REVIEW: Fanstoys FT-10 Phoenix

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Thanks to the very kind people at Kapow, I’ve been lucky enough to get some hands-on time with one of Fanstoys’ most anticipated upcoming releases, FT-10 Phoenix. A couple of peeps in the collecting circles I move in rubbed their hands with glee at the news, I think in preparation for an anticipated mauling. Well, there’s good news and bad news…

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The good news is that Kapow were adamant that I be completely honest (to their credit). The bad news, for some of you at least, is that you’re going to find little in the way of critical savaging here. Phoenix is among the very best 3P Masterpiece toys ever produced.

He’s based on Jetfire, or Skyfire depending on your continuity preferences. Interestingly I, via said collecting chums, recently learned that in some European markets Jetfire was marketed as the Autobot leader, owing to licensing complications with the Optimus Prime likeness. Similar issues also lay behind the differences between Jetfire as seen in toy form and how the character was represented on screen, the latter of which proves the inspiration for Phoenix. There’s no optional battle mask, either, as seen with the Generations figure. If that’s a deal breaker for you then very bad luck, as you’re missing out on an absolute corker.

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In both modes, Phoenix is suitably huge. Too huge, according to a few of the internet’s scale fascists, but to my eye he scales very well with a Masterpiece collection. Which he towers over, incidentally. And that’s exactly how it should be. Paint details are roughly on par in frequency terms with the Generation figure (the Takara version at least), although owing to Phoenix’s size that does leave a lot of bare, white plastic. Which is arguably a negative, although entirely appropriate for the character.

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While we’re talking negatives, let’s get them all out of the way as there aren’t many. If Phoenix has one failing it’s posability, and I’ll concede that it’s a real shame. All is present and correct from waist up, with excellent rounded shoulders and a really glorious set of hands that remind me of the KFC paws for MP Ultra Magnus. They’re fantastic, and especially pleasing when grasping the rifle, which includes a trigger hole for the forefinger and tabs in splendidly. The elbows employ a double joint that might enrage the fussy, but I was perfectly comfortable with it once I learned how to best position them.

Sadly, from the waist down there’s less to cheer about. There has been a lot of moaning online about the lack of waist swivel. And make no mistake, there is no waist swivel. Yes, you can detach part of the hip transformation and move it about but in much the same way as DX9 Mightron, for me that doesn’t really count. The hip leg joints themselves are great but their movement is limited by the hip assembly. Both of these things would probably be OK, however, were there ample ankle tilt, but this is the one area in which I think Phoenix really comes up short. There is not only little in the way on ankle tilt, but also the feet themselves employ a toe and heel design which doesn’t always lend itself to stability. Phoenix is pretty back-heavy, too, so all of these ingredients make for a bot that really isn’t anywhere near as dynamic as he could be. I also don’t understand the need for the fake underfoot engines, which can’t really be seen and further destabilise things. A solid sole would have been preferable.

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It could be, of course, that owing to the size and weight of him – and he weighs a ton – joints with greater ranges of movement weren’t up to the job. I think there’s a logic to that. Possibly had Fanstoys upped the cost they could have engineered joints with the capacity to offer this extra posability and sustain the weight, but where Phoenix does falter I suspect it’s due to finding ways to manufacture a mammoth MP bot in a manner that remains remotely affordable to buyers. Obviously there are collectors who would pay double the amount for these improvements, but you have to cater for as wide an audience as possible, and personally I think Fanstoys have achieved a remarkable amount in this £170 bot (that’s a post-Brexit price, natch).

So, with all that out of the way, let the gushing commence.

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Phoenix is incredible. I love him. My attention is constantly drawn to him, and the solidity of the design means I want to play with him just as much as I want to look at him. More so, possibly, which is a rare achievement for a third party MP. Although people are too kind to say it to my face, I suspect I have a reputation for being a right grump when it comes to 3P transformations. But that’s because many of them are stupid, requiring either elaborate panel origami that really isn’t what I think a well designed Transformer is about, or the bending of cheap plastics around poor tolerances, or simply fighting with too tightly fitted parts that make no concessions to the shape of human hands.

