Transformers Titans Return: Grax & Skullsmasher by Hasbro

It’s another Transformers Thursday here at FFZ and today I’m checking out the final figure in the first wave of Deluxe Class Titans Return figures, Skullsmasher and his little head-forming buddy, Grax. Yes, somewhere along the way Hasbro must have lost the Skullcruncher trademark, but it’s close enough. Let’s see if I can make it through the whole Feature without calling him Skullcruncher by force of habit! As for Grax, well, apparently they managed to hang on to the name of the original G1 Skullcruncher’s Nebulon, because it remains unchanged.

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Here’s a quick look at the package before I tear it open and have to deal with those goddamn plastic wires. I got nothing new to say about the package itself, other than it keeps the figure minty fresh until it gets to me and I guess that’s really all I’m looking for here. Skullsmasher is packaged in his robot mode, but crikey, we’re gonna check out his croc mode first!

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So, allow me to go on record, probably not for the first time, by saying how much I love whenever G1 did animal alt modes. They always had that appropriately cybernetic look to them like a machine approximation of an animal form, rather than the creepy and off-putting real animal forms of the Beast Wars era. In a lot of ways Skullsmasher here captures that beloved aesthetic, much like the G1 figure he’s based on. The croc mode is very angular, it’s covered in panel lines, and it features some great spikes and ridges all over. The deco relies almost entirely on colored plastic, from the pleasingly rich and slightly metallic green to the cheaper looking and almost neon red, and the the odd gray pieces. There are some painted panels on the sides and a Decepticon emblem on top of his head. It’s an uncharacteristically garish deco, but one that should satisfy the G1 purists. Overall it works just fine for me.

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I really dig Skullsmasher’s croc head. The diamond shaped eyes are reminsicent of Dinobot eyes and I really dig the way some of his teeth mate with the opposite jaws when the mouth is closed. Open up the mouth and you get treated to a full display of teeth and a segmented tongue.

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When Skullsmasher is just sitting there in croc mode, I think he’s great, but picking him up and playing around with him reveals a lot of problems. The plastic here feels super cheap to me. Like knock-off cheap. Especially the red stuff. The way the tail pegs onto the body is a tenuous connection. If I try to pose it to the left or right, it usually pulls out. The two halves of the croc’s hind quarters don’t like to stay tabbed together at the top either. The rest of the figure features some decent articulation. The hind legs are attached to the body with ball joints. The front legs swivel where they meet the body and again just below the hinged elbows. Unfortunately, if I swivel the lower part of the leg enough, it’ll pull right off. Finally, the head is ball jointed, and of course the jaws are hinged.

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Grax is a pretty cool little dude with a black and green deco and some nice paint on his tiny face. These guys all have the same articulation, which includes hips, knees, shoulders, and head. He’s an expressive little guy and of course he has that ubiquitous exposed screw right in the middle of his chest.

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Despite not being a conventional vehicle, Skullsmasher has a compartment inside him for Grax to ride in. The door is made of a weird rubbery plastic and blends into the croc’s back pretty well.

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The instructions don’t really outline any other modes, but if you pull off his tail and flip it upside down it forms a little gunner station with a seat. This can be pegged back into the croc’s ass if you want to make Grax a… wait for it… tail gunner! There are also some tiny foot pegs on Scullsmasher’s front legs for the little guys to ride on rather awkwardly.

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Transforming Skullsmasher holds few surprises and his robot mode even less… unless you count his legs constantly popping off at the hips a surprise. In keeping with the three figures that preceded him in this wave, he looks pretty damn good. He’s nicely proportioned and very reminiscent of the original G1 version. You even get the hatch on his chest that flipped down on the original figure to show the stats when you plugged in the Headmaster. I do like the way the croc legs on his lower legs serve as heel spurs to stabilize him. The deco doesn’t change much from the croc mode. You just get a little more gray showing and some paint details on his chest. The lack of Decepticon emblem on his chest, however, irks me to no end. I might have to go into my stash of stickers to give him one.

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From the back, Skullsmasher includes the expected croc head kibble backpack, which really isn’t too bad. On the downside, the tail is just sort of an extra piece. You can actually peg it into his back, but than the bulk of the kibble becomes ridiculous.

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He can hold it as a shield or sword or bludgeon, or whatever you want to call it to pretend it isn’t just a left over tail. Also, if you leave the gun in it, it can serve as an awkwardly large gun tail thing. None of these options are really ideal for me, so I just plan on putting it behind him when I display him. Thankfully, the gun comes out and can be used as a stand alone weapon.

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Grax forms a fantastic head and holds his form quite well. Once again, you can plug any of the heads into him. Head swapping isn’t a gimmick I’m fond of and my other little head guys are buried in the other room so pardon me if I don’t actually show it this time.

