The road to Feral Rex continues with the release of the Mastermind Creations Reformatted Ground Assaulter R-05 “Fortis”, a 3rd Party product based heavily on the original Transformers Generation 1 Predacon “Headstrong”, one fifth of MMC’s combiner “Feral Rex”. The G1 Predacons were famous and loved throughout the Transformers fandom as they combined into one of G1’s most adored combiners, the mighty Predaking.
MMC’s Feral Rex – or Not-Predaking – looks by far the best of the three offered by 3P companies and has already received considerable praise. R-05 Fortis is the second Feralcon to see release, following hot on the heels of R-03 Bovis. So how does Fortis measure up, is it a standalone success or just a means to an end?
I don’t want to drag out a series of articles long after it started, but I felt the need to add one extra part to the “Meeting Expectations” series of articles because I believe it’s a particularly apt title for this figure in light of recent releases in the Transformers Masterpiece line, and also because Fortis is so heavily based on the same mould as the first Feralcon, Bovis. Since Bovis was such a supreme success and a highly pleasant surprise in all areas – together with the fact that Fortis is virtually the same toy – expectations of Fortis would have been high, but that did not necessarily make him anticipated.
Some have bemoaned the fact that he really doesn’t look that different from Bovis, with the main yellow colour being the only significant departure from the aforementioned Not-Tantrum. There are so many other exciting things happening right now such as Masterpiece Smokescreen, 3P Dinobots on the horizon, Perfect Effect Warden hitting release, FP Diesel completing people’s Not-Menasors and Smart Robin still doing the rounds. Fortis really had his work cut out making an impression amongst all of those highly-anticipated figures.
There is no reason beyond repetition of features for people to overlook Fortis. Bovis was amazing, and based on the exact same principles and qualities, so is Fortis. Just as G1 Starscream and Skywarp are both revered, as Masterpiece Prowl and Streak are both celebrated, Fortis is every bit as good as his predecessor and mould-mate. He comes with 4 new accessories; 2 serrated daggers and two hand guns that look like ancient video cameras. He does however come with the same giant Feral Rex foot and the same Feral Rex large hand, just the right fist instead of the left (although some fiddling with the thumb and placeholder peg can make the right fist a sort-of left fist).
However, different weapons do not a different character make. The transformation is identical, the limbs are by-and-large identical and the robot head-sculpt is almost indistinguishable from Bovis apart from the fact that Fortis isn’t scowling. But, what is different about Fortis makes him as a character and a toy, and sets him apart enough to deserve the same appreciation as Bovis enjoyed.
So what’s different that deserves notice? Well the most obvious thing are his colours, Fortis’s main colour – like G1 Headstrong – is yellow. So much yellow, and it works beautifully on the mould. The contrast of yellow with black has always been striking on Transformers and robots, think Sunstreaker, Bumblebee or a Macross VF-1S Skull Leader. Most noticeable are the black feet and absolutely beautiful coral-red shoulders, forearms and rear beast thighs. In person, that colour is truly gorgeous.
Despite what looks different, the big change on Fortis compared to Bovis is the robot chest. The silver grill is replaced with an homage to the G1 Predacon Headstrong whose chest included a cavity for the very static black beast legs and feet to retract into. A genuinely nice touch and a much needed distinguishing feature. Excluding the non-scowl and slightly-altered facial features (almost unnoticeable due to no change in colour from Bovis) the rest of the changes can be seen in beast mode.
There’s something about the beast mode on Fortis that doesn’t quite replicate the feel of a rhinoceros that well. It has the horn but I think the ears are too small. That’s something the G1 Headstrong does well actually. One thing that did come to mind during transformation was that Fortis’s joints generally seem tighter than that of Bovis, and he is more sturdy and solid when standing as a robot and a beast, which is an improvement deserving of applause. Is he different enough to Bovis in beast mode?
Admittedly very similar, and the same colour of beast head doesn’t help. There are subtle differences in moulding and detail, but the main distinguishing feature remains the central horn compared to Bovis’s pair of pointy head bits. Fortis’s guns do look better on his rear legs compared to Bovis’s suspended rifles, and Fortis’s daggers attach to the underside of his beast mode much more successfully than Bovis’s does, so marked improvements there over R-03.
