Sunday, February 5, 2012

For the love of beasts!

There's no doubt that Hasbro has really pleased fans in the past few years by re-imagining many classic characters across it's various lines. We've gotten all manner of cars, jets and tanks, but there's been one glaring omission. What I loved about the original G1 series was the variety of forms that the Transformers took, especially the animals, monsters and beasts. Sure, we've had a Grimlock or Blackarachnia here and there, but there are so many more choices out there.

Here are my suggestions if Hasbro sees fit to delve further into the world of the "primitives" for future robots in disguise. Each of my selections includes a good and bad character to enable Hasbro's trend of using each mold at least twice. I'm pulling my choices from both G1 and the Beast era.


We've seen Soundwave's cassettes get upgrades, but not Blaster's. Let's start it off with Steeljaw, repainted as Predacon leader Razorclaw. Razorclaw became a Botcon repaint, but I think a general release figure is on order.


Well, if we're updating Steeljaw, we might as well take care of his partner, Ramhorn. Predacon Headstrong is the obvious choice for the repaint, but Pretender Stranglehold might make a good Botcon character.


I'm sure Predacon Rampage would be the popular choice here, but I'm going a little more obscure with updates of Pretender Catilla, and the Decepticon Clone, Pounce. Let's save Rampage for an exclusive (gotta give the fans something to get pissed about, right?)


Apeling was an interesting Botcon character who deserves some wide release exposure. Plus, we need a good monkey who's name doesn't end in "Primal". My repaint choice is Apeface who appeared previously with the unwieldy descriptive "Decepticon Headmaster Horrorcon".

Insect Monsters

I always loved the Monsterbots, so I'd like to see them get updated. Repugnus has been the subject of a couple of previous repaints, but let's get him a new mold. The Firecon, Sparkstalker, is my repaint choice. Since sparks have become such an integral part of Transformers mythos since G1, Sparkstalker's name can take on a whole new meaning.


(Or, would you prefer Crabs?) My first choice here is for the Rockbuster as this mold was known in Beast Wars Neo. The US release was called Razorclaw which is in use above. My Decepticon repaint choice is the Headmaster Squeezeplay.


Ratbat and Mindwipe have both gotten vehicle mode releases in recent years, so let's go with some other bat choices. Sonar the Maximal is my first choice as she got a raw deal back in the Botcon Wreckers comics. Bomb-Burst is my second choice to pay homage to his vampiric looking Pretender shell.


Maximal Longhorn gets the nod here since he was one of my favorite basic sized Beast Machines Maximals. Again, I'll forego the obvious choice of Predacon Tantrum and choose Headmaster Horri-Bull. Always had a fondness for that goofy name.


Dragons of the two-headed variety, that is. Monsterbot Doublecross is my Autobot choice, with Terrorcon leader Hun-Gurr as my Decepticon choice. These guys are two of my most favorite G1 characters.


Well, these two characters really aren't the same type of insect, so somebody will have to concede an alt-mode here. Tonbot, the Cybertron dragonfly from Beast Wars II and Venom, the deluxe cicada Insecticon. I suppose it will have to be "Insecticon Venom" or something due to current trademarks.


Again we have a slight difference in original alt-modes, but we can make this work. Claw Jaw (or Scuba, if you prefer) representing the Maximals, and Octopunch the Decepticon Pretender. Bonus convention repaint can be the Seacon, Tentakil.


No, not those pesky dinosaurs that can open doors. I'm talking about birds of prey. Let's have a new Airazor with a repaint as Divebomb. Runners-up would be Buzzsaw, Laserbeak, Squawktalk, Wingspan, Birdbrain or whatever other bad bird you can think of.


Grimlock gets a lot of love, and Swoop and (Slag, insert current name here) as well, but how about Snarl? (the original Snarl, not Slag or a wolf or a Tasmanian Devil or anything) I'd like a new stegosaur Snarl, and just as Overkill was repainted from Grimlock, we can get Slugfest.


Anybody remember Pincher? He was a humanoid Autobot Pretender with and inner robot that transformed into a scorpion. Bring back that bit of obscurity and have a repaint of everybody's favorite redneck Predacon, Quickstrike (sans the snake tail, of course).


