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REVIEW:
TRANSFORMERS BOTCON 2005 EXCLUSIVES!
By Thomas Wheeler



2005's Official Transformers Collectors' Club Convention, BOTCON 2005, was held in Frisco, Texas, from September 22-25. This was the first Transformers Convention produced by MasterCollector, the same fine organization that has been running the Official G.I. Joe Convention for quite a few years now. Given the superb job they've always done with that, there was every expectation to believe that the Transformers Convention would come across very well.

Although I was unable to attend, the reviews and reports I have read have indicated to me that between the guests, the events, and the displays, the Convention did very nicely. And as one might expect from MasterCollector, given the amazing sets of G.I. Joe toys they've put out as Convention Exclusive Sets for the past several years, there was every reason to believe that the Transformers Exclusive Set would be extremely impressive.

And indeed, it was. No less than a dozen Transformers were made available -- seven in a boxed set, plus five additional ones on the side. I was able to obtain these toys, even though I wasn't able to attend the Convention, for a special review here on the Web Site. Let's have a look at these cool Transformers, shall we?

The boxed set was packaged under the name TRANSFORMERS TIMELINES, a new concept in the Transformers universe. It brought together Transformers toys from multiple concepts, recolored and with new names and identities. The toys are beautifully packaged, with a foam rubber framework inside the box holding them all securely. The instructions and character file cards are underneath the framework, and the weapons are concealed underneath the "Transformers Timelines" logo card.

The file cards are really nice pieces of work. Measuring 3-1/2" x 5-1/2", each features a superb painting of the character, his tech- specs, and a personality profile. I shall be relating those here.

The official title of the set is "DESCENT INTO EVIL", and a comic book is included with the toys, written by Ben Yee, a noted Transformers expert, with some really outstanding artwork by Dan Khanna, Makoto Ono, with inks by Chuck Gibson, Ted Pertzborn, and Makoto Ono, with coloring by Krista Ward and Espen Grundetjen. The story involves Decepticon General Deathsaurus creating a new series of warriors called Insecticon Clones, and the Autobots' attempt to stop him. Obviously the characters involved are those from the toy set.

Let's start off with the big guy. The centerpiece of the collection is DEATHSAURUS. This is a name well-known to Transformers collectors, even though it hasn't turned up much in the United States. Sometimes spelled "Deathzaras", the name has been applied on more than one occasion to a very prominent Decepticon, almost on a level of Megatron himself. The toy in this collectors set is redone from the Robots in Disguise version of Megatron/Galvatron, with a new headsculpt specifically provided for this boxed set. This particular toy has no less than six different forms, so if you think that I, with my somewhat limited ability to transform these toys, am going to take this one through all of its paces
-- sorry. You get the robot mode and like it.

This is a highly intricate and detailed figure, and there's no way he's going to be mistaken for one of the good guys. This robot looks just plain vicious. And if that isn't enough, consider his file card:

DEATHSAURUS - Function: Decepticon General

"Glory of death for my enemies, glory of victory for me!"

Profile: After his defeat centuries ago by the Autobot Star Saber (there's another name out of Japanese Trasnformers' legend), Deathsaurus was recreated as one of the Generals in the Decepticon Army. Having led many successful campaigns, he became frustrated as the Autobots and Maximals began to overwhelm the Decepticon/Predacon Alliance. His ultimate goal is to re-establish his title of Emperor of Destruction, and return the Decepticon Empire to its former prominence. Savage, cruel, and brilliant, Deathsaurus should never be underestimates. Deathsaurus hopes to use the Insecticon Clones to increase his power base.

Abilities: Deathsaurus' new form was engineered to have six distinct transforms including a dragon mode, an aerial vehiclwe mode and a high- speed ground mode. These forms, along with his dual Energon blade weapon made him a formidable foe. Utilizing the unique materials in his wings, he can convert sunlight into dark energy, which will corrode any type of metal upon contact. Deathsaurus is one of the strongest Decepticons.

Weaknesses: Deathsaurus' arrogance allows him to believe his plans are foolproof, causing him to sometimes overlook potential flaws.

