Saturday, February 26, 2011

Masterpiece Hot Rod/Rodimus Prime Review

Well, about time I got this one out of the way.  I finally received my Masterpiece Rodimus about a week or two ago, I think.  Anyway, I did say I'd be doing a review and here it is (I decided against doing the video review, plenty are already out there, well-done, and rather lengthy).
So, those interested are likely already aware that this figure has been the subject of much negativity, and understandably so for those who experienced poor quality-control and out-of-the-package breakages.  Thankfully, mine's not bad.  Not perfect, but not bad.

In order to be able to end on a high note, let's take care of the bad.  Two pairs of parts are well-known for breaking:  red tabs that are on either side of the 'trunk/backpack' which have a very thin connection to the rest of the plastic, and the outer side panels of the figure's 'boots'.  None of these pieces are broken on mine (yet?) but I've been exceedingly careful with them.  Assuming they didn't break right out of the package, or were already broken prior to opening, you should be fine as long as you don't rotate the panels a way they're not supposed to and don't put unnecessary pressure on the tabs.
Next, clearance issues:  the backpack assembly absolutely would not tab in place at all on my figure.  I've seen others where it functions fine, so this is an inconsistent flaw (hence quality-control).  I've since taken a nail file to a couple of the tabs that poke out under the assembly (which are hidden in all modes so filing them down doesn't hinder the appearance) which has allowed the backpack to lock in place.  The fix was simple but that doesn't mean the figure gets a free pass on it.  It's a fairly common problem that shouldn't exist on a toy this expensive.

One other clearance issue, which seems to be totally universal, is localized in the slot on the trailer where the vehicle's spoiler rests.  It would appear that Takara didn't take into account the thickness that paint would add to both the slot and the spoiler, as both are painted.  The fit is so tight that it will, seemingly without fail, either scratch the paint on the spoiler or transfer some of the paint from the trailer to the spoiler.  On the plus side, these blemishes are in most cases extremely minor and the paint transfers are easily removable simply by rubbing them with your finger or, failing that, a pencil eraser.  Once again, this can be fixed by a nail file (using it to file away the paint inside the slot on the trailer, which again is hidden from most angles so it doesn't damage the look) which I've already done and once again, the simple fix doesn't mean I'll be overlooking the flaw.

One of the most debated problems with the toy is getting it to rest on all 4 wheels in Hot Rod's sports car vehicle mode.  Many people have claimed it to not be possible, many others have accomplished it (with video or photo proof), some used to think it was impossible before realizing they had been mistransforming the figure, and some have figures where it really is impossible.  Very unfortunately for me, I'm among the last group.  There's a very lengthy discussion on TFW2005 that I've been keeping an eye on since it started and, even trying every last trick and bit of advice that's been posted on the matter, my figure simply will not sit on all 4 wheels.  The crotchplate of the robot sticks out lower than the wheels, if ever so slightly, no matter what.
This is a quality-control issue and as such, is not present on every figure.  In fact, it seems to be present on a very small minority of the figures.  That said, I can probably let this issue slide, or at least not have it count against the figure too much.
Oy vey, two more issues to address.
The springs in the ratchet joints of the ankles have been well-known to uncoil after extended use, necessitating them to either be recoiled by use of pliers, or replaced.  Preemptive actions can be taken against this by opening the feet and filing away the sharp, exposed end of the spring; which digs into the plastic and causes the issue.  Sadly, I could not find a screwdriver around my house small enough for the job.  Luckily though, I've posed and transformed Rodimus many times and the springs are still just as they were the day I opened the toy.  So, once again, it's an inconsistent flaw.  In this case, the spring issue seems to be on the majority of the figures however so I need to take serious note of it.
Finally, the absolutely universal and unforgivable little problem that the toy can barely hold its guns.  Masterpiece Rodimus comes with two pistols (Photon Laser Alpha & Beta, as they are named on the instruction booklet) meant to be Hot Rod's weapons, which can be combined into Rodimus Prime's Photon Eliminator.  The thing is that while the toy has pose-able (though fused together) fingers, it doesn't hold the guns by way of those.  Instead, both guns have a tab on either side of the handle which is meant to tab in to slots on the toy's palms.  The problem is that they sit in the slots way too loosely.  In fact, neither gun will tab into my figure's left palm at all.  The right palm provides a barely stable fit.
I've read that a bit of superglue or clear nail-polish can fix this by using either substance to thicken the tabs (a common method for restoring loose joints and the like) but I have no immediate access to either substance for the time being.
As you may have already guessed, this is the biggest problem I personally have with the toy.  Why bother including such awesome looking guns, which such a cool gimmick, that the robot can't freaking hold!?

