BWTF's Top Ten Transformers Action Figures of 2018
The Transformers brand is in a constant state of change, introducing new sub-lines and expressions of our favorite Robots in Disguise. This year had the Transformers divided up into several segments including: Generations, Cyberverse, Rescue Bots, Bumblebee, Masterpiece and BotBots. This of course does not even take into account smaller, exclusive lines like Legends-EX in Japan and Movie The Best. Given this wide range of figures it was tough to pick a "Top 10", but after much ruminating (and chatting with friends) here are my Top 10 Transformers toys for 2018! The only requirement this time out is that the figure was released in 2018 and it had to be an official product (no 3P). Here goes!
10. Predaking (Power of the Primes)
This year's Titan Class release was Predaking, the Combiner formed by five Decepticons who transformed into animals. This set does a lot to pay homage to the original G1 Predacons including having fully "mechanical" beast modes and being generally larger than other Combiner characters. Some fans did have reservations about the rather "chunky" individual forms, but the combined Predaking figure looks spectacular and powerful. While the original retail price of $159.99 was at the upper limit of what this set is worth, it would come down to prices as low as $64 in some places, making it more than worth it!
In Generation One, the Fortress Maximus sculpt was repainted as a new character named Grand Maximus in the "Masterforce" series. When "Titans Return" Fortress Maximus was released, most fans assumed he would be repainted as Grand Maximus. It took some time but in 2018 Takara Tomy finally released the figure as Grand Maximus as part of their "Legends-EX" line. This figure retained what made the "Titans Return" Fortress Maximus fun, but it also swapped out the sound clips from that figure with speech from the "Masterforce" cartoon, adding a very special touch to this awesome release.
2018 saw Hasbro and Takara Tomy begin to consolidate their figures, but some last gasps of "Legends" came out at the beginning of 2018. These included Overlord. While the "Titans Return" Overlord was already a solid figure, Takara Tomy worked their magic and improved on it. They retooled the figure to include two Headmasters, giving fans figures of Mega and Giga from the Masterforce cartoon. This also allowed Overlord to have two faces instead of just one. They also gave him brilliant new colors and overall they truly elevated the figure several notches over its "Titans Return" counterpart.
In Generation One, Takara took the G1 Sixshot sculpt, retooled and gave it new colors to create the Cybertron (aka Autobot) warrior Greatshot for the "Victory" series. In 2018, history repeated itself as Takara Tomy released a retool of "Titans Return" Sixshot as Greatshot! Not only did they change up the head and colors, but they also changed the "helmet" pieces, stabilizer fins and beast mode head to really pay homage to the original character. While he may look cool, this character was fairly obscure in the pantheon of Transformers and I was very happy to see him recognized with a new figure!
A late entry into this year's figures, "Siege" Optimus Prime is a spectacular figure. His aesthetic lines up brilliantly with the G1 cartoon in robot mode and his vehicle mode has echoes of the G1 truck cab mode. He has fantastic articulation, cool weapons and the ability to work with various accessories thanks to a bunch of 5mm ports on the figure. On top of all that he has an intuitive transformation and looks great. This is a definite "must have" in my book.
5. Legendary Optimus Prime (Bumblebee)
When the "Bumblebee" movie toys began to be revealed, they focused on figures with gimmicks and simpler transformations. However, Takara Tomy decided to go in a different direction with one particular release: Optimus Prime! The Leader Class "Legendary" Optimus Prime figure is inspired by the Evasion Mode Optimus Prime design but takes it to another level with features such as a changing face plate and the ability to tow Masterpiece Optimus Prime's trailer in vehicle mode. This is an impressive figure that seemingly came out of the blue.
One of the most unique Transformers figures in Generation One was Punch, who transformed into a car and an alternate robot mode known as "Counterpunch". This Autobot spy is rather fondly remembered by most Transformers fans and was even made by the Collector's Club in 2010. Years later fans would finally get a more mass produced version via Hasbro and Amazon in the US (other countries had the figure at retail). This new version is not only a cool figure, it appears to be a brand new sculpt to boot! Like its G1 counterpart this figure transforms from an Autobot to a Decepticon and a sports car. This is easily a "must have" figure for any G1 fan.
