Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Fallen Kingdom

-Drew Merkel

The engines rumbled, and the mid-sized cargo plane jostled with each current of tropical air that pounded its wings. It was loud.

     “Are we there yet?” Bluestreak shouted over the noise for the fourteenth time.

     “NO!” Sunstreaker, Sideswipe, Bumblebee, and Tracks all shook their heads while pondering over their hands of oversized playing cards. Swipe returned to whistling “Poker Face.”

     “A few more hours.” Sunny eventually replied, hoping maybe this time Blue would relax and maybe let him think about what needed to happen once they landed at Isla Nublar. They had joined the Dinosaur Protection Group (DPG) because it was a good thing to do and an even better thing for publicity. Sunny was also pretty hyped to break out his oversized Australian bushman’s hat and start herding some of those “three horns”. There was more turbulence.

     “Okay that one was pretty bad,” Bee stated with a quiver in his voice. Sideswipe patted his shoulder, his metal fingertips making a tink tink sound.

     “It’s gonna be fine little guy” Swipe’s chiseled jaw was juxtaposed to his to warm smile. His smile faded as he checked the hand of cards Sunny had just finished dealing him. Bee flashed back with a crooked grin feeling slightly safer, remembering who he was with; Founders of Jet Judo, Sideswipe and Sunstreaker; Bluestreak, the best shot in all of Praxis; and Tracks, whose flying Corvette mode could save them all if the plane and/or parachutes failed. “Yes, safe as houses.” he thought. Then he thought about that phrase and how many houses he’d unintentionally demolished during the Great War... he shook off a cold chill.

     Tracks had worked his way from the porthole window to the front of the cargo hold where it met the cockpit. He sat on the floor and leaned his head back toward the pilot seat. “What’s the scoop, Kid?”

     “If the turbulence doesn’t knock us out of the sky the ash might” Raoul replied, tucking a lock of salt and pepper chin-length hair behind his ear.  “It’s as thick as a Prince bass line up ahead.” The years of riding around in Tracks’ flying car mode had prompted Raoul to learn to fly solo. He was now in his mid-forties with crow’s feet at his eyes, and despite this, he hadn’t lost his tough street kid charm.

     “You got this,” Tracks told his best friend, “and if for some reason you don’t have it, I’ve got you.”  He leaned back towards the cargo area to hear the conversation.

     The guys were talking about the song they were going to write about this trip when they all heard Raoul cry out.

    “Swoops!” Raoul shrieked. “Hundreds of them!”

     The pterodactyls dived territorially at the cargo plane. Raoul banked hard to try and miss them but it was no use. The engines were out and they were going down.

     “ABANDON SHIP!” Bluestreak yelled as he hit a big red button, causing the cargo bay door to explode away from the fuselage with a massive kaboom! He grabbed a nearby railing and motioned for the others to head his way. Sunny and Swipe did a quick fist bump, transformed into their Countach alt-modes, and burned rubber towards the gaping hole now in the back of the plane.

Bee somersaulted out of the plane like a gymnast.

Tracks waved Bluestreak on as he turned to help Raoul into the cargo bay. Blue stuck his thumb out of the hole pantomiming checking the air velocity. Then, turned his back to the exit, closed his eyes, and threw up a peace sign as he fell backwards like one does in a trust exercise.

“Baaaan Zaaaai!”


Tracks smiled at this and briefly pondered his jump cry. Then he immediately realized he had wings and facepalmed. He transformed into flying car mode, and just like so many years ago he said to Raoul, “Don’t just stand there slack jawed, get in!

   When Swipe came to, he was hanging from a large tree. Straight in front of him about 20 meters away, his twin Sunny was in exactly the same predicament.

     “I guess our cargo plane escaping needs a little work.” Sunny yelled across the distance.

     “Oh?” Swipe yelled back. “What makes you say that?” He winked. “Now the fun part...” he quipped.

     “Getting down.” Sunny hated what that meant; scratches, and maybe dings too.

     Swipe released the straps from his shoulders by pulling a cord. He fell, landing with a dull thud.  Before he could get up and dust off he saw Sunny riding Tracks like a surfboard. Swipe rolled his optics. “Sure, take the easy way out.”

