Feral Rex (Reformatted Series) by Mastermind Creations: Combined Mode and Final Thoughts

So, it’s been a whole year and now my Feral Cons are finally complete. It’s time to get these guys combined and see just how impressive Feral Rex (aka Not-Predaking) actually turned out. Transforming these guys into their component parts holds no real surprises. The arms and legs are more or less the beast modes with the legs folded in, and some other tweaks and bobs, and the torso is Leo Dux with his legs and shoulders acting as connecting points. It’s very Voltron-y in it’s flavor and as a result the combiner transformations feel pretty natural if you’re already used to bringing each of the figures from their robot to beast modes and back. Like his G1 inspiration, Feral Rex features some parts-forming. The backpack weapons that came with Bovis and Fortis are used for the hands and feet and the shield used for Leo becomes the groin. And obviously, Talon’s wings are removed to be placed on the back. It’s no more time consuming then you might expect transforming five different figures to be and it certainly goes quicker for me than forming Fansproject’s Causality figures into Not-Menasor. And the results… well, the results are pretty tough to argue with…

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Magnificent is the word that comes instantly to mind. From a design standpoint Feral Rex certainly satisfies the updated G1 Predaking aesthetic that I was looking for. Rex hits all those points that make the original toy design so damned iconic. You get the same dual cannon toes in each of his feet, Talon’s wings coming off the back making him look like a giant angel of death, and you can’t beat those bull and rhino head kneecaps. Leo Dux’s lion head is worn prominently on the chest and the groin armor has the same gold plated bling that all giant robots wish they had on their crotches. Of course the main difference in Rex’s aesthetic is that all of these iconic points are applied to fully realized proportions and that’s the most amazing thing about Feral Rex. It doesn’t feel like anything was compromised to deliver a truly awesome looking figure.

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The head sculpt is fairly simple but still excellent. I love the detail put into his “helmet” and I do believe there’s an LED in that noggin to light up his visor, but I’m not going to mess with installing batteries at this point. It’s a nice bonus feature that I may make use of at some point. I should also note that the cannons that rise up from Rex’s back can be angled forward to give him some extra firepower. You do have to remove Talon’s wings to do it, but you can snap them right back on once the cannons are in firing mode.

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Of course, one of the key failings with a lot of combiners is their overall fragility. A combined mode can look great, but if it falls apart when you touch it… well, that’s no fun. But Feral Rex is damned solid. The connection ports lock quite well so there’s virtually no chance of limbs accidentally disconnecting when you’re playing with him and happily they aren’t too scary-tight to pull apart either. What’s more there aren’t a lot of bits to fall off, which was one of my primary gripes with TFC’s Uranos combiner. The only exception is the wrap around crotch piece. I have a habit of grabbing the figure from the center of gravity and that usually means putting at least one of my fingers on Feral Rex’s robot diaper, which will indeed make it pop loose. Pick him up from under the arms, and you’ve got no worries.

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Feral Rex features a good amount of articulation for a gestalt mode. You can get a wide stance out of him and he has nice strong ratcheting hinges in the knees that hold his massive weight with little difficulty. The feet are ball jointed to keep them flat most of the time and the way the connection ports are designed he has a good amount of lode bearing strength in those ankles. His arms do run into some problems where the sculpts interrupt the articulation, but nothing too bad. His shoulders rotate quite well and he has a bit of lateral movement there too. His elbows are hinged and there are swivels, and his fingers are individually ball jointed. He can rotate at the waist and his head is naturally ball jointed too. Standing Feral Rex is quite easy, although he is ever so slightly back heavy. Nonetheless, a little tweaking gets him standing just fine in a variety of poses and while I will be displaying my Feral Cons in their individual bot modes, I wouldn’t be apprehensive about standing him in combined mode as I don’t think he’d be prone to shelf diving. With that having been said, where a $500 toy is concerned, I’d still probably invest in a support stand of some sort.

