Article: "Ben's Top 10 Transformers Toys of 2016"
Transformers fans truly live an interesting times. Between "Rescue Bots", "Robots in Disguise", "Generations" and the live action movies, the market is full of different interpretations of our favorite Robots in Disguise. This year my top ten list plays a bit more fast and loose with my previous rules because there were just so many figures worthy of being considered I did not want to restrict them. The only requirement here is that the figures were available at retail in 2016. Some of them made it in very close to the end of the year, but they still count (I'm looking at you Convobat). Remember, these are just my opinion and I can guarantess you will find figures you disagree with and others that are not in the slot you would give them. It's all in good fun, enjoy!
10. Gnaw (Titans Return)
Based on the Generation One "Sharkticon" character, Gnaw was rumored a couple years ago when a mysterious listing for him was leaked online. After a couple years many fans just gave up and relegated him to the realm of mythological releases. However this year we finally got this figure as a Legends Class and he's wonderful. Round, scary and yet somehow cute all at the same time the Legends Class is perfectly suited to make this figure a troop builder for fans to have their own Sharkticon pits!
When the Protectobots were released for "Combiner Wars" a new member of the team was introduced: Rook. One of the original team members was basically "demoted" from being a limb to chest armor, namely Groove. Many fans felt Groove should have received the "Deluxe" treatment like his fellow Protectobot limbs from G1 and eventually Takara Tomy did exactly that in their boxed set of Protectobots. However for those who did not want to buy the whole set, Hasbro released Groove as a single carded figure featuring a whole new sculpt. While modern this Groove does harken back to the original version of the character with many of his details. Finally with this Groove fans could have a "proper" Defensor as part of their "Combiner Wars" collection.
For many fans, Liokaiser has long been a character they never thought they would be able to add to their collection partly due to the high prices for him on the aftermarket. Add to that the tendency for Killbison to fall victim to "gold plastic syndrome" (where gold plastic cracks or disintegrates when stressed) and that dream seemed even more distant. However thanks to Hasbro and "Combiner Wars" fans now have a modern day take on the character! Granted, he's not perfect (two original team members are "missing" but there is a Sky Lynx redeco/retool in their place, take that as you will). However the new head sculpts for the Deluxe figures are awesome, complete with movable horns and details. They even included a Mini-Con as a callback to the "Breastforce" feature of the team from G1. This is an admirable effort that pays wonderful homage to a character fans have long wanted.
7. Computron (Unite Warriors)
After many years of being absent from the Transformers toy line, Computron suddenly took the collecting world by storm in 2016 by coming out with two versions! One version was released by Hasbro for "Combiner Wars" while the other was released in Japan for "Unite Warriors". Both used the core Voyager Class Scattershot figure for the body of course, but both sets featured retools/redecos of different Deluxe figures for the limbs. For instance, the "Combiner Wars" version used a Brawl redeco for Nosecone while "Unite Warriors" used a heavily retooled Rook instead. Ultimately the winner of this Computron Contest was Takara Tomy. Their version simply featured heavier retooling and more show accurate detailing, especially on figures like Nosecone and Strafe. If you want the definitive modern day Computron figure, this is the one!
Thunder Mayhem was a Combiner figure exclusive to the Transformers Collector's Club. If you subscribed to their figure subscription service five figures were mailed to you over the course of 2016. Once you received all five, you could form Thunder Mayhem, inspired by the character Thunderwing. The individual members of this figure had incredible decos and the combined form simply looks spectacular. From the G1 Marvel comic book inspired Thunderwing Combiner head to the late 80's inspired color scheme, Thunder Mayhem is a spectacular looking figure with a cool history.
Blaster has received a few updates over the years including a Voyager Class figure in 2013. However this time he is a Leader Class figure that borrows heavily from his G1 counterpart. This includes being a "boom box" in one mode and having a "chest compartment" gimmick. There are a lot of "real world" details on this figure including a connector for earphones (that actually fit earphones) and a slot for a power cord. Add to that a really cool base mode that can connect to other "Titans Return" bases and his play value goes through the roof! Blaster is one of my favorite releases from "Titans Return" so far.
