The world of third party Masterpiece Transformers collecting is a weird one, isn’t it? After all, it’s not been that many years since the whole thing exploded with stuff like FansToys Quakewave & Scoria, and yet already we’ve seen numerous changing trends across countless companies, all still vying for a relatively niche space. That’s especially true when you consider how finite the roster of Generation 1 characters to be done in so-called MP-style is now, which explains why we tend to see the same faces done over and over by competing unofficial outfits. We can all be thankful, then, for Fans Hobby.
After all, despite still being a young-ish prospect on the market, they’ve shown that they can pump out quirky and unexpected character choices like there’s no tomorrow. Just have a look at their roster, which includes hitherto overlooked specimens such as G2 Laser Optimus Prime, the Monsterbots, Overlord, God Ginrai and, soon, Doubledealer. That they’re also finding time to explore Unicron Trilogy releases is to their additional credit.
It’s praise that I have heaped on them before, admittedly. In fact, every time I do a review of one of their toys, I feel almost duty-bound to mention how fresh and, dare I say it, almost inspired I find some of their choices, but perhaps that’s also an indication of what it can be like to review your fifth 3PMP Seaspray (not that I’m complaining). Let’s just say that it’s fun to see something a little different every now and then, isn’t it?
Which brings us on neatly to their Headmasters roster, as even a concept as familiar as that has plenty of unchartered territory that so fan only Fans Hobby has seen fit to explore. I am of course talking about the second year, 1988 toys, including their Japanese counterparts, the Headmaster Juniors. We’ve already reviewed Fans Hobby’s debut in this line-up, Athena, and with the following two designs swiftly on the way, we’re now treated to a repaint (and retool) of that figure with Nite Walker!
Nite Walker is of course a take on fan-favourite Autobot detective, Nightbeat, who has become beloved ever since he made a name for himself in the pages of the 1980’s Marvel Transformers comics, including the UK-exclusive storylines where he first appeared. However, he’s only ever had a handful of official toys over the years and this is the first time anyone has seen fit to give him even a nod in anything approaching Masterpiece style, so that’s exciting to say the least.
What’s really striking here then is just how splendid that Porsche 959 alternate form is right off the bat. Perhaps it’s the G1 original being a bit of an approximation of the real-world car in many ways, but somehow it almost feels strange to see the character being realised with such stunningly accurate detail.
I mean, I say this not lightly, but Nite Walker is a dish and a half. The curves and lines of the toy design do a decent amount of justice towards the celebrated vehicle itself, with every angle and corner seemingly considered.
There’s preciously little kibble on the go, either, meaning that you can pour your eyes over every inch of Nite Walker’s frame and not be disappointed by what you might find. He really is rather lush.
There are rubber tyres for the crowd that really appreciates that sort of thing, some attractive translucent plastic lights, and superb moulded sections where they’re required, all whilst not being even a little bit overdone.
If anything it’s the absence of detail in many sections that really makes this vehicle mode work, in my opinion. All too often, third party toys overbake the cake by throwing in so many greebles and other moulded features that the result can feel a bit too busy. Maybe that’s a good thing on some designs, but here, there’s a charm and elegance to how simple it all is.
That’s not to say that Nite Walker doesn’t bring a little bit of flair, mind, as those red hot flame decals along the side will testify. I will also say that I was pleased Fans Hobby opted to tampo these straight on, not leaving them to be applied as decals later on (although there are some stickers included for the licence plates and such, should you wish).
I’m also a fan of the colour choices employed here, with both the blue and yellow being surprisingly close to the original Nightbeat toy when you compare them side-by-side (as you can see in my Unboxing video). The blue only really differs on account of the beautiful sheen found on the 1988 specimen, whereas Fans Hobby’s more matte finish doesn’t quite carry the same sparkle. It might have been welcome to have a lick more paint to elevate the overall look a little, but still, the presentaiton on the whole is quite sharp.
