Monday, 31 October 2016

Unite Warriors Lynxmaster

Unite Warriors Hound

Like the other three toys in the UW-EX Lynxmaster boxset that also appeared in Combiner Wars, Hound is very similar to his Combiner Wars version. However he's the only one which is definitely a clear win over the Combiner Wars version! This Tweet from Alfes shows the two together but unfortunately hides one of the cleverest changes to the toy: the hinge on the Combiner Wars connector is now grey giving Hound a better defined radiator chest in robot mode. I like it. In addition there's a few new paint applications, including some yellow on his arms. For some reason he's pictured with an Off Road axe, presumably the one moulded with Unite Warriors Ratchet. Since the axe is positioned next to Hound in the tray I assume it is actually meant to be with him. He's still got a his original gun and Hand Foot Gun too which makes him fairly heavily armed.

Subtle update, but better than the Combiner Wars version.

Unite Warriors Wheeljack

When the UW-EX Lynxmaster boxset was unveiled there was much rejoicing that many of Wheeljack's robot mode problems were fixed. His chest windows were now painted pale blue, matching a change made to the vehicle mode which is consistent across all three cars in this set, and his forearms & hands were painted black. What wasn't picked up on until very close to release was how plain the car mode was, as this tweet comparing the Unite & Combiner Wars versions shows. The spoiler is now white, which is better, but the paint applications have been significantly simplified & reduced.

Torn between the two. Robot mode is significantly better, car is significantly worse! As it is he'll be spending most of his time in arm mode which hides the majority of the deco changes so, in the end, I don't suppose it really matters. But a version combining the Hasbro vehicle mode and TakaraTomy robot mode would have been perfect!

Unite Warriors Trailbreaker

The initial Lynxmaster tweet showing the traditional silhouette seemed to show both versions of the Off Road mould being used. Would Trailbreaker in Japan be closer to his original shape using the First Aid variant, with the pickup used for Hoist or would Trailbreaker be a pickup again, like in the west, and the First Aid be Ratchet, recently done as a Botcon exclusive? Turned out it was the later option.

Trailbreaker's vehicle mode is fairly similar to the Combiner Wars version, as you can see in this tweet comparing the two. He's lost the stripes on his door and the window colouring on the rear side windows. The rest of the windows have had their blue tweaked to match the pale blue used on the windows elesewhere. An additional silver paint application covers the whole front grill. Not a lot in it between the two.

The robot mode is different however. Red plastic used onthe upper limbs becomes grey, seriously altering the look of the toy. To replace the missing red plastic the knees and fronts of the doors are now painted red. A paint application to the sides of the chest simulated his front window but it's all over the sides of the chest, not confined within the window moulding, and there's none on the base of the combiner connector between them.

The Unite Warriors version might be more acurate, which you can debate, but I think the Combiner Wars version captures Trailbreaker better.

Unite Warriors Ratchet

With Ratchet having been done as a Botcon Custom Class exclusive the last thing I expected was for a fully painted version to be revealed as part of the UW-EX Lynxmaster boxset just a month or two later!

In Ambulance mode Ratchet looks very very similar to Unite Warriors First Aid: both are white Ambulances, with pale blue windows and red lightbars. The markings are subtly different with Ratchet having a red cross with an Autobot symbol on the door. I own a Unite First Aid, but failed to review it at the time. The release of Ratchet all but ensures the "not so acurate to the original version" Combiner Wars toy will probably be my default First Aid.

Transforming to robot mode exposes that several sprues are coloured differently compared to the Botcon Ratchet as you can see in this tweet comparing the two. White is again the predominant colour. The shoulder & elbows joints plus the Combiner Wars Connector, all previously black, are now grey. The upper legs & knees, previously grey, are now white. The waist & knee/lower leg connectors, previously black, are now red. Red paint is added to the hands & lower torso, and also picks out 3/4 of a Red Cross on the shoulder. Blue paint covers the chest windows and, unlike Unite Trailbreaker, they've stuck within the moulding lines here and painted moulded the hinge part of the Combiner Wars connector in light blue giving the effect of a complete chest window. Silver paint provides highlights on the chest and on his face while the head is completed with an animation coloured black crest. The HandFootGun & Axe, clear blue on the Botcon version, are now black to match the rest of the set but the axe is now placed in the box with Unite Warriors Hound and is shown with him on the packaging and publicity photos. In it's place Ratchet received the jaws of life weapon previously packaged with Rook.

Fabulous figure, with an amazing deco. The selling point of the set for many people. Very pleased to have a Ratchet with a decent paint job: I can't paint anywhere near this good so my Botcon version remained untouched and will become Medix in limb mode now. I'd have happily paid for this as a carded toy though and indeed would if Hasbro ever released it, which I doubt after the Botcon version.

Unite Warriors Sky Lynx

Unite Warriors Sky Lynx is barely changed from his Combiner Wars version as this tweet shows All that's happened to the plastic is the grey parts sprue has turned red producing a more coherent Dinobird & Shuttle mode but will produce a problem in combined mode.

The paintwork is nearly the same between both versions of the toys but opening the mouth in Space Dragon mode now reveals it's red inside where previously it was gold.

If you've not got a Combiner Wars Sky Lynx I'd be tempted to say give up looking and buy the UW-EX Lynxmaster boxset to get this one and receive a bonus Ratchet in the bargain!

Unite Warriors Lynxmaster

The use of the Master suffix in Lynxmaster's name might look odd to western Transformers fans, associating it with the various late 80s lines of small companions for Transformers. But it has some precedent for by used with combiners though as United EX, the Japanese line of Power Core Combiners repaints, entitled all their combiners SOMETHING master.

Lynxmaster isn't a direct port of Sky Reign into the Unite Warriors line. Combiner Wars Smokescreen is gone making a team line up of Sky Lynx, Hound, Wheeljack, Trailbreaker and new team member Ratchet. Whereas with Sky Reign I used Smokescreen as an arm and Hound as a leg I've gone for the official configuration with Lynxmaster where Ratchet & Trailbreaker, two different versions of the Off Road mould, form the legs leaving Wheeljack & Hound as the arms. I'd used Rook as an arm in my early days of owning Combiner Wars Defensor but never the jeep remould and, with the side of the legs facing forward he looks quite good.

