Saturday, March 30, 2013

Transformers / Star Wars: Anakin Skywalker

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I'm not a huge fan of the Transformers Crossover toys, but when I saw this small Star Wars toy on deep, deep clearance I had to appease my curiosity and see if these smaller Star Wars Transformers were any better than the larger toys.

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I would've rather had the Y-Wing, but we'll just go w/ the Jedi Starfighter for starters.  Packaging is rather nice, small and compact, but nice.  I like the die-cut top and the curved sides of the blister card.  The back of the packaging shows the robot mode and gives a little bio.

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The Jedi Starfighter looks surprisingly nice.  It's about the size of a standard Hot Wheel car.  I like small toys.  It feels like a better toy than the older, larger Crossover toys.

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Transformation is rather simple, but yet the robot mode looks much better than I thought it would. Articulation is surprisingly good as well.  I believe this toy originally retailed for $7 or $8 and that seems way too much, but it was worth the $2 I paid.

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For size comparison, here is Anaking along side the Transformers Prime Cyberverse Skyquake.



Thursday, March 28, 2013

Marvel Legends: Arnim Zola Series

Hot on the heels of Hasbro's Marvel Legends: Terrax Series comes the 2nd wave featuring a Build-A-Figure (BAF) of Arnim Zola.  This wave of figures features 10 figures counting the variants, but the Spider-Man figure doesn't include a BAF part.  I've been sitting on these for quite some time and when I saw the price tags the other day at Walmart for the Iron Man 3 series of Marvel Legends, I figured it was time to get this post up on the blog.

We won't necessarily look at these figures in any particular order, but we'll start with Captain America.  If you follow the line then you'll know Steve Rogers was in the first series.  This Captain America is none other than the Winter Soldier, Bucky Barnes.  Donning a new costume, Bucky Cap looks a bit different, but equally as awesome.

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Hasbro didn't change up the packaging from series 1.  Ed McGuinness again supplies the art and has done a steller job.  Bucky Cap comes with Zola's right leg.

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The new Cap figure looks fantastic.  The sculpt is very comic accurate and the shiny metallic paint is the cherry on the cake.  Bucky cap comes with the iconic shield and a pistol.  There is a removable soft plastic belt with a holster on each hip.  The pistol can be stored in either holster.

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If I'm being completely honest, I much prefer the Bucky Cap over the Steve Rogers figure.  It's smaller, but offers better articulation, better paint apps and just looks better overall.

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Perhaps my favorite figure in the line (or at least the most anticipated for me) is Drax.  Now you'll notice the packaging calls him Marvel's Drax most likely due to trademark or copyright laws.  Hasbro had to do something similar with the names of many Transformers characters.  Drax comes with Zola's left leg.

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While the figure may look bland when compared to others in the Marvel Legends family, Hasbro did a great job capturing the essence of the character.  Now we just need a figure of his daughter Heather (Moondragon), the rest of the Guardians of the Galaxy and a good Marvel Legends scaled figure of Thanos so Drax can do the job he was born for!

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Fantomex is the one character in the line that I had no idea who he was.  Most of my comic reading is of Avengers or cosmic type characters so I had to ask my older brother who this mutant character was.  Even after looking up his profile online I'm still confused about this character!  Fantomex comes packaged with Zola's right arm.

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Despite not knowing much about the character, he's a pretty cool looking figure.  The molded jacket looks great, but does hinder some poses.  Fantomex comes with two pistols and they can be held in the holsters attached to his belt.

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Dark Wolverine, aka Daken, is Wolverine's son.  He features many of the same mutant abilities such as a healing factor and retractable bone claws.  Until the Siege storyline in the comics, Daken went by the name Wolverine as part of the Dark Avengers.  There is also a variant of this figure where he has his mask on.  Daken comes with Zola's left arm.

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I'm not a big Wolverine fan so this character never really appealed to me.  The variant masked figure looks better in my opinion, but this is still a pretty nice figure.  Articulation is on par with most modern Marvel Legends figures.  The tattoo on his arm is nicely done.  My gripe with most Wolverine figures are the claws.  For safety reasons the plastic used for the claws is usually so soft the claws end up warped right out of the packaging.  With these claws being "bone" they are thicker and work much better.

