Transformers: Combiner Wars Defensor

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The combined form of the Protectobots team stands against the Decepticons!  To date, I’ve had some mixed feelings about the actual combiners within the context of the Combiner Wars, in some cases the result feeling like less than the sum of its parts.  While I love Superion, Menasor left me a bit high and dry to the point where I wasn’t sure I was even going to get the Protectobots.

As a kid, I enjoyed the combiner teams, and was a massive fan of the Aerialbots and Stunticons, so I felt a certain nostalgic attachment to getting those updates in the Combiner Wars.  The Protectobots, not so much.

But a constant flood of peer pressure from my so called “friends” (you know who you are) convinced me to put the Protectobots on my Father’s Day “wish list” and my lovely wife grabbed me a few of them.  I filled in the gaps pretty quickly, and I’ll be honest, I’m very glad I did.  Defensor is straight up awesome.

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He’s easily a match for Superion in my Combiner Wars love fest, and a good deal above Menasor.  The combined form stays together nicely, is aesthetically pleasing, and moves well without completely falling to pieces with every slight motion.

Hot Spot as the torso is a fantastic first step.  The way the ladder swings up underneath and plugs Defensor’s head into his shoulders is inspired and works amazingly well.  I also love how the framework of the ladder separates into a great looking elaborate chest plate, leaving Defensor looking pretty great even without Groove (who I will get eventually, but don’t own yet).

I chose to go with the Hasbro recommendation for the limb arrangement, which is Blades and Rook as the arms with First Aid and Streetwise as the legs.  If you go by the G1 iteration, Blades and First Aid would be arms with Rook (replacing Groove) and Streetwise as the legs.  Either way, the “Scramble City” format allows for a bunch of customization.  Personally, I like the Hasbro suggested design.  Both Blades and Rook function very well as arms with good range of motion and some nice bulk, especially with Rook on the left side.

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First Aid and Streetwise are both great looking legs, too, transforming in much the same way as their Stunticon predecessors.  The beauty, of course, remains in the torso, since it provides great hip joints to allow for stable poses, unlike Menasor, whose clugey hip joints almost single handedly bring that figure from great to “meh” in my mind.

Defensor’s head sculpt is fantastic, and the combination of color schemes blends really well, looking very “combiner-esque” but also creating a pretty nice flow of colors from one part to the other.  Hot Spot’s two laser weapons plug together to form a somewhat rudimentary larger weapon, and the end result is one heck of a great looking Combiner that happens to be made up of some equally great individual figures.

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I find it hard to believe that I was going to pass up the Protectobots only a month or two ago, but I’m really glad I let myself get pushed around by friends, as this team is fantastic and was a joy to put together.

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Transformers: Combiner Wars Hot Spot

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As leader of the Protectobots, Hot Spot holds a key place within the Transformers mythology, though like some other characters, he’s one I haven’t had much attachment to, even back in the 80s.

It’s a familiar theme.  The original fire truck, Inferno, was a pretty key character to me back in my childhood, and as such, I never paid a whole lot of attention to Hot Spot.  He was a part of a combiner team that I didn’t have any other figures to attach to, so unlike the appealing Stunticons and Aerialbots, the Protectobots all got left on a store shelf and I never really formed that attachment.  Unlike First Aid, though, Hot Spot hasn’t played any especially key roles in recent comics, so I still don’t have a firm allegiance to him as a character.  That doesn’t do a whole lot to diminish how I feel about him as a toy, though, and as a toy, Hot Spot is pretty good.

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The Combiner Wars voyagers to this point have been somewhat hit or miss, though mostly hits.  I love Silverbolt, and I like Motormaster okay, though his failure as a central piece to Menasor left me feeling a bit cold after using him for a little while.  Hot Spot doesn’t have any of these drawbacks.

In vehicle mode, he’s a powder blue fire and rescue truck, a color that isn’t seen very often, but it seen from time to time.  The long form of the vehicle looks nice, and the sloped front and back make him look sleek and quick, even as a potentially lumbering fire truck.  He has six wheels, and a lot of play value, with a working ladder.  The Defensor head even flips back to reveal a bucket for a tiny figure to stand in.  I like the colors (even though the blue doesn’t match a whole lot of other Protectobot vehicles closely) and the design is pretty good.  The mid-section of his vehicle mode is a bit thin, looking a lot like robot legs barely covered by a closed shell.  It kind of resembles an elongated ladder truck, but not really, and that does take away, just a bit, from the vehicle mode.

