Article: Ben's Top Ten Figures of 2014
The weather is chilly, people at stores are saying "Happy New Year!" at the check out aisle so you know what that means: it's time for Ben's World of Transformers to list its Top Ten "Transformers" figures of the year!
2014 was one heck of a year. The "Transformers" brand diversified in a way it hasn't in quite some time. Whether it's G1 characters in new forms, Michael Bay influenced Dinobots or Angry Birds as Transformers, it felt like there was something for everyone this year. It was very hard to list just ten items.
Here are a few general guidelines I followed when I made this list:
- The sculpt needed to have come out in 2014, 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 lip flapping, here we go!
While his fellow Insecticon Kickback received an update a couple years back, Skrapnel has been largely ignored as a character. Well, no more! This munching menace is back in an appropriately small size. The "Legends" Class fits the Insecticon perfectly and this update looks like the animation model from G1 jumped out of the TV into plastic form. Even better? He comes with Reflector, another G1 character we haven't seen redone before and he has a camera mode in addition to his weapon mode! Another plus? The small size and relatively inexpensive price allows you to buy multiples to create an Insecticon clone army! Note: Bombshell has also come out at the end of 2014 so much of what I said above can apply to him as well.
The "Generations" segment of "Age of Extinction" was the line's strongest segment, and one of the best figures to come out of it was Autobot Hound. His Voyager size is appropriate for the character, he has the distinctive head sculpt featuring a bearded warrior and he's even a little portly looking like his on-screen counterpart (though the CGI model was much bigger). The major highlight was his play factor. Armed with two shotguns, four pistols, a smaller gun and a knife, Hound is a one robot army. Even better? The weapons could be combined into one super weapon. They can also be placed all over the vehicle mode for good measure. A good sculpt, a fun character and a ton of weaponry helped earn this bad boy's spot on this list.
Windblade's origins helped propel her into this year's Top Ten. Fans voted via online polls to determine everything from personality to design elements of the character. This is the first time fans have had such say in the design of a Transformer, and she's not only a fun toy, but she represents something fans have wanted for a long time: a collaborative spirit between fans and Hasbro. There are other channels of course (social media, conventions etc.) but never before has fan input directly helped in the creation of a mass release figure such as this one. Add to that the character's personality in the IDW comic books and this is a must-have figure of 2014 in my book.
7. Rattrap (Generations)
It's funny how time changes your perceptions. Back in the 90's, I thought the basic Rattrap figure that Kenner released was a perfect representation of the character seen on the show. So many details matched up, and for the time it was fantastic. However, this version shows total love for the character. Not only are its proportions and details more in line with the CGI model on the TV show, but in addition to his blaster he also includes the small bomb accessory seen on the TV show! Even better, it fits right into his forearm storage compartment just like he had on the show! The beast mode has great organic styling. Overall he's a fantastic follow up to last year's Rhinox figure.
In Generation One, the "Deluxe Autobots" were figures carried over from another toy line into the "Transformers" line. However, due to various licensing issues, they never appeared again as reissues or otherwise. Yet, many people would have loved new versions of them. Whirl was one of these "Deluxe Autobots" and in 2014 we got a whole new version of the character! Heavily based on his G1 design, this updated design had greater posability but just as many armaments as his G1 counterpart. Even better? They included a sticker sheet with tons of labels that were directly inspired by the stickers included with the G1 figure. Some fans didn't like the figure due to it being faithful to the G1 toy instead of the IDW incarnation, but in my book that elevated the figure!
5. Roadbuster (Generations)
I can almost use all the same text for Roadbuster as I did for Whirl. So why rate Roadbuster ahead of Whirl? Believe it or not it comes down to the sticker sheet. Roadbuster's sticker's were much easier to apply (meaning the stickers fit the various body parts well). Even better? Roadbuster came with two large symbols for his chest. You could choose an Autobot symbol or a "Wreckers" symbol (which is a modified Autobot symbol). I appreciated being given the choice and it shows a lot of thought went into not just the toy itself, but the whole package in the box.
