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Alright, so the full article and gallery for Banana Force's MPL-01 Banana Force is up on site; https://kumastyledesigns.com/banana-force-red-sharpshooter-review/

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Article breaks it down piece-by-piece but in the end I gave it a 7.0/10. It's a really nice piece, particularly for the price but there are some areas in terms of things like articulation and accessories that I feel would need to be improved even if not in a major fashion to really bring it up to that 8.0-10 level.

Here are a few pics from the gallery portion:

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Edited by Kuma Style
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20 hours ago, mikeszekely said:

Figures.  I get some new stuff I want to talk about but accidentally cut a chunk of my index finger off while making dinner. <_<  I'm OK, but it's hard to type with my finger all bandaged up.

Hope you're alright, Mike. I've done similar in the past, and yeah, Band Aids make for difficult typing. Hope you heal quickly so you can get back to posting reviews. Take care!

Beautiful pics, as always, Kuma. I'm not really a fan of Fire Convoy, anything from the Unicron Trilogy, really, but you have an extraordinary talent for making these things come to life through your photography. :good:

Edited by M'Kyuun
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2 hours ago, M'Kyuun said:

Take care!

No worries, it's one of those things where there was a ton of blood because the wound is wide, but it's shallow so it's healing fast.  It's good enough that I took the bandage off while I grabbed a shower, and I'll get a review out before putting a new bandage on.  So what do I have for you guys tonight?  Fans Toys' Spoiler, their take on an MP Breakdown.

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Like a lot of people, I'd been buying up X-Transbots' Stunticons due to what I'd consider strong overall aesthetics, lower prices (especially Breakdown, whose first batch went for around $40), and scaling well with the official MP cars.  Yet, I'd bought FT's Motormaster because it was the only one of the three that promised to turn into the whole cab, and based on how quickly it sold out so did a lot of fans.  I figured I'd try at least one more of FT's, partly to see if their Motormaster was a fluke since I'm pretty cool on most of FT's stuff, partly to have a more direct A-B comparison before deciding to pay whatever price XTB ends up wanting for their Motormaster or to switch teams.

My gut reaction after having the figure in hand is the same as when I first starting seeing pictures online... FT's sculpt is a little cold and lifeless.  Like, just standing still, XTB's face looks more alive, and with the (cartoon-accurate) narrow waist section between his torso and pelvis and somewhat different proportions it looks more dynamic.  I also like how its tires are actually part of the shoulders and not just sitting on the outside of the shoulders, and the panel lining on its pelvis.

That's not to say, though, that it's a definitive win for XTB, though.  I prefer the whiter color on Spoiler (which isn't as pure white as Clampdown, here), even if it's not as accurate.  Same goes for the translucent blue panel in his chest.  This might be more debatable, but to my eye I think silver on his torso is actually more correct than XTB's choice of white.

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There's been some fuss about how skinny Spoiler is.  In hand, I don't find him to be all that bad.  I mean, he's definitely got no butt, but from the waist up I don't have a problem with the thickness or thinness of his torso; I think we're just used to Transformers with a lot more backpack.

For what it's worth, I think Spoiler cleans up a bit better than XTB's.  His calves are more solid, and his tail doesn't have to bend up and around his front end just to get his spoiler on his back the way the cartoon's is.  However, I do want to point out the red hood flaps on his calves and the fenders on the backs of his shoulders.  They both rely on joint tension to just lay in place, and don't secure at all.  The shoulder fenders aren't too bad, but I've heard of other people having looser ones than I seem to.  The hood flaps are a mild nuisance.

The other big, obvious difference between the two is the size.  Spoiler, like DX9's version, is roughly the same size as an MP Seeker.  Now, for a combiner I'm a bit more willing to overlook alt mode and even robot scale in service of the gestalt (it's the only way you can really reconcile stuff like Defensor and Bruticus).  However, it's likely that I could end up with two complete sets of Stunticons, one to make Menasor and one to display as individual robots.  Now, to my knowledge, the Stunticons do not appear on their own on any official scale chart, but my logic is that if the Autobots were able to impersonate the Stunticons in "Masquerade" then they should be similar in size, so I'd say that I kind of prefer the size of XTB's.  Then again, that logic goes in the window in the face of a minibot like Windcharger as one of those Autobots, so I'm open to the Stunticons being bigger, as long as the alt mode isn't significantly larger than an MP Countach.

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Spoiler comes with basically the same accessories as his XTB counterpart's- a cartoon-accurate rifle and an alternate face.  Now seems to be the case that for all three Menasors the combined mode will be a nearly-complete robot that the five Stunticons simply plug into.  It also seems to be the case that XTB and DX9 are both going to form Motormaster out of just the cab or the cab and only a portion of the trailer, and that the gestalt's skeleton will be formed from the trailer.  Since FT released Motormaster first, with the entire trailer integrated into the robot and no combined-mode parts in either his or Spoiler's boxes someone speculated that the combined-mode parts might be a separate purchase, which lead to the usual "the sky is falling!" posts from the community.  The last word I've heard from Fans Toys is that all the parts needed to make Menasor will come with the last Stunticon, and that last Stunticon will be prices similarly to their Motormaster.  I don't know if that's better or worse than selling it separately; anyway you slice I think that's going to make it one of if not the most expensive combiners to be released.

