Oct 22, 2014

[Transformers] Takara Masterpiece Soundblaster (MP-13B)

In the Transformers world, repaints, retools, and redecos are inevitable. It's a cost-saving measure that helps the likes of Hasbro and Takara to remain profitable by creating multiple characters using a single toy mold. Ever since Generation 1, this always seems to happen and there are certain relationships that are defined by their retools and redecos. For example, characters like Sideswipe and Red Alert will always share the same mold in the same what that Bumblebee will always result in a Cliffjumper figure as well.

As a Soundwave fan, the black Soundblaster repaint/redeco is inevitable, and it has resulted in some interesting releases over the years. I've actually done my best to include these black redecos as part of my Soundwave collection since it almost seems traditional in that sense. And in this case, the release of Takara Transformers Masterpiece Soundwave meant that a Soundblaster was going to come out sooner or later.

And here he is. And he came with Ratbat.

Okay, okay, I have to admit that there's not much that the Soundblaster version can offer than the Soundwave version didn't already address. And as much as I love the mold, admittedly having him in black is a lousy reason to pick up a second Masterpiece figure of this nature especially given the price tag.

So we have to be honest with ourselves for the true reason anyone picks up Soundblaster - it's the only way to get Ratbat. Some may argue that folks may eventually sell their Ratbats online since they just want the Soundblaster figure, such collectors are few and far in-between. And Ratbat is too awesome a character and a toy to ignore offhand.

In-box, Soundblaster is largely the same figure with similar accessories as Soundwave. The main difference is how various features were recolored for this release - Soundblasters are all about the color after all! Thus the Megatron Walther P-38 gun is now in red translucent plastic similar to Soundblaster's chest plate and his energon cube is also in the same shade of red plastic versus the clear cube of the original release. And you have to admit, a red cube is kinda cooler than a clear one.

The original Masterpiece Soundwave had an additional chest decal that snaps on to accommodate the energon cube and little else. In this release, the plate does more than that since it allows you to customize the look of your Soundblaster figure to either match his G1 toy or his cartoon appearance. It's a subtle detail, but I do appreciate as a bit of a Soundwave / Soundblaster afficionado. Without the plate he's more toy accurate. With the plate he becomes more like his appearance in the Transformers Headmasters cartoon. And for the record, you can still attached the energon cube without the purple chest plate.

As for the figure itself, it's all the same, except in black.

But don't knock it - this still means he a great-looking figure with some pretty awesome posing options. And admittedly Sounblaster certainly has a distinct look about him given his nice mix of blacks, grays and reds and still looks good with the purple chest plate on. The red version of Megatron as gun seems a little cheesy in-box, but he compliments Soundblaster rather nicely. I wasn't quite expecting that effect, but once I started playing with him and posing him for shots, the results were pretty promising.

As with Masterpiece Soundwave before him, just be careful about his fingers - the one extended forefinger on a distinct hinge still has a tendency to pop off rather easily when you apply a bit too much force from the wrong direction. It's a minor problem, but one that needs to be noted.

But enough about Soundblaster, let's talk about the dreaded fuel auditor and sometime senator, Ratbat!

As has been the case for all of the Masterpiece versions of the various cassettes, they've made sure that there's no need for external accessories to complete their conversion from cassette to robot. And given the kibble that came with the original Ratbat, this was a bit of a welcome change.

Colors on the figure are nicely vivid in the expected share of purplish pink that I don't dare assign a name to. And do you see the face on that guy? He's pretty wicked! A lot of love went into finalizing that sculpt, and I highly appreciate the work that went into him. His wings are also in the same lovely shape that we expect from a Ratbat figure - a nice little arc that differs from the wings we've seen on Masterpiece Laserbeak and Buzzsaw.

Similar to what had been done with Laserbeak, they found a way to integrate Ratbat's little thruster pack as part of the figure's core design. In Ratbat mode, he's able to stand-upright primarily because of the support offered by these thrusters. It's all rather cute.

His little tiny feet serve a function beyond balance, of course. They're designed to fit into the groovers on Soundblaster's shoulders and forearms as with the Laserbeak design for Soundwave. He locks on nicely and isn't too easily dislodged, which is really all you can ask for in such cases. Posing is everything, eh?

And that's pretty much it - the ultimate question you have to answer when you consider this figure is how much you appreciate Ratbat. You can pay the overpriced rates for the tape as sold individually on the secondary market or if you want to splurge for the set. I'm not sure what plans Hasbro may have for releasing Ratbat somehow given they bundled all the other cassettes with their Masterpiece release of Soundwave.

Soundblaster is still a pretty awesome addition to any Transformers Masterpiece collection and is particularly essential for any Soundwave collector in particular.

I'll rate this release as 4.5 out of 5 not because of inherent flaws, but more because they didn't quite add all that much to this release apart from Ratbat. Ratbat is amazingly awesome, yes, but not enough to truly justify the full Masterpiece release.

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