Release Date: February 2017
Price Point: $4.99 (depending on retailer)
Retailer: General (Toys R Us, Target, Wal-Mart etc.)
Accessories: Shuffler Titan Master, Elephant/Tank/Weapon Mini-Beast
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!
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 the Generation One era there was a set of six Headmasters figures exclusive to Japan. These were not redecos of existing figures, they were full fledged new figures that were meant to connect to any Headmaster. Three were humanoid, three were animals. One of these was a robotic elephant that transformed into a head named Shuffler. Because of how rare these figures are, they command quite a lot on the secondary market. For a long time these characters were (for the most part) consigned to an obscure part of Transformers history. However, the folks at Hasbro and Takara Tomy had other ideas! Shuffler has taken a new form as a Titan Master with a beast/vehicle/weapon partner.
The Titan Master figures are packaged on a bubble card. The front of the card is universal across the assortment. It features Fortress Maximus' head floating above his body. To the side is a black bar with the "Generations" logo above the vertical "Transformers" logo. The insert in the bubble has a render of the figure in head mode. The head and vehicle are in the area under Fortress Maximus' head. The back is almost universal in that it features a diagram of the Titan Master "eco system" showing that the heads can attach to Deluxe, Voyager and Leader Classes. The difference however is in the bar code, which is specific to each character.
Shuffler did not have a robot mode in Generation One, so the designers were free to do whatever they wanted with the design. Instead of being a generic looking robot, the designers decided to have some fun. His head is designed to look like a robotic elephant head, complete with a trunk! This is similar to his fellow "G1 Japanese head-inspired" Titan Master Sawback who had a lion head in robot mode. His upper body has a lot of detail, though much of it is fairly generic. Then you get to his lower legs and he has feet with toes clearly meant to look like elephant feet! I really love the design of this Titan Master. He's unique and fits the character at the same time.
Update: Fellow fans Frank T. and Stephen B. have pointed out that this robot mode design is heavily based on the Battle Beast elephant "Sledgehammer" and they're right! Several key details including the elephant head, the circles on his shoulders and even the lines on his forearms and chest come right from Sledgehammer's design!
Shuffler is cast in grey and purple plastic. These were the two key colors of G1 Shuffler. The head and arms are purple while the rest of him is grey. There are no paint applications on the robot mode parts.
Titan Masters have a standard five points of articulation: the head, arms and legs. The legs move together but bend at the hips and knees. All the joints on Shuffler are nice and tight.
Transformation to Head Mode:
Push the arms down. Swing the legs up at the hips, then the knees. When attaching the head to a larger figure, I recommend having Shuffler's head facing the same direction as the larger face.
Generation One Shuffler transformed from a robotic elephant into a head, so the designers used the G1 head design as a starting point but refined the design. The key elements that carried over are the top of the head and the face. The top of the head has a crest and two panels that flank it. These are based on the trunk and tusks that formed the top of G1 Shuffler's head mode. The eyes are thin like G1 Shuffler and he has a mouthplate with two small notches on either side. The rest of the head design is new including panels on the side with triangular bits sticking out of them and a distinct line running down the middle of the mouthplate. Ultimately he looks much more modern than G1 Shuffler's head mode and more in line with modern "Transformers" design.
The face portion of Shuffler is purple plastic. Taking a cue from his G1 incarnation his face is mostly painted grey. The eyes are orange. The rest of the head is unpainted but still looks great.
An elephant head in robot mode is not the only reference to Shuffler's G1 form. This mini-beast/vehicle is a robotic elephant in beast mode! Somehow its small size and design manages to make it look cute and threatening all at the same time. The front end has a wide trunk flanked by tusks. The eyes are thin and look like he's getting ready to charge an enemy. The legs are thick and mounted on either side of the head are blasters pointed forward. The 5mm peg that is used in weapon mode forms his tail. The designers definitely looked to G1 Shuffler's beast mode for inspiration. Look at the panels on the sides of the beast and there is a raised panel and line details that match up with similar details on G1 Shuffler. I really love how much the designers paid attention to G1 Shuffler when designing this figure.
Like Shuffler himself this beast is grey and purple plastic. The panels on the sides with the blasters are painted grey and the right side has a red Autobot symbol on it. The eyes are painted blue in a nod to the G1 figure. Color-wise he does a good job of calling back to G1 Shuffler.
The elephant head and trunk can move in this mode and his legs can swing forward (a function of his transformation) for a total of four points of articulation. Sadly Shuffler himself cannot ride on the beast mode or anything. You can however tuck him into a slot on the underside of the figure to "fill in" the main body.
Transformation to Vehicle Mode (from Beast Mode):
- Detach Shuffler and transform him to robot mode.
- Swing the beast mode head up.
- Rotate the beast mode head around and point the trunk forward.
- Swing the beast mode feet up.
- Shuffler can stand on the pegs at the back of the vehicle.
This vehicle is best described as an elephant tank. The metaphor is very apt if you think of an elephant as a lumbering, unstoppable force on the ground. All four of the beast mode legs have tread details on them that contribute to the sense of power this mode conveys. The tail now becomes a cannon in the front and even better, the trunk itself is a cannon that can turn side to side! Having Shuffler ride the vehicle on the back just completes the package and it is both a cool looking display piece and fun toy to play with.
This mode does not reveal any new colors, but it does concentrate the purple colors in the middle with the grey on the sides.
Transformation to Weapon Mode (from Vehicle Mode):
- Detach Shuffler and set him aside for now.
- Swing the elephant trunk up.
- Swing the front elephant legs up.
- Swing the peg in the back down.
As if being an elephant in one form and a tank in another was not a potent enough expression of power this mini-beast/vehicle's weapon mode is an awesome looking rocket launcher. With a whopping ten tubes to "launch" rockets from and blaster turrets in the front anyone wielding this weapon is sure to do some damage on the battlefield! The designers even found a way to make the trunk look cool in this mode. The way it hangs down on the underside of the weapon it looks like a giant weapon clip. In other words this weapon looks incredibly badass. If you want to stash Shuffler himself away, he can fit into the slot on top in head mode or he could even ride in there in robot mode!
The "rocket tubes" revealed in this mode are purple and grey, so no surprises there. Personally I would have loved to see the rocket tubes themselves painted but I'm kind of reaching and nit picking there.
Shuffler is love. Shuffler is a perfect example of why this size class of figures exist. He also shows how the modern day designers of Transformers can embrace the past while innovating for modern audiences. Everyone needs to own Shuffler.
- You can own a Shuffler without spending over $150!
- Fanciful and fun robot mode design.
- Mini-Beast/Vehicle looks great in all modes.
- Great homage details in the sculpt to both Transformers and Battle Beasts!
- Fun to play with in every mode.
- Tank turret can actually turn in a circle and the cannon moves up and down.
- Could use a tiny bit more paint in weapon mode.
- Not yet available in five more colors.