Cocomone by DX9

Yes, folks, this plague of Third-Party Roboconverters continue to hijack Transformers Thursday. Last week I checked out DX9’s take on the Renegade Go-Bot Cy-Kill. Today I’m having a look at their version of the Renegade Femme Fatalle, Crasher. Unofficial Go-Bots, folks! Does it get more low-rent than that? I’m just kidding, it’s not low-rent. I like the Go-Bots. And these things are expensive.

Last time, I marveled at the art direction on display for Salmoore’s packaging and Cocomone got the same exquisite treatment. It’s not quite as colorful, but the art is just as gorgeous. Otherwise, there’s nothing too complicated here. It’s an enclosed box with the figure inside on a tray. I should also point out that just like Salmoore was re-purposed as Wreck-Gar, Cocomone here was re-purposed as Mirage. Transformers and Go-Bots sharing Third-Party molds… when will the madness end? Anyway, Cocomone is packaged in her robot mode, but let’s start in her vehicle mode.

Cocomone is an Formula-1 style racer and Go-Bots purists will no doubt notice that this is not Crasher’s original alt mode. I don’t know a lot about these kinds of racecars, but a little research suggests that she was originally a Porsche 956, or at least that’s what her toy looked like. Obviously, DX9 wanted to make the Mirage release a priority here. Still, the coloring and the fact that they’re both high performance racecars helps sell it to me. As does the fact that I’m not about to get all uppity and upend any tables over a Go-Bot’s alt mode. This mode lock together pretty well, although I tend to have problems with the alignment of the rear tires on mine, as they don’t roll smoothly. The bulk of the sculpted detail here lies in the exposed engine behind the driver’s seat. So, all in all, simple and elegant.

The deco consists entirely of black, gray, and red, and a lot of that is the color of the plastic as opposed to paint. You do, however, get some nice silver paint on the front edge of the driver compartment. The colors are attractive, and the overall result is an aesthetic that lends itself to more of a simple animated style than a realistic one. That works for me. DX9 also included stickers to help spruce things up. They’re OK, but not great, and sadly they don’t include anything for the face of the spoiler. They do include a pair of lipstick graphics, which at least speak to her being a femme-bot. I do wish some of them, like the “1” for the front of the car was cut closer or had a background that matched the gray plastic.

Other than Salmoore, I have no Go-Bots to compare her to, so I wanted to see how she staks (Get it? Staks? That’s a Go-Bot, folks!) up to an MP Transformer. So there’s a picture of her with Smokescreen. They scale pretty well, and that’s to be expected since we know this mold was also used for their Not-MP Mirage. She doesn’t scale as well with Salmoore in alt mode, but that’s also to be expected because sadly mass shifting doesn’t exist and so you need a big motorcycle mode to create a robot that’s in scale with the others. As for the transformation, I feel it features just the right level of complexity, and it goes fairly smoothly. There aren’t any scary clearances like on Salmoore, and I was actually able to get Cocomone transformed without consulting the instructions at all.

So, just like the alt mode, the robot mode is obviously intended to be Mirage first and Crasher second. In fact, from the neck down, I don’t think there’s anything here that was re-sculpted to be unique to Cocomone, so really we are dealing with a straight-up repaint of their Not-Mirage. That’s obviously going to be a sticking point with all the Go-Bots enthusiasts out there. The deco doesn’t change much in robot mode either, but that’s fine because the colors look great on her.

From the back, Cocomone looks pretty good too. I appreciate that DX9 included two hinged plates, the only purpose of which is to help cover her hollow legs. The wheels are a little awkwardly placed when viewed from behind, and they have to be positioned just right to keep her from falling backwards. It’s a shame they couldn’t have found a way to make the rounded driver section of the car land on her chest instead of her back, because it would have really helped to hammer the homage home.

I’ve seen a lot of complaints over this head sculpt, but I think it’s pretty good. There’s no doubt to me as who it’s supposed to be, the details are well defined, and the paint is excellent. I do think that DX9’s heads are a little undersized, but not ridiculously so.

Cocomone comes with one accessory and that’s her rifle. I’m sure I mentioned in my Salmoore review that Go-Bots don’t generally tend to carry guns, they just shoot energy beams out of their big goofy fists. Me? I prefer my robots with guns, so I’m glad DX9 included it.

In the end, I think this is a fun and good looking figure, and she compliments Salmoore quite nicely. The plastic quality feels a smidge better than Salmoore and the engineering is a lot better thought out. I’ll grant you, DX9 put a lot more effort into making Salmoore work as Cy-Kill than they did making Cocomone look like Crasher, and that’s certainly going to be a sticking point with some collectors. On the other hand, if you aren’t too hung up on the Go-Bots, you can easily just slap a Decepticon emblem on her and have a new MP-scaled figure for the woefully outnumbered MP Decepticons. I couldn’t really recommend Cocomone at the original price point of around $70, but at half that price, I’m mighty glad I picked her up.

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Salmoore by DX9

For someone who has sworn to try to kick the third-party convertoroboformer habit, I haven’t been doing a very good job of it. And by the way, Last week’s Fansproject review doesn’t count, because I’ve been sitting on Severo forever. No, in reality, I’ve cut way back and will continue to do so, but when a certain online retailer clearanced out some of DX9’s figures at about half price, I couldn’t say no. And that brings us to Salmoore, a dude who shares a lot with their Splinter/Wreck-Gar, but is intended resemble a certain leader of the Renegade Go-Bots. Yeah, that’s right, Go-Bots. After almost 10 years of writing this junk, this may be the first time I even mentioned The Go-Bots on FFZ. I was never a fan of the cartoon growing up, but I sure loved the toys.

Here’s the packaging, and would you just look at this goddamn work of art! DX9 knows how to make an attractive box. Oh, the box itself is nothing all that special. It’s fully enclosed and houses a plastic tray with the figure and accessories. It’s also collector friendly. The artwork, on the other hand, is absolutely stellar. I tend to not care much about packaging. It’s mainly just a way to get a toy to me without some kid rubbing boogers or fry grease all over it at the store. But that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate something like this. It’s so colorful and it has so much character, and I’d probably buy a print of it if one were available. Ah, but I suppose I need to get past the packaging and check out the figure inside. Salmoore comes packaged in his robot mode, but as usual, let’s start with his alt mode.

If you’re familiar with Splinter, than the majority of this motorcycle mode will also be familiar to you, as Splinter is just a re-color of Salmoore here. And I’m 99% sure that Salmoore came first. Now, DX9 did bother to re-sculpt the headlamp and shield piece that sits between the handlebars for these two figures and I can appreciate that. The rest of the bike, however, is identical and doesn’t reflect a whole lot of direct design cues from the original Go-Bot’s alt mode. This design feels more vintage and it’s obviously more rounded and looks a lot more like a realistic bike. I’m cool with that. Motorcycle transformers can be tough to do well, and this is one case where they didn’t have to sacrifice much for a great looking alt mode.

The deco shares all the right colors with the original Cy-Kill toy, namely red, white, blue, and chrome, but the ratio and placement of the colors is pretty far off. Here I would have liked something a little closer, but in this case they were clearly going for an accurate deco in the robot mode and couldn’t do both. Also, I could have done without the “Salmoore” printed on the gas tank. Still, the chrome looks great, the blue has a nice flecked, metallic finish, and the rubber tires add a sense of premium quality to the toy. The yellow headlamp on the front is a nice familiar shout out, and you get yellow taillights on the back as well. The bike also has a fold down kickstand to hold it up for display and it works quite well.

It’s worth mentioning that Salmoore’s bike mode is pretty close to 1:12 scale, which puts it at a nearly perfect size for those Marvel Legends or other 6-inch figures in your collection.