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While Rex is perfectly capable of just stomping on his enemies, picking them up and throwing them, or blasting them to bits with his shoulder cannons, he would be lacking without his extra weapons and that’s why he can combine all of the Feral Cons weapons into a giant sword and gun. Let’s start with the gun…

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It’s fairly simple to put together and it uses all the guns from the individual figures with Tigris’ being the core of the weapon. Putting it together is easy, but taking it apart can be tough because Fortis’ two guns fit together really tight. When you’re done you get a nice beefy looking cannon that mounts onto Feral Rex’s left arm and it looks pretty damn imposing. I really like the idea of Rex having a gun that still frees up both his hands, because…

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He’s also got that big damn sword! I threw in Legends Class Swerve to convey a sense of scale on this thing. By pooling together all the knives plus Leo Dux’s mace and swords you can build Feral Rex’s ridiculously massive sword. This is a vicious looking design expressing sheer art expressed in the form of giant robot cutlery. And despite it being formed from lots of knives, it holds together with no problems. With the help of some tabs and Rex’s hinged fingers he can hold it securely in either hand and holy crap does he look amazing when he’s wielding it. Between the length of the sword and Feral Rex’s bulk, shooting pictures of him with his weapon really strained the capacity of my staging and lighting area, which wasn’t built with a figure this big in mind.

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As massive as Rex’s sword is, his joints are up to the challenge. He can wield it in just about any pose I put him in without the arm dropping. I know I ragged on poor Tigris for being scrawny and the runt of the litter, but damn if he isn’t one tough little sonvabitch. His arm mode takes the full weight of that sword without even breaking an energon sweat. I take back everything I said about you, Tigris! You da man!!!

Final Thoughts:

It’s funny to look back to a point when I was struggling to get up the nerve and invest in a Third Party Transformer. Never did I imagine I’d reach a point where I was happily plunking down $100 for a Voyager sized figure, let alone $500 for a combiner team. But that’s a testament to what a fine job some of these 3P companies are producing these days and with the entire Feral Con team now on my shelf, I’m confident in placing Mastermind Creations at the top of the 3P pyramid. Sure, they may be sharing that spot with Fansproject right now, but that certainly puts them in good company. The Ferals represent everything I could have asked for in a set of Masterpiece Predacons. The individual figures are fantastic and the combined mode is stunning and inspired. It literally feels like nothing was sacrificed or compromised in delivering a great team of figures and a magnificent combined mode.

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The Feral Cons have represented a quality and well thought out product from the very beginning. Besides looking great and sporting high quality plastic, MMC designed these guys with some wonderful touches. The way the weapons interact with the figures has been fantastic and I love finding new places to stick them on and store them. These toys may be expensive collector pieces, but they are also so much fun to play with. Their transformations aren’t overly complex and never do I feel like converting them is a chore, even when I was combining them for this feature and then changing them into beast modes, and then back into robot modes. There’s nothing about manipulating them that feels scary or intimidating. They’re just plain fun.

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But if I were to pick out a favorite thing about this series it would be how unified the design has been throughout. It must be hard enough designing a single transformer, it must be even tougher making a set of combiners work, but when you can do it and actually make all the figures look like a cohesive team as these fellas do… that’s just so damn impressive to me. This set of figures represents careful planning from the start and some really deft and clever engineering.

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The last thing that I wanted to mention was how awesome MMC is as a company and the fact that they listen to their fans. From the very beginning of this series, they kept a constant eye on the way the collectors received their product. The Ferals have had some minor QC opportunities and by monitoring message boards and collecting specific consumer feedback, they addressed all these issues with each subsequent release. Some people were finding that the gears on Bovis’ elbow joints were getting flattened and so they supplied replacement parts with Fortis… and so on. Even the Completion Kit that came with Tigris was an amazing bonus as it addressed something that I doubt any fans were complaining about (filling in the hollow arm cavities), and supplied some optional parts to improve your toys and tossed in bonus weapons too. It was the last figure in the line. They already had you for $500+ dollars, but they still threw in that lovely little bonus.

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I haven’t decided yet whether I’m going to do a “Favorites and Most Disappointing” list for 2014. I hate doing those. But if I do, it’s hard to imagine me not combining a top slot for Feral Rex. Looking back, I can only say that this was money well spent and I’m happy to let these figures stand in my collection as my Masterpiece Predacons. If Takara wants to take a stab at it, I’ll be happy to take a look, but it’s hard to believe that they could improve on what Mastermind Creations has achieved here. And just as a parting note, I will be revisiting the Ferals one last time in a couple of months when MMC releases the unofficial sixth member of the team… Felisaber!

