For a new company or toy line, repaints of launch figures are an accepted and necessary evil. The budget that has gone into creating and marketing a mould must be recouped and maximised. Often, the early follow-up toys from a 3rd party company will be recolours or slight remoulds, and this is a tradition that goes all the way back to Takara’s first Diaclone Car Robots. Cars 3 and 4 were repaints of 1 and 2 respectively. Fans Hobby are no different, and they have followed up MB-01 Archenemy, MB-02 Megatooth and MB-03 Feilong with a repaint of Archenemy, MB-04 Gun Fighter II.
Gun Fighter II (or “G F 2”, then drop the F, get it?), based on a well-loved and acclaimed Generation 2 Transformers figure from 1995, goes all hero colours on Archenemy. While I was admittedly less excited for this review sample than any of their other items so far, I’ve probably been most surprised by it. Because I had already experienced and reviewed Archenemy, I was only expecting a mild appreciation for what I consider the lesser colour scheme of the two, based on the vintage toy versions. Immediate impressions upon lifting GF2 out of the box were hugely positive, a quite audible “wow”. I was not prepared for that, and it’s not where the appreciation ends either. Make no mistake, MB-04 is not just a repaint, it is a refinement.
Before we get to that, there are other obvious differences between Gun Fighter II and Archenemy. First of all, GF2’s chest flaps actually open to reveal a quite gorgeous Matrix bauble that is removable, but it has a tendency to fall out of its recessed housing too easily. GF2 also comes with two rifles, one very familiar looking and one double-barrelled affair. His sword has a very light purple tint to it, almost colourless clear. He has a split windshield compared to the single piece that Archenemy has, and GF2 also sports two new flaps that cover up the exposed part of his legs in vehicle mode. There is still no trailer, that is due at the end of 2017. Wouldn’t it be amazing if they could get an artist on board to create the wonderful illustration on the side of the trailer in the same style that the vintage toy had?
All of Archenemy’s posability is ably mirrored in Gun Fighter II, and the addition of handguns really brings something else to the display possibilities and playability of the figure. The God-awful and STILL-lingering smell of Archenemy’s rubber tyres is mercifully not a thing here, Gun Fighter II very capably deodorised. I have noticed on my specimen that while the shoulder ratchets are far less scary now with better tolerances, the fingers on his hands are a shade looser than on Archenemy. The forearm flaps for hiding the fists are a damn sight harder to open too. Everything else feels better and improved. This is one of those toys where the simple act of picking it up brings a smile, such is the finish. Such are the proportions.
It is still a bit of a faff to get the sword into his hands, thanks to the pinned fingers not opening out that far, and the guns do not sit as far down in his hands as I’d like but at least the grip is tight on both. He is a monster when it comes to posing, just look at all the angles, dynamism, expression and strength evident in the stances he can hold. The painted and chromed details add a wonderful vibrancy to what I mistakenly thought would be a relatively dull colour scheme. From the double-rocket chromed shoulders to the painted details on the insides of his legs, GF2 for me has deposed Archenemy as the owner of this sculpt.
The headsculpt is not 100% accurate to the vintage toy, but Archenemy is getting an extra head packaged with his trailer, so it’s not outrageous to believe that Gun Fighter II will get a more toy accurate head when his trailer comes out in November/December. This mould has so much good posability despite the fact that he has two enormous shoulders. They pivot in enough directions to allow one to do a great deal with the arms. The waist swivel and abdominal crunch add further dimensions to his articulation overall, and it’s not hard to engage all of the many points in one pose. The results can be spectacular, even for a bot as chunky and solid as this. I must say, I do wish his head was capable of looking up just a shade more.
Gun Fighter II has the mother of all false chests, with both truck grilles being visible in the same shot on more than one occasion. I can forgive him that as it tries and succeeds at being faithful to the original. For such a heroic and iconic figure, recognised the world over, it’s not hard to massage a fair amount of menace into the stances held by GF2, see the above pic of two for evidence of that. The figure still has all the strong ratchets and quality feel of Archenemy, and he still boasts very good weight distribution in robot mode. A wonderful action figure to pose, display and enjoy.
