Transformers Armada: Sideways with Rook and Crosswise by Hasbro

I honestly thought I’d have some more Generations Deluxes for today’s Transformers Thursday, but I’m waiting to ship my Pile of Loot, so it might be another week or so. In the meantime, I dug my salty mitts into the Armada bin again and this time I pulled out Sideways. And then I had to go back in after his two Minicons. Sideways is a convaluted figure, so let’s jump right in and get started with a look at his alt mode….

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Sidways is a purple and yellow sports cycle. Ah, it’s all coming back to me now… “back on Cybertron they called my Sideways. I guess I’m a bit of a drifter.” No, Sideways, you’re a bit of a douchebag! I don’t remember a lot about muscling my way through the Armada cartoon, but I do remember hating this guy with a white hot passion. Him and that damn butt-rock guitar riff that they trotted out every time he was on screen. Was he an Autobot? Was he a Decepticon? Who cares? In the end he was dick. Of course, I got the toy before I ever saw his character in the series, so I just figured his faction swap gimmick was something like Punch and Counterpunch. And I kept believing that even after I was shown different in the cartoon.

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Sideways’ motorcycle mode is a bit chunky, but designing transforming motorcycles can be tricky. I think the only figure that ever got it really right was Cy-kill and he was a f’cking Go-Bot! Ok, G1 Wreckgar wasn’t that bad either. My point is, if you try to make the alt mode too perfect, you’re going to come away with a monstrosity like Lugnutz from the Cybertron line. You can go see for yourself, but don’t worry… I’ll get to him eventually. Anyway, I do like Sideways’ alt mode well enough. The paint and deco are awesome and if you combine his Minicons, Rook and Crosswise, they can ride him. Ok, I might as well talk about his Minicons, because that’s where things get all sorts of crazy.

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So, there they are, Rook and Crosswise, and they are an odd pair in the world of Minicons. Don’t ask me which one is which, because I don’t know. And for godsakes, don’t tell me, because I don’t care. What do they turn into? Well each one on their own does serve a special function… they’re basically like headmasters, but before we get to that they can combine into one robot rider for Sideways.

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There’s his combined mode. All in all, not too shabby for what it is. Thanks to a generous helping of ball joints, the combined mode is actually kind of fun to play around with. Hasbro has done at least one Minicon combiner since, but the fact that this guy is just two robots makes him more impressive to me. Some paint hits on that head sculpt wouldn’t have gone amiss.

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He also sits on the bike rathe well, thanks to the assistance of a tab that comes out of his butticular region. He also has little notches in his hands so he can sort of grip the handle bars. All in all, this is some pretty good engineering for a 10 year old line of Transformers and I’d like to see Hasbro try something similar again. Ok, let’s lay these two crazy little bots aside for a moment and look at Sideways in his robot mode.

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Call me crazy, but I dig it. I always have. I get a major later-G1 toy vibe off of this guy. His transformation is quite simple, but all the more clever for it. The way the front of the bike becomes his chest works really well and I love the way his translucent neon exhaust pipes become arm mounted missiles. Cool! I also love the way his wheels fold up and pack on his back. I’m a big fan of symmetry in my Transformers and such a characteristic is sadly lacking from a lot of transforming motorcycles. The only thing that throws off Sideways’ symmetry are the wheels peaking up over his shoulders, and I can live with that. Did I mention how much I dig the paint and deco on this guy? I think I did, but it’s worth repeating because it serves him just as well in robot mode.

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And then there’s that head. It’s a cylindrical bucket reminiscent of a knights helmet with the handlebars becoming antlers. Did somebody say Ni? His Minicons should have transformed into shrubbery. They don’t. But they do transform into two different heads for Sideways and when you plug each one in it reveals a different faction symbol in his chest.

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As far as gimmicks, go this one isn’t terrible. Like I said earlier, it’s a very cool nod back to the Headmasters and the way they would reveal the figure’s stats in the chest. I’m pretty sure, my figure is messed up, though, because I would think the black (and more sinister looking) head is supposed to reveal the Decepticon emblem and the white head the Autobot emblem. Mine is the other way around. And if you aren’t a fan of the handlebar antlers on the stock head, I’ve got bad new for you: The faction heads have antlers made out of the Minicons legs. Although, if the bother you, you can fold them back a bit.

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In a lot of ways, this is a fun figure and I feel bad about not embracing the Headmaster gimmick here, just because Hasbro should get points for trying it. It’s a neat feature, I kind of like it, but I never display this guy with the faction heads. I just prefer to go with the stock figure and stand his combined Minicons in front of him. Unless he’s displayed in alt mode and in that case I always have the two combined and riding him. Of course, Hasbro repainted this mold and used it again in the Energon line for Rapid Run, but I’ll save that for another day. Maybe next week I’ll have some new Generations figures to look at. If not, it’ll be another nostalgic trip to the Armada tote.

