Monday, 21 November 2016

Monkey Not Truck

Confession time... I never did get into Beast Wars when I was young. By the time it was released I was into my late teens and had already given up on Transformers. That's not to say that I wasn't aware of them, I had seen then on the shelves once or twice, but I had no interest in transforming animals.

So it was with eager anticipation and wide eyed enthusiasm that I ordered Masterpiece Optimus Primal. Having caught up on the back story of the character and the show I felt excited about taking my first step into the world of Beast Wars. The Masterpiece line rarely disappoints so I was expecting something pretty special happen.

The first impression when opening the package was of another quality Masterpiece box.

The first Masterpiece Beast Wars box
The figure comes with three alternate faces for the robot mode, two alternate faces for the ape mode and two quite superb swords. Seriously, these are some of the best first party swords I have ever seen on a Transformer. The mold is great and the paintwork is also brilliant.

The contents of the box
The ape faces are great and really help to give the figure some much needed expression although the angry looking face doesn't quite sit flush enough to the head on mine.


Mr Stoic
Mr Happy
Mr Furious
The ape mode is fairly well done. From the front it looks the part though there are a couple of little niggles.

Do my robot bits look big in this?
Firstly the shoulder sections don't quite clip over the arms properly so you end up with bits of robot sticking out. Not the end of the world but still somewhat ugly. It almost feels like they were meant to clip onto the robot arms but I get the impression they are not going to.

Secondly you can see obvious robot parts from the front of the ape mode. They are obvious from the rear, which is almost acceptable, but being visible from the front is bad. This is one of the reasons why I initially didn't really consider it a Masterpiece as they usually do a much better job of making the alt mode hide most aspects of the robot mode.

Rear of the year?
Thirdly the only way to get a decent ape like stance is to dislocate the shoulders and bring them forward as well pulling the crotch down to allow for more movement in the upper leg area.

Dislocated shoulders and mistransformed feet
Everything considered this is still a great figure in ape mode. I don't have any earlier versions of the character to compare against but I would be surprised if they were as good as this.

For me though, robot mode is where this figure shines. It is every bit a Prime and no mistake.

Such heroic nonsense
Hidden beneath the forearms are dual blasters which I assume were used in the animation. They are pretty cool and really well hidden. To pop them out you need to locate the slots underneath the arms and push them up. You can pull off some great poses with them deployed.

Pew Pew
With the swords in hand this figure looks all kinds of awesome and badass. I love the curved blade look and once again I assume this was something that was used in the animation.

I'll cut ya
Posing this figure in robot mode is a simple and pleasurable process. Joints in all the right places ensure a Masterpiece level of movement for all the limbs and a good level of balance to allow for great walking poses.

Well you can tell by the way I use my walk...
Robot mode head sculpts are fantastic and cover a nice range of expressions. It's a sign of the times that TakaraTomy are including multiple faces/head with Masterpiece figures as they seem to be going for a more animation look to the characters as well as including as many accessories as possible to increase the play factor. Whether you need that for adult collectables is a question for another to be honest.

Included with Optimus Primal we have shouty face:


We have a happy or neutral face:


We have a cheeky face:


And finally we even get a battle mask face which evokes G1 Optimus Prime nicely:


To wrap up, I think this figure is really quite good and as my first experience of a Beast Wars figure, I am impressed. Even though the beast mode from the rear is a little compromised, I have no hesitation in recommending it to any fan of Transformers. The build quality is on a par with any other Masterpiece Transformer released recently and the addition of extra faces makes for an interesting added dimension of character to the figure.

I have yet to order Masterpiece Cheetor but if it is going to be anything like Primal, I shall be rectifying that situation shortly.

Thanks for reading and see you next time.





Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Alert... Alert

Masterpiece MP-14+ Alert

'It was a world transformed. A world of toy coloured masterpieces and anime coloured masterpieces.'

Announced around April 2016 the anime coloured version of MP-14 was always going to be devisive and so is worthy of an in depth compare and contrast article.

In this article I want to look at the changes made in this anime coloured version of Alert as well as examine the reasons why we may be getting more anime coloured masterpieces in the future.