Phoenix, however, is an absolute joy to transform. There are so many satisfying components and an endless number of wonderfully clicky tabs. The chest panels, for instance, have to be pulled out and swung around, and the sliding mechanism offers just the perfect level of resistance to make the smooth sliding feel great. The backpack (or top of the jet) clips in with a delightful solidity, as does the nose cone assembly. The feet may be a fiddle in bot mode but the way they gracefully tuck up and slide away for the alt in erotically good. And the swing and hinge which shortens and extends the engines is orgasmic.

The hands tuck away with zero fuss, the leg retraction mechanism is perfect, the widening of the backpack is satisfying, the swinging out of the nosecone is spot on – it’s all just brilliant. To love the design of a Transformer for its transformation as much as its aesthetics is a rare treat, especially with unofficial Masterpieces, and one I will happily wallow in all day long.

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In fact, the only part of the transformation that isn’t an utter joy is the landing gear, which my nails are unable to free without a tool, and the exposed metal spine that unfolds from the nosecone. I never like it when a plastic toy reveals its metal innards, and I like it even less when said parts are involved in the transformation. The contrast of materials shatters the illusion for me, but y’know, I think I’ll live. It’s also worth noting that the metal arm itself doesn’t really tab into the waist spot that it’s clearly designed for, but this doesn’t seem to have any detrimental effect.

Phoenix is astonishingly solid in both modes. It’s an incredible achievement, considering its size. Even the parts which shouldn’t work, such as the requirement to manipulate both head and backpack at the same time when clicking into place, somehow feel perfect in motion. Really, the only impediment to the transformation is the size of the thing, but it’s most definitely among the best transformation I’ve seen in an MP figure and one of the very few 3P examples that I think stands toe-to-toe with a Takara transformation.

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The results are a formidable looking bot, with an absolutely on point face sculpt. Seriously, Fanstoys gets a hard time for its face sculpts but this is an absolute beauty. The blue of the eyes is glorious, too. Don’t even think about swapping in the optional lightpiped versions. I don’t really know why 3P bother with that gimmick. I know so few people who like it. The jet, too, is a fantastic hunk that demands much swooshing around the living room. Jetfire’s alt is an odd design to start with, but Fanstoys nails it completely. And it’s solid in a way that something of that size comprising so many disparate components really has no right to be.

There are other minor grumbles if you look for them. The small white wings that sit on top of the alt and at the rear of the bot pop off far too easily, and are annoying as a result. The wing extenders that fold out from underneath in alt are a little loose, too. You could argue that the paint is a bit sparse, but where you find it, it’s perfect. I’m not sure why Fanstoys have chromed the red paint on the outside of the lower legs, either. I probably would have preferred it stuck to the bright red seen everywhere else but, again, this is a nit-pick. In hand it works. I also appreciate the ability to swap the crest area on the chest with the supplied spare, meaning Autobot and Decepticon badges can be easily alternated (as per the established fiction), although the design feels a little inelegant. I would have probably preferred a smooth chest and stuck with whatever allegiance choice I preferred.

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CONCLUSION

The limited leg articulation is the only thing that holds Phoenix back from being my first 5/5 review. This guy is among the very best Masterpiece style figures I’ve handled and, in my opinion, is the best thing Fanstoys have put out since Quakewave. And yes, that includes the dinos. That all of this has been achieved in a toy that’s so huge is incredible, and any concessions that have been made were absolutely worth it to bring him in on a budget that I think is really quite reasonable. Without doubt I’ll be buying Phoenix when he comes out. And boy, does this bode well for Fanstoys versions of Omega Supreme and Devastator.

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This figure was loaned by Kapow Toys for the purposes of this review. I was given unconditional editorial freedom. You can pre-order FT-10 Phoenix from Kapow here. Officially he’s out in April, but you’re best off expecting him a bit later than that.

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