One of the strongest features of this mould, Bovis or Fortis, is just how much mileage one can get out of the accessories. Every single piece is attachable in some way regardless of the mode the toy is in. This use of Feral Rex’s foot as a super cannon is brilliant, and he can hold it – albeit looking strained – while standing and without issue when kneeling.
Having Bovis and Fortis, and therefore both Feral Rex feet, the related display options involving the super cannons are increased…
You might think that placing Fortis next to Bovis renders him redundant, or that it makes it appear as though one is collecting multiples. In actual fact, they compliment each other beautifully, and lest we forget just how unimpressive their G1 robot modes were – or how much the emphasis was on their combining purposes – here we see just how good these figures are not just by themselves, but together.
It’s the small things that set them apart, co-existing happily with the majority of features that tie them together. Bovis has – in my opinion – the more attractive robot head features due to the bovine horn pair, almost Cyclonus-like in their glorious symmetry and overall effect. Bovis also has the more brutal weapons, but that is his personality and Fortis feels more subtle, almost more refined too when you take into account his build improvements – including the elbow joint issue being resolved. I do like the grey on Bovis, it gives him the more techno-organic feel, but I simply cannot fault the colours on Fortis, they pop much more.
It is a continuing credit to these figures that you can enjoy the robot and beast modes so much, and get so much display time out of those modes, that you can almost forget there’s a bigger picture. We are of course all looking forward to having a poseable, imposing, behemoth of a combiner – the Predaking we always dreamed of. In for a penny, in for a pound, any doubts I had about how financially sensible it was to pursue the whole Feral Rex team (I could easily have been eternally satisfied with just Bovis) vanished when I placed Fortis and Bovis alongside each other in leg mode, “Ambulon mode”, combined mode – whatever you wish to call it.
I said it before, and I will repeat it here; what other combiner limb can legitimately be displayed in limb mode? I truly believe these two figures to be the best combiner limb transforming toys I have ever seen, owned or heard of. Maybe the Warbotron Not-Bruticus guys will re-write the history books, but for now these fellas are sitting pretty at the top of the charts. Considering in G1 they were the weakest of the 5 Predacons, the future’s looking quite bright for the MMC Ferals.
So, let’s return to the title of the piece, Meeting Expectations. Collectors expected Fortis to be a simple re-tool of Bovis and not as worthy of acknowledgement, just an obligatory purchase on the road to Feral Rex. Yet, collectors will have expected Fortis to be just as good quality-wise and structurally, aesthetically and functionally as Bovis – and when it met all those expectations there was no fanfare, more likely a feeling of all being as it should, whereas the truth is that Fortis surpasses Bovis in quality. Just about the only hiccup I could find was a mis-print in the booklet!
A good number of us would legitimately have expected to be more wowed by Masterpiece Smokescreen, myself among them, but the reality is that even though Fortis is far less different to Bovis than Smokescreen is to his brothers, the Feralcons win again. Just as Bovis trumped Prowl, Fortis trumps Smokescreen – and there’s just no way you could have gotten me to believe that would be the case when I placed my Datsun Masterpiece pre-orders almost a year ago.
No figure is perfect, and occasionally I do feel that MMC use slightly soft plastic for the manufacture of their Feralcons. I get the impression that repeated transformation, pegging and tabbing of the various parts will lead to noticeable wear, erosion and maybe even slight deformation of plastic here and there over a long period of time. This worry is tempered by MMC’s willingness to replace parts even months after purchase and the fact that I know once Feral Rex is complete, that is how these figures will remain displayed.
When you take into account the very essence of this figure – a successful direct homage to, and vast improvement on the original Headstrong – and ally it to an engaging comic written by the talented Ceno Kibble, supported by deservedly lauded MMC customer care and relations (my Bovis is 100% again for those who remember its elbow issue), boasting Masterpiece-levels of design, aesthetics and standalone appeal, you can see how spoiled we are right now that its arrival could be perceived as low-key. MMC Fortis is everything it needed to be and more, and for the sake of completeness: expectations met and surpassed.
All the best