Released in 1989, the Multiforce (not to be confused with the Diaclone Multi-force 14) were in many ways the Autobot nemeses to the Decepticon Dinoforce and Breastforce, but unlike those characters these toys had no Western equivalents or re-purposes like Monstructor or The Rescue Force.



Reissue packaging – check the instruction numbering visible through the packaging, denoting what figure is inside.


Never released in the West in any form, they were however more widely available in 2004 when Takara reissued them, and the change in retail patterns meant many retailers imported these into Western territories, and some consumers just ordered direct from Japan using the internet.  The reissues were also the first time these characters were available separately, as they were originally released in twin-packs and as a six-pack.




Today we’ll be looking at the 2004 reissues, and their chase variants.  The only difference between the originals and the reissues are the addition of tampographs to replace stickers, and some shade variations in the plastic colour.

The Multiforce

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So, from left to right, we have Tacker, Dash, Waver, Tackle, Wing, and Mach.  From here it gets a bit more confusing, so pay attention, there will be questions at the end.


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These figures can be combined with any other figure to make a unique robot mode (similar to the combining concept in the Energon range).  The most common of these are WingWaver, DashTacker, and MachTackle (I capitalise to clarify the character divide), because of the original Japanese twin-pack releases, but because each character features both a small robot head and a larger combined robot head,  you can invert any combination to make characters such as WaverWing, TackerDash, and TackleMach.


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Dashtacker, Machtackle, and Wingwaver – the traditional two-man combined forms.

But you’re not limited to these options, you can have TackerTackle, MachWing, WingMach, or any other combination, a total of 30 different combination options!  A nightmare for collectors who like to have multiples to display in every mode, as they’d need 8 sets to display them in individual robot, two-man combiners, six-figure combiner, and alt. modes.  Plus a ninth and tenth set if you collect boxed versions as well!  Insane.  If you really, REALLY want to, you can combine multiples to make characters such as MachMach or WingWing.


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The individual robot modes are basic and don’t expect too much from them, as the emphasis with these toys is on the combining on combining gimmick and as such the individual proportions feel a bit off.  The vehicle modes feel more satisfying and complete as they are nice and solid, and functional as a kids toy too.  The two-man combiners feel a bit more proportionate and thought-out, but these vary greatly depending on which of the 30 combinations you decide upon, and I always feel these is where the most design attention time was spent.


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The six man combined mode is how the majority of collectors will probably opt to display this figure.  The chest plate is classic retro Takara design, feels somehow closer to early Diaclone or Scramble City than 1989 era, and in many ways the same can be said for the amazing head design.  I always felt the FOC Ruination figure used the Landcross head as it’s major influence.  Unfortunately, this set of figures is a bit lousy with parts storage, especially considering how good Devastator was at utilising parts in vehicle modes, and the hip-plate, chest-plate, hands, feet and head are just kind of put to one side when not combined.  The one shining part of the combiner parts are the way the individual hand-guns combine to make a six-piece mega-cannon similar to TFC Hercules, which – if it was released now from a third party- would probably have a cool-ass name.

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Shockingly, we never got an update to this character during Combiner Wars, even one that ignored the two-man combination gimmick.  Seemed like an obvious one to me, as it’s a simpler build than Raiden and more akin to the Scramble City figures.

Stealth Multiforce

Takara stirred the pot by including 2 “stealth mode” variants in every solid case of 12 (similar to the Micromaster combiners around the same time, to the point that this reissue of the Multiforce was actually branded DX Micromasters, when they really were nothing like Micromasters), meaning that in order to collect a full set of the Stealth Mode Landcross variant you had to buy three whole cases and hope there were no duplicates.


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The black individual robot modes feature basic minor stickering, and white-outlined Autobot logos.  In some ways this is a limitation, as I tend to always prefer to think of most “Stealth-mode” black repaints as Decepticons, as part of my totally headcanon Black Redeco Clan.  I guess I can repro-label these however I want now I’ve finally tracked them down, 12 years after they came out.


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As with the normal colours, these combine into two-man configurations.  If you mix the black repaints with the normal released sets, you have a quite mental potential of 72 different two-man combinations.  Again, I personally would have preferred red eyes and visors on all of these guys, and while they’re an easy fix, it’s such a rare set I don’t really want to take paint to it.


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In alt. mode, these guys feature universal silver paint detailing for all windshields, which really helps unite these as a cool-looking team compared to the normal Multiforce.  A rarely seen feature of these guys is that you can (sort of) combine the vehicle modes.  It’s not really an advertised feature or in anyway an official , more a convenient leave-over from the way the two-man combiner ports are still accessible in alt. mode, although the way the ports are situated means you are limited to which ones take the front and rear positions.


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Stealth Landcross

Combined mode is more of the same.  He looks a bit more imposing in solid black, and I’m almost tempted to swap his charcoal grey head and chest plate for the black of the regular Landcross, but I guess this gives it a little bit of contrast.

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Overall, I find this a very fun set to own, and it really is one of the rarer reissue variants that does the rounds, much harder to find than most of the Chase variants from the 200x Micromaster reissues.  I’m a sucker for G1 variants, obscure Japanese G1, and I’ve always been one for the black repaint, so this was always going to be one for me to collect.  Even if I’d prefer it if he’d been a Decepticon.


