Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Generations (30th Anniversary) Blitzwing

Triple-Changers - specifically Astrotrain and Octane - were reintroduced fairly early on in the Classics line. Sadly for them, the Deluxe class size was basically inadequate to the task. For a while, it seemed that Triple-Changers were put on the backburner as a result, before their sudden and triumphant return in the form of 'Thrilling 30' Springer.

One Triple-Changing reboot deserves another, and so came Blitzwing - more G1-oriented in most respects, but with a curious TF Animated-inspired twist...

Tank Mode:
G1 Blitzwing did a fair job of being a tank, the Animated version made a reasonable Sci-Fi/Metal Slug-inspired tank... This one... can't seem to decide if it's a Sci-Fi/Cybertronian tank or something more terrestrial, but it certainly has that authentic G1 Blitzwing colour scheme - ideally suited to any desert that features large areas of purple sand or rock.

The bottom half of the tank manages to look pretty excellent, despite being quite bitty. The molded details down the sides - including a pair of machine guns which will double as jet mode's landing gear - look quite authentic and, with a pair of plates that fold out and up from the robot's crotch, the front end looks fairly solid from raised angles. True to G1, the back end looks terrible - the jet mode's rather flat afterburners just kind of hang out, with the stabiliser wings trying valiantly to look like the rear surface of the tank body.

The turret... is extremely bitty - while it all pegs together nicely, none of it really looks fully connected and, while the front almost looks believable, the back really doesn't. The cannon just sort of sits in the middle with its bizarre and floppy missile launching action (technically it's spring-loaded... but to activate the launch switch, you have to push the barrel back into its mounting, and getting the missile locked in launch position can be tricky). Like all halfway decent TransFormers tanks, the turret rotates freely, though the cannon cannot raise except by popping it out of its natural position, at which point it flops about looking weird. Then again, simply rotating the turret makes the whole thing look weird because the joint is so far forward... and turning it more than a few degrees reveals how bitty the back end really is, because the jet's nose becomes visible in between the treads.

Blitzwing's other weapons - a comparatively tiny handgun and a fairly large sword, both based on his G1 weapons but with lots of 30th Anniversary embellishments - can be mounted in a variety of ways in tank mode. The most natural way to mount the gun is in the 5mm socket at the back of his cannon. There are also a couple of 5mm ports that are actually screw holes, but the instructions specify that the sword can be mounted in one of these. It is also possible to mount the sword on top of the turret, then mount the gun in the sword, as it has a peg on one side and a socket on the other. Clever planning, since there aren't many tanks that feature swords on their turrets, and using it as the mounting for the gun is an effective disguise.

While Blitzwing's treads obviously cannot be expected to roll due to the way he transforms, he does have little wheels embedded into them to facilitate rolling... though one of them did pop straight out the first time I transformed him. One pair is pinned, the other two sit precariously in small grooves.

All things considered, this is an OK TransFormers tank... not the best, certainly not the worst, and the designers at least win some points for not turning him into an H-Tank. It's just a shame that there are so many tanks already in the toyline doing a much better job of it...

Jet Mode:
Having transformed this thing a few times now, I still can't decide whether or not I like jet mode. Objectively, it's a great achievement, slightly reminiscent of Classics Jetfire with his booster pack, but in Decepticon Purple and Blitzwing's traditional sandy beige. From most angles, it's certainly a sleeker jet than the G1 brick, and benefits from not having an entire tank turret cluttering up its underside. From the back, again, the cracks start to show... Quite literally, as the central part of the jet is a large space occupied only by the tank's gunbarrel, gamely pretending to be a third afterburner, or something. Considering his actual afterburners look as though they've been squashed, he probably needs the third one, too...

Due to the necessities of transformation, the wings are both too short and too thin to look truly convincing... but it helps to think of them as the swinging kind, as on an F-14. There is a small panel that folds out from underneath to bulk them up a bit, but it adds so little to the width of the wing, and then only a short way from the point where they wings come out from the body of the jet, that I wonder why they bothered including it. I've seen loads of photos online where they haven't been deployed, and the difference is negligible.

