Friday, 5 July 2019

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...

Vehicle Mode:
At first glance, this version of Windblade isn't a million miles away from her RiD2015 incarnation - the nosecone looks remarkably similar, bar the simplified canopy and the paintwork, which is surpringly comprehensive considering even Takara Tomy's TransFormers Adventure version of the mold was a little sparse in its paint job. This one has sparkly black paint covering the entire nose, then wrapping round to fill in the canopy frame, while the canopy itself is painted blue. Very much like that version she has a large black flap on the underside of the nose to conceal the robot's otherwise untransformed head. The back end has been further simplified - no hinged strip to cover the gap between her legs and complete the tail section - but this one at least has the top halves of afterburners scuplted in to her feet, where the other had no visible means of propulsion beyond her wing turbines.

There's a decent amount of sculpted detail over the top surface of the jet and, while the back end looks rather incomplete (and doesn't even hold together particularly well), there are also indications of possible reuses as other Femme-Bot jets (though the obvious choice, Slipstream, has more in common with the Cyberverse Seekers) since she has two vertical fins rather than her usual one. Beyond the nose, the only paintwork is more of the sparkly black on the leading edges of the wings and the turbines, along with patches of cyan on Windblade's exposed kneecaps... It's all rather dull and simplistic...

Naturally, the underside is where everything completely falls apart. She's just like every other Windblade in that her entire robot mode can be clearly identified from underneath, but she has most in common with the RiD2015 version, thanks to sculpted 'wheels' on that black flap concealing her head, robot arms just sort of hanging out down her sides, and robot 'toes' instead of rear landing gear. You also get a good idea of how hollow she is... It really doesn't look good for robot mode at this point.

One of the most fun details of a Windblade toy is her wing-mounted VTOL turbines but, unlike almost any other version of the figure you'd care to name, the turbines on this one are fixed sculpted details on the tops of the wings. The turbine parts on the undersides of the wing are actually parts of the toy's built-in geared gimmick, but that gimmick isn't even available in this mode, and it leaves her with extra wingtips hanging out below and behind her actual wingtips.

On the upside - if you're feeling really generous, that is - since she doesn't come packaged with any weapon accessories, there's no weapon storage to worry about with this figure. The downside to that being that Windblade will be without her signature blade in robot mode.

Robot Mode:
And, once again, the abiding impression in robot mode is of a dumbed-down version of the RiD2015 figure, but now with somewhat exaggerated proportions. The legs look as if they're intended for a much bigger robot because the torso is so small, but then the head seems to be about the right size for the torso, yet comparatively large in terms of the usual proportions of TransFormers toys. Due to the presence of the geared gimmick, her wings are immobile, and lay very close to her shoulder joints. This shouldn't be a problem, but her forearms feature protruding elbows, which actually hamper the action of the gimmick... more on which later.

Paintwork-wise, she's more or less on a par with her RiD2015 predecessor though, without the need for a large circular space in the middle of her chest for a code wheel, her 'waistcoat' actually meets in the middle, with cyan paint forming a cross around her chest armour panels. This paint doesn't extend back over her shoulders (per the box art), but that's not a massive loss, all told. Like the RiD2015 figure, she's lacking paint applications on her shoulder armour (black for the smaller, inner chunk and the upper part of her bicep) and her hands, while the cyan on the kneecaps is actually too extensive (it should only cover the lower, rounded section, with the upper part left bare red). The shin and calf applications are missing, and the black plastic above her feet should really have been painted red to match the shin. The waist is painted with the same sparkly black as is used for jet mode, though the central part should have been a lighter gunmetal, and the sliver of waist on the groin section has been left bare. There's a small QC issue on mine, in that there's a splash of cyan paint around the righthand side of her waist... It's one of those things that's barely noticeable until you look for it, but then it becomes impossible to ignore. Probably the strangest, and possibly most pointless paint applications is is the metallic blue paint over the thicker strips of structural support plastic on the undersides of the main wings. It's only really visible when the Cyclone Strike is triggered, so it really seems like a waste of the paint budget. Had they applied the blue paint to the rims of the turbines - both upper and lower - it'd have made some sense.

