Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Zob's Thoughts on Legends Cosmos, Rodimus, Wheelie, and Warpath

At first I didn't really see the point of the Legends class series of toys, since they originally started out as miniaturized versions of Transformers: Cybertron toys that were already available in stores (and the Cybertron toys weren't that great to begin with). Once they started branching out into original designs, though, I really started to get into them—particularly the recent ones that were reimaginings of long-forgotten characters. The Legends series is particularly suitable for updates of the Mini Autobots, the like-sized assortment from the old G1 days. These four toys were part of the fifth wave of Legends toys under the now-cancelled Transformers Universe banner; many thanks go to Chad Rushing for this batch of toys, which I was unable to find anywhere at retail.

AUTOBOT COSMOS

Cosmos is one of the few characters from the original 1984-85 assortment who has never gotten an updated toy; at one point Hasbro was playing around with the idea of doing a Titanium Series version of the character, but the concept was scrapped early on. This, then, is the first Cosmos toy we've gotten in almost 25 years. Obviously, there are no real-life UFO's to serve as the basis for his updated vehicle form, but it's a decidedly different style than the original toy. Where the first version was hemispherical in shape, the new Cosmos was designed more in the style of the classic 1950's flying saucer, not entirely unlike the Jupiter 2 craft from the Lost in Space TV series. He's about two and a half inches in diameter, but less than an inch in height, granting him a much flatter (and arguably more aerodynamic) profile. Unlike the first toy, this Cosmos lacks undercarriage wheels. He's adorned with a single stabilizer fin, which seems to negate the idea of an omnidirectional craft that spins as it travels, but it's an interesting take on the character, and the color scheme still makes this very recognizable as Cosmos. A lot of recent Universe toys have had the names of characters (or random inside jokes) slathered on their bodies; Cosmos follows this trend, but his name is written in Cybertronic language instead of English. I'm not sure if this is better or worse, honestly. This does tie in rather nicely with the written language seen in the 2007 Transformers film (and which will play an important part in this summer's Revenge of the Fallen).

In robot mode, Cosmos is just under three inches tall. He's built approximately like his G1 counterpart, with the sides of the saucer forming his arms and his head emerging from the top of the ship, but there are a few new tricks. His arms now comprise about three-quarters of the saucer's rings, with the remaining section unfolding into the feet, so this time there isn't an extra section hanging uselessly from his rear end. In place of the triple thrusters that sort of formed cheatsy fingers on the G1 toy, this time he's got fists embedded in the sides of each arm. One particularly inspired aspect of his design is that positioning his pelvis into place actually causes his head to slide up. His head sculpt, in particular, is very nice, and includes the tiny little blue eyes that were part of his original animation design. He's got seven points of articulation, if you count the way his waist folds up as part of his transformation.

Unfortunately, his legs have an annoying tendency to pop off during transformation to either mode (his knee joints are a lot tighter than his hip joints, which are a comparatively loose ball-and-socket assembly). I'm not really thrilled about the way his stabilizer fin hangs uselessly between his legs in robot mode, either. Also, I've always felt like the original Cosmos was one of the cutest G1 toys—you could transform him in a couple of seconds and he was fun to fiddle with. The new toy loses some of that innate appeal and charm, particularly because of the fidgety nature of his legs. Despite this, it's still a great update for the character.

RODIMUS

Hasbro is probably never going to call this character "Hot Rod" again (Mattel seems to be clinging fast to the trademark these days), despite the fact that the name "Rodimus" was originally supposed to carry the same weight and cadence as "Optimus," denoting the name of the current Autobot leader. Given that the first batch of G1-inspired Legends toys were just earlier, recycled toys in alternate deco, I'm actually surprised they created a new toy to represent Hot Rod. They could have easily reused the Legends version of Cybertron Hot Shot, a toy that seems to have been designed specifically with elements of Hot Rod's robot mode in mind. Like a lot of the G1-inspired Legends toys, this seems to be a new take on the character rather than a miniaturization of a previous toy. His vehicle form is about two and three-quarters inches in length, and looks a bit like what you'd get if you crossed G1 Jazz with Robots in Disguise Sideburn. He's a glittery maroon color with yellow flame deco, and an oversized spoiler whose metallic gold paint deco is barely noticeable. One aspect of his design that's really neat is how the pegs on the inside of his arms fit nicely into the holes on either of his hips, locking his vehicle mode together.

