2017’s Top 10 Transformers

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2017 was fucking grim, right? Britain is needlessly tearing itself apart over a vote cast on the back of lies, hate and ignorance, and America has already torn itself apart after the victory of that vacuous idiot and his hollow rhetoric. So let’s take a moment to celebrate the little joys the last 12 months have offered us, shall we? There was PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, for one. And the #metoo movement. And BBC’s Taboo. And more Detectorists. And that Anansi scene from American Gods. Robot Wars was great this year too, eh? And a female Doctor! And that fight in The Last Jedi! And dogs! And a shit load of great Transformers.

10. Perfect Effect PC-16 Jinrai Prime

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With neither Hasbro nor Takara really nailing Powermaster Optimus Prime, it took Perfect Effect to roll out a release that makes the latter an essential purchase (stay well clear of Takara’s God Bomber, though – that would be my pick for Worst Release of 2017). While the combined cost of PC-15 and PC-16 is vastly too much for what you get in the box, the end result is terrific, and Jinrai Prime himself is a wonderfully expressive little figure.

Granted, the plastic is thinner than you’d like (especially for the price) and I remain unsure about how they went about the hands, but as a standalone interpretation of that original G1 PMOP cab, he’s completely wonderful. Fans Hobby Power Baser was another figure that was in consideration for the list (although ultimately one flaw too many cost it a spot), and between them they made it a great year for PMOP enthusiasts.

9. Fanstoys Koot

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Image credit: Weirdwolf1975 

Hmm, I’m having a very firm word with myself about this one. A transformer with this flawed a transformation shouldn’t really be in here. And do not believe the Fanstoys apologists – Koot is a flawed design (even if you ignore the fact that mine was literally non-functional out of the box and had to be spludgered and lubricated within an inch of its life before the transformation would even work).

BUT BUT BUT… at least it is a shitty transformation that you can learn to work around. Doing specific finicky steps and half steps in a specific finicky order makes the whole thing bearable. Granted, this should not be required, and should certainly not be apologised for. The thing is, though, I love Kup. I adore him. And I’d dreamed of a decent MP release. In typical Fanstoys fashion, Koot nails both modes at the expense of a likable transformation, but oh those modes looks soooooo good. That car is solid enough to beat a child or small adult to submission with. I don’t want to love Koot, but I do.

(Oh, and we all agree that Fanstoys got 539 Designs to do this one, right? This figure feels exactly like what an XTB figure would be like if they used proper materials.)

8. Fanstoys Phoenix

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I’ve pretty much been off the Transformers review wagon in 2017 (blame other interests, particularly PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds) but I did get the chance to do two pre-release reviews, and Phoenix was one of them. I was really grateful to be given the chance (thanks Kapow), but for all y’all who like to dump on reviewers for being shills and resent anyone being given something that you have not (there’s a whole other debate to be had about this particular line of thinking, incidentally), consider this – having the chance to review him was absolutely great, but boy did it dampen the event of the purchase itself turning up months later. So much so that I forgot Phoenix was even a thing this year.

But a thing he was, and a glorious thing at that. I’d go as far as to say that Phoenix is probably the second-best release we’ve had from Fanstoys, bettered only by their debut figure Quakewave. That in itself is a little sad, however. After such a spectacular arrival on the scene is it just me that’s beginning to wonder if Fanstoys has never quite lived up to its potential?

Regardless, Phoenix is a complete victory, ticking all three boxes (bot, alt, transformation) and, I think, delivering good value for money, considering what you get for that admittedly large price tag. He also adds a wonderful new height dynamic to a properly scaled MP collection.

7. Badcube Huff v2

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After Badcube managed to fudge its version of Gears (there’s absolutely no excuse for that transformation), my hopes for the new Huff weren’t high – especially as the first release is widely over-rated considering its many faults. I was delighted to be proved wrong, however, when v2 rolled around and was a proper belter.

