Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Revell Robotech Robolinks: Force 21

The 1980's were filled with all sorts of fun stuff, some stuff I'm only recently realized existed. Such is a case of Revell's line of 5mm robot building sets. Marketed under the Robotech banner which Revell had the license for at the time, Robolinks are the US equivlent of Takara's Blockman series. Not quite LEGO and not quite Transformers, these toys shared shelf space in Japan with Takara's Diaclone & Microman toys. The line was short lived and only lasted about 2 years, however many great sets were released.

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.

The Force 20 set's alternate form was a space ship while Force 22's alternate form was a race car. If I'm not mistaken, you could take all 3 of these sets to form an even larger vehicle of some sort.

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.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Shinkalion: Unity Combiner

Back in the spring we took a look at Takara Tomy's first combiner in their Shinkalion series of transforming trains. I did a review for each of the three members, as well as a rare video review of the combiner, Unity. (links to those individual reviews are at the bottom of this post)

Since then I took additional pictures of the combined mode along with some comparisons with some G1 Transformers combiners by request. If you are curious about the toys themselves and how well the actual combiner is, please check out the individual reviews or the video review that are linked at the bottom.

From what I can gather from the instructions, this is Unity's default look with Mizuho forming the center/head with Noizu and Hikari Railstar forming the arms.

Two of the individual weapons can be merged together to form a large sword, while Unity can also wield a rifle.

Switching it up w/ Hikari Railstar as the torso/head. I don't mind this look at Unity still has a balanced look in that the center is gray while the arms and legs are white.

Of course Noizu can form the torso/head portion of Unity. The colors are off balanced in this formation, plus I don't care for the pinkish red used on the headsculpt.

Unity stands about the same height as some of the previous released Shinkalion robots.

Bruticus, from Transformers is one of my favorite combiners so I grabbed him from one my glass display cases to see how well he would stack up against Unity. Not bad. He stands a little taller than Bruticus, but is about the same width.

Unity is a fantastic toy no matter which formation you display him in. Of all the Shinkalion toys I've opened thus far he's by far the best in the series. He can be a little difficult to track down now as most online retailers have sold through their stock. Expect to pay anywhere between $60 on the low side and $120 on the high side for the set. Unity was also packaged as a giftset with different colored weapons.

700 Noizu
700 Hikari Railstar
- N700 Mizuho
Unity (combiner, video review)

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

GI Joe 25th Anniversary: Cobra Range-Viper (Defense of Cobra Island)

In 2009 Hasbro released a very cool box set of GI Joe action figures called Defense of Cobra Island. This 7 figure set included the likes of Night Creeper, B.A.T., Lamprey, Dr. Mindbender, Air-Viper and an Alley-Viper. Of course many fans were quick to buy multiples of these box sets so they could bolster their Cobra troops.

Like with most GI Joe toys, he was originally packaged with several weapons and accessories. I'm missing his tripod for the grenade launcher, a black rifle and his backpack.

His helmet has a skull like look, but since the details are painted blue its hard to tell unless you are upclose. Hasbro went with a masked look underneath the helmet and if I'm being honest, I prefer this look more than I do the helmet.

I feel that Hasbro was really starting to hit their stride with Joe figures during this time and this Range-Viper is a good example of their work.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Transformers 3rd Party: Impossible Toys - Animated Humans

One of the earliest 3rd party companies to make unofficial Transformers products was Impossible Toys. They were also one of the first 3rd party companies to go out of business. Before they did however, they released a set of PVC figurines of 3 human characters from Transformers Animated...Professor Sumdac, Captain Fanzone and Sair.

These figures were not articulated, but solid pieces of plastic. The paint apps for the most part were OK, but from what I've seen of this set there were some that were horrendous. I actually acquired this set for free at TFCon Charlotte in 2015 courtesy of Captured Prey. They pretty much left a bucket of these sets out near the registration table to people to take. Yeah, they sold that well!

