Saturday, 13 June 2015

Combiner Wars Ultra Magnus

Generations Combiner Wars Ultra Magnus

New versions of Ultra Magnus tend to fall into three camps: All white, like Battle in a Box or Classics were the most common for a while. Recently all new truck forms have been prevalent like Animated or Prime. But to me Ultra Magnus is a car transporter that turns into a large robot that isn't an Optimus Prime repaint. Yes the White Prime was part of the original toy but in the comics and cartoon that never featured. Car Transporter Magnus are rare: there's the Car Robots/Robots in Disguise version and the Titanium but really that was it till last year when Masterpiece Ultra Magnus was released. However at that point rumours were already in circulation hat there was a Generations Leader toy due in 2015 and there was much rejoicing when he was revealed at toyfair 2015.

Ultra Magnus comes almost in robot mode: out the box you need to rock his feet forward or they'll be difficulty standing him. His arms have been positioned so they'll fit into the box, both need a push up into the shoulders or you'll be left with an odd sideways joint on the upper arm that doesn't make sense. In the box with him are a missile pod that 5mm peg into shoulder and two guns which in theory he should be able to hold.

The other extra component in the box is Minimus Ambus, a tiny version of the robot that's inside the Ultra Magnus armour in the More Than Meets The Eye comic. This element has caused some controversy mainly because he's in this toy but a more traditional Magnus element isn't. He comes in car mode: to transform him into robot fold the front of the car forward to form the lower legs and expose the upper legs. Unpeg the sides of the car to form the arms. Fold the rear of the car forward and stand. As small Transformers go Minimus is tinsy tiny, waaay smaller than an old style legend. He's a comparable size to the Minicon companions that were appearing with the Generations Legends. I'd say his articulation was good for his size, with ball jointed shoulders & hips and hinged knees but that would be failing to take into account that most of the ball joints on mine appear to be made of plasticine and fall apart as soon as I look at them funny! Comparatively the hinges on his back plate are far, far too stiff.

Back to the larger toy: to transform to robot mode start by removing all the weapons. Lower the chest plate and then splitting the vehicle cab in two revealing where Minimus Ambus sits in Magnus' robot mode. Unfortunately the space is needed in truck mode for other things so he can't drive it and will need removing. Fold Magnus' head down into this space, close the cab halves and fold the roof panel down. Put the robot into a sitting position, it's not needed now but will make things a lot easier later. Fold the body back at the waist. Fold the cab up 90 degrees so it's sitting where the head was with the cab's front pair of wheels facing you. Rotate the Cab 180 degrees so the top of the cab faces you and he wheels face away, now on the same side as the rear pairs of cab wheels. Open the doors on the back of the leg and fold down behind the ankles. Pull the sides of the lower leg out slightly and rotate down 90 degrees, inserting the tab just bellow the knee into the side pane. Bring the legs together and fold the chest panel down into the rear of the trailer. Tab the red leg door panels into place as the sides of the toy. Pull both arms right the way through the shoulders, just like you would on the original Magnus toy. Fold the forearm armour forwards so it covers the hands. Hmm, can't really see why this doesn't just slide. Swing the shoulders up so the arms are above the toy and tab them together to form the top deck of the car transporter. Fold the arms back and tab them into the sides of the leg. Pull the cab forwards. Attach the missile launchers to the peg holes at the front of the transporter and

While not a complex transformation it's annoying as there's lots of issues with clearance that make certain points, notably folding the chest panel into place on the car deck, rather difficult.

Magnus' vehicle mode is a reinvention of his classic car transporter design in broadly the same colours as the original toy. The trailer is hauled by a 6 wheeled white cab but unlike nearly every other Transformers Truck I can think of the cab is actually attached to the trailer at the hitch point. The cab pivots at the hitch just over 90 degrees to each side. It's a flat fronted cab - hurrah, I really don't like Prime and Magnus with long nosed cabs - but the top is more rounded than the traditional design. The front and lower deck sides of the trailer are red with a white platform in between. The top of the front and all of the rear is clue with the upper deck being made of the white plastic of the arms. The upper deck is tabbed in at the rear but you can tease the tabs out allowing the upper deck to be lowered halfway, at the elbows, or all the way, from what was the shoulder joints. The ramp at the rear of the trailer folds down, again it's tabbed in so will need teasing out, but the rear doesn't quite touch the floor due to moulded detail on the underside so you can't easily roll cars up it onto the trailer. In fact loading cars onto the trailer is where the trouble really sets in for this mode....

