Thursday, 18 July 2019

Power of the Primes - A Plethora of Prime Masters

Although, technically, thirteen wouldn't really be 'a plethora', let alone the mere eight I managed to obtain. The Prime Masters - much like the 'loose' Titan Masters of the Titans Return line - were released in single packs with 'Decoy Armour' (AKA Pretender shells - a homage to part of the 1988/89 section of the Generation 1 toyline) which, for no obvious reason, also transform into TargetMaster-style weapons which the Prime Masters could then attach to externally.

As 'play patterns' go, it was just as daft as that of the loose Titan Masters, but further aggravated certain elements within the fandom who had been hoping for a bigger, more impressive revival of the Pretender concept. For me, though, Hasbro's most heinous crime was releasing only eight of the thirteen Primes at mass retail, and holding back the remaining five for special boxed sets - Onyx Prime being made available only with the Predaking boxed set (which I had zero interest in) while Amalgamous, Nexus, Prima and the Thirteenth Primes coming only with the San Diego Comic Con 'Throne of the Primes' set (also made available at mass retain in Hasbro's Asian markets). Exacerbating this, Prima Prime also ended up packaged with the Amazon exclusive Punch-Counterpunch, so the completist would end up with two copies and a total of fourteen Primes.

Aside from all of this, the Prime Masters served no real purpose other than the decorative. Sure, each one was supposed to grant special powers to whoever wielded it - via slots on the larger figures and on the updated (and now separate) hand and foot parts of the gestalts - but there were no new features activated - Unicron Trilogy-style - on the toys. Furthermore, they were rendered mostly redundant by prexisting chunks of plastic - molded as either weird, flat handguns, Enigmas of Combination or Matrices of Leadership - which already occupied the Prime Master slot on every single Power of the Primes toy of Deluxe class and above.

So, to close off the Power of the Primes and, indeed, the Prime Wars Trilogy posts on this blog, here's a roundup of all the mass retail Prime Masters...

Friday, 5 July 2019

Studio Series #38 (Bumblebee movie) Optimus Prime

I can't have been alone in the expectation, while watching the Bumblebee solo movie, that the version of Optimus Prime seen briefly in the trailer - as a hologram projected from the titular Autobot's chest - and in more detail during the Cybertron-set sequences, would somehow end up looking more like the Peterbilt truck from the first TransFormers live action movie once on Earth - if, indeed, he were to make a terrestrial appearance at all. So seeing him at the end of the movie, as a properly G1-styled 'cab over engine' truck, pulling a metallic trailer that looked just like the one packaged with the G1 toy (minus the obvious Autobot insignia on the sides) was a huge treat.

Naturally, I eagerly anticipated a Studio Series toy of this new interpretation of Optimus, particularly in the light of the amazing work that went into creating Evasion Mode Optimus Prime back in 2014, let alone the upscaped and improved Japan-only version released under the Bumblebee movie banner as 'Legendary Optimus Prime' in 2018.

Based on initial photos, it looked as though the Studio Series version would not disappoint, potentially being something to rival the Age of Extinction Voyager... but let's take a closer look, just to be sure.

Cyberverse Cyclone Strike Windblade

(Femme-Bot Friday #69)
The TransFormers Cyberverse toyline is the latest of Hasbro's attempts at producing a 'mid-level' entry point into the ever-expanding TransFormers franchise, using a new continuity that appears to combine aspects of various other existing continuities with a development of the TFPrime/RiD2015 aesthetic, and which isn't quite their 'Evergreen' style. Some of the fans appear to be embracing it - the larger Shockwave toy in particular seems to have impressed a lot of people - but, like the new War for Cybertron line, Cyberverse generally has left me cold.

Bad enough, in my humble opinion, that Hasbro feels the need to create another separate toyline of simplified TransFormers to cater to a particular age range (6+ in the case of the 'Warrior' class, which is essentially equivalent to Deluxe in size), but to burden them with spring-loaded, geared gimmicks suggests to me that whoever came up with the Cyberverse concept has no idea what made TransFormers cool back in the mid 1980s.

And yet, here we are... I decided to pick one up. I was vaguely interested in the Windblade figure simply because I seem to have developed a distinct subsection in my collection specifically for her, beginning with the Generations/TF Legends figure that accompanied her introduction to the IDW comics-verse after a series of fan polls selected her key attributes.

So, I mean, however bad this figure might be, it's still a Windblade... and that has to count for something, right?

Let's find out...

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Power of the Primes Evolution Rodimus Unicronus

As previously mentioned, my original intention with the scant Leader class selection from Power of the Primes was to skip Rodimus Prime entirely, instead picking up his blantant Shattered Glass homage repaint, Rodimus Unicronus. Hasbro had come up with a cover story, to the effect that this version of Hot Rod/Rodimus Prime was under the sway of Unicron, via the Matrix of Chaos, but there are too many Shattered Glass references to ignore.

The 'good guy' version of this mold turned out to be far better than I'd expected, so let's take a look at his 'bad guy' repaint, and see if he follows the pattern whereby black repaints of any toy are better than the originals.