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If you can track these down, I would recommend it, even if you can only find the original colour schemes.  They make an excellent addition to any G1 collections, and give the Autobots some much needed reinforcements in the combiner stakes, as this is one of the few areas where Decepticons outnumber the good guys.


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These guys have never been re-worked for any other toyline, not even Kreo, and have had very few media appearances outside of Victory, except for a brief SG cameo.  There have not been any 3rd party toys announced for these guys, they’ve had pretty much zero love from the fandom since their original incarnation.  If you want to experience the Multiforce, this is your only bet.



Several people have voiced outrage about presumed cost-cutting measures on the Masterpiece line, the drop down to plastic tyres seems to rankle many collectors, and while I understand there may be practical reasons behind the change, I have to say I miss the smell of rubber tyres, and the overall higher quality feel they provide.

However, these sorts of cost-cutting measures are nothing new.  Metroplex had running changes removing rubber wheels, Powermaster Prime was significantly simplified compared to Takara’s Ginrai, and figures like Octane and Astrotrain were simplified after their initial prototypes.  For me though, one figure stands out above all the rest; the running changes seen so often on the later 1986 versions of Ultra Magnus.

As a kid, I only ever had, or knew about, the unpainted, plastic wheeled, cheaper Ultra Magnus.  I was never really a fan of the toy or the character growing up.  My opinions on the toy changed pretty rapidly once I found out that the original release was of a much better quality across the board.




In this article, we’ll have a side-by-side comparison showcasing the difference between the second run UK release of plastic wheel Ultra Magnus (always on the left), and the initial release (always on the right).  For the sake of this article, we’re using the 2002 reissue as a stand-in for the original release, as they are identical toys except for a couple of changes on the missiles and shorter smokestacks.

Be warned, this is probably my most nit-picky article yet, but it was actually requested by someone in a Facebook group as they had no idea of the different release.







If we look at the two figures dead on, the only really noticeable difference is in the helmet, and it’s lack of paint detail.




A two-piece cast which is then glued together, the head is the most defining part of the character, and without the paint it’s really hard to even consider the figure Ultra Magnus.  For me this is the biggest sin of the set.




Unfortunately, this was also carried over onto the “White Prime” cab section of Ultra Magnus.  A shame, because the first run on the right had the same paint detail as Takara’s Powered Convoy, the toy which pre-dated Ultra Magnus, and was intended as a powered up version of Convoy, rather than a new character all in himself.  How different would the cartoon and animated movie been had the writers decided to save this power suit for Optimus Prime, maybe even using it as the suit that restores him to life at the end of the movie, and leads to ultimate victory?  We’ll never know.

To the character of Ultra Magnus, this detail doesn’t matter to much, but as a kid, it makes the toy a whole extra character in it’s own right, rather than the sad, dead-eyed white Prime that ruined my slightly inconvenienced but made very little overall difference to my childhood.




While we’re up top, look at the difference a little bit of perspex can make.  I’ve always felt the removal of the windshield weakened the overall look of the alt. mode, and hurt the White Prime mode, although not as much as the paint.  At this point, let’s just be glad they bothered to give us the small hands for the cab section at all!




Smokestacks detail.  Okay, ignore the size disparity as the original release had normal length smoke-stacks, but the one on the right is clearly a nice chrome plated part.  The late 1986 onward release merely had generic white plastic, with a top coat of silver paint.  While they had that out, it’s a shame they couldn’t hit the blue helmet (oo-er missus).




Wheels.  Plastic on the left, chromed with rubber tyres on the right.  I’m not sure why, I’ve always loved rubber tyres on my toys and even as a kid I saw it as a mark of real quality.  Maybe if Optimus Prime and the other Autobots always had plastic tyres it wouldn’t have caught my attention, but after the quality of the first two years of G1, I felt this very noticable.  Ultra Magnus has ten tyres, which are very noticable in alt. mode and on White Prime, that’s a lot of time lost by factory staff putting rubber tyres on chrome wheels.




Ugh, where to begin.  First, lets look at the rubber tyre at the top of the one on the right, it has a sort of tab protruding 2 mil or so from the center (better picture below).  This provides extra stability for the figure in combined mode, and helps kids line up White Prime when inserting him into the armour, and takes some of the weight and stress out of White Primes headlights / hand pegs.  I distinctly remember this as a kid, so I’m sure someone at school had the first release.  Why would Hasbro change this?  Well, tooling and producing 10 identical wheels is cheaper than tooling and producing 8 and 2 different, and reduces the risk of bad factory QC down to the wrong wheel being installed.

Again, chromed parts have been replaced with white plastic, this time completely unpainted, which really hurts the can section and the alt. mode.  It also affects the stability of the figure because…




…well, I’m not sure if it’s because the plastic is cheaper, but the teeth tend to wear down much, much quicker on the all plastic version on the left.  The spring holding the whole mechanism together is noticeable less coiled and thus weaker on the plastic version.  As a dealer, I’ve bought in hundreds of Ultra Magni over the years, and floppy legged white cabs are very, very common.  Even beater G1 Primes tend to have a bit of stability at the hips, even if the knees are trashed.




Metal feet (not a dancing penguin Rob Halford voiced animated movie) on the right, versus plastic feet on the cheaper second run.  Does it make much of a difference?  Actually, it probably helps reduce damage during play having the plastic (as we say with Binaltech Vs Alternator), however, the extra metal does add some stability to the figure in White Prime robot mode.





