Review by VF5SS
Giant robots and dinosaurs go together like peanut butter and chocolate or unicorns and glitter. The legendary Dinobots from the Transformers permeated throughout toy culture and spawned numerous bootlegs and imitators. From the depths of my childhood toys comes a lesser known group of dino-based transforming robots. For your dino delectation, I give you DINO SQUAD!
Now I did not purchase my Dino Squad figures on a card like this. Rather they were sold all together on one of those half boxes with plastic bubbles on the front. You know the type as they often used for cheap knockoffs of Transformer combiners. I was really happy to find this image of the original card back as it gave me both a name to these toys and the name of the manufacturer: Tatsumiya. So these guys join the ranks of other cheapie transforming toys out of Japan that aren't really bootlegs but are clearly aping some other popular brand. It's kinda like when The Calling burst onto the music scene to capitalize on Lifehouse's smooth gravely voiced crooning.
Dino-Squad is a strikingly colorful crew of four robotic dinosaurs who can be best described as "chunky as hell" looking. As a four bot team they cover the usual spread of dinosaurs with a big blue Tyrannosaurus Rex, a grand green Brontosaurus, a bulky bronze Triceratops, and a beefy burgundy Stegosaurus. I was able to keep these guys in pretty good condition over the years. Sadly, some of their chromed weapons are missing.
I want to cover these guys in order of their relative coolness so let's start off with the aptly named Brontobot. Because the Apatosaurus didn't exist when I was a kid, this guy transforms into a Brontosaurus. Brontobot is embarrassed about how his name is so horrendously out of date. I curse the way science with its adherence to fact checking and peer review has affected the legitimacy of my toys.
Brontobot is done in a perfect combination of green and yellow plastic that just screams "toy" with some basic gold paint apps to add variety. A simple paper stick on each side of the dino's body provides some simple tech detailing. On top of his back is a chunky chromed triple blaster. While you can move his legs in this mode there isn't much you can do with him other than stand him straight up. Sadly his robot head is both clearly visible in this mode and is also placed in a hilariously inappropriate position.
With a few twists and turns, Brontobot converts into his robot mode. Because of his transformation he is the only member of Dino Squad who has a waist joint.
Brontobot is a fairly basic looking robot with his predominately yellow body being almost entirely separate from the green dinosaur shell. I can't help but chuckle at how his hands are too small to hold his weapon normally so instead the triple blaster just plugs into the side of either hand.
Despite having functional knees due to his transformation, Brontobot's nearly immobile hips and copious amounts of excess dino-parts make it difficult to pose him from the waist down. He can at least menacingly shake his triple blaster wielding fist at nearby pedestrians and museum goers.
In fact the entirety of the dinosaur mode remains nearly untouched by the transformation.
Because of this, Brontobot is a really deep robot. He's the kind who likes to contemplate the nature of his existence over a cup of expensive coffee.
His head design looks pretty gundamn familiar though. A lot of the off-brand robots I own have a similar visage.
Next up is Stegobot. Despite his blocky aesthetics, he is one of the most minimalist and streamlined Stegosaurus robots I have ever seen. Like Brontobot, Stegobot is meant to have a chromed blaster weapon that pegs into his back.
He almost looks more like a spiny mole creature than a dinosaur. While he also suffers from visible head syndrome, at the very least this time his robot noggin isn't coming out of his dinobutt.
I find the mechanical detailing stickers on these guys to be quite charming. They look like something a kid would draw up with markers.
Overall this Stegosaurus is pleasingly compact and simple.
Stegobot fits in quite well with his stego-brethren in this almost Darwinian picture.
Like his squad mate, Stegobot has a simple transformation.
Stegobot's robot mode is not quite as elaborate as Brontobot's but is executed much better. He has a lot more details on his body that echo the style of a Transformer without crossing into ripoff territory. Also, Brontobot and Stegobot share the same type of arms which means one can borrow a weapon from the other.
The smaller head and shorter tail make the dino-backpack a little less egregious.