     Tracks replied to this with distaste “Sure, easy for him. I get all his weight and all the scratches.”

     Now at ground level they could see Bee sitting, dazed by the hit he took from a similar tree dismount procedure. They ran to check on him.

     “Now we gotta find Blue.” Swipe looked up at the smoke and lava spewing to the south. “Before that gets worse.” He pointed.

     Bluestreak had come prepared. Foot thrusters, wings and a rocket pack transformed out of him as he plummeted toward the surface. Looking like a “Rocketeer” movie poster, he pulled his arms in tight to his chassis then blasted up and to the north to survey the side of the island they had been tasked to evacuate.

     “Bluestreak to Close Countach.” He spoke into his coms, “Do you read me?” Silence. “Well that’s just Prime.”

As the group entered the clearing, Sunny caught sight of Bluestreak, the grey and red blob flying around above them. “Look” he laughed as he pointed to the sky. He retrieved a flare gun from a storage compartment in his leg.

“No, you look!” Swipe replied pointing at the herd of Ankylosaurs. Sunny shot the flare, then stopped and helped Raoul up on to his shoulder so he could see the animals better.

“Amazing.” He said, the awe very evident in his voice. Bluestreak landed behind them.

“That’s not the most amazing thing.” Blue stated excitedly pointing to the landscape around them.

“Oh wow!” Bee said focusing his optics and studying the skyline.

“Wait, what?” Tracks said looking quite confused.

With a hand flourish and a slight bow, Blue mustered up his best announcer’s voice.

“Welcome, to Dinobot Island.”

Swipe’s eyes got all wide and crazy. “Wow.” He stated, then again, “wow, mind blown!” He made a hand motion of something leaving the side of his head then flickering and expanding.

“Tiny Explosion.” Sunny said dryly.

“No, think about the level of this coincidence.” Swipe was talking with his hands vigorously and was starting to look like the “Aliens” meme guy. “Jurassic Park was built off the bones of Dinobot Island.” Swipe scratched his chin.

Blue chimed in, “Which might even mean Mr. DNA lied to us. There was no dinosaur DNA in a mosquito trapped in amber, because, and let's face it, that was kind of far-fetched and...” Sunny, Tracks, Bee, and Raoul stopped walking and left Blue and Swipe to conspiratorially ramble.

Sunny turned to the others. “This gives me an idea for a plan B, should the evacuation go south. We’ll need a scientist. Somebody get me Perceptor, Wheeljack, Jocelyn Burrnell, or Rodney McKay on the phone.”

“You know he’s fictional, right?” Bee asked sarcastically.

“It’s hard to keep up.” Sunny chuckled.

Sunny and Swipe had planned for the rugged terrain. They raised their suspensions and added some rally car tires. They had found an old service road from the original park and were running a flock of Gallimimus toward the shoreline. Amplifying a T-Rex roar through Close Countach practice speakers mounted to their hoods had proven a bit too effective. After about a half-mile, the chasers had become the chased! The T-Rex appeared to be rather angry at having been tricked.

“I can’t tell...” Swipe mused

“Tell what?” Sunny asked.

“Does it want to eat us or marry us?” There were a few seconds of speechlessness as Sunny contemplated this thought.

“Drive Faster!” he yelled.

A few hours later the gang had rounded up a few herds of herbivores, an Allosaur, and a mother and baby T-Rex to the beach. Energon holding pens they had salvaged from the downed plane were keeping the animals from stampeding

Time was definitely running out. Between the increasingly volatile volcano and having to keep the INGen ships and helicopters at bay, there was no way to get an airlift. Seaspray had been on call for a “beachside pick-up,” but he’d been barraged at every entry to the port and simply couldn’t get to shore.

Sunny opened his wrist communicator. On the screen were Wheeljack and Neil Degrasse Tyson.

“I know it’s not ideal Neil but it’s our only option!” Wheeljack was loud, but not angry.

“I can’t be a party to it, Wheels. It’s crazy. What if sending them back causes hybrids that survive to modern times, wiping out the human race?” Tyson, on the other hand, did sound upset.

