Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Kre-O itch

I was initially intrigue by the idea of Kre-O. The cross-section of Transformers and Lego-style building block toys is a great idea, though its last iteration (Built-2-Rule) wasn't great and I avoided them. Still, even though Kre-O looked to be better executed, the pricing and lack of normal transformation has largely kept me from indulging in the new toys.

That's starting to fade. I guess the first trigger was the Kreons - Hasbro's answer to the little Lego people figurines - that are (by and large) just little G1 figurines with interchangeable parts. These have been a big hit in the fandom, largely because they hit all the important notes (Optimus, Bumblebee, Megatron, all 3 main Seekers, Shockwave and Soundwave, even a G1-style Sentinel Prime). Furthermore, we were made privy to the toys' bios a few weeks back, and it turns out that these guys, in fact, comprise their own continuity, just as how the G1, Unicron Trilogy, Animated, and Movie franchises are all different. Of course, it's separate largely to give the creators a large berth for silliness and humor (Sentinel is retired and likes to fish, Optimus can't stand Bumblebee's punk self, etc). Even so, the idea that these toys represented yet another continuity is pretty strong bait for me. *(see below for my continued riff on continuity)

But, I haven't bought any yet. The cost is still a pretty big deterrent, as the sets I really want - big Optimus, Starscream, Megatron, and Sentinel - are all within a range of $30 to $60 (!). Also, they're not that readily available - sure, you can get them online, but then you have to factor in shipping on top of the already high cost. TRU got them first, and got them strong - I remember the first time I saw them anywhere was at a TRU over a month ago, and there weren't many sets they didn't have. Targets apparently started getting them, too, as I saw a few different sets when I got my DOTM Space Case last week. However, here in town we only have a Walmart and a Kmart for TF retail, and only the Walmart has put out any Kre-O sets. Of course, they only put out Ratchet and Sideswipe, neither of which I really want.

Also, there's this whole Dark of the Moon thing. You know, the year's mainline for the nigh-billion dollar movie? I still will be making a fair amount of purchases from that line (Voy Sentinel, Soundwaves, Wheeljack, and so on) through the course of the year, and while Kre-O looks more and more awesome, it's still, in my mind, a side-product, not a true, normal Transformers toy.

Of course, should I actually move to my "key-characters only" collecting format, where I only buy iterations of characters like Optimus, Megatron, Bumblebee, Soundwave, and few other exceptions, the Kre-O sets will certainly be there for me pick up. That's part of its appeal; it does something pretty new with the transformers brand while grounding it pretty solidly within the core cast. Sure, you're not going to find Kre-O sets for Drift, Thunderwing, or Black Shadow anytime soon, but that's what the Generations line is for.

Thankfully, I am actually beginning to move in the aforementioned direction with my collecting. With DOTM, I've largely restrained the buying of "new" (whether they're truly new or just new to the movie series) or non-multiversal characters (like, say, Barricade) to the Cyberverse size classes. There have been some exceptions, of course. I was never going to pass on stuff like Voyager Shockwave or Leader (or Voyager, really, though I haven't seen it yet) Sentinel Prime. However, I've managed not to buy any Wreckers over $5, and I've avoided deluxes like Crankcase, Jolt, Ratchet, the Twins, and Bumblebee (any versions, though the new Cyberfire one is a likely buy). I say all this to say that I will feel more justified to get bigger purchases of core/key characters - like DOTM Ultimate Optimus or Kre-O Optimus (the bigger one, obviously) if I'm not buying every other TF toy under the sun.

