Friday, 30 December 2016

The Top 10 Transformers Of 2016 - Part 1

2015, I think it can be agreed, was one of the best years the Transformers collector had seen in recent memory. Casting your eyes back to the various 'Best Of's' really does make you realise just how good we had it. And how hard it was to keep up.

Then 2016 rocked up and asked it to hold its beer.

Now, an accelerated evolution of awesome shouldn't really be a criticism, but in the worldwide spirit of kicking the past twelve months in the dick, I might need to have a quiet word with Transformers 2016 down a dark alley.

For this riotous blooming of toys from both official channels and the naughty boys clubs brought with it the caveat of knowing you were never getting close to a sniff of everything great the year had to offer. Plus it's easy to forget certain earlier releases in favour of 2016's fevered final thrusts. All of which has seen my article double in size. Behold the highly salted tears of the pampered western man.

And on that note, I look forward to hearing and invite you to share your own thoughts regarding the year in collecting.. I know damn well they're going to be different to mine with this embarrassment of riches the toy gods have bestowed upon us.

So now, blending my personal best of Hasbro, Takara and 3P into one gloriously toxic plastic drop, allow me to present the Drinking About Robots take on the Class Of 2016.

10: MP-27 Ironhide

We'll start with the one that for all intents and purposes snuck a soft reboot into the Masterpiece line and in doing so managed to become one of the most debated and divisive figures of the year. Ironhide - with his super simplistic looks and lack of sculpted detailing - heralded a focus on Sunbow animation accuracy to a fault, a theme that would continue with Laserwave and Inferno, and a cracking effort given that key elements of his robot mode design are not very animation accurate at all. Yes, tripping up along the way like the clunky old fusion cannon fodder he is, Ironhide manages to deliver a couple of visual eyesores on his hips and ass that are completely at odds with the aims of his overall aesthetic.

'What's wrong with my ass? You don't like this ass? You can't even afford this ass'

But it's better to look at what Ironhide is rather than what he isn't. And what he is is premier toy engineering with a wonderfully inventive transformation, mad mass shifting skills and a love for dispensing liquid so great that Takara devoted an entire tray of accessories to it. Big Red does appreciate a good nozzle selection.

No no no.. you're doing it wrong! You're using the accessories incorrectly..!

MP-27 is beautifully painted, the finish of which does help offset the paucity of detail in his robot mode, and above all else he's a joygasm to play with and pose. The visual flaws might keep the figure in a no man's land for some, though I think that's part of the guy's charm. And maybe he's the bridge the previous Masterpiece aesthetic had to cross, for better or worse, to get us to Inferno. Whatever. Ironhide is a brilliant toy, and that's why he makes the list.

9: Combiner Wars Shockwave

My love for 3P Legends figures is well documented, but when Hasbro rise to the occasion, man do they bring the goods. While perhaps appealing to some as mere embellishment to the Combiner Wars Bruticus gestalt, it is on his own merits that this lil' Shockwave truly thrives, and amongst some top flight competition that he really shines.

'frens.. pls.. diplomacy'

Sporting his signature G1 toy deco (though also available in cartoon and Action Master flavours as well), this cybernetic cyclopean boasts ample ball jointed articulation that lends a surprising amount of character to his poses, quite the feat when you're dealing with a guy with no face. The translucent parts across the figure do a sterling job in lifting that dark metallic purple and there's a decent amount of well applied paint to bring out the excellent sculpting on this palm sized pragmatist.

He wraps things up with a simple but rewarding transformation, a space gun mode that does the natty little CHUG trick of deviating from while remaining faithful to its source material and with a quality that harkens back to the highs of ROTF's Scout Class, Combiner Wars Shockwave represents the peak of this years official Legends material.

8: Unique Toys Buzzing

So much gear came out this year that it's very easy to forget the stuff that wowed you in the earlier months in favour of new toy joy. Not so with this one. Unique Toys released Buzzing way back in January, and he made one hell of an impression on some while seemingly slipping under the radar of others. I always thought he'd become a sleeper hit, but opinion seems to have cooled on him. Maybe it's that pseudo Masterpiece styling getting on people's tits as Takara edge closer to creating living animation cels. Maybe it's that release date.

Nonetheless, Buzzing nails the character of Blurr without giving everything over to onscreen accuracy. He's an eye catching beauty (dat head sculpt.. the metallic blue..), fun to play with and pose, has a dead clever transformation and an utterly rubbish Targetmaster. We've been here before, eh? Yes, this one's definitely cut from the same cloth as UT's sister company DX9, and the parallels between Buzzing and Carry are pretty apparent when appraising the two.