“Can you do it though?” Sunny asked impatiently.

“Well of course.” Wheeljack replied. Humility was never in his wheelhouse. That’s part of why Sunny liked him so much. On his screen, he could see Tyson leaving the room and hear Wheeljack call after him.

“We’re still on for lunch next week right Doc?... right, RIGHT?” No reply.

Bluestreak’s dead-on shooting was successful at holding back the INGen amphibious troop carriers and boats. But that wasn’t going to last much longer.

Swipe and Tracks were building a device while looking at instructions on an AutoPad, a massive iPad with an Autobot symbol on the back. A few adjustments and the team ran toward the forest to be out of the device’s reach.

Bee didn’t seem happy about any of this. “You know we are still sending them to their deaths, right?”

Sunny grimaced, “We are sending them back 50 or so years before the event. They’ll die of old age, not cosmic ash. I’m having to call it a win.”

“Not a big win,” Swipe added ”but still a win.”

“Yeah, I guess.” Bee conceded reluctantly.

On the com, Wheeljack’s voice broke the awkward silence.

“Initiating, logging destination”

“Dynotherms engaged,” Blue added.

“Initiating time circuits.” Swipe chimed in.

Wheeljack cleared his vocal processor “ahem” and continued “and 5 4 3 2 1.”

The earth shook and hurricane-like winds blew, but only for a few moments. Then the temporal anomaly that created Dinobot Island had replaced some of the creatures it had stolen from time 30 years ago.

Sunny looked around. “Um, guys where’s Bee?”

Attached to a branch, where Bee had been standing, was a note which read:

*Sorry Guys, I couldn’t do it. The risk to the animals. The risk to the timeline. If I don’t die back there, I’ll see you around?

Fantastic Beats and where to drop them -Bee *

“Whoah” Swipe exclaimed

“That’s heavy, Doc” Added Blue in his best Micheal J. Fox impression.

“Nothing to do now but fight off these INGen goons and find our Bee.” Sunny stated as if simply saying it aloud would make it so. They wouldn’t get the chance to fight INGen.

Trypticon rose from the ocean with a mighty roar. His emergence caused a massive Tsunami type wave which beached most of the boats and armored amphibious vehicles. Trypticon batted down helicopters and picked the blades off some like flower petals. When he finished his snack he turned toward the beach. Sunny, Swipe, Blue, and Tracks prepared to fight.

The massive reptilian robot transformed as he stepped onto the beach, his city mode taking up 90% of the real estate. His ramp opened and out came Bee! He had rust and some dents, walked with a limp, and had a hand carved walking stick.

The INGen security officers Trypticon had “eaten” also emerged from the massive city’s ramp.

“D’Ya’ miss me?” Bee exclaimed cheerfully.

Everyone was aghast and speechless, so Bee set about telling the rest of the story.

“I went back with the dinosaurs and then I rode the time quake thing back to 1984. Trypticon has lived here since 2006 on and off. He tried to kill me at first, but I finally convinced him that the Great War would end in 2011.”

“And you’ve been here all those years?” Raoul asked.

“Yep,” Bee replied, still cheerful. “I had to be sure that the dinosaurs would be okay as well as the timeline.”

The ground rumbled, and the volcano erupted again.

“We’ve got to go.” Sunny stated. “Also, nice work little buddy, you’re the best of all of us.” The team boarded Trypticon and he blasted off leaving Isla Dinobot Nublar behind for good.

You can follow Drew on Twitter @DrewciferxXx

Thursday, 10 May 2018

MP-42 Cordon: The Grail Cometh

 - Dorian MacQuarrie

Message boards and Social Media are humming with the reveal of MP-42 Cordon aka, Police Sunstreaker and to use an expression often heard by the kids these days, I am shook. 

c. TFW2005

The relaunched Masterpiece line has always leaned heavily on Diaclone repaints of the Autobot cars, less so in recent years but for a time, it was definitely needed to fill in the time between new mould releases. Personally, I think some are a good partner to their parent mould, such as Tigertracks and Roadrage, others though, can entirely eclipse their pre-paint and stand head and shoulders above the rabble. Exhaust, Bluestreak and the gem that is Loudpedal are some of the best looking Masterpiece cars to date. While I still lament the lack of a Diaclone inspired black Ironhide, I am thrilled, absolutely over the moon to see that Takara is finally releasing a modern day take on the Diaclone Countach LP500S Patrol Car Type aka Police Sunstreaker. 

