Archive for category Toy
Apparently by “lands this weekend”, I meant “will be accidentally forgotten about in the shuffle of getting unpacked just so I can start packing again for Botcon”. Oops.
Dark of the Moon Powerglide is one of my favourite things to come out to of the entire Dark of the Moon toyline. In fact, a lot of the best stuff to come out of the line were a part of the smaller scaled Cyberverse line and toys that didn’t get larger scale incarnations. Things like the Ark with Roller and Guzzle were absolute gems, as was the heavily armed Commander class Cyberverse Powerglide.
Obviously an homage to the original and my childhood favourite minibot, G1 Powerglide, this guy joins Dark of the Moon Guzzle as another clear cut case of Hasbro showing their endearing devotion to the source material.
Meanwhile his headsculpt has an inordinate amount of detailing for such a small toy.
Speaking of detailing, his wing has a nice Autobot Air Force insignia.
I am so happy they went with the correct colour scheme, if a bit darker red, for this guy, not pulling a Universe 2008 Powerglide on him.
This allowed him to take a place on one of my favourite shelves, the Movie-verse “G1 Homages” display.
His transformation is surprisingly involved. I particularly like how his arms rotate and fold into much the same place as his G1 incarnation, despite the wings themselves being attached the arms rather than folding up against his body. Also, the massive amounts of weaponry that come with him unfolds from their handheld position to fill his wings like a proper A-10.
An A-10 is pretty much a gun with an airplane strapped to it, so this is one area that he eclipses his G1 version.
This makes me very, very happy.
I am currently in the last leg of a cross-country roadtrip so this week’s update, which lands this weekend, is going to be a little slim (hint: literally Cyberverse sized).
In the meantime, here’s a couple notes about my Transformer-laden Trip to Bountiful. Okay, maybe the pickings were a little bit more slim than that, but if you read the twitterings (tweetings?) going on in the middle column of this site, you already know the best Transformers-related news of this trip.
Beginning and (hopefully) ending in Chicago, the trip went to several places in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York.
Currently I am typing this from the halfway point back to home where I have finally found some reliable Wi-Fi; a hotel in Youngstown, OH, but that’s neither here nor there (ha! travel humor. I kill me.)
I was quite proud of myself for resisting the urge to stop at every Walmart and Target from Lake Michigan to the Atlantic Ocean. In fact, we had made it all the way to Oregon, Ohio before I finally succumbed and pulled over at a Walmart. There I picked up the new Legends class Optimus Prime and Bumblebee. We then stopped at a couple more Walmarts but to no avail until, on our jaunt down to Philadelphia, we stopped in Toys R Us in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Never having seen one at retail before, I thought the single Fall of Cybertron Blaster hidden behind a row of wave 1 Prime Robots in Disguise Voyagers was a mirage. When I determined it was actually real, I giddily grabbed it and attempted to explain to my son what I had found. Being one and half, Wesley responded with, “Ah-bot red car!” Good enough, kid. Post coming very soon on that particular purchase, he is amazing, even for a redeco of FoC Soundwave/Soundblaster with a new head.
Nothing for the rest of the trip was going to be able to match that find (I was seriously starting to think I would never own him) but I found some fun minor additions to the collection anyway.
Next up was a run in Dollar Tree where I found the six fingerboards (miniature skate boards) that have been floating around since at least 2008. I had seen a few of these before but with all six together, plus being a dollar apiece, I decided to grab the set.
I previously had a tradition of getting a Transformer at the Toys R Us in Times Square but there hasn’t been anything worth buying my last couple trips. This visit was no exception… almost. Walking away quite disappointed from the Action Figure area, I headed over to the toys for younger kids and stumbled across the newest Rescue Bots Optimus and Cody Burns. Wesley loudly exclaimed “Op-uh-miss!”, so I just had to buy them for him, right? As soon as we got Optimus out of his packaging, Wesley tried his best to push his arms in like his other Rescue Bots Optimus and it took some explaining that this Optimus didn’t actually transform.
The last Transformers purchase of the trip was a visit to a Five Below store in New Jersey. I had heard of these stores from other forum members, but had never seen one. They had a bunch of the Dark of the Moon stuff that I already had and a ton of the Speed Stars stuff that I didn’t have. I normally don’t buy non-transforming Transformers for my collection, but again the combination of the super low price and abundance to choose from was too enticing. I decided I still didn’t want the whole series, but I got the two single-packed and one double-packed Optimus Prime. The double-packed one came with an orange coloured Long Haul which I gave to the kid (who absolutely loves dump trucks).
All-in-all, not a bad haul for a trip whose purpose wasn’t actually Transformers. Mostly it just made me even more impatient for my impending Botcon trip.
Speaking of trips, I always pick one Transformer to go with me on trips for messing around with when there’s downtime. The choice this trip is soon to be the subject of his own post, Generations Blitzwing. Not sure if he appreciated his place of honor on the dashoard or not.
As unexpected homages and/or updates, Generations Sky Shadow ranks up there.
Black Shadow was a Takara exclusive released within the Transformers Victory line as a remold of the Mega Pretender Thunderwing with a new chest piece and head.
Now renamed Sky Shadow, he is a Hasbro exclusive released within the Generations line as a remold of Generations Thunderwing with a new chest piece and head.
Pretty awesome how this whole thing came full circle. Even minus the connection to G1 in a succinct update, he’d still be a pretty awesome figure on his own.
With great light-piping and detailing, his headsculpt and new chest piece are wonderful.
He retains the mold’s two missile launching cannons.
They can also be linked together to make one giant cannon that, thanks to his awesome articulation, he can hold with both hands.
He has the detachable drone to simulate his G1 mold’s Inner Robot’s Alt mode.
The best image I could find of Black Shadow’s inner robot was from Botch the Crab’s Box Art Archive site.
His Generations alt mode is an F22-ish jet
It becomes a little bit ungainly when you attach his guns under the wings.
