This article started off as a companion piece to my recent editorial about Combiner Wars being samey. I wanted to sing some praises, and talk about my favourites, but I realised it was turning into a list of the four combiner teams I have, and that would have been dull. Then I thought, let's buck the trend, and talk about the toys without the crutch that is combining. Most of the CW toys make sacrifices for the that gimmick, while those problems get glossed over thanks to the combined form. If you just spent a hundred plus, most people tend to want to forgive a few flaws. But let's assume for a second you can't afford or haven't been able to find the six or so toys required to complete a team. Or maybe the combining thing isn't that important to ya. What do you buy in Combiner Wars? Today, I answer that hypothetical question, and list the ten best toys in Combiner Wars which don't rely on a family of other toys to be great. So far. And in an informal, jokey manner.
Rules, Honourable Mentions, And Toys I Don't Have
This list is based on toys I actually own, and don't come in a boxset. This means you won't find any of the Constructicons, even though two of them could make the short-list, because you can only get them as a set. TakaraTomy releases are excluded for the same reason. Toys which could have made the list, if only I'd got them, include leader class Thundercracker and voyager Cyclonus being surprisingly comprehensive retools, and leader Megatron for reasons that will become clear. Toys I have that get honourable mentions despite not making the cut are deluxe Alpha Bravo and legend Groove. Both are good, just not quite enough for today's article, with Bravo being most obviously a limb. Two toys I'd expect to make this list when released are voyager Sky-Lynx and legend Shockwave. Assuming they are good.
Number Ten: Powerglide (Legend)
This version of Powerglide is the best toy this character has ever got, by having a startling resemblance to the 1980's cartoon. The presentation in robot mode is basically flawless,with notably nice paintwork, but his other forms place him low in today's rankings. His hands are exposed in jet mode, the gun isn't overly compelling, and both forms suffer from tabbing issues in the legs. Still a nice toy though.
Number Nine: Bombshell (Legend)
An easily forgotten part of Wave 1, Bombshell is a nice little legend toy. Posability is solid to good, and fidelity to the G1 design is quite close. He also has an extremely nice paint job and good plastic colours. His only real sacrifice to the scale is an absent neck joint, and for a tenner, its hard to dislike this guy. He is however a little weird for having signs of an abandoned third mode, with his gun hands and peg knees, but he does his two actual modes better than Powerglide does his three.
Number Eight: Offroad (Deluxe)
One those of unpopular “he's not G1, he's replaced a G1 dude, so I hate him” characters, Offroad gets onto this list based on fun factor, and a nice truck mode. He's got an axe he can hold two-handed, six 5mm ports in good places, and a specialised tab for his combiner piece in truck mode. He also looks pretty good in both forms, with some solid posability and the mould makes more sense here than it does in most of its reuses. He's not flawless, with kibble issues(1), but an axe wielding maniac with an interesting design history is easily enjoyed.
Number Seven: Motormaster (Voyager)
The only torsobot to make this list, Motormaster is an extremely successful remould, almost to the point it seems he's the original, not Optimus Prime. Why is this? Well, the robot mode is perfect for the character, the head being excellent, and the vehicle is about as good as you could get without going full G1, violating scale and common sense. Unlike almost every other voyager(2) in the line, his almode isn't badly compromised, and hides the robot mode almost completely. The yes, Optimus versions of the same mould do similar, but Motormaster looks good if proportioned like a gorilla, Prime doesn't. If you want a big ugly bully with a big sword, this is the one you want, but try to find a later version with the modified hips.
Number Six: Armada Megatron (Leader)
A gift to Unicron Trilogy fans, and those who want a cheap alternative to the G1 silver version, Armada Megs is tough. Unlike most of the modern leader class, this toy feels like it could survive a fall from the shelf, and benefits from a rotating turret, AND real rolling tracks. Play value is also pretty good thanks to Mini-Con posts, a firing missile, loads of 5mm ports, and two additional guns that combine. He's a bit stiff in the joints, and the retooling could have gone further, but he's a dramatic improvement over the Armada toy. Reviewed here.
Number Five: Ultra Magnus and Minimus Ambus (Leader)
No, this is not a combination. Take some time to read the More Than Meets The Eye comic, to learn the context(3). This set is probably the best overall leader scale toy out so far with lots of play features, an IDW style robot mode, an Animated style hammer, and an 80's altmode. He's big, he's awesome, and he does everything you want from a Magnus, except have a white version of Optimus Prime inside him. He has a little dude with a moustache instead, which is considered a fatal flaw by some, but they are wrong. Complaints about the loose hands and hollow bits are however justified. Reviewed here.
Number Four: Dead End (Deluxe)
Easily the best deluxe in wave 2, Dead End is a consistently great performer. The car mode is the most attractive in the line, the robot mode is a looker too, and play value is almost as good. His club is something of a marmite, but he can hold it like a tonfa, and there's three 5mm points for storage. Dead End however slips down this list due to that unpainted bicep problem, some tolerance issues, and Hasbro's apparent desire to use the mould at every opportunity. Speaking of which....
Number Three: Protectobot Streetwise (Deluxe)
I debated with myself a lot about the presence of this toy and its position in relation to Dead End. Yes, its a remould. Combiner Wars gets a lot of stick for reusing toys, including from me, but if Hasbro did every reuse like this one, we'd be laughing. Here they took the already great Dead End, swapped out some 75% of the parts, fixed the bicep issue, replaced the club with a triple barrelled shotgun, and took nothing else away. He's also a lot easier to find than Dead End, as Wave 3 made it to the UK. Reviewed here.
Number Two: Blackjack (Legend)
Blackjack is unique amongst this list for making no real compromises for combination, while doing absolutely everything else right. Posability? Great for the size. Car mode? Nice to look at, with weapon storage. Transformation? Fun, and seemingly completely new. Robot mode? Posable, and colourful. Paint applications? Simple, but effective. Play value? Has his own accessory to back up his jointage. The toy is ideal for the price point.
And now number one, and you should be able to guess who it is...
Number One: Protectobot Rook (Deluxe)
TakaraTomy didn't want this guy. So much so they created a completely new version of Groove for their Protectobot boxset. Clearly, they weren't making that choice on merit, because Rook is the probably the best deluxe in all of Combiner Wars, and certainly the best new character the line has introduced. A large part of this is his use of his combiner accessory and his unusual fist ports which are sculpted like guns and face forward. This allows Rook to have HULK HANDS which is endless fun, smashing people with his combiner accessory, and there's numerous 5mm ports on the guy, so you load him up with all kinds of stuff. The overall appearance is excellent, with robot mode using some good tricks to appear bigger, and the vehicle mode actually leaving gaps in the plastic for view-silts. Articulation in robot mode is higher than average at 16 points, thanks to ankle tilts, and the vehicle mode can put the combiner piece on top as a turret. Or on the front, so you have an APC that punches things. Reviewed here.
- And regrettable tolerance issues that affect arm mode, but we ain't talking about combining today.
- Please let Sky-Lynx be an exception too.
- You'll thank me later.