It’s easy to see Ultra Magnus massively differs from his Diaclone predecessor Powered Convoy in that Hasbro never intended for the cab section of Ultra Magnus to be used as a character in his own right.  Indeed, in the cartoon and the comics, his cab was swallowed whole by the trailer (as seen in the stunning Masterpiece release above) rather than being a power suit with additional armour (a look that was introduced during the second Dreamwave miniseries in October 2003, and then the concept was utilised for Fans Project’s first full figure; City Commander).




Because of this, I believe Hasbro felt it made sense to minimise the attention to detail on the cab section and reduced the cost to maximise profits, it’s very sad that along the way the paint was also removed from the helmet, as this had a knock on effect of really damaging the look of the figure in combined / powersuit mode.  However, the White Prime robot mode is heavily featured right on the front of the box packaging (albeit without face paint), so again, it is weird they would change even a secondary aspect of the figure that drastically after it’s initial release.


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Ultimately, cost cutting will always happen.  I personally think the move to lower part counts and simplified figures combined with gimmick-Master of the month helped path the road to G1 cancellation, however no toyline formed in the eighties was expected to last more than 3-4 years, so the fact we’re even here 32 years later suggests that maybe Hasbro knew what they were doing.



Original 1986 first run (Made in Japan) with large smokestacks and 1986 second run (Made in Macau).


Last but not least, let’s get real nerdy.

The original 1986 Rubber tyre release of Magnus is marked as Made in Japan, the reissue of it from 2002 is marked Made in China, and of all the UK available second run plastic tyres I’ve checked (three today), all are marked Made in Macua.  All of them are date-stamped 1984 – the year of the original release of the mold.  If you find any with different markings, please comment below.



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Thanks to Kapow for hosting these blogs and providing some of the figures, various Magni including the forthcoming Original Animation / Powered Convoy colours Delta Magnus – the subject of a forthcoming comparison blog – are available here.



Galaxy Shuttle is one of the most well known and popular of the latter day “Victory”-era Japanese Transformers, even gaining popularity and traction in the West where he has had zero fiction appearances.  As such, he tends to be a very expensive and hard to acquire item, with even average condition loose versions of the toy selling out within minutes of the doors opening at even the biggest Transformers conventions like Botcon.



Stupid flap creases!

Why is this?

Maybe it’s because he is really, really good!  A very solid latter-day Transformer which relies on very few gimmicks, other than his ability to transform from a really cool robot into a really nice Space Shuttle mode.  No Pretender shell, no Micro-Master companion or launcher, no third, fourth, fifth, sixth or seventh mode, no head / breast / target / power mastery, no Action Mastering,; just a solid toy.  Such a solid toy that he was also snapped up by Gig for the Trasformers line a year later, and then retooled and re-released as a Brave toy six years later in 1996 as part of the Brave Command Dagwon line.



Galaxy Shuttle


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Shuttle Robo as is sometimes known (as he was called in his first appearance), was released in Japan in 1989 under the designation C-326.




The robot mode, as mentioned before, is big, bulky and stunning.  It’s no wonder he was later used for Brave as he in many ways looks more like a Brave figure rather than a Transformer, except for that awesome face that screams Heroic Autobot.  He is a big toy compared to others of the time, whilst obviously not being as big as a city-bot, but that’s because his character is a big robot in the show as well.  Unlike Blast Off or Astrotrain, this guy is a space shuttle capable of carrying huge robots inside him which doesn’t shrink down to insane sizes in robot mode.




His transformation is a joy, everything moves instinctively, but annoyingly his wings do get in the way sometimes.  You can pop them off to make the transformation easier, but repeated popping on and off of the wings tends to cause stress marks to the softer plastic material holding the wings in place, and it has been known to perish and crack on a few unfortunate cases.



That’s not paint scratching… it’s from re-entry.

Once in vehicle mode, he really shines.  You can interact with the Micro-Masters play pattern in a couple of different ways, and you can even open up his cockpit to pop a Micro-Master pilot in there, which does make me wonder why they didn’t include one with him to increase the value of the package and bulk out an already close to bloated line.
There have also been rumours that Galaxy Shuttle was originally supposed to come with a launcher of some type, but I’ve never been able to confirm that, as it’s very hard to search for that without getting assaulted by Richard Branson propaganda.



I can’t decide which I prefer, so have both.


You can also pop open his cargo bay doors (his arms basically) to add a further bit of play value, and his weapon stores nicely, becoming his tail-fin in shuttle mode.





He also interacts nicely with the Countdown base playset, as seen above and below, with his rear blasters molded to fit in place of Countdown’s booster rocket.






Thunder Dagwon





I’ve always loved this dual packaging design that you can find on some Brave, with a solid package art piece on one side, and a window showing you the toy on the other.  This is something Joustra Diaclone toys did very well and I’d like to see it more often in today’s toys.



Technically, Thunder Dagwon is actually the combined form of DagThunder and Thunder Shuttle, but most people refer to this guy on his own as Thunder Dagwon.




And all new mold DagThunder is included in the package, comprised of Thunder Rai and his Thunder Bike, but they are in a completely different scale to Thunder Shuttle.  While they’re a cool addition to the package, they just store on the back of the figure and don’t really affect the look of the figure like other combining Braves, so I rarely combine them and keep them separate.  I should also mention that T’Dawg here comes with another spear weapon, not pictured, as I removed it from the figure when i took it to a nerd meet-up for safe-keeping, and I’ve promptly lost it.