Sounds like a nice guy. The other Decepticons in the boxed set include BUZZCLAW and DIRGE, both based on the same set of molds, which are, in fact, Buzzclaw from the BEAST WARS line. The name Dirge, of course, goes all the way back to the original Decepticons, and was the name of one of the jet planes from the line's second year. These guys look like really ugly wasps as much as anything, which is what I assume they are. They've been molded in largely opposite color schemes to each other, with Dirge having a largely yellow body with purple trim, and Buzzclaw having a largely purple body with yellow trim. Both figures have black legs and red wings. Their cards read as follows:

DIRGE - Function: Commander

"To lead is to inspire fear!"

Profile: Dirge is one of the few remaining members of the ancient Insecticon clan, a group of Transformer warriors dating back to the beginnings of the Great Wars. Once a prominent commander in the clan, he has witnessed their number shrink over the ages. He views himself as the loyal lieutenant which history will remember as standing by a great Emperor. Who that Emperor is does not matter to him, as long as the Decepticon Empire rises again. He has pledged his loyalty to Deathsaurus, until someone more powerful (and thus more worthy) comes along to replace him.

Abilities: Dirge is a brilliant tacticisn, having once led legions of troops into combat. His wings are able to generate an aural disruption field that activates the pain receptors of anyone unfortunate enough to be caught in it. In beast mode, his claws secrete an acid that aids them in tearing through enemy armor. In robot mode, he can fire bursts of high voltage electricity from his hands to incapacitate enemies.

Weaknesses: Dirge's wings can be easily damaged.

BUZZCLAW - Function: Warrior

"Mercy is a luxury afforded only to the weak."

Profile: Buzzclaw is one of the few remaining members of the ancient Insecticon clan, a group of Transformers warriors dating back to the beginnings of the Great Wars. He is brash, loud, and obnoxious. However, he is also dedicated to helping Deathsaurus bring the Decepticon Empire back as a major power in the galaxy. He sees this as an opportunity to practice his own brand of brutality on the population of planets everywhere. His past as a warrior in the gladiatorial pits of Polyhex have afforded him skill and preference for hand-to-hand combat. He relishes the feeling of an enemy's body going limp at death in his hands or claws.

Abilities: Buzzclaw is trained in various forms of hand-to-hand combat, and has spent eons using those skills in battle. His insectoid beast form allows him to use his skills in both modes, each allowing him to utilize different weapons. As a beast, he can use his claws and mandibles to tear enemies apart. In robot mode he uses his wrist-mounted claws and shield in combat. Like all Insecticons, he has an innate ability to create clones out of himself from existing raw materials in his immediate vicinity. However this ability has become diluted over time as he has changed his exo-structures. It is this ability that Deathsaurus hopes to unlock from his genetic code.

Weaknesses: Buzzclaw's over-reliance on hand-to-hand combat makes him vulnerable in situations requiring more artillery-based solutions.

So much for the Decepticons. What about the AUTOBOTS in this set? Well, let's start with...

CHROMIA - One thing the Transformers Energon series of toys gave us, finally, was an official ARCEE toy. This popular Generation One character had never been made as an actual Transformer (the PVC "Heroes of Cybertron" line notwithstanding), and finally, the character made it, as a motorcycle that transformed into a reasonable resemblance of the classic character. The Club took that series of molds and decided to expand the female population of Transformers a bit, and the result (but not the only one) is Chromia. Here's her file card:

CHROMIA - Function: Warrior

"Let actions speak for you."

Profile: For millions of years, Chromia served as one of the crack troops of the Autobot underground on Cybertron. While tough and determined, Chromia retains a wry sense of humor. She believes that words are fairly meaningless without action to back them up. It is a philosophy she employs in and out of combat. Her blunt personality sometimes puts off other Autobots, but those two truly understand her know that this is her way of honoring the Autobot ideal of truth. Chromia is extremely protective of Flareup, whom she has agreed to watch after, out of respect for her comrade, Firestar.

Abilities: In vehicle mode, Chromia is able to reach a top speed of 320 mph. Her tires have been specially reinforced to withstand most artillery fire. Combined with her side mounted missile launcher and grenade launcher, she is a force to be reckoned with in battle. In robot mode, Chromia is extremely agile and able to move quickly around the battlefield while firing her combined weapon with deadly accuracy.

Weakness: Chromia is not very adept at creative thinking, preferring to use brute force most of the time.

By the way, if some of these names in this file card are sounding familiar, good for you! You're remembering some of the more interesting aspects of the original Generation One cartoon...

