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By Thomas Wheeler

Some of the most popular Transformers over the years have been those which not only turned into robots, but also matched up with other Transformers to become even larger robots. These teams were generally known as "Combiners".

Arguably, the most popular of these sets was the very first one released in the United States -- a set of six bright green construction vehicles. Known as CONSTRUCTICONS, they were all Decepticons, and they could not only transform into individual robots, but with the extra parts sold with each robot, could transform into the unified robot known as DEVASTATOR. With a name like that, there was certainly no arguing what he was capable of, and the fact that, especially in the comics and animated series, he was portrayed as far larger than any previous Transformer to date, Devastator soon became a name to be reckoned with, and fearful of.

The huge bright green Decepticon's popularity has not waned over the years. There was a Devastator in the Action Masters line -- one of the more unusual specimens since he was rendered the same size as everyone else, although his various components were still clearly evidence in his sculpt. When the Generation 2 Transformers came along, the Constructicons signed up not once, but twice, in entirely different color schemes, first a sort of more typical construction-vehicle yellow, and then in a fairly bright but not quite neon orange.

I've heard rumors of a set of Generation 2 Constructicons that were actually purple, but I've never been able to confirm this one, nor have I ever seen it. Until I do, I'm chalking that one up to "urban toy myth". There have also been a number of non-Hasbro, non-Takara, questionable-quality bootleg sets of Constructicons in the past few years, that clearly use the original molds. One of them was even sold as a set, molded the figures in light green, and had a package illustration swiped from Hasbro that didn't quite get rid of that trademarked Decepticon logo.

Devastator even turned up in the Heroes of Cybertron line. And when DreamWave Productions started out their comic series based on the Generation One Transformers, with a six-issue mini-series resurrecting the legendary characters, Devastator was most certainly among them. The basic character is so popular that there's even a version of him in the recent Energon line. But those aren't the toys I'm reviewing here.

Recently, in Japan, Takara introduced a new series of MICROMASTER Transformers, based on some of the most popular Combiner teams. And the Constructicons were among them. There were just two problems. In the first place, the bright green Constructicons were actually scarce variants. In the second place, these toys followed the very peculiar Japanese practice of being in sealed common boxes. You have no idea who you're buying when you buy one. The Japanese collectors seem to love this sort of mystery. Personally, I'd find it annoying as hell.

I know there's some collectors out there that love the "thrill of the hunt". Someone recently wrote a letter to Lee's Toy Review, extoling all the enjoyment he gets out of making his store runs once a week, ever-searching for those scarce Hot Wheels cars he likes to buy. The letter make him sound like he was almost disappointed when he actually found them. Unfortunately, some toy companies have been known to be under the impression that most collectors are like this, which explains so-called "chase" figures and toys in various lines.

I do not fit into that category. I don't believe most collectors are. If I want a toy, I want to be able to find it readily and with a minimum of difficulty -- and expense. I do not want to have to spend endless weeks and months trying to find it, I don't want to have to get up at the crack of dawn to beat everyone else to Wal-Mart for their latest shipment, I don't want to have to hand over five times the retail price of the figure to somebody on eBay -- and I sure as heck don't want to have to buy a boatload of little sealed common boxes in the hopes that there'll be a complete set in it all.

Fortunately, Hasbro has started to add these MicroMaster sets to their TRANSFORMERS UNIVERSE line-up, specifically as K*B Toys exclusives. The first batch out, presumably to test the waters, were the PROTECTOBOTS. The second series, arriving just in time for Christmas, really, are the CONSTRUCTICONS.

Now, there are some changes, other than just the size. Not all the original character names have survived. The original Constructicon cement mixer, for example, was named Mixmaster. His new name is Quickmix. Frankly, either one of those names sounds like a box of ready-to-cook pancake batter, but what the heck else are you going to name a cement mixer, I suppose.

The six MicroMaster Constructicons are named HIGHTOWER, BUCKETHEAD, SCAVENGER, LONG HAUL, BONECRUSHER, and QUICKMIX. Of those six, three are classic names -- Scavenger, Long Haul, and Bonecrusher, while the other three names are new, replacing Hook, Scrapper, and Mixmaster.

The vehicles are good miniature duplicates of the original Constructicons, at least in basic form and function. They're not exact in some cases, but Long Haul is still a dump truck, for example, and Bonecrusher is still a bulldozer.

The combined form of DEVASTATOR is another matter. Some of the transformation protocols are pretty much identical. Others, especially with regard to the torso, are quite different. So's the head sculpt. The end result of the combined form is a Devastator that clearly captures the spirit of the original, but is not identical. Actually, this new design looks a little more menacing, to be perfectly honest.

Each of the Constructicons independently transforms from vehicle to robot. They're quite small, but the transformations are simple enough. In robot form, they range anywhere from 2" to 2-1/2" in height, and have fairly decent articulation for such small Transformers. In vehicle form, they tend to be between 2" - 2-1/4" in length.

Devastator stands an impressive 7" in height. He'd probably make a reasonable threat to the Action Masters in this form, if there wasn't already a Devastator in that series. The articulation of Devastator is rather marginal, but then the original one didn't move that well, either. And he certainly looks cool enough, even just standing around.

But there's an added feature, that the original Devastator did not have. The separate parts that are included with the individual Constructicons, that are used in the final Devastator form, can, on their own, be used to assemble an attack jet! It's fairly simplistic construction, but the end result looks pretty cool, and you can seat one of the Constructions in the cockpit.

These TRANSFORMERS UNIVERSE MICROMASTER CONSTRUCTIONS should be showing up at K*B Toys right about now, as I write this in early November. They're $3.99 apiece, which means you can get all six for about $25.00. They're certainly worth it. Any longtime or even recent Transformers fan would enjoy them, and I give them my highest recommendation! They're a very cool addition to the universe of TRANSFORMERS!