 

Transformers Armada: Thrust with Inferno by Hasbro

My well of Generations and Classics figures has run dry for now, so until something new turns up, I’ll be back to digging into the Unicron Trilogy toys for my Transformers Thursdays. Today I reached into the Armada bin and pulled up… Deluxe Class Thrust! When Armada first came out I was newly returned to the toy collecting scene. Everything was fresh and exciting and I was positively drunk with a desire to get the figures as soon as possible, and for some reason I was especially obsessed with finding Cyclonus and Thrust. I would make regular trips to all the Targets, Kmarts, and Walmarts in the area and kept coming up empty. Finally, I broke down and paid a premium for them on Ebay. A few days later I was picking up cold medicine in a CVS or Walgreens and there were both figures hanging on the pegs in their pathetic little toy aisle. What were the odds of that? I still bought them and so I do still have carded examples of both figures floating around somewhere, but I couldn’t find the carded Thrust in time for today’s review, so let’s jump straight to the alt mode.

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As the name suggests, Thrust is a jet. In retrospect it’s odd that they went with a Deluxe jet so early in the line when they already had Starscream and later Skywarp and Thundercracker covered as larger toys. It’s even more odd when you consider how many repaints Hasbro got out of this mold. The mold itself has that rather toyish looking charm that characterized just about all of the Armada toys, and yet it still manages to pack a ridiculous amount of detail in the sculpt. This thing has sculpted panel lines, exposed engine parts, a VTOL fan, and even tiny rivets scattered across the body. And man, how I loved Armada’s sculpted faction emblems. The Decepticon emblem on his wing is gorgeous. If it weren’t for the giant goofy flick-fire missiles slung under the wings, this would have been a far more serious looking jet.

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Thrust’s deco is also rather schizophrenic. The gray body has a wonderful wash over it, which evokes a slight camo motif, but then the neon green missiles and mint green paint apps on the wings throw any realism out the window. Still, extra little touches like the red and silver paint hits betray a time when Hasbro was willing to throw a lot more money into the coloring of their Deluxe figures.

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Thrust’s Minicon buddy is Inferno and he’s one of my favorites. His alt mode is a missile truck and he has a very simple but effective transformation that gives him a simple four points of articulation. Still, what’s up with that face sculpt? He looks like a bird wearing a monocle. Why was Armada so obsessed with giving the Transformers crazy faces?

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Inferno can ride on Thrust’s back when they are both in vehicle mode, and this feature is easily my favorite thing about Thrust. Inferno doesn’t just get plugged on top, but he’s actually got a little compartment between the tail fins made for him to sit. He works so perfectly in there that Thrust’s jet mode looks a bit odd to me without Inferno riding along. Of course, it also helps that Inferno adds a missile launcher to Thrust’s arsenal. This kind of interplay between their vehicle modes is great, especially considering Thrust’s Minicon gimmick when he’s in robot mode is so ridiculous that I’m not even going to showcase it.

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And here we are in robot mode and man is Thrust a hot mess. Let me start out by saying I get a HUGE Beast Machines Vehicon vibe off of this guy and I don’t mean that in a good way. Yeah, Beast Machines Tankor is still one of my favorite Deluxe Transformers of all time, but he’s the exception to the rule. Most of Thrust’s design problems lie in his arms and legs. His arms have lots of tail fin kibble, which gets in the way of a lot of posing. He also doesn’t have hands, just thrusters to use as weapons. I don’t have a problem with Transformers having one gun hand. I actually kind of like it. But, c’mon guys, how does the dude get through life without at least one workable hand?

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The legs, however, are the real mess here. The missile launchers that are mounted on his knees could not be more awkwardly placed. You can take the missiles out to help a bit, but that’s a cheat and the launcher stubs still look fugly there. Also, check out the hollowed out tail that hangs down between his legs. The pegs on it are what his legs peg into in vehicle mode. Having them so close to his legs in their natural position is just terrible design. You might as well just leave them pegged in. Bah!

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The deco in robot mode also takes a hit. Besides the bland grey plastic, he shows off a lot of that ugly neon green. At least he has those two lovely sculpted and painted Decepticon insignia in his shoulders. Mmm… pretty.

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And that’s Thrust for ya. I don’t enjoy speaking ill of the Armada line, but even my ridiculous nostalgic love for Armada can’t blind me to the fact that this figure has not aged well. Then again, it was never one of my favorites back then either. That’s kind of ironic considering how much I went through to find him and that I wound up with two of them. Still, based solely on his pedigree as an Armada figure, I can’t totally hate on him. He’s got a strange charm to him and having Cyclonus and Demolisher on the shelf without him just wouldn’t seem right. The crazy thing is, I also have two of the subsequent repaints of this mold, but I’ll save them for another day.

Transformers Armada: Optimus Prime with Overrun by Hasbro

Last week on Transformers Thursday I looked at a Deluxe Prime toy that left me less than enthused. I hate ragging on Transformers, so I thought this week I’d dig out one of my favorite Deluxe treatments of the character. He hails from the Armada line and while he was a huge departure from the G1 Prime we knew, I fell in love with this toy the first time Hasbro leaked the official pictures. If you haven’t already heard me gas on about Armada, the line holds a lot of nostalgia for me. Sure, I got back into collecting Transformers with Robots in Disguise, but that line always felt like a cobbled together mess. When Armada rolled out it felt like a real cohesive toyline and I was all over it. While I do still have a bunch of Deluxe Armada figures Mint on Card, Prime isn’t one of them, so let’s jump right in and start with his alt mode.