 

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Feral Rex (Reformatted Series): R-06 Tigris (Shock Trooper) by Mastermind Creations

It was exactly a year and a couple of weeks ago that I featured, Bovis, the very first of MMC’s Feral Cons here on FFZ. It’s been a long road, but here we five figures later with the final member of this combiner team, Tigris (Yeah, he’s not really the final figure if you want to count Felisaber, a figure that is an optional addition to the team). Not only does Tigris round out the team, but he finally allows me to merge them together into Feral Rex. I’m going to knock out my look at Tigris today and tomorrow I’ll be back to look at Feral Rex and give my final thoughts on this series. This figure has been sitting here waiting to be featured for a couple of weeks now, so let’s get to it…

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There’s the packaging. As per the rest of this series, Tigris comes in a large box with a front flap that opens to reveal the window that shows off the figure in his robot mode. I’ve gone on record saying that I’m not all that fond of the deco on these, but that’s just my own personal taste. There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s totally collector friendly, and the side panels of the boxes denote the figure inside, which is great for storing the boxes all lined up on a bookshelf. Let’s go ahead and start with Tigris’ robot mode!

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So, Tigris definitely looks like the runt of the litter, but he’s actually no slighter of body than Talon, as the two share some of the same body parts. It’s just that Talon’s majestic wings give him a lot more bulk and a far more interesting profile leaving Tigris’ stature feeling a tad wanting and doubly so when compared to his comrades, Bovis, Fortis, and Leo Dux. That’s no really a criticism, but more an observation. Obviously Tigris and Talon had to be scaled back a bit to make their arm modes properly proportional. I didn’t get the same wow factor when taking him out of the box, but he definitely has his own charms, most notably his very clean appearance and very humanoid silhouette. That having been said, I would have liked it if the spikes on the back of his shoulders orientated toward the front as it would have given him more of a foreboding look to help combat the somewhat scrawny vibe that he gives off.

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Like Leo Dux, Tigris wears his beast head on his chest. He also sports the same socketed thigh guards that function as holsters so you can peg his weapons or knives in there. This seemingly throwaway feature has been one of my favorite little design touches of this set and I’m glad they made it onto every figure. From the back, Tigris has a bit of an unfinished look with his connection port on full display, although he does have some sockets there and I like to store his big gun diagonally across his back to fill this area in. The head sculpt here is clean and simple, just two eyes and a huge face plate, but it definitely has the least character of any of the robots on this team.

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Tigris’ deco consists mostly of red, orange, and black plastic. I’m sure I’ve said before how much I love the quality of plastic that MMC used on these guys and how well it holds the colors. That having been said, Tigris’ deco is the least interesting to me. The other figures seemed to have that one extra color to help break up the pattern. For Bovis it was grey, for Fortis it was yellow, etc. He’s still a striking and colorful looking bot, but I think the deco could have used something more. There are at least some very nice silver paint apps on his chest plates, his knees, and some of the rivets.

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Tigris comes with two hand guns, two knives, and a big cannon. At first, I thought the guns were repacks of the ones that came with Bovis, but nope, they are original sculpts and they look great. Not only can he dual wield them or store them on his hips, but he can also store them pegged onto his back, or they can be pegged onto his big cannon to add even more firepower.

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The cannon is a beast of a weapon and has an extending barrel. It looks fine on its own, but those two hand guns look like they were meant to be part of it. It’s kind of ironic that the small fry of the Ferals gets the biggest gun, but hey, it gives him plenty of character.

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The knives are similar to what we’ve been getting all along. They are new designs but all the knives in this set have shared the same elements to help them mesh better when combining into Feral Rex’s giant sword. On the downside, Tigris doesn’t have any sockets on his forearms to plug them into, so he’s left either wielding them in his hands, or storing them pegged on his thighs or on his back.