The transformation here isn’t terribly complicated, but there are some clearances that are a real pain in the ass to work with. Moving the arms, for example requires them to be angled a very specific way so that the shoulders will clear the chrome engine block pieces. It requires a lot of care to avoid scratching the chromed surface, or worse: Actual breakage. The plastic here doesn’t feel cheap, but it doesn’t feel as substantial as the stuff found in the better 3P bot-makers out there. With that having been said, there’s some cool engineering at work here, as well as some minor parts forming (both the wheels and the exhaust pipes come off), but some of that was reflected in the original toy as well. Still, in the end, I just have to admit that this is not a very fun toy to transform.

The pay off is, however, worth it because Salmoore doesn’t only look great in his motorcycle mode, but he looks pretty damn fab in his robot mode as well. While the bike mode only showed evidence of minimal re-tooling between him and Splinter, Salmoore’s robot mode shows off a different chest and head. The result is a pretty good updated version of Cy-Kill, but one that still strays from the straight and narrow in a lot of areas. To put it bluntly, it’s very clear that this mold was intended to be a compromise between two characters. How cool you are with that, will greatly affect your enjoyment of the toy. Me? I’m not exactly a Go-Bots purist, so overall I think it’s fine. If there’s anything that bothers me it’s the asymmetrical lower legs. I didn’t mind them as much on Splinter, because it was at least in keeping with the idea that Junkions are made of scavenged parts, but it doesn’t really suit Cy-Kill all that well. On the other hand, I love how the shock absorbers from the motorcycle mode wind up on his legs.

Something else that doesn’t suit the homage all that well are the spiked tire housings. I kept them on for the initial pictures, but after that they came off and will likely stay off. As for the back of the figure, well it looks mostly OK. the chrome pieces that tuck into the cavity in the torso are rather unsightly, but nothing terrible. I like the way the back legs fill in too. I won’t complain about the boxy nature of Salmoore’s arms, because replicating those tubes the original toy had would be difficult. Doing it with decent articulation would have also been tough. Oh Primus, how I hated Cy-Kill’s arms in the cartoon. They didn’t have elbows, but instead just curved like they were made out of rubber. Actually, I think that was the case with a lot of them. It was a weirdly drawn show.

The robot color scheme, however, is quite solid. The mix of red, white, blue, and chromed out plastics are all spot on and the extra hits of gray, yellow, and blue definitely elevates the figure. I suppose his arms should be chromed too, but I can understand why they aren’t and I think the white plastic works well enough in its place. OMG, don’t get me started on Cy-Kills arms again! The fact that his feet are two different colors does irk me a bit, but at least all the offending points are confined to one area.

I like the headsculpt a lot, as it definitely looks the part. It might be a little more Transformer-y, particularly in how angular it is. The Go-Bots felt like they had more organic style faces than the Transformers. I’m still OK with it. The new chest goes a long way to drive the homage home and I like the translucent yellow piece in the middle. I also dig the way the chromed out pedals on his shoulders look, but it definitely deviates from the homage they’re going for here.

The articulation is overall solid, but there’s still a few things that irk me. The plates which the shoulders attach to do not peg into place, so they tend to hinge away from the torso when manipulating the arms. These do work in the favor of added articulation, but they can be unsightly. My other issue is that the rotational joints in the hips are a bit loose on my figure. It’s not enough to cause him to fall over, but they’re not as tight as I’d like, whereas the lateral movement on these are really tight.

Salmoore’s exhaust pipes convert into a pair of twin guns for him, by extending out the thicker part and folding down a handle. I dig these. They have a very retro-sci-fi feel to them. They’re also not remotely linked to Cy-Kill, a character who just fired blasts from his big goofy fists. Here’s a deviation I approve of. To me guns are just cooler and more fun than laser firing hands. And yes, these are identical to the exhaust pipe guns that come with Splinter.

Another option which doesn’t fit the Cy-Kill homage is the ability to use one of the spiked wheels as a shield by pegging it into the forearm. I think this worked better on Splinter, because I usually keep his other wheel on his right leg and it balances out a little nicer. Still, it’s a pretty cool option to have and I think he looks great using it.

It’s amazing how a couple of tweaks to the mold and a new paint job can re-create a figure into two characters from two different franchises. Granted, there are a number of big departures between this figure and the original Cy-Kill, but in the end this design works for me as it is intended. It does not, however, work as well for me as this mold did as Wreck-Gar. Despite Salmoore being released first, I feel like Splinter was this mold’s original intent. I should also qualify my enjoyment of this figure by pointing out that I only paid $35 for him, which I believe is about half of the original price. That makes a big difference, because in the end I don’t feel like the plastic quality or engineering justifies the original retail value.

Lost Exo-Realm Severo (LER-04 DX Edition) by Fansproject, Part 2

Welcome back, Convertorobo Fans, to the second part of my look at the fourth release in Fansproject’s Lost Exo-Realm series of Not-Dinobots. It’s Severo, a figure that is under no circumstances meant to resemble a certain Transformer named Grimlock. Yesterday, I checked out his T-Rex mode and now I’m all ready to get him into robot mode. Transforming Severo is very similar to many past Grimlock figures. The dino legs become the arms, the robot legs fold out of the tail, the dino chest splits in half, and the neck and head are worn down the back. The tolerances and clearances on this figure are all fine, but it does take a little work to disengage the tabs that lock him together in his dino mode. With that having been said, I was able to change this guy from robot to dino and back for the first time in a while without having to consult instructions, so I consider that to be fairly intuitive. In fact, I’d say he’s the second easiest of the LER figures to transform, with Volar/Swoop being the easiest.

Behold, Severo in his robot mode. I freaking love this guy! He looks like a goddamn powerhouse and he walks that fine line between hitting all the important Grimlock tropes while still offering something of a unique edge to his design. The gold chest with clear chest-plate is easily recognizable, as are the dino claws that frame his fists on the tops and bottoms of his chunky forearms. The proportions on this big guy are perfect to me, and that goes a long way to make up for some of the sacrifices made to the T-Rex mode’s proportions. I think my favorite design element here are those high and massive shoulders. Not only do they look damn imposing, but they’re practical in that they help protect his head from getting knocked off in a melee fight. The robot mode retains a lot of the same deco as his T-Rex mode, but also adds some very bright red to his abs and pelvis.

From the back, we can see some more familiar Grimlock elements. The two halves of the T-Rex chest form “wings,” but here they actually peg into place to keep them from flopping around. And while they look like a hollow eyesore now, I’ll come back to them in a bit with a way to fill them out as weapons storage. The dino hands can be positioned in a number of ways, but I prefer them straight out with the claws pointing down. By turning the T-Rex head around it tucks in pretty nicely along his back. Although this piece does not peg into place, it tends to stay put pretty well. The lower legs are a little unsightly from the back, and you can easily see where the tail folds up. Oh yeah, they can be a little tough to see, Severo has some exhaust ports coming off the back of his shoulders, which make for a nice homage to War Within Grimlock.

The head sculpt borrows heavily from the Grimlock we all know and love, it’s just more stylized and angular and looks terrific. He has a lovely translucent red visor with two light piping panels on the top of his head. Sadly, these don’t seem to work that well. Even with a direct light source, I can’t seem to get his visor to illuminate. Oh well. The head shot above also gives a closer look at the plates that the shoulders connect to. I’m going to assume that these were meant as another homage to War Within Grimmy, as they look to be sculpted a bit like treads. Even if it wasn’t intentional, I can sure see a connection in the design and I love it.

Severo’s articulation is excellent for a bulky guy and I’m happy to say that he’s bristling with strong ratchet joints. This is probably a bit of overcompensation brought on my Columpio’s somewhat loose hips. In addition to rotating ratchets in his shoulders and hips, he has double hinges in his elbows, hinges in his knees, swivels in his wrists, biceps, and thighs. His head is ball jointed, he has a waist swivel, and his ankles feature feature swiveling hinges to help keep his feet flat, even in those wider stances. His fingers are also hinged with all the fingers fused as one. Severo has a fair amount of lateral movement in his arms. He can’t quite get them up at a 90-degree angle from his shoulder, but what’s here fine for me. Now, let’s check out some weapons!

