast, robot and combiner the overall feeling is Could Have Been Done Better.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Generations Power of the Primes Slug

Generations Power of the Primes Slug

Yeah, it's Slag. Hasbro may have finally learnt that some names have an offensive meaning outside of the USA, but in this case I'm rather attached to the older one. I think "waste matter separated from metals during the smelting or refining of ore" is rather appropriate for the Dinobot's flame thrower who's going to be getting things hot. So it's probably going to be Slag throughout the review.

At the point I started acquiring my first set of Dinobots in the early 1990s, Gold Box Classics was in full swing, which supplied most of them for me. However Slag was missing so my first Slag was the Green G2 version in 1994, quickly upgraded to second hand cast off. I've gone through couple more since then.

Straight out the box there's no argument this is Slag, a bit taller and thinner than what we're used to with perhaps the red slightly too cherry but apart from that..... dead on. Where Swoop only got a sword from his original weapons set, Slag has a big bulky black gun modelled on his original silver chrome, and easily breakable, weapon. Upsacled and thickened but it essentially is the same weapon. I miss his sword, but I'm sure Takara, a third party, or Shapeways will provide. There's no hole in the shoulder for a missile launcher, like the original one had, but he has extra 5mm holes on his forearms, dino legs on his ankle, back and chest. The last of these is for attaching his Primemaster armour via the same peg that it uses to become a combiner hand. The clear cover on the front of the armour removes, becoming an odd square hand gun for him to hold, revealing a space for a Primemaster to recess into to power Slag up. Despite sharing no use here the armour has the same tabs & slots as Swoops. I imagine the hands are the same across the Dinobots, I can't tell which is Swoop's and which is Slag's, but having a quick look I can see the same feature on both of the hands with Dreadwind & Jazz even though the majority of those are different moulds.

Articulation: Principally identical to Swoop with bending knees, thigh swivels, ball jointed hips, rotating waist, rotating head, ball jointed shoulders, bicep swivels & bending elbows. Here it's the head not the waist that's limited with the surrounding dino head limiting it's movement.

Transformation: remove the gun and Primemaster armour. Fold the hands into the underside of the arms. Good luck getting them out again by yourself, they're very stiff on mine and need the gun handle place in them to get them to move! Fold the chest cover up in front of the face. Then the legs.... there's some cleverness here and some worry too: Look at the backs of the legs and fold the dino legs down so they're out the way. Fold the tail halves up from within the legs so they're pointing out behind the knees. Swing each half 90° out to the sides. That joint scared me, there's going to be a few of those broken down the line. Fold the heel spurs up inside the legs. Yes they will move, and they will swing round so their underside is facing towards you. Getting them out again is difficult till you realise that they'll start to swing out if you rotate the rear legs back at the hips. Tab the robot legs together and fold back at the robot knees 180° so they meet the body and the tabs at the top of the body click into place in the feet. Swing the tail halves in together pegging into each other then fold up into place. Position the dino legs and stand.

Something is not quite right with the prescribed Triceratops mode, the frill looks too small and too close to the body. Fortunately that's easily fixable: the entire head and frill pulls up and moves back as part of his limb mode and fractionally doing that really improves the look. Jaw opens, front legs are ball jointed at the shoulder and bend at the knees, rear legs turn at the hip and kind of bend at the knees thanks to the transformation. 5mm mounting points on both forelegs, both hips the top of the dinosaur and under the chin while there's two separate Titanmaster footpegs on the Dinosaurs back for your Titanmasters to play at being Dinoriders.

The lack of weapons is an issue again, the frill could have been bigger and more distinct from the body without needing adjustment and some of those transformation joints are a bit worrying. But other than that no complaints!

