Steamhammer and the Constructicons

Originally posted at Hippopotami on the Lam on Dec 10, 2010

You'd think that my review of Grimstone an the Dinobots would mean that I'd decided to drop the Power Core Combiners from my pull list of Transformer toys, but I'm you'd be wrong.

Though I really was disappointed by that first wave 4 set, the second one was enough to keep me on the hook.

Steamhammer and the Constructicons is the second of 2 5-packs in this fourth wave of figures. Unlike the last wave of figures which was entirely made up of re-purposed figures from the first 2 waves, this series is completely new. Both the 5 and 2-packs are molds that we haven't seen before with new drones and new mini-cons. Sadly, you have to enjoy it while it lasts because wave 5 has only 1 new figure, Undertow with Waterlog. Yet Steamhammer has a whole lot of awesome to tide you over until that new set comes around.

He comes packaged in his robot form (or the Commander) with the 4 drones surrounding him. It's a blessedly easy to open pack, with only one paper tie for each toy (or accessory depending on your perception). Once you get through them, it's easy scheezy. Just pop them out of the plastic bubble.
Jump after the cut for further details...

The Commander form is where we'll start, because:

  1. That's what he comes packaged as, and...
  2. It's my LEAST favorite mode on the toy.

Why you ask? Because you can't really do anything with him. The huge backpack formed by the bulldozer blade and the power-up form's head make it almost impossible for him to stand. The only way to do it is to move the blue power-up pegs in his feet down and off-set the weight of that monstrosity. It doesn't change the look at all, but damned if it isn't annoying.

To make matters worse, you can't really move his thighs any where. The way it's constructed means that it has almost no range of motion at all. He can kick sideways, but movement front of back? Not a chance.

It would have been nice if they had just let the blade detach so he could use it as a riot sheild or something, but since the gestalt head is attached to the back of the thing, I guess that that wasn't an option.
You'll also notice those two big, black things sticking out of the blade. Those are the front ends of his tank treads. Don't know what they're supposed to be in his robot mode.

His arm articulation is much better than that below his waist. He's got the same balljointed shoulders as most Scout Class robots, plus a bicep swivel and elbow hinge, which allows him to do pretty much whatever you need him to do.

I also like the fact that you can twist his left hand around and pretend the mini-con port on his left elbow is another gun. Pew pew pew! He's also got those Wolverine claws to fool around with.
Commander Steamhammer converts to a relatively big bulldozer. The transformation is one of the good points about him. Compared to some of the others (Like Sledge below) it feels well thought out and leaves a minimum of kibble (if you don't count that big ass backpack and those annoying blue pegs). If he didn't have so much trouble standing...

But we were talking about the bulldozer. It's an excellent looking example of a bulldozer, though I don't know if it's actually based on some real design out there. It feels more like someone's IDEA of a COOL-LOOKING bulldozer.

It's got one mini-port on the top of his cab.

The drones are shaped like other heavy construction equipment. There is a drilling rig (right arm), a wedge-plow (right leg), a scoop loader (left arm), and a steamroller (left leg). They're all smaller than Steamhammer, which is odd, but just go with it.

The sculpt of each looks nice, less cartoony than the previous releases which had proportions that were slightly round and stubby. I kind of felt that the drones with Crankcase felt like the chibi versions of military vehicles, caricatures. There are some interesting paint applications that you'll see on the wedge-plow's and Steamhammer's blades, and the steamrollers roller. Tiny little streaks of silver that make it look like they've been scratched right down to the naked metal. I don't know about you guys, but little touches like that really sell a toy to me and increase my perception of its value.

While I love the vehicle modes, I like the gestalt mode the best.

I said that Steamhammer was the best of the Power Core Combiners so far and I meant it. He's the one that has limbs that are recognizable as actual hands and feet! Yay Hasbro! You finally came to your senses!

