Rob's Pile of Transformers: Manic Ramblings

Manic Ramblings and Delirious Ranting
re: Energon Wave 1 - Battle Ravage, Skyblast, Strongarm, Energon Saber team, Hot Shot, Inferno

"What about a Transformer? Transformers are cool..." -- overheard at a Wal-Mart

After weeks of not having time to even think about getting new toys, I went on a buying frenzy on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, sort of a combination Christmas/end-of-school celebration. In addition to a G1 Pretender Roadblock that I won off Ebay, I got reissue Grapple & Hoist, and Energon's Battle Ravage, Strongarm, Skyblast, Energon Saber Team, Inferno, Hot Shot, and finally Starscream last night (along with 3 recolored Mini-Con teams.) It's been an orgy of Transformer joy, and I'm very pleased with my first taste of TF:Energon.

BATTLE RAVAGE: This is probably the weakest of the toys I got. He's a bit awkward and spindly in robot mode, with a low-hanging crotch with a tail coming out of it. The cat mode, however, is excellent. He's lean, mean, and mechanical in the same way as the G1 Pretender Beasts -- but unlike them, he looks slick, and he's fully posable. He could easily pass as a new version of Pounce or Catilla; in fact I'd love to see him recolored as Pounce with a retool of the face (then they can massively retool *that* into Wingspan.) It's been many years since we had fully mechanical beasts, and those were never at this level of posability. Battle Ravage and his fellow Terrorcons are extremely welcome in that regard -- so welcome, in fact, that I hardly even notice the fact that he's yet another stand-up head-swapper, front legs become arms, back legs become legs. Oh, and his morningstar tail is really cool. Colorwise, I keep glancing at him and thinking he's Apeface.

Overall: Not too bad, but not all that terrific either.

STRONGARM: *love* I've long wanted a completely reimagined and redesigned Combaticon team, based on their animation model robot forms and with modern posability. Well, if we got it the way I picture it, Swindle would not be very different at all from Strongarm. He's the right colors, the right alt.mode, the right size, and just presents the right concept for the robot mode -- even without the windshield across the chest, which I always thought was silly. Why put such a vunerable component right in the center of the torso? Better to do it Strongarm's way, and use the windshield as toes instead, where nothing's likely to damage it.

Strongarm, when transformed, is wearing a.... uh..... I don't know what, but it could be a lot of things -- a pie, a UFO, a throw pillow, a Frank Lloyd Wright building -- on his head. It took me a bit to discover that you can split it in half to make... uh... two half-pies, I guess. His other weapon is a rather large cannon with a crane hook... and yes, you can mount it on his arm as well as his shoulder. His transformation's a bit basic... flip the hood to form feet, rotate the arms out from underneath, spin the waist and head to get them in the right spots. I've never been too fond of wheels where only the outside half is free to rotate... but it beats having totally frozen wheels, I suppose.

Overall, this is a beautiful little toy -- nothing innovative at all, just the result of years of TF design distilled down to the good stuff.

SKYBLAST: I've never given much thought to the appearance of my fanfic characters the Quanticons; I always just said "They look sorta like Strafe from the Technobots". Well, now I can add "or Energon Skyblast." His tech jet mode is sweet, and looks great without the huge cannon attached to it... and okay with it as well. The way his legs fold up and absorb his arms is creative, if a little counter-intuitive at first. He's also got a strange underbelly claw grabber thing whose exact purpose I haven't yet divined.

He's got Skyfire's face, and while I'm sure Zob could tell me ten ways it differs from the animation model, as far as I'm concerned it's a dead ringer. He's a nice little homage to his almost-namesake, done up in a beautiful combo of white with dark red and grey. His two Energon weapon bits combine to make this really buttkickin' staff/arrow of death thing. He's lacking knee articulation, sadly, but otherwise he's mostly posable.

Overall, I strongly recommend Skyblast and Strongarm to anyone who might be having their doubts about Energon.

ENERGON SABER TEAM: Not much to say about these guys. They're cool remolds of some toys that were already spiffy. My one and only complain is that they didn't ditch the blue color on them. It just looks out of place alongside the electric clear gold color; it'd be far more effective if they'd just left the gold to play against neutral greys and blacks. They did do this with Wreckage (formerly Runway, the red one, the leader in the comic), and he definately looks the best as well as having my favorite mold alterations. Sonar's probably the least interesting; he basically just gets a couple of little wings tacked onto his side.

Oh, and those names. What the HELL is up with those names? It's like they drew them out of a hat. Runway is now Wreckage, Sonar is now Skyboom, and Jetstorm is now Scattor. Why not just leave them the same as when these molds were the Air Defense Team? The implication is that they're new characters, but they're all character names that are still on the shelves in their previous incarnations. Nor do I find it terribly plausible that this Wreckage is a new form for the old grizzled guy from the Land Military Team.

