Friday, 7 November 2014

Generations (30th Anniversary) Skids

To say Skids has gone through a transformation would be an understatement. The Autobot Theoretician of old transformed from an ugly, boxy mini car - the Honda City Turbo - to an ugly, boxy robot with very weird arms. Characterised as a daydreamer, he seemed very well armed for someone who often wasn't paying attention to the ongoing war.

It's worth noting that this new Skids is not - like other 'Classics' figures - just an update to the G1 character. More, he is the first ever toy of IDW's character Skids, who seems to be a very different sort of bot. Or possibly not, considering he starts out as a theoretician.

In theory, Hasbro were on to a winner whatever they decided to do with this toy... after all, it couldn't possibly be as terrible as the original... could it?

Vehicle Mode:
This new take on Skids is still a fairly compact sort of car - only a two-door - but it couldn't be further from the boxy, angular monstrosity that was the G1 model. Now he looks super-sporty, everything curvy and smooth, with the vent/scoop details of far more expensive cars. There's even a spoiler on the back, just to emphasise that this is no cheap-and-cheerful box car to go pootling around the city in, squeezing into the tiniest of parking spaces.

One weird point about the design: due to certain recent Hasbro licensing choices, when I look at the front of this vehicle mode, I can't help seeing one of the pigs from Angry Birds. If Hasbro or Takara Tomy end up repainting this mold as Skids and Screech, to reference the 2009 exclusive multi-pack, the similarity would be even more pronounced... and unfortunate.

Skids remains blue, but he's now a much lighter blue - almost cyan in good light. He has very dark translucent plastic for his windows and a red and white stripe down each side, nicely updating the look of the stickers on the G1 toy, and in a style that suits the vehicle well. Cleverly, the red stripe leads to a small block of expose red from the robot mode's feet. The front of the car features a nice band of silver paint running from one headlight to the other, with the large box if the grille in between. The angular details within the grille are picked out in red, as are the car's hubcaps - it's always nice to see them painted, but better still to see them painted in a colour other than silver. What makes Skids particularly impressive in this day and age is that his front indicator lights are painted in a whole different colour - metallic yellow - and some of the tail lights have been painted red. I can't remember the last time I saw painted tail lights on a Hasbro release. What's all the more impressive about this is that this is yet another model where the windows have been molded in translucent plastic with the frames painted over... yet there was clearly enough left in the paint budget to do a better-than-average job on the rest of the car, possibly because this is one of those rare cases where the windscreen is separate from the roof.

While there's no way to stow Skids' weapons in his vehicle mode, it does come equipped with two 5mm ports - one on either side, next to the rear wheels - allowing them to be mounted for use. They don't quite work the way some other weaponised vehicle modes do, since this is a sporty compact rather than anything remotely military, and so the guns look pretty incongruous stuck to his sides... but it does make a change from the all-too-frequent roof mounting.Curiously, each handgun is molded with only one side-mounting 5mm peg, so the larger gun can only be mounted on the righthand side and the smaller gun can only be mounted on the left... unless you mount them upside down.

There are a couple of points on this vehicle mode that don't quite come together properly - the lefthand side of the front shows a more prominent seam that the right, the rear wheel sections don't quite sit flush with the car body, and the doors never seem to stay fully in place... but it still manages to look pretty darned cool.

Robot Mode:
Once again, robot mode shows that this is very definitely not G1 Skids - he's far better proportioned, looking far more like the other remakes of the old G1/Diaclone standard, such as Jazz or Prowl, where the front of the car became the robot's chest. Alex Milne's design is a very fresh take on Skids - traditional enough to be recognisable, new enough to be impressive and entirely unique... at least until the repaints start flooding through. Crosscut is already around, and this iteration of the mold is being used as 'Rollbar' in an Age of Extinction multipack (despite the packaging using Crosscut's head rather than Skids' in the artwork!)

Skids is a touch more colourful in robot mode - top and bottom are the same blue and red as the vehicle mode, but the torso is black with a touch of red at the crotch, and the thighs break things up by being grey. The distribution of colour is quite a decent reference to the G1 model, although his biceps, rather than his hands, are red.

As previously mentioned, G1 Skids was surprisingly well armed for an Autobot who, traditionally, wasn't actively involved in combat most of the time. The larger of the two hand-held weapons is an update to the old liquid nitrogen rifle, while the smaller one is apparently called a 'nudge gun'. The two can be plugged together to create an even bigger rifle, though he can't quite hold it in both hands. Aside from these, both wrists are equipped with a pair of guns which could be a reference to the G1 'twin electron blaster'. Missing from all my photos except the close-up of his head are the 'over the shoulder' guns which clip into the back, behind the windscreen/roof. While their release is spring-loaded, there's no button to activate it, meaning they can be a little tricky to deploy... at least, that's my excuse. Finally, the front wheel arches, on his shoulders, can be rotated down to reveal banks of missile pods. Impressively, the recesses are entirely painted silver, with all the missiles picked out in red.

My big gripe with this figure is the head sculpt. Sure, it's nice and similar to the IDW artwork... but it looks like the Silver Surfer in a home-made helmet rather than a robot's head. It's not like any other Skids and, in my humble opinion, has to be one of the worst head sculpts in the Generations/Classics line. I'm not sure if a more G1-esque paint job - with the central crest painted silver - or additional details like the angular antennae of the G1 model would have made enough of a difference, but it's certainly disappointing as it is. Making matters worse, it features yet another example of painted-over light piping.

I very much like the way Skids transforms - again, it's similar to the Classics updates of the other Diaclone-style TransFormers while being entirely unique. It's complicated without being at all frustrating, and the backpack is comparatively compact and well-designed. He has door-wings, but they're achieved in a new and interesting way, and the head reveal is simpler and more effective than the likes of Classics Prowl/Bluestreak. The way the shoulders compress into or pull out of the body during transformation feels a little fragile to me, but it seems to work well enough... albeit leaving a more visible seam on one side of mine.

Like all of the recent reimaginings of old G1 characters, particularly those based on IDW designs, Skids is pretty well articulated. His massive shoulders do clash with the door wings, but not to the degree one might expect considering their size. He may not have a bicep swivel joint due to one aspect of his transformation, but the ball jointed elbows go some way to making up for that. The legs have an excellent range of motion, but the ball-jointed feet aren't especially stable and, while he's not particularly back heavy, he will tend to fall over backwards because his centre of gravity tends toward the back, while his feet are rather long toward the front. This effect can be countered by bending the upper shin slightly further into the lower shin, but it's not absolutely necessary given the right sort of pose. On the subject of that mid-shin joint, though, it does have a habit of bending more easily than Skids' knees, despite those having only 'soft ratchet' joints.

I have to admit that Generations Skids was a bit of an impulse buy. I was in the TransFormers: The Ride giftshop at Universal Studios Hollywood and, having snatched up Evac (naturally) and Waspinator (because I'd bought Rattrap the day before), I felt the need to buy more, despite the 8 dollar price hike on all Deluxes... and just wasn't thrilled by Dreadwing (as I have Megatron) or Nightbeat (because it's entirely the wrong mold). Skids wasn't of a great deal of interest when photos turned up online - I have the G1 version and think it's terrible so, no matter how good this one seemed to be, I wasn't quite convinced. All that said, I'm glad I succumbed to the impulse buy because this is a pretty damned cool model, even with its wobbly feet and terrible head sculpt.

I still think it's weird that he's so heavily tooled-up... but it's an awesome kind of weird.

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