As a robot, he just barely hits the three-inch mark. He seems to be more closely inspired by the 2006 Classics toy in this form, based on his general shape and design, rather than the original G1 toy or animation model. He's predominantly maroon and black, which is a strange choice of colors for the character—there's not a trace of orange to be found on him. He only has four moving joints to his name, his shoulders and hips, though his pelvis also pivots a little. There are a handful of odd design choices evident on this toy. For example, there's the fact that chunks of his fists are missing—he's got a thumb and two fingers per hand, but the rest of each fist is missing, as if the space they would have occupied was needed for something else. The complete fists would have fit just fine, though, even when the toy is transformed, so this makes no sense to me. Also, while the engine on the Classics toy ends up on his chest due to the way the toy transforms, this toy lacks the engine completely. You'd think an exposed, oversized engine would be a prerequisite for this character (he is a hot rod, after all).

This is one of those good designs that could have become a great toy, with the right color applications. As a vehicle, without the yellow spoiler or obvious exhaust pipes, this looks less like a rendition of G1 Hot Rod and more like an homage to the supercharged version of Sideburn. As a robot, the toy is clearly meant to be Hot Rod, but it's a less effective tribute than other toys we've gotten recently. What would have been really nice is if Hasbro had cast this toy in magenta plastic, since this is Hot Rod's dominant color from The Transformers: the Movie, and yet not a single one of the many official toys depicting this character has used that color scheme!

AUTOBOT WHEELIE

The original Wheelie toy remains one of the most ill-conceived toys in the entire history of the Transformers line. In all fairness, though, the toy was based on an animated character whose creation held only a passing regard for whether a three-dimensional representation of him might be possible. There's also the fact that Wheelie was a tiny character, which means he was forced into the Mini Autobots assortment almost by default—the smallest and least expensive size class in the toy line, which greatly limited the toy's engineering and design. Perhaps most importantly, though, 1986 was only Hasbro's first year of original Transformers designs, since they had previously relied on Takara's older Diaclone and Microman designs.

Wheelie's new vehicle form is something resembling a souped-up compact car, similar in profile to a Ford Fiesta only with a big ol' spoiler and something on the hood that looks like a cross between a cowl induction vent and an air dam. Wheelie was conceived as a fantasy car, so it's a little strange seeing the character ported to something resembling a real-life vehicle form, but it's not really a bad look for him. (The packaging identifies him as a "junk planet speeder," which is a nice reference to The Transformers: the Movie. However, Wheelie was discovered on Quintessa, not Junkion, so the reference makes no sense. Besides, everybody knows that robots from the Planet of Junk turn into motorcycles!) As always, Wheelie is predominantly light orange with dark orange trim—and the fact that his wheels and windshield are grey goes a long way towards making this a clear update of the original character. One supper-cool aspect of his design is that he can actually pop a wheelie, a trick the original toy wasn't really designed to accommodate. The only thing that seems really out of place is the hump on his hood, which is painted light blue and almost seems like a second, superfluous windshield.

His transformation is surprisingly complex but pleasantly intuitive, with multiple hinges for his chest and pelvis that allow him to unfold into robot mode. At three inches tall, he's actually smaller than the original Wheelie by a considerable margin, but he's far better proportioned, with a head design closely based on his animated appearance. The rest of his robot design doesn't really match up with anything from his animation model—give him a different head sculpt and he could represent any of a dozen other Autobots—but in this case, the color scheme makes it a pretty obvious Wheelie update. He even has his fire stone sling, molded to the inside of the armor on his right arm and painted blue (the same color as his eyes). His pelvis juts forward a little bit with respect to his upper torso, but it's not a tragedy. One artifact of his transformation is that his windshield ends up jutting out and hanging rather uselessly from his back, but this is fairly typical for Autobots (SEE: Prowl, Jazz, Nightbeat, et al.) so it's not incongruous. He has eight useful points of articulation, with shoulders that both pivot and swivel, and legs that move at the hips and ankles (his knees move backwards as part of the transformation).

