Transformers Unite Warriors: Combaticons (UW-07) Box Set by Takara, Part 4: Bruticus Combined

Well, I’ve looked at all the individual Combaticon figures and their alt modes, so there’s only one thing left to do…

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Combaticons…

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Transform…

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And Merge…

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Into…

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BRUTICUS!!!

Despite using a heavily remolded Defensor torso, Bruticus is definitely his own combiner, and that comes from the new chest pieces and having three out of four new molds for the limbs. The only clear connection I can make out to Defensor are the shared upper legs and helicopter arm.  And while the slightly over-sized arms continue to be a defining feature of the CW/UW combiners, I think Bruticus looks pretty damn good, not only as a combined robot in general, but as an update to G1 Bruticus.

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The head sculpt is absolutely fantastic and really invokes that G1 feel and Onslaught’s guns mount on the back to help drive home that iconic look. But the real draw of the Takara version over the Hasbro in this combined form comes in all that glorious new paint on the chest and pelvic pieces. The Hasbro version is just off-white plastic and makes him look bland and unfinished, although in fairness it does make him look a lot more like the vintage toy. Here you get some gorgeous brown, purple, and silver paint that makes the figure come alive!

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The stability here is overall pretty solid, but he does have some issues. Onslaught’s arms don’t stay pegged into the top of the shoulder pieces, but thankfully this doesn’t effect the integrity of the actual shoulders. I can move Bruticus’ arms without the shoulder assembly coming apart all the time like it does with Defensor and Menasor. The chest piece does a fantastic job of keeping the shoulders tabbed into place. Vortex and Blast Off don’t always want to stay together, especially in the forearm areas, but I find if I articulate the arms while holding those together he makes out OK. Brawl and Swindle as the legs are perfect, but the ratcheting joints in the hips are as unforgiving as usual. They support the figure fine, but there’s no finesse in movement there. He frequently feels like he either wants to topple forward, or like he’s leaning too far back.

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In the end, I have to give Hasbro/Takara very high marks for this one. I’d rank Bruticus as my second favorite CW/UW combiner, right below Superion. It’s crazy how far they’ve come since the combiners from Energon, Power Core Combiners, and that Fall of Cybertron Bruticus. The design is beautifully executed and while he can still be a little frustrating to play with sometimes, the good far outweighs the bad here. As for my decision to go Takara on this one, I think the advantages are hard to deny. My only other Takara combiner so far is Superion, and I’d argue that going Hasbro or Takara on that release was more of a toss up. Especially once the option to replace Alpha Bravo presented itself Stateside. Here, it seems highly unlikely that Blast Off in his space shuttle mode is going to get a US release. And even if that wasn’t the case, the additional paint on this guy’s combiner parts makes him the clear winner of the two for me.

On the next Transformers Thursday, I’ll finally get into some Titans Return figures, although I’ll eventually be swinging back to Unite Warriors for Computron!

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Transformers Unite Warriors: Combaticons (UW-07) Box Set by Takara, Part 3: Swindle and Brawl

Folks, it’s been a loooong and thankless week at work. I’m exhausted, and I almost didn’t have it in me today, but the show must go on, and so here we are with another Transformers Thursday Feature. I also just spent a shit ton of money on new sneakers for my car and no small sum at the bar around the corner while I was waiting for the work to be done. I am quite tired, fed up, and most definitely inebriated. I picked up the car and literally screamed at the new tires, “I HATE YOU, YOU’RE MONEY I COULD HAVE SPENT ON TOYS!” Anywho…. today, I’m continuing my leisurely (now going on three weeks!) stroll through Takara’s big imported box of Combaticon goodness. So far, I’ve checked out Onslaught, Blast Off, and Vortex. Today I’m finishing up the individual bots with a look at the Deluxe figures that will form my Bruticus’ legs: Swindle and Brawl. What’s that? You can make them into arms too? UNACCEPTABLE!!! Once again, I’m looking at the alt modes first, so let’s jump right in and start with one of my favorite Decepticons of all time… Swindle!

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Oh, Swindle, what have they done to you? G1 Swindle was originally a yellow and purple military jeep and now he’s ahhhhh… well, I guess a modern yellow and purple military sort of jeep looking thingy? With no place to sit? Yeah, there’s a little half sculpted blob in there that’s supposed to be a steering wheel, but I have to be honest here, this alt mode is a goddamn ugly mess. Some of you may remember me looking at Warbotron’s version of Swindle a while back and being content with them making him into a Humvee. Granted, that was an $80 Third-Party Voyager scaled figure, but I still think a Humvee might have worked better here. How could it have been worse?

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In fairness, there’s a decent amount of sculpted detail here. You get shock absorbers inside the wheel well, pouches along the sides, and some vents and panel lines. Swindle gets by with minimal paint apps in this mode. His roll bars are painted silver, as are the wheels, and the conspicuous robot hands inside what would be the cabin. You also get some rather striking purple paint showing on the hood and the tailgate.

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Swindle comes with a gun that can be mounted on his rear section, either left or right. You can also mount his combiner hand/foot on his roof to make a formidable double barreled cannon. Normally, I’m not a fan of using these pieces with the alt modes, but it worked alright for Vortex, and I think it works fine here. I mean, Swindle’s alt mode is already f’ugly enough, might as well stick a big foot cannon on top of it, right? Look, it sounds like I hate this thing, I don’t. It’s a passable Deluxe alt mode. It does what it needs to do. But as a devotee to my main man, Swindle, this alt mode could have and should have been better. Let’s see if Brawl’s alt mode fares any better…

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Yes it does! It’s Brawl. He’s a brown tank. It doesn’t take rocket science to make this alt mode work. You get sculpted treads, some decent detailing, which includes hatches, vents, and, bolts, panel lining. Other than some black, a little silver, and Decepticon insignia on the sides, there’s nothing in the way of paint apps. The turret does not turn, but the gun can be raised a bit. It’s frightfully simple, but it works for me. It is clearly Brawl.