* Ok, on continuity: Many of the Kre-O set robots (not the Kreons themselves, which, as I've stated, adhere very closely to G1) have designs that pick and borrow from a mix of other TF continuites. Megatron's a good example - his head is clearly modeled after Animated Megatron's Cybertronian helmet (itself inspired by the unused head design for Megatron in the 2007 movie). However, his body and alt mode clearly are an adaptation of the DOTM Megatron design, what with the truck mode and all (perhaps the worst thing about Megatron is his complete lack of a cannon of some kind, something I don't think we've seen since...well, I don't know. Even Cybertron and RiD Megatron could arm-mount their weapons into a cannon configuration). Sentinel's not a bad example either, with his alt-mode and body being from DOTM and his head (aside from color) being from Animated. Then there's Jazz, who looks completely G1 aside from his movie-esque silver color. Now, there are some straight-up G1 figures - Prowl and the small Bumblebee toy don't owe anything to a non-G1 continuity. But I bring all this sort of thing up to point out that, even if we hadn't officially been given a Kre-O continuity, the designs would have essentially necessitated one.

One more thing - the Kreons. Since these little guys are, with little error (Megatron's helmet looks a bit more Animated, much like the helmet of the building set robot) are G1 designs, I consider them to be G1 toys. In Hasbro's eyes, they belong to the same silly, brick-based world as the building set robots and human Kreons, with, of course, no real explanation in play (are the building sets mechs/remotely controlled drones? Are the Kreons manifestations of the Kre-O sets' spark, a la TM II Megatron/Tigerhawk?). Yeah, I'm getting too deep into this, but suffice to say, the robot Kreons and the building set Kre-O robots won't be inhabiting the same world in my book.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

SDCC 2011!

Last year's SDCC TF news kinda sucked. That was partly because I had seen most of it at Botcon the month before, but this year that isn't the case, and Hasbro had a pretty decent amount of new stuff to show (including some things they didn't show at this year's Botcon).

So, here's the run down:

Generations - ok, we're only getting one more wave this year, and they didn't show any 2012 stuff (though pretty much said they were going to continue it). But it's a pretty cool wave - giving us two remolded toys that represent pretty obscure characters.

- Junkheap - this is a remold (new head) of RTS Wreck-Gar, being that he's one of the other Junkions. His real name is either Junkyard or Scrapheap (not sure which, and it doesn't matter much to me), and he uses a different new head mold than the one that Takara used on their other Junkion remold of Wreck-Gar. I'll be getting this guy - no, he doesn't meet the criteria of being a legacy character in any way, but he and Wreck-Gar can ride each other in motorcycle mode, which is a pretty awesome gimmick, being as that's how the Junkions rode into battle in the Animated Movie. Also, as you can tell, Generations is a pretty small line for the remainder of the year, so purchasing these 2 deluxes isn't that big of a dent.

-Sky Shadow - Actually Black Shadow, this guy previously only showed up in Japanese fiction (in the Victory cartoon) and had a cameo in The Last Stand of the Wreckers. His original toy was a remold of G1 Thunderwing (just the shell; the inner robot was identical other than coloration) and so is this guy, gaining a new head and chest plate. Not only that, but by giving him larger horns/antennae than the original toy had, they made him more screen-accurate. He looks great, with his colors being a bit nicer than Thunderwing's. I'm certainly getting him, and more excited for him than Junkheap.

DOTM: Ok, it's still the year of DOTM. However, while a decent amount of stuff was shown, hasbro's still definitely keeping some stuff under wraps (for example, we haven't seen any Mirage/Dino toys other than the Hot Wheels-style Speed Stars toy). Here's the list:

-Air Raid - a deluxe first shown at Botcon, this Autobot is a green AWACS-converted airliner (pretty awesome - he' close to being in scale with ROTF Sratosphere). His radome (removable) is his mechtech gun, but can function as a shield when not in gun mode. His right hand is a bit strange as a claw of sorts made from his tail fins. Kind of insectile bot mode, but still a must-get.

- Dark Steel - remold of DOTM Sideswipe to be a BW Quickstrike homage. He has a new head, and also has a remolded version of DOTM Starscream's Mechtech weapon with claws/stingers rather than sword blades. Not bad looking, but I don't care enough about Quickstrike to get this toy (despite how fun his original toy is). That, and I'm still waiting on a properly painted Sideswipe...