Monday, 24 June 2019

Titans Return: Titan Masters Apeface & Overboard

One aspect of Titans Return which seemed underdeveloped in the toyline - not to mention completely unexplored in the terrible Machinima animated show - was the packs of Titan Master figures that came with approximately Scout class transforming vehicles and beasts with weapon forms but no robot modes to accompany their head form. The Titan Masters could ride or become part of these, but their role as HeadMasters was to be reserved for the Deluxe class or larger toys... which already had heads of their own.

Since, unlike the G1 interpretation of HeadMasters, the Titan Masters were supposed confer some sort of power boost or upgrade upon the larger figures, but neither the packaging nor the instructions actually detailed any of this (although Hasbro did release a digital mini-comic/bio booklet to fill in the blanks) it was pretty much left up to the imagination of the individual what these replacement heads would do for any of the larger toys.

The triple-changing accessories to provide a bit more play value, as their weapon modes could be wielded by the larger robots but, on the whole, they seemed a bit pointless. The only reason I bought these two was to turn them into Overlord's Powermasters via an upgrade kit made available at TFNation 2017 by the Nottingham Robot Company. Since that didn't pan out, I may as well give them their own little write-up...

Saturday, 22 June 2019

TransFormers Legends (Titans Return) LG46 TargetMaster Kup (aka Chear)

Kup doesn't often appear in TransFormers toylines - coming from the latter part of Generation 1, and introduced to most audiences in the 1986 animated movie, he's never been one of the 'must have' characters. Much like Hot Rod and Blur, his original toy was a bit of a brick, designed to resemble the ridiculously stylised Floro Dery animation model, which took the TV show's habit of fudging the toys' transformation sequence and cranking it up to eleven because he (and/or the rest of the design team) were working from scratch rather than from existing toys and box art.

Thus, Kup became a futuristic, Cybertronian pickup truck and, bar his appearance in a BotCon set as a repaint/retool of Galaxy Force First Aid (representing a young version of Kup, a new recruit in the Elite Guard), his only other appearances in the toyline have been as a more traditional terrestrial pickup in the Generations toyline back in 2011 and a bulked-up repaint of a mold intended for Ironhide in the TFPrime toyline.

Titans Return went back to the original Cybertronian vehicle style, albeit perhaps more functional-looking (G1 Kup's cargo bed didn't look very useful, after all), but the colourscheme looked a bit too lurid for my liking so, coupled with a typically miserly paint job, the lacklustre weapons and a rather bland face sculpt, I decided not to bother picking him up. Then Takara Tomy revealed their Legends version, with an animation accurate desaturated colourscheme, several remolded parts (including a more grizzled face sculpt)... and a TargetMaster weapon too... So I decided to take the plunge after all.

Friday, 14 June 2019

War For Cybertron: Siege Sixgun

I realise that I've been pretty disparaging, not to say outright hostile, toward the first chapter of the War for Cybertron line, but have to admit that it's not entirely without merit... just that what merit it has is vastly outweighed by the dullest G1 reboot ever concieved and the excessive and unnecessary 'battle damage' paint jobs.

The first real ray of hope I saw was in the images of the upcoming Weaponiser, Brunt - a reimagining of Trypticon's tank drone as a Deluxe class transforming (OK, partsforming) robot in his own right. With Cog and Sixgun being the only other Weaponisers thusfar revealed, there didn't seem to be a great deal of mileage to the concept, and their alternate modes didn't really inspire me to begin with.

However, while waiting for Brunt to appear in the UK, and with a couple of Siege toys already in-hand, I found myself seeing Sixgun in a new light, and ended up adding him to a recent order with the Nottingham Robot Company, pretty much out of curiosity - both for the toy specifically and the Weaponiser gimmick generally.

Monday, 10 June 2019

Studio Series #23 KSI Sentry

The trials and tribulations I had over Studio Series Thundercracker seem insignificant compared to the trouble I had obtaining KSI Sentry. Ostensibly part of the fourth wave of Deluxe class toys - along with Dropkick (from the Bumblebee movie) in his helicopter form, he was on my must-buy list from the start because it seemed unlikely the SS Stinger/Pagani Huayra mold would ever get re-used as a proper character.

However, just to make life interesting, I've yet to see a single one 'in the wild', despite having seen Dropkick appear both online and in one bricks-and-mortar shop (though that was Forbidden Planet in London, so shouldn't really count). Again, I resorted to eBay and, again, thankfully didn't have to pay too much over the odds to get him - in fact, were it not for the shipping fee, he would have been slightly cheaper than at UK retail.

But was it worth the hassle?

Friday, 7 June 2019

Studio Series #40 Shatter

(Femme-Bot Friday #68)
When the villains in the Bumblebee solo movie were first announced, the fan reaction was a little muted... Who were Shatter and Dropkick? Sure, they looked interesting and distinct enough, but why not use existing characters from the vast stable of Decepticons from G1 onwards?

