Friday, 1 April 2016

Go-Bots/Robo-Machines Night Ranger/Harley Robo

I mentioned ages ago that there was a time I collected both TransFormers and their main rival, a toyline by Bandai called variously Go-Bots, Robo-Machines and Machine Robo. Their vehicle modes tended to be better, particularly at the smaller end of the scale, but the robot modes tended to be floppy, jumbled messes. Even when the line went a bit weird and introduced monstrous robots that transformed into monstrous vehicles, I carried on collecting... though it wasn't long after that I decided to focus on TransFormers.

Interesting as they were, the toys just didn't have the longevity of Hasbro's adopted toyline. Aside from a brief and apparently unsuccessful reappearance in the 90s - which I wasn't even aware of until I started looking into Go-Bots for this post - the toyline died completely, and now only occasionally exists as a subset of the TransFormers brand.

Vehicle Mode:
As mentioned, many of these toys had quite authentic vehicle modes, and this one - based on a police-style Harley Davidson FL Electra Glide - is one of the more recognisable ones. It originally had an eagle crest sticker on the front, just below the windscreen sticker, and stickers on the secondary headlights (though they may have been the red/blue emergency lights). I believe there was also a speedometer sticker just behind the windscreen, but that's long gone. Just about all the stickers have peeled to some extent, but only those few came off entirely... and at least its 'MR-37' designation sticker/numberplate is still there.

Unlike similar-scaled TransFormers, Bandai's efforts had a fair amount of die-cast metal in them. This model's engine parts and exhaust pipes - on both sides - are unpainted metal, so they look sort-of authentic without any need for additional decoration. Almost everything else is pretty plain, though - only two plastic colours, black and white, with both wheels, the headlight and a couple of internal pieces being chromed - so the stickers add all-important details. This motorbike also lacks a kickstand which most contemporary TransFormers would have... Back then, of course, Transformers motorbikes were a very rare occurrence - Groove and Wreck-Gar are the only ones I can think of, and neither were constructed in such a way that falling over would ever be a problem. All this model has is a couple of semicircular nubs at the bottom of the die-cast portions, which are just about large enough to keep the bike from falling over.

The front wheel's mudguard clips into place both on the front fork and into the body of the bike, but the latter can make the bike look a bit too bunched up. The front fork is just about stiff enough to avoid sagging if the wheel is left unclipped from the body, so I do wonder if the clipping in is more for robot mode than vehicle mode... Depending on the specific model of Harley Davidson, either configuration tends to work, but bringing the front wheel forward also tips the windscreen and handlebars back, separating them from the main headlight.

One thing that isn't apparent from these few photos is that the seat doesn't sit flush with the body of the bike - there's a defined space between them that's especially noticeable toward the panniers. What's more interesting, however, is that this thing is built in such a way that it looks as though it could be ridden... and you can't say that for many TransFormers motorbikes, even today.

It's certainly more elaborate than the average Mini Autobot, and a decent motorbike, though the windscreen sticker and the way the handlebars are attached seem pretty cheap.


Robot Mode:
I think it's only fair to compare this figure to the closest TransFormers equivalent - G1 Groove - because, for all their obvious differences, they're actually bizarrely similar. Both stand on the rear end of the bike and have the underside of the bike as their chest, and both have the bike's windscreen hanging off their back. Everything else couldn't be more different. This figure has the front wheel hidden in his chest and the back wheel poking out of his groin. His head is weirdly far back - it's in line with his shoulders, but his shoulders stick out behind the torso, so that doesn't help. The head also looks weird with the bike's windscreen flowing out of it like a broad-brimmed hat or a particularly bad mullet.

One thing that's puzzled me ever since I got this toy is the way the hands are configured - seemingly back to front and upside down, with exceedingly long thumbs... but this is a transforming alien robot, so some artistic license must be assumed. Even as claws, though, they look decidedly odd. The legs, technically, aren't half bad - the back of the bike makes decent, large feet, the previously hidden chromed pieces become the thighs, and the bike's exhaust pipes almost look like part of the legs. Almost.

