Whoooah-oh, we’re four fifths there: MakeToys Guardia

We’re on the home stretch for MakeToys Guardia1 with the recent releases of Himed & Katana, that means it won’t be long until this Independent Transforming Toy2 version of the Transformer combiner Defensor is complete. Vulcan, their Hotspot, seems to be a way off, but considering how quickly MakeToys are shifting product I’m pretty sure it’ll come around quickly. Anyway, so where are we at?

It seems like an age since Axle & Rover got released, respectively Protectobots Groove & Streetwise, but it was only last November. It felt like their arrival went quietly unnoticed in the furore of Masterpiece scaled Transformers with MakeToys’s own Gun Dog3 seeing release at the same time, much as Himed & Katana have shared the limelight with Hellfire4, Wrestle5 & Iron Will6. So these two limb-bots7, both serving as Guardia’s shin-pads, sneaked out and were moderately well received. Axle took the brunt of the criticism because he’s frankly a strange egg.

Scale has always been Defensor’s issue, with two similarly sized vehicles (a police car and ambulance) acting as limbs to the sensibly larger fire truck, but with an arm made from a Huey8 and a leg consisting of a police motorbike. Rather than making an attempt to correct this oddity MakeToys ran with it and made a bizarrely large motorbike. It’s a good motorbike mode, no doubt, but it’s oddly large and has resulted in a robot mode that could politely be described as “spindly”. In truth Axle looks like someone took a Transformers movie design and put one of their crisp, gorgeous headsculpts along with their (surely trademarked?) gripping/trigger hands. It’s biggest flaw comes from the bike’s seat, which serves as a midriff/crotch combo that looks unusual at best and serves as the “whuh?” moment when trying to get him to stay solid.

Scramble! The Guardia team in action (except Axle/Groove because that would look a bit silly)
Scramble! The Guardia team in action (except Axle/Groove because that would look a bit silly)

In sharp contrast to Axle there’s Rover, who is about as solid as a transforming robot can get. Both modes are gleefully chunky and he can hold a strong pose. He clunks and clicks in a way Axle can only dream of, not that everything pegs in since the car doors just kind of sit there on the back of his legs doing a very good job of not pegging in to anything. My big problem with him, and one I’m coming up against more an more with Independent Transforming Toys, is that his transformation is just frustrating, mostly going back to car mode. Going to robot mode still isn’t easy, with the major pain coming from the rear quarter. The boot breaks in two and unfolds, but not quite because you have to slide some bits on a slider first to unlock its ability to slide on another slider.  He still has a Clever BitTM, in the way his feet form with some slidey-flippy actions that keep the clear plastic of his lights clear of whatever he’s standing on, but there’s just too much pulling & pushing and it’s altogether far more annoying than you’d want.

So far so so-so… but then we have Himed and Katana to maybe turn the transforming heat up a bit.  Maybe.  One thing I really wasn’t expecting, despite both of these being the arms for Guardia, was for them to share so much of their transformation.  One’s an ambulance, the other a helicopter, but sure enough the vehicle’s fronts unfold and rotate the same way, the arms are stowed in the same position in vehicle mode, and the legs lengthen with a similar unlocking system.  But they feel different.

Himed’s ambulance is pretty plain.  It’s not that ambulances aren’t plain, it’s more that he feels plain compared to his brethren: Axle has his red lights, the engine gubbins and black seat breaking up the white; Rover has a split of black and white, his silver bull bars and grille, as well as the blue & red lights and the swish Sheriff symbol on his flanks; Katana has his bold two tone body, a white stripe among red, with silver for windows.  Himed is white.  He has the blue for his side windows but they do little to break up how much white there is.  This becomes more obvious when you start transforming him and his predominant colour turns out to be red, with white and grey/silver flashes and the white reserved for his folded up backpack and thighs.  Himed looks good, I mean real good, when in robot mode.  He’s not perfect, mind you, with his arms being attached to this swivelling part that seems to want to come loose and, bizarrely, isn’t even needed for either of his own modes so is presumably just for his limb mode.  If that locked in there the way it seems to think it should he would be the best of the bunch, especially with that headsculpt that really screams More Than Meets The Eye9.

Look at this beauty - MakeToys Katana
Look at this beauty – MakeToys Katana

I left Katana to last because I really love this figure.  He’s not without flaws, by god he’s got some flaws, but he really feels a step above the others  His helicopter mode is simply stunning.  It’s like MakeToys saw Alpha Bravo10 and had this conversation:

“Could we do better?”
“Oh yeah, we could do way better.”
“Have you got this?”
“Yeah, we’ve got this.”

Okay, so while it’s stunning there is an issue.  It is the elephant in the room and this elephant is a very angry bull.  A hairy bull.  The elephant is a mammoth.  It’s the blades.  They are iffy.  They’re worse than iffy.  The concept is superb, take the helicopter blades and turn them into a sheathed sword.  In practice the blades just about lock into position for helicopter mode and folding them up into the sword-sheath will end up with at least one of the blades coming loose from the post or, as some people have found, snapping.  Okay, enough about the blades, let’s talk robot mode.  It’s good.  It’s real good.  The upper half is great.  There’s still that odd rotating part that Himed has problems with, but it’s less prone to wander here.  The chest looks fantastic, coming off like a mixture of flight-gear straps and wiring, and the headsculpt is mean.  His legs are largely excellent, but the tail of the helicopter has to go somewhere and in that we have small problem.  They tab in securely to the outsides of the legs, but the tail section is so long that the tail rotor ends becomes a pain to keep from colliding with the thighs and waist as you attempt to put him into a pose.  Don’t get me wrong, he looks great, but he doesn’t play as great as he looks, which is a real shame.

The Guardia team, defending you... with guns!
The Guardia team, defending you… with guns!

Reading through the above it does look good for the Guardia team but, honestly, I absolutely love them all.  Stood together they look fantastic, they have a coherent colour scheme of white, red & gold, but look totally distinct.  Okay so Axle still stands out because of his more unusual design, and not having a red centre mass in robot mode, yet he’s still undeniably a MakeToys figure and still has the same level of presence as his teammates.  The big question will be how often these guys see these robot modes.  Much like FansProject’s versions of the Stunticons every one of them makes for a neat individual toy, but ultimately you buy combiners to combine them.  So we just have to hope that MakeToys know what they’re doing11 and that Vulcan brings his crew together to make for an impressive Guardia.


References   [ + ]

1. Part of the MakeToys MTCombiner line.
2. I’ve given up using the term 3rd Party for lent… and trying to give it up forever.
3. MakeToys RE:Master version of the Transformer Hound.
4. MakeToys RE:Master version of the Transformer Inferno
5. Yet another RE:Master release, this time their version of Grapple.
6. Yup, RE:Master again, this time a version of the Headmaster Hardhead.
7. As in they turn into limbs of another robot… it’s a combiner thing.
8. The Bell UH-1 Iroquois which became famous thanks, unfortunately, to the Vietnam War.
9. The comic.  From IDW.  It’s good.  You should read it, even if you’re not a Transformers fan.
10. Hasbro’s replacement for the Aerialbot Slingshot aka Quickslinger, released in Combiner Wars.  They subsequently released Slingshot, as Quickslinger, so it was a bit odd.  But the toy was good, except for the helicopter blades which you just have to stuff somewhere you hope they might not end up in the way.
11. Here’s a hint: they do.  Largely.  I mean I don’t know what that Chaos Paladin was all about, not that he was a terrible toy, but why Powercore Combiners?