Well, in the grand tradition of Hollywood action movie villains, they turned out to be wholly disposeable, existing only as temporary adversaries to the titular hero, and a source of threat to all the humans. Even so, screenwriter Christina Hodson dared to do what Michael Bay's team balked at: she made one of the lead characters a Femme-Bot. Shatter was also probably the first movie Decepticons to truly live up to that title - deceiving and manipulating the humans to get what she and Dropkick wanted, yet not averse to getting into a fight when the situation required.

Add to that, she was voiced by the sublime Angela Bassett, and so instantly joined the cross-continuity ranks of TransFormers Femme-Bots whose velvet tones belie a vicious, deadly nature... Perhaps rivalling even Airachnid in those stakes.

Monday, 3 June 2019

Hm... Upgrades

Today's post yielded a surprise arrival for me - DNA Design's upgrade sets for Studio Series Grimlock and Ironhide. I ordered them via eBay only two weeks ago, and wasn't expecting to see them till next week so that's a good start to the week.

Just a quick photo of the boxes for now... I'll do a full post once I have an opportunity to take photos of the upgraded figures. Not sure yet whether I'll do one for each set/'bot or one post covering both... Briefly, though, the Grimlock set is a nigh-perfect match to the original toy in terms of plastic and paint, while the black plastic of the Ironhide parts isn't as glossy as on the original... though it makes up for that to a degree with a few small paint applications on the feet that were missing from the stock figure, and with the extra weapons. The badge on the new bumper - "ROAO ARMOR" - looks a bit silly, but the 'mistake' is understandable as it avoids the set infringing on GMC's trademark in addition to Hasbro's intellectual property.

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Binaltech BT04 Hound

As one the only overtly military-styled Autobots from the first wave of Diaclone-derived TransFormers toys, Hound stood out for two main reasons. First and foremost, his character was so at odds with his terrestrial disguise - Bob Budiansky's bio painted him as being entranced by the natural beauty of Earth's flora and fauna, and with an almost Pinocchio-like desire to be human. Secondly, he was pretty much the smallest of the former Diaclone vehicle Autobots, despite having almost comically large feet.

While I missed out on the original G1 Hound, later acquiring Takara's TransFormers Collection version, he ended up being one of my favourite G1 toys, so when the Binaltech version was announced, I was very keen to get my hands on the updated, part die-cast, larger-scale version of the character.

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Studio Series #09 Thundercracker

Studio Series appears to present a certain element at Hasbro in a more experimental light. Traditionally, the mold used to make a Starscream would inevitably soon be used as either Skywarp, Thundercracker, or both, with remarkably few exceptions. Given the new, and largely pretty well-received Voyager class Starscream toy in the Studio Series line, one could be forgiven for expecting F-22 Seeker repaints from that, as we'd had from the Deluxe class Dark of the Moon toy and the original movie's Voyager class toy.

However, when a Thundercracker toy was revealed - without any rumours preceding the appearance of photos online - it had been made as a repaint of the awesome Nitro (Zeus) mold from The Last Knight. It's probably already quite apparent that I'm a fan of the mold - not least because I also bought the upscaled, upgraded Black Mamba version - so I was very keen to get my hands on him.

As luck would have it, he was originally released in the US as a Toys'R'Us exclusive, right around the time the toy retail giants were going into administration both in the US and the UK... so, fearing that I might lose out, I took to eBay, and picked him up for not much more than the £35 RRP. At the time, I was perfectly happy to pay over the odds, particularly on import, as I just didn't want to miss him and have to pay a ridiculous sum, tracking him down years later, on the secondary market...

...But of course, that proved not to be a problem, as I've been seeing him on the shelves of The Entertainer for months - not quite plentiful enough to be a shelfwarmer, but easily available... and at the reduced price of about £20.

Ah well, let's have a look at him...

Monday, 20 May 2019

Combiner Wars Shockwave

As one of those G1 toys that transformed into a gun - albeit a sci-fi laser blaster rather than a real world handgun, like G1 Megatron - Shockwave has more recently become 'problematic' as a toy. He hasn't had a great number of toys since the 1980s, and they've tended to be tanks of one form or another.

The only version of Shockwave to appear in the Generations line was based on his appearance in the Fall of Cybertron videogame, and looked weirdly spindly in robot mode, with an unimaginative - not to mention largely unidentifiable - alternate mode, so I didn't bother picking it up.

Then came Combiner Wars, which gave us a more G1-styled Shockwave, complete with a built-in reference to the TV show... But is a Legends class Shockwave really worth bothering with?

Sunday, 19 May 2019

War For Cybertron: Siege Soundwave + Spy Patrol

Long-time readers of this blog may be aware that G1 Soundwave (& Buzzsaw) was the very first Decepticon toy I ever owned so, while I don't end up buying every iteration of the character, I do have a strong nostalgic connection to that particular physical form. Thus, when a Soundwave toy enters my collection, it tends to happen very much with reference to how it makes me feel versus the original. For example, Music Label Soundwave - who has been my Classics Soundwave for over a decade - was a decent reworking of the original, albeit on a smaller scale and with a poorly executed MP3 player gimmick installed. TF Prime Soundwave took an entirely different tack, and put the original character into a sinister, spindly new form. I didn't bother with the Titans Return version as it lost too much of what makes Soundwave Soundwave in service of the line's HeadMaster and base mode gimmicks...

