Rob's Pile of Transformers: Manic Ramblings

MR&DR: Tank Drone, Nightviper, Silverbolt, Blastcharge
12/17/00

I was very, very bad today... I went shopping and spent more on myself in one day than I have during the preceeding three months. I just couldn't help myself... there were so many new toys on the shelves I'd not seen before! Even with the four I bought, I still passed up on several other new ones: Nightscream, BM Megatron (now out in force), Snarl, Quickstrike, Gekobot, and Skydive. TRU also had an original BW Silverbolt, which I almost bought, thinking "You'll never see him at retail again!" The same TRU was also equipped with an entire WALL of Supreme Cheetors. Target, Wal*Mart, and KMart were similarly well-stocked. For once, Hasbro's doing things right! All these new toys are just waiting for kids' Christmas lists! (too bad they still don't have Rattrap out... his production delays ranks as Hasbro's single biggest flub of the last two years, IMO.) And Milwaukee's South 27th Street is now my new hot spot for Transformer hunting.

Anyway.

TANK DRONE: This is the first Transformer in many, many months that I was actively interested in getting -- not since Thrust came out last spring have I really looked forward to a particular toy. And considering that it's a Basic-size toy, Tank Drone doesn't disappoint.

I'll admit... a HUGE portion of the toy's appeal to me lies in the fact that it successfully captures the likeness of Tankor's show appearance, even if many of the details are different. He's far from perfect, either as a toy in his own right, or as a copy of the show version, but much of that is attributable simply to the fact that he's so tiny. He *feels* like the show model, and that's what's really important. My first impression was that if they could do this with just a Basic, the Mega-sized Tankor could have been spectacular -- AND show-perfect. A shame it wasn't, really.

Tank Drone feels much smaller than he is, probably because the show tank drones are so gigantic -- he give the impression of being modeled at a smaller scale than most of the other toys. His colors are nice in and of themselves -- light grey body, boots and shoulder armor in a beautiful dark blue, torso parts in translucent red, dark grey forearms and head (the latter an odd choice, since it's light grey on the show), and lots of silver chrome trim. Unfortunately, the greys dominate just a bit too much in robot mode, especially since the silver chrome kinda blends in with them. However, if you spin his torso around 180 degrees, you get two bonuses: he can have normal feet instead of tread feet and backwards knees, and the red pice where his torso meets his legs adds some much-needed color. Colors work better in tank mode, where the blue about equals the grey; bits of red and nice gold-yellow stripes complete the picture.

THIS, my friends, is the true meaning of Big Horkin' Gun. Tank Drone's gun is as tall as he is, and (proportionally) is far thicker and nastier-looking than that of the Tankor toy. It looks more like a crew-served weapon than a soldier's armament. It swings out of the way onto his back like the show model; however, due to his shoulder armor being in the way, it does so via a somewhat awkward panel that it's attached to. The only real weakness is that it can't rotate horizontally in either mode. In tank mode, a series of gears causes it to spin show-style when he's rolled along; I suspect it's supposed to fire the missile, too, but mine doesn't. This only works if the gun is pivoted upwards, a position that it doesn't want to stay in, unfortunately. Ah, there goes the missile... now it won't stay in the locked position anymore. And it fires when he's rolling backwards, not forwards. Basically, the whole firing mechanism has issues.

Overall: if you like the show version of Tankor, this is the toy for you. Even disregarding that, it's a decent toy in its own right.

SILVERBOLT: Nice looking robot mode... but what the hell's going on with that beast mode? Most Transformer toys are essentially designed by taking an alt.mode and cutting it up into folded-up robot bits, since a robot with animal bits attached to it is far more credible than an animal with robot bits. Silverbolt works the other way -- he's a robot that gets wadded up into something they call a beast mode. You look at him in robot mode, and there's only a couple of bits that hint at him even HAVING a changeform. And when you transform him, he reminds you more of the days of G1 Pretenders than the gloriously sophisticated toys we usually get these days. He looks like a balled-up robot with a bird head stuck on, just as many of the Pretenders looked like balled-up robots with a cockpit or wings or something stuck on. Silverbolt even has the crucial alt.mode component that doesn't integrate with his robot mode -- his entire wing assembly is detachable. It can attach to his back in robot mode, but it's really in the way. Worst of all, his robot legs simply hang across the top of his wings. They're supposed to resemble prehensile wing appendages, like a bat has, but it doesn't work at all since they don't peg into the wings at all, and they're an entirely different shape, style, and color.

This has been a recurring problem with bird Transformers. Instead of starting with a credible bird body, the designers seem to think that any wadded-up conglomeration of robot arms and legs with some claws, wings, and beak stuck onto it can pass as a bird. Not a single one of these has worked, however... not Magnaboss Silverbolt, not the original Airazor, and certainly not BM Silverbolt. Nor has a single one of them given the bird mode believable feet; every one instead uses one set of robot limbs as the bird legs -- and hence the bird legs are incredibly thick. Only TM2 Prowl succeeds on either count... and even his legs are pushing it.

Silverbolt's wings themselves are nice, consisting of a clear plastic that fades from almost-white to almost-opaque dark blue. His robot mode is also nice. He's long and lanky, looking tall in a way that belies his Basic size. His colors are loud, but IMO they work. Mostly he's yellow and orange, with bits of transparent light blue. Purple and silver highlights on his chest pull it all together perfectly. His colors, of course, bear little resemblance to his mostly-blue show self... but they work in their own right, so for some reason I don't really mind. He does capture the feel of the show model in other ways, mainly in his head (a near-perfect match), and the little feathers that stick up behind his shoulders.

