Sunday, 12 October 2008

TransFormers Collectors' Club 2008 Exclusive (Timelines) Nightbeat

And what better way to start this Collector-Blog than with an exclusive from the official Hasbro Transformers Collectors' Club?

2008 brought members the opportunity to own a re-imagined Nightbeat, the Autobot Detective. Originally a barely-articulated thing with the kind of simplistic transformation that began the cooling of my interest in the toyline, Nightbeat appeared in the Headmasters line - Transformers binary-bonded to a humanoid who transformed into the robot's head.

This new version is a reworking of the Hot Shot mold from Energon/Superlink and, to be honest, is little better in the way of articulation. Oh, sure, he has joints... but they're not exactly well-executed, and don't offer much poseability.

But let's start at the beginning.


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Like all offerings from the TransFormers Collectors' Club as operated by Fun Publications, Nightbeat comes in a nice, sturdy presentation box with original art on the front, images of the toy on the sides, and miscellaneous information on the bottom. It was only when I came to take these photographs that I noticed the spelling error on the box: "Join the Hasbro TrasFormers Collectors' Club". Clever reference to some of the foreign versions? I think not.

Nightbeat is the first Club exclusive to be packaged with a comic. This is quite sad, considering most of them would benefit by some kind of fiction to put the character in context. Cheap Shots is a decent story, but suffers from too many supplementary characters and not enough focus on Nightbeat. Hell, it even references stuff that happened in the mainstream comics, which will throw those, like me, who gave up on the comics long ago. Some of the writing is excellent, but when the villains of the piece are reduced to comedy characters, I tend to lose interest fast.

The toy is packaged in almost-robot form - the arms are folded away and the legs only partly extended. This enables him to be held nice and snug in the foam packaging, along with his gun.

Vehicle Mode:
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To put it simply, Nightbeat looks awesome in vehicle mode. The colour scheme works nicely, the flames on the doors look great, and he looks like a powerful performance car. His rifle attaches in vehicle mode, too - splitting so the scope plugs in on one side and the rest of the rifle on the other. While that is a feature of the original mold, it's a nice nod to the G1 version.

Robot Mode:
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As previously mentioned, Nightbeat isn't exactly the most articulated robot in the universe. The head moves more by accident than design, owing to the transformation, and has a nasty habit of popping off its ball joint; the shoulders are ball-jointed, but have only a few degrees of outward movement to complement the full 90degrees of forward movement, though they do allow for twist as well; thighs are jointed in such a way that they move outward more than in any other direction, with 'joints' offering very limited forward/backward movement; there is a joint at the knee, but it only swivels rather than bending. All in all, Nightbeat stands well, and does very little else.

Nightbeat's weapon is the same rifle as Energon/Superlink Hot Shot, but now molded - inexplicably - in completely clear, colourless plastic. No mention is made of this in the accompanying comic, where one might think a potentially invisible weapon might have received some attention. Then again, the comic portrays Nightbeat as having his traditional G1 antennae until the end of the story, where their loss gets scant explanation. Supposedly, this toy was going to have antennae, but they were removed during production for some technical reason. Even so, I was left feeling that the character surely deserved something better...

All of this is a symptom of having used a Deluxe-equivalent mold from the Energon/Superlink line, where the Autobots' main gimmick was than they could 'Powerlinx' to form larger, supposedly more powerful robots. Since the gimmick was not removed from Nightbeat, he too can Powerlinx with similarly-sized Autobots from the Energon/Superlink line:
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It's a cute feature, but limited the articulation of all the Autobots, particularly in that size class, and made them all look rather stiff and clumsy.

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G1 Nightbeat had four points of articulation, not including the knees - both shoulders and both wrists - and all were part of his transformation. The head didn't turn because of the Headmaster gimmick. Timelines Nightbeat only has a little more articulation - shoulders, elbows, thighs and knees - and most of that is either part of transformation, or to enable the 'Powerlinx' gimmick of the line from which he's derived. He may no longer be binary bonded to Muzzle, but it hasn't helped his neck become any more flexible. The head sculpt matches his appearance in most of the G1 comics and TV series in that it's based more or Siren's toy than on Nightbeat's.

Colour wise, he's a close match. Both the cyan and the yellow used are richer than his G1 counterpart, and the paintwork closely matches the colour of the plastic - something which is becoming increasingly rare in the mainline toys.

In terms of size, his vehicle mode is larger than the G1 version, but his robot mode is shorter and stockier... and, of course, he's lacking those all-important antennae.

To sum up, since this is one of only four Club exclusives thusfar produced, it's hard to decide what to make of him. The choice of mold isn't ideal... I'm fairly sure there are other molds that would have worked better (Cybertron/Galaxy Force Hot Shot/Excellion for starters, though he had a similar colourscheme to begin with) and it's not as if this was a popular mold. Still, as an update of the G1 version it's pretty cool, and the remolded head suits him well. The toy is certainly on a par with Timelines Astrotrain, if not Airazor. Presentation is fantastic - Fun Publications really know how to make an exclusive look like something special. I have high hopes for future exclusives, now we have the updated Universe line with it's reworkings of characters from the full 25 year history of the TransFormers line. Let's just hope Hasbro holds back on some of the repaints so the Club has something to work with... Then again, they caused no end of upset for some fans by doing just that with the Classics Seekers...
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