...But here we have a new Soundwave for the latest chapter of Generations, taking the character back to his pre-G1 state, but not taking any cues from the War for Cybertron videogame and instead focussing on his G1 appearance, but with what passes for 'a fresh spin' at Hasbro these days.

I knew going in that I wasn't going to like this toy, but I'd had £30 of Forbidden Planet vouchers in my wallet since last year, and no clue what to do with them, so I took the opportunity to pick up this toy - and the 'Soundwave Spy Patrol' set of Ravage and Laserbeak - for next to nothing... And since I don't feel that one has much value without the other, I'm going to write about them together.

Friday, 10 May 2019

Iron Factory IF EX-16A Alleria (aka The Lady Commander)

(Femme-Bot Friday #67)
There comes a point in my collecting where I realise that my OCD about certain things - particularly Femme-Bots in recent years - has led me to buy essentially the same damned thing over and over again, and I'm hit by a wave of buyers' remorse. It started to happen as I bought Mastermind Creations' original Azalea and several of the repaints (though I do find that I still rather want Eupatorium), so I really should have seen it coming with Iron Factory's Pink Assassin repaints... But when I saw that their take on Elita-1 would be a pack-in with their Ultimate Commander (a sort of combination of a Cybertronian Optimus Prime and the Godbomber accessory minus its own individual robot mode), I found myself mesmerised into ordering it, despite having no interest in the main figure in the box.

So far, I've fought off the urge to buy their Combaticon leader Onslaught-analogue just for its extremely tempting 'Pink Assassin Combiner Hunter' pack-in, so let's have a quick look at this one to see if any buyers' remorse is justified...

Sunday, 5 May 2019

TransFormers: Prime Dreadwing

Arriving later in the TV show than his brother, Dreadwing at least managed to last a little longer into the series, though never quite became a series regular. He'd be absent for ages before suddenly popping up briefly to further his quest for revenge against the Autobots, ultimately discovering they weren't even really responsible for Skyquake's death.

Dreadwing had the screentime to display generally more character than his brother, and turned out to be one of the more ambiguous Decepticons - loyal to his leader, but willing to fight alongside the Autobots if the situation demanded it. For me, though, the most outstanding thing about him was that he was voiced by the awesome and unmistakable Tony Todd, whose gravelly tones lent the character a sense of power and authority.

Skyquake's toy turned out to be the sort of ambitious yet flawed figure that characterised the TFPrime line, so let's have a look at his repaint...

Sunday, 28 April 2019

TransFormers Collectors' Club 2016/Combiner Wars Bluestreak

Starting in its second year, the Figure Subscription Service offered by the TransFormers Collectors' Club started to include a bonus figure which would only be available to those who bought into that year's full subscription. Any overs of the other six figures might end up in the Club store eventually, but the seventh was the true exclusive, and its nature tended to be kept secret until the final boxes arrived with subscribers and their photos started turning up online. Due to this, the bonus figure attained an almost mythical status which was, unfortunately, responsible for a certain amount of disappointment throughout my experience of the Subscription Service.

Series 4 was largely a disappointment generally... but this - the supposed bonus figure, packaged with Impactor - feels to me like the Club's worst output in all their 12 years. So, as something of a compare-and-contrast with the previous post, about the Binaltech version of the character, let's have a closer look to see what rubbed me up the wrong way...

Monday, 22 April 2019

Binaltech BT03 Streak

While Smokescreen had been a surprising way to debut the Binaltech line, BT03 was far more predictable. It seems Streak was actually planned to be the first, but switched out in favour of the more eye-catching Subaru Rally coloured Smokescreen. The downside to this, of course, is that the third figure in the Binaltech line is basically a repaint... Though, based on the street version of the Subaru Impreza from 2003, he does have a few unique features.

And a whole new colourscheme, of course...

Friday, 12 April 2019

Cybertron Ransack

While the majority of my Galaxy Force/Cybertron collection is made up of Takara's version, there were a few toys that, to begin with at least, didn't exactly light my candle. I wasn't even watching the TV show (I don't know if it actually aired in the UK - probably only on satellite TV if it did), there was no investment in the characters, as such, so my purchases were entirely based on how I felt about the toys.

One such toy was Gasket, who just looked weird... But, having decided against importing him, I ended up buying his cheaper Hasbro analogue after acquiring the BotCon 2006 boxed set, 'Dawn of Futures Past', in which the mold had been repainted as a pre-Beast Wars Rattrap.

Sunday, 7 April 2019

Is Generation 1 Stifling The TransFormers Brand?

Just another little opinion piece, since I'm currently both struggling to work on any actual toy posts (the most recent Femme-Bot Friday having been completed about a month ago and scheduled to go live when it did), and a little grumpy due to being unwell. This is something that has been on my mind for quite a while, and which I've touched on obliquely in my complaints about the toys from Siege, the first chapter of the new War for Cybertron trilogy. Specifically:
Is the current laser focus on releasing new and improved versions of toys based on Generation 1 characters ultimately detrimental to the TransFormers brand?