Box

The first thing to notice is that the box art for the new release of Alert shows the figure in a more dynamic pose. Originally Alert was in a static, neutral stance whereas the new release has Alert looking ready for action. For me this is an improvement as it adds more character and life to the figure.


Box art is different and better


Similar layout, different poses

Vehicle Mode


Body Work

The original Masterpiece Alert was a lovely bright white colour which really stood out. The same type of pure white was used for the Clampdown version of the mold which kind of diminished the impact of the original Alert.

For the new anime coloured Alert, TakaraTomy have repainted the figure to more accurately match the colours used for the character in the original cartoon. So gone are the whites and silvers and instead we get grey... Lots of grey.


3/4 side on
Whether you like grey or not, I think you have to agree that it does make for a more interesting paint job than the original and the grey isn't nearly as bland as it sounds.


From the top

Wheel Rims

The box image shows the wheel rims being the same grey as the rest of the figure but it looks like the silver rims from the first version made it onto the new one. This is a shame as the grey rims look rather good.


You can see both sets of rims have the same paintwork
On closer inspection the rims look to be painted the same on both versions.


The new version of Alert
The original version of Alert

Robot Mode


Weapons

The original Alert came with a shoulder cannon molded in red plastic and painted silver at the rear. The new version of Alert has a shoulder cannon molded in slightly lighter red plastic and painted the same grey as the bodywork over more of the cannon than the original was. The images below better demonstrates what I am getting at.


Boomsticks
Fully loaded
Insignia

As you can see from the photo below, there is a difference between the original Alert and the new Alert with regard to the Autobot insignia on the chest. The original is G1 through and through whilst the new Alert has a more outlined version without the filled in eyes and forehead.

Different insignias
Shoulders

The photograph above clearly shows the difference in shoulder colour between the two figures. The original Alert had white shoulders whilst the new Alert has black shoulders. My personal preference is for the darker colours shoulders as they break up the massive amount of white seen on the original version.

Feet

The original version of Alert came with silver feet to match the silver on the shoulder cannon and also the arms whereas the newer version has the same grey paint applied to the feet. I think it looks nice as it keeps the colour scheme looking uniform.

Spot the difference
Head Gear

This is an odd one for me. The original blue energy sparks looked awesome and actually looked like electricity shooting out of the head.


Looks good
The new ones are orange and look a little less exciting. Personally I am going to use the blue version on the new Alert as it looks better.


Looks bad


Conclusion


What started with an anime inspired and coloured Masterpiece MP-29 Laserwave and is continuing with MP-33 Inferno and MP-35 Grapple looks set to be an ongoing re-imagining of existing releases in order to make them more accurately match their anime counterparts with Alert being the first of potentially many.

Some will see this as yet another rebooting of the Masterpiece line. A line which has already seen one reboot, starting with MP-10 Optimus Prime, in order to make the figures appear more like their G1 anime models.

Others will see it as a cash grab, a way to sell us the same figure with a slightly altered colour scheme.

Personally I see it as a correction to a mistake made with the original version of the character and a way to give fans what they want... Choice. Some people want toy accurate figures, other want anime accurate figures. This way you get to choose the option that best suits you. Nobody can argue with choice right?

So what's next?

There are certainly other Masterpieces that could benefit from a more anime accurate colour scheme. Whether any stand out as blatantly as Alert is questionable. Given the choice between a new mold or another anime coloured version of an existing figure... I would go with the former every time.



Wednesday, 25 May 2016

I Have The Power

Transformers Autobot Powermasters




Over the past 10 or so years I have managed to sell most of my childhood Transformers toys. For various reason, mostly due to moving around too much or just not having space, I could only manage to keep a few of my most prized figures from that time. This article is about a sub-line of Transformers which most people either love or hate, but which I absolutely adore and have done my best to keep hold of - the Powermasters.

Much like the Headmasters and Targetmasters before them, the Powermasters were a set of mostly new characters, each partnered with a humanoid figure which augmented their abilities. Whereas the Headmasters had humanoids which could transform into the head of the robot and the Targetmasters had humanoids which could transform into the weapon of the robot, Powermasters had humanoids which could transform into the engine of the robots vehicle mode. In the toys, this unlocked the ability to Transform the figure between vehicle and robot modes.

