This will undoubtedly be the strangest end of year top 5 list I’ve compiled in 8 years of writing articles for TFSource. The reason is that in 2018, I bought less new product than in any other year of my collecting that I can remember. Almost all of my purchases in 2018 were vintage or older G1 Transformers. There were some new Generations-scale Transformers, a fair amount of Diaclone and even a couple of Masterpiece toys, but this was the year I cut out new product and focused on G1. There were no 3rd Party purchases for me, either. Please keep in mind, this is simply a list of the top 5 purchases I personally made in 2018, the toys that I enjoyed the most that were released in the last calendar year. I am fully aware that there are some amazing figures that came out in 2018 that I have no experience of, and that no doubt deserve a place on yours and many others’ top 5 lists!
Now that’s said, here’s the list!
#5 – Walmart Exclusive Hasbro Transformers G1 Devastator Reissue
That’s right, 2018 saw the return of the G1 reissue to US and Canadian stores, specifically Walmart! The surprise was not so much that G1 toys were continuing to see reissues, but how they actually re-created (for the most part) the vintage G1 Hasbro packaging. Hot Rod, Starscream, Bumblebee, Outback, Tailgate and Swerve – along with Devastator – have all received this reissue treatment. I’ve hesitated to give fifth place on my list to the others because I already own them in rather a few forms, but a proper G1 Devastator giftset is something I have not had for almost two decades, and actually finding one in a pristine box was extremely difficult thanks to how they are packed in the shipping cases.
This Devastator is delightful. The joints, chrome and overall quality are superb, and it was a tremendous treat to assemble him. He compares extremely favourably to the Ceji G1 and Hasbro G1 Devastators I own or have owned. There was some ridiculous story floating around about how some QC issue existed preventing you from being able to combine him, but as you can see from the image above, it was pure nonsense. Devastator has a few little mould changes from the vintage release, and is not exactly similar to the Encore either. For me, what really struck a chord was how lush it all felt in hand, how securely it combined and what a stunner he is in the flesh. Everything the original Devastator would have been, with the same style of gorgeous packaging he had in 1985.
#4 – Hasbro Transformers Studio Series Vol 1 Retro Rock Garage
Specifically, the reissue G1 Dinocassettes “Dairu” and “Uruaz”. This lovely package was first released at SDCC in 2018 but has since appeared at Asian retail and was sold on the Hasbro Toy Shop online. Quite apart from the exclusive gold-coloured Studio Series Bumblebee, the set was remarkable because it featured a reissue of the previously exclusive Dairu and Zauru Dinocassettes from 1987! Completely out of left field, Hasbro had reissued something that Takara had yet to, and suddenly extraordinarily expensive figures were available to Western collectors for a fraction of the price…even less than the inflated bootleg G1 prices!
Now, “Uruaz” the brontosaurus cassette was a little different to his original release. His colours were inverted (orange plastic and blue stickers as opposed to blue plastic and orange stickers) and he was made from clear plastic. Also, he was now a Decepticon! While this irritated some, it was soon revealed that the Volume 2 set would have the correct Zauru colours and a reversed Dairu instead. These figures are wonderful, some of the best cassette-formers I’ve ever owned. Dairu especially is beautiful in both modes and is hugely fun to transform. The two do of course combine to make the awkward-looking “Legout” figure, but the ball was dropped here because the combiner’s feet were not assembled or moulded correctly, meaning they never quite touch the floor. A regrettable flaw in an otherwise magnificent set.
#3 – TakaraTomy Mall Exclusive Transformers Legends LG-EX Greatshot
How could this not appear on my list? The Titans Return Sixshot was a fine figure, an extremely good update of G1 Sixshot at Leader class scale. TakaraTomy Mall fulfilled many a wish and produced a retool, an homage to the Japanese G1 exclusive C-325 Greatshot from Transformers Victory. LG-EX Greatshot is the first ever official re-use of this character since 1989. The head, shoulders, beast head and chest area have been remoulded to better reference the original retool of Sixshot. Even though the figure was exclusive to TT Mall, it was still not outrageously priced or particularly tricky to get.
