Saturday, 4 May 2013

FansProject Crossfire 02 - Upgraded Combaticons/Bruticus

When Takara/Hasbro released sets of combiners in the Superlink/Energon line, many were underwhelmed. Generation 1 gave us teams of five unique robots and, even with their somewhat limited articulation and the dodgy 'head as connector' limb mechanic, they were something very special. Superlink/Energon cut corners by using two different paint jobs for only two different 'limb' molds to give us the the required four limbs so, even with vastly improved articulation in the component robots and somewhat improved articulation in the gestalt, it lacked the 'jumbled', jury-rigged aesthetic of the 80s toyline.

Also... none of them had real hands, which was a bit of a downer.

So when FansProject announced they were making two alternate limb robots for the Superlink/Energon Bruticus set, to replace Blackout/Blast Off and Blight/Swindle with unofficial robots in disguise, whose alternate modes more closely resembled their eponymous G1 counterparts, things got a bit exciting.

While these were technically intended to accompany the Revenge of the Fallen reissue of the Combaticons set, I only had the original Energon versions (actually bought second hand and loose at AutoAssembly one year, specifically because I wanted to recreate Bruticus and had the Crossfire sets on pre-order), so it's good to know they function equally well with the slightly less soberly-coloured set.

The presentation boxes of each part are very well designed, with a photographic representation of the new Bruticus components (with the standard Superlink/Energon parts blacked out) split across the backs of both boxes. It's a neat effect, and demonstrates not only everything you get in each box, but how awesome the combined robot will end up looking.

One of the coolest features is that some of the additional weapons and parts are intended to be used with the original Superlink/Energon toys - Barricade is neatly transformed into something far more akin to G1 Onslaught, with his trademark dual cannon and extended trailer - made by plugging the new feet for Bruticus into Barricade's folded down missile rack. It works better than one might expect, though it'd look far better on the Revenge of the Fallen version than on the Superlink/Energon set I have. The colours don't clash... but they don't really complement either.

But it doesn't stop there... Every single additional component of the Crossfire set has some use. The additional weapons get doled out between all four members of the team, with the extra 'shoulder' parts being a pair of missile racks for Stormcloud/Vortex and one set of handguns forming his runners. Kickback/Brawl, meanwhile, gets even more firepower mounted on top of his turret.

These same weapons - and more - can be used by all the robot modes as well, though there are some that fit better with certain robots than with others. Stormcloud/Vortex keeps his missle racks, but the handguns are shared around. Barricade keeps most of his extra parts, including a dual-purpose handgun, missile pods concealed in the gestalt mode's feet, and his fearsome cannons can be mounted on his arm.

This is the Combaticons as they always should have been - fully tooled up, and ready for combat.

All of these extra parts work incredibly well - even without the sober, more unified colourscheme of the Revenge of the Fallen rerelease of the Takara/Hasbro parts. My only gripe would be that the Bruticus feet/Missile pods don't attach very securely to Barricade's shoulders and, even if they did, they'd end up getting in the way of his arms. On the whole, though, the extra parts are very well-designed.

But the main event, surely, is the upgraded gestalt. Proper hands, proper feet, additional armour, new weapons... and an incredible new head sculpt based very closely on the G1 original. While Explorer and Munitioner were quite soberly coloured, to fit in with the aesthetic of the RotF rerelease, they do fit with the original version quite well and, in fact, I'd say this combination looks vastly more interesting than the intended version.

It's still not especially close to the G1 original... but it's an improvement in so many ways that I, personally, can live without slavish adherence to any particular version. This, quite simply, is Bruticus.

What I love about these additional parts is how well-utilised they are. The two different types of handgun for the component robots combine to form a pair of enormous pump-action shotguns which plug into Bruticus's back. The extended barrel on Barricade's new gun folds out to make an awesome rifle for Bruticus, and Explorer's sword/axe thing makes a vicious-looking dagger in the hands of this behemoth. Not a single part is wasted, in any mode.

It helps that the joints on my Barricade are pretty solid. The hips aren't ideal, but they're strong enough to hold the completed, fully armed robot in some quite dramatic poses. While the original Superlink/Energon head could rotate a full 360degrees, the Crossfire version is on a ball joint. I'd argue that the head is a little too small and the neck a little long... but I'm comparing it to the no-neck G1 and Superlink/Energon versions.

This was such an awesome set that, when FansProject re-released them in a different colourscheme and with new heads and weapons, I just had to pick them up as well.

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