I showed off the giant mini-guns with his T-Rex mode and obviously he can dual wield them in his robot mode as well. Severo is already a formidable looking bot, so what do you get when you equip him with these bad boys? Probably a lot of Decepticons shitting their pants. The mini-guns peg right into his fists and they have hinged trigger guards that close up over the knuckles on the hands. These weapons feature nicely detailed sculpts as well as some translucent red pieces near the breeches, which do include a nice light piping effect. Equipping both of the giant mini-guns also shows how well those ratchet joints hold up.

Did I mention Severo can store most of his weapons on his person when he’s not using them? The mini-guns tab securely into slots on his “wings” which makes them angle up over his shoulders and gives him a cool and very distinctive silhouette. They also help fill up that hollow look behind the wings that I mentioned earlier.

If the mini-guns are a little too overstated for you, Severo comes with a double-barrel rifle that’s very reminiscent of Grimlock’s trademark weapon. It’s a single molded piece of black plastic with two translucent red pieces that plug into the ends of the barrels. This thing looks OK, but I feel like maybe it’s a little too big and the red tips on the barrels look a little obnoxious to me. It’s nice to have it, but I doubt I’ll be displaying him with it a lot.

Severo can store the rifle behind either shoulder by pegging it into either of his “wings,” but you can’t store it there if his mini-guns are in place. Technically, you could have him wear it on his hip, by pegging it into the socket there, but it’s very unwieldy and I wouldn’t recommend it. Besides, the hip works much better as a place to store our next weapon…

Next up is his sword. Each of the LER figures came with an energy sword, and each one has been a completely new design and sculpt. Severo’s is a no-nonsense weapon with a simple cross-guard and some great detail work in the blade. He can hold it well in either hand, although the top claw can sometimes get in the way of the cross-guard, so it helps to angle it.

Much of the promotional art shows Severo wearing the sword on his shoulder. That’s certainly an option, but I think it looks rather awkward there. Thankfully, he also has ports on each of his hips, so he can wear the sword in a more normal fashion. I really love being able to store it on his hip and I wish all the other LER figures were capable of doing this as well. Let’s move on to his last weapon, the Weapon Masters War Hammer!

Remember these goofy guys? Well, they combine into this…

Now, I’m not going to get into the ethics of one sentient robot using other sentient robot beings as a bludgeoning implement, but if you don’t think too hard about it, it’s pretty bad ass. It’s not the prettiest weapon in the world, it’s just a big block of destruction with spikes sticking out of it, but it’s ridiculously heavy looking and Severo looks great wielding it. I would imagine it could make quick work of a Decepticon head. It’s really the perfect weapon for a prehistoric robot warrior. But Severo is not just any robot warrior, he’s king. And every king needs a throne…

The throne is the biggest incentive to go for the Deluxe release of the figure, and it is indeed quite the showpiece. It’s cast in durable plastic with the back portion hollow and unfinished. The front and sides feature all sorts of panel lines, exposed pipes, vents and other bits of detail. It’s also painted with a wash to give it a dirty, oily, and overall well-worn look. The hole in the back is there to accommodate the T-Rex head hanging off Severo’s back. Not only does it allow him to sit, but it helps hold him in place quite nicely too.

It’s impressive to me that such a bulky figure design can not only sit on this thing, but look great doing it. Originally, I wasn’t sure I was going to go for the Deluxe version, because the whole Grimlock wearing a crown and sitting on a throne gimmick doesn’t do a lot for me. But seeing him seated on it, really sells it. There are also a bunch of peg holes on the throne so that you can hang his mini-guns on it, and you can even place all the LER Dinobot swords on it, Game of Thrones style.

There is room for one more sword too, in case Fansproject ever gets around to releasing Snarl. Fabulous!

And yes, he does come with a crown too, if that’s your thing. I’m glad they stopped short of giving him an apron and a tea tray.

Phew… even for a two-parter, this was a lot to talk about, and my thanks to those of you who are still with me! The Deluxe version of Severo retailed at most sellers for around $139.99, which was only about $20 more than the regular version. Of all the LER Dinobots, he’s the only one that seems to have sold out at the regular places I visit, at least the last time I checked. I’ve enjoyed each and every one of the releases in this series quite a bit and now that I have the LER versions of the original three Dinobots, as well as Swoop, I’m all the more pleased. These make for a damned impressive display, which only begs the question… where’s the LER version of Snarl? Well, Fansproject actually showed off a painted prototype of Snarl, designated LER-06 and named Pinchar, sometime last year. Although since then the LER-05 and LER-06 slots have been taken up by a couple of Femme-Dinobots that transform into raptors. These are slated to be released any time now, and I like the idea that they’re thinking outside the box. Again, my favorite thing about these dinos is that they’re original interpretations and not just straight copies. But it’s undeniably frustrating to be getting those before Snarl. And there’s still some question over whether or not Pinchar is going to release at all. Fansproject is claiming it will happen, but the longer the delays get, the less likely it seems.

Lost Exo-Realm Severo (LER-04 DX Edition) by Fansproject, Part 1

Today, I’m rolling out a blast from the past! I embarked on collecting Fansproject’s Lost Exo-Realm Not-Dinobots back in 2014 with the first release, Columpio. I’ve been grabbing them up and reviewing them as each one released up until the fourth figure, Severo (aka Not-Grimlock) and he kind of got lost in the shuffle. It wasn’t that I forgot about reviewing him, but rather I could never find the time needed to transform all his brothers for the group and comparison shots that I would inevitably need to do. And so, he kept getting pushed back and pushed back. But with the final quarter of the year looming, I’m trying to wrap up any loose ends and happily Severo is now going to be one of them. As with the past LER figures, I’m going to break this up into two parts, which works out fine since I didn’t have anything new for DC Friday tomorrow anyhow. Today I’m going to look at the packaging, the T-Rex mode, and his little robot Weapon Masters, and tomorrow I’ll come back with his robot mode, throne, and other accessories!

So, I should point out that I’m looking at the Deluxe Edition of the figure, which means he comes with some extra stuff and requires a much bigger box than the regular release and his dino-brothers. The artwork is still very similar to previous releases, but instead of a landscape box, this one is closer to being a cube. The front flap is secured with velcro and opens to reveal the figure in his robot mode, and sitting on his massive throne. The back panel shows photos of the contents, including Severo in both his modes. Inside the box, you get the figure, an instruction booklet, the throne, a bunch of weapons, and his Weapon Master twins, Pottad and Kottav. The exclusive items here are the throne, and the on extra Weapon Master. Most of the weapons are intended for his robot mode, but we will get to take a look at a couple today.

And here is Severo in his T-Rex mode. There’s a lot for me to love here and some things for me to gripe about. For starters, his design matches his brothers perfectly. From the concave VTOL-style shoulders in the legs, to the various cut lines and panels, there’s no denying that these fellas are all intended to be a matched set. The coloring is also as great as ever. The gray plastic is rich and mimics a steel finish pretty well. There’s some red and green panels painted in, as well as some translucent red parts covering exposed areas. One deviation in the deco can be found in the use of metallic gold. The previous releases used metallic gold for the exclusives and a satin gold finish for the regular retail releases. Severo marries the two together by using the satin gold for the claws, but the metallic gold for his neck and back plates. I think it works pretty well. You also get some metallic silver for the arms. The paint quality on this line has been top notch from the beginning and after four figures, it has yet to disappoint.

Severo looks like a powerhouse when viewed from certain angles, but from the sides he looks like his body and tail are somewhat atrophied. It almost makes him look like a T-Rex/Raptor Hybrid. It’s kind of the reverse of what we got with MP Grimlock  In fact, let’s have a quick look…

The Lost Exo-Realm dinos are scaled for the Generations line, so Severo isn’t quite as tall as Grimlock, but he comes closer than I originally imagined. But where MP Grimlock has a powerful, beefy body, and rather understated legs, Severo has the reverse. His legs look big and powerful, and his body a little puny. Note that I have his mini-guns attached in the picture above, which bulks him out a little more, and I’ll come back to those in a bit. The legs feature articulation in the shoulders, knees, and ankles and he can balance quite well, which is a good thing, because his tail tends to be off the ground. As always, the LER figures are meant to be Fansproject’s interpretations of the Dinobots, not direct copies, like some of the other 3P efforts, and while I would have preferred a bulkier body, I still really like the direction they took this T-Rex mode.

