Tuesday, 23 July 2013

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...

Vehicle Mode:
The first thing you'll notice is that he is no longer a Firebird. Technically, he's not an accurate representation of any car, thanks to the pesky necessity for licensing these days. There is something quite familiar about this design, though... and when it hits you, it becomes completely awesome (if you like 80s television).

Back when Binaltech was still a thing, Windcharger was originally going to be a repaint of the Ford Mustang GT mold, with a new head. For whatever reason, Hasbro decided to give the name 'Windcharger' to the Alternators version of Overdrive, the Honda S2000 mold, despite keeping Overdrive's head... and then went on to use the Windcharger head for the unfortunately named 'Decepticharge'. It was all a bit of a misfire, really. But here, from 2011/12 (US/Japan), we have the new Scout/Legends-sized Windcharger, in a vehicle mode based quite clearly on the recent iterations of the Mustang... which, coincidentally(?), was also also used in the 2008 reboot of Knight Rider. Someone at Hasbro/Takara must be a fan... The rear end of the car, particularly the rear window, are a much clearer reference to the G1 model, with the weird 'armour panelling' effect, but the front end is 100% pure American muscle car.

Naturally the colour scheme keeps to the G1 template, and barely has any paintwork, though the plastic does feature fine metallic flakes. The headlights and bumper are painted silver, the grill is painted black and framed with flat grey, while the windows and rear end are painted black. There's also some black paint in the vent thing on the bonnet and touches of red on two sections of roof but that, apart from a tampographed Autobot insignia, is the extent of the paintwork. Disappointing that the hubcaps aren't painted, but that's all too common these days.

Robot Mode:
While this is clearly Windcharger, he's quite different from his G1 self. In fact, in a lot of ways, this is like a simplified version of the intended Binaltech Mustang Windcharger, with the vehicle's front becoming the robot's chest. In just about every other respect, it's a fairly faithful homage to the G1 Mini Autobot.

While the car parts are necessarily quite plain, there's a good amount of molded detail in the pale grey pieces, even those obscured by the car's bonnet. The upper arms and legs feature armour panels, and the backs of his thighs have a kind of molded piston detail, sadly obscured by the car's roof for the most part. There's even a fair bit of molded detail on the robot's back and on the inside of the car's roof, which is pretty strange considering it'll almost never be visible.

Just like his G1 self, a lot more grey turns up in robot mode, to break up the red. In this version, though, there's a pale grey used for most parts and a darker grey used for the head, forearms and feet. Not quite sure why this was done, other that just to add a bit more 'colour' to the model, since the original only used a fairly pale grey for the body. The upper legs were chromed, and the much simpler arms were all red.

The arms are well executed quite apart from their much-improved jointing. Not only does Windcharger have proper hands, separate pieces from his forearms, but they can fold back into his wrists to deploy his electromagnets (which fairly closely resemble his 'tractor beam' emitter from the cartoon story 'The Ultimate Doom'). What's more, they come with c-clip points which can be used whether or not they're deployed thanks to clever placing.

The head sculpt is very accurate to Windcharger from the 80s cartoon, which is both cool and disappointing. Cool because it's a decent enough face - not quite so sleek as that of Binaltech Windcharger/Alternators Decepticharge, but detailed. Disappointing because, just like the animation model (and the Binaltech/Alternators head sculpt!), they took the toy's visor and turned it into a forehead. I really liked all the G1 Autobot faces as they were, and thoroughly dislike the animated versions.

Vehicle Mode:
It's Windcharger, only black... and that's pretty much all anyone could say about it. Since so many of Windcharger's paint applications were black, this model ends up even plainer, with only the headlights, tail end, bumper, grille and windows painted in, using a mixture of silver, gunmetal and metallic blue (this last appearing to be the same colour as Windcharger's eyes). The black plastic used for the body of the car doesn't even feature metallic flakes. Of course, there's a Decepticon insignia right on the front... Windcharger gets away with being comparatively plain because he's an awesome, rich metallic-flaked red... Wipe-Out just looks unfinished.

Robot Mode:
It's Windcharger, only black... again. The pale grey plastic is identical to the original, while the darker grey has been replaced by a strange sort of flat blue. The layout of colours is virtually identical, leaving him just as plain in robot mode as it was in vehicle mode.

Naturally, Wipe-Out features the same 'switching at the wrist' weapon gimmick, only he's 'armed' with grease guns. Apparently one of his duties is ensuring his fellow Decepticons are fully lubed up at all times. That must be nice for him.

Considering that Wipe-Out was actually a mistake on the part of the Marvel comics - the character actually represents Trypticon's diminutive toady Full-Tilt - and that he was modelled after Tailgate - a remold of G1 Windcharger - it's disappointing to see that he has exactly the same head as Windcharger, with almost identical paint applications (the only difference being that his eyes are red).

Annoyingly, the right hip joint on mine is broken - the socket has quite a substantial tear in the plastic, extending all the way to the molded slit on the outside of the hip. It doesn't seem to affect him too greatly (so far), but it's a real shame considering how expensive this set worked out. It's my understanding that, even in Japan, this twin pack of Scout/Legend class figures carried a Voyager's price point.

Windcharger/Wipe-Out is a toy of two halves. Transforming the front end is simplicity itself. The back end is a complete pain. The feet really don't like to line up with the car roof, and the roof doesn't lift up quite enough to grant them easy access anyway. The legs are completely overengineered for what they need to do and for resemblance to the G1 character. It's almost as if he was originally imagined as a Deluxe, which might have been easier to cope with. I'm also a little concerned by the strange and surely unnecessary gap between the groin and the bottom of the torso. I know the groin hinges into place, but there's plenty of clearance, and I'm sure that gaping slot could have been closed up a bit.

The mold is very well articulated - basically, all joints bar the knees are ball joints with good range. I was initially rather sceptical of the feet, but they're actually pretty stable. Their ball joint is in the lower part of the shin, with additional movement provided by a pinned joint in the middle of the foot. The flip-out weapons are cool - it's a feature I'd like to see more of in all size classes, in the wake of the live action movies and TF: Prime TV series, though it's very well suited to Windcharger.

I don't know if the US Reveal the Shield release of Windcharger featured metallic flakes in the red plastic... but I'd kind of guess not. Even so, assuming it's price hasn't shot up on the secondary market, I'd tend to recommend that rather than this somewhat overpriced twin pack. Windcharger is an excellent update of his G1 self, but Wipe-Out is all kinds of lazy.

Just for fun: Windcharger in G1 Authenticity Mode

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