So happy new year to all as I use this way-too-rarely-used blog to actually write some original content!
In this case, it’s 2015, and I’m looking back on my top toys of 2014. And in the case of Transformers…. man. I was gonna just make it a top 5 list, but then when I started narrowing my finalists, I ended up with at least 17, making it REALLY hard to pare down.
And so I give you my top 10 Transformers, Hasbro or Takara, of 2014.
NOTE: Said list includes figures I’ve actually messed with in 2014. Given I haven’t had hands-on with Brainstorm/Arcee/Chromia or any Combiner Wars stuff, it necessarily can’t be in contention for this list.
HONORABLE MENTION: GENERATIONS JETFIRE
I’ll be honest, the reason this guy is only “Honorable Mention” rather than on the list is because after selecting the top 10 and writing up most of this stuff, I remembered he existed. Which really REALLY sucks as he is a great Jetfire toy.
His altmode is a VERY well done jet, and his transformation, while of the “plane on back” variety, is surprisingly involved BUT intuitive resulting in a great looking robot. Add in the well-executed facemask gimmick and Walmart’s $30 price tag in Canada on him this fall/winter and you have AMAZING bang for your buck.
The chrome wasn’t that great and the paint apps are kinda scarce, but for the retail price in Canada he was a MUST. Looking forward to owning this more times over once the Thundercracker retool comes out in 2015 (and once that inevitably gets repainted into Starscream or Skywarp).
10. GENERATIONS RATTRAP
As a big Beast Wars fan, I loved just how many homages we got over the last year, starting with Rhinox and going forward to Waspinator, Tankor, and Rattrap. Hell, we even got Thrustinator from the club – a fun original concept based on a Waspinator/Thrust fusion that made EXCELLENT use of the 90s Dirgegun retool. (And of course, there’s also how Hasbro themselves reused some Beast era molds as part of their AoE toyline, like the awesome Terrorsaur mold.)
Anyway, Rattrap is basically THE definitive Rattrap. Great robot mode (with some unfortunate elbow limitations) that has the gun AND a bellybomb in the forearm, and an AMAZING rat mode that can stand on its hind legs and look forward at the same time.
Honorable mention as well to Takara’s Rhinox and Waspinator repaints, which took the already cool molds and made them AMAZING, and of course to the new Generations Tankor mold, of which (thanks to cheap eBay auctions) I own a case of Mandarin oranges full for the sake of troopbuilding.
9. GENERATIONS ARMADA STARSCREAM (Takara version)
Another example of a FANTASTIC mold update. Never had the original, but this update is a fantastic toy. Great posability, and fantastic paint work on the Takara version only makes it that much better. All-around a fantastic mold, and it got a terrific remold as well in the form of freaking JHIAXUS.
In fact, Jhiaxus would have taken this place on the list if it weren’t for his RID-inspired orange deco. The remolds on him were fantastic and he does look good, but it’s not the red/yellow/white/green I would have adored.
8. EVASION OPTIMUS PRIME
One of the most underrated TF toylines of 2014 has to be the Age of Extinction toyline. Like the DOTM toyline, a lot of fans were kinda sick of movie designs by then, and tend to overlook these figures. But there were a lot of honest-to-god good molds in both the DOTM and AOE toylines which deserve some atttention, like this one.
Evasion Optimus is an INCREDIBLY intuitive Voyager toy that flips itself inside out to go from a VERY G1 truck mode to his DOTM robot mode, like in the films – it’s crazy just how WELL this toy works and, more importantly, how SIMPLY he does it. And not just that, but he’s also incredibly posable to boot AND comes with a shotgun that has specific molding to go in Voyager DOTM Megatron’s hand (which was also a great toy, but one that lacked his trademark movie weapon).
There’s a few other honorable mentions in the movie toys category I should bring up, like the Super Sentai-esque Dinobots (they’re all colorcoded like a Sentai team!), the Takara repaint of DOTM Jolt into his ROTF colorscheme (which was a LONG time coming), the Takara repaint of a movie 1 mold into Dispensor, the Mountain Dew machine (who distributes the non-trademarked “Mood Whiplash” drink from the MTMTE comics to boot), and the crazily well done shellformer that is AOE Galvatron – an incredibly simple and intuitive toy.
7. GENERATIONS COSMOS
The Legends toys have been one of the great parts of the Generations line, which looks to be continuing into the 2015 toys, and Cosmos would have to be the best of the bunch. A figure who we all thought was getting cancelled back in 2013, it turned out he instead got delayed and pushed into 2014, where he was plentiful at Canadian Targets and Wal-Marts (and eventually in the US).
Cosmos is a TERRIFIC figure that eclipses the previous old-Legends-sized Cosmos – he has some FANTASTIC posability and a fun transformation, making him the definitive version of the character to date.
Also getting honorable mentions in this category are Legends Skrapnel (Shrapnel), an amazing update of the Insecticon of old (plus we’re getting a Bombshell to go with him in the Combiner Wars line!) and the Cliffjumper remold of Legends Bumblebee (I have a weakness for a decent Cliffjumper toy). Swerve and Tailgate were also some great MTMTE-inspired additions, but both figures aren’t quite up to the same standard.
6. MASTERPIECE G2 SIDESWIPE
Another case of my personal biases showing through, it’s not strictly a new mold, but rather an awesome repaint of the Masterpiece Sideswipe mold from 2012 in a long-awaited colorscheme. I’ve always loved the G2 Sideswipe deco/character, and him having the Derek Yaniger scowl specifically remolded onto his face from the Marvel comics was the icing on the cake, as well as him getting the spiked wheel shoulders and guns/sword SPECIFICALLY from the over the top 90s weapons loadout in the comic.