Where there is paint, most notably on the bumper, it all looks well-applied and very consistent, which is good when you consider how duff a coat of yellow can appear if not quite thick enough. There are even little touches of orange to add a welcome pop along the way.
I’m still relatively undecided on the blacked-out windows, however. Part of me thinks this was an idea to keep the design more in line with the opaque appearance of the original toy (despite those being painted silver) and part of me thinks it’s just a stylistic choice unto itself. However, I might have preferred to at least see a little of what was going on inside there, especially when you consider the central gimmick (although more on that in a moment).
Really though, my only genuine grumble with the vehicle form is up top. That roof hinge is just far too obvious for my liking, and rather unfortunately betrays the refined curvature of the rest of the car. Of course, this quibble was never evident on Athena, given that it had a handily-placed lightbar covering it up, leaving Nite Walker to deal with the ramifications all on his own.
Still, it’s a small nitpick on what is otherwise a very attractive design overall. I already adored how this car mode looked on Athena, so it’s no surprise that once you throw in a load of cool blue and some flame emblems that I’m all a-quiver.
Fortunately, Nite Walker isn’t just good looks, as once you throw his mini-partner into the mix, there’s some fun interaction to be had, as well. This little lad represents Nightbeat’s Nebulan companion, Muzzle, although it escapes me if Fans Hobby has gifted their version with a suitably quirky moniker. Either way, his presence more than makes up for it.
Despite being a straight-up repaint of Athena, not-Muzzle remains a mini-marvel, chock full of articulation and even more personality to boot. Some may grumble about having to take off half the robot mode helmet to get him into his humanoid form but either way, he looks and handles rather well.
He’s also another welcome addition in Fans Hobby’s burgeoning line-up of little lads & lasses, and with Hosehead & Siren’s partners unlikely to look all that different to the examples that came packaged with their God Armor release, we already have some idea of what the complete 1988 Headmaster roster will look like.
Seriously, there’s a surprising amount of play value that can be wrought out of this lot, particularly when they’re as detailed and well done as Fans Hobby keep making them.
The best bit is that not-Muzzle can even ride inside the car mode, although given this toy was originally designed to bring Minerva’s cartoon design to life, it’s no surprise to see that it copies the somewhat futuristic single-person seat set-up from her interior, as opposed to what you might more traditionally find inside a 959! It’s also fair to note that getting him inside the car can be a little bit of a faff, although it’s considerably easy if you opt to take the entire roof section off (which will also enable you to stow away the aforementioned helmet and both Nite Walker’s handguns, rather niftily).
It’s again this reason why I find the blacked-out windows to be a bit of a strange choice, although you can sort of see through them in the right light… and if you squint quite considerably. I will add that I had a bit of bother getting the roof section on my copy sitting completely flush against the door windows, with a small gap at the top being apparent despite my best efforts.
Still, as I’ve already said, the overall presentation and aesthetic on offer here is really rather tremendous, so far be it for me to go out of my way to look for things to groan about.
It even compares favourably with the likes of the official Masterpiece cars in terms of design, although I will add that the TakaraTomy efforts definitely nudge it out in terms of the lucious painted finish they’re showing off. Still, props to Fans Hobby for designing a take on such an iconic car that can go toe-to-toe with the official line.
If anything, it’s refreshing to see a bit of a different car model peppering the ranks too, and the baby blue look certainly sets Nite Walker apart from a lot of what your MP-styled shelves might have to offer.
Alternatively I have seen a few people opting to pop him in a non-Masterpiece display, which of course could work well too, depending on the scale.
Really though, he feels most at home with the likes of MP Optimus and the rest, in my book, and I know that I can’t wait to see both Hosehead & Siren joining him before too long, as well!
Let’s be fair, with the way Fans Hobby are cracking on with these guys, that day won’t be too far away, so let’s get in as much appreciation for that lovely 959 whilst we can!
In fact, on that basis, I will leave you there for part 1, as next time we’ll be getting Nite Walker transformed up and into robot mode!