The version of the associated fiction which I am most familiar with is from the UK comics. At the time these figures were released in the UK, I knew nothing about the Japanese continuity and therefore had no knowledge of Super-God Masterforce and the fiction that went along with it. Having watched that series as an adult I must admit to not being too interested in that version of events. I like to think of the characters as actual Transformers with humanoid helpers rather than humanoids with, what amounts to, robotic exo suits. There is something noble about one race working together with another toward a common goal which is probably why I prefer the western fiction.

The idea for this article came from the news that there is a new Powermaster Optimus Prime figure in the Titans Return line. The images so far show a figure that captures the look of the original Powermaster Optimus Prime figure without actually being a Powermaster at all. Instead we have a Headmaster Optimus Prime dressed up as a Powermaster Optimus Prime. With that in mind, let's have a look at the original Powermaster Optimus Prime along with the new Titans Return Powermaster Optimus Prime before taking a look at the other Autobot Powermaster figures. 

Optimus Prime and Hi-Q


For reasons hard to explain, I really loved this figure. That sounds odd so let me explain myself a little better. 

I loved the original (now known as G1) characters that I grew up with but even though I loved the characters, I had much less love for the toys themselves. They were a product of their time and had limited articulation in most cases. I remember dismantling several of my figures in order to find a way to make them more like the comic and cartoon versions. This usually ended in me being disappointed and trying to find a way to reassemble the parts.

This is why I find myself confused as to why I liked this version of Optimus Prime so much. I mean, it's a brick with little articulation, but when I was young this was one of my favourite versions of Optimus Prime. I think the fact that I could choose to have a regular sized Prime or fold him up and add him to the trailer to make a much larger Prime went a long way for me.
Looks like it's time to kick ass
Now let the image above soak in before looking at the stock image of the new Titans Return Powermaster Optimus Prime below.
Kicking ass as a Headmaster

Awesome huh?

It's like they took the old figure and made it way more articulated. It's a seriously nice update to the original figure. All the visual cues are there, the white shoulder cannons, the black guns, the overly deep legs, the bloated head, everything.  The only downside is that it isn't actually a Powermaster but a Headmaster.

Anyway, back to explaining why I liked the original figure.

The box that Powermaster Optimus Prime came in was pretty damn cool. The artwork of Powermaster Optimus Prime was so dynamic and alive. It's just a shame that the actual figure couldn't be posed in the same way as the artwork portrayed.

The front window showed both the Optimus Prime figure and the Hi-Q Powermaster figure. It also had the huge Prime head poking out like some souless decapitated trophy. Rather odd but at least you could see what you were getting for your money.
Awesome box art is awesome
The figure came with everything that you would expect of an Optimus Prime figure, a cab, a trailer and some weapons. What you don't get is a Roller which would have been nice.
Trailer and cab all present and accounted for
Like a lot of Optimus Prime figures, the trailer could be used for other purposes. The most common purpose being a kind of repair bay for Prime, but in the case of Powermaster Optimus Prime, the trailer becomes a base which can be host to other Powermaster figures. It's a decent little base mode even if it lacks enough space to create a really exciting scene.


The trailer becomes a base
This new Titans Return Optimus Prime also has a base mode which captures the look and feel of the original really well. It misses the ramps of the original figure in these stock images and I can't see an obvious way of getting the same look which is a shame.
Not a bad base mode
When not in the Powermaster mode, Optimus Prime could become a more traditional version of the character which looked like it had stepped out of an episode of the cartoon.

The face sculpt was really quite cartoony and the windows of the cab in robot mode were not actually the windows of the cab in vehicle mode but were created especially for the robot mode and were hidden on the back of the cab when in vehicle mode. This is a trick used a few times on Optimus Prime figures, the latest example of this is the Comber Wars version.

The legs were detailed enough via sticker sheets but suffered from being connected to each other at the foot. This meant that the legs couldn't be move independently of each other.
Without armour, Prime is fine
Finally, let's take a quick look at Hi-Q, otherwise known as Ginrai in Masterforce. It's a great little figure with black legs, a white torso, red arms and on my copy a slightly lopsided blue visor. 

Hi-Q folds up into an engine which, when inserted into the grill of the cab, allows Optimus Prime to change between Robot and Vehicle modes.

