Transformers: Combiner Wars Bruticus

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The Combiner Wars theme, I’m happy to say, has had far more “hits” than misses, and I feel comfortable saying that Bruticus is another solid home run. Using the same connection template as the previous combiners, the limbs all say firmly secure, yet offer very nice poseability, as the other combiners do.

Perhaps what puts Bruticus over the edge is that he is a combiner team I actually owned part of when I was younger (as a G.I. Joe fan back then, I naturally gravitated towards the military theme) along with the Stunticons and Aerialbots. Unlike the Stunticons and Aerialbots, however, I don’t believe I ever owned the entire set of Combaticons, so this is like a new world for me, and it’s one that I like.

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Britucus’ very distinctive head sculpt is translated perfectly with this combined figure, and I love the broad, triangular chest plate. He looks imposing and powerful, and unlike Menasor, he doesn’t feel like he exists just to topple over. The wide stance of his legs (like Defensor) holds him in poses really nicely, and even though the individual Combaticons have some pretty different, distinctive colors, he still makes for an awesome combined character.

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Bruticus is great, all things considered. I think I may still like Superion the most (well, unless you count Devastator), but Bruticus is a close second, followed by Defensor. Menasor needs to rethink his outlook on life.

Transformers: Combiner Wars Onslaught

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It’s amazing what some minor changes can do to change one character into another, and those minor changes work wonders for Onslaught.

Obviously based on the Hot Spot tooling, Onslaught has just the right changes to completely redefine the figure into a different, more effective character. The elaborate hook and ladder system on his back in vehicle mode is now a triangular mount for his two cannons, and not only does it look more potent and deadly in vehicle mode, but the it converts nicely into an effective chestplate for Bruticus.

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The vehicle itself is narrow and sloped, like the fire truck, but still makes for an excellent military type vehicle, although not especially vintage accurate. Like Hot Spot, transformation is relatively intuitive and easily accomplished, and as cool as the vehicle is, the robot mode is even better. Articulation is spectacular, with great movement at all necessary joints. I love how imposing the armored shoulder pads look, and the intricate lined sculpting in robot mode is seriously impressive.

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Sculpting in the new head is nearly flawless, and it’s amazing to me how a featureless robot can express such emotion with the different positions of his head and body.

The twin cannons can stay attached to the back like you might expect, but are also removable and can be held as robotic guns, too.

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Like the rest of the Combaticons, Onslaught’s colors are based more strongly on the classic toy than the animation, but work well in that regard, and as a lifelong G.I. Joe fan, I’m extremely attached to the military angle of all these Combaticon toys. Onslaught is a great vintage update and makes for a fantastic centerpiece to the Bruticus combiner.

Transformers: Combiner Wars Swindle

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Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I’ve always understood Swindle to be probably the most famous of the Combaticons, and one of the characters that has somewhat transcended his role as merely one part of the larger whole. That might be just because of my fascination with Transformers: Animated and the fact that he had such a distinct role there, but that’s the impression that I get.

Hasbro does a good job of taking the classic elements of Swindle and integrating them a bit more into an effective “combat” vehicle, using a healthy helping of Rook, but adding some very nice tweaks with some rollbars and more identifiable “Jeep” parts. The result is a bulky, armored combat jeep that manages to maintain all the hallmarks of the vintage original, yet plenty of more modern power while they’re at it.

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One of the best parts of the figure is the new head sculpt, which is chock full of that Swindle arms dealer character. With his trademark purple “sunglasses” and grimace, the head and face definitely resemble the Swindle that we know and love. He’s got a very unique head that is translated quite nicely to plastic form here, and I love it.

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With a nice mixture of orangish/brown, Hasbro takes some queues from the vintage version and both the vehicle and robot look the part. It certainly helps that Rook is one of my favorite base figures, too, and I’m really glad they’re leveraging him for both Swindle and Hound. It makes for a great base, and with just the right tooling tweaks, they look separate enough to work nicely.

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Swindle is pretty great. I daresay he’s the highlight of this wave of Deluxes for me, easily pushing aside Brawl, who I just assumed would be my odds on favorite.

Transformers: Combiner Wars Brawl

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Out of all the deluxe Combaticons, Brawl was probably the one I looked forward to most, simply due to his alt mode. As a G.I. Joe fan, I really dig seeing Transformers geared up as true military machines, even though I break out in hives thinking of the twisted up scale of some of these vehicles.

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Brawl is the one completely new figure amongst this crew of repaints, and in vehicle mode, I love it. The tank looks cool and distinct, standing out among the crowd, impressing with its armor and cannon when intermingled with repainted pick up trucks, scrawny fighter jets and sports cars. Brawl means business.

