Playmates Voltron: Legendary Defender… Let’s Form Voltron!

Happy Hump Day, Toyhounds! I’m checking in with a little bonus Wednesday content today so that I can wrap up my review of Playmates’ Voltron Legendary Defender Lions, because the Classic ’84 Lions have hit stores, and this Netflix set is really just old news now. Yesterday, I had a look at the Black Lion and today I’m finally putting these five kitties together to form Voltron… Dyna-Thrusters are go… Let’s go Voltron Force!!!

And here he is, and straightaway, I’m very impressed with the way he turned out. He’s big, he’s heavy, he looks mighty damn good, and he’s a surprisingly stable robot that can be played with like an action figure without worrying about him coming apart. I’ll talk more about the playability here in a bit when I get to articulation, because there are some caveats. He’s certainly not as well proportioned and streamlined as the Utlimate Voltron, but that’s to be expected considering this one is actually formed from the separate Lion toys. We’ve had more than a few combining Lion Voltrons over the years, and overall I’d rank this one up with some of the best of them. It’s always a question of the right amount of compromise between the Lion toys and the combined mode, and I think this one did just about everything right.

When it comes to transforming the Lions and putting him together, there’s nothing terribly complex, although there are some things that are really neat. I absolutely love the way the legs on the Green and Red Lions completely fold away. The front legs store inside their respective Lions’ bodies and the rear legs are hidden nicely too. The result is a very streamlined look to the arms, which is more than I would have expected considering the price point on those guys. If you have the electronics set to On, Black Lion will comment on every step of the assembly. It acknowledges which Lion is being plugged in and calls on the next Lion to join. Sure, it can get annoying, but it’s also really damn impressive. And if you get tired of hearing it, there’s always an OFF button. I had every intention of doing a video of the electronics, like I did with the Black Lion, but wrestling with this guy on camera proved to be way beyond my patience. When separating the Lions, the legs simply eject by pushing the buttons on the backs of the knees. The arms have to be pulled out, and sometimes that can require a lot of force.

As I discussed in the reviews of the individual Lions, the paint and coloring on these has been fairly good with little flubs here and there, and all that carries over to the Voltron mode as well. The various colored plastic of the torsos and limbs are all nice and shiny, and the silver and gold paint looks especially nice. It would have been really cool if they could have painted all the gray plastic in that snappy silver, but I get how that would have been expensive, and probably would have had rubbing issues when it came to the combining. Here’s hoping the gray on this one won’t yellow over time like the shitty plastic Mattel used on theirs. One thing I do find a little hard to excuse, however, is the lack of paint on Voltron’s face. It’s a key area of the figure and it’s not all that big a surface. I think it would have looked so much better had they painted it silver instead of leaving it that bare gray plastic, and I don’t see how it would have broken the bank. It’s a shame, yes, but not a deal-breaker, and I had the same issue with the Ultimate Voltron figure too.

So let’s talk articulation. There are some useful points here and some not-so-useful ones. If you’re talking playability, I’d say there’s a ton of fun to be had here, but in terms of poseability, then not so much. Voltron looks great standing there on the shelf, but as soon as I try to get him into some cool poses, I find out that he really is a lot more limiting than I had hoped. From the waist down, things are actually not bad. The hips offer the possibility of a wide stance, the knee ratchets are pretty strong, and you do have those swivels in the thighs. One thing to note while posing the legs is that the front legs on the Blue and Yellow Lions do not lock into place and since these serve as heel spurs, this can be good and bad and bad news. The good news is it lets you tweak them for stability in different poses. This helps since there are no ankle tilts. The bad news is, sometimes they will give way under the weight of a pose. In fairness, I had the same problem with Matty’s far more expensive Classic Voltron, so it’s not something that is unique to this toy.

The articulation in the arms is a lot more problematic. The shoulders do not articulate at the points where the Lions connect, but rather further into the chest where the Black Lion’s shoulders are. This can look awkward and throw off his symmetry on certain poses. But my big problem is in the elbow hinges, which are constantly at odds with the compacted hind legs of the Lions. You can’t bend the elbow far at all before it bumps up against these, and that’s disappointing, because it practically renders the whole joint useless. You can, however, get some decent lateral movement out of the shoulders. There’s no articulation in the torso, which is to be expected, but the lack of rotation in the neck really bothers me a lot.