The dino head looks great and can angle from side to side. The jaws open and he’s got a flame nozzle inside his mouth. It’s pretty rad and makes me wish he came with a flame effect part to plug in there. I won’t hold that against him, though, because in fairness, there’s a hell of a lot of other stuff in this box. The arms are ball jointed at the shoulders and the fingers are molded together and hinged. And speaking of other stuff in the box…

The mini-guns tab together and peg into Severo’s back. Chances are Severo will spend most of his time displayed in robot mode, but if I ever do choose to display him in T-Rex mode, you can bet he’s going to have these babies on him. Not only do they fill him out better, but why would you not want twin gatling guns on your robot dino? Of course, these are only the official placement.

They can also be pegged in further up where they can independently swivel. While not as compact, I like this look a lot. Not only can they aim independently, but they also have a lot more clearance. Want more?

Well, you can also plug them into the sides of his legs. This looks like it would be pretty effective too, but he’s already wide in the hips, and this just adds to that even more, so it’s not one of my favorite looks for him. What’s that? You like your giant robot T-Rex’s to be more hands on?

Yes, Severo can actually wield his giant miniguns in his adorable little T-Rex hands. My friends, this is almost everything I’ve ever wanted in a Dinobot. I can’t even calculate how much this raises the coolness factor of this toy for me. Well done, Fansproject. Well done. Let’s move on to Severo’s Twin Weapon Masters…

Pottad and Kottav are identical twins and they’re quite sturdy and well made for these types of figures. They’re squat and stocky designs gives them a bit of a primitive look that works well with the Dinobot theme. They’re comprised of black, gray, and red plastic, with some gold and red paint hits to spruce things up. The articulation is pretty good too, with plenty of hinges and ball joints in all the right places. These fellas can transform and combine to form a pretty big war hammer for Severo, but we’ll look at that tomorrow. The Weapon Masters have never been a big draw for me about this line, but after four releases, they have grown on me quite a bit. It’s just a neat little extra that Fansproject threw in and it definitely makes the LER series stand more distinctive in sea of 3P Not-Dinobots. OK, let’s wrap up today with some group shots of all four of the LER figures in their dino modes.

Hell, yeah! I think these guys look amazing together and I’m really happy I took this plunge way back when. The decos and styles match beautifully and they scale pretty well with my Generations figures. As for Severo, I think the T-Rex mode is overall very good, but the smaller body holds him back from being great. From certain angles he looks fine, but from others I think his alt mode falls behind those of the other LER Dinobots. On the other hand, he more than makes up for it with play value as well as all the work Fansproject put into his sculpting and deco. And as we’ll see tomorrow, his robot mode rises to the occasion to make up for any deficiencies in this mode. Come on back tomorrow and we’ll wrap this up. There’s still plenty to talk about!

Splinter: I’m A Hero! by DX9

Yes, it’s still Transformers Thursday. No, this is not a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles review. I’m checking in with yet another Third Party Convertobot and this time it’s DX9’s Not-Wreck-Gar, who is most definitely not a Junkion, was never voiced by Eric Idle, and did not appear in any films in 1986 also starring Orson Welles and Judd Nelson. With this being the fourth week in a row of 3P Transformers love, you might think that I’m diving head first into these guys again. The truth is, I’ve just found some good deals and I’m taking care of unfinished business before I try to pull out from Imitation Transformers collecting altogether. And with that having been said, let’s check out Splinter!

I love this packaging. Nothing about it takes itself seriously, but man does it feature some great and colorful artwork! I only own one other product from DX9, and that’s their upgrade kit for Combiner Wars Megatron. It’s a great kit, but it came in bland and boring packaging. This, on the other hand, well like the copy says, it’s just beyond my imagination! Besides being a hoot, the box is completely collector friendly. The figure comes in a plastic tray in his robot mode with his weapons and wheels laid out beside him, but let’s go ahead and get started with his alt mode.

As expected, Splinter is a motorcycle and I think this is a really solid alt mode, but it does fall short in a few areas. There are clearly some robot parts showing through, particularly under the seat, and I think that keeps Splinter from hitting that high Masterpiece quality pedigree. I also think the handlebar area could have used some more polishing. The handlebars themselves are kind of floppy and the headlamp is quite obviously on a hinge, and I’m not sure why they opted to make it out of translucent red plastic. I also really wish he had a proper transparent windshield.

Now, that’s a lot of nitpicking, but considering that this is a 3P figure aimed at the Masterpiece market in both cost and scope, I think they’re all fair points. And to be fair there’s also plenty of good stuff going on here too. The coloring is very much on point. That orange-brown plastic they used for most of the body certainly suits the homage and the chromed out engine and exhaust system looks really sharp and elevates the look of the toy to that premium level. The black flames on the gas tank are a nice touch, as are the rubber tires. And while I don’t know squat about motorcycles, I do really enjoy the style they went with here. It looks to me like an older bike, and while it’s obviously not as squared off as the original G1 toy, there are just enough boxy bits here and there to drive that homage home without compromising the look of the alt mode. I’m also very pleased with how well the bike mode stays together and the fold down kickstand is certainly welcome. Again, it’s a solid alt mode, but it’s the lack of fine tuning that keeps it from truly running with the official Masterpiece bots.

As far as scale goes, Splinter’s bike mode is pretty close to being suited for 6-inch scale figures and I tossed out a shot of Hasbro’s Marvel Legends Ghost Rider mounting him to give you an idea of what that looks like. Of course, that means he’s nowhere near in scale with the Masterpiece alt modes, as evidenced by the above comparison shot of him with Masterpiece Ironhide. He’s enormous by comparison. Now, I’m not going to hold that against Splinter, because until the toy companies work out a way to employ actual mass shifting in their products, you’re going to have to sacrifice the scale of a motorcycle alt mode to make the robot mode work. And in the end, it’s the robot mode’s scale that I really care about. So let’s get this guy transformed and see how that robot mode fares!

Transforming Splinter is not an overly complex undertaking, but I found that there are a few steps that are more difficult then they should be. The clearance on the arms, for example, is way too tight and you really have to have them in a very precise position to get them to fold in and out of  for the bike mode. It’s also worth mentioning that Splinter requires a fair amount of parts removal and this initial above shot is him without those bits re-attached yet. Both wheels and both exhaust pipes come off and there are additional spiked plates for the wheels that don’t fit into the motorcycle mode at all. Some fans are likely to cry, Partsformer! Me? I think it would have been cool to work those wheel plates in as saddlebags or something, but overall I think it’s fine and, as we’ll soon, see it does give you a number of options on how you want to display Splinter in his robot mode.

One option is to put the wheels on the shoulders, which looks good, but it’s not really how I picture Wreck-Gar. It’s also a dead giveaway that this mold was also used by DX9 as their Not-Cy-Kill from the Go-Bots. That’s right, kids… Third-Party Go-Bots! Anyway, let’s try again…

Ahh, that’s more like it. This is how I’m used to seeing Wreck-Gar. Actually, it’s usually with one tire on his leg and the other worn as a shield, and that’s possible here as well and I’ll demonstrate it when I get to the weapons. Looking beyond the position of the tires, I think this is a really solid robot mode. I kind of miss G1 Wreck-Gar’s nipple guns, but I still like the design and sculpt of the chest. There’s a fair amount of detail in it and the gray and silver paint hits make it pop, as does the yellow plastic in his hips and forearms and the extra hits of red paint. I’m usually not a fan of asymmetry in my robot designs, but Wreck-Gar is a Junkion, so I’m cool with the fact that his lower legs are mismatched. The shocks from the bike mode look really good as pistons in his legs and the feet, formed by the seat and the front of the bike, give him a stable stance. The overall aesthetic forms a nice compromise between the boxy G1 look with just the right amount of sleek curves in the lower legs. Not bad at all!