Professor Sumdac

Captain Fanzone


I long have since sold my Animated collection so I really can't say if these scaled well with the actual Animated toys. I would think not as these figures were about 3 inches tall (maybe?). While I loved the Animated television show, I didn't care enough about the toys to keep them. I guess for some people/collectors this set would "complete" their Animated collection, but I ended up passing this set on to someone who actually wanted the toys.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Captain America, The First Avenger: Red Skull (movie)

Like any good Hollywood movie these days, 2011's Captain America, the First Avenger had it's own line of toys by Hasbro. The 3 3/4" action figures were released in two varieties, comic and movie. Impulsively I picked up a few of the figures back when they were on retail shelves and one of the figures I purchased was the movie version of the classic villain, the Red Skull.

I didn't mind the way that Hugo Weaving portrayed the character in the movie and I quite liked his look. This figure does a good job at capturing his movie likeness. Great head sculpt and uniform bring this figure to life. He came packaged with a few accessories including a hand gun, the Tesseract (aka Cosmic Cube) and a very large spring loaded rifle. The rifle is so large that I never could get him to properly hold it. Load the blue energy projectile into the rifle and it was even more absurdly large.

This figure is no longer a part of my collection as he was a casualty of downsizing, however don't let that fool you into thinking this isn't a nice action figure. It's a great sculpt and surprisingly had good paint apps as well. I love his his left hand was given a more open palm look as he can hold the glowing Tesseract quite well. If you are into the smaller scaled Marvel figures and need a villian for your heroes to combat, look no further than the Red Skull!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

GI Joe A Real American Hero: Cobra Condor Z25 w/ Aero-Viper

One of the greatest, and largest toy lines of the 1980's (and perhaps all-time) has got to be the run of GI Joe A Real American Hero. If the vast selection of action figures wasn't enough, Hasbro had plenty of vehicles and playsets to chose from as well. To date there hasn't been a toy line to this scale and I doubt there ever will be again.

Let's face it, the one aspect that made the GI Joe line so successful were the vehicles. While it was fun for boys to re-create battle sequences with their Joe and Cobra figures, what kid didn't want a tank or a jet to put their figures in while playing? I know I did, but due to the size of a lot of these vehicles I never got to experience many of them, especially the toys that were released later into the line.

In 1990 Hasbro released the Cobra  Condor Z25. It's described as a high altitude fighter / bomber. It was only on store shelves for about a year and retailed for around $20.00 USD. By 1990 I didn't have much to do with GI Joe or any toys for that matter, so I can't say I have any type of childhood connection to this particular toy. I just remember seeing it years later in I believe one of Mark Bellomo's Joe books and thinking how awesome of an aircraft it was.

The design of the Condor Z25 is very unique in that not only does it have the inverted wings, but it also has that long "neck" if you will. You can also tell it's pretty armed. Missiles under the small wings found on each side of the front canopy, wings underneath the large inverted wings, a cannon on the back of the jet asd well as the bombs you can see stored inside the wings. These little bombs especially are easily lost so make sure when you are buying this vehicle on the secondary market that all 14 small bombs are included.

Another feature the Condor had was retractable landing gear. Unlike some vehicles that may have just had molded wheels, the Condor has free rolling wheels. There were 5 sets of landing gear, partly due to it's gimmick.

In the center of the plane is what I originally thought as some sort of vent or engine. If you look inside those holes you'll see a gray/silver plastic piece. When you turn this, it will eventually line up with a slot on the bottom and drop a larger red bomb! The Condor came w/ 7 of these bombs and I believe it could hold all 7 at one time. 

Another cool play feature of the Condor were the smaller bombs. I personally loved how these were stored in the wings with a translucent cover. However these aren't just for looks. On the underside of the wing was a lever that you could slide towards the opening. As you slide it, it would push a bomb over and out the slot. Keep sliding and you could release 7 bombs one after another in quick secession!

Earlier I mention the number of retractable landing gear due to it's gimmick. If you didn't already know the Condor Z25 could be separated with the push of a button into two air craft. Now GI Joe was always known for pushing the limits on the believeability of some of it's weapons and vehicles and this is no exception. However I'm sure that kids back in the early 90's playing with this could have cared less. Shoot, I don't care...I think it's a cool design element. If nothing else, this explains why there are two cockpits on the Condor.