Well, I simply could not find fault with this release, such was its quality. The joints were better than both my Hasbro and TakaraTomy Sixshot and the colours, overall appearance and feel of the toy were 100% in keeping with the majestic original. Just look at the two of them side by side above. I’m not sure I’ve seen any other G1 exclusive done so much perfect justice by a new release. I had two of these and sold my extra, fully expecting to hang onto the spare, but that too got sold in a moment of weakness. I really can’t tell you how impressive I found the job TT did on Greatshot, and it stands as a brilliant alternative to a multi-hundred dollar original that sadly most collectors will never get to experience. The epitome of what an updated toy/character should be, in my opinion.
#2 – TakaraTomy Transformers Masterpiece MP-39 Sunstreaker
Masterpiece Sunstreaker, the toy that had me head-over-heels in love and heartbroken within a matter of days of each other. Such was the depth of my love that the heartbreak became so much more profound, eventually ushering me away from collecting Masterpiece toys at all. My particular specimen cost me a great deal because of international shipping to Iceland, plus customs. All of that was forgotten when I handled it. Unfortunately, my MP-39 had missing paint on half of the chest, it flaked paint from other areas from day 1, the casing around the backpack pivot broke, the underside of it had so much flash that the car could not close up and roll properly and his chrome came off a bit too.
How on Earth can a toy with so many issues possibly rank so highly? Well, because it was crystallised magic. Both modes were breathtaking. The transformation was fluid genius and something that thrilled me every single time I carried it out, building even on the magnificent leap in engineering that was MP-36 Megatron. It managed to do that by being altogether more intuitive and accessible a conversion while retaining the intricacy and obvious string of ‘Masterpiece Moments’. The articulation and level of expression the toy possessed were simply off the charts. He had two different looks for the vehicle mode, and there was no partsforming required to achieve them! Despite all of that, I think my favourite feature remains the hilariously simple method by which you could flip up the headlights on his iconic vehicle mode. Make no mistake, this is one of the best figures I have ever owned, but ultimately I could not bear all the faults my specimen had, so I moved it along and never replaced it…nor have I bought another Masterpiece figure since. For those that have a perfect one, though, I’d be amazed not to see it at the top of their list.
That is, unless, they bought…
#1 – TakaraTomy Mall Exclusive Diaclone DA-17 Big Powered GV Independent Mobile Squad Version
…possibly the greatest transforming toy the world has ever seen. I have cheated somewhat and gone for the exclusive IMS repaint, since the original DA-14 Big Powered GV was a very late 2017 release I never opened until 2018. It’s also not the first time a Diaclone figure has won my end-of-year award. I am not exaggerating, though, and this has nothing to do with a Diaclone bias in my collecting. Big Powered is a phenomenon. Quite apart from its distinct mecha look in the formidable robot mode, he has more play value locked into his essence than pretty much anything I have ever owned. He’s a robot, a series of vehicles, a series of mechs, a base, a playset and he looks as high end as anything Takara have ever produced.
The quality on this set is spectacular, from the paint application and plastic feel to the click of every joint and connection. And there are a lot of connections, because every part of Big Powered GV becomes something else, then interacts with every other part of him. The instructions and official modes will keep you occupied for hours, then your imagination will carry his appeal through to the rest of your life. It’s been almost a full calendar year since I busted open my Diaclone Big Powered and he has not been put down since. There’s one on my desk at home and he even travels with me – or his Powered Suit does – for photography abroad and in interesting locations. He took a fierce dive off a high wall and landed on concrete with just some scratches and scuffs to show for it. This thing is an absolute BEAST. He is transforming toy fun redefined and the absolute pinnacle of inter-connecting engineering. He also possesses one of the most memorable and satisfying ‘wow’ moments of any toy I’ve ever bought. Those of you who have him know what I’m talking about.
Big Powered indeed. Your victory was never in doubt.
All the best