"Generations" Titans Return Highbrow with Xort Toy Review

in 2016, Action Figure Review, Autobot, Deluxe, Generation One, Generations, Titan Master, Titans Return

Generations
Titans Return

Chromedome General Information:
Release Date: October 2016
Price Point: $16.99 (depending on retailer)
Retailer: General (Toys R Us, Target, Wal-Mart etc.)
Accessories: Xort Titan Master figure, Blasters x 2

Official images and text below in italics are from Amazon.com:
The Transformers battle explodes into uncharted territory when the Titans Return. To control an ancient race of giant, city-sized warriors -- the Titans --the Autobots and Decepticons must harness the power of Titan Masters, smaller bots that give bigger bots enhanced abilities in battle. Join the battle with Transformers Generations Titans Return figures. Highbrow knows all the answers but usually can’t be bothered to explain them in ways other bots can actually understand. He's one of the most intelligent Autobots, and a master of predicting what the Decepticons will do next. The gravity disruptors of Xort give Highbrow the power to manipulate gravitational fields. This Titans Return Deluxe Class Autobot Highbrow figure comes with a Titan Master Xort figure. The Xort figure becomes the head of the Highbrow figure. Unite them and power up for battle! Titan Master figures can become the head for Deluxe Class, Voyager Class, or Leader Class Titans Return figures. Unite this Titan Master Xort figure with other bots to create different combinations, or unite other Titan Master figures with this Highbrow figure. Find the best team ups and join the battle. Additional figures are each sold separately. Subject to availability. The Highbrow figure converts from robot to vehicle and back in 11 steps. The Titan Master Xort figure converts from robot to head and back in 1 step. When the Highbrow figure is in vehicle mode, the Xort figure fits inside. Also includes 2 blaster accessories and a collectible character card with tech specs. Transformers and all related characters are trademarks of Hasbro.

Early on in the life of the Transformers line the toy line began to move away from the sole gimmick of transformation. Once figures like Combiners were introduced it became clear Transformers could be more than just a robot that changed from one form to another. In 1987 Hasbro and Takara took a bold step into a new play pattern by introducing Headmasters. Headmasters were Transformers whose heads detached and became smaller figures that could then pilot or ride the Transformers in beast and vehicle forms (or in a couple cases, their battle station or city forms!). Now almost twenty years after they were originally introduced the Headmaster gimmick has returned in a new form: Titan Masters!

Titan Masters focuses on the return of small robots to Cybertron that can unlock incredible power, and it is up to the Transformers to merge with them and harness those abilities and strengths. In some ways the story resembles "Armada" which had a similar conceit for the Mini-Cons. In true "Generations" fashion, Titans Return gives us characters from the Headmasters era in new forms that pay homage to the originals.

Highbrow is a character who has not popped up very often in the Transformers toy line. After Generation One there was a version in "Animated" (fiction only), a movie universe version of the character and more recently a Kre-O version of the character. With the theme of "Titans Return" bringing back Headmasters characters from G1, the character finally gets a long overdue update based on his G1 appearance.

It is not obvious but Highbrow is an extensive retool of the Scourge figure from the first wave of Titans Return Deluxe figures.
However almost every part from Scourge has been replaced with new ones with the exception of the thighs. The basic engineering for the transformation has been kept intact as well, but it is used differently. Due to how extensive these changes are this review will cover this figure in detail rather than just covering the changes made to the figure for this release.

Packaging:
The Titans Return packaging uses the design of the last few years and updates it. The figure is packaged in robot mode with its weapons to the side. An insert shows you the alt mode along with the names of the Titan Master and character along with the "Titans Return" logo. The side of the insert gives you a look at the character's artwork. Most of the backing card is plastered with a close up of the character's package art. While entire bodies were drawn for this line, the packaging zooms in to the chest and head to focus on the Titan Master gimmick, wth the head hovering a bit over the body as if it is about to connect. The side has the now familiar "Generations" logo with an Autobot symbol on it and the vertical "Transformers" logo under it.

The back of the packaging shows off the stock photography for the photo but more importantly, it shows off a diagram explaining the way the Titan Master play system works. The heads of the Titan Masters can be swapped from figure to figure, and the diagram helps illustrate this across size classes. These also act as cosells. In the case of Highbrow his cosells are Titan Master Brawn, Chromedome, Alpha Trion and Soundwave.

