Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Titans Return Cloudraker & Wingspan

Titan Return Cloudraker

It came as something of a surprise when Cloudraker & Wingspan were shown as a 2 pack at a Taiwanese toy exhibition, later revealed to be a Walgreens exclusive in the USA. The expectation was that Cloudraker and Wingspan would follow in the "Intelligence" and "Fireblast" boxsets expected to follow Chaos on Velocitron ("Speed"), which has Fastlane/Fastclash, and Siege on Cybertron ("Strength"), which has Pounce. Nobody knows for sure why the plans have changed, and the picture may be slightly clearer in a few days times post SDCC 2017, but my guess is that the last two boxsets were cancelled based on the sales of the Combiner Wars sets. We know, from rumours leaked to the Transmissions Podcast that the Strength and Speed sets were in development early 2016 at around the point the first sets hit. My guess is that the sales numbers on the first sets caused Hasbro to pull the plug before any serious work was done on the last two Titans Returns sets, reduce the numbers on the last Combiner Wars and first two Titans Return sets and make them exclusives. Left with two new Clones unused they bundle these in a box together. Now Clones fans are happy with this decision, as they don't have to buy the rest of two more boxsets to get the toys they want!

From the front Cloudraker looks almost exactly like his brother Fastclash, which is exactly the look he should have. He feels slightly less bulky having lost the prominent spoiler behind his head and the wheels on his back and lower legs, all of which went into Fastclash's vehicle mode, which are replaced by a small fin, the jet nose and the folded up wing panels respectively. The lower legs and shoulder joints are different between the two toys but otherwise all the robot parts are the same leading to identical articulation. The transformation however is rather different.....

Start by rotating his head 180° so the fin faces forward. Then fold his hands into his forearms, straighten the arms and raise them so the point straight up before folding the shoulders in 90° so they're over the front of the chest. Split the inner part of the waist in two and fold 90° out to the sides: this joint was present on both Fastlane and Pounce but not used by either toy. Unfold the black wings from behind the lower legs, so they're pointing down, and fold the feet back into the lower legs. Fold the legs back a further 90° at the hips and connect the slots on the lower legs to the tabs on the sides of the shoulder. Unfold the jet nose from the back of the robot so it snaps into place under the waist, pointing down where the legs were. fold down the landing gear and stand.

The centre of the jet mode looks a bit boxy and square, but Cloudraker always did, and this is more than offset by the wings to the sides and the nose to the front. The tail fin, on the back of the robot's head, is all but hidden away sitting in between the folded back arms which we must assume are engines of some sort. Under the nose is a fold down landing gear and a hole for a flight stand. There's two similar holes further back under the toy that are also present on Fastclash: Then I thought they might be used here but now I suppose they too must be intended as flight stands. Since the toys share the same body and chest piece, Cloudraker also has the ability to carry a Titanmaster in vehicle mode: the seat folds back between the arms/jet engines.

There's only one slight criticism I can offer: the folded back legs seem to pop off their securing tabs in jet mode a bit to easily. Perhaps slightly deeper tabs were needed. But apart from that, and the lack of guns common to the Titans Return Clone, he's a fine toy far better than his brother Fastclash.

Titan Return Wingspan

Wingspan's changes from Pounce are very similar to Cloudraker's from Fastclash: new lower legs & shoulder joints and replacement alt mode parts. But that doesn't quite do justice to the changes nor does it reflect how much the design has been updated from the original toy. The robots modes look the same again and have identical articulation, including that odd bicep swivel rendered necessary by the ball joined elbow. The transformation is different to both Pounce and his original and that's where the changes come through:

Rotate the head 180° and fold the new beast head up off his back. Straighten the arms, fold the arms in over the chest at the shoulder and then rotate the lower arms in 90° so the new claws under the forearms are on the front of the chest. Swing each leg 90° out to the side at the thigh swivel so the inner leg faces forward. Just like Cloudraker separate the inner waist and fold each half, and leg, 90° out to the side. Fold each leg up 90° at the hip and down 90° at the knee so the front of the knee is level with the top of the robot's shoulder and a tab on the rear of the shoulder fits into a slot in the near. Unfold the wings from the robot's leg and stand on the beast claws.

Even before we saw Wingspan we knew there was something going with his arms thanks to the empty pin holes through Pounce's arms and we now find those holes holding the beast's claws in place with the legs becoming the wings. On the previous Wingspan the robot legs became the beast legs, the wings were pegged on his back and easily lost while the arms just sat there at the side of the body. This new version uses the robot parts better I think albeit at the cost of slightly bulkier less articulated wings. To make up to this you've got some options with the the best legs which lets you stand the bird either so he's parallel with the ground or, by bending robot elbows & shoulders, at 45° angle. A new tail completes the look, attached at the base of the robot's back which still has the seat for the Titanmaster which Pounce had.

Easily the most changed of the four clones, justifying the decision to include the split waist on Pounce which I really couldn't see the point of beyond possible parts sharing with Cloudraker. But it's a great update and I'm glad to have all four in my collection especially when the first have proved hard to get! I'm grateful for the final two being bundled together a a cheap price, which has probably saved me in the region of £220, but do wish they'd managed to make these in their traditional Fastlane & Cloudraker/Pounce & Wingspan combinations and had bundled some weapons with them. I await the Takara versions now to see what changes they make....

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