Tuesday, 5 April 2016

REVIEW: Badcube OTS-Special 01 Sentinel Blaze


INTRODUCTION
Badcube's Sunsurge was definitely one of the most hotly-anticipated third party releases of last year. Many people had been waiting for years to see a Masterpiece-styled realisation of Sunstreaker, and despite other versions in the works, the company beat them to the punch and delivered what many consider to be a fantastic rendition of the character, and one that almost seamlessly fits with the official line.

So, naturally everyone was quite excited to see what they'd reveal next. What perhaps surprised some was that it was a red repaint of their previous release and not an entirely new mould; the initial reaction was certainly full of questions asking what it was all about! Of course, for those of us in the know, this repaint is an incredibly exciting release that represents a key part of Transformers history, and is something that we've been looking forward to for some time!

Yes indeed, Blaze is a representation of Takara Diaclone Car Robot No.1 Countach LP500S Super Tuning... AKA red Sunstreaker, if you will. Believe it or not, that release was actually the very first Takara car robot (debuting all the way back in 1982!), and is actually considered by many to also be the first fully transforming car-to-robot toy of its kind ever designed. It's an absolutely iconic part of pre-Transformers history, and one that no doubt paved the way for everything we know and love as Transformers to follow in subsequent years. Let's have a quick look at the original figure in all its glory, thanks to an exclusive picture taken specially for this review by the wonderful Maz over at Transformers Square One...

The original "Blaze" - Takara Diaclone Car Robot No.1 Countach LP500S Super Tuning
(big thanks to Transformers Square One for taking the photo!)

Beautiful! But wait, didn't we also have a yellow Sideswipe? Why, yes we did, in the form of Masterpiece MP-12T Tigertrack, which was also a Diaclone homage. You see, back in the pre-Transformers days, the Sunstreaker mould was originally red, and the Sideswipe mould was yellow. Confused? Well, the story doesn't actually end there, believe it or not, but for simplicity's sake let's just say that the characters were originally produced in the alternative colours to how we know them in Transformers.

In any case, far from being a "mere repaint", Badcube have really given us a representation of something quite special, especially as this is actually the first 'updated' representation of red Sunstreaker any company has ever produced! It's fair to say that many of us would have been quite disappointed if they hadn't brought this release to life (as we still will be without a police car version of the mould, but that's a story for another day!), but now that's it's here, how has it turned out? Well, I'm lucky enough to have my hands on a test shot so that I can let you know, so lengthy intro over let's get down to it.

PACKAGING & ACCESSORIES
At the time of writing, the packaging and manuals were not available for review, although I have had word from Badcube that they're working on a new box and bio card etc. As with all of their previous releases, I'm sure we can expect something quite artistic and cool.


Accessories-wise, the test shot comes with Blaze's rifle and two small blasters that can be stored in place of his hands. Whereas the original Sunsurge release came with a set of silver parts that could be used as replacements for the chrome pieces installed by default, Badcube have confirmed that there're no plans to do this with Blaze, on the logic that the original Diaclone figure had chrome. That's fine by me, personally, as the chrome here looks great!


I believe the production release will also come with at least one more alternate face, same as Sunsurge. The test shot only comes with the smirking face, so that's what you can see in my pics! My copy of Sunsurge has the default stoic face on though, so that should give you an idea.

So, he may be a little light on accessories, but still, that doesn't stop him from impressing straight out of the box...

VEHICLE MODE
Wow. That's my first thought about Blaze straight off the bat. There's few joys quite like unboxing a new Masterpiece carbot for the first time, and I credit both Sunsurge and now Blaze as being some of the best third party iterations to replicate that experience. This thing looks absolutely stunning, and no mistake.



Seriously though, what an absolute beauty. I was already a huge fan of the Sunsurge mould, but throwing a little "hot rod red" into the mix has added a world of difference. The entire look and feel of the figure has changed... and suddenly I can see why they've called him Blaze! Lamborghini Countachs would look stunning in any colour, but red is really where they stand out!



If you're familiar with Sunsurge then you'll know what to expect. If you're not, then rest assured that this is about as good as carbot vehicle modes come, whether official or third party. Every angle is superb, every seam and joint is flawless. He fits together like an absolute charm and looks nothing shy of stunning from every angle.



Every angle, you say? What about that weird-looking rear end everyone keeps talking about. Well, yes, it's true that the rear of the car is not accurate to a real-world Countach, but then this is not meant to be a real-world Countach. The engine parts on the back of the car already take this thing out of reality, and besides, the car rear is intended to be accurate to Sunstreaker's on-screen appearance, so I think it was a great choice, personally.


I have to really complement this figure for the lovely fit & finish going on. I've often said that Sunsurge is, to me eye, practically indistinguishable in vehicle mode from a TakaraTomy carbot, but actually I'd go as far as to say that the quality of the paint and other materials used is as good as that line's top tier, and so it is with Blaze also. A simple comparison with the likes of Tigertrack (who I still love deeply!) will show that even the official line can fall down slightly on occasion, whereas Badcube are on top form here. Blaze is truly flawless, not to mention beautiful and shiny to boot.


