Sunday, 11 July 2010

Transformers Collectors' Club 2010 Members Incentive (Timelines) Dion

Dion is a bit of an oddity. The character featured in just one episode of the G1 cartoon - part of War Dawn - and got killed off seconds after being introduced (serves him right for thinking Decepticons are cool just because they can fly). There was never a true G1 toy of Dion because he was just this background character who existed to die, giving Optimus Prime (rebuilt from Dion's friend Orion Pax) a reason to want to rise up and challenge the Decepticons. Even so, when Takara Tomy reissued Kup with Wheelie (one of the most maligned characters and toys from the days of G1), E-Hobby took it upon themselves to repaint the pair as Orion Pax and Dion, respectively. Then, the TransFormers Collectors' Club took it upon themselves to have Dion rebuilt in a new form...

...A new form strangely reminiscent of Armada Hot Shot.

Thankfully, this is the Classics/Universe 2.0 version of Hot Shot, with improved everything... and, furthermore, it's the Japanese version of the mold, which was slightly redesigned to accommodate a pair of spring-loaded missile launchers.

So, how does it stand up, this repaint of a remake?

Vehicle Mode
It's uncanny how similar this vehicle mode is to the original Armada Hot Shot. Perhaps it's a little more refined, but the familiar details are there, even down to the gap in the spoiler where his Mini-Con should sit for his turbine-powered mode. Sadly this indentation is all but redundant - the port on the packaged Mini-Con partner, Cop-Tur (a name taken from GoBots), is in entirely the wrong place for him to functionally attach in the same way as the Armada version. It will slide in but, since the rotor blades cannot face backward, there's little point.

In fact, all the Armada functionality is removed in this Classics reimagining of the mold - no chainsaws spring from the front, and there is no Axel-zooka. Even the engine block/hand blaster has become mere molded detail on the bonnet.

Even so, vehicle mode looks excellent - very sporty, but in the Muscle Car sense: he's curvy, but not sleek. And while the Armada version had no clear plastic for any of the windows (and, in fact, no rear windscreen to speak of!) this version has clear front and rear windscreens but, disappointingly, painted side windows. I guess clear plastic for the side windows would have (a) required a lot more paint, either making the figure more costly, or reducing the amount of paint elsewhere and (b) shown through to the robot mode's arms. On balance, I think the right decision was made.

It's all very orange - very much in keeping with the character of Dion, but blue details - such as an Autobot logo in a stripe - are liberally applied, along with a dash of silver on the front grille and headlights. There are also touches of white, yellow and red to complete the vehicle detailing.

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Robot Mode
Here's where the improvements over the original really start to take precedence over what they've removed in terms ofr functionality. The loss of the Axel-zooka is significant but, offset by the improved shoulder articulation, it's easily overlooked. In fact, articulation is improved across the board - this version effectively has both heel and toe joints, though their usefulness is debatable given their construction - with far more freedom of movement and more convincing posability. This thing makes the original mold look like a Happy Meal toy.

Not least of the improvements is the ball-jointed head, which gains full freedom of movement without losing the movable visor. All this, and it even has light-piped eyes. The original's head was molded into the back of the car, and covered over by panels in vehicle mode. No light-piping, and the visor was opaque.

Probably the most significant thing about this Collectors' Club figure is that it is based on the Takara Tomy version of the mold - meaning it comes with a pair of spring-loaded missile launchers. In vehicle mode, these stow on the underside, and are visible only as exhaust pipes. One is a little loose on mine, and prone to dropping out if looked at the wrong way, but they work pretty well. In robot mode, however, you're spoilt for choice as to where they can be placed.

Obviously they can be placed in his hands as pistols, but also they can be attached to his forearms, like the arm-mounted guns of the Decepticon Seekers. This would probably be more effective if the rotation at the shoulder weren't so unreliable - one arm on mine is fine, the other seems to be glued in place. The third option is a bit more interesting. The back panels of the vehicle mode - so intrusive in their default position - can be detached and plugged into his forearms, giving Dion a fine pair of knuckledusters. The holes they're normally plugged into can accommodate his guns, adding a pair of shoulder-mounted blasters, for when his fists just aren't powerful enough.

It's not all perfect, though - the rotation joint just below the knees is especially weak, and the left lower leg popped off mine seconds into my first transformation. It pops right back on, however, so delicate fingers will avoid the problem altogether. Also, the default position of the vehicle mode's back panels can get in the way of the shoulders' range of motion. It's not terrible, and the panels can be rotated to face down rather than up, and this fixes the problem entirely.

There's a lot more painted detail visible in robot mode, too... though it sticks to the same palette of orange, white and blue, with a touch of silver on his face. Still, the colourscheme works well enough, and it's surprising how different he looks to the original iteration of this mold. And since Dion, in the Collectors' Club continuity, Timelines, is a member of the Autobots' Elite Guard, he sports the winged emblem on his left shoulder.

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I'm tempted to suggest that this would have been a far better mold for the Collectors' Club Nightbeat figure but, I guess, the Energon Hot Shot mold does show some suggestions of HeadMaster technology, whereas this one is a more recent mold updating the previous version of Hot Shot.

In all honesty, I wasn't expecting much from Dion - I'm not madly keen on the colourscheme, he's a very minor character (except in the Club's own fiction, perhaps), and the mold is one I would have ignored had I seen the UK version available (which I have not)... but this is one of those rare cases where my low expectations are both unjustified and completely dispelled by the figure in hand. Partly because of the addition of the guns, but largely because this mold is so much better in person than it appeared in photos. The shoulders don't peg into place properly and, as such, have a habit of collapsing back into the chest, but it's a reasonably stable model.

Transformation is also far better than I'd expected - based on the few photos I've seen, I expected a slight upgrade to the Armada model's transformation. I couldn't have been more wrong. The whole body basically flips round, so the head is stowed between the legs in vehicle mode. Very clever stuff, and the fact that most of it pegs together nicely and doesn't rely on ball joints makes it all even better.

Mini-Con Partner: Cop-Tur
Here's where it gets really bizarre - while many newer Mini-Cons have been better than some of those that appeared in Armada days, this 'upgrade' to the original Jolt is a huge step backwards. The original could plug into the rear of Hot Shot's vehicle mode and become a turbine by flapping down... this one's port is in the completely the wrong place, as is the joint that flaps down. You can just about slide Cop-Tur into the recess in Dion's rear windscreen, between the two parts of his spoiler, but it's not a very snug fit. In robot mode, the port is stuck behind Dion's shoulder and, in any case, doesn't serve any purpose.

Worse still, Cop-Tur can't even stand in robot mode - he's far too back heavy, and his footprint is too small. Still he does have articulation in his shoulders and elbows...

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Since he's a bonus to a Members' Incentive figure, Cop-Tur can't be considered to be too great a failure... and at least his colour scheme fits with Dion.

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