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His transformation works nicely and even as a newly tooled Voyager, I found it pretty straight forward and quick to get him from fire truck to robot.  Separating the rear to create armored arms, and the front to create his large feet works nicely and the end result is a fairly sleek looking robot.

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At least until you look at his back.  Hot Spot is a great looking robot, especially head on, but before long you do notice quite a bit of ladder-based kibble strapped to his back, just kind of hanging off.  I understand why, I mean it’s difficult to do a ladder truck without having this obvious slab of ladder hanging from the figure, and full credit to the design team for making it less visible from the front.  I really like the large, wide shoulders, and the small spring-details in the forearms.  In robot mode, there’s a lot more red to tie him into the rest of the team than he has in vehicle mode, with a nice allotment of blue and black, too.  His head is somewhat reminiscent of Optimus Prime, I thought, but still looks individual enough to work.  He stands tall among his teammates and looks really nice leading the team, with his dual laser weapons and impressive stature.

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Transformers: Combiner Wars Rook

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Rook is a nice change of pace in the Combiner Wars line for a couple of different reasons. First and foremost, he’s an entirely new figure, rather than a modification or reshelling of an existing figure, and secondly he’s a totally new character, so I don’t have to try and relate any past nostalgic attachment to his Generation 1 iteration. Many fans lament the fact that Rook apparently has replaced Groove (at least at the deluxe scale, considering a Legends Groove does exist, and works with Defensor in his own way) but my lack of attachment to past versions of these characters has allowed me to not care a whole lot about that.

With that in mind, though, the fact that Takara is producing a Deluxe scale Groove to work with Defensor makes me whimsical that we might see him stateside at some point, which I love just for the sake of getting a new toy, and not necessarily as a replacement for Rook.  Honestly, Rook is cool enough that I don’t feel like he really needs replacing.

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Where most of the Protectobots vehicles are very clearly rescue based, Rook is completely about defense and offense.  As an armored SWAT vehicle, this new Protectobot certainly seems like the brick house of the bunch, a strong and powerful warrior as opposed to someone focused on rescue.  His alt mode is pretty fantastic, with six wheels, a tough looking armored hide, and excellent transformation.  There is no real visible kibble, and panels all fit together extremely well, leaving a solid tank-looking armored vehicle ready to stand strong against a Decepticon onslaught.

His transformation works well and contains a lot of similar mechanisms to other Combiner Wars figures, from the extending, flip down legs, to the pull apart arms.  Everything flows nicely, and even though he is essentially a completely different toy than any others before him, I found the process as straight forward as others, which is appreciated to a Transformers fan with limited capacity for mechanical engineering.

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In robot mode, Rook still exudes a sense of strength and stability, with exceptionally broad chest and shoulders.  I love the fact that his tires are embedded in his chest, and the armored hide of the SWAT vehicle makes for some really huge looking shoulder pads.  His arms are really short and stubby, with nice elbow movement.  I do have some issues with the arms, though.  The flaps hanging off his forearms that make up side panels on the vehicle look somewhat out of place in robot mode, though they could make for some great protective shields.  Also, while part of me absolutely loves the built-in cannons in his fists, another part of me wishes he had some normal hand holes for weapons.  His legs are surprisingly sleek and very well articulated, with great ball joint hips and very bendable knees,  He stands well and looks very imposing, even at a somewhat squat Deluxe scale.  Rook looks really great in either mode.

From a color perspective, Rook takes some nice blue elements from Hot Spot and Streetwise, with a healthy dose of black in his  torso and white trim throughout.  His complete lack of red does separate him somewhat from the other Protectobots, but even with that, I find him to be a great part of the team look and feel.

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If I have any complaints, I’m not especially sure what to do with this weapon.  He’s got some sort of forked prong that doesn’t seem to support his position as a thick and strong bad ass.  I would have loved for him to come with some nasty looking chain gun or other weapon that might better support his place among the team.

Really, that’s a minor complaint, and along with Streetwise, Rook is my favorite Deluxe team member, and perhaps my favorite Protectobot overall.

