An ambassador should be the embodiment of the qualities and character of its people, representing the best that they have to offer. So when we asked our contributors to choose one Transformers toy that could act as an ambassador for Binaltech/Alternators, Armada, Japanese exclusive G1, or G1 between the years of 1987 to 1990, it was no easy task. Nevertheless, true to form, the guys have offered up a talisman for each line, and the debates are sure to continue as they did after Part 1 and Part 2.
So here again is the question we put to our contributors:
”What toy would you choose to represent an entire toy line, if you had ONE choice, one toy you could pitch to a non-collector in order to sell the line?”. So, in no particular order…
ALTERNATORS / BINALTECH – BT-08 MEISTER ”ZOOM ZOOM”
~ By Allen Greenwood (aka Superquad7) ~
SQ7 – Blog Of Superquad7
”Several attributes of this line make it unique among the rest of the Transformers incarnations. This Transformers line showcases 1:24-scaled replicas of vehicles fully licensed by automobile manufacturers. The interiors of the vehicles are highly detailed, and the engines transform into the firearms for the each robot. The robot modes feature several points of articulation, notably with poseable fingers and feet. Since the alternate modes use real-world vehicles for the entire line, the robot modes also look a bit more realistic as a result. By paying homage to Generation 1, the line brings in the element of nostalgia by targeting the adult collector with many favorite G1 characters, bringing them into the modern era.
”Only ever-so-slightly edging out great figures such as Smokescreen, BT-08 has a lot going for it that not only represents the line well, but is a bit friendlier to the more average collector. Since this line is marked by the scaled, real-world aesthetic, it would seem applicable that a choice significantly reflect this attribute. One thing about Transformers that hits home with nearly everyone is that the car driving next to you down the road could actually be a Transformer. The Mazda RX-8 is a common enough car that just about anyone could see one driving past them on a given day. While Meister (‘Jazz’) is certainly an iconic enough character, there’s still a bit more intrigue to make a casual fan more interested in the line. Also, at one point, ‘Zoom’ was a bit of a flagship figure for this line, as Mazda launched a web promotion that featured this character on wallpapers, screen savers, and even a motion-comic. The car itself is really sleek, and the toy also reflect this accurately.
”From a toy standpoint, it has all of the nice features that Alternators/Binaltech boasts – the detailed interiors, wheel steering, an actual car part transforming into the weapon (for this figure, it’s the muffler), and articulation of the robot mode. Transforming it is just slightly more enjoyable than the Imprezas, and it’s probably my favorite figure to transform out of the entire line. The transformation even adds a few more twists and turns than the one established by its predecessor, the Subaru Impreza, with the extra leg twists and turns of the seats. It locks all over just slightly better than the Impreza muold as well, and the ratcheted joints are just a bit nicer. The overall look of the robot mode sports the iconic hood-chest/doors-flaring out/car rear as feet design reminiscent of the Generation 1 Jazz and Fairlady Z robots. It’s complex enough to challenge the most sophisticated collector, yet not too overly complex to turn away one who isn’t as hardcore. The overall feeling is that both modes are very sleek and sporty while being a modern icon of the Alternators/Binaltech toy line”.
JAPANESE EXCLUSIVE G1 – C-310 GOD GINRAI
~ By Brandon Yap (aka Heroic Decepticon) ~
”My first thought was that Japanese G1 was not exactly an entire toy line, but perhaps a sub-line – being Transformers generally released in Japanese packaging that were ‘exclusive’ to Japan in the 1980s. That would inevitably include toys of a similar mould and similar colour scheme to US released Transformers. Hypothetically, I could have selected 08 Streak, 09 Prowl or 49-Laserwave as the one toy to represent Japanese G1, but then, that’d be like cheating and like dipping my hand into the cookie jar of the collector who will be commenting on US G1. Therefore, the selection I made would by necessity be from pieces that were not only released in Japan or in Japanese packaging, but be a piece, be it mould or colours or something else, that was unique to Japan. Oddly enough, this circumscription actually rules out Overlord. The one piece to represent the entire Japanese G1 (exclusive) line, for me, is… the C-310: God Ginrai giftset.
