REVIEW: Unique Toys R-03 Dragoon (part 2)

Welcome back to our write-up on one of the most unique (oop!) third party toys of late – it’s Unique Toys Dragoon! Last time we had an extended look at the figure’s vehicle form, which proved to be a thing of beauty indeed. If you haven’t yet then be sure to check that out first before continuing below.

So, where did we leave off? Well, Dragoon is indeed a bit of a marvel in that rather spiffing jet mode, sporting a beautiful finish and an incredible wingspan to boot! Now it’s time to get him transformed up into robot mode and honestly, this process is every bit as clever as you might imagine it would be.

This particular transformation sequence from The Last Knight was one of the highlights from the film, in my mind, and despite being very brief managed to sneak into my memory and leave quite an impression. Nothing about the process of going from that jet to that robot looks simple though!

The reality is that it’s actually not as bad in hand as you’d think! It was one of those attempts that I’d put aside a fair bit of time for, as I knew it was going to need a bit of patience to get everything worked out. Actually there’s a fair bit here that is remarkably straightforward and even fairly obvious once you get going.

I say that lightly, as I appreciate that my own photos probably don’t seem all that congruent with such a statement, but also with one major caveat – the transformation back to jet mode is far and away a more complicated affair!

If anything, turning him back into his robot form probably made me a little cocky as it proved to be all quite doable even without the use of instructions, so I was surprised to find myself more than just a little confused when I attempted the process again the other way!

Still, you really have to marvel at what Unique Toys have achieved with this conversion. The way that jet bits tuck away out of sight and fold into a lean and relatively smooth-looking robot mode is really something. It’s surprising to see the extent of how everything clips together so snugly and how kibble-free the result feels.

Once you’re done you could honestly be forgiven for thinking that this is just a non-transforming toy, as there are precious few indications that it could convert at all. And boy, does it make a first impression!

Woof. That’s a big, gorgeous hunk of robot, alright! I’d long been salivating over pics of Dragoon before he was released, but still I don’t think anything will ever take away from the first time I actually  laid eyes on him in robot form. He’s just breathtaking in a lot of regards.

No doubt a lot of that is due to his height. At just over 12.5 inches, he’s bigger than your average Masterpiece-styled ‘bot and then some, meaning that unless you’re particularly expecting big things here then you could be in for a bit of a surprise! Certainly I wasn’t prepared for how massive he was going to be, and even now I find that I’m often surprised by his superlative stature.

It’s more than just that though. The toy is so neat and tidy and so cleanly-produced that even if Dragoon was three inches smaller or more, I’d still find him captivating. I’m a big fan of the TLK Megatron design anyway and hold it as my personal favourite of all the Decepticon-in-chief’s various looks from the live action films so far, but Unique Toys have done a brilliant job at realising it here.

Even a rear view looks remarkably clean, with a distinct absence of jet guff. Instead you’re left with purposeful detailing and paint applications, which, let’s be honest, isn’t often the case on toys like this! Very impressive work.

I will say that the proportions are a slight oddity though. As well as looking very tall to the eye, he also appears somewhat lanky if anything. Perhaps “svelte” might be the best description overall, but Dragoon is hardly as stocky or as beefy as his on-screen counterpart. Still, he looks awesome regardless and by no means comes across as disproportionate in any way – he’s just a little more lean than how Megatron is represented in the film, perhaps.

At this point it’s worth drawing our attention to the astounding headsculpt on offer. Unique Toys have already done some amazing work in this arena on their previous figures, but I think Dragoon might be the finest yet. It’s superbly intricate and captures Megatron to a tee. The tiny detail on offer is just flawlessly done, and the paint applications on the sides of his head and that signature red mark across his right eye are executed brilliantly. Of course, this toy has more than just the standard head to offer.

I knew that Dragoon also featured Megatron’s helmeted look, replicating how he takes on a retractable face mask in the movie, but what I wasn’t prepared for was this being an integrated gimmick. Simply pull the top of his head up, turn the head around 180 degrees, push the top down again and fold down the tusks. It’s effortlessly simple in its execution but incredibly effective too. I love it.

Oh, and if the default face was well done then this masked alternative is just one of the coolest toy headsculpts I’ve seen of late. Truthfully my copy spends the good majority of its time with the mask in place, as I just adore how it looks alongside the rest of the figure.

My word.

Something about deploying the mask also seems to make Dragoon feel a little beefier too, though I’m really not sure why! Anyway, it’s very much the final piece of the puzzle required to make this toy feel like the ultimate recreation of the character in question, especially given how fun it is to activate.

In terms of other gimmicks, Dragoon is boasting an almighty-looking cannon which can be placed in prime position on either of his arms using a sizeable peg (though I’m sure most will opt to have it on his right arm, like me!). It then connects to the back of his shoulder using a metal chain, which is a lovely touch. Oh, and it looks incredible!

It feels like a suitable homage to the original Megatron design to have a cannon in place like this, and it’s also a lot of fun when it comes to posing the toy as it never fails to look striking. You can also install some batteries and have the thing light-up at the end if you absolutely wish!

There’s more though, as Dragoon also comes with a large pointy shield and a massive t-shaped sword, just like in the film on which he’s based.

