Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Movie Leader Class Starscream

Actually from Hasbro’s “Hunt for the Decepticons” line from back in 2010, but I’d feel embarrassed to type that more than I have to.
I have a strange relationship with movie Transformers. Back in 06’/early 07’ I really didn’t like but a handful of the designs. At a certain point however, I think I really warmed up to them. The decepticons especially have a certain, grotesque appeal, which is nothing like that of their classic portrayal, but it’s fun in its own right.
Starscream has one of the more interesting designs though capturing it in toy form has been difficult. The original voyager class toy did his arms poorly and didn’t seem to really give the look any life. A new voyager was made for the second movie with a much better design, but as I already had the other one I never felt like bothering with it. Then a year later they released the leader class toy.
This one’s design seemed closest to the movie, which I think comes from a certain level of complexity the larger toy features. I’m not too fond of toys that are overly large, but this one is just about the right height for me. Plus the larger size allowed for him to be packed with all the bells and whistles Hasbro could possibly fit on it. Sounds, light up eyes, and some very well engineered pop-up weapons in his arms.
The design is based off his ROTF appearance which does mean he has the strange tattoo like markings all over him, but I think they can be appreciated. In robot mode they’re not noticeable at all and in vehicle mode they keep the design interesting.
Speaking of vehicle mode, this is another bright spot on the toy, and yet perhaps it’s only blemish. The F-22 Raptor is very well done; most Transformers tend to have trouble with jets, but this one goes together rather nicely without leftover robot parts breaking it up (like the 2007 one). The problem here is getting it there. The transformation is pretty complicated, and the way all the parts just kind of wad up in robot mode really makes it a frustrating conversion. It’s a shame when you consider it’s such a fun toy in robot mode and yet the transformation kills a lot of that fun, fiddling aspect.
This Starscream is somewhat of a centerpiece in my collection of movie Transformers, and if I were to own just one figure based on the movie, I might have to chose this Starscream. He goes good on his own and just as well with others. To say the least I think it’s a definitive piece from the movie trilogy.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

AG Tactical Mission Marshy Dog

Around a year or so ago, I watched Armored Troopers Votoms in it’s entirety, and learned quickly the show is absolutely a classic. Now being a fan of the show, naturally I wanted some decent figures based off the robots featured in it. For a few reasons, I decided the best line to chase down would be Takara’s Actic Gear line.
Before getting to the Marshy Dog, I feel some speaking is due for the toys in general. From the three figures I’ve accumulated so far, I feel I can say the figures are of pretty good quality. They’re roughly three inches tall, though very complex for a figure of this size, very similar to one of Bandai’s HCM Pro figures. It’s also worth mentioning the figures are not fully assembled out of the box, and you have to clip a few trees of parts to finish them. Mainly a little added fun more than anything, nothing too involved.
The Actic Gear Tactical Mission Marshy Dog is an impressive figure; especially should you get it at a good price (I got mine on clearance). Like most Actic Gear figures, this one features a large amount of articulation, an opening hatch (with a removable, unpainted pilot), a good number of accessories and is capable of achieving the “down form” seen in the show. As a bonus, this release feature a customizable display base, a firing effect for the gun, and unpainted figures based on characters from the show. Nothing of much value to me, but no doubt a nice bonus.
The paint was changed for this release, as the Marshy Dog now features a pretty nice little rust-wash. Something I could have done on my own, but a very tasteful choice to make on Takara’s part. The paint really brings out some of the great detail on the figure that’s easier to miss on a normal Actic Gear. I find that it really helps define this as a collector’s piece and makes it look less like a toy.
An unfortunate side effect to the pieces Takara added to this release means they raised the price. Worse however, they more than doubled the price from roughly $20 to $40, which killed a lot of demand for this one, especially when you consider a Marshy Dog had already been sold a couple times before in this line. This isn’t a huge problem today though, as this one can still be found for cheap, clearance prices. Had I been collecting these when they came out though, I definitely do not think I would have purchased this one. It’s a good figure, but only if you can get it cheaper than the normal release.

                          (I can do a better firing effect, but I wanted to show the piece included for this)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Some Gems (or Turds?) from the End of the Gundam Line.

Writing on the Gundam Battle Scarred line a few days ago got me interested, so after some digging here are a few unreleased items that were planned for the Gundam line in America before it ended around 2005/06.

Above is Battle Scarred Tallgeese, Wing Gundam, Shenlong, and Sandrock. There was also a Heavyarms and Deathscythe, though I'm unable to find pictures of them at the moment. Not real big on any of these, but Tallgeese anything is cool in my book, and I love the beat up Leo in Shenlong's display base.

The Battle Scarred G Gundam stuff always left me with mixed feelings, but these are a pair I can say I would've bought for sure. Seemed like the stuff infected with DG cells made for cooler toys, they were like Gundam zombies or something.

