Sunday, 15 February 2015

Just When I Thought I Was Safe

OK, so the first couple of waves of Combiner Wars - Superion and Menasor - were pretty underachieving, and that lulled me into thinking I could probably let the entire toyrange pass... But then the 2015 Toy Fair happened, and Hasbro revealed what's happening next: Devastator, made out of six allegedly 'Voyager class' figures, Defensor (yup, I called it, Alpha Bravo got a new head and a different paint job and turned into Blades) and, of all things, a Leader class Ultra Magnus figure that, for all the world, looks like a slightly cut down, rather cartoonised version of the Masterpiece model, even down to the white cab being joined to its trailer and not having its own robot mode.

I have to say, now I'm impressed. I shall gladly eat my hat.

Or something.

Devastator looks far from perfect - the 'Voyager class' components look like upscaled Deluxes and some seem to have dodgy articulation (elbows have been sacrificed in some cases), none have especially great paint jobs (currently), and Mixmaster's vehicle mode is back to front - the cab sits below the end of the drum rather than the base. People had been speculating about Devastator's weird left foot, and it turns out it's not even the cement mixer's cab anyway! The combined mode does look pretty good, though, and I'd imagine that a lot of fans will keep him as Devastator rather than the six component Constructicons.

Defensor is, theoretically, up against some stiff competition in the form of TFC's Prometheus but, having seen the combined form of that third party behemoth, I don't think its squat, blocky look is a significant enough improvement to warrant the additional expense. In particular, Hasbro's Hot Spot - based on the same vehicle as Dark of the Moon Sentinel Prime - looks better than TFC's Hydrant and, while I love the Dodge Tomahawk alternate mode for Warning Line, Hasbro's Legends class Groove looks excellent.

Ultra Magnus, meanwhile, looks pretty awesome for a Hasbro product. The truck cab looks a bit weird - almost as if it was intended to fit in with the new Robots in Disguise line, albeit with an IDW Comics twist - but the robot mode seems to have taken aspects from the Masterpiece model and KFC's EAVI Metal Citizen Stack, then scaled it back a little to fit the contemporary Leader Class toy pricepoint. And while MP22 is clearly aimed at G1 cartoon fans with the budget for a Masterpiece and the KFC model got in first with a few extra innovations (like feet) and was ideal for those with the budget for a third-party Masterpiece-a-like with a less slavish adherence to the G1 cartoon aesthetic, this upcoming Generations model is obviously a kids' toy that's intended to be played with... and yet look great throughout. I love the way the front of the cab appears to be partially visible (headlights, at least) on the robot's torso, but I'm weirded out by the idea that his Legends class partner, Minimus Ambus, apparently gets to sit in his chest.

So, well done, Hasbro. Combiner Wars is shaping up better than I'd expected... Though I'm not sure it's quite time for another attempt at Bruticus just yet... Even if it seems Hotspot was made with the intention of repainting him into Onslaught. And Cyclonus as the centre of a combiner, rumoured to be Galvatron? Jury's still out on that one...

I'm less enamoured of the newly-previewed 2015 Robots in Disguise toys because it really seems as though they're not trying. Thunderhoof, for example, has his antlers in robot mode... and an entirely separate fork for vehicle mode. Surely the whole point of Thunderhoof's antlers is that they are the vehicle mode's fork? That said, what was on show of that character was only the 1-Step or 3-Step Changer. 'Warrior' (aka Deluxe) class Jazz and Sideswipe look decent, though the former appears to have been developed from TFPrime RID Bumblebee, going by the look of the upper body.

The Mini-Con Deployers look like junk, but the Mini-Cons themselves look potentially cool - in part a development of the G1 clones or the cassettes made for Soundwave and Blaster - in that their 'storage modes' look pretty much identical apart from colouration, while the robot modes are unique, and feature translucent plastic weapons and armour on Autobot/Decepticon insignia sprues.

But then they had to go and ruin it by showing off (if that's the phrase) their 19" Super Bumblebee: an upscaled 3-Step Changer with lights and sounds and next to zero articulation.

Now that's the Hasbro I recognise.

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