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In order to get the most bang for their buck, Hasbro decided to use the female mold to make two different characters.  Thankfully however you didn't have to buy both figures to complete the BAF.  Madame Masque is the easier to find of the pair with Madame Hydra (Viper) being the other figure.  They are basically the same figure sans the paint apps, the head and the accessories.  Madame Masque comes packaged with Zola's torso.  In an interesting twist, Madame Hydra comes packaged with Zola's torso, but instead of Zola's face you get the Red Skull!  I was really tempted to to build my Arnim Zola using the Red Skull torso, but eventually left it alone since I didn't need the added cost of buying another figure.

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I didn't end up keeping this figure, but in hindsight I kinda wished I did...especially after buying the new modern Iron Man ML figure from the Iron Man 3 line that is now on shelves.  I'm not versed on all things Marvel Legends, but I believe this is the same female mold used for the Black Widow from the Toys R Us 2 pack a year or so ago.  Madame Masque comes with a very cool assault rifle as well as a gold pistol that is held in her one holster.  The best thing about this figure though is the head sculpt.  I've never been a fan of the character, but it's a great looking figure.

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Similar to the ladies, Hasbro wanted to use the large figure in the line to create not just one member of the Wrecking Crew, but two members!  Thunderball is the easier of the two to find with Piledriver being the alternate figure.  Both figures come packaged with Zola's head and control rod accessory.

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This figure is huge and I love it.  Thunderball won't win any awards for best costume or best weapon, but man is this a great figure.  First off Hasbro did a great job with the paint applications to make Thunderball look like he just leaped out of a comic book.  His signature weapon is also well done.  It's not so heavy that you can't pose him swinging the ball and chain above his head if you so wish.

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Just to give you a better idea of the size of Thunderball (and Piledriver) here he is along side of wave 1's Build-A-Figure, Terrax.  They are just about the same size!

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Piledriver is equally as awesome as Thunderball, but I can't get past the goofy expression molded on his face.  He also comes with Thunderball's ball and chain accessory which doesn't really make sense, but oh well.



As with Thor from the first series, Spider-Man is the lone figure in this series that doesn't contain a BAF part.  Spider-Man also comes in two varieties.  The standard release has Spidey in his Big Time costume while the alternate has him in his white and black Freedom Foundation costume.  As much as I love Spidey, I decided to skip both versions to save a little money, however the FF version looks so freakin' cool.

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While Arnim Zola may be an odd choice for a Build-A-Figure, Hasbro has done a great job with the figure.  He looks exactly like how I remember seeing him in the pages of Captain America.  It would be cool to have both the Zola as-is and the Red Skull version, but I'm happy with the figure as you see it.

I skipped over series 3 since Hasbro decided not to include a Build-A-Figure character, but now that this post is out of the way bring on the new Iron Man 3 figures!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Transformers United: Tankmaster vs. Marinemaster EXP-03

I love Hasbro's Power Core Combiners.  Perhaps it's because the single packaged Transformers came with new Mini-Cons.  Perhaps it's just the whole combining aspect, but whatever the case I loved the toys and bought just about every individual release.  That said you can probably guess that my excitement was rather high when I heard that Takara Tomy would be releasing the Power Core Combiner toys in Japan under the United banner.  What I wasn't excited about was the high price tag attached to most of the toys via online retailers.

I was happy to skip over the giftset type releases with the drones, although some of the paint and deco changes Takara Tomy made are quite appealing.  I decided I would go after the new versus themed 2 packs because you know Mini-Cons are kind of like Pokemon in the fact that you gotta have 'em all!

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I decided to make the EXP-03 set my first (and as of right now my only) United Power Core Combiner purchase.  This was an easy choice as the original Hasbro toys were some of the best.  Heavytread = Tankmaster and Undertow = Marinemaster.

Takara Tomy has done an excellent job with the packaging of these toys.  The box is long and slender with no wasted space.  The colors are very bright and vibrant and eye appealing.  These boxes had to stand out on Japanese retail shelves.

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The back of the box has the most language I've seen on Transformers packaging!  The top half of the box features some nice original artwork as well as a story.  Sadly I don't read Japanese and haven't found a good translation of the story online yet.  The bottom half of the box gives you info and tech spec rankings for both characters.

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Here is a close up of that spectacular artwork.  You can see that the Decepticon Tankmaster (who looks a lot like the G2 Combaticon, Brawl) holding Grimstone in a headlock of sorts.  Fitting since the box lists his function as Assassin.  Behind him the Autobot Marinemaster is coming in to rescue his teammate.

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The versus style packaging isn't anything new.  You can go back into the early 80's in the original Japanese G1 line to find Autobots packaged with Decepticons, however my first real exposure to this format was with Takara's Beast Wars.  Open up the box and both toys are twisty tied down to a form fitting plastic bubble, resting inside nice cardboard insert; each side sporting their faction's respective color.

