In today’s post I’m going to take a look at one (actually, make that two) of my favorite of the slightly obscure Transformers: Dreadwind and his little pal Smokejumper. These guys were originally released in Japan as part of the Neo Beast Wars line in the mid 90’s as Destrons, Starscream and BB with a cool black, purple and neon yellow color scheme. I wish I still had mine to show you, but BB broke and I ditched them both out of disgust. Fortunately, these molds eventually came Stateside as Decepticons with new color schemes and new identities.
These figures were released under the Robots in Disguise moniker around 2003 as Target Exclusives. Keep in mind, though, this was well after the RiD line had gone away and the artwork on the boxes were made to more resemble the Armada line, which was still out at the time. I think, technically, these releases fit more into the Universe line, back when it consisted mostly of repaints of older molds. Either way, they came packaged together in a window box. They also came with a pair of those cool character cards that Hasbro packaged with the Armada and Energon toys.
Dreadwind is the huge tactical stealth bomber and Smokejumper is the smaller fighter plane. They both feature a ton of detail on their sculpts, mostly in the form of intricate panel lines. They are each molded in two-tone green with gray and have transparent red parts. I can’t say I like the colors quite as much as the original black, purple and yellow, but it is still an overall nice military style color scheme. There are a few stickers on each to add some more detail and the Decepticon logos are actually painted directly onto the figures. These guys came with a whopping 14 missiles, of which I can now only locate 6 for Dreadwind’s main cannon. There are six more that slot in under Dreadwind’s wings and another two for Smokejumper’s launchers.
Besides looking great, these Decepticons have a handful of cool gimmicks. In jet mode, Smokejumper can dock with his larger buddy just by sliding him into the space on his back. And if that’s not enough, Dreadwind is also a triple-changer with a third alternate tank form. The tank form definitely looks rather tacked on, as it basically just amounts to folding out the molded treads on the sides, folding up the wings (which are spring loaded) and folding up the huge missile launcher, which can rapid fire all six missiles as you turn the back of the drum. Both aircraft also have working landing gear and Dreadwind’s wing-mounted missiles can be dropped like bombs by pressing the buttons over each one.
Dreadwind has a pretty cool transformation and when you’re done, you’re left with a stocky, but really powerful looking robot. His overall design is really cool, with the front portion of the aircraft forming his chest and that huge missile launcher resting on his shoulder so that he can blast away at Autobot fools. His face is pretty simple, but the light piping on red visor works exceptionally well. His articulation is excellent and consists of a head that turns, arms that have universal movement in the shoulders and hinged elbows, and legs that have hinges in at the hips and knees. The only problem here is that Dreadwing is really top heavy and his leg joints tend to be rather loose, so making him stand can be a challenge.
Smokejumper is a really neat little guy. In scale he’s somewhere between a big Scout and a smallish Deluxe. His overall appearance and transformation are both very similar to the Energon Deluxe Starscream figure, which was obviously modeled closely on this little guy. And for good reason too, since this mold was Starscream in the Neo Beast Wars line.
Both of Smokejumper’s missiles launchers come off his wings at transformation and can be held in his hands while in robot mode. He has decent articulation, consisting of a turning head, universal movement in the shoulders and hinged elbows. His legs have ball joints in the hips, but his knees are not hinged to move front and back, just inward as part of the transformation.
I absolutely love these figures. They display great, are lots of fun to play with, and make an excellent addition to any Decepticon air force. Despite some loose joint issues, these are actually much higher quality than the original Japanese releases, which were made from some seriously flimsy plastic. Its a shame that these were exclusives, because they really are too good to be only circulated in a limited release. I’m also kind of surprised that Hasbro hasn’t rolled them out again, especially since, both toys were re-released in yet another color scheme in Japan. The good news is that when they do crop up on Ebay, they don’t usually go for much more than $20-30 for the pair, and they are well worth it.