But of course, this big mother transforms into its other very well-recognised mode, THAT truck. No, you’re not looking at Michael Bay’s Movie truck, this is pure 1990s. The blue feet sticking out the back still have collectors wondering if Fans Hobby are landing just a little too far on the side of simplicity, but owning two versions of this mould now, I can’t say it’s something that has bothered me. They’ve gone to the trouble of adding pull-out flaps to cover the thighs in truck mode, but I’m still always wary of collapsing those lower legs using the button in case they one day squash the small flaps that fold out from the gas tanks. The connecting tab is not as secure and satisfying as I’d like between the side flaps and the lower legs, either. Having said that, I cannot recall a single occasion when they have become disconnected by themselves or through handling.
Back to the improvements over Archenemy, man they’ve made this a slick mode to look at and interact with. The sliding of the front and rear wheels for transformation is now much more even and smooth. The folding out of the gas tanks from inside the cab is also a far nicer process with less resistance, you never feel as though you will one day break the joint there on GF2 as opposed to Archenemy. The two halves of the truck cab fit together better, in my opinion, and the grille pieces do not unclip as they do on my Archenemy now. I also find it easier to fold up the arms to become the front of the truck, the ratchets are not as scary! All round improvements to tolerances and feel make this stand out from MB-01 in the right ways.
There is still a bit of concern for me when I have to fold the head back into the cab, as the clearance seems a microscopically small amount too tight, so I still fold down the ears and turn the head sideways to fit it under the lifted windshield. I did manage to pop one of his ears off which would not clip on again in the same tight fashion, but unscrewing the head and re-assembling sorted it right out. As GF2 now comes with guns, you can mount both on the hood by rotating the cubes there to reveal peg holes, and you can mount one gun on the rear of the vehicle pointing backwards. It’s so Generation 2, so 90s comics. This is a fabulous representation of the character, the toy and the era. Fans Hobby continue to give that impression that they are working constantly to improve their product and give collectors what they seek.
Being G2-based, it was inevitable that he would get photographed with Masterpiece MP-12G Lambor G2 Version and MP-21G Bumble G2 version – aka G2 Sideswipe and Bumblebee respectively. The scale is good and they look tremendous as a team of over-weaponised nutters in robot mode. Gun Fighter II and G2 Sideswipe with their over-the-top accessories inspired me to mount Bumblebee’s rocket pack on his vehicle mode and have his hand gun peeping out from his hood flap, it just seemed so fitting. When a toy inspires you to be creative, you know it’s got that special something. I now deeply regret not picking up G2 Iron Dibot recolours from FansToys and generally not having more G2-themed figures around to display, so strong is the shared aesthetic and scale between GF2 and these MP cars.
Posing and photographing Gun Fighter II with Archenemy was inevitable, even though they are not from the same series or shared media originally, but it’s the same mould in heroic/villainous colours, so why not? Extra accessories, better tolerances and improved build quality ultimately win the fight and the day here as Fans Hobby perform a lovely job of bringing an already superb mould up to a higher standard.
Fans Hobby MasterBuilder MB-04 Gun Fighter II is a big ole beautiful truck that begs to be rolled about and used to ram lesser vehicles off the road, while simultaneously being loaded up to the brim with needless weaponry and accessories in both modes. You gotta be careful, though, because you have to keep that sumptuous chrome lookin’ good. He is a monster of a robot with delicious proportions, dripping wet with a heroic colour scheme and bucketloads of personality. He’s taken a revered vintage Transformers toy and made a phenomenal update out of it, even more than Archenemy did. I remember people who owned the vintage version of Archenemy asking why they should bother owning MB-01, but I don’t hear anyone asking that question about Gun Fighter II and his original inspiration.
The element of risk-taking with a new company is gone too. Fans Hobby have proven themselves highly capable, supportive with issues and tremendously competent when it comes to toy design at this scale and quality. Their modus operandi is to do characters that other companies are not currently touching at a popular Masterpiece-style scale, to incorporate a lot of posability and displayability and to insist on transformations that are simple, fun and repeatable. There are a lot of elements there that made Transformers a worldwide phenomenon the first time around, and they are doing well to stick to their philosophy at launch. For a toy that’s barely a remould at all and has a few new accessories, the degree to which he improves on Archenemy really sets him apart. This figure, for me, has opened the door to the possibility and desire for a proper G2 MP collection, because as far as the centrepiece for such a collection is concerned, it is now done and dusted.
All the best