Let's end with some sea predators. Cybershark is my choice for the good guy, while Seacon Overbite gets the repaint.

I have more ideas, but I think I've given Hasbro enough ideas for at least a couple of waves. Get to it!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Playstation 2 Transformers: Retrospective

by Jerry Peterson (Mako Crab)

When it comes to video games, it can really suck to be a Transformers fan. There’s no shortage of Transformers games to choose from, but finding a great one is like trying to find an Autobot hidden in rush hour traffic. The concept of being able to switch between on-foot and in-vehicle segments at will seems like a no-brainer, and has been successfully done in other, non-Transformers games. For whatever reasons though, implementing this basic concept and designing a TF game around it eludes developers more often than not. But back in 2004, Melbourne House did the impossible and delivered the first genuinely excellent Transformers game. This is the game that set the bar by which all other Transformers games must be judged, even the fan-favorite “War for Cybertron.”

Based on Hasbro’s Transformers: Armada toyline of the time, Melbourne House opted not to adapt the cartoon or comic into video game form. Instead they carved out their own little take on Armada. The paper-thin story revolves around rescuing Mini-Cons, tiny Transformers with special abilities, before the Decepticons can capture them and use them for their own evil deeds. Choosing from a team of three Autobots, you can charge into battle using either the slow but powerful Optimus, the speedy but lightly armored Hot Shot, or the balanced Red Alert.

The game makes great use of the Mini-Con gimmick. It’s simple enough; find one of the tiny Mini-Cons hidden somewhere in the vast open-world levels, equip it to one of the PS2's shoulder buttons, and gain access to a huge variety of weaponry, armor, and extra abilities. You can spend hours just playing around and experimenting with all the crazy options (tornado canon!) at your disposal. Even weapons that seem useless at first, such as the tractor beam, turn into guilty pleasures when you get the hang of whipping the tether around and flinging enemies miles off into the distance. And equipping Mini-Cons is absolutely essential if you want to have any hope of completing the game. A power level puts a cap on how much Mini-Con power you can handle, so you can't just load up all the most powerful 'cons and head out. You'll have to think more tactically about your loadout. . . unless you're using the cheat code that takes the cap off.

Prime gets ready to roll out

If you think you’re going to blindly run into a firefight with guns blazing and come out on top, then be prepared to see the continue screen a lot. Unlike their cartoon counterparts, the DeceptiClones can aim! Enemy troops almost always patrol in groups and won’t hesitate to dogpile on you. An Autobot at full health can be reduced to scrap metal in short order if you’re not careful and the boss fights make even the goofy Cyclonus into a badass. Trenner Dios of TFW2005 said, “It was so satisfying to beat because it was so challenging. Even on the easy setting it could be quite tough.”

The boss fights are definitely the highlights of the game, though you’ll only face off against four actual Decepticons (Cyclonus, Starscream, Tidal Wave, and Megatron). It doesn’t matter though! Each fight is a memorable spectacle, a firestorm of awesomeness that will be burnt into your memory forever after. Tidal Wave is bigger than Devastator in “Revenge of the Fallen!” The only downside is that there’s no option to replay any of the boss battles after completing them. If you want to take down the big bads again, you’ll have to either replay the game or plug in a code. It’s a shame, really. It would’ve been a nice bonus to take on the early bosses again with all of the Mini-Cons backing you.

Optimus faces the towering Tidal Wave

The first couple waves of DeceptiClones may give you a thrashing, but you’ll quickly get the hang of the controls. Movement is controlled with the left analog stick while camera/aiming is handled with the right. A quick tap of the triangle button transforms your character back and forth. Driving in vehicle mode is intuitive and you’ll be tearing up the landscape within moments of transforming. Gordon 4 from the TFW boards said, “I actually think from a gameplay perspective, it was better than “War for Cybertron.” The movements felt smother and more natural, the transforming aspect was as smooth as silk and easily integrated into combat. Man I wasted like an hour on the first level using Optimus Prime and trying to replicate the 'Movie-Jump.' Nearly got it too.”