From the back, things are a little rougher, but there’s nothing back here that really wrecks the figure for me. They did a fair job tidying things up, particularly with the engine parts folding in to fill the void in his torso.

The head sculpt is OK. It definitely looks like Wreck-Gar, but I think the head may be a little too small. And I’m not judging that by the fact that the G1 figure’s head was enormous. Part of my issue here might be that the neck post is so small that it kind of looks like the head is just floating there. The chrome pieces on his shoulders are probably the biggest departure from the original design, but I actually kind  of dig them. What I don’t like is that the hinges that the shoulders are on do not lock into place and will swing away from the body pretty much every time I articulate his arms.

The spiky wheel covers peg right into the wheels and I have to say I really dig them a lot. Granted, they present more of a general Junkion aesthetic then Wreck-Gar himself, but I just really like the way they look, especially when pegging one of the tires to his forearm as a shield. They do add quite a bit of bulk to his lower body, but I’m willing to accept that for the added dose of bad ass that these pieces bestow upon him. Plus, he can wield the exhaust pipes like clubs, which makes for quite a striking display when coupled with the shield.

The exhaust pipes can also be converted into rifles, which have a pretty cool retro design to them and they even have scopes. The chrome on all of these parts look fantastic and really adds a lot to the figure.

In terms of scale, the robot mode succeeds at Masterpiece scale where the bike does not. I included a shot of him with MP Ironhide, which in retrospect was probably not the best choice since Ironhide is a lot bigger than the rank-and-file Autobot cars, but hopefully you get the idea.

I realize I wound up being a lot more critical of Splinter than I have been with other recent 3P offerings. In the end, I like this figure a lot… I really do! In fact, after playing with him for a couple of days, I went ahead and ordered Salmoore and Cocomone, DX9’s versions of the Go-Bots’ Cy-Kill and Crasher. So even with all the nit-picking, that should be taken as an endorsement. But here’s the thing… I bought all of these at half price and so I’m willing to be a lot more forgiving of some of the criticisms I had with this guy, then if I had paid the original $75 for him. I don’t feel as if this is anywhere near a $75 figure, even by the usually inflated 3P standards.

Evil Bug Corps: Kickbutt by BadCube

Here we are, folks, at BadCube’s final entry in their line of Not-Insecticons. Over the last two weeks I’ve looked at Claymore and Hypno, and now it’s Kickbutt’s turn. And yes, if you haven’t noticed some might say that Kickbutt bears something of a resemblance to that Transforming grasshopper Kickback, but I’m sure that wasn’t intentional and a total coincidence. Also… his name is great. Kickbutt. Lolz. Copyright infringement can be fun!

This is the third time seeing this packaging. It’s a fully enclosed box with some nice character artwork on the front. On it’s own, there’s nothing too remarkable here, but if you put all three packages together it creates a little panorama of art, which is kind of neat. Kickbutt comes packaged in his robot mode, between two clear plastic trays, but I’m going to “kick” things off with his alt mode.

Yup, he’s a grasshopper. Or locust. I’m not sure, because I’m not one of them bug doctors. In any event, Kickbutt’s alt mode looks absolutely fantastic, although of the three it is the most fiddly. Part of that has to do with the nature of his alt mode. Grasshoppers just aren’t as compact as beetles, so his legs required a bit of extra futzing when I was posing him to get all those legs even. Either way, I don’t want to make it out to be a big deal and it’s worth the effort because this bug mode is every bit as great as his fellow Evil Corps members.

Some points of interest include his ass-gun (they don’t call him Kickbutt for nothing!), the face shield that keeps his robot head from peeping at you when you look underneath, and the wonderful articulation in his legs. Not only are his back legs fully articulated, but his fronts are as well. Like Hypno, Kickbutt’s legs can hold him so he’s standing with his undercarriage completely off the ground. The butt gun may turn some people off, as it’s definitely the biggest departure any of these designs take from the original G1 models, but I actually enjoy that it incorporates the gun into the alt mode. Plus, he can still shoot at things when he’s running away.

The articulation also means that he can be posed with his back legs rearing up and kicking, which is pretty damn cool.

The deco here falls right in line with his peers and includes the same lovely black plastic with a smooth satin finish, purple plastic, and some red and blue paint hits for detail. I really dig the pencil thin blue lining that circles around those recessed gears on his legs. As this is the “Collector’s Edition” upgrade, Kickbutt features chromed out wings, a chromed out butt gun, and a yellow translucent plastic hatch on his back.

And here are some quick shots for scale comparison. Like his buddies, he dwarfs his G1 counterpart, and rightly so, as those guys are roughly equivalent to today’s Legends Class figures. On the other hand, he’s just a bit bigger than your average Masterpiece car, which for me makes him scaled perfectly with Takara’s MP line. So how’s the robot mode?

Pretty damn great! (Even better if you remember to turn both his fists the right way, which I sadly did not! DAMMIT!) Now, if you read my other Bug Corps reviews, than you’ll know I found Hypno and Claymore to have pretty comfy transformations. Kickbutt breaks that trend. The first time, I converted this guy it was a fidgety nightmare with bug and robot parts flopping around everywhere! He was not fun to transform. But the second time (and a couple days later), I attempted it without instructions and I was surprised to find that I had no problems. So, it’s still pretty fiddly with a lot going on, but it’s fairly intuitive, and it’s impressive just what a clean bot form it produces. The proportions on this guy are great and he fits the bill as a great looking MP version of Kickback.

The deco remains pretty consistent with what we saw in bug mode, with that lovely combination of black and purple and some extra hits of silver and red to make things pop. Once again, the translucent yellow chest plate and those beautiful chromed out wings are exclusive to the “Collector’s Edition” and I couldn’t imagine going any other way with these guys. I really dig the little bit of extra sculpted detail on his back and the fact that they painted it in yellow to more closely match the deco of the other two buggy bots.

Also, like his peers, Kickbutt can store his gun on his back.

The head sculpt is superb and follows the Sunbow animated model of the character, rather than the G1 toy. The silver paint looks sharp and I can’t even begin to properly express my love for that red paint they used for his visor. It looks amazing. His yellow antenna swivel, so you can pose them to give him a little more expression if you like. Also, like Claymore, Kickback comes with an extra smirking face. It’s a great bonus, but not something I’m likely to bother with ever swapping out. I will, however, eventually make use of that spot in the middle of his chest for a Decepticon sticker.

Kickbutt’s gun features the same great “tommy gun” design that the original toy’s gun had. It also features the same spatula handle design that the other Bug Corps guns use. It simply tabs into the slot inside the hand and you hinge the knuckles closed around it.

And yes, Kickbutt also comes with another squishy plastic Energon cube. Before wrapping up, let’s take a look at some size comparison shots for the robot mode.

Yup, he towers over his official G1 counterpart. I love checking these out side-by-side and seeing what a great job BadCube did updating the design. And once again, I think these bugs scale beautifully with the Masterpiece cars. Kickbutt has the edge over Smokecreen, but only because of his shoulder wings. Otherwise, he’s about a head shorter, and that works perfectly for me!

As I mentioned in the previous reviews, these guys are currently selling as a set at $140 for the “Collector’s Edition” and I can honestly say these feel like one of the few bargains of the 3P Transformers market. At just under $50 a figure, they’re certainly a little cheaper than the official MP figures of the same size. I think BadCube did a great job here on just about every level. The plastic quality feels good, the engineering has just the right level of complexity (at least if you account for the initial shock of Kickbutt’s transformation) and the designs hit that wonderful sweet spot between Sunbow animated model and original toy homage. I feel as if this trio fills a vacant hole in my collection. The Legends Class Insecticons were fine individually, but they just don’t match up well enough as a set for me to fully enjoy them. These fellas, on the other hand, really make for a great looking team. And while I hear that Fan Toys’ Not-Insecticons are also pretty spectacular, I’ve got no regrets having gone with these guys.