Criticisms about his flat chest and height are valid, though the deeper UT and DX9 get into their take on Season 3 of the cartoon, the less the latter becomes a concern and the former was always going to be subjective.

Bottom line, his look and feel is top shelf. I knew Buzzing had earned his place in this top 10 when I picked him up in February, and he has continued to fend off the competition ever since. An excellent figure.

Could've shown the Targetmaster, would've ruined your life. Enjoy instead this superfluous Metroplex transformation cog.

7: Maketoys Cross Dimension Rioter Despotron

A real toss of a coin between this and his opposite, as both are very well realised and significant statements of intent.

Rioter Despotron and Striker Manus are new takes on Megatron and Optimus Prime respectively, and when you spearhead a new CHUG scaled line with those two, one takes away the impression its creators are not messing about.

Then you get them in hand and realise how much meaningful articulation is packed into their designs, how play focused they are and just how loudly they sing as action figures as much as they do transforming robots.

Rioter nudges his rival off the page by being a better Transformer than he is. His conversion is less fiddly and more intuitive. There's also the fact that the end result is a double barreled space flintlock. This is one hell of a gun mode, ladies and gents, the kind of piece a Classics Megatron wishes it could be and the sort of sci fi hardware that could've easily been lifted from the set of Firefly.

But let's not dismiss the insane amount of visual goings on elsewhere, including the subtle theft of Optimus Prime's signature torso design, the purple Matrix titty detail and the energon blade he sheathes in the business end of his boomstick.

And while they should've painted his face silver and his level of poseability doesn't quite reach the heights of his heroic counterpart, it's also apparent that Rioter Despotron can't help looking better at doing things not quite as well. It's a hard life being a bastard.

Look at him, mimicking Buzzing's pose from above while taunting us with his naughty stolen Matrix.
Absolute bastard.

6: Iron Factory Lord Scorpion

And him..! S'going on here, eh?

Any other year and you might be looking at Number 1 material right here, but we're not even halfway through the countdown and this is where one of the greatest figures in a while has found itself. Now you can go discriminating against and tweeting bloody murder towards those four little numbers like all the bad of the previous 2,015 years didn't happen, but in terms of the robotic paraphernalia we purchase to lift and buoy our spirits, this has been vintage. Some cracking films too. And it's quite apparent that in the face of adversity, not all of us turned into dickheads either. So lets enjoy the winnings if but for a moment. Our time is fleeting.

Lord Scorpion is a tremendous achievement within the smaller scale of transforming robots and as Iron Factory's ambition has grown, so too have their figures. Catching the eye of, then rubbing up many a casual buyer the wrong way with the size he turned out at (think a short, bulky Deluxe), it should be noted that within the IDW universe Iron Factory are kinda building homage to, Lord Scorpion's height is almost perfect.

He scales wonderfully well going up against the likes of the Asura Knights and City Commander (particularly the latter as both designs take significant cues from the Spotlight: Ultra Magnus comic). Less successful alongside a can of Coke or the Classics collection he has no place in. But enough of that. Let's talk toy.

Deep breath..

He just feels so damn good in hand. He manages the three modes with aplomb and conversion from one to another is a breeze. He can only hold his gun in his right claw. The silver paint and use of translucent orange on top of it pop like fireworks against the base purple and green. He cannot cook any kind of decent meal though I am impressed with the unexpected range of movement in his claw tips.

Less of a city, more of an oversized shopping centre ((c) Galvatron; The Rebirth Pt 3). Great bargain sandwiches, best price.

He comes with a little tool that hides in his claws allowing him to wield almost any 5mm weaponry. His scorpion mode has the correct number of legs and they are strong enough to freely support his bulk. He has a Headmaster smaller than your pinky fingernail. His articulation is more than I expected yet some of the joints are far, far tighter than they ever needed to be. And though manipulating those joints can be initially more intimidating than passing the bad lads hanging around outside the shop when you were a kid, we still got our Wham bars and Kola Kubes didn't we?

Lord Scorpion isn't perfect but he's pitched his tent somewhere near the peak of Win Mountain. Iron Factory have raised the bar yet again.

And that's Part 1. Agree? Of course not! Variety is the spice of life after all. Keep an eye out for the Top 5 coming very, very soon.

Why, it's here in fact! Clickety click.

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