Friday, 27 February 2015

Galaxy Force Chromia

(Femme-Bot Friday #7)
I've noted in my write up of BotCon 2009 Elita-1 that this mold was essentially a bit rubbish - pretty much the worst kind of shellformer - yet it ended up being quite compelling in-hand as it was so cute. Considering I didn't want that figure at the time (she came 'free' with BotCon 2009 Razorclaw to complete a couple of previous BotCon sets), I ended up quite liking her, and so my quest to find her progenitor, either GF Chromia or Cybertron Thunderblast, began.

The secondary market being what it is, a crappy figure from an old toyline became rare and expensive, so it's basically taken five years to track one down at a price I'm comfortable paying and without the rather pointless addition of Cybertron Sideways and Brimstone as 'purchase incentives (or was it the other way round?).

But why all this hassle to pick up a figure that isn't even that good?

Sunday, 22 February 2015

TransFormers: Prime Starscream

One thing you can say for the ever-changin' line of toys that is TransFormers is that it's come a hell of a long way since the G1 days, where everything was fairly brick-like and chunky. Whether it's by design in terms of 'refining the look of the robots' or in just in terms of 'reducing the quantity of plastic used to save money', they've been becoming slimmer (in their use of materials, at least) and more refined over the years. The movies, with their truly alien designs, and TF Animated have also had an effect on the look of the robots, and TF Prime effectively merges the two otherwise disparate styles into something unique.

While I was originally hoping to hold out for a First Edition, Deluxe-sized Starscream, when I finally found this one on the shelves at Toys'R'Us (at least a couple of months after its wave was supposedly released in the UK), it seemed appealing enough in person to give it a chance... Bulkhead was there, too... but I was definitely holding out for his First Edition, as the main line version just didn't look as good.

As the Decepticons' prideful Air Commander, Starscream has coveted true leadership of the Decepticons since he was first introduced, and has schemed against Megatron with varying degrees of skill and subtlety, and to varying degrees of success, so how does the latest incarnation shape up.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Revenge of the Fallen Arcee

(Femme-Bot Friday #6)
I figure it's only fair, having mentioned in several other write-ups that I quite like the Revenge of the Fallen 'wheelsnakes', that I should actually write about them finally. They're a contentious creation in the eyes of the fandom, because a perfectly good-looking Arcee was left out of the first live action TransFormers movie supposedly because the filmmakers felt it would be too difficult to explain an apparently 'female' alien robot, only for Revenge of the Fallen to feature three (or possibly one which operated as three separate units) without any explanation whatsoever. Then again, that was probably the least of RotF's sins.

They were also among the first non-humaniform Cybertronians, along with Demolishor, seen by the audiences, and that opened a whole different can of worms. Sideswipe skating around on his wheel-feet the fans could accept (kinda)... Femme-bot torsos scooting about on one- or two-wheeled tails was something else entirely. Aren't femme-bots meant to be... y'know... sexy, or something?

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Just When I Thought I Was Safe

OK, so the first couple of waves of Combiner Wars - Superion and Menasor - were pretty underachieving, and that lulled me into thinking I could probably let the entire toyrange pass... But then the 2015 Toy Fair happened, and Hasbro revealed what's happening next: Devastator, made out of six allegedly 'Voyager class' figures, Defensor (yup, I called it, Alpha Bravo got a new head and a different paint job and turned into Blades) and, of all things, a Leader class Ultra Magnus figure that, for all the world, looks like a slightly cut down, rather cartoonised version of the Masterpiece model, even down to the white cab being joined to its trailer and not having its own robot mode.

I have to say, now I'm impressed. I shall gladly eat my hat.

Or something.