Ultra Magnus is a car transporter, so you expect him to be able to transport cars. In the years since the original Ultra Magnus was released Autobot cars have somewhat grown in size. Ultra Magnus hasn't, in fact his trailer is a little bit shorter than the original. As a consequence you can only fit one deluxe car on each deck. You can fit two Generations Legends onto the deck but they don't look wide enough. You feel the toy does need to be larger to accommodate thedeluxe cars.

To transform back to robot mode start by removing the missile pods and weapons. Pop the top deck out of the rear of the toy and fold forward. Fold the sides of the toy back, and pull the robot chest up from the back of the toy. Fold the sides of the back of the transporter forward and down to become the legs sides and tab into place. Fold the trailer doors up to form the front of the legs and tab into place. Fold the feet out from under the truck/back of the legs and pull forward. Fold the sides of the truck up to become the rear of the legs and tab into place. Swing the legs down under the waist. Separate the top deck in two down the middle to form the amrs and fold the shoulderss out to the sides. Push the cab back so all the flatbed is under the front of the trailer. Rotate the cab on it's axis so the wheels at the front point up away from the wheels on the back. Fold the cab down onto the front of the trailer and then fold the cab and front of the trailer so they sit on the robot's waist. Open the front halves of the cab and fold the head out. Seat Minimus Ambus in the cab, close the cab halves and fold up the robot chest. Push the arms up into the shoulders. Fold the forearm armour back exposing the hands. Peg the missile launchers into the shoulders and put the guns into his hands.

In robot mode Ultra Magnus looks pretty much as you'd expect: all the distinguishing features from the original are there. There are some noticeable differences though: the chest, while similar to the original, has his More Than Meets The Eye stylised design which seems to involve a face on the chest. A similar motif is present on several of the Autobot Pretenders, perhaps serving here as a hint that Magnus contained another robot inside. His missile launchers on his shoulders, which were previously functional firing a single missile, are now just for decoration with two missiles moulded in place. Finally the upper legs are whit where previously they were the red of the body. This has caused some comment by fans online as his More Than Meets The Eye appearances, on which this toy is based, generally colours them red while most fictional appearances have depicted them as white.

What this Ultra Magnus has really got going for it over the original is articulation. Like the original the arms rotate at the shoulders, have a bicep swivel and bend at the elbow. In addition the fingers open on the hands and the arms fold to the side at shoulders, which is facilitated by the shoulder side panels also being able to swing up. The head turns to the side, which was a real surprise to me given how the transformation works by having it attached to a strut thatcomes out the back of the head. There's no waist joint, which i would have liked, but from the waist downwards this new version really wins over the original: universal hip joints, thigh swivels, knees and bending ankles. He will take a kneeling pose just fine :-)

Apart from the waist the most obvious missing point of articulation is the wrist. The fingers are a major problem here: the guns/hands don't work well together. Hands of the articulated fingers variety never work well for me, I much prefer 5mm peg holes in fists. Unlike some other toys with articulated hands, Cybertron Optimus Prime or Generations Titan Metroplex for example, there's no way to steady the weapon by pegging it into the palm. Even worse the handle is a bad fit into the hand. It might sit better in the hand if the trigger was a little shorter. However there does appear to be a sweet spot where they sit in the hands just fine: the lip on the underside of the handle is just tucked under the fingers. The lower end of the rear of the handle is resting against the palm. The bottom of the trigger is resting on the index finger. The grip is secure enough that I can pick Magnus up, shake him from side to side and the guns stay in place.

