Rob's Pile of Transformers: Manic Ramblings

Manic Ramblings and Delirious Ranting
re: Toynami's Robotech Masterpiece Volume 4: Veritech VF-1J (Max Sterling)

.....which is a long way of saying, a really nice version of Max Sterling's blue Veritech, the same tranforming jet fighter design that was turned into Jetfire for Transformers.

I didn't even know this Masterpiece line existed till last week, when they came up in #wiigii! one night. Someone pointed out a site that had 'em on sale for $35; since I'm a long-time Robotech fan (though a rather passive one since the 1980s), and Veritechs are cool in general, I figured, why not?

He comes in a most impressive box, shaped and printed like a bound book (hence the "volume" moniker). Inside you get the fighter, its main cannon, 4 clusters of missiles, a tiny Max Sterling pilot, a cockpit cover, a pilot's ladder, and a tiny antenna. Lots of bits to lose, unfortunately. The antenna, at very least, could have been permanently incorporated into the fighter. The cockpit cover -- designed to screen the cockpit in robot mode -- is particularly offensive, as it's an add-on part that should really be integral to the design. Make no mistake, this is a really nice looking toy. It's the spitting image of the fighter that Max Sterling piloted through 30 or 40 episodes of Robotech in all three modes. It's large, about 9 inches tall in robot form. It feels solid in my hands, and the fighter mode especially is sleek and aerodynamic in a way that few Transformer planes can match. You look at this thing and you believe it could really fly. The pilot especially gives it a wonderful sense of scale -- it's clearly a huge, massive war machine. The most wonderful bit of detail is the rubber-tired landing gear with three-panel access hatches.

The transformation scheme is one of the most widely-immitated ones ever designed, and remains a solid and believable one. On the other hand... transforming toy technology has evolved so far in the last decade that this toy's construction really feels antiquated. The Veritech's arms flop around in mid-transform on metal hinge panels, looking for some place to peg into.

I had serious trouble getting it back into robot mode from fighter; the upper fusilage piece that slides down arond the cockpit refused to separate from the piece that becomes the back. I had to resort to disassembling the toy to yank the two bits apart; they had snapped together so tightly they were virtually inseparable. Again, with so many thin pieces of fairly brittle-feeling plastic with super-tight tolerances, I was really worried I was gonna break something. I snapped and unsnapped the two troublesome pieces several times to loosen them up and put the whole thing back together. In a toy with "Masterpiece" in the title, surgery really shouldn't be necessary.

Other overlooked details: in robot mode the tailfin backpack doesn't peg into anything on the fighter's back, meaning that it has to stay put soley by virtue of the strength of the hinge it's mounted on... and that ain't much. Likewise, the robot arms don't peg anywhere when they're stored beneath the fighter in jet mode. The tailfins I can kinda understand given where they wind up, but having the arms unsupported is just inexplicable. The tailfin piece likewise doesn't peg into anything in jet mode, either, which is even worse since the two-jointed hinge likes to flop out of place. The piece could easily have pegged into the arms and killed two birds with one stone. The tailfin piece also tends to push the arms down a bit in jet mode, another irritant.

I always thought Jetfire's robot mode felt a bit skinny and naked without all the armor. For some reason that never bothered me with the mecha on the Robotech cartoon... but I think the animators beefed the Battloid modes up a bit, because Max's fighter looks rather skinny as a robot. The legs are a bit awkwardly hinged -- the thigh joints seem a bit low, but the next joint up is buried in the torso, and is only designed to bring the legs around during transformation. The legs are mounted on two more bits of metal, long bars that are probably the weakest component of the whole transformation scheme. This is the point when I wonder how the ship doesn't tear itself apart when transforming in mid-air. Still, the fact that I can even *have* such a strong vision of this huge thing in the air flying at hundreds of miles per hour is a testimony to the quality of the toy's detailing.

The most clever bit in robot mode is the hands -- they not only hold the gun by the handle , but one finger is extended and crooked to fit through the gun's trigger guard. It's a spiffy trick, but it makes it difficult to hold the gun steady. He's also got a light-up head sensor which looks pretty cool in a dark room.

Overall: a must-have for Robotech fans. For fans of transforming robots... well, it's basically Jetfire. You know how Jetfire is. He's beautiful, but he's 20 years old too, and it definately shows. But he's still beautiful.

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