Friday, 30 July 2021

Toybox REVIEW: Transformers War for Cybertron: Kingdom Ultra Magnus

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Release Date: March 2021
RRP: $49.99/£49.99

The combination of both the War for Cybertron trilogy and Studio Series 86 lines has proven quite effective in getting fans old and new back into Transformers toys, especially those (like myself) who have always dreamed of completing a relatively screen-accurate cast of Transformers: The Movie in modern form. Although it’s the Studio Series 86 line that's leading the charge in that respect, there are still plenty of incredible releases coming out of War for Cybertron too – such as the War for Cybertron: Kingdom leader class Ultra Magnus figure. After previously appearing in the beginning of the trilogy as part of the Siege line, Ultra Magnus returns to not be able to deal with it all over again in Earth mode as part of the Kingdom range.

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The figure comes in a nice big Leader class-sized box, maintaining the same shape as the rest of the War for Cybertron: Kingdom boxes. You can see the top half of the figure through the window on the front but this box is definitely more about the artwork, with the front featuring Magnus in alt mode while robot mode appears along that diagonal spine. The flat spine just features the same Kingdom artwork that appears on all the boxes. On the back you'll find images of Ultra Magnus in his various modes, along with images that tell you just how many steps there are between them. Open the box up and you'll find the toy securely fixed to a cardboard tray by more plastic ties than I'd care to count. Getting it loose of all these ties is a challenge in itself, making it feel even more like a reward when it's finally free.

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Each Kingdom release also comes with a randomly-packed holographic Golden Disk card, which features one of four characters. Peeling back the front of the card reveals a possible fate that will befall that character, with said fates changing with every wave of releases. My copy of Ultra Magnus came with a card of the Ark, the spaceship in which the Autobots travelled across the cosmos (and thanks to the recent Titan class release, we can consider an actual character as well). The top layer of the card simply shows the Ark travelling through space, while the hidden layer reveals the ship presumably falling to the Decepticons and becoming the "Dark Ark. "Becomes Dark Ark" is the hidden message written in the coded Cybertronian language across the bottom of the image.

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Kingdom Ultra Magnus is a retool of the Siege figure from 2018, slightly altering the design to even more closely resemble his original G1 look. Alterations include a completely redesigned cab front in alt mode, modified Magnus armour, an altered chest section in robot mode and a new face sculpt giving Magnus those more familiar goggle-style eyes (complete with light piping!) as opposed to the standard ones the Siege figure has. Best of all, it also loses all that ugly battle damage the Siege figures were covered with. Like the rest of the Earthrise/Kingdom figures, Ultra Magnus is heavily inspired by the G1 cartoon design but features more detailed moulding to give it a more modern edge (which for the most part is what sets these figures are apart from the Studio Series 86 releases). The colours on this figure are fantastic too, with most of the blue and red sections done with plastic rather than paintwork. Where there is paint it's all applied exquisitely however, and it all really stands out on that bright white body. There may be quite a lot of hollow areas on Magnus, but he's certainly chunky in all the right places. Between that and the weight, this definitely feels like a figure that justifies its Leader class status.

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But on top of being one of the beefiest members in the 1986 Autobot crew, Kingdom Ultra Magnus has all that modern Transformers line articulation to boast about as well. Altogether this figure features;
- Ball jointed head
- Rotating shoulders with an outward pivot
- Bicep, wrist waist and thigh swivels
- Hinged elbows, knees and ankle tilts
- Ratchet joint hips
Given the design of this figure and how its transformation/various components work, that it's pretty impressive that it includes all of this movement and manages to pull it all off without parts getting in the way of each other. This Magnus might be too heavy to be able to pull off any dynamic display stand-aided poses, but when it comes to ones where its two feet are on the ground there isn't a lot to be disappointed about.

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Ultra Magnus' sole accessory (other than those twin missile launchers you attach to the shoulders anyway), is his "RT-15 Stethoscopic Detector" blaster rifle, which remains unchanged from the Siege release. The gun is moulded in red plastic and then painted a nice gunmetal grey, however the peg remains unpainted to avoid any paint rub occurring both on the accessory and those pristine white fists. As both hands on the figure are identical, Ultra Magnus can be posed holding the rifle in either hand and is the perfect size for such a chunky robot.