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As a red and blue semi-cab, Prime still honors his most iconic alt mode, but there’s enough of a futuristic bent to this new design that makes it totally distinctive. With the way the hood hunches up and the front fenders flare out, this truck looks like it would be at just as at home driving the metal freeways of Iacon City as it would the pavement of Earth. Back then we didn’t have an actual Cybertronian Prime, and this figure worked well as a stand in. The low and wide profile, chunky grill and ramming bar also makes it look like a powerful and rugged vehicle that’s ready for battle. The coloring here is firmly rooted in Prime’s past, using a very pleasing combination of red, blue, and grey plastic. With the exception of the silver painted windshield and some gold, the truck mode shows its paint apps rather sparingly, but it’s still a great looking deco. In terms of reinventions go, I just love this design.

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Of course, like most Armada figures, Prime comes with a Minicon buddy and in this case, it’s Overrun, a little silver jet. The jet mode looks pretty good, and he even has a teeny tiny flip down front landing gear. He is, however, a little bland and I think some extra paint operations would have gone a long way to make him more striking. His robot mode is alright for a Minicon, but I can’t help but think it could have been a homerun if they had managed to fold the nose down flush with his chest instead of having it stick straight out. My last gripe with this guy is that his connection port is on top, which makes attaching him to Prime in vehicle mode a little awkward. How cool would have been if he could just sit on Prime’s hitch and launch off the back, especially since Prime isn’t using that hitch for anything else.

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And then there’s the robot mode, and oh my, this is an interesting design. Like his alt mode, this looks like a Prime that is ready to charge into battle. Gone are the windshields on his chest and in their place is that beefy grill that he wears like a slab of armor. He’s got the shoulders of a linebacker, giant wheels studding his legs, and his exhaust pipes become dual arm-mounted guns. This is clearly a version of Prime that you don’t mess with. It’s a totally new look for the leader of the Autobots and it totally works for me. On the other hand, Prime purists should be very happy with the very familiar head sculpt, which is possibly one of my favorite portraits of the character in this size class. Whoever designed this guy gets my sincerest compliments.

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That’s not to say this figure doesn’t have a few problems. First and foremost, those exhaust pipes pop off at the drop of a hat. The fact that I still have them is just pure luck, as I’ve recovered them from rattling around in the bottom of a tote plenty of times. At least they aren’t clear like the ones on the bigger version of this figure. Next up, his forearms do not like to stay in the right position and tend to slide out over his fists when playing around with him. And speaking of playing around with him, the articulation on this guy is a little rough. It’s not that the points aren’t there, but rather a lot of the sculpt is at odds with good poseability. It’s like a guy in a suit of armor trying to do gymnastics.

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There’s nothing I love more than Targetmaster-style Minicons, and Overrun can indeed transform into a gun for Prime to wield in either hand. As for as tertiary gun modes go this Overrun’s isn’t too bad. That’s a good thing because the Minicon gimmick on this figure sucks. You plug Overrun into the post on Prime’s back and it creates this horribly lame punching gimmick. It really is dreadful and best forgotten.

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And yet I love this figure even with its blemishes, mainly because he just looks so bad ass on the shelf. When you have an iconic character like Optimus Prime, messing around with his look is a huge gamble, especially when you’re trying to re-launch the franchise. This new Prime was a bold move on Hasbro’s part and I think it paid off in spades. This is an Optimus Prime that looks like he’s built for combat and it’s a refreshing change. Of course, there was also a larger version of this figure that came with his trailer, but I still prefer this Deluxe version for reasons I’ll get into when I finally get around to covering the big guy.

Transformers Armada: Demolisher with Blackout by Hasbro

Alrighty folks, Transformers Thursday is back in business. Sorry about last week, but taking Thanksgiving off was necessary for my sanity. Today I pulled a random figure from one of the many Transformers drawers and low and behold it is Demolisher from Transformers Armada. Ah, the Armada days. I took to this line like crack, and it was not uncommon for me to make midnight runs to three different Walmarts just to hunt down a pointless Powerlinx repaint of a figure that I already owned. I was in pretty deep. As a result, let’s check out both versions of Deluxe Class Demolisher. There’s no packaging to look at, so let’s just skip to the alt mode.

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Demolisher’s vehicle mode is some kind of crazy mobile-missile-launcher-tank-thingy. As a rule, Armada tended to be fairly grounded in many of its alt modes, but Demolisher is an example of the designers letting their freak flags fly and I like it. I think a lot of my love for this toy has to do with it just being an unabashed war machine. Also, I won’t deny that the giant Decepticon emblem molded into the front tickles my fancy. While Robots in Disguise fiddled about with Predacons (and a few proper Decepticons), Armada brought the Decepticons back in full force and it was good to see this emblem on all the bad guys again. I really loved the way the Armada toys had the emblems included as part of the sculpt, rather than just paint apps or tampos. It may seem like an odd detail to fixate on, but then I’m a pretty odd guy. The mold here is crazy with sculpted detail, particularly on the tread covers. Hasbro did not skimp on the details here, nor were they frugal with the paint apps. I can’t even imagine a Deluxe Transformer nowadays having this much color. There’s even a paint wash over certain parts to further enhance the sculpting. This toy is just loaded with reasons why I still love Armada so much.

