Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Transformers Robots in Disguise (2015): Strongarm (Legion Class)

Transformers have come in varied size assortments pretty much since the line originated in 1984, but starting with Beast Wars circa 1995 the different size classes weren't really named. While the names for the different sizes changes every so often, the toys remain for the most part, the same. I believe it was during the Cybertron toy line that Hasbro introduced yet another size assortment, then called Legends.

I immediately loved this new, more simplified scale. While I'm not against multi-step, complex transformations, sometimes it's just fun to have a small Transformer you can carry around with you and transform in a matter of seconds. The Legends scale is now being called 'Legion' in the new Robots in Disguise series.


When I learned of this new RID series I was on the fence. I think it's a continuation of the Prime series, which is a good thing in my book. However the cast of characters has changed a bit. Carry over characters (Bumblebee, Optimus Prime) have been given a face lift while the series also introduces new characters. Strongarm is one of the new characters. Little did I know until later that Strongarm isn't a he but a she! Looking at the art on the packaging and by looking at her animation model, I can see the fembot aspects. Neither the Warrior class (aka deluxe) or this Legion toy do a very good job though at highlighting the fact that she is a she.

As with the Optimus Prime Legion toy I review previously, Strongarm is part of the new Transformers mobile app whereas you can scan the Autobot badge to unlock new abilities and weapons in the game.

As a Legion class toy, I think Strongarm looks pretty cool. I don't know if I like the doors handing out there like wings, but you can find them in if you'd like. For a Legion class toy you get all the same points of articulation that you'd expect to find in this size. Ball jointed shoulders and hips with hinge jointed elbows and knees. Paint apps seem to be pretty good, although a bit limited. What I don't get is the face sculpt. Compared to the packaging art, this almost looks like a different head. Gone is the feminine looking face, replaced by a face shield. It isn't a deal breaker to me, but to some I know that will be a low point in the figure.

I've watched a few video reviews of the Strongarm Warrior class figure and I have to say this is one of those rare instances where I actually prefer the simplified version. At least the Legion class figure resembles a fembot. Yeah she has the bulky shoulders and all, but it works. Besides, up until now all the fembots in the Transformers mythos have been skinny. Who says a fembot can't have a little junk?

Usually the fembots get some super sleek and sexy sports car or motorcycle. Strongarm appropriately gets a truck alt mode. Small, compact and holds together white well. The wheels don't roll as freely as I'd like. I prefer the robot over the alt mode, but that doesn't mean the alt mode suffers from any real draw backs.

Strongarm is nice addition to the female cast of Transformers. It remains to be seen how she'll be protrayed in the new animated series, but from her looks alone I suspect she'll be one tough girl the Decepticons won't want to mess with.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Transformers Car Robots: Board Book

I thought for today's post we would look at something a little different, a book. I have several nice Transformers and other 80's property books in my small collection, but I seldom think about sharing them. The other day while moving a book shelf in my hobby room my 5 year old daughter was helping me remove the books from the shelves. This particular book I think caught her eye because it is a board book, similar to some of the books she has. This Japanese book features the Car Robots series. Being that the book is all in the Japanese language I have no idea of what the actual title is or what is written on each page. Thankfully most of the images are of the actual toys, or the CGI art used on the toy packaging. In true Japanese fashion, the book reads right to left.

(click on the images for a larger view)

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Epic battle scene, Autobots vs. Destrongers

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Super Fire Convoy vs. Gigatron

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Build Team & Build King

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Bullet Team & JRX

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Car Robot Brothers: Speedbreaker, Mach Alert, Wild Ride

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Spychangers with Indy Heat & Wrecker Hook

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Black Convoy & Baldigus

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Metal Beast Brothers: Guushar, Guildo, Gaskunk with Gelshark

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For many years I was really fond of the Car Robots series and I imported nearly the entire line of toys. Over the years the only thing I take from the series is the introduction of the Spychangers - some of my favorite TFs to date. This is a fun little keepsake that is worth keeping around, but that's about it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Transformers Robots in Disguise (2015): Optimus Prime (Legion Class)

Are you eager to get that Age of Extinction taste out of your mouth? Yeah? Me too. We thankfully 2015 will be bringing a new TF series, both in cartoon and toy form. Robots in Disguise, not to be confused with 2000's series of the same name. From what I know, this new RID series appears to be the spiritual successor of Transformers Prime. If this holds to be true, then this is a good thing (for me) as I really enjoyed the story telling in the Prime series. I believe when the series opens we'll find Bumblebee leading the Autobots. I know Optimus Prime eventually shows up, I don't know when or in what role will he fill.

Many online news outlets earlier this month announced some of the new toys were released via Amazon.com and at certain brick and mortar retailers. I was fortunate enough to stumble across one new toy that I really didn't hesitate buying...

