Friday, 17 March 2017

Titans Return Topspin with Freezeout


Titans Return Topspin with Freezeout

I remember Topspin & Twintwist being a big part of the Transformers advertising in 1985 when they first came out, playing on their auto transforming feature. But somehow they never really featured in the media, having to wait till nearly the end of 1986 for their first comics appearance as part of the Wreckers. Over the years the toys have become increasingly disliked due to their simplicity and with it their characters too, to the point that when Roberts & Roche bumped off their IDW versions in Last Stand of the Wreckers nobody batted an eyelid! The Topspin name has been reused a few times but the closest to redoing the characters was the Fall of Cybertron Topspin & Twintwist, part of the FoC Wreckers/Ruination and even then they're just repaints.

Now I've always quite liked the Jumpstarters: our first Transformer was one, Topspin, and the sculpting on them is superb, a classic example of the Transformers house style in robot mode. I always wanted Twin Twist but never owned one until relatively recently.

Then The Transmissions Podcast reported a rumour of a Titans Return version on 21st April 2016 and his release was confirmed in December 2016 when a picture of the toy was seen on an early Skyshadow sample. Hasbro didn't show the toy or release official images till the New York Toyfair on 17th February 2017 by which point they'd been released in the Far East for a month!

The first thing that strikes you about Topspin, even when he's still in his packet, is what a big boy he is, tall and chunky, towering over his original which is just taller than the Titans Return version's waist. He looks very similar to the original with the major detail being ported over including the wings mounted on the upper arms and the blue head with a blue visor over a silver face.

100_3608 100_3609 100_3610

Articulation is pretty good: Head turns courtesy of the Titanmaster's ball joint, the shoulders shrug up & down at the body as well as being ball jointed at the arms, each arm has a bicep swivel and double bending elbow, his waist turns, his hips are ball jointed, his knees and his knees bend. While not articulation as such the shoulder mounted wings bend back and forth which should help prevent breakage.

Topspin comes with two dual barrelled blasters that are the opposite of each other. These tab together to form a four barrelled gun, with a 5mm peg handle underneath the combined weapon that he can hold while a Titanmaster sits in it. The only problem is that this doesn't look much like his original gun but fortunately he can, just about, hold the original too! The original gun has a 4mm peg, which would be far too loose in Titan's Return Topspin's 5mm fist hole but near the top is 5mm ring which just about provides enough clutch for the newer toy to hold. It's a bit loose and will fall out if you move it but is fine for static posing.

Transformation: Removing the Titanmaster Freezeout and transforming him reveals a mini robot with the same colour layout as Topspin: blue limbs & head, white chest. Open the panel on he underside of the forearms, fold the hands in and fold the forearm back so the elbow section recesses inside the forearm. Close the forearm door again. Rotate the waist 180°. Pull the upper portion of the waist joint away from the rest of the torso and fold forward 90°. Turn the torso behind the chest panel so that the neck & Titanmaster socket end up at waist level and what was the waist is at the top. Fold the waist back 90° over the neck. Open the cockpit canopy. Fold the prongs at the front of the vehicle & the landing gear out and forward. Swing the arms alongside the cockpit, tabbing into place. Seat the Titanmaster in the cockpit with his arms raised in front and close the canopy on him. Fold the rear of each leg back about 80°. Collapse the upper leg by folding it into the lower leg and tab the legs together then fold the knee pads down & closed and the feet into what was the front of the leg. Tab the guns under the wings or peg into what was the legs and lower the landing gear.

Interesting Transformation, the moving the waist to the neck is similar to Titans Returns Triggerhappy while the legs are a variant on the method used to shorten them since the Combiner Wars Aerialbots.

100_3611 100_3612

The finished spaceship looks just like a proportionally flatter & narrower version of the original with an added pilot's cockpit in the middle. That detail alone vastly improves the look of the vehicle mode making it feel like an actual vehicle someone could be using, albeit a very science fiction space fighter. Each wing has a Titanmaster foot peg on it to accommodate additional crew.

Love it. Superb update.

Topspin was sold at 2 per case in Titans Return Deluxe wave 4.


Titans Return Twin Twist with Burnout

As soon as a Titans Return version of Topspin was rumoured people began to speculate on Twintwist being done too and done as a retool of Topspin. Although very similar in many ways the originals don't actually share any parts but I could see the reasoning. The week before Toyfair he turned up on a Case Listing from a retailer and then the night before the show he was accidentally revealed on Twitter by Hasbro themselves, the latest in a long line of similar mishaps, before being officially revealed in the showroom, alongside his brother who was already out, with his official images following later that day.

In contrast to the original Twintwist the Titans Return version appears to be 90% reused from Topspin! The parts changed are the larger robot face & the front of the shoulders with the wings on the arms & front of the vehicle exchanged for moulded caterpillar treads and a new vehicle front with drills respectively. While the original Twin Twist had drills whose thread indicated they turn the same way, the Titans Return version has threads which oppose each other indicating they'd turn in opposite directions. Of course, like almost every other Transformers drill tank they don't turn!


Future Repaints

The Diaclone Versions of the Jumpstarters, both Jet Type and drill type provide two alternate colour schemes for each toy.

The Jumpstarters also have a number of South American variants in Salt-Man X, Salt-Man Z, Robot-Man X & Robot-Man Z.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Titans Return Quake with Chasm


Quake with Chasm

Hardhead & Skullsmasher appeared in Titans Return Wave alongside Blurr & Scourge. These two later toys were immediately remoulded in Wave 2 as Chromedome & Highbrow respectively and have also been used to make Brainstorm, Getaway/Breakaway & Nautica (Blurr) and Windblade (Scourge). But Hardhead & Skullsmasher have had to wait till Titans Return Wave 4 for their first reuse and then it's as a repaint, with a new face.

