Toy Review -Action Toys' Machine Robo Series: Shuttle, Missile Tank, Steam, Buggy Robos & Blue Jet
During our year (or so) of infrequency, Action Toys has been ever so slowly rolling out their updated Machine Robo line. And since we’ve already looked at the source anime as part of MechaMarch, we figured this would be a good time to get caught up on their releases.
MR-07: Shuttle Robo
Known as Spay-C to you GoBots fans, Shuttle Robo proves to both evoke his/her earlier incarnation while also kinda missing the boat on it as well. [I know opinions are split on the pronoun game these days, but we have to do it here, given that Shuttle Robo was male in Japan but Spay-C was female here in the States…which…man, gives her name some new depth that I never even remotely considered before! – Ed.] While I think it hits more than misses, I can see why some might not feel that way, as Shuttle Robo proves to be the kibbliest of Action Toys’ offerings so far with a lot of shifting panels that are more than likely going to get in your way when handling the figure, either to transform or simply to pose and a hefty backpack thanks to the front end of the shuttle mode. While these are a bit of an issue in the robot mode, they’re not a dealbreaker in my eyes…especially when they help contribute to a pretty cool shuttle mode. It’s not perfect, as the panel lines and joints do detract a bit, but again, it’s a solid effort. You’ll see that Shuttle Robo here is packing some serious heat with a nifty sniper rifle that actually breaks down for weapon storage, but if I’m brutally honest, I simply cannot remember how everything fits inside.
There’s only one real issue I have with Shuttle Robo, but it’s kind of a biggie: the combination of some of the thin plastic panels and the stiffness of the transformation joints may lead to breakage later on down the line. I’m already starting to see some stress marks on the panels that fold in half to become the hip skirts…so much so that transforming him/her for this review might be the final time I do it.
As much as I really like this guy/gal, truth be told, it almost feels like the designers were trying to do a little too much. A lot like when your favorite hockey team tries to get pretty and pass the puck around for what seems like forever before finally taking a shot…where a more direct shot-rebound-shot tactic might be more effective. In other words, it feels like Shuttle Robo might have been better served by a more direct transformation design as opposed to all these panels and joints that might be prone to breakage if converted repeatedly.
A great display piece with plenty of personality, I’m just too darned worried I might break him/her down the line. As much as I want to give him/her a Happy Cat, he/she proves to be the weakest of this set and so, to set an example, we have to go with a high-end Plain Cat.
MR-08: Missile Tank Robo
In line with his GoBots counterpart but nowhere near his Transformers alter ego, the bot known as Blaster proves to be another great upgrade…and I have to admit that I wouldn’t mind picking up a green colored variant, as he had one during the old GoBots days. While overwhelmingly orange, just as he was back in the day, there’s enough blacks and silvers to break things up nicely so that he doesn’t completely fry your retinas! Robot mode proves to be long, lean and very poseable. Missile tank mode proves to be pretty dense with all the robot bits folded up pretty nicely and allows for the missiles to be aimed both up and down and side to side through a well implemented turret. Transformation isn’t intuitive at first, but you do catch on after a while, especially the legs, which we’ll get to in a moment.
What worries me is the transformation of the legs, which, on my copy, needed a fair amount of force to get everything unplugged. Given what I said about Spay-C just a bit ago, ordinarily I’d be worried about any potential plastic stresses but thankfully we’re looking at a stronger plastic for these joints…so I’m hoping it holds.
Great in both modes, but the conversion can be tricky at times, especially those legs, Missile Tank Robo gives collectors another solid reason to continue with the line. Definitely worth a Happy Cat.
MR-10: Steam Robo
No, we didn’t skip one…well, okay, we did. But MR-09 is Tough Trailer and he’s in a bit of a different size class. We’ll get to him, don’t worry.
Anyway, on to Steam Robo…
It’s weird how you can go from one of the easiest conversions in GoBots to a fairly complicated one for the update, but holy cow does Loco really kill it in both modes. I had called Blaster long and lean just a couple of paragraphs ago and along comes Steam Robo to say “hold my beer”. This is one tight robot mode with next to no kibble whatsoever and with a high degree of poseability. This robot mode is very fun to handle, pose, and yes, even play with. Transformation is unique and fun and yeah, just a little complicated. If I had to search for a complaint here, it would be that if you don’t get the conversion just right, then you’ve got to undo about half of what you’ve done and turn things the opposite direction. It’s a minor annoyance, especially when you end up with this very compact and clean locomotive alternate form.