As tends to happen with molds that get used in Botcon sets, once Metalhawk showed up that made three versions of this mold that I have all with different heads.
Luckily they are all distinct enough that the reuse doesn’t hurt them at all. That being said, the Black Shadow use is my favourite of the three.
Much like G1 Thunderwing, I don’t hold any delusions that his G1 figure will ever get reissued. Though unlike Thunderwing, at least Black Shadow made a cartoon appearance. Takara’s equivalent of Hasbro’s Mega Pretenders — Pretenders whose shell could also transform — the two Destron “Crossformers” Black Shadow and Blue Bacchus appeared in one episode of Victory. The pretty much tore up the planet Micro but were stopped when Greatshot, the Cybertron six-changer, showed up and destroyed their shells, sending them fleeing into space. A short, but fun appearance.
He’s got some great P.R. people working for him, somehow that short and injurious appearance has since been spun into a character that, according to his Generations bio, is “one of the most foul, dark-hearted Decepticons in the galaxy.” As if that wasn’t enough, it goes on to state “Megatron shudders when he hears the whine of jet engines in the distance, for it may be Sky Shadow coming for him!”
Granted the best part about Black Shadow is his original G1 function:
How awesome is that?
This was a surprisingly difficult post to write.
Not because the toys aren’t awesome. They are. In fact, one of them is easily one of the best molds in Transformers history. More on that later in the post.
Not because I don’t care in the least bit about the character. As a matter of fact, I don’t. Springer played a pretty big role in the cartoon from the point he was introduced in the 1986 movie on. He was used rather prominently in the promotional material for the movie-related merchandise.
Unfortunately, despite the potential present in his original bio (“a wise-cracking, sharp witted adventurer”) Springer has lately been pigeonholed as, in the words of the TFWiki, the “archetypical action hero”.
*Yaaaawn* We have enough of those running around in the IDW universe. To tell you the truth, I didn’t notice that he never came back after Last Stand of the Wreckers. Apparently he suffers from some newly made-up affliction, the Transformers equivalent of a coma-inducing embolism? I don’t know. IDW has practically created an ever-expanding Grey’s Anatomy of how Transformers work.
No, the reason this post was difficult to write is this:
As the polar opposite of Trailbreaker, who couldn’t catch a break in toy form, Springer was the subject of much unwanted attention over the years. Unwanted because Springer is a member of the somewhat exclusive Triple Changer club.
Despite this, each of his subsequent three toys only had one alt mode, which — as you are most likely aware — is one less alt mode than is needed to actually be a Triple Changer.
Granted, as Triple Changers go, his G1 toy was not exactly a bastion of awesome. Sure, he has the requisite three modes; he has a decent robot mode, a simplistic but definitely passable futuristic helicopter mode, and then… this,
As far as I can tell (because I don’t actually own his G1 toy), that is actually a mid-step in transforming him from robot to helicopter mode, not an actual mode itself. Well, he’s certainly no Blitzwing or Astrotrain.
For Botcon 2007, Springer received his first toy update. His Timelines release was a repaint of Cybertron “Cybertron Defense Force” Hot Shot. A good choice with a great armored attack vehicle alt mode, the design of the headsculpt definitely lends itself to a Springer-esque interpretation. Unfortunately he’s missing a flight-based secondary alt mode, which meant he wasn’t the Springer for my collection.
The following year he showed up in a two-pack as a repaint of Cybertron Evac, he finally had his helicopter alt mode back, but at the cost of his ground-based alt mode. Now, helicopter alt modes might be my favourite traditional vehicle alt mode, but the colouring was far too dark of a green and the headsculpt didn’t really look like Springer to me.
By the third attempt, the “GDO” or Hasbro Asia exclusive turned Toys R Us exclusive redeco of the awesome Tomahawk mold, it was beginning to look like Springer would never rejoin the world of Triple Changers. Initially I wasn’t going to buy this one either — despite being a helicopter, painted correctly, AND having an awesome new headsculpt — but ended up getting him and Cliffjumper in a package deal to get my hands on the two I really wanted, Wheelie and Swerve.
Which is where we finally come to the part about why this post was difficult to write, or to be more precise, difficult to start.
I never opened him. He’s been sitting, along with the aforementioned Cliffjumper, in the closet for somewhere near eight months. Once the recently released triple changing Voyager class Generations Springer was announced, the GDO release became as extraneous as Cliffjumper already was.
Do I open him? Do I not? As stupid as it sounds, I was at a serious deadlock over this. I had even worked up a justification for his existence. In my version, Springer wasn’t always the massive, triple changing ‘bot he is today. He used to be a standard one alt mode Transformer. Still, contrary to my “Transformers Are Meant To Be Transformed!” policy, I decided against opening him.
Then I sat down and had a beer.
That’s when I decided that Transformers still in the packaging was for the birds (sorry MISB collectors, that was just the beer talking) and allowed him to break free of his packaging.
This guy is amazing. Of course, I kinda already knew that because of Tomahawk, but it helps that he fits my justification perfectly. He makes for a great “younger Springer”.
My only complaint would be the much darker green on his legs, I would have liked to see more of the bright green throughout instead.
The new headsculpt is very reminiscent of the original toy and has wonderful light piping owing to the fact that the entire back of his head is translucent plastic. It actually does a better job than the newer mold at harkening back to the G1 toy.
My favourite part has to be in alt mode where they homage the G1 toy’s yellow and blue sticker details.
As semi-futuristic helicopter molds go, this toy remains one of the best. Without the more recent Generations Springer release, I’m pretty sure I would have been happy making do with this guy as my collection’s Springer update. A lot of fans have already taken to doing mods to give him some semblance of a secondary wheeled alt mode. Just do a Google Image Search for “Springer GDO Minor/Repaint” to see a good deal of them.
But enough about history. This is the present.
There are a couple molds I consider perfect. Generations Jazz is one of them. This is another.