Arm Mode: From Dinosaur mode split the tail, fold out to the sides and fold the the robot legs out, swinging the heel spurs down, and storing the tail halves in the legs. Swing the rear dino legs up out the way. Fold the hands in, rotate each arm 180° and put the 5mm holes on the forearms over the tabs on the body. Swing the dinosaur head up & back. Fold out the Combiner Wars connector. Transform his Prime armour into a hand by folding out the fingers and putting the thumbs into the correct position and peg into the hole in the feet. Turn the waist 90° to allow the leg articulation to act for the arm.

A decent enough arm but since I see Swoop as the other arm and Slag pairing with his remould Sludge, they're probably going to end up as legs.

Leg Mode: Remove the Prime armour hand. Return the lower part of the arm to dinosaur mode but keep the legs folded up and fold the tail down under the beast inserting the pegs on one of Grimlock's Prime Armours into the revealed 5mm hole. Fold the Combiner Wars connector out the front of the beast and slide into place.

Decent solid leg! Good, that's what I was aiming for!

Power of the Primes Dinobots going well for me so far: 2 out of 2!

Generations Power of the Primes Sludge

It's kind of fitting that Slag and Sludge share a mould seeing as it ws one or the other of them in the 1990s between Gold Box Classics and Generation 2! Sludge & Slag appear to share robot legs, arms, combiner connector, gun and even Slugs's chest which appers to form Sludge's back!

Generations Power of the Primes Swoop

Generations Power of the Primes Swoop

The UK's relationship with Swoop is long and mainly defined by us not getting him. In 1985 we got four Dinobots: Grimlock, Slag, Sludge & Snarl, toys which really boosted the Transformers line. But when we read he comic and saw the cartoon, and we did get the first season of the cartoon in chunks on breakfast television, there was a 5th Dinobot! To this day nobody is 100% clear why we didn't - the usual safety test rumours abound. We missed out on him in Classics in 1990/1991 (Grimlock, Sludge and Snarl) and again for G2 (Grimlock, Slag & Snarl). We didn't get his RiD or Energon versions either, and to add insult to injury his fellow Energon Dinobot Grimlock was reissued for the 2014 movie and he wasn't! By that time we'd had the Animated Swoop and Legion Strafe, a blue repaint of Beast Hunter Legions Windrazor itself a new version of Terrorcon Cutthroat, which as you'll see will turn out to be quite amusing. But none of these really fit with the original Dinobots or work on your shelves of Classic toys.

Power of the Primes Swoop was leaked With the rest of the first four waves of deluxes and three waves of everything else in July 2017. Like the other Dinobots he wasn't shown at SDCC 2017 instead making his début at the first Hascon later that year and immediately there was some trouble. Swoop was shown as being red on the leaks, matching the other Dinobots and the original Transformers toy. His official images show him as red but when they were shown at Hascon he appeared in silhouette and then was shown in the display cases as blue. The blue/red Swoop debate has gone on for a long while: As I said the original Transformers toy was red but it's Diaclone predecessor was blue and for some reason those colours were used on the Transformers cartoon, making the Diaclone toy highly desirable to Transformer fans. Indeed his recent Movie version was also blue. So I can understand the desire to do Swoop as blue but feel that the cartoon adherents at Takara will make their version blue so the Hasbro version should have been red! HASBRO! Make a red Swoop too!

Swoop's robot mode is mainly silvery grey, no chromed wings this time, with as we've said a blue chest that looks a little on the thin side. Upper limbs, waist and heads are black plastic, with the back of the head painted red. Oddly the hip pieces are silver grey and not black, like the rest of his legs and his waist, giving him a slightly odd looking appearance there. The head looks very similar to that on the Ptero Titanmaster about a year previously.

Articulation: Bending knees, thigh swivels, ball jointed hips, rotating waist - odd choice that because it's effectively immobilised by the pteranodon's beak passing over the waist joint, being recessed into the body & tabbed into place, ball jointed head, ball jointed shoulders, bicep swivels & bending elbows. The wings are pinned to the body at the top: they pivot upwards and ratchet at 4 positions from straight out to the sides to resting against his neck frame not quite pointing straight up. A couple of centimetres out from there is a joint that lets the wings fold back & forth: with the wings straight out to the sides this is straight down the wing. A couple of centimetres further out from that is another pivot for the outer portion of the wing.

