Friday, 4 May 2018

Keith's Fantasy Club Scorpinator

One of my big regrets as a TransFormers fan and collector is never making it over to a BotCon. It never stopped me acquiring any of their boxed sets that I wanted, but there's something to be said for attending the convention and picking it up in person, I think. I did manage to get to a couple of AutoAssemblies, but it wasn't till Roll Out Roll Call 2016 and the first TFNation that the idea of convention exclusive toys really took form in the UK.

While RORC obtained a load of that year's BotCon exclusives (though, again, I'd already obtained the only figure I was especially interested in), TFNation 2016 pretty much allowed a couple of their vendors to carry the exclusives, rather than having any of their own in their inaugural year (it didn't take long for them to get proper show exclusives, though).

Since I try to make a point of supporting exclusive merchandise, there were a couple of things I picked up at TFNation, one of which was this G1/Masterpiece Soundwave-compatible cassetticon, originally created by Keith's Fantasy Club as Stinger, packaged with Doubledeck, their homage to G1 Twincast. This exclusive marks the first time it's been made available on its own.

The box Scorpinator comes in is just large enough to accommodate the included collectors' card and the mini-cassette in its plastic case - minimal wasted packaging on this thing. The front shows a nice CGI image of Scorpinator, with a large 'Convention Exclusive' banner so everyone knows what they're looking at. The phrase 'The Action Is Back!' is printed in one corner, referring to Scorpinator's origin as Action Master Devastator's weapon, Scorpulator - quite a clever touch.

The best part of the package is the bio on the back, which cleverly works in song titles wherever it can. It also features CGI images of Scorpulator in both robo-scorpion and mini-cassette modes. One side of the box features the exclusivity details, confirming Scorpinator's limited run of 500 - mine is number 258.

Interestingly, the image on the front is a sticker over the top of the original artwork... seemingly to correct the error which left the artwork for KFC's Badbat in the background.

Cassette Mode:
Scorpulator comes packaged with a translucent - somewhat cloudy - grey plastic case with a matte finish on the outside. The cassette itself features a tampographed 'label' and blobs of orange paint to represent the tape reels within. He's exactly the size of the G1 and Masterpiece cassettes, so he fits nicely into G1 and MP Soundwave's chest cavities, as well as those of KFC's own Blaster and Twincase homages.

Tape mode has a couple of problems - first and foremost, it's a little bit misassembled, such that the 'label' has been applied to the wrong side of the righthand spool, and then the 'upper arm' pieces on the right edge of the cassette have been installed the wrong way round, so that it's not really possible to show him as he's really intended to be... You can get close simply by swapping the claws around, but then the recesses created to accommodate the scorpion's head are on the opposite side of the body.

The label, printed in purple, cyan, black and white, does a good job of mimicking the cassette labels of old, featuring a title for the audio in a font designed to look hand-written, plus all the standard markings one would expect from a cassette label. I'm not quite sure what 'In' and 'Out' are supposed to represent, considering they appear to be alongside tick-boxes... but the AM90 marking indicates 90 minutes of recording time, and I'm assuming 'STV-BRDN' is a reference to the designer of either the toy or the paint job.

Some of the legs are a little floppy, and prone to falling out of place in cassette mode but, other than that, this is a well-designed cassette that holds together nicely and fits in with Hasbro/Takara Tomy's own output.

Robot Mode:
Scorpinator is actually a really great little beast-cassetticon, easily on a par with G1 Ratbat and the like. Cast mainly in a fairly lurid green plastic, with a grey body, the sculpted ridges on his back reminds me of movie Scorponok. His claws are large and menacing, able to open to almost 90° and each one has three sharp spines on the smaller, moving part. There's also what looks like a weapon sculpted on the outside of the larger portion of the claw. If that weren't deadly enough, the tail naturally features a stinger. In terms of sculpted detail generally, he's probably most on par with the likes of G1 Buzzsaw/Laserbeak, though he features a larger number of small parts, making it difficult to judge.

If there's a downside to this model, it's the dearth of robot-mode-specific paintwork - there's literally none apart from the tiny blobs of green paint he has for eyes. I wouldn't say he necessarily needs more paint - especially if KFC were aiming for the G1 vibe - but there are places, such as the ridged detail down his back, where a bit of paint would have brought it to life a bit more. Similarly, the claws - when placed the right way up for robot mode - suffer from having visible screws, so a bit of paint could have been used to disguise them somewhat. Alternatively, the guns on the tips of the claws could have been picked out with a bit of paint. That said, the cassette label is already using four colours of paint, so perhaps it's a little unfair to complain about the lack of a fifth colour...

What's really cool about the way Scorpinator was designed is that, understanding that the legs would never be able to support even a body as small as this one, the designer incorporated a pair of flaps which fold down from the belly, and Scorpinator actually stands on these, allowing for poses where several, or even all his legs are raised.

The collectors' card looks OK for the most part but, upon closer inspection, something has gone adrift with one of the fonts on the back. The tech specs graph is nicely done, if a little small given the space available on a card this size (they may have done better to format that side as landscape), but the character spacing on the category names is all over the place - the word 'Endurance' almost looks like two words - suggesting that a different font was used in the original design, but it didn't transfer to the final printed product, either due to corrupting or just not being properly embedded. Whatever happened, the end result is that it makes the whole thing look a bit like a knockoff... definitely not the look you want for a limited edition exclusive figure.

Being a small, yet intricate figure, Scorpinator features quite a few tiny moving parts for his transformation. Most of the joints are pinned, though the first joint in each leg is a ball joint. Everything about the legs is deeply worrying, as the ball joints' sockets seem really tight at some points, making turning them round a terrifying prospect. While mine is now exhibiting some plastic stress marks, they tend to be around the knees, but I'm still very concerned that, eventually, the legs will break - either they'll shear off at the ball joint, or the pinned knees will snap. Similarly, the tiny stinger at the tip of his tail looks like it could break at any moment but, aside from a nasty collection of stress marks, it's been OK so far. Aside from this, it's actually a surprisingly simple, fluid transformation considering the number of parts involved, but the misassembly of the figure means one step - rotating the head and arm section 180° - isn't necessary unless, like me, you switch the claws so that the painted side isn't visible in robot mode.

Again, for such a small figure, Scorpinator's comparatively large number of moving parts gives him quite a bit of poseability. Each of his six legs can be positioned individually via its ball joint and its 'knee', the claws have pinned joints at each 'elbow' a friction joint at the 'shoulder' held withing the head section, and a ball joint at the 'wrist' allowing for a huge range of movement for the arms, albeit without the ability to raise or lower anything but the claws. The tail features two pinned joints allowing for a decent range of movement, albeit a little awkward as the two tail sections are comparatively large. The tail can come forward quite a way but, even flattened down against the body, it doesn't reach the head, let alone swing past it.

After I bought Masterpiece Soundwave, I started getting interested in the cassette-bots all over again and, while I don't have a complete set yet (Overkill and some of the more obscure ones are still missing), this makes a very cool addition to the Soundwave's minions. Some of the plastic tolerances are a bit iffy, particularly for such an ambitious figure, but mine hasn't broken yet... Which surprises me, given the terrible luck I have with Third Party figures these days.

While the execution isn't perfect, this is a thoughtfully-designed figure that fits equally well among both G1 toys and Masterpiece figures... It's just a shame it's misassembled. I've had a go at fixing it, but the body is pinned together in a way that I cannot undo without risking breakage. Even in the best case scenario, fixing the orientation of parts would still leave one unpainted section - on the head section, behind the tape spool - visible in tape mode, but I think that'd be a small price to pay for everything else looking as it's intended.

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