So...yeah...there are a lot of problems with this figure and definitely something we shouldn't settle for when the box says "MASTERPIECE" on it and we spent $200+ to own the thing.

But...there are a lot of good aspects to Masterpiece Rodimus, and now that I'm (finally) done with the negatives, I can get to them.

Just like the Generation 1 Rodimus Prime toy, the trailer for the 'space winnebago' splits open to reveal the Mobile Defense Platform; complete with a gigantic turret sporting blast-shields, handles that the toy's hands can slot onto (and securely) and even an adjustable viewfinder so Rodimus can always see what he's aiming at.

The included accessories and features are very cool.  Like I said, he can't hold his guns very well but they can be mounted in several spots on his mobile defense platform.  There's also spots for them to rest when the platform is reverted back to the trailer.

Also included are his spinning blade (which isn't a buzzsaw and I'm really sick of seeing people call it that*) and his welding torch, both of which were used in The Transformers: The Movie (1986) and both within about 2 minutes of each other.  The hand on either arm can be revolved and stored inside the forearm, revealing a holder which can grasp either of these accessories.
In a very convenient design choice, the mobile defense platform has designated spots for these two accessories to sit as well.  This means the entire toy, accessories and all, can easily be put into one 'compact' package (as compact as it gets with how freaking big the trailer, even closed up, is).

Of course, he has a Matrix as well.  A rather tiny Matrix, dwarfed by the one that came with Masterpiece Optimus, but a Matrix all the same.  One may notice that the Matrix differs in design, significantly, from what came before it.  I believe the Matrix Rodimus comes with is a little more accurate to the design that appeared in the Marvel comics, but don't quote me on that as I know little of Transformers comics.  Despite claims to the contrary, the figure can hold its just holds it very awkwardly and loosely.  Nonetheless, it's possible to pose him grasping onto his undersized relic (that sounded less suggestive in my head).  The toy has a Matrix chamber hidden behind its chest-plate.

And of course, there's the figure itself.  Masterpiece Hot Rod/Rodimus Prime features the ability to, obviously, represent either version of the character.  Not only does it sport both space winnebago and sports car vehicle modes, but the robot mode also has two different versions, representing the minor change in appearance he made when becoming Rodimus Prime.  The thighs pivot down, adding to the robots height.  The spoiler shifts up and changes angle ever so slightly (being more fanned out for Hot Rod and more straight up and down on the sides for Rodimus Prime).

Of course, the most significant change is the face.  In the cartoon, he basically received a couple extra lines on his face that gave him an older, wiser appearance.  To replicate this on the toy, there is a second face hidden inside the head.  Lifting Hot Rod's face up, you'll see that Hot Rod's face is connected to the helmet by a simple hinge, and Rodimus Prime's face hides behind it, connected to the neck joint by a hinge-and-spring assembly.  Pushing Hot Rod's face back into the helmet, you can close the head back down and voila, you have Rodimus Prime in robot mode.
The one, extremely minor drawback to this (very cool) feature, is that the Rodimus Prime face doesn't fit the helmet as well and appears a little thin when compared to the animated character.

I've seen many complaints that the transformation between the two robot modes is too minimalistic and doesn't make enough of a difference.  I find these complaints perplexing and unfounded because, as a representation of the character, it has just as many differences between the two robots; i.e. not very many.  The only thing this toy doesn't do that the cartoon character did when becoming a Prime is magically grow in size.  Rodimus Prime was also magically a different colour in the series (going from the magenta Hot Rod to maroon), but not in the movie (where he was still magenta).

On that note, we finally got a toy of Hot Rod that's actually, accurately magenta!  For literally decades now (well, a little under 3 decades) both Hasbro and Takara seemed to like avoiding colouring any Hot Rod/Rodimus merchandise that was based on the G1 design it's proper colour.  Although, saying that the toy being magenta makes it totally accurate is a little broad.  Technically, the cartoon character had an extremely (read: unnaturally and thus impossibly) vibrant, almost glowing magenta colour.  So in other words, this is as close as we'll get to the on-screen colours when it comes to a real-life object.
On the articulation front, this is as good as Transformers get, and that's saying a lot.  The minimal amount of diecast also allows the figure to take dynamic poses without having the fiddle with it for ages like some others (he types as he glances towards his Masterpiece Optimus Prime).  The fingers may lack individual articulation, but that's understandable considering how thin they are.  Still, it would have been nice to have at least an articulated index finger on his right hand for the sake of putting him in the "This is the end of the road, Galvatron!" pose.