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Now, when I first started playing with him, I thought I was going to be able to make it out of this review without having to comment on my figure being all loosey-goosey like so many others seem to be. In truth everything on mine is actually pretty solid, except for those ball joints in the hips. They’re not completely useless, he can hold himself up, but if you give him too wide a stance, he’s likely to crumble. Also, the red plastic on this guy still feels rather cheap.

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There’s no denying it. Skullsmasher is the only disappointing figure in this wave for me. I think it comes across in how brief this Feature is compared to the others. I didn’t have nearly as much fun shooting him as the other offerings of this wave. But, he’s not a terrible figure by any means. It’s just that when compared to the three shining examples that came before him, he’s just weakened from too many nagging little issues. I’m certainly not sorry I bought him, but I am glad I didn’t lose my patience and pay a premium for him, because he wouldn’t have been worth it. And even after ending this assortment on a slightly sour note, I’ll still say that this is one solid wave of figures and I’m really excited to get my hands on some more. Thanks to a nice score at the local Wally World, which typically has the most poorly stocked toy aisles I’ve ever seen, I was able to grab the entire second wave yesterday. So come on back next Thursday as I start digging into those with a look at Chromedome.

Transformers Titans Return: Fracas & Scourge by Hasbro

As promised last week, I’m pressing on with my look at the first wave of Deluxe Class Titans Return figures. I already checked out the two Autobots and now I’m going to start in on the Decepticons. I went with Scourge first, because I was always a big fan of this guy and his Sweeps. Also, the last time Hasbro took a crack at him (back in 2011 in the Generations line) he turned out pretty good, albeit with some big departures from his G1 roots. I’m anxious to see if this time they can bring it all the way back home.

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Here’s the package. Again, it doesn’t stray too far from what we’ve been seeing from the Combiner Wars. As expected, Scourge is now a Headmaster and his little robot buddy is named after G1 Scourge’s Targetmaster, Fracas. Scourge is packaged in his robot mode and secured by one million of those damned plastic wires. Or maybe only five or six, I can’t remember. As you may have already guessed, I’m starting with his alt mode.

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Straightaway, this is a much better homage to the G1 toy and Sunbow design than Generations Scourge. The close-but-no-cigar stealth bomber alt mode is gone and in its place we have a flying space boat that is very much like the old Scourge I know and love. There’s an adequate amount of sculpted detail here, including panel lines and vents, and the multiple shades of blue are right on point. I’m pretty sure the official configuration of the top of his tower is to have the elongated end point backward, but I prefer it to point forward, making it more gun like with the red bit at the other end serving as a thruster. You get a little silver paint here and there and a nice, bold Decepticon emblem printed right on top. Granted, there’s not a lot more to say about this mode, but it makes me a happy old TransFan.

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Fracas is a tiny blue robot with an upside down face sculpted on his back… I wonder what that’s all about, eh? You get a little paint on his legs and some surprisingly good paint on his minuscule face. He has articulation in the neck, shoulders, hips, and knees and a giant screw in the middle of his chest.

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Scourge’s cockpit is concealed under the gun tower toward the back of the boat, and yes to open it, I have to swivel my gun configuration around to the proper way. I guess there’s a reason it’s supposed to be pointed to the back, but I don’t care! The canopy hinges forward and allows for plenty of room for Fracas to sit while still being able to close and secure the canopy. There are also a couple of pegs toward the nose of the boat that allows for other Headmasters to stand. I pulled out the individually packed Apeface to demonstrate.

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Scourge also comes with a double barreled weapon that can be pegged onto the alt mode in a few different places, allowing for a Headmaster to sit in it and operate the gun. There’s a socket for it right in front of the cockpit, which again requires me to spin my tower gun configuration to the back, dammit! You can plug it into the gun tower and make a triple-barreled gun emplacement, although at this point things are starting to look a little ridiculous!

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You can also attach it to either side, but if you want to put a figure in it, you’ll have to un-tab the panel and flip it up. I’m a little disappointed that there isn’t a socket on the bottom of the boat. I think it would look great positioned just under the nose of the vehicle. So, as simple as it is, the vehicle has some fun play options. Let’s see how the robot mode turned out…

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Hell and yes! Scourge transforms quickly and easily and the result is a magnificent homage to the G1 robot mode. He showcases those rounded aesthetics that were introduced in the 1986 movie designs and his proportions are perfect. His wings aren’t quite as shapely as his Sunbow appearance, but they get the job done, and if you want a cleaner look you can fold them in and out of the way. I actually think they look fine, particularly from the back. Also, from the back view you can see that Scourge has a second configuration of fully finished legs and feet pointing backwards. I wonder who those are going to be re-purposed for, hmm?

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In terms of coloring, Scourge hits all the right points, but he shares the same notable lack of paint apps as Blurr did. You do get some detailed silver panels on his chest and lower legs, which simulate the stickers on the original toy, but apart from that his front is just a whole lot of blue with a the lighter blue showing on his wings and lower legs. From the back, however, he does show off a lot more color. All in all, I think the coloring here looks fine.