A lot of fans strongly dislike Wheelie because of his incessant sing-song speech pattern and the way he was portrayed as the intellectual peer of Daniel Witwicky, so perhaps for this reason, he's never been at the top of Hasbro's "to do" list as far as G1 character homages. This is a really good update for the character, though—and the G1 toy was designed so badly that Wheelie desperately needed a new toy in his likeness, regardless of how you feel about tiny orange robots who communicate in rhyme.

WARPATH

Of these four characters, Warpath is my favorite of the lot (I'm a sucker for AutobotsKAZOWIE!—with quirky speech patterns). It's unfortunate, then, that this is probably the weakest of the four toys. It's worth mentioning that this is also the first new toy designed to represent Warpath since the toy was released in 1985. Takara reissued the original toy as part of a multi-pack in 2004, and there was also a toy from the 2007 movie toy line named Warpath (a redeco of the Cybertron 4x4 vehicle called Overhaul) but this is the first update specifically created with the original character in mind. (There aren't many Mini Autobots left who haven't gotten updated toys. I'll bet Gears and Seaspray are feeling really left out right about now.)

Where the original toy was modeled after an M551 Sheridan tank, the new Warpath throws reality completely out the window. He's clearly Cybertronic in design, the same sort of "H-tank" design as other toys with made-up vehicle modes like Armada Megatron. His robot fists are clearly visible inside the front treads, and the back section of the tank is quite obviously a pair of robot legs. (I swear, we've reverted to the early Pretenders era of completely unconvincing vehicle modes.) His barrel can pivot up and down, and his turret seems to be designed to rotate, but its own design blocks it from moving more than a few millimeters in either direction. I don't like the way his front treads rely on tiny little pegs to lock them in place, though, and the rear treads don't lock in place at all.

Clearly, this toy was designed with the robot mode in mind, since this is obviously where most of the effort went. Once you unfold him, he stands at three inches tall and has functional joints at the shoulders, elbows, hips and knees. (He's stuffed into the package rather oddly, with his elbows bent backwards at an awkward angle and the treads mounted on his legs incorrectly positioned.) He's far better proportioned than the original Warpath, that's for sure. One clever element of his transformation is that his gun barrel actually retracts into his chest to create a more streamlined appearance (the barrel on the G1 toy jutted out so far that Hasbro actually had to mistransform him just to get him to fit inside the bubble). What minimal paint deco he's got seems to be more toy-inspired than anything else, with black eyes and a yellow spot on his chest that kinda-sorta vaguely approximates the sticker on the G1 toy. He's got a black Autobot symbol on his left arm (one presumes a red one wouldn't show up against the maroon plastic). His head sculpt is a good one, though it would have benefited from a more cartoon-inspired look (a grey face with blue eyes would have worked; blue paint deco on the slits in his mask would have been a bonus). Overall, though, this was a dynamite way of finishing off the Legends series... at least until the Revenge of the Fallen toys show up in stores!

Zob

5 comments:

Jimtron said...

Four for the price of one! Awesome!

Alpha-Prime(CW) said...

I've kinda been spoilt by this wheelie (called 'perfect transformation') http://jizaitoys.seesaa.net/article/34599110.html
He can even transform to a 'original toy' mode?, why isn't hasbro making taoys like this?

Zobovor said...

That one's a very impressive fan project, to be sure. Of course, Hasbro has to worry about things like safety testing and production costs, which fan customizers really don't. (If Hasbro only made two dozen of these and charged $148 a pop, do you really think people would be happy about that?)

WeeklyHero said...

I gotta say, I think that Wheelie is the best Legends class figure Hasbro has made so far. With a transformation similar to Brawn, it surprises me that Wheelie doesn't suffer any of his faults.

ΜΘЯĐΣΠ said...

Personally, I prefer the Henkei Warpath’s color scheme, as it’s a closer match to G1 Warpath, and the faction symbol shows up even though it’s red.