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.