Transformers Robots in Disguise: Spychanger Optimus Prime by Hasbro

Tonight I’m going to over indulge in beer and wings and then hit the movies to go see Thor: The Dark World. The only thing that has to do with today’s feature is that I’m once again having to be rather brief because pesky social commitments are intruding on my life of scribbling madly about toys. Of course, it’s Transformers Thursday, so what better opportunity to pull out a wee Optimus Prime from the Spychanger line. The Spychangers deserve a feature all to their own and I will get to that someday, but for today, let’s just point out that they originated from the Generation 2 line where they were ironically called Gobots. Robots in Disguise was a frankensteined line that introduced new molds but also robbed a lot of older Transformers lines, and so the Spychangers were born. In addition to a baffling number of repainted G2 Gobots, we also got RiD Optimus Prime in Spychanger scale. He’s tiny, he’s portable and if you carry him around with you chicks will often ask, “Is that a fire truck in you pocket or are you just happy to see me?”

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Prime’s fire truck mode is a nice approximation of the large toy in this diminished scale. It’s a solid vehicle mode cast mostly in bright red plastic with some nice sculpted panel lines, painted windows, and tiny Autobot symbols stamped on the sides. The ladder rotates at the base and can angle up and down and this little guy rolls along great just like he was a slightly larger matchbox car. I always thought it was weird that they left two of the wheels black, but whatever. There’s really not much else to say about his alt mode.

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Transformation here is as simple as you would expect. Although if you’re a young’un that cut your teeth on the current crop of relatively complex Cyberverse figures than you might expect a lot more. The original RiD Prime had a regular and a super-charged robot mode, whereas this little guy just goes straight for the bigger bot form. His robot mode looks Ok from the front, but if you turn him around you can see that his ladder sticks out pretty far and forms an unacceptable amount of back kibble. On the plus side, that ladder is about the only thing keeping him upright. That’s right, ladies, Spychanger Optimus Prime is a veritable tripod! Wow, that’s two dick jokes. I’m on a roll! Still, the head sculpt is remarkable for such a tiny guy, there’s a good deal of sculpted detail here, and you do get a wee bit of articulation in the shoulders and the legs can do a wide stance. Also, he’s about twice as tall as a regular Spychanger, which I think makes him pretty appropriately scaled.

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Prime here is obviously a lot stronger in his vehicle mode, but I’m not going to nitpick his robot mode too badly. Truth is I have a real soft spot for tiny Transformers that you can stuff into your pocket and take on adventures and this guy certainly fits that category. Besides, Hasbro took on quite a challenge taking a figure as large and complex as RiD Prime and shrinking him down to this scale and still making it work on some level, so I’m willing to give them a lot of credit here. I was originally going to look at Spychanger Ultra Magnus today too, but he wasn’t in the same drawer and I didn’t have time to go hunting for him, so we’ll save him and the rest of the Spychangers for another day!

Transformers Robots in Disguise: Prowl by Hasbro

I know, we just looked at a Transformer figure yesterday, but he was new and Transformers Thursday is all about the figures of yesteryear. This week we’re wrapping up the Autobot Car Brothers with Prowl. I saved him for last because I recall him being my favorite. It’s been a year or so since I’ve had him out, so let’s see if that holds up! Like the others, he was released in two versions during the Robots in Disguise run and it looks like I kept the original, which is odd because I recall liking the deco on the second version better. Sometimes I don’t even understand myself.

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In alt mode, Prowl is a Lamborghini police car, which is only odd if you have problems accepting G1 Red Alert as a Lamborghini Fire vehicle. Like his brothers, Prowl features a pretty realistic looking car mode, complete with clear windows, chromed out wheels, and real rubber tires, which are stamped “Transformers” on the sides. If you look inside the car, you can see that even his robot feet are sculpted to look like carseats. I love that! He has a rear spoiler and a police-style lightbar on the roof.

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Prowl has a similar deco to the G1 Datsun version of the character, as he’s mostly white with a little black around the bottom. He also has Japanese lettering on the doors, which I was never all that keen on. Now, if he had the markings from G1 Prowl’s doors, I would have lost my shit with delight. Other than an Autobot insignia stamped on the hood, there isn’t much else to the deco here. Prowl comes with two missile launchers and you can clip these onto the spoiler to give him some added firepower in vehicle mode.