When The Transmissions Podcast rumoured a new Titans Return version of Perceptor, I could see that toy as a Hardhead remould due to the similarity of cannons over their right shoulder. However Titans Return Perceptor got it's own new deluxe Microscope toy and the Podcast very quickly broadcast new rumours rumours that Hardhead will be repainted/remoulded into Quake. Quake's existence was later all but confirmed on August 10th 2016 by Computer Listings but In Hand Images surfaced on 6th of January 2017 and he was sold at a Hasbro Asia event in Taiwan on 8th January long before his official Hasbro US reveal at Toy Fair 2017 on February 18th by which point I had mine here along with the other Wave 4 toys.

The original Quake has long been a favourite amongst the dual Targetmasters ever since I learnt you could substitute any Dual Targetmaster for the gun barrel. But the like is very much based on that gimmick. Without that he's a tank whose turret doesn't turn, barrel doesn't raise and who oddly resembles Optimus Prime in robot mode with a double windowed chest. Some already moulded detail on the Hardhead body has been used to cleverly impersonate the chest windows, the colours are dead right with a blue chest, grey arms & burgundy legs and the new head piece is superb. But I don't feel the robot suits Quake otherwise as I don't really associate him with having a huge shoulder cannon. That's more Perceptor or G2 Megatron.

Colour swaps: In general green turns Burgundy, except for the hands, gun & Titanmaster limbs which, like the dark grey, turn pale grey. The Titanmaster chest, clip and robot chest panel are blue while the gun, upper legs and some body parts are black. Clear orange becomes clear blue. His Titanmaster is called Chasm, a new name. I'm wondering why neither of his Targetmaster names Tiptop or Heater were used?

Transforming to tank mode and there's problems. Quake was previously a traditional tank albeit, as I've said, one who couldn't turn his turret or raise his gun. Hardhead has no turret instead having a side mounted cannon with accompanying cockpit. It's quite a dramatic shift in form.

I think the Titans Return Quake is a great repaint that looks fab. I'm just not sure it's really Quake! You almost wonder if he would have been better as a Combiner Wars Brawl repaint to go with Spinister & Needlenose from Transformers Subscription Service 4.0.


Future Repaints

If the gun on the side of Hardhead was replaced with a missile then this toy would make a great Stalker, Machine Wars Soundwave or Transformers Universe Soundwave

Since we've gone done the missile launcher route how about a new version of 1988's Doubledealer? The Headmaster gimmick, as with Breakaway/Getaway & Optimus Prime, would translate well to a Titanmaster. Then there's Cybertron Defence Red Alert, and repaints thereof ..... which effectively brings us back to Perceptor, which I'd still like to see this toy turned into!

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Legends LG-27 Broadcast and LG-36 Soundwave


Legends LG-27 Broadcast

There's three main changes of plastic in order to translate Titans Return Blaster to Legends Broadcast. The first, and largest, change only affects the larger robot making the legs a darker grey. The other two changes affect both the larger toy and the Titanmaster, but are focussed on producing different changes to the Titanmaster. The body of the Titanmaster has changed from red to blue to make it the same colour as it's larger namesake Twincast. This also affects the tape deck eject button, making it more distinctive, and the internal leg hinges for the knee, foot and ramps, none of which are particularly conspicuous. The Titanmaster's large robot head has also changed colour, from black to white, to match his appearance in the Generation 1 cartoon continuity. This change has the bonus of turning the Titanmaster's legs white, which brings them nearer the colour used for Twincast's legs. Other parts affected by this change are the base mode arm gun, fold up panels and Cassette weapons array.

For my money he grey is nicer on the Legends version but it's not enough of a change to force me to buy Blaster again by himself. However I'm a terminal Titanmaster addict so the opportunity to own Titanmaster that resemble both Blaster and Twincast was too much to pass up. I can't help thinking that the set could have also done with a Legend bundled with it: Blaster so far only has one tape in Japan, Rewind, and either an Eject repaint of that or a Steeljaw repaint of Titans Return Stripes would have added to Blaster's army.


Legends LG-36 Soundwave

The changes made to Titans Return Soundwave are for the most part quite subtle. In general the blue used on the Legends toy is more blue and less purple than the Titans Return version, but you'd struggle to tell unless the toys are next to each other. The only other plastic change obvious in robot mode is that the arms, previously grey both above the elbows and below, are now blue but painted silver bellow the elbow. The same colour shift also affects the helmet's hinge. The most obvious change on the toy is to the tape door which was clear and is now clear blue. The paint on the shoulders has gone but there's more paint on the knees and the barrel of the gun is painted silver to look more like original's blue battery launcher with chrome missiles. Finally the visor on the figure's face is now painted red.

The Titanmaster body has gone from being Soundwave blue to Soundblaster black, again closer reflecting the Titanmaster's name. As with Legends Blaster this change also affects the tape deck eject button plus the internal leg hinges for the knee, foot and ramps. Meanwhile the Titanmaster larger robot face & Legs go from steel grey to black, as do the base mode arm gun, fold up panels and cassette weapons array, all now matching the colours they had on Titans Return Blaster.

Blaster may have had more drastic colour changes made but the choice between Soundwaves is easier as the Legends toy is by far the better one. Still wouldn't have said no to seeing a new Buzzsaw with him, as his Combiner Wars version could benefit from a Legends upgrade. Similarly Rumble hasn't appeared in the Japanese Legends line yet either and Frenzy hasn't been done at all!

I've now bought this toy FOUR times to get all the different colour Soundwave & Blaster Titanmasters!

Friday, 10 March 2017

Legends LG-EX Head-Masters Set


Legends LG-EX Headmasters

The major difference between the Hasbro Titans Returns toys and their Japanese TakaraTomy Legends versions is the heads. Hasbro have gone for head sculpts that, in general, reflect the original toys while TakaraTomy, as is their norm, have gone for something more cartoon curate. This has created a desire in fans to own both head designs.

So on the 22nd January 2017 fans were pleased to see a feature in Figure King No.227 revealing a set of heads, confirmed by a TakaraTomy image release a day later. The set was available for ¥3,240 at WonderFest 2017 Winter in Japan on February 19th and after February 25th the set was sold at Cybertron Satellite Shops and Takara Mall in Japan.

The six toys are presented in a small box with a window on both sides: One side shows off the robot mode while the reverse shows their heads.

