Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Top 15 of 2015 part 3

Every year it’s becoming a more arduous task to sit down and write about my favorite purchases in the last 365 days. But when you’re an involved and obsessive collector like myself, there is a tendency to be always on the lookout for the next big thing coming and losing track of what you’ve already got. So it’s always good to take time out, assess and appreciate all the good stuff you were blessed with in the past year. New baby aside, I would have to say that last year was a very “Transforming” year, as one toyline re-affirmed itself as number one in my rather diverse collection. So without further ado, here’s the final part of the best of 2015.

5. Marvel Select Hawkeye
In 2012, Hawkeye starred in his own critically acclaimed comic written by Matt Fraction. Unlike previous Hawkeye titles, this one presented the Avenging archer in a simpler setting, basically showing what he did in his free time when he wasn’t off avenging. It was an interesting take on Hawkeye, portraying him as a more down to earth relatable character who got his ass kicked almost as often as he kicked ass.

Anyway, Marvel Select released a very nice Hawkeye figure based on this series and they did a hell of a job. The sculpt is done so well that he looks like he literally stepped out of the comic book. I knew I had to get this one since I was a big fan of the series. It’s a really nice figure with a lot of cool accessories including an alternative head, individual arrows and his faithful companion, Pizza Dog!

Once I had him on hand, I knew I had to get the perfect companion piece for this modern rendition of Hawkeye….the CLASSIC version! Luckily this one was readily available at a cheap price online, so I snagged me one of those too. Now this version came with an amazing display stand portraying a defeated Ultron at Hawkeye’s feet. Together, these 2 Hawkeyes make one hell of a display piece!

4. Combiner Wars Protectobots/Defensor
For Transformers, 2015 was the year of the Combiners Wars and boy did I go all in on this. I was able to complete 4 combiner teams in 2015, and while all have them had their pros and cons….my favorite hands down would have to be Defensor.

I don’t know what it is, maybe it’s because they transformed into less exciting rescue vehicles, but I have always thought that the Protectobots and by extension their combined form Defensor didn’t get as much love as fellow combiner teams like the Aerialbots and Stunticons. I think it was for that reason that I sort of gravitated to them more than the others.

So you can imagine how excited I was when at 3am on a Saturday morning, I found out through a Facebook post that the Protectobots would be released at a special Toys R’Us launch at 10am that same morning. The best part was that this was totally unexpected since they weren’t scheduled to be released anytime soon. In fact we got them months before they were released in the US! After what seemed to be an eternity, I managed to make it to the store just in time to be 4th in line to get my Protectobots!

The selling point of the Combiner Wars toys for me was that they weren’t too overly complicated like most third party combiners were. It was FUN to transform each individual robot and form them into their combined form over and over again. And Defensor and the Protectobots were no exception. Whoever designed the main torso transformation of Defensor also deserves an extra pat on the back for a simple but smart way he made the firetruck ladder wrap around the body forming the main chestplate, crotch area and head in a couple quick turns. Very nice!

Finally, one thing I especially liked about this modern version of Defensor was that they sorta “fixed” my biggest problem with this team. They had one member, Groove who transformed into a motorcycle as well as a leg for Defensor. Unfortunately in order to match in size with the other leg, formed by member Streetwise who transformed into a police car, Groove had to transform into a majorly oversized bike, which looked…odd. To remedy this, Hasbro created a new member, Rook, who transformed into an armored vehicle and matched up better in size to Streetwise. But they didn’t totally kick Groove to the curb. They still included a Groove as a much smaller member who instead formed the chest plate of Defensor which in my opinion worked better over all!

3. Ocular Max Sphinx
(Masterpiece Mirage)
When it comes to observing third party Transformers releases, one will most likely notice that they tend to follow similar trends. A few years back most of these companies where all producing combiner teams, then they moved onto Dinobots. And now the trend in late 2015 going into this year seems to be all things Masterpiece.

Now I would always tell myself that no matter how good these third party companies have gotten, the only Masterpiece Transformers I would ever consider getting would be those officially made by Takara and that was that. But at the rate Takara was releasing their Masterpieces (about 3-4 a year) I was getting a little impatient….and curious.

I had heard a LOT of great things about Sphinx, which was third party Ocular Max’ version of Masterpiece Mirage. Now Mirage has always been one of my favorite characters so in the end, I finally caved. When my wife asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I saw the opportunity to get this guy and so I took it.