The head sculpt is one of the more humanoid-looking Go-Bots, molded with something akin to a police motorcycle helmet look and Ray-Bans-style optics painted in black. That could be why it reminds me a little of the T1000 from Terminator 2... It looks like a fairly detailed sculpt, but a combination of the small size and the chrome coverage means it's difficult to make out the details.


Compared to an equivalent-sized TransFormers toy, transformation is rather more involved and uses a good few more joints. Things rotate and reconfigure in ways that just didn't happen with anything smaller than the Diaclone-derived models. Of course, that's as much a weakness as it is a strength, as the materials don't really support that level of complexity. The bike looks great and, while the robot doesn't exactly look like a bike standing on its panniers, nor does it look like an especially convincing robot.

Similarly, its articulation is probably better than an average TransFormers toy for its size. It's more or less equivalent to Diaclone levels of articulation, where the arms can move quite freely at the shoulder, and there's either a weird elbow or a second shoulder joint giving the arms a fair bit of poseability... the legs, meanwhile, may as well be fixed. While they tab into their standing position, the hips can move forward and back, though there's precious little resistance or friction once they're untabbed, and the 'knees' bend backward due to the requirements of transformation, so there's not a great deal of dynamic posing to be had.

For a small and basic toy from the 80s, it's pretty good... but the design is clumsy and the aesthetic completely inconsistent with the rest of the line... which is odd, considering Go-Bots/Robo-Machines wasn't the toyline cobbled together from several different toylines in different styles and scales. Even so, its styles were all over the place, with the smaller scales offering a range of terrestrial and sci-fi alternate modes, and the larger scale all transforming in much the same very basic way - stick arms and legs, with 'cockpit' heads atop folded-up vehicle bodies - despite a similar variety of disguises.

Looking back, I kind of feel that the main appeal of these toys were that they were further additional transforming robots, possibly on the cheap side, and I wasn't particularly discerning. That said, I tended to buy only the vaguely realistic ones (exceptions being Cy-Kill, Vamp, Scorp and Pincher) despite their largely terrible robot modes (the helicopter, Wrong Way, being a prime example).

Given that I'm posting this on April 1st, I was hoping to do a whole great "I'm giving up on TransFormers and starting to collect Go-Bots" April Fool thing... but as I came to actually write about this toy, I just couldn't work up the enthusiasm... In some cases, they offered better articulation than the equivalent TransFormers toy but, by and large, Go-Bots were a bit rubbish, so I'm not planning to post any others here...

4 comments:

  1. INtersting that you post up some machine robo/gobots whatever toys here now, as Bandai are giving their run a bit of a boost with some new designs. I had a few, I remember a submarine guy and a rather cool harrier jet one and thought they were better toys than the minibots.
    In Australia, they were called Machine Men. So many bloody names....

    Must admit I do kind of have a soft spot for them, but they lack personality. Which is where Transformers manage to excel. Perhaps if they had more convincing names than Leader-1 and Harley Robo, they'd have stood a bit more of chance. Not much, but just a little bit more.

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    1. Yeah, the toys themselves were pretty good, albeit occasionally a bit floppy and breakable. I'm honestly not sure how many I have lurking around, but the other one that sticks in my memory was the yellow racing car, who probably had a more complicated transformation that TFs twice his size and a reasonably accurate vehicle mode with rubber tyres. I wonder how the toyline would have fared if they'd all had Tech Specs...

      I've seen some of the third party 'Masterpiece' Gobots, which look pretty cool (though Leader-1 and Cy-Kill don't even look like part of the same line!), but it'll be nice to see what Bandai can do.

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    2. Yeah, some of the 3rd party one were nice, not for me though. These are the Bandai ones. http://news.toyark.com/2015/12/19/new-action-toys-machine-robo-aka-masterpiece-gobots-images-185635
      and while CyKill is missing his 5oClock shadow, I kinda like them. They look promising, that's for sure.

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    3. Weirdly, those are the ones I'd seen and taken to be Third Party - hadn't made the connection to Bandai at all, even though they're using one of the many proper names the toy series used.

      The more I look at Cy-Kill, the more I think he looks like Lady Gaga, and definitely the odd man out of the set. Leader-1 reminds me of live-action GI Joe Snake Eyes with his mask painted in TFPrime Starscream colours.

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