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.

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