Now I'm officially going on record saying I won't be buying many of the new Robots in Disguise toys. I no longer own any Prime toys so it just doesn't make sense for me to buy many of these. Now that's not to say my curiosity won't get the best of me and I buy a few more of these small Legion class toys, or some other version of Optimus, but I'm not all in. It does't mean I don't like what I've seen thus far, it just means I'm trying to keep my focus on G1 releated releases.

All that said, I was excited to find this little Optimus figure. I hadn't seen many images of what this new version of Optimus would look like. Now that I know first hand I have to say I like what I see. The new RID packaging uses the same large red letter Transformers name down the side, a carry over from the Age of Extinction toys, along with a new RID logo. The artwork is very reminiscent of the Prime series. I will point out that the blister card is crooked, they don't normally look diagonally like this.

The back of the the packaging is very bland. There is small image touting the easy 5 step transformation along with an advertisement for the new Transformers App. I haven't tried it out yet, but apparently with the app installed on your mobile device you can scan the shield like logo on the toy and it unlocks something in a new game. The #3 image shows a shield and a sword with a unlocked padlock. I'm assuming this means when you scan the Optimus figure you get those weapons to use in the game. Hmm... The rest of the packaging is basically warnings and what not in different languages.

If you are familiar with this scale, then you know what you're getting here. Legends, Cyberverse, Legion...all the same thing. What we have here is a very simple version of the new Robots in Disguise Optimus Prime. Molded in red plastic, the figure sports 3 paint applications - blue, black and silver. The figure is fairly articulated for a small figure, using ball joints in the shoulders and legs.

The robot head, while small, features a silver painted face plate. Judging from the package art it appears he'll go back and forth between having a mouth and the armored plate as he did in the Prime series. It seems like a lot of different iterations of Optimus Prime toys feature the vehicle's front/grill integrated as part of the robot's chest. Not this version. The front of the vehicle actually hangs off the back, but nicely tucked away.

Transformation is easy, as expected. 5 simple steps actually. I wasn't sure if the toy would come with an instruction sheet as I saw earlier a picture of the back of the Warrior class (deluxe) toys. Those featured the instructions printed on the back of the blister card. I hadn't seen that since the Beast Wars / Beast Machines days. Tucked away inside the packaging however was a very small sheet of instructions.

(click on the images for a larger view)

I've seen many people already labeling Optimus' new alt mode as a dump truck. I guess I can see it, but I like to think of it as an integrated trailer. Either way I like Optimus Prime's new look. I've seen Optimus take on a lot of different disguises/alt modes over the years and I like this slight deviation from the standard truck look. The red and blue lets you know fairly easily that this is Optimus Prime. He's small, thin and a decent length (just shy of 3 inches). The back wheels seem to roll more freely than the front wheels do, but all in all a fun little toy to play around with. I can foresee my 3 and 5 year old daughters liking these new Legion class figures.

I do look forward to finding more of these new Robots in Disguise toys at my local retail shelf, if for nothing else it means the Age of Extinction movie toys will be going the way of the dinosaur. I'm so tired if new Transformers product not even catching my eye so even though I'm not planning on buying much of this new series, it's always a welcomed sight to find new toys. Of course this means you may not many RID toys on my blog, but as always you'll find lots of other new content coming soon. It looks like I'll be all in for the new Combiner Wars coming (if for no other reason that they come with trading cards!) so be on the look out for those.


Friday, December 12, 2014

Transformers Generations: Windblade

I know a lot of Transformers fans out there are loving the current IDW TF comics. While not every comic reader also buys toys, I'll garner a good deal do. While I have enjoyed some of the recent Generations figures based on their IDW comic counterparts, I have passed over just as many of these new figures.

While I am reading the IDW stories, I've opted to buy the large hardcover collections versus buying the monthly books. 1) this saves me money and 2) I just prefer the shelved look of the collected books. Of course this means I have to wait, sometimes for longer periods than I would like, for the next book to be released. That said the 2nd phase of stories (Chaos) has just been collected within the last few months. So it goes without saying that I'm behind on what's happening in the pages of the IDW Transformer comics. This includes today's subject, Windblade.

While I know she is a female TF, a geisha at that, I know nothing else about the character. Ever since I heard the murmurs online of this new character I was intrigued. I wasn't sure if I'd buy her eventual toy or not, but a few months ago I found myself standing in a Walmart while my wife went off to buy a gift for the wedding we were enroute to. This particular store had the most TFs in stock than I've seen in quite a while. Right on the front of one of the pegs was Windblade so I figured "why not?"

We still had close to an hour to go before we got to our destination in the North Carolina mountains, so I decided to go ahead and open up Windblade. Immediately my disappointment began to sink in.

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Before I even began to transform the figure, I noticed how inferior the plastic was compared to past Transformer releases. If I hadn't known better I would have thought this was a knock-off toy, not a $15 Hasbro figure. The plastic felt light, cheap and flimsy. Parts of the wings had plastic flashings that I had to shave off!

