Monday, 19 April 2021

Toybox REVIEW: Transformers Kingdom Arcee

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Release Date: September 2020 (Eathrise), March 2021 (Kingdom Re-release)
RRP: $19.99/£17.99

With Transformers: The Movie celebrating its 35th anniversary this year and the Studio Series 86 line celebrating that with movie-inspired renditions of key characters, it’s likely that the Transformers franchise has picked up some new collectors in recent months. And to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to complete the film’s lineup of brand new characters, Hasbro have kindly re-released the deluxe class Arcee figure in the War for Cybertron: Kingdom range after previously releasing her as part of the previous year’s Earthrise range. Other than new packaging the figure remains unchanged between releases, but with the likes of Ultra Magnus, Cyclonus and Galvatron all gracing the Kingdom line it makes sense to bring back the prominent female Autobot and have the majority of the cast available between both Kingdom and Studio Series 86.

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Arcee comes packed in standard deluxe class Transformers Kingdom packaging, which seems to be ahead of the curve when it comes to Hasbro reducing the amount of plastic used in their packaging. The box and contents are almost entirely cardboard, with only a small window on the front to see the figure inside. The box features some incredible Arcee artwork in both robot and alt mode, ready for action against a volcanic backdrop. The robot mode artwork is a reworking of her previous Earthrise release, however the alt mode shot is a brand new piece. The flat spine features a lavish Transformers Kingdom mural, featuring most of the characters that are set to feature in this range. The back of the box has the usual Hasbro renders of the figure in both modes, and then inside Arcee is neatly fixed to the cardboard tray with a number of elastic ties. Also note that the antenna-like piece on the back of the car is not attached in-package and needs to be done manually.

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As with the rest of the Kingdom releases, Arcee comes with a randomly inserted holofoil card of a character included in the range. The front of this card can then peel back, revealing a potential future for said character. The selection of characters remains the same for each wave, but their potential fate changes. Packed into my figure was the wave two card for Dinobot, which features a great profile bust shot of the character and features his designation as a Predacon along the side. Peel back the front and his fate should be obvious to anyone familiar with the character or the Beast Wars cartoon, as it is his defection to the Maximals. This new image sports the Maximal faction logo in the top corner, and then “Becomes a Maximal” is written along the bottom in Cybertronian.

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When you look at Arcee it isn’t hard to understand why she didn’t get a proper G1 toy until 2014 (other than 80s boys toys sexism that is) - it’s clear from her animation model that she wasn’t designed with a working toy in mind, and as such it’s almost impossible to get cartoon accuracy from both modes AND have a proper transformation. The Thrilling 30 figure from 2014 came damn close, but did take some design liberties along the way. In comparison the Earthrise/Kingdom version has opted for as close to cartoon accuracy it can get in both modes, and that’s resulted in a figure that’s interesting to say the least. We’ll get into the transformation itself a little further down, but as far as robot mode is concerned this is a pretty accurate looking G1 Arcee when it comes to the body. None of the body itself is part of the transformation, so the sculptors were free to make it as close to the cartoon as possible - and they did an INCREDIBLE job with it. All except the feet that is, which for some reason are giant pink clown shoes rather than the properly proportioned feet she has in the show. It’s not just the size of them that’s dumb, it’s the massive holes in the back of them as well. However the bigger issues come when you turn the figure around. First off the body itself is absolutely covered with unsightly hollow sections, which may be common on Transformers these days but perhaps not to this extent. Secondly any notions about a decent transformation are instantly thrown out the window, as you’ll see Arcee is pretty much wearing her entire alt mode on her back. Again this isn’t entirely the fault of the designers - G1 Arcee is the very definition of alt mode cheating and it would take the likes of the Masterpiece figure to get around it. But it isn’t particularly aesthetically pleasing nonetheless.

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However if you do want to make Arcee a little more streamline/G1 accurate, that back section of the alt mode can be removed from her backpack via a spring-loaded switch on her right-hand side. Pressing this switch should release the locked side of the section (the left-hand side simply untabs), but almost I immediately I ran into problems. The switch didn’t release anything, and it was only after fiddling with both it and all of the panels surrounding it that I was able to free the piece to remove it. Without half a car hanging off her back Arcee looks considerably better, even if there’s a sense of cheating since so much of her alt mode has been removed. That backside of the car can now be used as some sort of weird hoverboard-type thing, and that formation even involves a few transformation steps as the wheel panels fold out a full 180 degrees. There’s even two tabs on the top of the section for Arcee to properly peg on to it? Overall it looks rather silly, but I suppose it’s better than just leaving out such a big piece from display entirely. Maybe if Hasbro had made a better effort to make it look good on the packaging (the Earthrise artwork has her on it) I’d have more love for it, but really it’s no different that some of the terrible weapon storage options these modern Transformers have - simply a means of not having to put the parts into storage and/or losing them.

