Sunday, 27 March 2016

Hunt for the Decepticons Terradive

Possibly one of the strangest things about Michael Bay's TransFormers movies is that there are so few flying Decepticons. We've had Starscream, we've had Blackout, we've had Laserbeak... and that's pretty much it. The toylines expanded on this with repaints of the original and multiple versions of Starscream for RotF, plus the odd few additional characters from the associated fiction. Weirdly, though, even in the extended toyline, there still seem to be more airborne Autobots than Decepticons

One of the most enduring kinds of TransFormers toy designs is the Generation 2 Cyberjet. They have been reused and remixed time and time again, with straight repaints and mold upgrades. As one of the few airborne Decepticons in the extended toyline for Revenge of the Fallen, it was surprising to find Terradive so familiar, though he's still very much his own mold.

AM06 Arms Micron (TF Prime) Skywarp

Hasbro have really been dropping the ball of late. Ever since the first live action TransFormers movie, they've had an alarming habit of releasing a Starscream, and then either Skywarp or Thundercracker, with the missing Seeker becoming some hard-to-find exclusive, frequently from Takara Tomy only. While they have begun to correct this baffling omission (releasing all three as Leader class figures in Combiner Wars based on Generations Jetfire), they declined to create any repaints of the Voyager class Starscream from TF Prime, and only released alternative versions of Starscream using the First Edition mold, rather than repainting into other characters.

Thankfully, then, Takara Tomy were not afflicted with the same unreason, and happily produced the appropriate repaints of the FE figure as part of their Arms Micron take on the TF Prime line (albeit with one as a retail chain exclusive). Since buying these invariably means importing - with the additional expense that implies - I ended up getting Skywarp on the cheap, second hand, via eBay... Which may not have been the best plan...

Friday, 25 March 2016

Superlink Nightscream Reverse/Rebirth

When Nightscream/Starscream first turned up in the Superlink/Energon TV series, he was a ghost, Starscream having been apparently killed off at the end of Armada. While the original take on the toy - from both Hasbro and Takara - didn't interest me much due to both having uniquely drab colourschemes, the repaint, in more G1-like colours, was just as different between the two toymakers but, while Hasbro went straight G1, to the extent of ignoring much of the molded damage detail, Takara Tomy kept the basic idea of the original, but brightened the palette considerably.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Robots in Disguise Dreadwind & Smokejumper

While overlapping continuities are positively de rigueur now that Hasbro has separated the TransFormers brand into age groups and whole new branches of the toyline open up whenever a movie is released, it was fairly unusual about ten years ago. Nevertheless, around the time Robots in Disguise/Car Robots was phased out in favour of Armada, Hasbro decided to re-release a 1994 Generation 2 set as a swan song for RiD.

This is one of those odd situations where I don't remember exactly how/where I came to buy this... but I'm going to have to assume I picked it up loose because, according to my research, there's something not quite right about the set.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Armada Thundercracker

Hasbro and Takara/Takara Tomy are an interesting pair of companies: they are ostensibly working on the same toyline in TransFormers, but frequently handle them in a very different way (and often with a very different story coming out the redubbing of the same TV series). One case in point - rather ancient now, being from a toyline that appeared 14 years ago - was the Decepticon jets in TransFormers Armada, where Takara Tomy introduced Starscream and had him later develop a 'Supermode', while Hasbro evidently took one look at Supermode Starscream and decided he looked sufficiently similar to G1 Thundercracker to turn him into a unique character for their version of the continuity...

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

TransFormers: Prime Skyquake

TransFormers Prime started its run killing off one of the Autobots, which pretty much set the tone for the series. None of the other key characters actually died, but the show certainly didn't shy away from killing off a less central character in the service of the story.

...And so, the first Decepticon to properly die was Skyquake... and while his brother, Dreadwing, may have had frequent appearances in the remainder of the series, he was only really interested in getting revenge for Skyquake's death and almost ended up in the G1 Thundercracker role of not being entirely behind Megatron's plans for tyranny. Skyquake only appeared briefly, but was utterly in Megatron's thrall, to the extent that he wouldn't consider Starscream his leader, even with Megatron out of action. Yet, since the series' first casualty, Cliffjumper, presented only a single opportunity for a repaint - as a zombie version - Skyquake and Dreadwing were more sensible chance to reuse a mold from TF Prime's limited character roster.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

WeiJiang 'Deformation Era' M01 OP Commander

It's very rare, when looking at photos of TransFormers toys, that I start to wonder if I'm looking at something that actually transforms, or a detailed action figure made to resemble a TransFormers toy. I remember being completely blown away by the first images of RotF Leader class Prime, and wondering how such an amazing robot could possibly condense down into a believable truck mode but, in retrospect, there were plenty of obvious visual cues.

