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Third-Party-Palooza Heroes Edition: FansProject Function X6 Knight and WarBot Dai-Z

This week, we shift our gaze to one of the oldest third-party companies and was literally the company that brought me to the table so many years ago. Way back in the Transformers: Classics days, a white repaint of Optimus Prime was released as Ultra Magnus, as was the case back then. Being both a Magnus fanboy and the fact that he only came in a two-pack with Skywarp, and I need my seekers, this was a must buy. But, well, a white Optimus is a naked Magnus, plain and simple. To crib a bit from G.I. Joe, it’s really only half the battle. Thankfully, a company called FansProject was just getting off the ground. Their only two projects prior were a head and gun to turn Classics Cliffjumper into a figure more accurate to G1 Cliffjumper as opposed to the straight-up red Bumblebee repaint he was released as and a gas tank/rifle and matrix combo for Alternators Optimus. But here they were, offering a trailer for Classics Magnus that would partsform into an updated armor for our naked Magnus. While the materials wouldn’t fool anyone that this was an official product, the end result was fun and fairly sturdy and very worth it. Later on, they’d release a set of Stunticons, prior to Combiner Wars, and we’ve already taken a look at those. They were solid, but the sharp edges and the excessive transformations made me veer away from FansProject and, honestly, their later offerings really didn’t grab me the way that the initial offerings did.

In a way, my return to FansProject’s stuff is kind of like when you move away from home for a long time only to return because you found out a friend is dying. As I understand it, FansProject is either no longer with us or not long for this world given the stiff competition in the third-party market. This is not far outside of the realm of belief, given my own lack of interest in their products. But as their stuff goes on sale at online retailers, well…maybe I was wrong. So join me as I take a look at a couple of 50% offerings that have me questioning if maybe I wasn’t a little too hard on these guys.

Function X6 – Knight

For a number of reasons, mainly a lack of cash and again lack of interest, when FansProject initially released MADLAW, their take on a Quickswitch figure/homage [The Autobot six-changer for any noobs out there. – Ed.], I missed out on it. Fast forward several years later and BigBadToyStore had this fellow, a repaint based on the Japanese version of the character, SixKnight, on sale for half off and I figured, what the hell? And I gotta admit, aside from a few of the standard issues with FansProject and multi-changers in general, I’m glad I did!

Let’s get that second thing out of the way right off the bat. From the moment they were introduced to the present, most multi-changers, from triple on up, usually have at least one mode that sacrifices itself so that the remaining ones can look better. For a modern example, take Titans Return Astrotrain. The robot mode was pretty good, as was the spaceship one. The “train” however…ugh. Heck, let’s look at the original Quickswitch, the flying puma was a bit of a monstrosity, wasn’t it? And, if we’re being honest with ourselves, Quickswitch’s robot mode didn’t do him any favors either!

Using that as our starting point, we are already a step up on the original as Knight’s robot mode here looks really good with plenty of joints to maximize articulation and posing. There’s a bit of kibble off the back, the wings for jet mode or the head for the wolf-ish mode, but this can be folded up to be minimized somewhat. He has 4 accessories, two small guns that can be holstered on his hips and two LARGE guns that are very much based on his G1 armaments. The thing that’s a little disappointing is that while the G1 figure relied heavily on these guns, Knight does not, favoring the smaller ones instead. That being said, there are still opportunities to integrate the larger ones in some of his alt-modes, should you so desire.

The instructions lead you next to wolf-ish mode. From the side, the creature doesn’t look too bad. All four legs are poseable and articulated, but the moment you break into the Z-axis, the illusion falls apart quickly. There are plenty of gaps here and, in a fault of engineering, no real way the guns can be used to fill in these gaps. However, the guns can certainly be mounted to give the creature some armament.

From here, we’re off to jet mode…and I’ve got two versions depicted here. The first is a fan-mode that manages to make the jet a bit more compact and a little more convincing while the second, the official mode, leave the drill hanging off the back as a bit of kibble and the halves of the wolf-ish head sticking up as fins. That second bit isn’t horrible but that first…I just thought was icky. Neither one is terribly solid though, which is kind of a shame since this was one of the better modes for the G1 toy.

Next up is gun mode. Yes, I said gun mode. This is based on an 80s toy after all. And NO, there’s no way to mistake this as a submarine. I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting a lot from this mode, but is surprised me a bit and is probably one of the stronger modes here. Heck, there’s even a trigger. I mean, kinda. Let’s not go getting our expectations up…but yeah, it’s still kinda cool. If I had a nit to pick with this mode, I’d say that having a gun mode that doesn’t incorporate the bigger guns feels like a missed opportunity.

