Saturday, 29 June 2013

Galaxy Force Dark Nitro Convoy

The original form of Nitro Convoy (aka Override) didn't interest me much. Vehicle mode looked cool and all, but the colourscheme was completely over the top, tending toward clownish. The gold face of the Japanese version didn't help, but the orange face of the western release just sealed the deal. Plus, there's that much-vaunted 'auto-transform' gimmick, the spring-loaded likes of which frequently ruins an otherwise decent toy...

However, if it wasn't already apparent from this blog that I tend to think a black repaint covers the gravest of sins, it soon will be... possibly. TakaraTomy, in collaboration with Telemaga (TV Magazine), released Dark Nitro Convoy... somehow making an eminently avoidable toy become part of my collection...

Vehicle Mode:
OK, I have to admit that even the original vehicle mode looked decent. Loud, maybe, but decent. This black repaint - almost an inversion of the original colourscheme, where white becomes black, orange becomes 'Nemesis' metallic teal, and black selectively becomes metallic purple - is very much toned-down, and makes for quite an impressive vehicle mode.

Somehow, the Galaxy Force line had two Batmobiles - Megatron/Galvatron being the large one, and Dark Nitro Convoy being the smaller. This is a very retro-futuristic car (since we all know by know that the sci-fi cars of yesteryear will never happen when all car manufacturers are evolving their designs into the same bland shape), clearly built for speed, and possibly with a pair of afterburners at the rear. One thing I really love about this design is the way the front curves over and around the wheels and into the headlights... it's a shame the lamps themselves weren't picked out with any paint, but they are at least visible - the original version, in both Galaxy Force and Cybertron, unaccountably had the headlights painted over in gold.

As was fairly common in Galaxy Force/Cybertron, the key-activated gimmick was fully accessible in both vehicle and robot modes. With this model, the weapon sits on the back of the vehicle, giving it a kind of spoiler. Inserting the key causes a pair of blasters to flip forward, extending about as far as the cockpit. Removing the weapon almost leaves Nitro Convoy looking like an extremely sporty pickup truck...

Another fairly common element of the final part of the Unicron Trilogy was Visible Robot Head Syndrome, which occurred in an unprecedented number of characters, from Optimus Prime down to the likes of Nitro Convoy. It's a bit of a shame because the square hole in the roof, from which his crests protrude, messes up an otherwise sleek and impressive vehicle.

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Robot Mode:
For all his sleekness in vehicle mode, Nitro Convoy is a bit clumsy in robot mode - incredibly broad shoulders lead down to a comparatively skinny waist (giving Armorhide a run for his money) atop fairly enormous legs. This is one weird-looking robot. The large 'high-heeled boot' look of the legs works from some angles, but not from others and the upper body really looks as though it belongs on a different robot.

The colours work well, though, making him look like a new kind of Nemesis Prime (supposedly, the story behind this toy and Dark Liger Jack/Nemesis Breaker, is that Megatron tried to clone a couple of the Autobots... but this one didn't feature in the TV series), though this one has more metallic teal than black and a fair bit of the metallic purple lining the very top of his chest, making him possibly the most flamboyant Nemesis character ever.

The head sculpt reminds me a little of the likes of Prowl and Bluestreak in Generation 1, though with the crests very much elongated. It's an odd look, giving his face the appearance of being somewhat compressed, though the whole thing looks too small, given the bulk of his upper body.

One (other) odd thing - outside the context of Galaxy Force, at least - is that Dark Nitro Convoy, like several other characters, sports no faction insignia. According to the series, though, only the characters originating on Cybertron were truly 'Autobot' or 'Decepticon' so, while Nitro Convoy's name and position as leader of Speed Planet/Velocitron suggest that he could have been 'Nitro Prime' in the west, Hasbro simplified things and gave everyone the most appropriate affiliation (going some way toward explaining why Flame Convoy became a Decepticon named Scourge).

The weapon is more than a little unwieldy in robot mode, and that's not helped by the fact that it has two pegs for attaching it to his fists - whichever way it plugs in, it looks wrong because it's so wide. With the 'wings' down, it looks even worse though, frankly, folding them up doesn't help a great deal.
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The automatic transformation gimmick is pretty much the downfall of this toy: were it not for the need for a large spring-loaded brick in the middle of the model, it could have been slimmed down to better resemble the CGI from the TV show. Essentially, what you have is a set of catches which lock the arms and legs into place for vehicle mode. Then, when the black part on the front of the vehicle is pushed, all the catches are released simultaneously (in theory, at any rate), thus leaving a minimal amount of transforming to the user...
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In theory, Nitro Convoy is a reasonably poseable model, with ball-jointed hips, thigh swivel, good range in the knees and well-articulated arms... Unfortunately, the design of the lower leg is such that, even with a separate, fold-out heel piece, the robot tends to lean backward. Neither the main part of the lower leg, nor the heel piece extend far enough down to provide an adequate and stable heel, given the position of the knee and the bulk hanging off his back. Extending the arms forward and, of course, attaching his weapon does shift his centre of gravity forward, but not quite enough for the most part. Also, given the way his arms swing out from the body of the vehicle, it's unfortunate that the shoulders are made so floppy by their attachment to the rear wheels.

This is a classic example of taking a gimmick too far - with this model, the key activated weapon was enough (though, let's face it, even that could have been better executed). Adding the auto-part-transformation gimmick introduced a floppiness and a back-heaviness to a toy that could have been much better had it been a 'simple' TransFormer. It either could have been slimmer, or the sides of the chest could have collapsed in behind the cockpit (which could have been made to affix the shoulders more securely), and the backpack could have been avoided altogether.

Nevertheless, despite the weird design of the robot mode, the darker colourscheme does help, turning a terrible toy into something merely 'a bit poor'.

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