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By Thomas Wheeler

As the Toys "R" Us exclusive Transformers Generation One Commemorative Collection started to wind down, there would be a somewhat controversial addition to the series. His name was Ricochet.

This was not a previously established character. So -- where did he come from? Technically, the toy started out as a Targetmasters version of Jazz.

The Targetmasters were a series of Transformers in the Generation One line that came with small "partners" that could transform into weapons. There were also the Headmasters about this same time -- Transformers that came with small partners that actually transformed into the characters' heads, and without which, they were trapped in vehicle mode. Personally, I always thought that was a pretty ludicrous idea. Within the storyline, the Headmasters were organic beings -- humanoids (from another planet), who paired up with both Autobots and Decepticons. Never mind the fact that it was a huge stretch to consider that a Decepticon would ever team up with a human on this level, it seemed to be that pairing an independently-thinking robot with a human for its head was just asking for a nasty case of schizophrenia. Leave the human-piloted robots to Gundam.

But the Targetmasters were a little more tolerable. The Transformers were not as dependent on them, and a transforming weapon, albeit one with a personality of its own, was actually sort of a cool idea.

And yet -- within the Transformers line, there had never been a Targetmasters Jazz -- so where'd this toy come from?

Japan, of course. The Targetmasters Jazz, and my research indicates it was known as "Stepper", was an exclusive product of Takara. As such, it was also a highly valuable toy. So when Hasbro announced that they were making the Targetmasters Jazz part of the Generation One Commemorative series, albeit recolored and renamed Ricochet, a certain group of collectors got quite upset.

As for the Ricochet toy itself -- well, no one's really going to mistake it for Jazz that much. Yes, structurally the car does bear a strong resemblance to Jazz. But it's only on the form alone where the car has this resemblance. Jazz was largely a white car, and Ricochet is mostly black. The underside of the car is white, and there's some very nice gold and gold chrome trim. Basically, enough color changes have been made to create an entirely new character.

His Targetmaster partner is named Nightstick. I think the last time that name was used for a Hasbro product, it was for a skinny martial arts expert that was part of the C.O.P.S. line.

Transforming Ricochet is actually very easy. Either that, or I've gotten more used to the complexity of Alternators than I thought. As a Generation One remake, Ricochet isn't particularly articulated in robot form. He has superb arm articulation, but not a lot in the legs. In robot form, the resemblance to Jazz is even less than in car form. The head structure is reminiscent of Jazz, but the head is white, and the face is gold. Let's say maybe he's like Jazz's long-lost cousin or something, like Sideswipe and Sunstreaker are related.

The result of the transformation is a very nice Autobot that stands about 4-1/2" in height and carries a really big gun.

Ricochet comes with a generous number of other accessories, as well, including a smaller gun, and a spring-loaded missile launcher, complete with several missiles. This is an extremely well-equipped Autobot.

The toy comes with a number of stickers. Personally, I don't tend to use these all that much, and honestly, one of the Autobot stickers, if used, would have to be plastered right over his "color change" sticker. Nice of Hasbro to include these again. But for the most part, I've tended to aways consider the stocker sheets, except for specific character markings, to be unnecessary. They often have to be places over sculpted details, and that doesn't always work very well.

Ricochet's spec card on the back of the package presents a rather irritable individual:


Function: Rapid-Fire Attack

"Either help me destroy my enemies or get out of my way"

Fellow Autobot warriors find it difficult to maintain friendly conversations with this quick-tempered, easily-provoked Autobot, but Ricochet has an uncommonly strong sense of justice. Has the most accurate marksmanship of the Autobots. Can hit a tin can from 10 kilometers. Shoulder-mounted automatic shell cannon fires shots at a rate of 30 per second.

The name Ricochet has turned up again, notably as the name for a fancy black plane in the 2005 BotCon set, so apparently being a car just wasn't fast enough for this guy.

He's certainly the most distinctive piece in the Commemorative Collection, since he represents a robot, and really, a character, never previously released in the United States. While that may infuriate some of those who paid big bucks for the Japanese version, it should otherwise make just about any Transformers collector happy.

I definitely recommend RICOCHET!