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The head sculpt here is absolutely fantastic. Scourge features his iconic metal mustache and the silver paint on his face is very sharp. Fracas holds together perfectly and the fact that this noggin is a little Transformer all to itself isn’t really evident at all from a cursory glance. From this view you can also get a better look at his sculpted abs and some of the sculpted panel lining in the robot mode.

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And yup, you can swap in any other Headmasters you want. Here I have him wearing Apeface. It’s not something I’ll ever do again, but I suppose it makes for a neat play pattern for the kids. Can I say now that it’s a shame we probably won’t get proper bodies for the single-packed Headmasters. A head as good as Apeface really deserves his own proper body. If only we had some third-parties out there to step in where Hasbro drops the ball.

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The gun from the top of Scourge’s cockpit can be un-pegged from his back and used as a nifty little hand gun. You can also have him wield the double-barreled weapon or again convert it to a tri-barrel gun. For display, I’ll likely stick with the smaller weapon as a gun and keep the larger one pegged into his back or just put it off to the side.

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Titans Return Scourge is an interesting study when compared to his namesake from five years back. I had lots of nice things to say about that figure when I got him, and he still has plenty of good points, but as far as a proper G1 update goes this new one blows him away. Transformers becoming outdated is a common issue with collecting these guys, and while Scourge will indeed be replacing Generations Scourge on my shelf, it doesn’t mean I’ll be dumping the old figure. It still has a place in my heart and now he has a place in a tote out in the storage. So, yeah, three figures into this wave and they’ve all been gems as far as I’m concerned. I’ve got just one more to look at before I take a quick pass through the the two assortments of individually packed heads and then moving on to some of the newer releases!

Transformers “Titans Return:” Furos & Hardhead by Hasbro

Ahhh, I can’t tell you how great it feels to have brand new content for Transformers Thursdays again! Today I’m continuing my look at the initial wave of Deluxe Class Titans Return figures with one of my all time favorite Headmasters from the G1 days, Hardhead. Hardhead was one of the handful of Headmasters that I managed to collect about 15 years back, before unloading them all for whatever my next big obsession was. I later replaced him with Toyworld’s unfortunately named homage, Hardbone. Now, I’ve come full circle back to Hasbro again.

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I’ve been getting my Deluxes online and the cards have all been beat to hell. It’s no biggie, because I’m over this packaging design. You know what else I’m over? These damn plasting straps they use to secure these guys onto the bubbles. What was wrong with the white string? The white string was easy to deal with. These little things go everywhere and I hate them. I’d rather get the figure rattling around a little in the package than have to deal with these. Anyway, rant over. Hardhead comes packaged in his robot mode, but as usual, I’m starting off with his alt mode.

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There’s no beating around the bush here, this is straight up G1 Hardhead. Oh, there are a few minor changes, like the cockpit being a bit further back, and that gray plate, which I assume is some kind of access hatch, being closer to the front, but he’s still a futuristic green quad tank with black treads and a big gray cannon. The coloring here is achieved mostly through the plastic, with not a lot of paint apps showing in the vehicle mode. Nonetheless, the deco is great and instantly invokes the original toy.

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The only gripe that comes to mind is that I consider Hardhead too small to be a Deluxe Class figure. He’s a tank with a lot of firepower and I feel he should be bigger than someone like Blurr, who despite being a sportscar, is actually longer than Hardhead. The issue is by no means a deal-breaker, as there’s something appealing to me about having most of the characters scaled in one size class, but it’s certainly going to irk a number of collectors out there.

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For some reason, Hardhead’s little head buddy has been renamed from Duros to Furos, otherwise he’s exactly what you might expect: A tiny green and gray robot. As we saw last time, his legs are fused together, but are hinged at the hips and knees, and he has articulation in both his shoulders and his neck. And yes, if you turn him around, there’s a giant face on his back. The only paint work on the front is his little face, which is surprisingly well done for such a tiny bot.

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Furos can sit comfortably inside Hardhead’s cockpit and the canopy closes perfectly.

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There’s some other points of interactivity between the little bots and Hardhead’s alt mode. The back part of the cannon opens up to reveal a chair, and if you peg Hardhead’s rifle into the top of the gun, you have an extra gunner station. There are also pegs on the front treads to place some more of the little buggers. I’ve called in the individually packed Headmasters, Clobber and Loudmouth to help illustrate. Like I said last time, I love these extra little play features that Hasbro is including in the designs here. Size notwithstanding, everything else about this alt mode gets high marks from me. Now, let’s check out that robot mode…

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Hot damn, I’m loving these figures! There’s nothing terribly complex or amazing about the transformation here. Hardhead’s front treads become his arms, the back treads become the legs, and the body of the tank folds in two places at the middle to form the front and back of the torso. Flip the pelvis plate down and you’re good to go. The cannon can be removed, but it doesn’t have to be for the transformation. It lands behind his right shoulder pointing straight up, but you can angle it forward to make it more useful and I really like having that option.

