Saturday, February 28, 2015

You should Play With This Too - A Kickstarter Campaign you must check out

I"m going to take a few moments from reviewing toys, to talk about some new toys in the works that you must simply check out. While this may be new to some of the readers, to many you've probably already heard of a new company called Play With This Too. PWTT for short, is comprised of many former guys from the likes of Hasbro, Mattel, IDW and other companies. Having worked on such popular toy lines as Transformers, G.I. Joe, Star Wars, Masters of the Universe and many other lines, these guys have come up with a new series of action figures they are calling the Lost Protectors.

They just launched a new Kickstarter campaign on Friday, February 27th for their new series of figures and in less than 24 hours, people had pledged nearly 40% of their initial $80,000 goal. Now these guys don't need me to help them achieve their goal(s) as I'm sure they'll hit their marks, but how could I not say something about them when they have, basically, new versions of some of the classic Generation One Pretenders that I so dear love?


One of the first figures in the series is Desolataur...or Skullgrin as I'll refer to him. Now this is an early resin prototype here, but look at just how awesome this thing looks. You can read up on the Kickstarter campaign page to learn more about the figures and the series in general, but I just wanted to share a few pictures and see if those alone will be enough to entice you to check them out.


One of the neat things about these figures are that the pieces will be interchangeable with other figures in the series...or with other 6 inch action figures (to some degree). Think of Hasbro's new Mashers figures, but way better sculpted and with more accessories.


Where as the original G1 Pretenders had smaller transformable robots that hide inside the Pretender shells, these come with what PWTT is calling Tech Drones. These are 3 inch tall figures assembled via 5mm ports or pegs. You can also disassemble the drones and use their parts with the larger figures as weapons or accessories.


If you aren't familiar with how Kickstarter campaigns work, here is an example of how this particular campaign works. If you pledge $55 and the main goal of $80K is met, then you'll receive the awesome Bloodbath figure (aka TF G1 Pretender Bomb-Burst) sometime next February or March. Simple as that.


Or you can pledge $55 and receive the awesome Desolataur figure. I'm currently on the fence over with character to back, as you can only choose one...unless you have a 2nd Kickstarter account I'm assuming.

Now there are other versions of these two figures, some exclusive to this Kickstarter campaign that you can check out as well, but I'm mainly interested in the G1 Transformers themed characters...such as the two above.

Larger, closer look at the pending Desolataur figure

They also have several stretch goals to meet after the initial goal has been met. What is a stretch goal you may ask? Well essentially the more money that is pledged to them, the more items available for purchase will be unlocked. Some of these are new heads or accessory packs that are compatible with the Lost Protectors figures or other similar 6 inch figures. Some of the later stretch goals include new characters such as...


Jetstrike, an obvious homage to TF G1 Pretender Starscream! They even have plans to do the other seekers using this mold!

"Thundercracker and Skywarp"


Check out their version of TF G1 Pretender Grimlock, aka Boneyard. Nice, right? Looks like the Tech Drone even turns into a little T-Rex.

There is so many cool things they have planned...assuming they can get the initial goal met. I for one hope they succeed as I can't wait to see what these look like in person. I'm in the process now of trying to decide at what level I can afford to support. I encourage you to take a few moments and check out the Kickstarter campaign if anything you've seen here intrigues you.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

After a long journey, my G1 Overlord is finally complete!

When I started collecting Transformers again back 1 around 1996, I was re-discovering the childhood toys I loved so much. I was getting in on the tail end of Generation 2 and shortly there after the introduction of Beast Wars. Soon after that I would discover eBay around 1998 and all the goodies it held. Around this time is when I started to expand my own knowledge of Transformers, especially the Japanese G1 stuff.

Overlord. He instantly became one of my "holy grails". Like many of the exclusive G1 toys to Japan, their prices on the secondary market were stupid expensive. Well I at least thought that back in the late 90's. In my quest to expand my knowledge and my collection, I was able to pick up many great Japanese G1 toys without having to break the bank. 9 out of 10 that I bought were complete in their original packaging. I knew that with a larger piece like Overlord I may have to settle for something loose and incomplete. It didn't take long before I found a semi-complete loose specimen that I picked up for less than $100! My Shmax.com entry says I paid $89 total for Overlord back on 02/03/2009. He was missing one Godmaster (Giga) and a few of his accessories. I was content though as the figure was in great shape and I was just happy to say I owned a G1 Overlord.

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Fast forward to January 2015. Thanks to a eBay seller located in the Netherlands, I made two separate purchases to help take me one step closer to owning a complete G1 Overlord. The first purchase was for Giga. Trying to find one with good chrome and tight joints was challenging, but my patience paid off. My next purchase from the same seller set me back more than what I paid for Overlord, but with these last 3 pieces he is finally complete (sans instructions and box).

