Friday, December 18, 2009

Machine Robo: MRR Rock Commander

QUICK INFO:
Name: Rock Commander (MRR)
Line: Machine Robo (Japan)
Company: Bandai
Year: 1986

Price: unknown (yen)

Time time around we'll take a look at a toy that is even new to me, the Rock Commander vehicle from the Machine Robo line. First off you may recognize this vehicle as the Stone Wing from the Rock Lords line. As you may or may not know, Tonka Toys brought this sub line from Bandai's Machine Robo over to the U.S. and branded it as Rock Lords...which was a sub line of sorts of Go-Bots. So give me a few minutes of your time and we'll take a look at this toy together.

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The toy comes packaged in the same style as the rest of the "Rock Lords". The front of the package depicts both modes while the back shows almost a blue print like diagram of the toy. Since all the language is printed in Japanese I can't read anything, but it looks as if the back of the box is pointing out unique features of the vehicle.

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This is the top of the box. I love how it shows a step by step transformation of the vehicle from ground based to fighter jet. I was lucky that all the vibrant colors on the box were not faded as the packaging presentation is very beautiful.

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I have to admit that the ground mode of the vehicle is very odd looking. I'm guessing the best way to describe it is call it how I see it. It looks like a large rock shaped dune buggy. I'm not a fan of this mode at all, but it does have some redeeming qualities. First off the swirl in the plastic is beautiful. I don't recall seeing this much swirl in the plastic used on the Rock Lord action figures themselves. The main color is brown, but you can see shades of red and gold swirled in. There is a bit of chrome plating used as well. The exhaust intakes on the sides of the nose are a bright silver while the seat in the cockpit is a bright gold. The roll bars around the cockpit are painted a duller gold color. The other chrome used is for the wheels as they are a bright gold as well. Usually with older toys it is quite common to see chrome plating flaking off or it has a real dull sheen (common w/ the Rock Lord figures Nuggit or Slimestone). I have to say however my specimen does not appear to suffer from this. Either the toy was not played with much by the original owner or this thing was built better than I expected. The vehicle measures 10 inches long. All 4 wheels roll freely and the way the toy transforms it gives the suspension a little play in how low or high the toy can ride above the wheels. Not sure if this was intentional, but it makes sense when you stop to think this vehicle may be traversing rather rocky terrain.

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Now this is what I'm talking about! I love this mode. This is why you should buy this toy if you are fan of the series. Yeah sure, it still looks like a rock just with wings. Pictures just can't do this toy justice. First let me describe the super simple transformation process. From the ground mode, you simply pull down on the wheel assembly and rotate it 90 degrees. Along each side of the nose are the wings that fold out and back into place. The tips of the wings are articulated if you so choose to pose them. Take the silver canister on each side of the cockpit and fold down onto the top of the wings. Then take each wheel and fold them up further, connecting the tabs on each end of the canister to the back side of the wheel. There is a panel in the back of the jet that when folded out turns into a rear mounted twin gun. You can also press down on the small gray gun on the nose of the vehicle to activate it's battering ram. In this mode the vehicle has a wingspan of approximately 10 1/2 inches! I forgot to fold down the landing gear in this mode before taking the pictures. Underneath the nose and each wing is retractable landing gear with free rolling wheels.

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The cockpit is rather roomy and large, but of all the Rock Lord figures I own only a few would actually fit and look good in the vehicle. You'll notice on the packaging it depicts Boulder as piloting the vehicle so he was the first figure I grabbed to stick in the cockpit. I was a little surprised to see how odd he looked in the vehicle. Because that particular toy's legs don't fold forward into a sitting form the figure was basically standing in the seat! After taking a second look at the box I figured out how they got Boulder in the seat...they basically half transformed him! (see my pic above). I thought this was rather lame on Bandai's behalf that you couldn't put the action figure in robot form in the cockpit. Almost all of the Rock Lord's designs don't allow the figure to sit so this is a major design flaw in my eyes.

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I started to think about Tonka's version of this toy and I remembered that the packaging depicted this as Magmar's vehicle and the action figure was used prominetly all over. I'm wondering if this move was made because Magmar could actually sit in the vehicle? I have no idea why the vehicle basically switched factions when it came from over seas, but it does seem to blend in better with Magmar as it's pilot.

In closing I have to say I was rather pleased with this toy. Not only did I get the awesome Japanese Machine Robo packaging, but my specimen seems brand new. All the pieces are super tight and there is no apparent wear to any of the chrome. I should add too that this vehicle is surprisingly heavy. The majority of the suspension underneath is composed of die-cast metal. I guess that should not surprise me too much as a lot of toys from the 80's used die-cast metal, but it's a nice touch and seems to hold this vehicle together really well. I don't own the Rock Lords Stong Wing version of the vehicle so I'm not able to compare the two, but from the photos I've seen the two toys seem to be identical. Is this worth your money you ask? I say yes for the jet mode alone. As far as the Machine Robo line goes this is the only vehicle released. Tonka did release one more vehicle for the U.S. line of Rock Lords called the Rock Pot, but it looks cheaply made when compared to this toy. No matter which version of the toy you track down I don't think you'll be disappointed. If only this line had lasted a little longer I believe we would have seen more toys and vehicles built as well as the Rock Commander.

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