Quickly: So, like, in the Nineties there was almost a Generation 2 Menasor, but he was canceled and BotCon got to have one-fifth of him as an exclusive, the rest being limited to a small handful of samples, causing him to be amazingly valuable.
But now there's a Combiner Wars giftset that does Menasor in his G2 colors (sort of), so everyone can have one now! Hooray! And mine was an early birthday gift! Yay, thanks, Scott!
Combiner Wars G2 Menasor is one slick package. I mean, obviously, you get all these guys at once, rather than having to get them piecemeal in stores or online, and so that's good. You open up the box and you see everything all arranged there in a plastic tray, and life is good. Also inside the box is a large paper envelope, which contains your instructions, a collectors card, and a cardstock-quality poster of Menasor. ....well, G1 Menasor, not G2 Menasor. But it's still friggin' cardstock paper inside an envelope, so. None of that floppy thin paper nonsense, this is the fancy stuff.
I have some quibbles though. From all appearances, the deco on this toy was taken from some guy's DeviantArt digital mockup. (to the point that the official Transformers Facebook account used his mock-ups exactly in a promotional image, including the yellow Offroad you don't get in the set) That's kinda shady. And it also means we get a Breakdown with purple and silver instead of pink and gold, since I guess the DeviantArt mockup guy was working off this fan-painted version of the canceled G2 Stunticons and not the BotCon version people actually know.
Also, if you're expecting Blackjack to be at all snug when connected to Menasor's chest, don't.
That said, this set is a pretty good deal, especially if you don't have any of these guys yet. You get six brightly-colored toys for $100 (or less, as Amazon inevitably drops it a few bucks like they did Superion) that combine into a robot and visually emulate a toy 99.999999999999999% of Transformers collectors can't ever own. Plus, y'know, the poster. I have no idea why I love that poster so much, but I do. You may love the poster less.
If you're dead inside.
I wasn't super sold on the last MP Rodimus, in general. I got him strictly because he was a large Hot Rod-type guy who could be more in-scale with my Beast Era Wreckers toys than the original Hot Rod toy. Nobody who got the toy seemed to like it, and also it kind of liked to break easily. But I needed that large Hot Rod, and all he really needed to do was stand at the back of the shelf and be a big Hot Rod, so I got him.
But seriously, he was not great. I've never successfully transformed him. I've gotten close, but at best I end up with a convex automobile, with the vehicle mode sort of bent in the middle in a way that keeps both axels of wheels touching the ground. There was something I was doing wrong, but just transforming the thing was such a chore I couldn't be bothered to investigate. What a fiddly mess.
The experience left such a bad taste in my mouth I didn't really pay much attention to the NEW Masterpiece Hot Rod for the longest while. But folks seemed to like him when he came out. He was relatively simple to transform. (I mean, he'd have to be.) And he was play-withable. And he wasn't a clusterfuck. But I didn't really see a need for a Masterpiece Hot Rod, so I continued to not really care.
...until I went back and looked at that Beast Era Wreckers groupshot and realized that its Rodimus is shorter than Primal Prime, not taller. Huh! I could get the new, smaller toy and chuck the old piece of garbage that I hate. And so I did.
Yeah, I like this Hot Rod. Other folks weren't lying, he's much easier to transform. He's a bit of a shellformer, to be sure, as a large chunk of his altmode folds up and compacts onto his back, which is one step down from the older larger version. However, he's otherwise a billion steps up. All that kibble pegs together very securely at every step of compression and the result is not as bad to see in person as you'd think from photography.
In fact, this new guy tends to be, as a rule, better in person than photographed. Our first photographs of the test shot caused people to scoff at his flat chest and kibble backpack and skinny legs, but when he's in front of you, the three-dimensionality kind of smooths those flaws over.
This new Hot Rod comes with almost all the same stuff the older Rodimus did. He comes with his buzzsaw arm attachment, and his two guns (but they don't combine), and now he comes with a fishing rod. I wish I could set aside my extreme fatigue with the animated Transformers movie long enough to enjoy how objectively awesome it is that a Transformers toy comes with a fishing rod. I should be tickled by the goofiness. But, well, eh. I'm all TFTM referenced-out. Hot Rod does not, sadly, come with a transforming Targetmaster Firebolt partner like the American Rodimus did. This Hot Rod can hold him fine in robot mode, though. Not, like, properly, with the notches fitting into the sculpted slots or anything, but he can get a good grip around the handle regardless. Unfortunately there is no way to attach the Targetmaster gun to vehicle mode other than friction and gravity.
Have I mentioned I like that this guy's pink? Hot Rod in the animated Transformers movie was pink. Pink and yellow orange and gray. But when he become Rodimus Prime, he's red, and his toys are invariably red, even the non-Prime ones. I appreciate that this toy is the proper hue.
I also appreciate that it's not fragile, untransformable garbage.
I was satisfied enough with Hasbro's "Armada Starscream" toy. I mean, I've gushed about it a few times here before, most recently for "Super Mode"/Thundercracker, so it's clearly a toy I like. Takara came out with their own version which was much prettier (fairly objectively, even), but what mattered to me at the time was that my toy matched how Starscream appeared in the then-current IDW comic books. Their Starscream looked like the Hasbro toy. So.