I know not everyone is into the “medieval” aesthetic given to some of the later Movieverse designs, but honestly I think it looks fabulous here. It’s definitely a bit of a departure as far as traditional Transformers goes, but it’s something the franchise has at least flirted with on occasion before (although this is the heaviest I’ve ever known it leant into).

The shield can be stored on whichever arm isn’t using his cannon, and both it and the sword can also be stowed away on his back should you prefer. Frankly whichever way you’d rather display him looks awesome, although I will note that the sword clips onto the shield much better than it does onto the pegs on his back.

The shield looks pretty menacing too, and is pointy and sharp enough that you could imagine it being a suitable piece of weaponry as well as being just for defence. It looks pretty fabulous when mounted on the arm.

The sword pegs very securely into either palm and Dragoon’s clawed fingers wrap around the handle quite convincingly. The sword itself is very long indeed and really looks eye-catching when posed in hand.

Actually I find the various combinations that come from the three weapons being stored in different ways, along with the options for the facesculpt, mean that there are a lot of distinctive ways you can pose and display Dragoon overall. It genuinely never gets boring to just pick him up and have a good old play, either!

It helps that there’s a decent range of articulation on offer, mind – more than enough to have Dragoon posed in any number of dynamic ways. I particularly love little touches like the wrist bend that’s required for transformation, if only because it really helps to sell how he wields that arm cannon!

That’s not to say he’s the most uber-posable figure ever though. Like a lot of Unique Toys’ Bayformer efforts I did find the lower half to be a bit of a challenge, especially in how the skirt means you only achieve a 45 degree bend forward at the hips without getting a little creative. It is still possible to have him pull off a convincing kneel, however.

There are some other quirks too. I would have liked a lot more ankle tilt that is on offer here, and the knees can look a bit off if contorted too much, exposing a rather flat and unsightly joint which is necessary for transformation. It’s not a dealbreaker and only becomes apparent if you really go for it with the poses, but it’s worth bearing in mind.

Lastly, I’m not a big fan of those hip panels either. They look just fine if you can get them into a suitable position, but they’re mounted on long joints that have a spring mechanism inside for some reason, meaning that they have a habit of wanting to pop up and out of place if you’re not careful. It’s entirely possible to counteract this with posing, but it can be a little jarring to start with and takes a bit of getting used to.

Really though, there’s not a lot to quibble here overall, and as I mentioned it’s almost ridiculous how much fun there is in just playing around with and posing this guy. It’s very difficult to make him not look brutally breathtaking.

Looking at him versus the likes of MPM-8 Megatron, it’s amazing how different the two designs of the same character are, yet they both capture what they’re trying to do in their own right. That said, the quality control on offer with Dragoon drastically outstrips that of the official line, leaving the unofficial toy to be the one that you most feel like picking up and playing with.

In fact we’re seeing a number of attempts at the different movie Megatrons now (with Unique Toys soon to take on Galvatron from Age of Extinction, too). It’ll be quite something when you’re able to line up five films’ worth of designs for one display!

In comparison to some other well-known Masterpiece-styled Megatrons, there’s no doubt that Dragoon absolutely dwarfs the likes of MP-36 and even MP-43 Beast Wars Megs. As I said before, he’s quite the brute!

Really though, the ultimate comparison here is with Unique Toys’ own Challenger, which is their take on the later Optimus Prime design. Much has been made online about the height difference between these two, and it’s true that Dragoon is noticeably larger by quite a margin. That said, I think it works overall, and leaves the Decepticon commander feeling suitably intimidating.

In fact Dragoon also feels like a significantly more polished figure overall, in my opinion. I like Challenger well enough, and he has his fans, but I’ve always been a little bugged by the awkward hips and feet – nitpicks that just don’t register to the same degree with their new design.

Dragoon does also come with a new head for Challenger, though. It’s a decent update, featuring a similar flip gimmick to deploy a masked face instead of the standard one, and means there’s no longer any need to change the whole head to achieve the same result. Bonus.

Really, I could gush on and on about all the many things that Dragoon does well, but suffice it to say this is an incredible achievement from Unique Toys overall. They took a design that seemed pretty impossible to realise in any kind of meaningful way and made it work superbly well. In fact they made it looks almost kind of effortless.

That’s not to say that Dragoon is *perfect* (what toy is?), but really, the achievements here far outweigh any kind of nitpicking negatives I might be able to muster for you.

Stuff like the headswap gimmick is almost worth the price of admission alone, but then you’re getting an almighty hunk of robot coupled with a ton of other great features and an amazingly clever transformation to boot. I look at this guy and I think how far the third party scene has come in the last five years or so.

I’ll say this for Dragoon – right now it feels hard to imagine any other competing company coming along and bettering this design (at least, on a transformable toy), so for the moment at least, he feels somewhat definitive. Well done, Unique Toys – can’t wait to see what you do next.

WHAT’S HOT? Killer design, excellent finish, superb details, fun gimmicks. Just an all-round fantastic package.

WHAT’S NOT? The hip skirt is a bit annoying, the knees can look a little unsightly at a full bend and… oh, who cares, he’s fabulous.

SHOP FOR THIS TOY AT TFSOURCE

TTFN

About Sixo

Transformers photographer & blogger from the UK with quite a well-known carpet. Collects both vintage G1/G2 and Masterpiece/3P.

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