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Brawl doesn’t come with a gun, but you can stick his foot/hand part on top of him for added firepower. I can’t say as I’m a big fan, but it’s not terrible. Also, so long as we’re looking at him from the front, his combiner port sort of looks like a third middle tread. Just saying. If this were a contest between the two alt modes, Brawl is the clear winner for me. He looks a lot more like what he’s supposed to be than Swindle does. He’s a tank, not some modern abstract realization of a tank. Maybe Swindle’s Jeep mode has a little more play value, but that’s about it. So, how about them robot modes? Well, let’s turn our attention back to Swindle…

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Now we’re talking! The only think keeping this from being the Swindle I know and love is the lack of arm cannon, and you can always plug one of Onslaught’s guns into his shoulder to try to make it work. Otherwise, this figure hits all the right points. He’s got a pretty clean robot mode with loads of sculpted detail showing in his legs and arms. The upper chest is made up of his actual alt mode front, while a faked out Jeep front is situated in his pelvic region to drive home that G1 homage. And speaking of G1 homages, just look at that head sculpt! It’s love. G1 love. I love it.

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From the back, we can see the hood and roll bars of the alt mode peg in firmly to his back. The whole assembly sticks out a bit behind his head, but it’s not terrible as far as kibble goes. If it really bothers you, you can drop it down to form a butt flap, but I’d rather not. I also really like the wheel placement on this figure. Two wind up in his armpits, without being cumbersome to the articulation, while the other two wind up on his ankles. The deco here is perfect. You get all that lovely yellow-tan Swindle-y plastic with a little more purple and silver paint showing. Was it worth getting a ho-hum alt mode for this kind of robot delight? Yessir, it is. But I’d still argue they could have done this with a cleaner and more accurate Humvee alt mode.

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Swindle comes with a very sweet gun with three barrels. This is the first time I’ve seen this gun in the CW/UW line and I absolutely love it. Let’s move on to Brawl…

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OK, so I sense a flipping pattern going on here. Swindle had an iffy alt mode and a rock solid robot mode. Brawl had a decent alt mode, and this as his robot mode. I’ve been playing with it off and on for an hour now and I still can’t make up my mind. Like Swindle, he’s a pretty solid representation of the G1 alt mode. You’ve got the treads facing front on his upper arms, you’ve got the turret on his back with the cannon sticking straight up. You even have those circular hatches sculpted into his lower legs like the Sunbow model showed.

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On the other hand, those puny little forearms! Oh, how I wish they could have fixed those. If only they could have cut the arm hinge a little higher. And then there’s that mid section. It’s sort of just a big hinge above his pelvis. It doesn’t really ever lock in securely enough for my satisfaction, especially when I pick him up from the chest and his lower half flops down a bit. It’s not something that really bothers me until I start playing around with him and then it just doesn’t feel right. But… all these quibbles, and I’m still nowhere near to saying I dislike this figure.

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The deco here is mostly what you get from his tank mode. There’s a lot of brown and black with a little more silver exposed. The deco is drab and dreary and looks perfectly suited for Brawl… until I get to the head. A fantastic head sculpt, but that neon orange paint is a bit much. I wish they could have toned that down a bit. Here’s an instance where I prefer the Hasbro paint to this one. With all that having been said, when I stand Brawl on the shelf beside Swindle, he looks just fine.

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Brawl doesn’t have a gun, although you can angle that turret cannon over his head into a firing position. You can also attach his hand/foot part to either arm to give him a weapon. It looks about as good as one might expect it to look.

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Both of these figures get a passing grade from me. Where Swindle stumbles in his alt mode, he soars in his robot mode and becomes my official Generations-Classics-Whatever version of the character. And Brawl sports as solid an alt mode as I would expect, but experiences some design hiccups in his robot mode. It feels like these could have used another trip across the designing board, one for alt mode and one for robot mode, but then if you count the limb modes, these are essentially Deluxe Class Triple Changers, so sacrifices are going to be made. In the end, these compliment the rest of the team nicely and I’m rather excited to get them cobbled together into Bruticus. And I’ll do just that next week in Part Four!

Transformers Unite Warriors: Combaticons (UW-07) Box Set by Takara, Part 2: Vortex and Blast Off

It’s Transformers Thursday again and I am continuing on with my look at Takara’s Unite Warriors Combaticons box set. Last time we looked at the packaging and Onslaught, today I’m starting in on the limbs, or more specifically, the Deluxe Class bots that will make up Bruticus’ arms. Let’s kick it off with the alt modes, and I’ll start with Vortex…

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Originally released as Alpha Bravo for the Aerialbots and then Blades for the Protectobots, it should come as no surprise that this mold is being recycled yet again for Vortex. That’s not a bad thing, as I like this mold a lot and all of my original hostility toward it was fueled by the fact that he was a helicopter standing in for a jet on my Aerialbot team. I’ll even go so far as to say Vortex is probably the best use for this mold to date, seeing as how it comes armed to the teeth with a pair of rocket clusters. Structurally, the only real difference between Vortex and Blades is the new four-bladed rotor, which looks great in the chopper mode, but I’ll have some unkind things to say about it when we look at his robot mode.

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The new color scheme is pretty nice. The primarily dark gray and black deco certainly gives him a sinister Decepticon look and I really dig the faction symbols near the doors to the cockpit. The lighter blue striping on the nose and rockets is an interesting choice. I wasn’t so sure about it at first, but it’s growing on me.

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Vortex is one of the few instances in the Combiner Wars/Unite Warriors line where I find value in attaching one of the combiner parts to an alt mode. In this case, plugging the hand/foot with the twin chain guns into the bottom not only gives him a platform to rest on, but adds some major firepower without looking too stupid. Moving on to Blast Off…

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If you haven’t figured it out by now, Hasbro likes to substitute impostors into our Combiner Teams and release the real ones later, or just leave it up to Takara. With the Aerialbots, Protectobots, and Stunticons, they did this by introducing an all new character. With the Combaticons, they just made Blast Off a repainted jet from the Aerialbots. And while a combat jet makes more sense in the team than a space shuttle, it was still unacceptable to me because I’m an unforgiving middle aged fan who does not want my childhood re-written. Sometimes, folks, you should be careful what you wish for…

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Enter Takara’s Blast Off, a brand new mold and a proper space shuttle, yes, but not an alt mode that’s going to win any awards. This thing is actually pretty ugly with obvious arms running down the sides, a tail fin that doesn’t always stay pegged together, and a patchwork deco that isn’t helping the mold any. Am I being too hard on him? Probably. Truth be told, I’m happier having this toy, with all its flaws, in my Combaticons, than I would be having a repainted Aerialbot. I actually think a more reasonable deco could have helped this shuttle mode out a lot. In the end, I’m going to give it a pass, but just barely. Let’s move on to the robot modes, and we’ll jump back to Vortex…

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As with his vehicle mode, Vortex’s bot mode is just a repaint of Blades with a new head, at least from the front. The coloring doesn’t change much from the chopper mode, although you do get a little more blue exposed in the upper legs and chest. And while the coloring overall looks pretty good here the paint on my figure has a few flubs on the right arm. The paint just doesn’t look as premium as I’m used to seeing in a Takara release. That having been said, this is still a huge improvement over the crazy coloring on Hasbro’s version. Besides the coloring, I still dig this mold a lot. You have the option of pivoting the tail boom left or right behind his head, but I prefer leaving it straight to preserve symmetry. The new head is absolutely fantastic. A solid tribute to the G1 version of the character.