Thunder Rai on his Thunder Bike


The figure has some extensive retooling, in robot mode this is most noticeable with his new head sculpt.  Not everyone likes his head-crest, and it’s very removed from the Transformers aesthetic, I’ve even heard it described as a curled up gold poop sat on his fore-head, which I think is a tad unfair.  However, it’s no argument that Thunder Dagwon does look a lot more angry and threatening than his Autobot counterpart.




His new chest required that Takara change the entire cockpit canopy, introducing a swivel joint so the flashy chest is contained within the cockpit in alt. mode, but this obviously gives him a very different look in alt. mode as well.  Other than that simple twist of the cockpit, and the folding of his ears away, he transforms exactly the same as Galaxy Shuttle.  Only easier.




Why easier?

Well, they have completely changed his wing attachments, almost making them a fixed double joint which allows for slightly better rotation and clearance, meaning they’re never in the way during the transformation.  Which is great as they can’t be removed.  I also prefer the wings on Thunder Dagwon, as they are more space-shuttley, with Galaxy Shuttle having molded gun detailing on his wing-tips, seemingly just to make it harder to find good condition examples in the future.




Some say the additional front wings do detract from the space shuttle mode a bit though, meaning you’d need to do a hybrid of the G1 and Brave toys to get a perfect Space Shuttle look for the real nerds out there.  You know, the sort of nerds who’d appreciate this designation on the tail-fin.



Nerds like me.


Overall, I actually prefer Thunder Dagwon, I love the head, the over-the-top chest, the more stable wing transformation and wing accuracy, and I think the flash of colour and ostentatious chest makes him really stand out.  Hard to do against a wall of other over-the-top Brave toys.





That’s not to take anything away from Galaxy Shuttle, as both are great toys.  I’ve actually wanted Galaxy Shuttle for years before I eventually got him this year at Botcon, whereas Thunder Dagwon just… sort of happened, I guess.  The scarcity and value of Galaxy Shuttle (not to mention the difficulty in finding an un-yellowed one) means that acquiring one is an event, even for the most jaded of burnt out toy collectors, and this too-many-a-grail piece would be a stand-out choice in any collection.  I can definitely see why it is so popular.




But I’m not done yet… that’s not all the secrets that Thunder Dagwon contains.  The sharp eyed amoung you might have noticed a difference in Thunder Dagwon’s gun in the pictures above.  The grey cover on his weapon does more than just make his gun look different, it enables another one of those lovely over-the-top Brave combinations I enjoy talking about.


Shuttle wears his branding proudly!


Yes, while Galaxy Shuttle contains the ability to port onto Countdown for a shuttle launch aesthetic (don’t ask where the solid fuel boosters are), Thunder Dagwon contains the ability to re-create another slice of real-world awesomeness from the Space Shuttle era.  Rather than the usual Brave robot combination, this is a vehicle combination, one that’s too big for me to photograph in my light box or more traditional brick-work setting.



Yep, Thunder Dagwon uses his weapon clip to “combine” with big bad Fire Dagwon, a huge cargo plane.  This is very cool, and the connection is so strong that you can hold the plane upside-down and Thunder Dagwon isn’t going anywhere!  Fire Dagwon is himself a massive beast of a robot, one who follows the traditional mecha formula of combining with another robot, Power Dagwon, to make an EVEN BIGGER robot; Super Fire Dagwon.


I’m in a Dagwon sort of mood.  Maybe we’ll take a look at that next week…

Thanks for reading!


17 May 2016

Fans Toys Stomp!!!


No, wait, that’s not right!



I received this bad-boy over the weekend courtesy of the great guys at Kapow Toys, the fourth release from the Fans Toys Iron Dibots line; Stomp, an obvious homage to Dinobot Sludge.  For many people this completes the set as a lot of people are happy with MP08 Grimlock in dinosaur mode (lets ignore the stupid New Rock boots that came with Scoria), or they may have invested in the Reximus Prime over-sized KO of MP08, for me – given the quality of this piece – I already have my pre-order in for their unfortunately app-named Grindr.





As many of you know, I am something of a line-whore.  As such, when I received Scoria (Slag), as impressed as I was with the sheer size of him, I didn’t fall in love with him.  It didn’t help that mine was partially damaged preventing the back-pack folding away properly in robot mode.  Their Swoop analogue Soar was well received by most, but I felt the neck joint for dinosaur mode prevented it from being all it could be, but I loved the fact you could chose between TV accurate blue or comic and toy accurate unified red.  Snarl was my first Dinobot as a kid, so as such Sever was eagerly anticipated, but scary hip joints in mine limit how often I pick him up and fiddle with him.

Enter Stomp; a Sludge homage who is very, very impressive.  The team is really coming together now!




Stylistically, he fits right in with his team mates (I’m saving the group shot for all five of them together), and he looks great.  Out of the box, you notice instantly how heavy he feels, often seen as a mark of quality.  Coupled with great joints, it’s nice to see the quality backs up the heft.




He comes with his sword which fits nicely into his hands, and a hang-gun that looks more like his old missile launcher than his G1 hand-gun.  This is a bit of a disappointment, as the rest of the DiBots have come with their hand guns (obvious exception being Soar), and the missile launcher doesn’t launch, or clip-on to the dinosaur mode – I’m not sure if that’s an option that people want, but to me that would make it more complete.  The one major change over the original toy that I’m sure 99% of people will be very happy with, is the new animation model style head, which of course was also used in the comic.




