Toy Review - Transformers Legends Convobat and Lioconvoy
Back in 1996, the Transformers franchise underwent a major shift. As Generation 2 was winding down in 1995, it was put forth that for the 1996 line of toys, the focus would shift to robots that turned into animals, insects and so forth…thus, the Beast Wars were born. Although there was some resistance at first [Oh, the ‘trukk not munky’ days… - Ed.], the quality of both the toys, featuring the most poseable Transformers seen at the time, and the accompanying TV show, one of the first full CG cartoon TV series, would eventually win over fans and is remembered warmly to this day. How much so? Well, enough that even now, over 20 years later, we’re still getting Beast Wars themed figures and repaints. For example, we have the two Takara releases we’ll be looking at here: Lioconvoy and Convobat.
Since this is the first time we’ve looked at anything Beast Wars related on the site, it seems appropriate to touch on my own personal history with the franchise. [This had better be short. – Ed.] I’ll admit that I was in that purist G1 camp, not wanting a monkey Prime to sully the reputation of my semi Prime. [I’m impressed you dodged the obvious poop-flinging joke. – Ed.] What changed my mind was Cartoon Network. You see, Beast Wars was a syndicated show, so whether or not you got to see it depended strictly on whether or not any UHF station (most likely…and yes, I’m sure that term is lost on anyone younger than 25) within your market aired the show. But for whatever reason, Cartoon Network’s Toonami ran it for a week which culminated in the season 2 cliffhanger The Agenda, parts 1, 2 and 3. These three episodes featured Generation 1 lore at the core of the story and even featured appearances from Ravage, Optimus Prime and Megatron…to say nothing of the bots that appeared in the background including Prowl, Starscream and others. These episodes converted me, causing me to hunt down both the old toys and past episodes.
That serves as the perfect segue into taking a look at Convobat. To start off this new direction, new Hasbro acquisition Kenner released an Optimus Primal vs. Megatron two-pack that included a small pack-in comic that set up the toyline’s story. Optimus was a bat while Megatron was an alligator…but neither of these toys were all that complex…or good for that matter. They had simple, spring-loaded transformations where all one had to do was lift the tail and toy mostly transformed automatically. While the American market would later reuse the names for the versions we now mostly associate with Optimus Primal and beast Megatron, the gorilla and the T-Rex, Takara remained specific about these two toys, naming them Convobat (Convoy being Optimus Prime’s Japanese handle) and Megaligator. Long winded way of illustrating where the name comes from. The toy itself is a repaint of the Titans Return deluxe wave 2 Mindwipe but painted to resemble the aforementioned bat version of Optimus Primal (so you can see my thoughts on the mold there). The Titan Master is a repaint of Infinitus (Sentinel Prime’s Titan Master)…and, you know, maybe I shouldn’t use the term repaint here, as Hasbro simply DOES NOT paint the Titan Masters (with rare exception). Anyway, the paint on the little guy looks great. This toy doesn’t carry over Mindwipe’s weapons, instead calling back to the original toy and giving Convobat swords that store on his wings in beast mode. Sharp eyed fans will notice that these are the same swords from the Transformers Prime toy Wheeljack…and they work very well here. Convobat also comes with two little surprises, a repaint of Titans Return Galvatron’s Titan Master Nucleon to represent Megaligator and a repaint of the Apeface weapon/vehicle/beast Titan Master accessory to pay homage to Optimal Optimus. The Megaligator head is a perfect fit with a wave 1 deluxe Skullsmasher and if I had any skill at repainting figures, it’d certainly be worth it to try and repaint that mold to at least replace the hot pink bits with a different shade of green to better capture the feeling of the original Megaligator toy. While the Optimal Optimus accessory is a fun little thing, when you look at trying to integrate that with the main Convobat figure, I was left with a “now what the hell do I do with this?” sort of feeling. A comic is also included…but honestly it’s about as disposable as the comic that came with the original two-pack.