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If all that isn’t enough, Tigris also comes with an extra baggie of parts that fill in the hollow forearms of the entire team and allows you to peg in some additional weapons and stuff. Additionally, the bag contains a replacement face with a red painted mouth plate. I’m sticking with the stock yellow one just because it adds some much needed diversity to the Tigris’ color palette. Ok, so enough about the robot mode and all the goodies, let’s get him transformed and check out his beast mode…

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While a lot slighter in build than Bovis and Fortis, Tigris’ beast mode follows the same basic patterns of transformation with the robot arms becoming the front legs and the robot legs packing up to form the back half of the animal. The deco remains mostly the same as in robot mode with a lot of orange and red plastic and a little black plastic and silver paint apps showing. Tigris’ jaws are articulated and you get the same great poseability out of the legs as we’ve seen all throughout this line. It’s not a bad tiger mode, but I don’t think the proportions work as well. Maybe it’s because his head is sort of tiny, but mostly I just think the bull and rhino translate better to chunky robots than a lithe tiger.

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One way I like to remedy that is just to weaponize the crap out of him. Tigris can wear his big cannon on his back and man, does he look great wearing it. It not only breaks up the color by adding a lot more black, but I think it helps by bullking him out a little more. I also like to attach the knives to his front “shoulders” because I think that would make most enemies want to get the hell out of his way.

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It sounds strange to me to say it, but Tigris is my least favorite of all the Feral Cons. It’s strange because he’s still another fantastic figure in MMC’s Feral Con series and I love him a lot, but his comrades have all set the bar really high and Tigris doesn’t quite reach the heights that the others have. Neither the tiger or robot modes are as impressive and the color scheme feels a little bland by comparison. But even with all that having been said, he’s an excellent figure in his own right and continues the high standards of quality and engineering that this series has delivered on from the very beginning. Tomorrow, I’ll be back with a look at the Feral Cons combined mode and offer up some final thoughts on this team as a whole.

Feral Rex (Reformatted Series): R-02 Talon (Aerial Assaulter) by Mastermind Creations

I know, I ended last week with a third-party convert-o-bot, and I’m beginning this week with another. I do like to mix things up a bit, but I’ve got the final Feral Con, Tigris, arriving any moment now and I really wanted to get Talon his time in the spotlight beforehand. Despite his number, Talon is the fourth release in MMC’s Feral Cons series, and I’ll be referencing the others a fair amount in today’s feature, so if you aren’t caught up yet, by all means take the time to check out the others. If you haven’t guessed yet, Talon is intended to be an homage to the Predacon Divebomb and he does indeed combine with the other Feral Cons to form Feral Rex, a big fella that bears a striking resemblance to a certain Predaking. I’ll also point out here that Talon took absolutely forever to arrive from the place I pre-ordered from, making it all the stranger when Tigris dropped in just a handful of days later. Ok, I’ve got a lot to cover and I want to do it all in one shot, so let’s get started.

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There’s the packaging and it has remained consistent and uniform throughout this series. Of all the third-party series of changebots I own, I like the packaging for the Feral Cons the least. There’s nothing really wrong with it, it’s just a matter of personal taste when it comes to the deco. The boxes are quite large and they need to be to hold these beefy Voyager-plus sized figures and all their extras. The box is collector friendly and features a front flap that opens to reveal a window to display the figure. The side panel of the box tells you who the figure is, so if you’re like me and store these packages lined up on a bookshelf, it’s easy to see which box has which figure in it.

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Inside the box, Talon comes on a clear plastic tray. You get the standard combo instruction and comic book, a profile card, and some replacement parts for previous figures that have had some QC issues. I’m not even sure what these replace, as I haven’t had any issues with any of my Ferals. Additionally, you get a separate baggie containing Talon’s arm cannons. There’s no place for them in the tray, but I just pop them back into the baggie and put them under the tray when I store the figure in his box. In looking back through my other Feral Con features I realize that I was all over the place when deciding whether to start with robot or beast mode. I guess this time I’ll just go ahead and start with Talon’s robot mode.

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Just one look at this guy and it makes me so happy that I decided to invest in this set, but then that’s been the case with every one of these fellas. In robot mode, Talon is everything I could possibly want out of a Masterpiece style Divebomb. I actually expected him to be smaller than the others, but apart from lacking some of the bulk of Fortis and Bovis, and looking a bit leaner, he still measures up to his teammates. While Talon represents a fresh new mold, there is still a delightful degree of consistency among these figures. You see a lot of the same design tropes and features throughout whether it be between shared molds like Bovis and Fortis or the originals like Leo Dux and Talon here. They all have the same style of jointing and articulation and they all use the same high quality yellow, orange, red, and black plastic. They also all feature a number of sockets to store their weapons on. Of all the third-party combiners I’ve invested in, MMC’s Feral Cons feel the most like a unified team.