Speaking of classic Rodimus poses however, if you happen to own a Masterpiece Optimus Prime, Masterpiece Rodimus can properly grasp the earlier Autobot Matrix that came with it.  This would allow you to recreate both Hot Rod's transformation into Rodimus Prime, as well as the slightly later scene where Rodimus finally opens the Matrix and destroys Unicron.

The transformation proves quite frustrating on early tries, but a few goes at it makes it a lot easier and more fun.  Honestly, that's just how I like my Transformers.  Though, that's only what I have to say about the main transformation, i.e. robot to sports car.  Getting into space winnebago is a pretty uninteresting, short-lived process.  The result looks nice but it still carries another of my main gripes with the toy's design.

We've seen this ever since prototype photos and I'm honestly surprised to see so few people complaining about it anymore; it's almost as if I'm the only one who still notices it.  I'm of course talking about the incredibly unsightly gap in the middle of the roof.  Due to the way the car is transformed, a portion of it makes the roof of the winnebago's cab (though the canopy is separate from the figure, attached to the trailer, storing underneath when not in use) and that portion happens to be two separate pieces which do not close together.  There's just a big, rectangular hole right there.  If the spoiler could slide forward, it might help to both cover it and increase accuracy since the front of Rodimus's spoiler did sit further forward than that in vehicle mode.
I tried to convince myself that it must be a mistransformation that had been overlooked a few times...then a few dozen times...then a few hundred times.  I really tried.  I really did not want to believe that a toy that looked so perfect (note that this was before it was released) could have a big ugly hole in a prominent spot of one of the vehicle modes...and I honestly succeeded for most of the months leading to release.  Eventually I realized I was being delusional but still held onto a slight shred of hope.
The day came that Masterpiece Rodimus was released and...yeah, there's a big hole in the winnebago's roof.  No way to fix it, no way around it, that's just one of the trade-offs for having a quadruple-changer I suppose.

Anyway, the vehicle modes both look very nice and would be downright flawless (or close to it) if my figure could line up properly where the vehicles could roll.

Ultimately, you're really not getting what you pay for.  It hurts me to say that, but I can't recommend this guy for the price.  It is a great toy, but for $200 it should be a perfect toy.
But, I still want to leave on a high note:  I do not regret buying Masterpiece Hot Rod/Rodimus Prime.  He's the best toy representation of my favourite character in the franchise.  In terms of design, this is the toy I've been waiting for for many years.  This is where I can stop collecting Transformers (and I've been wanting to).  And note that, while I made mention of many issues, not all of them actually applied to me.  The ones that did were easy enough for me to look passed.

If you have the same forgiving-when-it-comes-to-a-character-you-like-this-much personality as me and are a huge fan of the character, I definitely recommend seeking him out.  He'd be especially worth it if you can find a good deal; I've heard of it being sold for considerably lower than the proper retail price.
Otherwise, this is something you should pass up.  Perhaps later releases will fix the issues, but perhaps not.  In any case, it's finally time to end this off.  Good night all.

*On the buzzsaw matter:  What Hot Rod has is not a buzzsaw.  Yet people always call it that.  Buzzsaws are circular pieces of metal with teeth around the circumference that spin.  If you take a moderately close look at the animation, as well as the painted shape on the blade accessory of this toy, you see that Hot Rod has a straight, rectangular piece of metal that spun really fast, giving it the illusion of being a circle.  That is not a buzzsaw.

I totally forgot to mention one of the other features the toy includes.  The robots helmet hides the visor that was seen in the Lookout Mountain scene of the movie.  Rotating the 'ears' slides the visor down over his eyes.
The visor is a little loose and might fall down on its own if something knocks against the head.  I've never had any problem with it falling on its own though as some others' figures apparently have.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Happy Zelda Day Everyone!

Hey, it's just as legitimate a holiday as the one that's actually on the calendar.

