(Third) Party Here In Agrabah – Tekno’s Top 5 Unofficial Transforming Toys of 2014

Continuing my lists of top toys of 2014, I’m now on to the next part – namely, the unlicensed unofficial “third party” transforming toys of which I am a big fan.

And of which I partook in picking up quite a few this year. Though having said that, there’s a number that looked awesome that I DIDN’T partake in picking up – you can blame price plus combiner fatigue for that. (And ironically, there’s more than one combiner-related thing on this list, having said that…)

Amusingly enough, there’s one other thing that keeps recurring on this list… namely, a good chunk of these were TFcon Toronto or Chicago-exclusive decoes. Though I suppose that only makes sense given how much I love that convention. Still, given there’s less stuff on my list, and that I’m finding this easier to pick winners for, it’s only gonna be top 5 from hereon out.

IMG_7881HONORABLE MENTION: TOYWORLD GRANT (TFCON CHICAGO EXCLUSIVE)

The honorable mention slot could have gone to one of many figures that came out this year; to an extent it was a tossup between several others, including PerfectEffect’s Warden and KFC’s Sencho Barbosa. But in the end, I’m assigning this to one of the surprise “out of nowhere” figures of the year – ToyWorld’s Grant, a homage to G1 Grand Maximus, aka the redeco of G1 Fortress Maximus from Japan’s “Masterforce” cartoon.

Though homage is actually the wrong term to use here, given the figure goes further than that – it’s almost the same transformation as G1 Fortress Maximus, with a nigh-identical city, “spaceship”, and robot mode… except FAR more posable. ToyWorld engineered into this mold all the G1 goodness of the original design but with modern articulation, resulting in a Fort Max mold that can look incredibly dynamic as a robot.

The other big change is that there’s no two tiers of Headmaster – the Headmaster on a Headmaster has been instead replaced with a head compatible with ToyWorld’s other offerings (or you can even use the G1 Headmasters on the mold if you so choose), but given he clocks in at about a foot tall rather than the original’s two that’s a fairly excusable change.

This mold came completely out of nowhere at TFcon Chicago as an exclusive, and then got redecoed in more traditional Fortress Maximus colors for a general retail release – while the Grand Max version has almost no paint (just sculpted colors) it’s by no means inferior because of that.

5. FANSPROJECT CUBRAR – TFCON CHICAGO EDITION

Another TFcon exclusive, Cubrar is FansProject’s homage to the Dinobot Slag, as part of their subline that seeks to update all the Dinobots in a Voyager-sized aesthetic with Targetmaster weapon partners. Or, in the case of the TFcon versions, with Diaclone-inspired color decoes and Diaclone driver partners. Having picked up the TFcon Toronto exclusive Columpio earlier in the year and loving that version, I made sure to get my hands on the also-pricer-than-the-regular version Diaclone variant of Cubrar once he went up on the aftermarket, and my is he gorgeous.

While not the only unofficial Slag to come out in 2014 (there was also FansToys’ Masterpiece-scaled Scoria, which I also picked up), he is definitely the best – his transformation is fantastic, and the chromed gold and Diaclone colors give this guy quite a bit of pop. As well, for those interested he has a swappable red head for those wishing to give him the “Canadian Slag” helmet – though myself I decided to stick with the more Diaclone-accurate blue helmet.

If you’re a fan of the Dinobots, he’s definitely one to consider – there’s multiple unofficial lines of Dinobots out there catering to everyone’s tastes, be they FansProject’s “Classics shelf” aesthetic, FansToys or GigaPower’s “Masterpiece scale” aesthetic, or even the Fall of Cybertron aesthetic Planet X is doing with theirs (which, though I’m not picking up any of their figures, are very good by all accounts). Though be warned that the Diaclone colors are a much more expensive way to go, so unless you really like the deco and insist on the magnetic-footed Diaclone driver, you may want the general retail one.

4. MECH IDEAS TECHNO TOON TITANS – TFCON TORONTO EDITION

These special homages to the Transformers Animated Derrick Wyatt-designed Huffer and Pipes have a bit of a story behind them – when first announced by MechIdeas, the molds looked completely different – it was an admittedly hamfisted attempt by them to nail the Transformers Animated aesthetic, and the fans weren’t silent in letting them know on this.

But they LISTENED. And the second pass on these molds came out terrific, only for them to have issues getting enough preorders for a distributor to pick them up, putting them on the verge of cancellation. Fortunately, in the end, the online store Planet Steel Express came through and picked them up, allowing us to get some more Transformers Animated goodness.

