Tuesday, 2 June 2015

FansProject Function-X2 Quadruple-U

Function-X is a very different line to FansProject's Causality range. While the latter reimagines and updates Generation 1 figures into something that resembles the original, but has a very modern feel, the former seems (based on the few I've seen so far) to hark back more strongly to G1 in terms its presentation, striving only to improve articulation. The first Function-X model in the line was an update of the G1 HeadMaster Chromedome, a figure which I still own from those days, and something about the way it looked didn't impress me the way their Causality figures did (and continue to).

This second figure, however, intrigued me. Not only was it a stylistic improvement over the first, but FansProject decided to recreate one of the HeadMasters I didn't get back in my youth, for whom I have developed a small fondness due to the BotCon 2007 repaint of Cybertron Snarl/Galaxy Force Fang Wolf.

Beast Mode:
Based on the G1 HeadMaster Weirdwolf, but far less blocky and chunky, Quadruple-U is a mechanical wolf. And because that isn't necessarily quite bizarre enough, he's mostly yellow and a sort of sea green. It's exceptionally true to the G1 figure's colours, by all accounts, though perhaps a little lighter. This third party figure also replaces some of the sticker detail of the original Weirdwolf with molded detail and paint applications, so the basic model is quite well decorated and anything but plain. This model takes the molded detail of the G1 toy any adds to it while keeping the overall feel of the details true to the original.

Where the G1 figure was basically a brick with a vaguely wolfish head and blobby arms, Quadruple-U is far more lithe and - if I may use the word to describe a robot wolf - realistic. The body is slim, slightly taller than it is wide, and its length seems wholly proportional. The legs seem OK, length-wise, but it's not immediately apparent that the fore-shoulder joint is within the circular part of the upper leg's design, and the block above that is just additional mass referencing the G1 toy. Taking this into account, the forelegs seem rather short compared to the hind legs - hence the downward tilt to his body in the photos below where he's standing in a neutral position.

Just like the G1 toy, Quadruple-U stashes his robot mode weapon on his backside, clipping the sword into place as a tail. He has this feature in common with Galaxy Force Fang Wolf/Cybertron Snarl (which probably explains why the Collectors' Club repainted him as Weirdwolf for BotCon 2007) and it's a reasonable trick for the most part. The way the sword was constructed and painted means it's more convincing as a sword than as a tail, and it sticks out far too rigidly in this form. Also like the G1 toy, he has a cockpit in his back where his HeadMaster figure (I've found no reference to a name, other than him being described as Quadruple-U's 'trainer' in some places) can sit, and the raised, translucent orange canopy offers him a decent view over Q-U's wolf head.

There's one problem with the cohesiveness of Quadruple-U's beast mode, and that's the noticeable gap where the back end of the body is made up of the robot's legs. It's only really noticeable from the sides, though, and from most other angles it's fairly well hidden.

The wolf's head sculpt is probably the most disappointing aspect of this model for me - it's too square and angular, and really doesn't look much like a wolf. From the side, it almost looks like it's meant to be a dragon head rather than anything canid, let alone specifically lupine. Even so, it's much more dog-like than the decidedly odd G1 sculpt, which almost looked porcine. The mouth does open quite wide, revealing small, pointy teeth, but that's nothing special these days, and even the G1 toy's mouth opened. I wonder if it might have looked better had it been all white, like the G1 toy, rather than with the jowls and ears coloured yellow, but I'm fairly sure it's not the colourscheme that lets it down. This is part of what has kept me away from the other Function-X figures. I can't quite put my finger on it, but there has been something off about all the designs, and it gives the impression either that Function-X has an entirely different creative team within FansProject, or that they are deliberately aiming for a very different aesthetic. Either way, I prefer Causality.

Robot Mode:
I guess lots of fans had been clamouring for the return of HeadMasters a few years ago and, while Hasbro seemed reluctant to oblige, the third parties were all ready and willing to try something new... And robot mode actually looks fantastic. He's just as lithe in robot mode as in beast mode and has excellent proportions from head to toe - a far cry from the chunky G1 brick.

His colourscheme matches the original, but the distribution of colour is far more elaborate and interesting. As mentioned, some of the paint applications reference sticker detail from the G1 toy but, despite being quite modest by the standards of some third party models, Quadruple-U's paintwork is far more elaborate than anything the G1 toy had to offer. It's really just blocks of colour - white here, red there, and with a block of gunmetal on the upper shoulder details no in the middle of the chest. Simple, but quite effective. The strangest paint application is on the soles of his feet, which would be rarely seen in either mode. Obviously, he stands on his feet in robot mode but, in beast mode, they're folded up against his rump.

Due the the way he transforms, he's left with a couple of obvious gaps at his waist but, since they're effectively lit from behind by the beast mode's passenger canopy, they get away with looking like lights. At first glance, in my own photos, I mistook them for red paint applications.

Taking another leaf out of C Snarl/GF Fang Wolf's book, FansProject have given Quadruple-U a couple of neat ways of storing his sword in robot mode. Where Snarl/Fang Wolf had a clip on each hip in which he could carry his key, Quadruple-U has a set of small black pieces that flip out from either shoulder and either thigh with a hole through the end which allows his sword to clip in. The hilt is slightly too large to fit but, by snapping open the piece between the hilt and the blade, a tiny peg is made available to slip into the hole. Snap the sword closed again and it stays in place very well. It's at a bit of a weird angle - hanging parallel to the upper arm or perpendicular to the thigh - but it's a nice inclusion nonetheless and doesn't hamper his movement.