There's a lot of detailing going on, including shiny chrome rims and intakes, nicely-moulded rubber-ish wing mirrors, not to mention beautifully-detailed plastic moulding. Other nice little touches include the headlights, the Masterpiece-accurate tint of the windshield, and even the cheeky would-be Countach logo. It's all well done and absolutely gorgeous.


As with official carbots, Blaze has the option to store his weapons on top of the car roof, although I have to again compliment this design and say it's some of the best and certainly most natural examples of weapons-storage going. Perhaps it's because of the chrome intakes, but the way the gun sits on top of the car just looks so good, I honestly can't decide if I prefer this mode with or without it! Both the smaller chrome missiles can also be stored either side of the main gun, meaning Blaze is truly armed to the teeth. The only QC issue I noted on Sunsurge was that attaching the missiles in this way had started to rub the silver paint off the tabs on the gun, meaning the missiles ended up flopping a little. I am pleased to report that this doesn't appear to be an issue on this copy so far, touch wood.



So, high praise indeed, but surely there must be some faults, no? Well... I honestly am trying to think of some, but in truth I am just thoroughly enamoured with this thing. That was true of Sunsurge and it's true of Blaze. I guess some folks might be disappointed that there's no diecast at play here, but honestly it doesn't bother me one bit. If anything, it just keeps everything more in line with TakaraTomy's figures.


Blaze is the real deal in vehicle mode - an absolute stunner than any company would be proud of, but how does he compare with some other figures? As you'd expect, he lines up brilliantly next to some of his fellow Diaclone (and Microchange!) homages. I've been a huge fan of these releases in the official line thus far, and it's fantastic to see the iconic red Countach riding alongside them.

With MP-23 Exhaust, MP-21R Bumble (red body), MP-18B Bluestreak, MP-26 Road Rage, MP-12T Tigertrack



And what of comparisons with other Countachs, both red & yellow alike? Well, it's no surprise that he's a wonderful compliment to Tigertrack, and it's a real thrill to see the "reverse" Lambo twins in action. Add to that a real sense of excitement about seeing all four of these figures lined up next to one another. It's like one of those moments that makes this whole hobby so much fun!



(L-R) MP-12 Lambor (Sideswipe), Badcube Sunsurge, Blaze, MP-12T Tigertrack





TRANSFORMATION
OK, let's get this clear right off the bat: this figure has quite an intricate transformation. Much was made of how complicated it is when Sunsurge was first passed round for early in-hand appraisal, yet most of us who have learned to love the mould since its release will tell you that whilst it's certainly not the easiest sequence ever, it's also something that becomes way more familiar with time. I'd actually go as far as to say I do really enjoy it, although I appreciate that's not an opinion everyone shares!



One thing I will say is that it's very clever. I've never seen a conversion quite like it on any other figure! I think this is mostly because of the way in which the roof section comes apart and flips round, leaving the intakes in perfect position on the robot back. Equally, I'm a big fan of the faux chest option, providing a practically-perfect cartoon-accurate representation of this mould's main character versus the G1 animation model. It really is something.



That's not to say that it isn't a challenge, and I will admit that I still scratch my head occasionally even after repeated attempts, especially when going back to vehicle mode and trying to make sure that everything fits just so. However, there really is a lot of remarkable engineering to admire here, and just enough clues along the way to keep everything the right side of intuitive.



One thing that keen-eyed readers will note is that in some of my pics the legs are transformed differently to others, on account of not always snapping the ankle pieces into place at the base of the legs. I'd love to say that this was intentional, but in truth it was only recently pointed out to me that this is actually the correct transformation (in the pub, no less!). Still, I've actually since decided that I prefer the slight mistransformation anyway, especially as it allows for a greater range of motion in the ankles.



Anyway, however correctly you decide to do the whole thing, there's no denying that it's a rather stunning robot mode that you're left with...


ROBOT MODE
I've already sung this figure's praises quite a bit, but man, we haven't even started on the robot mode yet! Suffice it to say, it's certainly not all downhill from here...




Yes, Blaze looks nothing shy of absolutely cracking in this mode too. I was impressed with Sunsurge's robot mode from the very first time I saw the prototype, and my in-hand estimation was no less favourable. Being a straight-up repaint, of course Blaze is equally impressive, though again I'm pleased to see how much of a different character that vibrant red gives him. He really does feel quite different to his mould-mate, and oozes character.

With Badcube Sunsurge


Hot stuff. The red is so shiny and eye-catching that Blaze definitely has a lot of shelf appeal. But what's going on with the yellow bits on the face? A few people have asked about this since the initial reveal of this figure, even specifying that these parts should be red in keeping with the rest of the figure. Well, of course, it's completely intentional, and again is a homage to the original Diaclone figure which was also coloured this way. I actually feel that these bits being red would have been a little too much anyway, and the yellow really helps to make this guy pop, in my opinion.