The drill tank is next and is absolutely the best mode Knight has. If I’m being serious, if this was just a standard transformer that converted from bot to this drill-tank? Cool. I’d be a happy clam. Of course, given all the other modes, that’s likely why the drill-tank turned out the way it did, but still, this is very much the winner right here. All guns incorporate well, most things lock into place (even though the instructions aren’t the greatest in showing you…check out some YouTube reviews though and they’ll steer you right, particularly EmGo316), and there’s a distinct lack of kibble. Like I said, this mode gets the gold star.

Lastly we have the “boat because we tell you it’s a boat” mode. And yeah, I’m probably being a little bit harsh in phrasing it like that, but when you’re coming off that drill-tank mode, you need a strong finish and this, while certainly okay…I mean, it’s compact and there’s not a lot of kibble aside from the drill hanging off the back…and there’s even a hull, it really does feel meh. I mean, say what you will about the wolf-ish mode, it felt like a good idea that overreached what it was capable of. This boat just feels like a ‘safe choice’. Which, I mean, makes sense since G1 Quickswitch had his ‘hovercraft’ mode, so there’s a reason for it to be there…and, it’s fine, it really is…but I dunno. I just get this ‘meh’ vibe from it.

Can I recommend him? Yeah, especially if you can find him on the cheap the way I did. I think I grabbed him for right around $50 and for that cost, he’s a steal. To be fair, his is the standard FansProject plastic…that means some sharp edges and yeah, you might bleed at points in the transformation. But in this instance and for that price, I’ll take a scratch or two. I guess the best thing I can say about him is that this figure makes me want to track down the properly colored Quickswitch version, MADLAW…even though the places I’ve found him, he’s still pulling down full price.

WarBot Dai-Z

When I jumped ship on FansProject, they were going in a few different directions. Causality, the line that produced the aforementioned Stunticons, continued with a set of Insecticons, the Function line that would eventually spawn the above Knight started off with updated Headmaster designs that I didn’t particularly care for and then there was WarBot…which would start off as updated takes on Roadbuster and Autobot Triple-Changers Springer and Broadside but then would start creating mostly original figures based around a Powermaster type gimmick. The culmination of this line would be Trianix Alpha, a triple ‘core’ (translation: Powermaster) bot that paid homage to the old school Dia-Battles from the Japanese Diaclone line. This was met with mixed reviews as while the concept and homage were good, the materials were lacking, leaving a lot of collectors with toys that snapped at the waist. This would be modified and improved resulting in Dai-Z…an obvious homage to Transformers Zone protagonist, Dai Atlas. So, was this FansProject’s last stab for glory? Would it hold up?

Yeah, mostly.

I should start off, however, by saying that breakages still happen. I’ve got two on mine, but neither of them make any significant impact and you’d really have to look closely to see that anything is amiss. That’s good…even though the fact that we’re still talking about breakages is still a pretty hefty strike against. I have to be fair though, one of them was due to ‘user error’…so that’s on me. The main one, however, ties in with the problems with the initial Trianix Alpha…just in a classic case of overcompensation. You see, the waist piece on Dai-Z is solid. Maybe a little too solid. Because it wasn’t the waist piece that gave out, it was one of the clips. However, this is mostly an internal mechanism…and there are back-ups, so all in all, again, no major impact, but still an issue that any potential buyer should be aware of.

The unpleasant bits out of the way, man this figure is fun. The robot mode really captures Dai Atlas exceptionally well and the triple Powermaster gimmick does offer a really cool play-pattern. Dai-Z breaks down into 3 separate smaller vehicles: a scout ship, an armored shuttle and a bulldozer-type vehicle. Each of the three ‘Cores’ can sit in each of the vehicles as pilots, which, again, is pretty fun. These three also combine into a larger super gun/drill plane ala Dai Atlas’s Powered Master mode. As you’d expect, all three ‘Cores’ have seats here as well, although two of them don’t really lock in, unfortunately.

Transformation is generally smooth…although there are some points that are a bit stiff, so some caution might be needed. Conversely, there’s some loose bits that carry over into robot mode, which can impact poses. For example, the elbows on my copy are really loose on one joint, but tight at the other…so while I really don’t lose much in the way of posing…however, given that these things vary from copy to copy, I can see some folks getting stuck with an ultra-floppy version. In what’s becoming a bit of a lost art when it comes to third-party companies, I do have to give FansProject credit on their instructions for this guy…they’re pretty solid. I’d still recommend watching a YouTube video or two to get a feel for the potential dangers of the toy…where possible breakages can happen and etc.

Overall, Dai-Z is pretty fun and is almost worth recommending, but the fact that we’ve had to talk about breakages limits that recommendation. If you can find him the way I did, 50% off or around $50-$60, I’d say snatch him up. He’s a blast and certainly worth that kind of money. But as cool as he is, he won't be replacing the Takara/Tomy Transformers Legend Dai Atlas I have on my Heroes shelf. With the possibility of breaking that we’ve discussed, I’d certainly AVOID him at full price. So as much as I want to give him a glowing review, well, unfortunately, he just kinda breaks even…and that’s a shame.

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