In addition to the Mini-Cons you have mapped to the shoulder buttons, each Autobot is accompanied by their own Mini-Con sidekick that travels with them through each level. Tap square to powerlink with your Mini-Con, and you’ll be sent into a slow motion bullet-time where enemies seem to move through a duotone haze of molasses and your gun unloads plasma blasts at a metal-shredding rate. Use the powerlink at your own risk though. Doing so drains your energy to within an inch of your life. Enemies always drop health, so there’s the payoff if you use this high risk move.

Graphically, Transformers is still a pretty game even now. Radiant sunlight cuts through the dense jungle canopy, every blade of grass and tree leaf is rendered. The immense sandbox locales are some of the most beautiful you’ll see on the PS2. Whether you’re traipsing through the amazon, through the barren arctic, or the islands of the Pacific, you’ll find yourself wanting to stop and check out every detail, and not just to scope for patrolling DeceptiClones. The two Amazon levels in particular seem to have a higher degree of polish. The jungle just goes on forever!

Unlockable content includes postcards. No, really.

Exploration is rewarded in the form of hidden Mini-Cons and Data-Cons, some of which are located in hard-to-reach areas that will require a bit of skill. With the Mini-Con glider, Slipstream, and dash-boosting Fullspeed, I tried flying to the most distant chunks of land on the far horizon of the Pacific. And even though I could never reach it (damn you, invisible wall!) I always felt like I could. The highest point of any area feels just within reach and there’s always more than one way to traverse a level. Whether it’s on land, by glider, or by hijacking DeceptiClone dropships, you can tackle each challenge however best suits your play style.

Or y'know, just drive through them.

Decent voice acting punctuates the experience as your team occasionally calls you up to deliver your next objective. Don’t expect any witty banter during actual gameplay though a la “War for Cybertron.” Grunts, groans, and all other manner of verbal expression are all absent from both the Autobots and the DeceptiClone army. What’s there is good, but it’s not much. Veteran voice actors, David Kaye and Gary Chalk reprise their roles as Megatron and Optimus Prime respectively, and astute listeners will hear Daran Norris (Knockout of Transformers: Prime) make his Transformers debut here as Red Alert. The hardest choice you’ll have to make is whether you want to plow through DeceptiClones as Optimus Prime or have him brief you during a mission when you play as Hot Rod or Red Alert.

Red Alert demands one picture in this article.

What the game lacks in voice work, it delivers with the soundtrack. The ambient tunes perfectly suit each location and ramp up in intensity when you run into a nest of DeceptiClones. Each of the five bosses gets their own theme song which range from hard rocking to epic orchestral. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I gotta’ say Cyclonus’ theme is pretty damn cool.

As good as this game is, it’s hard not to want more. Only three Autobots to choose from? Only four Decepticons in the whole game? The DeceptiClone army serves as decent canon fodder, but they’re borderline generic and not one of them transforms with exception to the Rollarm units. Each level is gigantic and offers endless hours of exploration, but for all their vastness, not one takes place within a city, where the Autobots’ vehicle modes would’ve made the most sense. There are some long stretches of land to cover in vehicle mode, but a lot of it is so densely covered in jungle or rough terrain, that it doesn’t seem as though much effort was put into making transforming relevant. It is, however, a lot of fun to drive through waves of enemies. There’s no sound more satisfying than that of drones exploding in rapid succession. The final battle against Unicron is the epic cherry on top of the sundae, but you’ll only see him in his planet form. Why oh why can’t he transform?! The bonus content, unlocked by finding Data-Cons, is plentiful and will keep die-hard fans scouring the levels for every last one. However, once you’ve found all the Mini and Data-cons, there’s nothing left to do. I hesitate to say it has little replay value, because I’ve replayed it more than any other PS2 game I own. Still, I wish there were more to do.

For all the things that Melbourne House’s Transformers lacks, what it does, it does very well. The cast is small and there’s no meat to the story, but it all feels like a tight little package. And the customization options granted by the Mini-Cons offer for lots of gameplay variety. It took 20 years after the robots in disguise first hit airwaves to get a great Transformers game, and even after this game set the bar, it remained the pinnacle of what a TF game could be, putting all others to shame until “War for Cybertron” came along. It’s challenging but it’s a satisfying challenge. Whenever I play Transformers, I always feel like the developers really loved what they were doing. The cheesy party music during the credits exemplifies it. Yeah, it’s cheesy, but they’re having fun and even Tidal Wave and the DeceptiClones get in on the party after the credits roll. To quote TFW member, Shizuka, “that game had passion coded into the disk.”


