"Retro Headmasters" Hardhead with Duros Toy Review

05/20/21

General Information:
Release Date: January 2021
Price Point: $19.99
Retailer: Wal-Mart & Hasbro Pulse Exclusive
Accessories: Duros Headmaster figure, Blasters, Shoulder Cannon

Official images and text below in italics are from Hasbro Pulse:
Experience the figures that started it all. This Transformers Retro Headmaster Hardhead figure is designed like the original G1 version -- including figure styling, packaging, and art inspired by the 1987 G1 releases, plus classic tech specs and accessories. (Re)start a vintage Transformers collection with this Hardhead figure.

Hardhead is the strong, stubborn and silent type and rarely follows anyone's advice. Specializing in ground assault, he loves a good battle, just like his binary-bonded Headmaster partner, Duros.

This Hardhead figure converts from robot to tank mode in 14 steps. Hardhead figure's head coverts into Headmaster Tank Commander Duros figure. Come with a blaster accessory.

Clip out and save the on-box tech specs to share. Look for other Retro Headmaster figures and see how your figures stack up against each other (each sold separately, subject to availability).

Includes: Figure, accessory, and instructions.

  • This retro Headmaster Hardhead figure is inspired by the original 1987 G1 release
  • Hardhead figure features classic conversion from robot to tank mode in 14 steps
  • Hardhead figure's head coverts into Headmaster Tank Commander Duros figure.
  • Comes with a blaster accessory
  • Inspired by the original G1 packaging, this pack features the original G1 Transformers logo, character art, and classic Autobots versus Decepticon battle scene
  • Tech specs for Hardhead are included on the pack in the classic G1 style fans know and love. Look for other Retro Headmaster figures and compare figures’ strength, speed, firepower, and more (each sold separately, subject to availability).
  • Figure scale: 5.5-inch
  • Ages 8 and up
  • WARNING: CHOKING HAZARD - Small parts. Not for children under 3 years.

In late 2020, Hasbro and Walmart released a series of Retro Headmasters figures. These releases featured redecos of several Titans Return Titan Master figures featuring the Takara Tomy Legends head sculpts (which generally featured different "face plates" and decos). These figures were put in special "retro" style packaging that recreated the aesthetic of the original 1987 release of the Headmasters during the G1 era. At first it appeared these were an extension of the Vintage G1 collection of figures at Wal-Mart, but in time Hasbro revealed these are actually known as the Retro Headmasters series, making them their own distinct sub-line of figures. For a brief time in early 2021 some of these figures were made available via Hasbro Pulse, which acknowledged them as Walmart exclusives.

Packaging:
I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that the packaging is half the reason most fans will purchase these figures. At first glance, these boxes appear to be reprints of the original G1 boxes. They feature a lot of classic elements including the beveled, blocky and colorful G1 Transformers logo, a grid background featuring red, orange, yellow and black colors behind it and beautiful character art right on the front of the box. Even the cut of the box is heavily based on the G1 Headmasters boxes including having the Transformers logo on a large flap at the top, a window showing the character in vehicle mode and a smaller window to the side featuring the Headmaster figure. Other graphics either carried over or inspired by the G1 boxes include photographs of the toy on the side flaps (in similar positions to their G1 counterparts on the old boxes), the 80's Hasbro logo and the top of the box featuring the toy transforming from one mode to another.

While Hasbro did a masterful job of recreating elements of the original G1 boxes, there are a lot of differences. Here are some of them:

  • The boxes are much smaller than their G1 counterparts since the Titans Returns Titan Master figures are much smaller than the G1 Headmasters.
  • The character art on the box looks like the old art, but it is actually brand new art that features the head design of the Legends versions of the Headmasters rather than the G1 heads. Hasbro was very clever in having the artists involved pose the characters in the same was as they are featured on the G1 boxes, adding to the "retro" feel of the artwork.
  • The photos on the top of the box showing Hardhead "transforming" simply has steps laid out numerically 1-4 instead of using the word "Change" like the old box did.
  • On the original box between Hardhead and Duros, there was a text blurb about opening the figure's chest to reveal his tech spec stats. Since this feature does not exist on these figures the text there now just says "Includes accessories" in several languages.
  • The age recommendation is now 8+ instead of the 5+ on G1 Hardhead.

