Monday, July 27, 2015

DX9 D06 Carry Preview

“Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.” ― Vince Lombardi

DX9 is not content to be a one trick pony that specializes in a single range of transforming robots. In addition to their amazing War in Pocket figures and their add-on kits, they have recently started giving us some great large-scale, mainline figures such as Chigurh and Invisible. The company seems to have taken all their recent successes and put them to good use in the design of their latest figure.  Their next project is the somewhat oddly named Carry, the vaguely masterpiece inspired version of the fire chested heroic leader of a certain TV series about giant transforming robots.

There’s no accounting for taste when it comes to names, Carry is certainly an odd duck in that regard. I can only assume it must be related to the idea that the homages character carries the matrix within him. To an extent, this feature is actually replicated in the figure with the inclusion of a molded non-removable matrix in his chest chamber. In robot-mode the figure stands tall. In fact, equally as tall as the official Takara and Hasbro masterpiece versions of the character. Initially, this figure appears to want to make itself at home among your masterpiece figures but not all is as it seems. We will get to that a little later. Carry’s design is clearly inspired by the art of Studio Ox as presented in TV Magazine and Comic Boom Boom manga in Japan during the early 80’s. The large spoiler, muscular legs, and unique facial design really nailed this stylistic influence. Carry sports the character’s instantly recognizable colors with a beautiful maroon and almost carrot orange. This is accompanied by some deep gray and highlights of canary yellow on the arms and most prominently on the spoiler. Translucent headlights are present along with some black diecast feet and lovely chrome pipes that really help elevate the figure. There is some obvious love and attention to detail here.

The figure has a nice solid feel in both modes. In robot mode, Carry has a heft to him that just feels like quality. Thoughtful use of various types of ratchets makes posing him a breeze; although, there is a conspicuous lack of ratcheting in the forward motion in his hips that would have put the figure over the top. Ultimately, Carry boasts an amazing level of articulation which includes:
  • Ball-jointed neck with great up, down, and tilting motion
  • Ratcheted shoulders with good outward and forward motion; however, somewhat inhibited by the length of the shoulder fenders
  • 90 degree ratcheted elbow bend and elbow swivel
  • Wrist rotation with hinged fingers and separate fully posable pointer digit
  • Waist rotation and ratcheted side-to-side hips but with unusual ratchet-less forward motion
  • Upper thigh swivel and slightly greater than 90 degree ratcheted knee bend
  • Ankle tilts and deep forward toe movement

In vehicle mode, Carry shows off a futuristic camper design very reminiscent of, but not exactly like, what the source character had in the series. Missing is the usual spoiler and a few minor artistic liberties were taken with the detailing throughout. An opening transparent canopy and real rubber tires really sets off the alternate mode. Unfortunately, this is also where the figures only real shortcoming is found. The vehicle mode is definitely on the small side. While boasting some hardcore masterpiece cred in robot mode, the vehicle mode struggles to be in scale with anything but your CHUG figures. While the mass shifting of size between modes is an engineering marvel, it leaves the collector somewhat confused as to where this figure belongs in their collection. I think acceptance or rejection of this minor issue will be a point of contention from collector to collector. For me, the grandness of everything else this figure does well makes it an easy error to look past.

Until now, I have yet to point out what many will feel is this figures real claim to fame. Unlike every other figure of the source character available (save for the forgettable Titanium offering), Carry manages to integrate his trailer into his transformation. Transformation from robot to vehicle mode is both intuitive and fun. It feels somewhat like performing a magic trick as the legs morph into the wheel and support structure of the trailer while the backpack unfurls into the remaining rear end of the vehicle. Some clever hinging in the chest and rotation of the backpack assembly really highlight the designers understanding of fluidity and blends the line between complexity and fun. Also included is a target master which is itself a well-articulated mini figure with a simple but effective transformation from gun to robot mode. This inclusion seems strange since the source character was never a target master in the original series, but I certainly don’t mind its inclusion here despite my preference for maybe a plainer rifle.