I thought about pulling Overlord out of the Detolf case so I could snap a few updated pictures with all of new new accessories, but I just haven't had the time. I still may do this in the near future, but for now I just wanted to share my excitement over completing a quest that started 5 years ago. All in all, I've put $205.00 into completing this piece. I think that aspect makes me almost as excited as the idea of having a complete Overlord. Sometimes patience and being cheap can pay off in the long run!


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Transformers Titanium: War Within Optimus Prime (Cybertron Heroes)

If you can remember back to the 1984 the Transformers toys had some heft to them. They seemed a little beefier and held up to rigorous child's play. They were made of sterner stuff...die-cast metal baby! Eventually however we would see Hasbro move away from using die-cast metal in favor of more plastic. It wasn't long before most Transformers toys lacked any metal parts outside of screws.

For years fans kept clamoring for new Transformer figures that featured the use of die-cast metal. Enter the Titanium series. Released in the mid 2000's, this line was expanded from the Micro Machines subline that contained micro Star Wars ships and vehicles to include Transformers and other properties Hasbro owned. For the Transformers the line consisted of two different size points. You had non-transformable 3 inch figures called Robot Masters and 6 inch transformable figures called Cybertron Heroes. I don't believe either one of those size class names ever appeared on the packaging however.

I vividly remember this line and like many collectors I eagerly bought up just about anything I could find. However I soon learned what others had already known when I finally opened my Cybertron Heroes figures...the quality was less than exciting.

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Let's take for instance this Dreamwave Comic's War Within version of Optimus Prime. Now sculpt wise most of the figures looked pretty good. However trying to stand them, let alone put them in some sort of dynamic pose was more difficult that you may imagine. When Hasbro decided to bring back the use of die-cast metal, boy did they use it! These figures are fairly heavy...heavier than most G1 toys of similar size. This is also where the problems lie. The limbs, chests, shoulders, etc. were so heavy that it put a lot of stress of the thin plastic "joints" or connecting pieces. This led to floppy arms and legs, almost as if the Transformer were now a marionette puppet. Some figures were worse than others. This version of Prime was decent, but not problem free.

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I believe this figure was based on the artwork of Dreamwave artist, Don Figueroa. If you are familiar with the War Within comics, then I think you could agree that the look of this figure is pretty spot on. It really is a beautiful figure, it's just a shame that it is plagued with problems.

I should also point out that the Cyberton Heroes Titanium figures were not designed or had any input from their partnership with Takara and very little input from anyone on the regular Transformers team. This explains a lot of the liberties taken with many of the characters.


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In vehicle form the figure looks pretty cool. I always did like the overall design by Figueroa. He did a good job capturing that Cybertronian feel, while yet retaining those classic G1 Optimus Prime elements. Where in robot mode the joints were a little floppy, in vehicle mode the parts don't always want to stay pegged into place. The arms especially wanted to drop down and out of place. Look at the cab and you'll see that it didn't want to peg properly in place. At least the wheels were large and free rolling making this a fun toy to mess around with in vehicle form.

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One nice touch with this figure is that while in vehicle form his rifle can be stored just behind the cab. Overall this figure, like many of the others in the series, are just plagued with flaws...most of them due to the heft of the die-cast metal. It's no surprise these figures didn't sell very well and that Hasbro moved on after a few waves of figures. While they have their place in the mythos of Transformers toys, they simply aren't worth owning in my opinion.

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Should've been a statue

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

G.I. Joe 25th Anniversary: Cobra B.A.T. (Battle Android Trooper)

The 25th Anniversary series of G.I. Joe brought forth a lot of great modern updates to many characters, but one that has always stood out to me was the new Battle Android Trooper...or B.A.T.

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I never was much into army building or troop building certain characters, but I found myself buying multiples of this figure for many reasons. For starters its a great sculpt, from it's head down to it's feet. Just take a look at the details on the exposed machine bits. Another reason I felt compelled to buy multiples were because of the included accessories. I could essentially customize the figures so I had different looking B.A.T.s. Simply pop off the hand just below the wrist and you could insert one of the many weapons included.

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Not my favorite weapon, but this claw gives the B.A.T. and edge when it comes to hand-to-hand combat.

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If Firefly or the Dreadnok Torch wasn't around, this handy attachment gave any B.A.T. a nice flamethrower to keep the Joes at bay with.

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I imagine this drill bit attachment to be more of a tool than a weapon, but I guess what's stopping the B.A.T. from drilling through a Joe's armor?

Hasbro went on to use this mold a few different times and each time it was a winner. I've since sold off most of my loose 25th collection, but I have one 25th B.A.T. still carded up on my wall at home. Hands down one of the best figures in the entire 25th Anniversary G.I. Joe series.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Hardware Review - Subor Mega Drive Portable (Famiclone)

By now most retro video game collectors and enthusiasts know that Nintendo's patent on the old 8-bit video game technology has expired. For some time now various companies have been making different variations of consoles using Nintendo's 8-bit platform. Some have been better than others (Messiah's Generation NEX comes to mind as being one of the better clone systems), some of them are down right garbage.

