2014 has been an incredible year for Transformers collectors, even moreso than 2013 was. This year saw the completion of MMC’s first 3rd party combiner “Feral Rex”, who most people would argue dominated the 3rd Party Predaking wars, as well as the start of the 3rd Party Dinobot Wars where FansProject, FansToys, ToyWorld and others raced to release their interpretations of the beloved robotic dinosaurs. As for official product, we got a new toy line to accompany the 4th live action movie Age of Extinction, more superb Generations figures including Arcee, Jetfire, Rhinox, Brainstorm and Whirl and towards the end of 2014 the Masterpiece line from Takara Tomy really kicked into gear with home runs like Wheeljack and Bumblebee, while Hasbro got their versions of MP Prowl and Sunstorm out, as well as a reissue of Grimlock – but stole a good deal of headlines by introducing the first wave of Combiner Wars and Robots In Disguise figures.
There were other astoundingly good offerings from official and unofficial sources like MakeToys Quantron, Perfect Effect Warden, Transformers Cloud Rodimus and the like. What I want to stress above all, is that this article will cover my personal top 5 purchases of the year…and that will NOT be limited to new toys, but old figures as well that I only just purchased. I began a project whereby I wanted to collect all the vintage and reissued 1/55 scale Macross Valkyries, I uncovered and purchased nearly every vintage bootleg Spanish minibot known and previously undocumented, I rediscovered the Human Alliance and ROTF lines, TFPrime was a flavour I sampled this year and I went back to re-purchase and complete virtually all of TF Animated. Vintage G1 also got a look in as I finally re-added a wonderful G1 Jetfire to my collection, as well as a 1992 Turbomaster Rotorstorm that opened my eyes up to latter era G1 figures. So let’s be clear, this is definitely not a “Top 5 toys of 2014” list, just the top 5 toys I came in to possession of this year that left the biggest positive mark.
Animated deluxe Sentinel Prime was the gateway drug. He isn’t among the top 30 toys I’ve bought this year, he isn’t even in the top 10 ANIMATED toys I bought this year. So what on Earth is he doing at #5, a deluxe from fully 6 years ago? If I hadn’t bought this toy due to an epic sale at Masterforce.co.uk, I would not have rediscovered the magic of the deluxe class toy, nor the spellbinding allure of TF Animated, a line I never finished properly. Sentinel Prime led me down a path of Animated completism that has blessed my collection with some of the best toys in history, toys such as Animated deluxe Blurr, deluxe Lockdown, deluxe Swindle, deluxe Cybertronian Mode Optimus Prime, Activators in general and leader Ultra Magnus. That has in turn led to a more open-minded approach to mainline Transformers in my collecting which has brought huge value for money in austere times.
The blossoming love of Lockdown showed me the error of my ways in ignoring ROTF toys such as deluxe ROTF Lockdown, leader Optimus Prime and deluxe Battle Blade Bumblebee, not to mention Human Alliance toys from DOTM. This increased willingness to try something new allowed people to introduce me to gems like Transformers Prime Wheeljack, Fall of Cybertron Blaster and the Data Discs, Beast Hunters Smokescreen, Generations Sandstorm and Springer. I would love to have placed TF Cloud Rodimus, ROTF Lockdown, TFP Wheeljack and AoE Evasion Mode Optimus Prime on this list because they are better toys than Sentinel Prime, better toys than almost anything in their size class in the last decade, but it’s Sentinel Prime that was responsible for this welcomed diversion in my suffocating collection mentality. The £8.00 buy that changed my Transformers collecting outlook in a way that very few toys ever have.
2014 was almost a loss for Takara Tomy’s flagship Transformers line, Masterpiece, compared to the bumper 2013 where Soundwave, the cassettes and the Autobot Datsuns thrilled the fandom. MP-12G Lambor G2 version was sublime, but still a repaint and so was Soundblaster. Even the mega classy Tokyo Toy Show exclusive Silverstreak that promised to be a blue Diaclone homage but was in fact a silver G1 toy homage couldn’t help shake the feeling that the whole steamroller was on momentary hiatus until 2015. Then, after what felt like an eternity, MP-20 Wheeljack finally arrived. It arrived and for me, went straight in at #1.
I expected to love Wheeljack because I love Car Robots stretching from Diaclone, through Generation 1, via Binaltech/Alternators, Human Alliance and Transformers GT. Masterpiece cars have been incredible feats of engineering and screen accuracy, although I can’t say I ever look at my Lambors or Datsuns now and feel compelled to pick them up and transform them. Masterpiece group photos are a complete pain in the neck thanks to the time involved. Wheeljack changed everything. Not only did he utterly nail the real-life Lancia Stratos Turbo racing car accuracy in a way that Smokescreen desperately failed to, but the transformation mechanics and playability for me were head and shoulders above the other cars. I see Wheeljack and I want to engage with it constantly, and I believe he’s the best proportioned and best looking of all the Masterpiece cars so far. That was until…
#3 ~ Transformers Masterpiece Bumble (Bumblebee)
If you’re surprised then I’m doubly surprised. I was not looking forward to Bumblebee and often considered cancelling my pre-order. I may have collected virtually every odd variant of minibot in G1, but I’ve never been the biggest fan of them or even kept any of them. Bumblebee in G1 was never a character I had a lot of time or patience for and the prototype images just didn’t impress me. Bumblebee arrived and the level of surprise I felt at how good he was is what elevates him above Wheeljack. Aesthetically I prefer Wheeljack from absolutely every angle and in every mode. However, it’s Bumblebee that I have on my desk and have already transformed more. It’s that effect a toy can have on you, the lasting one, that has placed Bee so high on my top acquisition list.
