Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Don't Look Back In Anger.

Time for that rare thing; a mid-week review! Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage your guest reviewer... King Grimlock!

"So, my first review and it's Big Bad himself, the mighty maniacal Megatron. The Classics line was always going to feature the Decepticon's supreme Leader and in the end we got 2 of them! This is the voyager class figure, released at the same time as the voyager Optimus Prime to provide the direct competition for the Autobot. In the first Classics line, with the exception of Devastator, voyager class was the largest figures available, the reason being, one can assume, that being a filler line between Cybertron and the (then) upcoming big screen blast, Hasbro figured that the line wouldn't draw sales and larger figures would end up shelfwarming in the same way that some of the supreme and ultra classes had done through out the Unicron Trilogy. Hasbro, of course, couldn't have been more wrong and the line was an unprecedented success, paving the way for the current classics 2.0/universe line.

Anyway, back on track. As one of the line's most iconic figures, Megatron needed to stand out, he needed to be 'classic'. And he is. We have, finally, got a gun Megatron again. Not a tank, not a plane, not a dragster, not a bloody floating head. A gun. Admittedly not a Walther P-38 as he was in Generation One, but appears to be based on the Nerf N-Strike Blaster, more than likely the only reason that he got past the notoriously difficult U.S gun regulations. Irony, in it's purest form. And in gun mode, Megatron works. He just looks fantastic. As he looks more 'space' gun-ish, his colour scheme reflects that. Plenty of grey, maybe a little light in shade but good never the less and a large amount of purple and black. His classics colour scheme always reminds me of Galvatron and, if I'm honest, I think it fits the figure much better than the Henkei! Henkei! japanese release. And the Energon green areas around the barrel really work, conjuring up images of Shockwave's nuclear powered blaster, crammed into Megatron's fusion cannon. The scope is excellent, featuring working sights, (how can you have working sights?) and the gun fits nicely into your hand, the trigger producing a healthy click when you pull it. The only downside is the orange cap on the barrel and scope, and for 2 reasons. Firstly, it looks crap (thank you U.S gun regulations) and secondly, the colour fades rapidly. I've had mine for almost 18 months and you can tell a real difference in the shades of orange.

Now, I don't own the original Generation 1 Megatron, but I do the Masterpiece and I imagine they are fairly similar in process. If this is the case then this Megatron has bares a passing resemblance to his G1 counterpart's transformation. And boy is it a transformation. It's not often a figure leaves me scratching my head but I transformed this back into gun mode earlier and for the life of me I couldn't work it out. Trial and error or instructions, there is only one manly way. So, half an hour later....admittedly back to robot from gun is fairly simple, it's just a case of remembering which part of the dismembered mess is supposed to go where.

We have robot mode. Wow. I love this guy. Massively imposing, great articulation and very tidy with only a minor amount of kibble. I'll get the gripes out of the way first because I don't want you guys to be left with negative thoughts of such a fantastic figure. Firstly, let's say it, let's get it done. The wings. Yeah. Now, I have grown to accept these for what they are and now see them as essential to the figure. I know there is a fairly easy mod you can do to remove them but he just looks too thin without them and I can't stand a Transformer that you have to leave bits off of in either mode. I just see them as giant Energon panels, filtering external energy sources and converting them into power for the ma-whosive fusion cannon. Or something like that. Secondly, you can't put fusion cannon on top or on the side of the arm, it has to be under slung. It's not that bad as the arms have such fantastic articulation that you can still pose him G1 style but his fist is always upside down. It's like he's trying to get a part in Wanted curving bullets. And thirdly, and finally, the monobrow. Classics Megatron is the Noel Gallagher of the Oasis of Decepticons.

But the pluses, the oh so many pluses of this fantastic figure. The posability is off the scale, well balanced and with moving knees, hips, elbows, biceps, shoulders, and neck that all can be twisted and turned in numerous directions, most with that satisfying ratchet click that ever great Transformer should have. The colour scheme in this mode reminds me very much of action master Megatron, and, overall, he does look like a Megatron. The legs are very G1, the hammer on the shoulder, the helmet that we all know and love. And, going 1 step better than G1, he no longer suffers from trigger/cock syndrome as it is safely tucked up on his back. the tidiness continues with the hands coming from within the forearms and head from within the chest cavity, all then covered back over, leaving no gaping holes. And the light piping through the eyes. Get the light behind this guy, with his Energon panels as well, he just glows a beautiful green. And the embossed Decepticon symbol on the chest... it just gets better!

