The battle has been joined proper, with 3rd party companies left, right and centre putting out figures to fill gaps in Masterpiece collections. BadCube had already released Huff, Brawny, Backland, Wardog and the Evil Bug Corps, but Sunsurge is arguably their most ambitious stab at a slice of the MP market so far. For some time competing with Omnigonix’s Spinout (don’t get me started on that name), Sunsurge has comprehensively won the race to be the first MP-style release to homage the unforgettably yellow, self-adoring, other half of the most famous set of Cybertronian twins, Lamborghini Countach LP500S Super Tuning. To say that Sunsurge has been well received by collectors is an understatement. Everywhere you look, people are raving about what a great job BadCube have done and how it is comprehensively their best figure to date. I’m now ready to give my own opinion on that.
I’m not going to make you wait very long to answer that question, I wholeheartedly agree that Old Timer Series OTS-08 Sunsurge is BadCube’s best effort to date, no doubt whatsoever. In hand the proportions are much more pleasing to the eye in robot mode than any online pictures had managed to portray. Sunsurge comes packaged in vehicle mode with chrome engine, rear wing and hubs attached. Extras in the box include painted silver versions of all the aforementioned chrome bits, a handgun, two rocket attachments, a mini screwdriver, 4 extra mini screws, a smirking extra robot face and “Fry”, who is meant to be Chip Chase from the original cartoon series. You also get the instruction book, and I must admit BadCube do very polished booklets with lovely concept artwork and some proper effort put into them. Two collector’s cards as well, one to match the now older MP format and one in the standard BadCube style as well.
In the world of painful understatements, saying that Sunsurge happens to be a good looking vehicle is right up among the classics. When has a Lamborghini Countach not looked good, I ask? Based on the original Diaclone and Transformers “Super Tuning” modded Countach with the massive intakes which according to Lamborghini never existed, this mesmerising 80s pimped up pin-up accomplishes pretty much everything you could ever want from this character’s angular, pointy car mode. Despite mimicking the shape and moulding of MP-12 where appropriate, despite being perfectly in scale and coloured beautifully – allowing the owner to use screen accurate silver parts or toy accurate chrome parts – there has always been something very very subtle that has bothered me about the Sunsurge vehicle mode compared to the original inspiration and how I imagined it would look if done with ‘real world’ accuracy in mind. I’ll come back to that later, but one cannot deny that it’s stunning.
Rubber tyres, a similar heft to MP-12 Sideswipe and varied display options mean that BadCube have covered a lot of angles, they took this character very seriously indeed. There’s been a lot of promotion leading up to release and by all accounts, Sunsurge is selling out all over the place. My own specimen arrived with a very small nick on one half of the chrome rear wing and a minor paint imperfection on the right of the hood, all very easy to overlook and nothing to get worked up about. While there are more panel lines on the hood than with MP-12, from the side it’s a much smoother affair and this helps maintain the vehicle’s silhouette no end. Until you get to the back end of course, where he becomes distinctly non-Countach and more cartoon/toy.
If the whole idea of collecting Masterpiece Transformers is to recreate the look of the cartoon and fill out the ranks on either side, and to remain in keeping with the aesthetic of the official line since MP-10, the rear end on Sunsurge makes perfect sense. It may not be as attractive as a Countach’s natural and iconic backside (although it partially retains the shape at either end), but it is cartoon accurate and that’s the hymn sheet that these mimicking companies and TakaraTomy seem to be singing from for the majority of cases at this scale. Tinted windows and a well placed (but blacked out) car manufacturer’s badge on the hood really seal the successful look of Sunsurge in this mode. His two chrome rockets can be attached to the hand gun, and then mounted on the roof for attack mode. I can’t see many people displaying Sunsurge this way, and the paint rub that occurs almost instantly from attaching the rockets to the pegs on the handgun mean it’s a completely worthless endeavour.
Placing Sunsurge next to MP-12 Lambor in vehicle mode is one of those moments where everything that happened in existence, all of history that has led up to this point, makes sense. A lot of collectors were telling me to place them together as it would affect my view of Sunsurge, and sure enough, I get it. It was meant to be, and they look divine together, the brothers reunited, or unbranded (if you have a TF Expo version MP-12 Lambor with no Autobot symbol). You can go one step further and attach the silver painted hubs, rear wing halves and intakes for a more uniform finish on the silver parts between the two figures.