As for his accessories, Voltron’s Shield plugs into the Green Lion so it can be worn on his shoulder. The Sword is completed from the two parts that came with the Red and Green Lions.  The Shield looks great, but I’m not at all a fan of this Sword. Part of that has to do with the design, as it’s really the one thing I think they screwed up when designing the Legendary Defender version of Voltron. Everything about this guy is so sexy, but that swrod was a swing and a miss. The toy version doesn’t help matters, as it just looks cheap and flimsy and the clear plastic blade is prone to showing scratches. He can, however, hold it quite well.

I also dig how you can attach the Red and Green Lions’ weapons to give some some added firepower.

It may sound like I’m coming down really hard on this figure, but the truth is I’m actually pretty happy with it. I think Playmates walked that fine line between creating some great Lion toys and making a solid looking combined mode, and that isn’t at all easy. Not to mention they did it in a way that allowed this set to be sold off the pegs in the local toy aisle, as opposed to as a more expensive adult collectible. In the end, I can’t emphasize enough the subtle difference between playability and poseability. This is a fun toy to play with, even with some of the limitations in articulation. He stays together very well and he’s just a gloriously hefty amalgamation of plastic robot lion goodness. But if you’re looking for a Voltron that can pull off some great poses on your shelf, than the Ultimate Voltron is definitely the direction to go. For me, having both really is the only answer.

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Voltron: Legendary Black Lion by Playmates

I was hoping to have finished my look at Playmates’ Voltron: Legendary Defender Lions before the end of last year, but that didn’t pan out. Hope y’all didn’t think I forgot, because I didn’t. I just got side-tracked in the craziness that was 4th Quarter. But I recently started picking up some of Playmates’ Classic Voltron Lions and that proved to be just the ticket to motivate me to wrap up my look at these guys from the Netflix series. Fair is fair, I can’t start opening those until I’ve wrapped up my reviews of these kitties. So, let’s check out the Black Lion today, and tomorrow I’ll come back and have a look at Voltron himself. And in case you missed it, here are my reviews of the Yellow and Blue Lions, as well as Red and Green.

While the previous Legendary Lions came on huge carded bubbles, Black Lion comes in a window box, which offers a great look at the toy from multiple angles and also has a Try Me hole so you can fire off some of the electronic phrases & sounds. Personally, I wish all the Lions came packaged like this one. Technically, the package is collector friendly, but it would probably take a lot of patience and determination to get Black Lion out without mangling the tray. There are a lot of rubber bands and some zip ties holding him in place so a Blazing Sword, or razor comes in handy. The back of the package shows you a picture of the toy and also the proper way to connect all the Legendary Lions together to form Voltron.

Out of the box, I find this guy to be pretty damn impressive. Obviously, he’s the biggest Lion in this pride, and the stylish wings on his back give him an even larger appearance. As with the other Lions, the quality of the plastic here feels really good in hand, and thanks to both the size and the electronics, he has a nice heft to him. Playmates has been able to maintain a uniform aesthetic throughout the entire set, while still instilling a little bit of individuality to each of these big cats, and that’s certainly true of The Black Lion as well. I think they’ve done a nice job recreating the animated models in toy form. He features that same great mix of angles and curves that walks the fine line between paying homage to the originals and yet still managing to look fresh and new. The coloring on the toy is mostly achieved through the plastic, which is predominantly a mix of black and gray. The black has a nice sheen to it, whereas the gray is a bit more matte. The red plastic used for the wings looks great, and you get some snappy silver paint as well.

The majestic wings attach to the body with rotating hinges, so you have several options on how you want to display them. I kind of dig them straight up and back, but they look pretty cool when they’re angled too. The tail on this kitty isn’t as bendy as on the others, and it’s designed to stay so that it’s curving up and away from the body, which looks really good. Overall, the leg articulation is similar to the other Lions, although you lose a bit of it in the hind legs so that they can serve as Voltron’s hips. The rotation at the tops of the legs doesn’t any further forward than you can see above. Also the middle hinges in the hind legs are designed to only bend backwards. In the end, this guy isn’t quite as poseable as his peers, but there’s still plenty of fun to be had with him.

