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.


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