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Of course, it’s hard to not love Armada when you get a little Transformer with each figure. In this case, Demolisher came with Blackout. He’s a little military truck with a simple and clean looking robot mode, but sadly not much of a face. He also has guns for hands, which if you’re a Decepticon, probably comes in handy. HA! I said it comes in HANDY! Obviously Blackout skipped the face line and got on the gun-arm line twice. Probably a good choice. Anyway, in terms of Minicon design, you can’t get much better than Blackout. He’s just a fun and solid little guy.

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Before we get to Demolisher’s robot mode, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that there’s some pretty good play value packed into this Demolisher’s alt mode. His turret swivels, he can fire off two of his four missiles via the Minicon port, he can angle his top guns into various positions including to cover his own back. There’s also two ways Blackout can interact with him. In his truck mode, Blackout will plug right into the front to give Demolisher some chin guns and there’s a button on the back to eject him. There’s also a fold out seat in the back, which Blackout can use in robot mode. I love this last part because having the little bot operate the bigger bot in vehicle mode is so very Headmastery in concept. Headmastery. It’s a word. Look it up. Actually, it isn’t… so don’t.

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Demolisher’s transformation is pretty simple, but still features some clever engineering, and man do I love his robot mode. He looks like the love child of a Transformer and a MechWarrior robot. The missiles coming up off the top of his shoulders look suitably imposing and the five gun barrels from his alt mode make up each of his hands. Let me rephrase that… HOLY SHIT, DEMOLISHER HAS GUNS FOR FINGERS!!! If that’s not cool enough for you, you can mis-transform his arms so that he still has his guns and missile launchers while in robot mode. It really plays off on the whole Mechwarrior vibe and I love it. This is a Decepticon that I would want alongside me in a fight. He’s just a lumbering machine of death.

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The only gripe I’ve ever had with Demolisher is his head sculpt. Armada had some really questionable head sculpts, and Demolisher’s gritting teeth, black face and giant green left eye have always left me a little wanting. I can’t deny he has a lot of personality, but the portrait lacks the detail of the rest of the toy. That having been said, it’s kind of grown on me over the years.

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Of course, many of the Armada figures were repainted into Powerlinx versions. I’m usually fine with repaints when they are used to make a new character, but repainting a figure to replace an existing figure as the same character doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. Of course, that didn’t stop me from buying all the Powerlinx figures. In this case, Powerlinx Demolisher is a rather unnecessary repaint because I don’t think the recolor does him much justice. It’s not better, just different. The gold plating on the front looks good, and I don’t mind the maroon plastic replacing the tan, but the white camo-motif is pretty weird. I just don’t get what they were going for here. A much better repaint was released later on in the G1 Constructicon colors. It’s a beautiful figure, but one that I sadly lost in a flood about five years back. I don’t mean it was swept away by flood tides. I mean the storage flooded and the boxes were saturated with mold and had to be destroyed. As much as I wanted to save the toys in them, I wasn’t willing to risk getting tuberculosis in the attempt.  I’ll have to replace him eventually.

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Demolisher is about as fun a Transformer figure as I can think of. He’s chunky and packed with sculpted detail and play features. The engineering may have gotten more sophisticated over the years, but if I were a kid I’d much rather play with this guy than most of the Deluxe figures we’ve had in the last couple of years. There are plenty of figures from the Armada days that haven’t aged all that well, but I certainly don’t think that Demolisher here is one of them. In fact, I was quite surprised how much enjoyment I got out of pulling him out for this feature and playing around with him again. It made me want to put all my Deluxe Armada figures out on display again, and I even started eyeing some shelves to see if a display rotation was in order. Then again, if I do put my Armada Deluxes out it means I’d have to see this guy again. Maybe it’s not worth it.

Transformers Cybertron: Menasor by Hasbro

Today I’m getting back to business as usual for Transformers Thursday with a genuinely random figure. I just walked into the Toy Closet, opened a drawer, and the first figure I put my hand on was Menasor from the Cybertron line. I seem to recall he was one of those instances where the name appeared in some retailers’ inventory system before the toy was actually announced or shown. I’m not sure if the character had been on the show at that point or not, since I never got far watching it. As a result, I was hoping for a combiner or some kind of proper homage to the Stunticons. Of course, what we got was something very different. As usual, there’s no packaging to talk about, so let’s jump straight to Menasor’s alt mode.

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One of my favorite things about the Energon and Cybertron lines were some of the imaginative and purely fictional vehicle designs and Menasor certainly fits that category. What is he supposed to be? I have no idea. I think the original package called him an Assault Dozer, which certainly fits the design. He looks like a cross between a construction vehicle and a battle tank. If this thing is rolling towards you, you can probably assume that shit is about to go down. He’s very alien looking, rolls along on four sets of tank treads and sports two forward pylons with an energon drill on one and a claw on the other. For an Ultra Class figure, this guy is a very simple toy. Roll him forward and his drill spins, and that’s about all he has to offer. He does have electronics, but the batteries in mine are long since dead and I can’t remember what they did. You need only look at him to figure out that he’s basically a robot lying down with his arms held out over his head and his legs folded up. This will no doubt irk many collectors, but it doesn’t bother me.

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But simple or no, Menasor’s alt mode is a beast of a war machine. As with most of this era of Transformers, he’s just loaded with sculpted detail. You get panel lines, textured vents, hatches, and little mechanical doo-dads all over the place. The paintwork also compliments the sculpt quite nicely. I’m particularly fond of the painted scratched metal on the areas near his drill and claw. It seems like a minor thing, but I love that Hasbro bothered to add such a detail and it remains some of the best paint work I’ve seen on a Hasbro Transformer. Autobots can charge this guy in waves and Menasor would probably just shrug them off and keep lumbering forward.