My only complaint here is that one of these motorcycle robots --and there are two more in the complete set -- has a little bit of hand- painted detail on her chin. I realize that it makes the robots look a little more distinct, and honestly, it's amazing how different all three of them do look, even if you include their "original", Arcee, in the mix, and the overall detail work is excellent, but hand-painting detail inevitably is going to look sloppy. I realize it's a cost-saving move on Hasbro's part, but it really needs to be abolished in general. It's inflicted itself on too many toy lines as it is.

Now let's have a look at RICOCHET. The name is a fairly recent entry in the world of Transformers, used as the designation for a recolored Targetmasters Jazz in the Generation One Commemorative Series.

This Ricochet is actually an airplane, one of the Cyberjets from the GENERATION 2 series of Transformers -- interesting choice. He most closely resembles an F-14 combat jet -- a little black SkyStriker, if you want to make a G.I.Joe comparison. It's an interesting addition to the set, to be sure. His file card reads as follows:

RICOCHET - Function: Saboteur

"Bluntness wins battles, subtlety wins wars."

Profile: Ricochet was one of the top trainees in the espionage division of the Autobot academy. His skill in sabotage gained the attention of Espionage Director Bumblebee, who took the young Autobot under his wing. Unfortunately, this had the negative effect of bolstering Ricochet's ego to an extreme. He thinks very highly of himself. However, his abilities often justify this belief. Unfortunately, his attitude has led to conflict with fellow Autobots from time to time. While he is an adept spy, Ricochet prefers sabotage, which he feels is a much more effective way of fighting enemies than outright battlefield confrontations. "He'll grow and learn, if he survives long enough," Bumblebee says with confidence.

Abilities: In vehicle mode, Ricochet has a top speed of mach 2.0. His primary weapon is his lance, mounted on the top, able to fire bursts of plasma energy. His outer skin is composed of a special alloy that is able to avoid most advanced detection methods. Combined with his almost silent running engines, he can go undetected in enemy territory with ease. In robot mode, Ricochet is extremely agile. He has a massive array of visual and listening equipment built into his head unit. In addition, his lance doubles as a melee weapon.

Weakness: Ricochet's attitude sometimes leaves him in situations where he has taken on more than he can handle. While other Autobots will come to his rescue, they have been known to do so grudgingly.

And since when does hanging around Bumblebee bolster one's ego!?

Anyway, let's check out FALLBACK next. This is a fairly nondescript Autobot, really. He looks like a stylized tan jeep, and in his original form, was Strongarm from the Transformers Energon line. Still, he's a cool little Transforner, and I like the transparent blue parts on his frame. His file card reads as follows:

FALLBACK: Function - Infantry

"Do not let your path be dictated by the rules."

Profile: Fallback was once the independent-minded Autobot known as Outback. Having once believed he would be nothing but a casualty of war, he was proven wrong when, even after almost being destroyed, he survived and was granted a new exo-form. Having been given a second chance at life, Fallback decided to take on a new name and a new purpose: to follow in the footsteps of great Autobots such as Ultra Magnus and Rodimus Prime and become the best Autobot warrior he can be. Though still not a big fan of rules, Fallback has learned to respect them and utilize them to his advantage.

Abilities: Fallback's body is composed of armor designed to resist most forms of artillery fire. His primary weapon is an axe forged from solid Energon. This can also double as an energy cannon. In vehicle mode, he can go up to 180 mph with a range of 1000 miles. His tires are reinforced, allowing them to travel on the roughest terrain without damage.

Weakness: Fallback still sometimes reverts to his old way of thinking, and this falls into situations where he is outnumbered.

So this used to be Outback, eh? I knew this color scheme looked familiar. Probably couldn't call him that this time around, officially, without getting into trouble with a certain steakhouse chain.

Finally, we have IRONHIDE in the boxed set. And I have to say that I am very pleased with the inclusion of this character. The toy, in vehicular form, based on a Transformer named Tow Line from the Energon series, is a close enough counterpart to the original Ironhide to get away with it. More to the point, the robotic version is far more "humanoid" than the original Generation One Ironhide, who in robotic mode was a rather odd piece of work as I recall. Interestingly, the robot is essentially a two- parter. The upper half of the vehicle turns into the robot, whereas the lower half turns into a battle-station platform. Ironhide's file card reads as follows:

IRONHIDE - Function: Security

"High tech circuitry is no replacement for guts."