He comes packaged with some new parts for Sever which shows Fans Toys commitment to aftercare too, as well as swap-able cartoon eyes to re-create the controversial scene in the movie (some people hate that scene), and a little screw-driver to help replace it.  It’s a great add-on, but one I will never use as I don’t want to risk ruining the lovely chrome on his head.




If you’ve ever held the G1 toy, you know pretty much what to expect from the transformation.  I know I’m normally one to complain about toys packaged in robot mode, as the first transformation should be the reveal (stop me if you’ve heard this), but Stomp’s transformation is very intuitive and he was no problem to get into dinosaur mode WITHOUT INSTRUCTIONS, which to me is the mark of a fun transformation.




The legs can be tricky, and because I was relying too much on the G1 to guide me, I missed the thigh extender for a while, but everything comes together very nicely.  Like his DiBots counterparts, great efforts have been made to eliminate or minimise the amount of animal leg kibble visible on robot mode to stay faithful to his animation model, and they do this by once again following the path laid out by the excellent MP08 by utilising inner leg space, leg space which also contains his tail.  They fit a lot in, but again, everything works very intuitive and I guess it’s sad that we take this innovation for granted, but at least the figure does what we want it to.  For me, the greatest “eureka!” moment with this figure was the rear dinosaur legs, with the lower leg very neatly storing away inside the upper leg.  Genius!  Genuinely brilliant.  The way the “toes” splay on the front legs to assist the robot hand storage is also very neat.




In alt. mode, oodles of chrome which is mostly lost on the robot mode make this guy pop.  A lot.  His tail, upper torso and claws look great, as do his gold parts.  He has three points of articulation in his head and a working jaw, one which hides an almost-standard-by-now-gun-hidden-in-dinosaur-mouth.  His front legs are very poseable – a huge improvement on the G1 – with a thigh swivel and the toe movement helping to make Stomp a bit more stompy.  His rear legs are a bit disappointing, as they only have lateral movement, albeit two points of it.  His tail has two points of articulation, and is held nicely in place for plenty of tail-wagging.





I like this guy a lot, definitely my favourite of the set.  Both modes look great and he’s fun!  His rear robot mode torso maybe feels a bit hollow, but then that’s done to help his dinosaur head fold away to minimise kibble and it works well, but I will miss storing old chewing gum in his chest as I did with the G1 toys as a kid (what?!?).



30 years later… REVENGE!


If I had to nitpick one problem with this entire line, it would be that there is zero weapon storage.  That seems VERY, VERY odd in 2016.  I get that in some ways they are limited by the G1 inspired-transformation, but many other 3P companies still find a way to store weapons, and at the least Takara have figured out a way of sticking the weapons on car mode for an attack mode, and let’s face it, that DOES have a precedent with G1 Dinobots and their missile launchers being able to weaponise the dinosaurs, something that the Gigapower figure actually utilised (which you can read about here on the always excellent Square One blog by Maz.



Missile launcher in use!


I’ve often had this thing where I like Sludge to be MASSIVE, as in, bigger than Grimlock.  As such, for a while there I was considering waiting for the Gigapower Sludge.  Well, given that Fans Toys are 4/5 and Gigapower are still only 1/5 with what I felt was a way too big Snarl with Guttur, I think my choice to stick with Fans Toys is a wise one.



Nothing to do with this review, I just love this image.


Stomp and many other Fans Toys products are available from Kapow here.

TFC are a very hit and miss company for me.  I LOVED Hercules (the first 3rd party Devastator back from 2012) when it was released, and I’m the controversial one who slightly prefers it over Maketoys Giant.  Although Giant looks amazing in combined form (and I love that particular designer’s aesthetic), I prefer Hercules as toys to fiddle with, as I feel they look great in vehicle mode, great in robot mode (they’re starting to date now, mostly in the leg area) and are fun to transform.TFCHerc


TFC’s second combiner was Uranos (Superion), and while I absolutely adore the limb-bots for their ultra Earth-world realistic alt. modes and full of character robot-modes, there were a few odd choices along the way.  Their Silverbolt analogue was changed from the Concorde-style we all know and love into a Lockheed M-21 (incorrectly known by most as a Blackbird (probably because of X-Men), but from the same family as the A12 which evolved into the SR-71 later used as Jetfire in Revenge of the Fallen), and included a sixth bot – a D-21 drone – as a chest shield option way before Combiner Wars was even a glint in Hasbro’s eyes.  3rd Party really has been influential in a host of different ways.  Uranos left a bad taste in a lot of fans mouth’s by the inclusion of the “Wing’s of Uranos” add-on set (yes, it’s a astronomical pun, there’s a grammar one coming later too!), containing weapons, missiles and a more accurate chest-shield that many felt should have been included from the start – unlike the “Rage of Hercules” set which genuinely felt like an optional extra.


History lesson over?  Almost (and yes, I’m aware I use brackets too much, so much so I just got called in for a Parenthesis / Teacher meeting, ho-ho).


TFC released two more combiners with little fanfare.  Ares (Predaking) alongside War-Lord almost objectively lost the Predaking wars of 2014/15 to MMC’s mighty Feral Rex, but was still a well built and highly competent combiner which has it’s fans to this day – although with it’s ultra re-designed character design, I still argue it feels like an updated Beast Wars type of combiner rather than Predacons.  Almost simultaneously, they started work on their Defensor homage; Prometheus, a piece you don’t see all to often or hear about much, and you very rarely see for sale, perhaps because it sold in extremely low numbers, or because the people who do own it, love it?