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Like Blurr, there’s a ton of great sculpted detail on this figure and he’s perfectly proportioned. Unlike Blurr, there’s actually a lot going on with the coloring here. The robot mode shows a lot more black and gray, and a little of the green, but you also get some very nice yellow and paint around his pelvic area and some tiny Autobot insignia on his shoulders and again just above his waist. I love that they have the gray chest plate, which in the G1 toy folded down to reveal his stats when the Headmaster was plugged in. And speaking of which, Furos forms an absolutely perfect head with a great sculpt and terrific paint.

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Once again, all the heads are interchangeable. If you were with me last week, you know this isn’t a play mechanic I plan on using, because I have a lot of familiarity vested in these characters and swapping out the heads kind of ruins that. Nonetheless, here’s a shot of Hardhead’s body wearing Clobber as a head. Damn, I left one of the arms askew. Oh well, he’s a pretty shitty head anyway, what with all that unpainted off-white plastic. Be warned, Clobber, you will not fare well when I get to reviewing the individual head packs.

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As we already saw, Hardhead comes with a big green rifle, but sadly only one. If I ever find him on the pegs and on sale, it’ll be real tempting to pick up a second so that I can give him his proper G1 twin gun armament. And again, other than size that’s really the only complaint I have about this guy. In robot mode, he still feels under-scaled for the character. He’s no taller than Blurr, but he does at least have a slightly bigger upper body build, which makes him look a tad bulkier.

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I loved Blurr, and that goes double for Hardhead here. He’s a relatively simple figure, but I’m at the point in my Transformers collecting, where I can appreciate the more simplistic engineering. I don’t want them too simple, but I’m not a fan of the overly complex figures anymore. Hardhead is quick to transform and loads of fun to play with. The joints are a little looser than my Blurr’s, but not so bad that he can’t hold his own weight. But besides all that, he’s a near perfect homage to the original figure, and that is what I’m digging the most about Titans Return so far. And that wraps up the two Autobots of the first Deluxe Class wave. Next time, we’ll start in on the Decepticons.

 

 

Transformers Titans Return: Hyperfire & Blurr by Hasbro

It’s hard to believe Combiner Wars has come and gone already, eh? No, actually it’s not. While I enjoyed the line quite a bit, seeing those same molds over and over was beginning to wear out its welcome. Thankfully, we have a brand new line coming in, and like Combiner Wars, I’m happy to say that it is slavishly beholden to Generation 1. I hope you like Headmasters, because that is indeed the main gimmick of Titans Return. I know, these figures are old news to a lot of people, but they’re still hard to find in my area and I’m quite excited to be looking at my first one. So I’ll warn you ahead of time I’m going to talk about this figure a lot.

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Alas, the packaging hasn’t changed all that much. It’s still mostly black with Transformers running vertically up the side. This overall design grew on me a little over the last year or so, but I was hoping for a change up. It still bears the Generations insignia in the upper right hand corner and the cards still feature character specific art at the top. Unfortunately, the art here is not really grabbing me. I appreciate that it’s emphasizing the Headmaster gimmick, but it just looks goofy to me. Also, the fact that I have to title these Features with the Headmaster’s name first like the actual figure is an afterthought is going to irk me every time. In the end, I’ve never even been tempted to keep carded Transformers packaging, so it’s not a big deal to me. Into the rubbish bin with you, foul packaging! OK, let’s start with the alt mode…

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Hey, did I mention it’s Blurr? I love Blurr! Always have. He was one of my favorite characters from the movie and post-movie season of the Sunbow series. This is about as close to G1 Blurr as we’ve had in forever and it’s making me very happy. The vehicle is a beautiful homage to the G1 toy right down to the engine/exhaust/fin thing on the back and the gap behind the cockpit. It holds together tightly, rolls along fine, and the robot mode’s gun mounts under the nose of the car. As far as alt modes go, this one is simple, you can kind of see what’s going to happen with the transformation, and all that is just fine with me. I adore this.

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The coloring is solid as well. The bulk of the car is cast in an ever so slightly metallic blue plastic. You get some gray, as well as a little minty blue all of which conspire to replicate those instantly recognizable colors from the G1 toy. The brilliant silver paint used for the gun is easily the stand out attraction here. An Autobot emblem on the hood and a translucent blue tinted cockpit helps seal the deal.

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Blurr’s little chum is Hyperfire, which is a name that sounds more suited to a Targetmaster than even the name of G1 Blurr’s Targetmaster, Haywire. As a kid buying toys, I was already growing out of Transformers by the time the Headmasters hit. I enjoy the gimmick now, but I think I would have been confused by it back then. I didn’t want to worry about how that whole symbiosis worked and who’s personality was who’s. I just wanted robots that changed into stuff and fired lasers at each other. Anyway, my rambling should tell you that I don’t have a whole lot to say about this little guy. He’s cool for what he is: A very tiny robot that turns into a head and can also ride in Blurr’s alt mode. His legs are fused together, but they can bend together at the hips and knees. His shoulders are jointed, and since his little head is also the connection to the robot, it is also articulated. Hasbro made a valiant effort at painting this tiny guy, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s got a giant screw right in the middle of his chest.