However I *can* see why the hands have fingers and no wrist swivels and that all ties in with the weapons' alternate mode. The back of the larger gun is a 5mm peg which plugs into the barrel of the other gun. The missile launchers the peg into the sides of the other gun to form a hammer, similar to those seen on Magnus toys since the Animated Version. The hand then needs to open to hold the hammer's shaft. The hand itself can't grasp the shaft so the hammer is supported by a pair of rings fitting either side of a odd slot cut in the underside of Magnus' forearm armour. This reliance on the slot/rings for a support make it clear that the hammer wouldn't really work with a wrist swivel. Maybe a swivel bellow the elbow would have been useful?

Speaking of the forearm armour.... Why the silly joint in the transformation using a piece of plastic pivoted at both ends? Wrap the armour right the way round the arm and have it slide! The only reason I can see for doing it like it easy is to be different from the original.

So it would appear that the reason for the hands that can't hold the guns and the lack of wrist swivel is the hammer. Is it's existence a worth exchange for their loss? I'm not sure. Maybe the hammer could have been constructed differently with 5mm pegs going into holes on either side of the hand. But then the hammer wouldn't have existed as a separate entity without the hand....

A few miscellaneous weapons observations: If you don't want Magnus to hold his weapons then there's peg holes at the top and bottom of his lower leg to store them in. If you're still having problems with Magnus holding the gun then put the gun that forms the top of the hammer in his hand as you would in Hammer mode and peg the other gun into one of the holes meant for the missile launchers.And if you're missing the missile launchers in hammer mode then the 5mm sockets in his shoulders will also accommodate the launchers from the original Magnus launchers.

This toy has a lot of faults, most of them minor but they do stack up. Then there's a whole load of things about it which are very VERY annoying! The robot it fab ... but could have been better if it could hold it's weapons easier. The car transporter works by itself, but a car transporter is meant to work with other toys and this one doesn't really. The cab doesn't detach and form a robot.

But it is such a nice toy. It's fun to play with a transform.

I love it.

But it could be better....

Ultra Magnus was released May 2015 and was solid packed at 2 per case. At the time of writing he has not been seen on sale in the UK

Transformers Legends Ultra Magnus with Alpha Trion

Photos that have surfaced of Transformers Legends Ultra Magnus show it differs from the western version in a number of ways:
* The Upper legs are red, not white, like the original toy.

* The guns are white, not black, like the original toy.

* the front of the flatbed is blue, not red.

* the hubcaps are painted silver.

* Minimus Ambus has been repainted purple to become cartoon character Alpha Trion.

This is one of those Japanese toys where it's not clear which version is better, it's just different!

LG14 Ultra Magnus is due for release in September 2015.

Future Repaints

There are two obvious repaints for this toy. The first is as Diaclone Powered Convoy, Magnus' Diaclone Predecessor, whose colour scheme was reused as Movie Preview Ultra Magnus. The Diaclone toy has an additional accessory in the form of the Super Buggy which make an ideal red repaint for Minimus Ambus.

Interestingly while Superbuggy is red, and that's how people picture it, it wouldn't be red on a normal Transformers Ultra Magnus, it's be blue! On the Diaclone version it's the same colour as Magnus' forearms, shoulders, chest armour and head. when you look at the Diaclone toy it also becomes obvious that the Diaclone version has FOUR colours of plastic as opposed to Magnus' three! Two of them are the same on the Transformers version:

Parts Diaclone Transformers
Trailer Base/Robot Body Silver Red
Trailer Upper Deck & Doors, Robot Waist Black White
Trailer Supports/Robot Feet & Chest Plate Dark Blue Pale Blue
Forearms, Head & Shoulders Red Pale Blue

The other colour scheme which has been used on an Ultra Magnus repaint is Matrix Glow Ultra Magnus which would involve casting the toy in yellow.

For a substantial remoulding two other toys suggest themselves: The first is Power Master Optimus Prime who has never had a proper update. Generations Magnus' cab ends up in the right place but the whole trailer would need retooling. I'm not sure how this toy would go down wit a non transforming cab though. The other option is a perennial truck repaint request, 1992's Euro exclusive Thunderclash, which has recently appeared in More Than Meets The Eye and received a homage in Beast Hunters: Predacons Rising.