I am seeing a convergence of concepts in Transformers, it used to be that Masterpiece were the ones you displayed and occasionally interacted with. Perfection in presentation and complexity was seemingly the aim there but often they had transformations that didn’t inspire me to pick something up. That was reserved for Animated, Classics, Generations, Prime, stuff like that which had amazing interaction potential and durability, and while some were immensely show accurate, you couldn’t call them premium.
Some of the recent 3rd Party stuff has started to bring those two elements of visual perfection and fiddleformer perfection together and I’ve been waiting for the toy that nails them both, the pinnacle. I think the very first modern era toy to come closest to nailing it completely in all respects is MP Bumblebee, followed closely by MP Wheeljack. Were Bumblebee a tad bit more premium with wrist swivels and opening hands, it could qualify as that fiddleformer vs displayformer ideal. I have neglected to mention Spike or that face. Both have been ignored, and Bumblebee is displayed avec utterly brilliant battle mask.
This is cheating, no doubt. I should have tried to classify MMC Fortis, Leo Dux, Talon and Tigris separately among the top 5, not the combined 5-robot Feral Rex (Not Predaking) featuring last year’s Bovis. I was afraid they wouldn’t be able to actually topple the likes of Bee, Wheeljack and the Animated/Prime/Generations gems I discovered this year. However, Feral Rex is a phenomenon unto itself, and has taken a lot of people by storm. It’s a combiner made up of 5 un-compromised and fantastic toys that actually do deserve a place on any top 5 list. The best part is that every collector has a different valid favourite among the Feralcons.
From the transformations and unique charming features on each individual team member/mould to the absolutely mighty combined form that seemingly all of us have been gradually crawling towards for what feels like an eternity, some long-term stability issues and concerns aside, Feral Rex was breathtaking in its majesty and scale to me. When a combiner is so good that collectors can’t decide to keep them in combined form or individual member mode (usually a no brainer), and some have bought multiples to have access to both modes regularly and easily, it really speaks volumes. The completely inclusive combination of all the swords and guns into Feral Rex’s signature weapons is an amazing touch. For me, the standout figure is Leo Dux, quite literally a masterpiece and the most convincing feeling of quality in a 3rd party figure since Quakewave, a one bot arsenal. In my opinion, Feral Rex is an astonishing achievement and the standard. Even if he had less trouble standing immediately as you asked him to, he still wouldn’t have toppled my top pick.
Scoria has come in for some savage criticism due to issues with shoulders, chrome and fused backpacks, among other things. That’s a lot of problems for a figure where expectations were stratospheric thanks to Quakewave, my #2 purchase from last year. I have seen 3 specimens in person and all 3, including mine, were solid. Beautiful. Absolutely sensational. I can only go on my own experience, and do my best not to belittle or disregard the difficulty others have had. My number 1 purchase of 2014 is the 3rd party Not-Dinobot Scoria from FansToys.
Scoria has sat on my PC desk, the closest toy to me, since I got it. Every single angle I look at it from – even potato – it takes my breath away, every day of every week. And this is from the standpoint of “I really do not care about Slag or Dinobots”. Personally, I think that’s a greater achievement than any of the other purchases this year can claim. I had zero intention of buying this figure even after embracing the 3rd Party scene and adoring Quakewave. I saw Scoria in person, and it completely changed things. I still think it best represents what I believe perfect robotic proportions on a heroic transforming alien robot look like from head to toe, coupled with the most luxurious and impressive representation and presentation I could imagine on a collectible portrayal of a Transformer. If it can accomplish all of that on a character I’ve never noticed, it deserves the crown.
A final note, what about the toys I didn’t mention, that will undoubtedly infuriate those who expected them on all 2014 lists? Perfect Effect Warden, Generations Jetfire, FansProject items, MakeToys items, why didn’t they make the list? Simple, I wasn’t able to acquire them and judge them. Why not FansToys Soar (amazing), MMC Continuum Hexatron (amazing), Masterpiece Ultra Magnus and DX9 Invisible? In my opinion, most will get those in 2015 so they will be judged against next year’s list, which is a damn good thing as Soar and Continuum Hexatron would have made things very difficult. Animated Blurr, TFPrime Wheeljack, ROTF Lockdown, Generations Sandstorm, Cloud Rodimus and Evasion Mode Optimus Prime could so easily have made it too, and on another day they might have. That’s to say nothing of the 14 Macross Valkyries and unused G1 Matsushiro Jetfire, where every single one of those 15 versions of the same mould put a massive smile on my face.
For a laugh, you can compare the above 5 to what I expected to have in my end of year list when 2014 started here. Well, I was right in that an FT toy got #1, Jetfire and the Valks very nearly made it, MP Wheeljack is there as predicted as are Feralcons. The missing figure was MMC’s version of Greatshot, but I did get a version of Hexatron and if it was more 2014 than 15 he would have made the Top 5. The big surprises remain MP Bumblebee, Animated and of course, Scoria.
All the best