I made a little promise to myself this year that I would cool it on the Third-Party combiners. After all, I’m still in the middle of completing MMC’s Not-Predaking. But I’ve been cautiously eyeing Warbotron’s Not-Combaticons ever since they showed off the first unpainted prototype. When the first figure in the series hit the retailers, I discovered what I probably already knew: When it comes to Transformers, I have the backbone of an eclair. In other words, my resolve crumbled and I bought in. There is an awful lot of controversy surrounding Warbotron and a certain temporary exclusivity deal signed with one retailer in particular. I’m not going to get into the politics and pitfalls of that quagmire. I’m just here to look at toys. And with that having been said, let’s take a look at Air Burst, who is of course, Not-Blast Off.
Air Burst’s package features some beautiful design and presentation. You get a silver sleeve with a very nice piece of artwork showing Air Burst in front of a ghostly image of the gestalt, Warbotron. The box is pretty big, but then Air Burst is a figure big enough to hang with MMC’s Feralcons. On the other hand, first impressions of the box might lead one to believe that there’s a bunch of extra stuff in there, like combiner parts, when there isn’t. All you get is the figure and his weapons. The combiner parts will come later.
Lift off the sleeve and you’re treated to a very colorful window box, which again features some bitchin artwork. The box shows off the figure in his robot mode and the weapons are concealed to the right. In addition to the figure you also get a profile card and a comic book with instructions. I love the artwork, but the comic translation is laughably bad. Granted, the comics and cards are never a big deal to me with these figures, but it seems like with all the work that the company put into the toy and the presentation, they could have had an editor look over the translator. I’m sure there someone out there would have done it for a free figure. Psst… Warbotron… Call me! Ok, enough about the packaging, let’s move take a look at Air Burst’s space shuttle mode.
I always thought that a space shuttle was an odd choice for a team of combat vehicles, but Air Burst’s beefy and armored looking shuttle mode really sells it. The overall silhouette matches that of the iconic NASA shuttles, but this one looks like it’s been uglied up to take a beating… and I mean that in every bit a good way. It’s a rugged looking ship with two giant laser cannons mounted on the sides, or you can reposition them under the wings if you prefer. I like to angle the wings down when the guns are on the wings. There is admittedly a lot of seams and hinges visible on the alt mode, but I think it just adds to the vehicles utilitarian and militaristic charm. The mostly brown coloring follows through on Air Burst’s military nature and the touch of Decepticon purple ties it all together. The shuttle mode doesn’t rely heavily on paint operations, but little touches like the painted yellow lights are welcome.
When properly transformed, everything on Air Burst’s shuttle mode locks together beautifully, but that often involves some fine tuning to get everything just right. I do have just a couple of minor gripes to toss out there. One, the hinges on the wings can be a little floppy. They hold fine until you bump them and then they tend to droop. The second issue involves the front landing gear. They were a real bitch to fold out and when they did finally come out, the tiny wheels dropped out of the clips. The clips don’t have enough tension to hold them in place, so I’ve decided I’m better off not bothering with the gear at all. It’s not worth messing with them and risking losing one of the wheels because they are visible on his chest in robot mode. Neither of these issues are crippling, nor do they really impact on my enjoyment of the toy.
In robot mode, Air Burst is a damn fine looking robot. There are definitely some liberties with the G1 design, most notably the addition of the shoulder armor, but I really dig him. Overall, the transformation is pretty straight forward. I’ve had him back and forth a bunch of times and there’s no evidence of any stress marks. The pivot where the feet rotate on was super tight at first and when I rotated the feet the first time, they shaved some plastic off the inside of the joint, which solved that problem all on its own. Now the feet rotate fine. The hands can be tough to fold out from the arms, and you have to have them positioned just right to fold back in. The plastic is very good quality and there aren’t any movements involved in the transformation that are anxiety inducing. Some people have reported having trouble repositioning the shoulders with the head getting in the way, but I didn’t have any such issues.
It is worth mentioning that a significant bulk of Air Burst’s shuttle mode is removed for transformation into robot. Some people may have a problem with that, but in Air Burst’s defense, they are used on the robot mode. The two back engines come off and can be used as arm mounted rocket pods if you want, but if you don’t want them on the arms, you can also keep them attached to what become his back legs. I kind of like this look because it bulks his legs out and adds the back fins as heel stabilizers, although it is admittedly a bit kibbly. Still, it’s a nice option for storing them if you want to give him a cleaner look on his arms.
In addition to the optional rocket packs for the arms, Air Burst can use his shuttle cannons as handguns. The guns are designed to telescope out and collapse, but I prefer them with the longer barrels in both robot and shuttle modes. And whether you prefer guns or rocket pods, or both, Air Burst is an amazingly fun figure to pose. He’s brimming with useful articulation and the joints are solid and hold really well. I paritcularly love the tight ball joints in the ankles that give him the ability to maintain a flat foundation in all sorts of action poses. The thruster cones act well as stabilizing heels and it’s in the action poses where you probably want to not have the extra bulk of the shuttle on the backs of his legs.
The portrait here is pretty amazing too. Some have commented that he has an Optimus Prime vibe going on, and there are certainly those similiarities. Nonetheless, the faceplate and helmet are certainly reminiscent of the G1 Blast-Off. Of course, the best thing about this guy’s mug is the incredibly effective light piping in the visor. It’s one of the best executions of the gimmick I’ve seen. And while we’re on the subject of translucent purple plastic, I really dig the use of it on Air Burst’s chest plate. It’s there to serve as a hatch for his combiner port and it really dresses up the figure beautifully. I just wish there were a bigger spot on it to place a Decepticon emblem. I haven’t decided yet where I’m going to go with that.
At just under $90, Air Burst is a pretty great value, especially when you figure in how sizeable he is. He stands right between MMC’s Feralcons and TFC’s Uranos Jets, which puts him right in line with a decent Voyager Class figure, so he should look right at home in a lot of different Transformers displays. I love his chunky design and the engineering is simple but effective. I’m not attempting the arm mode until I have a full set, but some fans are pointing out that the final arm mode is not nearly as clean as the one proffered in the prototype. Honestly, that doesn’t bother me, because I buy these teams primarily for their individual bot modes. I’ll just have to judge the Warbotron gestalt mode when I get the whole set. The next one, Not-Swindle is due out sometime this month, and i’ am super excited for him. Swindle’s one of my favorite Decepticons and if he turns out as good as Air Burst, he’s going to be downright amazing.
You’ve gone combiner-crazy, dude!
I need help! 😦
There is no support group. I’ve checked.