A few minor tweaks to Sky Lynx only become visible here: the square at the centre of his forehead, which was blue, is now red while the teeth and throat box, which were gold like the face, are now silver. A less welcome change is the sword that Lynxmaster uses made form elements of his tail. Like all the other grey parts on Combiner Wars Sky Lynx they've become red on the Unite Warriors version and I'm afraid a red plastic sword doesn't really work.

Most people have reported an improvement on the hips for Lynxmaster, not a problem my Sky Reign has ever exhibited. My Lynxmaster however does seem to have a slight fault: his left hip, on our right, which is the leg nominally collected to Trailbreaker, is pulling out to the side ever so slightly.

So comparing the Lynxmaster teams to the Sky Reign components. Sky Lynx is a slightly more coherent set of colours in all modes and a slightly better head deco in Combined mode but has a sword for the combined form which is now the wrong colour. Wheeljack is better in robot mode, worse in vehicle mode while Trailbreaker is neutral in vehicle mode and not so good in robot mode. Neither are significantly impacted in combined mode. Of the common limbs between the two sets Hound is the only outright winner but his improvements are subtle, it isn't a night and day situation. A combiner wars completist is going to have to buy Lynxmaster anyway to get Ratchet and he's a better fit with the rest of the limbs who are all 1984 Autobots where 1985 Smokescreen was the odd man out. I can't genuinely make a call between them and say one is better than the other but buying UW-EX Lynxmaster for the characters within and then getting a spare Combiner Wars Smokescreen is probably the best buying strategy.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Titans Return Mindwipe

Mindwipe with Vorath

The original Mindwipe was never my favourite Headmaster, so I'm not exactly looking forward to the new one.

His Titanmaster Vorath retains the same name as the original but swaps the originals pinky red limbs for a more Decepticon purple. The head mode is interesting, not being a close match for either the toy, comic or cartoon versions of the character but using elements from all of them.

In deluxe robot mode Mindwipe isn't doing anything for me. It's quite a blocky toy from the front and looks like a pile of purple & black lumps thrown together. The moulding on the legs and feet forces the legs out into a wide A shape which doesn't look right at all. And then there's the wings on his back..... oh dear. Small, thin and made of rubber. Due to some very bad experiences with ageing toys I'm not keen on the use of rubber as a Transformers construction material. They're hinged along the spine, so they need to move, which will cause stress along the rubber hinge so I can guarantee at some point they'll break there when repeatedly transformed. Worse is to come if you turn the toy round, there's his bat mode head just hanging on his back,the original at least folded it away into the driver's compartment in robot mode!

He comes with two weapons: one is a new version of his original gun, in the same purple as the rest of the toy. The other is a purple "shield". There's a rotating handle at one end, barrels at the other, so it can be used as a dual cannon, and fold out blades, similar to Wolverine's claws or the ninja weapon seen on many 90s GI Joe figures. There's a 5mm peg hole on top and underneath the dual barrel end of the shield which you can use to attach Mindwipe's gun to the shield and if you turn it over, lay it down flat and attach the gun it forms a sledge like vehicle for Vorath to ride in that can be attached as a gun emplacement to the larger toys base mode. The shield weapon can be hand held in his 5mm peg hole hands, mounted on the peg holes on his forearms or plugged into a hole oddly positioned in front of the head, which will get it's proper use in the bat mode.

Articulation: ball jointed head from the Titanmaster. Shoulders that bend up at the body and are ball jointed at the arms, bicep swivels & double bending elbows. A waist, ball jointed hips and thigh swivels plus bending ankles.

Transformation: remove the Titanmaster and weapons. Fold the hands into the forearms. Rotate the biceps 180°. Fold the forearms up alongside the upper arms. Adjust the shoulder joint so the bar between body & arm is at 45° but the arms are still straight and pointing up. Rotate each leg 90° out to the side. Pull what was the back of the leg away and unfold each leg flattening it out to form the bat wings. Fold the feet back behind the wings. Swing the small bat wings on the robot mode through 180° so they're on the robot chest side of the body, yes the rubber fragile pieces have to be moved during transformation. Stand the toy on the robot' elbows with the robot's back facing towards you. Fold the robot's leg down to the side 90° at the hip then rotate the hip, or bicep, 180° so the wings point up. Fold the wings down 90° at the robot knee so the slot half way down the back of the large bat wing meets the tab sticking out the small robot wings and the tab at the bottom of the large bat wing slots into the top of the back of the bat leg/front of the robot's wrist. Raise the head off the bat chest so it's sitting on the robot waist. Plug the gun into the shield and in turn plug the shield into the hole in front of the robot's neck to form the tail. Open the bat chest, unfold the Titanmaster into a seated position, seat him inside the chest and close the chest.

I'll give it this, turning the legs into the wings is very clever!

Straight off the bat (haha) the bat mode doesn't look right, it's far too purple. On the original this was confined to the sides of the chest with the wings, head & chest being red and the feet & body black. Here the feet & wings are purple, with red/brown edging on the wings, a red/brown head and a clear pink chest. We're very close to this being a better Ratbat bat than Mindwipe bat. Thanks to the wing tabbing the bat is surprisingly solid but this does limit it's articulation somewhat. However by untabbing it, slightly destabilising the toy, you can get some better poses out of it. As it stands you're limited to an opening jaw and the ability to fold the bat wings round the body.

The small rubber wings that bothered me in robot mode are an issue again here as they're once again mounted on the toy's back - why? I don't recall Bats having a second pair of vestigial wings. I mentioned the toy's resemblance to Ratbat and here those small wings here peaking over Mindwipe's shoulder remind me of Ratbat's radar-guided free-electron lasers. Unfortunately rubber is also an issue here: the whole head is made from it, including the moving jaw and projecting ears, as are the outer most wing sections, which form the back of the legs in robot mode and as such are slightly bent to tab correctly into place.