This mode reveals a bit more purple - which doesn't help the already skewed realism angle one bit - while the leading edges of the wings gain a line of red paint, just in case he wasn't already lurid enough. The nose of the jet - molded in rubber and just as annoying as RtS Lugnut's split nose - features an unpainted grey tip and molded gun ports. The cockpit can open, but the hinge is at the front, so the nose needs to be moved out of the way to accommodate it. It feels as though this is one of the designer's biggest cock-ups, as a hinge at the back of the cockpit would both look more authentic and be able to act as a latch the keep the nose in place, rather than being an additional complication in getting it there in the first place.

There's one fold-out, non-rolling landing wheel at the front and, rather disappointingly, the rear 'wheels' are molded into the body of the jet and designed to also look like machine guns in tank mode. This is especially disappointing because tank mode got four wheels... they seriously couldn't afford another two here? Or did they just think that rolling wheels would interfere with the look of the molded guns in tank mode? To add insult to injury, they're quite low-profile so as not to interfere too much with the 'streamlining' of Blitzwing's other two modes, so he's tilted up slightly when at rest. I guess that possibly makes take-off slightly easier...

Both weapons can be mounted in this mode as well and, in fact, there are a couple more options. The turret mountings are still available in this mode, the cannon mounting is still available, just now on the underside, a new 5mm port is available between his 'boosters' (underneath where the tank's cannon sat, and ideal for mounting the gun plugged into the sword), and then each wing has a 5mm port on the underside. Sadly the handgun and sword are the only weapons he's packaged with... a set of missiles or another gun would have been nice, to make best use of the wing mountings.

Blitzwing's jet mode looks better in hand than it tends to look in photos, but it's still remarkably clumsy as TransFormers jets go. Given that this is a Triple-Changer, though, it actually works pretty well.

Robot Mode:
Blitzwing has certainly come a long way from being a diminutive G1 brick with no feet and precious little articulation, yet he retains a lot of familiar elements. His size is a great advantage, as he's very slightly taller than 'Thrilling 30' Springer, and much bulkier. The downside is that he positively dwarfs Classics Astrotrain (I don't have Octane, but have no doubts the scale is similarly off). His proportions generally are quite good, with the slight gap between the tapering bottom of the torso and his super-wide hips being fairly easy to overlook. His legs do suffer somewhat from that bĂȘte noire of TransFormers toys - the stubby thighs coupled with massively long shins, but they could be worse.

The colourscheme and paintwork are much sharper and bolder than the G1 stickers, but they're helped along by some excellent molded details on just about every surface. Blitzwing's chest is on the underside of both vehicle modes, so it's good to see it got its fair share of attention... and it becomes abundantly clear that this model got a hell of a lot of paint in all three modes. Some of the paint applications on the chest, notably the silver in the recessed areas of his waist, are a little slipshod, but it tends to be gaps in the paint rather than overspray. One feature that's only really become apparent to me in the photos below, is that the way his thighs are painted suggests that the sandy beige parts are probably intended to be a kind of armour 'skirt' sitting on top of his grey robot thighs. This is vaguely reminiscent of the tank armour skirt on movie Bludgeon, only these don't tilt outward or act as weapon storage.

While both vehicle modes suffer from some painfully obvious gaps, robot mode looks fairly solid and complete. His forearms are a bit of a letdown, as they're basically empty shells filled out only by the empty shell pieces that cover his hands in his vehicle modes. It's not too obvious from most angles but, once seen, the impression of his empty forearms tends to remain. Due to the way he transforms, there is actually quite a significant space in his waist, behind the cockpit, but its well disguised by the way torso is molded.

