I toyed with calling this article “Suck it and see”, as anyone who has been following this blog and my own writing at Square One recently will know that I’ve branched out a bit and continued saying ”yes” to recommendations of fellow collectors instead of staying glued to my own path or focus. Whether it’s because someone placed a toy in my hands and dared me to hate it, or something I have bought or was gifted for my daughter, or just another offshoot of my main collecting interest right now, all those items have had a significant influence on my buying, and these are the results.
The Fall of Cybertron Data Disks looked ridiculous to me and a sign of the times regarding where Hasbro was going with their Transformers marketing and manufacturing of the toys. That was ignorance in its purest, crystallised form. My daughter was gifted a set of Frenzy/Ratbat disks by a close friend and we all fell in love. They are extremely well-painted toys and the flip action is so simple, yet completely addictive. I bought a couple more sets for her as they were super cheap, and sometimes free, so her collection of disks grew to include Ramhorn, Eject, Sunder and Rumble.
Seeing how amazing Ramhorn was, and how beautifully painted Eject was with a head sculpt that would shame Masterpiece and 3rd Party high-end releases, I needed more. It was no longer for my daughter either, it was for me. An online purchase of Blaster, Soundwave and all the other disks (except Buzzsaw) meant that I finally got to experience these wonderful figures. Blaster, Soundwave and the disks are everything that is right about the Transformers concept, brand and ethos. Fun toys that are chunky, enjoyable and satisfying to manipulate with sections that ratchet, clip and peg as they should, beautifully coloured and sculpted, oozing character and easy to interact with.
The players are sturdy and stand well as soon as you put them down, the huge feet see to that. Transformations are straightforward, enjoyable and hugely repeatable. The disks are a superb gimmick that I feel are slightly overlooked, not a single person I know who’s held them can put them down. Come on, they transform explosively by themselves, and are mini-puzzles. These are amazing modern day interpretations of Blaster, Soundwave and their cassettes. I’ve already ordered a Soundblaster with Buzzsaw for the complete set, and every fibre of me wishes that they could recolour Blaster as Twincast and continue churning out repaints and new moulds for the data disks. What a fabulous little Transformers episode these have been. Cheap as you like too, unfashionable Transformers are the best.
The blame for this lies squarely with UK collectors taking photos that are far too enabling. I’ve been a lifelong Smokescreen lover and was always interested in the fact that he had such a key role in TF Prime with such an appealing vehicle sculpt, although I have never collected the line or watched the show. The mould was finally sold to me when the TFSS Barricade started to arrive in collectors’ hands. I managed to grab the Legion class Prowl for free in Iceland at a friend’s store out of curiosity, then a few UK collectors helped me out with the stealth Smokescreen and G1 coloured Smokescreen (come on, no brainer!). I bought the blue and yellow recolour at Auto Assembly (gave the Sky Claw away to a toddler!) and have since ordered the EZ Smokescreen from Asia and am looking for Bluestreak in order to recreate RobotoChan’s amazing photography. It hasn’t ended there…
I have already waxed lyrical about the perfection called TF Prime Wheeljack, a Transformer Paul Hitchens placed in my hands and said “I dare you to hate that”. Of course I loved it, and despite my earlier resistance to buying more TF Prime, I have since bought Beast Hunters Wheeljack, Dead End, Arms Micron Wildrider and Dark Energon Wheeljack. Arms Micron Wheeljack and TFSS Chromedome are just around the corner for me I am certain. All the same mould.
While Dead End and Wildrider are as solid as Wheeljack, I found Beast Hunters Wheeljack to be much looser, much harder to transform due to the extra bits moulded into the chassis and not quite the joy that was the original toy. The angel wings, jungle shaman look and disc-firing staff are funny and the head sculpt and paint application are actually an improvement over the original TF Prime Wheeljack. Dead End had a colour scheme and head sculpt that repulsed me initially, but as I was told, he does indeed shine in the flesh.