For many Transformers fans, Fortress Maximus is an iconic character. Whether we are talking about the gigantic Headmaster in Generation One or the more recent IDW Publishing version, he is a character that has made a mark on Transformers history. This version took the mass release version and added the "Master Sword" and gave Cerebros a head based on the G1 head design. Even better? This version of the figure featured an audio Easter Egg that would play a guitar riff from the G1 theme song. There are also a ton of fun Easter Egg phrases on his stickers (translated into Cybertronian text). While the retail version of this figure is cool, this is the one G1 fans should own!
e-Hobby has a history of taking modern day sculpts and finding fun ways to reinterpret them as characters from classic Transformers lines. This year they released an amazing set that used the "Titans Return" Mindwipe figure and replaced its head with the Infinitus head from Sentinel Prime to create a modern version of Convobat, aka the "bat" version of Optimus Primal from "Beast Wars"! Even better? He includes a Megaligator Headmaster (based on the alligator Megatron figure) and, Ape X Arms, a drone based on the colors of Optimal Optimus using the Apeface sculpt. The sum total of this set is a brilliant call back to "Beast Wars" with an amazingly creative use of parts from several different figure sets. For any "Beast Wars" fan, this is a must have in my book.
2. Optimus Primal (Masterpiece)
It has been over twenty years now since "Beast Wars" was released, but few items came out for its anniversary in the last couple of years. At best we have had dribs and drabs of "Beast Wars" characters which were great (see Rhinox) but there was nothing cohesive. Fortunately fans of the series do get one amazing consolation prize at the end of 2016: Masterpiece Optimus Primal. This figure is absolutely spectacular. It features a beautiful sculpt in both modes that looks like the CGI model from the cartoon jumped out from your screen into your collection. Add in different facial expressions for both the robot and beast modes and this makes for one amazing representation of the character.
1. Inferno (Masterpiece)
Inferno may seem like an unlikely candidate to be number one on a top ten list, but Masterpiece Inferno by Takara Tomy is really one incredible piece of work. It can easily be argued that the original G1 toy was fairly show accurate, but when you look at this figure you realize just how different it really was. Case in point: the ladder. In the G1 cartoon, the animation model for Inferno did not have a large ladder hanging off his back (while the toy did). The Takara Tomy engineers figured out a way to have the ladder tuck into his torso in robot mode but still function in vehicle mode complete with the ability to extend and extend out a nozzle for "fire fighting"! Add to that the ability to give him two hands or one "blaster hand" and one "regular" hand and it's amazing what this figure has to offer. It truly embodies the term "Masterpiece".
"Robots in Disguise" has been a polarizing series among fans due in part to the very unusual designs of its Decepticons. For the most part, the Decepticons in this show transform from vehicles to beast-like robot forms. One of the most unusual examples of this is Bisk who transforms from a futuristic car to a robot based on a lobster. Even better? His name is a play on the dish "lobster bisque". Is it absurd? Absolutely, but it really shows a boldness on the part of Hasbro and Takara that we do not see often in the line. Not since the craziness of Fuzors have we seen such wacky designs and I love every one of them.
While "Unite Warriors" Computron earns a spot in the top ten, I would be remiss if I didn't give "Combiner Wars" Computron an honorable mention. Hasbro did a lot of cool things with this set. First off it comes with unique fist and foot pieces that make the figure look a lot better. Even better, the feet have ankle articulation! On top of that, this set includes Scrounge and Cybaxx who are both callbacks to (relatively) obscure G1 characters from the Marvel comic book era. For many, this set was "Scrounge with some extra figures", showing their enthusiasm for the character.
Sawback (Titans Return)
Why in the world would I include a relatively cheap, tiny figure in this section? Because it's amazing. Is it the best toy ever? No. However what Sawback represents is something very cool. See, back in the G1 era Japan released an exclusive set of Headmaster heads individually. These remain rare to this day and cost hundreds on the after market. However if you want a modern day version of one of these characters, now we have it! Sawback is a modern day interpretation of the G1 Headmaster, Lione! His head mode uses the design cues of Lione and his "vehicle" is a lion (G1 Lione turned into a lion). I love the fact that fans now have a chance to own a Lione "stand-in" as part of their "Titans Return" collection. Even better? Shuffler (another rare G1 Headmaster figure) is due in 2017!
Thanks for reading my list of top ten figures for 2016! Of course you will have your own figures you want to bring up, so head on over to Facebook to share your thoughts on the best figures of 2016.