2016 has been fucking shite, as we all know. Just this week we’ve lost the incredible Carrie Fisher. Yet that utterly devastating news isn’t even the worst of it when you consider the election of Donald Drumpf and the fucking madness that is the Brexit vote and all that has followed. And Wogan. And Daniels. Yet flying in the face of this relentless unimaginable shit storm, 2016 has somehow been an absolute cracker in one respect – Transformers.
Not only has there not been a Bay film, but we’ve also been treated to an unprecedented number of official and third party Masterpiece releases. On top of that, we’ve enjoyed the debut of one of the best mainstream Hasbro lines in recent times. Picking a Top 10 was quite the task. But nonetheless, here it is:
- Unite Warriors Computron (Takara)
I could rant for hours about the shitty use of repaints in the Combiner Wars line, but there’s no doubt that when the right model, character and paint come together the line can absolutely deliver. As great as Devastator, Superion and Bruticus were, never did the line shine brighter than with UW Computron. The gestalt was bloody terrific, bar Takara’s odd decision to go with the traditional Combiner Wars hands/feet instead of the ‘proper’ limb ends found in the Hasbro version (pictured here are the Perfect Effect hands and feet). Each of the individual bots oozes character. Hell, they even made a decent bot of the Sunstreaker/Wheeljack mold. Afterburner improved upon Groove and I can’t get enough of the Rook mold, which Nosecone boasted splendidly. And Strafe was my favourite of the lot.
- M01 Commander Oversize AOE Evasion Optimus Prime (Wei Jiang)
Jesus, a Bayverse bot? What the fuck is this? I hate the movie designs and Prime is no exception, but this toy! Wow, what an experience. 2016 was the year that completely redefined what a KO toy can be. True, sometimes it’s still what it says on the tin – a substandard rip-off of superior work. Sometimes, though, it can be something so much more. M01 is such an example. It should be considered an original toy, really, such are the enhancements and refinements Wei Jiang has made here. Making a Bayverse bot desirable is an achievement for the ages.
- LG30 Legends Weirdwolf (Takara)
The first of many Titans Return figures in this list. It’s a testament to the line how someone like me, a predominantly Masterpiece-orientated collector, can be so taken with this series. Weirdwolf is an absolutely terrific figure that ticks every single box – superb alt, great bot and good transformation. The headmaster and extra accessories designed for play just make for a wonderfully rounded package. The Hasbro release is great and offers a distinctive head sculpt, but I’ve gone for the Takara here due to the better paint and slightly sturdier feel and build.
- LG25 Legends Blurr (Takara)
Here’s an example where a gulf separates the Hasbro and Takara efforts. The former was, frankly, one of the poorest colour and paint efforts I’ve seen in a Hasbro deluxe, sitting alongside some of the lazier Combiner Wars releases. Takara, on the other hand, knocked it out of the park. There’s never been a better example of how a paint job can completely transform a figure. Of course, let none of that overshadow the design of the physical toy itself, which would be a triumph even if it were released in an unpainted diarrhoea brown. Incredible in both modes and with a fantastic transformation, this is a very, very special deluxe.
- Titans Return Brainstorm Walgreens Edition (Hasbro)
This one’s a bit better, though. It’s the same mold as Blurr but this feels like the bot it was made for. I already had two great Brainstorms in my collection in the form of Fansproject’s superb Smart Robin and the Hasbro Generations voyager release, but TR Brainstorm tops both of them. This is just the complete package and could easily have been the toy of the year. That this is still isn’t quite the pinnacle of the Titans Return line is a testament to quite how brilliant it has been.
- Despotron (Maketoys)
I really liked DX9’s Mightron. So much so I would have very happily had him as ‘my’ MP Megatron till the end of time (or at least until the official arrives). However, how cruel is it that such wonder was so quickly dethroned by something just a little bit better – Despotron. What a figure this is. The head sculpt may be an acquired taste, but few bots pack as much attitude and character as Despotron. My cries of joy were thunderous, too, when I realised that we finally had a Megatron who was fun to transform. To be fair, DX9 had a decent transformation too. And a better gun mode. And a better cannon. But it’s the bot of Despotron that makes it so special, for me. He’s every bit worthy of that spot on the shelf next to MP-10, and what an achievement that is.
- Masterpiece MP-29 Shockwave (Takara)
I’m pretty shocked that this is the only Takara Masterpiece to make my 2016 list. Please do not interpret that as a criticism of the line – there have been loads of truly great official MP releases this year, and it’s only the strength of Wei Jiang, Maketoys and Titans Return that keep the likes of Ironhide and Inferno out of my Top 10. Shockwave, however, blew me away. Quakewave is an absolute colossus of the 3P MP scene and a figure I adore but for me the official beats it in every respect. People seem to frown upon Takara’s new quest for cartoon accuracy, but Shockwave for me stands as this strategy’s champion. He IS the cartoon character, living in my hand, with two superb modes and a wonderfully intuitive transformation. I adore it.
- MPP10 Deformation Era Optimus Prime (Wei Jiang) and MPP10V Optimus Prime (KuBianBao)
OK, I’ve cheated here listing two different bots in one spot, but I loved both of these so much. First, MPP10. A KO of the best toy ever made that manages to someone IMPROVE upon its source material? And sell for a fraction of the price? It makes no sense, but MPP10 is real and here and delivers on all of the promises. Never has a toy screamed ‘premium’ so loudly in my hand, and all for under £60 (pre-Brexit)! It has taken all the self-discipline in the world for me to not order every subsequent colour variation of this complete triumph of a release, although doing so has made me cherish my original red all the more. MPP10 is an experience unlike any other. Get one. Now. MP10V is awesome for different reasons. The scaling down of MP10 makes for a highly playable figure who I just want with me at all times. He lacks the engineering wow of MPP10 but boasts play appeal that goes above and beyond.
- RM-04 Iron Will (Maketoys)
Maketoys are for me the current leaders of the 3P crop, and Iron Will is its best work. 3Ps have a habit of looking great on the shelf but of often dissuading the owner from play. Not Iron Will. With a fantastic transformation and two completely superb modes, this hunking bastard is as much of a pleasure to handle as he is to look at. He poses brilliantly, too. I can only presume that Iron Will has fallen below the radar somewhat as he’s based on a bit of a fringe character, but I wouldn’t care if he was based on Jimmy Saville if he was still this much fun to handle. Fuck me that’s a really unfortunate combination of words.
- Titans Return Triggerhappy (Hasbro)
I was completely prepared to skip this release. He was a character I’m not fussed about in a wave I only initially wanted one figure from (Hot Rod). I picked him up only due to the novelty of finding something on the shelf in Enfield Toys R Us that wasn’t outdated or fucking movie tat. And oh boy was I rewarded. This figure is hands down one of the best Transformers ever released. How a Hasbro deluxe can do what this guy does I can’t explain. Every element is at the top of its game – character, robot, posability, joints, finish, an alt that begs to be flown around the room while you make ‘whoosh’ing noises. There is not high enough praise to heap on this figure. Hasbro gets all the criticism in the world from the fandom, and at times rightly so, but Triggerhappy proves that the company can still stand toe-to-toe with Takara. Although I cannot wait to see how the Legends release shapes up…
Honourable mentions that nearly made the cut: FX10 Browning II (Fansproject), J4zz (Generation Toy), RiD Fracture (Hasbro), TAV37 Meagatronus (Takara), MP-28 Hot Rod (Hasbro), FT-07 Stomp (Fanstoys), LG33 Legends Highbrow (Takara), MP-33 Inferno (Takara), Titans Return Powermaster Optimus Prime (Hasbro) & MP-27 Ironhide (Takara)