Sunday, 30 July 2017

Titans Return Scourge & Fracas

G1 Scourge got a bit of a raw deal. As one of the new characters, introduced in the 1986 animated movie as one of Unicron's minions, rebuilt from one of the casualties of the Decepticons' raid on Autobot City, he represented the start of a very new direction in the toyline. No longer would there be realistic vehicle modes - the whole line was going completely Sci-Fi... and adopting all kinds of shortcuts in the process. Scourge, in particular, was one of the earliest - if not the earliest - shellformer, with most of his space-hovercraft vehicle mode ending up as squared-off 'wings' on his back after a minimal transformation.

Since then, Scourge toys have been few and far between and, aside from the Generations remake as a flying wing and the BotCon adaptation of Noisemaze, even his comic book character models tended to stick to the same bizarre look - moreover, the Third Party models have gone for a screen-accurate Masterpiece vibe rather than actually creating an alternate mode that looks like a spacecraft.

So, with the Generations figure already in my collection, I was all set to ignore the Titans Return version until I remembered that I have a newer Cyclonus and (Grand) Galvatron thanks to Unite Warriors, thus allowing my somewhat random OCD to kick in and demand I complete the set with a new Scourge...But is Hasbro's latest take on the leader of the Sweeps worth picking up?

Vehicle Mode:
G1 Scourge was a pretty featureless wedge of a 'spacecraft' which looked more like a hovercraft or, at a push, something not entirely dissimilar to Luke Skywalker's landspeeder from the first Star Wars movie. There was no apparent bridge/cockpit to the craft, nor any viewports... and the majority of the tech detailing came from the few stickers packaged with the toy.

At first glance, not much has changed - he's still basically wedge-shaped and still has that raised central part at the rear, but it's now clearly defined as a cockpit because it features translucent plastic windows and opens up to accommodate his Titan Master figure. He still has a rather dubious rear end, now with robot parts clearly visible and, even if the shoulders have been designed to look like boosters, the space in between lets it down. Potentially making matters worse, even more of the robot - both arms and the entire torso - is visible on the underside because there's substantially less shell to this shellformer... But who displays the underside of their TransFormers vehicle modes?

Where this version shines is the level of embellishment on the original design. While the overall shape is broadly the same, there's an enormous amount of sculpted detail on the outer surfaces, not least the panel lines, with parts that seem to overlap, little recesses here and there, as well as some fairly substantial deviations from the original look. Toward the back, rather than three raised nacells, TR Scourge has only one, with short wings protruding from the outer corners. Between each of these are raised, angled vents/intakes which almost look as if they might have been intended as places to mount additional nacelles, if it weren't for the fact that there are a couple of built-in nacelles right on either side of the cockpit. The detail on these - cables wrapped around at the front and back of each - make him seem almost low-tech... like something you'd see in a spaceport alongside a Corellian YT-series light freighter...

But this brings us straight to the biggest let-down of this new version of Scourge - while the sculpted details is leagues ahead of the 30-year-old G1 wedge, the paintwork is both seriously lacking and somewhat haphazardly applied. The great blocks of blue paint on the top surface barely reach the edges of each panel and, having been sprayed on, are quite fuzzy around the raised engine parts, and there are a few random splashes here and there. The odd nozzle things on each side of the craft are silver paint over blue paint, neither have been sprayed on with any particular accuracy, while the intakes toward the front are also coated in blue. The only other paintwork is a weird, dull cyan used to highlight three panels on the nose, as well as dots of red on his main, raised nacelle and the two built-in nacelles, so Scourge ends up looking pretty dull - the G1 version at least had some stickers to spruce it up a bit. The majority of the vehicle shell is a pale pastel, almost duck egg blue that allows the detail to stand out, but some of that detail cries out for additional paintwork, not least the cables and their fastenings around the built-in nacelles.

Scourge comes with a double-barrelled chair gun which can mount either on the 5mm port just in front of the cockpit, or atop the protrusion at the back that traditionally holds his central nacelle. The nacelle can then be plugged into the 5mm port at the front of the chair gun and, while this doesn't prevent Fracas manning the chair gun, and sort-of resembles G1 Scourge's Target Master Fracas's weapon mode (albeit with the arrangements of barrels upside down), it does look utterly ridiculous. When he's not sat in the cockpit or the chair gun, Fracas - and any other Titan Master figure - can make use of a pair of pegs toward the nose of the craft, to stand on Scourge's main deck... Although, with this clearly being an enclosed spacecraft, they do look a little out of place - not to say out of scale - standing there.