Unlike Weirdwolf, a sword is the only weapon Quadruple-U wields and, given the strange way his hands are made, he's able to hold it remarkably well. Of course, the hands aren't able to tilt forward for a more natural sword-wielding pose, but the rotation of the wrist allows for a quite dynamic look. As mentioned before, the sword is far more convincing in this mode than it was in beast mode, though it's quite chunky compared to swords wielded by other FansProjects creations. It would have been nice to have some kind of blaster as well, but that might have been more complicated to store in beast mode.

One disappointing aspect of this model is that, while being a HeadMaster analogue, it lacks the G1 HeadMasters' stat readout gadget. Due to the way he transforms, there's no way to connect the neck socket with his chest in a way that would accommodate such a gimmick, but the chest panel could surely have been made to open and reveal, if not G1-style stats, some kind of technical detailing..?

The HeadMaster head sculpt looks very little like the G1 version - it's far more refined and curvy, looking less like a box with face details sculpted in at the bottom. It also has a very different take on the panel that gave G1 Weirdwolf his eyes - it's now a true visor over eyes molded into and painted in on the face behind. I'm quite glad FansProject didn't go with too much of a G1 homage with the head and paint his face red, as I suspect some of the detail would have been lost. The dark charcoal colour works well with the yellow eyes and the translucent red of his visor. On the downside, I do think the actual face sculpt is a bit too organic-looking, rather than robotic.

While Quadruple-U's HeadMaster parter/trainer doesn't officially have a name, he's molded to look just like Weirdwolf's HeadMaster partner, Monzo. His colours are very different, though, more reminiscent of the G1 TargetMaster Nightstick with this black and grey body and red face.

Aside from transforming into a decent head which scales well with Quadruple-U, this little fella has better articulation that a G1 Headmaster... though only barely. Due to transformation, he has something resembling an 'ab crunch' movement and, due to the wonders of contemporary engineering, he also has independent hips and knees.

The attention to detail in Quadruple-U's transformation is astounding. Broadly speaking, it's much the same as the G1 Headmaster, just more intricate. For example, with G1 Weirdwolf, the robot's legs were formed by basically straightening out the wolf's hind legs and then flipping the foot up the back of the leg. In this version, the robot's hips rotate 90°, allowing the thighs to clip together around the sword to form the rear half of the wolf's body, with the lower legs splitting off at the knee to form the wolf's hips, then flipping round at the ankle so that the robot's kneecaps end up as the wolf's back feet, and the robot's feet... just kinda stick out from the backs of his hind legs. The arms/forelegs are much the same, except rather than flipping out the entire foot section, the wolf's forepaws become the robot's hand, and the thumbs get stashed up the back of the wolf's front legs. In fact, it's interesting to note that the forelegs/arms and hind legs/legs work follow a similar pattern the the G1 toy, only in reverse, with robot parts becoming redundant bits on the wolf, rather than vice versa. The way the body compresses and expands as it switches between modes is fiddly, but rather stunning to watch. It's also nice to see that, while the wolf's head still ends up on Quadruple-U's back, just like G1 Weirdwolf, the neck folds into the body a little, reducing the unsightly protrusion.

Being a FansProject figure, Quadruple-U is very well articulated, but some parts do suffer from odd restrictions simply due to the way they're molded. The ball jointed hips have good range forward and back, but very little outward movement as the tops are molded quite square. The shoulder ball joints are supplemented by a hinged piece to allow for a little more outward movement, but it doesn't make a massive amount of difference. Disappointingly, there's no waist articulation, but the inclusion of upper thigh swivel can compensate for this to a degree. Weirdly, in spite of the ankle rotation during transformation, the robot has minimal lateral ankle tilt without unplugging his shin panels. There's a small amount of toe tilt, but it's not especially stable for posing purposes. One really cool aspect is that the neck socket not only rotates, but is hinged to allow the head to tilt slightly forward. Rotation is a little restricted by the protruding 'collar', but it's still a massive improvement on the G1 system.

What makes this fantastic is that the beast mode has decent articulation as well... With the front legs made out of the arms, they have exactly the same range of movement in beast mode. The back legs are slightly awkward because, while the wolf's hips were part of the robot's knees and have a reasonable range of movement, the wolf's knee was part of the robot's ankle and the lowest part of the wolf's leg was just acting as the robot's shin. While it's mounted on a ball joint, much of its range is in completely the wrong direction, and it's too flimsy to hold him up unless it's supported by the knee. The part I object to the most is that the wolf's head only hinges up and down, when there's absolutely no good reason why it couldn't have been given a rotation joint, or been replaced with a ball joint, allowing for rotation and lateral movement. Given that the robot's neck has some tilt, even with the HeadMaster gimmick, it seems strange than the beast mode has been neglected like this.

I can remember not being entirely impressed with Generation 1's Headmasters, and only got a few - Chromedome, Snapdragon and Scorponok from the original line, then Nightbeat and Hosehead from the later, further simplified range - but FansProjects' take on the concept proves that it can work well. Certainly well enough that Hasbro have since revisited HeadMasters themselves, releasing an updated Brainstorm in the Generations 30th Anniversary line. The level of detail strikes a good balance between G1 homage and more contemporary kinds of molded detail and, between the two modes, he's very dynamic and fun to lark about with. The HeadMaster gimmick works well, is detailed in and of itself and scales well with the robot. Sure it would have been great if he'd been a bit more heavily armed, but the sword works out well.

This being something of an impulse buy, I don't foresee myself picking up any other Function-X models... but it depends precisely how they end up looking. What I've seen thusfar doesn't interest me greatly, but it's not impossible that I'll change my mind when I see more of the finished products.

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