Based on Nick Roche’s designs for Springer’s IDW incarnation, I have no complaints about the source material. I may have ranted a couple times now about Mr. Roche’s poor writing skills (I believe his formula is “witty quip, death, witty quip, death, later, rinse, repeat) but I am a fan of his art, even if he does continue the annoying “teeth on Transformers” tradition.
I didn’t know what to think of his Transformer designs at first, they have a lot of heft and weight to them. After Dreamwave’s horrible ever-inflating balloon-formers I had enough of bulging ‘bots. Luckily Roche and the other IDW artists can manage to vary the size of their cast, so not all of them are overwhelmingly bulky. Even with that, sometimes the mass of the IDW’s ‘bots can still get away from the artist.
The physics of reality has put Roche’s Springer design on a diet. To render him into a workable toy form, he’s slimmed down considerably while still retaining all the details of the source design. He’s also one of the very few toys with drawn box art that can successfully mimic the artwork.
Like I said, a perfect Transformer with a remarkable amount of articulations points. He wouldn’t be a perfect Springer without a sword made from his helicopter alt mode’s rotor.
Click here for an alternate shot with the sword (the guy is just so photogenic, I couldn’t decide which sword pose I liked better!)
Speaking of alt modes, to be a perfect Transformer toy, your perfect robot mode has to seamlessly fold into a perfect alt mode. He succeeds at this twice. His helicopter mode is freaking awesome with almost no indication of there being another alt mode.
His gun can be carried under his cockpit for an assault chopper.
Then he switches it up to armoured car mode, hiding all signs of helicopter mode and even changing the shape of his windshield between the two.
The handle of his gun is on a pivot, the added articulation helps a lot when posing him but also allows a range of motion for the gun when it is mounted on top of his car mode.
Just spectacular, everyone needs this guy in their collection. Hopefully he will start to be more widely available in the coming months. I actually lucked out on a recent out-of-town trip where I found Prime Hun-Grrr at a Meijer’s and then found both Springer and Blitzwing at a WalMart in Battle Creek, Michigan.
This makes three Springers in my collection, though Kre-O Springer has his issues. Mostly it’s the fact that despite have great painted detail on his chest piece, the instructions then have you cover it up with the piece that holds his rotor on.
Not only does it cover up the chest details, but the fact that he carries swords in robot mode that are traditionally formed from those rotors makes them somehow incongruous, something he shares with the GDO release. Granted, his alt mode is about as good as one expects from the Kre-O Microchanger series.
That’s the joy of Kre-O, you can make them look however you want, so those parts go into the extra parts bag.
I should get Laura Linney to introduce this post. Masterpiece Seekers! Thundercracker! Skywarp! Starscream!
Super nerdy post title is super nerdy.
Almost exactly two years ago this month, I did a sequence of posts on the original G1 Seekers where I declared the acquisition of Thundercracker the “end of the Generations Seekers Saga”. Though the Generations line also included the three “Conehead” Seekers and the new Seeker, Acid Storm, the 2012 release of Masterpiece Thundercracker at least completes the original trio of Seekers in Masterpiece form.
We’re reportedly receiving Acid Storm in the Masterpiece line near the end of the year. Being a Toys R Us exclusive, he will most likely be difficult to find initially, then when he is somewhat easier to find his price will go up to excruciatingly expensive. This pattern repeating itself will determine whether or not I bother trying to pick him up at all.
To complete a full set of “Masterpiece” Seekers, including the Coneheads, the Blue Rainmaker, and a G2 Ramjet if you want, you have to go 3rd Party. So far the original three and the planned Acid Storm are the only official full retail releases in Hasbro’s Masterpiece line. TakaraTomy released “special edition” versions of Sunstorm “Starscream Ghost Version”. I actually wish we were getting Sunstorm instead of Acid Storm over here.
Either way, these are the quintessential Seekers as far as I am concerned and having all three brings me much joy.
To make it easier to discuss in the forums, even Hasbro Masterpiece mold versions tend to get named after their TakaraTomy release numbers. Hasbro’s Skywarp and Starscream both use the “MP-3″ version of the Masterpiece Seeker mold. TakaraTomy released Starscream as MP-3 and, using the same mold, Skywarp as MP-6 and Thundercracker as MP-7. Hasbro’s Masterpiece Thundercracker uses the new “MP-11″ version. MP-11 was first released as “Starscream Coronation Version”, while based on the MP-3 mold, there was significant remolding done. Most notable being the addition of struts in the back to help him stand better, the removal of the pieces hanging off the hips — something a lot of fans didn’t like about the MP-3 mold — and a brand new headsculpt. Apparently someone in the packaging department didn’t get the note about Thundercracker using the new version of the mold, as his box has a call out for “2 different heads!” which was true of the MP-3 mold, but not the MP-11 mold.
The instructions included are also for the MP-3 mold. Oops.
The new headsculpt is pretty awesome and I had hoped to swap it out for Skywarp’s. When I did, I learned a couple things:
First, as expected, it looks really cool on Skywarp.
Second, the older head looks surprisingly cool on the new mold.
Third, the old mold can’t transform with the new, larger head, despite the new head having collapsible sides to make it somewhat smaller. Since I am not about to take a dremel to my favourite toy, the head swap was short lived.
Other than the head differences, the new legs are heftier and lend more of a cartoon aspect to the mold. In fact, of the three, Thundercracker has far more of a cartoon look to him. The fandom is split, with a majority appearing to prefer the MP-11 mold because of the lack of “hip kibble”, but I actually fall more on the MP-3 side. I determined this when I set Masterpiece Thundercracker next to his G1 and Generations incarnations.
In robot mode Thundercracker looks a lot like a large version of his Generations release, especially with the new, chunkier legs and his new headsculpt. I’m not really a fan of that. It’s hard to put into words, but the closest I can come is that I much prefer my Masterpieces to be their own thing, to be uniquely distinct from the other releases of that same character.
His alt mode looks perfectly fine from the top, retaining the realistic F-15 the other two Masterpiece Seekers have.
