Rob's Pile of Transformers: Manic Ramblings

Manic Ramblings and Delirious Ranting
re: re: Six*Guys
6/13/03

I absolutely love Micromasters, so I had to cheer for Takara reissuing the six-member Micromaster gestalt teams that they originally developed at the end of G1. I recently got the last of the four re-issued Micromaster combiner teams I needed, SixLiner, and figured I'd ramble about the whole lot of them by way of celebration.

GENERAL THOUGHTS
It's kind of interesting how many of the Six* guys have pre-existing corresponding Micromasters elsewhere in the line. SixWing is a good case in point. There's already been a strangely-proportioned white Concorde (Sky High the Second), a blue twin-tailfinned jet (Eagle Eye), and an angular black military helicpoter (Tracer). The Turbo team offers a good comparison to the Protectobots; they just need a Blazemaster repaint to appear as Blades (and an explanation for why Mirage and Sideswipe have suddenly joined the team.) And the SixBuilder group matches all four of Autobot Construction Patrol's altmodes, and even the colors in the case of front-end loader Groundpounder. I also have to say that the SixTurbo-to-Devastator repaint was a brilliant idea, given the one-to-one correspondance of their vehicle modes, and the fact that it produced a far nicer chase figure than just straight black, white, or *ack* red.

The basic combiner scheme used by these guys is insanely cheatsy. Almost none of them actually connect to one another; instead they all plug into the pieces of kibble. And not just comparatively small helper pieces like Devastator and Monstructor use, either; these are full-blown torsos in most cases. The chest guy basically just fills in a big hole in the middle. The backside guy has it even worse -- you basically just plug him into the base of the torso's backside. Oh, the horror!

On the flip side, for most of the teams you can take all the kibble -- big gun, legs, torso, fists and feet -- and combine it to form an open-topped jet that can seat one Micromaster passenger, assuming he doesn't mind the possiblity of falling out the bottom. I adore the *concept* of having all the kibble combine into a single entity; however, the excecution leaves a bit to be desired. I find the utility of this clunky, cumbersome "jet" to be a bit questionable. I guess it does give air support to these mostly land-bound teams, and in real-life terms, it keeps all the junk in one place -- a very helpful gesture. Hrm... maybe I can believe it a bit more if I think of it as a manned anti-aircraft battery, which maybe can fly itself to wherever it needs to go.

To be honest, I'm not really enthused by any of the combined modes. I don't mind, though -- the point for me was to get new Micromasters, and the combining thing was, at best, a nice little bonus.

SIXLINER
http://www.tfu.info/2002/Cybertron/Sixliner/sixliner.htm

The Sixliner team has always been a bit reknown for their peculiar names: Deego, Leaf, Night, Spark, Joe, and Alan. No, the last two are not typoes. Truth be told they're probably the most bland of the Six* combiners; three of their altmodes are virtually indistinguishable, and only steam engine Deego really jumps out as being an interesting vehicle.

Deego (it's the type of train he turns into, apparently -- D5, the same as "Grandpa" from that one episode of RiD?) is definately my favorite of the bunch, mainly 'cause he's got an altmode that isn't just a chunk of block. He's actually a passable little steam engine -- with European/Japanese stylings, of course, very clearly not American. He's a far better steamer than Astrotrain, though that's still not saying too much. I still long for the day when we get a proper steam locomotive in Transformers (maybe the World War II-era GI Joe crossover book will throw one in? How sweet it would be....) It's also a nice twist that he's the leader. It's kind of equivalent to Chaingun being the leader of the Sixwing squad -- the only helicopter in a team of jets. (Before I read that, I pictured Chaingun being kind of a joke, the slowpoke loser that the others allowed to tag along just to amuse themselves.)

Each member of the team is equipped with a coupling, an interesting idea which is not very well executed. They unfold from the ends of each train; half the squad has pegs and the other half has loops to let you link the trains up in pairs. Night and Joe have an additional unfolding piece, a squarish element that I thought was a second coupling but is probably meant soley for their role in the combiner. The problem with the couplings is that they hardly hold together at all unless they're rolling across a smooth surface like a tabletop. I'm also not convinced of the logic behind pairing a TGV bullet train with a steam engine.

SixLiner's the only exception to the rule of combining kibble, but he's also got the most interesting combination scheme, the only one that doesn't rely entirely on post-and-holes. While the others simply peg into their central kibble pieces, the Liner team uses a creative set of tabs and slots that lock the legs, feet, and waist together. The feet attachments (Night and.... uh.... oh, I can see I'm going to be referenceing www.tfu.info a LOT in the course of this review.... Joe) make use of their coupling pieces to attach to the footplates. A fair bit of thought went into this design, far more than the other three got. My only real complaint about him is the red-colored head which clashes badly with his orange torso.

The couplings also enable you to hook each team member up to their respective portion of the combiner kibble; the feet pieces even have little relief-molded wheels on them. A fan-made tank mode, however, provides a far more interesting alternative. With only a little bit of remolding, it could have been a genuine third mode.