Either way, TFC went from having THE must have toy of the year in 2012, to barely registering in the last few years of Best 3P toys as voted for by the fans, coupled with a single figure Reflector release that barely anyone liked and ended up being massively clearanced everywhere, and it’s not been a good few years for TFC.  With the rise of other combiners from more popular companies, and newcomers like Warbotron, is there still a place for TFC?


Enter Hades.  An extremely ambitious 6-bot combiner, as an homage to Takara’s Japanese exclusive Liokaiser, as seen here on the Kapow blog previously.

Let’s take a look at the first four releases so far.

H-01 Minos / Hellbat

A great first release, and what a joyful experience in hand.  The robot mode is very sleek and sexy, almost feeling like a femme-bot in the shoulders and waist (there I go body shaming – femme-bots can be ANY body shape, natch!).  His robot mode is almost too sleek, as I fear he’s a slash meme waiting to happen.  Like all of these guys, his head sculpt is fantastic.  I never understood why their robot heads of the G1 originals are so animalistic given their vehicle alt. modes, but I love it as it gives the entire team a unique look and shared identity.

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Jet mode is almost flawless, what can I say.  Landing gear is great, and although robot pieces are visible underneath the jet, that’s something that even the biggest MP jets suffer from, although I can’t help feeling some of the Uranos guys stored the arms more compact than this guy manages to.


His transformation isn’t perfect, as I often felt I was shaving that 1 mil of plastic off for extra clearance, but never in a way that is painful or detracts from the toy, it’s just that everything is very tight, solid, and has a place to go with not much wasted motion.  Overly designed?  Thankfully, no, and once you figure out how to rotate the cockpit down and around, using the clearance provided by the landing gear bay doors, you’re done with the tricky bit!


Five out of six of these Hades guys have very Combiner wars feeling legs, with them opening and rotating and locking the knee joints into place rather than the older slide and click joints we’ve seen loads of in the past. Now I’m unsure of the chronology, but looking at the lead-time for 3rd party toys I’m doubtful they had any Combiner Wars toys in hand by the time they were designing these, unless these are VERY fast-tracked.  If they’re rushed, they do not feel it at all, every inch of this guy feels very well designed and executed with zero corner cutting.  Unlike Combiner Wars, these guys have hands and feet too, not just solid molded blocks, so that’s a bonus!

H-02 Thanatos / Killbison

Because H-01 and H-02 were released together and Kapow were sold out of Minos, this guy was my first experience with any part of Hades.  Named after the Greek daemonic personification of death, Thanatos has a lot to live up to, and he delivers!  Not only is there a highly competent real-world looking tank, but what an amazing robot!  This is a huge character update, much needed compared to the original toy, and includes a few updates over the original character art too whilst staying VERY close, with an option of displaying his robot mode with tank treads folded down, or up the leg like his original design.  Great stuff.20160514_173508[1]



The transformation is fun, but fiddly at times as there is a lot packed in there, mostly due to his legs also storing his combined mode foot; it’s a great storage solution, but as the foot stores differently in robot and alt. mode, in can make it tricky and overly complicated until you get it down.  As the first transformation has to be into alt. mode (all toys should be packaged in alt. mode to make the robot reveal more fun and revealing than opening a box), panel-lining on the tank can be a little tricky and times, but no worse than the fun movie toys.  It’s definitely a huge leap in transformation over the original, which were great fun but very simple.



H-03 Cerberus / Jaruga

Time for the Marmite filling on this otherwise awesome sandwich.

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Jaruga is the weakest of the bunch by far.  His robot mode is great, if not particularly accurate with his massive child-bearing hips, and I’m sure they could have come up with any solution to improve those bloody floating wheels on his arms and hips, it is 2016 after all.  There is nothing wrong with the robot, it’s a solid build, full of personality, and in some ways his chunky nature gives him extra identity in a team of varied body-types; Minos the gymnast, Thanatos the fighter, Cerberus the power-lifter / sumo, and Rhadamanthus the all-round athlete Captain America leader type.  I’m reaching, won’t you reach with me?  His head sculpt is FLAWLESS at least.

In vehicle mode, he is even more disappointing.  I don’t get what that alternate mode is at all.  A buggy of some sort, I guess? But I only guess that because I know the original.  I was going to compare it to Energon Beachcomber as an insult, but actually, Energon Beachcomber has a better front end.  In it’s defense, I never really understood what the alt. mode of the original toy was supposed to be, but while that was built in a vacuum, this had a clear guideline to follow.  Am I being too harsh?  Agree / disagree, leave a comment.



So why the change?  Is this TFC slipping into Uranos territory again?  I don’t know, but my educated guess would be that every change is one of necessity, and they’ve put the stability and functionality of the combined mode ahead of the individual’s figures needs.  It’s not the worst reason in the world to do this, and the robot mode and combined mode are sure to be how the majority of people display these, but I can’t help feeling there was a better solution that would make this guy feel more like Jaruga, and less like a placeholder until something better comes along.

Until I build the combiner (as some people have done with 2 x Minos and 2 x Thanatos, but I like to preserve the combination as an occasion once all pieces are in), I won’t know for sure if these changes were valid.