Fast forward to now, when I've got Super Mode Starscream and that kitbashed Sunstorm and the upcoming Skywarp and Ramjet. Those are all painted pretty damn well, and suddenly my Hasbro Armada Starscream looks like the odd guy out. Long story short, I got the Takara one to hang out with my other versions of the mold.
The Hasbro one can continue being the IDW guy. The Takara one can be the Unicron Trilogy version of Starscream. He can hang out with Thundercracker and Skywarp, and maybe Ramjet will come visit occasionally when he blows through the vacation days he's built up with Unicron.
The main difference between the two Starscreams is that Hasbro's (left) is mostly red plastic and Takara's (right) is mostly white plastic. And then Takara puts all this red and black paint on top of that, while Hasbro kinda just let their toy be, relatively.
I love this thing.
Sky Lynx! When we were kids, my little brother really really wanted Sky Lynx. Like, he had an incalculable yearning. I mean, think about it: Sky Lynx was a shuttle that split into a lynx and a bird, and the lynx and the bird combined into a dragon. Oh, and it could walk. You put in batteries and the damned thing walked by itself. You can see the appeal, right?
So then I got Sky Lynx for my birthday from our grandparents. I opened the thing up in front of my poor brother. Back then, my grandparents liked to get a smaller present for the Other Sibling (our sister was not born yet or was too young to care) on the other's birthday so they wouldn't feel completely left out because that's the kind of spoiling-riffic stuff you can do as a grandparent, and so there is this amazing photo of my brother limply pointing to his also-ran BraveStarr toy he opened up that day, a very visible inner brokenness deepset within his face.
Decades later, I'd buy him the Japanese reissue. It was the least I could do.
But this Sky Lynx is mine! His shuttle mode no longer splits up into lynx and bird modes, instead going straight to dino-dragon, and obviously he doesn't self-walk anymore. He does, however, become a torso for Combiner Wars limbs to connect to and become Sky Reign. Not a terrible trade-off.
Space shuttles -- at least the ones we sent up into space for years -- aren't a thing anymore, being all retired and whatnot, and so probably relatedly Sky Lynx is a very liberal interpretation of one. He's got little forward-swept wings on his back end. He's got a weird pattern of windows and little tiny wing horns near the cockpit. The crawler-transporter is still there, and since Sky Lynx is no longer a proper real-life shuttle, I guess it's actually now just a part of his generic space shuttle mode. As mentioned above, it does not detach. It's not even all connected down there in the middle, so even if you tried disassembling the toy you'd have a scattering of disjointed blue parts.
Though in dragon mode Sky Lynx no longer walks, he does have a little more articulation than before. His forelegs (not the back) can splay outwards. He's got bicep and thigh swivels, and you can move them yourself without breaking the toy, like you were liable to in the 80s. I swear, that old plastic was made from crusty old cheese. The original toy had a few joints in his neck (necessary for transformation), but I don't think it could look to and fro, so that's new. Out the back, just barely, is a tiny version of his original tailfin-ended tail. It's barely visible from most angles, but I'd say it's vestigial. Attach the two sword weapons to it, and you get a properly-lengthed tail. The original tail is probably there just for purists.
The torso mode is where you find this toy's only real deficiency. Unlike the other torsos in Combiner Wars, Sky Lynx's shoulders do not seem to secure in any way, and so you have to hold them in place while you articulate his arms or else the shoulders move with them. But this mode is where his lynx head ended up, so you kind of forget this annoyance when you behold his splendor.
The two swords combine into a longer sword, because of course they do.
Armada Starscream from earlier in the Generations toyline was a pretty damn good Starscream toy. It was a new version of... well, Armada Starscream, but shorter and with shoulder joints and you didn't need to have a Mini-Con to make his missiles fire. It was a joy. I mean it, it's a great little thing. So much that when Cheetimus painted one up like Sunstorm I was like YOINK and bought that fucker.
Well, here comes more!
This is Starscream Super Mode, because way back in Armada, when they redecoed everybody, they made them into upgrades of the same guy rather than new characters. But Starscream's "super mode" was in Thundercracker's colors, and so when he got upgraded in the cartoon the English version dubbed in a little "I look like Thundercracker!" comment and the toy was sold as Thundercracker. Otherwise, Starscream in this deco is known as the Starscream who goes total Linkin Park angsty and gets himself disintegrated by Unicron to make Megatron so way sorry for the way he's been a stupid jerk, DAD. I'm serious, there were so many Linkin Park AMVs. He tried so hard and got so far, yo. But in the end? (he came back as a zombie in the next series and then in the series after that he was totally fine, so... no, it didn't really matter)
But hell yeah I'd buy a Starscream Super Mode or Thundercracker or whoever. I loved the deco on the original toy, which was certainly inspired by Thundercracker, but took a few left turns. For example, his eyes had to be silver. They really had to, to keep the rest of his deco silver where it needed to be silver. And that plastic sprue was nylon, which is unpaintable. And so instead of having his face be red-eyes-on-silver-face, Armada Thundercracker was red-face-on-silver-eyes. Which is, you know, striking. I'm very upset this did not pay forward in later Thundercracker toys.
I do think the deco loses a little something when his blacks are gunmetal instead of black. But whatcha gonna do. It's my only sort of not-really complaint. I like this toy a lot. Give me more.
(spoilers: we're getting more)