So, tomorrow marks the 25th anniversary of the The Legend of Zelda video game series.  I have the day off of class and in honour of that (the anniversary that is, not the day off), I will be playing through my favourite game in the series:  Oracle of Ages.
Unfortunately, with my GameBoy Advance refusing to turn on and my GameBoy Color missing its A button (I had a phase where I was obsessed with taking electronic devices was weird) I will have to go the emulation route.  I was hoping to fire up that classic, transparent cartridge, but alas I have no means of using it for the time being.
On the up-side, playing a ROM will give me the opportunity to record the play-through, making it my first step towards one of my personal goals; to have a recorded play-through of all the games I own...that I like (in other words, sans Sonic Unleashed and possibly Prototype).

Back to the task at hand.  I plan on starting at midnight tonight.  I probably won't do it in one sitting since I'll want to sleep not that long after midnight.  In any case, it shouldn't take long.  There's no game I've played through more in my life and I'm well-prepared having finished Oracle of Seasons a week ago (so yes, I will be going for the linked ending where you face Ganon) as well as Ocarina of Time for some filler during the week.

My only remaining plans for that day are to work on my film and do whatever else I feel like doing.  Later.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Piled On Excitement

Ah, the middle of the weekend.  The time when I can try to relax but be horribly agitated by the persistent thoughts of the amount of work I have to do before Monday.  Nonetheless, I'm becoming more and more excited to take care of said work.  For you see, I spend much of my weekends working on my final film.  It's exciting enough just to make my own short film for the sake of making it/graduating/having demo reel material, but last night something else came up.
Teletoon, a Canadian cartoon television station, is allowing viewers to submit short films to some sort of contest (I haven't totally read up on the details yet, but I know you can submit animated shorts and have them voted on).  The great thing about this is the deadline is well after I'll be finished my film so it's not like I'll be too late to enter.  This is a wonderful opportunity that came at just the right time.  The perfect outlet to get my work out there for anyone to see it.  Hopefully it will even end up on TV at some point.
So that's that.

Now then, a few days ago, I mentioned that I had all of the rough inked drawings for my Dragon Ball Z-related prints ready.  I did get them scanned that day but didn't get around to editing that day's post with them so here they are now:

That's it for the heroes.  In the composed print, Goku will be in the middle, Vegeta and Trunks will be to the left of him (the viewer's left) and Piccolo and Gohan will be to the right, in that order.  So basically, they'll be lined up left-to-right as follows:  Trunks, Vegeta, Goku, Gohan, Piccolo.
Obviously, they still need to be cleaned up digitally, which I've already started doing for both Gohan and Trunks.  The others will follow when I have time.
Onto the villains.  Since I did the heroes in their base forms, I decided to contrast that by putting the three villains in their final forms (though I guess Frieza is technically in his next-to-final form if you count his 100% powered-up stage as another form).

I think Gohan and Frieza are the ones I'm most happy with.  The plotted highlights might seem like a bit too much but I plant on them having very subtle contrast with the flats.

Well, I think I'm going to end this off with a shameless plug because I recently discovered something damn cool to someone who's a Transformers fan (like myself).  The Complete Transformers Ark.  A book that contains tons of concept art and character design pages from the original series.  I haven't purchased my own copy yet but I plan to soon enough.  If you're interested, there should be a link to buy it on below.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Blah Blah Blah

Well, having only just realized that I missed making a weekly post over the past weekend, let's cover why that happened:  I went snowboard/snowblading/skiing on Saturday.  Aside from that full-day trip, I was really focused on working on my final film.  Maybe not the best excuse but, yeah, that's why I forgot to make an update.
Speaking of actual updates though, I can offer some tidbits of progress on some things.  My final film is coming along nicely.  To date I've only received very minor notes on things to change from my teacher.
On the personal side, I'm well on my way to putting together the Dragon Ball Z group-shot poster print I had planned on making for my wall.  I have all of the major heroes drawn in relative size so it won't take long to composite the image digitally.  All the drawings are inked and have their tones and highlights plotted.  Along the way, I actually decided I would do 2 prints.  Since I was already making one for the major heroes (for those curious of who I deem those to be:  Goku, Gohan, Vegeta, Trunks*, Piccolo) I started work on one for the villains (Frieza, Cell, Buu).  Both the heroes and villains are all ready to be scanned and digitally cleaned up.
That in mind, I'm probably going to start working on that now.  I may edit this post later with whatever images I have at the time.

As for random news:  Shout! Factory, the manufacturer responsible for The Transformers The Complete Series Boxset, has recently announced that it will be released DVDs for Beast Wars as well.  Yay!

*I know Trunks may not be exactly that major of a hero but I'm drawing the characters in their Android arc appearance and I definitely favour Trunks a little more than any other 5th major protagonist I can think of like Krillin or Tien.