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You're getting good articulation for your money, at least.  Spoiler's head is on a hinged swivel that can rotate, look up about 30 degrees, and even look a little bit downward.  His shoulders rotate on ratchets and can extend laterally on a friction hinge just shy of 90 degrees.  His biceps can swivel.  It's not the prettiest sculpt, but his elbows are double-jointed and can curl nearly 180 degrees.  His wrists swivel.  His thumb is on a ball joint at the base for rotation and folding over his palm, and each finger is individually-articulated with a pinned knuckle at the base and middle.  His waist can swivel, and he's got maybe 75 degrees of ab crunch.  The thing is, you might not notice it.  His abdomen locks into place for alt mode, and almost requires "oh crap I'm going to break this" force to unlock.  His hip and butt flaps are hinged to allow his hips to move 90 degrees forward and 60-70 degrees backward on softish ratchets.  They can also go about 75 degrees laterally, which yes is less than 90 but realistically I think that's still all you really need.  His thighs swivel around the hip joints; no thigh cuts.  His knees are double-jointed and can bend almost 180 degrees on friction joints.  His feet can't really tilt up, but they can tilt down 90 degrees and his ankles can pivot about 45 degrees.  So yeah, there are figures out there (including XTB's Breakdown) with better range in the shoulders and hips.  But honestly, for actual posing I think Spoiler benefits more from the ab crunch and the great range in the knee joints than from pushing his adequate shoulder and hips those extra few degrees needed to reach 90.

Sadly, he does have a little trouble holding his gun, at least on my copy.  Could be FT not properly accounting for paint, but it uses the usual MP-style tab-on-handle into slot-on-palm, and it seems to take a bit of force to get it to stay in without popping back out.

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One of the things that impressed me the most with FT's Motormaster was that, like the G1 toy, it used the entire cab and trailer in its transformation but somehow delivered a cab that scaled with the various MP Primes/Ultra Magnuses, a trailer that wasn't much smaller than MP-10s, but a robot that was only about a head taller than the MP Primes and slightly shorter than MP Magnus.  Fans Toys has that same sorcery on display here.  Unlike DX9's Breakdown, which was noticeably larger in alt mode than XTB's or the official MP Countaches (with their tails lined up, XTB's Breakdown's nose wouldn't even reach DX9's headlights), Spoiler is almost the exact same length nose-to-tail as XTB or Clampdown here.  You can see that details like the headlights, hoods, side mirrors, windows, vents, and spoilers are all basically in-line as well.

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That said, it's not perfect.  Nose-to-nose you can see that Spoiler is a good bit wider than XTB's (which matches the official Countaches very well).  Spoiler's also kind of puffier bottom-to-top.  If you have Spoiler next to another Countach you're definitely going to notice that he's a little bit bigger, and a car (or specifically a Countach) enthusiast might see that the proportions on Spoiler are a little off.  However, I'd venture that Spoiler is close enough that most laypeople will give him a pass.

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As long as we're comparing, we might as well look at the backs and undersides, too.  Regarding the backs, my instinct was to criticize the bit of silver and blue from Spoiler's chest dangling under the the tail.  Really, though, I'm not sure that it's actually that much more obtrusive than the hinged panels on both XTB's and Takara's Sideswipe mold.  FT even made sure to include the quartet of exhaust tips (albeit a bit too high).  I do wish they'd properly colored the taillights, though, instead of just slapping a translucent yellow bar across them.

The underside cleans up nicely as well.  Granted, it's a little easier to recognize Spoiler's pelvis, biceps, shoulders, chest, and abs than on XTB's, but they still don't look like obvious robot parts.  The translucent bit on his chest and the detailing behind it are even a little evocative of engine bits.

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Given that we're talking about Fans Toys, a company that I've come to associate with horribly over-engineered transformations that at best I only feel like doing once for review and at worst put me off their stuff entirely, Spoiler's "mass shifting" is arguably less impressive than the fact that he's actually got a fairly straightforward transformation without any real clearance issues.  While there are few spots where tolerances are a little too tight, especially turning his pelvis around, I'd go so far as to say that Spoiler is easier to transform than XTB's, and is perhaps the easiest FT transformation since Quakewave or their Dinobots.  And when you're done, you get a car that can roll nicely on rubber tires.  Spoiler's gun can be plugged into a hole just behind the roof.  You can technically use that spot for robot mode gun storage, too, but the hole it pegs into is keyed to fit the tabs on the handle, so it can only go in with the barrel pointed down between his legs.

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Because this is apparently an important thing MP Countaches do since Sunstreaker, Spoiler's headlights do flip up, his hood does open to reveal some clutter under it, and his doors do scissor open even though there's no interior and the space inside is totally occupied by robot bits.  Spoiler doesn't have the buttons for his headlights that Sunstreaker does, though, and FT doesn't leave much in the way of seams (not to mention that the doors tab into two different spots), so opening these things isn't exactly easy.  You're definitely going to want to have a spudger handy.  Of course, the flip side to that is that once you get everything lined up and tabbed in properly it's a very solid car.  I could imagine that if you bashed someone in the head with Spoiler in his car mode nothing would be out of place after.  But don't bash anyone in the head with Spoiler- FT's penchant for diecast means that Spoiler (314g) weighs more than double Sideswipe/Red Alert/First Aid (130g) and significantly more than XTB's Breakdown (192g).

Which, as I brought up when I reviewed their Motormaster, might work against the combined mode.  It's definitely still too early for a winner to be declared in the Menasor war.  However, I can and will tell you that for Breakdown on his own, much as I do really like XTB's, I do prefer Spoiler.  Yes, he's taller than XTB's or the Autobot cars, but most Decepticons are and I think that's going to make Spoiler look better next to your choice of Megatron, Starscream, Soundwave, Shockwave, and most especially with an MP-10-sized or larger Motormaster.  Although the sculpt is a little lifeless that's easily overcome with good articulation that allows for some really dynamic poses.  And the transformation is straightforward and enjoyable, and leaves you with a car that's close enough in size to the MP Countaches for my tastes.  Really, it's possibly my favorite figure from Fans Toys period (with the caveat that I've never handled their Dinobots).  Unless you're dead set on only one set of Stunticons and you're really worried about FT's ability to pull off the combined Menasor then Spoiler is a strong recommend from me.