But what puts these guys on this top 5 list isn’t quite that – it’s the extent of the homage on the TFcon versions. See, Derrick designed these two to homage the Mario Bros in their appearance, despite the different colors – and MechIdeas took it to the next logical step when making their convention exclusives, redecoing them AS Mario and Luigi. Complete with packaging that evoked the NES cartridges of old, the convention exclusive is a fantastic love letter to Nintendo fans and because of it I now own tiny robot Mario and Luigi. The molds have some flaws in their simple transformation, but they look the part of the Transformers Animated aesthetic and with any luck their success will lead to more homages down the line.

3. MICROBLAZE CREATIONS MILITARY TITANS

Back in 2012, Hasbro made a Bruticus combiner to tie into the Fall of Cybertron toyline, with multiple redecoes. Unfortunately, the final results were, to put it lightly, rather underwhelming – though was a great attempt on Hasbro’s part at a new mass-market combiner, the use of Deluxe-sized figures for ALL the components, torso included, resulted in a rather lanky figure.

Enter the Microblaze upgrade kit, which rather than provide a slew of parts to bulk out the toy, went even further and made a whole new Voyager-sized Fall of Cybertron Onslaught figure. More accurate to his game appearance, it’s a really good looking figure on its own that then combines with the other Combaticons into a far more impressive Bruticus toy.

That said, using the upgrade kit results in a lot of “cheating” with the limbs like other sets – Swindle and Brawl get addons to give them actual game-accurate feet, and Vortex and Blast-Off have to be taken apart and applied along the skeleton of completely new upper arms. However, all these components themselves have places to store – the upper arms become giant rifles, Swindle’s new foot a completely new chest that fills out the figure better, and Brawl’s a vast array of weaponry (as well, the set comes with multiple pieces that fix several of Brawl’s flaws, including giving him actually decent robot mode feet).

But hey, it looks impressive, and fills out FOC Bruticus to give him that same intimidating bulk he had in the game. If you have the SDCC or retail version of the toys, it comes recommended.

2. MAKETOYS TRASH-TALK AND COGWHEEL

Now, this set came very close to taking the first slot on the list due to the sheer perfection it is – namely, a two pack of homages to Swerve and Gears, with designs straight out of the MTMTE comic. In the case of Swerve, his design accuracy is uncanny – he shares the same alternate mode AND robot mode as his comic self, with a ton of personality and posability (and even an alternate face to homage when he blew it off with the Shoomer!). The Gears homage takes more liberties with the MTMTE robot mode while making sure it still looks like Gears (it is just a Swerve remold after all) but the alternate mode has enough remolding to in fact make it accurate to its brief appearance in the comic.

The loadout of accessories these figures came with is fantastic as well – the two pack comes with an Energon drink tray with a pitcher and 2 glasses, the “shoomer” previously mentioned, AND the rivet gun used to (accidentally) blow Rung’s head off in the earlier issues of the book.  Though the Gears does not have any real unique accessories for himself, he DOES have an alternate face to give him a toy-accurate faceplate – though I haven’t used mine, it does in fact look very good.

Rounding out this set was a separately boxed accessory made available – the “My First Blaster” gifted to Swerve by Brainstorm that appears in the “Remain in Light” storyarc. Packaged on sprues, it can thus be assembled into a fantastic representation of the silly orange-capped light-up safety gun that looks great in Swerve’s hand, freeing up the other accessories to go with Gears on a display shelf.

1. MASTERMIND CREATIONS LEO DUX/FERAL REX

Though I’m now suffering a bit from unofficial transforming toy combiner fatigue, in part due to price, there is one figure I gladly made an exception for – MMC’s glorious Predaking homage that is Feral Rex. Standing at an intimidating foot-plus, with a massive wingspan and sword plus LED visor, it looks intimidating on a shelf and is an incredible posable centerpiece of a collection – THE definitive Predaking in my mind.

However, as two of the limbs DID in fact come out in 2013, it’s tricky to talk about as a 2014 toy, and so I’ll bring up the center component – Leo Dux, a homage to the Predacon leader Razorclaw. This figure on its own was a fantastic collection addition in 2014; his robot mode is as perfect as can be and the lion mode was fantastic as well. A bulky figure, he also does a great job of compressing and managing bulk such that he forms a huge torso while still not being that much taller in robot mode than his teammates, avoiding the usual combiner syndrome of “huge torso, small limbs” you get when you line the team up side-by-side.

All in all, it is a fantastic looking Razorclaw that when combined with his teammates presents an imposing shadow – on my Masterpiece shelf, he looks fantastic and towers over just about everything around him, and completing the combined mode was a definite highlight for my toy collecting in 2014.

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