No as a Fine Arts graduate, I know that asymmetry is graphically interesting. It draws the eye, creates imbalance, makes you queasy. But there's a reason that nature decided to make most animals symmetrical. Even a race of robots would be subject to the laws of survival of the fittest. All other things being equal, as the Power Core Commander with the most balanced looking body, Steamhammer would most likely kill the competition.

Really, I can't understand why the rest of the drones can't look this good.


His articulation as a gestalt is just as limited as the rest though, limited mainly to shoulders, hips, and knees. He's got a neck, but the construction around the head limits the movement to a tiny angle that might as well not exist. He makes up for it with antennae equipped with swivel joints.

He's also got the requisite mini-con ports on his person. His are placed more logically then some of the sets, so go nuts.

Really, this set turned me completely around and brought me back to the place I was before Grimstone. I was on the verge of really enjoying this line after getting Crankcase and Bombshock, but now I'm totally sold. I don't think I'll be getting the other 5-packs, because I can't stand the puny and malformed limbs, but if they keep making new ones with the same attributes of this set, I'll keep buying them.

Grimstone and the Dinobots

Review originally posted on Hippopotami on the Lam on Dec 9, 2010

It sounds like one of those cartoons from the 80's they liked to show on Saturday mornings. Either that or a rock band. It's neither, however. Grimstone and the Dinobots is a boxset of Transformers available at toystores now. It's part the new Transformer subline called the "Power Core combiners". If you're old enough to remember the gestalt (a group of 5 or 6 Transformers who could join together to form one big bot), then you already know what you're in for.
Or you'd think you'd know.

They've gone and changed some things around. For one, it's no longer 5 robots with different personalities. It's just the one robot, in this case Grimstone. The robot, called the Power Core Commander, can control "drones" which are basically power up items, not individuals. These drones don't transform into a robot; they go straight from vehicle (or in this case dinosaur) to their respective limb once they've connected to the Commander.
Jump after the cut for further details...

It's an intriguing concept, but it hasn't been very well executed. Grimstone is part of the 3rd wave of figures in the line. We've already gotten several 5-packs (each with a Commander and 4 drones) and 2-packs (a Commander and a mini-con, which is sort of like a target master/power master weapon). I was looking at Grimstone as the one that would provide proof of concept to me, prove that the Power Core Combiners could really be something great.

Sorry, Hasbro, but no cigar.

There are a few things that the Power Core Combiners have against them. The biggest is the fact that calling them "5-packs" is misleading. You're not getting 5 toys. You're getting 1 toy with 5 accessories.

The drones really aren't anything to write home about. They've only got the two forms, vehicle (or dinosaur) and limb. You'd think that would mean Hasbro would be able to design some nice looking limbs, not those stick figure gestalts that could only goose step. No such luck. They've mostly got knees now, but you're still stuck with a lack of elbows, and many of the other joints are blocked by various kibble.

Most of the drones transform into misshappen claws, or club feet; forms unrecognizable as a hand or a boot. Sure we could argue that "it's an alien robot, it doesn't need to look humanoid", but do we really mean that? We want our robots to look like us, not like Quasimodo.

I also can't believe that they thought the fact that these toys are gestalts wasn't enough of a gimmick. Hasbro (or the designers) decided to make the conversion process of the drones spring-loaded. The blurbs on the box look great to an 8-year old in the toy store, but it's as annoying as fuck to play with. Because of the spring loaded mechanism, the arms and legs tend to fall off constantly, popping out if you touch the parts wrong. Some of the other limbs are also hard to put on, because the parts connected to the machine don't want to drop properly. What really kills me is the fact that if they hadn't been limited to this asinine idea, Hasbro's designers could have come up with more complicated conversion schemes that would have likely netted us more traditional looking mecha that looked more like the concept art on the box.

The third thing is the size of the toys. The Commanders are really just Scout Class toys, which means they stand about 5" tall. When combined with the drones, you get a figure about 8" tall. Original price for the 5-packs was Php 1,500.00; too much for this. Even at the marked down Php 1,000.00, I thought a long time before jumping in.