It seems the designer’s intention with this figure was to invoke the Studio Ox art style of the character while incorporating the trailer into both transformations. In this regard I feel DX9 has succeeded greatly despite the somewhat odd smaller proportions of the vehicle mode. Even as an owner of both the Takara and Hasbro versions of Masterpiece Rodimus Prime, I found myself unable to negate the value of this figure. It is my opinion that this figure gets the real “feeling” of the character that the official release never quite managed in trying to be both Hot Rod and Rodimus Prime. If you can get past the small vehicle mode, you won’t be remiss adding this well implemented figure to your collection.

You can pre-order your DX9 Carry on our site here.

EDITORS NOTE: This feedback was driven by a pre-release copy of the aforementioned figure. Minor changes and improvements may be incorporated by the manufacturer before release.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Combiner Wars Devastator Review

Combiner Wars has fully delivered on the promise of its title by delivering an exceptional product—a Generation 1-style version of the very first Transformers combiner, Devastator.

The brand has a history of delivering one-off huge figures. Generation 1 had its Omega Supreme and Fortress Maximus, Armada gave us Unicron, the movie era gave us its own take on Devastator as well as several massive Optimus Primes, and more recently, Hasbro produced the Titan Metroplex, partly inspired by the character’s appearance in “Fall of Cybertron.”

Combiner Wars Devastator may be unique, however, in being based on no major current media project—only an adult-oriented set of comic books (also called “Combiner Wars”) and on the original 1984 cartoon. It’s hard to imagine a stronger statement from the Transformers toyline that nostalgic 30-something collectors are a major focus of attention.

Those selfsame collectors have sometimes seemed hesitant to jump on this new product. The reason is simple…Hasbro’s sister company TakaraTomy is releasing a variant in their “Unite Warriors” line in six months. This version is confirmed to have a laundry list of improvements, such as individual guns for each Constructicon, improved arms and joints for almost every individual Constructicon, and a combined-mode head with a retractable visor. While this more premium product carries a commensurate increased price, many collectors are hesitant to drop the still-substantial price for the Hasbro Devastator due to the fear that it will no longer be “definitive” or live up to the standards that Hasbro, Takara, and various other companies have set for combiners.

Well here’s my opinion: if it’s Devastator you love you lose nothing—nothing—by going the cheaper, faster route of purchasing Combiner Wars Devastator. 

If, however, you are specifically a fan of the individual Constructicons, and you want each and every one to live up to the standards of an individually-purchased Voyager-class figure, then you are the sort of collector who should hold out for Unite Warriors Devastator.

Why do I say this? Because Devastator is an amazing figure. Once assembled he’s a foot and a half of fun—posable, solid, accurate to the cartoon. If you accept MP-22 as a Masterpiece Ultra Magnus despite the fact that it lacks an independent “white Optimus”-style cab figure, then you will understand what I mean when I say that it is a Masterpiece-worthy Devastator. (And to me, his iconic scene is his rampage in “Transformers The Movie” in which he is depicted with a visor, so I don’t miss the option to have individual eyes.)

The individual bots, while remarkably imposing, have endured sacrifices in order to deliver a combined mode of such quality at the given price.

If you want a really detailed review of each robot and alt mode, well that’s been done already, and much better than I would ever be able to do. The alt modes all serve their purpose, no more, no less. They look like a bunch of cartoony construction vehicles, just like they ought to. The “chest shield” and other combiner kibble do stow away in these modes, and become weapons for the robot modes, an approach vaguely similar to “Energon” era combiners but that I consider FansProject to have perfected with their “Colossus” kit.

The Constructicons always made more of an impression to me as a group than as individuals, and they do form a cohesive, screen-accurate gang of robots. They simply don’t design Transformers from the ground up like this any more, all faceplates and visors, with the heads based on one or two geometric shapes.

