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 boxed 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?

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?

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.

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