- Armor Topspin - repaint of deluxe Topspin in grey and black. Looks pretty cool, but I don't plan to buy the deluxe Wreckers, and would likely opt for the screen-accurate one if I was.

- Soundwave - in his movie-accurate car form. Pretty cool - not sure if this one has the opening gull-wing doors, but still a nice car mode. His Mechtech is a gun/satellite dish. Obviously getting this guy.

- Wheeljack - the blue Mercedes that looks like Einstein, this is pretty different than most Wheeljack toys. He includes some kind of back-stowing sword and a Mechtech weapon that involves a buzzsaw, and maybe one or two other accessories. Looks fun, and has a somewhat unique transformation. Obviously getting this guy too.

- Cannon Force Ironhide - repaint of the new DOTM Voyager mold that was shown at Botcon. a G1-stlye repaint (finally), it isn't totally red in truck mode, but has some black striping that helps break up the main color. Keeps his original Mechtech gun (not sure if it's significantly repainted). Going to get this guy, as I want the mold but passed on the original black version, since I have two other black voyager movie Ironhides. Only new voyager shown, strangely (his packaging co-sell is not visible in the display case pics).

- Human Alliance Soundwave - An HA version of his new car design. Includes a Dylan Gould figure (hilarious) and also a Laserbeak that appears to turn into a gun. Hope it can also be used by the deluxe. Gull-wing doors do work. Definite purchase. Only new HA shown (again, strangely).

- Cyberverse Legion Soundwave - What you expect. No Laserbeak gimmickry or anything, not that you'd expect that from a Legion toy (which SW should be, since he's a car). It's Soundwave; I'm getting it.

TF: Prime:

- Deluxe Cliffjumper - comes in two flavors: normal and Terrorcon. The normal version (wave 2, I'll definitely get this one) has his tri-barrel arm cannon (possibly on both arms; not sure) and look how you'd expect it to, aside from some shoulder kibble. The Terrorcon version has a new head with one horn (the other got cut off before CJ was killed) and replaces the clear plastic with translucent purple to show the idea of him being powered by Dark Energon. This works to great effect on the car roof/chest, where they leave some of the red paint off as battle damage that allows some of the clear purple to show through. There're also some normal purple damage paint apps on the opaque red plastic (like on his leg). Pretty interesting repaint, and it somewhat surprisingly comes out in wave 3, right after the normal version. I may eventually get this one, too.

- Deluxe Eradicon/Vehicon - this is the more numerous (on the show) car version, with its awesome, almost batmobile-looking car mode. Great black, purple and silver color scheme. The bot mode suffers a little from the kibble backpack, but overall it's really pretty spot-on. Probably won't get this one, unfortunately, just due to his character status.

- Deluxe Soundwave - awesome! They managed to capture his thin, vampiric look pretty well. His UCAV mode looks great, and his does include his Laserbeak, which can perch on his arm on attach to his chest. Just great; definite purchase.

- Deluxe Knockout - I'm glad they're making this guy; I wasn't sure that he would. The only truly new Decepticon so far (outside of the drone-like Eradicons), he sticks to his animation model pretty well, too, including his somewhat unique transformation/kibble layout in bot mode (doors on his arms, hood/grille halves on shoulders, etc). Probably won't get, unfortunately.

- Deluxe Wheeljack - looks great, pretty much just like the animation model. Includes his two swords (Wheeldrift?) that can also mount on the front of his car for an attack mode. Definite purchase.

- Cyberverse Legion Arcee - looks pretty cool - a little stumpy, but otherwise fairly impressive for the scale. Does the "wings" better than the deluxe does, I think. Should come with some kind of weapon, from looking at the others, but I don't think they showed any.

- CV Legion Bumblebee - adorable, not unlike TFM Legends BB. Looks to come with four weapons - 2 guns and 2 blades, possibly all different. Not sure if he'll actually be sold with all four, but they showed them. Has a peghole on car roof for mounting weapons (and on the doors/arms, too).

