I've had enough of these Combiner Wars guys to make a full combiner since Christmas, but I didn't have the right components to make an official team until Thursday. And so I figured I'd wait to talk about the combined forms until then, when I could show off a completed group. The first two waves of Combiner Wars staggered the teams, with one or two missing members of the two completable teams held off until the second wave. (Optimus Prime being a third wheel.)
Here are the Stunticons! There are four of the original members here, with two new members of the team. Wildrider has been replaced by Offroad, partially for "we lost the trademark" reasons and partially for "wouldn't it be nice if one of these guys weren't a sports car" reasons. You gotta vary up your allotted retail space. Offroad himself is sculpted to be a new Ruckus, a Triggercon from the late Eighties, but it was determined for one reason or another that his toy would instead become a new guy in colors that would look like Wildrider when in combined mode. (I think "Ruckus" itself is another lost trademark, but I'm not sure.)
The other new member of the team is Blackjack, who was originally a Micromaster from the Sports Car Patrol, but is now the guy who forms Menasor's chest. The original Menasor had a little black car-like drone on his chest that came with Motormaster, the semi truck torso guy, and Blackjack is the new approximation of that. The new Blackjack toy itself, like Offroad, was sculpted to be a different guy, Runabout, the Battlecharger. But they didn't have the trademark to that guy the last time a Runabout toy was made (he was a Transformers Collectors' Club exclusive renamed Over-Run), so that toy became another small black car, Blackjack. S'just as well, since I'm not ready to replace my Over-Run yet, and am happy to have a new Blackjack.
Wildrider won't be completely forgotten, as he's getting a limited release through online retailers(?) as a Dead End head-retool named Brake-Neck.
Like the Aerialbot limbs, the Stunticons share some engineering ideas. Offroad transforms the way most Combiner Wars limbs do so far, with the head placed at the far end of the combiner connector piece, the front of the vehicle folding over onto the back of the robot, the arms splitting off from the sides of the vehicle, and the legs pulling out from the rear. Dead End and Breakdown differ similarly from this formula in that their heads are not attached to the connector piece at all, but are hidden under the hood of the car during vehicle mode, attached to the front of the torso which wraps over the tops of the shoulders and over the connector piece in robot mode. Drag Strip's head is done similarly, but without the chest wrapping part.
Breakdown is super obviously going to be Sunstreaker eventually. He looks like Breakdown, sure enough, and there aren't really any compromises on Sunstreaker's behalf, but Breakdown's foot/hand/gun is Sunstreaker's car engine thruster dealio, and it can peg onto Breakdown's back appropriately, as well as slot into Breakdown's car mode in a way that better approximates Sunstreaker's vehicle mode than the usual orientation. Breakdown will likely get some new parts, like a head and chest, and some new colors and be a pretty good Sunstreaker.
The highlight of these guys, however, is the combination engineering, The connection points are a dream. There's no shoving or excessive force, and yet it's incredibly sturdy and poseable. I'm in awe of its simplicity. You really can play with the larger combined robot as if it were a single entity, without fear of anything falling off. (With the exception of Blackjack for some people, as mentioned above.)
This is probably pretty good, since this is a line titled Combiner Wars, so the combining should probably work.
I was pretty damn satisfied with my 2006 Classics Megatron. He was gray and black and green and orange and purple and he transformed into a motherfuckin' Nerf gun. The green and orange and purple was really only there to help him pass toy gun regulations, but it really made me love him. Plus, you know, Nerf gun. Bonus.
And so when we were first introduced to the new, bigger Leader Class Megatron, I was initially a little meh. The new toy was in classic colors, meaning the purple and orange and green were gone, and he was back to being silver and black and red. Silver and black and red are fine colors, it's just, y'know, not as interesting to me. Plus the toy fell into the body proportion aesthetic a lot of the new Transformers team's stuff seemed to find itself in -- wide body with thin legs. It's a good set of proportions for Animated Batman, but I prefer my bots to be more stompy.
But, well, Stuff is happening in the comics. Megatron's an Autobot now. He's joined the cast of my favorite Transformers fiction, and it's phenomenal. And this new Leader Class Megatron toy would include a change of Autobot faction stickers to represent that development. Suddenly the toy became Lost Light Megatron, and I had to have it. Sure, the rest of him's not specifically designed after the body he has in the comics now -- it's more of a generic "G1 Megatron as a silver tank" thing -- but it's close enough and that's its official intent and that's how my brain works. Plus he's a big enough toy to actually fit in with my Lost Light display. Slapping an Autobot symbol on my Classics Megatron would result in a guy who stands eye-to-eye with my Rodimus and Brainstorm, and that just won't do.
