"Generations" Titans Return SDCC Fortress Maximus Toy Review (Part One)
Release Date: July 2016
Price Point: $179.99 (depending on retailer)
Retailer: General (Toys R Us, Target, Wal-Mart etc.)
Accessories: Dual barreled cannons x 2; Sword; Dual barreled emplacement, Cerebros figure, Emissary figure, Helipad
Official photos above and description in italics below from Hasbrotoyshop.com:
Fortress Maximus is the ultimate weapon. In his alt mode, he is a city, a headquarters the Autobots and their Titan Master partners can use as a base of operations. In battle, his sheer size makes him almost unstoppable. He is one of the few known Titans that remain in the universe. Whoever controls him controls a weapon of unimaginable magnitude.
This Convention Edition Fortress Maximus figure comes with a Titan Master Emissary figure and a Cerebros figure. The Emissary figure becomes the head of the Cerebros figure, and the Cerebros figure becomes the head of the Fortress Maximus figure. Unite them and power up for battle.
The Triple Changer Fortress Maximus figure features robot, battle station, and Autobot city modes. It has lights (in robot mode) and battle sounds (in robot and battle station modes), and when it's in Autobot city and battle station modes, Titan Master figures fit inside. In Autobot city mode, the figure can connect to Titans Return Leader Class figures to form a Cybertron City. The Titan Master Emissary figure can become the head for Deluxe Class, Voyager Class, or Leader Class Titans Return figures. Additional figures each sold separately. Subject to availability.
This convention edition figure features collectible packaging and comes with a special edition poster. Also includes 3 accessories and instructions. 2 1.5V AAA alkaline batteries required (not included).
Includes Convention Edition Titan Class Fortress Maximus figure, Cerebros figure, Titan Master Emissary figure, 3 accessories, poster, and instructions.
All Fortress Maximus photos are by the talented and awesome Ben Trivett. Cerebros and Emissary photos were by yours truly.
Very 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 thirty years after they were originally introduced the Headmaster gimmick has returned in a new form: Titan Masters! "Titans Return" 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 Generation One, the largest of the Headmasters was Fortress Maximus. This amazing playset still holds the record as the largest Transformer released for Generation One. It transformed from a giant robot, to a city to a battle station. For many this was one of the most iconic pieces of the era. For me personally Fortress Maximus has a special place in my collection. When he was first released he ran roughly $87.99 USD at Toys R Us and there was just no way my parents could ever afford him on their salaries. I asked for him for my Christmas present that year and got Metroplex instead (I didn't complain however). About a year after he disappeared from Toys R Us' shelves, I began to work a part-time job in the summer so I had some cash on hand. I asked a friend of mine who frequented toy stores around Brooklyn, NY and he told me he had seen one. He took me to the store and I put him on lay-away for $125 USD. I spent an entire summer slowly paying off the figure until around August when he finally joined my Autobots. I still have this Fortress Maximus (you'll see him in the photos below) and he remains one of most cherished pieces.
Now decades later we have a new Fortress Maximus. Like his G1 predecessor he has been developed on a gigantic scale, intended to be the centerpiece of the Autobots in "Titans Return". This review focuses on the version released exclusively for San Diego Comic-Con. As of this writing I have not yet reviewed the mass-release version, so this review will focus on the figure as a stand-alone piece, not as a redeco/retool of the mass-release Fortress Maximus. However, since this is a retool/redeco of Titan Class Metroplex, I will address differences between this figure and Metroplex.
Like most San Diego Comic-Con exclusives, Fortress Maximus comes in layers of boxes. The first layer is a brown cardboard box, with part of Fortress Maximus' head drawn on it in black. The right side has a vertical "Transformers" logo with the "Generations" logo above it. On top is the "Titans Return" logo with the words "Fortress Maximus" under it. Open that up and now you have a thin layer that features color art. The front has Fortress Maximus' head again, but this time you see the entire drawing with colors including red foil on the eyes. Unlike most G1 Autobots, Fortress Maximus had red eyes. Turn the box around and there is a huge logo featuring the words "Fortress Maximus" with a city skyline above it, bringing focus to the character's ability to transform into a city. Slide that layer off and now you'll see Fortress Maximus himself in a large window box. He is in robot mode holding his sword in front of him in a downward pointing position. Off to the side is SDCC exclusive artwork of the character with his sword (which is different than the mass release version). The back features a gigantic rendering of the dual barreled blasters from his legs. Overall it's stunning packaging and really drives home the size of the figure while showing it off beautifully. The pop-art-esque look of the art on the outer boxes are fun as well.
