Rob's Pile of Transformers: Manic Rambings

  Manic Ramblings and Delirious Ranting
re: Skyshadow, Noctorro, Torca, Bantor

Thanks to Zobovor's hot tip (Fuzors on sale at TRU for $3 and $5!), I
wound up getting these four tonight for a total of $17... not too bad.
It's a good move for TRU to cut the prices like that, since I've passed on
Skyshadow numerous times (tempted mainly because he's aquired something of
a cult following among fanfiction writers), and never really considered
getting the other three at all.  Amazingly enough, the store also had
plenty of Quickstrikes and Silverbolts; I would have expected the show
characters to be sold out.  I almost missed the display -- it was on an
endcap facing the rear of the store, separated from the Transmetals that
comprise the "regular" Beast Wars display.  So if you don't see it at
first, poke around a bit.  Alas, Retrax was not included, much to my
disapointment.  I had really wanted to pick up three Retraxes and learn to
juggle with them... I was tempted to pick up several Buzzclaws instead --
dammit, I want to have an army of *something*!  Retrax, Buzzclaw,
whatever, just *some* cool and creepy looking figure that will follow me
in mindless hordes and do my bidding!  

Anyway, my guess would be that this sale does indeed sound the death knell
for the Fuzors line.  Ah well, no biggie... the only ones that really
impressed me were Quickstrike, Silverbolt, Buzzclaw, and -- to a lessor
extent -- Terragator.  Not a particularly great line, IMO -- at least, not
compared to the Transmetals they were released alongside of. As I said,
none of these guys impressed me enough for me to buy them before now. 
It's a bit odd to have four new figures and not be too excited about any
of them.... 

Initial impressions:
Skyshadow: great beast.  Dumb looking robot.
Torca: Nice in both modes, but transform is unsatisfyingly simple.
Noctorro: Nicely dramatic looking robot... silly beast mode.
Bantor: He RULES!!  The best of the bunch.

SKYSHADOW:  I'll skip my usual ranting about how difficult it was to get
him out of the package... that's par for the course by now with BW.  His
creature mode (lizard/dragon fly) is one of the better fusions in the
line.  He's pretty much a lizard with a dragon fly butt grafted onto his
back.  I can't help but thinking that he might have been a better TF if
they'd just stuck with the lizard; the lizard head is actually the best
part of him aesthetically.  His colors are exotic and loud, but oddly
enough they don't clash or conflict.  He sticks to my three-main-colors
rule, with a dark blue head and front legs, green back, tail, and rear
legs, and translucent orange wings and headcrest.  Bright red spots
complete the picture.  

His beast head and neck come apart rather easily, but it's not hard to
snap them back into place.  Something that looks like it could be his
robot head is on the end of his tail, with a missile in its mouth.  The
missile fires by the same pressure-based system as the G2 Cyberjets, but I
haven't figured out if there's a more sophisticated launching mechanism
than just pushing on the end of the missle.  His beast mode posability is
excellent, with two ball joints and one hinge joint on each leg.  Rear
legs are a bit bigger than the front ones; I suspect they become his robot
mode legs as well.  Ahh, there's the firing mechanism -- a little latch at
the base of his tail that must be pushed toward the launcher to fire it. 
Overall the look of this mode is good from above, okay from the sides --
that angle reveals that he's actually a lot of beast parts tacked onto a
pile of folded up robot parts, a bit like the original Airazor. 

Midway through his transformation, you can get a very funny image if you
stand him upright on his rear legs -- he looks like a bad Godzilla movie
monster.  It's even worse if you let his beast head flop around on the arm
that it forms the end of.  Hmm, this is proving more difficult than I
anticipated... ahh.  There are two little things on his side that look
like foot bones.  The way they're hinged they look like they should swing
out from his body, but in fact you have to first rotate them alongside his
body.  This is done by pulling his front beast legs out from his side a
little bit.  Okay, wow, I'm kinda stuck... he's standing here with limbs
and wings flying off in every direction, but none of them in anything
resembling a correct position... ah ha!  I had his chest rotated
backwards; the way the chest and waist pieces match each other in molded
detail made me think that was the correct position for beast mode instead
of robot mode.  

Okay, everthing falls together after that... but what to do with his front
wings?? Do they just sit there on his chest?  Consulting the package art,
I see that they do indeed.  This is another one of my big Beast Wars
complaints -- wierd protrusions that would really impair everyday
functions like sitting, picking things up, looking around...  Anyway, the
finished transformation is rather neat -- his tail ends up on his back,
supporting his head on the end of it.  Clever.  The front beast legs fold
out of the way onto his back though a nicely-designed swingbar.
TRICKS: bascially what I just said about pulling the beast legs out to the
side, and the bit about getting his chest right -- the molding on the
upper and lower sections lines up, looking like it's in position for beast
mode when in fact it's in robot position.