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Hyperfire can indeed sit comfortably in Blurr’s car mode and the cockpit closes perfectly. I would dare say that my favorite thing about the Headmaster gimmick is having these little guys to interact with the vehicles. Speaking of which, those pegs beside the cockpit are there so you can attach more Headmaster riders via the peg holes in their tiny feet. Oh yes, Blurr also has a second alt mode, and to show it off, I’m bringing in one of the individually packed Headmasters, Nightbeat.

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You basically take the hood section, flip it upside down and peg it into the side to form an outrigger with a cannon. This is not the most clever of designs, but I have to say, I love this concept probably more than it deserves. Something about this just reminds me of the old Micronauts toys, where you could pull pieces off of them and remake them into different things. Blurr’s sidecar doesn’t quite measure up to that level of complexity, but I really appreciate what they did here in terms of added play value. Well, enough of the alt modes… can Blurr’s robot mode live up the same level of ungodly G1 goodness?

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Yes it can. There isn’t a whole lot to transforming Blurr, but damn do I dig the results. Like the alt mode, this robot mode just pulls at all the right nostalgia strings for me. This figure is as Blurr a Blurr as we’ve had in the modern era and I am in love with him. A lot of early reports have scared me about how loose the joints on these figures feel, but I’m fortunate that my Blurr has no such issues. He’s perfectly proportioned and there is an impressive amount of sculpted detail on him. But as complex as some of the detail is the overall feel of this figure is positively elegant in his simplicity.

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Unfortunately that simplicity follows through on his coloring, where it is less of a selling point. There’s precious little paint on this figure and in robot mode he shows a lot less variety than in his car mode. What’s here is good. I really like the way they painted the look of the original toy’s stickers above the feet. You also get a little of the lighter blue trim around the cockpit, but the bulk of that coloring winds up on his back and the backs of his forearms. Other than that, it’s just a whole lot of that metallic blue plastic. His deco (or lack there of) is not unattractive to me, but arguably on the bland side. It’s also worth noting that there is an obvious place on his lower chest intended for an Autobot insignia, but Hasbro didn’t bother printing it in there. That bugs me more than anything else, and I’ll likely wind up digging through my sheets of repro stickers to find one to put there.

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Blurr has a hood-shield similar to his G1 counterpart. I was never a fan of that design and I’m delighted to say that the piece on this figure can store on his back to fill out the torso a little more. The result is no obvious car-part shield and no extra part lying around. The silver gun can be held in either hand and goes a long way to spruce up the otherwise sameness of the coloring here.

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Like all Headmasters, Hyperfire just rolls up into a ball to form the head and it works just fine. The head sculpt is great. It’s undeniably the Blurr that I grew up with and the head stays together even when I manipulate it on the neck. For people who aren’t into the whole Headmaster thing, I don’t think the look of the head will be an issue, other than having to attach it after transformation.

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And yes, all Headmasters will work on this guy. I pulled out Nightbeat once again to illustrate. The idea of swapping heads is a big one in Titans Return, but not one that really interests me a lot. Heaving a Headmaster for Nightbeat doesn’t make me want to put it on Blurr, it makes me want to have a proper body for Nightbeat. And if there were such a body and the head was called Nightbeat, than why isn’t Blurr’s head called Blurr? See… this is exactly the sort of shit that would have fried my child brain if I had these way back when. Granted, I seem to recall that in the original concept, the Nebulons were bonded to specific robots, so this perverse practice of head-swapping wasn’t possible. Nonetheless, I bet this is fun for the kids and I’ll admit to already own eight of the individually packaged Headmasters, four Autobots and four Decepticons. I will eventually do a very quick Feature on them when I run out of the regular figures to talk about.

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You need only look at how long I droned on about a simple Deluxe Class figure, to know that I really love this toy. In fact, apart from the lack of paint apps in robot mode, I’d say he’s very nearly perfect to me and he’ll definitely be replacing that Blurr that was recycled from Drift a few years back. This is my new Classics/Generations Blurr and I find that he even scales fairly well with Classics Rodimus and most of the gang from the Generations line as well. He was a great choice for me to usher in this new line and I can already tell that I’m going to be into Titan Returns in a very deep way.

Transformers Generations: Brainstorm by Hasbro

A couple of weeks back, I ducked into a Ross for the first time in ages to see what toys they had kicking around. They’re usually good for cheap Transformers every now and then and while they appeared to be picked pretty clean, I did manage to grab some Hero Mashers as well as Brainstorm, one of the few Generations figures I failed to pick up when he was out at the regular stores, mainly because I was quite satisfied with my Fansproject Smart Robin. But for ten bucks? Pfft, why not?