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From behind, things get a little shaky, thanks to the new set of rotors. With blades, you could fold up the two blades and tuck them neatly between the stabilizers on the tail boom and for the most part they stayed out of the way. Here you have two additional blades to deal with. The official transformation just leaves the bottom two blades flopping off to the sides. I’ve found that if I squeeze them in a little further, I can get the bottom blades to stay in position roughly in line with the top two blades. It’s possible, however, that this is causing some stress to the plastic, as they aren’t meant to be placed in that position, but it helps solve what is otherwise a detriment to the figure.

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Vortex comes with a repaint of the same rifle as Blades, and it remains among my favorite weapons in this line. Of course, he also has a full bank of rockets mounted on each arm. When it comes to attack power, Vortex has got it covered. In the end, Vortex still feels like a relatively fresh figure to me, but a lot of that probably has to do with me skipping Alpha Bravo. The color scheme works well, the new head sculpt is perfect, and so long as I can get the rotors situated on his back just right, he’s aces in my book. So how about Blast Off’s bot mode?

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Well, I’m surprised to say that despite the iffy shuttle mode, Blast Off’s bot mode is pretty damn great. I really dig the way the nosecone of the shuttle packs up so neatly into his chest. Yeah, it juts out a bit, but it still works for me. Likewise, the wings all pack up nicely on his lower legs and the thrusters as feet are a nice nod back to the Sunbow version. As far as the coloring goes, it’s easy to see they sacrificed any sense of coherence in the alt mode for a pretty spiffy deco in robot mode. I guess I’m OK with that. And like Vortex, Blast Off’s head sculpt is simply superb.

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It’s interesting to check out Blast Off from the back and see how his backside looks pretty similar to the fronts of a lot of the CW/UW Deluxe limbs. Indeed, if for some reason you don’t like the chest, you can just spin the lower half around, re-position the arms and legs and have a more familiar looking bot that wears the nose cone assembly as a backpack. Me? I’m fine with the official mode.

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Blast Off comes with a little black pistol, which isn’t as impressive as Vortex’s rifle, but it suits him just fine. And since he has thrusters in his fists, I like to think that those would serve him well as additional weapons. As much as I dig Vortex, Blast Off takes the prize as my favorite of this pair, at least in robot mode.

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And there you have it, a couple of solid Deluxe Class figures who I am very content to call modern updates to their G1 Combaticon namesakes. If the snazzy paint job on Onslaught hadn’t already convinced me that Takara was the way to go here, this pair has even more so. Getting a proper shuttle mode for Blast Off is a treat, even if the shuttle mode ain’t all that great, because his robot mode more than makes up for it. I think he’s one of the more interesting Deluxes to come out of this line. And as for Vortex, even if the paint here doesn’t feel as premium as I would have expected out of Takara, the alternative deco on the Hasbro version is an absolute tragedy. So far I’m digging this set a lot. Next Thursday, I’ll be back to talk about Swindle and Brawl!

Transformers Unite Warriors: Combaticons (UW-07) Box Set by Takara, Part 1: Onslaught

I was going to make such a big deal about having new arrivals for Transformers Thursday, but then I see so many pictures of Titans Return figures in peoples’ hands and suddenly I don’t feel so special. But I do have a holdover from Combiner Wars… or, excuse me… Unite Warriors, in the form of the Japanese Combaticons box set! I can’t tell you how hard it’s been to keep passing up the Hasbro Combaticons on the pegs, knowing that I had this on pre-order. Thank Primus, it’s finally here! I’m going to use the same formula here as I used for the G2 Menasor set. Today I’ll look at the packaging and Onslaught, next week I’ll tackle the limbs two at a time, and we’ll wrap it up the following week with Bruticus.

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The box design is very similar to the one used for the Unite Warriors Aerialbots, so if you’re a stickler about matching sets, you should be very happy to sit them next to each other on a shelf. There’s some absolutely bitchin’ and gritty artwork on the front of the box showing Bruticus stomping through a city and there’s a front flap that lifts open to reveal a window showing the goodies inside. Seeing the toys all laid out in their vehicle modes really takes me back to the glory days of the G1 giftsets. I never owned any of those, but they sure were pretty to look at! The back of the box has a large photo of Bruticus as well as photos of the individual figures in their robot and alt modes. The set is collector friendly, although getting everything back in place can require some patience. An instruction booklet is also included in the box. Let’s start with the alt mode!

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Onslaught is obviously the Voyager Class figure in the set and he’s built off of the Protectobot Hotspot mold. I don’t think that’s as apparent in his alt mode as it is his robot mode and the use of shared bodies here seems like a good choice. The alt mode is pretty true to his G1 roots, at least in the sense that he’s a military truck. The cab is more modernized and he lost a pair of wheels along the way, but I still have little trouble identifying the homage here. He features two large cannons, but don’t look too closely or you’ll see Bruticus’ head peeking back out at you trying to not be noticed. It’s not one of the most outrageous alt modes out there, but all things considered, I think it’s pretty solid even with the combiner head sitting up there like he’s on a parade float.

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Unfortunately, Unite Warriors Onslaught’s alt mode is not as versatile as his G1 namesake. I’m sure I could work out some iffy fan modes, but he’s not really designed for much else besides being a truck. With the pegs on the top of the cannons and the multiple peg holes on the bottom of Blast Off, I was hoping there would be an official way to make Onslaught carry him, but it looks like I’m out of luck unless I want to balance him up there. There’s sort of a flatbed area on the back, but it’s not really big enough to comfortably carry any of his chums. Ah well, sometimes a truck is just a truck… and a robot… and a torso. Never mind.