Profile: An Autobot of few words, Ironhide prefers actions over excessive talking which he refers to as "leaking lubricant". A veteran of several Great Wars, Ironhide is one of the oldest and most experienced Autobots currently in active service. His gruff exterior hides a kind, inner soul whose concern for life knows no bounds. Younger Autobots often joke about Ironhide as an antique from a bygone era, but his skill, experience, and loyalty often win them over in the end.

Abilities: Following the battle of Moon Base Four, Ironhide's body was severely damaged. Utilizing the legendary Reconfiguration Matrix, Optimus Prime generated Ironhide's new form. His new body retails his original trithyllium-steel alloy which has been blended with new material and has formed a special ablative armor making him more resistant to artillery and electromagnetic attacks. Ironhide's arms house chemical mixtures that can generate anything from supercooled liquid nitrogen to metal dissolving acid. He can fire these from emitters built into his wrists. Ironhide is able to combine with his trailer unit for increased mobility on the battlefield.

Weakness: Ironhide is still one of the slowest Autobots, though his speed has increased thanks to his new form. His compassion for other living creatures can be used against him.

Yeah, that profile pretty well sums up the original Ironhide in any era.

Now let's turn to the additional toys. As with G.I.Joe Conventions, MasterCollector offered some special additional toys that were not part of the boxed set, to those in attendance at the Convention. There are five of these -- Ratchet, Flareup, Flamewar, and a pair of "Virulent" Insecticon Clones. Let's start with...

RATCHET - Hey, if you're going to redo Ironhide, you might as well redo Ratchet while you're at it. These two classic Autobots were based on the same mold, and had the same weird robot mode. That's been corrected thanks to the use of the Tow Line body for both characters. The vehicle mode looks very much like the van that both vehicles originally were, and the robot mode is much more agreeable. And as with Ironhide, this is essentially a two-part toy. The upper part of the vehicle transforms into the robot, and the lower half becomes a battle/weapons platform.

Ratchet is a classic Generation One character, basically the team's chief medic/mechanic. He's also being very prominently featured in the new Generation One comics title from IDW Publishing, so be sure to catch that. His file card reads as follows:

AUTOBOT RATCHET - Function: Chief Medical Officer

"You break it, I'll remake it."

Profile: It would have been easy for a veteran such as Autobot Ratchet to become embittered after ages of war, death, and destruction. However, even after several million years, this Autobot has retained his original cheerful disposition and tendency to look for a good time. This is not a reflection of irresponsibility. Rather, Autobot Ratchet knows that while he tends to the injuries of his patients' bodies, he must also help heal the wounds in their Sparks. Being the best tool-and-die man on Cybertron, no other Autobot is more qualified for the job.

Abilities: For half a century following the last Great War, Autobot Ratchet traveled the galaxy to train in various forms of combat to better save disabled comrades on the battlefield. As a result, he us now one of the most adept Autobots in hand-to-hand combat, although he prefers not to use it unless absolutely necessary. Ratchet's wrists contain a variety of welders, laser scalpels and liquid dispensers. His primary weapon is an Energon-blade that can also emit stun-blasts. Autobot Ratchet is able to combine with his repair bay trailer for greater mobility on the battlefield.

Weakness: Ratchet is not very strong, but his skill often compensates for this deficiency.

Next up we have FLAMEWAR and FLAREUP. These are a couple of additional Arcee recolors, to add a few more female characters to the teams. Flareup is an Autobot, whereas Flamewar is a Decepticon, although technically she doesn't serve under Deathsaurus. She reports directly to the Tripredacus Council, and is essentially spying on the Decepticon general. This is a crucial part of the comic story included with the set. Here are their file cards:

FLAREUP - Function: Demolitions

"Where there's fire, there's me."

Profile: Flareup was a student of rescue operations officer, Firestar. She learned the art of rescue well, but soon developed a fondness for destruction rarely seen among Autobots. However, her love of destruction is not a love of violence. It is an appreciation for the planning behind demolitions as if it were an art form. Flareup has an extremely cheerful disposition, which unnerves other Autobots as it seems to run contrary to the grim nature of her work.

Abilities: In vehicle mode, Flareup is capable of traveling at 330 mph. She maneuvers readily and can utilize both her missile launcher and laser cannon in this form. These two weapons combine to form a powerful weapon for Flareup in robot mode. Her skin is made of a special composite that allows her to withstand temperatures of up to 8,000 degrees centigrade. Flareup is an expert in the use of "smart" explosive charges to destroy a target.