Of course, I think it’s a shame they lost some of the alt mode’s G1 accuracy, but what we gained was a well-built figure with a really great robot mode and – would you believe it? – a genuinely decent transformation. Badcube can do good transformations! Rejoice! Striking gold with the smaller Masterpieces seems to be proving quite tricky for manufacturers, with very few really hitting the mark, but Huff proves that it most certainly can be done. It’s a shame so many people bought into the hate and missed out on this one.

6. Takara MP-35 Masterpiece Grapple

I liked Inferno but never really loved him, so I was very surprised quite how different Grapple felt in hand. There are a lot of similarities, of course, but some key tooling changes made for a fascinatingly different transformation – and what a transformation it is. That colour, too, is glorious. It absolutely pops! And pops off, sadly, looking at all the paint wear issues collectors have faced. This is a problem Takara really does have to sort in 2018 (on the presumption we’re getting more G1 Masterpieces in 2018, that is – those announcements have suddenly got awful slow…).

Whether you buy into the cartoon accuracy outrage or not, there’ no denying Grapple is an absolute masterclass. Superb looks are coupled with Takara’s trademark magic transformation moment to deliver a true classic.

5. Titans Return Misfire

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Image credit: TF Square One

It makes me a little sad that I’m not quite as enamoured with the Titans Return line as a lot of my fellow UK collectors. I admit to levels of utter confusion when people around me are exploding with excitement at what to me looks like yet another bit of legends scale tat. But then, life would be dull if we all liked the same things.

Titans Return has been a funny one. The voyagers and leaders have been proper duffers, to my eye, and even the likes of Fortress Maximus and Trypticon have failed to excite me. They may be huge, but for me they personally don’t deliver much beyond that. The deluxes, however, are among some of the best Hasbro have ever done, and of the 2017 releases I think Misfire stands out as the clear winner.

Much like my 2016 top pick Triggerhappy, Misfire is a figure that both looks and plays phenomenally. It’s easy to forget how far these designs have come. I of course relish the nostalgia of vintage G1, but am still wondrous at how some modern releases pack so much into a sub-£20 figure – two great modes, a hugely posable and expressive robot and an enjoyable and ingenious transformation. Misfire is the sort of quality that can lay the foundations of a life-long obsession.

4. Unique Toys Peru Kill

If there’s one thing I hate more than the Bayverse films, it’s the Bayverse bot designs. They are, if you’ll excuse my language, fucking hideous. They lack charm, they lack definition, they lack imagination, they lack character and they lack grandeur. Much like the films themselves.

None of which detracts from the fact that Peru Kill is an astonishing figure. The Lamborghini itself could very easily be mistaken for a scale car toy, such is its solidity and brilliant recreation of the Reventon, with virtually all traces of the bot hidden away. How that is able to transform into the (somewhat rank) form of Lockdown is unfathomable, especially when so few traces of the smooth car panels remain. That the transformation also manages to be a joy is actual witchcraft. And thanks to the optional faceplate, you can also be rid of that hideous movie face!

When it comes to craft, I think it’s fair to say that Peru Kill is perhaps the most accomplished Masterpiece ever made. As a feat of engineering I think it is maybe the star of my collection, which considering the magic Takara routinely pumps out is the very biggest accolade.

3. Maketoys Downbeat

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While some people (morons) love to repeatedly let us all know that they’d much rather wait for the ‘inevitable’ Takara Jazz than spend money on ‘counterfeits’, others were this year able to enjoy one of the very best 3P MP car releases we’ve ever seen.

It actually baffles me how many people were glum about Downbeat. In pointing out that such people are buffoons, I even managed to enrage one person so much that they abandoned a forum entirely. But make no mistake about it – if you’re unable to enjoy Downbeat, then I very much suspect that 3P MP isn’t for you, because this guy is a true phenomenon.

Yes, the back of the car is a bit grim. I know. But if you’re unable to enjoy things due to the presence of an imperfection then you’re in for a pretty miserable life. Look past his car arse and you get a glorious alt mode, a very decent (although not quite Takara-like) transformation and a bot that is pure liquid dreams. Were it not for some minor tabbing issues, I think Downbeat would have most likely been my top pick of the year.