Looking at Sunsurge next to the Generation 1 figure, I think I can say what is most missing on Sunsurge is a bit of red. The faction symbols (offset on the right foot like the toy, please!) and the red at the rear are what I’d like to add to my own specimen once reproduction sets are available. I also think if TakaraTomy should do an official version, I would like to see the rear wing on higher supports, even though BadCube have kept the rear wing at the same height as the production vehicle and MP-12 Lambor, which I’m sure a lot of collectors appreciate. For this character, I find the toy more desirable a template than the screen version.
Changing the parts over is quite simple, especially as the wheel hubs just peg in and out, so no tools required. The mini screwdriver is helpful for removing the screws on the back of Sunsurge’s head, from underneath the intakes and underneath the rear wing halves, but a larger handle will mean less chance of slippage and scratching. I do wish I could have continued with chrome parts, but because of the nature of the transformation and very tight clearances for the backpack/roof and rear wing halves, I have more nicks and small scratches on the chrome rear wing than I would like for display, so Sunsurge will sport the MP-style painted silver parts. You may have noticed from the above images that Sunsurge’s black front bumper does not seem to sit flush with the hood, and of course I tried to push it in a few times just in case but that is its natural position, unlike with MP-12 Lambor where hood and bumper sit perfectly flush. I find this a bit of a visual and structural oddity.
Since release, Sunsurge’s fabulous looks have never been questioned, especially not in vehicle mode. However, the transformation has come up as a point of frustration for some collectors, with others finding it intricate but a pleasant challenge. My own feelings on it have changed numerous times but what I can say for sure is that it is more complex and involved than any official Masterpiece car, and the order in which you do things can affect the process significantly. I can do the transformation just fine without instructions in both directions – this was never my problem – but what did irk me was that upon completion of the transformation (especially to robot mode), certain parts were not sitting flush, or would not clip in etc so that final satisfaction and closure were missing.
Folding the roof/backpack over on itself to pack it up can be a bit worrisome as the two sections don’t clear each other as cleanly as I would like, possibly flexing plastic and scratching paint but the way that whole section rotates and then clips onto the shoulders and back is quite lovely and neat. One can also attach the chrome rockets and handgun to pegs/holes on this backpack. The feet and legs are pretty straight forward to transform, but on my specimen the outer sides of the leg (formerly the doors/windows) do not stay clipped in to the leg so well. They can come unclipped during posing. The little heel spurs can be tricky to get out, and it’s times like these where I appreciate how Hasbro and Takara sacrifice a little bit of aesthetic perfection in favour of a helpful little tab for a fingernail here or there to assist. None of these are major issues though and I’ve accepted and forgiven worse on other toys.
Sunsurge’s worst offenders in the transformation are the clearance between backpack and rear wing halves, and the neck panels. The backpack/wing thing requires one to squeeze the whole rear of car assembly and its connecting arm past the moveable wing halves. Occasionally I get this spot on and no major obstruction occurs. On other occasions the wing halves rub against the connecting arm or the rear of car assembly, or each other even. This has resulted in a number of little nicks in the chrome on the rear wing halves. I concede that this could just be entirely my own incompetence with this section, but it does require a lot of care every time. There’s no denying how lovely it is though when the wing halves have folded away into the centre of the robot to be covered up by the chest, no one’s saying it’s not exceptionally clever.
Another source of frustration for me personally was how the two collarbone panels flanking Sunsurge’s neck do not sit and clip in perfectly to fill out the top of his torso. They ought to peg in at multiple points, sit perpendicular to the neck and allow the faux-chest windows to be perfectly aligned, flush, with the faux roof. It takes rather a few attempts for me to get this looking right and this last 1% of the transformation not obeying my instructions reminds me of how I wasn’t able to tab everything together on MMC Spartan at first. The above image of Sunsurge wearing his smirking face illustrates the collarbone panels at their worst and you can see the faux window piece furthest away form us is not aligned with the chest. This could well be because of the grey connecting arm on the faux window rubbing against a raised peg hole rim. One forum user showed me that he had sanded the grey plastic arm down and this allowed everything to sit perfectly flush.
Have you happened to noticed what a drop dead gorgeous head sculpt he has? A very large plus for this figure.