Friday, 5 April 2019

Energon Treadbolt

(Femme-Bot Friday #66)
A few years ago, a good friend of mine developed a habit of buying almost anything with TransFormers branding and gleefully presenting it to me at the earliest opportunity. She also really loved visiting charity shops so, when she happened upon a TransFormers Energon toy sitting all alone and virtually complete, she snatched it up at a knock-down price and handed it over the next day.

Being based on a poorly-regarded Armada mold, Treadbolt isn't a toy I would have bought myself, but was more than happy to receive as a gift, particularly since the only thing missing was the missile for the Mini-Con activated missile launcher in the robot's side - even the collectors' card was included.

Funnily enough, it was only a couple of years ago that I discovered Treadbolt is actually a Femme-Bot, which naturally made her vastly more interesting, not least because she's a repaint of the Constructicon-themed Autobot Armada Scavenger, and essentially uses the G2/European Constructicon colourscheme.

Thursday, 28 March 2019

Studio Series #14 Ironhide

Of all the Autobots from the live action movie, I'd say Ironhide got the worst deal in terms of his toy representations. The first Voyager class toy was a decent enough toy for the time, but totally inaccurate to the CGI, overburdened with poorly executed weapons, and was reused and repainted until the third movie's toyline... even though the character was unceremoniously killed off at that point. Dark of the Moon's Voyager class Ironhide was better than the first, but still not quite right, not least due to its weird proportions and bizarre arm jointing, and its Mechtech weapon was a bit silly.

Sure, there were toys in other scales - including the deeply flawed Leader class version which seemed to be presented as the character's swan song - but none really captured the junkpile look of Ironhide, or accurately represented the squat, heavy-set look of the CGI... and, due to his death in DotM, he's been absent from the movie toylines since about 2011.

Cue Studio Series, with it's impressive reworkings of a number of movie characters... and quite possibly the most screen-accurate interpretation of Ironhide outside the Masterpiece line...

Sunday, 10 March 2019

Hunt for the Decepticons Tomahawk

I don't know what it was about the live action movies, but they led to a greater variety of attempts at turning helicopters into robots. Where toys that came before (and since) tended to follow a certain pattern that invariably led to large chunks of tail or cockpit just hanging off the robots' backs, the movie lines brought us the likes of Evac and Skyhammer (and, admittedly, the original Blackout, who followed the traditional pattern).

But where those were clearly of the movie aesthetic, Tomahawk occupied a strange middle-ground - sold as part of the extended RotF toyline, but closer to the more fanciful, sci-fi look of Classics/Generations and, like Skyhammer, made to accommodate the c-clip weapon accessories that debuted in that line.

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Binaltech BT02 Lambor

OK, here's where Binaltech gets a little confusing. It seems that, when Takara first approached Lamborghini with the concept of the line, their application for a license was flatly rejected... They had similar responses from several vehicle manufacturers, and were working with the Dodge Viper as an alternative to the Corvette Z06 for Tracks. Somewhere along the lines, GM changed their mind, so Tracks got pushed back in the schedule to accommodate the ideal vehicle mode, and so the Dodge Viper alternate mode was repurposed as Sideswipe - or Lambor, as he's known in Japan.

Of course, he was called 'Lambor' because that was short for Lamborghini... only now he's something else entirely...

Friday, 1 March 2019

Keith's Fantasy Club Sting Thing

(Femme-Bot Friday #65)
Following the example of their first year, TFNation 2018 didn't have its own convention exclusive toy, as such. Instead, it had a small selection of 'show exclusive' figures available via vendors, and one such figure was the KFC/Big Tin Robot & Sid's Toys Sting Thing, a repaint of 2016's Scorpinator, again made available first at an overseas convention with the remainder appearing at TFNation 'exclusively', before being made available online.

When I wrote about TFNation 2018, I noted that I wasn't going to bother with this - the original is OK, but feels a little fragile and isn't really a 'must have' unless you're obsessed with having a complete collection of TransFormers microcassettes - until I read the bio and found out that Sting Thing is a Femme-Bot.

Not only am I all for Femme-Bots generally, but I'm particularly keen on the non-traditional variety, that aren't designed to resemble sexy humanoid females... So, here we go again...

Monday, 18 February 2019

TransFormers Animated Soundwave

The TransFormers Animated TV series not only had an eclectic mix of characters in the Decepticons' ranks (including a triple-changer, a beast-former and a Combaticon), it also did some fairly original things with them. Case in point: Soundwave,  in this continuity, started out as an electronic toy (something like Beatmix Bumblebee) given to Sari Sumdac. Through the power of the Allspark Key, it gained sentience and upgraded itself into a formidable enemy... But how's the toy?