2. Takara MP-36 Masterpiece Megatron

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Takara Megatron has problems, I realise. That paint chipping is a worrying issue and I completely get why the complex transformation is a turn off for some people. For those of us who have navigated countless third party transformations that are infinitely more unpleasant, however, Megatron remains a delight. Yes, there are a lot of steps – but they all make sense, none of them hurt or will break your skin, and there are moments of magic littered throughout.

The real victory here though is that bot. Stand him next to MP-10 and it’s the cartoon come to life. Any doubts simply fade away. We already have some great MP Megatron options with the very good DX9 Mightron and the exceptionally good Maketoys Despotron, but Takara once again manages to pip them to the post with a release that’s better than we could ever have rightfully hoped for.

All of which makes me quite sad when you look at the current community clamouring over the assorted Megatron KOs that have either arrived or are on the way to market. I do own some KOs, and I believe it’s perfectly legitimate to buy them when they either make substantial improvements on the original (like some of the seeker KOs) or offer something measurably different to the source (MPP10, M01). But when you’re holding off on an official because you hope to save a few quid months or years down the line, you’re damaging your hobby. I watch on very nervously as the weeks and months pass without any further G1 MP announcements from Takara. The savings people hope to make may come at a very heavy price.

1. Maketoys Contact Shot

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Sometimes a toy triumphs through because of its faithfulness to a character you love. I never owned Pointblank and have no childhood memories of seeing a cartoon with Pointblank in it. He’s a character I care nothing about, but the sheer majesty of Maketoys’ engineering here makes Contact Shot the absolute clear winner in 2017.

Every single thing about this toy works. He’s an MP-scaled figure with deluxe-style play values – something that is so very hard to pull off. The robot feels great, poses great and plays great. The transformation is a pleasure that’s no more complex than it needs to be while achieving its purpose perfectly. The car is solid and has a gloriously futuristic kitsch about it. He holds his weapon properly. And even the targetmaster is decent. Everything about this figure is a big win. He is, in my opinion, the perfect Masterpiece.

I’ll be honest and admit that I have mild concerns about the future of Maketoys. I was not as taken with Galaxy Meteor as some others were, and even Meteor didn’t really get me going as much as I expected. But releases like Contact Shot demonstrate why Maketoys – and not Fanstoys, as many would claim – is the one company that can stand toe-to-toe with Takara. I really hope they can recapture their magic in 2018.

Honourable Mentions:

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MP Sunstreaker may have had a stab at making the list had DPD’s driver not given up and gone home yesterday without delivering it [EMERGENCY EDIT: It just turned up! The guy apologised for not delivering it yesterday and said he was dropping it off, unpaid, on his way out today. Legend!]. Open & Play Big Spring was a brilliant release that absolutely redefined what value for money in the MP market can mean. Saying that, it’s Apache that has won a spot on my shelf, although I think Big Spring is a bigger achievement. And Takara Legends Kup was a fantastic release that further improved upon Hasbro’s already decent original.

Fans Hobby Power Baser is a figure I have mixed feeling about, although there’s no denying the awesomeness of the combined mode (or the faff required to get there), and the cab bot offers a lot of fun too. Fanstoys Grinder has grown on me, although whether I prefer it to the original MP or not I still can’t say. DX9 Richthofen was nice too, although held back by a couple of annoying quirks. XTB Klaatu was about 15,000 times better than I could have ever expected and the best figure the company has ever released, and I really enjoyed KFC Kingzilla too – props to the often poor KFC for nailing a triplechanger that boasts three awesome modes AND a great transformation. Again I think it’s a company high.

I’ll also give a shout out to MP Dirge – who would have predicted he’d end up being the best MP conehead? MMC Terraegis and Badcube Speedbump were both solid too (although it’s a shame about all the Hoists). Some final love too for Power of the Primes Slug. Swoop is getting a lot of the praise, but while he felt very Titans Return-like, Slug felt like a new entity. Very much his own thing. Let’s not talk about voyager Grimlock though, OK?

One thought on “2017’s Top 10 Transformers

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