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Transformers: Combiner Wars Streetwise

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It’s times like this that I wished I was a more hardcore Transformers collector over the past several years.  One thing I’ve always loved doing with my G.I. Joe reviews is doing team shots or comparison shots, and when it comes to Streetwise, there’s nothing I’d love more than to do a shot with him and Transformers: Generations Prowl standing side by side or back to back.  I think this character and Prowl would work really well together (if you can ignore the fact that Prowl is kind of a dirtbag in the current IDW continuity).

Streetwise has a lot of fun elements that tie to his fellow police officer, from the red trim on his great new head sculpt to the black and white echos of color in his sleek sports car alternate mode.  Granted, in car mode, he has much more blue trim than black, but in robot mode, the black and white offsets definitely lead me to think back to Prowl.  We’ll see Prowl in Combiner Wars form soon enough, but honestly, I have more nostalgia for the classic look.  Maybe I’ll get him some day.

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Putting the focus back on Streetwise, he’s another great addition to the Combiner Wars brand featuring a really fun looking sports car police car mode, again leveraging the tooling from a Stunticon – this time Dead End/Brake Neck.  There’s enough new tooling on the outside that the police car itself looks nicely different from the other two vehicles, and I am in love with the white and powder blue paint scheme.  The transformation works really well, and leaves no robot pieces visible, looking like an excellent speedster police car, capable of chasing down any rogue Decepticon.

Like Dead End and Brake Neck, the transformation is relatively simple and quick, which is a piece of these Combiner Wars figures that I love.  While some folks might complain that too few core figures are being used with a lot of re-shelling, I love the fact that so many figures share the same essential transformation mechanism.  It makes it really easy for n00b’s like me to change modes.

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In robot mode, Streetwise has the great black and white color scheme, with a nice helping of red mixed in, which helps tie him to some of the other Protectobots well.  The team based color scheme has always left me scratching my head a bit as we see reds, whites, blues, and blacks, with no real unifying color pallet tying them all together.  Streetwise probably comes the closest to using the majority of these colors together, and the result is a very appealing looking robot.  His articulation is fantastic, too, with a ball-jointed neck, shoulders, and hips, along with very nicely poseable elbows and knees.  In fact, the elbows are double jointed, which enables him to reach some very cool poses in robot mode.

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In spite of really knowing nothing about Streetwise as a character, this figure is a ton of fun, and one of my favorites of the Protectobots team.  The vehicle is sleek, the robot is fun, and the transformation from one to the other is quick and seamless.  I also really love this silver shotgun, it suits the character quite nicely.

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Transformers: Combiner Wars First Aid

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I’m one of those “in and out” Transformers fans who only ever knew about Ratchet as the Autobot ambulance, though as I’ve read recent issues of the IDW comics, I’ve started to learn more about and appreciate First Aid as a character. Even with my fascination with combiners as a kid, I only had Superion and Menasor, and didn’t follow the toyline enough to get invested in the Protectobots (though the childhood G.I. Joe fan in me loved the Combaticons). Back in those days, if you did’t buy all the toys and didn’t follow the media religiously, characters just didn’t exist.

One of the things I love about the Combiner Wars is that they’ve made me appreciate certain characters that I never even knew about previously, and in seeking out some backstory, I’ve learned to love some of the more obscure members of Transformers history.

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Purely from a toy perspective, First Aid is pretty great.  He’s a reshelling of the Stunticon Off Road, which is a great thing, because I’m a big fan of that figure, even if he’s become somewhat of an outcast due to the recent release of Brake Neck.  In fact, I’m happy that a main release Combiner uses his parts, because I can enjoy the basics of the figure without having a “sixth wheel” so to speak.

In vehicle model, First Aid is a great looking ambulance which manages to look realistic as well as  have the appropriate Autobot “edge” to him.  It’s amazing how Transformers have evolved over the years, and while they still use alt modes to maintain a sense of disguise, they have begun looking less and less like real vehicles you might see driving around.  At least I’ve never seen an ambulance that looks like this, but I don’t really care, the vehicle is a lot of fun.  It manages to take the best elements of Off Road, yet add so many new pieces that the end result is still fresh and fun.

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The transformation works really nicely, with the different panels snapping together to form the outer shell of the vehicle, leaving pretty much no robot parts visible.  I had some issues snapping the roof together, but finally managed to get the tabs to line up properly.  Like the other vehicles, there are holes for weapons to attach, and I must admit I find it a bit funny that an Autobot medic comes with a pretty brutal looking battle axe.  It’s the same weapon that came with Off Road, so the carry forward makes sense, but I always have some challenges rationalizing “rescue” vehicles that are equipped with massive weapons of destruction.