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But one of the coolest features of the War for Cybertron Ultra Magnus figure (whether it be the Siege or Kingdom versions), is the fully working Magnus armour feature, which sees the armoured pieces of the robot remove to reveal a fully moulded and articulated inner robot underneath. This is only the third official Ultra Magnus figure to have this feature, after the Masterpiece and original G1 toy. This inner robot is of course essential just a Voyager class-sized white version of Optimus Prime, however it is not an identical mould to the Kingdom Optimus Prime figure. The predominately white figure does have a few notable paint apps in addition to the silver cab grill and detailing, such as the Autobot insignia adorning the right shoulder, the blue faceplate and the blue detailing on the crotch piece. The translucent blue windows also add a much-needed splash of colour to the torso. While it's certainly no substitute for the real Ultra Magnus, it's great to see this key feature of the original toy implemented on a modern version. Posing it bursting out of the Magnus armour looks especially impressive.

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The inner robot retains all of the articulation from the "complete" Ultra Magnus, along with a new ball jointed head and hinged ankle tilts (although technically these are the same as what was there before, just on smaller parts). It's very rare that an Optimus Prime figure isn't a winner in a Transformers toy line, so Magnus' inner robot was very unlikely to turn out badly. It's a hell of a lot of fun to mess around with and pose even without the Magnus armour.

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Ultra Magnus transforms into a cab truck with car-carrier trailer, with the inner robot directly transforming into the cab whilst the armour parts-forms together into the trailer. Transforming the inner robot into the cab is a straightforward enough process as you'd expect (the transformation layout hasn't really changed that much since the original toy after all), but there are some pretty interesting steps thrown in – such as the way that bumper section pulls moves down the back before flipping around to the front. That said, it isn't exactly the most impressive looking truck cab in the world as there's no attempt whatsoever to hide the arms – in fact they're still really visible even with the trailer connected. From the front it looks great, but anything past the doors and you have to wonder if less effort was made simply because the designers knew it would be covered up for the most part. The trailer transformation is similarly straightforward, with a lot of extending panels out, lining them up and clipping them together until that boxy trailer silhouette is formed. It's quite interesting to see all these chunky pieces fold out into flat panelling. While most of the Magnus armour is used to form the trailer, the shoulder pieces actually clip onto the back of the cab to give it extra length and allow the whole thing to fix together. Upon completing the transformation and taking a minute to get over how strange the feet looking sticking out at an angle on the back, the missile launchers can be attached to either side of the trailer and the rifle mounted via a peg hold at the back.

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While Ultra Magnus certainly has the impressive size going for him in alt mode unfortunately the Kingdom figure lacks the car carrier functionality some fans might have hoped for. Since the trailer section has been folded up in such a way that it's hiding all the robot parts of the Magnus armour, there isn't any room inside to store cars on the lower level. You can however simply just place a figure on the top level for a similar effect. Due to the remoulds made to length the alt mode and make it more G1 accurate, the trailer and cab sections are not able to swivel independently from each other. The toy does however feature ten free-rolling wheels, which allows it to glide across surfaces and comfortably lead an Autobot convoy.

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Kingdom Ultra Magnus is a great figure, but if you're someone who already owns the Siege version (which didn't come out that long ago all things considered), then the only real reason to pick this up would be to have a more cartoon-inspired Earth mode version. Other than that, everything to love about this figure (the inner robot and armour gimmick, the poseability) is present on the Siege figure as well. The alt mode definitely feels like a bit more of an afterthought here, coming together nicely with an interesting transformation but ultimately a little lacklustre when it comes to execution (it really is hard to forgive those visible arms on the track cab). As a key player in Transformers: The Movie, any Studio Series 86 display is also going to need an Ultra Magnus so as far as that goes this is definitely your best bet. It's not quite to the high standard many of those figures have set, but it certainly isn't far off it either.

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