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And there he is in robot mode… Wow, do I remember this guy differently. He’s still got a lot going for him, but for some reason I recalled him being the least kibbly of the trio, but my memory was being rather generous. Let’s look at the good stuff first. I like his torso, particularly the way the two tailpipes slant back and the way his chest looks like a giant engine block with an Autobot emblem on it. That’s classy. The shoulders are pretty cool. They’re stylish and there’s a lot of great sculpted detail in them. The legs might be a little scrawny for that big torso, but other than that they’re fine.

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Yes, Prowl wears part of his car as a shield. All three of the Car Brothers seem to have been born with deformed left arms. In this case, it’s not so bad. It actually looks like shield being worn on his arm, and not like poor X-Brawn, where it looks like his arm is a snake digesting the front of an SUV. Surprisingly, my biggest issues with this figure are the doors and the way they hang off his hips. They’re on double ball joints, so you can move them all over the place, but nothing really seems to get them out of the goddamn way.

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Prowl’s missile launchers can both be clipped to his right arm and they look good there and do a nice job complementing the shield. However, you can also clip them to the spoiler on the shield and give him one giant double barreled super weapon. Both ways have their merits, I suppose.

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As with his brothers, Prowl features a lot of ball joints, which makes him a fun figure to pose, at least in theory. In practice, I find his kibble interferes a lot with what he can do. Again, it’s mainly the fault of those damn door hips. CURSE YOU DOOR HIPS!!!

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Obviously, hindsight in this case wasn’t 20-20. I was blinded by a lot of nostalgia and Prowl isn’t quite the amazing figure I remembered him to be. In fact, I don’t even think he’s my favorite of the three anymore. On the other hand, it’s hard to pick from this kibbletastic trio. I can’t hate on any one of them, but Prowl disappointed me the most and that’s probably because I remembered having such low opinions of Side Burn and X-Brawn. These figures each still have some charm for me nowadays, but I guess I’m glad this chapter in Transformers history was a short lived one.

I’m not done with Robots in Disguise yet… next week we’ll take a look at some Decepticons from the line.

Transformers Robots in Disguise: X-Brawn (Second Version) by Hasbro

Remember a couple Thursdays back when I said I only kept one version of each of the Autobot Car Brothers? Well, it was a dirty lie. While going through my RID drawer I found the Rally version of X-Brawn and I remembered that I kept this guy solely because of my undying love for Sega Rally 2 on the Dreamcast. I also remembered that I have a social engagement at The Pub tonight, and so with brevity being the order of the day, I decided a quick look at this repaint of last Thursday’s figure would be a good way to go.

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Once again, X-Brawn’s alt mode is fairly realistic looking SUV. This version keeps all the cool trimmings, like chrome running boards and ramming bar and a hood that opens to reveal the gold vac metal engine inside. You also still get vac metal gold wheels and the rubber tires with “Transformers” on the sides. It’s still an awesome little touch! The original version featured a rather pedestrian silver and green paintjob, whereas this version has gone all Rally on our asses.

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The new rally deco is pretty amazing, although it’s still a bit subdued for a Rally style car. He’s painted with a nice thick coat of glossy white with red, green, and blue accents. Rally decals include “Cybertron Wild” on the hood and “Wild 24” on the doors. You also get an Autobot emblem on the roof along with an additional “24” and “Cybertron” on the top of the windshield. I don’t know why, but I kind of dig when Transformers have “Cybertron” printed on their alt mode somewhere. It kind of defeats the purpose of being a robot in disguise, but I still think it’s cool when we see it from time to time. I’m not entirely sure of the significance of the “24” or even if it has one.

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Transforming X-Brawn into robot mode is really simple. You basically just pull him apart and make a few adjustments. Of course, we’ve already seen what this guy has going on in robot mode and all the rally stickers and pizazz in the world can’t hide the fact that X-Brawn is wearing the entire front third of his auto mode on his left arm. If anything, the new deco draws more attention to his deformed arm. It’s a shame because the rest of the robot mode is so clean looking. I guess in a way it’s good to confine all the kibble to one small part of the robot and if he smacks you with that arm, it’ll literally be the same experience as getting hit by an SUV. Apart from the front of the car, most of the rally deco is still visible on X-Brawn’s back.