Swoop comes with just one obvious weapon: a clear plastic sword painted red. This has the standard 5mm peg so he can hold it but also a 3mm peg for storage and in this mode he has 3mm peg holes in his backside, presumably for a flight stand, and two on his belt, which result in a slightly odd mounting angle to make it fit. In addition to his 5mm peg hole hands he has 5mm peg holes on the outer face of each lower arm, a little inconvenient for storing his sword: was he meant to, or will the Takara version, come with his twin missile launchers too?

Swoop comes with one of the Dinobot's Primemaster armour pieces. In robot mode the thumbs on each side fold under the weapon and tabs on the thumbs allow it to attach to the side of the beak. The clear cover on the front of the armour removes, becoming an odd square hand gun for him to hold, revealing a space for a Primemaster to recess into to power Swoop up. After some trouble attaching the armour the connection is holding far better than I expected: pulling up on it causes the beak to raise and not the armour to pop off like I expected!

Transformation: remove the armour and sword. Fold the hands into the wrists. Rotate the arm 90° out at the bicep so the peg holes on the forearms face back. Bring the arms in towards the side of the body, bending slightly at the elbow, and tab into place on the sides of the waist. Fold his feet down & back 90° and tab the legs together. Raise the wings up one ratchet click so the crossbars on the flat wide T shaped slots are horizontal. Fold the legs onto the back tabbing into the wings. Fold the pteranodon legs & feet off the robot upper legs, now the pteranodon's back, and tab them onto the upper robot legs, now under the pteranodon. Fold the beak up off the chest in front of the robot's face.

As initially transformed Swoop is in a standing position and he holds this pose perfectly well. But I think most people associate HIS pteranodon with being in a flatter flying position and the toy can do that too: Fold the head up 90° via a joint at the back of the neck, fold the feet up and lie him on his chest, job done. It's a grey robotic pteranodon and it looks pretty good. As we've seen the head moves up & down but the jaw can also open, the wings can pivot up & down, albeit not where they meet the body nor parallel to it, and the outer parts move forward and back. He's covered in Titanmaster/Primemaster pegs: two on the first wing section near the hinge and two on each piece of robot leg forming the back: on on each leg is close to the break between the parts and together they form a pair the right distance apart to fit each hole on each of the same Titanmaster's foot.

Weapon's storage is a bit poor: peg in under the beak or the holes in his robot waist. It does just about fit between the robot legs but that's neither secure or intentional. I'm seeing no exposed 5mm sockets in this mode for potential Takara or third party missile launchers either. The Primemaster armour can store on the pteranodon's back: tabs sticking match slots in the underside of the armour.

With the exception of the missing weapons and poor sword storage in pteranodon mode this is almost exactly what I'd expect a Blue Generations Swoop with no additional gimmicks to be like. Since it also functions as a Combiner limb, I think we can say Hasbro did a good job here.

Arm Mode: From pteranodon mode, fold the entire head down 180° in front of the robot's chest. Fold the dinosaur legs onto the back of the pteranodon and then fold the robot legs out from the back of the dinobird and, keeping the legs tabbed together, fold the feet down. Fold the Combiner Wars connector out of his back. Straighten the wings on the back so the sides are flush with the connector then fold forwards tabbing into the sides of his shoulder. Fold the outer section of the wings down. Untab the robot's forearms from the waist then rotate the waist 90° to allow the leg joints to provide arm movement. Plug the Prime armour into his feet as a hand.

I always pictured the thinner smaller Swoop as an arm rather than a leg on a Dinobot combiner and he seems to adapt to that role well. The only surprise is he retains his wings: like Divebomb on Predaking I'd picture them ending up on the Dino combiner's back.

