Unique Toys and their alter ego DX9 are developing a solid reputation for getting triplechanging transforming characters right for the most part. While they don’t always nail all modes, chances are you’ll get a very high quality, enjoyable figure which displays beautifully in at least 2 modes out of 3. Their Provider, Chigurh and Gewalt are all superb figures that we have reviewed here and thoroughly enjoyed. Now they’ve taken a shot at one of the heroic variety, with Y-03 Sworder representing the 1986 triplechanger hero whose orange, yellow and black colours have become his identity.
Straight away I think most would agree that Sworder does not have the impressive visual impact that Chigurh, Provider and especially Gewalt have in robot mode. The colours are very specific on this character and they’ve gotten that quite right, but even though many cues have been taken from the animation model of the original inspiration, Sworder’s proportions are hard to love. That’s not to say that he has no fans, there are a few collectors online who I noticed took a shine to his appearance. I’m not one of those, though, I found him hard to love at first sight. Having said that, I think the view from the back is actually really cool and tidy, especially how he stores his swords. Two can be clipped on to the outer legs, and the other two either side of the backpack (rotor) assembly.
While you do get a waist swivel, good range of motion in the neck, a decent knee bend and excellent ankle tilts, the extremely long forearms compared to the short upper arms mean Sworder will always appear awkward. The way the arms are sculpted also limits what you can do with them in posing, leading to generally unnatural looking stances when holding his gun. Like Chigurh, Sworder has short and thin thighs with much fatter and longer lower legs, limiting what you can achieve with posing.
I don’t know whether it’s the wide expanse of orange on his upper body or the fact that it’s so flat in the torso and featureless there, but I fear Sworder is the weakest of all the UT/DX9 triplechanger robot modes visually thus far. The waist also doesn’t rotate from where you’d expect, since the large orange crotch piece rotates with the upper body, and the real crotch is actually a much smaller black section underneath. That makes the large orange section something of a spare tyre belly as opposed to a large crotch section. Sworder definitely looks more at peace and visually harmonious wielding the swords than the gun, such is his physique. Actually, if you set your mind to see him as quite an ancient-looking figure from the distant Cybertronian past, wielding old style weapons and having an aged aesthetic, I think it works better. Even in 1986 I don’t think the toy/character worked as a particularly futuristic model in a line that had moved onto a mostly futuristic aesthetic.
As with virtually every modern figure I purchase now, I tried out my favourite poses, and it was nice to see how stable and expressive Sworder was when doing The Run. I also found that the more dynamic I got with the posing and the swords, the more he came to life and made sense. He doesn’t do well in the idle natural stances, but add some action to them – a lot of action – and he might get away with those proportions of his. I must say, as frustrating and uninspiring as I found him overall initially, the feel of the joints and plastic is good, the quality you have come to expect from this company and its various guises.
I don’t really like the face sculpt too much, and while I completely understand how they have tried to homage both the cartoon animation model (not all that nice to start with) as well as the original vintage toy’s head/engine, it’s just not that pretty to me. His nose is too long, and that gives his face a very stretched appearance, and then there’s the goofy smile at the end of it. You do get a very large indentation for the eventual faction symbol sticker on Sworder’s chest, but you also get what feels like a lacklustre faux chest/cockpit.
His size is something that counts in his favour with me. I know many collectors nowadays are smitten with the MP-10 scale and all that came after, including the MP-28 Hot Rodimus, but I’ve grown more fond of the MP-9 Rodimus Convoy scale which fits the MakeToys Headmasters perfectly, and Sworder slots right in there as well. Chuck in MP-22 Ultra Magnus and season 3 of the original cartoon starts coming to life. The above image also demonstrates Sworder’s ability to point with his independently articulated index finger.
And so, we must now discuss the transformation. As you may have guessed, this is a pre-release sample of Sworder. Although some stores seem to have the production version in hand and shipping to customers as we speak, mine did not come with a box – and most importantly – instructions. Sworder has SO MANY moving parts, tabs, clips, articulated sections and double-hinged bits that I struggled immensely with the conversions. There was absolutely no enjoyment involved, just buckets of frustration and clueless meandering through manipulation of parts. There are so many wear points that you will notice dabs of paint missing across tabs and surfaces throughout my photography. I will admit some bits are nothing short of genius, but getting the toy to affect the necessary sequence in order to hide a part, connect another, or align something to tab was just terrible. I took photographs immediately because I was not confident of repeating the feat, or even wanting to. And that was the simplest conversion, the one to helicopter mode. The conversion to buggy was twice as bad, but more on that later.
The chopper mode is without a doubt Sworder’s strongest side. It looks like a convincing helicopter and using the 4 swords as rotor blades actually works well enough. Both large and small rotor spin, and while clearance isn’t 100% perfect on the large rotor, it spins just fine. I would not be at all surprised to find out most owners display Sworder in helicopter mode. As with robot mode and buggy mode, virtually everything pegs and tabs in somewhere, so even though on my Sworder sample the pin has come out of one of the joints, you’d never know in any of the modes as the part is firmly attached regardless. You might be able to see the paint wear on the blue windows of the helicopter. The frustrating manipulation of panel after panel, folding section upon rotating segment has taken its toll.