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X-Brawn’s right arm is still minus a hand. He’s got a socket where you can plug his running boards into to be used as weapons. They’re axes or swords or bludgeons or guns, or whatever you want them to be, I guess. I still really dig the sculpting on the chest and the coloring on the figure is a pleasing pearlescent green mixed with white plastic and some gold and grey. He’s got ball joints all around, so he’s a lot of fun to play with and pose, even with his crippling deformity. Even now I can’t stop fiddling with him, he’s just a fun little figure!

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Rally Brawn features the same cool head sculpt as regular flavor Brawn. It’s a great looking noggin, although mine has a little stray paint on him. I’m a big fan of mouth plates on my Transformers. One would think since Optimus Prime has one, it would be considered “in style” and all the other Autobots would want one too. I wonder if they can get cosmetic surgery and have a face plate added. Nick Roche must have covered that in the comics at some point.

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If you weren’t sold on this figure the first time around, I doubt this re-deco will make you reconsider. I have a soft spot in my heart for this guy and the Rally deco just makes me love him all the more. Ultimately, this figure can thank Sega for not being sold off with the other multiples of the Car Brothers during one of my Great Purges. It’s funny how sometimes a completely unrelated thing will make me hang on to a toy that I would have otherwise let go. Damn, I kind of wish I wasn’t heading out to The Pub, because I have a hankering to boot up the Dreamcast and play some Sega Rally 2.

Next Thursday, I’ll wrap up my look at the Autobot Car Brothers with Prowl.

Transformers Robots in Disguise: X-Brawn by Hasbro

It’s Transformers Thursday again! Last time we looked at Side Burn, the first of the Autobot Car Brothers from Robots in Disguise. Today we’re rolling on with the second of the three. It’s X-Brawn…

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X-Brawn’s alt mode is a silver and green SUV. I totally dig the realism in this vehicle mode. The silver finish looks great and he has a huge Autobot emblem stamped on his hood. The running boards and front ramming bar are all chromed out, and he even has a spare tire rack on the back. Speaking of tires, X-Brawn’s are real rubber and stamped with “Transformers” on the sides. You can even open his doors and lift the hood to reveal the chrome engine inside. Cool!

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X-Brawn transforms pretty easily and boy am I ever torn on his robot mode. Unlike Side Burn, who had car parts hanging haphazardly all over, X-Brawn manages to confine almost all of it into one giant crippling disfigurement of the left arm. Yes, he wears the entire front of his auto mode as a forearm. The problem here is that it’s far more unwieldy and random than Side Burn’s roof, which actually looks like a serviceable shield. X-Brawn’s SUV front of an arm just looks random and unfortunate. I suppose he could hit people with it, but it seems like the trade-off of having to go through life with that on your arm, isn’t a good one.

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It’s a real shame too, because the rest of X-Brawn looks mighty damn good. The lower legs are pretty huge, but they give him a nice solid base to stand on, and I really dig the sculpting in his chest. Even his head sculpt looks normal and not all frankensteined like Side Burns does. Toss in some serviceable ball joints and he’s a pretty fun figure to pose and play with.

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One other distinctive feature about X-Brawn is that his running boards detach during transformation and become a sword or a bludgeon weapon. Yes, this poor guy has only one hand and it’s on the popeye arm, while his normal arm sports only a weapon.

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Like Side Burn, I should have an enormous problem with this figure, and yet I can’t bring myself to hate on him. Yes, X-Brawn’s huge car front arm violates my ugly car kibble standards, but so much else about this figure works well for me that I’m able to overlook it. Some may argue that the coloring of the SUV mode is too subdued, but I like the fact that it just accentuates the vehicle’s realism. On the other hand, if you were looking for something with a more exciting deco, I may be able to accommodate you on the next Transformers Thursday!

Transformers Robots in Disguise: Side Burn (Second Version) by Hasbro

As promised a couple of weeks ago, I’m going to be using Transformers Thursday to embark on a look back at some of the Robots in Disguise (2001) toys, particularly the Autobot Car Brothers. We’re going to kick things off with Side Burn. Roughly equivalent to a Deluxe Class figure, Side Burn has seen a number of repaints over the years. The original US release of Side Burn was blue, but a while back during one of my many Toy Purges, I decided I was only going to keep my favorite deco of these molds, so we’re going to be looking at his second RiD release. No package shot, so let’s just jump right in to his alt mode.