The arms, Bonecrusher and Scavenger, share a common design, and possibly some parts. This design forms an exceptional arm, as the tread section pegs solidly to the chest, with the whole robot built around a smooth, solid shoulder joint. They suffer in robot mode, however, with the same awkward, ugly tread-legs. The missile-boxes they get stuck with are also some of the cruder kibble-weapons.

Hook is probably my favorite of the bunch due to his unique transformation and the fact that he is the most rarely homaged Constructicon. His actual, uh, hook isn’t that playable, but he’s probably the most fun in robot mode. He’s posable, just the right size, and has lovely lips! The essential asymmetry in his design is very subtle in this mode, so changing him from head-and-shoulders mode to robot mode is visually appealing.

Long Haul is just tremendous. The idea of the Constructions all being close to the same size is somewhat thrown out here, with much of the engineering that makes Devastator hold together expressed in this individual. But he works just great in robot mode, if a little bulky and ratchety. While he looks just like G1 Long Haul with his bullethead, he also evokes Revenge of the Fallen Long Haul with his blade weapons, scale, and sheer bulk. Sadly, he’s one of the few Constructions who’s missing what I would consider to be an essential joint for a Voyager scale figure. While there are joints in the middle of his arms, they do not function as elbows. On the plus side, his dump truck bed can store kibble and guns in all three modes!

Mixmaster is kind of a clever back-to-front reimagining of his cement truck mode. He looks the same in two out of three modes, and cool in the third mode, so I have no complaints. He has one of the simpler transformations, but a highly effective one, a bit of irony if you recall RotF Mixmaster. Despite the fact that it’s married to a large overhanging piece, his head retains full articulation, a neat trick. It looks appropriately contemptuous given his mad chemist personality.

And finally we have poor Scrapper. He has one of my favorite heads, and probably the most pleasant proportions of the set. But as everyone knows already, he has no elbows, just a mid-arm rotation. Plus, his shovel gave me a nasty pinch when I was pulling it up for transformation, so he kind of has to win weakest of the set. I haven’t had any problems with his leg mode but I’m watching it, as the shovel does move around a bit and that means that Devastator is being supported by a guy doing a handstand. Geez, no wonder Spike killed you off dude. Where’s my Scoop?

Still on the fence? Then think about this. This set is being marketed as six Voyager class figures. Right now, $150—the price of the set—is exactly what you’d pay for six Voyagers. But what about the missing joints on two of them? Well, if that is a problem for you, then you are telling me that the combination into Devastator not only is not worth losing joints on two of the Constructions, but that it is worth no money to you at all. And I respectfully disagree.

From my perspective, Devastator is a damn good $150 action figure, that also happens to convert into six additional figures. All of the play value of these six figures—which is considerable—is bonus as far as I’m concerned, making this set an exceptional bargain.

Whichever choice you make, you will get your money’s worth. Devastator is an incredible product that is worthy of whatever display and whatever accompanying figures you choose for him.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

BadCube OTS-567 Evil Bug Corps Preview

“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.” ― Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis 

Still being a relative newcomer and underdog on the block, BadCube’s latest offering in their masterpiece-centric series of transforming robots focuses on a certain evil robot faction’s favorite insectoid backup troops. Toy Dojo is proud to present Hypno, Kickbutt, and Claymore – The Evil Bug Corps.

The Evil Bug Corps certainly have the look down. Each bug does a really fantastic job of skirting the line between cartoonish accuracy and toy homage while also realizing the characters as true 3 dimensional objects one can hold, manipulate, and transform. The use of a matte black with highlighted areas getting a different glossy finish comes off as really classy and helps break up the monotony of figures, who for the most part, are mostly one color. The components of each bug that were traditionally chromed on the original G1 figures they were inspired from are done in a smooth metallic silver here. I won’t solve the chrome vs. silver debate in the fandom here, but if chrome is your thing there will be a collector’s edition (link available at the bottom of the article) with chromed and translucent parts available. This reviewer found the silver very appealing. The proper deep evil robot faction purple is represented everywhere it should be along with some nice paint touches of brick red and a vaguely teal blue. There are some sharp lines and tech detailing that does a good job of breaking up what could be a very blocky silhouette in both modes while managing to not look busy. They look right at home grasping for the included pink energy cubes. Speaking of the energy cubes, they are made of an interesting rubber material that makes them adhere to each other (assumedly to make stacks like the cartoon) but are otherwise not tacky to the touch. A really interesting and welcome accessory.