The set roughly divides into two halves: three heads from deluxe toys featuring their western head sculpt in the Japanese plastic colours and three heads from the Titanmaster class not previously released in Japan.

HARDHEAD

The Legends LG-21 Hardhead carries a face with a mouth, as per the Japanese cartoon, unlike the faceplated one seen on the original toy and used for Titans Return Hardhead. Now the mouth version is the one I prefer as that's what I'm used to from the comics which is why I bough the Legends version. Circumstances intervened and having planned to go Legends all the way I've ended up with a full set of both Legends AND Titans Return original Headmasters! This figure uses the faceplated head but is easily distinguishable from the western version by having a more beige colour to the helmet detailing and a yellow faceplate, as opposed to the grey ad green of the western version. Unfolding the figure into robot mode we see the Titanmaster looks identical to the Japanese version.

BRAINSTORM

Brainstorm almost has the opposite problem. Titans Returns Brainstorm is, like the the original and the 2014 Voyager. Almost every version of Brainstorm in media from the original cartoon to the Marvel comic to the IDW version uses a faceplated Brainstorm. Now the two versions of the western Titans Return Brainstorm were a little difficult to obtain: one was a store exclusive, the other was par of the 2016 SDCC boxset. So many people in the west, and he UK in particular were pinning their hopes on the Japanese version to give them he toy they needed and were surprised when Legends LG-39 Brainstorm had a rather different face to what they were expecting! The Japanese Headmasters cartoon is the only place that Brainstorm is regularly depicted with no faceplate and visible mouth! The look there is something of a shock to a western audience who are used to the faceplate, but has some popularity amongst More Than Meets The Eye fans for his brief appearances in that comic sans faceplate for story reasons.

The Brainstorm head in the Legends EX set gives the Japanese toy the more traditional head with a yellow faceplate. The face itself is slightly off white, almost mint as per the Japanese Brainstorm and once again the Titanmaster robot is identical to the one seen with Legends Brainstorm.

CHROMEDOME

Chromedome follows a slightly different pattern: Titans Return Chromedome has a head not modelled on the toy but on the modified version used for his IDW More Than Meets The Eye appearance. Fortunately Legends LG-32 Chromedome uses a head that looks very similar to that used the original 1987 Chromedome and in The Japanese Headmasters cartoon.

The Chromedome in the boxset then is the More Than Meets The Eye head design and looks very, very similar to the Titans Return version. The face is slightly whiter with a more yellow mouth. Transforming into the Titanmaster though reveals a very different toy to the western version with a grey chest, instead of brown, and extensive paint apps on the smaller head.

The three remaining Titanmasters in the set appeared in the Titanmaster assortment in the west.

FLYWHEELS

Skytread, the renamed Flywheels, was a repaint and new face for the Titanmaster Terri-bull who was issued in Japan as the Titanmaster Bullhorn packed with LG-37 Ravage. Terribull's tank, also repainted & packed with Skytread in Titans Return, was repainted as Tankette in Japan which was sold with Legends LG-21 Hardhead. -->

Flywheel, no s in Japan, is all but identical to the western Skytread and is the only toy in this set to use plastic colours identical to it's western issue. Without the two side by side I'd struggle to tell them apart. Flywheel has redder eyes and red flashes on his shoulders plus a silver face. A spare Flywheels is useful to work with Titans Return Trypticon as per the UK comic story Meltdown!

GRIMLOCK

Titanmaster Clobber, obvious to all as being Grimlock, was first released in the west as Titanmaster Crashbash, who was repainted in Japan as Cancer which was packed with LG-24 Shockwave while it's dinosaur/dragon accessory has been sold in two different colour schemes in Japan first with Legends LG-22 Skull as Batora and then as Servant packed with LG-34 Wipe.

Reverting to Grimlock for his Japanese release he significantly changes his colours with the dark grey becoming light grey to better match the original Grimlock toy while the chest becomes a less successful paler yellow. Additional black paint apps are applied to the sides & rear of the arms making the Grimlock head mode look superb.

BRAWN

The only Titanmaster head completely new to Japan in this set is Brawn. The jeep/gun he was packed with in the west has appeared, recoloured in a horrific pale blue, as Synapse who was packed with Legends LG-39 Brainstorm.

There's some "interesting" design choices taken with the Japanese version of Brawn. The yellow is brighter and the green is more olive, like his previous Japanese version in the Henkei Minibots set. Arms are coloured a greyish blue to mimic the grey of Brawn's Generation 1 cartoon appearance with a silver faceplate & blue visor on the 1984 Minibot like head, mirrored in the silver face and blue eyes of the larger head. The real oddity is on the smaller Titanmaster head's helmet and the helmet of the larger robot head: both are blue, and quite a bright blue. If they were going for animation accuracy, as TakaraTomy frequently do, then grey would have been appropriate. For original toy accuracy, silver. But blue? Most Odd. A real head scratcher of a colour choice.

For pictures of these sets see

Alfes Blog Entry 2754

TA Goal Blog 1397


Future Head sets

There were six head designs in this set not previously released in Japan. Curiously the number of head not so far used in Japan from the first two waves of Titans Return, the limits of the current Japanese Legends releases, also currently numbers six. The one not used are the Hasbro Titanmaster heads for the toys of
Highbrow
Mindwipe
Wolfwire
Skullsmasher
Optimus Prime
Fortress Maximus
Could these be our second Headmasters set?

In addition Sentinel Prime's Titanmaster Infinitus has been used twice in Japan without being seen in anything like it's original colours and also lends itself to white Ultra Magnus and black Scourge/Nemesis Prime recolours.

Then there's all the post wave 2 toys......

I don't think we're done with these sets yet!

Legends LG-35 Super Ginrai


Legends LG-35 Super Ginrai

The original Powermaster Optimus Prime and it's Takara counterpart Masterforce Super Ginrai are the same basic toy with different design choices made at crucial points so it's somehow right that Titans Return Powermaster Optimus Prime and Legends Super Ginrai should take the same approach. A modified toy was first hinted at in a silhouette image that I suspect the retailer in question wasn't meant to release and then revealed in prototype form in a Japanese toy show presentation where photography was forbidden. The prototype was revealed to the world in a video recorded at Wonder Fest 2016 released on July 24th 2016 with official coloured images released the same day and scheduled for a Christmas 2016 release.