And have I mentioned those ugly blue nubs that stick out like Superman at a cosplay event?
But wait. Let me start over. The box. It's big, which is weird, considering I just got done telling you the toys were small.


Let's start with the Commander mode.


Really, I can't stand this toy. Its body parts are disproportionate, the dino head doesn't seem to be integrated at all, its got those annoying feet that won't hold him up, and the articulation is awful. Just awful. The less time I spend her the better.


Next up, we've go the dinosaur forms which, quite frankly, is where I'll keep them from now on. The 4 drones scale nicely with the Styracosaurus (Grimstone) and with the Classics Grimlock if you have him. The color scheme also mirrors the old Dinobot silver, gold and red, which is a nice nod to G1.

The other dinos, the drones, have less articulation than Grimstone, mostly just a hinged jaw here, a tail wag there, maybe a bit of a wiggle in the arms. There's the Ankylosaurus (left leg), the Dimetrodon (left arm - it's a Dimetrodon, even if the guys at Hasbro want to name it a "Spinosaurus"), the Pachycephalosaurus (right leg), and the Parasaurolophus (right arm). The Pachycephalosaurus has the best articulation; it's head goes down as his tail goes up, making it look like it's ready to ram it's bonedome into something, which is what it does in real life, so... cool.

The dinosaur modes are really the reason I can't completely hate this set. Having new Dinobots is just so awesome, it somewhat negates the suck that is the rest of the set.

Speaking of which, the big suck. The gestalt.
This isn't my first Power Core Combiner. When the discounts hit, I went out and bought several of them and I got to say that my initial fanboy impressions of them were well on the way to turning when this monstrosity came out. Both Crankcase with the Destrons and Bombshock with Combaticons were pretty great. I also got the 2-packs Huffer and Caliburst, Icepick and Chainclaw, Leadfoot and Pinpoint, and Sledge with Throttle, all of which were fun.
That perception dropped considerably when I got this thing home.



It's like the designers didn't even try to change the dinos into robot parts. The Pachycephalosaurus is just squatting, the Ankylosaurus looks as if someone just kicked it in the ass. Don't get me started on the Parasaurolophus claw. I can live with the Dimetrodon jaw hand, but they didn't even bother to do something with the sail or the tail.

And did I mention that none of the guns actually pivot? Ankylosaurus' cannons point at the ground, and Parasaurolophus ' weapons fire right over Grimstones head.
Really, what is this?

Or this?

Hasbro, please!

Now there are bound to be people who like this toy that are going to try and convince me that it is the shit. That since Hasbro is taking a chance on a new property that isn't supported by a cartoon or a comic or a movie, I should cut them some slack. That it's the greatest thing since comic book superhero movie porn parodies.

However, after seeing all the things that Hasbro IS capable of, this set is just a disappointment to me. I'll keep it because I do love dinosaurs, but it is by no means a must own Transformer.

War Machine

Originally posted on on Mar 22, 2010

I was afraid I wasn't going to be able to get a War Machine from the new 3.75" movie line, but luckily, with the help of Cybertron Philippines and some friends, I was able to score this short-packed figure at the suggested retail price of Php 450.00. For those overseas, that's about $9.00 to $10.00 depending on our exchange rate. Of all the toys released so far, this has got to be the one that really feels worth the asking price.

Though it's not as big as the Iron Monger, it has one of the best sculpts of the line, and comes with some relevant accesories that fit well and really complete the look of the figure.

The Variable Threat Response Battle Suit Mark II, Model JRXL-1000 is worn by James Rhodes, Tony Stark's right hand man in the comics, and his military liason in the movie. As a Vietnam vet and an engineer, he's got skills. He needs all of that training to pilot this thing because it's packing heat.