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Side Burn is a very snazzy looking Dodge Viper and a good example of why I love the alt modes on these figures so much. It’s funny, but I don’t remember HasTak having the Dodge license for this line, but Side Burn definitely has a tiny little Dodge emblem on the front of his hood. It seems like a lot of expense for just a Deluxe figure. There’s a wonderful sense of realism to this auto mode that we really haven’t seen in a main line of Transformers since, and that’s probably a big part of why I get a little nostalgic for this line. Other selling points for me are the clear windows, the exposed and detailed chromed engine, the gold-vac metal wheels, and the rubber tires with “Cybertron” stamped on them. Hell, the doors even open! Fantastic!

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This version of Side Burn sports a deco that is very reminiscent of G1 Hot Rod or Rodimus Prime. He’s red with flames painted on the hood and doors. He has a bold Autobot emblem stamped on his roof and you can see another Autobot emblem through his rear window. Transforming Side Burn is fairly simple, but we get to see how a lot of the Beast Wars engineering revolution carried over into this line. There are tons of ball joints and huge portions of car hanging off of hinged arms. The appropriate word here is shell-former!!!

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Yup, one of the reasons that the car can look so good is because Side Burn wears a lot of it in his robot mode. The result is you get a very poseable and organic looking robot body with random car bits attached everywhere. Some of them aren’t so bad, while others are rather awkward and annoying. The stuff I like includes the engine block on his chest and the way the two halves of the hood and the doors become downswept wings. The rear wheels on his hips aren’t too bad either.

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The biggest albatross is the way the top of the car becomes a riot shield for his left arm. In theory, I like this idea a lot and you could see where it would come in handy. But, seeing as it’s permanently attached it seems like having to constantly carry that thing around would get rather annoying. On the other hand, if it were removable, then poor Side Burn would be accused of being a parts-former. It is ball jointed, so at least you can position it in different ways. I’m also not a big fan of the bumper on his right shoulder. This thing just looks awkward and unlike the shield, it serves no real purpose other than to get in the way.

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My least favorite thing about Side Burn is the head sculpt. I don’t know what they were going for here, but he looks all messed up. There’s no symmetry and I get the sense that he’s some kind of Cybertronian patchwork monster that crawled its way out of Wheeljack’s secret lab. I suppose it suits the overall ramshackle look of the figure.

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Side Burn comes with two weapons. First, you get a little chromed gun blade. I believe the one that came with this figure was gold, but mine is silver, so the original must have gotten switched with one of my other Side Burns somewhere along the way. His rear bumper also turns into a missile firing crossbow, which I always thought was kind of neat.

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Why I don’t hate this figure is beyond me. Obviously there’s a lot to love in his car mode, but his robot mode is just a twisted mess. And yet, somehow he still has a spot in my Transformer loving heart. Maybe it was because I was so happy to see an actual Autobot in the toy aisle again after so many years? Whatever the case, I can’t hate on Side Burn. He has plenty of problems, but he can still be a fun figure in his own way.

Next week, we’ll check out X-Brawn!

Transformers Robots in Disguise: Optimus Prime by Hasbro

Last week Takara announced that they are releasing a commemorative re-issue of Fire Convoy from Car Robots 2000, better known to us Yanks as Optimus Prime from Robots in Disguise. Also last week, I turned 41. If that didn’t already make me feel old then realizing that Robots in Disguise is already 13 years old really drove the point home for me. Anyway, RiD was the line that got me back into collecting Transformers and was also the gateway drug that got me back into collecting toys in general. If it hadn’t been for this guy, I might have spent the last decade blowing a lot more of my money on booze and other more distructive vices and who knows if I’d even still be here today. I thought it would be fun to run some Transformers Thursday features on the RiD line and where better to start than Optimus Prime himself?

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Look, I actually still have the packaging for this guy! It’s a little rough around the edges, but Prime has lived in his box on a shelf ever since I came to the realization that I don’t have the room to display all my Transformers. The RiD line didn’t rely on a whole lot of nostalgia in the presentation. You got a brand new logo and an attractive black and red box. The toy is boxed in its alt mode and you can get a pretty good look at what you’re getting inside.