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Arms Micron (TF Prime) Thundercracker

I've often noted in this blog that the appearance of one of the Seekers in a TransFormers toyline will often lead to the appearance of the other two but, certainly in recent years, Hasbro has not followed this strategy quite so closely as they once did. Aside from oddities where Combiner Wars Thundercracker actually preceded CW Starscream and Skywarp, we tend to get a Starscream first, and then either a Thundercracker or a Skywarp from Hasbro (usually the former, it seems), while Takara Tomy will release the other as some sort of region-exclusive.

The TransFormers Prime toyline, being quite small due to the limited cast in the TV show, seemed like the ideal line to bolster with Starscream repaints, and yet the only ones we got were literally alternative Starscreams. Given that two versions of Starscream were created - the First Edition Deluxe and the mainline Voyager - it seems ridiculous in retrospect that Hasbro didn't turn either into Thundercracker or Skywarp...

...Thankfully, Takara Tomy wasted no time in producing the other two Seekers in their Arms Micron version of the line, repainting not only the Deluxe class figure, but also the Arms Micron mini-figure packaged with the toy.

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Robots in Disguise (2015)/Combiner Force Thermidor

While I wouldn't consider myself a fan of the most recent TransFormers toyline to bear the subtitle "Robots in Disguise", I've nevertheless picked up more than a handful of the toys - both Hasbro's output and Takara Tomy's versions, packaged under the name TransFormers Adventure.

A significant part of the reason for that is the G1 homages in the Autobot ranks, or the (marginally) superior paint job on the likes of Strongarm... But perhaps the most significant part is the bizarre and outlandish appearance of the Decepticons - it's almost as though they were trying to build on the Beast Hunters aspect of TransFormers Prime, and develop more beast-like Decepticons... Except many aren't robots that turn into beasts, they're beast-like robots that turn into vehicles.

One of my quirky favourites was Bisk, an orange muscle car - not unlike the TFPrime Vehicons - who turned into a lobster-like robot with massive claws and googly eyes. When a repaint was revealed, in a gorgeous shade of blue, and with a name referencing another lobster dish, it immediately became a must-have and, in the end, I was lucky enough to find him in a nearby branch of Asda... So let's take a look

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Binaltech BT01 Smokescreen

More than anything else, two TransFormers toys - both released as part of the 20th Anniversary back in 2003 - were responsible for rekindling my interest in collecting. The first - no surprise - was MP01 Convoy. The second, which I was pleasantly surprised to find on a visit to Forbidden Planet, was this one.

Binaltech was presented as a sort of alternate timeline of events between the second season of the TV show and the animated movie, in which a group of Autobots who had become infected with the Cosmic Rust virus were rebuilt in new forms with the latest technologies and the aid of various real-life car manufacturers. Each vehicle was fully licensed by Takara and, while they tended not to be precisely the same vehicle as their G1 equivalents, they were either the latest iteration of the same series, or appropriately similar alternatives. They were also part die-cast, much like the G1 toys, and all made to 1:24 scale. I'd picked up the first few Binaltech figures before Hasbro's version - the all-plastic Alternators - surfaced in the UK, and tended to keep buying Binaltech because the Alternators tended to look quite lacklustre in comparison...

I wrote up one of my final Binaltech purchases way back at the start of this blog, so I figured it was about time I got back to the first of the line...

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Cybertron Twin-Pack Starscream

There are times when the stranger aspects of my collector mentality completely trump any and all logical thought, and this toy represents one such occasion for me. By the time this appeared on shelves at Toys'R'Us in the UK, I already owned the Galaxy Force versions of both Starscream and Vector Prime. The version of Vector Prime included with this figure is vastly inferior to the Takara Tomy version (fewer paint applications, the shade of brown used - both paint and plastic - is too dark, sword and wings are made out of bendy plastic that develops a weird, powdery coating after a while), while the colourscheme of this so-called Starscream doesn't represent anything shown in the TV show...

...But I liked it, and I guess my Seeker OCD took a new turn (Thundercracker and Skywarp being made from a different mold in Cybertron/Galaxy Force) because I felt compelled to shell out for a boxed set of two figures when I was only interested in one. Vector Prime is still in the box to this day while this - the only UK release of this version of Starscream at his intended size - stands among his Cybertron/Galaxy Force contemporaries... representing a different character...

Friday, 8 February 2019

TransFormers: Prime Ratchet

While TransFormers: Prime owed a significant aesthetic debt to the live action movies, it owed at least as much to the previous TV series, TransFormers Animated, both in terms of its character setup (few Autobots against a legion of enemies, both Cybertronian and human) and the specifics of its cast. Optimus Prime is a given in any toyline - thanks to the lessons Hasbro learned with the 1986 animated movie - and Bumblebee has become a staple character in recent years by becoming the new Hot Rod, but it's still quite rare for other G1 characters to resurface in any recognisable form.