The "Headmaster" gimmick is one that has not been visited too much since the G1 era. The characters have popped up here and there (such as with Timelines Chromedome) but the ability of a Transformer head to detach and transform into a separate figure is very uncommon in the line. With the introduction of Brainstorm into the "Generations" line, the designers decided to go full bore towards a fully functional Headmaster figure. Brainstorm combined elements of his G1 and IDW designs with a functional Headmaster partner, making him a slick update of the original character. The head gimmick isn't perfect (Arcana is a bit too tight in the slot) but I really like the figure and the effort behind it!
3. Jetfire (Generations)
Does this one really require explanation? Granted over the years the character has hardly been forgotten. There was Classics Jetfire and even a homage via Energon Skyblast. Still, this is the first time an attempt has been made to create Jetfire on the scale of the original figure from G1! This is also the first entry of a Leader Class figure into the "Generations" line, and it's an awesome debut. He transforms into modes that clearly take design cues from his G1 counterpart, but he has some unique details all his own along with five different weapons! Jetfire has finally received the treatment he deserves decades after the release of the original figure.
2. Bumble (Masterpiece)
Bumble (aka Bumblebee) has been a beloved character for years. Yes, there's the sleek, sometimes wacky character in the live action movies, but I'm talking about the cute, not-so-amazingly strong spy from Generation One. While there have been several attempts at reinventing the character, none have been able to use his classic "VW Bug" vehicle mode. For years, Volkswagen did not want their product associated with a violent toy (and let's face it, these are robots at war). However, in 2013 clearly someone managed to change their minds and 2014 saw the release of Masterpiece Bumble in Japan! Even better, this comes with Daniel with a transformable Exo-Suit, giving fans one more piece to add to their 1986 Movie collection of characters.
The number one "Transformers" release for 2014 is not a Masterpiece, it is not a Voyager or some super special Japanese release. Instead, it is a Deluxe Class figure that fans have been waiting twenty eight years for. Arcee came out in late 2014 in all her G1 design glory. Sure there was Energon Arcee, Animated Arcee, Movie Arcee and of course, Prime Arcee. However, none of those figures attempted to replicate the on-screen design of G1 Arcee from the 1986 theatrical movie. After waiting all these years, fans finally have her and the figure is awesome! Armed to the teeth with a wonderful G1 animation aesthetic, this figure marks a highlight of any fan's collection. Adding her to my collection has been both surreal and wonderful at the same time!
Ultra Magnus (Masterpiece)
This guy came out at the very end of 2014, so he just slips into this list. Instead of being a white redeco of Optimus Prime (as the first "Masterpiece" Ultra Magnus was) this guy is a completely new sculpt intended to replicate the look of the character from the G1 theatrical movie and cartoon. The front cab section may look like Optimus in white, but it is just a part of the larger robot. Like his G1 counterpart, his trailer can carry other "Masterpiece" figures (up to four) and he comes with a face plate that can be switched out for either a calm or angry look. He even comes with Spike and Daniel figures! Add to that his large size (he is bigger in height and width than "Masterpiece" Optimus Prime from a couple years ago). There's a lot of win with this figure (though I confess I have yet to get him in hand).
I won't lie, this was one of my most heavily anticipated items of the entire year. It was really fun having Dinobots everywhere on toy store shelves, but G1 colored Dinobots?! Oh hell yes! Add in the amazing packaging which unfolded into an Ark playset and this was an exclusive worth losing one's mind over. It was made to appeal to G1 fans (old and new) and does so beautifully. The Dinobots are beautiful and the playset is wonderfully retro and detailed (it has dinosaur bones and the Immobilizer!). I put this in the "honorable mention" category since strictly speaking, it's an entire set of figures and not just one or two. However I wanted to be sure it appeared on this list in some form.
Also a late 2014 entry that barely squeaks into the list, Strongarm may not be the most complex or heavily detailed figure but she does represent a very interesting take on a female Transformer. Instead of having a thin and "feminine" form, which has been used for most (but not all) female Transformers characters, Strongarm is a bulky looking robot that transforms into a large SUV in vehicle mode. The way her form challenges the traditional take on a female Transformer is noteworthy, and I really look forward to seeing the character in action on TV next year!