Further enhancing this character was an unofficial upgrade kit that then gave him all the rest of the weapons and bandolier from said comic, making him a fantastic display piece all and all.
5. MASTERPIECE ULTRA MAGNUS
Magnus almost didn’t make the cut, both because I almost didn’t get him in 2014 (he literally arrived on the 31st) and because on the original top 5 list he didn’t make the cut because of other really good figures that needed representation other than Masterpieces. But he’s a great figure all the same!
Kobayashi did a FANTASTIC job on engineering an intuitive transformation that requires ZERO partsforming and yet still allows for the cab to detach from the trailer. The arm posability at the shoulders isn’t the greatest on him, but that’s entirely a symptom of how the arms shift on his shoulders for transformation (and the fact he has giant pauldrons of course).
Aesthetically, he looks AMAZING, and is a terrific depiction of the animation model for Ultra Magnus in the G1 cartoon. Face is dead-on, colors are great, and the altmode is VERY well done AND very stable to boot in how everything pegs together. And he’s the least of the 2014 new mold Masterpieces too, so that’s saying something!
4. TIMELINES CHROMEDOME
The Transformers Collector’s Club gets a LOT of stuff wrong or almost-but-not-quite. It’s kinda their trademark at times (don’t ask when the new website is going up; it’s been WELL over a year since that was coming, probably closer to two now.) But their 2014 subscription service had some FANTASTIC offerings with some INCREDIBLY well-done new head molds.
New head molds with the club can be VERY hit or miss at times, but Chromedome was very much a hit. A redeco of TFP Wheeljack with a MTMTE-inspired Nick Roche head design/colors, he is a fantastic addition to the shelf who looks very very good, and who possibly surpasses the Dead End and Wildrider remolds for the best looking version of this toy.
It also helps too that he came in a subscription service with a MTMTE Rewind-inspired remold of the Rumble/Frenzy tank molds, complete with little camera on the head, but he’s still a great solo piece who is probably the best club toy of the year in a year of hits like Rewind/Eject/Barricade and near-hits like Scorponok, Devcon and Cannonball (who is only a near-hit instead of a hit because of a pin misassembly.)
3. GENERATIONS WHIRL (Takara)
2014 was the year that the guy at Hasbro who is a fan of the Dorvack 1985 mold reuses got his due, as we got homages to BOTH Roadbuster and Whirl that managed to update the articulation BUT remain slavish to the looks of the original toys. This is especially evident in Whirl, who has the same altmode and basic transformation (plus even the exact same weapons loadout!) as his original 1985 toy, only with a number of modern touches.
Sporting a new head straight out of Alex Milne’s MTMTE art and digitgrade legs again inspired by his more recent comic appearances, Whirl is otherwise just the G1 toy with even more articulation. He looks fantastic, is well proportioned, and has a gloriously slavish weapons loadout with literally the same 4 weapons as the original toy (just sized to be compatible to this)
I’m specifically nominating the Takara version here for a couple of reasons – while the Hasbro one is fantastic in its own right, the stickers were very much hit-or-miss for many people. The Takara version lacks said stickers AND also replaces the purplish-blue plastic with the same light blue as the original toy (and adds a bit of the sticker detailing as tampograph paint apps). Having him in hand and comparing him, I definitely prefer the Takara version to the original Hasbro color scheme, but your mileage may vary.
2. MASTERPIECE WHEELJACK
And here we go with the top two toys – rounding them out is the AMAZING Masterpiece toy for Wheeljack for which I can say “They did it.”
They actually did it and made a Wheeljack that has a ton of sponsor paint apps straight off the Lancia Stratos racecar he’s based on. And if those aren’t enough, there’s a Reprolabels set you can get to round them all off.
Add to that amazing alternate mode a great transformation and a FANTASTIC robot mode that keeps to the scale chart and is well proportioned and posable, and you have one of the best toys of the year. And in 2015, hopefully I’ll manage to get my hands on the even more unlikely repaint we’re getting – the Marlboor Diaclone version of the toy with a new head and a paint scheme that infringes Phillip Morris trademarks and by extension possibly puts them in a dicey situation regarding bans on cigarette advertising on toys. Which would be why he’s not being sold by any North American retailers or sold TO North Americans by many Japanese retailers (freaking C&Ds 🙁 )
1. MASTERPIECE BUMBLEBEE
And the best toy of 2014 comes as no surprise – it’s the amazing pocketsized Masterpiece toy of Bumblebee. When he was first rumored, I thought it unlikely – hell, if you’d talked to me a few years ago I would have strongly argued WHY we would NEVER get a new Bumblebee toy that was a VW Beetle, let alone a Masterpiece.
And yet it happened! And not just that, but it happened to produce one of the best Bumblebee toys we’ve ever gotten! Bumblebee’s VW altmode is gorgeous with a ton of yellow paint, and has a simple transformation with some FANTASTIC flourishes to produce one of the most posable Masterpiece toys yet. I was psyched when Hasui tweeted out the first silhouette of the figure on Twitter, and got even more excited once we saw full color pics.
And not just that, but he ALSO comes with Daniel in the exo-suit, which is FAR more involved than anyone ever expected it to be. It also has a great transformation with some cool steps to replicate the movie altmode, even going so far as a step where you bend the tiny human neck so it’s looking forward in altmode. A fantastic little easter egg to round out the toy; a toy of which I will probably buy every repaint of.
Anyway, that’s my 2014 “best of Transformers” lists. Hopefully I also write up my “Unofficial Transforming Toys” and “Action Figure” lists at some point, though those will just be Top Fivers.