Friday, 24 February 2017

TransFormers Collectors' Club BotCon 2007 (Timelines) Springer

Back while Hasbro were still insisting that they wouldn't be doing Triple Changers in the foreseeable future (I'm actually a little hazy on whether that was before or after the lukewarm Octane (aka Tankor) and Astrotrain), there were several attempts to repurpose more standard two-form TransFormers into one of the much-beloved characters from the 1986 animated movie, Springer. Hasbro themselves released a version of him repainted from Galaxy Force Live Convoy in a two-pack with Ratbat repainted from GF Noisemaze, then followed that up with Springer as a Legends class Osprey helicopter as part of the extended toyline for Revenge of the Fallen. That took care of Springer-as-Helicopter... but what about Springer-as-Armoured-Car..?

Enter the BotCon 2007 additions to the Games of Deception boxed set, where a ground-based version of the character was repurposed out of a surprisingly appropriate source...

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

TransFormers Legends (Titans Return) LG25 Blurr

Back in the 80s, the G1 Blurr toy was an easy pass for me: a large, poorly proportioned mess of a robot that transformed into a sci-fi doorstop of a hover car and, in the thirty-plus years since the character's introduction in the animated movie, only one Blurr toy - the TransFormers Animated version - seemed worth picking up thanks to its improved design and articulation.

...And then Titans Return happened, and Blurr's G1 wedge-shaped alternate mode returned, with massive improvements both to the vehicle mode and the robot mode... albeit with the slightly incongruous Titan Master aspect tacked on. Blurr had been one of the G1 Autobot TargetMasters, along with Hot Rod and Kup, so reinventing him as a HeadMaster initially seemed like a poor choice. That, coupled with Hasbro's hideous colourscheme (seemingly based on the G1 toy, but with less colour variety) made him an easy pass all over again.

But then photos of the Takara Tomy version, from their Legends line (continuing from their 30th Anniversary releases), surfaced, and suddenly the HeadMaster aspect didn't seem so bad after all... And it's about time I posted about something properly new... Though, unlike the other TF Legends figures I've picked up, I won't bother writing about the packaging...

Saturday, 18 February 2017

TransFormers United 2-pack: UN-20 Rumble & Frenzy

If there's one thing I find frustrating and disappointing about the TransFormers brand, it's the reliance on tanks to solve just about any issue with updating a character's form. Megatron can't be a gun anymore because gun toys are considered more dangerous and contentious in America than real guns? Make him a tank. Shockwave can't be a space gun anymore because space guns are still guns? Make him a space tank.

Perhaps I shouldn't be so fussy about a toyline which is still, let's face it, predominantly made up of cars... but surely there are better updates to contentious G1 alternate modes than tanks?

And yet, just because the extended Classics line had no Soundwave of its own (despite there being a sort of contemporary figure in one of Takara Tomy's short-lived offshoot lines), two of his more enduring minions appeared in somewhat familiar and sadly unimaginative forms...

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Unite Warriors UW-07 Decepticon Combaticon Combiner Bruticus

Back in the days of Generation 1, I had much better luck with the Decepticon combiners than the Autobots, managing to complete two of the former (Menasor and Abominus) and most of another (all the Seacons except Snaptrap, who I only picked up on eBay a few years ago) without any of the latter (3 out of 4 limbs for Defensor seems, in retrospect, a little underachieving). The truth was, the Autobots weren't that interesting - Defensor looked a bit boxy, Superion looked very gangly and Computron's components just looked pretty awful to me. Also, with G1 Devastator not making it over to these shores, I felt compelled to compensate by focussing on the Decepticon gestalts anyway.

The one I never got round to was Bruticus and, while Hasbro released his Combiner Wars incarnation as a G1 toy homage - with only one new mold (Brawl) and one reshelling (Swindle, from Rook), reducing Blast Off from a space shuttle to a jet (albeit a more appropriate vehicle  for a military unit) - Takara Tomy aimed for a more cartoon-accurate vibe and created a whole new mold for the Decepticons' 'Space Warrior'.

Of course, buying the Takara Tomy boxed set on import makes it rather more expensive than the version I could pick up piecemeal in UK toy shops... but is it worth the extra..?

Pricing Insanity

It's actually pretty rare, at the moment, that I'll buy any TransFormers in a physical shop, largely because there aren't any decent toy shops close enough to me that the potential for disappointment (nothing new in stock, limited selection, etc.) is outweighed by the likelihood of scoring an awesome new purchase. Out of town, the most easily accessible shop is the Uxbridge branch of The Entertainer. Across the outskirts there's a Toys'R'Us at Brent Cross, another at Watford and the Friern Barnet branch of Smyths (the latter more easily accessible from work than from home). I gather from a trip in to Uxbridge yesterday that the Intu complex will soon boast its very own - and permanent - Toys'R'Us, following the pop-up branch that arrived shortly before Christmas one year, then disappeared very soon into the New Year. The last time I regularly put in the legwork and visited toy shops was back when the Revenge of the Fallen toyline was in full swing, although I did pick up quite a few Combiner Wars figures in the Smyths at Friern Barnet.

We're also in something of a period of economic uncertainty, with the 'Brexit' referendum causing the value of the pound to plummet against the Euro, the US Dollar and the Yen. This would naturally have an impact on the cost of our Plastic Crack, but the pattern thusfar seems to show a specific, strange, yet not entirely unexpected bias. Leader Class toys have long been fairly stable in the region of £40-45, so the RRP of a Leader Class figure in the Titans Return range being £45/£45.99 seems perfectly acceptable (unless you get really technical and compare the likes of Powermaster Optimus Prime or Soundwave with Revenge of the Fallen Optimus Prime - same pricepoint, vastly different levels of complexity). Even the Voyager class figures have been creeping steadily upward from about £18 to £25 over the last decade. Size-wise, they've been reasonably stable so they presented probably the best value for money over that same period.

So, when I visited The Entertainer yesterday, while I was expecting neither to buy anything nor to even see anything new, I was surprised by a couple of things: firstly, they actually had TR Voyager class (triple-changin') Optimus Prime and Megatron (at £27 each); secondly, there had been a significant price hike in the Deluxe class Titans Return figures in only a couple of weeks: last time I was there, they were £20... Now they're £23.