”Okay, get up and hear me out if you have fallen off your chair. Today, this is such a common piece due to the multiple reissues, and cheap as chips. Why should it have the honour (albeit in my mind) to represent an entire line? First, it is an updated version of the 1984 Optimus Prime, released at a time when fans were still crying over Prime’s death in TFTM and clamouring to have Prime back. He came back first as Powermaster Optimus Prime in the USA and then was released as C-307: Super Ginrai in Japan in 1988 as part of the Transformers: Masterforce sub-line. As a little kid, I never knew this. So for years and years, I stared holes into the below drawing from a Kondasha pocket book wishing and hoping that there was such a toy…
”C-307 is more than just PM-Prime though – it has an overall improved colour scheme (eg: grays were now silver), more paint apps, chrome parts (engine, trailer upper legs, cab bumper, smoke-stacks), die-cast cab section with transparent blue plastic as windows (was plastic and stickered windows for PM-Prime) and retractable blue fists for its Super Ginrai combined form (was moulded and immobile fists for PM-Prime). There are so many differences he might as well be a different toy from PM-Prime. That’s not all – there was also C-309 Godbomber, which is a secondary trailer section that itself transforms into a robot and also combines with Super Ginrai to form God Ginrai!
”In the early 2000s and before, pre-reissue, both C-307 and C-309 were rare and hard to come by. C-309 was exceedingly rare, with rumours that it was limited to a run of just 2000 pieces. God Ginrai as a figure was just beyond compare; it was divine; it was a figure that could only be obtained with substantial financial resources; and it was commonly regarded as the ‘ultimate holy grail’ of a Transformers collector – it was the ultimate ‘Prime’ figure that consisted of (1) a regular sized Prime which (2) combines with its trailer into a bigger robot (3) which then subsequently combines with its secondary trailer into an even bigger robot! And, its a Prime, arguably the most iconic Transformer around, even back in the early 2000s. In my selection to represent the Japanese G1 (exclusives) line, you get all the above goodness rolled into one super giftset package… the C-310: God Ginrai giftset!”.
GENERATION 1 1987 to 1990 – MICROMASTER BASE COUNTDOWN
~ By Sid Beckett (aka CZ Hazard) ~
”The obvious, stand-out figure for the G1 1987-1990 range is Fortress Maximus, this is the one everyone remembers, and in the early days of collecting it was of near-mythical proportions. An amazing toy with impressive dimensions and play-ability. This will not be my choice today. Before I start, I’m going to talk about why I didn’t pick this figure. Because these articles are opinion pieces they always incite interesting debate, and it’s important to remember that this is my opinion – right or wrong – and you’re free to disagree. Fortress Maximus is a great piece, certainly, and a boon to any collection, but I think the very thing that makes it great is its uniqueness, which is what excludes it from my pick today. Fort Max is not a good example of the typical toy output from Hasbro / Takara during this time period, he is a glorious aberration that took 29 years to equal.
”However, my choice today is Countdown, the Aerospace Commander and Micromaster play-set from 1990. One of the most popular toys of its day during this time period was Micro-Machines, manufactured by Galoob, who were also famous for making the Game Genie. In an attempt to compete with the former, the Transformers brand created its own version of these mini-vehicles; Micro Transformers. It took an entire year for the people who brought us Headmasters, Powermasters, and Targetmasters, to realise Micromasters was a much better name. For me, Countdown is the best example of Transformers output from this time; in that they looked at the market, adapted their strategy to compete efficiently while still producing a great toy at a lower cost price than previously. And he is a great toy.
”Countdown himself is a perfect example of what a Micromaster should be, with a really fun and unique moon-buggy alt. mode with a great robot mode, with excellent detail and character in the face sculpt. As I’m sure you all know, the Micromasters all share a basic level of pose-ability, with hip joints, knee joints and shoulder joints, which enable the characters to sit in various bases and transporters which accompanied the figures. This ‘basic level’ of pose-ability is actually greater than the majority of Transformers which had been put out between 1987-1990, including Japanese fan favourites Overlord and Star Convoy.