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You know, I was in the middle of typing a post about how yawn-inducing TFCon has been.  I was ready to click "Submit Reply" but figured I'd check one last time for any news.  And then, BOOM.  Fans Toys Fortress Maximus.

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This pic here, highlights my #1 (and deal-killing) issue with Spoiler---the spoiler.  That's not how a Countach spoiler attaches.  It mounts to the fenders, not the trunk lid.  The other 2 got it right.   Spoiler's spoiler-supports are way too far inboard, and on the wrong part of the car.  And a whole lot taller than they should be, to achieve the same overall spoiler-height because of it.  

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It's another "why on earth are they doing THAT part of the car toon-accurate, when so many other bits are going for pure realism?"   I mean, look at their Dragstrip and Wildrider---they aren't making major changes to the body to "match the toon", yet for Spoiler, for his literal namesake feature---they said "oh, let's ignore the real thing right here, and match the toon, so as to have some weird toon-real hybrid, just to mess up the overall real-world aesthetic we've got going on with the car-mode".   :wacko: 

Real-world alt-modes should NOT be altered to be toon-accurate, period, IMHO.  Or if you are---go all-out toon-style.  Don't stick toon-accurate "random little bits" on something that is otherwise trying to be as real as possible.   Real, or toon, not a hybrid---it's like a weird version of uncanny valley if you mix them.  ("anime eyes" on a real person looks freaky----"anime parts" on a real car looks less freaky, but still freaky if you know how it SHOULD look)  

 

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31 minutes ago, David Hingtgen said:

It's another "why on earth are they doing THAT part of the car toon-accurate, when so many other bits are going for pure realism?"

I'd have never noticed if you hadn't pointed it out, but now I can't unsee it.<_<

And yeah, it's baffling.  Some of the stuff you've asked about, like the kink on Maverick's tail, turned out to be a necessity of the transformation.  But I took another look at Spoiler's back, and no, the whole back of the car is there, and yes, they could have made the spoiler accurate and it wouldn't have affected anything.

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57 minutes ago, mikeszekely said:

You know, I was in the middle of typing a post about how yawn-inducing TFCon has been.  I was ready to click "Submit Reply" but figured I'd check one last time for any news.  And then, BOOM.  Fans Toys Fortress Maximus.

He certainly is a big boy. I'm guessing those who are in will be getting multiple boxes to put him together. Me, I'm happy with my copy of Mastermade Odin, who uses a reduced scale that's much easier to manage here at home. It would have been cool if MM had an SD Devastator update, but I'm in no rush.

I'm waiting for FansToys to really wow me again like they did back in the day of Quakewave and the Dibots. Rouge's release really cooled my jets on them. I haven't picked up any of their news releases since Rouge, Kup,  and Apache, and have been switching out most of these later ones for alternatives from other 3P manufacturers or official releases as they come available. On top of that, with the WFC releases, my interest has been shifting back to smaller scales like MMC Reformatted line and Planet X stuff. I ended up pre-ordering Ultio Senator and Bedrock (MMC's exclusive Ratbat and Bulkhead) when they went live. I'm looking forward to reading more about Mnemo (IDW Chromedome).

Back at MP scale, I'm interested in FansHobby's Athena, MMC's take on Star Convoy, MMC's new Arcee repaint, which is a callback to the orange G1 Arcee prototype. It's an Arcee that, to me, falls into the so bad its good category of one-offs.

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12 minutes ago, technoblue said:

He certainly is a big boy.

Yeah.  I mean, kudos to anyone who is getting him, but with the estimates ranging between three and four feet tall there's just no way.  Shame.  If they'd made it around the same size as the HasTak Titan I'd have bought it in a heartbeat.  There's some talk that the head will be sold separately; I might still buy that to go with my MP Headmasters (assuming MT finishes theirs).

12 minutes ago, technoblue said:

I'm waiting for FansToys to really wow me again like they did back in the day of Quakewave and the Dibots. Rouge's release really cooled my jets on them. I haven't picked up any of their news releases since Rouge, Kup,  and Apache, and have been switching out most of these later ones for alternatives from other 3P manufacturers or official releases as they come available. On top of that, with the WFC releases, my interest has been shifting back to smaller scales like MMC Reformatted line and Planet X stuff. I ended up pre-ordering Ultio Senator and Bedrock (MMC's exclusive Ratbat and Bulkhead) when they went live. I'm looking forward to reading more about Mnemo (IDW Chromedome).

I totally feel you here.  It's like I swore off Hasbro, decided to focus on G1 MPs, got into Siege, and now I'm trolling ebay and B/S/T boards looking for stuff I had and sold.   And yeah, FT has ranged from "good-looking robot with or without articulation issues I'll never transform again" to "I hate this figure so much I'm selling it because seeing it on my shelf gets me angry."  That's pretty much every FT release post-Phoenix for me... except their Stunticons.  I don't know if they hired a new designer or what, but for as much grief as I give FT I'm really happy with those two.  Spoiler might even make my top five figures this year.

EDIT:  And yeah, I'm looking forward to Fans Hobby's Minerva and Armada Optimus, the rest of MMC's Bruticus and their Star Convoy, FT's Wildrider, possibly their Skydive, Warpath, and Astrotrain, and that's about it at the show.  But I knew about all that stuff (and stuff that wasn't at TFCon that I still want) before today. 

Edited by mikeszekely
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3 hours ago, mikeszekely said:

I'd have never noticed if you hadn't pointed it out, but now I can't unsee it.<_<

I complained about it like a year ago, when FT first put their earliest render out.  I made a detailed post, full of pics/drawings/arrows, hoping they'd correct it.  Nope.  Had plenty of time, but apparently intentionally wanted "this one part of the car, to be wrong, knowing it was so".  

