Review by Optimal III
When the Transformer known as Astrotrain was released in 1985, his color scheme was mainly black and white in Japan, going for realistic alt modes. In America, the black was swapped for purple, leaving the toy somewhere between realistic and animation accurate. It wasn't till 2004 that Takara reissued him via E-Hobby in purple and gray, finally synching up with the cartoon. Now fast forward to 2015 when third-party toys are in abundance. ToyWorld took a similar approach when creating their "MP" take on arguably the most popular Decepticon triple-changer. The first release, Evila Star, goes from a black train to a white space shuttle to a white robot with black and purple trim that calls back to the original figure. This second release follows precedent and goes full gray and purple for that cartoony touch.
Exclusive to TFsource, limited to 350 pieces, and first available at TFcon Ontario 2015, we now have Devilstar, in the usual plain box ToyWorld uses for these types of releases.
Contents include the usual sturdy tech spec card and an instruction manual so useless that I didn't bother taking a pic. I looked at it for two seconds before I said "nope" and went to YouTube.
The name of the source is Astrotrain, so let's start with the space shuttle mode. Devilstar is fairly large in every mode, so he's well suited to such a vehicle as this. Properly transformed, he's sturdy and stable, so there's no problem picking him up or otherwise moving him around. You'll see more as we go through the review, but there's an abundance of sculpted details, mostly in panel lines. That's probably less to do with real space shuttles and more to do with him also being a train and robot, but it makes for a pleasant visual. And the color scheme and paint application are flawless. In these respects, he is smooth, very smooth.
From the side, we get a more thorough look, but also see two of my minor gripes.
Instead of being flush with everything else, these top panels tend to tip up at the front a little.
And the nose is on one side of a noticeable gap.
Swinging back around to the front, things get pretty again with a translucent view into the cockpit, a sort of red that's tinged with a little amber.
Heading to the back, we've got a better view of the wings, the rear landing gear, the thrusters, and the one obvious clue that suggests this isn't just a shuttle. The thrusters are essentially one piece in that they're all mounted on the same board, but the larger ones have a separate give from the smaller ones. You can try to adjust them, but the board is spring-loaded, so you can't do much with it.
Moving up towards the tail fin reveals a couple of fold-out panels, which reveal ports for mounting the guns. These aren't the only ports, but they're the ones you're supposed to use for shuttle mode.
You can also use the ports on the bottom, but then you'll be resting him on top of his guns. From here, you can see the rest of the train kibble. Considering how complex a triple-changer can be I've got no problem with that. But a couple more minor gripes surface here.
You can fold the rear landing gear up against the wings, which is nice, but you can only fold the front landing gear slightly before it hits that purple plate. You can separate it and rotate the halves out of the way, but it shouldn't be that involved. Perhaps this was intentional, to prevent the shuttle from resting on the kibble. And if so, I'm fine with it. But if the materials and assembly are sturdy enough (they should be for $120), I'd still like to have the option without the hassle.
The other issue, which also plagues robot mode, is that there's no mechanism in place for keeping the train wheels stationary. Oriented like in the picture, they tend to stay still for the most part. But enough jarring or movement, or a careless finger, can knock them into action, and then the wheel bar hangs out past the wings. This is only an aesthetic annoyance, but it seems like it would have been easy to avoid. If they couldn't put something under the wings to lock the bars in place, maybe they could have made the tip of the bar fold down and back up into it. I can't say that ToyWorld misses little things like this (yet), so hopefully it was a detail skipped to keep price down.
Unfortunately, there is a big miss as we move back up to the intended gun ports. In theory, they should peg into those holes and stay there without a problem.
Yet in the mere seconds it took me to take these last three pictures, one of them fell out as I slid the shuttle around. The connection is so loose that it takes hardly anything to knock the guns out. I can't understand how something like this got by QC, and it's an issue with both versions of this mold. Even worse, I don't think Astrotrain has ever been depicted as having external weapons in either of his alt modes. So while it's always nice to have a dedicated place for accessories, this comes out as an innovative fail. Overall, I like the shuttle mode for its looks, but those worthless weapon mounts make it my least favorite mode.
Before we get to train mode, let's take a look at the extra that comes with this release. ToyWorld always includes something extra with their convention exclusives. With Grant (Grand Maximus), it was stickers. With Orion & Hegemon (Optimus Prime & Megatron), it was a Marvel comics styled presentation. With Devilstar, it's metal train tracks. They come sealed in this tidy little box, packed in dark gray foam inserts. You immediately notice the heft.
They're an unexpected extra, but they're a welcome one for sure. The main detail is the rivets or bolts near the outside. Besides that, there are pegs and peg holes and clasps and grooves, giving you the option of stacking them, setting them side by side, or making a longer length of track. Any way you go, it's cool that these were included. Astrotrain is the only Decepticon I can think of that has a train alt mode, so I imagine you won't see too many third-party figures with an accessory like this.