Probably the worst part of this Scourge update is that he doesn't have landing gear, or anything resembling it - all he has is a pair of robot shin plates that he balances on, giving the impression of hovering slightly off the ground... or, at least, they might give that impression if it weren't for the fact that they protrude out the sides, and generally look pretty crap. It seems they've tried to mitigate their impact on his silhouette by sculpting a pair of guns on the underside of each of the shin plates, but even that attempt is ruined by the budget, as two segments of each are hollow. Another questionable decision is putting the 'flight stand' ports on these shin plates, because their hinges aren't firm enough to hold the toy's weight without support on both sides.

My only other gripe would be that pylon at the back, which is screwed into the cockpit's translucent blue canopy, is rather loose on mine. The plastic seems to have been shredded by overtightening of the screw, as it can be pulled up slightly, and has a tendency to shift when I'm trying to turn or remove the nacelle, or when I try to open the cockpit. I may end up gluing it in place, as I'm worried it might otherwise break... Particularly since it can be quite a struggle to open the cockpit.

Robot Mode:
I have to admit that I really disliked G1 Scourge. Not only did he look almost nothing like the character from the animated movie, he barely transformed (especially compared to Galvatron and Cyclonus) and was very nearly as much of a brick in robot mode as he was in vehicle mode. Sure, his arms could rotate around the shoulder, and he had elbows, but the shell got in the way of them. The arms were also extremely slim - so they could fit inside his vehicle mode - meaning he didn't look at all powerful. Compared to his appearance in the movie, the toy was incredibly disappointing. Worse still, mine was missing the washer that fixed his right arm in place, on a long metal pin pushed through the body from the left shoulder, so the pin could slide out easily, allowing both his arms to just drop off. Thankfully, no similar assembly errors on this one, and the shoulders are ball joints on the ends of short levers.

While Takara Tomy's version breaks up the blue with off-white biceps, fists and thighs, all Hasbro have done is add a couple of perfunctory paint applications and tampographed silver-and-black details on the centre of the chest and on each shin, resembling the sticker detail of the G1 toy. What you end up with is a very blue robot... Pretty much the entire body is molded in blue plastic which, while sparkly, just isn't impressive enough on its own. The pastel blue shell of the spacecraft fades into the background as uncharacteristically stubby 'wings'.

But what this figure lacks in colour variation, it more than makes up for in sculpted detail. This version of Scourge is substantially bulkier - not just in the upper torso, which is far more rounded than the boxy G1 version, but the arms and legs as well. Flanked by large, almost spherical shoulders, the upper chest is an enormous barrel featuring a fair amount of panel lining and two raised, angled strips running down from the collar area. The waist features possibly the finest example of robo-abs I have yet seen in a TransFormers toy, with a deeply-ridged, armoured 8-pack surrounded by detail representing eight separate, overlaid armour panels. Sadly, with the hip extension piece inside his torso, there was never going to be any waist rotation, but it would have been cool to see all these panels moving independently on a Masterpiece-style figure. The legs are fairly plain, but the arms have similar sculpted detail to the Generations version, just without the paint.

The faceplate on Fracas' back is one of the slimmer ones, making his arms rather conspicuous when he's functioning as Scourge's head. It's odd, considering just about every other faceplate - including the rounded likes of Hot Rod - are much more effective. On the upside, the face is well designed, looking very much like the animation model, with pronounced cheeks, an enormous, pointed horseshoe moustache and a small, boxy goatee. Like Blurr, this noggin also features a extending central crest though, to be honest, I think it looks better down...

Scourge is one of those figures that's technically only packaged with one weapon - the double-barrelled blaster - but I have seen photos online where his main vehicle mode nacelle has been detached for use as a second handgun, or as a means of (sort of) emulating his G1 Target Master weapon, by plugging it into the 5mm port on the main handgun. While the nacelle is otherwise basically redundant vehicle mode detail hanging off his back, it doesn't look like a gun to me - or even part of a gun - so I tend to leave it on his back. It's a shame his weapon can't separate into two handguns, like the pair packaged with Hot Rod, because the barrels do vaguely resemble G1 Scourge's laser blaster.

