"Generations" Combiner Wars Deluxe Class Protectobot Groove Toy Review
Release Date: May 2016
Price Point: $16.99 (depending on retailer)
Retailer: Limited online release (Amazon, Bigbadtoystore etc.) & Toys R Us Taiwan Exclusive
Accessories: Hand/Foot/Weapon, Blasters x 2
Official images and text below in italics are from Amazon.com:
Protectobot Groove is a freedom fighter who would sacrifice his own spark if it would bring peace. He combines with his fellow Protectobots to form Defensor. Protectobot Hot Spot forms the torso, Protectobot Blades and Protectobot First Aid form the arms, and Protectobot Streetwise and Protectobot Groove form the legs. Collect all 5 Protectobot figures to complete a giant G1-inspired Defensor Combiner robot. (Figures are each sold separately.) This Deluxe Class Protectobot Groove figure changes from robot to motorcycle and back in 10 steps. It comes with a blaster accessory and a collectible character card featuring art from the Transformers Legends mobile game. Transformers and all related characters are trademarks of Hasbro.
When "Combiner Wars" was released, it was not only G1 characters who appeared in the line. Several new characters joined familiar groups as new members. The Aerialbots had Alpha Bravo, the Stunticons recruited Decepticon Offroad and the Protectobots brought on Rook who seemingly replaced G1 team member Groove. However, unlike the other teams, the "missing member" of the team did come out as a mass release figure. However Groove was made into a Legends Class figure who transformed into armor for Defensor instead of a limb. This was partly to account for the size differences between a motorcyle and other vehicles like a police car and fire engine.
Of course, a small Legends figure does not equal a Deluxe sized figure. Despite any scale issues (and really, scale has meant little over the years with Transformers) fans wanted a Deluxe Groove figure. Then a year before his release outside of Japan it was revealed Takara would be releasing a Deluxe Groove as part of their "Unite Warriors" Defensor set! Of course, this led to a demand for an individually packaged release outside of Japan. About a year later it was revealed that Groove would indeed be released as part of "Generations". Initially this figure was only an exclusive to Toys R Us Taiwan (available with a purchase of Transformers product totaling about $55USD). In May 2016 he was released via several online venues such as Ben's World of Transformers sponsor Bigbadtoystore and Amazon.com. Groove sold out very quickly, with supplies often disappearing within hours of being posted online. However, some retailers including Entertainment Earth are taking preorders for an October shipment, so it looks like another production run is on the way.
Groove is packaged on a blister card. The plastic portion wraps around the backing card partly for stability since it needs to contain both the figure itself, its accessories and a collector card, similar to those released with the first waves of "Combiner Wars" figures such as Skydive. The artwork is repurposed from the now defunct "Transformers Legends" card game, painting the art in the colors of the figure. Since I already buy the comics at my local comic shop I never really felt a need for the comics included with "Generations" figures so I'm perfectly happy with them being packaged with these collector cards instead. Groove is packaged in robot mode and he is set in a wonderfully awkward looking position with his legs spread out as if he was riding a motorcycle or horse.
Groove includes three accessories: a hand/foot/weapon piece and two blasters. The hand/foot/weapon piece is the same sculpt as th eone included with Alpha Bravo featuring gatling gun like barrels in front. This piece is cast mostly in black plastic with white plastic used for the hinge at the base of the thumb. I don't have an issue with the reuse of Alpha Bravo's weapon. Designing and producing a brand new figure is not cheap, and given that this figure started life as a Japanese exclusive figure (and isn't being sold at brick and mortar stores) I understand the need to keep costs down.
The other weapons are a matching pair of blasters. These weapons share design elements with the large weapons included with the G1 Groove figure. The more distinctive elements include a circle on the side and an "L" shaped section on the top leading to the weapon barrel and a small piece sticking out at the top. On the G1 figure's weapon this was just a small fin-like piece. Here it is used as an emergency light. This piece is cast in clear plastic and painted silver with red on top. On each of these there are pegs on the bottom so Groove can hold the weapon in robot mode. There are also pegs on the sides allowing the weapons to be attached to the vehicle mode.