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If you buy your Transformers for their clever engineering and puzzle-like configurations, Menasor will disappoint. As his alt mode suggests, transforming him is a simple as stretching out his legs, connecting his pelvis together, positioning his arms, and folding down the plates that hide his head. Remember Cybertron Metroplex? We looked at him a month or so ago and the engineering here is fairly close. In fact, you can even see some similarities in the way the two toys’ alt modes are set up. Quite frankly, there are Cyberverse figures with transformations that are far more complex than this guy. Does that mean he’s got a bad robot mode? Nope, but he’s definitely not your average looking Transformer.

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Yes, I love this guy’s robot mode, but there’s something about it that just doesn’t feel like a Transformers figure. I lot of it has to do with his face, which sports a very, very Japanese aesthetic. Yeah, I know all these guys are designed in Japan, but I just look at his mug and I think it belongs more on a Megazord or something. Or maybe not. Truth be told, I wouldn’t know a Megazord if it stepped on me. Moving on…

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Menasor’s body is an amazing sculpt packed with all the little details that were present on his Assault Dozer mode. What’s even better is he’s loaded with paint apps. There’s more paint applications on this guy than we usually get in a whole wave of current Deluxes. The little vents are painted gold, there’s blue piping on his arms, and red points scattered around to really make him pop. Toss in the crisp Decepticon insignia on his chest and the flashy translucent blue energon parts and it’s hard to argue that this guy is both distinctive and beautiful.

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What he isn’t is well-proportioned, but that’s Ok. Menasor’s arms are made up of the front pylons of his Assault Dozer mode, which means he’s got a really long reach and no hands. Instead he’s got a giant claw and a drill. He’s not made for mingling at Decepticon social functions, he’s made for f’cking up Autobots. He’s also got a pair of guns on his chest that can pivot forward into firing position. If you’re an Autobot attacking this guy chances are you’re either going to get pulverized by his energon drill or snapped in half by his calw. Either way, you can probably kiss your Spark goodbye.

Menasor came with a Mini-Con called Heavy Load. I tend to keep the Mini-Cons that were originally bundled with a figure stuck on that figure so I don’t lose them, but Heavy Load wasn’t attached to Menasor. I emptied the whole drawer where Menasor was living, but I couldn’t find him. I went through all the bagged Mini-Con teams that were sold separately and he wasn’t in any of those. I was pretty bummed that I lost him because he’s actually an original sculpt and not just a repaint packed in. Then I suddenly remembered… he’s living in Menasor’s chest!

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Yeah, just another reason that Menasor is an odd figure. His chest opens and Heavy Load can chill out in there while in his robot mode!

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Heavy Load is a tiny Bulldozer-slash-Dump Truck. He’s a pretty simple little guy and he shares the same basic plastic coloring as Menasor. His transformation is pretty clever for such a little figure, but his robot mode looks good. He’s got pretty long arms like his daddy and his articulation is as good as you can expect from a Mini-Con pipsqueak. Menasor has a Mini-Con port on his claw arm and if you attach Heavy Load to it and slide him forward, the spike inside the claw extends outward. It’s not the most exciting Mini-Con gimmick around, but that’s why he spends most of the time living in Menasor’s torso.

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Menasor is quirky and weird and in no way is he a good example of clever Transformers engineering. And yet every time I take him out of his drawer I fall in love with him all over again. He has an imaginative design and there’s a whole lot of love invested in his sculpting and paint that make him stand out as something special, even when I stand him next to the current figures on my shelf. But best of all he’s just a fun and great looking toy. He’s not going to be every TransFans cup of tea, but he’s a cool and, dare I say, menacing Decepticon to have tearing his way through a squad of Autobot Deluxes. Or better yet, pit him against a bunch of Legion Class Cyberverse figures. In fact, I may go do that right now…

Transformers Cybertron: Vector Prime by Hasbro

I had fun looking at Cybertron Metroplex last week, so I thought I’d pull out another one of my favorite Cybertron figures that has hitherto escaped being featured on FigureFan Zero. He’s Vector Prime and holy shit was I excited when I saw the pre-production photos of this guy. I thought he was one of the most gorgeous Transformers ever made. This guy reminds me a lot of the movie style designs that were appearing in the later episodes of the Sunbow cartoon. There’s no in-package shot, so let’s just go right to his alt mode.

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Hells yeah! Vector Prime is a bitchin space cruiser. One of the things I love most about this design is that his transformation is bewilderingly simple, and yet the alt mode works incredibly well. The ship rests nicely on the bulky backside, complete with wheels, and he’s got some cool guns slung under there as well. There’s also a firing missile concealed in the nose of the ship.

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There’s so much sculpted detail on this ship that it’s easy to get lost in the clutter. The surface of the ship’s hull is littered, and I mean LITTERED, with exposed gears and while Hasbro did paint some panels of these with a nice gold application, I really wish I had the customizing skills to have at the rest. A little paint and a lot of time and patience would make Vector Prime’s alt mode even more amazing. But even as he stands now, it’s hard to think of another Transformer that got this much attention to detail in the sculpt. One day, I may at least have a go at panel lining him. Damn, do I love the design of this toy!