Retro Headmasters Hardhead is a redeco and retool of Titans Return Hardhead. This review will focus on the changes made to the figure for this release.

Duros:
Since the figures in this series are Retro Headmasters, the packaging jettisons the whole "Titan Master" concept and embraces the Headmaster terminology. In addition, this mini-figure is no longer "Furos" but instead takes on the actual name of G1 Hardhead's Headmaster partner: Duros! The deco on this figure is based on the colors of the G1 Hardhead toy. That means the shades of green and grey used on this figure are darker than the Titans Return version. The face paint is similar, featuring blue eyes and a yellow face.

Perhaps the most significant change with this figure is the "face plate" used for the head mode. In a bit of a twist, the "face plate" used on this version of the figure is the Japanese Legends face with visor eyes, a nose and mouth which is more based on the Marvel/animation model for the character. This actually makes the figure slightly less accurate to the G1 toy, but it helps differentiate this figure from its previous domestic release and offers fans an incentive to purchase the figure. The face plate is grey with blue eyes and a yellow face, echoing Duros' own colors.

Vehicle Mode:
There have been no tooling changes made to Hardhead's vehicle form, so from that perspective it is the same as the Titans Return version. However, the colors are very different. The green and grey are both much darker and muted shades of those colors compared to the ones on Titans Return Hardhead. The black on the tread section is a fairly flat black compared to the speckled black on Titans Return Hardhead. There are some smaller details found on this figure based on the G1 Hardhead toy. These include:

  • A dark grey Autobot symbol in the front, a callback to the black heat sensitive "rub symbol" on G1 Hardhead.
  • The tread sections feature silver and red paint on the sides. These are callbacks to stickers on G1 Hardhead.
  • The cockpit cover is more of a translucent yellow than the orange on Titans Return Hardhead and it features some green paint on top.

All the functionality from the previous release of this base sculpt is still available here including the various slots for Headmasters/Titan Masters/Prime Masters to sit in and pegs for them to stand on. In what is likely coincidence, Blast Effects from the Siege era can be used on the weapons.

Transformation to Robot Mode:

  1. Remove Duros from the cockpit and fold him over to transform him into the head mode. Set him aside for now.
  2. Detach the blaster and set it aside for now.
  3. Swing the large cannon up.
  4. Flip the vehicle over and swing the waist/hip piece up.
  5. Pull the rear tread sections on the back out to the sides and down.
  6. Flip out the foot pieces.
  7. Pull the front tread sections out to the sides.
  8. Extend the front of the treads forward and swing out the fists.
  9. Swing the front of the vehicle down to form the chest.
  10. Swing the cockpit section back and down.
  11. Attach the head and connect the blaster to one of the hands.
  12. The cannon can be swung forward or back.

Robot Mode:
Hardhead's robot mode reveals some more deco that calls back too the G1 toy. On his torso is the dark Autobot symbol, in the same place as the heat sensitive rub symbol on the G1 toy. The hip area has red, yellow and silver details intended to emulate a sticker from the original Hardhead. Each thigh has tampographs on them based on the designs of stickers found on G1 Hardhead. Each shoulder also features a tampographed Autobot symbol, calling back to the stickers on G1 Hardhead's shoulders. Overall the deco is quite different from the previous Hardhead figure and does a nice job of calling back to the original G1 toy. Note: for those curious about the stickers on my Titans Return Hardhead, they come from an official sticker set released in Asia during the Titans Return era.

All the joints on my copy of this figure work just fine. The weapons hold nice and snug in both his fists and on the connection point on the back.

Final Thoughts:
For fans who already purchased Titans Return and Legends Hardhead there will be little reason to get this figure. But if you skipped either one, this gives you a chance to get a unique combination of colors and tooling for Hardhead. Even better the packaging is absolutely gorgeous and really does press those nostalgia buttons hard. Your mileage will vary depending on your tolerance for redecos, but I do recommend this figure largely out of its nostalgia value and unique combination of colors and tooling.

Pros:

  • The box is half (if not more) of the draw. It is beautifully done with lots of nods to G1 packaging.
  • The use of the Legends face plate for Hardhead was a great idea and adds value to the set.
  • Cool deco that pays homage to the original figure.
  • Fun play value.

Cons:

  • Some fans will find this potential double or triple dip a bit much, even with a snazzy retro box.