Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Classics Hound with Ravage

It might seem strange to pair an Autobot with a Decepticon in a single Deluxe package but, as any fan of the Generation 1 cartoon will tell you, Hound and Ravage have... history. There's also the small matter of size... much like his Generation 1 self, Classics Hound is a bit on the small side. He compares better to his fellow Deluxe Autobots than G1 Hound did to his, but Hasbro clearly felt that something was lacking so, not only does he have an attachable weapon, but he has his long-time nemesis along for the ride as well.

Vehicle Mode:
It's only natural the Hound should be a Jeep, but this one isn't modelled on any existing vehicle I'm aware of... Probably less to do with licensing issues than one might think, considering most of the Classics line bears only a passing resemblance to contemporary versions of the original cars. Still, Hound's alternate mode is comparatively tough-looking... kind of halfway between a real life military vehicle and something out of Halo.

One of the coolest things about the Classics line is that there's always a way for the robot's weapon to stow in vehicle mode... only this isn't the case with Hound. His 'hologram gun'/missile launcher (not spring loaded) plugs into the back of either of the seats, but cannot be put anywhere inside the vehicle mode. Sure, having a mounted weapon makes it look more military (the old star decorations are notable by their absence - there's a single star on the front of one wheel arch, and that's it), but it looks nothing like a real-world weapon, so it just makes the vehicle look even more sci-fi.

Right at the back, there are a couple of flip-up posts, onto which Ravage can be affixed in his 'capture mode' (AKA 'cassette mode', and I'm really not sure why Hasbro tried to hide it... why would a TransFormer switch between a robot mode and a 'capture mode'?).

On the one hand, Hound's paint job looks a little bland - green is the predominant colour - but Hasbro have actually done a decent job with this one. Not only are the bullbars painted (and actually better looking than the chromed Henkei version!), but the winch cable and signal lights behind them also got some paint... then the lower part of the sides and the rear bumper have the same metallic colour as the bullbars, the tail lights are painted red, and the bed at the back of the jeep has a coat of khaki (or olive drab, whichever you prefer). The windshield, being molded in transparent blue, gets some paint to match it with the body of the car, and the three lights at the top got an additional coat of yellow. All things considered, he got all the paint he needed... anything else would have been over the top.
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Robot Mode:
Considering that, like Bumblebee, Hound has had virtually no prior reappearances in TransFormers since Generation 1, it's quite surprising to see an update at all, let alone such a good one. Thanks to some very clever jointing, Hound is one of the most poseable Classics to date and, while he retains the compact appearance of the original, his robot mode is about average size for a Classics Deluxe - taller than Hot Rod, Bumblebee and Tracks, but shorter than Prowl/Bluestreak, Sunstreaker/Sideswipe and Jazz.

The first thing you notice is that his feet are just as enormous as the original... and yet it works. It almost makes him look like a halfway point between the Animated aesthetic and something more real-world, albeit nothing like as complex as the Movie models. The next thing that springs to mind is that his head is very similar to the original, even down to the expression, to the point where it looks far less cartoonish than even Binaltech Hound's noggin.

In fact, there are an awful lot of design cues from his G1 self, and not all of them are requirements - the designer(s) must surely have decided to make a contemporary version of the G1 toy, rather than just trying to make something new, as they have with most of the others.

Robot mode also shows up a few more dashes of colour (largely yellow, but far more black plastic is revealed in this form) to break up the monotony of green. The khaki colour turns up on his groin plate and, just like his G1 self, his upper legs are white - the only obvious instance of that colour of plastic on the whole model.

The biggest disappointment is his weapon: somehow it works well enough in vehicle mode, but it doesn't fit properly when mounted on his shoulder - it's not clipped into place in the photos, its pretty much just resting on his shoulder because the 'clip' is neither the right size nor in the right place for it to work properly. They did see fit to mold an otherwise superfluous extrusion from one side, which serves as a hand-grip... but then the 'gun' is being held sideways, and still doesn't look right.
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This update to the Decepticon saboteur is, at once, completely awesome and completely disappointing. On the one hand, the fact that it was made at all, and got packaged with Hound, is very cool. He still transforms into a microcassette, whatever Hasbro say, and is even the same size as the G1 version, so he can still fit in Soundwave's chest.

The changes to his transformation are very well thought out, but I don't think they went quite far enough with articulation. G1 Ravage may have been a little slim in robot mode, and prone to falling over, but he was far better articulated than this little brick.Don't get me wrong, it can still be posed... but it only really looks convincing in a 'just standing there' pose...

It's also nice that he got a lick of paint, to better resemble his part die-cast G1 self, but the little 'rocket pods' on his hips were left black, so you'd barely know they were there.
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I am very impressed by the way both of these models transform. Hound follows roughly the same procedure as his G1 self, but with all the improvements allowed by contemporary toymaking nous. Of all the Classics, he's probably the most successful homage, in that he captures not only the look, but the feel of the 80s version. Ravage, meanwhile, takes the old G1 Cassette template and updates it to create a more three-dimensional model. It may not be perfect, but it's far better than it could have been.

And while Ravage may, technically, be a bit of a brick, nothing could be further from the truth for Hound. With ball-jointed shoulders, bicep rotation and hinged elbows, he's already far ahead of the stubby-armed G1 version... but then you get ball-jointed hips, thigh rotation, hinged knees, ankles and feet... so his enormous footprint makes him one of the most stable Deluxes as well. If only more of the Classics had feet like Hound's, they wouldn't be so difficult to balance in the more dramatic, legs-splayed poses.

Hound is easily one of my favourite Classics Deluxes, and certainly one of the best from the early waves. Despite the shortcomings of the weapon, the improved poseability, and the inclusion of an updated Ravage make him one of the highlights of my collection.

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