He also retains the mold’s air brake feature.
Thankfully he also keeps the orientation of the Decepticon symbol on his wings the same as Skywarp’s, which puts them right way up in robot mode. Starscream has them the other way around in alt mode and therefore upside down in robot mode.
Unfortunately the removal of the pieces that hang from the hips results in removing the part that better covers the sides of his robot mode arms. They also added ball-jointed armatures attached to his guns so they would not need to be removed during transformation, nice touch but ultimately unnecessary in a Masterpiece toy and further take away from the look of alt mode. Both are minor details, but still push me further to the MP-3 side. Something else they did with Thundercracker that I don’t appreciate, and didn’t appreciate with the one application on the Starscream release, are the rather capriciously humorous tampographed details they added.
Hidden on the back of his shoulders in robot mode, both sides of his alt mode are the only place you can really see the images of G1 Reflector with the words “Say Cheese!” Then, combining Thundercracker’s signature Sonic Boom attack with G1 Soundwave, this silhouette adorns the outside of both vertical stabilizers.
Had they been optional stickers, I would have thought they were pretty awesome (and summarily not applied them), but being tampographed I find them mostly annoying. Thundercracker really doesn’t strike me as the whimsical type.
Some far less annoying applications are the addition of pilot names and Thundercracker’s G1 Takara release number, D-24, as a sort of call sign detail.
Though one name is paying tribute to toy designer Joe Kyde, I’m not sure who exactly J. Sass is, though I am assured he is also a toy designer.
He might also be an actual dragon as far as I know. Toy designer sounds like a safer bet, I guess. The MP-11 mold keeps the MP-3 mold’s chest missiles and smaller accessories (accessories I completely forgot to even mention in either Skywarp or Starscream’s previous entries). There is a clip to allow jet mode to carry the gun mode Megatron that came with 20th Anniversary Optimus Prime, wing missile racks, a chromed “holographic pilot” figure, and a base with a stand for posing him in either robot or alt mode.
The missile racks don’t make as much sense as it requires removing his attached guns with their armatures; kind of defeats the purpose of the armature pieces and leaves the unsightly ball-joint receptacle. MP-11′s “holographic pilot” replaces the MP-3 mold’s figure of Dr. Arkeville. Also, the parsing of “Thunder Cracker” on the stand sets my teeth on edge.
All-in-all, any quibbles I have with either the MP-3 or MP-11 molds are very minor.
As I’ve already typed once; these three together bring me much, much joy.
In my Torca post I recounted how I dreaded pulling him out of the bin he currently resides in for fear of the results of the dreaded GPS. Though I lucked out and found nothing yet, GPS is a question of when, not if. There will come a time that he eventually cracks and finally crumbles. To alleviate that sad day, I am still determined to hunt down the non-GPS suffering version of the mold, Elephorca, released in Takara’s Beast Wars Neo line.
Fast forward to one of the two subjects of today’s post: Megabolt. Though I went into the Torca post aware of his affliction, I didn’t know it about Megabolt. Apparently he has what the TFWiki calls “a mild case of GPS”. This means he suffers cracks, but doesn’t simply shatter into powder like most.
I didn’t know this at the time I removed him from his bin so it came as quite a surprise when immediately the posts holding the sides of his alt mode head together both snapped off.
This is a ten year old figure, never before transformed, so — despite the gold plastic staring me in the face — I didn’t immediately jump to the conclusion of GPS.
Then the small loop where his arm locks in place on the back of his alt mode cracked into multiple pieces.
While trying to survey the damage, his left arm fell off altogether. That’s when I hit the internet for answers. The diagnosis was grim. With the somewhat hopeful use of the words “mild case” on the TFWiki, I was determined to repair as much damage as I could and extend his life as long as possible. I started by successfully gluing the arm back on. So far so good.
Next I glued the tab back together, or at least the one piece of it I still had.
However, to glue that one piece back on, I had to transform him to robot mode first.
I was terrified.
Luckily (what an odd thing to type at this point) the only thing that happened was the indention that holds the ball joint on his shoulder cracked into several pieces. There would be no way to ensure I didn’t glue the joint into one piece if it was still attached, so I had to remove it. I glued the pieces together, waited until it dried, then tried to snap it back onto the ball without stressing it so much that it shattered further.
It shattered further. Enough remains to actually hold the joint together while still allowing it to move so I was more or less successful. In the image above, you can also see where the tip of the tab on the other shoulder piece snapped off as well.
There he is, you wouldn’t know his sad state of affairs just by looking as him, so I guess mission successful. However, this is as posed as he’s going to get, I am not tempting his fragility any further. Never has a headsculpt so perfectly encapsulated my feelings about a particular toy experience.
As the most compacted mode and therefore most secure from random breaks, he will probably spend the rest of his life in alt mode. So let’s talk about this alt mode and this figure in particular now that the unpleasantness of GPS is done.
Megabolt makes very little sense as a toy release. He was an Armada style packaged, Robots in Disguise toyline KB Toys exclusive redeco of the previous year’s KB Toys exclusive Robots in Disguise release that was actually meant as a Beast Machines Megatron toy.
Bwah? I’ll give you a moment if you want to re-parse that sentence. It’s kinda tangled.
Of course, if you’re familiar with the Beast Machines series, you recognize Megabolt’s alt mode as an improperly coloured, scaled down version of Beast Machines Megatron’s “Grand Mal” mode most commonly known as the BFH, the Big Floating Head (or Big F#@%ing Head if you’re less polite).
Unlike with Torca, when Megabolt finally suffers an irrevocable break (*sob*), it won’t be as bad because I already have the original and — more importantly — non-GPS inflicted version of the mold, Megatron Megabolt.
Megatron Megabolt was designed to be the toy incarnation of the massive, floating head construct that Beast Machines Megatron’s spark resided in for a time when he purged the organic material from himself. It was shown to transform in the cartoon, but from an enormous head into a spaceship.