Straight out the box certain changes are obvious to the vehicle mode. The cab has a new front with larger windows and a smaller grill, more closely mimicking the original Optimus Prime. The red plastic used is redder than on the western version and there's more of it on the front of the trailer, making it look more like the arms at the front of the Powermaster Prime/Ginrai trailer even though they're still safely tucked inside the trailer. Other than that the trailer is very similar until you get to the rear when you notice that the back of the trailer is flatter and no longer has the Combiner Wars Ultra Magnus feet sticking out the back. Gone too are Ultra Magnus' weapons, replace by a pair of very nearly mirror image guns which are pegged into the roof. Like many Titans Returns weapons they peg together to form a seat for the Titanmaster to sit in but, like many of the early combining weapons, the gun handles stick out to the sides to do this so the combined weapon can't be held with the Titanmaster sitting in it. The handles on the guns are different too and are now traditional 5mm pegs which is a bit of a relief for those of us who hated the Ultra Magnus style hands that Prime inherited with the guns.

The Titanmaster has in turn been extensively redecoed in robot mode to closely resemble Hi-Q or more accurately his Japanese counterpart Godmaster Ginrai. They've done a superb job too, with a white head, chest & legs. The majority of the legs are painted, the lower legs black and the upper legs red with just the knees left bear to simulate the screws on the original. There's even a round detail on the knee which was seemingly absent on Apex but was actually there on the back of Apex's legs thanks to an assembly error! The arms are the same red plastic as the cab with the image complete with some paint on the Titanmaster's face. Superb job. Transforming the Titanmaster to head mode reveals a new face. Gone is the Orion Pax style open face. I got what they were trying to do on the Titans Return toy, with the helmet covering the Orion Pax head turning the toy into Optimus Prime but never felt it really worked there with the peaked cap and crest in those colours reminding me of Postman Pat! Instead we get a traditional Optimus Prime head here complete with faceplate and I'm not complaining!

Transformation of truck to robot mode is broadly similar with two major differences. When you get as far as folding up the the truck's roof you'll discover that the lower arms have been extended along the underside of the roof and need to be retracted with the roof panels folding up on the underside. The smaller panel folds up first with the larger panel folding back on top of it, though sadly not quite flat. Then there's the feet, which are brand new and seem VERY complicated even though they're not. Start by getting the rear of the truck into leg mode then turning the toy over so you can see the underside of the feet. Fold/slide the whole foot down out the bottom of the leg: it's on a double jointed hinge so will move with some wiggling. Some more wiggling will move it 1cm towards the front of the leg. Fold the big blue panel down at the rear of the foot. Swing it out 180° so it points out the front of the foot then fold it up 90°. Fold the red heel spur down at the back. My toy sat on the shelf for a month or two in robot mode till a friend worked out how to transform them back! So this time I wrote the instructions as I transformed the toy, backtracking every step to make sure I got it right!

Other smaller points to note from the transformation: I had real trouble extending the cab when returning the robot to truck mode, far more than I'd had with previous versions of Prime/Magnus. I'm on my fourth version now, Generations and Legends versions of both, and hadn't noticed that the cab needs pulling down slightly first before being pulled forward. Also the sides of the super robot chest piece now rotate forward and back: when returning to truck mode the idea seems to be that they're rotated back 90° so the windows look out the rear of the vehicle further obstructing the internal space.

The super robot mode has three major areas of change: the chest, the arms and the feet.

The main purpose of the chest changes are to make the front of the super robot look much more like the original Super Ginrai but I suspect there's an element of functional necessity in there too to accommodate the retooled cab. I haven't yet tried a parts swap to check for comparability. The only real problem with this piece is the cab windows look recessed too far compared to the small side windows on the chest piece, but the Titans return version had that problem too.

The lower arms look much more streamlined than before. Gone are the Magnus style opening hands replaced by a closed fist with a 5mm peg hole in the middle of it and a rotating wrist. For my money the Magnus hands were a mistake on the original: Prime could only use the weapons he or Magnus came with and he frequently dropped those, though was better than Magnus. He also couldn't hold the Titanmaster size class weapons which is a major flaw given these weapons exist in this line: a similar fault afflicts many Armada toys. There's an additional 5mm peg hole on the front of the arm. That, and the extending arm used in the transformation, are believed to form part of the toy's ability to merge with Legends LG-42 Godbomber to form Legends God Ginrai with the arm armour pegging into the hole and the extending arm allowing Ginrai's fists to serve as GodGinrai's. The panels on the back of the lower arms are a bit unsightly with the larger panel sticking out at a slight angle. That's been inherited from the Titans Return version, the other two are new. I can't help thinking that a new piece with a double joint so it folded flat over the smaller ramp would look better.

Then there's the feet..... The feet inherited from Ultra Magnus were large and provided a certain amount of stability. There wasn't an obvious reason to change them but change them they did into something that's a lot more complicated. They're trying to look like the feet on the old Powermaster Prime/Super Ginrai toy but really needed to be a lot bigger in height and projection forward to do that which is impossible given the space they unfolded from. The 1988 toy's feet were also up against a substantial background of lower leg. These new ones have nothing behind them for the most part make them look very odd. There's some added articulation there: they bend to the sides for wider, legs open, stances and the foot bends to the side but unfortunately the red heel spur folds in far too easily. It's necessary to support the toy's weight and accidentally folding it in slightly seriously affects the toy's balance. I'm not keen on the new feet but I can see why they have been changed as it looks like the modifications once again make it possible for him to combine with Godbomber.

The base mode is broadly similar to how it was before. The ability to fold back the side windows on the chest plate give more vertical structure to that part of the base. Unfortunately the large rear panels from the top of the truck can no longer be folded flat against the tower arms so they either have to be folded at an angle or project, facing the wrong way, out the top which is a shame. The hands turning sideways to provide a side mounting point for the weapon is scant compensation. But, let's face it, the base mode wasn't much cop anyway and your toy will be spending very little time in it.