I myself use a Hyperkin clone system to play my NES games for a few reasons. 1) Its size. The thing is tiny, about the size of a few CD jewel cases stacked on top of each other. 2) It was cheap. I think I paid maybe $20 for it 10+ years ago. 3) Its reliable. I've owned many "toaster" NES consoles and even replacing the 72 pin connector would only go so far in reliability for me. I like the top loader version, but the lack of AV inputs still makes me scratch my head.

When I decided to branch out into the world of collecting Famicom games, I looked at the various Famiclones as they are called to see what was the best option. I looked at the Generation NEX as well as some of the consoles manufactured by Hyperkin and Retro-Bit. I ultimately went with a genuine Nintendo Famicom AV console I scored for a great price direct from Japan. A little later I even added the Disk Drive add-on. All set now, right? Well kind of.

After watching several reviews online of the portable Super Nintendo handhelds, I wondered about a portable Famicom. Was there such a thing? Sure enough there are several entries in this category, none of the official though. No surprise there. After trying to do my home work and find something that was of a half decent quality AND find something that I could afford using my eBay budget, I landed on a handheld manufactured my a company called Subor...or Zhongshan Subor Educational Electronics Co., LTD. Man that's a mouth full!

This handheld (I believe) is officially called the Subor Mega Drive Portable, SB-Z12. Not sure why the Mega Drive name is included as this only plays Nintendo 8-bit Famicom games. I was able to purchase this direct from Hong Kong via AliExpress.com. For a mere $30 bucks shipped I'm now the proud owner of a working, portable Famiclone system!

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The system was shipped to me in a small cardboard shipping box. No outer packaging whatsoever. I saw the same system recently being sold by a seller on eBay and his had some decent looking packaging, so I'm not sure what gives here. For what I paid I really can't complain though. In the shipping box was the console, instruction manual and a cord that allows you to connect the console to a TV. The console operates on 4 AA batteries and of course these were not included.

Upon opening the box I was surprised at how small, yet how big the thing was. Remember the very first Game Boy and how small, yet big/chunky it was? The system itself measures approximately 6 inches long, 3 inches tall and 1 1/2 inches thick. Yeah, it's not that little. However even with batteries installed, it's not that heavy.

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On the face of the system you'll find a 1 1/2 x 2 inch color LED screen complete with 4 button directional pad on the left and Select, A & B buttons on the right. The two small buttons are Start/Pause and Reset. Some reviews complained about the small Reset button being located so close to the A & B buttons, but in my use with the system I haven't come near accidentally pushing the Reset button during game play. Underneath the button layout are two small stereo speakers.

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On top of the system is the On/Off switch on the left and the A/V out port on the right. The cartridge slot itself has a dust cover flap that completely covers the 60 pin connector inside. This is one of the features that I really liked. The door features a spring and smoothly disappears when a cartridge is inserted.

On the bottom of the system is a stereo headphone jack on the left and the volume control knob on the right.

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Another nice feature that surprised me was found on the back. There are 3 little indented finger tip grips if you will on each side of the system. While not covered in rubber or anything like that, it does make it a little more comfortable gripping the device. So far the longest I think I've played a game in one sitting was about 45 minutes and never did my hands start to cramp or feel uncomfortable.

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Here are a few comparison shots to hopefully give you an idea of the system's overall size. I apologize that I didn't pull out any of my Nintendo handhelds as most of them are currently scattered across the house. I did have my recently recapped NEC Turbo Express handy though. If you've seen the Turbo Express in person, then you know it's not a little system.

OK, so it looks good enough, but how does it play? Is it good? Or better yet is it worth buying? So far I have to say Yes to all accounts.

I've got near 40 authentic Famicom games in my collection and while I haven't tried them all yet, everything I've thrown at it has worked. My first attempt was playing Konami's Parodius. The small screen may not be ideal for shooters, but it looked, sounded and controlled good. Next I tried a few other random games including Downtown Nekketsu Koshin Kyoku: Soreyuke Dai Undokai (it's a game in the series that gave us the awesome River City Ransom!). Again everything worked perfectly. The only glitch I had was when I played Tokkyu Shirei Soruburein (or Super Rescue Solbrain). It's the Famicom version of the NES classic, Shatterhand. The game ran fine, but it seemed like the cartridge rattled around in the game slot a little more than the the games. Eventually the screen was garbled and it froze. I got it working again, but I don't think the problem was with the handheld. I popped the same game into my Famicom AV console and pretty much had the same problems with the game not loading or having jumbled images on screen. With a little fiddling of the cartridge on both the Famicom and the handheld I was able to get it working and enjoy some robust game time.