Nicknamed “BFH” by the fandom, the official name of “Grand Mal” [french for "great evil/wrong/illness/pains" but best known as the erstwhile name of a type of seizure] was revealed in episode scripts and in a short story in the Transformers Legends anthology. In toy form, his original Beast Machines bio states that he “has taken the form of a gigantic cybernetic head that hovers over Cybertron”.
While staying within continuity for the series, the bio fails to address the addition of spider legs in alt mode. It also says nothing of his robot mode.
It would also make as much sense that this was meant to be a scaled down version altogether. I would love to imagine a scene in Beast Machines where the Grand Mal opened its mouth and out poured hundreds of these spider legged horrors. Then for them to transform into copies of Megatron himself as they began their assault. How chilling would that have been?
The toy also has a spring-loaded, flip-down “battle mask” attached to a missile launcher. The mask is designed after the helmet of the control harness Megatron used in Beast Machines to control his army.
On the toy, the helmet portion actually adheres to his head by way of magnets.
The head on Megabolt is one of the parts reported to suffer from GPS, which is why a photo of him in his mask is missing from this post.
One more awesome little factiod about these two (and I have to confess, my recent acquisition of Fortress Maximus actually spurred this post).
When Megatron Megabolt was brought over to the Robots in Disguise toyline, he received a bio that made him the “Emissary Mode” of Robots in Disguise Megatron himself. Car Robots, the Takara cartoon and toyline that Robots in Disguise was dubbed from included a repaint of G1 Fortress Maximus named Brave Maximus. There is an odd design quirk about Megatron Megabolt and Megabolt that he fits perfectly into the Fortress Maximus mold’s head area once you remove the spider legs.
Though most likely accidental, Megatron Megabolt’s Robots in Disguise bio actually calls this “feature” out.
“Developed “Emissary Mode” to combine with his space cruiser and even the secret Autobot defense fortress in attempt to gain absolute power.”
Regardless, I still consider Megatron Megabolt to be a Beast Machines toy and he will be displayed with the other Beast era toys. Megabolt, however, will now be sealed up in as safe a container as I can find and stashed away in a bin until the day I can display everyone. Not that it matters, I guess, considering he very well may be a pile of shattered pieces by then.
Part the Second is going to be less like a sequel and more like bookends for Part the First.
Sitting at work and watching the UPS Tracking link like a hawk, I was actually surprised how fast I got him. Sitting at work, I received a message from my wife,
“I have your box.”
I contemplated coming down with a sudden bout of Sluggish Cognitive Tempo disorder (I’m pretty sure that’s the medical term for “Lazy”) and heading home, but stuck it out — that’s the selfless kind of person I am. Just to give a sense of the size of his box, I put it up next to my one and a half year old kid.
He then dutifully and excitedly started pointing out the Autobot symbol, repeatedly saying “Ah-bot! Ah-bot! Ah-bot!” (I am quite proud of the fact that “Autobot” and “Optimus” were some of his first words). The box is huge. I was originally concerned that I didn’t know where I would store it, but have since decided the box itself is display worthy. I really, really, reeeeeeeally like the Takara boxart.
Not that Hasbro’s isn’t nice, it just lacks the dynamism of Takara’s.
As was widely reported, this release has put a little bit of a crimp in the style of the MISB collectors. Due to an undisclosed “QC Issue”, TakaraTomy was forced to open each box and then tape it back up, this lead to dreaded “double-taping” that sets most MISB collectors’ teeth on edge.
Not such an issue with me, I believe Transformers are meant to be transformed so I sliced right through that tape. Out slid what came to be something of another surprise with this Encore release. Long determined to be environmentally detrimental, the styrofoam used to pack many of the larger G1 toys has been all but removed from modern packaging. Fortress Maximus, however, comes packaged in a styrofoam coffin, similar to his original release.
Finally, it was time to see my very own Fortress Maximus.
First, we must go back in time for just a moment. Before there was a Fortress Maximus in my collection, there was Fortress Minimus.
When I was under the clear understanding that my acquisition of an actual Fortress Maximus was about as likely as a lasting Cybertronian peace treaty, I settled for the next closest thing I could find. By “closest” I mean “oddly well detailed at about one eighteenth the size”.
This miniaturized knock-off version of Fortress Maximus actually fit in well with my shelf of Primus and Unicrons, but could now be retired because he had been rendered remarkably redundant.
Meanwhile, back at the unboxing,
I pulled everything out of the box and inspected it meticulously; transforming him between his three modes to make sure. From armless Spike/Cerebros to a defective hip ratchet on Fortress Maximus himself, there has been a smattering of serious quality problems being reported on the forums. I am quite pleased to say that I found none, serious or minor, on mine.
Having relieved that particular anxiety, I was ready to set up the camera and take some serious photos. Oh… wait. What’s that colossal sheet of shiny silver paper that’s almost the size of Fortress Maximus?
Stickers. 55 of them to be precise.
Determined to push through my least favourite part of reissues, I actually found far fewer instances of needing to trim down improperly cut stickers than normal, which helped the process along. There’s been a couple posts on the forums about buyer’s remorse, but – just short of needing the money for an unforeseen life-saving operation — I can’t fathom how that could be. He is magnificent.
Does he lack articulation? For a G1 toy, not particularly. There are those that can truly be called “bricks”, like Powermaster Optimus Prime or Star Convoy (two of my favourite Transformers toys), but Fortress Maximus’ limited articulation is on par with a good portion of the G1 ’bots a fourth his size.
For someone big enough to just step on most of his enemies, even without counting his handheld dual laser cannons and photon rifle he is fairly bristling with weaponry. Guns rotate out all over the place.
He also carries the massive Master Sword.
No, not that Master Sword, this one.
An accessory exclusive to the Takara release, the Master Sword played a very prominent part in the Headmasters series as the weapon that allowed Fortress Maximus to finally defeat his rival, Scorponok. In the cartoon, they are roughly the same size, but in toy form, Maximus towers over Scorponok.