By itself Ginrai is a qualified success. I like the upper body changes to the robot, I don't like the feet and if I was keeping it by itself I'd look into swapping the feet, or even the entire legs, with the Titans Return version. But The whole story of this toy can't be told on it's own so to fairly assess the changes we'll need to wait for Godbomber.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Titans Return Skyshadow with Ominus


Titans Return Sky-Shadow with Ominus

As obscure Japanese toys go Overlord was reasonably easy to find, albeit not always complete, thanks to a limited release in Europe in 1991. Then along came Nick Roche, James Roberts & The Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers and the price went through the roof to the point where it's high on many fans "I wish they would reissue" lists. Overlord has continued to appear in More than Meets the Eye, increasing his popularity, so much so that when in April 2016 Hasbro's Botcon 2016 presentation concluded with a silhouette of Overload fans worldwide were very pleased to be getting a new version of the toy, confirmed by Overlord & Sky Shadow showing up on a Hasbro Product Codes list. However in October 2016 at NYCC 2016 Preview Night it was revealed that Sky Shadow was coming first as a pretool of Overload!

Pretools are a relatively new phenomenon. It always used to be the way that a toy was released and then repainted or retooled into a new version. Now the trend is for the repaint to come out first as the recent Voyager versions of Optimus Prime & Megatron, so obviously new versions of Octane & Blitzwing, prove. But it's hard to see why Hasbro would choose Sky Shadow, previously known as Black Shadow, as a pretool of Overlord. Skyshadow has a much stronger link with another character: both his previous versions were retool of the Generations Deluxe and Mega Pretender Thunderwing. The only remote connection between the Overlord and Skyshadow is that both are Phase Sixers in the IDW continuity!

Sky Shadow comes bixed in robot mode but we'll look at his vehicles first:

Start the transformation by separating the toy in two by pulling down on the legs: a jagged "spine" piece will emerge from the body on top of the waist. Fold the feet & heels spurs down towards each other under the legs. Separate the legs and fold what's inside each leg out through the inner side of the leg so it's mounted on the front of the leg. Bring the legs back towards each other do they're straight & parallel then bend the knees back 180° so the spine is between each foot. Plug the gun's 5mm handle into the hole on the back of the waist.

Return to the body: lift up the top of the head, remove the Titanmaster then close the top of the head. Remove the shield/drone. Straighten the arms to the sides, with the peg holes in the hand facing forward. Slide the upper arms up into the shoulders. Hallelujah, an actual sliding joint on a limb! I know these can weaken over time which is why we have such complicated mechanisms to shorten legs now, but here the extended position in robot mode has the arms hanging down and the shortened position is held in place by the wings which fold down and have the wrists tab onto them. Fold the nose off the robot's back which surrounds the head. Fold the tail fin and wings up. Clip the drone under the nose.

So we end up with two vehicle, a jet and a tank, which is very Overload. The only problem is there's only one Titanmaster packed with Skyshadow to share between them: Ominus. Ominus himself, or should that be HERself, hints once more at the toy's eventual destiny as Overlord in that she is cast in a very similar style to Mega, the female of Overlord's pair of Powermasters. Now I do have a spare Decepticon Titanmaster to drive the other vehicle, the Legends EX boxset version of Skytread but he's quite angry with Skyshadow for stealing his vehicles combine to make a robo shtick and is planning to team up with Titans Return Trypticon ala the Transformers UK story Meltdown! to have his revenge on Sky Shadow.

The jet part of this set is unique to Sky Shadow and is modelled very closely after the jet form of Black Shadow combined with his Pretender shell. It almost looks more like it does on the boxart than the original toy did! The plane's under the wings guns move from side to side, and the drone can be detached but apart from that the only real moving feature is the opening cockpit canopy, cast in clear red plastic. There's a Titanmaster peg on each wing and another on top of the body of the jet. Also on top of the jet is a 5mm peg hole which can be used to mount the drone on top of the jet which allows the space the would have been occupied by the nose to serve as an additional Titanmaster seat.

While the jet is unique the tank component of the toy looks identical to the one with Overlord.

Phil' tank test time!

Does the turret turn?
NO

The turret is made of two halves folded out from inside the legs. Getting a turning joint out of that would have been difficult.

Does the gun barrel elevate?
NO

Sadly the gun just pegs in. Now with a bit of work I reckon we could have had an elevating gun here, mounting it so the peg faced up and the rear of the gun had slots which mounted on a dimple from each half of the turret, but their separate nature might have meant not enough friction to allow it to raise. An alternative maybe would have been to have the gun's handle pivot.

Either way I have less sympathy for this feature being missing and feel it was surmountable.

0 out of 2 here. Poor show.
The tank rolls along courtesy of three wheels in the underside. There's four Titanmaster pegs along the back and another on the roof of the turret. One side of the turret is covered by a clear plastic hatch which fold forward to reveal a compartment for the Titanmaster to sit in and, unlike Voyager Megatron, the Titanmaster can be sat in the compartment and the hatch closed completely over him.

The two vehicles can be combined with each other: on the underside of the jet there's a silver panel, part of the robot's chest, which folds forward revealing a clip which in turn fits over a bar on the top of the tank. The combined vehicle looks very much like what Flywheels does in the moment before you securely push the jet down to transform the toy!

The two toys can combine to form a base mode: For the tank half remove the gun then fold the robot's waist & upper legs out the back of the tank. Rotate the thigh swivel 180° on each leg, then fold 90° out to the side at the hip and 90° down just above the knee. Fold the half of the turret that doesn't have the hatch back into the leg.

Remove the drone from the jet then fold the tail fin & wings down. Lift the wings slightly to free the robot's arm which are then folded out to the sides. Bend the cockpit and jet nose up via the cockpit half of the joint that connects it to the rest of the jet. Fold down the cockpit canopy to create a platform. Slide the robot waist into the back of the jet. Clip the drone under the jet's nose. Peg the gun into the hole on the plane's back so the rear of the gun holds the canopy/platform down and the barrel fits over the tail fin. Fold the robot's feet up from the tank halves, fold the base mode connectors out and fold the feet back down.