Ratchet's persona in TFAnimated was that of a traumatised war veteran, haunted an encounter with Lockdown, an irascible but reliable medic/engineer who gradually softened over the course of the series. TFPrime's Ratchet... was much the same, but didn't become appreciably friendlier as time went on. He was sometimes reckless (experimenting with synthetic Energon using himself as the guineapig) and proved himself in battle on several occasions, but, with the exception of a couple of spotlight episodes, he was mostly a support character, remaining in the Autobots' base rather than getting involved in their missions. Nevertheless, he was a brilliant character, voiced by the inimitable Jeffrey Combs, so even the briefest appearance in an episode was often a highlight.

Does the toy follow suit?

Thursday, 7 February 2019

WfC2019 Is Definitely Not For Me... (w/ addendum 30/5/19)

As more images and information about the War for Cybertron series toys become available, it's becoming increasingly clear that it's a toyline I can happily skip. I know I felt the same about Armada/Micron Legend, only to change my mind after spending a bit more time with Energon/Superlink and Cybertron/Galaxy Force but, while that was mainly based on the childish look of the toys, simplistic transformations and taking the stance of a conscientious objector to the blatant Pokemon rip-off that was Mini-Cons, my objection to WfC2019 is rather more broad... and possibly puts me at odds with the majority of collectors, even those who, like me, lived through the actual Generation 1 and, by and large, quite liked Classics/Generations and even the Prime Wars trilogy.

I've said before that this new line - ostensibly set before G1 in the TransFormers timeline - is just too G1 for me... But, more than that, it's G1 with an ill-considered, poorly executed pseudo-'Cybertronian' aesthetic. Nowhere is this more apparent than with some of the latest reveals: Deluxes Impactor and Mirage, and Commander class Jetfire.

Friday, 1 February 2019

Power of the Primes Novastar

(Femme-Bot Friday #64)
I suggested, back when I wrote about Moonracer, that buying the repaints I already knew about was all but a foregone conclusion, and here we are... On the upside, I knew ahead of time that this figure was going to be disappointing. Even so I have to say straight away that I rather wish I hadn't bothered with this one, and now probably won't buy the new War for Cybertron version of Chromia, or the Combiner-enabled Greenlight with its Battlemaster partner, let alone the yet-to-be-announced fourth version of this mold, which will create a new official gestalt for Elita Prime.

So let's get Novastar out of the way, shall we?

Sunday, 27 January 2019

Galaxy Force Galaxy Convoy

Galaxy Force (or Cybertron in the US and Europe), the final component in the so-called Unicron Trilogy (or Micron Trilogy, in Japan) had a whole lot of G1 references in its toyline, from characters to colourschemes. For its Optimus Prime mold, however, it went for a mix of G1 and, curiously, Car Robots/Robots in Disguise.

It's also pretty colossal, coming in a box not a lot smaller than that of Megalo Convoy, and perhaps represents one of the last 'playset' Optimus Prime figures Hasbro and Takara produced before the gradual decline in size occurred across the movie toylines, and a whole ten years before Combiner Wars led to Titans Return (which is both a toyline and a mission statement) and its enormous cityformers.

So, in 'honour' of the recently-revealed War for Cybertron (2019) so-called Leader class Optimus Prime, let's take a look at the toy that inspired it... 

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

On Gimmicks, 'Play Patterns' and Fiction

Now that the Prime Wars Trilogy is officially over and the War for Cybertron Trilogy's first chapter, Siege, will be trickling into toyshops, I've been thinking a little about Hasbro's most recently closed line and, with reference to my May 2017 post, perhaps add a few further thoughts on the future of TransFormers toys...

As a collector since the original Generation 1 toys, Prime Wars - mainly in the form of Combiner Wars and Titans Return - was a very familiar concept. First we had combiner teams which were, by and large, remakes of teams from the 1986 portion of G1, but made with today's design nous and manufacturing technology, to the current Deluxe and Voyager size classes. That was all well and good and, aside from a few joint tolerance and general quality control issues, not to mention some rather hollow parts, as vast an improvement on the G1 versions as one might expect. Similarly, Titans Return pretty much amalgamated the HeadMaster and TargetMaster concepts from 1987 into the Titan Masters - small robots that transform into the heads of familiar characters, granting them enhanced stats - but, good as the toys were, something was missing.

Saturday, 12 January 2019

TransFormers (Movie) Landmine

Possibly the most exciting thing about the 2007 TransFormers movie's toyline was that, while the movie had a surprisingly limited cast, the character roster was bolstered dramatically in plastic form, and under the thinnest of pretexts: certain Sector 7 vehicles were actually robots... in disguise.

Of course, given that the shadowy government group had equipment able to detect Cybertronians (and the radioactive residue of having been near them), this seems exceedingly unlikely unless Sector 7 actually were as incompetent as the movie made them seem... And if one of their government issue SUVs can be a Decepticon, why not let one of their attack buggies be an Autobot?

Friday, 11 January 2019

Iron Factory IF EX-27 Streamwing (aka Shrike's Feather)

(Femme-Bot Friday #63)
Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but I find the name given to Iron Factory's take on Slipstream interestingly coincidental: I constantly referred to live action movie Megatron as 'The Shrike', a reference to a robotic killing machine in a series of Sci-Fi books by Dan Simmons, since he fits its description ("composed of razorwire, thorns, blades, and cutting edges, having fingers like scalpels") surprisingly well... It will be obvious from the images in this post that this is not a movie-style interpretation of Slipstream, yet I can't see any other reason to call her 'Shrike's Feather'... Though it's very likely I'm missing something...