PS--I think it's "montana" (the tan one)----it has that big post+bar sticking down under the spoiler.  Is that PURELY so the spoiler can rotate 180 in robot mode?  Where you never see it, and can't really even tell it's upside down when it is?  (it's not like there's a huge "this end up" sign on it) 

::edit:: I can't find the post (likely due to thread-merging/pruning at TFW) but here's one of the main pics I made, comparing key part locations:

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(and yes, technically, the spoiler DOES mount to the trunk lid---only the very extreme edges of it, not the "main" part)

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A long time ago Generation Toy announced a Defensor, and I reviewed the first member of that team, Sarge/Streetwise, over a year and a half ago here.  And while they're still not done, they have released more figures, I just didn't buy them.  Some of that was a quality thing; you may recall that I had some issues with Sarge, and while I liked their next non-Protectobot release (their Optimus Primal) better I felt like the materials GT uses simply aren't as good as what companies like MMC, Fans Toys, DX9, Maketoys, etc were using.  Mostly it was a shift in my collecting, though.  I was running out of shelf space, I made a choice to focus more on G1 Masterpiece-style figures, and started selling off anything that didn't fit that bill.  Smaller combiners, like GT's Devastator and Warbotron's Bruticus, were being packed away to make room for larger ToyWorld/Zeta versions.

Now, I'm sure I've talked about this before, but I was a fan of IDW's pre-reboot Transformers stuff, especially Roberts' and Milne's More Than Meets the Eye.  Characters that I didn't care about (or perhaps was only dimly even aware of), like Tailgate, Swerve, Skids, Whirl, and Rewind become fan favorites.  So naturally, when First Aid took over as the chief medical officer of the Lost Light he became my favorite Protectobot, and even though GT's IDW-ish, modernized designs and 15" combiners weren't really doing it for me anymore I went ahead and picked up Bulance, their version of First Aid.

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Discussing the aesthetics of these figures when they're not supposed to be purely G1 is always a little tricker because deviations aren't inaccuracies, they're stylistic choices.  That being said, I dig this design quite a bit.  He's got a good head sculpt and the wheels in his chest that G1 First Aid does, he's got good proportions, and he manages to avoid being super blocky or super kibbly.

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Even when you look at him from the back or sides he's got thinner calves and a smaller, tighter backpack than TFC's version, the Combiner Wars version, and arguably the G1 toy.

I do have some notes, though, and it mostly comes down to me wishing almost all the silver paint was another color.  His torso and pelvis should be almost entirely red.  I don't mind a few accents to break things up, but so much of his chest is painted silver it looks more like silver with red accents instead of red with silver accents.  And his waist and pelvis actually are silver instead of red.  There's silver on his face and biceps, too, and while you don't often hear me saying this, I think this is one of the few times I actually do think white would have been a better choice.  Heck, I think even red would have been better than silver on his biceps.  Bottom line, whether you're talking G1 or IDW, First Aid is basically red and white, and the excessive silver on Bulance diminishes that.

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Bulance comes with a pistol that's pretty typical GT fare.  He also comes with a trailer.  Now, to be totally fair, I have seen mobile disaster relief/triage trailers before.  This is a thing.  It's just that the ones I've seen tend to be boxier, utilitarian affairs.  Despite what appears to be a stretcher on the top this trailer really looks more like a camper than anything else to me, although I admit that I can't find a specific model for this.

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Bulance's articulation is a bit of a mixed bag.  His head is on a hinged swivel and he can look up and down a fair bit.  His shoulders can rotate on some horribly-tolerances, ultra squeaky friction joints, and they extend laterally a little over 90 degrees (at least they don't droop the way Sarge's do).  His biceps swivel, but they're a little tight and there's a tendency for his shoulders to come untabbed from his torso.  His elbow can bend over 90 degrees, and again it's a little tight and has a tendency to cause his biceps to start to collapse into the shoulders for alt mode).  His wrists can swivel.  His fingers are molded into a curl, pinned at the base like an MP carbot's, but the index finger is separate from the other three.  His waist swivels, but the kibble tabbed into his back gets in the way a bit.  His hip skirts, loose on my copy, can swivel a bit but he's still limited to about 45-ish degrees forward, 60 degrees backward, and just short of 90 degrees laterally.  His thighs swivel around his hip joints.  His knees are double-jointed and can bend about 120 degrees (just make sure you fold down the flap covering the lower joint).  By design his feet can't tilt up or down, but he's got good 60-ish degree ankle pivots.  However, there's a panel that tabs to a gray part that his foot is attached to.  If you untab it he can tilt his foot down a little and his ankle pivot can reach 90 degrees.

Theoretically Bulance holds his weapon the same way most MP and MP-style figures do.  There's a tab on the bottom of the grip that should fit into a slot on his palm.  Emphasis on "should," because the palm slot is probably 20-30% wider than the tab is.  The tension of his fingers is enough to keep the gun from falling out of his hand, but you can tell that it's a little wobbly and loose because it doesn't actually tab in.

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I like Bulance's alt mode.  Like TFC's version, it's a Mercedes Sprinter "Traumahawk," it's just a larger Type III version instead of a Type II.  This specific Sprinter, with the more aerodynamic roof and large blue lights is pretty common in China and Hong Kong.  I actually think it looks pretty good with TFC's version, but as you might guess from how it looks with the Combiner Wars version it's fairly smallish and would look out-of-scale with an MP car (or even his own teammate, Sarge).  Of course, we've seen this problem with Maketoys and TFC's Defensors, too.  It's just not reasonable to expect an ambulance, a car, a helicopter, and a motorcycle to form the limbs of a robot and still remain in alt-mode scale with each other (although, off the top of my head, choosing a smaller ambulance than a Type III Sprinter, and having the body stretched to expose the combiner elbow and adding whatever additional flaps to the outer shell necessary to cover it might have helped).