Titan Master Fracas:
There's a long-running error with the Target Master versions of Cyclonus and Scourge, in that the character models for Nightstick and Fracas were switched in the animated series, and subsequent versions of their toys have tried to reflect this - hence Classics Cyclonus came with an updated Nightstick based on the G1 Fracas toy... and now Titan Master Fracas' robot mode is based on G1 Nightstick. It's quite plain, boring design - very boxy and basic.

Just like Scourge, Fracas is very blue. In fact, every part of him seems to be molded in the same shimmery blue plastic as much of Scourge's body. Thankfully he does have a bit of paintwork to break up the monotony... but only on his face and shins. He's been given a silver face with a red visor and, for no obvious reason, a coating of cyan paint on the shins.

Fracas can occupy the rectangular recess in Scourge's double-barrelled handgun, but it's another of the TR weapons that does not double as a vehicle, so there really doesn't seem to be much point... I guess the idea is that you attach these guns to Trypticon or to the base modes of the Leader class figures, but it does rather make me wish they'd come up with alternate forms of Titan Master figures that would actually power up the weapons, rather than turning into robot heads.

As mentioned above, there isn't really a great deal of transforming to this TransFormer. From vehicle to robot, once the shell is opened out, it's only a little bit more complicated than the G1 toy. I will admit that, when I first took him out of the packaging, the fact that his hip section has to be pulled out of the torso and rotated 180° completely escaped me. This led to a lot of confusion about how the legs were supposed to collapse and form the front of the spacecraft, but that was quickly solved. The legs follow the pattern of the G1 version, having segments of the spacecraft's nose making up the back and sides, while the odd 'landing flaps' fold around to become his shins. The tip of the nose folds back to give him a cumbersome-looking heel, from which slender foot chunks fold out to swing out to the front. Probably the biggest disappointment on this figure is that there's no option to angle the wings up a little, behind the shoulders, to make them a touch more prominent. In that respect, the 2011 Generations version is still the superior version.

Scourge moves about as well as any of the Titans Return/TF Legends figures we get these days, which is to say very well. The ball jointed shoulders have surprisingly good range despite their size because the actual ball joint is pretty much in the centre of the shoulder mass, and there's huge cutaway section all round its socket on the inside. At the top, there's a small chunk has been taken out of the 'booster' detail so he can bring his arms out a little further to the sides, but that only works when they're moved straight out from the sides - a fraction of movement forward or back pulls the arms out of that recess. When I first got Scourge, I found his Titan Master noggin to be a little loose and wobbly. This seems to be a common problem, and I've seen several fixes online where glue is added to the ridges on the socket's clips, but I couldn't see how that would help given that I could see quite clearly that the whole 'collar' piece was loose. What I did, in the end, was trim off a small (2mm x 8mm) section of a heavy-gauge business card, and wedge it in behind the clip, thus pushing it forward and holding it in place:

Using this fix, Scourge's head now relies 100% on the Titan Master's neck ball joint for movement, and is far more stable. I'd also considered using superglue to fix the clip in place, but couldn't decide whether it would be best to glue it at the front or the back.

While this is a far more traditionally G1-style Scourge, the simplistic transformation and miserly paint job really let it down. Oddly, this is one figure that not even Reprolabels have improved significantly, since many of the robot mode labels actually replace what little painted detail there is, and offer only minor supplementary applications, or end up basically invisible, hidden behind his arms on the insides of the wings. Given that the Takara Tomy version is truer to G1 Scourge's animation model in its colours, and that he was essentially a troop-builder figure back in G1 days - Scourge being the leader of a team of identical robots manufactured by Unicron, called the Sweeps, it's tempting to set this one aside for the moment, and get myself the TF Legends version... But then I remember this toy just isn't that great, so it's not really worth it... Unless I also get myself a TF Legends Sharkticon, with its dedicated, handlebar-moustachioed Head Master Sweep figure, but I don't think much of the Sharkticon either...

All that said, I am weirdly happy to have a new Deluxe class Scourge that properly updates the G1 design, even if it in neither supersedes the five-years-older Generations version, nor really stands well with Combiner Wars Cyclonus, let alone Grand Galvatron.

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