There’s an old adage amongst Masterpiece-scale collectors: “I’ll wait for the FansToys version”.
Sometimes that bears fruit, especially as it’s not like the third-party outfit isn’t making comparatively short work of ploughing through the Generation 1 Transformers ranks and covering a fair few unexpected characters along the way.
Yet there are also plenty of examples where fans have ended up waiting longer than they perhaps would have hoped for FansToys to shift into gear, leaving other options to get their stake in first. So it is with the Minibots.
You would expect these lads to be common fare for unofficial companies looking to piggyback on the Masterpiece line, given how they remain largely untouched by TakaraTomy. Yet it’s only relatively recently that FansToys have started stepping up to the plate, as evidenced by Rig here. Is this the Huffer we’ve been waiting for, or is it simply one big puff of hot air too late?
In this case, the main competition comes from Badcube, who have had not one, but two stabs at this character already. The first was the 2014 release, a great design sadly mired by an exceptionally lacklustre finish that made it a ticking time bomb of flaking paint. Collectors clamoured for a re-release, and instead, they received a wholly new design in 2017, now featuring a distinctly less screen-accurate vehicle mode (albeit with a far superior finish this time!). It was a strange choice considering a lot of folks would have been happy with what we already had, but there you go.
In any case, let’s not beat around the bush here: this key stylistic difference is one of the significant advantages that FansToys Rig has over the Badcube effort in that it brings the character of Huffer to life much more faithfully in both modes and captures a lot of his awkward charm in the process. However, whilst it’s one of the more obvious points to make, it’s certainly not the only key distinction between the two, as we will see.
Besides, even putting the competition to one side for a moment, there’s little doubt that Rig is a miniature marvel all in his own right. As soon as I clapped eyes on the vehicle mode on offer, I was sold, as it’s every bit the Masterpiece-styled Huffer I could have wished for and then some.
For starters, the toy boasts the signature FansToys flair that can’t help but captivate right out of the box. Solid plastic, nice, shiny finish, attractive paint, and a general all-round feeling of polish and attention to detail. This is the standard to which third-party Transformers products should be measured.
I’m also a fan of details like the frosted see-through windscreen, which matches surprisingly well against the more opaque side windows despite looking slightly different. It plays well against touches such as the translucent plastic headlights too.
Then there’s a feeling of solidity here that gives you the confidence to put the toy through his paces without worrying that everything will come untapped. Add in a set of chromed rims and rubber tyres, and Rig is always ready to roll.
There’s some decent play value on offer too. Firstly, you can equip the vehicle mode with some serious arsenal, thanks to the toy’s three firearms being able to tab together to make some sort of super cannon that can then be positioned to the rear.
It’s a little heavy on the firepower versus how Huffer was often portrayed in the cartoon, but still, it’s a fun option. You have to position the cannons quite far up to point them over the cab, of course!
Next, you can pull off a trick every Huffer toy worth its salt seems to attempt nowadays, as Rig can join up with the trailer from Masterpiece MP-44 Convoy to recreate one of the character’s standout moments from the series. Some fans may be disappointed that the older MP-10 trailer can’t be used, but I suppose decisions have to be made.
Speaking of the Masterpiece line, Rig also does a fine job at slotting in alongside so many of those figures, looking every bit as you would hope when representing Huffer on your shelf. If you were left somewhat cold by Badcube’s unorthodox attempt at this vehicle mode, FansToys might just be the right option.
Such comparisons also make it obvious that despite representing a Minibot, Rig is not so mini, as it turns out! In fact, it’s another strength of this toy that the vehicle mode manages to fill out quite well in terms of size, even though the corresponding robot isn’t the most notable in stature, as we’ll see.
All of this brings us to the transformation, which is undoubtedly one of the more unexpected and out-of-the-box solutions I’ve seen on a toy like this in quite some time. If you’d asked me how a Masterpiece-style Huffer might convert between modes, I don’t think I could have come up with an idea like this in a million years!
Is it a convoluted and clunky mess of a process though, or is it still smooth-sailing through to robot mode? Let’s find out in part 2 soon!