Top 5 (+ 1 ) of 2015: Transformers

2015 has now come to a close, and so it’s time to take a look back down memory lane and see just what I thought the best toys of the year were. And as a big Transformers collector, naturally I have enough Hasbro/TakaraTomy product to warrant a list of its own.

Overall, here’s the main limitations/rules I had when doing this list, up front:

  • The toy must have reached me in 2015. Items released in 2014 I didn’t get until 2015 are eligible, and 2015 items I didn’t get before Jan 1 2016 are ineligible and will be counted next year.
  • If it was all in the same box, it’s one toy.
  • If it’s a group unit, like a combiner, that was sold separately, it’s one toy BUT probably a toy with a focus on individual members in the group. Eg, 2014’s unofficial Transformers list had Feral Rex on it with a focus on Leo Dux, given the limbs were sold separately and the sum mode not completed until 2014.

But enough of semantics – onto the list after the jump! A top 5 count plus an honorable mention for that one toy that deserved to be recognized in some way but wasn’t able to steal itself a slot.

Honorable Mention – Unite Warriors Superion/Aerialbots

IMG_9694Top five is a hard thing to do, especially in a year of awesome Combiners, and so I’ve cheated somewhat by declaring the Unite Warriors boxset of the Aerialbots as my Honorable Mention. They’ve all individually got some great decoes, and are basically the G1 toys with modern proportions/articulation, which is both a strength and weakness.

IMG_9668Silverbolt on his own manages to be a MASSIVE step above the old Universe toy, given he has a passable altmode (for Silverbolt -he’s always been somewhat of “a robot under a plane”, good robot mode, and FANTASTIC combiner torso. The paint deco on the UW version only enhances this appearance further.

Him being honorable mention is PURELY because there’s another combiner I loved more this year, but he NEEDED recognition of some kind being a VERY strong wave 1 entry into Combiner Wars that set the bar pretty high.

#5 – Transformers Legends Slipstream

IMG_9644Back when Transformers Animated was all the rage, one of the characters fans such as myself became enamored with was the briefly appearing female clone of Starscream, who was later christened Slipstream by the TFA team when the Allspark Almanac v2 was published. Sadly, she was also one of those toys who never got a toy but had a kickass design.

Flash forward to a couple of years ago – in the first year of the Transformers Collector’s Club’s Subscription Service, one of the most anticipated announced figures was a retool of Trasnformers Prime Starscream into her. Given he had very slender and feminine proportions to begin with, this all and all made for a fairly passable Slipstream – though the head retooling wasn’t perfect, it worked well enough.

IMG_9641Now jump forward to 2015, when on the heels of Hasbro releasing multiple female Autobots in the Generations line, Takara decided to dust off the molds and make some themselves. They were fantastic sellers, not helped by the fact multiple suppliers got shorted on stock, and enough demand was perceived that TakaraTomy then proceeded to do some extensive retooling and release three female Decepticons – one of whom was in fact a VERY Transformers Animated inspired Slipstream (to the point that the included comic explicitly makes this that same character in a new dimension/body).

Slipstream was a retool from the already decent Windblade mold, but got a new chest and head in order to give her the proper female Seeker aesthetic (and a VERY accurate head to boot). As well, in a fantastic touch I personally love, unlike her moldmates, the wings are an entirely different color than the waist, allowing for it to not somewhat blend in like the various Windblade releases before. As further icing on the cake, Windblade’s sword was replaced by null-ray cannons that use friction pegs to snap perfectly into place on her forearms, just like the TFA character had.

With fantastic colors and a great aesthetic, Slipstream’s one of my favorites of the year and the representative of all the fantastic fembots 2015 had to offer. (Which included Takara’s superb comic-accurate Windblade deco, a perfect G1 Arcee mold, and a further phenomenal retool of said mold as Nightbird that further puts the bleh TFcon exclusive to shame.)

#4 – Combiner Wars Defensor/Protectobots

IMG_9673Okay, so this technically isn’t a boxset here, but 5 figures, unlike the cheat I used with the UW team. But given they’re all still technically the same combiner, I had to cheat here considering how strong several of these figures are both separately and together. Specifically, I need to touch on the three subcomponents that I love in this unit:

  1. Streetwise – a retool of Dead End/Wildrider, his mold is possibly my favorite Combiner Wars deluxe. He’s a fantastic car with a really good robot mode that lacks extraneous kibble AND manages to have a chest plate that swings down to cover up the combiner peg. Quite honestly, this is my second favorite deco on the mold given they also did it up with a new head as Prowl, but his own colors work on their own and the headsculpt is quite striking.
  2. Rook – he’s what’s keeping me from just saying “hold off and use the UW version of Defensor next year.” Rook is a new addition to the Protectobot team justified because of how tiny motorcycles are, and turns into a really solid 6-wheel APC capable of using the Handfootgun(TM) as a double barreled turret to boot. He folds up in to a REALLY solid robot mode with a nice compact backpack, and had I done a top 10 list would have been on it as a solo toy.
  3. Hot Spot – though his firetruck mode is admittely a bit mediocre, he makes up for it by being a FANTASTIC robot with a really clever torso mode – the firetruck ladder wraps around the whole body to shift the combiner chestplate and head into place. His aesthetic is fantastic and, like Rook, he probably would have made it onto the list solo.

IMG_9670Defensor as a whole, meanwhile, is nice and CHUNKY. He’s very much suiting his name, with a broad upper body and nice thick legs for… well, defending anything behind him. And with a healthy variety of combiner limb altmodes/transformations, there’s a lot of fun to be had with him.