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I'm a fan of using real-world vehicles for alt modes, and Bulance is a pretty good representation of the ambulance he's supposed to be.  He is a tad plain, though.  I know G1 First Aid didn't have a ton of deco or markings on him, but I feel like some of the lights and the latches on the sides could have been picked out in paint.  If only they hadn't blown their paint budget on all that unnecessary silver on his torso and biceps.  His tires are at least a rubbery plastic, albeit a harder material than you might find on a recent Fans Toys or XTB figure.

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GT didn't have to do it, but some of his backpack unfolds and covers most of the bottom of the alt mode.  I wouldn't say that what you wind up with looks like the real underside of an ambulance, but it is very clean and totally hides the robot parts.  Just remember that after you unfurl those flaps but before you tab the nose in place and fold the flap along the bottom that you can smoosh his gun up and tab it just behind the bumper for alt/combined mode storage.

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You may have noticed a rectangular hole on the back of the ambulance.  Although we don't have a hand yet that is where the hand will attach for arm mode.  But it's also where the trailer attaches.  Of course, the trailer is really less about having something for an ambulance to tow and more about GT striving to find a function for combined mode parts instead of having a large chunk of torso, hips, and thighs you leave sitting off to the side.  If you split the trailer in half you can fold out the combined-mode feet and calves.  Sarge and Motor (their Groove) plug into them, and there are connections at the top and back that will attach them to the gestalt's knees.

Much like Sarge, Bulance is kind of a mixed bag.  I like the alt mode, and although I wish there was less silver and more red on the torso I really like the robot mode's aesthetics.  But GT is starting to seem like a relic of a bygone era, delivering MP-scaled robots that don't make MP-scaled combiners, that are made of inferior materials, that suffer from tolerance issues, and that sport flaps and kibble that doesn't lock in place.  Bulance is a good figure, the best First Aid we've got, even.  But, when I think about the stuff DX9, X-Transbots, Fans Toys, and MMC are delivering with their combiners Bulance is a definite step down in materials and engineering.  This definitely isn't the G1 MP First Aid I'm looking for (although MMC will apparently be following their Bruticus up with a Defensor, so that's still coming).  But even if we overlook the fact that Bulance isn't strictly G1, when I see Bulance's price tag and I think about what that'd get me from some of the other 3Ps out there the soft plastic and squeaky joints are getting harder to overlook.  So I think that if you like the character, and you like this aesthetic, and you are aware of and can accept his flaws, then you may like this figure.  But, generally speaking, I can't actually give Bulance a recommend.

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7 hours ago, mikeszekely said:

You know, I was in the middle of typing a post about how yawn-inducing TFCon has been.  I was ready to click "Submit Reply" but figured I'd check one last time for any news.  And then, BOOM.  Fans Toys Fortress Maximus.

Yeesh, I thought that was just an April Fools joke from a while back.

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On 10/27/2019 at 6:35 AM, mikeszekely said:

If they'd made it around the same size as the HasTak Titan I'd have bought it in a heartbeat.

By Titan class, do you mean 18" or 24"?

18" is no-brainer for me, but I even have to think at 24".

I'm not ruling FT-40 out now, but 40+" is really no joke. If I could spare money/room for just one such Behemoth class (we need a new name!), It won't be Fortress Maximus. Probably Metroplex, in city mode 99% of the time.

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1 hour ago, nhyone said:

By Titan class, do you mean 18" or 24"?

However tall Titan-class Fortress Maximus is, I think 23”. But I'm good with anything between Maketoys Utopia and Hasbro Fort Max in size. Anything bigger, though, and I just don't have room.

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While FT's Fortress Max seems to be the hot topic around the proverbial water cooler this morning, the city bots never did much for me. Moreover, I still need to build a shelf for Unicron, and I've no idea where I would put a city bot that's the size of an 8 yr old child. Some of the things that caught my eye from TFCon are Gang Toys' quadruple changer (bull, big cat, crab, and bot). I have no idea who it's supposed to be, but the engineering looks amazing from the pics. All the animal forms look distinct and Zoidlike, which is a plus in my book. Of everything shown, I think that made the most impact on me. MMC's Bulkhead repaint looks good. The more I see of FT's Astrotrain and Brawn, the more certain I am that both will adorn my shelves eventually. Their Warpath looks good, too. I prefer BC's more stylistic approach, as it looks appropriately badass, but FT's is a nice clean looking bot, and I may consider picking him up if reviews are solid. HTB Toys' TF/GI Joe mashup figs have me intrigued, and although their cassettes look rather poor, the HISS Tank TF art caught my eye. That's a mashup that should have happened in the official toyline eons ago- it's a no-brainer, and a bit of a shame that it's coming from a third party (that I've never heard of).

Noticeably absent, and the figs I looked most forward to seeing, were Ocular Max's RMX Autobot cassettes. I am eagerly awaiting their releases.

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2 hours ago, M'Kyuun said:

 Some of the things that caught my eye from TFCon are Gang Toys' quadruple changer (bull, big cat, crab, and bot). I have no idea who it's supposed to be, but the engineering looks amazing from the pics. All the animal forms look distinct and Zoidlike, which is a plus in my book. Of everything shown, I think that made the most impact on me.

Do you mean Cang Toys, M'Kyuun? They were teasing parts of their Thunderking (Predaking) gestalt, and so far that includes Landbull (Tantrum), Revoltgar (Rampage), and a crabby thing which actually turns into Thunderking's hands in combined mode. They do look very cool indeed, and I am also keen on stylish/modern iterations of these characters. With combiners like Gravity Builder and, more recently, Assaultus I've been relaxing my no combiners rule. It was almost a necessity simply to get more Decepticons at or near MP scale.