Of all the releases ever to appear under the extended banner of Diaclone/Transformers, this absolute marvel of a toy has sat atop my own personal collecting mountain. Back in the halcyon days of Universe 2.0 and the following Generations lines, I dearly hoped we would see some sort of repaint but alas, it was not to be. Then of course there was a spate of repaints shown off a few years ago, with the winners decided by fan vote. Among their ranks was indeed a Police Sunstreaker but again, it was not to be. 


Now, finally, after years of missed opportunities and the tantalizing release of Masterpiece Clampdown hinting at what might one day be, we are on the cusp of seeing a bona fide, genuine modern day Police Sunstreaker. Given the popular and highly successful focus on cartoon accuracy, I feel Diaclone repaints are the perfect opportunity to bring back to toy focused details, similar to what we have seen with MP Loudpedal and it appears this is exactly the route Takara have chosen. 

Details are still scant but from the one official image we have of MP Cordon, it is at least clear we are getting a new head sculpt and oh, by.the.Gods. It's gorgeous. Utterly wonderful. It fully encapsulates the style of the by-gone Hasui era where the focus was more on an iconic representation of the character, with a slant towards cartoon accuracy. 
The head on the current MP Sunstreaker looks great and is perfectly fitting for the current Masterpiece aesthetic but this is altogether more classic, car-robot inspired. Also, those red eyes just throw him right into the deep end of Diaclone repaints. Lovely. 

If this is all we see, it'll still be a winner in my books but while we're at it, I would love to see a G1 toy inspired missile hand, although given how the included rifle looks quite like said missiles, this seems unlikely. Also, I would love to see a return of a nice feature we saw with MP Loudpedal, Diaclone inspired stickers. Faction logos are all well and good but I also like to imagine these toys as Masterpiece Diaclone, free from any Hasbro mandated branding. Finally, from an engineering point of view, I'm keen to see how they work in the light bar. If it's just a partsforming piece I'll be a touch disappointed given the transformation wizardry already on display with the mould. 

One final note, completely at odds with my previous comment on faction logos, I wonder if we will just see a straight repaint, or maybe they'll add a dash of narrative. It's clear that this will be an Autobot but given how they handled Exhaust and Loudpedal, it would be interesting to see some options for a Decepticon logo instead, maybe as part of this magical sticker sheet I'm dreaming of. A Decepticon patrol car would be a nice parallel to the recently released MPM Barricade. 

Until next time, keep it #Refined

You can follow Dorian at:

Twitter @Vigadeath
Instagram @_Vigadeath

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

RRCo Review - POTP Optimus Prime

 - Ben Watson 

With a newly revealed Amazon exclusive Nemesis Prime coming from Power of The Primes, I felt it high time to finally throw the notes at the one figure that's been pushing my buttons more than any other in the line and... It's just another Optimus Prime...

Entering the Power of The Primes line in its first wave of Leader Class figures, (because what's a wave one without an Optimus?) Prime not only provides a suitably scaled Autobot leader to those looking for that sort of thing, he also figureheads the pricepoint's new gimmick. Your Leader money doesn't just get you a Big Optimus, but a not-exactly-small Orion Pax too! Behold the new "Evolution" feature! Arguably making more sense within the conceptual confines of the concurrent Rodimus Prime, this figure is at its core an illustration of a single story beat. That of the humble librarian/dock worker/cop Orion receiving the power of the Matrix, getting his swole on and stepping out of the subsequent light show as the most perfectly shaped G1 Optimus you've ever seen. But does all that work for the gimmick of a toy you'll be repeating ad infinitum? Hold on, things might get a bit meta in here today... 