So.... I wouldn't have used the rubber full stop, but understand it might be there for safety issues on the pointy bits. The wings need to be red in bat mode and black as the robot legs. You could have just about got this by having the back of the robot wings be purple and the front red but instead they opt for a purple for both which compromises the bat mode making it look more like a different character! I'd have happily lost the small bat wings in either mode because I'm sure they'll break in time, and they're especially annoying in bad mode as are the feet hanging off the wings. The bat head just hanging off the robot is ridiculous when it was completely concealed on the original version.

This is a toy with one clever idea, make the bat wings the robot legs. Unfortunately this in turn affects so much of the toy that I'm not 100% sure that it was a good idea to implement. The toy would have been better almost with one large pair of correctly coloured bat wings hanging off the back.

Mindwipe is a wave 2 Titans Return toy packed evenly at 2 per case with Chromedome, Highbrow & Wolfwire.


I like repaints. Every review I write I include a section at the bottom entitled "Future Repaints" where I try and guess what the toy I'm writing about will be turned into with a few splashes of paint and maybe a couple of new/remoulded parts. I frequently include Beast Wars characters for anything animal related but versy seldom get rewarded. As soon as we saw Mindwipe I thought "you might get a decent Bat Optimus Primal out of that" but seeing as the basic bat is Optimus Primal's lesser well known form the suggestion was more a shot in the dark.

Blow me if E-Hobby only went and took us up on the idea! The toy was announced on 5th August 2016. To make up a new version of the Optimus Primal bat TakaraTomy have taken a grey & blue Titans Return Mindwipe body and paired it with a blue version of Sentinel Prime's Titanmaster Infinitus plus the swords from Transformers Prime Wheeljack. Also included in the package is a green version of Galvatron's Titanmaster Nucleon, to act as the head of Alligatot Megatron, the toy which was originally packed in a VS Pack with Bat Optimus Primal, and Ape-X Arms a new repaint of Titanmaster Apeface's Ape/Jet accessory in the Optimal Optimus colours, to represent Optimus Primal's final Beast Wars form.

During the period the toy was available to order from E-Hobby a number of promotional comic pages were issued :

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
In addition more promotional images were released via Twitter.

Fuller review to follow when it's released

Future Repaints

If the Titans Return bat mode didn't look so like it anyway I would have suggested Ratbat as a possible repaint. With that off the board, and Takara having grabbed the Beast Wars option the next most prominent Bat I can think of is Nightscream

Bat Optimus Primal has two limited edition repaints that could be done: Botcon 1996 Onyx Primal and CD Convoybat

A a slightly left field suggestion how about Robots in Disguise Megatron or Galvatron?

Personally I suspect this toy is heading for a retool possibly as a bird, like Airazor, a dinobird, like Swoop, or a jet like one of the as yet unmade in Titans Return Targetmasters like Misfire or Slugslinger.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Legends Scourge & Titans Return Highbrow

Legends LG-26 Scourge

Now I hadn't intended to obtain both the Japanese and western version of every Titans Return so far but through a series of impulse buys and mistakes and mistakes I have. However I intended to get both Titans Return & Legends Scourge from the moment I first laid eyes on him. They're differently coloured enough that one can sold as Scourge while the other can be a sweep.

They've pulled an interesting trick with the head: the arms of the Titanmaster are now done in a very pale blue, as opposed to the same colour as the rest of the head, which makes the whole head look a lot thinner like you're use to with Scourge. The light blue is extensively used elsewhere on the upper legs, upper arms and hands making the robot look significantly different to the western version.

Since Scourge wasn't an original Headmaster in Japan he, like Blurr, isn't deemed worthy of an extra Titanmaster accessory.

Top toy, well worth getting even if you have the western version.

Titans Return Highbrow & Xort

The 1987 Highbrow was my favourite of the original Headmasters when I was younger yet of the Four Warriors From The Sky he's the only one not to have a real attempt of updating. His only name reuse is with Hunt For The Decepticons Highbrow, who looks nothing like him, while a pair of toys that do, Beast Machines Obsidian and, to a slightly lesser extent, Movie Incinerator, have never been re-released in the correct colours.

In the run up to release a number of parts were noticed to be similar to Scourge including the Titanmaster Xort, previously known as Gort, which has changed from all blue to blue, with off white chest & upper legs. Otherwise that's exactly the same figure with a new faceplate for robot mode that looks very close to Highbrow's US Animation model.

If you said "Give me an articulated version of Highbrow" then what you'd imagine would look pretty much like the deluxe robot you get here, so we're off to a good start. The colours are in the right place and, glory be, he's got twin guns! It's bigged me through the initial Titans Return releases that the Autobot Headmasters, who original had two matching guns, now have on or non matching weapons. Highbrow's don't match exactly, they're mirror images of each other and we'll see why later. His chest folds down slightly to simulate the missing tech spec readout. It's not essential, but a nice feature. About the only thing that slightly bugs me here is the wings don't fold back and are stuck out to the sides.

Articulation: a match to Scourge, so I'll copy & paste! ball jointed head, provided by the Titanmaster, shoulders that shrug up at the body & are ball jointed at the arm, bicep swivels, bending elbows, universal hips, thigh swivels and bending knee.

It's in robot mode that Highbrow shares the most parts with Scourge with the hands, shoulder joint, hips, thighs and heel spurs, previously Scourge's feet, being the same. However the most obvious connection between the two toys is only revealed during the Transformation!

Start by removing the Titanmaster and the weapons. Fold the hands back into the forearms and straighten the arms. Fold the heel spurs in. Pull down on the waist revealing an extending spine, another shared part identical to Scourge's. Rotate each thigh swivel 90° out to the side. Gold each leg up 180° at each hip while folding back 180° at each knee, locking the lower legs over the upper legs and round the spine so that in the same manner as Scourge's legs form the the front of his vehicle Highbrow's form the rear of his. Fold the helicopter's cockpit up off the robot's back and into the space vacated by his head. Swing the arms back along the Helicopter's body so that tabs on the body meet slots in the arms & the knee pads recess into the space the hands have folded into. The rectangular tabs on the guns' sides fit into the hex holes under the wings with the 5mm pointing towards each other. Moulding on the guns provides rear landing wheels while the front landing gear folds down under the cockpit. Fold the cockpit canopy forward and sit the Titanmaster inside.