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In addition to the crazy detail in the sculpt and the snazzy paint apps, Vector Prime makes good use of translucent blue plastic for the windshield, tiny wings, and some sensor devices on his undercarriage. And then there are the solar panel wings on the sides. They look great in the clear blue, but the plastic is very soft and these things are ridiculously prone to warping. I made the mistake of putting mine lose in a storage tote a couple of years back and when I took him out they looked like they were beyond hope. A lot of effort with a hair dryer brought them back close to their original state, but these things are not to be trifled with!

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Another cool feature of Vector Prime is the way he incorporates his minicon, Safeguard. Most minicons just do their own thing and you can stick them onto the larger robots for power ups, but I always thought there was missed potential to better incorporate them into the designs of the bigger robot’s alt modes. Hasbro did a pretty good job with figures like Cyclonus and Thrust, but then didn’t seem to bother with others. With Vector Prime, there’s an actual indentation where Safeguard plugs in to give Vector Prime a huge cannon. Nice!

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As already mentioned, Vector Prime’s transformation is as easy as it gets. You just fold his legs out, position his arms, fold the front half of the ship into a backpack, and turn the head to face forward. It’s ridiculously simple, and yet the robot mode is a thing of beauty. He has one of my favorite headsculpts of any Transformer from the period and all that great sculpted detail from his alt mode carries over beautifully into his robot mode. The angled shoulder armor looks great, and the backpack isn’t too bulky. The solar panels fold neatly to his sides, and I even dig the way the hull plates slide ever so slightly back to better reveal his fists. I also really love that huge round compartment in his chest. The whole figure hits that sweet spot of late Sunbow aesthetic when there was more of an outer space orientation to the show and we got to see a lot of older Cybertronians that we didn’t see earlier.

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Did I forget to mention that Vector Prime has a translucent blue sword that stores conveniently in his backpack? He does!

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Let’s not depart without saying something about Safeguard, because he’s on my A-list of cool minicons. His alt mode is a little spaceship with a very large gun. As already mentioned, he incorporates nicely into Vector’s alt mode and can quickly detach to fly off on his own. Because most of his alt mode is one big cannon, he can conveniently attach to either of Vector’s arms to give some added fire power. I kind of wish, Hasbro had given him a post to fit in Vector’s hand because then he would have been a proper Target Master. He can also store away by attaching to Vector’s backpack.

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Safeguard sort of mimics Vector’s transformation. He’s definitely one of the better looking minicons in robot mode. He could use a few more paint apps on his torso, but otherwise he looks great and has nice articulation for a minicon. His arms rotate at the shoulders and have ball joints in the elbows. His legs rotate at the hips and have hinged knees.

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Vector Prime is pure Transformer love. Hasbro went crazy with him and it shows. I’m always happy to get another space-faring alt mode, and the robot mode’s design is both beautiful and bad ass. There’s a ton of clever elements to the design of this figure, and yet the transformation isn’t one of them. But he’s a great example of how you don’t necessarily need an over engineered transformation to make an amazing figure.  He’s one of my all-time favorites, and he can usually be found standing on display with my Classics collection. The mold has been brought out a few more times since his original 2005 release. At the ’07 Botcon he was repainted into the glorious Alpha Trion. It was a great use for the mold and it is a strikingly beautiful figure. I’d love to add him to my collection someday, but not enough to blow $450-500 on him. He was rolled out again in 2009 in a rather unfortunately f’ugly repaint as part of the Universe 2.0 collection. If he’s missing from your shelves and you don’t want to splurge on the Botcon exclusive, I recommend going with the original release. You can still pick him up for at or below his original MSRP of about $20-25, and he’s worth every damn penny.

Transformers Armada: Megatron with Leader-1 by Hasbro

Here we are at the final feature and I’m sure someone was wondering if I was going to get to Optimus Prime or Megatron in this week of Armada indulgences. Well, I purposely excluded Prime because one day I plan on doing a whole week dedicated to the Big Guy. I don’t have any such festivities planned for Megatron. It’s not that I have anything against the guy, I just don’t think he has the same cohesive line running through his various toys that would make for an interesting themed week. Nonetheless, Armada saw Megatron return as his most logical possible form: A tank. And unlike his G2 mode, this time, it’s a Cybertronian tank. And unlike his more recent Bayformer tank mode, this one actually looks like something other than a pile of razorblades.

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Yes, Armada Megatron is a tank, and while he’s without a doubt a sci-fi inspired Cyberton war machine, he still conforms to all the characteristics I come to expect from a tank. In other words, he’s a tracked vehicle with a big ass cannon. Works for me. So what if he has beetle pincers on the front as well? Why not? The turret spins around and fires off a missile and he has an additional dual missile launcher on top of that as well. Megatron features electronic lights and sounds and a terribly annoying and decidedly un-Megatrony voice chip that proclaims, “Decepticons, Attack!” Mmm’kay. Other gimmicks include a fold out launching ramp, which works well for little jet Minicons, and a hatch or prison to capture other Minicons. The green and neon orange color scheme doesn’t really scream Megsy to me, but it works really well for this toy.

