- Name: Constructicons
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- Char. Design:
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Review by VF5SS
Heavy Metal War remains one of my favorite episodes of the original Transformers cartoon. While local stations were still airing episodes in syndication, they were usually on some random Season 3 episode which was broadcast early in the morning. Thanks to the emerging home video market, however, my VHS copy of Heavy Metal War frequently found itself in the tape player to entertain me for about a half hour. I still have the tape in its old yellow clam-shell video rental packaging.
I learned very quickly to mute the TV during the Family Home Entertainment intro.
As the final episode in Transformers’ short first season, Heavy Metal War had everything a kid could want out of Transformers. While the plot to most Transformers stories involved the Decepticons trying to steal Earth's energy resources, this episode centered around a one-on-one duel between Autobot leader, Optimus Prime and his nemesis, Megatron. According to Cybetron law, the loser of the duel would be exiled to deeper space for eternity, while the winner would stay where he chooses. Of course Megatron would never fight fair, and using the help of the newly created Constructicons, he planned to use their engineering brilliance to transfer the powers of the other Decepticons into his body. What followed was an epic battle (which probably lasted only three minutes) where Megatron unleashed the might of all the Decepticons upon Optimus Prime.
This was the debut episode for the Constructicons. No one knew what to expect out of these mysterious green construction vehicles. After boldly stealing several high tech energy components from a construction site full of those ubiquitous hardhat guys, they were sent off to destroy the Autobot's home base computer in order to prevent the discovery of Megatron's trickery.
I was not quite old enough to get an original Generation 1 Constructicon set. I did have a paltry three old green ones as hand-me-downs from a friend of the family. They had a very miscellaneous combiner parts, but with only three I would never fully experience the grandeur of the Constructicons until Generation 2 hit the stores in 1992. Before TakaraTomy brought us the Encore re-issue and before the Constructicons became the most bootlegged toys ever, the Generation 2 set was the only legitimate way to get new Constructicons in North America. The only major change was their color, as the team now sported a slightly more authentic yellow in place of the classic green. Every few weeks I eagerly awaited the chance to get a new Constructicon and complete the image of one of the most memorable moments in Transformers.
Just one caveat before I begin the review. I do not have any of the individual Constructicon weapons anymore because, like any child, I could not be arsed to keep track of little guns that did not store on the figures in some way. Such is my life.
Scavenger is a common excavator or power shovel. Any child would have seen dozens of these and the thought of owning one that was also a Transformer was truly radical. Now, my toy has an obvious difference in its shovel arm when compared to the typical yellow Generation 2 Constructicon. Let's just say my first dog always reminded me why I shouldn't leave my toys on the floor.
Freddie was a good boy.
An ingenious move on the part of Takara's designers was the inclusion of an "attack mode" for each Constructicon that would utilize a combiner piece as a vehicle mode weapon. The original Generation 1 toy had a (weakened) launcher mechanism that could fire either a large fist or a chrome drill. The Generation 2 version removed this function entirely. As such, Scavenger's attack mode is just for part storage now.
In robot mode, Scavenger is a little scrawny. Like most of the Constructicons, he's rockin' the panel head. Poor Scavenger's toes don't quite reach the ground, so he has a tendency to lean forward all the time. Also please not that the sticker of the Decepticon symbol is heavily faded on all of these figures. The weird blue ink these used on just these stickers faded within a few months of play, which is odd since none of the other stickers aged quite so quickly.
Mixmaster is another common construction vehicle, a cement mixer. His little drum spins and his odd purple windshield only covers the front of the cab, thus revealing that the Constructicons do indeed drive themselves.
I do own an original Generation 1 release as well. Note the removal of the little trigger near the hopper in the Generation 2 toy. This was meant to launch the small chromed double missile accessory in robot mode.
Mixmaster's attack mode is fairly simple. Just plug the large (and slightly chewed) rifle into the roof of the cab and you've got a truck with a gun on top. Scary~
In robot mode, Mixmaster is a competent toy. His lower legs are somewhat ill defined, but the rest of him is quite compact and pleasing. His head is not just a face on a slab like the others, which in addition to the overhanging (non-functional) launcher, adds some character. Plus his arms still work, and that's a big plus in my book.
Also, did you even notice that if you look at the little screws on his body along with the detailing on the right side of his chest that Mixmaster appears to have a small truck molded into his detailing?
Poor long-suffering Long Haul. He didn't join this outfit to be a dump truck, and age has worn heavily upon his body. My Long Haul no longer stays together in vehicle mode, so now he is the world's saddest earth mover.