The chromed head is also undeniably Japanese in its design.
While not as heavy or imposing as his mainstream relative, Stegobot does not suffer from constantly falling backwards due to weak knees. Granted this is partially because he has nonworking knees but he'll take all the compliments he can get.
Alongside another familiar looking dino robot, Stegobot remains a bit more substantial looking.
All robot dinosaur teams are required to have a Triceratops by law and Dino Squad is no exception. Tritoppobot's bronze colored exterior fits the rugged solidarity of his dinosaur mode. The only unfortunate gaffe in this mode is the big gap in the dinosaur's signature frill. Only one of Tritoppobot's chromed shoulder guns has stood the test of time.
At first glance, Tritoppobot's dinosaur mode appears to have lot more bulbous curves in dinosaur mode than the previous two. While being blocky, the design of the figure is pretty evocative of the real animal.
Tritoppobot's transformation is a bit more elaborate than his squad mates and has a clever trick where the main torso of the robot remains parallel to the ground as the rest of the dinosaur shifts around to complete the conversion. Like Brontobot, Tritoppobot has functional knees and even working hips.
A hidden switch makes Tritoppobot's head rise up out of his torso.
The finished robot looks like a real bruiser. Functional bicep swivels let this guy get his "dino power" on. You may notice that the soles of his feet do not extend all the way to the heel so the extra dino legs are absolutely necessary to keep Tritoppobot from falling over.
I find his distribution of dino bits quite pleasing to the eye with the main bulk of the Triceratops mode forming a heavily armored back plate.
His singular sticker looks like some kind of strange energy core.
A Triceratops's frill nicely frames the chromed robot head.
Last but most certainly note least is Tyranobot! The imposing image of a Tyrannosaurus Rex is expertly captured in this somewhat puffy looking robot. This guy is my favorite member of Dino Squad with his strange abstract mechanical forearms and beefy body.
Tyranobot's dinosaur mode seems to be stuck between the outdated "tail sitter" rendering of a T-Rex and the modern streamlined look. This is about as much as you can get him off his small tail as he'll topple if you lean him too far forward.
I can tell the designers put a lot of effort into this figure even if all their ideas didn't quite mesh together. His robot mode head is only partially hidden by the T-Rex's head and becomes clearly visible when you open up the jaw.
There's also another of those cool looking mechanical detailing stickers on the T-Rex's chest. Unfortunately it gets covered up by the dinosaur head in robot mode.
You can also find a pair of stickers on either side of the T-Rex's body. These are actually asymmetrical as his right side has an extra bump for some reason so the sticker is shortened to compensate.
This guy is definitely the king of my meager Tyrannosaurus collection. Tyranobot's look is so utterly unique that he just stands out in a crowd. Even his transformation is something that needs to be seen to be believed.
Just look at this guy! The arms and wings of the T-Rex mode are now two sets of wings! While still kind of blocky and awkward, Tyranobot definitely looks like the leader of the group.
The T-Rex's head forms a prominent chestplate that evokes a kingly presence.
Due to how the tail splits in half to form a set of wings, Tyranobot's rear is much cleaner than those of his subordinates.
And if there's one thing I absolutely love about this guy it's that the designers felt that just making his feet tall enough to reach the ground wasn't enough so they gave him rocket boots! I honestly believe this was a conscious effort on the toy maker's part as it complements the winged robot motif so well.
Tyranobot's longer looking face for some reason reminds me of the actor Christopher Lee. Well if Christopher Lee was a rocket-powered transforming Tyrannosaurus.
Tyranobot is one of the most unique looking toys of his kind.
Dino Squad is a charming and quirky set of off-brand transforming robots. I have never really seen more examples of these guys being sold stateside outside of a chance encounter at a Toys "R" Us decades ago. They're solidly built and a really unique looking set of toys. If you can find one of these guys I think they're well worth owning if you like weird lesser known toys or just love dinosaurs!
|Posted 17 February, 2013 - 16:01 by VF5SS|