It is well known by this point that the mass release version of Fortress Maximus has a sticker sheet. Many fans have told me it took them roughly an hour or so to apply all the stickers. Those who pick up this version of Fortress Maximus will be pleased to hear that all his stickers are already applied right out of the box! There are a ton of stickers for this guy, and most are geared towards selling the fantasy that this is a gigantic Transformer who becomes a city. A few stickers feature hazard lines, others even have graffiti including an amusing one on Fortress Maximus' shoulder which has an Autobot symbol and then the words "Fort Max" scrawled over it in silver. Several stickers on the back of the figure and legs are circular with blue edges, referencing his ability to "fly" in his battle station mode. The ramps on his arms also feature runway designs. Overall the stickers are beautiful, and they are printed on silver foil giving them a nice metallic look.
The most important element to a lot of the stickers however are the Cybertronian glyphs printed on them. From the top of his chest to his torso and even the legs several of the stickers on this figure feature mysterious writing. However, thanks to fellow fans Dave Van Domelen and Kelvin Chan, here's a list of translations of the glyphs (and where the stickers are located). Check out Dave's Fortress Maximus review where I sourced the list below:
- Toes (both same): STAND CLEAR
- Kneecaps (all same): SUPER STRUCTURE PYLON with numbers 01 through 04.
- Helipad side: OPTIC SHIELD REQUIRED
- Belt buckle: FORTRESS MAXIMUS, then mostly garbled tiny text, but I think the first part says HYPER, and there's maybe an ATTA near the end. I could pick up a few other letters, but no more than two in a row.
- Chest button: ENERGON OVERRIDE
- Above chest button: EMERGENCY ACCESS
- Lower chest door sticker: CLEAR when siren sounds (the S seems to be glitchy at the smaller size)
- Upper chest door sticker: (garbled) CEREBROS (garbled)
- Shoulder fronts: BEWARE OF BLAST
- Shoulder backs: LAUNCH WING (01 and 02)
- Right shoulder top: both stickers say HOLD OK (with arrows pointing at the Titan Master posts)
- Left shoulder top: In yellow it says STAND CLEAR. In black below it there's too-small text, then IM 022345. In the red hexagon is DC.
There were some items that were still unclear, partly due to being fuzzy in print or tiny. Wanting to learn a bit more I reached out to Hasbro's development team to ask what stickers they recall. Here was a general list they sent me. Most of this is captured above, but there are some extra fun ones. My favorite are the references to "Mega Thrusters" and "Dynotherms and Infracells" which are both Voltron reference! Check out the list Hasbro sent me:
- AUTHORIZED PRIMES ONLY
- BEWARE OF BLAST
- CAUTION UNSHIELDED EXHAUST PORT DO NOT OBSTRUCT
- CLEAR WHEN SIREN SOUNDS
- EMERGENCY ACCESS
- ENERGON OVERRIDE
- FORTRESS MAXIMUS
- HEADMASTER ACCESS ONLY
- KEEP CLEAR
- OPTICS SHIELD REQUIRED
- PLEASE KEEP ALL MEGA THRUSTER STORED IN THE STOP POSITION
- PRIMARY COUNTER LINK ACCESS BY AUTHORIZED TECHS ONLY
- PRIMARY DEPLOYMENT BAY AUTHORIZED PERSONAL ONLY
- RISK OF FATAL CRUSHING
- STAND CLEAR
- SUPERSTRUCTURE PYLON
- WARNING THIS VEHICLE USES DYNOTHERMS AND INFRACELLS
Unfortunately the folks at Hasbro are quite busy so they could not break down the locations of these stickers for me, but it's fun to see the designers had fun with them.