In robot mode, First Aid is great, with a fantastic new head that has some great semi-metallic blue paint and a ton of character.  His articulation is spectacular, as most of the Combiner Wars figures are, with great elbow joints, really poseable knee joints and ball joints in the hips, shoulders, and neck.  He has a nice swivel waist, too, which enables him to match pretty much any pose you can think of.  Like Off Road, he does have a pretty sizable chunk of kibble that hangs off his back, but it’s far from a deal breaker.

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First Aid is a lot of fun.  Just getting this figure has made me appreciate him much more than just a Ratchet follow up, and again, this has been what I’ve loved most about Combiner Wars.  Characters who were just robots to me previously have started to become actual characters, and it almost feels like I’m getting introduced to large chunks of the Transformers universe for the first time.

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Transformers: Combiner Wars Blades

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One nice thing about the fact that I have yet to review the Aerialbots is that this particular review doesn’t feel as repetitive as it might otherwise.  After all, Blades is essentially the same exact figure as Alpha Bravo, but with a new head.  Being a fan of G.I. Joe like I am, I’ve grown accustomed to this formula for bringing new characters to the table, and it works well here.  I think it also helps that I’m not so attached to the vintage Transformers world that seeing several characters with the same Alt mode bugs me at all.

Like Alpha Bravo, Blades is a great looking helicopter in his alternate vehicle mode, an aircraft that in reality is a lot larger than his vehicular brothers, but considering the scale challenges that have existed in Transformers since the beginning, I suspect most of us are over issues like this by now.

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The color scheme is great, a very nice red and white combination that is striking and makes great sense for a rescue craft.  The blades spin freely on top of the helicopter, and the sleek design manages to conceal the majority of robot parts nicely.

Most, but not all.  The missile pods on the side are essentially Blades’ arms tacked into each side, and it looks like it.  For that matter, one must wonder why a rescue helicopter might have racks of missiles anyway, but again, these are Transformers, and are meant to represent Earth vehicles in their most basic elements.  They still need to be armed to fight the Decepticons in both modes, I suppose.  Speaking of which, the accessories Blades comes with can plug into various places in vehicle mode and robot mode both, adding some nice armament to the character.

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Transformation from vehicle to robot is relatively straight forward, with the front fuselage breaking apart into legs, the arms separating and the helicopter tail coming up and back against the figure’s spine.  Blades, like his Aerialbot brother, manages both modes very nicely, and has a considerable amount of great articulation in figure mode.  Ball joint hips, shoulders and neck add some great range of motion, and he has very flexible knee and elbow joints to boot.  A swivel waist is nicely concealed and very functional as well.

Blades’ new head sculpt is a terrific representation of the character, and the color breaks look really nice in both modes.

Yes, Blades is just a repaint of Alpha Bravo with a new head, but as I said, this doesn’t bother me.  Heck, the upcoming Vortex from the Combaticons doesn’t even get a new head (though Alpha Bravo’s head is obviously a Vortex inspired one anyway).  I think it’s kind of cool to actually have these Combiner characters who bare resemblance to each other, and when the toy itself is fun, that certainly helps.

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GeneralsJoes Reviews the Marauder Task Force!

Ever since the Kickstarter launched I’ve been dreaming of getting my sweaty palms on these fun looking figures.  That day has come, and I hope you’re prepared for a mammoth review of the much anticipated Marauder “Task Force”!

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Transformers: Combiner Wars Menasor

Combiner Wars is in full gear, with two waves of product at retail, and considering the main goal of this line was to provide toys that combine and interact with each other, the question must be raised…are the Combiner Wars gestalts as good as their individual pieces? Could the total be greater than the sum of its individual parts?

Unfortunately, in Menasor’s case, the answer is no.

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Transformers: Combiner Wars Breakdown

Seriously, what kid in the 80s didn’t love the Lamborghini?

Lamborghini’s were prevelant in the Transformers line in those first few years, with both Sideswipe, Sunstreaker, and Breakdown all bearing the proud shield of the famous car maker. Even back then, Breakdown was my favorite of the three. My memory is hazy after all these years, and maybe it was just because of the size and feel of Breakdown, but he just felt like a more solid, better car than the two twin brothers. I recall Sunstreaker being obnoxious to transform, and Breakdown was right for my smaller hands.

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