Monday, February 29, 2016

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Nickelodeon): Dark Beaver

It's been awhile since I've visited the Turtles, but with the new Mega Blok toys catching my eye I decided to check back in and see what I've missed. I jumped online and tried to familiarize myself with the how the story line has progressed since I last watched. I'd love to follow the show on a more regular basis, but I feel like I hardly have time to accomplish the thing that need to be done each day.

That said one of the new figures in Playmates' TMNT series that instantly caught my eye was Dark Beaver. How could a giant, red beaver with a skull on his belly not jump out at you and grab your attention?! The whole space theme I can't really get excited about, but this guy...oh yeah!

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When I decided to hunt for this figure, I had no idea he would be so hard to find. Granted this character turned up on my radar last fall, right when holiday shopping was starting to gear up. Several retailers had sales on the Turtle toys and displays and stock were a plenty...except this guy. My luck finally turned around in mid January when I finally found one at Walmart. Wouldn't you know that when I finally found one the paint apps weren't that great. More on that in a bit.

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There are actually four Dream Beavers in the show. Now whether or not Playmates will make the other three into figures remains to be seen. There is a rumor that Dire Beaver will be released, but I can't seem to confirm or deny that rumor.

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From a toy perspective it seems as if Playmates is getting better and better with each subsequent wave of action figures. These TMNT figures have never been known for their articulation so I was pleasantly surprised once I got him out of the packaging and found him to be a bit more poseable than the last figure I opened.

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Dark Beaver's arms have good range of motion at the shoulders, allowing some decent poses to be struck. His tiny little legs feature small hinge joints to allow some bending. Both his arms and legs have a swivel rotate feature to allow more range of motion. Lastly his head can be turned a full 360 degrees.

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The detail on the figure is quite well, from the sculpted fur all over his body to the texture on his tail (which by the way has to be snapped on via ball joint). Dark Beaver's eyes and ears however make him look more like a mutated squirrel to me. The face is also where my luck ran out - the paint apps. his got one single tooth, painted a yellowish orange. In the packaging I could see all the sports of missing paint. Some of the black paint on his whiskers wasn't quite in line w/ the sculpting either. Nothing too horrible, but that's why I like to be able to have multiples of the same figure at retail so I can compare each figure. Yes, I'm that guy you see standing in the toy aisle pouring over the small details of three or four of the same figure!

All in all I really like this figure. Currently he stands by himself on the top of a bookcase in the my office, spying over me from across the room while I work at my desk. I don't know why he's so hard to find, but if you are on the fence of whether or not to add him to your collection and you find him at retail - buy him. The Turtles always need new villains to fight and what's better than a giant red beaver?

Friday, February 19, 2016

KO Korner: Dinosaur Corps Astrodon FS-209 "Raiyu D-327"

Most of my readers know that I enjoy collecting KO toys of Generation One Transformers, however most of what I collect are the old colored toys that couldn't easily be mistaken for the real deal. I'm not talking about those Easter basket Devastator and Superion sets. The problem with collecting vintage Transformers KOs is finding them. The market seems to be flooded with current G1 KOs with little to no change over the originals, or the cheap KOs you find in dollar type stores. To find the vintage G1 KOs you have to hunt for them and usually that means looking outside the US.

Long before I ever put together my own set of individual boxed Dinoforce toys, I knew of the KO set often referred to as the Biological Chemistry Dinosaur Corps. I had found pictures online of these toys being sold in a giftset form, but never packaged individually. Later I found the individual toys, but they were packaged on blister cards. Eventually I found them boxed and they had that classic G1 feel to the packaging layout. However just about every time I found some version of these toys they were being sold by sellers in Italy or Greece.

About a year and half ago I had to sell my vintage Dinoking set and while I don't regret the decision, I do miss the toys. When I started to see some of the G1 style individual packaged "Dinoforce" Pretenders start showing up online, I made the decision to go against my own collecting rule. These Dinosaur Corps toys don't vary too far from the original deco and at times I've seen these being passed off as originals (willingly or not, I don't know). I fell in love with these toys my first go around and I knew I wanted to own them again...but I really didn't want to pay what the vintage toys go for these days on the secondary market. That meant I was about to dive in to collecting all 6 Dinosaur Corps toys. The hunt is officially on!!

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One of the first Dinosaur Corps figures I found for sale was Astrodon, or better known as Rairyu (D-327). Since I've already reviewed this mold, refer to the original post if this is your first exposure to the toy. Otherwise I'll just be pointing out the differences between the vintage Takara toy and this KO.

I know a lot of people could care less when it comes to the packaging of a toy, yet alone the packaging for a KO toy. These boxes look quite nice in person and actually feel like they are well made. It's got an extra window for the combiner parts that the vintage box doesn't have. Sadly there isn't any artwork for the individual characters, only Dinnoking. Yes, that isn't a typo...the combined form's KO name is Dinnoking!