The head sculpt is very nicely done and gives this big cat a lot of personality. The paint is overall pretty solid, but there’s a little white slop on my Lion near the nose. I’m still satisfied with how he turned out. These are, after all toys, and not very expensive ones at that. Black Lion’s mouth will open, but you’ll see Voltron’s face peeking back at you, so it’s best to keep it closed.

As with the other Lions, this guy comes with a pilot sled that can be stored in a hatch in the belly. As I’ve said before, this gimmick doesn’t do a whole lot for me, but it doesn’t hurt the toy either, so I’m fine with it. There’s also a button on the side of the Lion that allows you to fire off some of the phrases and sounds, as well as light up his chest. Likewise, there’s an On/Off switch on his back in case you want him to be quiet. Here are some of the sounds and phrases he says…

There may be a few more in there, but after a while he started repeating, and I think you get the idea. The chest light isn’t all that apparent in the Lion mode, because it’s pointing at the ground and kind of hidden underneath him, but it’s mostly designed for the combined Voltron mode.

The Black Lion seems to be selling at most places for around $30. I paid $25 for mine, and it feels like a pretty good deal. Playmates did a beautiful job with this kitty and, like the others, he’d be a damn fun toy even if he didn’t combine with the others to for The Big Guy. Looking back, I remember being happy enough with the Ultimate Voltron that I was considering passing on this version. But now that I have a complete set, and I see how great they look all lined up, I can confidently say that I’m very happy that I decided to collect these. It’s also good to know that there are proper Voltron toys on the shelves for the kids to enjoy, because these would have blown my little mind back in the day. Come on back tomorrow morning and LET’S FORM VOLTRON!!!

Voltron: Legendary Red Lion by Playmates

I had planned to look at both the Red and Green Lions last Thursday, but I was only able to get Green in time, so this week, I’m going to take a look at Red. It actually worked out fine, because I’m a little pressed for time today and needed to do a quickie… and after reviewing four of these kitties, this should indeed be quick!

We’ve seen this packaging three times so far, and Red’s isn’t any different. The card and bubble are not collector friendly, but it does offer a good look at what you’re getting. The inserts are personalized to fit the lion and the package shows you where Red goes when he combines with the others to form Voltron!

Of all the lions, Red and Green are the most similar to each other, both in size and overall aesthetic. The legs share the same molds and the differences in the bodies are very minor. I realize similarities are to be expected for the sake of Voltron’s symmetry, but I think the designs for Blue and Yellow (Voltron’s legs) were better distinguished. That’s not to say I’m disappointed. This sculpt is sleek and curvy and absolutely beautiful and the the heads are each unique.

Playmates picked a fantastic shade of red plastic, which looks great along with the black, gray, and silver paint. You also get a little bit of yellow at the base of the tail and some light blue paint apps on the hind legs. None of my lions have had poor paintwork, but I think Red here is probably the tightest. There aren’t any nicks in the white around the mouth and the slop is kept to a bare minimum. Given that these are most definitely toys and not collectibles, I’m quite happy with how they turned out.

And yes, the little pilot sled accessory is still included and can be stored in the hatch under the belly. I wish they were able to keep the paint apps on these that are shown on the package and promotional materials. Or that I had the skills to paint them up myself. As it stands, I don’t have a lot of use for these other than the way they really convey how enormous these lions are supposed to be.

The articulation is identical to the Green Lion, which means you get hinges in the hips, knees, and ankles of each leg, all of which contain ratchets. The head can rotate side to side but cannot look up or down. The jaws are spring loaded and the elbow joint for the arm mode gives him the ability to bend left or right in the middle, which is useful for posing.