Thanks to IGN and Moby Games for the pics

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Lost Transformers - Addendum

A small addition to the Lost Transformers...some Transformers Animated repaints appeared on the card back cross-sells for the recently released Toys 'R Us exclusives, Rodimus Minor and Ironhide. We can assume that these card backs were printed before the line was officially canceled. Here we have (presumably) Photoshopped representations of Fugitive Waspinator (aka Wasp), a repaint of Bumblebee to represent Waspinator's pre-beast form; and three characters who get new name prefixes to go along with their new color schemes;Mercenary Swindle, Vortex Blurr and Toxic Oil Slick.

Also planned were a Thundercracker repaint for the Voyager Starscream mold, and new version of Voyager Bulkhead called Mudbuster Bulkhead.

So, sorry again Animated fans. Maybe Takara-Tomy will pick up on some of these.... so you can pay those exorbitant import prices for them!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Lost Transformers - Part 5

Welcome to the final installment of the Lost Transformers.


Titanium was a short-lived sub-line of Transformers that were made with die-cast metal parts just like the original line of "Generation 1" Transformers that had been adapted from Diaclone and Microman. The quality of the line was hit or miss but was still popular with collectors due to the variety of characters that were made, especially the toys that were based on the "War Within" comic series.

At the 2007 Botcon, Hasbro displayed several prototypes of canceled Titanium figures. Cosmos was an updated version of the Minibot that transformed into a flying saucer that was much more detailed than the "G1" original. The next addition to the "War Within" series would have been Bumblebee with a planned repaint as Cliffjumper.

Also displayed was Arcee, designed after her original appearance in "Transformers the Movie" and season 3 of the "G1" cartoon. Although Hasbro has released several transformable Arcee figures over the past several years, there has yet to be an official toy of her "G1" incarnation. Titanium Shockwave was based on his original toy right down to the rubber-covered wire connected to his arm. Would it have dried and cracked over time as badly as the original is known to do? We'll never know.


Most Transformers lines have had lost figures, but Transtech represents an entire lost line. Planned as a sequel to "Beast Machines", the Transtech series would have featured characters from both the Beast Era as well as Generation 1 including Cheetor, Silverbolt, Shockwave, Starscream, Depth Charge, and, of course, Optimus and Megatron. There was also a mysterious new character called Immorticon. The Transtech designs were first revealed as concept sketches by Draxhall Jump. The concepts were unlike anything seen in Transformers up to that time although some of the Transtech aesthetic would later show up in the live-action films. Transtech was ultimately abandoned as Hasbro decided to release takara's "Car Robots" line as "Robots in Disguise" while they worked toward the start of what would become known as "The Unicron Trilogy". Based on the look of these sketches, if this line had been released there's no doubt it would have been as divisive to the fan base as "Beast Machines" was.

Some time later, a couple of prototypes would turn up on the forums of Behind the Toys showing what Transtech Cheetor and Starscream would have looked like. Both figures would have been Deluxe class. These would make great additions to the current "Generations" line, but considering these hard copies were made 10 years ago, I don't hold out much hope.

That's all, folks! Hope you enjoyed it.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Lost Transformers - Part 4

Did I say "next week"? Sorry, I meant "3 months". Actually life (plus a computer crash which cost me all my research) intervened. But we're back on track now. Here we go!


We all commonly refer to the annual Transformers convention as "Botcon", but for a few years, due to legal reasons, it was called the Official Transformers Collectors Convention, or OTFCC for short. OTFCC had many grand designs when it came to exclusives, but financial difficulties resulted in the organizers losing the official Transformers license. That in turn resulted in many planned exclusives being left on the drawing board.