On the bright side, he still has his working truck bed. And by working I mean you can put stuff in it because it's bucket shaped.
Attaching two of the most nondescript parts to the bed of Long Haul creates his attack mode. As a bonus, the smidgen of extra weight on the back straightens out the old truck mode.
As a robot, Long Haul is again just a competent figure. He certainly set the standard for almost every dump truck Transformer to follow, and his simple lines and details are a testament to that classic Takara SF toy aesthetic. Once again, that squiddamn symbol is a thousand times more faded than the nifty stickers on his legs. I guess some blue ink exists in a different time stream than the rest of us.
From the rear we can see the common Generation 2 tampo printed faction marker. Using a face derived from some European figure, each Generation 2 Decepticon was afforded at least one permanent mark of their allegiance.
Bonecrusher is a bulldozer, so he can push stuff around. At least in theory he can. You see, for whatever reason, Takara decided to forgo the common design of putting little wheels on non-functional treads so that little kids could have the joy of scraping the bottom of their toy against the floor. Scavenger has this problem too, but at least he can still do his job while remaining stationary. Also note the scotch tape being used to keep the faction symbol in place. That's vintage tape, baby.
Fear the mighty fistdozer as it fists you while pushing you away.
Just for comparison here is my Generation 1 Bonecrusher. The roof over the tiny seat is commonly broken on used copies of this toy. My Generation 2 Bonecrusher only has a hopelessly loose roof. Also note the rubsign on the dozer blade which confirms that this is indeed a legitimate Transformer.
Bonecrusher has one of the sillier robot modes of his teammates. The Pop-Eye arms do have the most articulation out of the group, but the dozer blade brassiere always looked kind of off. I also love how, in placing faction symbols on re-purposed Diaclone figures, the instructions often had you putting one sticker over another.
Now we have Hook. He was named after the popular movie starring Dustin Hoffman and is the most feature-laden out of all the vehicles. He has a fully rotatable crane that can also extend. You could use the little chrome hook to pick up things, but then you would probably just break it. I know because this is either my second or third Hook. Toys 'R' Us was very nice to me back then.
By attaching what is clearly not a head with a gun stuck on the side you get Hook's attack mode. It's slightly more functional than either Scavenger's or Bonecrusher's. The way it impedes the crane boom from resting properly isn't winning any favors.
Hook is the most handsome of all the Constructicons. Being the only one with an actual mouth, you can just hear his voice as he talks about how perfect he is at everything. He's also the most perfect at breaking because the arms liked to destroy the shoulders when you pulled them out from the body. I actually disassembled the toy so I could sand down the place where the shoulders slide out in order to avoid this tragedy from happening again. Finally, note the remnants of scotch tape that at one time kept Hook's faction symbol in place. It has been lost in time like energon in acid rain.
Since his transformation consists mostly of just making a crane stand on its cab, Hook is kinda back heavy. Fortunately, his crane boom acts as a handy stabilizer.
Scrapper was usually portrayed as the leader of the group because he had a cool voice. Much like Bonecrusher, he has an open seating arrangement for the unnecessary driver. The roof part itself is simply pegged into the toy and is sometimes missing on used Scrappers. Note the scrunched up Decepticon symbol in his armpit area. That sucker has been hanging on for dear life for nearly twenty years.
Adding a big techno wing to Scrapper allows him to fly around at 60 miles per hour so that he may construct things in the sky.
As part of Scrapper's transformation, you pull his head out, which allows you to swing his scooper up on his back. In theory, pushing his head back in will raise the two locking posts that keep the scooper from pivoting straight up in vehicle mode. This has never worked on my Scrapper. At least he can raise his hollow arms in defiance.
The big reveal at the end of Heavy Metal War was when the infiltrating Constructicons met up with the mighty Dinobots and were forced to retreat out of the Autobot's home base.
When the Dinobots brought out the heavy artillery, the Constructicons did the same...
Constructicons! Transform, phase one!
Now, transform! Phase two!
Prepare to meet your doom!
Nothing can withstand the might of...
We have arrived at one of the biggest (geddit) moments in Transformers history. The debut of the first Combiner in the franchise. And no, Reflector doesn't count. Six Transformers all combined with the help of some slick Toei animation into one gigantic robot that managed to toss the Dinobots around like children's playthings! It wasn't until Autobot Hound used some of his holographic trickery that Optimus was able to exploit a plot hole in Devastator's construction to disassemble the giant with one blast.