These stylish not-Predacons are looking solid. I'm hoping that reviews hold up and that things like the price and size are not far out there.  

Quote

Noticeably absent, and the figs I looked most forward to seeing, were Ocular Max's RMX Autobot cassettes. I am eagerly awaiting their releases.

Yeah, I was hoping to see more about MMC's Autobot tapes myself. I'm hoping for a positive outcome, though, in that we might see a pre-order in the next couple of months or at the beginning of the new year? They looked pretty far along the last time they showed them.

Edited by technoblue
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24 minutes ago, technoblue said:

Do you mean Cang Toys, M'Kyuun? They were teasing parts of their Thunderking (Predaking) gestalt, and so far that includes Landbull (Tantrum), Revoltgar (Rampage), and a crabby thing which actually turns into Thunderking's hands in combined mode. They do look very cool indeed, and I am also keen on stylish/modern iterations of these characters. With combiners like Gravity Builder and, more recently, Assaultus I've been relaxing my no combiners rule. It was almost a necessity simply to get more Decepticons at or near MP scale.

Yep. Apologies for the misspelling, and for mistaking the nature of the pics. It really looked to me like it was a single figure with multiple forms. Anyway, thanks for setting me straight. Those are some great looking alt modes.

I'm also hoping that the MMC Autobot cassettes will be available for PO soon. I wonder if they have any plans to do the combining cassettes? I still remember the KFC versions, but I never got any of them, as their quality always seemed to be an iffy proposition. I have a lot more faith in MMC, and I already own Jaguar, Volture and Buzzard, and Furor. The condors could have been better, but Jaguar and Furor are excellent. I can't wait to have Steeljaw and Ramhorn in the same scale.

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19 hours ago, David Hingtgen said:

Cang Toy's Predaking, is heavily implied, though not utterly confirmed, to have "Optimus Primal", as the gorilla-based 6th member of the team.  (likely being the waist/thighs,  LongHaul/Devastator-style).  

That sounds so weird. personally I'm not that big on predaking, but this is a pretty cool looking Zaber Fang.

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Yup.  So we're expecting "Iron Kong" as the 6th member. 

Piranacon would be a fairly obvious follow-up, but many of the aquatic Zoids are small/simple (and thus a different style than the larger ones tend to have), and not quite the right "type".  (Tortoises, not snapping turtles, crabs instead of lobsters, etc).  

Dinobots, however----Godosnarl, Grimjulas, Swoopamander, so many perfect matches...

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6 minutes ago, David Hingtgen said:

Piranacon would be a fairly obvious follow-up

Cang Toys pretty much confirmed on Weibo that the people who designed this designed TFC's Seacons. Which doesn't necessarily preclude them from doing more Zoid-like ones for CT, but I'd be surprised if they did.

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So DX9 released some pictures of their Motormaster and the combined mode frame, apparently due to release very soon.  Since it's the most complete Menasor shown so far (Fans Toys still just has the renders, and X-Transbots is still showing painted prototypes) the reveal is generating some buzz.  Is DX9 worth holding out for?  If you've already started XTB or FT's should you switch?  Well, I don't think anyone can definitively say yet, but there is one Stunticon that's been released by all three companies, and to give the fairest comparison possible after already looking at X-Transbot's Crackup and Fans Toys' Spoiler I decided to buy and review Montana, DX9's take on Breakdown, too.

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My initial impression is that Montana looks pretty good.  The height is the same as Fans Toys and taller than XTB's or an MP carbot, which will please some and put off others.  As I mentioned when I reviewed Spoiler, white isn't exactly accurate, but I do dig the clean look of the blue and white, and Montana is the purest white of the three.  I also dig how his waist is a little narrower than the rest of his torso and hips.  If we look a little closer, though, we start to see a few things that I don't exactly care for.  From this front angle, you can see he's got a little kibble on the outsides of his biceps and forearms, and the car windows that make the outside of his legs don't sit flush to his shins.  He's also got the cartoony rounded fingers, which I know some people like but I honestly hate.  It's unfortunately that some visible screws are smack in the middle of his biceps.  He's also got a few paint imperfections.

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Taking a look at the back and sides and the problems I have with him become a little more clear.  His forearms are made from car kibble, and from the inside edge or the outside edge you can see weird gaps where the folded panels don't align.  As part of the transformation his hips slide down lower in his pelvis, and without any side skirts there's a pretty visible gap there.  The car doors that make up most of his shins leave gaping holes in his calves.  It sounds like I'm being hyper-critical, and I suppose I am a bit, because I actually think Montana beats out XTB's in the looks department.  I think the battle between DX9 and Fans Toys is a lot closer, though, and I'm leaning toward Fans Toys.

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Montana comes with just two accessories, his gun and that thing from that episode.  Seriously, I'm not exactly sure what it is, I just know that in "The Key to Vector Sigma, Part 1," when Megatron is building the Stunticons out of the cars Rumble stole, that Megatron sticks this thing in the Countach's engine compartment.  Whatever it is, it's totally hollow on the other side.  As for the gun, the sculpt is similar to ones from XTB and Fans Toys, but the details seem a little flatter.