Before diving into the design of this figure, many fans will wonder right off the bat what differences exist between this figure and his "Unite Warriors" counterpart. Since I only have this version to review at the moment, I defer to the TFWiki which lists the following changes:
- There are small copyright "CE" markings on his feet (required for Hasbro's releases).
- The blasters have rounded peg handles instead of the detented one son the Takara Tomy release.
- The pin on the knees has a flat head.
- The shade of red used on the lights on the vehicle form are more pink.
- The windshield is less green.
As you can see the differences are very minor, so you're not missing out on much if you choose to get this version instead of buying the "Unite Warriors" set. Of course keep in mind the other Protectobots in the set feature more significant deco differences than Groove, so if you're interested in more "animation" colors for the Protectobots the "Unite Warriors" set is still worth investigating.
So let's get down to it. Groove is not a redeco or retool of any other Combiner Wars figure. He's a brand new sculpt that takes both the G1 animation model and toy as inspiration. This includes the front of the motorcycle being on his back and the rear wheel winding up on his legs. From the animation model he has beveled panels that make up much of his torso. His head sculpt is also a stylized version of what was seen on the toy and cartoon. The "helmet" section has panels on the sides with ridges on them and he has a thin central crest. His eyes are not visor eyes like his animated counterpart, but they are rather large, rectangular eyes so they create a similar effect. He also has a pronounced chin piece, something carried over from the old G1 animation model. Like the G1 Groove toy this figure has engine like details on the arms including cylinders on the shoulders.
Despite his "G1-ness", Groove is not overly-blocky looking. He has some really sleek aesthetics including the design of his knee armor and feet as well as some angled sections of his torso. His overall shape is wide at the top, narrowing in the middle and then widening again at the lower legs, all of which helps make the figure look great.
Groove is cast in white and black plastic. White makes up most of the figure, with black forming smaller parts like his head and wheels. You'll see translucent blue and red on his back via the front of the vehicle mode. Paint colors on this figure include gold, silver, black and orange. The gold is used on his chest the waist area. Silver is used on his arms and thighs. Black is used to paint details like his knee armor and feet. Orange is used on the face, but the eyes are clear plastic. The finishing touch is an Autobot symbol on the left side of the chest. It doesn't sound like an amazing deco but it actually looks really great. In particular I'm fond of the silver on the arms which helps call back to the G1 Groove action figure. Also Groove (in both toy and animation form) was not exactly brimming with colors in G1. These were his main colors and they look great.
There are fourteen points of articulation on this figure including three on each arm and leg. Interestingly the elbow joints on the arms are ratchet joints, but on my copy of the figure the right arm's elbow joint is much more loose than the left. Generally with a ratchet joint you'd expect a bit more strength in the joint. Each of his fists have 5mm ports in them to hold his weapons. You can also attach a weapon to a 5mm ports on the underside of his right forearms. The two blasters have 5mm ports on them allowing you to attach another weapon to each of them.
Transformation to Vehicle Mode:
- Detach the weapons and set them aside for now.
- Swing the back of the lower legs back.
- Swing the front half of each lower leg up.
- Swing each leg out a bit, then swing in the wheel halves.
- Push the leg sections together. The wheel halves will connect and there will be a "snap" as the legs connect.
- Rotate the leg section around.
- Straighten out the arms, then swing them forward. Bend the arm at the shoulder to swing the forearm against the chest. There are tabs on the arms that correspond with gaps on the robot chest.
- Pull the front of the vehicle mode up, then rotate around the section with the windshield.
- Swing the vehicle mode's front section down.
- Attach the blasters to the sides of the rear wheels.
Groove's vehicle mode is a police motorcycle. The front end has a curved windshield in the center with red headlights flanking it. Combined with the translucent red "lights" on the weapons attached to the back of the vehicle you really get the sense that this vehicle could light up at any moment to respond to an emergency! Other cool sculpted details include a speedometer between the handlebars, distinct lights/machinery built into the front end and the engine details on the sides of the vehicle.
