Sunday, 8 October 2017

SXS Toys A-06 & A-07 Replacement Weapon Sets (TF Prime Skyquake & Dreadwing)

One of the most irritating things about the TransFormers: Prime toyline was the 'Powerizers' weapon gimmick shoehorned in to every single Voyager class figure. Each one had the potential to be reasonably impressive, but the scale was off - some too small for the character, others too large - and they seem to have been designed to replace the character's forearm, without there ever being a means of attachment included... Optimus Prime and Starscream, for example, ended up with oversized handguns that featured their own forearm detail, while Megatron's fusion cannon was just too big for his arm. And while the LED-lighting gimmick was interesting enough, it never actually worked as intended due to the way the weapons were constructed, and the geared mechanisms were almost all unreliable.

Still, Third Parties can often be relied upon to fill in where Hasbro's budgets cut things out, or where their fixation on gimmicks causes disappointment and, while Dr. Wu crafted the lion's share of weapon accessories for mishandled TF Prime toys, SXS were the only ones to produce accurate plastic interpretations of the enormous, two-handed cannons wielded by Skyquake and Dreadwing, and it only took me about three years to finally cave in and buy them...

There's not much special about the boxes the weapon sets come in - they use exactly the same background art of Cybertron, simply recoloured to suit the character. The main weapon is shown in CGI form on the front, and on the back along with the bomb accessories (of which two are supplied in each set) on top of a rather poorly Photoshopped transparency of the relevant character. They also both feature the same spelling mistake - 'wepon' instead of 'weapon' in every instance - but, given that SXS is a Chinese company and these were among their first offerings, I think the lapse is forgivable...

...Especially since it's just a box.

Inside, the weapons themselves are contained in a transparent plastic shell, much like the average Hasbro release these days. There are no instruction sheets, posters or any other paperwork but, for something like this, that's hardly necessary.

Skyquake's Weapons:
Skyquake didn't last long in TransFormers: Prime, with his swift death serving mainly to give his spark-twin, Dreadwing, an excuse to be angry with the Autobots when he turned up a few episodes later. He wields a large Gatling-style machine gun and, while the Powerizers weapon included with the toy more-or-less looked the part, the geared gimmick, the translucent plastic and the size of the deployed weapon all let it down. It only featured a single 5mm peg to allow Skyquake to hold it as a handgun, rather than underarm, as in the show, and he didn't even do that well because of the awkward way his hands were molded. What it really needed - aside from a means of locking it into its deployed position - was a second 5mm peg for a decent attempt at carrying it two-handed... even though the 'joystick' part was molded onto the battery compartment and didn't fit into his hands.

This version is the perfect size, fits very securely into his hands via an articulated 'joystick' at the back and a rotating handle on top of the gun, just before the barrel section. I say it fits securely, but the real problem is getting it into Skyquake's ridiculous hands in the first place. Since they only rotate at the wrist, it was up to these weapons' designer(s) to compensate for their lack of movement by making the grips more mobile. Due to the articulation of the figure, he can't quite adopt the same firing pose he uses on the TV show, but he can get close.

The gun features the armour panels and protruding (ammo?) canisters in its main body, and also an articulated red tab of indeterminate purpose at the back. It's molded in black and grey plastic, with painted red highlights and silver bands around the barrels.

One obvious feature I wasn't expecting was that the grouping of barrels does actually rotate. It's a completely free movement and, in retrospect, I wonder if some ratcheting might have been a useful inclusion - not so much to limit its movement, but to provide a sound effect for the rotation. Obviously it's not going to sound like the furious weapon in the TV show without electronic effects, but a little click would have been cool.

It's interesting to note that, while the mass releases of both Skyquake and Dreadwing came with swords, only Dreadwing actually used his sword (that I recall) in the TV show. Set A-06 doesn't come with a sword, but the Hasbro version of the accessory was decent enough, and works well as an accessory to this set, even if it doesn't actually interact with it in any way.

The two 'bombs' seem a little oversized, to be honest, but would end up being little bigger than their own 5mm pegs if they were created to scale. The plastic colour used is a reasonable match for Skyquake's green - perhaps a little brighter and more saturated - and the paint detailing is simple but effective.

Dreadwing's Weapons:
Unlike his brother, Dreadwing wields a simple, yet massive, single-barrelled blaster. The entire weapon seems to be uniquely designed and molded, with the possible exception of the rotating handle, though it's molded in basically the same colours, its barrel is coated with the same silver paint, and it uses the same red for it's 'glow' details.

The big difference is that, just like the weapon in the TV show, this features Dreadwing's sword as an attachment. The blade slots into the top of the gun, just ahead of the handle, while the hilt slides onto the back of the weapon to form the 'joystick' handle, giving it an articulated tab like the red one on the back of Skyquake's weapon. For the most part, it comes together well, but the tab on the sword doesn't quite fit properly into the top of the gun, so it sits in at an angle, with the tip of the sword resting on the barrel of the gun, rather than slightly above it. Being a fairly soft plastic, it also doesn't quite lie straight, but it works well enough. As a sword, it seems a little underwhelming even compared to the Hasbro version, but the joint in the hilt has the advantage of substituting for the missing articulation in the wrist, so Dreadwing can point with his sword even while holding it straight upward thanks to the joint. This is also something of a weakness, though - it's not floppy, but it will tip rather too easily.

As with Skyquake's gun, Dreadwing can grip his weapon securely, but the overall effect is a little bit let down by the articulation of the figure. Also, without any other features on the gun, this one somehow feels less impressive or interesting than Skyquakes - it's amazing what a small thing like rotating barrels on a Gatling-analogue can do.

I'd have to watch TF Prime again to be sure, because I don't remember if Dreadwing was able to use his gun without the sword attached, but I know they both transformed slightly when he put them together and took them apart, so maybe this is an accurate representation of how the weapon worked on the TV show... seems a bit strange, though.

The bombs are identical to those in the A-06 package apart from the plastic colour which, again, matches Dreadwing's own plastic very well. The paint job uses the same colours in the same locations.

These are very simple weapon sets, designed only to be more faithful to the CGI of the TV show than the electronic gimmick weapons provided with both toys, and this is reflected in the price - each one costing me about £25 apiece via eBay, and representing reasonably good value for money, given their age and the likelihood that they're no longer in production. They're well-built, mostly sturdy... my only concern being the joints in the 'joysticks' and the claws on the bombs, which seem a little delicate.

All that's really missing from this set is some means to connect the weapons to each toy's jet mode. There's a peg on the side of each, sure, but that's intended to attach it to the robot's back. Obviously, it uses the same socket for either mode, but the weapons would look better attached to the underside of the jets rather than the tops, and would look particularly silly draped over the cockpits. That said, since neither character seemed to use their respective BFGs in their vehicle modes, it's hardly a necessary feature... just something I tend to associate with TransFormers toys these days. Other than that, the only way these sets could be improved is with more articulated hands for the robots... So perhaps it's time to look at Shapeways...

The fact that these are a more appropriate size for the two robots was enough to entice me to buy, but I'm impressed with the quality of both. They're not a must-buy, by a long shot, but they do make both characters look far more 'complete' on the shelf, allowing one to consign the sad little Powerizer weapons to the junk pile where they belong.

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