Third-Party Palooza: Masterpiece Edition - Maketoys Gundog and Downbeat
I found these sets of pictures in preparing to start up a new wave of Transformers reviews, so let’s get these guys out of the way!
That’s not to say these are releases that need to be rushed through, heavens no. Instead, I led with that because of the collectors’ market as these guys might be a bit difficult to come by nowadays. Which is a shame since they’re pretty good Third-Party entries. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Today’s review is brought to us by MakeToys and two of their takes on first-wave G1 characters Jazz and Hound. Now, don’t ask me how to say this company’s name…it could be Mak-ay-Toys or it could be Make Toys. In the TF fandom, I’ve heard the latter more than the former, but given they are an Asian company, the former might actually be the right way.
But we’re not here to talk about language, we’re here to talk Transformers. So let’s get started with one that has a bit of competition from an official version.
Gundog (2N version)
I had wanted to get the 2Y version as I prefer my Masterpieces to be more derived from the original toys with some cartoon influence as opposed to the current Takara/Tomy/Hasbro trend now, which is all anime all the time. Sadly, the 2N version was all I could find, which really all it boils down to is a little less detail and a lighter green…but it’s the same mold which is good because said mold takes more inspiration from the toy than being toon accurate. And while I do love the more toy-like direction they went, unfortunately that came at the coast of some of the articulation. The most notable versions of Hound, the original G1 mold and the old Alternators officially licensed Jeep, have always had problems with their shoulder articulation and Gundog is no exception. In all fairness, it’s still a vast improvement over the previous mentions, but there are limitations. Another nit to be picked are the knees. Due to transformation, the seats of the jeep end up folding up behind the knees, severely limiting the bend there. This isn’t without fix, as you can simply unpeg the seats and move them to the side on a hinge…but then you throw off the look a bit.
Mind you neither of those negatives are deal-breakers for me, but to some they may be, and the positives far outweigh the negatives here. I’ve already mentioned how I prefer the mold’s leaning more toward the toy than the animation, but there are some clever bits of transformation, the arms in particular, that are both unconventional and fun. There’s some die-cast present, which is always a plus. But if I’m being completely honest with you, the start and end of this conversation is price. When I found this guy, he was $90. This fell in line with most of the official Autobot car Masterpieces I’d picked up as well as similar Third-Party releases. The Takara/Tomy/Hasbro price for theirs? $160. To give you some idea, this was in line with the prices for Inferno and Grapple, larger bots with larger alt-modes. Yes, Hound came with additional bells and whistles, but in Tak/Tomy tradition, they were things from one (and only one) episode of the animated series and, in my eyes, not necessary. Also, as I already mentioned, it leaned far more heavily on the animated style as opposed to the original toys or even a blending of the two. I’m not paying $70 extra for a bunch of stuff I don’t want. Granted, there are outside things that need to be considered with Tak/Tomy’s release: licensing fees to Jeep, the increasing cost of plastic, etc. But the past few years have taught me that the value of frugality, especially in my collecting…given that as you can tell from this site, my interests are many and varied!
Bottom line: Gundog isn’t perfect, but he looks good and he’ll blend in with your Masterpiece collection just fine. If you’re like me and you tend to favor the toy designs over the animation models, then even this 2N version is a solid purchase. The icing on the cake? Even if you find him now, he’s still likely to be cheaper than Takara/Tomy’s version and for the frugal collector, that’s a win.
All of that is enough for a Happy Cat rating!
Downbeat (Premium Edition)
Any kind of official Jazz from Takara/Tomy is still nowhere to be found and while there isn’t exactly a bunch of them on the Third-Party market, there are a handful to choose from: Generation Toy’s J4zz is more of an IDW-ish inspired take while both Toyworld’s Coolsville and Maketoys’ Downbeat hew closely to classic G1. While Coolsville definitely went in a more toy-favored direction as opposed to the original issuance of Downbeat, the recent release of the Premium edition of Downbeat, which we’ll be looking at here, provides a nice blend of the two.
As with Gundog, availability is going to be an issue here, and as such, the two main factors that drove me to Downbeat, availability and cost, are going to be lost on you at this time, dear reader. With a similar price to Gundog, Downbeat is a considerable improvement for Maketoys. Transformation has some fun spots, like his predecessor, and there is one slight articulation issue in his shoulders, but otherwise this is a fantastic interpretation of the character. There’s a lot of fun in this character, not only in the transformation, which is pretty smooth, but also in determining which version of Jazz you want to have. If you want something more animation accurate, you can tuck the car mode doors in and give him the more streamlined silhouette. If you favor the toy version, you can give him the door-wings he needs.
Accessories take a page from Tak/Tomy as we get a couple of sets of speakers, a pair for his shoulders and a pair for his hips, from the cartoon and the grappling hook and winch that he sported in the initial miniseries. They’re fun and as one would expect, there’s no real way to store them, so for me, it was maybe one or two times sticking them on and taking them off…then into the parts bin. [These bits are missing from the review pics. – Ed.]
Probably the most notable negative bits are when we get to car mode where we see some sacrifices made to accommodate the nigh-flawless bot mode. Looking at him head on, these are hard to pick out because both of them pertain to the rear half of the vehicle. The faux rims that fill out the lower leg hang down enough to be noticeable which is pretty minor. The main one though is the rear of the vehicle. While it’s not as obvious as something with the feet hanging out of the back, it almost looks like poor Downbeat here got into an accident and left his rear bumper behind. Neither of these things are dealbreakers at all, at least not for me, however, for the more car-centric transformers fans or the ones that need perfection in both modes, this is gonna be a sizeable demerit.
Personally though, the improvement in the quality of materials, the nigh-perfect robot mode representation and a great, if not perfect, vehicle mode make this a fantastic addition to the collection. The smooth and fun transformation is just icing on the cake. If you can find him at a reasonable price, grab him!
Bottom line: While Gundog was good enough to make me continue buying products from Maketoys, Downbeat made me a fan. A Masterpiece Jazz in every way but name, there are some little things that keep him from being perfect and, as such, keep him just short of our Hypno Cat rating. Still, Happy Cat is nothing to sneeze at! And while he may share the same rating as Gundog, this is clearly the superior of the two!