Evil Bug Corps: Hypno by BadCube

Last week, I kicked off my look at BadCube’s Not-Insecticons with a review of the leader, Claymore, and found him to be an excellent bug-bot. Today I’m pressing on with Hypno, who you could possibly argue is inspired by a certain Transformer called Bombshell. But I’m sure that BadCube’s lawyers would suggest otherwise. The Bug Corps are scaled to go with Takara’s Masterpiece Collection and as I write this are readily available at a few online retailers for some very good deals.

I bought my Bug Corps as a set, but they come individually boxed. The boxes have some nice artwork on the front, but are otherwise unremarkable. The figure comes packaged in his robot mode, between two clear plastic trays. You also get a beefy instruction book that covers all three figures, a character card, and an Energon cube. I should also note that I’m looking at the “Collector’s Edition” set, which for a little bit more money gives you some chromed parts and translucent chests. Let’s start with the bug mode!

Hypno’s cyber-beetle mode is a fantastic update to the original G1 toy. This new design retains the large boxy body with rounded edges as well as the down swept head, large bug eyes, six legs, and long silver proboscis. He features some simple sculpted panel lines, which are just enough to add detail and still let him keep something of a smooth, animated appearance. The coloring here features a lot of black plastic, which has a nice satin finish, yellow plastic for his eyes and under his belly, and purple plastic for the head. The deco is rounded out with some red and blue paint hits on the body for detail and that gorgeous chrome on his proboscis.

This is a really solid bug that locks together perfectly, and the die cast gives it some decent heft for a figure this size. One of the things I dig the most about this guy is his set of chunky and fully articulated legs. Each leg features several strong hinges, and the legs are capable of holding Hypno so that his undercarriage isn’t resting on the ground. I’m not entirely sure why this pleases me so much, but it does.

Once again, this premium edition features the transparent yellow panel on the top of the head, and he has some surprisingly good articulation in the proboscis. Not only can it hinge up and down, but the front of it can swivel. The plate on the front of his head also floats on a joint, so it can move a bit side to side to get an even better range of motion out of that chromed out sucker.

Here are some side-by-side shots of Hypno in his bug mode with other figures. He’s obviously a lot bigger than the original G1 toy, which is no surprise as those were quite small and roughly equivalent to the modern Legends Class. The shot of him beside Streak shows he’s just a bit bigger than the MP cars. As with Claymore, I think this scale holds pretty well as the original Insecticons were about on par with the original Autobot cars. So far, I’m thrilled with the way this guy turned out, but how about his robot mode, eh?

Not bad at all! I found transforming Hypno to be a bit more fiddly than Claymore, but really not by much. A lot of the engineering involves his robot legs packing and unpacking into the back of the bug. There’s also a clever flip that happens inside his torso to exchange the robot head with the front of the bug head. Another key point worth mentioning is that his proboscis actually detaches to become his weapon in robot mode and I think that works great. BadCube selected some iconic aspects of the original toy to remain, like the tenuous way the arms attach to the shoulders, but they also streamlined a lot too. There’s virtually no bug-kibble on the arms at all, just the blasters that he has on his forearms. I will say that I think the front of Hypno’s lower legs look a bit unpolished, but it’s not all that bad, and they added some paint hits to help spruce it up.

The back of Hypno presents a very clean robot. Again, there’s really no bug-kibble to be seen. Even the two insect legs that reside back here are folded up neatly on his little yellow backpack. The back of the legs look even more refined than the front, with some blue and red paint down near the ankles. About the only thing I can gripe about here are the exposed screw heads, and that’s to be expected. Also, the backpack serves as a storage for Hypno’s gun. It simply clips right on.

Bombshell always had the most distinctive head sculpt of the Insecticons, and by sheer coincidence so does Hypno! I’ve always loved the mouth plate on this guy. It looks like a knight’s visor. The paint used for the eyes casts a cool shimmer effect, which can look like light-piping from certain angles. And, of course, on top Hypno has a faked out diminished version of his proboscis, which can be angled up and down for firing Insecti-shells. Once again, the chest plate on these “Collector’s” versions is clear plastic and he has some silver painted panels down near his abs.

The articulation here is right on par with Claymore. The arms feature universal movement in the shoulders, double hinges in the elbows with swivels, and swivels in the wrists. The legs have rotating hinges in the hips, with some lovely clicking ratchets, double hinges in the knees, and the ankles feature both hinges and lateral rockers. He can rotate at the waist and he has a ball joint in his neck.

As mentioned earlier, Hypno comes with a chromed gun, which is actually formed from the insect mode’s proboscis. It has a spatula-shaped handle that tabs into a slot inside either of Hypno’s fists and holds it pretty well.

And finally, Hypno comes with the same type of Energon cube that we saw with Claymore. Yup, it’s just a squishy cube of pink plastic, but cool nonetheless. Finally, let’s check out a couple of size-comparison shots.

Hypno towers over the original G1 version of Bombshell and he comes up just a little short of Masterpiece Streak, which feels perfect to me. I really dig the way these two styles fit together, making Hypno quite welcome on one of my official MP shelves.

As I mentioned last time, this “Collector’s Edition” of the Evil Bug Corps set me back $140, which makes these guys about $47 each and I think that makes them an incredible value. Indeed, it’s hard to find many MP scaled third party convertorobots of this quality for under $50 these days. The engineering is complex enough, but not overly fiddly, the tolerances feel fine, and there’s nothing involved in the transformation that feels like it can damage the toy. Yup, in the end, I give Hypno two Proboscises up. Sorry, I’ll never get to use that word again, so I might as well go nuts. Anyway, that’s two bug-bots down and my love for the Evil Bug Corps remains unshaken. These guys look fantastic together, and I’m all the more excited to bring the final member of the trio in next week when I look at Kickback… I mean… Kickbutt!

Evil Bug Corps: Claymore by BadCube

I promised y’all that I had plenty of Transformers to keep Transformers Thursday going through most of the Summer, but I didn’t say they’d all be official products. Nope, today I’m going back to the world of Third Party convertorobots, a place I haven’t visited in nearly two years. It would be premature to say I’ve given up on the 3P stuff, but I’ve obviously pulled back on it a lot. I do, however, still have some unfinished business, like finally getting a set of Masterpiece-quality Insecticons. Shrapnel, Bombshell, and Kickback have always been among my favorite G1 characters, and there’s been no shortage of 3P versions to choose from. It was a recent deal on Bad Cubes’ Evil Bug Corps that finally got me to take the plunge.

These fellas were sold as a set, but they came individually boxed, and they’re each certainly worthy of their own reviews, so I’m starting today with Claymore, who could very possibly be mistaken for Shrapnel, but I’m sure that wasn’t intended at all. The figure comes in a rather unassuming enclosed box. There’s some cool artwork on the front, but not a lot else of note. Inside, Claymore is packaged in his robot mode, between two clear trays. He comes with a beefy instruction book that covers all three figures, a file card, and an Energon Cube. I should note that Claymore comes packaged with his pincers off. They snap into place via ball joints and I’m a little apprehensive about popping them on and off a lot, as it’s bound to stress the socket’s plastic. It’s a tad annoying, because if you want to put him back in the box, you have to take them off again. Anyway, let’s go ahead and start with his alt mode.

Claymore is a cybernetic stag beetle and if you’re looking for a faithful update to the original toy’s alt mode, this is definitely it! This bug is beefier and certainly locks together better than his G1 predecessor, but still retains all the familiar characteristics. You get the squared off body, the dual thrusters in his bug butt, the thinly disguised robot arms on the sides, and the long yellow feet. The bits of added die cast also give the figure a satisfying degree of heft. The coloring on this figure is absolutely perfect. Keep in mind, we’re looking at the premium “Collector’s Edition” release, which means the pincers and head are beautifully chromed out and the hatch on top is translucent yellow plastic. The black has a nice satin-matte finish, the purple is just the right shade for a proud Decepticon, and the yellow on the feet really pops.