Before attempting to begin untangling the very odd fictional knot this whole package represents, I can say I adore it. A perfectly sized, perfectly weighty, perfectly styled, perfectly articulated, perfect Optimus Prime. From the front. I won't try to make you think the faults this figure has impact on my love for it but in-keeping with the purpose of this exposition as a review, I will point them out. I couldn't care less that his arms are mostly grey, that his silver hands don't move or his back is a mess. The fact the alt mode is mostly a thin facade full of holes and bloated with extra robot mass is all up there with how his ankles are thin and his thighs are hollow. And there's stickers. Objectively, these are all glaring flaws that shout their presence at you from the screen no doubt. But in hand, it all melts away in the sheer radiance of the physicality of this figure. 

Apparently engineered by the designer of the original Star Saber(!), a certain pedigree of experience is instantly noticeable upon handling this Prime. It's sublimely efficient in everything it does, from range of motion in joints, to how each half transforms, to - especially - how the Prime mode comes together. This moment of (I hesitate to say "combination") completion screams "Star Saber". It veritably drips with the ink of that blueprint and somehow feels like an implementation of what the designer may have wanted to accomplish on that historic piece, but also all the refinements to his skills since that day. At its most basic, this figure is a smaller base form which curls up into a cuboid to be slotted into the chest of a larger body made from the surplus alt mode section. Sounds a bit Star Saber, no? 

While the action of pushing Optimus' pecs and head into place is supremely satisfying (a spring loaded catch secures the block in place, which is released by a switch on his backside), it's this motion that activates my over-analysis mode. Beyond a conceptual illustration of a single moment in the character's history rendered in a toyetic form, what's going on here? Are we meant to believe Optimus is just a super mode Orion regularly powers up into? Is this where the trailer disappeared to all along? Did we just never see Optimus' base form when he transformed like we never saw Ultra Magnus'? A very cool spin on the design to differentiate an nth Generations Optimus Prime quickly becomes a meta-textual minefield. 

It's much more easy to reconcile the fictional portrayal of this dynamic with Rodimus, because really, how long did Hot Rod stay that way? But when considering the cartoon play out of Orion's ultimate fate - a route I'm picking specifically based on the figure's incredibly Floro Dery Sunbow design look - every inch of him was rebuilt into Optimus Prime. Orion Pax essentially died, never to return. Yet here he is every time you want to make Optimus a truck. I dunno man, it's one of those things you can easily think too hard about and that's our modus operandi here at the Refined Robot Co. I'm trying to unpack my deeper confusion at this feature but really it's best to just sit back and enjoy playing with this figure because above all, it is fun in a way that makes me feel incredibly... serene. 

Punching straight to the heart of it, this is the only Optimus Prime I own with this particular set of iconic details. To me, it glows with the rightness of Don Figueroa's Dreamwave design. The only thing that comes close is MP-10, which I do own in the Year of The Horse version but y'know, it's gold and that... For a lot of people I can see this figure representing a kind of budget MP-10, a regular retail mass market Masterpiece Optimus. It's undeniable that it sings from the same hymn sheet as that figure but honestly, I think it improves upon its styling. That headsculpt is thrillingly perfect. The proportions are the exact kind of Action Hero fit. The fists, while immobile are sculpted in that power stance curl. Elbows and knees bend beyond ninety degrees. Ankles are afforded insane range to keep any pose stable. The whole figure feels more fluid than MP-10 or any of Hasui's recent designs. A hole in his back even allows the core of the Matrix to pipe light while in his chest! And that's just the Optimus mode. 

Disemboweling Prime leaves you with his entire body minus head and Matrix cavity and Orion in some kind of robot fetal position. It's this chunk that forms the truck's cab, eschewing giving Orion an alt mode we never actually saw in the cartoon. As a robot he is particularly toon smooth, bearing a look that  - quite honestly - I detest on screen. But here the robot feels really cool? Excellently articulated and full of presence he's certainly a hero robot. I especially love how his hip skirt pieces rotate with his hips rather than just folding upwards like on so many figures. A rote piece of Masterpiece level design we've seen many times that feels incredibly cumbersome in light of this piece of engineering. Overall, Orion Pax is a triumph simply due to the fact that by all rights, he should be one of the lamest Transformers figures ever, but he most certainly is not. 