All but one of these guys uses the basic Micromaster scheme -- rotate the rear end of the vehicle 180 degrees to form legs; stand up robot, finished. In the case of the trains, you end up with a robot wearing half a train on his back, such that he only looks like a robot if you're looking at him dead-on. Even Deego is guilty of it, which is a shame because his train mode suggests a lot of more interesting possibilities. In fact, I think seeing the bullet train members of this team at BotCon '02 is what made me put off getting them for so long. Spark is the sole exeption to the transformation scheme, and even then not by much.

Overall it's hard to get too excited about this group. Leaf and Spark have virtually identical altmodes; Alan's not too far off from them either, except he's got totally different colors. Night and Deego are about the only ones that look like real locomotives; the others are far too short. Bullet train engines would have been perfect for the Micromaster Combiner Squad concept; it's a shame that they didn't use them (or have these guys link up the same way.)

SIXTURBO
http://www.tfu.info/2002/Cybertron/Sixturbo/sixturbo.htm

This team, composed of Road Police, Sireen, Glide, Discharge, Neo-Wheel, and Circuit, is probably my favorite of the lot, for their comparatively creative transformation schemes and rather whimsical robot mode heads, which are themed to match their vehicle modes. So you get Road Police who looks like he's wearing a little cop hat, and Discharge the fire engine who appears to have a firefighter's helmet. It's silly, but fun.

The unfortunately named fire engine, Discharge, is supposed to be female. That's an interesting factoid given her massive, blocky size -- she's probably the biggest single Micromaster vehicle -- but in the same stroke, the bio tells us that what we're seeing is supposed to be some kind of rescue armor that conceals her presumably stereotypical female form beneath. Ahhhh, Takara. Two steps up, one step back. The toy itself is probably the least impressive of the lot; Red Hot is far more impressive both as a fire engine and a robot.

Glide's spiffy just for being a motorcycle, the only one in the entire Micromaster line; he also bears some resemblance to Override of the Triggerbots. His vehicle mode is tiny even by Micromaster standards. Circuit, while an average toy, gets similar props for being the only true F1 in the line. Sireen is awesome. Like Discharge, he's big and blocky, but unlike her, Sireen has an entirely unique transformation scheme that ends up with him wearing half his vehicle mode not on his back but on his head. This gives him a huge hood loaded with (comparatively) big guns. Natch, the bio says "Oh, those aren't WEAPONS!" Heavens forefend that an ambulance TF be anything other than a doctor. I'd love to see an ambulance Transformer be some psychotic warrior who always charges in with all guns blazing. It's not like there aren't plenty of crazy-types in Transformers already. Anyway, he and Deego of the SixLiner team are supposed to be old pals.

Neo-Wheel is perhaps the least remarkable of the bunch, as he shares both an altmode and a color scheme with Free Wheeler from the first year of Micromasters. Still, even without separable legs, he's a much nicer design than the abominably chunky Free Wheeler, whose kneecaps extend up to his torso and block his arms from any movement.

The combined mode is bizarrely hampered by short, stubby arms. They could have given him some longer gloves since they have to be attached anyway, or they could have made the fists attach lower down on Neo-Wheel and Circuit. They did neither, and also put strangely extended gauntlets on the insides of each arm, so SixTurbo's arms are too short and they can't reach past his chest.

Overall: Pretty much a winner all the way around. A little bland in the colors department, but otherwise a solid set.

SIXBUILDER
http://www.tfu.info/2003/Cybertron/SixBuilder/sixbuilder.htm

It's hard to consider these guys without comparing them to the Autobot Construction Patrol, who are one of the nicest Micromaster sets in terms of design and coloration. They actually hold up pretty well. As I mentioned earlier, the Devastator repaint was a great idea, but what would really have sparked my wires (since these are recolored from the original versions anyway) is if they'd redone Crush Bull, Digger, Treader and Iron Lift as RiD's Build Team.

Treader, the dump truck, is one of the biggest Micromasters around, but his obligatorily simple transformation means that he isn't any taller than his compatriots. Digger has a shovel with a compartively large amount of movement (at least as much as G1 Scavenger). Iron Lift's little crane is sufficiently detailed as to include a movable hook at the end, a nice touch. He is also, incidentally, already in the correct colors to match RiD's Hightower. Gran Arm's vehicle mode is hilarious -- the shovel mechanism completely blocks the view out of the cab. His head is also amusingly attached by side hinges with no braces to stop it when it's in the right position, so you can spin it around like a wheel on an axel. I like to think that every time he transforms, his head takes a few seconds to settle into its fully upright position.

Crush Bull (from the same lineage as Killbison, perhaps?) is a very strange looking bulldozer -- I've never heard of one with the angled cabe that he's got. He also seems like he'd be HUGE if built to scale.

The combined form is nice enough; it has adequate arm clearance, decent colors, and nice shoulder flares provided by Iron Lift and Digger. As with each team, the center chest member has an appropriately located faction symbol to adorn the combined mode's chest.

