FansProject's Stunticons vs. Hasbro's Combiner Wars Stunticons
This is going to be like our Crime Syndicate review…only different.
You see, back in the G1 days, when I was a wee lad, the Stunticons held a special place in my heart. They were the first combiner group that I tracked down on my own. Okay, obviously not on my own as I wasn’t driving back in those days…what I mean is that it was the first combiner group that I would work and scrimp and save in order to buy each member. The fact that I came from…ahem…humble beginnings only serves to emphasize this. We march forward in time, entering middle school and putting away what then appear to be “childish” things for other pursuits, I gave them away to a friend. Very fortunately, once I got into college and resumed my collecting, said friend was VERY gracious enough to return them to me. So the march of new Transformers continued, wave after wave, with even a few combiners, but it started to look like my favorite combiner just wasn’t slated for an update any time soon.
Then came the proliferation of 3rd Party Transformers to fill in the inevitable voids in Hasbro’s or Takara’s Classics/Henkei/Universe/Generations. The first thing that hooked me in was a trailer for Classics Ultra Magnus that captured his G1 robot mode. After that, I watched from the sidelines. A lot of pieces looked cool and would be nice but I have an expensive girlfriend…so I was content to just observe. Then they started focusing on combiners. Devastator was the first, as one would expect, different companies making their own take on the character. Sure, Devastator was always cool and I did always want him…but, well, that’s just it, I never had him…so there wasn’t that attachment there. Then FansProject unveiled plans to recreate Menasor.
You see, FansProject were the folks that came out with the aforementioned Ultra Magnus trailer…so I already knew who I’d be dealing with. So that’s one dammit. The second dammit comes from it’s the Stunticons…of course I have to buy it…er…them. While there was a sting to have to pay $60 (plus shipping) for each limb and $150 for the main body, the fact that they were spaced out to allow time for my bank account to recover kinda nulled that out. Receiving each limb, they proved to be about an old Basic size class…maybe slightly bigger. The car modes on each of them looked great, as did the robot modes. Getting from one to the other…ho boy. All things considered, there were some really interesting transformations, so that’s a big plus. The problem was two-fold. First, everything fit together TIGHTLY. INSANELY TIGHT. Very VERY little in the way of clearances too. Second, the plastic was not only durable, it was downright hard and sharp. Any prolonged transformations would prove to be VERY unforgiving on the fingers. And given the tight fits with very little clearances…THEY WERE ALL PROLONGED TRANSFORMATIONS. In the end, this resulted in some great looking toys, but nothing you really wanted to play with.
Motormaster…er…Diesel…deserves his own paragraph. If we look to old school Generation 1 combiners, we end up with combiners that need some kibble (loose parts like hands, feet, chestplates and heads) to fully create the combined mode. Diesel’s approach to this was really rather smart; take a character that turns into a tractor-trailer and make the bulk of the trailer turn into said kibble. Genius concept. The execution though…well…sigh…I think this goes to how they thought to construct the combined mode to begin with. You see, each of the limbs really isn’t designed to be a fully integrated combiner. Sure, there are design elements that allow them to become arms, but for actually being able to physically link to the core ‘bot, accessories from Diesel’s trailer are needed. The legs are even more, well, disappointing. They kind of follow the example of Menasor’s animated appearance, where Motormaster’s limbs just lengthen and the other cars simply latch on. Components from Diesel’s trailer form the feet and legs, while the chosen Stunticons simply attach at the shins…so no real actual combining…just more like Diesel putting on some shin guards. Lastly, as Menasor was one of the “Scramble City” type combiners, meaning any ‘bot that became a limb could become any limb, arm or leg, one would hope that this would be retained in any modernization, either from Hasbro or from a third party. Alas, you can tell it’s possible here…but not preferable. Not-Wildrider and Not-Breakdown (T-Bone and Car Crash respectively) are supposed to be the legs, Not-Drag Strip and Not-Dead End (Down Force and Last Chance) are supposed to be the arms. Now, lacking any other Stunticons, Diesel can still use most of that kibble as weapons. Again, another genius concept…and another not so much in the execution. But it just looks…insane.