As with the other lions, Red comes with a back-mounted weapon. In this case it’s called a Magma Beam Launcher. It’s fairly similar to Green’s weapon and as big and goofy as it is, I really don’t mind it too much. I do think it’s unfortunate that they couldn’t cast the missile in a red translucent plastic instead of the blue they used for Blue’s Ice Beam.

Red also includes the other half of the Blazing Sword. which features a translucent blue blase. Like Green, he can hold it in his jaws, but I don’t think it looks as good with him carrying it as the Green lion does wielding his half.

Playmates has produced yet another fun lion to add to the team. Right now, I’d say that Red is contending with Blue to be my favorite, but they’re all quite good. He even escapes the one minor gripe I have with these and that’s the paint on the others could have been a bit better. With that having been said, I’m happy to have most of this Pride of Lions assembled. Next up will be Keith’s Black Lion and after that I’ll be able to check out Voltron. And fear not, convertorobo fans, next week, I hope to be turning my attention back to Transformers proper at least for a week or two before coming back to Voltron!

Voltron: Legendary Green Lion by Playmates

As I’ve been threatening for the past couple weeks, I’m switching gears back to Voltron on Transformers Thursday for a couple of weeks. I had actually planned on looking at both the Green and Red lions today, but when I stopped off at the store to finally buy them, Red was gone. I wound up ordering him online, but he won’t make it on time and the show must go on so Green is going solo today.

The packaging is essentially the same as we saw last time for Blue and Yellow. It takes a mighty big bubble and card to contain this kitty, but the packaging is colorful and looks great. The bubble insert has an ad for the Netflix series and also shows that the Green Lion can form Voltron’s left arm, once you collect all five of the Legendary Lions! Alas, this packaging is far from collector friendly, so give me a moment to tear it open and we’ll check out Pidge’s ride!

There are a couple of things that I dig straightaway. First off, despite being an arm, he isn’t much smaller than the two leg Lions. That’s a big step ahead from my Toynami Masterpiece Classic Voltron where Red and Green are considerably smaller. I’ll include a comparison shot of the three Legendary Lions at the end. Yes, I know the more uniform size is going to come back and bite me when I get them combined and deal with Voltron’s proportions, but right here and right now, I like the scaling. I also really love the individualized styling of each lion. Green is a little less boxy than Yellow and Blue, but they still fit in beautifully with one another. And despite Green having an elbow joint in the middle of his body, he still looks great, and it adds that little extra bit of articulation to what is already a very posable toy. All the joints in the legs are strong giving him the ability to hold almost any pose.

Overall, the coloring is pretty good. The green plastic is bright and both the green and the black plastic are shiny. They both really pop next to the flatter gray. I do wish the paint was a little tighter on these lions. It’s not terrible, but the white paint on the face could have used another coat. It’s got a few chips in it and you can see some unevenness in the brush strokes. Yeah, this is a fairly inexpensive toy, not a collectors’ item, so I’m willing to be a little more forgiving than usual.

And yes, the Green Lion also includes a tiny pilot sled, which can be loaded into the opening door in his belly. The package shows the pilot fully painted, but in reality it’s just a black molded blob sitting in the sled. The only thing that I find cool about these is that they give you an idea of the enormous scale of the Lions.

As we saw with the Yellow and Blue Lions, each one of these comes with a special weapon that attaches. Green Lion has a giant missile launcher, which pegs into his back. Pidge’s Lion is supposed to harness the power of nature, and this thing is referred to on the package as a “Vine Launcher,” but it shoots a blue missile like the Blue Lion’s ice beam. The least they could have done is cast this missile in translucent green plastic. I wasn’t a fan of Hunk’s big disk launcher, but I liked Lance’s weapon, Pidge’s here falls somewhere in between. It’s not as stylish as Lance’s, but at least it can pivot and fire in different directions. I don’t hate it.

The Green Lion also comes with Voltron’s Shield and the back half of The Blazing Sword. The shield pegs into the back of the lion and the sword can be held in the Lion’s mouth, thanks to the spring-loaded jaws. Pretty rad!

