One of these days, I really must get around to writing an article about the most ridiculous third party names.
I’ve been inspired to do such a thing before, but every so often a release pops up that provides suitable fresh meat. Or, in this case, fruit. Robots named after fruit, to be exact.
This is undoubtedly a strange place to start a review of this kind, but then this is an odd release in many ways! Not least of all is that it’s a take on a Car Robots (or if you prefer, Robots in Disguise 2001) character, a line which remains largely untouched in the world of unofficial transforming robots.
Sure, there have been a couple of nods in that direction before (most blue repaints of dragon Megatron toys and Fans Hobby Archenemy). However, by and large, it remains a criminally untapped vein from Transformers history, along the lines of Beast Machines and, at least until quite recently, the Unicron Trilogy.
So, whilst I admit I initially passed on this figure, perhaps it was inevitable that I saw fit to finally go back and take a look, given how creatively significant it actually is. And you know what? I’m delighted I did!
OK, let’s get the looming big grey elephant in the room out of the way to start with, shall we? Yes, this is a non-transforming figure. That means no sweet scarlet fire engine to behold, which I agree is a bit of a shame (especially as a few prominent examples aside, fire engines are also confoundingly underused as vehicle mode inspiration a lot of the time).
I appreciate that one fact alone will be enough to rule this release out in the minds of some collectors, but as I often say in regards threezero’s products and the like, it really shouldn’t. I mean, that’s not me trying to dictate how you collect at all. I understand why the idea of non-transforming is a turn-off to some, but I would at least encourage you to consider the merits of a design like this beyond just being able to fold up into a vehicle form of some kind.
And believe me, in this guy’s case, there are many. I have way more nice things to say about Red Sharpshooter than I might have first anticipated, to the point where I’m now entirely unsure what made me hold off on picking him up for so long.
But before we get to some of that, let’s cover the obvious. This is, of course, a representation of Fire Convoy, aka Optimus Prime, from a little over two decades ago. Someone inevitably needs to point out that they’re not technically the same character or whatever at this point, but for the benefit of a relatively straightforward toy review, just go with me here.
Whatever name you prefer, the whole thing is immensely stylised. It’s certainly not a dead ringer for either the vintage toy or the accompanying cartoon series, though its intention is quite clear nonetheless. Many of the cues are obvious, such as the colour scheme or head design, but even besides, most major design elements all pay homage to the character in one way or another.
Banana Force has undoubtedly given him a notable makeover, however, as well as accentuating the proportions and extremities of the design to achieve more of a mecha anime vibe. Even the beefy arms and legs, coupled with the slender waist, all sing to that style. It makes this interpretation feel a world away from the original toy in terms of style and handling.
Which, in my opinion, is an excellent thing. I own the classic figure and don’t need to see it repeated like-for-like, especially as it’s already a showstopper in its own right. There’s no doubt room for a faithful (and transformable) take on the character at some point down the road, but doing something a little different with the design is entirely welcome, too. Let’s have some fun with it all, I say.
Besides, at its core, this still *feels* right for that distinctive version of everyone’s favourite robodad. As soon as I clasped my eyes on it, I instantly got the right vibes from the sculpt and proceeded to have immense fun posing it up for all the photos seen here. It may be Fire Convoy on steroids, but it does the job well, all the same.
The other thing I clocked right away was the gorgeous finish on offer. I honestly didn’t know what to expect in this regard, especially since I was overly spoiled by threezero’s ridiculously premium output, but Banana Force holds their own here to their credit. You could honestly be forgiven for not realising this is an officially-licensed effort of some kind, given how well put together it is overall.
The most obvious point is the paint, which is both plentiful and well-applied. Most of the figure has a nice lush coat anyway, but then it’s accentuated by some incredibly crisp highlights wherever you look, which are spectacular up close.
There are then some quality materials at play in the build, with robust plastic and the unmistakable presence of hefty diecast throughout. Generally speaking, it feels quite solid, with no obvious brittle points or looseness of any kind, and comes off as a satisfyingly sturdy piece.
Not that this is some mere statue to whack on a shelf, mind – far from it! This thing boasts a level of articulation and posing that the classic Fire Convoy toy could never claim and proves to be exceptional fun to mess around with as a result.
All of the joints are tight, and there’s a range of motion available at each joint that once again immediately makes me think of threezero in several regards. It’s maybe not quite as nuanced, and areas such as the knees aren’t as cohesive once you bend the joints as far as they’ll go, but there’s more than enough here to crank Red Sharpshooter through any number of enticing poses.