For all its detail, and as amazing as it is for the size, AoE Evasion Mode Prime also leaves one in no doubt that it's a transforming toy simply because Hasbro's budget didn't allow for the toy's strengths to properly shine through. It's potential didn't go unnoticed, however, and dodgy knockoff company WeiJiang have taken my favourite interpretation of movie Optimus Prime, increased its size, improved its build quality, improved its paint job... and added some die-cast metal for good measure.

Can it possibly be as good as it appears to be? Is it truly...

Sunday, 13 March 2016

TransFormers Collectors' Club 2014 (Timelines) Barricade & Frenzy

The problem with TF Prime not having the world's most extensive and diverse cast of characters is that it limited Hasbro's options for repaints... and what limits Hasbro's options tends to cause similar problems for the TransFormers Collectors' Club. Nevertheless, they do have a habit of creating pretty adequate adaptations of characters and designs that Hasbro neglect to exploit.

The second year of the Club's Subscription Service didn't offer much of interest to me, but I ended up buying three figures in one of their clear-out sales. Barricade was one of them, largely because it was loosely based on the character artwork from the cancelled MMORPG TransFormers Universe and I was pretty sure that there would never be a proper toy made to that design. As a combination of the TF Prime aesthetic and the movie franchise's 'bad cop' character under the Club's Timelines banner, it's an odd concept, but that's basically the Club's speciality.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

When Is a Knockoff Not a Knockoff?

Or "How to Make a Masterpiece"

The word 'knockoff' has traditionally had obvious and very negative connotations: this product is cheap, yet of such shockingly poor quality that it's still a waste of money. That started to change a good few years ago, with uncanny the arrival of 'knockoff' G1 toys that were functionally identical to the originals (Mirage being the only example I own thusfar). Since then, knockoffs of the shockingly poor variety have continued to arrive but, in more recent years, the knockoff merchants have upped their game in terms of product quality and a trend of upsizing toys has emerged. A quick look over at SirToys.com gives one an overview of the gamut of knockoffs, but there's one company that quickly seems to be climbing to the top of the food chain when it comes to upsized TransFormers toy knockoffs simply because they don't just upsize a mold, they're willing to improve it. That company is WeiJiang.

I've only recently become aware of them, largely thanks to a sudden glut of videos about their upsized MP10 (cunningly named MPP10), which then led me to discover M01 Commander, an upsized, part die-cast, premium painted version of Age of Extinction Evasion Mode Optimus Prime. If you look back at that write-up, you will see certain key phrases - not least "something approaching a Masterpiece at the Voyager price point" - that would lead to believe that I'm very fond of the mold... and you'd be right, but it's certainly not without its flaws. As with Dark of the Moon's Voyager class Megatron, I felt that Hasbro could have got away with enlarging the mold to Leader class size simply because they're both awesome figures which prove that all the lights-and-sounds gimmickery of previous movie Leaders are a hindrance to the quality of the toy. Pared down, yet just as complex in terms of molded detail and transformation, these two movie Voyagers have easily outclassed those that preceded them, and many that followed. Aside from their size, their only flaws were the miserly paint jobs they received.

WeiJiang, having already upsized and partially remolded AoE Bumbleblee (and Stinger), then decided to tackle a larger project and, while Bumblebee ended up slightly simplified (his battlemask no longer deploys), their take on Evasion Mode Optimus Prime ramps up the detail, adds a number of small yet significant improvements to both modes and has a paint job of a quality beyond even Takara Tomy's idea of 'premium'. I'll deal with it in detail in a separate post soon (camera battery is charging as I write and, while I'm dubious about the amount of good light I'll get this weekend, I do have some time off work later this month, so hopefully I really do mean 'soon') but, suffice it to say that, so far, this thing looks awesome.


Friday, 4 March 2016

DotM Mechtech Skyhammer

If you ask me, one of the best things - if not the best thing - about the original movie's toyline was the part made up of characters who didn't appear in the movie. It seems like a strange thing to say, but the robot cast was pretty small and, with a history and a catalogue of characters as awesome as TransFormers, it would have been remiss of Hasbro not to take advantage of it, even if most were straight repaints. There were fewer for Revenge of the Fallen, and there were characters who appeared in Dark of the Moon who, nevertheless, were not released as toys by Hasbro... But it did manage to continue the tradition of releasing a few wholly new characters who didn't appear in the movie.

Nice to know Hasbro gets its priorities right...

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