Friday, May 8, 2015

Still Looking Back At 2014

2014 was a big year for Transformers. It’s no surprise that of all the toys I got last year, Transformers came out on top in terms of quantity and money spent. Last year saw the release of the 4th Transformers Movie, The Age of Extinction. I didn’t really have high expectations for the accompanying toy line. In my opinion, the Transformers movie toys had been becoming worse with every movie so my expectations for the 4th movie line were quite low….

I wasn’t very excited with the new Hasbro trend of focusing on toys that were easier to transform and so on. So when the new toys hit, I was pleasantly surprised at what we got. The main draw of the latest movie was that it would finally feature the fan favorite Dinobots. Aside from them though new movie characters were also introduced from the bounty hunter Lockdown, to new Autobots Drift, Crosshairs and Hound. Being the completist that I am, I got all of them in toy form. And I have to say, while they aren’t the BEST Transformers out there, they certainly weren’t the worst.

First of all, the new “car” bots, Drift, Crosshairs, Hound & Lockdown were all quite nice. Yes they all had simpler transformations and a lot of “cheats” but, their sculpts were good and they looked good on display. Some will say that Crosshairs would be the weakest of the bunch but I would actually call him my favorite, so yeah no regrets here.

Then we get the Dinobots. For the movie toys, Hasbro had this irritating trend of never really completing factions. We never got all of the constructicons in similar scale from the 2nd movie, and they released such low quantities of the third Wrecker Leadfoot from the 3rd movie, that he was practically impossible to find. So I was quite surprised when Hasbro not only released toys of all the dinobots featured in the movie (that would be Grimlock, Slug, Strafe & Scorn) but added more none movie Dinobots in Snarl, Sludge and Slash. Again they all sported simpler transformations but for the most part, they were all nicely done and sculpted. Most of them were small (deluxe sized) but for the ones that counted, Grimlock their leader & Sludge, a sauropod, were sized appropriately as voyagers.

In an interesting note, years ago, when I was doing a lot of 3D Transoformers (you can see my work here). I made my own Dinobots to compliment the original five. I created an Anklyosaurus named Slam and a Velociraptor named Slash who sported twin hand blades. Fast forward to 2014 and Hasbro introduces a new Dinobot, a Veloceraptor sporting twin blades as well…named Slash. Hmmmmm, now m wondering if I can demand royalties.

Now the movie toys were just the tip of the iceberg of new Transformers for 2014, there are a couple more Transformer toys worth mentioning. The first is Masterpiece Wheeljack. Now I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the Masterpiece series car robots are the BEST Transformer toys out there. PERIOD. Just like any Transformers in the Masterpiece line, they all sport real life accurate alt modes and cartoon accurate robot modes. They have superior articulation and are not too easy or difficult to transform. They’re just perfect. And just like Sideswipe & Prowl before him, Wheeljack is another homerun.

The second Transformer is generations Arcee. Now THIS is someone Transformer fans have been waiting for since 1986 when she made her debut in the Transformers animated movie. Yes, we’ve gotten quite a number of “arcee” toys, but they were all different characters that more often transformed into motorcycles. We never got an honest to goodness movie faithful Arcee that transformed into a futuristic pink car until now. And I have to say, the wait was definitely worth it. Deluxe Arcee is everything you could ever ask for in a straight up Arcee toy. One of the best decisions I made in 2014 was to spend a little extra to order her online because to this day, she has yet to make an appearance on retail shelves here in Manila….and when (or if) she ever does….she’s gonna be snatched up immediately.

Finally, we come to THE BEST Transformers I got in 2014. Unsurprisingly, the best “Transfomers” I got weren’t made or officially licensed by Hasbro.

For the past years, third party companies have been churning out fan designed “transformers” that were more often than not superior to anything Hasbro managed to release. How these companies are manage to do what they do without getting sued by Hasbro remains a mystery, but what matters really is that it’s us fans who really benefit from them.

In 2013, I completed my first fan made gestalt/combiner in Uranos or not Superion. But he was not the only fan made gestalt I decided to invest in. In 2014, I completed Suprion’s arch nemesis, Intimidator or not-Menasor. This one was made by one of the first and leading third party companies Fansproject. And their experience and skill shows through in this toy. Aside from size (he is unfortunately made in a different scale) Intimidator outclasses Uranos in almost every way. His individual parts are very well done, although main component Motor Master is a bit more complicated than I’d like. Most importantly though, the combined mode itself, the Intimidator is just perfect. He is solid and well balanced. He won’t fall apart on you and is just a joy to pose and place in dynamic poses. But as fantastic as Fansproject Intimidator is, he wasn’t the best Transformer I got in 2014.

Every year, these third party companies get bolder and more ambitious and since they all operate independently, some overlapping of characters is expected. In a span between 2012-2013, three third party companies announced that would be making their own versions of the Predacons/Predaking. Now I never had the original G1 version so investing in one of these fan made sets was a no brainer for me. After looking through all three versions, I decided to put my money on Mastermind Creation’s Feralcons who would combine to form Feral-Rex (as a tried and true tactic in avoiding Hasbro’s lawyers, these companies had to resort to more creative names for their robots, but really, we knew who they were).

Anyway, collecting the complete team took over a year. That’s just how it goes with these companies, and given their higher cost, a lengthy release schedule was perfectly fine with me. I got my first Feral-con sometime early 2013 and it was only towards the end of 2014 that I got the final one to finally complete my Feral Rex. And I have to say, it took forever, it cost a lot, but it was money well spent. Feral…who am I kidding….PREDAKING is a BEAST. As it stands now, he is the crown jewel of my Transformers collection. Everything from the individual beast & robot modes, to their combined form is perfect (even as I’m writing this I am gushing) and ultimately this guy takes the crown for the best toy I got in 2014.

to be continued