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The coloring here is quite nice, with the blue and brown doing a fine job of representing the G1 toy’s deco. I’m not going to spend a lot of time comparing the coloring between Hasbro and Takara on the limbs, but I will do it here because Takara’s Onslaught is just such a huge improvement over the Stateside release. The blue is much darker and richer here than on the Hasbro version, I like it better, but that’s really just a matter of taste. The biggest difference in paint, however, is the beautiful work Takara did on the package of torso parts that sits on the vehicle’s back. These parts were left as bland off-white plastic on the US release, whereas here you get some beautiful coloring, along a very striking shade of silver paint. The same goes for the guns. It really looks fantastic here, and as we’ll see in a few weeks, this will make an even bigger impact in the combined mode.

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Transforming Onslaught should be very familiar if you’ve spent any time with Combiner Wars Hotspot. If anything, Onslaught is a little easier because all those extra torso bits just stay where they are and are worn as a backpack. And obviously there’s no ladder to mess with. Yes, it’s always worth pointing out that despite the need for add-on hands and feet, these combiners are otherwise self-contained. The only other thing worth noting are the knees. As with Hotspot, there’s a trick to locking these in, and if your Onslaught’s knees keep buckling, it’s probably because he isn’t transformed properly.

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In robot mode, it isn’t too difficult to pick out the parts shared with Hotspot. The forearms and the legs are most obvious to me, although he does have new feet and the new deco helps fool the eye a bit, particularly around those knees. Regardless of the recycling, however, I think he works quite well as a send up to G1 Onslaught. Some high points for me include the detailed sculpt and paint in the chest panel, the painted coils in his arms, and the crisp Decepticon logo on his chest. The two circles painted on his pelvis area are also nice nods to the Sunbow animation design.

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All looks pretty good from the back too. Yeah, his lower legs are hollow, but I do like how all that combiner stuff packs neatly into a backpack. I also get a chuckle out of the fact that he wears Bruticus’ head on his ass. The guns store nicely on his back and help hammer home the homage of having the twin guns rising up behind Onslaught’s shoulders. Onslaught is a bit back heavy, and while those heel spurs help a bit, he’s still prone to toppling backwards. Now is as good a time as any to mention that Onslaught suffers from the same rather unforgiving ratchet joints in the hips. There isn’t a lot of finesse there, so posing him and getting him to balance in those poses can be an exercise in frustration.

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The head sculpt is pretty straight forward, and he has a painted visor instead of light-piping. I will say that it’s a toss up for me as to whether I prefer the black head on the Hasbro version or this blue one. It’s too close for me to call. Here you can also get a better look at the distinctive paintwork in the chest panel. The colors on this guy really are beautiful!

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Of course, Onslaught can dual wield his twin guns in his hands in order to live up to his name. Since these serve as Bruticus’ weapon too, they can be connected together to form a bigger rifle, and it isn’t too big for Onslaught to use. Ironically, the extra paint apps on the guns make it really apparent that the larger weapon is just two of the same gun stuck together.  For that reason, I think the combined guns worked better for Hotspot, as those are all black.

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Onslaught has a few issues, but overall I like him a lot. In my mind, he’s definitely the best modern version of the character that we’ve seen from either Hasbro or Takara, but then I suppose that isn’t saying much. Nevertheless, it’s easy for me to overlook some of the flaws while admiring the fact that he’s a partially shared mold and a pretty clever one at that. To me that’s even more impressive when you see him in his torso mode. Ah, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Next week, we’ll bust into the Deluxe Class figures and check them out, starting with Blast Off and Vortex!

Transformers: Masterpiece Ironhide (MP-27) by Takara

I can still remember the crushing disappointment that set in when I got the original Ironhide for my birthday. Sure, I’d seen pictures of him in the catalogs, but something told me that they couldn’t be right. I mean, very few of the G1 Transformers were perfect representations of their Sunbow counterparts, but Ironhide was just plain weird. In his own way, he might have been a cool toy, but my expectations were set and he didn’t live up to them, and so I rarely ever even played with him. The subsequent decades would bring us tons of G1 homages and many of them would be on point, but poor Ironhide never quite got his due. Maybe this was an instance where the magic of animation just couldn’t be translated into a physical toy. The Masterpiece line seemed like our last hope. Thank Primus, it paid off.

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This unassuming little box feels right in line with the other MP Autobot cars that have come before it. It’s fully enclosed, features a lot of Japanese text and quite a few pictures of the toy in both forms. As always, this is a licensed product, and holding this box in hand is the first time I’ve actually known the make and model of Ironhide’s official alt mode: A Nissan Cherry Vanette.

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Inside the box you get two clear plastic trays containing a hell of a lot more goodies than we’ve seen included with any of the MP Cars. You get Ironhide in his vehicle mode. You get the sled that was part of his G1 toy abomination. And you get a whole slew of extra bits and bobs that make this package feel less like a regular MP Car release and more like a mini MP-10. You also get a folded instruction sheet, an ID card, and an insert for the windshield. There’s a lot to cover here, so let’s get started with the alt mode.

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The MP line has been spot on with their alt modes, and Ironhide is no different. This red box on wheels is the perfect homage to the original figure’s auto mode. The red paint looks fantastic, with no discernible slop or QC issues and the simple deco is made complete by the familiar stripes running along the sides of the van. The clear windows are tinted blue with the interior mostly obscured by panels on the other side and the windshield advertising a familiar goofy robot face within.

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You get a little chrome on the front and rear bumpers, which look good, but I’ll concede that the bumpers on mine are a little scratched up. There’s an Autobot emblem proudly tampo’ed between the front headlamps and silver painted door handles on the sides. The sculpted windshield wipers, front and back, are painted black and while there are a fair amount of seams on the sides of the vehicle, they don’t look terribly unsightly. I think the only thing missing is a rear license plate, which is oddly enough left empty.

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While I’ll get to the accessories in a bit, I will point out here that his Static Laser Rifle can tab into the top of the van, allowing Ironhide to blast some Decepti-creeps while cruising on the highways. Transforming Ironhide is something that needs to be experienced to be truly appreciated. The first time I found it rather intimidating and complex, but the further I went the more delighted with it I became. There’s some amazing stuff going on here, and while changing him felt a lot more involved than any of his predecessors, it doesn’t feel like a chore or something I would dread doing. In fact I only needed the instructions to take me through it the first time and by the second time it already felt natural… And the results are quite astonishing.