Overall I'd rank these as a very close #2 in terms of fun and playability, and their wider range of colors maybe puts them a bit over the top in visual terms.

SIXWING
http://www.tfu.info/2003/Destron/Sixwing/sixwing.htm, inexplicably turned into a Decepticon team while the rest of the Six* crews retained their Autobot allegiance. Not that I mind; it's good to have a bit of balance. I can see how this would be bothersome to those familiar with the team from before their 2003 reissue, however.

The Micromaster line always had trouble with jets. The problems are almost endemic to the nature of the line -- at such a tiny scale, you can't perform any of the complicated tranformation moves that would be needed to create decent legs and feet out of a skinny jet body. The Mini-Con Air Defense Team worked around this difficulty by simply strapping the robot beneath the jet, or -- in Sonar's case -- using such a bulky air mode that there was enough room to work in some real legs.

But that was a decade in the future when the SixWing team was created. They use nearly the same transformation schemes as the Decepticon Air Strike Patrol, and suffer from pretty much the same weaknesses: bizarre-looking uni-legs in the case of Falcon and Flanker, and lower legs with a considerable offset from his thighs for Missile Run.

The set as a whole is a nicely colorfol mix of white, black and grey combined with turquoise and pink.

The nicest of the bunch in vehicle mode isn't a jet at all, but the space shuttle Raker (brilliant James Bond ref, eh?) He's realistically colored with a black underside and a white upper body, and he has relatively few robot parts visible in this form. His robot mode is a bit lacking for color -- a red eyeband, like Flanker and Falcon have, would help a lot.

Super Sonic, the Concorde, unfolds into what may be the tallest of all Micromasters. Like so many jet MMs, he makes no attempt to have discernable lower legs or feet.

Chaingun, as mentioned before, is a near-doppelganger of the Decepticon Military Patrol's Tracer, though his rotor has two blades instead of four and does not spin freely. There are many smaller differences, but the overall similarity is striking. They're about equally good helicopters, but Chaingun's probably the better robot. Tracer does gain points, however, for the ability to mount his rotor on his arm in robot mode for use as a weapon. Too few Micromasters made use of this idea -- only Tracer, Blaze Master, and Growl, as far as I know.

The combined mode looks a little on the 98-pound weakling side, largely due to hsi lack of visible shoulders. His legs are also rather skinny compared to the other three teams.

Overall: Some nice alternate modes and a delightfully quirky color scheme are the team's strongest points. They're not bad per se, just some of the other teams are nicer.

ADDENDUM, 8/29/03:
SIXTRAIN
http://www.tfu.info/1992/Cybertron/Sixtrain/sixtrain.htm

SixTrain is a lightly remolded recolor of SixLiner, and the last of these toys to be issued (and re-issued.) No matter what you think of SixLiner, you find SixTrain to be basically more of the same.

I've never quite gotten the Japanese fetish for bullet train Transformers. Okay, so, it's what they have over there. But past a certain point, they're just really dull. Freight locomotives (especially American ones) and steam engines are just much more interesting as alternate modes -- more distinct shapes and profiles, more interesting bits and pieces and moving parts. Heck, we've only gotten two steam engine alt.modes ever (Deego and Astrotrain), and we've NEVER gotten an American-style freight engine. So I'm utterly baffled that the one all-new mold in the SixTrain team is... another bullet train. Granted, he's one of the nicest ones, and he looks really slick in his dark metallic grey. But still. ANOTHER bullet train. *yawn*

The recolors are decent -- not outstanding, but nice enough. Combined, there's definately more unity than in SixLiner, as well as more restraint -- he's basically grey and blue with some white and a dark green leg, while SixLiner is orange, red, white, grey, black with a blue leg and some green trim. SixTrain looks nice though not terribly exciting. Paint applications on all these guys are a vast improvement over stickers. Sixtrain's torso kibble piece looks especially nice. He's also got a new head sculpt that I definately prefer over SixLiner's.

In general, the Six* team leaders are the team member that:
- has the most useless alternate mode
- transforms into the combiner's butt.

In SixTrain's case, it's the steam locomotive who finds himself stuck on a team of electric powered engines. He's the most radically altered by recoloration; the dull gold color brings out a lot of detail that was obscured by the black plastic of Deigo. He gets a couple of new paint ops in train mode as well to bring out some of his details, though he still could use a few more. Maybe I'll have to actually customize him a bit...

Okay, tangent thought: I feel really dumb using the word "train" like that. Deigo and the others are not by themselves "trains"; they are "locomotives" or "engines". Attach some freight or passenger cars to them, and then the whole collective entity becomes a train. But the engines by themselves are not a train any more than one dancing person is a dance club.

Overall: if you're faced with getting SixTrain or SixLiner, it's a pretty small distinction. Train has more low-key colors; Liner has lots of bright clashy oranges and reds along with the blue and white that both versions share. I think maybe Liner wins out just because the mold that got left out for SixTrain isn't a standard boring bullet train. Neither of them is the best of the Six combiners anyway.

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