In Generation One, Fortress Maximus was a "double" Headmaster. His head would detach and transform into an Autobot named Cerebros. Then Cerebros head could also detach and form a smaller robot intended to be Spike Witwicky (in the non-Japanese canon at least). In "Titans Return" this same concept has been carried over, though this time Cerebros' head is a new character named Emissary. The name Emissary is a reference to a character of the same name from "Robots in Disguise" who was a redeco of G1 Cerebros who transformed into the head of the Fortress Maximus from that series. It's a fun reference and is a nice nod to the history of the character.
Cerebros' head mode is the head of Fortress Maximus. Since Fortress Maximus himself is a Titan Class figure, Cerebros winds up being roughly a Deluxe Class figure in order to form his head. The design of this head is heavily influenced by both the Generation One figure and its animation/comic book model. The basic shape of the head is a large cube, though obvious bits of Cerebros' robot mode stick out, especially his arms in the back. A lot of the details from G1 Fortress Maximus' head inspire details on this one. Here's a rundown:
- There are has two horns sticking out on on the sides of the head. Each features a series of horizontal lines going down the front of the horn. Under those are angled rectangles. These details are all based on stickers from the G1 Fortress Maximus' head.
- There is a pronounced helmet section that sticks out over the face. The front of this helmet piece features a cross-like symbol which was very prominent in the Marvel Comics drawings of Fortress Maximus.
- Flanking his mouth area are rectangular sections with vent-like designs sculpted inside. On the top of the helmet section are two long grooves just like G1 Fortress Maximus.
- The face design has wide, diamond shaped eyes that lead to sharply defined cheeks and a mouth area slightly separated from the upper part of the face. Rounding out the facial details is a pronounced chin piece. All these details are modern day versions of details from the original Fortress Maximus.
In an unfortunate cost cutting measure, Cerebros' fists were not made to swing in or disappear in any way, so they just stick up and look a tad awkward if you stare at them long enough. From a sculpting standpoint this is my only criticism of this form.
Cerebros is cast in grey and metallic black plastic. The grey is inspired by G1 Fortress Maximus, but the metallic black is unique to this iteration of the character. There is a bit of light grey plastic in the middle of the head which helps balance out the darker colors. The face is painted light grey, leaving the darker grey plastic on the outer edges contrasting against the face nicely. The horns on the sides have silver paint on the horizontal lines. A sticker is used to provide detailing on the cross on the front of the helmet section and a metallic red sticker is found on top of that section. Now you may wonder what about the red eyes? Well, if you press the Emissary head in it activates the electronics on the head. As the sound effects play the eyes glow red, which looks great against all the dark colors.
The head contains the electronics for Fortress Maximus, unlike Metroplex who contained all his electronics in his body. Press Emissary down and it activates the lights in the eyes and sounds. These include:
- Fortress Maximus says "Decepticon!" and his eyes blink with each syllable.
- A laser fire sound and the eyes light up briefly.
- A sound like energy powering up followed by a mechanical connection sound. This is likely meant to represent him connecting to his body.
- Fortress Maximus says "Autobot!" and his eyes blink accordingly.
- Cartoon-like "computer" noises that sound like a machine being turned off at the end.
- A metal on metal noise and then a "power up" noise.
- Two blaster shots in a row. The eyes light up with each blast.
- Two quick blaster shots followed by an explosion.
- Fortress Maximus loudly declares his own name.
- As reported by BWTF in July 2016, there is an "Easter Egg" sound. Read the details and hear it here.
Transformation to Robot Mode:
- Fold the horns on the sides forward.
- Push the top of the helmet section down over the face.
- Swing the sides of the head down and straighten these pices out.
- Flip out the front and back of the feet.
- Swing the robot arms back.
Before getting into the sculpt and design of this figure, let's talk about the electronics since transforming the figure activates one of them. As you swing the top of the helmet piece over the face, this activates a classic G1 transformation sound effect. Once you have Cerebros in robot mode, you can push his head down to activate a different set of sounds. These come out of a speaker in the chest and activate a small red light on the right side of the chest. Here's a rundown:
- A power build up followed by the sound of an energy weapon firing.