Regardless of which form you're going for, transforming Devilstar is on par with transforming Orion. So depending on you, that's either agonizing or a pleasant challenge with some complexities. Shuttle to train and vice-versa involves rolling over and inverting parts. So there's a lot of flipping over, reversing, layering and un-layering. The end result is definitely worth it with train mode. It's mostly purple, but the bits of black and red make for an evil feel. And the external parts sculpted in and on complete the look of a real metal steam locomotive. Up front are some lights, the exhaust pipe, a hatch, and a cow catcher.
On the sides, we see the wheels, big, small, and space-related. Though they and the wing tips are the main shuttle parts that stand out, I can see the wheels passing for something that should be there. The train wheels roll in unison, but the bar the last wheel is attached to can sometimes unpeg it, which is supposed to happen.
Back up front and from the side, note the gray plate. It's sort of the key part that keeps every mode together. In train form, it can be a little difficult to get the front end flush because of the spring-loaded thrusters, but with a little work it can be done.
Moving toward the rear, side doors appear. And the roof only looks messy this close.
There are fold-out wheels here as well.
These side panels are the one very annoying part in train mode, because they pull out with no resistance. Since they don't lock into place, they compress just as easily, and those little tabs are hard to grab. Always handle the train from the rear quarter or the front half.
Out back are a couple more doors and another sign of the shuttle. I write these off as acceptable because I don't think they're discernible without context.
The train looks fine as is, but it looks even better on the tracks, and especially with the guns pegged into these useful ports. As of this review, there's another 3P Astrotrain already out and another is on the way. Between those and the G1 figure, I think Devilstar is the one who's going to stay in train mode mostly, because he owns it.
I'll explain the business card in a moment. For now, check this guy out. Scale is all over the place when it comes to Transformers, but triple-changers seem to consistently be presented as some of the larger robots that aren't giants. Devilstar is definitely that, a big guy that isn't a giant. In a nutshell, getting to this mode is expanding some parts of the shuttle and compressing others. What I especially enjoy is how the arms come out of the body without leaving any gap. Same goes for the hands and the forearms. I also dig how some panels shift and form up with other areas like with the forelegs and the abdominal area.
The helmet is a new take, but his face is familiar. You even get the option of going cartoon or toy with this removable visor. Either way, the light piping is still effective.
From the side, he continues to look stout. From behind, you get that interesting symmetry where shuttle, train, and robot all meet.
A closer look on the inside of the legs reveals more inner mechanical workings. The cruddy instructions might lead one to reverse the feet from what's seen here, but this is correct. The red plastic flap adds a little support, and the bracket catches against the cockpit, so even though the feet seem a little small, they have no trouble keeping Devilstar up right.
Another part where the instructions and art get fluky is what you're supposed to do with this rear piece behind the knees. It is possible to turn this piece so that the wheel faces behind, but then you've got the wheel spoke sticking out. Both are set at differing angles to avoid contact, but it looks weird to me, and they'll only avoid each other with certain poses, so I'm sticking with this configuration.
Moving on to the wings, observe those silver rails. You can see them in all three modes, and the wings need them to slide along for every conversion. There is no "right position" for robot mode, but most would agree all the way up is the best look here. So it's sad to say the reason I've got that business card wedged in there is to keep the wing in place. It's loose and doesn't hold up in robot mode. And it's not just my figure, as every Devilstar has this problem. I'm wary to mess with clear nail polish or other solutions, but I'll probably get a piece of purple construction paper sometime soon and run that behind his back for a more uniform fix.
Behind the head is a plate that's reminiscent of the extra parts Yamato/Arcadia uses on the VF-1. It holds its place fine, but doesn't actually lock in, which would be nice. Also note the peg holes. Like I said, this grey plate is what holds it all together, so be sure to peg it nice and tight.
Articulation-wise, he's got everything you'd expect and is on par with the other ToyWorld figures I've reviewed. Balls and swivels are in all the right places, with some really strong ratchets in the knees and open/close grip hands. His shoulders are the only joints that are limited, due to the wings behind them and the ones covering the chest.
For weapons, he's got a couple of guns which are pretty nice updates to the original's ionic displacer rifle. Thankfully the size hasn't changed much, so these look well-proportioned in Devilstar's hands.
For good measure, standing next to Hegemon and CW Optimus Prime better illustrates how he fits in along his peers.
Bonus points to anyone who can figure out what these parts are for, because I sure can't.
Up to now, I've been very impressed by ToyWorld's work, but I suppose it was inevitable they'd fumble the ball at some point. Devilstar could be fantastic, but the weak gun ports in shuttle mode and the droopy right wing in robot mode bug me too much for that to be. Between that and getting used to transforming him, it took me a few weeks to decide I really do like him. There's no official MP Astrotrain yet, and I don't know how he stacks up against DX9's Chigurh (besides being cheaper) or the upcoming Space Roamer from Dream Boy. So I'd put it like this. If you don't mind the wing issue or can fix it, go for it. If you don't care about the color scheme or prefer a white Astrotrain, pick up the original version, Evila Star. He's slightly cheaper anyways (but no train tracks). But if you have to have an animation-style Astrotrain, look into Chigurh and Space Boy and see if they're a better fit for you.
|Posted 1 October, 2015 - 06:17 by Optimal III