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While the Combiner Wars packaging has grown on me, this Generation stuff was where it was at. Nostalgic G1 grid pattern? Check! Awesome character art? You got it. I love this deco so much. Brainstorm is packaged in his robot mode, but as usual, let’s start with his alt mode…

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Brainstorm is a single seater starfighter, and it’s a passable design from certain angles. From the front, he’s kind of sleek with a nice set of twin blasters mounted on the nose, some stylishly angled wings, and a flip up canopy for his little robot pilot.

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Unfortunately, as a whole package, this alt mode isn’t very good. I usually like to try changing my Transformers for the first time without the instructions, and I’m usually successful at it. Here, I was convinced I was doing something wrong and that was because the box doesn’t show the alt mode from the back. Once I looked at the instructions, I was able to see that I wasn’t doing anything wrong. It really is supposed to look like that. It looks unfinished, like it’s missing the top back of the ship. There’s no clever engineering or complexity here, it’s just the legs and arms folded back and that’s exactly what it looks like. You could argue that the original G1 toy transformed more or less the same, and I would agree. But then I think the original toy had an all around more solid looking alt mode.

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Brainstorm’s little pilot, let’s just call him Arcana has a similar problem to his partner’s alt mode. He looks good from the front, but turn him a little bit and you realize he’s just an upside down head on legs. I’d also argue here that the original Arcana toy looked better than this in robot mode. That’s not just nostalgia talking. I’m looking at a picture of him right now.

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In robot mode, it’s easy to see that the designers were working from this mode and going backwards. It shows because that iffy alt mode was sacrificed to deliver this damn great looking robot. Oh, I’m not terribly fond of the way the ungainly shoulder wings jut off to the sides, but they can be angled back or swept back all the way to fix that. The cockpit in the chest and the great proportions make for a beautifully bad-ass design. The coloring is pretty much the same in either mode with a pleasing mix of light blue, white, and gray plastics. The deco is rounded out with a little silver and red paint for trim and yellow and orange paint on the face.

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Plugging Arcana into the neck causes the cockpit seat to flip down to display his stats just like in the old days. And yes, this noggin fixes the only complaint I had about my Fansproject Smart Robin. Mouth plate!

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Brainstorm’s twin nose cannons are best detached during transformation and they can be wielded as dual handguns or, much like Smart Robin, they can be stored on his back, which is pretty cool.

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Despite a lot of bitching, I wouldn’t say I was disappointed with this figure. The alt mode definitely shows a lot less thought than I’m used to seeing Hasbro put into their changebots, especially for a Voyager Class figure, but with a robot mode this good looking, it’s hard for me to do anything but love this guy. I’m still going to look to Smart Robin as an all around better designed figure, but Brainstorm sure looks nice standing alongside some of the other Voyager Class Generations Autobots on my shelf.

TW-H01: Hardbone by Toyworld

That’s right, Hardbone! If Transformers have porn stars, surely this would be a killer stage name. “Oh, Hardbone… your gun is soooo big!” But all kidding aside, today’s feature has been a long time coming. Hardhead was one of my favorite G1 Headmaster toys and I fell in love with Hardbone when he was first released. Alas, at the time my toy buying funds were being diverted to some pesky real life expenses. By the time I had money back in the kitty, I was also becoming intrigued with Fansproject’s own series of Not-Headmasters and considered keeping it in the FP family by waiting for them to do their own Not-Hardhead. But I got tired of waiting and many fine people in the know were telling me just what a great toy this was. And so sometime just before Christmas I tossed him into my Pile of Loot at BBTS and shipped it out. He soon arrived and I set him aside for a special occasion, when the madness of the holidays were behind me and I could settle down and really take the time to enjoy opening him up. And today is finally that day!

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This is my very first figure from Toyworld so I wasn’t sure what to expect from the packaging and presentation. Hardbone comes in a sort of half-window box with the toy in his tank mode and the head-robot figure at the top center of the tray. It’s kind of weird since the gun isn’t mounted on the tank you don’t really get a good idea of what you’re looking at. The whole presentation seems to accentuate the tiny head-robot more than anything else and I just find that to be a strange choice.

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The package deco is green and black with a grid motif. There’s some decent character art down at the bottom of the front panel and again on the left side panel. The back panel and right side panel have actual photos of the toy so you get to see him in both modes. The box is certainly sizeable. It’s just a tad smaller than MMC’s Feralcon boxes and falls right inbetween the boxes used by TFC for Uranos’ Blackbird and the rest of the team. The package is nice enough, there’s nothing wrong with it, but it feels a little amateurish when compared to what we’ve seen from from TFC, MMC, or Fansproject.

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Naturally, the box is collector friendly. You just open the side panel and slide out the cardboard tray, which in turn holds the plastic tray that contains the goods. Hardbone is secured to his tray by three wire twisties and his cannon rests below him. The head-robot sits in his own compartment toward the top. Also inside you get a folded color instruction sheet and a profile card that doesn’t really tell you anything. Let’s check out Hardbone’s alt mode first!

