Review by Optimal III
Everyone has to start somewhere, and that goes for third-party companies too, such as Xovergen. They are sort of an oddity in that they continue to be a part of the scene, but have done so with only three releases (not including repaints), each one related to Optimus Prime. Their first attempt is far from perfect, but it shows promise and got my attention.
Let me start with this fantastic box. The cover art is impressive (I want it), but the real highlight is the simple design. It's like a thick, durable shoe box, but the lid covers the entire thing, and inside is a single foam insert with molded spots for all of the larger objects. Everything is nice and snug, and easy to remove. If I could pick how all of my toys were to be boxed, this would be it. The only other thing I have packaged like this is the Animated Stunticons boxset from Botcon 2011. I don't know why this isn't utilized more, but I hope Xovergen sticks with it.
The one insert is 85% "engrish" comic book and 15% instruction manual. Story's nothing special, but the art is pretty nice. It tells the tale of this robot and co. leaving not-Cybertron and crash-landing on Earth, forcing him to adopt an alt mode that'll let him blend in with the local military. The instructions themselves are a series of small pictures with zero text or indicators, so they leave something to be desired. Thankfully, there's only one tricky part to fiddle with, but it's kind of important, so keep reading if you're thinking about picking this up.
The inspiration for this figure begins with the G.I. Joe vehicle Rolling Thunder. If you don't know what that is, watch this commercial. Catchy, isn't it? Anyway, that toy originally came out in 1988. Fast forward to the early-to-mid 2000's, when Devil's Due was the license holder and publisher of G.I. Joe comics. Born out of the 80's boom happening at the time, a Joe vs TF mini-series was created, and it was pretty hot. So hot, that it happened three more times. Going into the third mini, Don Figueroa pitched a concept, and part of what he presented was Optimus Prime with the Rolling Thunder as his alt mode. Ultimately, the pitch was passed on, but the art for Prime is out there. And Xovergen saw it, so they made a toy loosely based on it.
From any angle, this looks like Optimus Prime in that there are two components: a red truck cab and a trailer. The trailer is blue instead of the usual grey, but Prime's legs are also usually blue, so the image is maintained. It's also the Rolling Thunder in dimensions, the shape of the cab, and the two big missiles set in the middle. Otherwise, I'd say Grand Patriot is his own animal. It's not just that this vehicle isn't as detailed as Figueroa's art, but also that the details themselves are different. By default, Grand Patriot looks heavy duty, even though the only weapons are the cannons on top of the cab, which do rotate from side to side. Visually, everything looks really great. The wheels roll nice and easy too. Those are all good things, but there are some negatives here too. Nothing on the cab really locks into place, so it doesn't take much to move anything behind the cannons out of place. And the piece that connects the cab to the trailer is bad at its job, so it's also easy to lose the trailer if you're whipping it around.
There are a lot of options for how to arrange the weapons on the trailer, but for me, what works best are mounting the fusion guns out back where they can cover the rear with a pretty decent arc. They're a pretty good take on Prime's classic laser rifle, but Grand Patriot's even better off with two. It also looks like there are small missile launchers under the barrels. All the promotional photos before this was released showed the guns as completely translucent blue plastic. That would have been fine, but I'm glad they added a lot of black, because they look so much better. And that begs a question too. Did they just lay some black paint on top of the translucent plastic, or are these guns black plastic with hollow spots for all the blue pieces? It's not important, but I am curious about it. And just like with a Tootsie Roll Pop, I may never know...
On its own, the cab still looks good, but it only stays that way if you don't move anything out of place. This tends to happen when you do anything more than roll back or forth or turn the cannons. This is both annoying and disappointing.
On its own, the trailer (not-Combat Deck) fares much better, and only your imagination limits how you set it up. WIth the rear half of the vehicle mode unfurled, certain features become more noticeable and this trailer is clearly more than meets the eye (pun not intended).
I didn't realize it when I first bought this, but Xovergen actually made the trailer to be an in-scale playset for 3.75-inch figures. Obviously, that's a nod not only to G.I. Joe, but the also Optimus Prime and the Action Masters. In this mode, the base is like the front half of AM Prime's trailer, a toy I actually had as a kid. This similarity might explain why I prefer the guns on the turret instead of the missiles. I don't have any 3.75-inch Joe figures anymore, but luckily I do have an AM Optimus. Inside, there's enough going on with the interior walls, the foldout displays, and the flooring to keep me satisfied.
Back to the cab, there's an additional bracket with an extending support for setting the missiles or guns behind. This looks awesome, but in reality, it sucks because it relies on the same worthless piece that's used to hitch the cab and trailer together. So what you're seeing are two pictures I was able to take before it took a trip to flop city, and thus this piece is useless. I did see pictures once where the front wheels were removed and combined with this to make a PAC/RAT of sorts, but I can't figure it out, and it's not in the manual, so that's that. It's onward and upward from here.
At 7-inches, Grand Patriot is a solid robot. He's a bit simpler than what Don Figueroa envisioned, but at this size, I think that's for the best. His outermost layers aren't overly sculpted, but they still look right with just enough color everywhere to prevent any monotony. One might find it curious that his grill in alt mode isn't silver, but seeing how he transforms, it makes sense. How he transforms is a mix of the G1 and Masterpiece scheme, though compared to the latter, this process is much easier. Having windows in his shoulders is also a different look, but in a good way. His eyes are light-piped, but the flap behind his head reduces the effect. Overall, I like him, and his profile, with the wheels on his back, really reminds me of Prime's robot mode from the first Joe vs TF mini, where Prime transformed into a Cobra H.I.S.S. tank.