H-04 Rhadamanthus / Leozack

The star of the line so far, make no mistake.  This figure should launch a thousand Botcon Leozack’s onto eBay, as they’re not needed anymore (and goes for a similar price to this, so I’m not sure why some people complain about the cost of 3rd party when this is infinitely better than an Energon Starscream repaint).


This guy is oozing with smarm; just look at him.


The only complaint I have about robot mode is that my preferred hands-on-hips arrogant pose does exacerbate his combiner clips on his triceps.  These are easy enough to hide in any of the other hundred poses I’ve displayed him in.

As great as his robot mode looks, his alt. mode looks equally great.  Undeniably an F-14, he invokes the best part of his original figure and Classics Jetfire, with a little bit of Brave Jet Sabre thrown in for good measure.  His colours absolute pop, and the attention the figure gives to making sure everything pops into place is brilliant.


Transformation wise, his legs deserve extra mention for the ingenious fold out panels which minimises and stabilises the storage of his arms in jet mode.  Sure, he still has a lot of robot kibble underneath, but at least it’s stored, not flapping about.  His hands can be a little fiddly to unstore once they’ve been folded away for alt. mode, so be careful there, these modern unposeable trigger hands can easily jam.  The storage of the combined mode head in his chest is fantastic, and the way his robot head stores inside that bigger head for alt. mode is also very cool.




Something to note on all these guys, is that their chests looks great, even without their Breastmaster partner.  This is great news, as the triple changing beasts looks great as a target master, or as an animal companion.  There are a lot of design liberties taken with all of the beast partners, but none of which detract from them, and not HAVING to display them as chest-plates like the G1 toys really opens things up.  Great stuff!


Another plus point; I transformed EVERY SINGLE ONE of these with NO INSTRUCTIONS.  Why am I shouting?  Because this feels like an accomplishment for a 3rd party combiner.  Not for me, but for them.  With something like Hellfire, the transformation is instinctive to anyone who has ever held a G1 Inferno, with these guys experience with the original toys counts for nothing, and the fact that out of the box you can transform these using only picture references, counts for a lot.  As mentioned early, I just wish they had been packaged in alt. mode first.


The colours are ever so slightly off, but with the rarity of the G1 toys and the cultural divide between G1 puritans and 3rd party fanboys or people bulking out their CHUG collection, how many people out their will own both?  And out of those people how many will be bothered by the colours?  30 years on, few toys are pantone matched to their original designs.  It doesn’t feel like the colour choice is an iGear fast-one, waiting for a “G1” re-release six months later, it feels like they picked the right colours for the toys they were making, rather than slavishly following the originals.


So here’s a question I will hear if I don’t answer it:  are these designed for MP or CHUG.  The answer as always is whatever YOU damn-well like.  Given how small the G1 toys are, and how big this is sizing up to be, these feel like Masterpieces, and I certainly can’t see anyone giving us a better Liokaiser anytime soon, and I’m not sure I’d ever want a bigger version.  Masterpiece is a brand or maybe a state-of-mind, rather than any specific scale or size, and let’s be honest; Transformers has NEVER had sensible scaling.  Ever.  Wrist rotation?  Check.  Ankle tilt?  Check.  Necks for full posing?  3 out of 4.  Individual fingers?  No.  Amazing toys?  ABSOLUTELY!  Why else would I spend 4 hours on a Saturday writing about them?

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I heartily recommend these to everyone, not just combiner fans, or Liokaiser fans, these are simply great figures for the adult collector who wants a little more from their combiners than what Hasbro offer.

With Aiakos and Hypnos still to come, things are looking good.  Very good.  I’m not merely saying that Hades is looking great, I’m saying that when  all is said and done, TFC and the fans might consider renaming Hades as TFC; Redemption.

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Hey, TFC, really want to really impress me?  How about H-07 DEATHCOBRA!!!

Kapow Toys have been supporting 3rd party toys and TFC since the very beginning, you can get all of Hades on their site and pre-order the rest, and the first parts of TFC’s forthcoming Poseidon adventure (Piranacon) right here.

In the world of Diaclone, there are two big toys that most people know of, even if they sometimes get them confused.  One is Great Robot Base, and the other is Robot Fortress X.



Great Robot Base is probably the better known of the two, as his head is used on some of the Diaclone logos, including on the new Diaclone Revival line, and because he is frankly, bloody massive, second only to Fortress Maximus in the 1980’s Takara scale.  Going in to Botcon 2016, I was interested in picking this guy up, and while there were some very good boxed and loose examples for sale, the prices were quite high and there were about six or so in the room.  Over the whole weekend, I only saw one Robot Fortress X.  Which I bought.


Which is why today, we’re taking a look at an original 1980 vintage Takara Diaclone Robot Fortress X.


Okay, the box isn’t in great shape, but then again it is only one year younger than me, and arguably I am in worse shape.  The window is cracked, and the entire top flap has separated from the box, but it still displays well and I’m very happy with the great box art.  Photoshop has a lot to answer for, I miss packaging that looks like this.




Out of the packet, the first thing we’ll look at are the Diaclone Drivers, 5 of them, all with die-cast heads with incredible detail, and magnets on the feet, which help to keep them in position when they’re displayed in and around Robot Fortress X, or any of the other Diaclone toys.  These are surprisingly heavy, and I can tell straight away that the Diaclone driver I got package with my Diakron Red Sunstreaker a couple of years back is a fake.  These are not!


