I’ve already said a few times how impressed I have been with the quality of Transformers and unofficial 3rd party figures released in 2017. My reviews this year have been mostly very complimentary of 3rd party efforts. Hasbro and TakaraTomy have done some wonderful things themselves with Masterpiece, Titans Return and Transformers Legends. I am treating this week’s article as a snapshot, a personal halfway point in the year (taking the end of June and my purchases into account only) on the road to deciding my end of year top 10 favourite figures. I would say, instead of looking at this article as a chance to verify your own assessment of what’s been released or compare your favourites to mine, take it entirely as an opinion piece. Maybe even a chance for you to carry out a similar review of what you’ve enjoyed most. Basically, the first person who says “Bad List” or “You forgot xxx” gets insta-blocked! Joking, of course. Not joking.
Hasbro’s Titans Return roared into its 4th wave in the first half of 2017, spreading its considerable might across the Headmasters, Targetmasters and even Powermaster and Actionmaster archives, dragging an unpredictable mix of toys into its increasingly phenomenal roster of figures. Every subsequent wave has impressed more than the one before, but brick and mortar distribution has continued to frustrate many a collector. I’ve had to make virtually every purchase online or via importers. Wave 4 has contained some magical figures that rank among my favourites in the line so far.
At the near-faultless deluxe class scale, this toy line has continued to supply gift after gift, and Sergeant Kup and Topspin have represented wonderfully. Both have transformations that drop the jaw. How is it that after all these years, there is still so much that a group of designers can inject into the process of transforming a car to a robot at this scale? Kup and Topspin have steps in their conversions that I cannot stop going back to, and they are both huge contenders for figure of the year. I love how this line has taken unfashionable G1 figures like Kup and Topspin, making them into first rate figures that collectors cannot stop talking about. Yes yes, I know Generations Kup may have done that already, but TR Kup is the one for me.
Staying with Titans Return, it’s not just the deluxe class that has shone. The Titan Master class Shuffler could be the most wonderful Transformers toy at that size ever released. A convincing elephant, tank and tommy gun mode coupled with two stunning head sculpts (both full size robot head and the little rhino-on-humanoid body Titan Master head) make this a phenomenally good update to the original Japanese exclusive Headmaster Warrior. Think about it, a Hasbro mainline series just gave us a Headmaster Warrior Shuffler. Unbelievable times.
The exclusive box sets also started to hit retail (sparingly) in 2017, starting with the Chaos On Velocitron set. Featuring a leader class Quickswitch, voyager class Laser Optimus Prime, deluxe Nautica, legends-y class Fastclash (Fastlane) and a Titan Master Rodimus Prime head, every single item in the set was gorgeous. In hand, I think the Quickswitch is the star of the pack, but they were all desirable to me. I baulked at the import price, but it’s not a purchase I regret at all, and came at a time where I was questioning my TR completism. It did a great deal to reignite my passion for this line and all the figures in it.
TakaraTomy Masterpiece has been a bit of a mixed bag in 2017, but only because of the execution. The design and concepts have been even more special than before. I was tremendously impressed with how much I fell in love with MP-36 Megatron, especially after I passed on it initially and catalogued all the reasons why it would not be a sensible purchase. The figure itself is dripping with genius transformation steps, two wonderful modes and as much character as anyone could hope to find in a toy. It is a toy to me, because I cannot resist playing with it. The lack of obligation to review MP-36 allowed me to take my time and appreciate it slowly over a period of days, just playing with no photographic motivation. I took pics when I found poses I enjoyed, and somehow that led to a 80+ picture gallery. I’ve transformed him multiple times because I can’t resist the experience. I have gone against common sense advice and attached all the accessories, because he demanded it of me, and I continue to defy the advice – causing visible wear – because he’s that good.
A lot of that Megatron purchase apprehension was a result of this guy here, MP-35 Grapple. A wonderful retool of Inferno, more genius steps and looks to die for. The excellent array of accessories are present, too. I was always a Grapple guy over an Inferno guy, and were it not for the incessant paint flaking and visible wear on him from day one, he’d be in the running for favourite of the year. As it stands, I have accepted that he’s never going to look pristine, instead resembling a second hand figure from years ago that has been stored in a box with many other toys lumped on top, but again that’s given me free reign to enjoy it as I see fit. I must admit this is not how I expected Masterpiece collecting to be for me.
3rd party companies have not exactly been resting on their laurels this year. Well, some of them. Mastermind Creations have continued to produce figures that nobody else fancies touching – things like Titanika and Dicamus above – as well as Boreas (below) and Kultur. I’ve been lucky enough to have them all so far, and these figures have all been of the same high quality that we have come to expect of MMC, and their move towards creating simpler transformations have made the toys that much more enjoyable to interact with. IDW comic fans have been well looked after by MMC for some time now, and 2017 is proving no exception in that regard.
Next week I will take a look at the FansToys, MakeToys, Fans Hobby and Ocular Max figures I’ve experienced and owned this year, as well as the TakaraTomy Diaclone and Transformers Legends figures that came out in the first part of 2017. There will also be a little look forward toward the remainder of the year and a brief discussion of what else could make my end of year top 10 list.
All the best