Devastator looks far from perfect - the 'Voyager class' components look like upscaled Deluxes and some seem to have dodgy articulation (elbows have been sacrificed in some cases), none have especially great paint jobs (currently), and Mixmaster's vehicle mode is back to front - the cab sits below the end of the drum rather than the base. People had been speculating about Devastator's weird left foot, and it turns out it's not even the cement mixer's cab anyway! The combined mode does look pretty good, though, and I'd imagine that a lot of fans will keep him as Devastator rather than the six component Constructicons.

Defensor is, theoretically, up against some stiff competition in the form of TFC's Prometheus but, having seen the combined form of that third party behemoth, I don't think its squat, blocky look is a significant enough improvement to warrant the additional expense. In particular, Hasbro's Hot Spot - based on the same vehicle as Dark of the Moon Sentinel Prime - looks better than TFC's Hydrant and, while I love the Dodge Tomahawk alternate mode for Warning Line, Hasbro's Legends class Groove looks excellent.

Ultra Magnus, meanwhile, looks pretty awesome for a Hasbro product. The truck cab looks a bit weird - almost as if it was intended to fit in with the new Robots in Disguise line, albeit with an IDW Comics twist - but the robot mode seems to have taken aspects from the Masterpiece model and KFC's EAVI Metal Citizen Stack, then scaled it back a little to fit the contemporary Leader Class toy pricepoint. And while MP22 is clearly aimed at G1 cartoon fans with the budget for a Masterpiece and the KFC model got in first with a few extra innovations (like feet) and was ideal for those with the budget for a third-party Masterpiece-a-like with a less slavish adherence to the G1 cartoon aesthetic, this upcoming Generations model is obviously a kids' toy that's intended to be played with... and yet look great throughout. I love the way the front of the cab appears to be partially visible (headlights, at least) on the robot's torso, but I'm weirded out by the idea that his Legends class partner, Minimus Ambus, apparently gets to sit in his chest.

So, well done, Hasbro. Combiner Wars is shaping up better than I'd expected... Though I'm not sure it's quite time for another attempt at Bruticus just yet... Even if it seems Hotspot was made with the intention of repainting him into Onslaught. And Cyclonus as the centre of a combiner, rumoured to be Galvatron? Jury's still out on that one...

I'm less enamoured of the newly-previewed 2015 Robots in Disguise toys because it really seems as though they're not trying. Thunderhoof, for example, has his antlers in robot mode... and an entirely separate fork for vehicle mode. Surely the whole point of Thunderhoof's antlers is that they are the vehicle mode's fork? That said, what was on show of that character was only the 1-Step or 3-Step Changer. 'Warrior' (aka Deluxe) class Jazz and Sideswipe look decent, though the former appears to have been developed from TFPrime RID Bumblebee, going by the look of the upper body.

The Mini-Con Deployers look like junk, but the Mini-Cons themselves look potentially cool - in part a development of the G1 clones or the cassettes made for Soundwave and Blaster - in that their 'storage modes' look pretty much identical apart from colouration, while the robot modes are unique, and feature translucent plastic weapons and armour on Autobot/Decepticon insignia sprues.

But then they had to go and ruin it by showing off (if that's the phrase) their 19" Super Bumblebee: an upscaled 3-Step Changer with lights and sounds and next to zero articulation.

Now that's the Hasbro I recognise.

Age of Extinction/Generations Lockdown

I'm not sure exactly when I became aware that Lockdown was a character in Age of Extinction, or that he was the robot whose head 'grows' a massive great face-cannon, but he was one of the few interesting elements of the movie. Neither Autobot nor Decepticon, Lockdown, much like his TransFormers Animated progenitor, is a freelance peacekeeping agent bounty hunter who, for reasons revealed only quite late in the film, has come to Earth and allied himself with a group of humans (echoing some aspects of Dark of the Moon).

While I'd originally intended to hold out for the Japanese version of this toy, despite the additional cost, I ended up buying the Hasbro US version in Forbidden Planet while on an evening out with my girlfriend, simply because I'd heard it was terrible enough that even the import version wasn't going to be any good, and this one was convenient... Plus, by the looks of things, Lockdown and other later-wave figures may not appear in UK Toys'R'Us stores...