Being packaged in robot mode, I was really tempted to not even transform her. Since I had some time on my hands I pulled out the instructions and went ahead with the transformation. Simple enough to get her from robot to jet. However my disappointment only increased once I got her into her alternate mode.

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There are plenty of holes and tabs for everything to lock into place, but nothing seemed to want to stay in place. I find this very disappointing when I'm trying to transform a figure and the parts keep popping out of place. I kept looking at the instructions to make sure I wasn't doing something wrong it was so bad.

That aside, the design of the jet mode is OK. I like the VTOL engines in the wings, but that's about it. The robot's lower legs form the red sections you see on the top of the jet. I'm not sure if these are supposed to double as engine intakes or not, but to me they just look like leg kibble sitting on top of a jet. Bleh.

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Windblade's primary weapon is a black sword. OK, makes sense for this character...but see that blaring large peg on the blade of the sword?! The only purpose of that peg is so the sword can be stored on the underside of the jet.

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The sword pegs into a hole on the backside of the robot's crotch in jet mode. If you look closely you can see the hilt and handle of the sword protruding from the rear of the jet. The sword is also just large enough that it makes the rear landing gear not want to rest firmly on hard surfaces. This causes an ever so gentle "rocking" motion of the jet.

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On each side of the sword's hilt is a rectangular tab. This tab allows you to place the sword on her hip, almost as if it was sheathed. Now this is a nice touch Hasbro, but what were you thinking with that large peg on the blade?!

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I almost didn't catch this last feature shown in the instructions. Her hair piece can he removed and placed in her hand. I'm going to say it doubles as a fan and not a weapon, but correct me if I'm wrong.

Overall I find this figure a real let down, especially at the now standard $14.99 price point. Even at $10 I'm not sure I would have been much happier. I don't buy many new TFs these days, so to waste a rare new purchase on her is what magnifies my disappointment here. I will say the robot mode is much more solid than the jet mode, but that isn't saying much. The rear jet fins that are on the back of her legs have already become really loose and I've transformed the figure 2 times. Needless to say this is one figure that isn't staying in my collection. Actually off to my eBay store she goes!

I knew I should have picked up Generations Nightbeat instead!

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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

GiG Italian G1 Transformer Advertisements

Many many years ago the Italian toy company, GiG, held a license to sell Diaclone and Micro Change toys in their native country of Italy. A few years later Hasbro of course started marketing many of these same toys under the Transformers brand name. It was around this time that GiG rebranded the toys they were selling as 'Trasformers'. If you've been a part of the Transformers collecting community you've probably seen some of these packaged items.

Take for instance this early version of Sunstreaker I picked up a few years ago. You can see the Diaclone influenced design for the packaging, yet the 'Trasformer' branding. GiG would continue this practice until they were awarded a proper Transformers license.

In my quest to expand my own knowledge of all things Transformers, especially Generation One related, I've begun to look outside my normal collecting scope of toys. This has led me to finding interesting foreign toy catalogs, retailer's plan-o-gram sheets and old advertisements. Recently I had the opportunity to purchase a lot of old GiG Transformer ads and I quickly reacted. I had not seen many of these myself so I knew this would make a good blog post. These ads are small, each measuring approximately 7 1/2" by 5 1/2". They are best described as the size of an old Archie Digest comic.

The one thing I ask is that you don't share these images...or at least claim the images as your own. I didn't take the time to add my normal "watermark" so if you share or use these images, I ask that you please give me / this blog the proper credit.

Now that I have that out of the way, enjoy these scans. Some of them are from the Diaclone era while others are from G1. A few towards the end aren't Transformers related, but still worth sharing.

One of my favorite ads in the lot, this is obviously Powered Convoy from the Diaclone days. I never cared for this toy in general, but I love this color scheme much more than Ultra Magnus'.

I believe both the Jazz and Grimlock ads hail from the pre-Transformers time period.

Note: Scavenger's name was changed to Braccio. GiG changed the names for many of the G1 toys for some reason.

Guardian or Metroplex. Which name do you prefer?

Tripticon, not Trypticon.

I myself loved how many of the GiG packaged toys mimicked Takara's packaging.

Hey look, Robot Points!

Someone please explain to me why Scattorshot and Hun-Grrr are wearing their respective gestalt heads.

Apparently there was some sort of contest held in Italy circa 1987 where kids could win their very own "Power Wheels" Jeep or Ferarri Testarossa.

GiG released more than just Transformers toys under their Trasformer banner. Some of these toys were manufactured by Mark, such as the casino slot machine, pinball machine and cash register. Bandai's Metal Joe series also saw release / distribution by GiG.

With so many fans of Transformers (and transforming robot toys in general) it's much harder to find and afford things now than just 5-10 years ago. While I'll never give up hunting for those few vintage TFs and the likes that I want, hunting non toy items has been easier on the wallet and just as much fun. I hope you enjoyed these old advertisement images. I'll be on the look out for more in the near future.