- A sound that heavily resembles the "Photon Torpedo" launch effect from "Star Trek"
- Three blasts in rapid succession.
- Cerebros saying his own name in a very robotic sounding voice.
Overall it's a fun set of sounds and I really appreciate the robot mode having a different set of sounds than the head mode. The little light is a nice touch as well. There's something wonderfully retro about it and I got a chuckle out of it.
When Cerebros appeared in Generation One, there were two primary designs for the character. The first was based on his G1 toy, which featured a head that looked like it was styled after Fortress Maximus' own head but shrunken down. This design appeared in the Japanese "Headmasters" cartoon. Outside of Japan however, the character had a different head design which was featured in the three part G1 "Rebirth" series and Marvel's comic books. The mass-release version of Cerebros uses the face found on the "Rebirth"/Marvel Comics head design. This version however uses the one from the Japanese "Headmasters" cartoon. This same face sculpt is being used for the Japanese release of this figure. The design is similar to Fortress Maximus' head design, most notably he has the horns on the sides of his head and the rectangular pieces flanking his mouth. You'll note he also has blocky visor eyes in place of the diamond shaped eyes on Fortress Maximus' face. This design was actually used for Fortress Maximus in the Marvel Comics design so it's a cool callback to that era.
Cerebros' body is the same across releases (though colors vary). He carries over several design elements from the G1 version of the character including:
- The chest has rows of horizontal lines/panels. This design is particularly clever because this is where the speaker is for the sound effects, so this design allows the sounds to project nicely.
- The shape of the shoulders and forearms are angled and shaped the same as the G1 version of Cerebros.
- The legs are blocky with knee armor that sticks out a bit and leads to a vertical raised detail that leads down to the feet. G1 Cerebros had a similar design.
- The way Fortress Maximus' helmet piece covers the face on his back is just like the G1 figure.
This figure isn't just a retread of G1 Cerebros' design however. He has some extra details, particularly areound the mid-body area that look like intricate machinery, giving the sculpt a more modern touch. Combined with the classic G1 design features this figure's sculpt looks great.
This mode features much more metallic black plastic on the torso and lower legs. Some blue shows up on his shoulders and on the raised sections on either side of the head. The forearms are dark grey while the thighs are light grey plastic. Black paint is used on the forearms to paint in the hands and wrist area. Silver is used for the horizontal lines on his chest. Two shades of grey paint, matching the plastic shades are used in the mid-body area along with some blue. The lower legs also have some blue in the center. The head is a combination of all the same plastic colors as Cerebros himself, with the front facing panel in black with light grey paint on the face and blue eyes. The finishing touch is an Autobot symbol in the center of the chest. I grant these aren't the flashiest or most dynamic colors, but they are true to the character and look good against one another.
Cerebros has nineteen points of articulation. I'm including the halves of his feet being able to move up and down. His elbows are ball jointed so his forearms have a good range of motion. His fists have 5mm ports that allow him to hold weapons. With this set, the tip of Fortress Maximus' sword can be detached to form a small sword for Cerebros. He can also hold the dual barreled turret inside Fortress Maximus' chest compartment. Cerebros transforms into the central tower for Fortress Maximus' alt modes. I will cover this more below.
Emissary is Cerebros' Titan Master. The design is based on the Spike Witwicky figure from G1 Fortress Maximus. He has many of Spike's design elements including a curved helmet with a high crest in the center, horizontal lines and indentations on the sides of the arms and a series of horizontal lines on the legs. The chest design is a bit different than Spike's, but I can see some influences with two designs that point downward. Emissary is mostly dark grey plastic, but his thighs are light grey while the lower legs are blue. In an unusual turn there are some paint applications in this mode. The face is painted silver and his chest is painted black. This does not sound like a lot but it really does keep the figure from looking plain. Consdering many US released Titan Masters don't have any paint in their robot modes this looks great.