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Hot Damn is this an amazing figure! To be clear, the sled that comes with Ironhide is a bonus accessory and, while I’ll talk about it in a bit, it has nothing to do with the transformation of the figure. Ironhide’s beautifully proportioned humanoid robot form is all unbelievably contained within that van shell and if they awarded Nobel prizes for engineering cars that change into robots, whoever designed this one would be a sure winner. Not only is everything packed away so brilliantly, but even though Ironhide’s alt mode is in scale with the regular MP cars, his robot mode comes all the way up to MP-10’s shoulders. Impressive!

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Nitpickers can have their way with this guy. Feel free. Yeah, he’s got wheel butt. Yeah, he’s got panels on his hips that aren’t supposed to be there. And yes, he has windows on the bottoms of his forearms. I’m happy to point out all the little issues that I’ve heard collectors voice over this guy, because in the grand scheme of things, not one of those things bother me in the slightest. Not only does he look amazing, but his robot mode has all the articulation I could ask for. The shoulders rotate and feature lateral movement. There are swivels in the biceps and wrists, and the elbows are hinged. The hips are ball jointed. The legs feature swivels and hinges in the knees, and some great lateral rockers and hinges in the ankles. He can pivot at the waist and his neck is ball jointed. He even has a pair of hinged flaps in his pelvis to accommodate the hip movement.

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And look at that mug! That’s the G1 Ironhide that I know and love. The paint on the face is immaculate, as are the blue eyes. He’s got his familiar “helmet” with the mohawk crest, and by pressing the back of the crest and popping off the face, you can do a quick swap to his alternate portrait.

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Shouty Ironhide! Swapping face plates is nothing new for the Masterpiece line, but Ironhide’s faces are so easy to swap out, I may actually do it from time to time. I love this face. It looks like he just walked in on Prime during his special alone time.

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The sled is a nifty throwback to a figure best forgotten. It doesn’t actually have any treads on the bottom. It’s just a piece of plastic that’s useful for holding all of Irionhide’s accessories if you want easy access to them on the shelf, rather than keeping them in the box. It’s going to take me long enough to get through all the extra bits, so I’m not going to dwell on the sled itself any longer. Let’s start with the hand replacements…

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In the Sunbow cartoon, Ironhide had a lot of tricks up his sleeves. Literally. He had more retractable gadgets than any other Autobot I can think of. Now I’ll be honest, I could quote a lot of the cartoon from memory and I still bust out my DVDs rather frequently, but I can’t remember which hand gizmos did what. I do know he could shoot all sorts of fluids, including liquid nitrogen from these various pieces. Anyway, you get a pair of what look like hands, but they have nozzles in the fingers, you get a pair of circular red shooters, and a pair of rectangular gray ones. All of these are attached by folding Ironhide’s hands back into his arms and pegging the pieces onto the stumps. These are neat extras, but I’m not sure I’ll get much use out of them.

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Next up, you get his Sonadar dish. It attaches to the socket in either of his forearms. In the cartoon he used this to see through rock and Ironhide comes with a cardboard insert for his chest to recreate the scene quite nicely. Now, these I dig a lot!

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Ironhide also comes with a nice piece of artillery for his back. Again, this is one of his gadgets seen in the cartoon. It’s perfect for blasting Decepticon Seeker Jets out of the sky.

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And lastly, before we get to the guns, Ironhide includes his jetpack and effect parts. The jetpack features a nice satin silver finish and it’s unobtrusive enough that I just might leave it on him all the time. The effect parts are pretty neat, but as y’all probably know by now, I’m not a big fan of effect parts. They’ll likely stay in the box or on the sled, or wherever.

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And that brings us to the guns. Ironhide comes with his Static Laser Rifle, which is an homage to the original G1 toy. It’s the gun that was positioned in the front of his sled. This piece has a shiny chrome finish and can be held in either hand securely thanks to a tab on the grip and slot in the hands.

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Finally, you get a pair of pistols. These have the same satin finish as the jetpack and like the Static Rifle, they have tabs to help him hold them securely. My guess is that I’m going to go with these babies most of the time for display. Or maybe just one.

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It’s no revelation that the Masterpiece line has been an absolute delight. When fans are nitpicking a solid figure like Tracks, you know we’re getting spoiled. But with all that having been said, Ironhide feels like a whole new level. A lot of that has to do with how much Takara packed into this box, but it also has to do with the brilliant sorcery that makes up this toy’s engineering. The transformation feels nothing short of miraculous and the robot mode is rock solid and so very hard to put down. It’ll probably be a couple of weeks before Ironhide joins my Masterpiece shelves, because I’m going to want him on my desk and within reach. Do I even have to say how excited I am to get my hands on Ratchet?

And now on a more somber note, I’m going to be retiring Transformers Thursday for the remainder of March because I’m in a holding pattern with buying new Transformers right now. I’m passing on the current Autobot combiner limbs that are clogging the pegs and I’m also passing on the Hasbro Combaticons and waiting for the Takara versions. I am still hunting Sky Lynx and Leader Class Skywarp, and I will be picking up the G2 versions of Superion and Menasor in the weeks ahead. For the next couple of weeks, I’ll be using Thursdays as a regular rotation to get caught up on other stuff. That having been said Transformers Thursdays will return next month with plenty of new goodies!

Transformers: Masterpiece Tracks (MP-25) by Takara

I’ve been pretty quiet on the Transformers Masterpiece front, but that’s more Takara’s fault than mine. There were only a handful of releases over the past year and a lot of them were Diaclone homages, which I would have been all over if it weren’t for the fact that I collect so many other things and I’m not made of money. Case in point, the last MP Transformer I looked at was MP-22 Ultra Magnus and that was almost exactly a year ago today. So, let’s break this long hiatus and take a look at MP-25… Tracks!