In vehicle mode Titans Return Highbrow is almost like holding a slightly smaller version of the original Highbrow toy if it wasn't for one thing: the designers in their wisdom have decided that Highbrow needs only two rotors on each wing instead of the three he originally had. The blades spin freely and look like they were originally intended to fold away for storage in robot mode.

Should you wish to vary how the guns are mounted, or tool Highbrow up further, there's a 5mm port under the edge of each wing and a further pair on each side of the cockpit. The guns themselves can be removed completely to slide together to form a dual barrelled cannon for the Titanmaster to ride in. The 5mm handles now stick out the sides of the combined unit allowing it to be pegged into the sides of the cockpit, or any other toy you want to mount it. Sadly there's no 5mm peg underneath so it can't really be mounted as a traditional gun emplacement.

Bar the lack of a third rotor blade, this is a top update which I'm loving. I'm amazed at the way he & Scourge share parts & a transformation idea yet look totally different!

Highbrow is sold in Titans Return Deluxe Wave 2 where he's packed 2 per case with Chromedome, Wolfwire & Mindwipe.

Future Repaints

The dual rotor helicopter mentioned above provide a rich vein of repaints that are possibilities for Highbrow with both Movie Incinerator and his Black Takara Repaint suggesting themselves. Beast Machines Obsidian has several versions: in addition to his original green there's the desert camo Robots in Disguise version but the blue Transformers Universe is probably a bit too close to Highbrow's colours.

Scourge's vehicle mode is a little odd but since Botcon 2009 Scourge was a repaint of Cybertron Sideways how about Titans Return Scourge in black as him? An added bonus here is that Sideways' Armada version was also a Headmaster! Sideways was also repainted as Universe Ratbat so if Ratbat isn't done as a tape for Soundwave that's another possibility.

Titans Return, SDCC & Legends Fortress Maximus

Generations Titans Return Fortress Maximus

In 2013 I wrote this when talking about Metroplex and speculating about future reuses of the toy:
Could you retool him as Fortress Maximus? Maybe. But the retool would have to be quite extensive involving new legs, feet, his right chest and head
Then at Botcon 2015, in the midst of Combiner Wars, Hasbro "accidentally" brought with them a banner showing what many people thought might be the next Transformers line which included a new Fortress Maximus who was seemingly remoulded from Metroplex. A further leaked image appeared to show the toy in robot mode before the line was confirmed at NYCC 2015 and Fortress Maximus confirmed in an online release that November. All we saw of him that day was art, we had to wait until New York Toyfair 2016 to see the toy and it's official images. Thereafter Max was a regular in Hasbro displays at Botcon and the Australian Toyfair giving Transformers fans a look at how the toy was evolving and certain parts changed colour.

Fortress Maximus' Titanmaster is Emissary. The original Fort Max's Headmaster was names Spike, a human, while Emissary was the name used for Brave Maximus' larger robot which turned into his head. Pretty standard fare for a Titanmaster, in grey with silver upper legs and blue lower legs.

The robot Emissary merges with is called Cerebros, the same as he was on the original Fortress Maximus. He's a similar looking figure to the original but with a different colour palate: the original was varying shades of grey, the new one is grey and black with blue shoulders. The main difference to his look is provided by Emissary who turns into his Visored & Face-plated head, very similar to what was seen in the 1980s Marvel comic. The articulation is substantially beefed up: Ball jointed Titanmaster head, arms that turn at the shoulders, fold out to the sides and bend at a ball jointed elbow, hips that turns & bend to the sides, thigh swivels and bending knees. He has an open sided 5mm peg hand which can use the black dual cannon found inside the Fortress Maximus base mode as a weapon or any other 5mm weapon including the Master Sword which wasn't included with the Hasbro version but instead used as a promotion for a number of chains in the far east. Behind his head is a single Titanmaster peg which lets a Titanmaster look out over the head and is also useful in Max's other modes which Cerebros forms part of.

Cerebros has built in electronics which play a number of noises. There's three phrases "AUTOBOT!", "DECEPTICON!" and "FORTRESS MAXIMUS!" plus a number of effects sequences. The sounds Cerebros makes vary between the different versions of the toys.

To transform Cerebros into a mode used by both of Fortress Maximus' alternate forms start by removing Emissary. Straighten the arms and legs, with the peg holes facing forward. Fold the shoulders forward onto the front of the chest. Fold the feet onto the front and heels onto the back of the legs. Make sure the face is covered by the forehead and ears are folded in.

Onto Max.

Fold the ramp on his back up into the space where his head would be. Straighten the arms an raise them so they point straight up. Pull the sides of the waist away at the back and bring them together in front of him. Move each leg in at the knee slider, familiar from Metroplex, so they're closer together. Lay him down on his back. Fold the feet forward so the base of the feet rest on the bottom of the leg. Fold the front, towards the cannons on the leg, of the tower forward. Slide Cerebros, with the face cover forward and arms to the rear, down into the slot. Getting Cerebros in here properly IS the most frustrating thing about the toy! Stand Emissary on the Titanmaster footpeg as Captain of the Battleship Fortress Maximus.

Effectively this is Max laid on his back where Metroplex's battlestation is him sitting with his legs stretched out but I've always had a soft spot for Fortress Maximus' battleship mode since it appeared in issue 49 of the US Transformers comic, reprinted in issues 206-207 of the UK comic. In that frame both Blaster & Powermaster Optimus Prime are stood on Max's vehicle mode as it floats in the sea emphasising the size of it. At that point I'd never seen the original toy, not sold in the UK! The floating scene there, and the forward facing cannons, has always made me think of it as a Battleship and indeed the Japanese version of the new toy names it as such. The raising cannons are present, as per the original version, and even house a little surprise which we'll come to in robot mode. The control tower is a shorter, bulkier structure than before which I'm not sure I like. I was fond of the the cockpit for Spike being up high, now the tower is lower and there's no cockpit for Emissary to sit in, he has to make do with standing on the peg on the top of Cerebros. The other thing the tower, like Brave Maximus, is missing is any weapons. No hand held cannons to attach to it. The arms stretched out the back are covered in ramps which makes a decent landing strip for Autobot jets. Guns, Legs and the rear of the vehicle are loaded with Titanmaster pegs for other Titanmasters to stand on to crew Fortress Maximus. The Battleship moves courtesy of some rollers under each leg and the back.

