Like with other toylines, the 1984 Japanese series was Union Fighter Blockman was exported to other parts of the world. In 1985 parts of Europe received the toyline under than name Combination Blockman, while in the US there was no mention of the Blockman name. In both of these markets Takara still manufactured the actual toys, but the marketing was handled by other companies such as Revell.
My first exposure to these toys actually came in my own neighborhood. While taking my girls to the different houses that were participating in a neighborhood yardsale I spotted a large box of Robolinks toys. I didn't know what they were, but the little die-cast robot with blue limbs did look vaguely familar. I asked if I could open the box to inspect the contents and when I did, I saw the Takara copyright on the little robot figure. I ended up buying the set for $1. I couldn't even believe she sold it to me for $1. This kicked off my curiosity of the toys and ended up buying the near complete Force 21 set on eBay for a few bucks. I've been sitting on this for some time and I'm glad to have finally gotten around to this one.
I was/am a big fan of Bandai's Machine Robo Mugenbine series. That is pretty much the closet toy series that has mimicked the basic idea of Blockman/Robolinks. You have a core figure/robot with detachable accessories. By attaching these accessories you can "transform" the robot figure into different forms. In the case of Force 21, you can form a very nice looking drill tank as well as give the robot figure some armor.
Revell had the Robotech license at this time and tried to pigeon hole the Robolink toys into the Robotech mythos. You can see above the Robolink "story" that is printed on the bottom of the box.
The presentation of the toys inside the box is really nice, with each piece having it's own place in a white styrofoam tray. I grabbed this set for a few dollars, which surprised me seeing what most Robolinks can sell for these days. I'm guessing because it was missing one piece of the blue armor the seller knew he was limited on how much he could get for the set.
The set contained two wing pieces for the robot figure, a backpack piece, two pieces of blue armor that clip on to the feet and a hand gun. Also included is another larger black gun, a silver drill piece, a translucent blue canopy, two black tank treads and a set of silver engine boosters.
The base robot figure is 3 inches tall. The chest is partially made with die-cast metal, but as you can see from the rear of the figure this isn't a solid piece. The figure has limited articulation at the shoulders that allow the arms to rotate 360 degrees. Articulation in the hips allows about a 90 degree range of motion.
The figure isn't much to look at, but I still find these things very fascinating. The color of the arms does tend to vary between your primary colors from set to set. I believe the white plastic on this figure has started to yellow a bit.
Once the armor bits are snapped onto the robot you basically get a whole new looking robot. I really hated that I was missing that one blue piece the robot looked fantastic. I might have kept the set for myself had it not been missing the piece. Thankfully though the missing piece did not hinder the look of the awesome drill tank.
I'm not 100% sure, but I believe a small Diaclone driver figure could be placed underneath the canopy in this mode. Even if I'm wrong, isn't this pretty cool looking? I love the rocket boosters on the back as I can envision this piece of machinery needing some extra "oomph" when drilling through the Earth.
I found this set to be really fascinating. I started to search out the Force 20 and Force 22 sets, but I found them hard to find boxed and complete. When my searches did turn up some results, the sets weren't cheap. I guess I got lucky on both occassions as I didn't pay much for the ones I briefly owned. As with many toys, if space was a luxury I would have kept this toy and probably looked to expand the line. If you enjoy building sets and are looking for something different, then the Robolinks (or Blockman) sets may be the thing you've been looking for.