Saturday, 20 December 2014

Probably In Remission

Having seen quite a bit of the upcoming Combiner Wars toy range and the toys accompanying the recently previewed 2015 TV series, TransFormers: Robots In Disguise (not to be confused with the 2001 version), I'm beginning to think I won't be collecting much new stuff for a while.

It's not that I object to the simplification of the toys - hell, I'd be happy to keep buying TransFormers toys that were only as complex as the old Diaclone-derived toys - but that combined with the clumsy designs is really putting me off. The new TV show's focus on Bumblebee is another sticking point - we've had far too much Bumblebee ever since the 2007 live action movie. The theory is that he's the 'kid appeal' character, but they haven't made him especially appealing or relateable thusfar because, until now, he's been unable to speak. When Will Friedle (previously Terry McGinnis in the excellent Batman Beyond) was cast as the voice of Bumblebee in the TransFormers: Prime finale movie, Predacons Rising, he made a brief - but all important - difference to my opinion of the character, so I'm pleased that he's been kept on in the new series, and further pleased that a new fem-bot - Strongarm, with a very familiar voice courtesy of Constance Zimmer - has become another prominent character.

The problem, for me, is that Hasbro is constantly approving character designs that cannot be adequately translated into plastic toys. While TransFormers Prime found a reasonable balance (with some standouts, both good and bad), the new RID toys look very little like their on-screen counterparts so far, partly due to simplistic transformations (bordering on shell-forming in the case of Strongarm) and partly due to the miserly paint applications which fail to bring out some of the important molded details.

I was considering buying Strongarm specifically because she looked like another cool femme-bot, and her aesthetic isn't too far off TransFormers: Prime... but now I've seen the (Hasbro version of the) toy, I don't think I'll bother. Like Prime Smokescreen, she's a white car with not much painted detail - the swathes of blue don't even cover what's required by the character model in the TV show - lots of faked transformation (their chest plate 'transformations' are basically identical), and massive chunks of vehicle mode hanging off her forearms. Her paintwork isn't just wrong, it's mostly missing - in the TV show, the head is largely white, while the toy's head is molded in blue plastic.

And, so far, we've seen... what... two Decepticon toys? Three if you count Grimlock, who certainly wears a Decepticon insignia in the show clips we've seen so far, despite the toy being clearly labelled as an Autobot. And those we've seen in the TV show clips mostly transform into weird monster things... or are those their robot modes? It all feels a bit Power Rangers, to be honest.

Then there's Combiner Wars. I get the impression many fans have been gagging for new gestalts, and the third party market is all very well if you have a large amount of disposable income, but they're not official TransFormers, and some people feel quite strongly about that, it seems. Strongly enough, apparently, that they're willing to overlook the terrible design of Hasbro's latest attempt at giving the fans their combiners.

Rather than try something new and original, as they did with Power Core Combiners, they've made the safe play of popping back to 1986 and bringing back updated versions of (so far) Menasor and Superion (along with a new gestalt form for the new Optimus Prime who's basically a repaint of the Motormaster mold with a pair of new heads). They have some of the improved articulation of the third party toys, but Hasbro/Takara Tomy's inability to create such elegant models remains... as does their habit of going cheap an re-using molds to reduce costs. Hence we have four of the original Aerialbots and a new character - with the unlikely name of 'Alpha Bravo' - who is clearly a Blades/Vortex repaint waiting to happen. They also seem a little confused about Drag Strip's allegiance, since he's listed as a component of Prime's gestalt mode.

On the upside, my niece is expressing an interest in TransFormers toys at the moment, so perhaps it's more that I won't be buying these new toys for myself...

Other than that, I guess this just means I have a better opportunity for putting a dent in my Want List.