His robot mode is butt ugly, make no mistake about it.  It's one of those
modes that makes me question if it can legitimately be called a robot at
all.  Nothing about it looks mechanical -- *nothing*.  Instead it's all
organic, either insectile or reptillian.  To be honest, I do *not* like
it.  Another of my BW complaints has always been that robots should look
like *robots*, and Skyshadow is the worst offender in this department that
I've yet encountered.

He's mostly green in this form, with the orange wings sticking out of his
abdomen, and the other two wings forming a giant pair of pinchers on one
arm (the lizard head forms the other arm.)  They snap together when you
move a little lever back and forth, but unfortunately the wing/pinchers
don't quite come all the way together -- a minor defect that should have
been corrected.  His barf missile can still be fired in this mode, by
pushing on it from behind, Cyberjet-style.  His head turns and can also be
thrown back for maniacal laughter action.  And oh, that head!  He's got a
cash register drawer of a lower jaw, even worse than Wolfang.  His mouth
is permanently opened, like Bonecrusher -- though to his credit, because
of the pressure-launcher system, he doesn't have a three-inch head like
Bonecrusher does.  The overall shape of his head brings to mind some sort
of primative fish.  His torso can twist at the waist, but unfortunately
his head isn't as agile -- the tail stays put, and therefore so does thehead. 

Overall:  Most of my problems with this toy are matters of aesthetic
taste.  I do *not* like organic robots, or mutant-like heads, or randomly
placed beast kibble, or hands without fingers -- and Skyshadow has 'em
all.  I _don't_ think I'll be transforming him to robot mode much,
especially since his beast mode is pretty nice.  He is quite well designed
overall, with a deceptively simple-looking transformation that's actually
complex in subtle ways.  Worth $5, easily... I just really dislike his
robot mode.

Ack... I'm too tired right now... I'll do the others later...

Oh man... I've had a crap day (car broke down in Jersey and is still
sitting there.)  What better way to forget it than to review the rest of
the Fuzors, who I finally opened this evening.

TORCA:  I like this guy's coloration a LOT -- he has a deep navy blue back
and head, and dark gold limbs.  It's quiet and dignified, and looks great.
BWs in the last year have tended to have gaudy colors, but these are quite
subtle.  His beast mode is big and powerful looking, and actually looks
like it might be adaptable to both of the environments it's designed for
(unlike Noctorro for example, whos beast mode looks useless on land.)
Torca's gimmicks are nothing spectacular, just a water-shooting back
cannon (looks like a weapon that Depth Charge might use, actually), and a
pair of front tusks that move around but -- like Skyshadow's pincers --
don't quite come together the way you'd think they're supposed to.

Transformation is almost laughably simple, and contains nothing we haven't
seen on other Beast Warriors.  You basically stand him up on his hind
legs, and swing a few elephant/whale bits out of the way.  His fists are
hidden in his front beast ankles, and instead of swinging back out of the
way, the front beast feet just hang there from his wrists.  That's a bit
of a problem, because the beast feet are HUGE.  He's mostly the same
colors in this mode, though the pearl white of the tusks, fists, waist and
upper legs adds a nice accent, as does the red of his lower jaw (which
ends up on his chest.)  His head is huge, since it has the tusks and their
"holders" stuck on the sides of it.  His limbs are massive and
well-proportioned, giving him a look of great strenght.  Though he only
has the four colors, their placement, together with various details on his
limbs, give him a 'busy' look that works very well.  I especially like the
jaw on his chest -- it has a deeply grooved tounge, and two front incisors
that jut out and look cool.  He looks like some kind of dignified alien
regent or gladiator or something -- though not too much like a robot.  Too
much backpack kibble... I hate it when you can't see a robot's arms frombehind.

TRICKS: There's only one, really.  To get his beast head bits out of the
way of his robot head, you have to turn them so they're upside down and
pointed backwards -- then make sure those white ball joints are pushed
outwards as far as they'll go.  This will also form a cool shoulderpad
look from the front, by the way.

Overall: definately worth it for $5.  $10, questionable... I'm glad I
didn't pay that much for him.