Having had multiple mounting options for his weapons in both vehicle modes, it almost comes as a disappointment that he has to hold them in his hands in robot mode. The sword looks fairly decent, if perhaps a little short, but the handgun looks very weedy, especially when compared proportionally to his G1 weapon. Something about the molding of both gun and wrist means that his hand has to be rotated very slightly outward to allow him to hold his gun straight, but it's otherwise a fairly decent, if small gun. Blitzwing's tank cannon ends up sticking out of his back at a weird angle but, due to the presence of the jet's nose between it and Blitzwing's back, it can't be flipped up to fire over his head. Thankfully, nor can it be swung down between his legs as a kind of crotch cannon. I still have flashbacks to the silly little home appliance robots from Revenge of the Fallen, so that would have been a step too far for Blitzwing. It is possible to straighten the barrel by lifting the nose joint up to allow the nose itself to fold flush with the body, but this does leave a lot more more of the piece visible behind his head.

The head sculpt is a fairly basic helmet containing a rotating face gimmick, lifted from the TF Animated version of the character - there's the 'Terminator' face, the 'Crazy' face and the 'Stone Cold Killer' face... but they lack the cartoonish character of the TFA counterparts and really don't suit the Generations styling at all. The first is closest to Blitzwing's G1 appearance, the third is kind of OK, vaguely reminiscent of Energon Slugslinger, but the second is just plain daft. A better use of this gimmick would have been creating three variations on the same face - with and without visor, and with the 'monocle'/targeting sight, for example, or alternative expressions, like the original Masterpiece Starscream and Skywarp. The worst aspect of it, though, is the chunk of yellow below the face, which makes it look rather as though the head is balanced in a shallow yellow bowl on the shoulders, rather than actually being connected.

As is my wont, I tried transforming Blitzwing first of all without reference to the instructions, and had virtually no problems at all. A couple of the finer points, such as extending the legs out from the hips for tank mode, I stumbled upon quite by accident, when something about one mode or another didn't look quite right. For the most part, everything connects nicely, though getting the legs into place for either alternate mode can be a bit of a chore as their tabs have to be rotated into place rather than just pushed. The most troublesome parts are the rubber nosecone, which really doesn't like slotting in under the cockpit's canopy, and - the most widely discussed problem with the mold - the robot's shoulders, which don't connect very solidly at all. Making matters worse, the shoulder's joints - both for rotation and for outward movement (but particularly the latter) are exceedingly stiff. There was a third party fix kit available, but it really shouldn't have been necessary on a Voyager class figure. At the cheaper end of the scale, several enterprising YouTubers offer ways of fixing the model, some more complicated than others.

Ignoring the issues caused by the poor QC on the shoulder transformation, Blitzwing has a good range of joints. The knees, while up rather high, offer a decent bend, but the ball jointed ankles are surprisingly limited and don't allow the feet to move all the way to support the angle of the knees. While his feet looked a bit rubbish as squished afterburners and... whatever the hell they're supposed to be in tank mode, they're more than adequate as feet, offering a good, solid footprint and excellent stability. Due to the way the hips have to move for transformation they move in a fairly sensible way for robot mode and, along with a fairly stiff swivel joint just above the knee, allow for some good posing. The arms are pretty basic, with pinned hinges all the way, but the wrists do swivel. The gimmicky head is mounted on a spring-loaded platform and only rotates, but it can turn a full circle, if you feel that way inclined.

Having Blitzwing in hand, part of me wishes I'd been a bit more choosy and waited to pick up the Doubledealer version of the mold instead, since I prefer that character, and only have one of the other two Classics Triple-Changers, Astrotrain. That said, and ignoring the shoulder problems, he's remarkably good fun... So much so that I rather wish Hasbro had waited till now to get round to remaking Astrotrain and Octane, since they probably would have been vastly better - not to mention more appropriately scaled - as Voyager class toys. The face changing gimmick seems rather pointless on this character - it worked in TF Animated, but not so much in the more serious, real-world-y toylines. That said, there's a certain inevitability to a live action movie Blitzwing exhibiting a TF Animated-inspired split personality, so perhaps it's just that I don't much like any of the face sculpts offered here...

Not sure if I'll get Doubledealer as well... I certainly need to swell my Generations Decepticon ranks, and it really is a fun mold but, aside from having a new head, it's just a repaint - even down to the weapons - when Doubledealer really deserved something unique, having had to sacrifice his Powermaster gimmick...

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