Had this been the scale used in the show, Headmasters would have been a very short series indeed. Probably the worst offender of scale tomfoolery in all of Transformers history, writers just didn’t know what to do with an Autobot this big. His fictional appearances mostly bring him down in size; how far down varies between different fictions and something even varies within the same fiction. His most recent appearances in the IDW comics put him at just a little bit bigger than the average Transformer.
I really like the sculpt on Fortress’ head mode, I was surprised to find that Cerebros was not necessary when attaching Fortress to Fortress Maximus, with the instructions even showing that he can be placed in the shoulder compartment to the right of the head.
When in robot mode, Gasket and Grommet can be parked in his feet.
Now, Fortress Maximus may have been intended as a city ‘bot, but out of all his modes Headmasters uses his third mode most often. The somewhat indeterminate “battle station” in the Hasbro instructions or the space-faring Battleship Maximus of the Headmasters release (or “Spaceship Bruce” as the hilariously bad Omni Productions dub called it) is the least convincing of the modes, despite being the one with the most cartoon representation.
Though this is the mode that makes use of the little cockpit at the top of the tower.
I was quite surprised by how low the price was when the Encore release was announced, but even as reasonable as I found it, unfortunately it’s still prohibitively expensive for a number of fans. This makes me sad because I can finally understand why this has been a grail piece for so many. I know I have already written it once, but magnificent is really the only word I can use for him.
Playing with toys.
This is a concept that is natural while mostly inconceivable to your average toy collector. This is how these toys were meant to be used,
But for a good portion of them, this is how they will be displayed,
Almost seems a shame. Well. Almost, until something like this happens,
That is the tiniest of holes poked in the sticker on the main ramp — stickers that go over molded detail are one of the many areas that the original G1 stickers fail as a concept. It was done by my son because all he wants in the world is to drive “truck” (a.k.a. Gasket) up and down the main ramp.
Which I will allow him to do all he wants.
When he is eighteen…
Or maybe never. The jury is still out on that one.
The Year of the Really Big Autobots, Part Two… Part One. Gasket and Grommet (Cog), Spike/Cerebros, Cerebros/Fortress! Fortress Maximus!
2013, which I have declared the year of the “most surprising, most glee-inducing releases in recent Transformers history” rolls on with TakaraTomy’s Encore Release number 23. Unless you’ve been living under a Transforming rock for the last six months, you are probably well aware of the identity of the most recent release in the Encore line.
Measuring 22 inches tall, Fortress Maximus was, until very recently, the largest Transformer toy ever made and an unattainable holy grail to many, myself included. Add in the fact that I had just finished watching the Headmasters cartoon series not too long before he was announced and I pre-ordered him so fast I was dizzy. Though I did not shell out the extra money for the “early shipment” that some online retailers were offering, I was champing at the bit to get my hands on him.
Never having owned his toy (I was 13 when he was originally released and was told I was too old for Transformers), the closest I have come to him is pictures on the internet or the few I have seen from a distance on dealers tables at Botcon. Not having the commitment nor the fortitude to stomach the cost necessary to complete a vintage Fort Max, I had pretty much resigned myself to the fact that the closest I would come to having him grace my display was the KO of Spike that I owned. His Encore release was as welcome as it was completely unexpected.
Encore reissues are, of course, completely a TakaraTomy affair — especially with this one as there’s just no way he can pass the Draconian “Drop Test” laws of Hasbro territories. One thing this means is that the smaller robots that come with the gigantic ‘bot aren’t the human Spike, binary-bonded with the Headmaster Cerebros, who in turn transforms into the head of Fortress Maximus. No, here we have the small robot Cerebros who forms the head of Fortress, who then forms the head of Fortress Maximus. That’s why, when referring to the toys themselves, I will be using their Takara release names.
As I wrote about at length in my Hardhead post, I fully support Cerebros being a robot in place of the squishy human Spike. As much as I absolutely love Headmasters, Targetmasters, and Powermasters; I still consider the use of highly modified organics for partners to be both illogical and painfully awkward.
As first impressions go, I expected Fortress himself to be larger, though I’m not sure why. Fortress Maximus is as righteously huge as I was anticipating, so the size of the robot that makes up his head should have been pretty easy to extrapolate.
Despite his smaller size, he still has the full three tumblers in his chest for his Tech Spec readout. Putting the “Max” in “Maximus”, he has all tens across the board.
Despite having Spike, I never really thought about just how very wrong the Marvel comics and US cartoon got his head model — shown in the bottom of the last panel in the comic book image above. Headrobots did do a set called “Centurion” that included updated versions (along the same lines as their “Hothead” G1 Hardhead update) of both the original G1 toy as well as the way he looked in the US fiction.
As much as I love Headrobots, I didn’t really feel the need to pick this set up. I can imagine it was awesome for anyone that had assembled almost all of a vintage Fortress Maximus but maybe missing Spike. Though I wouldn’t mind owning just the US cartoon accurate one, I honestly like Takara’s Fortress better than Hasbro’s Cerebros, they managed to get much closer to the look of his toy.
Another difference between the Takara and Hasbro releases is the inclusion of two versions of the Master Sword, the sword “given to the just ruler”. One of which is a smaller version, meant to be wielded by Fortress.
On the subject of things I wasn’t aware until I acquired him for myself included his third mode: ”communications room”.
Errr, well, it works better when he combines with his section of Fortress Maximus in city mode.
A good reason for me not knowing his second alt mode was that he actually transformed into an alt mode in the US cartoon’s “Rebirth“. That alt mode just happened to be a miniaturized version of Fortress Maximus’ full city mode.
That’s not too surprising, as there really isn’t anything consistent across any of his fictional appearances.
I’ve looked far and wide, but can find no evidence for or against Takara’s release using the same name as Hasbro for the two components, Gasket and Grommet.
By extension, as far as I know, Takara released their combined robot mode under the same name as well, Cog.