The rear of the Condor is now turned around and acts as bomber. It looks more like the head of a hammerhead shark in this mode. The large ring on the jet houses a silver twin cannon that you can move up and down. You still have two missiles underneath the wings and all of the smaller bombs at your disposal. If you turn the jet around, you'll see a turbine engine where the Condor was seperated from the other half. 

 The front half of the jet isn't nearly as impressive in my opinion. I guess this is supposed to be the high altitude fighter? In this form the jet still retains the larger bombs as well as two missiles up front. You can't really see very well in my picture, but inside the rear hull of the jet is a silver engine turbine, similar to the one found on the other end of the bomber.

I failed to remove the Cobra Aero-Viper from the jet to take proper pictures of the figure, I do apologize. it's one of the better looking Viper figures in my opinion. His jumpsuit has a nice texture to it, although the green looks out of place. His vest and gloves are done up in a flat gray color. His removeable helmet is a soft, swirly gold plastic. The head sculpt is pretty cool as the Aero-Viper sports a bandana that covers the hair and upper portion of his face. To make him look a little tougher, he also sports a black goatee. I believe this head scuplt was later reused as a generic Dreadnok by the official GI Joe club. If you have more than one, you can use them in both cockpits of the Condor.

I don't have much of a GI Joe collection to date, mainly because of a lack of space. I can say however this vehicle was a lot of fun to play around with and had I had more room I may have kept it just because it's so unique when compared to other Cobra aircraft. If you're looking to buy this on the secondary market, be aware that parts of the vehicle may be discolored. After all it's a 25+ year old toy made of white plastic. The stickers will also most likely show some wear. Being that they were printed on clear plastic, the edges may show dirt and wear as mine did. I don't know if anyone has made a set of reproduction labels for this aircraft either. The ring on the back of the jet, the twin cannon and all of the missiles/bombs can be hard to find unless you are buying a complete specimen. It's a great to and one that I highly recommend to any ARAH Joe fan.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Voltron: Starshooter 110 Camera

I'll be honest, when it comes to all things Voltron I have to rely on others (and Google) to help me out. I vaguely remember the animated television show, but I was busy watching both Transformers and GI Joe shows to care. 

When it comes to Voltron toys, I had one lion growing up. I had the Matchbox Yellow Lion, a birthday gift from a cousin I hardly knew. Needless to say when I found this Starshooter 110 camera in a large box of toys I purchased, I was confused. 1) At the time I had never seen this toy before and 2) I wasn't even sure if it was a legit toy or not. Turns out that it was a fully licensed toy made for Impulse Ltd. in 1985. I took pictures of this toy some time ago, but like a lot of my photos they were buried and forgot about in my laptop's hard drive.

All folded up this looks like a generic toy camera. Note that mine is missing the detachable lens and camera strap usually found on the toy. However like a Transformer, there is more than meets the eye. This is a real working 110 camera, but it's also the mighty Voltron!

While the camera bits make Voltron a little bulky in the center, I kinda dig his overall look. The lions that form his limbs are more detailed than I thought they would have been. Stickers replace paint apps to give each lion some color and detail.

He isn't very articulated in this mode, but how many action figures from 1985 were super articulated? His arms move a full 360 degrees. His legs do rotate thanks to the transformation, but his knees are backward hinge joints...again because of the camera transformation. He does have some heel pieces that can be folded down from behind the leg to give the bulky robot some extra stability.

Voltron does keep his iconic looking head. The entire head is concealed by two pieces of black plastic that form the top portion of the camera. His read wings are also present, but a little on the short side if you ask me.

Overall I found this to be a quirky, but fun toy. Being that mine specimen was so old and not stored in the best environment, I wasn't able to test to see if the camera portion still worked. Finding new 110 film could be a challenge too! If I was a big Voltron fan, I'm sure I'd want this odd ball piece in my collection. Somewhat recommended, depending on your tastes.