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Montana's head seems to be on a ball joint, so it can swivel, he can look down a fair bit, and up just little, but he can't really tilt his head sideways.  His shoulders rotate, and because of the transformation hinges he can move his shoulders laterally over 90 degrees.  His biceps swivel, and his elbows can bend nearly 180 degrees.  His wrists can swivel, and because the rotating panel that they fold out on doesn't lock in place they can also bend in and out.  His thumb hinge open and closed at the base, and all of his fingers are similarly hinged at the base with the index finger separate from the other three, but they're all molded into a curve.  That's fine, I think, for smaller bots I think Montana should have had fully-articulated hands like FT's.  His waist can swivel, and he's got about 45 degrees of ab crunch.  His hips can go forward 90 degrees if you move his hip skirt, which unfortunately moves as one solid piece, and about 45 degrees backward.  They move laterally over 90 degrees on really soft ratchets (kind of weird that every joint is a friction joint except the one joint I don't usually like to be a ratchet).  His thighs do swivel around the hip joints, but they're very limited until his legs have spread out more than 45 degrees.  His knee is a single hinge good for 90 degrees.  For transformation there's another swivel below the knee. His feet can tilt down slightly, and he's got about 45 degrees of ankle pivot, plus his ankle swivels.  All-in-all not bad, but still the worst of the three for articulation.  I should also point out that, while not terrible, the joint tolerances on my copy of Montana are much looser than on XTB or FT's.

Speaking of loose, you might notice that there's no tabs on the handle on Montana's gun.  He holds it with the friction in his finger and thumb hinges, and yeah, it's a little loose.

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If there was one moment when people started committing to XTB over DX9 (Fans Toys wouldn't even announce theirs until Crackup and Montana were already available), it was when they saw the car mode.  I've already covered how XTB's has overall dimensions that are very close to MP Sideswipe/Red Alert (and presumably Sunstreaker, although I never picked up MP-39).  And despite being much taller in robot mode, Fans Toys managed to keep Spoiler's alt mode the same length and just a little wider.  DX9 was unable to work the same magic that Fans Toys did.  It's as wide as Fans Toys, but significantly longer with XTB and FT's front ends only reaching about halfway through the red hood on DX9's.

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There's other things I find off about Montana.  The grills in front of the intakes aren't black like they are on the other two, and the intakes themselves are blue (because they end up forming his foot).  The triangular indent for the door handle is also blue instead of black like the other two.  Where we actually find black, ringed with blue, is on the rear of the car

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Well, at least Montana cleans up as well as the other two from the underside, and you can see that he does have rubber tires down there.  And one point in Montana's favor is that he's probably the easiest of the three to transform.

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The handle on Montana's gun folds in to reveal a smaller tab that should, in theory, fit into his roof.  In practice, the tolerance is a little off and it doesn't really want to fit in there all that well.  And like FT's Spoiler Montana's doors do open to reveal some robot flank, and his headlights do pop up.  His hood doesn't open, though.

Montana is a pretty good figure.  In another universe, where Montana was the only MP-ish Breakdown on the market I think a lot of people would have bought him and been satisfied.  They may have grumbled that the car is out of scale with MP Sideswipe, but (especially when we start talking about the Combaticons and the Protectobots) we tend to be a little accepting of the fact that the needs of the gestalt and robot mode usually trump alt-mode scale.  The problem is that we don't live in that universe, we live in the one where DX9 has two major competitors releasing Breakdowns that are also quite good.  In one, X-Transbots, you have the alt mode that scales with the other MP cars (and the robot mode, if you think that the Stunticons should be the same height as the Autobot cars).  In the other, you've got the extra robot mode size and a car that's much closer in scale with the MP carbots.  In both you've got better articulation, better joint tolerances, and a better grip on their guns.  Montana is cleaner in robot mode than Crackup, but not Spoiler.  The only area where I think Montana has a clear win is ease of transformation, but I have to stress that Crackup isn't bad there, just a little inelegant, and FT's is one of the best, most intuitive transformations they've come up with in years.  Reluctantly, I have to concede that Fans Toys and XTB have better options for various reasons, and as the third-best Breakdown I can't actually recommend Montana.

However, I ultimately have to stress that this is based entirely on Breakdown and Breakdown alone.  Maybe some of DX9's other Stunticons can win out over XTB or Fans Toys.  What's more, a great Stunticon doesn't guarantee a great Menasor, and as far as I'm concerned the field is still wide open there.  Truthfully, while I think I'm definitely on board for the rest of FT's Stunticons to display as the uncombined Stunticons I'm still very much undecided on an MP Menasor.

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A blue NACA duct in the door, is actually G1-accurate---it's the only one that is, there.  But like all the others, it's missing a LOT of a black ducting/intake/mesh/grille-work----but even more than the others, to the point that it's notably "bare".   Plus he's actually missing the rear-most side windows, which none of the others are.  (though they are ALL missing the rear window, I think only the actual MP mold has the main rear window in any form)  

Also--yeesh, the spoiler's mounted wrong on that one, too.  Too far outboard.  But at least they're the right height, so it's still better than FT did. 

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In the official thread we were discussing the lack of a proper Legends-class Huffer or Pipes for use with Generations (as opposed to a Legends-class Huffer for a 3P Legends-class collection), and I said that I'd be exploring other solutions.  I also mentioned that, while I liked the Legends Swerve a good bit that I didn't feel like the mold worked as well for Gears.  Well, here's the solutions I came up with, from a brand called Mechanic Studios (which is apparently an offshoot of MechFansToys).  This is Engineer, aka Huffer, and Rocke, aka Gears.

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Rocke's walking a fine line between G1 cartoon and toy.  That is to say, it's mostly the cartoon Gears I remember, but with the toy's chunky, tire-laden arms.  Engineer, meanwhile, has the visible tires of the G1 toy but is otherwise pure G1 cartoon.  And you can see that they're very similar in size to the official Legends-class minibots, which is what I'm looking for.  I'm definitely into what Mechanic Studio is doing here aesthetically, but I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that heavy Sunbow influence isn't a perfect match for the stylized Generations minibots or the greebly Siege figures from the official lines.  Honestly, that's making me want Mechanic Studio to do more of these guys to replace my official minibots more than it's making me want to look for other alternatives, though.