Titans Return figures come with a collector card, similar to last year's "Combiner Wars" series. However these cards are shaped differently, with corners cut out on two sides. The front features the character's artwork, giving you a better look at the full body. The back features something fans have wanted since last year: tech specs! These are not traditional specs with a full motto and so on, but instead there are four qualities reflected here (via icons). The four icons are: A robot flexing arms (strength), a character running (speed), a brain (intelligence) and a missile (firepower). These are laid out on the X axis of a bar chart with lines going across from a scale of one through twenty. Traditional tech specs only go from one to ten, but these tech specs take into account the Titan Master being combined with the Transformer. This extends the line into the zone past the number ten. I'm really glad these were added in as I think it was a missed opportunity not to do so last year. I also appreciate the bright and colorful icons and lines used on the back of the cards.

Accessories:
Highbrow includes two blasters. The design of these weapons are based on G1 Highbrow's weapons with extra bits and details added on the base. The part that most resembles the G1 weapons are the weapon barrels, which are thick tubes with a smaller tube in the front. The weapons are cast in metallic blue plastic, however most of the weapons are painted gunmetal grey except for the handles. Each weapon features a 5mm peg. Both weapons can be connected into one larger weapon that includes a seat for a Titan Master to sit in, turning this into a gunnery station. The weapons also feature a wheel detail sculpted into the back for those times you want to use them as part of the vehicle mode.

Xort

Xort is the new name for "Gort", the original G1 Headmaster partner for Highbrow. This was done for trademark reasons (you can search for the term "Gort" here). Given that Highbrow is a retool/redeco of Scourge it is no suprise that Xort is a retool/redeco of Scourge's Titan Master, Fracas.

Head Mode:
The design of the face plate on this figure is based on G1 Highbrow's head design. This includes a tall central crest and two thin, rectangular designs on either side of the head. He also features large visor eyes with a nose and mouth under it. Despite how generic this design sounds, it is fairly unique to Highbrow and he is instantly recognizable to fans familiar with the G1 character.

The "helmet" section of the face plate is gunmetal grey. The visor eyes are painted a blue-grey color while the lower part of the face is light grey. This does not sound like the most thrilling color scheme but it does look good and it is true to the character's G1 appearance.

There have been reports that the head on Xort is loose on some copies of this figure causing Highbrow's head to easily flop around. Xort's head is actually very tight, so this is due to the mechanism that connects Xort to Highbrow's body. I wish I could say I avoided this with my copy of the figure but unfortunately that would be a lie. Now, you can pose the head just fine. It turns and stays in place. However once you begin to move the figure around or if you gently shake it a little the head flops around. Sadly a few of my friends have reported to me individually that their Highbrows also suffer from this issue.

Transformation to Robot Mode:
Swing the back of the head down and straighten it out to form the legs. The arms can swing up.

Robot Mode:
Xort features a new head sculpt. The new head piece probably needed another round of quality checks before being released for looseness. That said, the sculpt itself looks great and calls back to G1 Gort very well. It features his distinct head design that includes a crest like piece on the top of the head, a brow section that features two distinct notches and visor eyes.

The head, arms and lower legs are cast in metallic blue plastic. The torso and thighs are grey plastic. Xort features one paint application, silver on the visor eyes. It's not a lot, but I appreciate that he was not left completely unpainted.

Xort features five points of articulation (standard for the Titan Master figures). This includes the head, arms, hips and lower legs. Unfortuantely the legs are fused together so they cannot move independent of one another.

Robot Mode:
Highbrow is a retool and redeco of "Titans Return" Scourge, but he really pushes the definition of the terms as most fans I know use them. Most of the time a redeco/retool features a new head or maybe new weapons and a new color scheme, but it's pretty obvious when you stare at the figure that it's another figure with new colors ("Combiner Wars" Streetwise is a prime example). In Highbrow's case however the designers went the extra mile. The only parts that Highbrow shares with Scourge are the basic Fracas body (with new head), the "spine" that factors into his transformation and the hip and thigh sections. So thorough is this retooling that many fans did not even realize this was a retool/redeco of Scourge until they were told, yours truly included!