So here's where the reality intrudes on the fantasy. While Devastator is a classic Transformer and is easily one of the most recognizable and important moments in the history of the brand, what you see him doing here is about all he can do.
Sure, putting him together is fun (in theory), but once you wrestle with the ancient plastic and metal connectors while hoping all the bits don't develop more stress marks, you've got a classic Transformers brick, and not even a very stable one.
Here's a shot of the back, which is less kind than the front view.
Devastator always carried the burden of being an original Diaclone toy that was re-purposed as a character for American children. He is a Japanese toy to the very core as he is filled with numerous tiny parts and details, while the combination gimmick dominates his structure. All I dared do with him as child was put him together and set him next the other (more durable) Transformers of Generation 2. Heck, I'd even say the re-released Scramble City style combiners like Superion and Bruticus were the better Combiners in the line.
I loved Devastator. He just wasn't built for playtime.
All that said, he is still a beautiful piece in his own right. The Combiner head is instantly recognizable as belonging to Devastator no matter how many times they switched between the superior toy-like appearance and the doofy Floro Dery design in the cartoon. The gun stuck in his temple is silly, but at least it is removable. The way Hook folds in half to form Devastator's upper torso is iconic and perfectly frames his head with the image of the vehicles he's built from.
Devastator's right arm always carries his large rifle, and coincidentally is the only arm that is totally unimpeded by the chest wing. His elbow is merely a friction joint, so I had to prop it up using Scavenger's shovel arm. Still, even this rickety old (and slightly chewed) Transformer is a sight to behold.
The closeness of Bonecrusher to the body coupled with the tenuous connection to Hook leave's Devastator's left arm somewhat limited to what it can do as far as articulation. Raise it up and it bumps into the chest wing. The wing itself is only held on by one peg and a small bracket that barely connects to Hook's front bumper. I think this is also a Generation 1 chest wing, as it is a slightly darker shade of purple.
The elbow of each arm is a simple peg and hole joint that is very thin near the joint itself. Mine broke and had to be glued back together. Because of the small gap between the cup of the joint and the main forearm, it is forever at a slight angle due to how my father repaired it.
One unfortunate aspect to Devastator's design is his near complete lack of thighs. Long Haul’s exposed thighs create the illusion of a proper body, but in the end it is just a flat plate that Mixmaster and Scrapper snap onto. Getting the leg plate into Long Haul is a chore on my toy as you will see in the video. Also note the scotch tape that's keeping one of the crotch guard stickers in place. Again, that's vintage tape.
For a time, this was the Devastator I had to play with. To my knowledge the Generation 2 Constructicons were never released as a set and had to be purchased one at a time. In some countries he was also released in Cheddar cheese orange so that may conquer your snack crackers. I have to confess, mixing old and older Constructicons does not work as smoothly as you may think. Changes in tolerances due to degradation of the molds means the green guys don't want to work with the yellow guys.
Despite Devastator's importance to the franchise, the classic design has remained relatively unchanged since the 1980's. After the Generation 2 release, the Constructicons quickly rose from the grave each Easter as part of baskets filled with cheap candy and even cheaper toys. For decades on end, a veritable rainbow of Constructicons hung on the shelves of dollar stores and pharmacies. Sometimes they could combine (in theory) and sometimes they were smaller than the original toys thanks to ancient Chinese shrink rays as developed by the Mandarin. It had become such a joke in the community that the powers that be would never release a proper new Devastator. This has lead to some legitimately illegitimate companies throwing their hats into the ring with Constructicon inspired robots that combine into huge faux-Devastators. Others decided to release new parts that one could use with classic Construticons in order to create a more articulated Devastator. Of course, these add-ons can't change the fact that poor ol' Devy has no ankles, or even proper feet. To end the tyranny of bootleggers, TakaraTomy finally decided to re-issue the original Generation 1 Constructicon boxed set as part of the Encore line. Granted, it costs about as much as a vintage figure would, but that's the way the Yen rises against the dollar. I have decided to abstain from these products (unless I see a cartoon accurate Skyfire) in the vain hopes of a proper modern Devastator.
In the end, my Generation 2 Devastator still silently guards my shelf as one of the memorable toys of my youth. I look at him and remember all the times he fell apart as I picked him up the wrong way and each time a new stress mark would appear when I tried to put his pieces together and sigh.
Devastator is the most wonderful awful toy I own, and I will always love him for that.
|Posted 20 November, 2011 - 22:07 by VF5SS|