Cyberverse is a gimmick-laden line, in which either vehicle mode, robot mode or both can sprout forth some form of upgrade, weapon or attack which is physically deployed by the toy via some geared mechanism embedded within. In Windblade's case, rather than having her traditional sword, she has the 'Cyclone Strike' - a wind-based attack launched by her wing turbines, demonstrated by the undersections of the wings springing up and the turbines spinning - activated by pushing down the jet's nose section on her back. When it works, it's pretty neat, but there are some very significant caveats. First and foremost, the blades spin for possibly as little as a second because there's so much plastic-on-plastic friction even after they're 'released' by the small section of gears that starts their movement. Next, the arms basically have to be swung forward to prevent any hinderance to the mechanism - it's difficult to see where the problem arises, but Windblade's protruding elbows certainly don't help. Perhaps it's a small matter, but I also find it frustrating that the mechanism doesn't automatically spring back into its neutral position... not least because it can also get stuck in one position or the other... it's a nice idea, I think, but I don't believe the materials are quite up to the task.

The head sculpt was really the only thing that attracted me to this version of Windblade but, upon closer inspection, it's quite a weird one. The face sculpt is strangely lumpy - the cheeks seem to be in the wrong place - but the overall look is pretty good, even if it's nothing like the character art from the TV show. It's one of the few Hasbro Windblades where the face is properly painted up - white all over the face with cyan 'eyebrows', red markings all around the eyes and her traditional red lipstick, though the application of paint for the latter seems smaller than the sculpted detail, so the end result looks weird. Her large, cyan eyes are weirdly angled, making her look a little like one of those 'Grey' aliens wearing Kabuki makeup, blue contact lenses and an ornate wig. The jewel on her forehead is painted cyan, the hairpins and their tassles are picked out in yellow, and her fan is rimmed - front and back - with yellow. She's lacking the finer details, like the yellow piece on the bottom of the jewel on her forehead and the red rims on her hairpins, while the white paint of her face is applied so thickly, the sculpted panel lines of her jaw are almost obliterated.

This incarnation of Windblade has a transformation which is essentially identical to that of the RiD2015 version... which is to say she basically just extends her legs and twists her waist round. The nose of the jet flips round onto her back but, unlike the RiD2015, it still serves something approaching a purpose as it's connected to the Cyclone Strike mechanism. The main problem with this version's transformation is that the gimmick forces the wings into a fixed position on her back, but it's also worth mentioning that her legs don't peg into position very securely in either mode. Other than that, I cannot be alone in finding the lack of any transformation in the arms to be disappointing, not to say a little pathetic, in this day and age.

Given the simplicity of transformation, it should come as no surprise to find that her articulation is less than perfect. Like the RiD2015 version, her fixed feet limit her stability in more extreme poses, and her fixed wings mean she can't swing her arms back at all. Probably the strangest thing is that, despite the product shots on the packaging indicating otherwise, the head doesn't turn. I opened her up to investigate and the neck does feature a mushroom peg at the base, so it'd never be able to tilt anyway, but the problem is that the chin clashes with her collar almost instantly. Another significant QC issue with this figure is that the bicep rotation joints are super-loose, while the knees are so tight, attempting to bend the knee is more likely to unpeg the knee joint from the inner face of the shin, making for very artificial-looking - not to mention very loose - knee bend.

Cyberverse Windblade is one of those toys that leaves me doubting the competence of the team behind its concept, creation and design, not to mention their understanding of what TransFormers toys are or could be. If you think about it - particularly considering Hasbro's obvious fixation on Generation 1 - the toys that created the TransFormers brand were smaller and simpler than the sort of thing we get these days. The closest thing to a gimmick in the first year or two of Generation 1 was the spring-loaded missile launchers... And yet, frankly, I think those 35+ year old toys (technically about 40 years old, considering Diaclone launched in 1980) are still far more rewarding to play with than dross like this. I'm not sure what sort of research Hasbro did before starting to work on this line, but I'd question the idea that the mechanical Cyberverse gimmicks are a valuable part of the play pattern, even for the intended demographic of kids aged six and up. Clearly these toys aren't intended for the adult collector but, again, I don't see anything here that will turn the imaginative kids of today into longstanding fans of the future. Frankly, I think Hasbro would be better off re-releasing the entirety of Generation 1 rather than creating watered-down TransFormers-branded G1-ish crap like Cyberverse. That impression is based on a 'fully-transforming' Warrior/Deluxe class figure rather than the partially-transforming Scout class figures or the simplified 1-Step Changers, and it's painfully apparent that the larger size classes are little more than upscaled Deluxes. I don't think I've ever seen another TransFormer toyline so lacking in overall merit, and it looks increasingly unlikely that I'd even bother with any other Femme-Bots in this line.

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