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We’ve certainly seen this packaging before. Tracks comes in an enclosed box that matches the other MP Autobot cars. A lot of the copy is in Japanese, but there’s a little English to be had. There are plenty of pictures of the toy in its various modes and the front boasts that it is an official licensed Chevrolet product. These boxes aren’t terribly flashy, but they are collector friendly and they sure look great all lined up in a bookcase. Inside, you get a folded color instruction sheet, a profile card, and a bunch of neat extras. Tracks wasn’t a member of the Autobot “Class of 84” and I never actually owned his figure as a kid, but I enjoyed him a lot on the cartoon and the only reason it took me this long to pick him up was because he hasn’t been very well received. Let’s start with the alt mode…

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Faithful to his G1 roots, Tracks is a Chevy Corvette Stingray. I’ll be honest, I’m a Ford guy… Mustangs in particular, but if I ever loved a Chevy it was this lovely Corvette design. Tracks’ vehicle mode lives up to all my expectations, but then I never doubted it would. Apart from a seam here and there, the MP line hasn’t had any issues with it’s auto modes. He sports a gorgeous metallic blue paint job, which is absolutely flawless! We’ve come a long way from the paint QC issues on the original figures. The colorful tampo on the hood looks amazing and you even get a flip-panel on the roof, like we saw with Bumblebee, which allows you to display him with or without the extra Autobot symbol in his vehicle mode. I prefer it without. There is a fair amount of kibble showing through underneath, but that’s understandable because he’s got a lot going on under there. Also, it surprisingly doesn’t interfere with his ground clearance at all, allowing him to roll smoothly.  The only glaring issue I have with this alt mode are the mirrors. Takara includes two sets of rear view mirrors on sprues. Yeah, we’ve seen this before, but in this case, they don’t want to stay in very well. I actually wind up taking them out when transforming him to avoid losing them. I’m tempted to glue them in, but squirting glue onto Tracks’ paint fills me with dread and I’m sure he wouldn’t appreciate it either.

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Tracks features an opening hood, which reveals a detailed engine. It’s a really nice and unexpected feature. I’m pretty sure the Stingray had a reverse hood, but I’m not going to make a big issue about it here. Oh yeah, he also has a second alt mode…

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MP Tracks retains the alternate flight mode that was featured on the original toy and in the cartoon. I’m a huge fan of this, mainly because I’ve always had a weird obsession with the idea of flying cars. It’s not a huge difference from his regular car mode. He adds a couple of side pylons with intakes, his back wheels turn upward, sort of like VTOLS, wings fold out from the back and you can clip a gun onto the front of his bumper. Converting him into this mode is a bit more involved then I would like, but it’s hard to argue with the results…

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Especially when Takara gave us such an awesome display stand! This snazzy black stand features a double hinged arm that plugs into the bottom of the vehicle and a silver Autobot emblem on the base. I love that they included something like this. It really feels above and beyond and it turns what could have been just a flippant little secondary alt mode into something that I very well may use as a permanent display option. OK, enough with the alt modes, let’s get this dude transformed…

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So, transforming Tracks proved to be a real bitch the first time. He feels a lot more complex than any of the other Autobot cars and some of the movements are a little scary. The tab that holds the halves of the hood together is really tight and pulling that apart makes me nervous every time. Pulling the shoulders away from the body to extend them outward is another step that makes me cringe. There are a ton of moving parts here and sometimes I have to apply a little more force than I’m comfortable with. I also worry about paint scraping. A lot of those beautiful blue plates slide against each other and I don’t want the finish to be ruined. With all that having been said, I thought putting him back into auto mode would be a nightmare, but it went more smoothly than I expected.

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With all that having been said, I generally dig Tracks’ robot mode, but it isn’t the slam dunk that I felt we got with the Datsuns or Lambor. There’s no doubt about it, this is Tracks and he makes for a damn good idealized version of the original toy design. I think the proportions are overall OK, but there are little things here and there that feel less polished. I’m not a big fan of the construction of the ankles. There’s a little too much gap there when viewed from dead on. There’s a lot of hollow space visible behind his head, which is why most of the official pictures of this guy are taken from a low angle looking up. That’s definitely his best angle. Lastly, he looks pretty rough from the back. I don’t mind the rear of the Corvette as a backpack, it actually pegs in quite nicely, but below that he looks rather unfinished.

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The portrait is quite nice, featuring Tracks’ trademark red face and white helmet. Again, great paint here without a flaw to be seen. I also really dig the flip out Autobot symbol on his chest.

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In addition to his handgun, Tracks comes with a couple of friends. You get Rauol, Tracks’ human friend. You know, the one he met because he was trying to carjack him. He’s just a static figure on a stand with some very rudimentary paint and an eerie blank face, but a welcome little addition all the same. You also get a tiny little Blaster in his boom box mode. Definitely some cool bonuses.

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In no way do I think Tracks is a bad figure, but he does feel a little different from the figures that came before him and not as polishes as some of the better figures in the MP line. A lot of that is no doubt because of a change up in the lead designer, but some of it could also be because of Tracks’ more challenging design. Either way, he’s still going to have a proud place on my Masterpiece shelf and I certainly don’t regret picking him up. For whatever little issues he may have, Takara clearly went above and beyond with the extras on this guy and all that conspires to make him feel like a worthwhile purchase. In fact, to be honest, I’m seriously thinking of picking up the repainted and tweaked mold as Road Rage.

Transformers Legends: (LG-15) Nightbird Shadow by Takara

I distinctly remember, back in the 80’s I used to get up on Sunday mornings, pour myself a big bowl of cereal (probably Cap’n Crunch) and watch the Transformers cartoon before my parents hauled me off to church. I’m not gonna lie, most Sundays I would spend the whole time replaying the episode in my head, but then there was that one episode, Enter the Nightbird that had me so pumped, I’m surprised I didn’t just stand up in the middle of Sunday Mass and scream, “WATCH OUT, OPTIMUS, SHE’S PLAYING ROBOTO-POSSUM!” It was a great episode and I always wanted a Nightbird figure because she was a giant female robot ninja, and if you need any more reason than that, you must be very empty inside. About the only thing Nightbird didn’t have going for her was she wasn’t a Transformer… well, now she is!

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This is my first time dipping my toe into Takara’s Transformers Legends line, not to be confused with Hasbro’s Legends line. On our side of the Pacific Legends means tiny little bite-sized Transformers, whereas abroad it has consisted of repaints of Deluxe toys and a few unique characters. I do dig the packaging here quite a bit. It’s a compact window box that displays the figure in her vehicle mode with a very G1-inspired grid deco, some bitchin’ character art, and a lot of copy that I can’t read. You get a fold-out instruction sheet with some very wacky looking comic pages and a poster too. Everything is collector friendly, which is a definite plus because there are a lot of accessories here to keep track of.