Overall, as Hellhound says, it's hard to fault the classics line. All the toys have been lovingly crafted to give an updated but faithful representation of fan favourites and Megatron is no exception. Like Grimlock and Prime, inspiration hasn't just been taken from the original G1 figure but from most of the history of Transformers, creating a figure that simply sums up the character. And aside from the positioning of the fusion cannon, all the gripes are easily over come with a Stanley knife and a Sharpie pen. Do yourself a favour and get this guy if you love Transformers. Heck, get the entire original classics line. They are truly fantastic."

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Concrete Schoolyard

The Classics line pretty much centred on the best known series 1 & 2 Transformers, so it is no surprise that Grimlock was one of the characters chosen.

Grimlock has actually been poorly served by toys over the years, the original being the best released (until this one). Interestingly, this toy seems to take it's cues from the old Pretender Classics Grimlock and Derek Yanniger's depiction of the character in the Marvel Generation 2 comic (typically I can't find a picture online, and I can't be arsed to scan a comic).

In Dino mode, Grimlock looks pretty good, the hind legs are extremely poseable, as the forearms which are on little ball joints. The usual features are there: opening and closing mouth and a poseable tail. In this mode, the standard Grimlock colours (gold and grey) are prominent. There is a black wash on the torso, which nicely picks out the fantastic molded detail.
The dino's hind legs become Grimlock's arms in robot mode, giving the toy a powerful look that befits a Dinobot. Although the robot mode features the trademark gold chest, there is a lot of black used - the legs and waist for example, which is more in keeping with Pretender Grimlock than the original toy.

There's no real restriction of movement in this mode, although the legs can be a little cumbersome. As far as weaponry goes, Grimlock has two, both based on Pretender Grimlock. The missile launching gun is clearly based on the aforementioned toy, check out that bayonet! It would have been nice if the designer had put a post on the rear of the gun so that it could be held like a sword. Speaking of swords, Grimlock's tail can be used as a blade, although it's not exactly convincing and is better stored on the toys back.

As with more or less all Classic / Universe 2.0 toys, it's hard to find fault with the toys. Grimlock easily slots into that category and is one of my favourite toys. As one of the Transformers better known, and dare I say it, glamarouse characters it's fitting that he was one of the initial Classics line. There's only one band I could possibly compare Grimlock to: T-Rex.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

(I'm Not Your) Stepping Stone

One of the 3 'Voyager' moulds released in the Classics range was Megatron. This is toy I do not own, therefore it seems reasonable to move right along to the Decepticon's very own Air Commander - Starcream.

The original Starscream transformed into a McDonnel Douglas F-15, and unsurprisingly, he still does. Not that you can get too specific, but Starscream is a single seater, which means that he is either an F-15A or an F-15C. As you can see in the picture, in plan the mode is really quite convincing. There is a plethora of detail, panel lines everywhere, I have no idea if it is accurate, but it looks good! If you have a look at the area around the air intakes / robot arms, you can see that the designers have even incorporated the conformal fuel tanks found on the F-15E.

The deco is clearly influenced by the original toy, but is quite different, as the red is applied in a completely different pattern. The G1 version also has blue tail planes, which this doesn't, while here we have a blue streak along the spine of the aircraft which wasn't present on the original. Armed with two launching missiles (moulded after the originals 'Null Ray'), the jet mode is pretty convincing... unless you see it from the front, where you are confronted with a gaping hole. Shame.

After a transformation that pays homage to the original Starscream toy, you are presented with a pretty good robot mode. Taking elements from the toy, the animation model and it would seem, Don Figueroa (the fans! the fans!) the figure looks exactly as it should. The downsides, such as they are, are the short, stubby arms which also have a restricted field of movement and the head, which also suffers from the same problem. With the exception of the nose cone, there is no kibble! Everything folds up neatly. The two missile launchers can be positioned on the arms as you would expect and they can also be held by the hands.