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As is the case with the other Ferals, Talon’s mold is just loaded with detail. I’m particularly fond of his upper chest design with the two deep set vents, directly pulled from the G1 toy design, and the indented shield provided for placement of a Decepticon logo, which I have yet to do. The shoulder design looks really good, as does the way his bird feet fold up onto the front of his lower legs. His robot feet are attached to hinged arms via ball joints and this gives him a wide range of movement for wide stances and action poses. These worried me at first, as to how they could support the weight of the figure, but the retract completely giving Talon all the support he needs. Surprisingly enough, even with a lot on his back, he’s still a very well balanced figure.

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Of course Talon’s most impressive quality is his set of wings. These are absolutely magnificent. Each lushly painted gold blade is articulated and so they can be fanned out for a grand and majestic display or closed up to allow him to stand shoulder to shoulder with his comrades. They are also hinged, so you can angle them back a bit (my favorite look!) Or you can fold them straight back to give him a cleaner and tighter profile from the front. I also really dig the way the back part of his wings looks kind of like a jetpack.

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MMC has had some winning head sculpts with this line and Talon is no different. He has a very human looking face, painted red and with an orange “helmet.” The eyes are meticulously painted with a metallic red to make them stand out. You also get a very generous ball joint in the neck to allow some great and expressive movement.

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Before we transform him, let’s check out Talon’s arsenal. For starters, he comes with a pair of double-barreled cannons, which mount on his arms and actually stay put during his transformation to provide his bird mode with some basic firepower. These can also be held in his hands as pistols and can be stored by plugging them into the side panels on his legs, which act like holsters.

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Next up, you get a pair of short swords, with some pretty wicked looking crooked blades. I’m usually not a huge fan of edged weapons with my giant robots, but in some cases it feels right. These guys are supposed to be savage animal-robots and so I’m in favor of them having some blades. These swords also look particularly nice when slung on his hips. As with the other Ferals, it can be a little tough to get him to hold them just right, but once they’re in he gets a pretty firm grasp on them. Of course, thanks to all the versatility of his weapons, you can also mount the swords on Talon’s arms. I really dig the way this looks, especially when he’s armed with his pistols.

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Lastly, Talon sports a sniper rifle with a stock that can fold up to form a scope. I love the idea of Talon carrying this kind of weapon because he can just hover over the battlefield and snipe away at targets from above. Surprisingly,  he can even hold the rifle by both grips. When not in use, the rifle can be slung onto Talon’s back. Ok, enough about his gear, let’s check out Talon’s bird mode…

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I honestly didn’t know what to expect from Talon’s transformation seeing as how simple the conversion should theoretically be. In the end, it’s still rather simple, and nearly all of it involves packing up his legs. At first, I thought this one might be the weakest of all the Feral Cons alt modes, but I think that falls in line with the original toy. It is, afterall, no easy feat to turn a humanoid robot into a bird. Nonetheless, this mode still works just fine for me and there are a couple things about it that even impress.

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One is that even with Talon’s robot head folding into the bird head, there’s still articulation in the beak. Secondly, just like in robot mode all of Talon’s weapons store comfortably on his bird mode. The arm cannons can stay right where they are, the swords can mount on his wings, and his rifle can peg right into his back, giving him that extra little bit of firepower. He can even stand just fine on his own, which frankly surprised me.

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Talon is another exceptional release in this line and as I write this I see that my Tigris is out for delivery to my door so I’m pretty damn excited to finally be completing this team. For me these gestalts are always about the individual robots first and the combined mode second, and while I’m expecting Feral Rex to be amazing, the important thing is that each and every one of these figures has blown me away strictly on their own merits. Even at just under $100 I still feel like my money was well spent. I can’t recommend these guys enough and MMC continues on their way to overtake Fansproject as my favorite maker of third-party conversion-bots.