With the two previous lions already on my shelf, The Green Lion fell right in line with my expectations. He looks good and he’s a fun toy. He’s also a damn fine value for the money. Green ran me exactly fifteen bucks at the local Big Box and I’m impressed that Playmates can put out a toy this cool for so little money. Hell, that’s less than a 6-inch Hasbro figure and about the same price as a Deluxe Class Transformer. He’s a good sized kitty with lots of articulation and he includes a bunch of extra stuff. Next week I’ll check out Red Lion and then get back to a few Transformers before moving on to the Black Lion!

Voltron: Legendary Blue and Yellow Lions by Playmates

I warned you all it was coming! Voltron has invaded Transformers Thursday and he ain’t gonna leave quietly. Well, truth be told, I have some new Transformers figures on their way to me, but they haven’t arrived yet so I needed filler! Still, after how much fun I had with the Ultimate Voltron, I thought I might as well check out Playmates’ Legendary, combining lions. Today I’m checking out Lance’s Blue Lion and Hunk’s Yellow Lion!

The lions come carded, which is pretty surprising as these are fairly good sized toys and larger than you’re average Voyager Class Transformers figure. The packaging lets you see lions very well and while the card look generic on the front, the backs are actually personalized for each lion. They also advertise the Netflix series, which, if you haven’t seen it, you should check out, because it’s surprisingly great. As attractive as the packages are, the downside is that they’re not collector friendly. Inside, you get the lion, a rather large weapon with projectiles, and a very tiny pilot with sled. Let’s open them up and let them loose!

I really love the look of these guys and I think they match the animated models quite well. They’ve got just the right mix of organic curves and squared off edges, making this an aesthetic that I can really get behind. They also compromise very little in favor of their ability to transform. The coloring is also very flashy, with base colors achieved through colored plastic and both the yellow and blue looking suitably bright and glossy. They also each have some red, white, and silver paint apps in all the necessary places. In a lot of ways, I’d say these cats can stand up to Matty Collector’s more expensive classic lions.

Another thing I really dig is that this pair are slightly different in size. Hunk’s lion is slightly larger and bulkier than Lance’s and each of the lion’s head sculpts are unique. I’m interested to see how the scaling difference effects Voltron, since they both form his legs, but I’m sure it’ll work out fine.

The articulation on these cats also stacks up quite nicely. The front legs feature ratcheting joints at the “shoulders,” “elbows” and “ankles.” The back legs have the same with an extra added ratchet between the “knee” and “ankle.” The tails are made of a bendy material and the jaws are springloaded and can open and close. That last bit, is a little disappointing, as it means you can’t display them with the mouths open. Also, there’s no articulation in the middles and the only articulation in the necks allow for the heads to move up and down.

Each lion comes with a teeny tiny pilot in sled. These go a long way to demonstrate the enormous scale of the lions and they can fit into opening compartments in their bellies. Honestly, I could have done without these. The shots of these on the package show them having paint apps on the little pilots, but that didn’t carry over to the actual toys. Once they’re in the lions, I doubt I’ll ever take them out again.

And speaking of features I could have done without, each lion also comes with a ridiculously oversized weapon that can mount on their backs. Hunk’s is an “armored disk launcher” and boy does this thing look stupid. It also doesn’t really match the cannon that Hunk could summon in the cartoon. It clips onto the lion’s back and it comes with four translucent blue disks. I’ll grant it this, it does shoot quite well! Obviously, I don’t need to use if I don’t want to, it just clips on and off, but it’s a whole lot of plastic invested in something I don’t plan on using a lot.

Lance’s lion features an ice beam, which translates into shooting a translucent blue missile. I actually don’t mind this thing as much as Hunk’s. The twin blades that reach out over the lion’s head looks kind of cool and once again, it shoots really well. Hey, I know these are toys, and I’m sure kids will have endless fun shooting these things off.

I’m not sure what the original MSRP on these lions are, but I picked mine up off of Amazon for about fifteen bucks a piece and it’s hard to argue with that. These figures are made really well and look great. Overall, the quality is loads better than what I was expecting. It goes without saying that I’ll be picking up the rest of the Legendary Lions, but next Thursday, I hope to be back to looking at an actual Transformer and then I’ll just alternate for the rest of the month.