Unfortunately, once you get Brawl into robot mode, it starts to feel like maybe Brawl is going out of business. At first glance, he looks great. Broad shouldered, stocky, and very aggressive looking. Pretty much how you’d expect a tank that turns into a robot to look. But once you start posing him, you run into some annoying problems. His shoulders are connected at a very restrictive shoulder joint, connecting stubby arms directly to his torso, and limited his arm movements by a considerable margin. The result is a figure that can do little more than flap his arms or rotate them very close to his body. At the waist, there’s no real connecting joint either, so the top half of the figure just kind of floats there and doesn’t hold together, so he’s constantly pulling apart and is tough to move into a really nice pose. It’s disappointing, because these are two pretty key issues that, from a design standpoint, Hasbro has overcome, at least until now.

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Throughout the bulk of the Combiner Wars line, they’ve (almost magically) been able to mesh design with articulation, and give us two very effective modes without sacrificing play factor. In the case of Brawl, they don’t quite succeed, which is all the more frustrating since this is the only newly tooled figure of the wave. The hope would be that this one newly tooled figure would be great enough to rise above all the repaints, when in fact, it ends up drawing the rest of the wave down a bit.

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I love the colors, I love the concept, I desperately want to enjoy Brawl, but the fact remains that he’s the wave’s greatest disappointment, which is extremely unfortunate.

Transformers: Combiner Wars Blast Off

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Sometimes, when you’re an avid, nostalgia-fueled fan, certain decisions by modern toymakers can drive you up the wall. Even if you know the reasons (more often than not financial) these choices can be infuriating.

At times like this, sometimes I’m glad I was mostly a fringe Transformers fan in the 80s, so when Blast Off is represented as a fighter jet instead of a space shuttle in the Combiner Wars line, I can kinda shrug it off and say “makes sense to me”. I mean, after all, what kind of “combat” vehicle is a friggen space shuttle?!

Granted, the Takara version of Blast Off does look pretty friggen sweet.

As mentioned, this rendition of the Combaticon air support member is a jet instead of a shuttle, a repaint of several previous releases within the Combiner Wars line, including Quickslinger. In fact, this figure is a direct repaint of Quickslinger, included the head sculpt, which has caused some understandable consternation among Transformers fans. Even if you’re not going to give folks the full blown space shuttle experience, it feels like a new head would have at least been a good bone to throw to the fans out there.

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Because Blast Off is such a straight repaint, it’s tough to find a whole lot more to talk about with the figure itself. I still really love the base figure here, and it was one of these fighter jets that got me interested in Combiner Wars in the first place, way back when. The transformation is really straight forward, easy to pull off in both directions, and the figure is very nicely articulated, something that’s especially important to a long time G.I. Joe fan like myself.

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Blast Off is colored in much the same way as the vintage version, with a metallic gray and purple mixture, both complimenting each other remarkably well. The small hints of yellow add some nice color, without being too intrusive.

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No, Blast Off is not a space shuttle, but in my opinion, he fits much better with his peers in this form. I can certainly understand the complaints of the long time fans who want a G1 update to go along with these others, but from a practical standpoint, I’m cool with the version we got.

Transformers: Combiner Wars Vortex

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In a way, when Hasbro first released Alpha Bravo back with their first wave of Combiner Wars figures, fans everywhere immediately knew that Vortex was just a matter of time. Not only was Vortex the same distinct kind of helicopter that Alpha Bravo was, but even the head sculpt was pretty unique to that Combaticon. With Quickslinger’s release, Alpha Bravo became the odd man out of the Aerialbots, so at this point, even though Vortex is a straight repaint of that figure, it doesn’t feel like a big deal, because the original version of the helicopter combiner has been rendered more or less extraneous.

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I’ll admit Alpha Bravo was never my favorite of the first run of Combiner Wars, and that opinion is maintained with Vortex. The transformation feels a little clunkier and the robot isn’t quite so fluidly articulated as some of the others. That being said, looking at the Vortex source material, Hasbro did a pretty spectacular job of updating that character to a modern version, while maintaining much of the spirit and uniqueness of the original.

Most of Vortex is gray, like the original, with just the right hints of that nice shade of green. Even the yellow painted missiles are a nice mimic of the yellow stickers adhered to the side of the original G1 Vortex.

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Even with the transformation being not as intuitive as other releases, it is still relatively easy and accomplished quickly, allowing for much more enjoyable “play time” for those of us who are Transformers novices.

I love the colors, really like the character now that I know him better, and consider this a pretty great update to the G1 original.

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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