Friday, 8 July 2011

Armada Tidal Wave

Gestalts were nothing new to TransFormers back in the early 2000s. Even leaving aside the teams of five (or six, in the case of the Constructicons), there had been a G1 Powermaster, Overlord, who consisted of two vehicles - with individual functionality, but without individual robot modes - which combined into one larger robot. Armada took this a step further, paving the way for the Autobots' 'Superlink/Powerlinx' feature in Energon, with the Dark Fleet, also known as Tidal Wave.


Vehicle Modes:
What's really cool about Tidal Wave/Dark Fleet is that the three component vehicles can dash around individually - an aircraft carrier, a troop carrier (which could be a hydrofoil or a flying machine) and an attack catamaran - or they can merge into one enormous Dreadnought. And it is a pretty large toy, too - each individual vehicle measures between 6" and 7" in length, with the combined mode measuring about 13" long by just under 10" from wingtip to wingtip.

This being an Armada toy, there are plenty of features, though only one is Mini-Con activated to any degree. Another one involves the Mini-Con, but isn't controlled by it.

The aircraft carrier has a total of four Mini-Con ports, though one is concealed within a very clever lift arrangement on the port side of the vessel. A whole great chunk of the deck can be lifted up and, thanks to a spring, folds back to reveal the Mini-Con storage bay. Only one Mini-Con is small enough to fit in however, and - predictably - that's Ramjet, the packaged partner of Tidal Wave. He basically folds into a 'storage mode' to fit inside the storage bay. The other three ports are one on each side of the foredeck, and one atop the control tower.

The catamaran has one port on each of the fore-hulls, and one active port behind the bridge. Plugging a Mini-Con in here activates a slider switch which rotates all the gun turrets on the main deck. This vehicle is also the only one to have any spring-loaded weaponary - each of the fore-hull has one missile launcher.

The troop carrier has another four Mini-Con ports - one atop each of the towers at the rear, and one on each side of the main deck. None of them do anything, but the main decks can be raised, revealing four fold-out seats for other Mini-Cons. Considering the supposed size of Tidal Wave, these seats seem incongruous to say the least, and very much out of proportion for Mini-Cons. Fold-out weapons I could understand... but seats that, were Tidal Wave real, would be too large for most full-size Decepticons, look more than a little ridiculous.

No extra features are available in combined dreadnought mode (in fact, the troop carrier's bay doors are more difficult to open due to obstruction by the catamaran's gun deck!), but the overall look of it more than makes up for this minor inconvenience, and it actually looks pretty awesome, despite a rather garish colourscheme. The Japanese version was darker and far more uniform... the US/UK version lightened everything and introduced the acidic green to the catamaran... somehow, it doesn't look as out of place as it should. The paintwork is not extensive, but it's used very effectively, with some of the molded detail picked out in gold, silver or red paint, with the aircraft carrier's landing strips marked out in red.
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Robot Mode:
As befits a titan like Tidal Wave, his robot mode is one of the tallest Armada had to offer - about 11.5". Each vehicle component forms a balanced part of the robot, and the overall effect is, while a little blocky, very effective. Tidal wave also has an abundance of molded detail, and not just on the front parts - just about every surface, even the robot's back (bottom of vehicle modes) has mechanical detailing all over. No additional paintwork is revealed, since the front of the robot is essentially the unaltered decks of the vehicle modes, but the redistribution of colour makes it look pretty good.

The head is completely fixed in place - no rotation, let alone full, ball-jointed articulation - which is a huge disappointment, but Tidal Wave's grim visage is almost made more menacing by the fact that the whole body has to move for him to look in a different direction. In the cartoon and the videogames, Tidal Wave is many times larger than the rest of the Decepticons, but the toy feels just right for what it is.

The legs are very limited in articulation - really only moving at the hips because, while there is a knee joint, it's facing the wrong way. It seems odd because, with only a mid-thigh rotation joint and a slight redesign of the troop carrier, Tidal Wave could have had fully articulated legs. The arms, meanwhile, fare much better, with the ratcheting shoulder movement supplemented by the catamaran's transformation joints. They're supposed to peg into the body, but this only works if the missiles are removed - otherwise they block the attachment, or fire off when jostled. Still, what kind of Decepticon has missile launchers in his armpits? The arms themselved have excellent elbow joints - bending and rotating on ratchets, thanks to their transformation - and the hands are moderately articulated - the fingers are fused, but do bend, and the thumbs rotate up into place.

Naturally, the one Mini-Con activated gimmick is still functional in robot mode, and Ramjet actually looks pretty good attached to Tidal Wave's chest - almost like a PowerMaster figure from G1.
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Mini-Con Partner Ramjet:
On the downside, Ramjet is one of the worst Mini-Cons ever. Purely from a functional design point of view, he's pretty well done, in that the jet mode looks OK, and it folds up effectively to go into storage inside Tidal Wave's aircraft carrier... but the robot mode looks like it only has one leg, and the arms are hopelessly oversized. Even so, for a Mini-Con, he's got a reasonable amount of paintwork - the cockpit is painted over in gold, and the robot's face is picked out in red, both colours fitting in with his overall colourscheme.
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Despite the comparative lack of articulation, Tidal Wave is one of my favourites from Armada. He's got plenty of molded detail, a decent colour scheme, and he's pretty darned big. The way the vehicles combine is very well thought out and, even though he's technically a parts-former made up of vehicle drones (something I personally dislike about the Power Core Combiners), it is possible to transform him from combined Dreadnought mode to robot mode without separating the components.


Also, the three vessels can be attached to Armada Megatron/Galvatron to give the Decepticon Leader his own 'Supermode' to rival Optimus Prime and his Superpants...
One rather interesting coincidence with this mold is that the connection format for the arms was later reused in Galaxy Force, for attaching Leobreaker in claw mode to either Galaxy Convoy or Master Megatron/Galvatron... this means both that Tidal Wave's arms can be attached to Convoy and Megatron, and that Leobreaker can be attached to Tidal Wave... though either one completely screws with any sense of proportion the toys might possess!

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