The part that I don’t understand is — beyond the application of wheels and tank tread stickers — no real attempt was made to make these guys transform or even look much like two separate alt modes. Gasket, the upper half, does marginally better; if seen from the side, he looks like a vehicle of some sort. He can also function as a heavily armed
wheelchair vehicle for Cerebros.
I still think he was meant to go the other way ’round. He looks like a torso on wheels the way the instructions show him. Reversed, he looks like a well armed pickup truck type vehicle.
Grommet on the other hand makes no attempt to look like anything more than a pair of Transformers legs with tank treads driving around.
It would have made so much more sense to put holes on Grommet to allow him to carry Cog’s arms as guns in alt mode.
That’s Fortress Maximus’ supporting cast, the primary inhabitants of this particular Autobot city.
I have to admit, Gasket and Grommet are a bit of a let down, though Cog is a solid enough combined mode. They are definitely no Scamper, Six-Gun, and Slammer, so that’s one area that Fortress Maximus loses out to Metroplex. Well, the only area. I’m saying this while being very partial to Metroplex, but Fortress Maximus is just a wonder in city mode.
As my kid will attest, this mode has non-stop play value.
One of the added benefits to leaving the guns off Gasket is that he’s able to fit into my favourite gimmick of city mode. I knew that Fortress Maximus had a somewhat awkwardly placed rotating handle on his crotch but never knew what function it served. In city mode, it sits in the back, tucked away behind the main tower and nestled between the two rear cannons.
Turning the crank raises and lowers an elevator inside the main section of the fortress.
Once the vehicle elevator has been raised, pushing the red button next to the ramp opening tilts the back end of the elevator platform up, ejecting the vehicle at surprisingly high speeds.
City mode has a prison for dealing with those dastardly Decepticons.
Also, a helicopter pad.
There’s a turning radar arrary, presumably powered by Fortress in his “communications room” mode. Of course, there’s also a million other nooks and crannies for the other inhabitants, ’cause this is a
Next up is part two of “The Year of the Really Big Autobots Part 2″ — Part 2 of Part 2? Maybe I should have just called them Part 2: Hyper Fighting and Part 2: The New Challengers.
Anyway, up next: the Big Bot himself.
With the Kreons, I have gained both a new appreciation as well as jealousy of the folks at Takara and Hasbro that design Transformers. It started with my experience bulking up and somewhat G1-ifying my Kre-O Wheeljack and has happened again with the new Kre-O Microchanger Combiners.
Before we get to that part, first let me go off on a bit of a tangent. With all of the announced Kre-O Microchanger Combiners — wait, back up: let’s start with the fact that the Microchanger Combiner teams based on their G1 releases even exist to begin with. Now, back to what I was typing about before my tangent went off on a tangent: even though each of the Kre-O Combined robots is only made up of four ‘bots; they are including the fifth ‘bot from the team as a single packed release.
Now I want one more person to tell me that Hasbro & Co. doesn’t love the fans. Just one.
There is absolutely no other reason they would include a single-pack release that is mostly indistinguishable to the average kid from the guys in the Combiner set other than for the fans.
For example, that way we (the fans) don’t miss out on Slingshot — released as Kre-O Quickslinger — with the rest of the Aerialbots that make up Kre-O Superion.
Quickslinger gets a different head and helmet from the rest of the Aerialbots, but other than that, has the same basic colour scheme as Firestrike — the Kre-O incarnation of Fireflight.
The remaining three are the ones that didn’t suffer a name change; Air Raid, the team leader Silverbolt, and Skydive.
Air Raid’s is pretty much the only one of the five of them with a semi-decent alt mode.
Mind you, this isn’t a complaint or a strike against these guys in the least bit for me. None of the Microchanger series and especially none of the Microchanger Combiners have been bought because they can actually transform. Just like the pre-Microchanger Kreons, they were all bought based on their robot modes and the awesome G1-ness of it all. Pretty much the same reason I own all of the widely released G1 Robot Heroes.
As much as I like Superion and the Aerialbots, I’m not too overly attached to them, which may be why I didn’t really feel the need — as so many other apparently did — to find a combination that included him in Superion. It wouldn’t be too difficult to do and still include a majority, if not all, of his pieces.
For some reason, I didn’t feel the same about Predaking and the Predacons. Not only did I feel the need to include the single-packed member of the group, Rampage, but I also felt compelled to correct the non-G1-ness of his combined mode’s legs.
For it to properly be Predaking, you have to have a rhino head for the left kneecap and a bull head for the right. What the instructions have instead is a — admittedly clever — single horn to represent the rhino and the double horned piece from Divebomb’s tail to suggest the bull head.
What I and countless others have done is to use the actual head pieces in place of the suggested ones. This presents a slight problem, because the combined mode uses the orange head piece for its head. All except Divebomb have an interchangeable helmet piece with holes to insert horns and make it into a rhino or bull head or left as is for the two cats. To solve this, I swapped out Rampage’s red head piece achieving even more G1 accuracy in the process. However, this wasn’t the end of the problems. As a further cheat, the red head for Rampage on Predaking’s shoulder is faked by using the red headpiece from the bull. I say “faked” because, remember, Rampage isn’t even included in the Predaking set.
I considered buying a second single-packed Rampage just for the headpiece, but for now I faked it even more by borrowing a couple of my extra red pieces for his shoulder.
By adding Rampage into the mix, I also made Predaking a little taller, which is appropriate given his comparatively hulking size in G1.
While I was adding extra pieces, I also increased Divebomb’s wingspan which in turn increased Predaking’s. Remember that appreciation and jealousy of the toy designers I mentioned? Divebomb is where a majority of it came from in this case. I had a lot of dislikes with Divebomb. First, his robot mode placed his wings directly on his arms, which is needlessly inaccurate. I moved those to his already existing backpack. I also used red for the wings rather than black in robot mode. I would have preferred a little more G1 accurate orange, but was lacking the pieces.