There are only two minor issues. Whenever his feet are off the ground, they tend to get folded back up. And the flap behind his head is attached to the plate his head's pegged on, so moving that flap can tilt the plate up front and make an unsightly gap. He's also got gaps behind his hands. But otherwise, he's a-okay.
From the side, he does look a little skinny from the waist down and bulky up top, like Super Dave from the Super Dave cartoon. But from behind, it's back to looking strong.
BUT THIS! THIS!! If there's one thing that'll ruin this toy for anyone, it's this. When transforming to robot mode, the front wheels basically flip up and over, and plug into his back. To do this, you have to line them up with the slots in his back. Sounds easy enough, but trying to do it is another story thanks to the inadequate instructions. That white piece of plastic you're looking at seems soft enough that you just sort of force it, but it's practically impossible to get both sets of wheels plugged in. As you get one, you try the other, and then the first one pops. So what's the secret?
Compression. You have to compress the bracket at the base, till you get what you see, where the middle parts are pressing against the hinge. It takes some work, because you'll hear a clicking sound until you reach a point of resistance, fooling you into thinking you're done. You then try to plug the wheels in again, and fail, again. So no matter how hard it resists, don't stop till you get it compressed like this picture. Thankfully, once you do get both sets of wheels plugged in, they stay put. So rest assured the struggle is worth it.
Compared to G1 Prime, you see the similarities, but also way more differences. Seems like a good evolutionary branch-off or "what if".
For articulation, Grand Patriot is pretty well made. His hinged-knees and ball jointed-hips are so tight that they squeak, but not so tight that you can't bend them to your will. He only has hip skirts on the front and sides, and they aren't floppy, but move with no trouble whatsoever. He rotates at the waist and still looks good at any angle. His hands rotate at the wrists, his elbows are hinged, and he has upper arm-swivels beneath vertically rotating shoulders. His head also rotates from side to side. The one issue is that his upper arms only swing back so far before they hit the wheels on his back, because of that little edge/bumper. You can force them past that point, but I worry that will damage all parts involved in the long run, so I won't be.
For weapons, Grand Patriot lives up to his name and heritage. The cannons mounted on the roof of his alt mode are now set on his shoulders, and more cannons are set in each foreleg, giving him some decent standard firepower.
If you like those cannons and want more, the fuel tanks from the trailer can be mounted on his forearms, deploying an additional pair of cannons from each one.
If you want to go ridiculous, which most of the later G.I. Joe vehicles are, you can equip the missiles by pegging them into his forearms. I have no idea why the tips can be flipped open, but maybe it's so they can be filled with something extra.
And of course, you can't go wrong with these sweet fusion guns.
To top it all off, and like most every Optimus-related toy today, he has something removable akin to the Autobot Matrix of Leadership in his chest.
Oh, and if you're worried about the license police kicking in your door, don't worry. You can fool them with this slightly less obvious head that's more toy-inspired, which is what's pushed on the box art. This actually looked good in the pre-release photos, like it was still light-piped. But something happened and they changed it into this, which looks kind of lame to me.
One of the big complaints about third-party toys is their cost. I'm not going into why that is, but bearing it in mind and going forward, every time I do a review of a third-party figure, I'm going to further qualify it by ranking it against its relative peers, assuming there's more than one figure out there based on a particular iteration of a character. In this case, we're talking G1 Optimus Prime.
I said at the top that Grand Patriot isn't perfect, but he actually is a pretty good figure. Lots of little issues that add up, but nothing terribly wrong. The materials used to build him do feel different compared to most other modern toys, which some people perceive as cheap, but that shouldn't count against him. I don't know that it's likely, but I wouldn't mind if Xovergen ever came back and did an updated version, since they've apparently upped their game with later releases. But as is, he's a nifty, cool take on an idea that never quite was, and resides on the short list of toys that crossover between Transformers and G.I. Joe, official or otherwise.
But his rarity in another way does count against him. Third-party toys are at launch already almost rare, because they're simply not manufactured in anywhere near the quantities that Hasbro and Takara typically produce at. Given enough time, even a bad figure, or in this case a figure with a bad rap, will become pretty scarce. And Grand Patriot dropped in 2011, so it's been a while. When he was released, he didn't really sell that well, so online retailers were pretty quick to put him on clearance. I was looking at the right time and managed to snag both versions (there's an all-green version) for $90, and what's what I'd say he's about worth, $50+ for either one or double for both MIB (no such thing as MISB with him because the boxes for both versions are the same, forcing retailers to open every single one).
Where does he rank among his peers? As of this review, there are 3 very different G1-esque third-party Primes. And much as I like Grand Patriot, he's easily 3rd place. If you can find him on clearance, he's by far the cheapest, but the other two are pretty much perfect and worth the money. So if you're on the fence or iffy about 3P products, you'd do well to skip him. My overall verdict? If you like the idea or what you saw in this review, and can find him on clearance, you'll probably be pleasantly surprised.
|Posted 5 June, 2015 - 19:25 by Optimal III|