Hi-Q or Ginrai?
Compare the original Hi-Q with the Headmaster figure from the new toy. This one is called Ginrai which feels like a sideways homage to the Japanese character.
Very nearly bang on
What a fantastic little figure. Even though it's a Headmaster, it looks to have been molded to appear very similar to the original Powermaster figure. The legs aren't black but they do have the same curve to them that Hi-Q had. It also has circles on the knees where the original figure had pins. The face sculpt has roughly the same features as Hi-Q did. If they added a splash of blue paint to the visor, it would be brilliant.

So overall, I am really looking forward to Titans Return Powermaster Optimus Prime. It's going to be fun comparing it against the original Powermaster Optimus Prime.

Well, that's enough of Prime... let's have a look at the other Powermaster figures from back then. 

Slapdash and Lube

 
Besides the inevitable Optimus Prime figure, the Powermasters sub-line provided us with 3 new Autobots. Slapdash is the first of those figures that I want to talk about in this article.

A rather simplified Formula One style car, Slapdash was chunky and fun to play with. Like all Powermasters the transformation was locked until the Powermaster engine was inserted, releasing the clip in the toy and allowing the figure to be changed to robot mode.

Once again we got a cracking box with suitable cool artwork showing the figure in a pose it could never actually achieve. The front window showed the Slapdash figure in in a plastic bubble and the Lube figure next to it in a smaller window.
More awesome box art
The tech spec explains that the character disorganised, neglectful and sloppy which isn't the most flattering character profile ever. It also explains that he gets locked in vehicle mode frequently due to leaving his humanoid partner behind.
Ah tech specs
Let's have a closer look at the tech spec.


You may need a red plastic decoder to determine what Slapdash's vital statistics are ;)
Everything as it should be
The figure suffered from the usual lack of articulation sadly. What you did get was a shoulder joint, an elbow joint and that's about it. You didn't really need more than that back then as you were happy just to have them on your shelf, but these days fans demand more from their figures.

In robot mode Slapdash could either have the engine piece attached to the chest to cover the area where the Powermaster would be or the actual Powermaster could sit in there. Either option looks fine.
With Powermaster in the chest


King of the road
In Japan the Lube figure was the character Road King. The Slapdash figure was simply a Transtector shell that Road King could wear when needed.
Zoom Zoom
I fondly remember having Slapdash on my shelf with the other Powermasters. The vehicle mode was pretty cool back then and the robot mode was equally decent. These new figures stood out from earlier G1 toys in looking less realistic and more stylised, but that didn't stop me enjoying them.


Joyride and Hotwire


The second of the new Autobots that I want to discuss is Joyride.

A simplified dune buggy, Joyride was another great addition to the ranks of the Autobots.
Look at that pose
The artwork for Joyride is awesome. The clenched left fist really helps you understand the type of character you are dealing with. The artwork on the G1 boxes was something special as it helped bring otherwise static figures to life.

The back of the box had the same box art as most figures from the time, showcasing the new Optimus Prime as well as Pretenders.

More tech specs

Let's have a closer look at that tech spec.


Tech specs were such a huge part of the whole figure buying experience for me back then. The UK comic fiction was always way behind the toy releases and therefore the tech spec was the only way of knowing what the figures character was like.
Somehow I managed to damage the window :(
The vehicle mode was a mostly serviceable dune buggy but those wheels could have done with some paint applied or even rubber tires. That being said, the reflective headlights were pretty cool and the spoiler and front molded winch thing helped add much needed detail.
Power(master) Ranger
In Japan the Hotwire figure was known as Ranger. The Joyride figure was a Transtector exo suit that Ranger wore when necessary.
Buggy Boy
Despite the lack of articulation and the rather chunky plastic feel to the toy, it was very cool and fit right in next to Slapdash and Getaway. Speaking of which...


Getaway and Rev


The third and final of the new Autobots is Getaway, an escape artist without equal. That description comes straight from the tech spec and makes me chuckle every time I read it. His Powermaster partner is Rev who transforms into a 600 horsepower engine.


Putting to one side the immense craziness of all of this, Getaway is a pretty cool character who suffers from a sever lack of articulation. Still, it's yet another character from G1 which I enjoyed at the time and still remember to this day.