I’m very much looking forward to 2016, when I pick up the Onslaught retooled from Hot Spot, which manages to use the same basic torso mode BUT via added parts have a different silhouette to him in combined mode.

(Photography note – Defensor here is pictured with the Perfect Effect addon hands/feet, because they just take a solid figure and crank it up a notch aesthetically.)

#3 – Masterpiece Star Saber

IMG_96762015 gave us a number of solid masterpiece toys – G2 Bumblebee, Blue Bluestreak (who would have made an extended top 10), MP Exhaust, MP Tracks, and this guy – an anime-accurate update of the original Japanese-exclusive Transformers Victory Autobot leader, Star Saber. (Or, for people who only know him via the IDW books, your and my favorite religious zealot.)

Star Saber manages to recreate all the features of the original toy/design – the smaller robot Saber, a show-accurate Brain of Courage that goes into Saber’s chest, revealing the robot face when closed, and the massive Star Saber body that Saber is a mere chest component of. Though the transformation is admittedly not overly involved, that’s less due to a lack of imagination and more due to how there wasn’t a lot that needed to be done aside from add articulation/improve proportions from the original toy.

IMG_9675With some cool gimmicks like the Brainmaster feature and the way the helmet folds over Saber’s head and then UNCLIPS FROM A MOVING ARM ON HIS BACK TO LOWER THE HELMET INTO POSITION, Star Saber is a fantastic display piece and the main representative of 2015’s Masterpiece offerings.

#2 – Transformers Legends/Combiner Wars Ultra Magnus

IMG_9686So after the amazing majesty that was 2015’s MP Ultra Magnus, with its animation-accurate “cab and trailer” transformation, I figured that was the topper for Ultra Magnus toys.

However, Hasbro and TakaraTomy didn’t think so, giving us a new Leader-class mold that wasn’t just a cheaper version of said transformation, but also a dead-on accurate representation of the Nick Roche design from the MTMTE comics in robot mode. The same chest, the same shoulder pylons… and as a bonus, the weapons could be combined into a hammer mode to homage the TFA iteration of the character!

But the absolute icing on the cake of this guy was a MTMTE spoiler – in the comics, it’s eventually revealed that “Ultra Magnus” for some time has been like the Dread Pirate Roberts, with a line of nobodies assuming his appearance/persona for millions of years. The latest member of this brotherhood being the Ultra Magnus we’d all come to know and love since his IDW spotlight – Minimus Ambus. And so, in a mind-blowing move, Hasbro MADE A TRANSFORMING MINIMUS AMBUS TOY THAT SITS IN HIS CHEST IN ROBOT MODE, complete with the helmet folding down over the tiny robot’s head!

IMG_9687Now, there’s a reason I’ve got both the Combiner Wars and UW versions of the toy on my list, and that’s because each of them is only half-baked for a MTMTE accurate representation. While Hasbro’s incarnation is good, it skips on paint here and there, and the white plastic used is a slightly off-white that light can very slightly pass through. Takara’s on the other hand, is SLAVISHLY accurate to Josh Burcham’s colors in Season 1 of MTMTE (there were color model tweaks in S2), including the red thighs, white guns, and proper leg deco. Except that instead of having a Minimus Ambus, he had the driver repainted as Alpha Trion – which, though it works VERY well as a deco, is not Minimus Ambus.

So basically the best option is to shell out the double cost of getting both versions, putting the Hasbro body and Takara pilot aside, and then having a fantastic MTMTE Magnus. He looks amazing in both modes, and the transformation manages to streamline the Masterpiece toy’s making him debatably superior in my mind to his higher-priced self.

#1 – Unite Warriors Constructicons

IMG_9638And then there’s these guys.

THESE GUYS.

The impossible dream we NEVER thought was going to happen.

A new Devastator, with all six team members (WITH the original character names and altmodes) that stood 17″ tall and towered over every other Combiner Wars toy, all the Masterpiece releases to date, and even the myriad unofficial Devastators that had been released at the time. Available as a giftset, and with satisfying transformations that made a few concessions for budget/safety for the sake of a solid combiner mode and decent individual (albeit compromised) robot modes. And designed by Shogo Hasui, who has worked on all the best car Masterpiece toys to date (read: everyone but Tracks) and who had always wanted to do a MP Devastator toy as a pipe dream.

IMG_9648Then TakaraTomy got their hands on the mold, with their more flexible pricepoints/budgets due to targeting a collector market, and went “we can do one better.” Though Hasui was busy on other projects, other veteran designer Hisashi Yuki went ahead and added a number of tooling improvements to the mold: Proper elbows for Scrapper and Long Haul, redesigned elbows for Mixmaster/Hook, slightly better proportioned legs for Bonecrusher/Scavenger, G1 rifles for all six robots that the Hasbro release lacked, and a new head that had BOTH the visored AND non-visored look as options!

Now, I already had the Combiner Wars version of Devastator when I got this guy, and that toy I already liked. It already would have made the number one slot on the list despite its flaws due to how solidly everything goes together and how good it looked in all three modes. And honestly, for a lot of you, the Combiner Wars toy is probably enough.

But in my case, my favorite Constructicon is Scrapper. And his individual robot mode’s SOLE flaw was that pesky lack of elbows that limited his arm articulation severely. And getting a Scrapper that fixed that definitely did NOT disappoint.

Up next: My top 5 UNOFFICIAL transforming toys of 2015!

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