All in all, Power of The Primes Optimus Prime feels like a truly definitive stab at the character in the Generations line-up. It may not make the killing strike but you've got to be made of stone to not have it draw blood. The most G1 feeling robot mode the line has ever produced at the perfect scale with a Matrix, an alt mode made up of cab and trailer and a bonus Orion Pax mode. Of course tiny points along the way allow Optimus to interact with the line's wider gimmickry but all this is truly negligible compared to the execution of the gimmick that sits at the core of this figure. Like some singularity it pulls you in past the event horizon where you could put it down and won't let you go. ...Or maybe this analogy would better suit the dark heart of the coming Nemesis repaint which I can already say without a shadow of a doubt will be one of the best mainline releases of the year. This Optimus is just... Prime. 

Follow Ben on Twitter @Waspshot23

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Steel Knights, or Paper Tigers?

 -mantis nine nines

The Transformers fan is a unique creature in the menagerie of robot aficionados. Obviously in love with blocky and angular robotic design, but equally enamoured with an anatomically humanoid style and personality. Not content with unfeeling machines, Transfans require the flavor of sentience in their bots. It makes for a fun and lively collection, but sometimes I find myself in need of something less human and more mechanical.

Macross, Mospeada, Mechwarrior, Zoids, I find these purely mecha toys refreshing. And M.A.S.K. and Exo Squad scratch an itch with their sci-fi pilot/vehicle integration. All of these are fun in their own way but I always longed for something more. Which brings me to JoyToy and their Steel Knights line. A visit to the Show.Z Store website shows the Knights listed alongside a wide range of Third Party Transformers, and with the web of connections in that market I think it likely JoyToy is part of the same family. I don't know any facts, this is just speculation, but it seems highly likely.

Steel Knight HZ1287 on patrol

Truly this is a product produced for my tastes. The convergence of realistic Mecha designs, detailed paint work, highly posable human figures, and all at a scale so close to my beloved 1:24 it's indistinguishable. Everything that Exo Squad promised at retail, this delivers, albeit in an expensive straight-from-China manner.

 I'm no expert on Titanfall, but to ignore the similarities between these designs and concepts is impossible. What videos exist on YouTube have comment sections full of Titanfall fans ripping these as knock offs of the McFarlane BT-7274 or Play Arts Kai Atlas.

To be fair, Titanfall itself follows in a long tradition of power armor and mechs, so I would personally stop short of referring to these as KOs or rip-offs, but it's certainly in the eye of the beholder.

Top images from the Titanfall Wiki, photo above from the Show.Z Store

What is not open to interpretation is the QC I encountered. I wish I could say otherwise but there were some major problems. The packaging is awesome but once open I found the plastic bubble was ruined and accessories were rattling around loose. There was some small paint damage, but since it has a battle-worn aesthetic this is easily ignored. But due to that generous NECA style paint weathering, the left hip ball joint on my mecha was frozen solid. I boiled, froze, wiggled, used a hair dryer, nothing worked and it finally snapped. Thanks to my generous supply of Bionicle parts I was able to drill out and replace it, but if you aren't down for DIY you will need to ship it back.

The pilot figure had a snapped-off left leg out of the package, and the right soon followed it. Again I think paint lock is to blame.

Heavy duty outer box (L) inner box (M) and clamshell (R) give a premium feel and presentation.
Pilot has had a bad day. Note the paint locked, sheared leg joints.

When you play in the wild west of bootleg and non-mainstream collectibles you take your chances. Sometimes you score a great value, and sometimes you feel ripped off. This falls in the middle for me.

I must admit my enthusiasm for the line took a hit with the bad QC but I intend to try at least one more time. Unfortunately there are few reviews up anywhere so it's hard to judge if QC is this bad line wide.  

Perhaps it's my age showing but my appreciation of having this kind of stuff at this scale is too good to pass up. 

The mech is leader/ultra sized and very heavy. No diecast but thick plastic gives weight.