As with the vehicle mode, there's absolutely tons of lovely detailing going on here, with the black accents and silver intakes nicely breaking up the red. I'm also a big fan of the mould's compact body shape (I really think it's very clever how everything fits together) and proportions, with Blaze feeling like a convincingly-humanoid robot that looks good from just about every angle, despite the whiff of some kibbly bits to the rear.



It also helps that Blaze is beyond poseable. Seriously, that's not hyperbole. This figure is one of the most joyously-articulated figures of recent memory. You name a pose, he can very likely achieve it, or at least come convincingly close. Badcube have done an excellent job on this front, and it really adds a lot to Blaze as a figure. Look at him go!



With FansToys FT-06D Sever

Working from top to bottom, you have a supremely articulated neck that can achieve just about whatever you want from a figure like this; there's double-jointed shoulders and elbows, bicep swivel, wrist swivel and single-point articulated fingers; beneath a welcome waist swivel, there's ball-jointed hips that can achieve a decent bend (especially with the moveable hip skirts out of the way), double-jointed knees and then ball-jointed ankles... which can be further utilised if one untabs the ankles as previously mentioned. Add it all up and this guy is certainly more articulated that your average carbot!



His accessories of course come into good use in this mode also, with the rifle being a formidable-looking piece of weaponry, even if I'd argue that it's actually quite a bit too long for him in this mode. Still, it tabs into the palm of his hand securely enough, and does look good nonetheless. There's also the silver missiles which can be utilised in place of one (or both!) of his hands - just fold the hand away and they tab on simply enough, and they look fantastic.



He can even store all of his weapons on his back when they're not in use - a truly neat touch that personally I really enjoy! It actually makes me miss such a feature on a number of the official carbots.


So, anything bad going on then? Well, I suppose if I was feeling truly nitpicky, I would say that it can be a little fiddly to get his legs into certain poses given just how much articulation is going on, though that really is the very definition of a non-problem! Other than that, the chest doesn't quite lock into place as it should - a fault that was evident on Sunsurge and has sadly been replicated here. It's not a major concern, and is only really even visible if you go looking for it, but I mention it in the interests of being thorough. However, that really is it... otherwise, it's all good stuff!




Which brings us nicely to some of the inevitable comparisons with other figures; needless to say, he lines up nicely next to a range of different Transformers, much the same as Sunsurge, though again he's most at home in a selection of pre-TF characters.

With MP-10 Convoy Mode "EVA" (yeah, ok, he's not Diaclone, I know!)

With FansToys FT-06D Sever and FT-04D Scoria

With MP-26 Road Rage and MP-21R Bumble (red body)

With MP-18B Bluestreak and MP-23 Exhaust

Standing next to his Diaclone brothers, one sees the real value of Blaze as an ensemble piece on top of being a fantastic figure in his own right. The red Countach is as much a glaring omission of the official Masterpiece line's historical homages as Sunstreaker is for the range of cartoon-based characters, and it's great to see both of these holes ably rectified by Badcube.

(L-R) MP-14C Clampdown, MP-26 Road Rage, MP-12T Tigertrack, Blaze, MP-21R Bumble (red body), MP-18B Bluestreak, MP-23 Exhaust


As with the vehicle mode, there's something about seeing both versions of Sunstreaker and Sideswipe lined up that really brings the value of this release to the forefront of the mind. It's just so... perfect.

With MP-12T Tigertrack




CONCLUSION
So, Blaze - terrific homage to an essential piece of Transformers history or shameless, bland cash-in that simply milks a pre-existing mould? I think by now you'll be in no doubt where I fall in my opinion, but if I haven't yet convinced you of this figure's worth, then I doubt I can.

At the end of the day, if you like the Diaclone homages of the official line, then this is a fantastic purchase. If you liked Sunsurge and fancy having a second version of the mould, then this is a fantastic purchase. If you love Lamborghini Countachs or cool cars in general, then this is a fantastic purchase. Hell, if you have eyes and just enjoy things that are really awesome, then this is a fantastic purchase.

My only hope is that Badcube see fit to also bring us that police car variant of this mould. Still no idea what that's about? Well, I'm going to leave that story for now in the hope of one day telling it in a future review.

What's HOT?
Pretty much everything! This is a fantastic mould and a beautifully finished deco', not to mention a wonderful homage of an essential piece of pre-Transformers history. Insta-buy.

What's NOT?
I know some will think the transformation is very complicated, though personally I like it. And, umm...

Thanks again to Maz over at Transformers Square One for the Diaclone Countach pic. Do be sure to check out his own review of Blaze here!


4 comments:

  1. You have a new follower in your blog, my friend ;-)
    As I said in your Facebook days ago, this Diaclone version is incredible, I love it. Well, your photos are awesome also XD

    Thanks for share!!!

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    1. Aw, thanks! So pleased that you enjoyed it. :)

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  2. Thank you for the review. You're very professional.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, thanks! I try my best. :D

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