OK I can see what they're going for here, in terms of Overlord with the plane forming a tower and the cockpit canopy a platform but where original Overlord is shallow & wide Sky Shadow is deep and narrow. In fact the leg configuration here is reminding me very much of how Perceptor's look in Microscope & cannon mode and making me regret that he's been done as a Titans Return Deluxe and not as a leader who can form a base mode. Again I can see how the tank half legs are meant to be the tank half base elements, with the canopy section visible but it doesn't really work here and, with Sky Shadow being a different character, they might have been better off with both tank halves/legs having the flat side facing up giving a long structure to run vehicle down towards a ramp at the end. Then you run into more trouble because the ramp connectors are half way down the sloped end, not a smooth transition for a vehicle rolling down it. In fact ramps are probably the main problem with the base mode, there aren't any here and Overload was covered in them. There's also no a lot to do here where Overload had a little car, raiding cannon and repair arm. But we've got a position for the Titanmaster to sit, in the tank turret half, he can stand behind the cannon on the Titanmaster peg provided inside the canopy plus there's two Titanmaster pegs on each leg, one on each wing and one on each of the rather use less spread out arms.

From base mode remove the Titanmaster, gun and drone. Close the cockpit canopy. Fold the turret half into the leg. Unfold the foot & heel spur, folding the base mode connector back into the foot. Fold the legs out to the sides 90° above the knees and then down 90° at the hips before rotating out 180° at the thigh. Fold down the chest panel. Extend the arms and unfold the fists from the forearms, folding the arms down to the sides. Fold the jet nose onto his back. Fold the Titanmaster into head mode and place inside the head's helmet. Place the gun in his hand and either mount the gun separately or tab hew rear of the gun into it's front.

It's at this point I made a big mistake: I got the Adventures version of Sky Shadow out and put him next to the Titans Return version. The Titans Return version looks great against other toys, especially other Leaders like Sixshot, but next to his deluxe version he looks far too big! Now the deluxe was probably too small anyway, indeed I said his predecessor Generators Thunderwing was too small and should be Voyager sized when I reviewed that in 2010! I think my assessment then was right, Sky Shadow should be a Voyager: it'll be interesting to see how I feel about the size of a Thunderwing repaint of the Titans Return toy if it happens.

As a representation of the character it's not bad. Most of what is identifiably Sky Shadow is found on the upper body and that all comes from the jet unique to this set. The character's legs are a bit harder to describe without having a look at some pictures so they just about get away with the rather blocky legs here by doing them in the right colours. Chest, head and arms are pretty good, though the lower arms could do with some black paint. He could also do with some twin guns like previous versions of the character had!

Articulation is great: head turns as do the shoulders which also lift up to the sides. The guns on the shoulders fold out towards the sides but the clutch on this joint is a little too great as pushing them back in is more likely to lift the arm to the sides than move the gun unless you're holding the arm as well. He's got bicep swivel and bending elbows. Sadly no wrist swivels and no waist joint :-( Hips rotate and move out to the sides plus have a thigh swivel immediately bellow. The knees bend and the feet tilt sideways at the ankles.

This toy is a hard one to sum up. It's a good toy, lots of fun to play with but the base mode could be better and do a bit more. The overall gimmick of Plane & Tank combine to form robot or base suits Overlord better and I think that's the toy's biggest problem. They've chosen a character who has always been a repaint to give us first before the main event which many are looking forward to. Even if Sky Shadow had followed Overlord it would be a bit of head scratcher why he was a remould of Overlord.


Future Repaints

Having done Sky-Shadow surely Thunderwing is an inevitability? I can't see him being a Leader by himself: we think there's one wave of leaders left after Overlord and to do him there would mean repaints of the same toy released in three consecutive waves. I see him more as part of a boxset, the only fly in that plan being that there's already a Titanmaster Thunderwing in the Siege On Cybertron boxset.

The Leader size might be a little large for him but the plane & tank combine to form robo transformation is surely an ideal fit for the duocon Flywheels/Skytread?

I can't get over the leg configuration on Sky Shadow's base mode. With the tank turret part folded away it would make the perfect base for a Leader Perceptor with the upper body forming a different cannon tank by itself and then combining in Microscope & Robot mode.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Titans Return Broadside with Blunderbuss


Titans Return Broadside with Blunderbuss

At the end of August 2016 a prototype image for a Titans Return version of Broadside was leaked. This was almost expected: Broadside was the only one of the 1985/6 Triplechangers not to receive a classics update and the range already included Astrotrain, who'd previously been a classics deluxe and Megatron & Optimus Prime who looked suspiciously like new version of Blitzwing, who's Generations Voyager had several issues, and Octane, who'd been a Universe 2 deluxe. These toys were all but confirmed by Computer Listings the day after the Broadside prototype emerged and eventually unveiled at Toyfair 2017.

It was immediately spotted that parts of Broadside's legs resembled Alpha Trion which stoked to the ongoing debate about "what is a retool?" Since Combiner Wars started Hasbro and TakaraTomy have been presenting us with toys that share less and less parts with each other which is confusing some people no end. Now when I write my reviews for my site I tend to write for the original toy and then write about it's repaints and retools so I've got a vested interest here in identifying toys that are related to each other! So for my money Broadside IS a retool of Alpha Trion, and Lio Convoy, because they share a number of parts. Broadside's robot and jet mode were shown at New York Comic Con 2016 with his aircraft carrier mode revealed in the Official Images for the same event.

