It’s been a rocky road for Maketoys over the last few years, it seems. The third party outfit have had numerous behind-the-scenes difficulties all publicised online, leading to many collectors speculating that they’d sadly come to a premature end. There were signs of a comeback-of-sorts with the release of their Endgame figure, but then nothing else materialised after that for a while and people began to wonder all over again.
Then hurrah, as just late last year they announced at TFCon that they would be returning to form with a slew of new releases, even if they were all additional takes on their well-established Seeker mould. There will also be so-called ‘EX’ reissues of previous toys, such as Meteor, with upgraded paint and additional accessories to come. Praise be!
So, that hopefully gives us plenty to look forward to on the horizon (and if that goes well, maybe we can talk about the rest of those Headmasters, eh, Maketoys?), but where does Downbeat here slot into all of that?
After all, this design is not exactly new, is it? The original Downbeat was first released the better part of five years ago now (which, as I type it, makes me want to go back to bed), and has gone on to become *the* go-to Masterpiece-styled Jazz in a lot of collections.
It’s by no means been the only attempt at the character, but for reasons I documented in my own Masterpiece Masterclass series, it makes a good stab at remaining the most definitive. With TakaraTomy still showing no signs of ever putting out an official Masterpiece G1 Jazz, it doesn’t look like Downbeat will be going anywhere any time soon, either, unless FansToys prove to have something special up their sleeve with their own eventual take.
Which brings us to this ‘premium version’ that, in truth, is more a straight-up reissue of the original with a slightly different paint job than whatever that name implies, but I’m not really complaining about another chance to check out a toy as nice as this one.
So what’s changed? Well, where the original release favoured a fairly slavish take on the character’s cartoon model by eschewing a lot of the detailed livery from the vehicle form, here you could argue that some of that has been brought back.
It’s not exactly to the level of being real-world accurate, although there is also a set of stickers now included with this release that go a long way to getting you there (details of which can be seen in my recent unboxing video). Instead, what you get is arguably an updated representation of the original G1 toy, in many ways.
In fact just compare the new tampos here with that vintage specimen and you’ll see what I mean. That’s particularly true if you take a look at some of the G1 reissues from over the years as they typically bear the name “Meister”, Jazz’s original Japanese moniker, instead of his more-traditional (and purposefully misspelt) ‘Martinii’ decals. Premium Downbeat follows suit with that, although again, the pack-in stickers will allow you to go full sponsor, should you wish.
There’s more though, as even areas such as the bonnet stripes have been re-done to look in-line with his original toyetic appearance, now featuring numerous light blue highlights instead of just the original’s thin red stripe. The iconic ‘4’ has been reworked with an additional outline, too.
The same is true on the doors, of course, alongside that new ‘Meister’ logo and a welcome splash of additional colour. It all looks pretty fab.
I’ve no doubt that a lot of fans will be happy to see this extra attention-to-detail being applied to this re-release, particularly those that favour a little less of the ultra-toony aesthetic stylings seen on much of the recent Masterpiece output.
The added detail and tampos make Downbeat sing, and work nicely alongside previous highlights such as the gold-spoke wheels to really pop. Downbeat has always been a pretty toy, but now he arguably has a little something extra going on.
It all adds up to make this a worthy overhaul of an already fantastic alternate form, and with additional changes such as the blue headlights, it really does come a long way to representing that original toy on a modern design.
Of course, Premium ‘Beat still sports all of the grumbles collectors have levelled at it since the beginning too, including the somewhat untidy rear bumper. I know people continue to look at it as a bit of an eyesore, although my opinion remains that it’s really not all that bad in hand. It’s one of those things that appears worse when you focus on it in photographs, somehow.
What I find more irritating is the continued defect on this mould, which means the left wheel arch above simply refuses to sit flush against the rest of the bonnet. It’s been a problem on every version of this figure so far (including the Stepper-themed Bounceback and the TFCon-exclusive G2 release), and it’s a little disappointing not to see Maketoys taking steps to correct it here, for their ‘premium’ release.
It’s by no means a dealbreaker, but it remains a blemish on what is otherwise a very attractive alt’ form, all told. Still, you have to hand it to them, they really have done a superb job with the new tampos!
In fact I will go as far as saying that whilst I was looking forward to this version, I didn’t expect to be quite as enamoured with it considering I already have the original on my shelves. Blow me down though, it’s amazing with a few little tweaks can do, isn’t it?
Ultimately, I’m sure where this release is going to be most appreciated is by collectors who maybe missed out on the original for some reason, and are still looking for that definitive take on the character for their collection. To them, I say, he’s worth it.
After all, whatever style the toy is attempting to recreate, it still looks nigh-on fabulous next to the likes of a Masterpiece Optimus Prime.
I’d even say it’s hard to imagine a better representation of that Porsche alt’ mode right now, as not only is it a great recreation all by itself, but it looks practically perfect next to official carbots too. You genuinely would never suspect this wasn’t an official take, in my opinion.
All of which means that Downbeat continues to earn his stripes, if you pardon the pun, with the premium version just cementing in my mind why this is the best take on the character in Masterpiece-style so far.
We’ll have to see what FansToys (or indeed someone else) cook up for another day, but for now, Downbeat is sitting pretty.
Of course, the alt’ mode is just half the story, so join us for next time when we’ll be checking out that robot form too!