Thursday, 14 November 2013

Galaxy Force Live Convoy

If there's one thing the TransFormers line doesn't do well, it's helicopters. Those rotor blades and long, thin tails invariably end up just hanging off somewhere awkward, and the overall shape tends to be in the region of a brick with a long, thin tail and rotor blades.

There have been exceptions to this rule, such as TF: Prime Airachnid and movie Blazemaster/Evac/Tailwhip, and even movie Blackout (to an extent - his tail hangs from his back) but, by and large, they don't work very well and tend to follow the same, fairly simplistic transformation schemes.

Back in the days of Cybertron/Galaxy Force, risks were taken with the robot designs, and the Voyager class helicopter Evac/Live Convoy did things a little differently...

Vehicle Mode:
At a glance, this looks like a fairly authentic and well-designed helicopter alternate mode. It wouldn't win any awards for disguise because the somewhat jarring colourscheme comes, at least in part, as a result of robot parts - connection points at the very least - being stuck on the outside and molded in colours that don't fit with the rest of the chopper. There's also a rather noticeable and unsightly hole running right the way through the chopper and he suffers from Visible Robot Hips.

Furthermore, even though this is the Japanese version, there are several parts where the paint job - or lack thereof - really lets the model down. By and large, it's sort of Coast Guard-ish colours, but the dark bluish parts on the sides don't fit with the orange, white and cyan, and the cyan paint around the windscreen looks incomplete, ending on square edges where the molding suggests it should continue. Also, it's rather disappointing that he has seats and a control/instruments panel molded inside the cockpit, but the area behind the windscreen is completely unpainted, so that detail is all but lost.

One common factor with TransFormers helicopters of a certain size is the geared rotor gimmick, and Live Convoy's is probably one of the best I've encountered - it rarely sticks or grind the gears, and the blades rotate freely for quite some time after the button is released. The location of the button is a little awkward, but it's probably the only really viable position given the location of the key-activated gimmick on this model.

The gimmick in this model is a bit on the dull and predictable side - the two engine exhausts are actually missile launchers, and plugging the key in flips them forward. One of the launch mechanisms on mine is on a bit of a hair trigger, and tends to fire (sideways!) as the launchers are being deployed. Thankfully, he has another rather more interesting (and non-key-dependant) gimmick: a rescue winch. The hook can be pulled out on the cord - only about three inches long - and then instantly retracted at the press of a button. I'd say it retracts a bit too quickly to act as a decent rescue winch - its victims would probably end up with whiplash, if not worse.

Unusually, for a helicopter TransFormer, Live Convoy has retractable landing gear rather than runners. A pair of wheels tuck into the nose, and another pair are mounted on the sides, at the base of the tail. These two aren't especially well executed as they're just flaps of solid plastic molded to resemble wheels, and they don't look especially good whether extended or retracted.

Another interesting feature is that the tail rotors are mobile... odd, considering that the tail appears to be molded with something that could pass for a fixed tail rotor behind the mobile pieces. What's really cool about the mobile parts is that I've actually managed to get them to rotate just by blowing on them. Perhaps that's a case of small things pleasing small minds, but I thought it was cool.

Robot Mode:
Considering the shape and design of the helicopter alternate mode, Live Convoy has a very satisfying and well-proportioned robot mode. The upper body is bursting with detail and colour. It may be all the same colours as were shown in vehicle mode, but the extent of it is surprising - the torso is molded in orange plastic, but just about every surface of the chest is painted, and all the paint colours are used on the chest alone.

Live Convoy wins points - albeit by default - for the most creative use of an aircraft tail in robot mode. It may still be clearly recognisable as the helicopter's tail, but at least it's split symmetrically across the back, almost like a pair of wings, rather than just hanging down uselessly, like so many other TransFormers helicopters and planes. It does add to his width and causes a few problems for displaying on a shelf with other models, but the tail halves can be rotated down and (almost) out of the way if necessary.

The key activated gimmick is accessible in this mode, but the way it functions is suspiciously like Sonic Bomber's gimmick: by default, it's a backpack... to make use of it, it has to be swung up and over his shoulders. At least with this one it doesn't end up directly over his head and pointing out at a weird angle that would make it impossible to aim. Unfortunately, the arm upon which it swings up and over his head is also the part that keeps his head securely aloft. Once his missile launchers are pointing forward, his head is inclined to droop. It doesn't slip back down into his chest - it clicks into place securely enough to avoid that - but it does wobble.

His other two vehicle mode gimmicks - the winch and rotor blades - are equally functional in this mode and just as much fun. The rotor blades will clash with the chopper's tail unless carefully positioned, but the effect is pretty good, and you can see that it's conceivable he might use them as a weapon. The winch cable seems even shorter in comparison to robot mode, but it's still a neat addition to the model.

Live Convoy's head sculpt is quite interesting in that, while it could never be called 'nondescript' it has, though alterations to the paint colours and distribution, transformed into a passable Springer and a truly awesome Shattered Glass Galvatron (one of which, one day, I will own!). It's quite traditional in a lot of ways - very much the 'helmet'-type of head with the crests that often turn up on Prime/Convoy characters. It also features excellent light piping for his dark blue eyes, but the face looks rather like it's been punched in - it's very sunken into the helmet and almost concave.

Compared to some other helicopter TransFormers, Live Convoy is neither overly simplistic nor overly complicated. The model was clearly designed more with robot mode in mind than helicopter mode as far more effort went into making that look cool and complete, but it does all come together securely and creates one of the better helicopters in the history of the toyline.

Most of his joints are ratchets of one kind or another, so they're all very firm, but they also have an excellent range of motion, so he's very dynamic and poseable with it. His feet fold out in two halves - 'heel' and 'toe' - and, despite lacking much by way of mobility in and of themselves, they're good enough that he can balance in some dramatic poses, and is even capable of balancing on his toes, as shown in the final photo above. The rotor blades on the left arm do get in the way in robot mode but they will spin freely to get out of the way and they are removable.

Easily one of my favourites from the Galaxy Force range, Live Convoy may be garishly coloured, but he's a cleverly designed model with a decent selection of features. I'm surprised we haven't had any third party additions to complete his helicopter mode and fill in some of the gaps, but this model is now about eight years old, and the third parties these days tend to focus on the newer models or their own stuff.

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