Moving on from the packaging, let's take a closer look at the Decepticon Tankmaster and is Micron partner, Wheezel.

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As much as I loved Hasbros' take on this mold as Heavytread, I absolutely love the new darker colors.  I mentioned above that he vaguely resembled G2's version of the Combaticon Brawl, however Tankmaster's green is of a darker shade.  Instead of purple camouflage there is now a blueish purple.  The only aspect of the tank mode that I don't care for is the bright red plastic used for the robot's head (as seen up front, just below the turret) and of course the Allspark blue Power Core connectors located on the back of the tank.  Takara Tomy didn't bother to change the color plastic used on these connection ports on any of the Power Core Combiner toys.  Bummer.

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Tankmaster looks equally as awesome in robot mode as he does in tank mode.  The beige midsection may look a little off and out of place, but it does help to break up all that green.  The only drawback with the robot is the lack of lightpiping in the head.  I love the square G1 looking headsculpt and with visor type eyes, but the designers really missed a good opportunity in using translucent plastic over opaque.

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I've yet to attach any drones to Tankmaster's combiner form, but I'm thinking my newly acquired TFC Iron Army may look mighty nice paired up with him.

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Wheezle, Tankmaster's Micron partner has to be the weakest Micron design I've seen in awhile.  While the robot form looks OK, Takara Tomy did improve this toy by using non-translucent plastic and by applying some red paint to the face.  Hasbro's Mini-Cons were devoid of any paint apps and the translucent plastic made most of the small figures just look weird.  Now the alt form of this figure is very odd...so odd that I didn't bother taking a picture of it in weapon mode or in "power up armor" form.

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Again, a big improvement over Hasbro's version.

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For completionist's sake, here are all 3 versions of this mold.  The far left is from one of the Micron campaigns held over in Japan.

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You be the judge.  Which version of this mold do you prefer.  Takara Tomy or Hasbro?

Switching gears now let's switch sides and look at the Autobot's Ocean Defense, Marinemaster.

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Coming in a close 2nd as my favorite mold, this power boat looks fantastic as both a Decepticon and an Autobot.  Marinemaster now sports a more friendly looking deco compared to his Hasbro Decepticon counterpart, Undertow.  The blue and white and touches of red and gold all blend in well together.

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One of the nice things about the blue used for the majority of the figure is it is the same shade as the Powercore connectors.  See how well they blend in (behind the head)?  This is one of the better designed robots in my opinion as well.  Not only is it well articulated, the hull of the boat forms the legs and feet and gives the robot good stability.  The mini cannons mounted underneath the arms can be rotated a full 360 degrees so you can choose to display your Autobot well armed or have them stowed away.  The robot's head sculpt also looks fantastic, though the placement of the Autobot symbol on his crotch seems a little weird.

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The combiner's head is hands down one of the best head sculpts I've seen.  It reminds me of the G1 Decepticon Pretender, Octopunch.  The only drawback is that of all the drones released none of them are seacraft.  Attacking tanks, helicopters, jets and armored vehicles to this torso just seems a little off to me.  

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Marinemaster's Micron partner is Rotorbolt.  He by far shares one of the best new Mini-Con/Micron molds.  Interesting enough Takara Tomy decided to keep the translucent plastic in place that Hasbro used, only switching from a green to blue.  This of course was to match the toy it was paired up with.  I only wish Takara Tomy would have applied some silver or black paint to the mouth or breathing apparatus, similar to what Hasbro did with Waterlog.

All of these Power Core Combiner Mini-Cons/Microns were supposed to be Targetmasters, however not all of them look the part (see Wheezle).  There is no doubt that Rotorbolt and Waterlog here are Targetmasters.

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Left to right we have the Micron campaign exclusive, Pinpointer, Rotorbolt and Hasbro's Waterlog.

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In my opinion you really can't go wrong with either version of this toy.  Not many molds can pull off looking convincing as an Autobot and a Decepticon, but this isn't the case here.

I'm a little saddened that there doesn't appear to be any more plans by either Hasbro or Takara Tomy to use the Power Core Combiner characters.  I'm sure the Japanese fiction would be a great read.  All I can hope for now is for some of the IDW creative staff to use these awesome characters in some version of the Transformers comic at some point in the near future.

While these United versions of the PCC toys can still be a little expensive, this is a set worthy of importing.  If you look hard enough this set can still be had for around $45.

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