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Transforming Megatron is laughably easy. You basically just straighten out his legs, fold out his arms, reveal the head and do a couple other tweaks. There’s no great secret as to how his conversion process works, and yet this is one of those figures where the lack of complexity in the transformation doesn’t bother me, because I like both forms so very much. In robot form, Megatron is really well proportioned and beautifully sculpted. Some may take issue with the way the pincer claw become what are essentially robo-antlers, but I think he looks majestically bad ass and I really dig his face sculpt. My only real gripe here is that I would have rather the cannon detach and re-attach to his arm, rather than peek out between his arm and torso like it does. Do what you will to Megatron, Hasbro, but you should always keep the arm cannon. Megsy also has this odd little gimmick where attaching a Minicon to his left arm and sliding it forward pushes a hidden dagger into his hand.

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Megatron also has a horribly shitty “Attack Mode” which consists of bringing the tank turret to his front. It serves no purpose other than to look ridiculous and give you an excuse to misfire the sound effects a couple hundred times. He will also combine with parts of Tidal Wave, but this gimmick looks even worse and I really don’t want to take the time to humiliate my Tidal Wave figure for no good reason.

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Megatron’s Minicon with the Go-Bot name is Leader-1 and he ranks up there with my favorites because he’s very simple and yet works wonderfully in both his attack vehicle and robot modes. Hell, in robot mode, this little guy has better articulation than most Armada toys. But the best thing about him his the way he can easily convert to a gun. Afterall, the idea of the Minicons is the bigger Transformers get more powerful by attaching Minicons to themselves. But I’m not all that convinced that sticking a bunch of cars and jets on their bodies is all that useful, unless their just using them as batteries. Leader-1, however, actually adds firepower by becoming a set of guns, and you can play around with all sorts of different permutations.

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As expected, Megatron was repainted and re-released, only not as Powerlinx Megatron, but as… yep, you guessed it… Galvatron. While I really like both toys, I do like Galvatron’s color scheme better and tend to refer to him as Megatron, mainly because I usually can’t remember which is which anyway.

[And that’s a wrap for Armada Week Extended. This weekend I’m going to hit a couple of Lego sets I built over the past couple of weeks. Not sure yet what to do with next week. I’ve got a few more themed weeks I’d like to try, but I suspect next week I’ll just be playing it by ear. So, until tomorrow… I’ve got a Tron Legacy Blu-Ray that needs watching. -FF]

Transformers Armada: Blurr with Incinerator by Hasbro

Time to get back to one of my favorites of Armada lineup and it’s Blurr. Is he another G1 homage? Meh, sort of. but not really. He is a futuristic grey-blue sportscar, but apart from that there isn’t a lot of similarities here in robot or vehicle mode to that fast-talking speedster of yesteryear. That’s not a bad thing, mind you, because this guy has a lot of cool things going for him all on his own.

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I loooove Blurr’s auto mode. It’s a super sleek futuristic car with a ton of character and a lot of sculpted detail. And hey look! Clear windows. As if the car design wasn’t cool enough, Blurr has a rather unique and extremely awesome Minicon gimmick. Instead of just pegging Incinerator onto a Port, you plug him into the slot in the back of Blurr’s car mode and the side panels spring out to reveal not only missile launchers, but a very cool flying car mode. It’s not a crappy flying car mode either where little white wings fold out (sorry, Tracks) and that’s it. No sir, the back wheels actually fold down to look like VTOL engines. The whole thing works really well.

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Transforming Blurr is a bit of a fidgity affair, especially for Armada where none of the toys were overly complex. There’s a couple of crucial shifts you need to do to make everything work, and a couple of spring-loaded movements, which I’m generally not fond of. But when you’re done Blurr looks really cool, even if he does have some severe backpack kibble and as a result is rather backheavy. The upswept shoulders look really nice and he can hold his missile launchers in both hands as weapons, which is a nice little plus. His head isn’t really a traditional Transformers design, but overall I like it, and a lot better than his animated counterpart that actually looked like there was a human head under all that. Blah, I hated that cartoon.

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As already noted, Blurr’s Minicon is Incinerator, which is rather an odd name for an Autobot orientated Minicon. It’s even stranger when you consider that he’s not some evil looking war machine, but rather just a little racecar. I’m tempted to hate him because in robot mode he has the whole front of his car mode hanging off of his right arm, but the rest of him looks so darn good, it’s easy to excuse the unsightly kibble. Especially in a Minicon. Besides, I suppose that can count as a weapon if he punches you in the face with it.

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Oddly enough, Blurr never got the Powerlinx makeover, but that didn’t stop Hasbro from getting their money’s worth out of the mold. He was repainted as Swerve in the Universe line, and later released in the Cybertron line, this time named Blurr again, but with a new and more G1-inspired head sculpt and tooled to take a Cyberkey. Of these my favorite is Swerve, just because the snazzy red paintjob really suits him. The mold had yet another outing as part of the 2008 Botcon Exclusive Shattered Glass set, and the only version of him that’s not in my collection.

Transformers Armada: Hot Shot with Jolt by Hasbro

Time is rapidly running out on Extended Armada Week, with only three entries left. I hadn’t originally planned on bringing Hot Shot to the table, but I reconsidered. Hot Shot was, afterall, intended as a major character in the toyline, and he’s one that I would have probably resisted buying if I hadn’t been so mad with the Armada Fever at the time and buying everything in sight. He’s one of those figures that really makes me sit back and ponder that these are toys designed for kids, not aging alcoholics geeks pushing 40 looking at them as collectibles. Hot Shot is a fantastic toy, but as a collectible, he really sucks. Let’s see why.