There's two problems I'm finding with this mode. One is the feet are a little droopy, just relying on friction to hold them in place in mid air. The other is that Cerebros is integrated into it where before he effectively formed a larger robot to crew it. Since he forms part of the city and super robot mode too there's now no mode that Cerebros is free to be used in robot form for.

To transform to city mode fold the robot's legs out to the sides Fold the clear panel back over the leg and the panel on the top of the robot's shoulder forward.

The Titans Return Fort Max city mode looks nothing like the city mode we're used to from the original version, in fact i's more like the mis-transformed battleship seen on the catalogues issued with toys in 1987 and 1988. If you're expecting a feature packed toy, like the original Max base, then forget it. There's a ramp to roll toys down and a recessed command centre under the raised clear plastic chest piece and that's about it in terms of features surviving from the original toy. No elevator, no ramp launcher, no rotating radar dish. This last one is especially annoying as they've even moulded a detail on the chest which looks just like the radar dish's turntable!

So what have we got? Inside the command centre door is the black plastic dual cannon we mentioned earlier in connection with Cerebros. A Titanmaster can ride in this and it can be pegged into one of a myriad of 5mm peg holes on the base's surface which can also be used with Titanmaster accessory weapon modes. There are Titanmaster pegs everywhere: two on top of the dual cannon, two behind the dual cannon and a further pair set into the base of behind the cannon, which need to be used by the same Titanmaster. There's two more on each upper leg piece, making 7 Titanmaster positions per leg. There's one on the Cerebros tower, two near the top of the ramp, one in the command centre and four on the dual gun on the side of the leg, which slides off to become a tank. So if I'm counting right that makes 21 different Titanmaster standing positions.

Then we have the ramp connectors, a feature I was very excited about in the run up to Titans Return release. There's a dead end connector, as in it doesn't lead anywhere except to a wall, on the rear of the Legs that stretch out to the sides of the toy. Another is found on the ramp that folds down for the left hand side of the front of the toy, but connecting to that is a little restricted by the main sloped ramp. Then there are then ramps that fold down from what would be the robot's shoulders. They're not long enough, following the tradition set by Metroplex's base mode ramp. They will physically connect to the ramps on Blaster or Soundwave but the combined ramp will be almost vertical removing it from any useful play value. The indication is the Ramps on Max should have been much longer. They stretch halfway across the shoulder without fully covering it, which looks odd, and the reverse has a slot on it which looks like it should cover an unused tab further down the shoulder. I await a Third Party ramp that does stretch fully across the shoulder. To top it off the ramps here are red which really makes them stand out!

Then there's the runways down the back of the arms. On the original Fort Max there were ramps on the ends which leg down to floor level. Here the runways are reused from Metroplex and are just flat on the back of the robot's arms. No ramp at the end, again meaning you can't roll a wheeled toy off the runway onto the floor, but also exposing the robot's hands at the front of the toy.

For a base mode that just sits there it has it's faults, many of which could have easily been fixed. Comparing it to the original Max base is just no contest. It only real win is the ability to use Titanmasters and other 5mm weapons with it. I'm not the only one to be dissatisfied with it either there are several Fan base modes out there including some that take advantage of a feature inherited from Metroplex, but not used here: the legs still open up.

To transform to robot mode fold the legs behind the base and slide the lower legs out to the side at the knees. Stand. Close the ramps and the clear chest cover. Remove Cerebros. Fold the tower halves back. Fold the arms down. Fold Cerebros' legs up to the sides and tab into his body. Turn the other way up. Fold the face cover up and his ears out. Attach Emissary if you wish. Attach head to Fort Max's body.

At first sight the new Fortress Maximus looks very very similar in robot mode to the original. When we first saw Fortress Maximus at Toyfair 2016 he had grey hands and red feet, which thankfully were gone by the time he came to production but there's still on real colour oddity there in the really noticeable red surrounds for the leg cannons! Everything else, fab. The new arm door on his right arm stands out a bit in red, but the opening doors on he original Metroplex arms were red too, so we can let that slide. Sadly they're gone on this version, as are the forearm guns hidden underneath, because his arms are entirely inherited from Metroplex. The black dual cannon will function as a substitute for one of the forearm guns but placing it there makes me think they should have gone for emphasising the connection with this piece and moulded it in red plastic.

We probably should talk about what Fortress Maximus has inherited from Metroplex. Here's a list I've drawn up:

lower legs, but swapped over
waist, but reversed
folding arm joint & shoulder
lower arms
bottom of tank, formerly Metroplex's shoulder cannon
runways on arms
As the hands are the same as Metroplex's he can't hold any 5mm weapons straight out the box which is a shame as the Hasbro version seemingly has no hand weapons of his own. Now I've been a Brave Max owner for nearly 16 years on and off so I'm used to weaponless a Max but it somehow feels wrong here. However he's only *Seemingly* without hand weapons: both the dual cannons on his leg slide off and have a fold down handle which allows Max to hold them as dual cannons similar to his original or even mount them on his shoulder.

But even so it still doesn't feel right having a Max without a nice big gun.

With a lot of shared parts his articulation is virtually identical to Metroplex: Knees bend, thigh swivel, universal hip joints, rotating waist & head, shoulders that turn at the body and raise to the sides, bicep swivel, bending elbow, rotating wrist, four fingers that bend at the first knuckle and a thumb that folds sideways. The major interesting point there is that the head still rotates, a major advantage over the original Fortress Maximus who was fixes looking in front. Indeed, as we said for Metroplex, the articulation is a considerable step up from the original Fort Max.

There aren't many Titanmaster pegs that are dedicated to this mode, or of practical use. There's two on his right shoulder and one on his left. That might seem like that but if his right arm is raised and rotated in 90° two more are revealed on the new cover for his arm compartment: they're obviously intended to be used here as in the other modes they're covered by the ramps on his arms.