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As already mentioned, Nightbird is an actual Transformer now, and as you can probably tell from her vehicle mode, she’s a repaint (and ever so slight remold) of Generations Arcee. This futuristic convertible is one of my favorite alt modes in recent history and it looks rather spectacular repainted in the black and silver Nightbird colors. You also get purple seats to complete that classic Decepticon deco and a tinted yellow windshield. The only changes to the mold can be found in the very tip of the hood. While Nightbird started life as a free agent, here she proudly bears a Decepticon logo on her hood and it looks great.

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As with Arcee, there are still several ports on this vehicle to take the weapons she comes with. So you can really arm Nightbird to the teeth even when she’s cruising around on the roads of Cybertron. Of course, some of the weapons look better on her alt mode than others.

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Transformation is identical to Arcee, which means it’s a lot easier going to robot mode than packing everything away into vehicle mode. Still, once you know what you’re doing, neither conversion is all that difficult. There’s a little more remolding evident in the robot mode, all of which can be found on the torso, and of course the new head. While the new sculpting is appreciated, I have to say I’m really amazed at how incredibly well this figure works as Nightbird with so little tweaking. In fact, if I didn’t know it already, and if it weren’t for the car kibble backpack, I’d be hard pressed to guess that this wasn’t created specifically to be Nightbird.

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The new head is a fairly simple yet fantastic sculpt and features some rather nice light piping in the eyes, which I utterly failed to capture here.

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In the cartoon, Nightbird was able to keep all the Autobots at bay with her cunning Ninja tricks and her action figure sports a nice arsenal of weaponry. For starters, she has the same two guns that came with Arcee, both black this time. I like the design of both these guns, but they sit rather high in her hand making them look a bit awkward when she’s wielding them. Thanks to the side tabs, she can also attach them to her hips as if they were holstered.

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Also included are Arcee’s swords, this time cast in yellow translucent plastic. I like these pieces a lot and she looks great holding them. It’s a pity that they didn’t include side tabs so she could wear them on her hips with the blades flat against her, rather than sticking out awkwardly.

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Last and certainly not least, you also get a pair of energon sai, which are a welcome addition to the arsenal and very appropriate for the character. Like the swords, these are also cast in clear yellow and while all the weapons are appreciated, it’s the sai that are going to be displayed on her person most of the time. These can also be tabbed into her forearms or comfortably worn on her hips. Very cool!

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As an import, the price on the Takara’s Legends figures are certainly steeper than the Hasbro Deluxes. Nightbird set me back just a bit under $30 and that seems to be the going price for these. Yes, you do get an extra pair of weapons and I think overall the paint is of better quality than what we see on the American releases, but this is a case where I was really paying for a character that I really wanted and had very little chance of ever making it Stateside via Hasbro. Chances are this will be a one-shot dip into this line, but even at about twice the price of a Generations Deluxe, I have no regrets. Nightbird is an amazing little figure and one that I’ve wanted for a long time.

Transformers Unite Warriors: Aerialbots (UW-01) by Takara, Part 4

Alrighty, here we are at the end of the week and the final part of my look at Takara’s Unite Warriors Aerialbots. It’s time to cobble this guy together and check out the results. I’ve already mentioned that this is a Scramble City style combiner, so you can mix it up and make any of the limbs arms or legs and yeah, you can pull limbs from the other CW teams as well. That’s all well and good, and I think it works great as a play mechanic for the kiddies, but for the purposes of this Feature, I’m keeping him in line with the way he combined in the old G1 days, because I’m an old bastard set in my ways.

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Hot damn, this guy looks amazing. As a big fan of the Stunticons, it gives me no pleasure to say that this updated Superion is everything that Menasor failed at being. But before getting ahead of myself, let’s talk engineering. The way Silverbolt transformers into the torso is not only unbelievably clever, but I think it’s the core reason why Superion works so much better than Menasor. Instead of just his robot legs forming the upper legs and his arms folding up into shoulders, Silverbolt flips upside down to make his arms the upper legs and his legs just fold neatly into the torso. This makes for a solid piece that doesn’t try to fall apart every time I pose him. The way the plates close up to form the chest and even the little upside Autobot logo near his crotch folds up and disappears is just fantastic and everything tabs together perfectly.

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The limbs are all pretty standard stuff, but they all work so much better than the Menasor limbs. Skydive and Air Raid have a nice symmetry going as the lower legs and they are as solid as anything. Because of the nosecones, you don’t really have the option of flipping them to the back for that G1 look, but honestly, I think this guy looks better wearing the jets on the fronts of his legs. It’s also great not to have the bulky knee bumps that Menasor suffers from. The arms are also nice and symmetrical, which is obviously because we’re dealing with repaints of the same mold. They look great, and little touches like the way the robot arms actually peg into place is something that would have been welcome on Menasor.

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As for the aesthetics, this guy is without a doubt the best looking Has-Tak combiner I’ve seen in person. Keep in mind, I’m holding out for Takara’s Defensor, which I hear is a strong contender, and I’m not counting Devastator because he’s in a whole different league. If I wanted to quibble, I’d say the legs could use more bulk, but he’s still pretty well proportioned. I have to admit I’m considering picking up one of the 3P add on kits to give him some bulkier feet and better hands, but what’s here still works just fine.

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While I wasn’t terribly keen on what they did with Menasor’s head, Superion’s is spot on perfect as far as I’m concerned.

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In combined mode, the coloring here isn’t a huge departure from the Hasbro release. You get the white bit on the chest, the antenna are gold, and the upper legs on this release have the gold and silver paint instead of being all orange. I like the coloring changes here better, but anyone looking to keep this guy in combined mode might not need to be bothered with going for the Takara release.

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As good as he looks, I’m happy to say he’s also a blast to play with. Not only can he stand beautifully, but I can grab Superion and treat him like an action figure without having to worry about the shoulders coming apart or the limbs mis-transforming. This guy is as solid as the day is long and that fixes the biggest complaint I had about Menasor. Indeed, the only downside here is that there’s no ankle tilts and if you put him in action poses on a smooth surface his feet are going to slide. On the other hand, if you put him on a carpet or a piece of poster board and the slipping and sliding isn’t an issue.