So that was the Wheeljack mould sorted, but if that mould was so grand, what were the other Prime toys like? Especially as Smokescreen had that beautiful car mode and Knockout was recommended by a friend as being brilliant. The same seller who had the FOC Soundwave, Blaster and disks was selling Knockout and Smokescreen. I took the opportunity to add those to my order ($6 to $8 each).
Beast Hunters Smokescreen was fabled for having all the limbs and kibble pop off the ball joint at the slightest provocation. I found the whole thing to be quite delicate, unlike the sturdiness of Wheeljack, but nothing popped off until about the third or fourth transformation due to overconfidence. I love his overall look but those feet are truly oversized and sit awkwardly when posed on a flat surface. He’s posable, stable and once figured out, very enjoyable, a worthy deluxe. I’m not a huge fan of the Prime toys having almost the same face and odd grins, but it suits Smokescreen. I’m now looking into Prowl, Barricade, Streetsmart and the Transformers Go! Hunter Smokescreen.
Knockout was one that I was turned off by at first touch. He felt light, small, far too fragile and the transformation was immensely fiddly. I found the robot mode to be distinctly plain in contrast to a quite nice Ferrari 456-inspired vehicle mode. Interestingly, the more I have transformed Knockout, the more he’s grown on me, and I am finding that every Prime ‘car robot’ that I have played with so far has impressed me. I remember thinking the Vehicon was pretty smart as well. All of this, from a gifted Wheeljack and some legion class photography.
This new vein of experimentation and taking people’s recommendations on board has led me to ROTF Battle Blade Bumblebee, a figure that was sold to me as a deluxe-sized Human Alliance Bumblebee and the best figure this character received throughout the movies. Comparing him to the 2007 deluxe has been amazing, what a massive improvement and sure enough, there’s so much of the HA Bumblebee squeezed into a deluxe class figure. This size class really does produce the most spectacular results of all Transformers ranges when done correctly, and Bumblebee is very, very correct. Gimmicks aplenty, a battle mask and posability that the 2007 release couldn’t even conceive of. This is a superb toy, and for $8, again from the same seller as the FOC and Prime figures, tremendous value for money.
When I posted up my favourite purchases of 2013, I got some stick from some quarters about the exclusion of Generations Springer. It was simple, I hadn’t bought the toy, so I couldn’t call it one of my best purchases. That has been rectified for 2014. I fell deeply in love with Sandstorm last month and tried convincing those around me how superior he was to Springer. And he is, but not by the margin I first thought. I think. I bought a sealed Springer at Auto Assembly two weeks ago and he’s had so much more of my attention than Sandstorm since then, even though I handled a Springer a few days before the show at the pub during a co-enabling meet. To begin with though he would not align properly in any mode and the blades would not peg into what appeared to be a hole on the cockpit roof designed for something much smaller, and he was missing a rocket, but after a week everything has bedded in and become perfect. You want to talk consequences? Having ridiculed Transformers Cloud Rodimus for being nothing but an overpriced red Springer, it’s now on my shopping list. This is truly a breathtaking mould. Sod it, I want a red helicopter Rodimuspringer.
Last and by no means least (apart from mass), is Bot Shots Lockdown. People can see me coming these days, and my attachment to Animated, ROTF and AOE Lockdown inspired two UK dealers to offload their Bot Shots Lockdowns onto me.
What. An. Awesome. Creature.
This is possibly the best thing Hasbro have ever released with the Transformers branding on it. Please tell me what could be more brilliant or adorable than a super-deformed microscopic Animated/ROTF-faithful muscle car Lockdown with spikes and the grumpiest little face you’ve ever seen on a toy that transforms by itself! Just today I picked up the Decepticon Fire Assault Team because it has a Bot Shots Lockdown repaint in it. So what’s the endgame with all this style of collecting/illness? What does one thing that leads to another eventually lead to?
Something like that, I guess.
All the best