Max has also inherited the two 5mm peg holes on each forearm that Metroplex had, which are useful for mounting the black dual cannon on, but there's another 5mm hole on top of the body portion of his left shoulder and one on the leg cannon pod/tank. Two more 5mm holes are inherited on each reused foot as well as five 3mm peg holes per foot, a peg size standard who's stock has somewhat fallen in the last few years.

The chest compartment I found annoying to start with: it's slightly too narrow for Spychanger Optimus Prime/Scourge, frequent occupants of Brave Max, to stand in and face straight forward. The reason for this only became obvious when I saw a picture in a photo gallery: by accident or design, and I'm suspecting design, the slot is exactly the same width and just slightly taller than a Titans Return "tape". One tape fits in the space with it's front face level with the outer edge of Max's chest before the door closes. It can't recess any further due to a rounded piece of plastic projecting out of the base of the compartment. This allow you to push in on the base of the tape causing the top to pop out for easy removal. Failing that, pop open the ramp on Max's left shoulder and push the tape out from behind.

Given the large parts reuse from Metroplex there's nothing wrong with the robot really that some paint a nice big gun won't fix. The Battleship mode is pretty good too though I'd prefer a taller, more dedicated tower with, again, a big gun on the side. The city/base mode is the only one that really lets the side down somewhat. It doesn't look a think like the original Max city/base and it's connectivity is hampered by short ramps on the shoulders and none leading from the runways on the arms.

Such a big toy has obviously been photographed a lot: here's some of the ones I've seen:

Alfes Toy Blog Fortress Maximus galleries:

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Departure Time Fortress Maximus galleries:
Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Metroplex is jealous of Brave Max's Matrix Blade:

But the postman has bought him a present to play with:

His own (for now*) Master Sword!

"Have at thee Brave Maximus!"

* Should I tell him it's for Titan's Max if the Legends version doesn't have one?

Fortress Maximus Sword

I don't really associate Fortress Maximus with a sword, if I think of Max and a weapon it's more his big gun that comes to mind. The sword is primarily associated with the Japanese version of Max and his repaint Grand Maximus, but not Brave Maximus: he gets stripped of all his weapons and they can only been found on the lucky draw/campaign version. However the sword itself is repurposed into the Matrix Blade used by God Fire Convoy. I have a knock off version of the Brave Maximus/God Fire Convoy sword in my collection, indeed all my Brave Max weapons are knock offs and the guns are in fact the wrong colour: Mine are the blue Fortress versions and not black like Brave's should be (but everyone thinks should be red to match the leg cannons!)

The first hint at a Titans Return Fortress Maximus sword came with the first leaked image of the toy which people quickly interpreted to mean that the regular version of Titans Max WOULDN'T have a sword but there would be as San Diego Comic Con version, like SDCC 2013 Metroplex, packed with an extra the regular release didn't get. In Metroplex's case one of the main draws was a second hand gun, carried over to the Japanese TG-23 Metroplex, so it was of no surprise to see Legends LG-31 Fortress Maximusteased with extra swords.

Four days after the SDCC 2016 Fortress Maximus with sword was officially revealed story takes a twist and leads to the toy I have in hand here. News broke that Hong Kong Toys ‘R Us were offering a limited sword to the first 100 preorders an offer subsequently emulated by Taiwan TRU's mailaway offer.

My copy came from Kapow Toys, bought when I started to have doubts about if the Japanese version will have a sword. The mail away master sword is mainly constructed from clear orangey red transparent plastic with a back plastic handle and edging producing a weapon that looks very similar to the original Master Sword but with the added bonus of being clear plastic which nicely caches the light.

The entire sword is 45.5 cm long, a little shorter than the knock off Master Sword I own.

The handle has two 2.3 cm long plastic struts along each side of the handle which are designed to lock onto rectangular gap on the inside of the hand of Titans Return Fortress Maximus or his related toy Generations Metroplex.

A quick experiment suggests that maybe the gap between the struts works better around the outer of the longer edge of the slot in the palm of the hand rather than both struts inserted into the slot. Your mileage may vary on this matter. The struts force the sword to be held side on, perhaps two more pairs at right angles would have been useful to allow a face on grip on the sword. The sword itself splits into smaller units. Just over half the total length, 23cm from handle end to sword tip removes to become a large sword for your Voyager & Leader figures. A second separation allows you to remove the tip of that sword to form an 11.5cm sword for Deluxe figures and Cerebros. The swords connect together by having the handle on the upper portion slide into an open sided tube on the lower portion with tabs and slots holding it in place. There's a significant tab on the base of the handle of the two smaller swords that passes through the open side of the tube the handle sits in. It's forcing the sword to be assembled the correct way round but does mean the two smaller swords can't be held by a toy with a closed fist which is a considerable shame. My only thought is that it's to prevent them being stuck upright in 5mm peg holes, like on Metroplex & Max's arms, and being snapped off.

I like this as an add on for Max, but the missing large gun is more a problem for me. I'm not 100% sure it's worth what I paid for it though! But I've bought it now, so that should ensure there's one packed in with the Legends version!

SDCC 2016 Fortress Maximus

We return to the initial leaked image. Studying the text and seeing words like "exclusive sword", "exclusive Titanmaster" and "Premium G1 deco & labels" with volume numbers for "3k in the US and 9K Globally" quickly led fans to deduce they were looking at something concerning an exclusive version of Fort Max. Since San Diego Comic Con had been the home of an exclusive Metroplex in 2013 and Devastator in 2015.

The image was leaked on 13th November 2015 following which silence from Hasbro. We learnt of another SDCC exclusive, Titan Force Boxset at Botcon 2016 on April 9th 2016 but nothing about a SDCC Fortress Maximus. Since the Hasbro version had been well seen by then and images publicising the Japanese version were by that point in circulation it was easy to guess that the SDCC version would have the same Toy & Japanese cartoon accurate Titanmaster head and, even though we'd not seen it on the Japanese version yet, the same sword, even if in slightly different colours.

So it proved when SDCC Fortress Maximus was announced on Facebook on the 17th June and stock images & boxed pictures were revealed shortly after. The Titanmaster was exactly as expected and the sword was identical to the Asia exclusive sword but recast in solid red plastic with the amount of black paint reduced back to the handle and the very base of the blade. Max itself was very, very similar to the Western Titans Return version, save for some white paint on the upper chest/base mode command centre.