That aside, they're a sweet retooling of a team that was already quite nice.

STARSCREAM: I was *this* close to snagging this guy Tuesday night, but a mom beat me to him. Oh well, I got him last night instead, and oh was he worth the wait!

His robot mode is just beautiful. The colors are muted and wonderful -- much more so than the catalogue illustration shows -- and allow the excellent detailing to really shine, especially the dark translucent sea green. He's subtle. He conveys mass and seriousness in a way that the Autobots in Energon don't. They're bright, cheery, and cartoony; Starscream is dignified and mecha-like. And he wonderfully captures the cartoon appearance of Armadascream while being a totally different design. I love these rare occasions when a new toy based on an old character develops into a new and different character, then gets a new toy that strongly resembles the new character while being a departure from the old one. Hasn't happened since Primal started getting new bodies, really.

I am worried about his arms. I had to consult the instructions to find out how I was supposed to get them out of their folded-up jet mode position, because they didn't want to budge in any direction without putting some undue stress on various hinges and levers. Hopefully they'll be a bit easier to change now that he's been through it once.

His jet mode is nice and sleek and compact, everything that his Armada form wasn't. His two big guns can clip onto his wings via Mini-Con hardpoints, but it's rather clumsy looking and spoils the effect of the jet mode.

In both modes, he's got interesting battle damage, perhaps reflecting his reported role as an "energon ghost". Bits of his armor are cracked and torn away, revealing tech lines beneath. It's only done in a few places and IMO doesn't detract from his overall appearance -- even if the bright green paint used on the damage point on one wing *is* rather garishly bright compared to his stealthy colors.

Overall: Oh, he's great. My third recommendation after Strongarm and Skyblast.

Hot Shot: This is the second time I've gotten a Hot Shot in my hands, thinking I wouldn't care much for him, and found to my surprise that I really like him. This Hot Shot is far more detailed than his predecessor, and in fact he's quite a nice car -- he's got clear headlights, a clear windshield and open side windows, opening doors (even if they do open, Prowl-like, onto a mess of robot bits), and an opening hood with a kinda-engine beneath. Those who despaired at the toy-like Armada Hot Shot should consider this guy instead.

His transformation's another detailed variant on a tried-and-true old formula -- the rear of the vehicle extends and splits to become legs; the hood folds back to reveal the head; the arms unfold from the sides (underneath the doors). It's simple, with a few creative and clever twists.

My only gripe in robot mode is his head. He can't turn it, and his face has a receeding helmet line that looks a bit odd somehow. Nothing serious.

Hot Shot is where I discovered one of the really fun points of the Energon line: combining weapons. At one point, I had Hot Shot loaded down with five guns in one hand, and two Mini-Con swords in the other (and for some reason this caused me about five minutes of hysterical giggling.) The multi-pegged and ported weapons can combine with each other and their users in a nigh-infinate variety of combinations, a play point I've been wanting ever since the Pretenders first hinted at it. When the line's done, you'll be able to spend hours finding new ways to stick all these guns together.

Overall: He's solid. But so is Inferno....

INFERNO: He's a cool little fire truck, though instead of a ladder or hose extention, he sports a huge missile launcher. Well, actually, the drum next to it looks like it should be loaded up with pesticides, so maybe he sprays DTD at his foes. His head is clearly visible in this mode, though with the face covered by a Tankor-like battle mask thing, it's not that obvious or intrusive.

Inferno's probably the most kid-friendly of the toys in this batch. Like Hot Shot, he's got a nice big clear windshield. He's bright, colorful and a bit chunky, and his transformation is fairly simple; his arms and legs fold back behind the cab to become the truck body -- very similar in principle to the original Inferno, in fact. His face looks like it was designed to emulate the way Don Figurosa draws most of his TFs. He wears his cannon on one arm; his legs have cool spring moldings inside them (used in his combination with Hot Shot. Oh! I have yet to try that out, y'know...) In general he looks like one tough Autobot.

HOT SHOT ON TOP: Ah hah. Well, it's certainly a creative idea... not sure if I buy it at first go. I give full marks for the creativity of the tranformations involved, but end result's a bit iffy. HSOT lacks proper hands, nor can he really walk around much. He can wave his arms around a bit, but he's got no proper hands. Still, this is only the first wave, typically the weakest of any TF line, and if they're this good now, they'll be amazing six months down the road.

INFERNO ON TOP: Hrm, a bit better. He's got real arms, because he just uses Inferno's. Inferno's legs stick up rather bizarrely into the air above Inferno's head, presumably as some kind of cannons and stuff. yeah, Inferno On Top is definately the better version. They go the other route when they just wanna club somebody to death.

OVERALL: The opening wave of Energon is just amazingly good so far. I don't think I've ever been this happy with a new TF line right off the bat; my experience so far is seriously tempting me to get some of the larger toys that I might have ignored otherwise. Get out there and spend some dough, folks.

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