Friday, 20 June 2014

Generations Blitzwing & Doubledealer and Cloud Starscream


Blitzwing has problems. Lots of them.

He comes in robot mode and looks lovely sitting there in the box but then you start to play with him the problems start...

Lets transform him to jet mode: Fold the head & the middle of the chest forward & down so it fits between the legs & locks over his backside. The head then needs pushing down into the nose so it's under the cockpit and the nose-cone folded over it..... at which point it becomes a bit of a struggle partially because the head doesn't fit too well in the nose cone & could have done with recessing further and partially because the nose cone is made of rubber, which is never good for a Transformer toy part. I get that it's a safety issue but why not just the tip? Swing the shoulders back & up so the tops of the body part od the shoulders face up and then swing the back of the body part of the shoulders up to join it. The sides of the shoulder then fold round the back. This whole process involves some pin joints in very thin piece of plastic and I can see potential breakage here in years to come! Fold the tank gun barrel from the back through the empty chest cavity - the rear of the gun barrel feels like it's fixed but it isn't though excessive force may be necessary to get it to move. Fold the purple fins out to the sides. Fold the covers out the forearms to cover the fists and rotate the arms at the bicep so the exposed sides of the fist & sides of the elbow face up. Fold each arm forward and lock the downward facing tabs into the plane body. Rotate the legs at the things so the tank treads face in and the wings face out. Pull the wings out and swing the little fin out the wing so it holds them open. Pegs the weapons under the wings or peg them together and peg between the engines on top of the toy. Lock the feet helves together to form the engines. Swing the legs back so they're alongside the body. There's a little tab sticking out the inner side of each leg part that *SHOULD* lock into a slot on the body: good luck with that. Why they didn's just make two minicon sized pegs sticking out the side of the body the tank treads could peg into I don't know.... There's two more tabs that stick up from the legs that should lock in under the tail fins but I've struggled to get these to peg in ok: the robot legs appear to be positioned too wide for the tabs to both meet the holes they're meant to go in.

I've seen worse looking Decepticon planes than this, much worse, but apart from a fold down front landing gear and an opening cockpit it doesn't do a lot! The instability caused by the poor tabbing is a major issue for me.

Remove the weapons. Unpeg the arms from the top of the toy and fold the forearms out to the sides 90 degrees. Fold the tank gun barrel through between them then lock the arms in place in this new angle with the tail fins folded in. Fold the plane's back through the toy and lock into place so it's hidden in the toy body. Pull each robot leg away from the body and then pull so the waist joints expand to the sides. Rotate each robot leg at the thigh so the tank treads face down and the wings point up. Fold the wings into each leg pushing the tank treads out a bit: they pivot at the back allowing an extra section of tread to fold out the front. Fold this section round the front of the tank mode, under each robot thigh where it pegs in place. Make sure the tank tread is fully pulled out at the back. A tab at the top of the side of the leg fits the same tab hole in the body used in an attempt to secure the tank mode, but a tab sticking out the body fits into the inner side of the tank tread giving this mode additional stability. Rotate the jet's engines so the tail fins are on the inside of the toy. Fold the flaps out the sides of the waist to complete the solid front of the toy and keep the hips from recessing.. Peg the sword into the top of the tank and the gun into the top of that.

Much more stable, thanks to both sets of tabs meeting. Blitzwing's second vehicle mode is of course a tank so it's time for the tank test!

Does the tank turret rotate? Yes! Gun barrel, shoulder assembly and arms are all on a plate that can rotate on the front of the robot's chest.

Does the tank's gun barrel raise? Yes! Ok the gun barrel sits inside the turret and you have to move the sides slightly apart to get it to raise but it does.

But wait! There's a bonus here we don't see on that many Transformers tanks!

Does the tank's gun barrel fire? Yes! Pull back on the tank's gun barrel (The words "Armada Megatron's special feature" are going through my head now.....) and it shoots a missile.

The tank rools along nicely thanks to some wheels embedded in the treads.

My only real complain about the tank mode is that the point of rotation for the turrent is somewhat forward of the centre of the turret base.