The toy did have a hidden feature not present on the original version: pressing and holding any of the buttons that made the noise for 5 seconds causes Cerebros to play as version of the original cartoon theme music.

The SDCC version feels an odd toy. It's not different enough from the original toy in Robot mode and certainly doesn't fit any annoyances like the red leg surrounds. If you wanted the different Titanmaster & Sword you'd go for the Japanese version which does fix those problems. As such the toy has rather sat at some of the importers who've bought it leading to 33% discounts in sales.

Legends Fortress Maximus

On the 25th March 2016 a silhouette image from a trade catalogue was leaked showing Legends Fortress Maximus costing ¥25,000 and being released in September 2016. We saw it had a sword, indeed our first glimpse of any of the Fortress Maximus swords, but that was about it for a few months till on 13th May Official Images were released showing a colour scheme closer to the original Fortress Maximus with updated images following on the 24th June confirming the new head for Cerebros, which by that point we'd already seen on the SDCC version!

It wasn't until the 19th August 2016 that TFYuki & Dengeki Hobby Magazine revealed the Japanese Mastersword on Twitter, giving buyers of the Japanese version some months of worry as to why their sword had not been shown and had TakaraTomy changed their minds on including one. Broadly speaking the new sword is very similar to the SDCC version, both being cast from red plastic with black paint, but with slightly different paint applications.

The main Max toy is also very similar to the US version, and the changes are quite subtle. The red arm door and ramp becomes blue, with red being added to the arms to simulate the lost dual cannon covers and the red gun surrounds become grey, which looks so much better. The inner sides to the tower, which form the robot's outer lower body, used to be clear blue but are now clear red: looking at them I think the clear plastic should perhaps have been visible through the holes on the front of his body simulating the missing cannons.

The difference between Japanese & US Cerebros is more obvious with the colourful blue & black becoming a more muted and cartoon accurate grey as well as changing the Titanmaster's head. Cerebros also features a new sound chip with dialogue recorded by the original actor for the Japanese Headmasters cartoon. It includes "Transform!", the "Head On!" activation call from when the smaller robots become the heads of the larger ones and also plays the Japanese Headmasters theme tune.

Sadly there is a downside to the Japanese version. The legs don't open up. It appears as if the two halves were glued together during assembly removing a level of customisation in the ability to create different base modes from the toy. The opening legs isn't an intentional feature and is purely one available from the recycled Metroplex parts but it's still a shame to see it gone.

As with the US version there's been plenty of photos taken of this toy, here's Alfes Toy Blog Galleries:

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The Legends Max was the version I went for: I thought the colours worked better, it had the Titanmaster I wanted and had the sword. These lift what was already a good toy into a really good one. Yes the base mode isn't as good as the original and even then still has problems with not long enough ramps. Yes he still needs a big gun. But this is a really good big, fun toy. It's not just an articulated robot, there's opening panels, points for adding on extra weapons, removable leg weapons, electronics and the Headmaster gimmick. In a direct showdown with Metroplex, Max is easily the winner.

Third Party Add Ons

As with most larger Transformer toys, and many smaller ones, that people think have missed something the original had there are a number of third party add ons available.

Perfect Effect, one of the more productive 3p companies, are making PC-13 Titans Return Fort Max master sword. I suspect this particular product was dreamt up before it was realised how easy it would be to get a Fort Max with an official Master Sword, as I can't see too many people who want one not buying the Japanese or SDCC versions.

However their PC-14 Titans Cannon I can see getting much more business providing a much needed big gun for Fort Max. In fact, given that there are knock off original Fort Max guns in circulation and 3P Metroplex guns I'm very surprised to see nobody taking the handle off the later and attaching it to the former.

Shapeways now have a wealth of goodies available:

I'd been hoping to see an adaptor to let Metroplex's hand hold 5mm guns for some while and finally with the release of Fort Max one has been made! OK, at the moment it's missing the Minicon post at the other end which I'd really like but I've suggested that to the makers along with a similar adaptor to let Titans Max hold original Max's weapons.

The issue of the "too short shoulder ramps" is partially addressed by this ramp extension. I suspect there may be some sag in the middle where this ramp is attached resulting in a not straight connection but they'll be useful. Longer versions, at multiples of that length, would also be useful. Personally I'm hoping someone redoes the shoulder ramps so they stretch across the full width of the shoulder, and not half way, with the tab hole on the back correctly positioned over the tab on the shoulder.

A number of other Titans Returns Ramps exist from the same seller including a curve, right angled junction and crossroads which I'm looking to try out very soon.

I'd really like to be able to link my Titans Returns bases to the previous base mode standard for Micromasters. To that end I'd like a ramp with a Titans Return connector on one end and a Micromaster base connector on the other. Who's going to make it for me?

Which Fortress Maximus is which?

So how can you tell which Max is which just by looking at it? Here's a helpful table:

Part Hasbro SDCC TakaraTomy
Head Horns Grey Grey Blue
Chest Door Green Blue/Green Green
Upper Chest Grey White Pale Grey
Lower Chest Middle Grey Grey Blue
Lower Chest Sides Blue Blue Grey
Lower Chest Outer Sides Clear Blue Clear Blue Clear Red
Knees Grey Grey Blue
Leg Outers Red Red Grey
Ramps & Arm Hatch Red Red Blue
Dual Cannon Black Black Grey
Cerebros Comic/Rebirth Toy/Headmasters Toy/Headmasters

max compare

Here also is a comparison of the swords. From left to right we have SDCC, Legends and Asia Exclusive:


Future Repaints

Fortress Maximus has two obvious repaints: Masterforce Grand Maximus and Car Robots Brave Maximus. Of recent there's been several toys that could make good Car Robots/Robots in Disguise repaints: CW Hotspot as Super Fire Convoy/Optimus Prime, CW Bruticus as Baldigus/Ruination and CW Optimus Prime/Titans Return Voyager Optimus Prime as Black Convoy/Scourge so the possibility of a Brave Maximus to go with them isn't so much of an unlikely suggestion.