Out the box the robot has some obvious parts reuses: the feet, ankles, outer side of the leg & connected hinge & deck plate plus the Titanmaster robot Blunderbuss are the same as those on Alpha Trion. Less obviously so are his hips, shoulder hinges, neck collar, upper arm and elbow. The hips, shoulder hinges, neck collar & Titanmaster robot body are all a dark red: on Alpha Trion they're purple and Lio Convoy they're red, so we can be reasonably confident they're on the same sprue. The feet were pinky red on Alpha Trion, white, but painted, on Lio Convoy and red here while the outer legs were purple on Alpha Trion, white on Lio Convoy and red, but painted, here. He looks a decent chunky robot with the Titanmaster given a new faceplate and the horns replaced by pop up missile banks deployed by a button on his chest which are a lot easier to retract and fare less trigger-happy (small T) than the horns on the lion/spaceship versions of the toy. The chest is a big clear blue cockpit window. The shoulders are big and blocky and, like Voyager Optimus Prime, have large tops that have been folded back behind them and are presumably meant for his repaint. Articulation is one step down from Alpha Trion, he's lost his wrist swivels, but he makes up for it with some additional 5mm holes to mount weapons on on the underside of his arms, tops of his shoulders and, oh dear, his crotch. Broadside has lost the tri gun and sword found with the previous versions but gained a large clear blue hand gun with a Titanmaster seat in the back, 5mm pegs on the bottom & both sides and a 5mm peg hole on the top.

Transformation to jet mode: Remove the Titanmaster. Fold the jet nose up off his back into place on the neck. Fold the hands back into the forearms and straighten them, rotating at the bicep so the pale grey panel at the back of the hand faces rear. Fold the feet behind the back of the leg. Straighten the legs then bend the hip forward 45°, putting the tabs on the sides of the crotch into matching holes on the inner thighs. Bend the lower legs back at the knees so they're horizontal. Fold the backs of the shoulders up into place to form the pointed tops. Pull the shoulders out to the sides and move the shoulders, and arms with them, down the body so the shoulders are at hip level. Hook the tab on the lower arms into the rectangular hole on the lower legs. Fold the wings out from under the arms. Open the cockpit and sit the Titanmaster inside. Peg the gun into the 5mm peg hole behind the cockpit.

There have been better Transformer jet modes. There have been far far worse too. In it's favour are a well defined nose at the front, a cockpit you can sit a Titanmaster in and wings to the side so you can tell it's meant to be a jet. The case for the prosecution hinges on the rear of the jet and the way the legs and lower arms are arranged. It looks odd but it really isn't helped by the tail fins and wings pointing the wrong way! This was noticed on his Official Images and a correction was hoped for but didn't happen. Almost the first thing I did the first time I transformed Broadside into jet mode was pop them all off, turn them round so they faced the right way and swap them with their opposite number! Others have gone further and believe a better jet mode is formed from keeping the legs straight. In addition the wings are mounted level with the bottom of the jet, which looks slightly odd and the underside of the jet isn't great, being mostly flat. The jet mode is covered in Titanmaster pegs: one each side of cockpit, two on each wing, one on each of the engines formed from the arms and one on each tail fins - is he meant for some stunt flying with passengers stood on him? The gunner's seat, behind the cockpit, is also rather exposed.

Transformation to carrier mode: remove the gun. Fold the shoulders back to their robot mode position. Straighten the legs & remove the gun. Turn the toy over and fold the deck plate up off the back to cover the nose, tabbing in place. Fold the wings in and tab them into the arms. Fold the robot feet down off the backs of the legs so they point out the end of the legs. Rotate each leg in 90° at the thigh swivel so the grey deck plate portions face you and fold the flaps back into place completing the landing deck, Fold down the front support, the front landing gear inherited from Alpha Trion, and the rear supports, eight side of the jet cockpit. Fold down the jet tail fins & wings. Fold up the command tower and then it's communications array.

Broadside's carrier mode is big, 25cm long x 9cm wide, and flat so you don't really want to be breaking up that jet landing space by sticking the gun right in the middle of it in the one 5mm deck hole sticking up! Fortunately a hole is provided on each side, the holes that were under the arms, for you to attach the side pegs of the to, and it kind of works there like a launch ready to be lowered into the sea: GI Joe's USS Flagg had one. But I'm afraid the first thing that really caught my eye on this mode was the stickers. Stickers, as opposed to factory applied tampographs, re-entered Transformers with Generations Metroplex and have been used increasingly frequently since, presumably as a cost cutting measure, on Voyager, Leader & Titan toys. There were issues with Voyager Optimus & Megatron's stickers in the previous wave of toys and there are issues here. On my copy the smaller middle runway sticker came out crumpled up due to being applied badly. I've tried to fix it, but it looks terrible. The 36 on the command tower is falling off all by itself. Even if you've got a toy that's not got peeling and damaged stickers there's still the issue that several stickers, most notably the rear runway one, are placed over moulded detail causing the sticker to distort. If you're doing stickers make sure the surface they're applied to is flat and doesn't come into contact with anything else!

The deck plate is covered in Titanmaster pegs: four on the front section, formed from the lower legs and identical to the front of Alpha Trion's vehicle mode, plus six more on the middle & rear on Broadside's new pieces. In addition to standing your Titanmaster army on the deck they can also be used with five scaled down Aerialbot miniatures supplied with the toy. These tiny planes are mounted on a cup that fits over the peg. They're too small for me though and are staying on their sprue in the box!

The one structure projecting up from the deck is the carrier's command tower and communications array. By itself it looks OK, but the top is designed to fold back to provide a seat for his Titanmaster. Several have commented unfavourably that this make it look like Blunderbuss is on the throne! He can be attached to the tower base in head mode too, a bit like how Scourge's head attaches to his vehicle, or the weapons can be mounted there.

The one minus point about the jet mode tail fin swap is that the grey fins now hang down under the carrier rather than fold flat against the underside but since they're right next to the red tailfins hanging down the sides I think this could be excused.

There's a small trick here that I think Hasbro have missed: I'd have changed the rear of the carrier, and perhaps the front too, to accommodate a Titans Return base mode connector to allow the carrier to dock with Fortress Maximus, Blaster and Powermaster Optimus Prime.

A qualified success. It's not a functional disaster, like Generations Blitzwing but the jet mode isn't the best and the carrier could have been improved by dumping the stickers. As with all flat surfaces on TF toys made up of parts it can be difficult to get them all in alignment and one of my rear supports is a little keen to move out of place if I knock the toy.