Particularly welcome is the presence of double-jointed limbs and a wicked ab crunch, all allowing for some expressive results. Coupled with the superior finish, it makes the toy a bit of a photographer’s dream! Perhaps my only grumble here is the naff-looking hip skirts, but otherwise, it’s all good stuff.
The one concession is the swap-out solution for the hands, although again, this will already be familiar to fans of threezero’s work. In this case, it takes a bit of force to squeeze the hands onto the ball-jointed wrists when needed, but at least they feel stable once they’re in place! The hands look great, too and whilst this will never be my favourite method, I appreciate the results in this case.
Of course, there’s stuff to put in the hands, too! You’ll need to select a specific grip for the various accessories on offer, starting with an impressive sword! It’s not a weapon I commonly associate with the character outside of his souped-up Omega Prime combined mode, but I have to admit, he carries it well here!
It’s noticeably sizeable and looks fantastic when swished around, aided by how firmly it sits in the correct hand socket. It took me a second to figure it out, but the method for removing the bottom of the hilt to slide it through the palm is a neat little touch, too.
Then there’s a pair of identical wrist-mounted blasters, which, it’s fair to say, look the absolute nuts. They’re hugely oversized versus the equivalent feature on the vintage design, and all the better for it, immediately making this take on the character look ready for battle.
There’s more firepower to come, as you have a rather mahoosive blaster that can also be placed in his palm, assuming you get the right appendage for it! The gun completes the look rather nicely and leaves Red Sharpshooter ready to live up to his name.
But wait, we’re not done, as he features a flip-over shoulder cannon connecting via a port in the toy’s back. This piece can be removed and the port ‘filled in’ by an additional red plastic cover piece, but for my money, it looks fantastic when in place!
This is, of course, another departure from Fire Convoy’s classic design, which featured a ladder in the equivalent spot instead. Whilst some may have preferred something more traditional here, I have to give props to Banana Force for thinking outside the box and offering something that works as a testament to that whilst still being entirely new.
You can then mount the shoulder cannon onto Red Sharpshooter’s forearms if you prefer, although I’m not necessarily compelled that this result is quite as satisfying as the default configuration. There is also a light-up gimmick in the cannon that can be button-activated once you pop a few small batteries in there, although, to be honest, it looks just as good without it in effect.
The same is true of the LED feature on the chest, where the circular blue section can be activated by pushing it in. It’s a nice enough touch but not something that brings much to the table, in my opinion. Still, it’s there for those that want it.
Given the presence of such gimmicks, I was then surprised to see that the eyes can’t also light up, although in this case, I’m happy for the restraint, given how stunning the paint is! In fact, the head sculpt overall is nothing shy of terrific, an instantly recognisable callback to the original Fire Convoy design whilst still breathing new life into the proceedings.
If you prefer, this toy also comes packaged with an alternate head, clearly meant to resemble the smaller robot form on the vintage toy. It’s a fun inclusion with a solid design, and it does a great job at resembling a more ‘classic’ Optimus Prime look, but somehow it can’t help but feel a smidge out of place here.
I think that’s because even if you remove some of the other bits of armour, such as the shoulder pads and the like, the overall robot mode still strongly harkens back to the larger Fire Convoy appearance to a considerable degree, so the blue head comes off as some sort of bizarre body swap result more than anything. Perhaps it’s the fact that it retains the white hands, as I can’t shake the image of this guy now being in full butler mode somehow…
Never mind, though, as it’s just another part of the fun package that awaits you with Red Sharpshooter. It’s hard to quibble any of the various features here when the sum of it all is such an enjoyable release, despite its lack of a vehicle mode.
Really, that’s what I mean when I say that the non-transforming element of toys such as this is surprisingly no big deal in my mind because often, they provide enjoyment that more traditional releases can’t quite touch. In this case, nothing really eclipses the vintage Fire Convoy’s design or how lush that awesome fire engine mode is. Still, as a trade-off, Red Sharpshooter is an impressively articulated and stylised ideal of the character.
I’m sure it won’t scratch every itch for those still waiting on a proper Masterpiece-styled take one day (one glorious day!). Still, Banana Force’s effort works surprisingly well alongside the likes of Fans Hobby Archenemy to give you one fairly epic match-up. Car Robots may remain largely untapped, but what we have seen so far has been consistently excellent, at least.
As good as this is, there’s more excitement yet, though. After all, does it come in black?
WHAT’S HOT? Fab design overall with supreme articulation and a quality build and finish. Oh, and the head sculpt is a proper banger.
WHAT’S NOT? It doesn’t transform in case that puts you off, but otherwise I’m not such a fan of those silly kip skirts, and the light-up gimmicks are somewhat underwhelming.