To transform from tank to robot mode start by folding the waist flaps in. Unpegs the legs and rotate down in front of the tank. Unfold the feet. Unpoeg the tank treads, fold up and recess into the front of the legs. Rotate the legs at the thjigh so the tank treads are the same side of the body as the cockpit. Pull the tank barrel up and out the turret. Fold the rear fins out and fold the arms back do they point out the back of the tank, top of the robot. Fold each shoulder 90 degrees out to the side, then fold forward and down so the meet the top of the robot's body. Fold the front of the side of the turret into the robot's forearms to reval the hands. Fold the nose-cone up & back then pull the head out the body. Fold the tank barrel so it points up behind the folded back nose-cone. Place the gun in one hand and the sword in the other.

Let's start the robot mode with looking at the weapons: The sword is good, in two tones of purple with a darker hilt and a lilac blade. 5mm peg hole handle with an opposing 5mm peg & 5mm peg hole either side of the hilt which makes it easy to store. A nice good size too ...... unlike the gun which is far too small. It'd be a good weapon for a smaller toy though. It's almost like they made Blitzwing as a deluxe to match the size of Classics Astrotrain and Universe Tall Tankorr/Octane, upscaled it and forgot to do the gun! A better option would have been to have the tank's cannon be his hand gun by being removable and have a 5mm peg that he could hold it by. Instead it sits on his back, no longer surrounded by the turret, useless in robot mode. Yes the original Original Blitzwing had the turret & barrel on his back back, but sometimes a slavish reproduction of the original can hurt a toy's playability. Unfortunately one of the features not found on the original also hurts the toy: I mentioned earlier that there were problems getting the head to stow in plane mode: this is because it's a bit too big and that's partly to do with it containing a "Man-E-Faces" face swapping gimmick as a homage to Animated Blitzwing. I like the idea here, but size of the head harms the toy when transforming it.

Articulation: posable feet, thanks to the TF, and a ball jointed ankle. Bending knees, a thigh swivel and universal joints at each hip. No waist :-(. Turning head. Turning wrists. Bending elbow and bicep swivel. Then we have the shoulders.....

Here's what the shoulders are designed to do: allow the arms to raise out to the sides and rotate at the shoulder joints. Because of the way the toy transforms the shoulders are made up of three bar hinged panels: the top, which is hinged to the back of the toy, a rear panel that folds down from top panel and sits against the back of the toy, and a side panel which is attatched to the rear panel and has the connection to the arm. Top and rear panels should lock into the the front of the toy behind the upper chest. They don't. You can just about wedge the top panel into the rear of the chest, but the side panels get nowehere near locking onto the tab they're meant to attatch to. It looks messy to start with, and gets worse when you try to use the toy. Trying to raise the arms at the shoulder means the entire shoulder assembly swings back and out the body which is just dreadful. I've remarked before that I'm not keen on arms that aren't solidly attatched to the body and this is by far the worst example I've seen yet. How it ever got out the factory I don't know. Trying to raise the arms out to the sides is even more worrying: the joint is quite stuff and, just like when you swing them forwards/back during the transformation, it puts A LOT of stress on some very thin panels and bar joints. Very, very worrying. A google for Blitzwing Shoulders will reveals some pictures and several attempts to fix the problem which seem to involve taking the toy to bits and sanding down some parts to reduce the width of the body but that's the sort of modification which is beyond my ability to make. The fix is described in Post 245 of the TFW 2005 Blitzwing review thread.

For me the minor issues all summed up and the major issue with the shoulders kill the toy. There's no way it should have got out the factory with this many problems! See also TFW 2005 Resources Blitzwing & TFW Blitzwing gallery for more pictures.

Blitzwing was released in the USA in mid 2013 sharing a case with Springer. He's popped up in several subsequent Voyager cases as well. He was released in Japan with a modified more metallic deco as Generations toy TG-22. You can see pictures of that at Alfe's Toy Blog entries 2041 and 2042.

SXS Generations Blitzwing Upgrade kit

I'm not keen on Third Party Transformer toys when they toy is a straight rip off of an existing Hasbro Transformer. However I'm OK with 3P toys that add to or improve an existing toy. With Blitzwing having so many faults it was inevitable that an add on for him would emerge.

SXS add on is a 6 piece set: I bought one off eBay and the set I bought is missing parts: a pair of two missiles, each pair mounted on a 5mm peg to fit on the wings or behind the shoulders in robot mode. Nice additions, but not essential.

The third piece in the set is a new gun, in purple, which is essentially an upsized version of the gun which comes with the toy. It validates every criticism of the original gun being too small by looking just right on the larger toy. So now you can give the original away to one of your smaller toys.