The 2017 release of "Power of the Primes" Optimus Prime was really impressive. Intuitive transformation, a true Orion Pax figure styled after the G1 animation model and a fun play pattern all came together to form a really cool figure. However, with the release of the Amazon exclusive "Nemesis Prime", Hasbro really kicked things up several notches! For this "evil Optimus Prime" figure they took the "Power of the Primes" Optimus figure and gave it a new head and accessories to help differentiate it from the previous figure. On top of that, these accessories paid homage to the character from the "Unicron Trilogy"! This set was a real surprise and one of the best figures to come out of the "Power of the Primes" line.
The "Studio Series" sub-line of "Generations" has made an impressive showing so far with excellent sculpting and some surprisingly intuitive transformations. However, with the release of Leader Class Grimlock suddenly the line took off to a whole new level. "Age of Extinction" Grimlock received the toy treatment many (many) times over the years, but most of those versions failed to match the on-screen version of the character since they were largely based on concept drawings and not the final CG model. With Leader Class Grimlock, Hasbro and Takara were able to use the CG models from the film as their guide, resulting in a figure with an amazing sculpt and one of the best paint jobs on any Transformers figure released this year.
1. Dinobot (Masterpiece)
When "Beast Wars Transformers" aired in the 90's, it was a ground breaking show for its time. However, even back then fans noticed that the transformations in the show largely cheated, generally having parts expand and contract in odd ways to accomodate the robot and beast mode CG models. One of the most glaring examples of this was Dinobot, who looked very different from his "Beast Wars Transformers" action figure counterpart. For the longest time, fans figured the Universe 2.0 Dinobot figure was the best representation we would ever get of the character in action figure form. However, in 2018 Takara Tomy decided to prove itself capable of virtual magic in plastic form with the release of a Masterpiece Dinobot figure! Recreating the character's appearance from the TV show, this figure is remarkably accurate to the 90's CG models and the transformation is complex yet amazing at the same time. Add to that an LED for his "laser eyes", different facial expressions, a spinning blade weapon and even a Golden Disk! This figure does not just look good, it is a staggering example of how far Transformers engineering has come since the 80's.
Some figures are great for one reason or another, but they do not quite make it to "Top 10" status. Here are a few:
Sideswipe was only slightly edged out by Optimus Prime above, but I wanted to give a shout out to this figure. It is the first Deluxe Class Sideswipe in a while, and it is fantastic. Cool vehicle mode, G1-esque robot mode and he even has a blaster and rocket launcher. Add on an intuitive transformation and the ability to work with Battle Masters and Weaponizers and you have a figure that not only looks cool but is also fun to play with - a magical combination.
Launched seemingly out of nowhere in late 2018, the BotBots are a new sub-line of the Transformers brand. Featuring every day objects from a mall being given life by Energon, the BotBots are cute, silly, cool and fun all at the same time. The "blind box" toy market has been growing for quite some time now, and creating a Transformers sub-line around them makes perfect sense. These figures also appeal to a very old, G1 concept of the Transformers disguising themselves as every day objects. Characters like S.A. Cheese (who becomes a camera) and Screen Fiend (who transforms into a smartphone) are the spiritual successors of characters like Reflector and Soundwave from "Generation One". Add to that some fun personalities and fun styling and this line is one of the most original expressions of the Transformers in years.
Cyberverse 1-Step Changers (Wave 2)
I know, you're probably thinking "Cyberverse?! On this list?!" but I am giving the second wave of 1-Step Changers an honorable mention because out of the overall disappointment that is the "Cyberverse" line, these three figures (Optimus and Starscream more than Megatron) really stand out. Specifically, these figures really deliver on the promise of 1-Step transformations being "magical". My favorite is Optimus Prime. Press down a tab, turn the top of the cab around and the figure basically transforms as you turn it until it is in robot mode. Starscream virtually flips "inside out" to transform into robot form. Megatron just kind of pops out of his tank but I'll throw him in for good measure. For the younger fans out there, these figures deliver fun and some good sculpting and pretty good decos given their price point. These figures are a good reminder that Transformers figures can be about more than just articulation or deco and G1 homages. Sometimes the play pattern is key.
And that concludes BWTF's look at the top figures of 2018! With several sub-lines including the newly launched "Siege" and "BotBots" expanding in 2019 (along with even more "Studio Series", "Rescue Bots" and more) 2019 promises to be a fun year for fans!