Hot Spot/Defensor was the most ambitious of these which actually made it to prototype stage. The figure was a repaint and retool of "Robots in Disguise" Optimus Prime (known in Japan as "Car Robots" Fire Convoy). Repainted to look like the G1 Protectobot leader, the smaller robot would have been Hot Spot with the super Optimus Prime combined form being called Defensor. Hasbro later released a similar toy in their 6" Titanium line but it was not as impressive as this exclusive would have been.

The rest of the planned OTFCC exclusives never made it to prototype stage, but concept drawings have surfaced. Devcon, the G1 cartoon bounty hunter, would have been created using the "Energon" Slugslinger mold, while the Wreckers' Roadbuster would have been reborn using the "Energon" Strongarm mold.

A second use of the "Energon" Strongarm figure would have been a new version of G1 Brawn. Lastly, there was a new version of "Beast Wars" dragon Megatron using the "Robots in Disguise" Megatron 6-changer mold. The RiD Megatron would later be used as the convention exclusive Deathsaurus figure after the official convention was again reborn as Botcon.

Also of note is the Wreckers catalog that was created for the 2001 Botcon. A variety of main line and convention exclusive toys made up the roster of the resurrected Wreckers team, but there were also a few figures that appeared only as hand-painted samples. 3H, the proprietors of Botcon at the time, had no plans to release these figures which included Transmetal Fractyl, Devcon and Alpha Trion.

The entire Wreckers catalog can still be seen here.

Beast Wars

Not many unproduced "Beast Wars" prototypes have turned up, but there was an interesting set of concept drawings that surfaced. Among these are Transmetal versions of characters that did not get Transmetal (I) figures...Scorponok, Tigatron and Blackarachnia. There are also a couple of unproduced Fuzor characters, one of which looks like Optimus Primal as a griffin! These look like they would have been great additions to the Beast Wars.

Transformers Animated

One of the most recent Transformers lines, "Transformers Animated", has a tremendous fan following and there was much disappointment when it came to an end in the US. While most of the planned figures have made it to retail, this triple-changer Megatron prototype that recently surfaced is not planned for release. "Animated" fans hold out hope that Takara-Tomy will see fit to produce it as the "Transformers Animated" toys and series have just made their way to Japan.

Thanks to The Allspark, TFW 2005, and Transformers Wiki for the pics and info. Back soon with more!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Lost Transformers - Part 3

Transformers Universe

In 2003, Hasbro launched a line of toys under the name "Transformers Universe". This was a line made up entirely of repainted figures from older lines and was hoped to see the return of some sought after older figures. Instead, Universe saw the re-release of mostly newer figures, many of which were presented in color choices that ranged from uninspired to "wtf were they thinking"? As always, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, your mileage may vary.

Many of the unreleased Universe items were to be store exclusives. Thanks to TFW2005 for the following information.

Two different "Battle-in-a-Box" sets were released for Universe, and a third planned for a Target exclusive. "Smokescreen vs. Drench" would have been a repainted Armada Hot Shot and Wheeljack as G1 Smokescreen and the G2 color changer Deluge. Fear not, Smokescreen fans, there have been several Smokescreen figures since this set was canceled, and a figure very similar to Drench was released as Shattered Glass Sideswipe, a Borcon 2008 exclusive, so you Drench/Deluge fans can get him for a highly inflated eBay price.

Another set of "VS." 2-packs were proposed for Wal-Mart under the name "Halloween Horrorcons". Releasing figures to coincide with a particular holiday would have been pretty unique, and the return of the Horrorcon sub-group from G1 would have been fun, but the deal fell through when Wal-Mart became uninterested.

Blackarachnia vs. Leatherhide would have seen the "Beast Wars" Tarantulas/Blackarachnia mold paired with the "Beast Wars" Mutant Soundwave. Weren't the Mutants the most reviled Beast era toys? Pretty sure they were.

Nightprowler vs. Waspinator was the original "Beast Wars" Cheetor with the "Beast Wars" Transmetal Waspinator. Nightprowler is actually kinda cool looking. The purple Waspy, not so much. Maybe because I have such bad memories of Universe Silverbolt.

Menasor...presumably named such because Hasbro couldn't get the rights to Motormaster....was a repaint of the "Machine Wars" Optimus Prime mold, which was in turn a repaint of the European toy Thunderclash. The other large "Machine Wars" toys all saw a release in Universe, but this one never made it. They did get so far as to commission the package art, though.