NOCTORRO:  Dude, what's up with this beast mode??  Though I like the idea
of a bat with horns, I almost wish they'd gone with a straight bat instead
of the fusion thing, and made his legs to fold up underneath him (though
if they did that, I'd be complaining again about how bird-type
Transformers always have fat beast legs...)  His rear legs look silly;
they look like they'd only be useful in conjunction with a pair of front
legs, and he doesn't HAVE any front legs.  His bat wings look cool,
however.  He's very dark blue, with coppery back and wing highlights.  As
with Torca, it works very well.  His wings are spring-loaded and snap
together if you touch the button on his back.  Unfortunately the mechanism
is very jumpy and will activate from just holding him... annoying if you
want him to stay put.

Transformation is even simpler than Torca, and very similar -- stand him
up on his hind legs, fold a couple of beast bits back, pull animal head
down to reveal robot head, twiddle with the arms and legs till they look
right.  He looks surprisingly good in this mode.  He's not much more
mechanical looking than Skyshadow, but instead of trying to be the
Creature from the Black Lagoon, he's got more of a gothic thing goin' on,
which I can kinda dig.  Spiked knees, spikey toes, big horns on his head,
and the cool-looking bat wings sticking out of his wrist make him a
nifty-looking figure, if not a very convincing robot.  He twists at the
waist, which is nice.  Only real flaw in this mode is the bat wings --
they refuse to stay pushed back against his sides, and keep springing
open, making it hard to keep his arms at his side.  His bat claws become
his robot hands, meaning he's got BIG hands.  His robot face is painted an
oddly misplaced red color; it looks like some kind of demon skull thing. Ick.

Overall: If you like his beast mode, you'll like his robot mode even more.
Worth $3, but iffy for my five -- but that's because I don't like simple
transformations and organic robot modes.

BANTOR:  This guy was a real surprise.  I didn't think I'd like him much
at all, since I didn't care for the look of his beast mode, and nothing
else about him caught my attention.  Once I got him out of the package,
though, my impression changed greatly.

For one thing, his beast mode looks a lot better when you get his front
legs positioned correctly.  In the package, his shins are turned
backwards; once you get 'em right, he looks much more normal.  In fact, to
my untrained eye, he looks more like a normal lion than a Fuzor.  Sure,
he's got weird proportions (huge front legs, a really thin abdomen), but
otherwise the only baboonish thing about him is the face.  There was much
newsgroup debate about his rear legs, specifically over whether they are
two tiger legs (with one bent mid-foot) or one tiger and one baboon leg.
I'm throwing my vote firmly on the side of two tiger legs.

Second, he's got a *cool* gimmick.  Push the button on his back, and his
whole mane and head jumps forward about an inch or so.  Sometimes, his
fist and arm fly out as well, so that you're getting rammed by this lion
head with a baboon face and a fist coming out of its mouth.  Freaky... in
keeping with the rest of him.  There's something of an art to firing this
thing... it works best if you run a fingernail along it and let it snap
off the end of the button.

His transformation is quite clever.  Instead of simply standing him up on
his legs, you first detach the front legs from his sides, and fold them
down underneath him till the two side panels join together -- much like BW
Fuzor Silverbolt.  Then the rest of him rotates around the waist (a bit
like Terragator), and you suddenly realize there's two arms there -- one
coming out of the beast head, the other with the animal butt, rear legs,
and tail attached to it.  A lever on the back slides to push the robot
head up out of his chest. 

He looks a bit demented in this mode, and I LIKE it.  He's sporting an
over-eager grin, for one thing.  He has somewhat massive legs, huge feet,
a stout torso, and smallish arms, both of which have animal stuff
attached.  In fact, the beast head IS his upper right arm, with only the
forearm sticking out from it -- this makes the arm look short and stumpy,
even though it's the same length as the other arm.  Something about that
short-looking arm adds to the demented look for me -- I can see him waving
it about and spouting mad scientist mantras.  "The fools!  I'll destroy
them all!  Wheee!!!" ...The left-arm stuff can be detached, turned around,
and re-attached to the top of his forearm, allowing the beast tail to be
used as a sword or machette, though I can picture him using it more as a
classroom pointer or a nasty dental instrument.  Attach it underneath his
forearm and it becomes a shield.  His articulation is mixed -- legs are
good;  arms are a bit limited by some hinge joints, but still quite good.
He can't twist to the left at all, and if you twist him to the right he
looks like he's been cut in two since the rotator joint isn't in the
center of his torso.  His colors are a little loud -- I didn't like safety
orange on Optimal Optimus, and I don't like it on this guy.  On the other
hand... it adds still further to the dementia aspect, somehow.  The rest
of him is chocolate brown, with a few silver highlights on the robot head
and beast snout.

Overall: This fellow is WELL worth $3, or even $5.  Pick him up while you
still have the chance.

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