Article: "Ben's Top 10 Transformers Toys of 2013"
2013 is quickly coming to a close, and with it a very interesting year in "Transformers" toy history. As the economic constraints of a so-so economy put the squeeze on the "Transformers" toy line (and many others), many changes occurred in the "Transformers" toy line. Some were good (a wider selection of "Generations" characters for instance), others not so much (lighter figures, more "hollow" figures). Still, as a whole it was a pretty incredible year for "Transformers" in general and I wanted to share what I felt were my Top Ten figures of the year! There were a few general guidelines when I made this list:
- The sculpt needed to have come out in 2013, meaning reissues and redecos of figures from previous years were out of the Top Ten (though there is an "honorable mention" category at the end)
- I have excluded construction sets (KREO and Construct-Bots) from the list because they're in a category all their own and the play pattern is quite different
- This list represents official product only, no third party figures
As with my toy reviews, these represent my opinion only. No doubt your personal Top Ten will be different than mine on many fronts and that's totally cool. I just wanted to share the "Top Ten" that made me happy this year, but there's no "right or wrong" here, just appreciation for our favorite Robots in Disguise. Mind you, deciding on just ten favorite toys was tough and I found myself splitting hairs quite a bit. If I've reviewed the toy named, I'll link to the review in the header. Okay, enough yip yapping, here we go!
I know what you're thinking. "Why in the world is a Legends Class figure on this list?!". Fair question given that the "Legends" Class is somewhat of a lower end price point for the "Transformers" toy line. However, I think the designers deserve credit for taking the Legends Class and reworking it to include figures that are roughly Commander Class in design with a smaller, transformable partner. In the case of Starscream, the figure was based on a design from the IDW comics that has since been abaondoned. I love seeing beautiful designs get an official toy and Starscream is one such example. Even better however was his "partner": Waspinator! Waspinator is a beloved character among fans of "Beast Wars", but what tickles me is how utterly meta it is to have these two together in one pack. In brief: In the "Beast Wars" episode "Possession", the "Ghost" of Starscream takes over Waspinator's body and wreaks havoc among the Maximals and Predacons. This episode is a fan favorite, but also linked the two characters together forever. This two pack is a callback to that episode but also shows the two in (somewhat) of the scale they would be in proportion to each other since Predacons and Maximals are smaller than their Decepticon and Autobot ancestors. This two pack is a winner in my book!
9. Beast Fire Predaking (Predacons Rising)
A lot of folks were not particularly impressed with the Voyager Class Predaking figure due in part to its size. The character was presented as a gigantic beast in the TV show, and many felt the character deserved a figure that was also large and towering over other action figures from the line. Enter: Beast Fire Predaking. This gigantic version of Predaking is an "Ultimate" Class figure and has both the bulk, length and wingspan to echo the grandeur of the TV show's animated model. I also appreciate how he feels very solid and it's an original sculpt, not just an upscaled version of another Predaking. He also has an awesome sword/blade weapon and strong joints that give him stability despite his size and bulk. In addition, he features a light up feature (to represent the fire he can blast at enemies), something that we used to see more in "Transformers" figures but has fallen by the wayside due to budget limitations. If you only want one Predaking from "Beast Hunters" in your collection, this is the one! *Note: the upcoming "upscaled" Predaking is a bit bigger in some respects than this one, but I give this one the edge for its features and the fact that it's an original sculpt.
8. Budora (Transformers Go!)
Budo-who? Don't feel bad if you don't recognize this guy right away. Budora is a character from the Japanese exclusive "Beast Hunters" spin-off series known as "Transformers Go!". This series features Autobots battling Predacons who have been awakened on Earth after being hidden away for ages. All the Predacon toys released for this line were redecos and retools of figures released outside Japan. One such figure was Budora, which took the Grimwing sculpt and gave him a new beast and robot head as a whole different character. The beast mode head was sleeker and more terrifying looking with its savage looking fangs and the robot head looks like it is based on the helmet of some ancient armor. Even better? This sculpt represents an "Ursagryph", a bear/bird hybrid that evokes the "Beast Wars" Fuzors and represents a "beast" not often seen in the "Transformers" toy line. The finishing touch? An incredible metallic dark red and gold based color scheme that gives him a royal appearance but also evokes the traditional Asian colors of good luck (hey, even a Pred needs luck!). This is a wonderful example of a gorgeous redeco and retool.