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When the packaged arrived from Greece I was surprised that 1) it was packaged so well to prevent damage during shipping and 2) the box flap was almost completely crease free and stood up straight. On the top you get a small image of the toy and on the box flap a nice group shot of the dinosaur team.

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The sides of the box feature the same images on each end...nothing special here. The back of the box differs quite drastically from the original. I'll also take a moment to remind everyone that you can click on the pictures for a larger view.

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While the box flap was crease free in the sense it can stand up on it's own, if you look carefully at the "D" in the logo you'll see several stress marks to the cardboard. 

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There isn't any sort of paperwork included inside the packaging as the instructions and cross sell are printed on the back of the box. In additional to transformation instructions it gives you sticker placement as well.

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I present to you, the Dinosaur Corps!

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Finally, enough of the packaging - let's get to the toys! Not surprisingly the toy pieces are held in place inside the box in a very cheap, thin plastic tray. Rairyu's end tail piece was not attached so I find it interesting that whoever made these opted to package the Pretender shell fully intact.

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Astrodon actually differs quite a bit from his vintage companion, Rairyu. First the skin on the KO was changed from gray to green. The color of his armor also has been changed. The blue bits on Astrodon are black on Rairyu. Lastly the armor on the neck and head of the dinosaur was all bronze on the KO. It's hard to tell on the vintage version, but it too had some bronze but it was very common for it to wear off.

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I am very happy to report that these shells don't have that slimy feel to them that the originals had (or at least mine had). These dinosaur Pretender shells are made a very nice plastic. Not too hard, not too rubbery. I had a little bit of a hard time getting the top part off the shell, but never did any part feel brittle.

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Just like the original, the combiner part pegs onto the shell. The hand gun can be attached as well, but as you can see I forgot to peg in the gun. I actually like the look of the combiner's waist piece plugged in as it gives the dinosaur a more menacing look. I imagine this piece was meant to double as rocket launchers.

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I still don't know what this alt mode is supposed to be, do you? The really aren't any variances between the two versions that I can see. The shades of white are nearly identical, I just had different set up when I took pictures of my vintage set.

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KO vs vintage

Upon my first inspection I didn't know that the color of the robot's face had been changed from red on the vintage to green on the KO.

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Astrodon attaches to the waist piece just like the original. It's neat the way all of these Micromaster sized toys attach to form the combined gestalt form.

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I am very impressed with this toy and I'm actually glad to see there are some slight variances to the original toy. For a KO the quality of both the packaging and the plastic used is really nice. Some of the paint apps are a little off, but that is to be expected. Some may want to argue with me, but I think these Dinoforce KOs are harder to find than the Takara versions. Thankfully though I only had to pay about a third of what an authentic Rairyu would probably cost me these days.

As of this post, I've tracked down three of the six. Not sure how long it'll take me to find the last three, but I'm determined to complete this set.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Transformers Campaign Micron - Movie Advanced Series: Ivan

Over the years there have been plenty of exclusive Micron / Mini-Con toys released in both North America and in Japan. One of the last compaigns (that I'm aware of) using existing molds was from the summer of 2014. Free with the purchase of a certain amount of Transformers product at Toys 'R Us stores in Japan, Ivan, a orange translucent t-rex was made available.

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Ivan is part of the Saurian Strike Team with his partners Thunderlips and Paulie. Yes, those are official Transformers names. Why? I have no idea! If this mold looks familiar, well it should as it's been used several times before. It was first used as Terrorsaur in the Classics series, then as a Micron Booster toy as Gnashteeth and Chromebite. This mold was also released as Ransack in the Universe series and finally as Dualor for the Dark of the Moon series.

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There really isn't much to say about the toy at this point in time. It's one of the better Microns / Mini-Cons that has an animal alt mode in my opinion. By the time this campaign came out I had already sold 75% of my massive Micron / Mini-Con collection to TransformerLand, so I'm not really sure why I bought this. I'm not a fan of translucent toys in general, but there was something about this release that drew me in. Perhaps it's the orange translucent plastic or the fact that I paid $10 shipped for it. Whatever the reason it's an interesting release.

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Unless you are a die-hard fan of this mold, love translucent Transformers or collect any and every type of Micron / Mini-Con you can get your hands on, I'd suggest picking up one of the other versions of this figure.

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I just happened to have the Micron Booster Chromebite near by when Ivan originally showed up in my mailbox.

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Saturday, February 6, 2016

Transformers 3rd Party: MakeToys RE:Master Series - Wrestle MTRM-05

The 3rd party scene has gotten really crowded over the last few years and it has left me at knowing what to do. I've grown tired of buying a figure, only for some other company to come later and release a figure of the same character, only better. Combine that with being at a crossroads of sorts of what to collect and it's left me with buying very few 3rd party figures.