This mode uses the same plastic colors as the robot mode, but now we get to see more black, silver and red paint. Silver is the most heavily used color. You'll see it on the front, the sides and even on the sides of the wheels (a rarity nowadays). Shockingly his rear lights are painted in as well in red. This is extremely rare nowadays and it really helps elevate the visual appeal of the figure. To solidify his "emergency vehicle" status he has the words "Police" on the sides of the vehicle towards the back. The finishing touch is a tampographed Autobot symbol on the windshield. I like the deco on this figure. Despite having white as its main color, there are enough colors and deco applications to break it up and make it look interesting. I also dig having the translucent emergency lights both in the front and back.
Groove rolls really smoothly on both his wheels. You use a kickstand on the left side to stand him up in this mode. He has two 5mm ports on the sides of the rear wheels and one additional one in front of the seat. This allows you to attach all his accessories in vehicle mode. In a surprise move, the designers actually designed the figure so the front wheel can turn side to side, something I didn't expect at all! This was a very pleasant surprise. I also love the abilty for all the weapons to attach at one time.
Transformation to Arm Mode (from Vehicle Mode):
- Detach the weapons and set them aside for now.
- Swing the halves of the vehicle's rear section out then back together, exposing the robot mode legs.
- Split the legs apart, swing the wheel halves out, then reconnect the legs.
- Move the robot forearms up, then rotate them around.
- Straighten out the robot arms, then push them down at the shoulders. Swing the forearms up.
- Swing the front of the vehicle up, rotate it around and swing it out to the side.
- Swing the robot head down, revealing the Combiner connection piece.
- Push the front of the vehicle back into place.
- Transform the hand/foot/weapon piece into a hand and attach it to the port on the bottom of Groove's feet.
It sounds like "Combiner Wars" Groove having an arm mode is some new aspect of the character, but in fact the G1 "Scramble City" style Combiners were all able to become arms or legs. That said, Groove was traditionally shown in both comics and cartoons as a leg in G1, so this mode will be unfamiliar to some folks.
Color-wise there are no surprises here but the black and white colors look great as a "base color". The red, blue and silver colors all pop nicely against the white.
All that said, Groove works very well as an arm. The relatively thin nature of the motorcycle mode helps give the arm a good shape. It doesn't look ungainly at all. The top section is kind of thick thanks to the front of the vehicle hanging off the side, but then it narrows towards the middle and forearm. Unfortunately the ball joints on the hips are not tight enough for him to hold up a Legends Class figure in weapon form like Powerglide. He can hold regular weapons like Defensor's or Superion's however.
Transformation to Leg Mode (from Vehicle Mode):
- Swing the forearms up, then swing the robot arms out to the sides and rotate the forearms. Swing the arms down.
- Swing the front of the vehicle up, rotate it and swing this section forward.
- Swing the Combiner joint up, then swing the front of the vehicle back into place.
- Attach the foot piece to the bottom of the leg.
- Attach the two blasters to the sides of the rear wheel.
Groove's leg mode is one of the most "G1" aspects of this sculpt. Like the original Groove, the leg basically winds up looking like the motorcycle mode with the front of the vehicle serving as armor over Defensor's lower leg. Since the type of motorcycle Groove transforms into looks like a modern day version of the G1 vehicle, the look is very much like the original. Thanks to the type of motorcycle Groove becomes (read: not a Ninja bike or anything thin like that) the leg still manages to look like it has bulk and strength. I love the sculpting of this mode.
The blue, silver and red colors on the front of the vehicle all wind up taking center stage in this mode. That really helps give some splash of color to the black and white background formed by the rest of the figure.
Unlike many of the Combiner Wars figures, there are no 5mm ports on the sides to attach weapons so they can point forward. His weapons on the sides in the back but they can't really point forward. It's not a big deal in my book. I'm just glad the weapons can attach at all.
Groove is a really cool figure. The callbacks to the original Groove are fantastic and he's fun to play with. It's also great to finally have a Groove figure on the same scale as Protectobots like First Aid and Streetwise. He's not perfect however due to some of the not-so-tight joints. If you're into the "Combiner Wars" line and Protectobots this is a figure you need to add to your Autobot team.