Do note that Mechanic Studios has released these molds as Pipes and Swerve, under the names Heikew and Spiale, respectively.  I've got Heikew on the way; he and Hasbro's Power of the Primes Outback just about finish off my Generations minibots.  I'm passing on Spiale, though, because I like the IDW influence of the official Swerve.

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Rocke comes with two guns, one with a cool metallic blue paint job, the other just black plastic.  His instructions suggest that the blue gun is meant for him but the black one was designed for Spiale.  Engineer comes with a blowtorch hand.

Rocke also comes with a power suit and two attachments for the power suit.  Engineer comes with a power suit, a storage box, two claw attachments, and a rifle for the power suit.  They seem to be knock of Diaclone reboot things that don't have anything really to do with Rocke and Engineer, so I'm not going to get into them.  Just letting you know what was in the boxes.

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Compared to other 3rd-party Legends figures the articulation on these guys is very basic and closer to a Hasbro Legends figure, which is fine since I'm putting them with official Hasbro Legends figures.  Rocke's head scan swivel.  His shoulders don't actually move; they're just posts with ball pegs at the ends that fit into sockets in his chest.  This does allow them to rotate and provide him with limited butterfly joints, but it also means that his lateral movement is also limited.  He does have bicep swivels, and his elbows can bend a little under 90 degrees.  No wrist or waist swivels.  His hips are ball joints that can go under 90 degrees forward, backward, or laterally.  His thighs swivel, and his knees can bend maybe 45 degrees, although you can cheat and get more if you open the back of his legs for transformation.  He has no ankle or foot articulation, but they're shaped to give him flat feet with a slight A-stance.

Engineer's a little better.  His head swivels, and his ball-jointed shoulders can rotate and extend laterally about 60 degrees.  His elbows are ball joints that can bend slightly over 90 degrees as well as act as a bicep swivel.  No wrist or waist articulation.  The front of his pelvis is on a hinge and can move out of the way to get his hips a little less than 90 degrees forward, backward, or laterally (but slightly more than Rocke).  He has thigh swivels, but they're right above his knees, and swiveling them will actually hinder his knee bend.  With his thighs nice and straight, though, he can bend his knees well beyond 90 degrees.  Like Rocke, his feet have no articulation but the bottoms are slightly angled.

Rocke can hold both of his guns, but the blue one is a little tighter.  Maybe they didn't account for the paint.  Engineer can hold his blowtorch.  Note, though, that Rocke's weapons do not fit into Engineer's hands.  Also note that standard Transformers weapons with a 5mm peg won't fit, as they're too large, and weapons from 3P Legends or the Diaclone reboot with 3mm pegs have handles that are too small for these guys.

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Both Rocke and Engineer have alt modes that are very Sunbow.  The only big difference is that Mechanic Studio painted Engineer's lights, and he's got purple smokestacks where the cartoon actually had orange ones.  Rocke, meanwhile, is just missing a small patch of gray on his hood.  And the transformation for both figures is very simple and obvious, along the lines of a Hasbro Legends or even a G1 toy.  Once again, I think they look great but I'm not sure the Sunbow aesthetic matches the official Legends very well.

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Both figures roll fine, and there's a peg hole on the top of Rocke's roof you can peg one of his guns into.  There isn't such a place on Engineer, but his fists are technically available.

Neither of these figures is going to end up on anyone's list of best 3P or best Legends-class figures.  Many 3Ps working in this scale are churning out mini Masterpiece figures, while these guys are simple figures with very basic articulation.  They are, however, inexpensive figures, at around $18-$20 each, and Engineer especially fills a niche in my collection that a better but smaller figure like Magic Square's Strong Man is a little short for.  If you're looking for a Legends-class Gears or Huffer to go with your Magic Square or New Age figures then these guys aren't what you're looking for, but if you're looking for a Huffer or a more cartoony Gears to go with your official Legends-class minibots on your Generations/Siege shelf then these two should fit the bill nicely.

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Nice find, Mike. Both figs hit the mark for a good blend of toon and toy. Shame the articulation isn't quite up to current standards, or these would be nigh perfect. With Earthrise on the horizon, and a nice looking Cliffjumper with Siege level articulation being shown, I'm hoping that all the minibots will get the same treatment in this line, as they really seem to going full-bore G1. This would, IMHO, be the line to just knock out all the original cast with faithful G1 versions so all of us 'GeeWunners' finally get the definitive official mainline toys we've been wanting for years. After Siege, though, I hope they do something completely different- kinda like they did with Animated, only a whole new cast. Put G1 to bed for awhile.

As for my CHUG shelves, for now I'm letting Magic Square's Strong Man and New Age's Max (Cosmos) fill the voids, though both are undersized for official legends, esp Max-he's tiny. But, both look really good, and are fun little versions of their respective characters, so I put them out there b/c they make me happy. ^_^

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I've wanted a good Pipes and/or Gears for years, but none have ever quite hit the mark for me.  I'm still looking for that 'early MP' aesthetic, of blending the best bits of toy and toon in bot mode, while having a very realistic alt-mode.  A pure-toon Gears is just way too goofy-looking, but I sure don't want "toy-accurate" overall (that goes for ALL minibots).  

Pipes---often gets pretty close, much closer than all the Gears I've seen----it's usually the alt-mode that ends up looking odd to me/being the deal-killer, like it's out of scale with itself or something.  (kind of like the Ultra Magnus mold with the doors/steps scaled so that it's a 6-story-tall cab, but in reverse)  

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19 minutes ago, sh9000 said:

Wow. Thanks for the link @sh9000. That new arc-like backdrop pops. I've been see-sawing back and forth on their SF03 display. I guess I should surrender and get both: one set for Macross and the other for Transformers...or one for an Autobots display and another to show off some Decepticons? :ph34r:

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