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Like his spiritual successor, Hardbone is a Cybertronian tank and a pretty cool looking one at that. The body is molded in green plastic with four sets of chunky black treads positioned all around him. He has removable guns mounted on the sides of his rear treads (which can also be pegged into the front treads) and one big mama of a cannon, which connects behind the cockpit and can be offset to the left or right side. The smaller guns can also be pegged into the cannon to create one giant Decepticon-busting mega-cannon. The cannon can swivel left or right as well as raise and lower and there’s a translucent yellow muzzle at the end that can be removed if you don’t fancy it. Beneath the sculpted treads, Hardbone rolls along on six translucent yellow wheels.

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The heft on this guy is pretty nice and the quality of the plastic feels great. I’m also really happy with the shade of green that was finally used. Early promotional shots made him out to be bright neon green whereas the final product ended up a lot closer to the green used on the Hardhead that I remember. There aren’t a ton of paint apps, and I’m Ok with that. The mold itself includes enough sculpted detail to carry the day and there are enough different color plastics used to make him look exciting. I particularly like the hatch sculpted onto the back of the tank and there’s some effective detailing in the faked-out treads.

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My only gripe here would be that not everything locks together as well as I would like. The side pegs for the rear treads don’t seem to go in deep enough and that sets the rear treads at an ever so slight angle. It can probably be fixed by shaving the pegs a bit, but I doubt I’ll risk it. The back plate behind the cockpit doesn’t lock down so when you move the cannon around it tends to flop up. On the plus side, the front of the tank is set on Hardbone’s waist swivel and doesn’t lock. Some might consider this a design oversight and it probably is, but to me it feels like part of the tank’s suspension and I think it’s pretty cool.

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Hardbone’s tiny robot buddy, oh let’s just call him Not-Duros, is a very cool little figure. He’s a bit chunkier than Fansproject’s Not-Nebulons and his transformation is tad simpler than what we got with Q-U and Smart Robin, but he is an impressively solid figure absolutely brimming with tiny little details right down to his itty-bitty sculpted fists. He’s basically designed to look like a smaller version of Hardbone and even his tiny face is painted!

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Hardbone’s cockpit opens to reveal a detailed driving compartment for Not-Duros who can sit inside. Unfortunately, because of his huge backpack, the cockpit won’t close with him sitting in there. It’s close, but not quite. If you absolutely want to put him in there you can make him fit when he’s in his head mode. Now, keep in mind, I love having the little bots pilot the Headmaster vehicles, so this is a pretty big strike against the figure for me. Fansproject was able to get their Not-Nebulons to fit and their Function figures are much smaller than this guy. Hardbone’s robot mode is going to have to be pretty damn incredible for me to overlook something like this.

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Well guess what? It is! I found Hardbone’s transformation to be fairly straightforward. There are a few double-hinged panels that were a little tricky until I figured out what they were doing. While probably not necessary, I stripped him of his weapons, including the gun barrel and bayonet that are concealed in his tread panels. Unpacking his legs took a bit more force than I would have liked and unfolding his hands proved to be a challenge. Eventually I got them flipped out by inserting the handle of the bayonet into the socket and using it as a tool. But when all is said and done, this guy is absolutely gorgeous. He’s just the right amount of boxy to scratch my G1 itch and the head, while a little too difficult to turn, just looks fantastic. Hardbone is considerably larger than Fansproject’s Function figures, but I think he scales beautifully with them. He’s a tank so he should be bigger and chunkier and I find that the aesthetic matches perfectly. He even scales rather well with the Masterpiece Datsuns.

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Hardbone’s cannon can be positioned to angle over either of his shoulders. Thanks to the swivel and the hinge in the connection you can position it a lot of different ways. You can also peg it directly into his back and just have it hang down and out of the way. The other big treat here is Hardbone’s lateral tilts in the feet. He’s a big guy that looks good in a wide stance and both his feet and heel spurs can support that and still be flat on the ground.

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If you like customizing, Hardbone’s weapons should be right up your alley. He can wield his guns in both hands and the spare gun barrel that stores in his leg can be used on either gun to make it into a rifle and it can also be inserted into the big cannon as a scope. The bayonet, which stores in his other leg, can mount under either gun or it can be wielded by Hardbone as a combat knife. There’s plenty of fun to be had with this guy if you fancy experimenting with his weapons load out.

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In terms of articulation, Hardbone isn’t quite as agile as FP’s Function figures, but I’m willing to forgive that because he’s a hulking beast compared to them. As a result, you don’t get any double hinges in the elbows or anything fancy like that. You do, however, get full rotation and lateral movement in the shoulders, hinges and swivels in the elbows, and swivels in the wrists. The legs offer full rotation and lateral movement in the hips, swivels in the thighs, hinges in the knees, and those lovely lateral rockers in the ankles that I already mentioned. Hardbone can turn his head, but the plate that turns it seems to be a ratchet joint, which offers a bit more resistance than is comfortable.

