Wednesday, October 6, 2021

The Bruticus Wars Part 1: It’s All In The Hips

Due to the finite number of “G1” characters out there vs the infinite number of companies in the world of 3rd party Transformers, it’s not uncommon to have multiple versions of the same character all competing for our money at the same time. For many collectors, these are fondly referred to as the “(insert character's name) wars”. While for the most part, this wealth of options is a great thing, for those with a more limited budget this basically means a lot of careful discernment and self rationalization to defend to ourselves the choices that we ultimately make.

Anyway, one of the more notable wars that occurred back in 2017 was “The Bruticus Wars”. For those not familiar, Bruticus was the combined form of the military themed Decepticon team called the Combaticons. And that year, two 3rd party companies, Unique Toys and Zeta Toys set off to make the ultimate Masterpiece styled Bruticus.

So before anything else, let's give a little background on the two companies.

Technically, Unique Toys was the older and more established company having made their debut in 2013 with their version of another Decepticon team called the Predacons and their combined form Predaking. Unfortunately, reviews on that one weren’t very good and they were easily overshadowed by two other arguably better Predaking releases around the same time (the Predaking Wars if you will).

Since then, they had sort of learned from their mistakes and the later releases got better quality and design wise. Regardless, though, nothing they had done up to that point had really interested me so I had no first hand experience with any of their products.

Zeta Toys on the other hand was a much “newer” company….in name. The company was actually composed of toy designers who had recently left a much older company called Toy World over some pay disputes. So while Zeta itself was technically a new company, the work of their designers under Toy World was pretty well known by collectors, and boy did they make quite the impression before breaking out on their own.

Quite possibly the most popular release by Toy World up to this time is their take on a true Masterpiece scaled Devastator, called Constructor. When it came to 3rd party Transformers, Constructor was a true game changer in the industry. Prior to his release in 2016, all unofficial combiner toys basically tapped out at a max height of around 14-15 inches. The reason for this was a practical one. Taller combiners meant bigger and heavier robots, and when you have a big heavy robot composed of 5 smaller robots...well, stability becomes a major issue. And this was basically the case with almost all combiner toys up to this point. They were mostly all unstable messes. But Constructor basically broke the mold coming in at a hulking 20”.

So how did Toyworld manage to produce a huge robot that didn’t just topple over? Well they employed an old and sometimes controversial design choice in order to keep their giant pretty stable….partsforming. Basically the combined form relied on parts that were made just soley for that mode, specifically a solid and dedicated hip and upper leg portion. This was opposed to the traditional design of using the main robot form the entire torso for the limb robots to attach to. While on paper this made sense, in the real world, using the torso-bot’s regular sized hips to handle all the added weight and pressure of the for other limb-bots was usually asking too much and which led to a lot of the stability issues. Aesthetically as well, this usually also made the combined form look proportionally off.

So yeah, Constructor was the biggest combiner to date, and the most stable to boot. And everyone knew that the guys behind Zeta Toys were responsible for it. And a year later, they had their sights set on Bruticus.

Now given the track records of the 2 companies, it would seem like pretty much a no brainer as to whose Bruticus would be the superior one. That is until the first pictures came out of their initial robots.

Out of the gate, Zeta showed their versions of the Combaticons Blast Off and Vortex who traditionally formed the arms of Bruticus. And they were quite...unimpressive in my opinion. Both looked extra bulky and chalk full of extra kibble in robot modes. And based on their Vortex whose helicopter mode looked more like Blackout from the live action 07 movie rather than his more simpler G1 copter design, they seemed to be going for a more stylized modern approach to their vehicle designs.

Unique toys on the other hand went with the two Combaticon leg robots, Swindle and Brawl...and they looked amazing! For me it was love at first sight. And just like that, based on these two releases I decided to go with their Bruticus set instead. And I didn’t waver in my choice even when it was revealed that their combined Bruticus would be significantly shorter than Constructor (Devastator) at 16” and employ the traditional combiner engineering. I fell that hard for their Brawl and Swindle.

The main reason that I was OK with my Bruticus being shorter than Constructor was that I was simultaneously all in on another Decepticon combiner set, the X-Transbots Stunticons. And their combined Menasor was going to be smaller than Constructor as well so I was good. I equated it to a Pacific Rim 1 vs 2 situation. Since Devastator was the original combiner, it was OK for him to be bigger. Like the newer Jaegers in the 2nd Pacific Rim movie, Menasor and Bruticus were more advanced combiners, who were smaller, compact but more efficient.

And so with that, I went full steam ahead down the Unique Toys route and in about a year’s time. I had the complete set and was very happy with my choice…..until I wasn’t.