As an E-Hobby exclusive, this package does not come cheap…at all! With deluxe class Transformers selling anywhere between $13 and $15 at retail and individual Titan Master/Accessory combos going for $5 to $7…a realistic price for this would’ve been $18 to $22. But since it’s coming from Japan, let’s bump that up to around $40…that seems to be the going mark-up for imported deluxes these days. No, Convobat is going to set you back $90. As much as this is a fun little set, for that price I can’t really recommend picking this up unless you’re an absolute completist with scads of disposable income laying around. While I’m glad I own him, hell, even I can’t think of a decent reason as to why I coughed up the cash for this.
Coming in at a much more reasonable cost…ish…is the second toy of this review, Lioconvoy or, as he’s called on the box, Leo Prime (the Americanized version of his name). Lioconvoy will always have a special place in my heart, given that the original Beast Wars II toy was my first Japanese exclusive toy, thanks to the now defunct Hasbro Collectors website. The instant I saw the robot mode of this toy, I knew I had to have it…mainly because I’m pretty obsessed with everything Optimus Prime. Thanks mom. Long story. [Oh no you don’t. – Ed.] On what my youthful college mind though would be the greatest day of my life, you see, my Lioconvoy toy arrived in the mail the same day as Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace opened in theaters…well, at the time I though both were great and now, strangely enough, neither of them really hold up over time. Heh…go figure. Back on topic though, it always stuck in my mind that while it was perfectly spelled out that Optimus Primal was only a descendant of the original Optimus Prime…Beast Wars lore never truly explained what happened to the legendary Autobot. In my mind, he had become Lioconvoy. Anyway, fast forward to Titans Return. In the western markets served by Hasbro, we got this mold as Alpha Trion (so check out that review) but Takara opted for Lioconvoy instead. As is usual for Takara product, the paintwork is superior…both on the main figure and the Titan Master, who, like Convobat, is ALSO a repaint of Infinitus. Thankfully, the two are painted differently and can be easily differentiated between. And, if you go back to our review of the Voyager Wave 3 Optimus, you can see that this repainted version of Infinitus works REALLY well with that toy. Lioconvoy has the same horned lion/Xiezhi/Kaichi/Haetae form and starship/carrier as Alpha Trion. I have to admit that although the beast does exist in Japanese folklore, I’m surprised Takara didn’t lop off the horn to make this updated toy a better fit with the original…especially since the bisected horn really doesn’t come into play in the starship/carrier mode. Speaking of which, although it’s true for both modes, this toy’s color scheme, to my eye, really makes each mode pop a bit more than Alpha Trion’s. There’s nothing particularly wrong with Alpha Trion’s colors in his robot mode and lion mode…but for me it just never worked on the starship mode. The weapons that are included with the toy are mostly the same…although Lioconvoy also packs a rifle which, while fairly simple, still looks better than the claw/tri-cannon Titan Master accommodating seat-gun. While Lioconvoy still comes with that as well, you can leave it safely pegged to the robot mode’s butt…keeping it hidden from view. [That sentence sounds all kinds of wrong. – Ed.] Another thing of note is that Takara left the same pop-up headgear as Alpha Trion that ends up making the head less of a Lioconvoy homage and more of a nod to his successor, Big Convoy from Beast Wars Neo (released in the US as the Target exclusive Transformers Universe Nemesis Prime). Lioconvoy will only set you back about $55, which is only a little bit more expensive than the standard price for import Voyager class figures. That makes him a little easier to recommend but when you compare him to Convobat, he almost seems like a steal! To be fair though, Convobat is an exclusive whereas Lioconvoy is a wide release (for Japan anyway).
As homages to their original Beast Wars figures and concepts, both of these toys fill this role remarkably well. I’d love to see more figures and/or redecos of this nature in the future. [And since we’re getting an Optimus Primal in the upcoming Power of the Primes line, we won’t have to wait too long for that! – Ed.] The dividing line on recommendation comes down to price though. While importing Lioconvoy is a little bit pricey (as Japanese imports usually are), if you’re familiar with the character or the original toy, it’s totally worth it. But $90 for a deluxe figure? No…no way, no matter how cool it is. For Convobat, unless you happen to catch a really good sale on him that brings his price down to AT LEAST Lioconvoy’s level, it’s an easy pass.