Jun 12, 2013

[Transformers] The Return of the Triple-Changers


Triple-changers had always been an interesting effort to sort of step-up the Transformers experience dating back to the G1 era. After all, the ability for a robot to transform into a vehicle alternate mode was already cool and thus being able to transform into two different modes had to be even cooler, right? And thus triple-changers were born.

It has been a while since we've seen a truly decent triple-changer in recent years. One could argue that Generations Darkmount was a triple-changer with this third fortress mode and there were a number of movie-era figures that appeared to have triple-changer properties. Personally I think the last truly respectable triple-changer had been Transformers Animated Blitzwing, named after the G2 Decepticon of the same name. And since then things have been somewhat quiet on that front.

So with the continuing Transformers Generations line of toys, it's nice to see that Hasbro decided to invest to designing some new triple-changer robots to help kick up the 30th anniversary celebrations next year.

My prior triple-changers
The premise behind triple-changers is simple enough - they're robots with two alternate modes. Now the ability to turn into a vehicle and some sort of battle platform has always felt like a somewhat cheaper way out of the triple-changer conundrum, and thus I've never really considered them very high on the list. The real challenge is to have a robot with two other legitimate vehicle modes - and the more fully-formed the vehicle without looking like a halfway-transformation between the modes, then the more impressive the toy.

And these two Transformers Generations toys are pretty legitimate indeed.

First up is Autobot Springer, based on the classic Autobot triple-changer of the same name. The designers did a pretty fabulous job of bringing this classic Autobot to life with a nicely updated design that still has great echoes of his former incarnations. In particular, they tried to adapt his appearance in the recent IDW comic book series, The Last Stand of the Wreckers, and managed to do so quite well. And they did this in the larger Voyager-class toy scale as opposed to limiting themselves to a Deluxe mold.

He has two main weapons for his robot mode - one is a rather massive missile-launching gun that has the unique feature of being able to shoot missiles one at a time in a set sequence using the same trigger. The other is a sword formed from his helicopter rotors, which is a classic weapon that dates back to his appearance in the 1986 animated movie. And that's a fun thing indeed. He also has relatively respectable poseability for a figure, although I'm not a major fan of his knee design. While he is stable enough standing, the need to favor certain design features for his vehicle mode meant needing to limit some of his range of motion in this area.

Now his helicoptor mode is pretty impressive at first glance. It has a lot in common with how he first appeared in the 1986 animated movie and the default pose of him sort of tilting forward nicely gives it a good angle when you set it on a surface. The rotors look great and I like the overall profile it creates with his nice heavy sides and such.

When you do look at it from the side though, I do have my little issues with how it seems to be trying to balance on tiptoe in order to give you the right balance. And then you have to note the fact that it is balancing on its gun in terms of the front of the vehicle, which seems like a less than elegant solution to this design challenge.

Now his armored car design is pretty kickass. I love how the entire profile changes when his windshield expands and snaps into place. He is more than just a helicopter chassis with wheels on it, which at times is how I felt the original G1 vehicle looked like. His missile-launcher nicely attaches to the top of the car and he has a rich, solid green and yellow color scheme. And I know that sounds weird - but yes, the particular color tones selected for this figure work absolutely well.

Overall, Autobot Springer is a pretty awesome toy and a testament to the fact that Hasbro's ability to design these toys isn't totally gone. Of the two latest releases, he's certainly the somewhat more impressive mold and I'm glad that they're retooling this to create an update for Sandstorm, another G1 triple-changer.

Now Blitzwing is an  interesting merged incarnation of past Blitzwing toys. Sure he's meant to represent the original G1 Decepticon, but he has also incorporated some of the design elements introduced with the Transformers Animated version of the character. In particular, this means that this Voyager-class figure comes with three different faces. It first it's a little tricky to figure out how to rotate his faces based on the instruction sheet, but don't fret. It's a one-direction gimmick so if you don't get it the first time, go the opposite way.

He's a little blockier than Springer in terms of his stance but he has fairly decent flexibility. What is annoying is that it seems they designed a bunch of pegs where the arms are supposed to slot in securely but either it's insanely difficult to do that or I'm just being really stupid. I'll give it a few more tries in the hopes of figuring it out. Things could have been handled a bit better in this area.

His tank mode is pretty solid - I like how things generally turned out. There are still a few tricky points of alignment, but they're not entirely unreasonable here. Plus you're able to secure all of his weapons on his tank mode so you won't lose anything. However, I do not know what value a sword on the side of the turret benefits a tank.

I wish the turrent had better swivel though. It's sort of a basic feature of any tank and I think could have done a better job in this department, Here it looks a little awkward when you try, but it does have a limited range of motion. But moving it completely out will expose the more hollow sections left behind by his transformation in his rear area. And that's why I think this could have been engineered a bit better.

His plane mode looks rather awesome - it's something that reminds me a lot of the likes of the Macross fighters or perhaps even various incarnations of Jetfire. In this regard, his jet mode has a most awesome profile that is nicely impressive.

On the flip side, this is the mode of Blitzwing that suffers the most from the alignment issues. Getting the various bits and pieces to perfectly align here puts Cybertronian Bumblebee to shame in some ways. And while one can at least get the pieces in the right places, you won't necessarily be able to lock them in securely. And the OCD part of my brain would really feel better had I been able to figure out how to better align things. But he's still a nicely awesome toy still and I know that beggars can't be choosers when it comes to designing these triple-changers.

Autobot Springer and Blitzwing are pretty awesome toys no matter what complaints I still had about them. They are a great return to the grand tradition of triple-changers and I'm happy that Hasbro designed to invest in these figures in time for the 30th anniversary of the franchise. For rating purposes, Autobot Springer deserves a 5/5 and Blitzwing only gets 4/5 despite my love for the superiority of Decepticons.


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