This is one of those figures you're either going to love or hate. One of the recurring themes in the "Beast Hunters" series was giving animalistic qualities to those Transformers who had vehicle modes. It started with the Autobots taking on properties of animals like birds, but later moved on to the Decepticons. The main Decepticon to get this treatment? Megatron featuring aesthetics based on a shark. Even better? He was named "Sharkticon Megatron" and featured colors and designs that evoked the Generation One Sharkticons, characters first introduced in the 1986 "Transformers: The Movie" feature film. This design was an extensive retool of the Voyager Class Megatron to the point where his cannon weapon was replaced with a giant fish-weapon, no, really. The utter wackiness of this figure just makes me love it so much. It shows a certain amount of appreciation for some of the less remembered aspects of Generation One but also shows just how much you can retool a figure and make it a very distinct product all its own. On top of all that there is just sheer guts being represented here, I mean, how do you even sell this at a pitch meeting? Yet somehow it was planned and made and now you too can get a Megatron based on a Sharkticon - and it's glorious.
6. Autobot Skids (Generations)
One of the worrying trends for vehicle based Transformers in 2012-13 was oversimplifying designs (compared to previous "Generations" releases) and a relative lack of paint applications (including most notably rear lights and the rims on wheels). A big offender on this list (in my book) is the Weaponizer Bumblebee figure. This feedback was not lost on Hasbro, and with many of the late-2013 toys in the "Generations" line it seems like we're seeing a bit of a reversal. One such case is Autobot Skids, based on his appearance in the IDW Publishing comic book series "More than Meets the Eye". Skids has been given the spotlight in several issues and this figure manages to balance that wonderful line between homage and update. More to the point: he features hidden weaponry (on his back and shoulders) and a ton of paint applications compared to some other "Transformers" vehicle based toys released in the past year. These details include individually painted rocket designs built into his shoulders (in panels that swivel open to reveal the rockets to boot!) and paint details on the sides of his wheels and the back of the car mode. One caveat, some of the first production run had pieces on the hip joints misassembled, but this was easily solved in minutes by swapping the hip connector pieces from one leg to another. Overall this is a really awesome figure and represents some of the best Hasbro has to offer and a marked improvement over some of the toy standards from the previous years.
5. Waspinator (Generations)
I already touched on Waspinator being a beloved character above, so it's rather pleasing to see him get two toy releases in one year. The second came out in late 2013 as a Deluxe Class figure in the "Generations" toy line. Intended to better represent the character as he appeared in the TV show than the original "Beast Wars" Waspinator toy, this figure succeeds on many levels. The proportions of the figure more closely match the TV show and his head sculpt is spot on with the look of the character in both robot and beast modes. He even has the distinct head sculpt from the TV show including mandibles and insect eyes. The wings on the figure look like something you'd find in nature, translucent with small lines running through it. He even has a Predacon symbol on his back and a "flapping wings" feature that helps bring the figure to life. Overall, the designers did a fantastic job of recreating the character as he appeared on the TV show. If you loved Waspinator, this is the figure you've been waiting for!
4. Prowl (Masterpiece)
2012 saw the "Masterpiece" line relaunched as a series of figures that used the Generation One animated series as their design template. This included releasing several of the "Autobot Car" characters so they were in proportion with 2012's Masterpiece Optimus Prime figure. One of these releases is Prowl, who has seen many incarnations over the years including a Universe 2.0 version and even a Spychanger. However, this is the first Prowl figure released in years that is not a reinterpretation of the character but rather a toy made to represent his animated counterpart from Generation One in toy form. The robot mode excels in this, featuring iconic aspects of his design such as his head sculpt with a crest that has two red panels coming out to the sides, the front of the car on his chest and the rear halves of the vehicle mode forming legs. Even better? Like his G1 counterpart his vehicle mode is a licensed Nissan Fairlady 280Z-T, bringing a strong level of detail and fidelity to the design of the real life car last seen in lines such as Alternators. If you ever wanted to have "the" version of Prowl you saw in the cartoon as a kid, now's your chance!