I would like to think that with the actual printed instructions in hand, and after a few times through, Sworder begins to make sense and the frustration gives way to appreciation of the staggering complexity and origami that has gone into getting him from mode to mode. I must say that at the time of writing, my significant distaste for its transformation has lessened and I have a much better idea of what goes where and in what order, because truly at the start it was overwhelming and just killed any joy of playing with this figure. I do like chopper mode, it’s very in-character for this guy. You can also attach the handgun to the side of the cockpit (see black rectangular tab hole under the moulded cockpit door) for an attack mode configuration.
I’ve included this shot of the helicopter underside, as I know that I would have found the whole process much easier if I’d known what to aim for. The surface of the toy does have some nice detailing, in terms of riverts, panel sculpting on a small scale and the like, but maybe the large expanses of yellow and orange mask it a little bit when viewed as a whole. The fold down wheels are cool and suspend the craft well on a surface.
Finally, we have buggy mode. It looks like an amphibious car more than a dune buggy, but I will stop short of the sausage-based criticism I’ve seen repeatedly levelled at Sworder’s vehicle mode. Again, getting here was a nightmare of compressions, tabbing, swivels, threading of half a section along the top and another along the bottom, argh just thinking about that first attempt raises my temperature. Now that I know exactly where things should go and how they work in each mode, it’s better, but I’m not at all inspired to try again beyond giving the figure an equal whack in review as something I am drawn to. But once more I have to qualify that frustration with admiration for just how many complex little solutions are taking place in order to achieve this odd-looking vehicle mode.
This brings me to the core of my problem with Sworder. I know what 3rd party figures can be like. They are not often designed with children or fun in mind, so they can be horrendously complex but even the most diabolical of transformations can come to be appreciated for the eventual results and challenge it represents. Sworder doesn’t deliver for me in that area. I could have lived with inelegant and overly complex solutions to transformation and maintenance of aesthetic or suspension of disbelief had the end result of each transformation been good enough. They aren’t though, with the vehicle mode being the biggest offender.
Getting to vehicle mode is by far the most difficult of all the conversions as almost all the parts swap ends, and front, middle and back of the creature need sorting separately and then somehow need to be woven together. The end result is so bizarre, and does not seem representative of the original inspiration. However, once you add on all the swords and gun, it actually does look reasonably decent and displayable in this mode. I do find it oddly fascinating, despite my general aversion to it. I keep picking it up and interacting with it, those mirrors, those headlights, it’s as if I cannot quite believe that it was signed off and yet cannot completely write it off as a disaster. It does clip together a bit more flush than in my above photos, as the second time I got to vehicle mode I did get it better aligned and certainly the front end clipped properly, leading to a less angled look at the very front of the hood.
Again, here’s an underside view to help anyone aiming for this mode to get it right. I still have to use this as a reference when transforming Sworder, I just need to be relaxed, have some time spare and try to accomplish it again. The above image shows the fists rotated in a way that does not allow the most flush fit, so it can be improved. Getting the rotor assembly and tail of the chopper properly in there underneath the faux chest (when viewd like this) is essential to allowing everything else around, above and below it to fit in place, and then you tab everything in all over the place for security. So much tabbing, so many parts.
I can start to feel myself – even as I write this review and fiddle with Sworder more – starting to ‘get it’. Going from helicopter to robot and back is now easier, and makes sense. I know precisely what to do, in what order and to what degree. That makes it less of a chore and allows the final result to be appreciated with appropriate perspective, weighed up against the effort involved in getting there. While I still struggle to get to and from car mode, and I struggle to appreciate it, I look at the robot and chopper mode now and feel a sense of appreciation that simply was not there over the last 2 weeks.
I made no secret to my friends of how much I disliked Sworder initially, and even a few days ago I was still talking about the horror of transformation and lack of visual pleasure when faced with its various modes. This is changing, and for those whose reaction to its reveal was one of intrigue and interest, they’re probably going to love it. But even this new found appreciation of mine must be tempered with the facts.
Sworder looks weird in all modes, with chopper mode the most believable. The arms and legs are badly proportioned in robot mode, limiting convincing available poses. He looks much much better wielding swords (which he did not originally have in G1) than the gun. Transformation is, initially at least, absolutely horrid. It improves over time, but I’m not sure how many people will afford it the patience it needs with so much more immediately accessible and attractive product on the market, and how much stuff we tend to have arriving in this hobby in a short time. Quality is sound, as usual from these guys, but I did have a pin come out of the double-hinged yellow parts that become the lower calves of robot mode.
The amount of tabbing and clearance issues that are involved can result in paint wear that’s visible in all modes (see heli windows). If you can get on board with all of that, and had I reviewed this figure first instead of Gewalt I would not have, and are determined to love this as a modern update of the character then I guess you will find a way. There is stuff there one can appreciate and maybe even grow to enjoy/love, but the Generation 1 and even the Generations figure are what I will still reach for to get my fix of this character, and it’s a character I have always liked. It’s not Unique Toys’ best work, and falls way short of their other triplechangers, but I suspect in a month’s time my opinion of it will be higher than it is today.
All the best