”The Countdown set boasts two very interesting and – here’s that word again – interactive base modes; the first of which is a Space Shuttle launch pad, complete with built in Crawler / Transporter, service tower, and Space Shuttle. While this mode is more restrictive, it still boasts two gun turrets figures can be mounted in, an opening shuttle door, a walkway platform and an elevator ramp.
”Opening him up into base mode opens up a whole new world, as over twenty Micromasters can be hidden away in vehicle mode, plugged in to in-built figure stands to enable robot modes to stay upright, and otherwise interact with ramps, claw repair arm, turrets, and extra guns with NO SET layout. The real beauty is; extra guns and ramps can be imported from other Micromaster sets or used to link up sets. It’s not unheard of for crazy fanboys to link up all the MM bases together to make massive sprawling ‘cities’, chewing up well over 25 square feet of floor space easily.
”For me, these toys are not just a highlight of the 1987-1990 period, but a highlight of the entire thirty year legacy of The Transformers, and Countdown is the crown jewel of that set. This is a play pattern that I would love to see Hasbro return to, especially seeing as they could combine the best of both worlds after buying Galoob for $220 million in 1998, and make legitimate Micro Machine branded Micro Masters! Yeah, you heard me, I want Archer’s old job”.
TRANSFORMERS ARMADA – STARSCREAM
~ By Matt Dennett (aka StayingInTheBox) ~
”Transformers Armada was a new beginning, a change to what we knew Transformers to be. At the time of the cartoon and toy release in 2002, the Transformers franchise was coming off arguably one of the best time periods fans have ever seen (Beast Wars and Robots in Disguise are among the highest praised eras by collectors today – the toy lines were a friendly balance of collector and kid appeal). The Armada toy line, planned in large part by the popular Aaron Archer, was to be simplified, a reinvention of the brand, and taken in a completely new direction. Gone were the articulation, ball joints, complex transformations … and returning were gimmicks and electronics, ‘bricks’ for articulation, and very simplified transformations! Does that sound familiar? Armada was built for kids.
“No figure captured the essence and success of this gimmick plaid and simplified toy line better than Starscream and his Mini-Con partner Swindle. Although largely looked down upon now by collectors, the Mini-Con gimmick for Armada was a huge success for kids because it was fun, involving, and addictive. Every ‘larger’ Transformer from the toy line was packaged with a Mini-Con partner and 3-packs of Mini-Con teams were also sold. Starscream was part of the ‘Max-Con’ size class and his gimmick I can only describe as intimidating. With the help of Swindle, Starscream has two huge spring propelled blasters that rocket forward in both his robot mode and ‘Cybertonian’ jet mode. Doing so also sets off a set of sound effects (jet engine, blasters, etc.), another staple of the toy line. Utilizing Starscream’s Mini-Con gimmick seemingly never gets old, there’s a sense of mystery to the action of two huge blasters swinging over into the firing position – you just never know when Starscream is going to launch his blasters into attack position and try to betray Megatron (a perfect weapon gimmick only suitable for the personality of Starscream).
”Furthermore, the figure involves you so much more, including a Mini-Con launching gimmick in alt mode where you can store Swindle under the canopy, and my personal favorite: Starscream’s ‘wing’ sword. Transformers with swords are rare, they’re dangerous as characters, and they’re awesome. Another seemingly ‘hidden’ weapon, the sword folds up on itself to become the left wing, but when the situation calls for it, Starscream can take the wing off to become yet another instrument of destruction. As a toy line focused on gimmicks and playability with Mini-Con partners, simple transformations, and electronics, Starscream captures it all in one package that makes you continuously fiddle with the figure. Starscream’s toy is not one dimensional – his Mini-Con blaster gimmick excels just as well in either mode. His transformation, although overly simple, is satisfyingly fun with such features as a spring loaded head. These all are reasons why Starscream is the perfect ambassador for the Armada era”.
If anyone is interested in reading my own picks from last week’s Ambassadors Part 2 categories, you can find them on my new blog at Square One.
Enormous thanks to those who provided thought-provoking words and images this week, Allen Greenwood, Brandon Yap, Matt Dennett, Sid Beckett and Bryce Rutledge – every single one a community pillar.
All the best