OK so I will be the first to say that he’s not perfect. From the get go I always thought his head was a little too…big and his chest proportions a little too narrow. But that’s just nitpicking on my part…in hand he is a great toy and a worthy rendition of Mirage. He fits in perfectly on any Masterpiece shelf and the added die-cast parts give him an added heft. His transformation like most Masterpiece cars is just right, not too difficult but not too simple. A perfect balance. Takara would have to pull out all the stops to outdo this one.

2. Combiner Wars Constructicons/Devastator
Devastator was the first official combiner in the Transformers toyline. So it is only fitting that he be made the star of the entire Combiner Wars line. That was most likely the line of thinking of the Hasbro toy designers when they decided to finally give us a modern version of this green giant. And boy is this guy BIG, composed of six fully sized voyager figures, Devastator towers over all the other combiners in my collection. He even manages to make my third party Feral Rex look small.

Now while his size does make him stand out, the real beauty of this toy is the fact that one he is not overly complicated like most other combiners. A common complaint by many is that his individual Constructicon members are TOO simple, but I think they’re fine and look even better with a third party add-on kit like that of Perfect Effect. He’s FUN to transform, disassemble and reassemble over and over again. And the best part is that this guy is STABLE. He can hold more complicated poses without tipping over and his individual parts will not fall apart on you.

And finally, this guy comes at a great price, which is almost a third or fourth the cost of most of the other third party Devastators out there. You really cannot go wrong with this guy.

As of this writing, Devastator is currently the biggest Transformer I own and is only beaten by pure mass by Castle Grayskull as the largest toy in my collection. Looking back at the past year, it seemed like a no brainer to crown this guy as the best toy I got in 2015. And truthfully, he would’ve been my top toy of the year hands down…if not for a last minute release that I managed to get my hands on right before the year ended…..

1. Bad Cube Sunsurge
(Masterpiece Sunstreaker)
When I mentioned earlier that I would never really indulge in any 3rd party Masterpiece Transformers, I always had one exception in mind. After Takara released their first car masterpiece, Sideswipe, I had high high hopes that his twin brother, my favorite Transformer of all time, Sunstreaker would soon follow. But as time passed and masterpiece after masterpiece was released, Sunstreaker was nowhere to be seen. Then talk started going out that a Masterpiece Sunstreaker was not going to happened since Lamborghini would not allow Takara to release a modified version of their car….which was what Sunny transformed into.

So I told myself that if any 3rd party company would ever produce a masterpiece Sunstreaker I would bite. Enter some third party company I have never heard of, Omnigonix and their MP version of Sunstreaker, Spinout. They released a few pics of their prototype early in 2015 and announced his release date to be sometime in September that same year. But September came and went and Spinout was nowhere to be found. Then all of a sudden, another third party company, with a proven track record, Bad Cube announced their own version of MP Sunstreaker, Sunsurge and the race for the first MP Sunstreaker was on!

Truth be told, there was something a little off with both Spinout and Sunsurge, maybe I was just being biased but I was hoping for more from an MP Sunstreaker. Regardless I was still determined to get at least one of them, and having such low EQ I figured it would be the first one that was actually released. As the year was winding down, news from either company was scarce and so I figured I would have to wait for 2016 before I could get my hands on an MP Sunstreaker.

Then out of nowhere, in early December news broke out that one of the companies was just about ready send out their first shipment of their version of MP Sunstreakers! A week later I was able to locate a local seller who was actually expecting some stock in a few days! And on the 24th of December it arrived and I was finally able to get my hands on…..Bad Cube’s Sunsurge!

Let me tell you, the moment I opened up this toy and played around with him, I knew I had found the perfect MP Sunstreaker. In hand he looked a LOT better than all the pictures of him online. Although the transformation was a “bit” fiddly, it wasn’t too complicated. And it was very solid in both robot and vehicle modes.

The one thing I love about Sunsurge is that he FEELS like an official Takara Masterpiece since he doesn’t have any die-cast parts, which seems to be the trend with most third party companies. Well I for one think die-cast is overrated and is less reliable over time. So I am quite happy that Sunsurge has none. He also sports some silicon-based tires, which feel better than plastic and are supposedly more durable than rubber. And he also has some nicely chromed parts which is fitting for this character.

Ironically, there is now news going around that Takara actually DOES have plans of releasing their own official version of Sunstreaker. Well that’s OK, they’ve got a LOT of work to do if they’re going to top Sunsurge and if they actually manage to come up with a better one, I wouldn’t mind getting that too (hell I’d even consider getting Omingonix’s Spinout if they ever release him). But in the meantime I am very very VERY happy with my current Masterpiece Sunsurge, who tops my list as the best toy purchase for me in 2015. They really “can’t beat the best!”

together at last!