The list of weaponry is as follows:

  • Repulsors
  • Multifunctional unibeam projector
  • Pulse bolt generators
  • Retractable shoulder minigun
  • variable-configured double-barrel cannons
  • Gauntlet mounted flamethrower
  • Plasma blade on the left gauntlet
  • Heat seeking missile launchers
  • Missile box launcher
  • Micro-rocket launcher
  • Particle beam discharger
  • Electromagnetic pulse generator
  • Pulse cannon
  • Retractable back mounted weapon pods

This doesn't even include his photon emitter force shield, forcefield-based stealth technology, boot-jet propulsion, self-contained breathing system, carbon-composite-based steel mesh armor, solar charged power systems, tactical computer system with automatic laser guided weapons targeting.

Imagine all that coming at you when all you in a war zone, and you'll see why every toy of this guy dissappears from shelves so quickly.

In this case, the figure is just about as accurate as you can get in this scale. I've been checking on various art from the books and it's damn near perfectly matched to the illustrations. This is one mean looking bastard.
His shoulder mounted rocket launcher and Gatling gun are there, as are his arm mounted guns. The unibeam and repulsors can also be seen (though he can't really use the repulsors since his hands are sculpted in place).

The shoulder ordanance actually pivots on their mounts, and slide down his back when not in use. That means he's got a pretty wide kill zone with that chain gun of his.

He comes with some very cool accessories. If you have the 6" War Machine from the old Toy Biz Marvel Legends line, then you remember that he comes with some righteous translucent pieces that attach to his launcher and cannon to simulate what they'd look like in the thick of things. This itty-bitty War Machine also has those and they make him look pretty mean.

I do wish that he came with some boot jets or an exhast stand like the Comic Classic Armor, but if you have some of the other figures in the line, you can add on the flamethrower or repulsor beam attachments to his hands and have a proper party.

The figure also comes with the "armor cards" that are a signature of the line. As a signature I think they're pretty innocuous. Happily, they don't affect the toys' sculpt or articulation in any way and can either be left off or included in the display.

Sadly, there are other things that do hamper his articulation. I don't really understand why, but the designers decided to switch things around with this toy. Rather than have the shoulder armor as a seperate, removable piece like the Power Assualt Armor's, they attached it by a hinge to War Machine's body. That means that when the shoulder guard is down, he looks great, but he can't move his arm foward or back. If you move it up so that the arm can move, it looks awful. Moving the arm to the side looks passable, so that's gotta me your choice if you're going to display him.

The rest of his joints are pretty much on par with the rest of them. He only has a swivel neck, and his torso joint/ab crunch is severly limited due to the chest peice, but I can live with both.

Paint wise, he's one of the most consistent in the line. I saw maybe 8 examples of him at the toy launch and none of them was particularly awful. There was one that had a slightly dark smudge on the lighter silver paint, but it was small error and I'd still have gotten it if that had been the last one left.

Once I had him out of the package, I couldn't help but compare him to the old 6" version. I was never really satisfied with that one because I was bothered with the stocky frame and the long arms, as well as with the faceplate, that kind of reminded me of a monkey. The weapons on that one also felt like afterthoughts. Since the figure was built off the old Silver Centurion mold, that could have been the case. The Gatling gun didn't even point up.

Glad to report that this version looks much better than that one. Better proportions, better hands, better face plate, better guns. Basically all that was wrong with that old toy is improved in this one. Except scale. If this was 3" taller, it would be awesome.

Compared to the other figures in the line, he might he a smidgen taller. Maybe half a head. You wouldn't really notice unless he were standing back to back with another figure. Nice touch since I've always imagined that this thing would have more raw power than Iron Man if only for the fact that he has so much more ordanance to haul around.

So, verdict then?

This time, the hype is right. If you only get one figure from those that have been released locally so far, I'd suggest War Machine. The impressive sculpting, good paint applications, and awesome accessories really sell this toy for me. It's really too bad that it's the hardest one to find, but I'd think that would be the case even if Hasbro had decided to pack this 3 per case.

He's just that popular.

Play Arts Kai Oerba Dia Vanille

Originally posted on on Mar 22, 2010

Having already explained what I love and hate about Final Fantasy in my review of Lightning, I'll let it slide this time. Suffice to say that while I dislike the storytelling of the series, I am in awe of their designs. Vanille is no exception. This particular figure is based on the playable character in Final Fantasy XIII which was just released a week or so ago and is a very nice rendition of the "mysterious but upbeat young girl" as she appears in the game.