Lets jump to base mode next, so we can see some of that Diaclone driver interaction.  You’ll notice that while the box isn’t in the best condition, the toy is ABSOLUTELY STUNNING!  Yes, I am excited about this one.  Sue me.



The base mode keeps on giving, with plenty of hidden interactions, to the point that I’m not sure I’ve discovered them all.  Below we see a shot of the Drivers all hanging out in his chest section, that slightly chrome looking sticker sheet they’re standing on is actually magnetised, holding them nicely in place.


To start with, the little tanks in the feet shoot out when you press a little button on the back.  Great fun!  And with some force too!


The gun turrets are fun for driver interaction, and I’m sure most people will be able to see similarities between the little cockpits and a certain trailer for a certain Autobot leader.




Having had zero experience with this toy, I couldn’t help thinking there was more to the base than meets the eye I was discovering, and sure enough, there is!  Some bits I’d left in the box for safe-keeping.




You take these little pods (which you can pop a Diaclone driver in) and you can maneuver them all over Fortress X’s body using a system of elevators and release catches.  You can drop them into his shoulders and they’ll pop into his hand cockpits, or reverse them into the leg using the tank and raise them all the way up into the chest section, around, and back down the other leg.  It’s an amazingly cool – if totally pointless – play-feature, one which I’m sure as a kid I would have got huge amounts of fun out of, and something that would be near impossible to replicate in a modern rendition of third party toy, because of the amount of articulation we have in modern toys.
It’s a hard system to describe, thankfully, the lovely original advert for this bad-boy shows it pretty well.

If you watched the above video, you’ll have noticed this guy doesn’t really transform.  At all.  He sort of parts form, if you can call pulling off his legs and sticking them elsewhere.  Still, the way the chest opens up is cool, and the shin panels pop off so you can watch the pods zip about, so he sort of looks different I guess.  The face just opens up, and the arms don’t even need the amount of movement they show in the video, they just fold down.




Look at this guys face!!!  It’s beautiful.  As an add bonus, look at the reflection?!?  How nice is this chrome?  Funny story; I’m not sure what they used to put in chrome back in the eighties so it ages better than Beast Wars chrome, but whatever it is, it triggers all sorts of warnings from the TSA.  Whilst passing through security Stateside, I took this guy in my carry on luggage to protect the box (I always put modern stuff in my main suitcase), well something on the security X-ray didn’t scan right, and they pulled the suitcase, turfed out all the clothes I’d used to pad the case, and pulled this guy out of the box right in front of me, leading me to very politely ask them to be careful with the box because it’s thirty years old and worth a fair bit of money.  The woman was very understanding and let me repack it, after she’d swabbed the chrome and put it in for analysis.  The good news is; Robot Fortress X has not been handling explosives before we got on the flight!  Phew!





In robot mode, I think he looks stunning.  Just all sorts of awesomeness in his design, and I just want to pick it up and fiddle about with it.  To help give you guys an idea of scale, he is a tiny bit bigger than G1 Scorponok.




Here’s a picture of the back of him, just because you never see this shot and there is so much detailing.  The care and attention to detailing over every square inch is second to none, no corners cut; this was clearly a labour of love for the designer, backed fully by Takara.



Check out the detailing on the chest panels, and that cute little factory applied “X” on the chrome.

Overall, I absolutely adore this figure.  I think most people know I’ve been on a vintage kick the last five years or so, and this guy doesn’t disappoint.  It’s so rare for me to pick up a vintageTransformers toy these days where I have had zero experience of the mold, so this piece of Takara history is a real treat for me.  It’s big, impressive, heavy thanks to LOTS of die-cast, shiny, and very fun.

Sure, it doesn’t really fit in with Transformers at all, and even the Autobot Mini-cars would struggle to interact with this playset, so I can totally see why Hasbro rejected this one for the line during it’s infancy, as it doesn’t really fit in with the play pattern of G1 toys at all (even partsforming master Omega Supreme has distinctly different forms). However, I view this as one of the vital pieces of the puzzle on the way towards Metroplex, which would later lead us to Fortress Maximus.

Although, this piece does make me think Hasbro missed a trick by not retooling / redesigning a Diaclone Driver into Spike or Sparkplug back in the day, I know as a kid my brother and I really wanted small figures to fit in the vehicles and Dinobots, even if I was completely unaware of the Diaclone origins.

He’s an expensive toy these days, and he doesn’t show up in great condition often, but a bit of patience and willingness to haggle saw me get this on the Sunday of Botcon, for HALF of the price the dealer was asking on the Friday afternoon.  Bargains can happen.

Unfortunately, this guy didn’t come with any of his paperwork (I would love a genuine Diaclone catalogue), so no instructions and no stickers, however, it did come with four sheets of uncut reproduction sticker sheets, so I might fire one over to the guys at Toyhax if they need it.  I’ll probably never put them on, but it is very tempting to do so as stickers from back in the day were awesome, and the pods especially are desperately bare without them.

You can pre-order the new series of Diaclone Diabattles from Kapow Toys right here, or you might prefer a Diaclone flavour with a G1 repaint scheme courtesy of Fans Project’s Warbot Dai-Z.  I’ve ordered both, because I’m insanely excited for Diaclone Revival (with a real mixed feelings about whether they might do reissues), and I’m always down for more Warbots from FP!


Finally, I’ll leave you with a shot of the boxes art, just for fun, and a copyright shot, because some people love that stuff.



Amazing box artwork.


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