There's not too much else to say about Starscream. This is a solid mould, there is one glaring flaw, but other than that it is fine, if unspectacular. For me, Starcream is the Tramsformers equivalent of REM. Unfussy, solid, but a bit boring. A couple of decent albums and everyone loves them.

Have You Ever Seen The Rain?

So, first review only a few years after the release, goes to Optimus Prime.

Optimus Prime was one of 3 'Voyager' size moulds released by Hasbro in the original Classics series. It was also the only one to see a repaint in the original run (no prizes for guessing as whom), although Jetfire has since been repainted for release in the current Universe series.

When this toy was first released, there was some whingeing from those across the Atlantic that this doesn't look like a contemporary truck, i.e. it isn't a long-nosed American style truck. Well, that suits me fine. Firstly, the Classics series was specifically designed along the parameters set down by the original toys (something not strictly adhered to in Universe). G1 Optimus Prime was a flat-nosed truck, he is still a flat-nosed truck. Secondly, living in the UK, we only have short-nosed lorries, and as such this toy is relatively convincing, more so than anything likely to be released based on the movies. I imagine that this is also the style of lorry you'll see in continental Europe and Japan. Remember Yanks, people in other countries buy toys too (if only Hasbro/Takara would stop making every Jet Transformer an F-15 or F-22, I could sleep at night. What's wrong with a Eurofighter or a Rafale?).

The toy does exactly what it needs to - give it a push and it rolls along happily. Look closely at the windshield, and you'll see two seats and a steering wheel (on the wrong side ;)) The deco is clearly 'inspired' by the original, but doesn't follow it slavishly. It's worth noting that the blue plastic used is a lot lighter than the G1 toy, but the red is a decent match (as far as I remember. I must admit that I no longer have G1 Prime. In fact I'm not a fan of Primes, as a rule). The Henkei release is more G1 accurate, but as I don't have, or intend to buy, it I can't say too much.

There are two downsides to the vehicle mode, both of which a fairly minor. The rear of the lorry is clearly made up of legs and feet and the smokestacks are clearly gun barrels. As far as Transformers go, minor quibbles.
On to the robot mode. This is, in my opinion, the best Optimus Prime toy produced so far. The proportion's are fantastic - giving a sense of power, but keeping a sense of scale. As with most modern Transformers, the toy has a simple, but clever transformation which leaves only a couple of bits of kibble. Most of which, i.e. the vehicle mode's grill is tucked around the robots back, which leaves to portions of the cabin hanging off the arms. I don't particularly mind these, as they look like they could be some sort of shields.

Prime has fantastic articulation, counting each limb separately there are 13 points of articulation, giving a fantastic range of movement and poseability. He is also quite heavily armed, with a sub-machine gun and a, err, red blob, which is formed from the aerofoil section of the vehicle cab. The the two weapons can also be combined to form an over-the-shoulder cannon arrangement. The aerofoil can also be stored as a backpack.
It seems to me that the toy is not based on a particular Optimus, rather, it is a fantastic composite of all previous G1 and G2 Primes. In fact, if I had to choose one toy it reminded me of, it would be G2 Combat Hero Prime or Sureshot as it was known over here.

Rather than giving the toy star rating, or a number, I thought it'd be fun to compare it to someone or a band from the world of popular music. Classics Optimus Prime is... Queen (without Paul Rogers) - a popular, well executed, slick crowd-pleaser.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Shout From The Top

Hello, and welcome to the very first post on Hellhound's Transformers blog.

What is it? Well, the clue is in the title. However, the blog will (initially) concentrate on 'Classic' Transformers, by that I mean Transformers Classics released by Hasbro a couple of years ago, the current Transformers Universe line and Takara's Henkei line. I intend to review the majority of Transformers from these lines.

There may be posts on other, random, Transformers & Transformers related stuff. I hope that this blog will be entertaining for me and the reader (yes, you. I only expect one), and I may well comment, in passing, on other stuff. Anything I do post is my opinion, and shouldn't cause offence. If it does, give me a slap.

One last thing, I aim to name each post after a song (not necessarily songs I like either) and the song will probably have no relation to the content of the post what so ever.

To start things off, TFW2005 have posted a translated interview with some of Transformers designers. It makes for an interesting read.