Honestly, this guy is just aces and the one flaw I mentioned can be easily overlooked. As penance for coming down hard on Spay-C, let’s go ahead and give Loco here our highest honor, the Hypno Cat. He’s not perfect, but he’s damn near it.
MR-11: Blue Jet
No, there’s no blue on him. Except his eyes and cockpit. I’m sure there’s a reason they named him this, but to this day, I think it’s just stupid. For those of you on the GoBots side of things, you’ll recognize Cy-Kill’s trusty right-hand bot, Fitor here as he had one of the more distinctive appearances of the line. Or, at least, he always caught my eye. As one of the main characters in the Machine Robo series, there is part of me that is surprised he’s coming out so late in the game. However, if I think back to Mattel’s DC Universe Classics line of action figures, it kinda makes sense. The way Matty did it was to spread out the main draws in an effort to maintain prolonged interest in the line. While the merits of this can be debated, this review is not the place for such a discussion. Despite or perhaps because of his placement in the line, Fitor here ends up embodying both the good and bad elements of this line so far.
If we look at the good, we have some fantastic poseability paired with great design and overall a relatively simple transformation. It evokes that of the original but with a few extra steps so make sure everything remains secure in the vehicle mode. That said, the jet mode here is very dynamic. While it’s possible to have his jet mode straight up GoBots style, without the faux cockpit, it does end up looking just a little bit doofy. However, for anyone that’s got a gripe about partsforming, well, there you go.
There are flaws though. Jet mode doesn’t look quite as cohesive as some of the other entries in the series. For example, while Spay-C had panel issues, Fitor here is pretty obvious as a scrunched up bot mode. It’s okay…but it’s not great. Robot mode is perfect from the waist up, however there are a lot of clips and ports in the legs that end up detracting from the look of the figure. My biggest beef however is with something that ends up being completely optional. The faux cockpit that I mentioned earlier can be split down the middle to form hip scabbards for his twin blades. While the concept of this sounds awesome, the practical application falls well short of that. When plugged into the hip skirts, these scabbards end up jutting out the back to almost a ridiculous degree. Again, this feature is completely optional, so it really shouldn’t detract, but at the same time I can’t help but feeling that had Action Toys had nailed that, it might have helped the entire vibe of the figure.
The only thing that saves Fitor from Spay-C’s fate is the fact that the bot mode is solid, lean and poseable. It may not be the best of the line, but overall, the pluses do outweigh the minuses here and as such, Fitor, or Blue Jet if you prefer, gets himself a Happy Cat.
MR-12: Buggy Robo
If Blue Jet is indicative of this line as a whole, some flaws but definitely more good than bad, then Buggy Robo here is an example of the line at its peak, much like Steam Robo except this time around, the conversion process is clever, yet simple. What we end up with here, looking at the GoBot formerly known as Buggyman, is a toy that’s fun to pluck off the shelf and fiddle with all the while making no sacrifices when it comes to detail (the dune buggy mode has a detailed interior with dash and steering wheel), articulation and just overall fun. As an added bonus, the included boom box turns into his weapon!
Now, like Steam Robo, there is a minor flaw in the conversion process, that being that you need to get his head to turn around in order for the chest to conceal the head and form the bottom of the dune buggy…and that ball joint is STIFF. But this is even less of a bother than Steam Robo’s minor flaw and, as such, Buggyman here gets the same rating: a Hypno Cat!
With their slow releases coupled with not really ever knowing if each figure will be the last of the line, this is a hard line to recommend. But at the same time, it’s so worth collecting whether you’ve got a serious GoBot itch or even if you’ve just become bored with Hasbro’s all to similar transformation schemes. With an oft delayed yet existing prototype for Turbo, one does hope that there’s at least one more release in store, but the sheer number of Machine Robo to be revitalized gives this line so much promise. I really do hope we get to see more, I just it wish it was more frequent!