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With an original MSRP of about $100, Hardbone may seem a bit pricey especially when compared to the $60 Function figures, but he is a much bigger figure. Nowadays you can grab him for closer to $70 and that’s a pretty good deal for a third-party Transformer in this size.  What Hardbone lacks in mind-blowingly clever engineering he makes up for by just being an ultimately solid, fun and functional toy. Yes, there are a few minor design oversights, all of which are confined to his vehicle mode, but I think Hardbone makes up for those with a lot of the cool customization options with his weapons. The inability to have Not-Duros sit in the closed cockpit does irk me quite a bit, but that one fail isn’t enough to torpedo this figure for me. I think the highest praise that I could give Hardbone is that I love him enough, that I doubt I’ll double-dip on the character even if Fansproject does do their own version of him.

Transformers Energon: Omega Supreme by Hasbro

This month Hasbro is redefining what it means to be a big Transformer with the release of the new Titan Class Metroplex. And while some have the big guy in hand already, I still have another week to wait for mine. But that’s ok, because it allows some of the big bots in my collection to enjoy their status until Metroplex arrives and knocks them down a few pegs. A bunch of weeks ago I featured Cybertron Metroplex so today let’s take a look at Energon Omega Supreme. Not only is he a big figure, but he’s also a Headmaster too! This guy was a major pain in the ass to shoot because my regular staging area can barely handle 1:6 scale figures, so I had to cobble together a new backdrop with posterboard, scotch tape and alcohol-fueled determination. I’m also running on no sleep today, so apologies if today’s feature seems shoddy and rushed. There’s no package shot, so let’s jump right into his alt mode.

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Omega actually has two alt modes: A battleship and some kind of train with a giant claw on it. At least, I think I remember it being referred to as a train. I’d prefer to just think of it as a truck because if it’s a train, there aren’t going to be too many places where Omega’s two halves can rendezvous and hook up. Honestly, the battleship is by far my favorite of the two, because I have no idea what Hasbro was going for with the other one. If you want to you can string them together to make one long nonsensical vehicle, but I prefer not to because it would require an even bigger staging area than the makeshift one I’m using now.

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The battleship is probably not the most exciting toy around, but I do dig it a log. It had four rotating turrets and one of them fires off two missiles. There’s also a command tower that can transform to accommodate Omega’s Headmaster as a command module. The battleship has tiny wheels so it can roll along, but I prefer to think of this thing as a spaceship along the same lines as Space Battleship Yamato. There’s not a lot more to say about this half of Omega, so let’s check out his train… crane… truck… thingy.

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I shouldn’t be too hard on this half of Omega because it’s probably the more exciting toy of the two. I think the front half of it looks great. It’s part bullet train and it has that imaginative vibe to it that Energon and Cybertron were great for producing in their vehicles. It’s hinged in the middle and the claw on the back can rotate, raise and lower and extend outward. There’s a transparent canopy on the back which can open. I’m pretty sure there’s some special way the Headmaster can go in there, but I can’t remember how. That’s all I’ve got on the train half, let’s slap these things together and in the words of Hasbro themselves… BUILD GIANT ROBOT!!!!

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Omega certainly has a unique transformation among Transformers. Each vehicle basically becomes half of the robot, each with one arm and one leg, and then you stick them together. There’s very little transforming to do for the train half, whereas the battleship half needs a little more fiddling. Once you have the two halves together, you transform the Headmaster and you’ve got yourself Omega Supreme in all his patchwork glory.

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Honestly, when I look at this figure, I have no idea why I love it as much as I do. He’s kind of a cobbled together mess and his color scheme is all over the place. Nonetheless, I do indeed love him. I think the homage works pretty well, and there are just enough cool and thoughtful little things about his design that make me forget about the bad. The turrets on his shoulder, for example, are well placed as is the extra one on his left arm. I love the way he can still extend the crane arm out to reach out and crush Decepticons. There’s also just something so satisfying about playing around with his ridiculously strong ratcheting joints.

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Before wrapping up, I’d be remiss if we didn’t look at the Headmaster. As I recall, this was one of the most exciting things about this figure for me when he was released. I always loved the Headmaster gimmick and doing it on a figure this big offers lots of opportunities. The robot mode is quite good for what it is, but like most Headmaster’s it’s just a matter of taking a robot with a face on his back and folding him into a ball. This guy has a flip down shield to hide Omega’s face and make it look more like a backpack.

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Omega was repainted and released as Omega Sentinel. Naturally, I had to have him too, but he was sold off a year or so ago during one of my desperate struggles to make more room. That version had a more uniform paint scheme which didn’t serve the Omega homage all that well, but made for an all-around more attractive figure. Energon Omega was also retooled, repainted, and re-released this year as the Year of the Snake Edition and it is in every way superior to this original release. The only reason I haven’t picked that one up yet is because I have so much on my plate right now, but maybe next year if he’s still around I’ll scoop him up and retire this Energon version.