In Japan the Powermaster figure is known as Lightfoot with the Getaway figure being the Transtector.
Dynamic pose FTW
Once again we have some rather excellent artwork on the front of the box. The Getaway character looks so dynamic and fun and really helps sell the character. The back of the box has the usual scene and Getaways interesting tech spec.
3 robot points - nice

Let's have a closer look at the tech spec.



The line in the tech spec about built in onboard computers always confused me... Surely the Transformer is just a huge computer and therefore they all have built in onboard computers.

When you think about the display aspect of the boxed figure below, you start to realise why they packaged it in vehicle mode and left the robot mode to the artist. That way you don't see the rather limited robot mode when you look at the toy shelf and contemplate the purchase. You only see the cool looking sports car and the nifty looking robot mode artwork.
Not as white as it once was
Here's a nice shot of Rev with Getaway in the background. I never used to display the two figures individually like this but these days prefer to focus on the Powermaster.
Light of foot?
The vehicle mode is not too bad. It's chunky and not too complicated but still fun. Without the Powermaster plugged into the bonnet, Getaway can only be transformed by manually depressing the latch with a finger or similar.
That's a huge engine block


Like a lot of Transformers that were molded in white plastic, Getaway generally suffered from yellowing. Either due to exposure to daylight or, as in my case, exposure to cigarette smoke. A little care and attention can help reduce the yellowing and restore the brilliant white of the original figure.


Doubledealer and Knok


Doubledealer is an odd character and one of the few to be aligned with both Autobots and Decepticons. I never could understand how one character could be both Autobot and Decepticon depending on the Powermaster figure used to transform it but I remember settling on the idea that Doubledealer was the type of character that would work both sides to his own gain. Neither Autobot nor Decepticon but able to work with both sides to better his own position in life.


Knok is Doubledealers companion who, when in engine mode, allows him to transform into an Autobot robot mode. There is another Powermaster figure, named Skar, that is a bat type character which is capable of unlocking the Decepticon bird mode when plugged into the Doubledealer figure.


In Japan the figure is known as Clouder when using the humanoid armour and Doubleclouder when using the bat armour. This makes a little more sense to me... but only just.

The humanoid Powermaster figure is built in a similar way to Optimus Prime's Powermaster Hi-Q in that it is slimmer than the chunkier Powermasters that come with Slapdash, Joyride and Getaway. 
Vehicle mode


Robot mode
I enjoyed the idea of a triple changer Powermaster figure and applaud the engineering that made it possible. All three modes look good but once again suffer from severly limited articulation. That doesn't really stop my liking this figure so much as each mode is still awesome.

Individual Powermasters



The three new Autobots individual Powermasters are great little figures, each full of character and recognisable by their colour and the shape of their backpacks. I doubt very much that we would get same build quality and attention to detail if these figures were released today. All five of them together make for a very cool line up.

The other two Powermasters feel different from the first three in that they don't have the same chrome effect and feel a little lighter. It's tricky to describe but there is a subtle but noticeable difference.

That being said, they are all really neat little figures and sit well with others from the same time period. Put these next to Targetmasters and Headmasters and they fit right in.
The gangs back together
As a group, they look great together. Each one is distinct from the others by virtue of having a different design to the backpack. The chromed figures are quite nice looking but I think I prefer the unchromed look of Knok and Hi-Q.
Go team!
In humanoid mode they are very similar in construction and yet each has a unique personality which shines through the colour and detail of each figure.
Attention
From this angle you can see how similar the molds were for the arms and legs of the Powermaster figures for Joyride, Slapdash and Getaway. The chests and backpacks were very different however.

That's all folks


I hope this little journey through the past has been enjoyable for you. It's been fun for me to revisit the Powermasters that I had as a child. The figures were some of my favourite back then and I have rekindled my love for them whilst writing this article. Even though they were stunted by a lack of articulation my childhood imagination more than made up for the deficiencies in the figures.

I am hoping that the new Titans Return line will pay due respect to these fantastic characters as well as others from the same era. I am particularly looking forward to the new Powermaster Optimus Prime figure and will be reviewing it as soon as I can get it.

Thank you for reading and see you again next time.