So what do you think? Anyone else out there collecting the Steel Knights? Drop me a comment or Tweet and let me know! Thanks for reading and keeping it #Refined

Contact Dan on Twitter @mantisninenines 

Saturday, 21 April 2018

The Great Third Party Drought

 - Dorian MacQuarrie

The first quarter of a year is rarely booming with new releases from Third Party companies. Sure we'll see a handful of new releases but often these are delayed products, initially planned for the end of the previous year, delayed then caught up in Chinese New Year until finally, a toy planned for a fourth quarter release of the previous year finally sees release along with the first blooms of Spring. 

This year feels especially quiet.....

'Gaze upon my field of exciting Third Party releases and see that it is barren'
 - Wu Ming c.820 AD

Given the amount of Third Party companies it would be easy to think every month sees a swathe of new releases and teasers for upcoming projects but the current climate has seen more and more companies keeping their cards close to their collective chests. Gone are the days when we would be privy to the ongoing development of an upcoming release. With the ever escalating wars in the 3PMP game, it's only natural that companies and designers would want to keep their design secrets just that, revealing the truths of their works only upon final release, or at least a scant few months prior. The fallout of all this obfuscation is cold and disengaged sections of the collecting community. It is no surprise that my interest in transforming-robots-which-happen-to-look-like-Transformers often wanes around this time of year, the common cool-down period for many Third Party Companies. Without a fresh supply of releases or at least updates of upcoming products, it's difficult to stay excited. 

I know Fansproject set some early standards for the future of Third Party toys but that shouldn't extend to their communications.

Even with my recent change in collecting interests, I still like to keep up to date with upcoming releases and news within the world of Transformers, Hasbro/Takara and Third Party alike. With that said, I can't help but shake the feeling that the scene is especially quiet right now. Less releases, less chatter, less interest. 

2017 gave us some incredible reveals of what was to come. From Iron Factory's Decepticon Justice Division (which combine!) to Maketoys Cross Dimension and RE:Master releases, it was an exciting couple of months but it seems the furore has died down and the usual levels of updates from these companies and the subsequent discussion has all but vanished. 

C. TFW2005

C. TFW2005

C. TFW2005

Personally, I think a lot of the Third Party market is hype. Hype for upcoming projects, hype for a bigger and better 'Masterpiece scale' combiner. I enjoy taking part in the initial awe and early discussions surrounding an exciting reveal, even if it's just a grey prototype. It's exciting. It hints at what is to come and begins to inform future buying decisions and display options. Take that away and well, I find myself going into a long term Sleep mode, just waiting on some news from Maketoys on their latest Cross Dimension or maybe even, just maybe, the announcement of a new Third Party Liokaiser (Ah, TFC Hades, so close, yet so, so far). 

Maybe I'm just seeing things from 'the outside' as it were and it's only natural I would feel there is a lack of discussion and buzz about the Third Party scene as it stands. With convention season nearly upon us I hope we see not only a host of new reveals from a plethora of Third Party companies but more importantly, significant updates on those projects revealed last year. 

As always, keep it #Refined.

[Editor's note: Of course Fansproject would reveal the release of a long awaited set of repaints right as this article is published!]

You can follow Dorian @Vigadeath

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Greatshot and The Super Robot Factor

- Ben Watson

I'm now the proud owner of a glorious Takara LG EX Greatshot and I felt it time to tackle a particular concept that he and very few other Transformers come hand-in-hand with: the idea of "The Super Robot". 

It's widely accepted Transformers are a breed of super robots, the term even acting as descriptor of what they are in the original Japanese series' title - but to what extent in this space year 2018? In the past thirty years (probably more like forty if you want to properly chart the rise of the Super Robot) many franchises have flared to life and faded away within the stable of the concept. Some much more noticeably "super" than others that - at least in my mind - contribute much more to the overall nebulous mental image than Transformers ever has. So let's explore the concept through my admittedly novice experience (Bowing to RRCo colleague Dan as Master) and see how it's intersected and influenced the long standing brand we're all here for down the years. 

To begin, what qualifies Greatshot as a Super Robot to me? If I had to put it into words, this figure exemplifies it more than most by its particular set of colours first. The heroic staple of red, white and blue sings its debatably dated song of freedom to the eye but this isn't necessarily any different to any Optimus Prime or Ultra Magnus - two robots who in my headspace aren't capital S Super (Unless we're talking about a super mode...). What really brings the *clench fist* oomph to Greatshot is - and I'm sure your eyes have already been drawn to it - his big gold on black chest motif. In a better age it would have been glittering chrome but that right there is what elevates Greatshot to greatness. That extra layer of bombast and over-the-top styling incorporating an oddly mixed visual message. Does he turn into a bird like the big insignia across his pecs? Hell no, but it looks cool and that's what the Super Robot is all about. 