Overall: I like his robot aesthetics a lot... but he's got some serious design issues goin' on. Don't get him unless you like the way he looks in the package, 'cause there's not much more to him.

NIGHTVIPER: From the Internet pix I'd seen, I expected him to be BIG -- Deluxe sized or so. So when I got to the store and he was so tiny and cute, I just had to get him. His snake mode is tiny! He unfolds into a robot that's comparable in height and mass to Silverbolt, however.

The snake mode is a mess, unfortunately. Much like Silverbolt, he's a folded-up wad of robot parts. You almost don't even see his snake head for all the similarly-colored robot bits just behind it. Basically he's composed of a fat and massive hood and head, with a long, thin tail behind it. The tail has nice ball-joint articulation; the head snaps forward and the mouth opens when you push a button. Not a very convincing snake, as far as apportionment of mass goes -- I mean, snakes don't *have* tails as such; they *are* the tail. Still, it's nice to see the effort made. A transforming snake is something fans were speculating about years ago; various manners of doing it were proposed, but nothing like this. There was the snake from BW Neo, but this is the first we've seen State-side. And even if it's not a very convincing snake, it's still kind of a cool one.

The robot mode, OTOH, is simply sweet. Even more than Silverbolt, he's long, lean, and lanky, with what might be described as serpentine proportions and an alien aesthetic that sorta reminds me of those lizard dudes from Land of the Lost, the Sleestacks or whatever they were called. To me he kind of epitomizes the smooth, curvy mechanistic look that they seem to be shooting for with the Maximals. His shoulders curve up to above his head (kinda like some of the G1 Micromasters, but infinately more graceful). The upper snake hood rests behind his head like some kind of royal collar or mantle. The back halves of his hood are mounted on his arms, where they seem to function as some sort of bizarre shields, one of which features a yellow curved blade. I'm neutral on his coloration... silver-blue-grey extremities, midnight blue on most everything else, lots of red trim, and yellow and orange chest details. It works okay (except for the red hands), but doesn't look outstanding. His feet are a little doofy-looking; the upward-curving ends make him look like he's wearing Dutch wooden shoes.

Looking at his robot mode, I really do get kind of annoyed with the designers. Like Silverbolt, he's a robot that kinda wads up into a ball with a beast head. He's sleeker and more coherant, granted, but he's not anything like what you'd design if you were out to create a toy that's just a snake, techno-organic or otherwise. His robot bits ought to integrate more seemlessly into a smooth, flowing snake body. Also, the way he pegs together in snake mode puts a lot of pressure on the pegged parts, meaning they pop back out of place rather easily. He does have one nice bit of engineering innovation -- his leg assembly unsnaps from his waist and threads through it to become his tail in snake mode. It's a clever and effective way to use a (mostly) symetrical piece in an asymetrical manner.

Overall: sleek and sweet, and kinda cute, too. But not a very convincing snake.

BLASTCHARGE: Upon seeing this guy's vehicle mode, I was completely willing to overlook the fact that his colors are hideous and his robot mode is fat and dumpy. This six-wheeled monster's sole purpose is to roll around blowing up everything in its path and then running over the remains. It's like the lunar rover from HELL. It sports six massive tires, a triple-barreled turret, and a hinged front end with hinged *wheels* -- he's maybe the first Transformer toy that can turn in vehicle mode, and he's got two different ways to do it! All six wheels roll; the rear pair are also spring-loaded (push them in a bit and they spring back out.) Only the center cannon fires, which is too bad since a ripple-fire effect could have worked very well here. The vehicle is well-integrated, with no badly-protruding hinges or joints, and no distinguishable robot parts visible.

The colors... okay, they're not totally without merit. His front end is done in a nice-looking orange-gold chrome, with clear green windshieds; along with the metallic silver bumper, it works nicely. But trailing that is a mustard-yellow body, with RED CAMO! Arrrrrrrrg! My eyyyyyyyyyyyes! Chrome red camo is also found on the front end, but it's far less noticable. I really wonder why they split his colors like that... not that I want to see more of the mustard yellow, but it really looks awkward to have 1/3rd of him decoed completely differently than the other 2/3rds.

For the record... his vehicle mode isn't quite a dead ringer for my fanfic character Lash, but it's definately the right idea, with big massive tires taking up a huge amount of space. The robot mode, alas, is completely different. Lash ends up with four of her six tires in a row on her back as kibble; she also has more humanoid, top-heavy proportions (and no, I don't mean top-heavy the way Blackarachnia is :] and a typically humanoid G1-style face.

Blastcharge's transformation is quite complicated, with lots of bits that must be rotated in the correct order; it also involves some clever re-arranging of the two rear pairs of wheels. Unfortunately, this clever rearranging serves to turn them into his legs, so that he's walking around on some stacked-up tires. Granted, it's a creative alternative to turning them into kibble; however, it just looks silly. Blasty's robot mode looks silly in lots of other ways, too. His launchers stick out of his chest -- WAY out, moreso proportionally than Optimal Optimus's, and not nearly so agreeably. His arms are pathetically scrawny compared to his massive torso, and they can barely reach past the end of the obtrusive launcher. His feet (the unfolded hubcaps of his tires) have nothing to lock them into a "forward" position, so they just spin around when you pick him up or move him. And his colors -- mustard yellow with orange and light grey limbs -- are even worse here than in vehicle mode.

Overall: He's an awesome vehicle and a lot of fun to transform, but be warned... his robot mode is even gimpier than the pictures would lead you to believe.

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