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The back of the package sucks. It has a little clip out profile card and a lot of boring text in three different languages. When I was a kid in a toy store the first thing I used to do when I found a toy I was interested in was look at the back of the box. This is where all the cool photos of the toy should be. This is where you see all the accessories and action features and it interacting with other toys in the line. You don’t get any of that here. The box doesn’t even have a picture of Prime’s basic robot mode anywhere on it. Sheesh!

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So, here’s Prime as a fire truck. I love the concept because fire trucks have always been innately heroic symbols to me. They represent courage and self-sacrifice, so a fire truck is a no brainer for a Prime alt mode. This is a great looking toy, with lots of attention to detail that gives it a nice sense of realism. You get big clear blue windshields, chrome wheels with real rubber tires, and big Autobot symbols on each side. Nice little touches also include the little ladder on the side and the seat where the ladder operator would sit. Sure, you can see one of Prime’s heads under the ladder, but that’s no big deal for me. Yup, he’s a great looking toy, but as soon as you pick it up, it’s going to fall apart, so it’s best not to handle it too much. It’s just one of the things about this guy that probably makes him better as a collector piece than an actual toy.

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Besides rolling along, Prime has some play features. He has electronic lights and sounds, but I’ve never put batteries in him to test it out. That’s probably a good thing, because if I had, the toy would probably have been ruined with battery goo by now. His ladder can elevate and turn and it also packs a couple cool surprises. Push the button at the front and two water cannons pop out of the front. Push the button on the back of the ladder and four missile launchers snap up and are ready to fire. I was amazed to find that I still had all the missiles!

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Transforming Prime is similar to a lot of Optimus toys in that you detach his trailer, or in this case the bulk of the fire truck, and just transform the cab. What you come away with is pretty unique in that most of his robot mode is rolled up into the shell of the cab. Prime features very organic looking legs and arms with some more boxy and angular bits for his lower legs and shoulders. His chest plate is vac metal plated, and while mine has a few little chips here and there, I think it has held up pretty well. The head sculpt is certainly influenced by the Prime I know and love, but it’s extremely stylized and one that I could never really get behind.

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As an action figure, Prime features some fun and useful articulation. His shoulders rotate and have lateral movement. His elbows are hinged and have swivels, and his fists are ball jointed. His legs feature universal movement at the hips, have hinges and swivels at the knees, and his ankles and neck are ball jointed. Of course, when you get tired of playing around with this version of Prime, it’s time to build him bigger. Taking a page from the old Apex Armor concept, you can cannibalize the rest of his vehicle mode and armor up Prime to his Ultimate mode.

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The first thing you do is build him bigger arms and feet and pop on his shoulder armor. I actually kind of dig the way he looks in this transitional stage. There’s some really cool engineering here. I especially love the way the wheels fold up to become the soles of the feet. But, you’re not done yet. Next you’re going to take the rest of the fire truck and put it over his head so he can wear it like a backpack and new chest plate.

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Prime’s Ultimate mode is absolutely bitchin. No, it’s not very Optimus Primey to me, and that’s my biggest issue with this mode. The head reminds me more of Optimus Primal than anything else and there isn’t a lot in the robot mode to link him to the traditional Prime designs of the past or future. That having been said, I still think this is a spectacular looking robot mode. I like the proportions a lot, the detail on him is crazy, and the additional chrome bits really make the figure stand out.

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Since Prime is basically the base figure wearing armor, he retains a lot of the same articulation and that’s both good and bad. Yes, you can still pose him, but his hip joints are a little too weak for the huge amount of bulk added to him so he tends to want to do the splits. The giant ladder coming off his back helps to serve as a third leg and stabilize him, but at the same time it really gets in the way of putting him in any great action poses. Also, the more I play around with him, the quicker I get frustrated over the ladder portion wanting to pop off of his torso.

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I honestly had no idea how I was going to feel about this toy after he’s been in storage for so long. I’m a little surprised at how awesome I still think he is. I think a lot of my love for him comes from my fondness for Powermaster Prime as the two toys have a lot in common. RiD Prime even has a base mode, which I didn’t bother showing off because it’s pretty crap. No, this guy is definitely not a traditional Prime toy and he’s never been a default Prime in my collection, but I still love this toy a lot. The fact that you can get to his Ultimate mode from that fire truck is still an amazing bit of engineering, even if it does cheat a bit by being a parts-former. Now that I have him out and standing in front of me, I’m not eager to put him back into storage, so I may have to find a place for him on my shelf for a little while.