Lastly, here's Duel Gundam and a non-Battle Scarred Astray Gold Frame (pictures lifted off CollectionDX). I always had a thing for gold crap, but Duel I don't find very interesting. It's a cool suit, just not like this.

There were also plans to bring over Blitz Gundam, the GINN, and a Qubeley from ZZ Gundam, non-Battle Scarred. I would have really appreciated it if Bandai had put out a GINN or Blitz in the initial and only wave of Gundam Seed toys, over the FIVE Strike Gundams they opted for instead. At least all of those got released in Japan (unlike anything pictured here.)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Beast Wars 10th Anniversary Megatron

A toy I always wanted in my early childhood was Beast Wars Megatron. When I was a kid, the tougher something seemed, the more it clicked with me, and Megatron met and exceeded all my standards. He was a dinosaur (a Tyrannosaurus Rex, no less), he was huge, he had an evil voice, and he was the strongest of all the Predacons. But for all how awesome he was, and all how much I wanted him, I never got him.
Then late 2006 Beast Wars turned ten and Hasbro reissued many of the original deluxe figures. This I had known for awhile, but what I didn’t know until closer to December, was that the original Megatron and Optimus Primal were back as a Toy’s R” Us exclusive set. I’m not sure if ever in my life I’ve found something new and wanted quite so badly in such a brief moment. It was all the pent up desires from my early childhood.
Little to say, I got the set for Christmas that year. Something I didn’t notice until closer to this point was that Hasbro/Takara had gone back and made them far more show-accurate than they had been originally. In addition to better paint applications, both figures had new heads that did not have the silly battle masks they did originally. Better for me, seeing as how I mainly remembered them from the show this way.
Little enhancements aside, the toy was still rather impressive. The articulation was still good for a Transformer of the mid 2000’s, despite that he was one of the mid 90’s. The conversion from T Rex mode to robot was all it needed to be. The size was another aspect where he hit the mark, given he was large enough to be incredibly imposing, but not so much larger than a normal figure that it’d seem ridiculous. Heck, even the gimmicks on the figure are pretty fun, with two hip mounted missile launchers and a squirt-gun in the dino head.
All in all, it’s hard for a figure like this to be anything other than a highlight of my Transformers collection, not to mention my Beast Wars one. It’s worth mentioning that the Optimus Primal is excellent as well, but when it comes down to it: Gorilla < T Rex.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Gundam Battle Scared: From Good to Bad

In 2003, Bandai began re-releasing older UC timeline figures into a new assortment, their Battle Scarred line. The line was pretty straightforward offering Gundams with high amounts of weathering and battle damaged parts. Unfortunately Bandai would carry the line till they quit selling Gundam in the US around 2006, and the quality that made the first Battle Scarred Gundams charming was lost early on.

As mentioned above, the original assortment contained only Universal Century mobile suits, and although I admit I have a preference for that timeline, it wasn’t what made these figures cool. These figures came with a lot of swappable parts, allowing you to decide the level of damage on the figure. The best example being the RX78-2 Gundam, where you could have its legs, arms and head blown off, or have Gundam only in a slightly weathered state. Although I’d consider that Gundam the best from the line, it’s contemporaries were mostly the same with the damaged parts.
What was fun was the added level of playability from this, but unfortunately this charming aspect was soon lost as the line went on. That’s not to say there weren’t good figures through the rest of the line’s duration, but that much the fun was gone from there. Soon they would add Endless Waltz and G Gundam into the mix, but the results were subpar at best.
Although I won’t take the time to go over every item the line would offer, Wing Zero Custom had a mound of plastic on one shoulder which killed any pose you could get with its twin buster riffle. It’s so bad it actually reduces the functionality of a balljoint to a swivel. Another terrible figure to come would be Bolt Gundam, which could have been decent had they chose to include a full arm. Instead, they sold an action figure with the left arm torn off, and rather than include a swappable arm, you got a display base instead. Ultimately you had a concept that could have made for fun and unique action figures, which would instead produce what were mere novelties.
Although the brunt of them died down, the Battle Scarred subline was one Bandai kept until the line died, and still had plans for more figures. A wave featuring the original Wing Gundams was planned, as well as a handful of Mobile Suits from the then new Gundam Seed. A few carded samples of the Astray Gundams would even make it into the hands of collectors, and a Zeus Gundam would even show up in sparse numbers at retail overseas. To say the line’s end was abrupt might be an understatement.
It’s a little baseless, but for me I can’t help but feel this was part of what killed the line. There came a point to where it was harder to find normal, newer Gundams for all the Battle Scarred ones. Many of the toys just didn’t move (especially Bolt Gundam), which almost makes me wonder if it might’ve been because people weren’t attracted to what seemed like beat up, old toys.