In addition to locking together really well, this mode features a few other notable improvements. The pincers, as mentioned earlier are ball jointed, so you can get a lot of nice movement out of them. Besides opening and closing, they can be raised and lowered and moved independently of each other. It’s fun to play around with them and they can be posed to give him a lot of personality. Also, the chrome shield that covers Claymore’s robot face is not connected to the pincers, so you don’t have to reveal the robot head when you open and close them. The feet are not only hinged at the body, but also at the front tips, so you can have Claymore rear back a bit, which makes for a nice angle for display in his bug-bot mode.

If your curious about size comparison, he’s certainly a lot bigger than the G1 originals. Well, obviously… those bugs were tiny! In beetle mode, Claymore is about on par with a Masterpiece car, actually just a little bit bigger, which feels perfect to me. Now, transforming this guy is obviously a lot more complex than the original toy, but it’s actually not that bad at all for a Masterpiece-level figure. Not to get ahead of myself, but I find Claymore to be the easiest of this buggy bunch by far. Most of the work lies in packing and unpacking the robot legs, which is to be expected. The clearances and tolerances all feel good, and while I certainly had to consult the instructions the first time I took him from bot to bug and back to bot, I have been good to go on my own after that.

All of those successes from his beetle mode translate beautifully into a fantastic robot mode that hits all the points I’m looking for in a Masterpiece style Shrapnel. The proportions on this guy are great and he’s a damn solid robot. In fact, the only thing I’m going to gripe about here is the way the halves of the chrome face shield kind of just hover there above his shoulders a little too much in the foreground. If BadCube could have hinged these to fold backwards, I’d consider this fella a perfect 10. As it is, I’m thinking he’s approaching a solid 9. I just thought I’d get that quibble out of the way because it’s literally the only negative thing I have to say here. So, allow me to hit some of the cool high points…

I love this head sculpt and the silver and metallic red paint used for the face is very striking. Claymore does include an alternate smirking face, but the difference to me is negligible and I doubt I’ll ever go through the bother of swapping it out. The sculpted detail on the translucent yellow chest plate is great. It’s hard for me to imagine going for the yellow-painted-chest version on these figures. Maybe the appeal there is that it looks more like the animated style, whereas this is more like the toy. And yes, I do plan on slapping a Decepticon emblem on there when I get around to it… maybe for the final group shot. Finally, I really dig the metallic blue strips on the sides of his chest. They add that little extra pop to the deco.

The forearms feature mounted guns. which are always handy when you’re a member of an Evil Bug Corps. These are also articulated as part of the transformation, so if you want to give them an extended firing mode, that option is available to you.

The beetle legs pack pretty neatly away on his back and offer a convenient place for Claymore to store his gun. All in all, he’s pretty good looking from the back. You do get some exposed screw heads, but even those aren’t terribly obvious or unsightly.

If you remove the gun from his back, you can also make out some of the silver paint detailing, which is a really nice touch when you consider it can only be seen here or when looking at the beetle mode from underneath. BadCube could have totally left this out and nobody would have noticed.

The gun is painted in the same satin-silver as the figure’s upper legs. This is also the same paint used on the pincers on the regular edition set. The handle is a little odd, as it’s just a flat square that tabs inside the hand and then you close the hinged knuckle around it. It’s worth noting that Claymore is the only one of the three that doesn’t have a specific function for his gun while he’s in bug mode.

Claymore’s articulation is excellent. The arms are ball jointed at the shoulders, there are swivels in the biceps and wrists, and the elbows are double jointed. The legs have ratcheting hinges in the hips, which supply a satisfying click when re-positioned. The knees are double hinged and the ankles are hinged and have lateral rockers for those wide stances. There’s a swivel in the waist and the neck is ball jointed. All the joints on my figure are nice and tight, although I do feel like the ball joints will loosen fairly quickly and may eventually need some dabs of furniture polish, because I can’t stop playing with this guy.

Again, on the issue of scaling, Claymore’s robot mode dwarfs the G1 toy, but more importantly it scales beautifully with the Masterpiece cars. If you don’t count his antenna, Claymore comes in just a little short of MP Lambor, and I think that’s right where he’s supposed to be. The style of the designs match quite well too.

The included Energon Cube is just a squishy cube of pinkish plastic, but a nice addition nonetheless. And we all know how Shrapnel loved his energon… energon.

My longing after 3P Insecticons goes all the way back to FansProject’s Causality bugs, a set that I procrastinated on just a little too long before it was sold out at most retailers. After that it was a long internal struggle over whether to go with Fans Toys bugs or this Evil Bug Corps by BadCube. There were many pros and cons for me and in the end, it was just so close to call that I wound up at a stalemate. I couldn’t decide and wound up buying neither. It wasn’t until this set became available on clearance at a certain E-tailer that I decided to pull the trigger. And judging by Claymore alone, I’m very glad I did. The “Collector’s Edition” set was $140 (about $20 more than the regular editions), which makes Claymore about $46. Not bad at all for a Masterpiece scaled Third Party change-o-bot. The quality is certainly here and the engineering is just complex enough, but not overly complicated. Next week, we’ll press on with a look at Bombshell… er, I mean… Hypno!

AL-01 Upgrade Kit by DX9

Yeah, there’s a title that just pulls you in, doesn’t it? In case you aren’t familiar and the catchy name doesn’t ring a bell, the AL-01 Upgrade Kit is a third-party set designed to enhance your Combiner Wars Leader Class Megatron. It’s crazy to think about how this whole third party Transformer thing started with unofficial upgrade kits for existing official figures before a few of these intrepid companies just decided to say, “screw it, let’s just make the figures.” I have plenty of 3P figures, but this is actually my first upgrade kit. It’s designed to do a bunch of things for the Megatron figure, some of which work really well and others are debatable.

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For what is essentially just a bunch of parts, DX9 executed the presentation here pretty well. The set comes in an enclosed box with some nice artwork. The front of the box has a sillouette of the figure with the parts attached and some blue and purple geometric patterns. The back shows you the parts on the actual figure and offers some very rudimentary instructions on how to use them. Surprisingly there’s no instruction sheet inside, but most of the stuff here is self explanatory and chances are if you can’t figure out how to put them on a certain way (like on the tank mode), you needn’t bother.

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Inside the box is a plastic tray that contains two hands, two feet, a gun barrel for the shoulder, a muzzle for the fusion cannon, and two leg wraps. The plastic quality for the set is very good and while there is some paint spray on the inside of some of the pieces, which cannot be seen when installed, the paint is otherwise very sharp.

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DX9 actually found ways to incorporate all of these parts into the tank mode, and while I appreciate the effort, most of them feel like an afterthought and that’s not why I bought this kit anyway. The leg wraps are the worst. They’re just supposed to clamp on the front and back of the tank and I won’t even bother with that. The feet actually don’t look too bad on the top of the turret, especially if you want to put a figure up there. The muzzle looks OK on the end of the main gun. As for the gun barrel attached to the side. Meh, I could take it or leave it. This isn’t a figure that I ever really display in alt mode, so none of this matters much to me at all. I’ll also note here that I’m not going to be bothering with the replacement fists. All they do is add hinged fingers and adding that feature is not worth the effort for me to take the arms apart. With all that having been said, let’s get to the good stuff… the enhanced robot mode!

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The muzzle for the fusion cannon fits over the front of the missile launcher and it definitely improves the look of this piece. It does not, however, magically transform it into the G1 fusion cannon. It’s still too long and the front and back are still too narrow, but I certainly prefer the figure with it on.