Ultimately, I certainly don’t regret buying these guys. They filled in rather nicely. But in digging them back out and playing around with them for the sake of this comparative review…my fingers still really hurt. They look great…fantastic even. Now that I’ve taken them apart, transformed them and recombined them again, I swear to you that this might be the last time I put my extremities through that kind of abuse. Seriously, feels like I owe myself a manicure and hand massage or something because right now I’ve got some angry, hurt fingers.
2014. The word came from Hasbro. New combiners were coming…and so was I. [Sharing WAAAAAAY too much. – Ed.] The first two revealed? Superion and Menasor. Superion wasn’t all that special. No, no, I mean, he looked good, hell, even great, but whenever there was an Autobot combiner, you could bet it’d be Superion. There’d been, what, 2 or 3 re-releases of the mold developed for Energon consisting of 4 basic limbs and 1 deluxe core…and of those 4 basics there were only 2 unique molds. Granted, repeat mold use is kind of a staple in combiners, so no real gripes there. But Menasor! Finally! And these new combiners would be accomplished with 4 deluxe limbs and 1 voyager core, yielding more combiner-y proportions. (There’d been an attempt to create a combiner with 5 deluxes…that didn’t go quite as well as one would’ve hoped.) And although most of Superion was released in wave 1 (Air Raid being pushed back to wave 2 and replaced with Drag Strip), as fate would have it, history repeats itself and the first combiner I’ve completed out of the new Combiner Wars toys is indeed…Menasor.
So how does he stack up? Well, aside from a few minor nits…pretty damn cool. The deluxe sized cars have enough room to allow for the engineering to make connectors for the combined mode incorporated into the individual bots…although the hands and feet remain separate pieces. But that’s another nifty thing, these pieces can become either hands or feet…or weapons for the individual bots. Granted, in their weapon mode they are still very much hand/foot pieces…but hey, give ‘em a cookie for effort. My nit might actually be a one off sort of thing. See, the joints on my Motormaster are a little weak…and by that I intend to go for understatement of the month. And I should be specific, not all the joints, as the lateral hip joints are almost too damn tight. But the arms don’t lock really well, the flaps that are supposed to come up and lock the upper legs into place…well…don’t, and the pegs that are supposed to keep Blackjack in place when he’s in chestpiece mode just simply do not serve their function. He can rest there just fine, but any type of posing and he’s coming off. However, as to how everything comes together, transforms and merges into a single robot…fantastic. It’s fun, simple and poses no risk of injury to your fingers. And you can see where Hasbro has learned their lessons from the third party folks in how the arms transform into arms, incorporating hip joints and knee joints into double-jointed elbows! Unlike Non-Menasor, this is a true “Scramble” style combiner too. Any bot can become any limb, just like the original. Dead End, Breakdown and Drag Strip are fantastic homages to their past incarnations, while Wildrider has been replaced with Offroad…for now…although Offroad’s colors are very Wildrider-ish in vehicle mode (not so much in robot mode). Motormaster I initially thought was a Combiner Wars Optimus repaint…but lo and behold I was wrong…it’s Prime that’s the repaint and it’s very easy to tell. Everything on Motormaster snaps into place very easily (ish…but again, some of the looseness of mine might be a one off thing) and there’s none of the everything-must-be-done-EXACTLY-right that Optimus has. I’m also a fan of the new 6th Stunticon, Blackjack. The original Menasor had a little car drone as a chest piece. I always figured it as Motormaster’s version of Roller. So to make that a basic/legends size class transformer? Spiffy.
My experience with these two is hopefully something that continues into the future. It’s my hope that third party creations serve as the unofficial test bed for where Hasbro officially decides to go next. Sure enough, when third party stuff got really popular, it was due to the proliferation of combiners, and now we have Combiner Wars for the next couple of years.
I’d wager if this continues, we’ll be seeing some dinobots afterward.
For more pics, check out our gallery in the Toys section!