Titans Return Tidal Wave

A Titans Return version of Armada Tidal Wave was strongly rumoured as a Broadside repaint and looking at some of Broadside's design choices you could see why people thought this was a strong possibility.

Titans Return Tidal Wave was revealed at Toyfair 2017 with official images, albeit with a mis-transformed robot mode, released at the same time. He forms part of a Siege on Cybertron boxset, which is believed to have been known as the Strength set in it's development, which will be a BBTS exclusive in the USA. The boxset also contains Magnus Prime, a repaint of Legends Ginrai, Metalhawk, a Triggerhappy repaint, and new toys Pounce & Titanmaster Thunderwing.


Future Repaints

I've always thought that an ideal repaint of the original Broadside would be Micromaster Flattop and the same applies to his Titans Return version.

Tidal Wave's colours don't quite match either his Armada, Micron Legend or Energon versions all of which lend themselves to possible repaints.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Legends LG-41 Lio Convoy


Legends LG-41 Lio Convoy

I hadn't realised quite how many times Beast Wars II Lio Convoy has been redone: In Japan he has a new toy in Robotmasters and an Arms Micron repaint of Transformers Prime Thundertron. In the west he's been a Classics Legend, a Target Universe2 Voyager and a TFCC exclusive, repaints of Legends of Cybertron Leobreaker, Cybertron Leobreaker & Generations Thrilling 30 Orion Pax. That's a lot of toys, comparable to or even exceeding the number of updates popular characters released in the Hasbro version of Beast Wars have had. But Lio Convoy does hold a somewhat special place: he and his opposite number Beast Wars II Galvatron were the first Japanese exclusive toy moulds to be available in the internet age so knowledge of them was more widespread and the ability to obtain them was made a lot easier than earlier Japanese exclusives like Star Saber, Dai Atlas & Star Convoy. Their availability increased when they were offered for sale in the US by the first version of the Hasbro online store.

When Titans Return Alpha Trion first came out I said:

I'd be VERY surprised if Alpha Trion wasn't repainted as Lio Convoy. The Primesque Titanmaster and the Lions heads on the shoulders both suggest a repaint of this nature.
Sure enough on October 7th 2016 his existence was leaked through a an official reveal in a TakaraTomy image release.

As you'd expect almost everything on the toy is now moulded in white plastic. There are some exceptions though: the grey on beast legs, upper robot legs, & robot hands stays grey, but maybe a slightly shinier grey. The pinky red of tri cannon, loin cloth, chest & lower arms turns red. Significantly the purple of landing gear, ankles, deck plate leg hinges, waist hinges, cockpit hinge, shoulder joint, neck collar upper arms & elbows turns red: almost all these parts will be reused on the toy's remould.

Slightly surprisingly the Prime like Titanmaster from Alpha Trion *ISN'T* reused with a new face. Instead, just like with Convobat, Sentinel Prime's Titanmaster Infinitus is pressed into service. Again like Convobat he's mainly blue, but a slightly lighter more metallic blue. His chest is now red and his legs white with plenty of red paint applied to the front of the arms and legs which is probably aiming for looking like Lio Convoy's Cybertronian form seen in the first episode of Beast Wars II. Transformed into head mode it looks perfect atop the Lio Convoy robot with a silver crest & faceplate and yellow eyes. Almost all the images shown of the toy before release showed him with the robot mode's horns raised which was a little odd: I associate a horned Optimus Prime head more with Beast Wars Neo's Big Convoy than his predecessor Lio Convoy!

The head isn't the only part inherited from Sentinel Prime: Lio Convoy also has Sentinel's thinner gun without the seat, now cast in the sale blue as the head, giving him a total of three weapons now along with Alpha Trion's Tri Gun with seat and sword. The Sword is a good inclusion, as he previously used an Arms Micron sword called L.P with with version in that toy range. The sword, and the cockpit canopy in his vehicle mode, are now moulded in clear plastic. The sword now has gold edging, reinforcing the L.P. link, and a painted silver hilt. Three weapons is too much for the robot to hold at once but there's several spare 5mm ports on the side of the legs, back of the shoulders and his backside which can be used to store the spare plus the tri gun can be mounted on the back of the cockpit canopy.

Where Lio Convoy had his beast head mounted whole on his right shoulder the beast head is now split in half on both shoulders but it's still evocative of the original with some excellent red and gold paint applications. It's possible to mimic the original's mane on the sides of the arms by rotating the lower arms in 90° at the bicep albeit at the cost of the arms bending in at the elbows. The red chest has a completely different design to the original's 1984 Optimus Prime mimicking chest but the design here works well, aided by some gold paint applications and by making the clear orb in his chest that releases the horns a Maximal spark crystal.

Lion mode looks exactly as you'd expect it to: White with a gold mane. The horn on the lion's head which troubled some when the toy was Alpha Trion works so much better in white than it did in Purple.

The vehicle mode is mainly plain white but there's lots of red, gold and blue highlights which break the solid white up.

Superb repaint. While the result isn't a bang on replica of Lio Convoy's robot and beast mode, the colours are so evocative of the original that it almost doesn't matter. The replacement head and additional gun are great.

100_3567 100_3568 100_3569 100_3572 100_3573 100_3574 100_3576 100_3577 100_3578 100_3579 100_3580 100_3582 100_3584 100_3585 100_3586 100_3588 100_3591 100_3600
100_3596 100_3598
100_3595 100_3599


Future Repaints

There's lots of potential repaints if we look at the other Lio Convoy toys. The original Beast Wars II Lio Convoy has two repaints: Black Lio Convoy & Flash Lio Convoy while the Target Universe2 Voyager is a repaint of Cybertron Leobreaker which was in turn repainted as the black Nemesis Breaker, the red Leo Prime and Razorclaw while the Arms Micron version was a repaint of Prime Thundertron which was in turn turned into Go Prime and Botcon Alpha Trizer, which brings us full circle to Alpha Trion!