Thursday, 10 January 2019

War for Cybertron: Siege Skytread Flywheels

One of the biggest surprises of the Power of the Primes line was the appearance of the G1 Duocon Battletrap in the form of two combining figures - Battleslash and Roadtrap. Before the first images turned up - a remarkably short time before the two figures actually arrived in shops - there had been no hints of Duocons featuring in PotP, but they turned out to be the most innovative offering of the line, which was otherwise a retread of Combiner Wars with added elements of Titans Return.

Of course, making Battletrap surely meant that a full Duocon Flywheels was on his way, to replace the poorly-executed and otherwise redundant Titan Master/Triple-changing Vehicle combination, Skytread, released under the Titans Return banner, right?

Well... Kinda... In fact, it didn't happen at all within Power of the Primes, and when the second Duocon was finally revealed, he turned out to be a closer homage to the G1 toy than Battletrap had been...

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Armada Overload

It's funny, in collecting, how one thing can easily lead to another. I first saw Overload over a decade ago, and thought it looked like crap. Like most of Armada, it seemed to be oversized, unnecessarily bulky, lacking in both detail and articulation... Basically, an easy pass.

I'd felt much the same about Jetfire, even after buying the Collectors' Club's usage of the mold as Astrotrain back when I first joined, and it was only more recently - having finally replaced my broken Armada Optimus Prime cab - that I rediscovered how cool that toy actually was, and set about tracking down Jetfire just so I could create the proper Jet Optimus (aka Superpants Optimus Prime), which then led me to reconsider Overload.

Since, throughout 2018, Overload - and the Energon repaint, Ultra Magnus - turned out to be ridiculously expensive on the secondary market (upwards of £100 boxed, or in the region of £50 loose and not necessarily complete), I decided to have a quick shuffle through The Spacebridge's tubs at TFNation 2018... £20 later, I walked away with this figure, missing only the missiles for his spring-loaded launchers.

Monday, 7 January 2019

Alternity A-04 Thundercracker (Sonic Blue)

The last of my Alternity purchases was actually in my collection not long after Starscream and Skywarp, and I really don't know why I didn't get to him back then (a little over eight years ago!), not least because Skywarp lacked the immediate, punchy impact of Starscream's stark, pearly white paint job and Thundercrackers icy blue.

There were further entries in the Alternity line after this, but they seemed to be nothing but repaints of a retooled Convoy under the 'Mission GT-R' banner, so I think I've got at least one of all the unique molds and won't be looking to get any more of these... Which means I'm actually closing off one part of my collection right at the start of the year!

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Housekeeping

I've got my list of ancient drafts down to about 30 now and, what with a low expectation of adding to my collection in vast quantities for the forseeable future, I'm going to be doing a bit of housekeeping this year. It's not exactly a priority task, but it's a fairly simple one... and it's largely down to Photobucket (again). Back in 2013, I posted about the issues I was having with the image hosting site, mainly that thumbnail links had to be generated one at a time. Since then, Blogger has made changes to its service that switches everything over to HTTPS, which is somewhat incompatible with Photobucket, flashing up errors about 'unsecure items' in each post that linked to images hosted by the third party. Thankfully, Blogger's own image hosting has improved to the point that I've not used Photobucket since another problem arose in March 2017, except for the previously existing drafts, and I've been working through those and replacing the links as I post them.

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Power of the Primes Evolution Nemesis Prime

The moment I laid eyes on Evolution Optimus Prime, I knew that it was a foregone conclusion that I'd also buy a Nemesis Prime repaint of the mold, should it appear. It wasn't long before it was announced, and the real surprise was that it had not one, but two unique head sculpts - one for the Leader class figure, and one for the Deluxe class cab robot, named 'Nemesis Pax'.

Then came the bad news... In the wake of the collapse of Toys'R'Us, he would be an Amazon exclusive, to be released on Prime Day 2018. This wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, but previous Prime Day exclusives had become difficult - if not impossible - to find in the UK except at hugely inflated prices on the secondary market. But then he turned up as a preorder, at the surprisingly low price of about £35. I put in my preorder, and waited.

And waited.

Prime Day came and went, and I received a series of emails from Amazon, apologising for being unable to locate stocks... Despite the figure being widely available in the States (just not for shipping to the UK). Several months later, I gave up. Feeling like he'd never come to Amazon UK (but with the nagging sense that it'd be in stock the very day after I cancelled my preorder), I bought one via eBay for about £60 (cashing in a whole bunch of Nectar points to soften the blow) and cancelled the Amazon preorder... Only for the figure to magically and suddenly be announced as available via Amazon UK less than a month later.

The path of a dedicated Collector is seldom a smooth one... and almost never cost-effective. But let's not get hung up on the negative... Let's have a look at the Nemeses instead...