Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Generations (30th Anniversary) Megatron

And so begins the 30th Anniversary of the TransFormers toyline, kicking off with a set of Deluxe Class toys based on new character designs from the IDW comics. Considering the line has been going for thirty (not quite continuous) years, one would tend to expect Hasbro to pull out all the stops and create something incredible to mark the occasion. Certainly, things like the new Metroplex fit that bill, if you're into massive hunks of plastic that pretty much require their own display space, but with the 20th Anniversary having been celebrated by the commencement of the original Japanese Masterpiece and Binaltech lines, what does the third decade of Transformers mean to Hasbro?

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Cybertron Downshift

During the Unicron Trilogy, Hasbro seemed to play fast and loose with its character names and representations. The character named Wheeljack (Rampage in Japan) was a clear homage to G1 Sideswipe and, on the two occasions where a character turned up looking like G1 Wheeljack, he was named Downshift (Takara got his name right, though!).

Wheeljack as a character still gets a poor deal - while the G1 character was a scientist and weaponsmith, in the Unicron Trilogy he was just a rookie soldier. Even now, in TransFormers: Prime, where he actually looks like the original Wheeljack, he's just a roaming hunter/warrior with a penchant for explosives. The only recent version of Wheeljack that's really been Wheeljack was the Classics/Generations version.

While the Energon/Superlink version was a sports car decorated to look like the G1 Lancia Stratos, the Cybertron version took a whole new approach... So, when is a homage not a homage?

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

TransFormers Collectors' Club BotCon 2009 (Timelines) Banzai-Tron

I have to confess that the whole Action Master phenomenon passed me by completely. I'm not even sure they made it over to the UK, though I wasn't really looking for TransFormers by that point. The idea was that certain Cybertronians lost the ability to transform through use an a new kind of fuel - probably the weirdest, not to mention (oxy)moronic decision in the entire history of the TransFormers toyline - and thus equipped themselves with transforming partners of one kind or another - in the case of Banzai-Tron, a kind of TargetMaster who was a robotic crab.

This Timelines homage to the Action Master was an attendee extra figure for BotCon 2009's 'Wings of Honor' storyline, packaged with Skyquake, and uses the Superlink Shockfleet/Energon Mirage mold, even though the original toy showed no boat-like elements.

TransFormers United 2-pack: UN-27 Windcharger & Wipe-Out

When it was announced that the extended Classics line would get an updated Windcharger to go along with the upgraded Mini Autobots Bumblebee, Warpath and Powerglide, I was pretty thrilled. Windcharger was the second Autobot I ever bought (the first being Cliffjumper), and he was a pretty awesome version of the third generation Pontiac Firebird, the very same car that was used as KITT in the original Knight Rider TV series in the 80s. He also had an awesome story in the UK Marvel TransFormers comic (back when they drew everyone properly, rather than according to the terrible Marvel style guide), when he and Ravage teamed up against the Ark's nutty computer. It seems bizarre to me that so few of the G1 Mini Autobots have been updated, or even been recreated for other series but, at last, Hasbro seems to be showing an interest.

Windcharger was only going to be a Scout/Legends class figure, smaller than any of the other Mini updates, but I wasn't fussed about that. Early shots of the model looked excellent, and I was keen to get him as soon as he turned up in the UK.

But he didn't. And still hasn't. So the only way I was able to get him was to shell out over the odds for an import of the Japanese TransFormers: United twin pack of Windcharger and Wipe-Out...

Monday, 22 July 2013

TransFormers Collectors' Club 2013 Members Incentive (Timelines) Depth Charge

(Members Incentive Monday #9)
I have developed a nasty habit with this blog of writing up repaints/remolds before the original iteration of any mold... I'd aimed to break that trend over the weekend with Terradive, but just couldn't seem to keep myself interested, knowing full well that he was just the preamble to this Beast Wars homage.

Little has been seen of Depth Charge so far in the 'Beast Wars: Shattered Glass' storyline currently running in the club magazine, but I was intrigued from the moment he was announced. Naturally, all the Beast Wars characters had pre-Beast Wars forms (as investigated by Botcon's 'Dawn of Futures Past' set and Club exclusive Airazor), but the story suggests this is set after Beast Wars, and possibly on a different planet... so what form could Depth Charge take after spending time as a large robotic ray?

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Generations Scourge

Back in my write-up of Classics Cyclonus, I mused that the toyline has done an excellent job wherever it remakes a terrible G1 toy. Most of Generation 1 had a kind of charm even if the toys were basic and lacking articulation, but the models based on characters from the animated movie were invariably awful.

Scourge was a hovercraft, let's face it, however much Hasbro might say otherwise. A hovercraft which somehow flew through space, but a hovercraft nonetheless. He was also one of the earliest examples of a 'shell-former' in that the vast majority of his vehicle mode simply folded away to reveal the robot inside, in a similar way to Galaxy Force Chromia and Timelines Elita-1.

While the sequential art fiction and even the Titanium line kept him looking like a Sci-Fi hovercraft in almost every continuity, Generations has given him a whole new look... at least to his vehicle mode...