- CV Legion Wheeljack - basically a tiny version of the deluxe, complete with both swords. They manage to peg into his back for storage. Don't think he has his wings in bot mode. It's a bit weird that they've shown this before showing a DOTM Legion Wheeljack.

- CV Commander Ironhide - this is the first we've seen at all of TFP Ironhide - no animation models or anything have been shown yet. Still, it's a great mix of the basic movie design (pickup truck alt mode, big arm cannons with a "normal"/G1-ish head. Not sure on the color (I kind of hope he's red), but overall he borrows a lot from the Earth mode design for Animated Ironhide, who was also a blend of G1 and movie elements. He'll have lightpiping of some kind (not sure if they meant for his eyes or his weapons), and the guns can mount on the truck doors, like DOTM Commander Ironhide.

- CV Playset - Wheeljack's ship - honestly, I wasn't that impressed by this. I don't remember what the ship looked like on the show, so I'm assuming that it's screen accurate. Also, I'm not sure if it's the size of the DOTM Ark, one of the action sets, or some new size in between (I think it's the latter). It does transform into a battle base like the Ark does. Need better pics; might get.

- Voyager Skyquake - awesome; like Knockout, I wasn't sure if this guy'd get made either. He really looks great, with a beefy jet mode (bot mode kibble doesn't seem to be too bad, either) and a fantastic bot mode that's very show-accurate. Comes with a big sword. Appears to have lightpiping in his arms like Starscream does, so maybe he comes with a light-up weapon, too. Unfortunately, I may not get him for character reasons.

- Voyager Starscream - in terms of kibble in jet mode and transformation, this isn't much better than the deluxe. However, the jet mode does look a little more substantial (the deluxe's jet mode is smaller than Classics Starscream's). He also includes a pretty big mechtech weapon that both transforms and lights up. Like Skyquake, he's got some lightpiping on his arms so that the weapon can light up the arm as well, which is a cool reversal of the same basic gimmick that toys like G2 Laser Optimus and Armada Superbase Optimus had. I'll be getting it.

Transformers: The Ride: Ok, so technically, this is part of the movie franchise. Only one toy here, this transformer represents the vehicle that you ride in at Universal studios in California.

EVAC - has both a Legion and a Deluxe mold. For a movie character, his car mode (a sort of hatch-back thing) is very futuristic and looks, like the DOTM Wreckers, to be in "Stealth Force" mode on top of that. The deluxe has opening gull-wing doors like HA Soundwave. The bot mode overall is kind of reminiscent of Cybertron Red Alert/Cannonball, though he has the same sort of bars on his legs as DOTM Roadbuster. I think he's supposed to be blue. Interesting. It will at least be sold at the theme park, but I assume it will be sold elsewhere, too. The Legion toy is about what you'd expect, by the way. Also, if I do get him, he won't be Evac, as I already have 2 very different versions of the movie Evac helicopter character.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Space Case

Ok, so I've already talked about Space Case in the last post and now put up my review of him. Still, some toys I end up building a bit of mental fanfic around, and Space Case is one of them. Thought I'd just write out my take on the story behind this guy here.

Ok, so in the movie universe, there are different transformer groups. There's the original Seekers, as shown in ROTF that served the 13. There're the Constructicon drones that built Solar Harvesters. Later, we get groups like Starscream's Seekers (who I envision as being started by Ransack, one of the last original Seekers, and then taken over by Starscream) and the Dreadwing-lead Alpha drones. Last year's Terradive toy lead me to imagine another group - the Decepticon Hunters.

It's not a very creative name, but it's rather just the other word from the term "hunter-seeker," of which, of course, "seeker" is the other part. Just as the latter-day Seekers were formed to be an elite group of aerial warriors within Megatron's pre-Decepticon Defense Force, the Hunters were another such group. However, they had a more specific mission profile in accordance with their name - in addition to generally engaging in combat, they were to hunt down and capture or kill Defense Force traitors and defectors, a role that became increasingly important during the conflict with the Malcontents, a movement that had recruited several Defense Force soldiers.