So it’s a situation where from car to 99% robot is straightforward, involved and quite fun, but then from robot to car is initially a little more complex and fiddly, with a ton of stuff having to be compressed back in a very typical BadCube fashion – but 100% satisfying. Again, the order of operation here is key. That was where I was at a week ago, anyway. I just timed myself turning Sunsurge back to vehicle mode, and it took 8 minutes dead with no problems and everything perfectly aligned, it was actually a blast. Went straight back to robot and everything is much smoother now that I am not concerned about scratching chrome (I permanently have the silver parts attached). I have noticed, though, that the tab on the chrome bar which clips onto the intakes in robot mode and is the centre of the car’s rear in vehicle mode has a massive chrome chip in it. It’s flaked off at some point. My advice? Use the chrome for display if you must, but if it’s a figure you are going to play with regularly, just put the silver parts on.
I was very keen to give Sunsurge time to sink in. A lot of people called it figure of the year, better than any official Masterpiece, an outright success etc from first handling. It took longer for me as I had little issues I highlighted above. Two weeks on and I feel like my appreciation has almost reached their level but not in as spectacular and immediate a fashion. It didn’t work naturally for me out of the box. I studied a video or two, took some advice, placed him with other Masterpiece-like figures and finally it clicked. One thing I did not need any convincing of, or time to recognise, was that BadCube have imbued this figure with such a high level of posability and personality so as to makes my heart swell at the possibilities. All those poses, all those dioramas, recreated scenes, all of my imagination taken form thanks to great ankle articulation, double jointed elbows, versatile knees and waist, great neck articulation and superb centre of gravity together with balance. You can see Sunsurge above posing with Ocular Max Sphinx’s parachute, attached via the gun’s peg hole on his back to Masterpiece MP-25 Tracks’s stand, and of course with his twin brother and their original inspiration.
While Sphinx’s parachute accessory is a joy to use with the Lambo twins, BadCube’s “Fry” is not as enjoyable. The general moulding, painting and shape have given rise to an uncomfortable amount of malleability in the figure…then there’s his face. Anyway, good effort, looks decent from a distance where one cannot constantly pop his poor limbs off.
How about the kneel Sunsurge is pulling off in the above photos? An absolute dream to pose. This brings me to another feature of the toy, the look of the feet. Some commented that they were too far outside the outer lines of the upper body, and sure enough if you transform him as per the instructions then first the lower legs and then the feet sit further out than their preceding limb section. You can pull the feet down giving Sunsurge more height (comparable with MP-12 and co), or you can un-clip the vertical ankle lock and pull the inner leg panels out. While this ruins the seamless lines of the inner legs, it does allow you to position the feet further inwards and more in line with the outer legs. The choice is yours, but he does stand and pose most stably when transformed as per the instructions. The pictures above and below show Sunsurge with his legs and feet in a variety of configurations as described above.
So as a standalone, Sunsurge – once I spent some quality time with him – has won me over as a remarkably good figure. It’s a superb representation of the original inspiration with two modes that make him stand out among a crowd of already gorgeous Masterpiece or 3rd Party MP-style figures. He fits in seamlessly with the official toys as well in both modes. Above you can see him in a toy-centric collection of Masterpiece style figures where the decos and parts most closely resemble those of the original Generation 1 Series 1 Autobot car toys in vehicle mode. Below, you can see him in robot mode looking every bit the heroic cartoon animation model among friends (season 1, then with season 2 also – click to expand):
There are areas for improvement, things that I would hope an eventual Takara Tomy Masterpiece version would nail. This would include a more speedy and less intricate transformation with reduced possibility of scratched or damaged bits, better clearances in some spots and fitting of tabs/pegs etc to hold sections flush, less use of such soft ratchets in key bend spots like the knees, no need for a faux chest, legs and feet that don’t need mis-transforming to lessen a skinny or proportionally odd look for some and slightly improved main weapon grip. I’ll manage to live without an incredible toy-accurate robot head, I hope BadCube get to explore that with the inevitable red and police Diaclone-style repaints.
But goodness me, why complain when there is so much that BadCube Sunsurge does right? There are so many factors that go towards making a figure definitive and I’m just not convinced that any version of this toy ever could capture them all. Sunsurge delivers a beautiful Lambo-faithful vehicle which is pure eye candy, a very screen accurate robot mode that is hours of posing and staring fun, a missile accessory to recreate that toy look and chrome should you want it, a transformation that grows on you should it not grab you immediately, bags of appropriate and irresistible personality, a mini screwdriver, ‘the MP look’ and a seriously pretty face.
Am I forgetting something? Oh, that’s right, he rocks ‘The Run’ like a hero.
All the best