We then have a new head for the toy: the original one is relatively easy to remove, just slide it back (with some force) out of the slot it's mounted in and slide the new one in. The new head adds a ball joint allowing better movement but also includes just Blitzwing's usual face with an added lightpipe. It's a little bit smaller and fits better when you transform the toy.

The most important components in the kit are the parts to fit the shoulders. In other modes they peg into the new gun to form what look like radar screens. In robot mode they need to be slid over the top shoulder piece and occupy some of the empty space inside the shoulders. There's a hole in the side of these piece that the shoulder side panel fits into. Fitted properly it allows you to raise the arms with no problems at all. It's maybe less succesful with curing the problems raising the arms to the sides but probably highlights that this is maybe more due to the joints within the shoulder being too stiff.

I like this kit. Solves obvious problems and improves the toy.

Decepticon Doubledealer

Powermaster Doubledealer wouldn't be my first choice of a toy to use as a Blitzwing repaint (see bellow). His ground vehicle mode was a missile launcher which his air mode is a bird, not a plane. However you can see that both bear a resemblance to what Blitzwing's modes are.

Purple, beige and grey are swapped a pale grey, sea green, black, lilac and pale blue. The clear yellow canopy becomes an orangey red.

The plane mode features some bird mouth detailing over the nose-cone which unfortunately is broken in places by some moulded detail. The nose features a purple Decepticon symbol.

The tank meanwhile features an Autobot symbol on the front which kind of belies the Decepticon portion of the toy's name.

The robot mode features a new head with a lightpipe in the same orange red used for the canopy.

Unfortunately every moulding fault Blitzwing had with the shoulders and where the legs fit in the vehicle modes are still present here.

Decent inventive repaint. But still limited by the design.

Cloud Starscream

Again Starscream isn't the first choice of character I'd use as a Decepticon Blitzwing repaint. The robot mode works as a Starscream, apart from not having anywhere to plug his new null rays into. The Doubledealer head works well as a Starscream head. The plane mode works just by virtue of being Starscream's colours. The tank..... Hmmmm, looks OK but Starscream has no prior history as a tank, save for his association with the cancelled G2 ATB repaint.

It looks nice but you need to pay through the nose for it which isn't something I see many western fans wanting to do especially if the mould issues aren't fixed.

TF Cloud Starscream was available through the E-Hobby website during 2014.

Possible Repaints

I can't claim credit for this one as it never occurred to me till I saw the pictures: repaint Blitzwing as Duocon Flywheels alongside a repaint of Springer as Battletrap.

If I was repainting Blitzwing I'd do him in silver as Megatron: He'd have a Tank mode, like the G2 version, and a jet mode, which is appropriate as the leader of the Decepticons, plus being a homage to his role in the intended G2 ATB repaint mentioned above.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Generations Legends Skrapnel & Reflector

Generations Legends Skrapnel & Reflector

You'll probably be surprised to learn that this toy is the first proper reinterpretation of the Insecticon Shrapnel, which seems odd for a toy that was released 29 years ago and was a part of the earliest years of Transformers toy and media line! His colleagues both have newer versions: Bombshell became a European Actionmaster while Kickback featured in Fall of Cybertron. There were a few insects in Beast Wars, notably Waspinator who became the go to character for an insect, plus one in Energon and Prime: Beast Hunters but apart from that it's been a seldom used alt mode type till the 30th Generations line which has five so far .... OK two of those are Waspinator but....

Skrapnel looks pretty good in robot mode straight out the packet but lets concentrate on his insect mode first. Close the mandibles behind his head. Fold the chest upwards so his head is covered. Fold the feet down. Fold the sides of the legs onto the front of the legs. Peg the legs together. Fold the waist back 90 degrees. Turn the legs at the hips so they face forward and then bend the knees. There's a tab on the back of the combined lower legs which fits into the hole on the now exposed top of the waist. The back of the robot is now the bottom of the insect so lay it on it's back. Fold the pairs of insect legs out to the sides. They won't feel like they can fold that far but the base of the legs needs to be parallel in relation to the surface it's on: excessive force may be required the first few times but you'll get a nice satisfying click when they lock. Fold the arms under the toy, bending them slightly, and peg onto the underside of the toy.

Essentially Skrapnel's insect mode is his G1 robotic stag beetle but with better inset legs: job done. Actually there's a nice nod to the very poor legs on the original toy here: each heal has a wheel moulded into it., Due to the size there's not much in the way of poseability here: the mandibles move out to the sides and that's it. The toy's pose in beast mode is on a slant front to back with the front slightly elevated. On the top of the toy is a single 5mm peg hole that can be used to mount Skrapnel's companion.