Standing proud as an ultimate force for good, swathed in red and gold and generating a silhouette dominated by upper body spikes, the spirit of other Super Robos is conjured in my mind. GaoGaiGar, Thunder Gridman, Gurren Lagann, uh... one of the Gundams (hey that's a lot of G's) Greatshot joins the pantheon of these most mighty mecha and in doing so, kind of does himself a disservice... 

All of those "OG's" I listed are the central, most powerful and righteous robots of their respective series. The be-all-and-end-all of the protection of the innocent and spectacular destruction of evil. Is that Greatshot? Really? Arguably one of the most obscure Transformers characters of all time, one that I had no idea existed until about two years ago, he hardly fits the bill. Add to that a shady heritage (this figure's pack-in manga says he's just Sixshot? What?) and in terms of portrayal, Greatshot is really only a pretender to the mantle of Super Robot. 

But hold! Perhaps a redemption arc is in the cards for our hero, because like most of those G-men I named, I haven't actually taken in any of Greatshot's appearances in fiction. Yeah ok, I'll go and watch Brave but this is another facet of the Super Robot vogue for me. A veiling in mystery, a cladding of awe. Knowing that this particular robot I'm looking at right now looks really damn cool and I love what I'm seeing even though I know practically nothing about it. That's the only reason I bought Greatshot. I don't give a monkey's about... *checks the wiki* Victory or what he did in the episodes of it he appeared in. All I need to know is I want this robot in my house because he exemplifies all of that forceful aesthetic that only Japan could provide. 

Right now I'm realising how much that aesthetic really gets to me. If it transforms and powers up in a lengthy and detailed motion-line abundant stock sequence, I want to know about it. I'd go as far as saying I'd watch a show that was just that and thankfully, there does exist an animated short commemorating Gridman that I've watched over and over. Nothing quite like that distillation of pre-21st century mecha stirs the blood quite so. I could have been hunting for missing Armada figures on ebay recently but instead chose to track down every listing for Gridman toys because by god, Zenon is a robo I need in my life. But in the west such paragons of power are hard to come by in plastic. (Unless you're blessed with wherever sells those chrome-tastic KO's in the US... Like Dan is.) So to be present to watch a release come to fruition in the line my eyes are seldom not trained on, I simply couldn't pass up Greatshot, by virtue of everything I imagine he could be, rather than anything he probably is. . 

Yes, I will hold my hands up and say, it wasn't cheap. Being not only a Japanese exclusive figure but one exclusive to a particular store within Japan, Greatshot did come at a price approximately 1.5X the average Generations Leader. He is essentially just red Sixshot and I've been trying to enjoy that figure more than I do for a good year now. Greatshot does however have an advantage in-hand thanks to much better joint tolerances. Of course some parts are new and add a lot to push Greatshot far and away from his precursor, including new robot and animal mode heads and more ostentatious chest and shoulder adornments but all six of his modes (including "submarine") tell the same rote tale. While Sixshot's existence in Titans Return was an ultimate surprise, it was certainly foolish for any of us to expect a different six-changing mold anywhere in the vicinity of the next decade. At the very least however, this is of course G1 accurate and lets the figure play to that particular retro charm the original possesses in such a large amount.

Mild misgivings aside, I really feel like Greatshot will be one of the top figures of the year. Birthed in that limited foreign release mystique and filling a unique niche in my collection he's certainly a piece I'm very proud to have. Statistically speaking, few Transformers are released each year that really resonate with what I want my collection to be. Yeah, I buy em all the same but your RID Paralons and Legion Dragonstorms don't stand a chance in the wake of a release with this kind of mental heft. This robot is simply, super. 

What makes a robot "super" to you? Leave a comment and let us know!

Follow Ben on Twitter @Waspshot23