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Energon Arcee

I have a confession to make: I have something of an obsession with biker femme-bots, and Energon Arcee/Superlink Ariel was the beginning of it all. While I can't ride motorbikes myself, I do find myself admiring them in passing but, historically, they didn't work well as alternate modes for TransFormers. G1 Protectobot Groove, G2 Laser Cycles, Beast Machines Thrust, etc. all tended to have a bias toward making a decent bike at the expense of being a believable robot in disguise.

That all changed with Energon/Superlink, where the only unique Omnicon, Arcee/Ariel, proved that one could have aesthetically pleasing and well-proportioned motorcycle which transformed into an aesthetically pleasing and well-proportioned robot... providing it was a femme-bot.

Monday, 15 July 2013

TransFormers: Prime Beast Hunters Jet Vehicon

I don't normally buy the smaller scale TransFormers. Most of them are even more simplistic than Mini-Cons, in terms of articulation if not transformation. However, when it seems unlikely that a particular model will become available in the UK, such as the Deluxe Class Jet Vehicon, and I'm not in a position to pay the exorbitant import prices, I'll sometimes cave in and pick up those that catch my interest.

The Deluxe Class Jet Vehicon looks completely awesome and, despite the fact that Japan (at least) is getting not one but two versions: the standard, 'nameless, faceless mook' variety, and a silver/grey 'General' version, they don't appear to have made it Stateside. I guess there's a slim chance that these (and possibly a Legion Class 'General') might become available at UK retail eventually, since they are part of the Beast Hunters line, but I quickly snapped up this pint-sized purple peon at the LFCC, to see if it's a worthy substitute for the Deluxe.

Superlink Galvatron General

Once upon a time, when a TransFormers character got an upgrade, it meant a whole new mold. Think Powermaster Optimus Prime or, indeed, G1 Galvatron. In the Unicron Trilogy, however, upgrades came either in the form of one character combining with another, or a simple repaint. While this trilogy didn't start this trend (Robots In Disguise is to blame!), it certainly raised it to an artform, taking each of three different Megatron molds, and giving them a new paint job to create that line's Galvatron.

Strangely, though, Superlink started out with Galvatron rather than Megatron, and his repaint/upgrade gained a suffix to his name along with a very G1-inspired colourscheme.

Note that this is the smaller Japanese version of the model, rather that the upscaled US/European version.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

DotM Mechtech Sentinel Prime

TransFormers: Dark of the Moon proved several things - that alien invasion movies were de regueur during the period of 2010-2011; that, even with a coherent story, Michael Bay could deliver only a vaguely coherent movie (and one which countered some of his good ideas from the earlier ones - I mean, seriously, why did these transforming alien robots require aircraft?); that the Generation 1 cartoon had some excellent ideas which were ripe for stealing; and that Hasbro was very capable of fumbling an entire toyline.

Sentinel Prime was a controversial character - an ancient Autobot hero who made a deal with Megatron for the sake of Cybertron, with none of Optimus Prime's regard for life. As a prominent character from the film, he had a figure in almost every size class (no Deluxe, even though Optimus got one!)... but, knowing my propensity for Leader Class figures, it will not surprise anyone to learn that's the only one I picked up.

Is this another winner, like RotF Optimus Prime, or a weird pile of junk, like Megatron from either of the previous movie ranges?

Monday, 8 July 2013

iGear MW-08 Bushwhacker

I've heard mixed things about iGear generally, from the accusations of ripping off the work of others to the praise for their Masterpiece Seekers and Coneheads, and now they're producing their own line of G1 Mini Autobot homages, beginning with (Sea)Spray and Rager (aka Huffer), under the banner of 'Mini Warriors'. For the most part, the line wasn't of much interest to me - the models were OK, but not really as complex or as good-looking as the more recent mainstream releases, so they wouldn't be a particularly good fit for my Classics shelf.

However, strange things happen to me when I go to conventions and, faced with a small selection of iGear's newest additions to the line, I somehow felt compelled to pick up their homage to one of my favourite G1 models, Outback.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Show Haul

Nope, not BotCon - still haven't managed to get myself over to the States for one of them - but the London Film & Comic Con, which I attended today with a friend. The last one I went to was a huge disappointment to me, largely because the of dearth of TransFormers merchandise, so I wasn't holding out much hope for this one. Yes, I took a fair chunk of money with me, but my rationale was "if I don't spend it, I've got cash for groceries, etc for the next few weeks."

The show looked like an utter shambles... from the long queue outside (on a hot, sunny day), through the three slow-moving ticket queues, to the two staffed entry doors, and into a vast hall which was mostly empty space and barging people, with a few densely-packed zones for general retail, specific memorabilia, arty things and, of course, celebrity guests. The organisers need to take a long hard look at their show's presentation. No doubt it makes lots of money - the few stallholders I spoke to for any length of time had been making excellent money for all three days of the show - but the guests are unlikely to look fondly upon the show when it looks like it's occurring in a shanty town inside Earls Court Two.