Whereas Skrapnel has his origins as a Waruder in the Diaclone toyline (he was Kuwagatorer) his companion comes from the other side of the fence: he was originally a Microchange toy. Skrapnel's companion is named Reflector which was originally the name of the combined camera mode of Spectro, Spyglass and Viewfinder. The cartoon and toy designs for these characters differ, and indeed in the cartoon they look very similar, but the presence of a camera lense on his chest suggests he's based on Viewfinder with the colours being close to what was used in the animation. Reflector's articulation is a little limited but his arm do swing up from his sides.

His alternate mode is the combined camera mode of the original Reflector with a MASSIVE telephoto lense: Lay his robot mode on his front with the arms folded down to act as handles for Skrapnel or another toy to hold. Alternately turn Reflector the other way up and use the fold out 5mm peg for Skrapnel to hold him... but it does look more like a canon than a camera this way up.

But we're not done yet: Reflector has a proper weapons mode: from the upside down camera mode fold the camera lense down which will cause the spring loaded front of the robot mode to fold forwards forming a gun to peg into the insect mode or be hand held by Skrapnel. The gun itself is a very similar shape to the Shrapnel's original grenade launcher .

Reflector's a nice package: a character that's not been done before, ok robot (for the size), good alt mode and clever weapons mode. One of the better companions in the Legends line.

To transform back to robot mode unpeg the back of the insect and stretch out to form the legs. Separate and move the top of the back out to the sides. Fold the feet up. Unpeg the arms and fold out to the sides. Fold the rear legs back behind the toy. Fold the chest down, revealing the head, and fold the mandibles out to the sides.

They best way to describe the robot mode is to say "Just like the original, but with more articulation". He's got ball joints at his knees, hips, elbows & shoulders, plus the bending ankle used in the transformation and, unlike his case mate Tailgate, a head that can turn. I've found it hard to get a grip on the head so have ended up turning it by slipping a screw driver into one of the moulding holes on the back. The head matches the original in that both the face and the visor are silver: it's a bit hard to distinguish them so I think some red on the visor to make it match the cartoon version wouldn't go amiss here, but that's an easy change to make if you've got a steady hand. The arms, previously formed from the original Shrapnel's impersonation of insect legs, now have an insect leg hanging off each of them with both rear pairs of legs folded behind the toy. The chest hatch was previously clear and could open to accommodate a Diaclone driver. Now it's just a yellow paint application on the black body.

Verdict: Accurate articulated Shrapnel makes for a good toy, with Reflector being the icing on the cake. It's probably in the cold light of day a better package than Swerve but there's something that's just soooo good about Swerve that he's still my favourite toy this year.

Possible Repaints

The easiest thing to do here would be to paint Shrapnel various shades of green and release him as Beast Wars Insecticon. But if you removed the mandibles and remoulded the chest & head he could make a decent Bombshell: Swap the black and purple colours on Skrapnel and you're most of the way there. Then have Bombshell's antennae formed from his gun that plugs into a peg hole on the under side of the chest armour and can be mounted behind his head.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Generations Legends Tailgate with Groundbuster

Generations Legends Tailgate with Groundbuster

Tailgate originally started out as a repaint of Windcharger. Unfortunately till now neither of Windcharger's subsequent versions (Alternators and Reveal The Shield) resulted in a new Tailgate. The only new Tailgate that there's been since 1986 is The Prime Cyberverse Legion, a repaint of Cliffjumper. However in recent years Tailgate has become a popular character in the More Than Meets The Eye comic so we now have a new Legends version.

As usual for Transformers toys these days he comes packed in robot mode. I'm still sticking to my ancient review style of looking at the vehicle first so we've got to transform him: Fold each foot back and rotate each leg in 90 degrees at the knee. Rotate the thigh pads so the wheels face back. Fold the back panel down. Swing the legs out to the sides and fold the waist back to form the rear of the car. Straighten the arms and then rotate the forearms in at the elbow so the fist holes face inwards. Swing the shoulders up above the head so the shoulder halves lock together forming the front of the car and the arms lock into the back panel as the doors. Fold the legs under the car: the thigh panel should tab into the back panel & doors while a groove in the foot should lock into the inside of the doors.

The thing that strikes me about the transformation is that both limbs need rotating round a ball joint something you don't see happen too often!