3. Soundwave (Masteriece, US Edition)
You'll note above I'm very specific about the version of this "Masterpiece" I'm putting on my Top ten, and in a way this one is a "cheat". See, when Masterpiece Soundwave was released in Japan, he only came with Laserbeak and you had to buy his other cassette minions separately. However, with the US version, all his cassette partners were included in one giant package of awesomeness. For the price point (roughly $125-135 at retail) this Masterpiece was a bargain. First off, Soundwave himself looks like the animated model from Generation One lept off the screen onto a toy shelf. He's full of detail and his transformation is appropriately complex, but not overly so. In addition, he includes his "cassettes" which each have beautifully intricate detailing and mouth dropping transformations. I mean, Laserbeak and Buzzsaw have head cameras as seen in "Transformers: The Movie" and Ravage can actually fold all his weapons into his cassette form! This set represents a nostalgic, intricate and beautiful set of designs and transformations. Any fan of transforming robot action figures owes it to themselves to have this as part of their collection.
Take almost everything I said about Waspinator above and apply it here. Forgotten about for years, Rhinox has now returned to the "Transformers" toy line as a Voyager Class "Generations" release. The beauty is that he is a Voyager at all, and not a Deluxe Class figure like the original Rhinox toy. Rhinox was always seen as one of the biggest characters in the "Beast Wars" series, so it only makes sense that he would get a (relatively) "big" figure to match! Adding to the awesome is the design of the figure takes tons of influence from the "Beast Wars" television show but also includes aspects of the original Rhinox toy's design. The result is an awesome figure that has two "Gatling Guns of Doom" (aka the "Chainguns of Doom") for Rhinox to take down his enemies. This also represents a willingness of the "Transformers" team at Hasbro to think outside the box and not just crank out more Optimus Primes and Bumblebees. Rhinox is definitely an oddball figure surrounded by tanks, jets, cars etc. but he is so masterfully done that he deserves to be towards the top of his list.
I was very specific to point out the SDCC version of this figure, but that does not mean the mass retail version is a bad product! However, with one extra blaster, vacuum metallized parts and a sticker sheet with "metallic" backgrounds, this release manages to beat out its mass retail version as being a version of the toy you'd definitely want if you just had to choose one (to date there are at least four). This guy easily gets the #1 spot for simply existing too. For a couple years now we've seen "Transformers" toys get smaller (especially around the "Fall of Cybertron" era of "Generations" figures) and obvious cost cutting measures taking effect (less paint applications etc.). Given that, it is quite a relief to see even in this era of tight financial constraints a gargantuan figure of this scale can still be produced and result in a fun, fantastic product! Standing a bit taller than even G1's Fortress Maximus, this figure is indeed the largest "Transformers" toy ever made and with its many play features (including hidden gunnery stations and lights/sounds!), G1 Metroplex homages and even a Legends Class Scamper figure, I would say this guy deserves to be in the collection of all "Transformers" fans!
Honorable Mention: Fortress Maximus (Encore)
An "honorable mention" call out goes to Fortress Maximus. This Generation One reissue doesn't technically "count" since the sculpt was originally released in the 80's. However, the figure was reissued in 2013 and it stands as one of the most impressive "Transformers" toys created to date. It is a solid figure and though he no longer holds the title of "biggest Transformer ever made" he is still an imposing presence in any toy collection, towering over most other Autobots and Decepticons. His city mode features a wide range of fun features including a working elevator, a jail cell and "launching ramps". I also have a very strong attachment to the character and figure as I worked a part time job for a whole summer to save up for him when I was a kid. I contend he stands as one of the best "Transformers" toys out there and I'm really happy fans had the chance to get him again in 2013!