As it turned out, though, my friend and I made out like bandits. She was looking for a present for a young relative, and I recommended one of the new TF Generations Legends Megatron and Chopshop. Actually, 'recommended' is too strong a word. I asked which would be the preferred vehicle, tank or plane, and the tank won.

There was also a good selection of Bumblebees to add to her collection, and she came away with the spiky Beast Hunters remold, the Dark Energon version (essentially a semi-transparent, glittery homage to Goldbug) and a First Edition. On the way out, I remarked that there's another FE pack that she might like to go halves on, if it turns up: the New York Comic Con version, where she - a former New Yorker - could have FE Bumblebee as a New York cab, and I'd take FE Arcee in the G1 colourscheme.

My own luck was similarly good - I walked away with a FE Starscream, a Beast Hunters Legends Jet Vehicon (since it's unlikely I'll see the full size version), the Japanese TF United Windcharger/Wipe-Out 2-pack and an iGear Bushwacker.

Full writeups to come (eventually - you know by now how long these things can take!), but my initial impressions are as follows:

FE Starscream: Better than the Voyager in some ways - far tidier, for example. Probably rather more complicated, too... but the arm extension joint feels like it could break quite quickly.
TFPBH Jet Vehicon: Pretty darned neat, for the size, though the weapon's pegs don't fit very well in some of the vehicle mode's holes, and not having the head fold away at all seems a bit rubbish.
TFU Windcharger/Wipe-Out: Nice G1 referencing, and rather amusing that, just like 80s Knight Rider vs. 2008 Knight Rider, what was once a Trans Am is now a Ford Mustang. Sorta. Hey, they both transform, too!
iGear Bushwacker: Far larger than I'd expected, but an OK update of one of my favourite G1 Mini Autobots, though it feels unfinished and some parts don't fit especially well.

Shout-outs to All The Cool Stuff, Toyz and Gamez and Moving Pictures for being especially cool, and making my visit to the LFCC today worthwhile.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

DotM Mechtech Thundercracker

I have to confess that, when I first heard that Starscream in the the Dark of the Moon toyline would be Deluxe Class, I was pretty disappointed. While the Voyager Class models from both the original movie and Revenge of the Fallen were flawed in their own ways, both were reasonable interpretations of some fairly impossible CGI. The closest version up to this point had been the largest, so how on Earth would they make a halfway decent version of the movie Seekers using a smaller scale?

Since I was perfectly happy with my Leader and Voyager Class models for Starscream, Hasbro attempted to trigger my Seeker OCD as they did with the first movie, by repainting this model as Thundercracker (while only Japan got a Skywarp out of this mold!). When I found him on the cheap in one of my local toyshops, I figured he was worth a try, if only to show some willing with the otherwise quite disappointing Dark of the Moon toyline.

War for Cybertron Soundwave

I should stress, first of all, that this is the first release - the Deluxe, not the all-singing, all-dancing Voyager which can make use of the 'data disc' minions.

Transformers have always seemed to be an ideal property for videogames, making it baffling that Hasbro haven't pursued the idea more thoroughly. That said, what few games there have been were largely terrible - I believe the game based on Armada was better-received than the TV series (not hard!), but it took until High Moon Studios' War for Cybertron, a game which recounted the beginnings of the war which eventually let Optimus Prime, Megatron, et al to leave their home planet and wind up on Earth. It was only natural that Soundwave would play a part, but how did he turn out?

Universe Red Alert

Every so often, a TransFormers toy enters my collection as a gift. When it's a birthday present, chances are I bought it myself and then handed it over to a family member in exchange for a refund (sometimes that's easier for them than trying to pick out a present themselves). This one, however, was a gift from a friend and correspondent in the States, and came as quite a surprise when I opened the package.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Galaxy Force Demolishor

Construction vehicles are nothing new to the TransFormers toyline - there's a grand tradition, particularly with the Decepticons, of these giant alien robots disguising themselves as machines involved in building. I guess it's a good cover for building all those weapons of mass destruction, but it does seem strange that the faction who are intent on destroying are the most likely ones to turn into machines used to create.

The Galaxy Force/Cybertron line featured a whole planet populated by giant robots, neither Autobot nor Decepticon, who lived to build... but there was one construction vehicle which was a Decepticon from the start...

Monday, 1 July 2013

TransFormers: Prime Vehicon (Car)

One thing the TransFormers line has missed out on, by and large, as a character-driven property, is the 'nameless, faceless mook' or 'troop builder'. Granted, even the G1 TV series pilot featured random, unlikely-looking characters who existed only to get blown up (or cause excessive OCD in some fans), but they never came out as toys. Energon featured Omnicons and the Terrorcons, which could function as troop-builders... but most of them were such dull toys and from such a poorly-received series, I can't imagine most fans buying more than one, if any.

Then came TransFormers: Prime, which has almost made a virtue of having literally nameless, faceless Vehicons making up the bulk of Megatron's forces. But are they nothing more than a throwback to the bad old days of the Terrorcons, or are they something a bit special..?