Transformers Robots in Disguise: Dreadwind and Smokejumper by Hasbro

In today’s post I’m going to take a look at one (actually, make that two) of my favorite of the slightly obscure Transformers: Dreadwind and his little pal Smokejumper. These guys were originally released in Japan as part of the Neo Beast Wars line in the mid 90’s as Destrons, Starscream and BB with a cool black, purple and neon yellow color scheme. I wish I still had mine to show you, but BB broke and I ditched them both out of disgust. Fortunately, these molds eventually came Stateside as Decepticons with new color schemes and new identities.

These figures were released under the Robots in Disguise moniker around 2003 as Target Exclusives. Keep in mind, though, this was well after the RiD line had gone away and the artwork on the boxes were made to more resemble the Armada line, which was still out at the time. I think, technically, these releases fit more into the Universe line, back when it consisted mostly of repaints of older molds. Either way, they came packaged together in a window box. They also came with a pair of those cool character cards that Hasbro packaged with the Armada and Energon toys.

Dreadwind is the huge tactical stealth bomber and Smokejumper is the smaller fighter plane. They both feature a ton of detail on their sculpts, mostly in the form of intricate panel lines. They are each molded in two-tone green with gray and have transparent red parts. I can’t say I like the colors quite as much as the original black, purple and yellow, but it is still an overall nice military style color scheme. There are a few stickers on each to add some more detail and the Decepticon logos are actually painted directly onto the figures. These guys came with a whopping 14 missiles, of which I can now only locate 6 for Dreadwind’s main cannon. There are six more that slot in under Dreadwind’s wings and another two for Smokejumper’s launchers.

Besides looking great, these Decepticons have a handful of cool gimmicks. In jet mode, Smokejumper can dock with his larger buddy just by sliding him into the space on his back. And if that’s not enough, Dreadwind is also a triple-changer with a third alternate tank form. The tank form definitely looks rather tacked on, as it basically just amounts to folding out the molded treads on the sides, folding up the wings (which are spring loaded) and folding up the huge missile launcher, which can rapid fire all six missiles as you turn the back of the drum. Both aircraft also have working landing gear and Dreadwind’s wing-mounted missiles can be dropped like bombs by pressing the buttons over each one.

Dreadwind has a pretty cool transformation and when you’re done, you’re left with a stocky, but really powerful looking robot. His overall design is really cool, with the front portion of the aircraft forming his chest and that huge missile launcher resting on his shoulder so that he can blast away at Autobot fools. His face is pretty simple, but the light piping on red visor works exceptionally well. His articulation is excellent and consists of a head that turns, arms that have universal movement in the shoulders and hinged elbows, and legs that have hinges in at the hips and knees. The only problem here is that Dreadwing is really top heavy and his leg joints tend to be rather loose, so making him stand can be a challenge.

Smokejumper is a really neat little guy. In scale he’s somewhere between a big Scout and a smallish Deluxe. His overall appearance and transformation are both very similar to the Energon Deluxe Starscream figure, which was obviously modeled closely on this little guy. And for good reason too, since this mold was Starscream in the Neo Beast Wars line.

Both of Smokejumper’s missiles launchers come off his wings at transformation and can be held in his hands while in robot mode. He has decent articulation, consisting of a turning head, universal movement in the shoulders and hinged elbows. His legs have ball joints in the hips, but his knees are not hinged to move front and back, just inward as part of the transformation.

I absolutely love these figures. They display great, are lots of fun to play with, and make an excellent addition to any Decepticon air force. Despite some loose joint issues, these are actually much higher quality than the original Japanese releases, which were made from some seriously flimsy plastic. Its a shame that these were exclusives, because they really are too good to be only circulated in a limited release. I’m also kind of surprised that Hasbro hasn’t rolled them out again, especially since, both toys were re-released in yet another color scheme in Japan. The good news is that when they do crop up on Ebay, they don’t usually go for much more than $20-30 for the pair, and they are well worth it.