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I've really grown to appreciate the Masterpiece series of figures from Takara Tomy and have purchased just about every release to date. With their popularity comes MP scaled 3rd party figures. While I believe that Takara Tomy will eventually produce an official Masterpiece figure of just about every Transformer from the 1984 and 1985, there are times my impatience gets the best of me. That's were MakeToys' new RE:Master series of figures comes into play; specifically Wrestle.

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Wrestle marks the second MakeToys RE:Master series figure I've bought, but the first I've opened (sorry Cupola!). When it was announced that they were making Inferno (Hellfire) and Grapple (Wrestle) I knew I wanted to at least buy their take on Grapple. After all Grapple has always been one of my favorite early G1 Autobots.

The packaging is very nice. The box has a matte finish and the RE:Master logo is done up in a silver foil. Wrestle comes packaged in robot mode so the box is a good size, larger than most of the official Autobot Masterpiece releases.

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Wrestle is currently a MakeToys website exclusive and can only be obtained via their website. I'm not sure what the reasoning is behind this move, but it explains why I was having a hard time finding the pre-order back around Christmas at the normal online stores I shop at.

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The first thing that I found once I opened up the box was a set of replacement pieces for Gun Dog, their version of Hound from their Re;Master series. I'm not sure if there was some sort of issue with Gun Dog, but I'm guessing since two heads, faces and eyes were packaged w/ Wrestle MakeToys was trying to correct something. On a side note I'm not sure if the Mitsubishi license will ever come back to Takara Tomy so an official Masterpiece Hound may or may not ever happen. If the the latter is the case then at least I know what 3rd party version of Hound I'll be purchasing.

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I was surprised at the general heft of the figure upon pulling the plastic tray out of the form fitting box. Grapple was always bigger than most of the Autobot cars so I expected this figure to be a good size. Right out of the box I was impressed with the overall look of the figure. He looks a lot like his G1 self, minus the cartoon accurate head.

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Speaking of the head, I do wish he came packaged with a black toy accurate head, but it really doesn't bother me as much as I thought it would. What is included w/ Wrestle is another set of 5 faces with difference expressions along with metallic blue eyes. I tried to change one of faces after I wrapped up the photography and I found it rather easy to do so. No tools are required!

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The face that comes on the figure isn't that bad, but I prefer one of the other included faces.

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Wrestle's other included accessories are a black rifle and a silver missile. Wrestle has articulated hands that easily grasp the rifle's handle. To attach the missile you simply open up the forearm cavity and rotate the fist back. Doing this exposes a hole for the missile to plug into. Unlike the G1 toy, the missile does not launch from his arm.

Transforming Wrestle into his crane truck form is rather easy. I've heard the included instructions weren't much help, but I found the steps easy to follow. There were times during the transformation I felt like I was transforming G1 Grapple.

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The crane truck is beautiful. MakeToys did a great job at capturing the the look and feel of the original G1 toy. I kept going back and forth on that transformation step to see if I was doing something wrong, but I couldn't quite figure out why two side panels weren't lining up correctly.

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In a surprising move Wrestle's weapons were made to integrate into the vehicle mode. Above you can see that his rifle fits just under the crane arm. The missile actually can separate into two pieces and simply plug into a small area between his black knee pads. I was in a hurry the day I was photographing the toy so I didn't bother plugging the missile in. I knew I'd be displaying him in robot mode w/ the missile attached anyhow.

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" Move over Hook, let a real 'bot handle this job "

The quality of this figure really impressed me. The shade of "construction yellow" looks great in hand. the plastic quality is top notch and the paint apps are spot on. Wrestle's wheels are in deed rubber and roll across a hard, smooth surface just fine. 

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I may not have had another Masterpiece toy readily available when I snapped the pictures, however why not compare the new with the old? In my opinion MakeToys did a terrific job with both modes. I wonder if we'll get a green Hauler version some day?

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One last comparison shot, this time with Transformers Reveal the Shield Solar Storm Grappel.

In closing I'm very happy with my purchase of Wrestle. It's not a perfect figure, but it's pretty darn close. Both Mastermind Creatures and X-Transbots are coming out with their own masterpiece scaled versions of the character later in 2016, so if MakeToys' asthetics aren't for you then you'll have a few different choices soon.

I'm sure that Takara Tomy will eventually release their own version of Grapple and when/if they do I'll pick up it. Grapple, Smokescreen and Sunstreaker are those characters that I'll buy multiples of - assuming they each get the official and 3rd party masterpiece treatment.

Wrestle is currently available for $124.99 exclusively at MakeToys' online store so if you think this may be the version for you I wouldn't wait too long to pick him up as their past website exclusives have sold out not long after their release.