Build wise, the figures seem well thought out. In bug mode, each figure is a little limited in the articulation department but some of that is probably by design as the G1 inspired cues don’t leave a lot of room for any truly inspired movement. Kickbutt possess an interesting leg-kicking gimmick, while Claymore and Hypno sport posable ball-jointed bug appendages. In robot mode, ratchets are present in the hips and ball joints that are tight but malleable without a feeling of being loose. Each of the figures share at least some small level of common engineering with similar joints in the arms and hips. With the exception of Hypno, who has some additional shoulder movement, the figures share the same general range of articulation in robot mode. Each figure boasts the following:

  • ·         Full 360 degree head rotation with some down and up motion
  • ·         Ball-jointed shoulders with good outward and forward motion
  • ·         Arm swivels and hand rotation along with opening/closing fingers
  • ·         Double jointed elbows allowing  for greater than 90 degree motion
  • ·         Waist joint, limited ab crunch, and upper thigh swivels.
  • ·         Good 90 degree knee bend joints
  • ·         Ankle tilts and limited toe movement

Each member of the Evil Bug Corps brings something interesting as part of their transformation. A secret sauce of buggy transformation magic if you will. Kickbutt manages to absorb the bugs ratcheted knee joint, which supplies his kicking gimmick, into his robot mode leg. Hypno has a color change gimmick where his purple bug mode chest folds into his legs revealing a cartoon accurate grey chest during his transformation. Finally, Claymore performs a fascinating bit of auto-transformation when you slide his abdomen up it automatically enlarges his chest to proper cartoon proportions. 

Unfortunately, owners might find themselves a little frustrated with the transformations over all. Of the three, Claymore comes off the least frustrating with a generally straightforward transformation save for a bit of difficulty pegging the arms into the legs and getting the face covers to close just right. Hypno’s transformation feels like it could have benefited from a bit more room for the bug face to fold up into the chest and a more sturdy connection to hold the chest and head in place as the supplied pegs and notches like to come undone frequently. Kickbutt is by far the most difficult of the three to transform. Getting his bug legs tucked inside his chest while at the same time having to manage the right position of the wings and the robot mode armatures can be difficult. In essence, BadCube makes no cardinal sins in their transformations that would result in fragility or stressed parts, but it lacks that certain “fun” factor this reviewer tends to appreciate in his figures. It’s a fine attempt if you care more about the destination than the journey - the final result in both modes is worth the frustration.

In the end, these figures certainly do their job. Anyone with a passing remembrance of the original cartoon will certainly recognize them straight away as the famous insectoid robots of the series. The figures hit all those poseability check boxes that one would expect and they look wonderful with your other masterpiece style figures. There is no shortage of competition in this area with at least two other known manufacturers presenting their own take on the evil insectoid troublemakers later down the road. Ultimately, it will come down to your unique sensibilities and what aesthetics, sets of colors, and overall features appeal to you as a consumer. If the BadCube Evil Bug Corps hit all the right notes for you, and you don’t mind a somewhat fiddly transformation, you should find yourself quite pleased if you decide to make the purchase.

You can get all three of the Evil Bug Corps in a special value giftset here.

Or you can grab a more premium chrome and transparent toy based deco of Claymore here, Hypno here, and Kickbutt here respectively.

EDITORS NOTE: This feedback was driven by a pre-release copy of the aforementioned figures. Minor changes and improvements may be incorporated by the manufacturer before release.