Another "Prime" mold that fell by the wayside was the uproariously garish Toxitron. Ole' Toxi here would have been a repaint of Laser Optimus Prime, aka Robots in Disguise Scourge, that would have most likely offended even hardcore G2 collectors. Toxitron would have made a great conversation piece for anyone's Optimus Prime shelf.

Not all canceled Universe toys wound up in limbo. Spacewarp, which was Armada Jetfire repainted as G1 Astrotrain, was to be a Toys 'R Us exclusive. The Piranhacons, aka the G1 Seacons, were planned for Wal-Mart. Both became Transformers Collectors Club toys, albeit at more than twice the price they would have been at retail. There were other Universe figures that appeared in product listings, yet no prototypes have surfaced. These include Sonar, Optimus Minor, Thrustor and a set of Stunticon Spychangers. We can only speculate as to what these would have looked like.

(Let's be honest, they'd probably be ugly.)

I've got more to come next week including Botcon, Titanium and.... Transtech!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Lost Transformers - Part 2

Generation 2

Some years after the end of Generation 1, Hasbro attempted to recapture the glory of the Transformers with a new line dubbed "Generation 2", known as G2 to fans. G2 consisted of a variety of recolors of some original toys and, later in the line, some all-new molds. There were quite a few toys planned for G2 that were never released.

The most infamous of the G2 unreleased repaints are the Protectobots and Stunticons. Only a few pieces of each team are known to exist and they have become a Holy Grail among Transformer collectors. Both teams received an.... interesting.... set of colors, as did much of the G2 line. Only Stunticon Breakdown saw an eventual release as the 1994 Botcon exclusive toy, limited to 300 pieces. Was it a bad thing that these never saw the light of day? Take a look at the colors and make your own judgment.

Decepticon jets Starscream and Ramjet saw an initial re-release in G2, but recolors of both were planned. Dubbed "Jungle Camo Starscream" and "Desert Camo Ramjet", only samples of these have been seen at auction. The Classics line figure Acid Storm looks much like the jungle camo version of Starscream.

Hasbro apparently planned to expand the G2 line further by repainting a variety of molds, a strategy they continue to use to this day quite vigorously. Here's a selection of proposed repaints. First, the Laser Cycles, which would have been called Jazz and Soundwave...

...the Autorollers Roadblock and Dirtbag as "General" Optimus Prime and "Sgt." Hound....

....and the "Hero" molds for both Optimus Prime and Megatron.

Repaints of all these molds would appear eventually in various lines including "Beast Wars 2", "Robots in Disguise" and "Robot Masters".

Some new molds were created, then canceled. Two new Autorollers were to join Roadblack and Dirtbag, a jet and a tank. These molds were used by Takara several years later in the "Beast Wars 2" series.

Go-Bots were simple Transformer cars the size of Matchbox vehicles. Many were released at the tail end of G2, but there were even more new figures planned and never released. Some finally made it into production during the "Robots in Disguise" line, but two others, a Mercedes-Benz SL500 sport coupé and a 4-wheel drive vehicle, have never been released. We can only speculate on the dozens of repaints that would have sprung from these lost molds.

The Go-Bots line was to be expanded further with a "racing rig" playset that would have worked the same as traditional Matchbox or Hot Wheels stunt sets. New recolors of the Go-Bots in rally car style were planned for the playset. Of course the question arises...why would a robot that transforms into a car need to drive a tractor-trailer rig? Let's not dwell on it.

One of the most unusual items to be proposed during the G2 era was this Transformers/G.I. Joe crossover vehicle. This transforming APC would have been packaged with an exclusive Joe figure. There have been many Transformer/Joe crossovers in the comics, yet, despite there being a line of Transformer toys crossing over with Star Wars and Marvel, no actual Transformer/Joe figures have been produced. Seems like a perfect match that would have kids and fans alike excited at the possibilities.

Info and images have come from Super Toy Archive, Transformers Wiki, Seibertron, TFW2005, Transformers @ the Moon and

See you for the next installment as we travel into the "Transformers Universe". Lots more to come!