Weakness: Flareup sometimes gets too wrapped up in the planning of her demolitions and does not take proper precautions to protect herself from the results of her handiwork, leading to injury.

FLAMEWAR - Function: Tripredacus Agent

"To forget the past is to doom the future" (Actually, that's a good bit of wisdom...)

Profile: Flamewar was one of the original members of Megatron's army during the first Great War. Since that time, she has served as everything from a warrior to a scientist. In her current role as an agent of the Tripredacus Council, she hopes to help guide the Predacon Alliance into a position of power and one day, defeat the Autobots and the Maximals. She holds disdain for the current crop of Decepticon Generals, including Deathsaurus. Flamewar sees them all as pale imitators of Megatron, whose loss she mourns to this day. While on the outside she maintains bravado, deep down inside, Flamewar yearns for days long gone with sadness and anger.

Abilities: Having stolen the plans for her current body from the Autobots, Flamewar made modifications to increase her abilities. Her body is able to generate a low-level force fiend, which virtually eliminates friction, allowing her to achieve high speeds in robot and vehicle modes. Her vehicle mode has been clocked at speeds in excess of 400 mph. Her weapon has greater range and accuracy than the original plans dictated as well. Flamewar is incredibly intelligent and experienced in combat.

Weakness: Flamewar's tendency to look back at the past can sometimes cloud her judgment regarding her present actions.

Finally, we have the VIRULENT CLONES. These are a pair of Transformers based on the Buzzclaw molds, but not quite as colorful as Buzzclaw or Dirge. The bodies are blue with black trim, and yellowish faces. Their file card reads as follows:

VIRULENT CLONE - Function: Shock Troop

Profile: The Insecticon Virulent Clones were the result of Deathsaurus' resurrection of the latent Insecticon cloning capability. Extracted from the Cybertronian genetic codes of Buzzclaw and Dirge, the Insecticon Clones were created to act as a self-replicating source of warriors for the Decepticon army. Each has a very rudimentary intelligence with no personality of its own. This makes them ideal for swarming enemies, with little regard for their own safety. The Clones listen to their Insecticon masters, Buzzclaw and Dirge, and will follow their orders to the letter at all times.

Abilities: The claws and mandibles of each clone secrete acid, which helps them tear into enemy armor. The clones are capable of consuming almost any material to convert into energy to sustain their systems. In robot mode, each clone carries a shield that can absorb energy from an enemy's attacks and reflect it back at them. They can use their wrist- mounted claws as slashing weapons, and each has a basic level of hand to hand combat knowledge based on memory implants from Buzzclaw.

Weakness: The exo-structure of the Clones are not as strong as those of Buzzclaw and Dirge. Thus the Clones are easily destroyed. It is their massive number which serves as their greatest advantage.

Anyone who remembers the huge swarms of Insecticons that turned up from time to time in Transformers Generation One knows what this "latent Insecticon cloning capability" is all about.

Of course, complete instructions for all of these Transformers are included.

One thing I would like to say about ALL of these Transformers, and that's with regard to articulation. It's excellent, especially in robotic form and, as needed, in the alternate forms. To me, one of the biggest drawbacks of the original Generation One Transformers was that, in robot mode, they weren't especially well articulated. That deficiency has long since been removed, and these robots, whichever concept they may have originated from, are all superb in this and all respects.

Clearly the people at MasterCollector put a lot of time and effort into this set, and for them, it was a new experience. While they have been masterfully presenting G.I. Joe Conventions for quite a few years now, anyone who is a fan of both G.I.Joe and Transformers will tell you - they're both very different worlds, in regard to product, concept, and indeed, fan base. It can't have been easy for them, but I have heard that the Convention went well, and certainly these toys are truly superb. Well-made, nicely and neatly detailed and painted, well- accessorized, and the excellent file cards and package finish the set admirably.

I have to say I am extremely impressed with MasterCollector's first Transformers Convention Set. There's a good choice of characters from all aspects of Transformers, respect for the overall concept and background, and all of it was very well presented and manufactured. The Club should be commended for this excellent effort.

If you have a chance to obtain any aspect of this set for yourself, I most highly recommend doing so, and would like to offer in conclusion my sincerest congratulations to MasterCollector and the Official Transformers Collector's Club for the BOTCON 2005 EXCLUSIVE TRANSFORMERS SET!