Terradive, obviously, was one of the Hunters, and his partner Space Case was literally the fastest of the Defense Force, let alone the Hunters. He was also an effective soldier, working well with his partner and doing his job with high competency. Both used a special spear/trident weapon to carry out their tasks. Unfortunately, the Hunters' role was sidelined after Shockwave introduced the Defense Force Drone program, which involved creating 3 types of military drones. Moreover, these drone body-types wouldn't just be used for sparkless robots, but also as replacement bodies for sparked cybertronians who entered the Defense Force. This achieved several goals, including streamlining the Defense Force's physical assets, allowing for more uniform tactics and so forth, but also putting ultimate control of the soldier's bodies into the hands of Megatron & Shockwave, the latter of which had designed the bodies to have fail-safe measures to prevent any soldier from defecting (or performing any other similar activities). Granted, many soldiers still were allowed to exist in their own, individualized bodies or in bodies of freely chosen types (like some of the Seekers, most of whom stuck to a particular group of body types) largely due to the warriors' capabilities and skills being too limited in drone bodies.

This clearly had an impact on the role of the Hunters, whose skills were now less and less needed. Space Case in particular took the "demotion" harder than most, but as one of the top enforcers of loyalty in the Defense Force, he never contemplated resigning or anything of the sort, and went along with the program when the Fallen helped corrupt Megatron and the Defense Force gave way to the new Decepticons. Space Case secretly hoped that the new civil war would lead to a higher number of defections among the non-drone Decepticon populace, as he knew some would be swayed by Optimus' claim to be Prime and his support from the aged Sentinel Prime. And there, were, for a time, an increase in hunts for Space Case, Terradive, and the rest of the Hunters, but the response from High Command was to increase the number of free-to-drone conversions and also the population of sparkless drones, who operated under the supervision of Dreadwing, who possessed a drone body himself (Starscream was now Air Commander in addition to leading the Seekers, so Dreadwing officially reported to him, while more truthfully operating under Shockwave, as did all drones, sparked or sparkless).

Space Case was eventually selected to be one of the crew of the Nemesis, captained by Soundwave. He did not see this as an honor (which Terradive did), but rather took it as a sign that he was wanted out of the way, off of Cybertron where the real conflict was going on. Much later, after the Nemesis had collided with the Ark and had been set down on Titan, Space Case was charged by Megatron to be one of many to continue watching over the ship as he took the hatchlings and remaining key officers back to Earth after his defeat by Optimus and the death of the Fallen. Space Case followed these orders for a time, but, already bored and dissatisfied with his fate, left Titan on course for Earth, where he figured there could be something going on.

In the meantime, the Seeker Firestorm had defected to the side of the Autobots during the events of ROTF, changing his appearance somewhat and his name (to Breakaway) in the process. Terradive had become aware of this and proceeded to Earth to take in (or, more likely, take out) the rouge Seeker. He sought the Nemesis first, where he attempted to find his old partner to join him on this mission; Space Case wasn't there, having already departed for Earth. So Terradive went on to Earth, hoping to find Space Case and hunt his prey. When he reached the planet and got in touch with some of the Seekers, he was rebuked; Breakaway's old brothers-in-arms Thrust and Dirge were furious that the Seeker known as Firestorm was now with the Autobots and embarrassed that a Hunter had found out that an elite Seeker could also be a defector. Insisting on keeping the elimination of Breakaway in-house, a skirmish developed between Terradive and the two Seekers. Terradive decided that he would indeed need backup, and set about trying to find the as-yet-unseen Space Case and then take care of Breakaway (and teach Thrust and Dirge a lesson).

Unfortunately, upon his entry into Earth's atmosphere, Space Case crashed into a cavern that collapsed on him, trapping him and also damaging his cerebral circuitry, putting him in stasis lock during the time that Terradive had come to Earth. When he finally woke and freed himself (thanks in part to the inadvertent actions of a squad of autobots) he eventually met up with Starscream, who had had a falling out with Megatron and was wandering the planet, attempting to find hidden Decepticons to recruit to his own cause. Space Case would have never desired to work with the Air Commander and leader of the Seekers before, but the damage from the crash was severe, causing profound memory loss and a dulling of his mind. Regardless, Starscream saw value in recruiting him.