Original misgivings aside, he's a great toy in person. His skinny legs aren't bothersome when he's actually in front of you in 3D, and they ratchet to and fro with satisfying clicks. Plus his legs are shaped that way to accommodate his real working rubber treads. He's got a set of real working rubber treads on his back and a set in his legs. They don't combine into one single pair of working treads in tank mode, but that's fine.
That the toy is mostly covered in silver paint also helps. He's this giant shiny attractive thing, and there aren't huge spots of unpaintable nylon plastic breaking up his silver like some metallic-painted Transformers have. Sure, there are a handful of unpainted silver spots, but they're not conspicuous or incongruous. Despite not having purple or green, he's an attractive chunk of plastic. He does have some orange detail, though. I'm sure it helps.
In tank mode he's got a rotating turret... if you leave him half-transformed. The proper instructions have you close his pelvis onto the back of the turret, locking it in place, but if you don't connect that piece, he's engineered so that the whole turret rotates. He's got springloaded missile launcher in his barrel/arm cannon, and also both of his secondary tank weapons combine into a longer rifile for him to carry in robot mode. When you lift up his chestplate during transformation, there's a sculpted spark casing under there, with details borrowed from its appearance in Beast Wars.
This toy is also available in Armada Megatron flavor, if you so choose. That version has a new head (with the antlers) and is mostly green, gray, purple, and florescent orange instead of mostly silver and black. But that dude isn't in my comics and I like my original one better, with the real working wrist-shiv deployment, so screw it.
The only huge disappointment with this guy is the sticker sheet. Sure, I like the Autobot logos, and they work well enough on him, but Hasbro also put his original toy's chest deco on there. You know, the little swirly loops that look like chest hair. The problem is, they printed them on a white background, like his symbols, instead of a clear background, so they look pretty terrible on his chest. Reprolabels better solve this one for us. I need those chest swirlies. I'll keep the real swirlie stickers on him until then, because my love for the chest swirlies slightly edges out how terrible I think these stickers look.
Lookit me, I got another Arcee. The one on the right is Japan's deco. She's the new one.
There are things I like about the plain ol' domestic version on the left. I like the use of black, for example. I think it adds a nice contrast color to her that gives her some visual interest beyond the kind of value-samey white, pink, and gray. I like that the larger rifle is painted, which if you think about it is a bizarre choice, since why would Hasbro waste paint applications on the rifle? 99% of the time they leave weapons unpainted, since using up your paint budget on the actual figure seems preferable, but both of Hasbro Arcee's weapons have paint. The smaller gun has just the sliver of gray, while everything that isn't a handle or a peg is painted on the larger gun. And it's both black and gray paint, too. (Okay, the larger rifle is pink if you don't paint it, and maybe Hasbro didn't want a pink gun, I dunno.) Also the Hasbro one's like $15 domestic instead of $30 imported, so, you know, half as expensive.
But those positives aside, and even though I thought that I'd always prefer the Hasbro deco, I changed my mind a bit once we got to see the TakaraTomy deco. Since Finally Arcee's First Toy The Way Most People Would Define As Such is kind of a big 30th Anniversary event, I thought it might be worth it to splurge for the "deco the way the designers intended," aka slavishly adherent to the original cartoon colors. And while import Arcee's larger rifle remains unpainted, there's a lot of stuff I like about the robot's deco that's a fair trade to me. For example, the paint wraps all the way around her torso instead of ending abruptly at the seams. And Hasbro's version looks like it was trying to avoid the whole "pink bikini" look by not painting the crotch of the pink bikini, but honestly it just looks like a crotchless pink bikini without that deco there, so, um, whoops. The gray lower midsection is more cartoon accurate AND its relative darkerness obscures the uncanny-valley organic round tummy-with-a-bellybutton the sculpt has. So that's nice.
Anyway, I felt okay splurging because this toy was surprisingly fun to own. When I preordered her and Chromia, I expected Arcee to be kinda whatevs and Chromia to be the fuckin' bomb, but in person Chromia's remolding makes her a chore to deal with and Arcee's fun. Shellformery fun, but fun nonetheless. And so I'm happy to get the more expensive version. Her toy's a milestone, after all.
Plus now I can steal the painted larger rifle from the Hasbro one to give to the other! Best of both worlds! (And eventually scrape out the support struts from inside the new one's palms so she can hold her weapons non-ridiculously, to match what I did with the Hasbro one.)
look i only said the comics were stopping
When this new Voyager Class Optimus Prime was first introduced to us, we didn't know he was going to be a super robot's torso in some new subline imprint called Combiner Wars. And so we were all sort of staring at him, scratching our heads, wondering what was up. New Optimus was lookin' kinda weird. Photography of him cleverly obscured the combined-robot crotch hanging off his back, and his limb connection points and super robot head were likewise obscured. Knowing that certain elements were being compromised to incorporate a torso mode, not to mention existing mostly to be the eingineering groundwork for another toy, made everything fall into place.