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Masterpiece Thundercracker

When Takara Tomy took a second look at the Masterpiece Seeker mold and released a new Starscream only four years after the divisive original, it was only natural for Hasbro to follow suit. MP03 is truly awesome, though not without its problems (many loathed the tail fins hanging off the hips, for example) and the remold seemed, on the surface, to fix all the major issues.

When Hasbro US released the new Seeker mold as Thundercracker, I had to consider carefully whether I wanted to pay secondary market prices for the original MP07 (currently between about £550-£800) or go for the cheaper, more convenient new mold. Toys'R'Us in the UK briefly had the new Masterpiece Thundercracker available to order online, but eventually dropped it in favour of Acid Storm... who isn't even a real G1 character. I could almost understand if Hasbro Europe released Sunstorm... but Acid Storm? Did he do anything other that warm the pegs and shelves as a Deluxe?

From that point on, the secondary market prices on the Hasbro US version started creeping up... so when I saw an eBay auction starting very much at the low end (£40 - amusingly still about double what I paid for Hasbro's MP Skywarp at Argos many years ago) I jumped right on it. Naturally, the price went up quickly, but I managed to win the auction at a price still nicely below the current average for a new, boxed one.

Friday, 13 February 2015

TransFormers Animated Blackarachnia

(Femme-Bot Friday #5)
TransFormers Animated presented a very strange and varied slice of TransFormers history - it was as much a superhero team show as it was a show about shapeshifting alien robots, and this was reflected in both the character design and the varied roster of characters, including the sort of human villains that might turn up in a piss-take of Batman. The majority robot characters were either straight out of, or adapted from a list that most G1 fans would be familiar with though, even within that, there were a few curveballs.

One such character was Blackarachnia, portrayed in TFA as a somewhat tragic victim of circumstance whose bitterness turned her a little evil. Formerly Elita-1, Blackarachnia was turned techno-organic in a mission that went terribly wrong, leaving her companions - Optimus Prime among them - believing she was lost and/or dead. One of only two beast-formers in the TFA cartoon (unless you include the Dinobots), Blackarachnia wasn't as much a departure from the usual aesthetic as you might expect...

Sunday, 8 February 2015

TransFormers Collectors' Club 2012 Exclusive (Timelines) Over-Run Runabout

When I wrote up the Club's 2012 membership incentive figure, Runamuck, almost three years ago, I fully expected that I'd never get my hands on his partner. He sold out almost immediately, prices on the secondary market were ridiculous and my finances were pretty terrible at the time. Thankfully, the secondary market is very variable, with plenty of bargains to be had on eBay and, in 2015, prices are not that far off the original retail price of the exclusive figure (better, if you take shipping into account and buy within Europe, as I did!)

Friday, 6 February 2015

Cybertron Override GTS

(Femme-Bot Friday #4)
Aside from the Revenge of the Fallen 'wheelsnakes', this is probably the most contentious inclusion in the femme-bot feature, because it's only the US version of the character, Override, who was a femme-bot - in Galaxy Force, Nitro Convoy was a dude.

I wasn't really enamoured of this mold, and only bought another version because it was a black repaint, and black repaints are cool. Honestly, I don't remember why I picked up this model when I already had that, other than the slight improvement over the clownish colourscheme of the original.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Cybertron Quickmix

It's difficult to say whether or not Quickmix was originally intended to be a homage to the G1 TargetMaster. In Japan, he was known as Blendar and, while the colourscheme is accurate to the TV show (that is, more G1 TargetMaster Scoop than Quickmix) there was no sense that he was anything but an 'original' character, despite Galaxy Force's long list of G1 homages. He was Megalo Convoy's righthand man on Gigalonia but, other than that, I know next to nothing about him. If I remember correctly, this was one of my final Galaxy Force/Cybertron purchases, and something of an impulse buy...

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