Leg Mode: from arm mode rotate the waist back, tab the forearms back into place and straighten the robot's legs. Remove the robot hands, and untab the wings, purely so they're out of the way. Unused so far, Swoop's legs have a concealed joint in them, similar to those found in the Combiner Wars toys, to shorten the robot legs. It's VERY stiff on my copy of the toy so I'm needing to start it going by passing something down between the hinge and the side of the leg. Swing the lower legs up so they cover the upper legs and tab together. Insert the peg on one of Grimlock's Prime armour pieces into the peg hole on his feet.

It's a functional leg mode, surprisingly square and blocky considering where it's come from. It'd work as a leg on a Dino combiner but I'm convinced Sludge, Slug & Snarl will make better bulkier legs.

Since the toy worked for me by itself and worked as both combiner limbs, I'm going to chalk this one up as a big win for Swoop. Well done Hasbro!

Generations Power of the Primes Cutthroat

Terrorcon Cutthroat and Dinobot Swoop have always been vaguely similar: Cutthroat's one and only new version Beast Hunter Legions Windrazor was repainted in blue as Legion Strafe, a new small Swoop. So when he was revealed at NYCC 2017 it was no real suprise to find Cutthroat reusing Swoop's general design and in particular his arms, waist and upper legs.

Future Repaints

HASBRO! Make a red Swoop too! Cutthroat's toy reveal at NYCC 2017 shows him using a different head to the normal square Terrorcon head seen on his original toy and his official images. The head used looks terribly like the one on Pretender Monster Wildfly/Dinoforce Yokuryu, leading to speculation of either Monstructor or Dinoking being done in Power of the Primes.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Hascon Arcee, Leinad & Ultra Magnus

Hascon Ultra Magnus

To recap:

We know from the Transmission Podcast rumours that Choas on Velocitron was originally the Speed set, which is reflected in it's Speed Tech Spec quadrant highlighted on the packaging and that set's Rodimus Prime having the "Ultimate Speed Boost" power revealed on the List of Titanmasters found on the Trypticon Cereal Box.

Similarly we know from the Transmission Podcast rumours that Siege on Cybertron was originally the Strength set, which is reflected in it's Strength Tech Spec quadrant highlighted on the packaging and that set's Thunderwing having the "Ultimate Strength Boost" power revealed on the List of Titanmasters found on the Trypticon Cereal Box.

There are four areas on the current Tech Specs: Strength, Speed, Intelligence and Fireblast. These were also shown in the SDCC 2016 Titan's Return Storybook which divided the first few waves of toys up between the four tech spec quadrants. The four quadrants are all illustrated as symbols on the Chaos on Velocitron and Siege on Cybertron boxsets with the Speed and Strength logos highlighted accordingly.


What happened to the Intelligence and Fireblast boxsets?

The the Transmission Podcast rumours places the Speed & Strength sets in development in March & April 2016. At around that time the Combiner Wars G2 Superion, G2 Menasor and Victorion sets were on sale. These sold poorly, ending up sitting with retailers for quite some time, and indeed some retailers still have them now even at large reductions some 18 months later. So I'd like to suggest this possible scenario: the numbers come back to Hasbro saying the boxsets aren't doing well and Hasbro pulls the plug. The last Combiner Wars boxset Liokaiser gets produced in smaller number and made an exclusive to Entertainment Earth in the US. The Speed & Strength boxes get given catchier titles, Chaos on Velocitron & Siege on Cybertron, which disguise their "one of four" origins and turn into exclusives for TRU and BBTS respectively.