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Another nice feature about the system is the height that which the cartridges stick out when inserted. Some of these handhelds I've seen just look goofy with their extra add-ons inserted or even with a big 8-bit NES game sticking out. Thanks to the smaller Famicom carts, you don't have to worry about having some obtrusive game sticking out the top. Even the slightly larger Namcot carts don't look too bad.

I would have rather the system had a traditional solid D-Pad instead of the Sony Playstation like 4 directional buttons, but the controls were rather responsive and the buttons didn't seem to be mushy feeling. Same goes for the larger A & B buttons. They felt comfortable underneath my thumbs and the on screen actions seemed to happen at the same time the buttons were pressed.

I will say that I haven't tried out the A/V hook up yet as every single A/V input on the TVs in my room are strategically set up. Having near 20 consoles hooked up at the same time means lots and lots of cords with multiple switch boxes everywhere! I do want to try this out however as I'm curious to how well it translates over to the big screen. I also have tried out the headphone jack either. It's rare that I play my handhelds with the volume at a level it may disturb others so I just don't have headphones just lying around. I would assume the feature sounds good as the speakers on the system itself pass my test.

I don't have a good video camera and I couldn't find what I did with the old trusty Flip Video Camera we have, so I haven't been able to capture any game play video.

Overall I've got to say that I'm impressed. The quality of the build isn't Nintendo quality, but it's far more solid than the little Hyperkin clone I use to play my NES games on. For the price I paid of $30, which included (overseas) shipping, I think it's a great deal. If you like to play your games on the go and are tired of playing dedicated portable games, then why not give this a try?


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Disney's Gargoyles: Demona

I've always felt that Disney's animated series, Gargoyles, was well ahead of it's time. Dark and moody, unlike most things Disney, the series was excellently written and animated. It didn't take long for the show to become a hit with the older crowd and as such would spawn other merchandise such as video games (Sega Genesis) and action figures by Kenner.

Any good series has to have it's share of villains and Gargoyles was no different. While the human character, David Xanatos would be the prominent antagonist of the Goliath and his band of Gargoyles, Demona was eventually brought into the fold. Once a lover of Goliath, she is now consumed with hatred for the humans and finds herself at the opposite end of the spectrum from where Goliath stands.

Around the mid 1990's, Kenner would unveil a line of action figures based on the Gargoyles animated show. The figures were well sculpted a took after their animated counterparts. 1995 would see the release of Demona, one of two female action figures in a male dominated series. (the other female figure was that of Elisa Maza)

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Demona's action figure may not look like it jumped off your TV screen, but I feel the designers did a good job capturing her likeness. From her red hair to her torn and tattered clothing, there is no doubt who this is supposed to be. Most of the figures measured around 6 inches tall and had some sort of action feature. Demona's wings are attached in a way that they can "flap" to assist the idea of flying while playing with the toy. Her arms, legs and tail are also movable although the articulation is rather limited. You've got to keep in mind that most 90's era action figures weren't super articulated like action figures of today.

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If I'm being honest here I'm kinda surprised that Kenner even made an action figure of Demona. After all female toys usually don't sell very well in a boy's action figure series. I can't say if I was a little kid that I would've grabbed this figure off the retail pegs when faced with the decision of her or say Bronx. 

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Demona was packaged with a rather large projectile shooting gun. I guess you could call it a sniper rifle. I find it a little odd as I don't recall her using a gun very often in the animated series. The other problem with the gun if you haven't already noticed is it's size. The gun is the same size, if not larger than Demona herself!

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Trying to get her to hold the gun and balance took quite a bit of effort. Thankfully you can pose the tail and use it for added support. The spring inside of the gun launches the long purple missile a good 3 to feet when the button on the top of the gun is pressed. Be careful that you don't loose the missile as she only comes packaged with one.

I can understand the cult following of the Gargoyles brand and Kenner did a good job with the toys for it's time period. I haven't had the opportunity to personally "play" with many of the toys, but the ones I have had my hands on I've been impressed. I hope to bring you more reviews from this series in the future. For now thanks for reading.



Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Transformers United: Artfire (Million Publishing Exclusive)

Let me preface today's post by saying this isn't my best work. The photos turned out so horrible that I almost just deleted them and moved on. However I no longer own the toy and I did take the time to photograph and "edit" the photos and I hate to think I wasted my time. So instead of scrapping them images I'm just going to present them gallery style. I feel like most Transformers fans are familiar with some version of this mold so instead of giving you my opinion, I present to you some sub-par images!

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Targetmasters can attach to the ladder/crane arm

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Sparks

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Comparison with Arms Micron Firebolt

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Nightstick

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Comparison with Henkei! Henkei! Nightstick

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Comparison with Henkei! Henkei! Nightstick

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Alongside Million Publishing exclusive Targetmaster partner, Stepper