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Hot Shot’s auto mode is not that bad. Yes, it looks very toyish, maybe a little super deformed. The painted windows don’t help much and the blinding bright yellow plastic is a bit much on the eyes. I do kinda dig the removable engine that sits exposed on top of the hood. The car holds together really well and rolls great, and it has a chunky, sturdy build to it that seems like it would stand up really well to kids crashing it and roughhousing with it. You can’t say that for a lot of Transformers that have come since. Pressing down on the engine springs open Hot Shot’s front bumper into what I assume is supposed to be a capture claw or something. He has three Minicon Ports on his spoiler, but none of them are live.

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Transforming Hot Shot is pretty easy, and what you get is one really goofy looking robot. His blinding canary yellow is now accompanied by a bright red, which doesn’t help things along much, but is probably helpful if you’re trying to get a little kid with ADD to play with it. The engine block plugs into his chest for a little added detail and while he has ball jointed hips and decent articulation in the legs, his arms are totally worthless. His head features a flip down visor, which is nice because it covers that, dopey “hey guys, come steal my milk money” look he’s got on his puss. Jamm, indeed.

In robot form, Hot Shot’s Minicon gimmick is actually pretty cool. His rear axel springs out and turns into a missile launcher. It’s a really clever design and concealed really well. In a toy that doesn’t show off a lot of good design, that gimmick is pretty impressive.

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Hot Shot’s little Minicon buddy is the red helicopter Jolt. He’s definitely one of my favorite Minicons, because his helicopter and robot modes are both pretty solid. He’s also really sturdy for a Minicon. I’ve yet to have tiny bits fall off of him while transforming him.

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As expected, Hot Shot was repainted and re-released (with a little bit of remolding) as Powerlinx Hot Shot. I know I originally said I wasn’t going to include any of the Powerlinx figures this week, but I really had to because Powerlinx Hot Shot is a fine example of how a great paint job can take a lacklustre toy and make it much, much better. As for regular flavor Hot Shot. He’s definitely not a figure I would produce if I was looking to show someone why I collect these things. On the other hand, the next time my 5-year old nephew comes over and demands to play with one of my toys, chances are pretty good he’s going to get Hot Shot here.

Transformers Armada: Overload with Rollout by Hasbro

Back in the waning days of Generation One, you had the Micromasters. These little transforming fellers could be regarded as the forerunners to Armada’s Minicons. But besides just having a bunch of little Transformers running around, the Micromasters also introduced bases and mini-playsets that some of the Micromasters could tow around like trailers. It’s that concept that was put to good use once again for Overload and Rollout. The only difference is that Rollout’s trailer doesn’t convert into a base, it converts into a giant body that makes him into Overload. A very cool idea, let’s see how it played out.

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While technically regarded as a Minicon, Rollout is a heck of a lot bigger and chunkier than any of the other Minicons in Armada. He’s actually closer to the size of a Basic or Scout toy. On his own, he’s a little red truck that transforms into a pretty simple robot.

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He also looks kind of awesome and/or ridiculous hooking up to the huge Overload trailer and dragging it along. On it’s own, it’s kind of hard to figure out what the hell the trailer is supposed to be, but Hasbro sure went apeshit with the detail. Every tiny part of this toy is sculpted with something. As for function, well if you happen to have Armada Jetfire, it sure makes a handy little carrier for Jetfire in his shuttle mode.

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The tailer transforms into Overload’s body and you basically just plug Rollout into it and he becomes the head. Plugging him in also activates a cool little G1-inspired transformation sound. The sound has been added to a number of Transformers since (Silverbolt and Powerglide to name a couple), but I’m pretty sure Overload here was the first figure to use it. I love just about everything about this sculpt. it’s big and powerful, the colors are perfect, and I particularly love the flip up hatches that reveal banks of missiles. Alas, the only downside to Overload is that he is what we used to call in the days of Generation One… a brick. You can move his arms up and down at the shoulder, but that’s pretty much it. But hey, you don’t need good articulation when you look this cool just standing there.

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Like Tidal Wave, Overload was an Armada figure that got repainted for the Energon line. In this case, however, he wasn’t just called EnergonOverload. Instead he was repainted into Ultra Magnus with a G1-style paint scheme. The homage works pretty well with the mold in both vehicle and robot mode. Not to mention the fact that G1 Ultra Magnus was just a white Prime cab that plugged into armor made out of the trailer. Kind of makes me think Hasbro had this planned out all along. Oh yeah, Energon Ultra Magnus tends to sell for an assload of money these days.

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Something else you should know about Overload is that like Armada Jetfire, he can combine with Optimus Prime (or Prime and Jetfire) and he can also combine with Prime’s trailer to form a beefier base. You could also daisy chain Prime’s cab with his trailer and the Overload trailer, and heck why not throw Jetfire on top to boot. By the time you’re done you can get one pretty big ass toy going. Unfortunately, I will be showing you none of these combinations in today’s entry or any entry in the near future because I fear the amount of liquor it would take to motivate me to attempt these combinations would also rob me of the motor functions I would need to actually execute them.