We know a little about what would probably have gone into the Intelligence & Fireblast sets. Two Clones Fastclash & Pounce had been packed with Chaos on Velocitron (Speed) & Siege on Cybertron (Strength) respectively. I think it's likely that Wingspan's function of "data processor" meant he was destined for Intelligence and thus Cloudraker was for Fireblast. With the Intelligence and Fireblast sets not happening they end up in a 2-pack together for Walgreens. It's thought likely that a G2 Green version of Titan's Return Voyager Megatron would have ended up in Fireblast as a counterpart to Choas on Velocitron's Laser Prime remake of Generation 2 Optimus Prime, possibly alongside a US release of Legends Godbomber to go with Magnus Prime the mild recolour of Legends Super Ginrai found in the Siege on Cybertron set.

But we had no idea about which Titanmasters would be in which set until the Trypticon Cereal Box was released at SDCC 2017 on Thursday 20th July. A List of Titanmasters found on that box gave a number of then unknown Titanmasters, one of which was an Ultra Magnus listed as "Ultimate Intelligence Boost", just as Rodimus Prime and Thunderwing were listed as "Ultimate Speed Boost" and "Ultimate Strength Boost". Our Intelligence Titanmaster had been found.

Ultra Magnus toys generally take one of two forms: either a white Optimus Prime or a blue, red & white super robot. Very seldom do they do both so it's something of a surprise to find it attempted on a Titanmaster. The Titanmaster robot itself is all white, using exactly the same parts as Siege on Cybertron Thunderwing: the metal chest first found on Chaos on Velocitron Rodimus Prime plus the arms, legs & head from Fangry. The only paint is a blue mouthplate & crest plus red eyes. It's a good attempt at a white Optimus in Titanmastr robot form. OK you could have done better using Alpha Trion's Sovereign in white but....

Transforming to head mode is then a bit of a surprise as given the white Optimus robot you're probably expecting the white Optimus head. That's not what you get, what's here instead is a small version of the blue Magnus super robot head with silver pipes & face and blue eyes. It looks really nice, a lot better than photos made me think it would! Like Thunderwing, if Ultra Magnus had been done as a full size toy he'd have probably have been a leader so the Titanmaster there would have just supplied the face which would have been beefed up to a leader sized head by a helmet. Personally I'd like to see a redone version of Combiner Wars Leader Ultra Magnus with more 1986 like weapons, 5mm peg hole hands and a Titanmaster covered by helmet head, ala Titans Return Powermaster Optimus Prime, but there I would want a white Prime face if it was being completely covered.

As it is what we have here gives us a perfectly Ultra Magnus head for a smaller toy. No complaints there!

Hascon Titans Return Arcee & Leinad

The Future Repaints section for the Blurr/Chromedome reviews had this section in it:
Concept drawings exists showing the original Chromedome repainted as Arcee and I've already seen a Titan Return Arcee digibashed from Chromedome which was also turned into a custom. I've also seen an Arcee from Blurr and another from Hot Rod!
The obsession for a Headmaster Arcee starts from her appearance in The Rebirth cartoon story where she binary bonds with Spike's son Daniel. As we've seen there was a cancelled proposal to do her as a Chromedome repaint that leads to it being suggested whenever Chromedome turns up. Titans Return Blurr was suggested as a good body base for a female robot, a concept proved when he was used to make Chaos on Velocitron Nautica which in turn for me eliminated the idea of the Blurr Arcee being done as I couldn't see Blurr appearing in two boxsets.

Then on Thursday 20th July 2017 at that year's SDCC a Trypticon Cereal Box was released showing a List of Titanmasters which included number of then unknown Titanmasters, including Leinad whose power was listed as Healer. It was quickly spotted that Leinad is Daniel, the name of Arcee's Cartoon Headmaster, in reverse leading to many concluding a Titans Return Arcee was on the cards. Sure enough a few days later trading card art for first Arcee then very quickly afterwards Titanmaster Ultra Magnus, also found on the Trypticon Cereal List, were leaked onto Weibo. A few days later a 2-pack of Arcee & Titanmaster Ultra Magnus were announced by Hasbro to be premièring at their first Hascon convention held in Rhode Island on September 8th - 10th 2017 and then to be released at retail at a later date.