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As someone who scoffed at the initial pictures of these Aerialbots, and laughed at the combined mode, I’m so happy to be able to eat those words. I think a big part of it were the terrible first pictures. Hasbro, you really need to work on that stuff. Although, a lot of it has to do with just having him in hand and appreciating what they did here. Not only are the individual bots great figures, but Superion is absolutely fantastic. Even with all the great stuff they’re doing these days, I think this team is possibly one Has-Tak’s greatest achievements in recent years. Four deluxes and one Voyager, all perfectly fine as stand alone Transformers and yet merging into one solid and kickass robot, all while managing to maintain a solid homage to the G1 characters. And while I’m very glad I held out for the Takara release, the truth is that either way you go, Hasbro or Takara, I think you’re getting a superb set of figures.

Transformers Unite Warriors: Aerialbots (UW-01) by Takara, Part 3

Hey, it’s Transformers Thursday and what a coincidence that I’m right in the middle of a four-part look at Takara’s Unite Warriors Aerialbots. I’ve already looked at Silverbolt, Fireflight, and Slingshot and now it’s time to look at Superion’s legs: Air Raid and Skydive. Let’s start with their alt modes.

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While Slingshot and Fireflight were just repaints of the same jet, Air Raid and Skydive are completely different and extremely faithful to their G1 original counterparts. Skydive is a black and gray F-16 Falcon and Air Raid is an all black F-15 Eagle. Both jet modes look great, although the robot kibble on the bottom of these two strike me as being a lot more cumbersome than Fireflight and Slingshot. That’s not really a complaint, because all that kibble just feels right on these updates. Either way, these are great looking jets.

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I was never too keen on Skydive’s color scheme. I always thought the gray body and black wings looked odd, but it’s reproduced here perfectly. You even get the yellow lightning bolts on the wings and the Autobot emblems. I particularly love the gold paint applied to his missile clusters. What a beautiful little touch!

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Air Raid, on the other hand, was my favorite jet mode of this whole team. A sexy black F-15 that could give those Decepticon seekers a run for their money in the sky. And yeah, these guys are scaled pretty well to go with the Classic Seeker molds. The striping on his wings is a lot different from the Hasbro Air Raid. It’s more tastefully restricted to just some silver trim on the edge of the wings. The deco is rounded out with those nice, crisp Autobot emblems on the wings and nosecone.

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They each come with the same double barreled gun, with Air Raid’s cast in white plastic and Skydive’s in black. They can be pegged into the backs of the jets to upgrade them to some major firepower, but yeah it looks kind of silly. Thankfully these guns work great for them in robot mode.

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While their jet modes are totally different, these two guys share the same legs in robot mode with only the tail wings resculpted. The rest of their bodies, however, are completely different and they both look fantastic. Once again, they wear their jets on their backs in classic Aerialbot fashion and you can still angle their wings or sweep them straight back for a cleaner look from the front. A plethora of ball joints and hinges in the knees make them fun to pose and there isn’t a lot of kibble to get in the way of the action.

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I’m not all that keen on Skydive’s head sculpt. It seems to match the aesthetic of some of the CW Stunticons, but it doesn’t really feel like one of the Aerialbots to me. Not bad, but maybe just a little too modern for my taste. Air Raid’s head is a lot more to my liking.

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Having looked at all the individual robots, I have to say that as a team, this is one of my favorite assortments of Transformers that Hasbro or Takara has done in ages. That’s really saying something too, because they’ve been hitting it out of the park the last couple of years with the Generations line in general and the Thrilling Thirty in particular. And not to mention I wasn’t sold on these figures based on the initial reveals. Granted, I’m probably pretty biased in favor of these guys because of how much I love the Aerialbots, but in fairness I have the same love for the Stunticons and while I like those figures a lot, I don’t think they come close to the amazing and cohesive job they did on this team and I can’t even articulate how happy I am that they found a way to get us Slingshot in the end.

Tomorrow, I’ll wrap this whole thing up with a look at Superion!

 

Transformers Unite Warriors: Aerialbots (UW-01) by Takara, Part 2

Pressing on in what will be a four part look at the Unite Warriors Aerialbots, today we’re checking out the bots that form Superion’s arms: Fireflight and Slingshot. Yes, I know in the classic Scramble City fashion, these can be legs too, but in my mind there’s only one right way to form Superion and that means these guys are the arms. Let’s start with the alt modes…

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Of course, Slingshot was the one that was late to party, with Alpha Bravo standing in for him in the Hasbro assortment. They eventually released Slingshot stateside, but the Takara set includes him from the get-go. As far as the jet modes go these are just repaints of the same alt mode. It’s a little bit of a cheat as they weren’t the same jets in the G1 days, but if this is the sacrifice I have to make to avoid putting some whirlybird impostor in with my Aerialbots, then I’m fine with that.

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I like this alt mode a lot and with Fireflight being mostly red with white wings, the totally white Slingshot makes for a fairly distinctive looking jet. To help distinguish them a little more, I like to angle Fireflight’s tail wings up, which is totally inaccurate to the style of jet, but I like the subtle variety it creates. Otherwise, both aircraft have their own distinctive wing striping and they each have some nice and crisp Autobot emblems stamped on their wings.

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Yeah, you can see their hands peeking out behind the wings, but I’m over that. Also, each of these guys comes with the same gun, which you can mount under either wing, or load one of them up with both guns for some major firepower.

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Because these are basically the same mold, the robot modes also rely on paint to distinguish them from each other. This is a pretty classic Aerialbot design with the nosecones protruding from their backs. The wings can either angle out from their sides or be swept straight back for a cleaner look from the front. Either way, I think these robot modes are awesome.

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The fact that they moved Slingshot’s Autobot insignia to his shoulder makes that blank side of his chest a little odd. Otherwise between the paint and the new head sculpts, they work fine for me as separate characters. Slingshot’s head always had the most personality to me and I think they did a great job on it. As for Fireflight, I think that’s supposed to be styled after the G1 toy’s head, but I wish they had gone for the Sunbow or comic look. I don’t really associate a mouth plate with any of the Aerialbots. Still, it’s not a bad looking noggin.

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Again, they each come with the same gun, which unlike Silverbolt is scaled perfectly for these smaller guys. Yes, you can get creative and use the hand/foot pieces as accessories, but I don’t need to bother with that just to justify their existance outside of being combiner parts.

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As updates to the G1 Aerialbots, these are fantastic figures. They’re relatively simple and yet their alt modes and robot modes are both great. As a big fan of this team growing up, I would have had so much fun playing with these as a kid. Especially since imagination would only take me so far with the original G1 versions of these guys. If I had to pick a favorite, it would be Slingshot, just for the better head, but the truth is I really dig them both.
Next time: Air Raid and Skydive!