Later, Terradive caught wind of Starscream's activities, and, thus far unsuccessful in locating Space Case, thought he'd take up the issue of Breakaway with the head Seeker himself. Of course, when he confronted the Air Commander, he found Space Case with him, which he could barely believe. While Space Case recognized Terradive, he did not fully remember him as his Hunter partner and excitedly asked him to join on with Starscream. Terradive was dismayed; he understood that something was wrong with Space Case and refused to join Starscream. He attempted to lure Space Case away with the promise of the hunt of Breakaway, but Starscream's personality and flattery had already worked its magic on Space Case. Terradive left discouraged, but still on the hunt for Breakaway. He would eventually meet back up with Megatron, and later, before the events of Dark of the Moon, Starscream and the rest of his recruits (including Space Case) were once again part of the Decepticon fold.

Monday, July 18, 2011

New stuff

So, as you can see on the collection roster page, my DOTM is growing fairly healthily. I don't feel too bad about this, as I'm trying to reserve most of my larger (read: scout class and above) purchases for "legacy characters." By that, I mean those characters that already have some kind of presence in my collection, as they've been around in the franchise for a while. Many of these, of course, are key characters like Optimus, Starscream, and Megatron, who I have several toys of (just in the movieverse alone). Others I may only have one previous toy of, like the newly acquired Space Case (I own the Universe 1.0 repaint of the G2 mold). Granted, I've caved on a few new characters, like Human Alliance Backfire and Thunderhead, but, for instance, I haven't bought things like Skyhammer (a voyager) or the deluxe Wreckers, whereas in the past I probably would already have them. I'm trying to collect "new" characters (not that Roadbuster or Leadfoot don't already have spots in my collection) largely within the Cyberverse size classes, where I have bought things like all three Dreads and both currently available Wreckers. I'll also likely buy the Legion Twins, as I'm not too interested in spending the money on their new deluxe toys, much as I like them (I'd planned to already have purchased the repaint HA Skids, mostly because of his sick black & green colors and it'd allow me to complete the HA bike triplets with Elita-1, but it's not been easy to drop $30 on that set).

Anyway, my original intent with this post was to wax poetic on a couple of new guys I picked up today, namely the aforementioned Space Case and also Hatchet, the only Commander class Dread. I'll go into more detail with their individual mini-reviews, but I'm really digging these guys, so I thought I'd give them some front page time.

Space Case is a remold/repaint of Terradive, a Su-47-ish Decepticon. He's one fourth of a whole wave of Target exclusive repaints, but he's the only one that's got a new head, is a new character, and most importantly, one that I want. The other three (another iteration of Cannon Bumblebee, ROTF Arcee, and TFM Jazz) just aren't really necessary, and ol' Space Case is limited to just one per case, so I'm glad I was able to get one while it's easy. Like the others in the wave, he's got translucent plastic (his is blue) and is covered in cyberglyphs, not unlike ROTF Starscream, who I guess inspired this whole set of exclusives. Anyway, Space Case takes an already great mold and does something pretty logical with it (which I'll get into in his review) and manages to look pretty at the same time.

Hatchet's really cool. Probably the most massive of the CV Commanders (people keep saying he's really a scout, but he's not quite there), he's based on the Hatchet from the DOTM movie, but unlike in the film, he transforms into a fighter jet, not a police SUV (as the Crankcase toy does). His jet mode is nice and solid, and the size of the cockpit is almost enough to make you believe that he's in scale with most deluxe jets, but I'm not sure. He's got a great, simple color scheme, and his animalistic robot mode is really fun. His transforming cruise missile weapons aren't bad, either.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


So, I saw DOTM last night. No 3D, but whatever. It was awesome! Definitely the best of the 3 movies. I might do a full review later (I never did finish the ROTF one!).