The Official Images of Arcee are quite interesting - they're all of the form "C3542AS00_TRA_HTC_COLLECTOR_CLUB_1_" and then an image number. Hasbro announced a new fan club in October 2016 but since then nothing has been heard. Was Arcee originally destined for there? I had thought that Arcee might be, like we think Titanmaster Ultra Magnus is, a refugee from one of the cancelled Titans Return boxsets. Exhibit A for that argument is her trading card art which is presented in landscape format and looks cropped from a larger image rather than in portrait format, with the head landing on her shoulders, like the other Titans Return Deluxe and Voyagers. However in hand she feels like she has slightly too much retooling to be a repaint from a boxset. So I think she was more likely originally intended for the cancelled/postponed Collectors Club or Titans Return Deluxe Wave 6, which in the end only featured one new toy in Slugslinger.

The retooling is itself rather interesting. With two major exception the parts changed are the same parts changed to turn Blurr into Brainstorm: they both have new shoulders, hand flaps, spoiler/fin, vehicle nose and robot faces. The new parts change the look of the front of the vehicle considerably, into a kind of squared off version of her Generations Thrilling 30 toy. You can see the Blurr in there, and she looks more like Blurr than Brainstorm does, but the flaps covering her hand and vehicle nose easily do enough to differentiate them.

The two changed parts don't really affect this mode too much: one is that her Titanmaster Leinad has a new, rounded head painted silver. Together with the white of the figure it's suggesting Daniel's exo suit from The Movie & the Rebirth. Unfortunately it looks a bit odd, not like it's on-screen appearance and worse will cause some problems later! Th other changed part, hallelujah, is that the gun has gone! I didn't mind it on Blurr but disliked it's inclusion on Brainstorm where I thought his new vehicle nose should have had removable side guns like the original Headmaster. It's also one of the few parts that was carried over to Chromedome, who I think also should have had twin dual guns like his original toy, and thus to Titans Return Chromedome's repaint Breakaway. So I think I now own 4 of the guns on Titans Return toys and another three on the Legends version and am thoroughly sick of the sight of it! In it's place are two small pistols modelled after ones Arcee uses in the IDW comics. Some distinct thought has gone into these as their handles aren't the typical 5mm peg, they're a thin rectangular piece of plastic which is 5mm from, front to back. They'll fit 5mm peg holes just fine but they'll also fit the narrow hands of the previous Generations Arcee. As per previous versions of the Blurr mould you can attach the guns under the nose in vehicle mode and that can be separated to act as a mini vehicle for a Titanmaster.

The robot mode is shaped very similarly to Blurr, but the pink and white used helps differentiate them a lot. The new rounded shoulder pieces, with fake car front sides on them help a lot as does the great new face. I want to say the chest looks wrong but some great attention to detail duplicates the pattern on Arcee's animation chest onto a differently shaped surface. Yes the legs are the same, but they work. The only real problem here is the Titanmaster: the rounded shape of Leinad's small robot head doesn't make for a secure connection at the back of the Titanmaster socket so turning Arcee's head to the side can cause Leinad's head to shift in the socket and Arcee's head to pop off.

I think Hasbro have done a really good job with Arcee here. Great remoulded parts, with the exception of the Titanmaster head, and fab colours have produced a toy which has made a really good Arcee. I think her US price of $24.99 looks very reasonable for her, a bonus Titanmaster in Ultra Magnus and some fancy packaging. Robotkingdom's $29.90 doesn't look too bad but it's still the best part of £40 before it gets to me in the United Kingdom, assuming it doesn't get customed. Kapow & ID Toys were both asking £35 for it initially, which given the far east price plus shipping plus customs plus overheads doesn't look absurd for them to be asking. However once again is all but £40 taking postage into account which feels a bit expensive for deluxe plus bonus Titanmaster, but I can't see these finding a home at UK retail so if you want it, that's the price you need to pay.