Again, like the old Play Arts figures, Oerba Dia Vanille comes in a plainly shaped box with a nice big window on it that shows off most of the figure, as well as the accessories that come with it. She has comes with two extra hands and two versions of her fishing rod; one folded and one extended.

When I first saw these, I had no idea about what the game was about, and I still have no real intention to play it. I thought the rod was some kind of magic staff from some kind of pantheistic religion that the other games seemed to have. Apparently, it's "a foldable fishing rod with multiple lines that can be reeled and used to attack enemies" (Wikipedia).


It looks rather odd to say the least, and I can't fathom how it is actually meant to be effective in combat, but it's a video game, so I'll cut them some slack. I hear that there's anime out there with characters that use giant staplers for weapons, so this is small potatoes right here.

In game, the rod is supposed to fold up and fit behind her back, but like they did with Lightning's Blaze Edge, they just gave us two seperate pieces. A word to the wise, you're going to want to be extra careful with them. I've already broken the folded one twice and had to glue the "arms" to the main body to keep it from snapping off again.

The folded version fits nicely in a pair of hoops that are attached to her fur skirt. The hoops have little nubs in them that are supposed to lock into holes in the skirt, but it doesn't work nearly as well as Lightning's holster. Still, you'd need to really work at it if you wanted the rod to fall out, so it's not a big deal.


The extended staff/rod looks really... ridiculous. There's no other word for it really. As a weapon it doesn't look effective at all, which is why I thought it was a staff or wand for a magic user. Who knows, maybe in game she grows into that role, but you'll need to ask one of those Game reviewers about that.

The staff is pretty slender and fits easily into her clenched pair of hands. It's so slender that it's actually a loose fit, so tends to flop around a lot. Again, it's not a big problem, since there are plenty of ways to pose her where it doesn't matter.



The other thing that's included with the figure is a stand. I've already explained the cons and... cons of this stand so I won't go into to much detail.

Let's just say that it took me FOREVER to balance her in the pose in the second picture below:


Articulation is just as impressive as the other female figure of this line. She's got just as many joints (give or take a few) as Lightning and is just as flexible. Like Lightning, she does suffer from some pretty loose hinges, but that is preferable to locked joints, especially in something that costs this much money (Php 2,300.00).
Below is a peek (pun intended) at the hip joints that Square Enix put into her. If she didn't have that skirt covering that set up, it would be awful, but thankfully, the design really does well in hiding it all.

Sculpt is even more impressive than the first figure. While I have to say I like Lightning more than Vanille overall, I can't fault her design or details. There is so much more here than on the other toy. From the tiny beadwork on her bag and necklace, the awesome pigtails that seem to flow naturally no matter how you turn them (yes, there are joints there, too), to the fur textures on her skirt; all of it is amazing.


The extra pair of hands are included as well, but they're really just soft gesturing poses. Good for casting I guess. I just use one set and left the others in the small box where I keep all my extra body parts. One day I'm gonna collect all those extra parts and make me a monster.


Scale wise... she's a monster. While she's no where near the 12" mark, she's getting there. She's a full head over the old Final Fantasy toys, and taller than even my GI Joe Sigma 6. Sad, really, since I used to display Play Arts and Joes together since the Joe line up was such a sausage fest. Hasbro I hate you for never making a Scarlett figure.

The height is still passable really, if you have them in an action pose, or if you pretend she's a supermodel in heels and the Joes are all Asian.


Overall, I think this was still a pretty good buy, especially since the production runs didn't seem all that crazy, and stores didn't import them in terribly large numbers. If I decide that I don't need to keep her, I could probably get a good price for the figure down the road and only lose a couple hundred bucks or so.

However, if you're going to only buy one of these figures, I'd have to recommend Lightning. She is just so much more impressive than Vanille.

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