Combiner Wars Motormaster is a pretty damn extensive retool of Combiner Wars Optimus Prime. They look like they share a bunch of parts, but it's always fewer parts than you think. Yeah, from the thighs down, they're the same toy, but nearly everything from there up is new. I'm talking like nothing but the fists, the backs of the biceps, and some structural parts of the torso. The entire front of the cab on either is different, as are the arms and chest and heads. Functionally, they are the same toy, but their sculpt differs.
CW Prime is a beefy friggin' Optimus Prime. He's a little pinheaded, but that's partly due to his transformation -- his neck sits on a rotating panel that obscures his head in truck or torso mode, and there's not a lot of clearance for it otherwise. The super robot head hides inside his giant backpack. His chest windows are fake kibble, with the real truck windows placed on the backs of his arms. His legs transform like basically any Optimus Prime ever. Motormaster is the same except he gets different sculpted details other than fake chest windows.
Both these guys are meant to be the torso of a combined super robot, so some key joints ratchet very toughly. The hips in particular are very solid, and their ratcheting resting points are pretty far from each other, which makes the sculpted slant at the bottom of the toes feel silly. There's no ratcheting point that lines up with how his toes are sculpted against the ground.
Optimus gets two guns that combine into a larger gun and Motormaster gets a gun and a sword that combine into a larger sword. The combined weapons are intended for their combiner robot forms. In torso mode, you can keep their chest clamshell closed, or open it up to place Legends Class Blackjack (or his future retool, Rodimus) inside as armor.
Optimus Prime's a beefy Prime, very wide and boxy, which are traits we don't get in an Optimus Prime toy much anymore, so I like him for that. Most, if given a choice between the two, would choose Motormaster. Motormaster gets far, far fewer toys, and other than the obvious Optimus legs the base toy seems geared more towards Motormaster than Optimus.
This is Shouki! You probably don't know who he is. I'm a living Transformers encyclopedia and I barely know who he is. This is because he shows up in the Japanese-only series Headmasters, which is dull-as-rocks -- the Headmasters anime was that awkward growing pains period when Takara was seemingly trying to tell Transformers stories our way, but failing, before they say "screw it" and go full-on "this is stuff we know how to do well" the next year with Masterforce. Anyway, this is Shouki, the leader of theTrainbots. In the terrible English dub that aired in Southeast Asia at the time, his name was Grimlock. Yup.
This exclusive toy from Japan interested me because it's finally a toy of Classics Astrotrain as a new character. Everyone else except Classics Megatron got one of those, and for the past nine years I've been hankering for that Astrotrain toy to be shoehorned as some other character. I mean, I know why that hasn't happened -- he's a Triple Changing space shuttle/bullet train, and there aren't any other Triple Changing shuttle/trains in Transformers. But that's why I wanted to see it done. Like with the Cloud Rodimus I talked about a while back, I like seeing characters get new altmodes via redecoes of other half-appropriate toys. Shouki transformed into a bullet train, and he does so now. He now also transforms into a space shuttle.
Now here's where it gets wacky. It was decided that Shouki's shuttle mode is actually Shouki disguising himself as Micromaster Skystalker's shuttle base, the Thunder Arrow. To that end, he comes with a Mini-Con partner who transforms into a bow, recolored as Skystalker. Get it? Thunder Arrow? A bow? And this Skystalker decoy is actually Daniel Witwicky in an Exo-Suit. WHAT.
Daniel has a little trouble being Shouki's bow, though. Shouki has some forearm kibble that doesn't really want any wide weapons with 5mm pegs to attach there. You can force it to make it work, but it's not fun or intuitive. The whole convoluted idea was that close to being perfect, if not for that detail. But don't worry, it makes up for itself in other areas. While Shouki is in bullet train mode, Daniel can be contorted into a new configuration and attach to the top of the train to complete a "Pantograph Mode." In other words, he becomes the TV-antenna-like contraption you see on top of electric trains that connect them to the power lines above. This is both ingenius and hilarious to me. I really like this.
Shouki himself is very well painted. The stripe that runs down the side of his vehicle modes even has a gradient. He's a pretty toy. However, his colors are pretty close to the colors Astrotrain got over here in the United States back in 2006. Our Astrotrain was white, like Shouki. Japan's was dark gray and purple, and so there's no conflict over there. I lucked out, though, since I'd replaced my Hasbro Astrotrain with a Takara one a few months ago because my white one had yellowed due to age. And so I have no color scheme overlap. If you still have an original Astrotrain, though, owning this guy might be harder to justify.
NOTE!!!!: People keep asking me where I'm going to put my reviews after the Shortpacked! comic ends. The answer is here, still. This website ain't goin' no where! And when I get new toys I wanna talk about, I'll still talk about them here, same as I always have been.