The world of so-called ‘third party’ robots has expanded rapidly over the last decade or more.
What began with upgrade kits and accessories for existing figures has mushroomed to the point where many collectors frequently opt for an unofficial attempt at a character over a TakaraTomy Masterpiece release. However, what’s also notable is how infrequently third party efforts will opt to tackle a project where such an official toy already exists, often choosing to steer clear or push their attempt through quickly before the genuine article sees release.
So today, let’s look at ten examples where a third party figure was released in direct competition with a pre-existing Masterpiece, including how well they fared…
Be sure to check out part 1 first before continuing below!
#5: FansToys Grinder
Alright, this one might seem pretty straightforward, given that the official effort in this case is MP-8 Grimlock from 2009, a toy that firmly preceded the ‘soft reboot’ that occurred from MP-9 / MP-10 onwards. However, things are never that simple in the weird world of third party robots! That’s especially true here because it’s established that FansToys had no plans to release their own attempt at Grimlock for the longest time, despite rolling the rest of their ‘Iron Dibots’ out all the while. They even equipped their Scoria release with ‘platform shoes’ for MP-8, to try and boost his stature to better fit alongside their own line-up. Whilst that solution wasn’t as bad as it probably sounds, there was still plenty of demand for an entirely new design to better lead the FansToys crew, and finally, in 2017, Grinder came to pass.
The design still riffs heavily off MP-8, enough that FansToys initially changed the dino’ mode head sculpt significantly to avoid any potential copyright issues (something they later contradicted with an upgrade kit which did indeed cause some ruckus on release). However, it’s much larger and foregoes some of the more cumbersome gimmicks of the earlier figure, making this a bit of a no-brainer. MP-8 is still incredible in many ways, but if you’re after a Grimlock that fits with your scaled MP-scaled collection? Well, Grinder is one of the third party efforts that most definitively smashes the official competition.
#4: X-Transbots Commander Stack
MP-22 Ultra Magnus is one of my personal favourite Masterpiece toys. Yet there are still some who have complaints about it, which probably explains why X-Transbots thinks they might have a decent market for a new attempt with their upcoming Commander Stack release. Thought MP-22 was too big in robot mode? Commander Stack is noticeably smaller compared to MP Convoy and the like. Thought MP-22 wasn’t articulated enough? Commander Stack can do an Iron Man pose with aplomb. Thought MP-22’s legs were too visible in truck mode? Commander Stack covers that bit up. Oh, and thought MP-22’s buttflap was too big? Yeah, Commander Stack has it covered. Or rather, doesn’t.
In any case, it’s not long now until we see if X-Transbots have a big hit on their hand or not, but either way, you can’t fault their ambition!
#3: Transform Element OP Leader
MP-44 Convoy was released in 2019, but even then, it’s not like the idea of a Masterpiece Optimus Prime was anything new! Even putting the first design to one side, MP-10 essentially kicked off the modern era of MP toys in 2011, although no doubt the line’s aesthetic has shifted considerably since. That’s likely why Transform Element saw fit to showcase their own attempt at the character some eight years later, even though it coincided with TakaraTomy’s follow-up effort on the way to release! In a very cheeky move, TE even added a new alternate head design that mirrored the official figure, but it seems his bold strategy may have paid off a bit. After all, plenty of fans have opted to have OP Leader grace their shelves in place of the considerably more expensive MP-44, which is surprising considering the unparalleled importance of this particular character in anyone’s collection!
#2: VecTron Lab Metatron
Our final yet-to-be-released entry is also one that’s not even been fully unveiled yet! Still, there’s no denying the brass tacks on anyone who will put out *yet another* Masterpiece-styled Megatron design (I think this is the fifth now?), especially after MP-36 has been dominating most people’s collections for the last five years already. Presumably, VecTron Lab must feel they have something suitably special up their sleeves to give the Decepticon leader another whirl, or perhaps it’s simply their reasoning that enough time has passed. Either way, we await further updates with bated breath.
#1: Deformation Space Seekers
Don’t worry, they haven’t been forgotten! Yes, for our final entry, it’s the current third party thing that seemingly everyone is talking about, as Deformation Space has crafted their own Masterpiece-styled Seeker design to tackle the new TakaraTomy MP-52 trio. And boy, they’ve been busy, eh? After all, their Crimson Wings release seemed to pop up overnight, coming out of nowhere to intrigue collectors who weren’t entirely sold on how the third official Starscream was shaping up. They’ve followed up with the two most obvious repaints just as swiftly, going toe-to-toe with the Masterpiece line at every stage and leaving many happy to declare they’re the clear winners in every case!
My take? Well, I’ll reserve judgement for the moment. I’m a big fan of the MP-52 design, and I’ve only recently got my mitts on Deformation Space ‘Sky’, so my mind is still being made up. I will say that the fit and finish are certainly no match for TakaraTomy’s output, and I’m not looking forward to that transformation… but yes, there’s little doubt the design at least looks lovely. More on that later, then!
So that’s our list! Are there any examples that we’ve missed?