The sculpting for the new parts on this figure are absolutely stellar. First off the designers worked hard to mimic the overall shape of G1 Highbrow. This includes having small wings on his upper arms and extensions of the vehicle mode on the sides of the lower legs. There is even an undocumented feature where the center of his chest panel swings out a little, matching the angled design of a square panel on G1 Highbrow's chest. Drilling down to more granular detail, the designers also took inspiration from G1 Highbrow's stickers to create scupted detail. On the upper arms you'll see a panel with two raised notices and an angled "L" shape line next to it. These details come directly from G1 Highbrow's arm stickers. Other cool details include sculpted trapezoids on his chest that match the ones on G1 Highbrow. I'm very impressed with the attention to detail on this sculpt.

Highbrow is cast in metallic blue and light grey plastic. Paint applications include gunmetal grey, blue-grey, grey, yellow, red and blue. Some of the nicest colors are the gunmetal grey on the head, weapons and lower legs. I also really like the yellow and red used on the arms, recreating some sticker detail from G1 Highbrow. Finishing up the deco is a silver and red Autobot symbol on the chest. I am really happy with how many different colors there are on this figure and how intricate some of the detailing is.

There are nineteen points of articulation on this figure. This includes four on each arm and the ability for the heel pieces to move. Due to the way the figure transforms, he does not have waist articulation. Highbrow can hold 5mm peg weapons in his hands or you can attach them to the wings on his arms for storage.

Transformation to Vehicle Mode:

  1. Detach Xort and convert him into robot mode.
  2. Detach the weapons and set them aside for now.
  3. Straighten out the arms and legs.
  4. Swing each fist into the forearms.
  5. Swing each heelpiece into the feet.
  6. Holding the thighs together, pull the legs down to extend the figure.
  7. Swing the helicopter cockpit on the back up and over the section where the head was attached.
  8. Swing each lower leg up over the thighs and connect the lower leg sections together, forming the rear of the vehicle.
  9. Swing the robot arms down and press them against the sides of the vehicle. The knee armor from the lower leg sections should slot right into the opening on the sides of the forearms.
  10. Attach the weapons to the 5mm ports on the bottom of the vehicle using the rectangular tabs. The little wheels on the weapons should point down.
  11. Xort can be seated in the cockpit.

Vehicle Mode:
Just as Highbrow's robot mode uses G1 Highbrow as its inspiration, so does the vehicle mode. Like his G1 counterpart, this Highbrow is a twin rotor helicopter featuring a large cockpit in front, small wings on the sides and three stabilizers in the rear (one vertical, two horizontal). There are some smaller details that have been brought into this figure from the G1 version as well. These include vents on either side right under the rotors and a sculpted sensor pod in the front of the cockpit. However a bulk of the sculpted details on this figure are unique to this version of the character. This includes vents and layered panels on the sides of the cockpit section and layers of armor on the rear section. The rotor/wing sections also have a lot of beveled details and small weapon pods on the ends of the wings. The designers really worked hard to give fans a lot of eye candy in this sculpt.

This mode focuses the metallic blue plastic running from the front to the back in the middle section. The rotor/wing section is mostly light grey. The cockpit cover is translucent red. The color layout approximates G1 Highbrow's very well. Just as there awere plenty of details in robot mode, there are some really nice ones in this form. Red is used behind the cockpit section and for lines running along the rear of the vehicle. Gunmetal grey is used for the mechanical parts of the rotors on the sides, the rear rotor and some details that stick out on the sides of the cockpit section. In a rather surprising detail the edges of the cockpit window were painted light grey, differentiating the "cage" section of the cockpit window from the "glass". Finally, there is a silver and red Autobot symbol on the top of the vehicle towards the middle. It's a really nice deco and I'm very happy with it.

Both rotors can be spun if you push them. The cockpit window can open to allow a Titan Master to sit inside. On the bottom of the cockpit section is a light grey landing gear piece that can swing down. The other wheels are parts of the weapons, so if you attach them to the bottom the three wheels line up nicely. You can connect the two weapons together and connect them to 5mm ports on either side of the cockpit section though I have to admit it looks rather odd.

Final Thoughts:
Highbrow's biggest issue is the floppy neck section that causes his head to sit loose in the body. That said, it is not so bad that you cannot pose the head so I do not find it a deal breaker. The rest of the figure is great. Lots of detail, good play factor and a good deco. Extra kudos for being an extensive retool/redeco that does not just look like the original figure with a new coat of paint. Recommended, but be aware of the "floppy neck/head" issue.