Tailgate's vehicle mode is a white car designed to look broadly similar to, but not exactly the same as, his original Trans Am form. The rear of the car has an large exhaust arrangement made from the waist of the robot. The white of the car body is broken by the grey of his windows and some cyan blue flames on his bonnet, a detail inherited from his recent Transformers Prime Cyberverse Legion version. I'm not keen on them. Any ideas on how to remove them without harming the rest of the toy? They panels they're on are just the shoulders so I could easily pop them off their ball joints and soak them in something without harming the rest of the toy. On the central panel of the bonnet is a small cyan blue Autobot symbol and a 5mm socket which can be used for mounting his companion Groundbuster.

I've seen people say that Groundbuster is loosely modelled on Micromaster Neutro but I think 2003's Japanese Crush-Bull is a better colour match, both being blueish bulldozers. Transformation to robot mode is easy: stand on his rear with the underside facing forward and raise the treads as arms. The arms are moulded inside the treads but don't take up all the space and when swung up the treads look too big as arms: maybe having the arms as a cut section of the treads would have worked better. There's a hole on the inside of each arm at about the level of an elbow but annoyingly it's slightly too small for a 3mm Cyberverse peg.

Groundbuster's weapons mode if formed by folding the top of the bulldozer forward and folding a 5mm peg down from the back of the vehicle to form a grabbing claw thing. I'll be charitable and say it looks like a piece of bomb disposal equipment, maybe a small nod to Tailgate's supposed function in the More Than Meets the Eye comics. It can be hand held or mounted on Tailgate's bonnet using the 5mm peg hole but, to be honest, it's the most useless companion weapon yet in the Generations Legends series.

Just for a laugh I tried putting my clear blue Feral Rex FOC Grimlock "Frost" blaster on the front of the toy: he looks quite fun with a giant cannon!

Really the only negative comment More Than Meets The Eye fans might have about the vehicle mode is it is a traditional Tailgate Earth vehicle mode rather than his Cybertronian one seen in the comic.

Transform back to robot mode: remove the weapon, pop the legs out from under the car. Fold the sides of the car out and down to form the arms. Rotate the lower arms outwards. Fold the back panel up. Fold the waist up into place. Fold the feet down and rotate the legs in at the knees. Swing the thigh panels round so the wheels face front.

Tailgate's robot mode is definitely Tailgate but it's not quite his original robot mode and it's not quite his comic robot mode, as seen on the MTMTE#12 cover, either. We'll start with the head, which is the MTMTE version in white as opposed to the silver of the original toy. This had worried me in the pictures before I got the toy as it seemed to merge with the white panel behind it. That's not the case when you see the toy in the plastic with it being distinct from the reverse of the back panel, actually the underside of the car's front window. In fact there's moulded detail on the panel that's been completely hidden in all the photos I've seen. The shoulder lack the pointedness of the original car and the comic versions having wide flat tops formed from the front of the car. We've got the front wheels on the sides of the shoulders as per both versions. The chest is a pale blue like the comic, but the waist is grey and has the odd looking exhaust pipes sticking up from it in a vaguely suggestive manner. The upper legs are grey, reminiscent of the thin silver chrome legs on the original toy, but with the rear of the car sides hanging off them. This doesn't quite work for me, I prefer MTMTE's bulky white thighs with the wheels on the side. Aesthetically I prefer the robot with the car sides reversed so the wheels face backwards. The lower legs and feet are a close match for the MTMTE version, except the lower legs are blue here and not white. Note the sloped ridges on the front of his legs, reminiscent of the slatted rear windscreen of his original vehicle that formed the lower legs on the original robot.

Articulation: ankles bend forwards and back, and he's got ball joints at the knees, hips, shoulders, which also shrug at the body, and elbows. No head rotation sadly..

Tailgate's had a rough ride at the hands of some fans who are decrying it as the worst of the Generations Legends, usually without being clear why. I like it. A Lot. It's definitely Tailgate in both modes despite the robot's deviation from the MTMTE character model. The articulation is good, bar the head, and the transformation does something interesting with the ball joints that you don't see too often.

Good toy. Another hit for Generations Legends line.

Possible Repaints

The obvious way to go here is a repaint, and remould, as Windcharger, his G1 anticendant. alternately break out the all black repaint as Wipe Out, a Japanese Transformers United toy which I discover was Trypticon's minion in Marvel Transformers US #27/UK #111 & 112.

Then of course there's a whole world of Mexican Minibot repaints......