Saturday, 27 February 2010

Superlink Superion

Just like the Generation 1 combiners of the mid-80s, the Energon/Superlink line brought us 5-strong teams of Autobots and Decepticons who could combine into even larger, mightier robots (frequently with personality disorders, courtesy of its components). Since the whole selling point of the Energon/Superlink Autobots was that they could combine, they only got one team - referencing the G1 Aerialbots - who combined to form Superion (known in the US/UK as Superion Maximus... because, obviously, it's a name that requires some kind of qualification)

To be honest, I wasn't that interested in the Energon/Superlink combiner teams, not least because I'd heard they were rather floppy... but, for my birthday one year, my workmates clubbed together money for a large bottle of rum (my drink of choice at the time) and £50 worth of tokens for Forbidden Planet.

The boxed set of Superlink Superion cost £51 at Forbidden Planet. You do the maths.

Let's start with the components...

Firebolt & Air Rider
Vehicle Modes:
Really quite pudgy for a jet, but surprisingly effective nevertheless, Firebolt (red/grey) and Air Rider (black/cyan) are reminiscent of some of the G2 Cyberjets, but with elements of the more recent engineering spins offered by Energon/Superlink Starscream. They're quite compact - by today's standards, they're probably about Scout Class - but reasonably detailed. The weapons are really quite poor, though... worse still when you see them in action in either robot or limb modes... Still, both have full undercarriages - two wheels fold out from the 'wingpods', and another comes out from under the cockpit.

Robot Modes:
These are actually quite effective, but they don't shake off the alternate mode's pudginess. Ball joints everywhere mean that they're very poseable, and the feet offer decent stability in their individual forms. The weapons could be either rifles or tonfa, depending on how you choose to mount them on the robot. Both heads have light-piped visors, which look great.

Going by the packaging artwork, Firebolt forms the lower left leg, Air Rider forms the right arm.

Sling & Skydive
Vehicle Modes:
Sling (red/black/grey) and Skydive (blue/grey/gold) are fine examples of the A-10 Tankbuster as an alternate mode. Considering both the size and the necessities of robot mode and limb mode, this is an incredibly good bit of engineering. Sure, it looks terrible from behind, but from just about every angle, it looks brilliant. The weapon given to these two is very strange... At least the rifles/tonfa look like weapons... this thing is a pair of guns mounted under a weird plate. Maybe it's supposed to be some kind or radar emitter? Whatever it is, it can't be very aerodynamic. The holes in the wings almost make it seem as though these two were the intended recipients of the rifles/tonfa... but there's surely no way the two jets could mount the great chunk of weapon supplied with the two Tankbusters... Also, like the jets, these two have something resembling a working undercarriage... it's just a shame that the head sticks out far enough to scrape along the ground.

Robot Modes:
What I most like about these two is their asymmetry. From the knee up, they're nice and symmetrical, like most TransFormers aim to be... but the lower part of the legs is ingenious: rather that separate the nose of the plane vertically, thus splitting the cockpit in half, they chose to split it horizontally... The cockpit sits on the right foot, and the nose-mounted gun sits on the left. Again, ball-jointed everything makes for quite dynamic posing but, unlike the jets, this mold has to balance the very wide wingspan... and the shape of the foot doesn't make this easy. Like the jets, the eyes are light-piped, but these two have the addition of a viewfinder visor - quite cute, but I'm not sure how useful it really is, when weighed up against its tendency to fall off.

Sling forms Superion's right leg, Skydive his left arm.

Vehicle Mode:
Unlike G1 Silverbolt, Afterburner looks like no recognisable, Earth-based aeroplane. He looks fast, he looks menacing (despite having no visible weapons)... and I suppose there's a vague similarity to a souped-up, high-tech Blackbird but, in the main, he doesn't look like a real jet.

That said, also unlike G1 Silverbolt, he's not just a folded up robot stuck to the underside of a plane. Oh, no. This thing actually transforms.

If you can ignore the gaping holes in many parts of this mold, the alternate mode is very effective. Garishly coloured, almost reminiscent of G1 Jetfire, but overall pretty nice. It is strange that both wings and tailfins are made out of rubber, but I assume there was a sensible reason for this.

Robot Mode:
If the vehicle mode had a few unsightly gaps, it could honestly be said that Afterburner is made almost entirely of yawning chasms. Lift his arms and you can see right through his chest. Other than that, he's a massive improvement over the model he pays homage to, G1 Silverbolt. Articulation is far more advanced, his proportions are better, but he loses out in the weaponry department. Strange, then all the smaller 'bots get guns of some kind, but their team leader is unarmed.

Still, it's not as if the combined form could hold a weapon, is it?

And so we come to the combined mode - Superion. While it's true to say that the 20-odd years between G1 Superion and this one have advanced the combined mode in many ways, there are still some disappointments to be had.

For one, the fact that there are only two limb molds. Back in the 1980s, we had four completely individual limbs... not we have two repaints.

Also, the potential for articulation is there, but the bulk of the main body, and the lack of any sensible jointing for the limbs means that Superlink Superion still isn't very poseable. Joints that support Afterburner's poses aren't up to the job with the added weight of the combiner limbs, and the shape of the 'feet' doesn't offer a great deal of support.

The weirdest thing is that Superion doesn't even match the box artwork - which portrays him with a visor. The combined mode's head has two very separate, albeit light-piped, eyes.

Overall, despite the floppiness and instability of the combined mode - not to mention the fact that it's actually not that much taller than the likes of Roadbuster - Superion is a pretty good effort. The limbs look odd, the legs interfere with each other, but it is capable of standing more or less unaided.

And, let's face it, for £1 cash, I got unparallelled value for money.

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