I also left his tail piece on his backpack. Speaking of his tail, that I changed completely. The double-pronged tail piece from the instructions just didn’t work at all. His entire alt mode was pretty much just him bending in half, it clearly needed further help. I kept the black wing pieces along with the added red and gave him a bigger wingspan and used the two slanting orange pieces from his combined mode’s legs to try to recreate his G1 tail. I also replaced the two horns with actual clamps to give his bird legs some actual clawed feet.
Still not perfect, but much better in my opinion. The appreciation for toy designers came in the fact that I would make improvements to his alt mode, but then it was too bulky and I was removing way too many pieces to convert him to robot. What I had to do was find a balance between a definitive alt mode and a clean robot mode without a pile of pieces left over. Luckily Kre-O has a precedent of a couple pieces left over after you transform them. A toy designer doesn’t even that much leeway. These days they have to try to make a convincing alt mode and a convincing robot mode and use all the same pieces for both. A mind-twisting exercise, but a fun one (which is where the jealousy comes in). With the exception of not putting the vest piece on Razorclaw, I left the other guys pretty much alone in both modes. The vest pieces have been particularly annoying because they cover up all the wonder detailing included on the Kreon’s chest.
I’ve left them off of any Kreons where they aren’t strictly necessary.
Despite the identical headpieces, the menagerie of animals for the Predacons has just enough differences. Though they still come off rather… impressionistic.
Once again, not a problem. The combined mode is where it’s at.
I have purposely tried to stay away from their Kre-O names because two of them are a bit of a mess. Razorclaw, Rampage, and Divebomb all retain their original G1 names, but Tantrum and Headstrong are no longer available. Hasbro replaced them with Torox and Headlock. Now, Torox has history, it is actually Tantrum’s Italian G1 name. The problem is that someone got confused and swapped their names along the way, with Tantrum being renamed Headlock and my favourite Predacon, Headstrong, being renamed Torox.
Either way, whatever they’re named, I seriously doubt anyone’s going to mess with them about it.
So, it looks like the last of my blog post publishing problems has been wrapped up and things should start appearing every Thursday like they’re meant to. For anyone that missed it because of the two Gizmodo posts, I did finally get my Insecticons post to show up. Enjoy!
In the Beast Hunters line there were three toys I was looking forward to the most and one I was looking forward to the least. The first of the three was Smokescreen, the last of the three will be Beast Fire Predaking, the Ultimate Class dragon expected later this year. In the middle are the remaining two: one I was eagerly anticipating and one not-so-much.
What I found was that the one I wasn’t looking forward to at all is actually quite good and the one I was looking forward to is indeed fantastic.
I actually feel a little bad for Bumblebee at this point. He’s been done so many times that you would think that he could get a good long break from that same yellow and black look, but no. Sure, he’s gotten a couple “stealth” releases here and there, but the vast, overwhelming majority have stuck steadfast to the very strict homage. This wouldn’t be too bad by itself, but once you mix it with the sheer number of toys he received on the shelves since his front-and-center role in the 2007 movie; a tinge of animosity can begin to grow.
His Beast Hunters release had it even worse, being a retool of a previous toy. Granted he is heavily, heavily retooled. In Beast Hunters style, he is festooned with the requisite stabby spikes, but he also has new hood detailing, missile carrying racks added to both car doors, and a 5mm hole added to the car roof for mounting weapons.
More specifically — though he comes with the Robots in Disguise release’s arm guns — it’s for mounting his new “Eagleshot Bow” (not to be confused with the weapon of Beast Hunters Optimus, the “Eaglefire Missile Launchers”) for which he comes with six missiles.
He has a new “armored up” headsculpt which basically adds a cool crested helmet to his previous head and giving him a birdlike visage.
One more major retool he received is that the hinge that lets his roof fold up and tuck away better is removed. The end result is that part of the roof sticks up further in the back on the Beast Hunters release. However, this takes away from the awkwardness of the one part of his Arms Micron and Robots in Disguise releases I didn’t like; the thin panel that juts up behind his head.
So, I am glad to report that even with his yawn-inspiring yellow and black paintjob, the rest of him is surprisingly good.
Not surprisingly good: Shockwave. He is decidedly not surprising in the fact that he is beyond good, he is amazing. What is surprising, is that somehow he accomplishes this while overcoming a very serious handicap. No, not his lack of depth perception or the huge cannon where his left hand should be; those particular “handicaps” are an intrinsic part of Shockwave.
No, his problem is his alt mode. While it’s very reminiscent of Animated Shockwave, it’s a strange half-tracked, spindly suggestion of a tank rather than an actual tank.
For a voyager, I definitely don’t expect to see his arm and hand mostly dangling from the bottom of his alt mode — a problem he shares with fellow Prime Voyager-class release, Dreadwing. At least Dreadwing’s hands stick out in the back, Shockwave’s is right there in front. He definitely isn’t doing the “H-Tank” category any favours.
The other thing he shares with Dreadwing: his robot mode more than makes up for any alt mode deficiencies.
Furthering the Shockwave homage in a very clever way, one of his tank treads unwraps and attaches to this gun arm to mimic his G1 release’s cannon tube.
Also, this mode is impressively large, fitting for his character in the show, but as he towers over Megatron, not fitting for the actual scale of the show.
Though some didn’t like the Deluxe size release for War for Cybertron/Fall of Cybertron Shockwave, I always thought it was appropriate for his smaller “Scientist Class” size in the game itself. The difference between these two is almost like before and after shots of some sort of augmentation or upgrade.
Shockwave’s gimmick is a gun feature that expands while it spins. There is no built-in way to lock it open.
Shockwave shared Smokescreen‘s Beast Hunter feature, having his extra armor pieces as flexible, removal add-ons.
Though, like Beast Hunters Soundwave, I’m not sure why one of the Decepticons needs the Beast-y armoring, but his will go somewhere in a bin like Smokescreens as it doesn’t really add much to either mode.
Really, though, what could they have possibly done to improve on this monstrous presence?