Titans Return Wolfwire & Legends Weirdwolf

Titans Return Wolfwire with Monxo

Weirdwolf was never my favourite Headmaster, or even Decepticon Headmaster - that honour goes to Skullcruncher. However since the original release Transformers Beasts have got a lot better and there's been a few decent wolves of which was repainted into Botcon 2007 Weirdwolf. So what's the new version like?

For a start the Titanmaster Monxo is a pretty good version of his original Headmaster Monzo, note the spelling change. The limbs and body are very nearly the right colours with just the upper legs changing from blue/green to off white. His head mode is intended to mimic the original, with it's grey unpainted visor which just looks wrong, but it's not done a good job with the grey panel looking like it's protruding over the face with then eyes, the same red as the face, underneath and odd red patched to the sides.

The main robot mode however is superb, a much better proportioned version of the original with all the right colours in all the right places. Really the only fault I can find is that you can't conceal the missile batteries in the shoulders like you could on the original. If you look closely you can see there is some significant variation in the shade of yellow between the chest, which is painted off white plastic, the body which is a paler yellow plastic and the shoulders which look to be a different moulded yellow plastic. The legs, bar their armour, and lower arms are all the traditional blue/green and that matches well throughout.

Articulation is ball jointed ankles, bending knees, thigh swivels, ball jointed hips, turning waist & head, ball jointed shoulders, bicep swivels and bending elbows. He's got 5mm pegs hole hands, open top one side, for holding his sword and HUGE cannon both of which has 5mm pegs on the side so they can be mounted in the holes on his shoulders or hips.

The fold down chest panel to reveal the tech specs is missing from all the Titans Returns toys but in Wolfwire's case his entire chest front folds down at his waist in an undocumented feature;

Transformation: remove all weapons and the robot head. Fold the beast head up off the robot's back and onto the robot's neck. Open the forearms, fold the hands back into them and close again. Fold the paws down from behind the arms to take their place. Fold the back cover forward and bring the beast body rear out of the robot body, noting the slot the tabs have come out of and making sure they fit into the slots at the bottom of the body. Close the back panel. Fold the armour covering the lower robot legs up to cover the upper legs. Fold the heels spurs into the robot feet. Fold he arms & legs out to the front of the robot and stand the beast on it's feet. Put the sword's post into his backside form the tail. Slide the tabs on the top of the cannon into the slots on the tail base.

With the cannon mounted on it's back Wolfwire is very reminiscent of a Zoids Command Wolf or even more so it's Irvine's Command Wolf repaint. As such it's a much leaner looking wolf than the original Weirdwolf but with the colours in roughly the same places: blue/green rear legs & lower front legs, yellow body, upper fore legs & rear leg armour and an off white head, rear body & tail. The head is nice and angular, with clear red insets and teeth, similar to Legends Skullcruncher. The head feels like it's ball-jointed at the neck, but moving the head to one side this looks like it's achieved through a series of hinges and features an opening jaw. Forelegs have the arm articulation, with the addition of a ball jointed foot, while the back leg is ball jointed at the hip, bends at the upper knee, ball jointed at the lower knee and ball jointed at the ankle.

Monxo can be sat in a seat recessed in the cannon, like the Command Wolf's gunner, or inside the beast itself. To get into the wolf you need to remove the cannon and then raise the panel on the beast's back via a hinge behind the neck. There's windows in this panel for the Titanmaster to see out and they're moulded in the same pinky red clear plastic that the head panels and teeth are.

There's plenty of opportunity to reposition the cannon: it has a 5mm peg sticking out the top, which was previously used as it's handle in robot mode, plus another one sticking out each side. On Wolfwire there's 5mm sockets on each shoulder/hip plus another underneath the beast.

Good, good toy. Better than the original in almost every way bar the head design and the lack of slide out panels to cover the missile batteries. In fact it's probably the best techno wolf, as opposed to organic wolf like Beast Wars Wolfang, that Transformers have ever done. You want one.

Wolfwire was released in Hasbro markets during August/September 2016 and packed in a case with Highbrow, Chromedome & Mindwipe where all three were packed at 2 per case.

Legends Weirdwolf with Monzo

LG-30 Wolfwire was released in September 2016 Japan very quickly after it's western release. As per all the other original Headmasters the Titanmaster has been tweaked so his faceplate resembles the animation model used for the Japanese Headmasters series. In Weirdwolf's case it results in a squarer larger face, looking the closest of any of the Headmasters to the original head style, and having a much better defined visor & face. The plastic colours have been tweaked so that the off white/grey is now moulded in yellow, which gives the wolf an all yellow body and results in the beast head, centre of the chest panel and sword being painted. In fact the only grey plastic I see on the toy is the new face and existing legs & chest on the Titanmaster. Another painted piece are the pieces added on to the head resulting in silver teeth and inset panels in the head. Where Skullcrucncher's teeth were silver for Titans Return and clear for Legends, Weirdwolf is the reverse! From what I can see on the cockpit window the clear pieces are a more orangey red here. The yellows meanwhile are a lot more closely matched in colour and generally takes a slightly paler tone than the western version.

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As with the other original Headmaster remakes in Legends Weirdwolf is packed with a recoloured Titanmaster accessory: his is Rarigo, a repaint of Apeface which swaps black for yellow and purple for blue green. While the new colours are a good match for Weirdwolf, earning Rarigo the nickname Bananabot, they'll make a dreadful Apeface when combined with the Apeface Titanmaster which will follow in December as a pack in with Legends LG-38 Condor (Laserbeak).

Given a choice between the two the Legends version wins it for me with it's matching shades of yellow and better robot head. However I much prefer the clear plastic in the head on the Western version and, if it was just mounted on a ball joint, I'd be tempted to pop the beast heads off and swap them.

Future Repaints

The original Weirdwolf hasn't ever been repainted but there's lots of other wolves in Transformers. A technological version of the organic Weirdwolf would be nice as would a new Cybertron Snarl, who formed the basis for Botcon 2007 Weirdwolf. Wolfang was repainted/remoulded into Beast Wars K-9, Best Wars II Max-B and Beast Wars Telemocha Volfang all of which are good repaint options a would Toy's Dream Project Galaxy Force Fangwolf, Snarl's limited edition Black Repaint.