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The fake gun barrel is kind of a silly idea since it literally adds kibble to the figure, but it does so to help achieve an iconic feature of Megatron’s design. The intention here is that you can clip it to his right arm and if you articulate the arm you can bend the barrel so that it’s always pointing up. Who wants to bother with that? Fortunately, it can also be plugged into the screwhole in the backpack for what I think is a much better effect. I wasn’t sure whether I would bother with this part, but I have to say in the end I think it looks pretty good and I’m keeping it on.

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Finally, you get the real reason I bought this kit and that’s for the feet and leg wraps. The wraps peg onto the outside of the feet and secure quite well to the figure without inhibiting the knee articulation. Besides bulking out those scrawny lower legs, they add a pistol-grip look to the outsides of the legs and that familiar red panel to the interior. I absolutely love the way these look.

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The feet are basically just bigger “shoes” that peg into the bottoms of Megsy’s feet. The silver on these match the silver on Megatron almost perfectly and they add ankle rockers. The rockers don’t have all that much depth to them, but they will keep his feet flat on the floor in the normal stance, which is a beautiful thing. More importantly, they give Megatron that little bit of extra height that makes him capable of going toe to toe with MP-10. That’s the main reason I bought this kit and I’m happy to say that it succeeds while also making the figure’s lower half look fantastic.

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The only real downside of this kit is that it retails at about $40, which is almost as much as I paid for the figure. Granted, everything in the 3P world is more expensive and I can’t argue that the pieces here are well crafted and work well with the figure. And considering, I’m still well under what one of the 3P Not-Megatrons would have set me back, I’m extremely happy with this investment. I thought this figure was pretty spectacular to begin with and now I think he’s even better and I have absolutely no qualms about standing him on my Masterpiece shelf, at least until Takara comes along with something better.

Warbotron Combined!

Few things have riled my OCD like Warbotron naming their initial combiner Warbotron. In the name of sanity I couldn’t call today’s Feature “Warbotron by Warbotron.” And it gets even more annoying now that the company is on to other combiners. I’m starting off with a petty rant like this because I have precious little else to rant about when looking at this amazing Third-Party homage to Bruticus. Yes, there were a few initial bumps along the way, but once I got over the hump I beheld this amazing behemoth on my desk and I did gaze upon it in awe…

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Hell yeah, that’s Bruticus all right and man, do I love this thing! Much about the combined mode speaks for itself. At about 18-inches tall, he’s a heavy beast of a figure and he’s really nicely proportioned. I know there was some question about the colors being too bright on the individual bots, but I think the deco looks great as the gestalt. Even from the back he looks pretty clean.

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So, let’s talk a bit about putting him together. The only real hurdle I had was in getting Fierce Attack into the torso mode and that’s just because I couldn’t get the left shoulder assembly to lock in straight. I played around with it for like ten minutes before it suddenly just seemed to right itself. Maybe coincidently (or maybe not) that happens to be the shoulder on the robot mode that’s really tight, but hey alls well that ends well. I like that there are little arms in the back that swing out and lock the shoulder assemblies into place. Boy, Hasbro’s Combiner Wars Menasor could have used that very thing. Sure, you could argue that using Fierce Attack’s trailer to make the upper legs and pelvis is parts forming blasphemy, but I don’t care. I’m fine with some degree of it in combiners and at least it serves a purpose as part of the truck. Apart from getting the shoulder right, getting to the torso was easy-peasy as is most of the rest of the combiner modes.

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Sly Strike and Heavy Noisy are definitely the easiest, especially if you’re going from their alt modes. You’re basically just parting the backs to get the feet pegged in and then folding down the fronts to get the combiner sockets up and ready. Plugging them combiner pegs in below the knees is a bit tricky. They have tabs that lock them into place, and I had to push them with a screwdriver to get them inserted and locked. The same method (and a fair amount of force) was needed to get them out. Fortunately, these are sturdy toys and I wasn’t too worried about breaking anything. The feet form a stable foundation for this beast to stand on and the ankle joints are strong and allow for lateral rockers as well as swivels. Sly holds his perfectly, but every now and then Heavy Noisy tried to drop his. The heavy ratchet joints in the ankles are just stronger than the connection where the ankle post pegs into the legs, so it’s a good idea to hold the figure by the ankle when adjusting the feet. I’ve had Heavy Noisey’s cupola drop off once while posing him and Sly’s side panels sometimes pop out (as evidenced in the above photo), but even these are uncommon occurrences and easily fixed with some adjustments after posing.

warbrute3Air Burst and Whirlwind’s arm modes, on the other hand, are a little less sure of themselves. They’re basically made up from a half-transformed stage between robot and alt mode. In reality these are very similar to the configuration used on Hasbro’s current crop of combiner arms, complete with the twin bars joining bicep to forearm. The robots arms on either figure don’t really peg in anywhere and that’s a little annoying, but that didn’t seem to be a problem when I was playing with him at all. The hands hold in place very well and the combiner ports on the arms are not as difficult to work with as the legs. The only other quibble I have is that I didn’t have anywhere to go with Air Burst’s thruster packs in the arm mode. I should also point out that I have not yet done the torso swap for Air Burst, which means that the hips (or in this case Warbotron’s right elbow) doesn’t ratchet like Whirlwind does. That’s why in the pictures where he’s holding the gun, my Warbotron is a lefty. Otherwise posing the arms feels great and those locking bars behind the shoulders keep everything tight and together.

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The head sculpt is awesome. It’s very G1 Bruticus and it’s made by flipping a helmet and mask right over Fierce Attack’s head. You still get a full range of ball joint movement in the neck. The horn can also be positioned either straight up or angled forward. I also love the fact that they provided a familiar shaped plate on the chest just in case you wanted to put some kind of… oh, I don’t know… maybe a faction sticker there?

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I’ve already hit on some of the particular points of articulation in the arms and legs, but the overall poseability here is great. The crotch plate is hinged to allow for unimpeded forward movement at the hips. With heavy ratchets in the hips, ankles, and knees, Warby’s legs can take his substantial weight in a variety of action poses without too much fear of toppling over and never sliding into the splits in wide stances. In fact, the only time I had issues getting him to stand up was because Heavy Noisy dropped his ankle connection a couple of times. Once I started posing the ankles with a firm grip on the bottom of the leg that wasn’t an issue anymore.

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Naturally, Warbotron can wield that massive gun that came with Fierce Attack and he holds it beautifully. There are pegs on the inside of his hand to secure it and each of his multi-hinged digits can wrap around the grip tightly. Again, if you want him to hold it aloft in his right hand, you’ll have to invest the time in the torso swap for Air Burst. From what I’ve seen it’s not a big deal, but I didn’t want to hold up this Feature until I had time to do it, and fair is fair, I like to give my impressions of a figure as he ships and not after tinkering on the buyer’s end. Nonetheless, even as big and heavy as the gun is, the ratcheting elbows allow him to hold it directly out in a firing position. Not too shabby.

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For me a combiner team is as much about the team of individual robots as it is the combiner, particularly since I display most of these teams as their individual robots. That having been said, Warbotron lives up to the all the hype and excitement that got me to start down this expensive path slightly over a year ago. He’s well thought out (Air Burst’s torso not withstanding!), wonderfully proportioned, and generally fun to play with. He scales very well with the Generations Deluxes and if you want to cheat on scale a little, it’s fun to have him interact with the Legends. Of course, that leads us to the inevitable question: With MMC’s Feral Rex reigning supreme as my favorite Third-Party combiner, does Warbotron get to knock him off his throne? Gosh, that’s a tough one. It’s really, really close. I have more nostalgia for Bruticus than I do Predaking but both are such impressive looking figures I don’t know that I could definitively pick one over the other. I guess if I had to make a decision I would give the nod to Predaking, but that would be mostly because the Feral Cons were such a well-rounded package whereas Warbotron had a few hiccups along the way. In the end, let’s just say it’s really, really close and that both are likely to remain the best versions of these gestalts available (official or otherwise) for a long while.