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Of course the advantage of not having car parts hanging off the whole of your body means that the articulation can be exceptional, since Arcee is practically a humanoid action figure wearing a big backpack. Altogether she has; 
- Neck, bicep, waist and thigh swivels
- Swivel hinge shoulders and hips 
- Double hinged knees 
- Single hinge shoulders, wrists and ankles 
A standard neck swivel rather than a ball joint is a bit surprising since that seems to be the standard on most modern Transformers these days, but it does the job nicely nonetheless. With nothing really getting in her way, Arcee displays a great range of motion and you’re able to get the most out of pretty much every joint on her. Touches like the wrist joints are surprising given that they feel like they should be part of the transformation scheme but aren’t. The knee bend on this figure is incredible - far better than I've seen on most high end 6" figures. The only thing Arcee doesn’t have that she could really benefit from is some ankle tilts - the giant feet are enough to ensure proper balance when posing, but some tilts would make sure they could both sit flat whilst doing so as well.

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Arcee’s sole accessory (well, other than her hoverboard that is) is her blaster pistol, which has been moulded in translucent blue plastic. The blaster itself has some minimal detailing, but compared to other Transformers weapons it looks kind of strange with how much it just looks like a basic human handgun. The blaster can fit comfortably into either of Arcee’s hands, both having been moulded with a trigger-finger like grip. When not in use, the blaster can also be stored in Arcee’s huge backpack/hoverboard out of sight.

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Considering Arcee’s transformation is only a 15-step process that largely just involves cramming her robot mode inside a car shell, you’d think it would be a relatively stress-free process. However I found her transformation to be the exact opposite, and overall am pretty underwhelmed with the results. On top of the previously mentioned issue of getting the back of the car free from the spring-loaded area (not to mention plugging it back in), a number of panels on the front section of the car seem to either be misshapen or misaligned straight out of the box. No matter how much I try to force them those front wheel panels just won’t align with the rest of the alt mode, and every seemingly successful attempt results in them popping out of place again. I can already see stress marks on the plastic, so I’m not sure how much more force I can give without them breaking. The rest of the transformation is exactly as stated earlier - simply shoving Arcee’s body into a car shell that’s folded out around her. Given all the impressive transformations going on in both the War for Cybertron and Studio Series 86 lines, this is pretty underwhelming stuff. In alt mode Arcee has some vague weapon storage in that her pistol can tab onto either side of the bonnet, but it’s not a very secure connection and looks pretty stupid.

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If looks are the deciding factor though that shell-former transformation was probably worth it, as this Arcee is a great likeness to her G1 car mode. It’s lacking the white sections where the doors should be and the antenna-like piece should be pink rather than translucent blue, but as far as shape is concerned it’s pretty spot on. That said it only feels marginally better than the Thrilling 30 version (especially the cartoon-accurate Legends version from the following year), and that has less panel lines and incorporates the alt mode into the robot mode far better. Though you can’t really see them the car also has four free rolling wheels so it can glide along surfaces, although packing Arcee’s body into the car well enough that she wouldn’t scrape along said surface is a task in itself.

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With Studio Series 86 delivering the kind of toy line some Transformers fans have dreamed of for decades, Transformers Kingdom Arcee is a great (and most importantly affordable) way to fill out that all-important Transformers: The Movie cast. But as a Transformers toy, especially one being released alongside so many incredible recent ones, she does leave a fair bit to be desired. Other than a few spotty areas the robot mode is great (when you remove that half a car from her back that is), but that’s only because none of it is part of the alt mode. You could literally remove Arcee’s entire backpack and display both robot mode and alt mode at the same time. Regardless of the liberties it took, you only have to look at pictures of the Thrilling 30/Legends release to see how much of a better job it did. Make no mistake Arcee will look great alongside your Studio Series 86 (and fellow weirdly-placed Kingdom) figures, but don’t expect her to dazzle you like the others have.


1 comment:

Oar said...

Its a decent compromise, though jetpack and a hoverboard at the same time just look redundant.