I just got a brand new toy in to look at, the fourth in the Fans Project Lost Exo Realm; Severo.
I’m quite a fan of FP, I’ve been collecting their stuff since City Commander hit, and have bought pretty much everything they’ve released since then. Some would say the once undisputed kings of the 3P game have fallen from grace, thanks to Maketoys, MMC and Fans Toys, but another way of looking at it is that FP are keeping it real with their own design choices and aesthetic, rather than switching out to the fashionable choice of Masterpiece style.
Which leads to the question; in a world where most collectors have switched to MP, are the Lost Exo Realm figures needed as Dinobots?
Lets look at the competition; Toyworld have finished their set which started strong and seemed to lose some along the way. G-Creation Shuraking are over half way through and seem to have really found their audience though there are rumours this might be their debut and swansong. Fans Toys keep on keeping on with their MP Iron Dibots, with just Stompy to finish the set and their own version of Grimlock as Grinder for those who no longer wish to keep MP08 (original or OS KO) wearing high-heels. Gigapower still seem intent on releasing their second offering, they might be missing the boat, but offer the biggest bots on the block to compensate. Last but not least we have the incredibly cool, solid and no drama Fall of Cybertron style figures from Planet X – all five of which are out and looking awesome, with an additional Paddles retool of Sludge for those that need the sixth member (which includes me).
(Side-note here to mention Iron Factory have a very cool offering on the way as well, but very much their own thing based on the War Within Dynobots and own scale, pre-orders now open)
So with all those in mind, do FP’s Dinos still have a place?
Let’s have a look at Severo, their version of Grimlock, and then make a decision.
Usually, I’m quick to moan about figures packaged in robot mode; I think alt. mode packaging gives us a valuable fun first transformation (nearly always easier to unfold a figure without instructions than collapsing a robot back down), coupled with the actual reveal of the robot which harkens back to the promise of those original 80s toys: Robots in Disguise. With this figure, I will make an exception.
He’s not the first Grimlock to come with a throne, even the official MP08 figure has had an official throne released, but the difference in quality is worlds apart; the FP version is a solid mold made of durable plastic with a quick wash to give it some texture and bring out the detail, and is also a two piece construction like the Hasbro offering, but screwed together. If you dropped a screw on the Hasbro version, it would probably tear through it.
Severo’s throne just looks cool, and the option to store weapons on the rear is a sensible one, especially with the Game of Thrones style sword arrangement. Even without the final figures released and only swords available, this works very well. Very cool FP, very cool indeed. I can see people buying the rest of the Dinos just to collect the swords to make this an amazing diorama. And yes, it includes a crown, slightly bigger than the MP08 version, which actually gives Severo a bit of a Jothri feel, making him look more petulant and dangerous.
His robot mode is exactly what you expect; big, strong, and angry-looking. This is a Grimlock that means business; more Marvel Comics than Sunbow animation – Blaster wouldn’t stand a chance. I wasn’t expecting it, but there is a nice bit of detailing on the back of his arms which gives a little nod to the War Within Grimlock robot mode (a personal favourite of mine and one I hope to own better executed than the Titanium), it’s little details like this that show the care and attention FP put into this guy, drawing on multiple versions of the character for inspiration. The head sculpt is interesting, managing to go classic and feral without the overly detailed “exposed teeth” design that has been popular for the character since Maximum Dinobots – I don’t miss it. He has chunky hips, but nothing distracting, I only mention it because stylistically he closest to the Toyworld re-imagining which – in my opinion – suffered from child bearing / combiner hips.
He comes with his popular G1 style gun and sword, as well as two massive extra miniguns which work really well on dinosaur mode. As is tradition with the retail release of the Exo-Realm, he has Target Master style companions, not one, but two. Pottao and Kottav are mean looking little bruisers that look like they could wipe the floor with most other Solerons. Each can become a melee weapon, but it’s when you combine the two together into it’s final Melee-Master form that you get a mace like weapon that totally suits old Grimmy. I mean Severo. No, I mean Grimlock, this guy is every inch Grimlock.
The transformation is fun, easy and instinctive, enough so that I have been able to do it without instructions both ways. Obviously, the transformation borrows a lot from previous Grimlocks, who mostly all follow the standard G1 transformation (except Pretender Classics and Don Fig’s CHUG update), which makes him a bit easier to handle ‘structions free, and the legs borrow more than a little from the MP offering.
So onto Dinosaur mode, how is he? Honestly, I feel like the neck is too long, and the tail too short. The neck is probably about right in all honesty, we just expect Grimmy to have a shorter neck due to the original toy and animation model, and I think it looks better than the Toyworld version in all modes for a comparison – as I felt that had a looong neck. The tail could have down with an extra fold to enable it to be longer whilst still storing in alt. mode, but it’s a small complaint. It also would have been nice if his claws were separately articulated like the MP, but this might be a good thing given how sharp they are. Also, I’m not a huge fan of the joints that hold his wings / dino upper chest in place, as they sort of stick up in dino mode, mostly because they double as weapon pegs and posting the miniguns in place does mitigate this look massively, but when un-weaponed they are noticeable, and for the sake of 3-4mm, then could still be functional and less obvious. Other than these complaints, he looks great in dino mode, especially with his team-mates.
So, does he fit in a collection? Absolutely, though it depends what you want him for. If you just wanted a single Grimlock all on it’s own; I recommend MP08 above this, as I love that toy a lot. However, toys don’t exist in a vacuum and Grimmy needs his team mates. If you’re looking for MP style, you currently cannot beat out Fans Toys. If you want combining Dinobots (always controversial to some in the fandom), there are other choices available. If you want stylised FOC guys, see Planet X because really, they are awesome and their Grimlock analogue Vulcan is extremely awesome.
However, if you want a decent re-imagined Dinobot team for your Classics Collection, then I feel that the FP Exo-Realm are the way to go. The CHUG figure is almost ten years old now (ye gods!), and wasn’t a great figure in its day and has remained all on his own for all that time (although, when you know it’s an update of Pretender Grimlock not G1 Grimlock it makes a lot more sense).
The Lost Exo Realm are definitely more than the sum of their parts. Each release has bolstered the other releases and the closer we get to them being a team, the happier I am. Are they flawless? No. My Columpio needs wrist joints and I always want my Sludge’s to be bigger, and he still needs me to do the hip swap but the after-care replacement parts were at least provided. I don’t like Cubrar / Slag’s head and his Splinter Cell goggles, but the chrome horns really pop. I wish Volar / Swoop had more in the way of locking the legs into place and hiding his hands, but he comes with a choice of bodies and look at that wingspan!
As a team of re-imagined Dinobots, these guys are the best game in town. Once you factor in all their weapons, their Melee-Master companions or Diaclone Driver tributes (depending on if you go for the regular releases or convention exclusives), and their choice of G1 or Diaclone colours, they really do become a set that will please most CHUG collectors. I look forward to their Snarl and their mysterious Fembot completing the team.