The last several months have been interesting for Transformers fans as Hasbro and Takara Tomy have produced numerous entries in their Combiner Wars and Unite Warriors lines, respectively.
Effectively two halves of the same coin — one western, one Japanese — the lines have been an exercise in reviving the Combiners (giant robots comprised of teams of smaller robots) that were so popular in the original Generation One era. Classics were given updated forms and new entities were created from other familiar faces, but each company went about the process differently.
For Hasbro, they opted to add extra members to various teams as weapons and armor, while also replacing other members of the original teams. This, for example, resulted in a Defensor who removed Groove the police motorcycle as a limb and replaced him with the S.W.A.T. vehicle Rook. In Groove’s unique case, he was still kept on the team, but in a much smaller (and closer to scale) form that could now mount on Defensor’s chestplate. Meanwhile, Takara Tomy opted to remain as true to the originals as possible, generally forgoing the additional and replacement members, and instead producing a Defensor which used an oversized Groove as one of the limbs, to say nothing of more cartoon-accurate paint jobs (whether the actual molds for the toys called for those details or not).
In both companies’ cases, many of the components were reused with modifications (most often different heads) to represent other characters. This resulted in an Optimus Prime who was also Motormaster, a Hot Spot who was also Onslaught, an Alpha Bravo who was also Blades and Vortex, and so on. In the interest of getting everyone (and then some), it was largely considered an acceptable compromise — especially as it was not too long ago we’d have just gotten straight repaints to represent other characters.
Throughout the line (which has been entirely vehicle-based), some question began to surface of whether we would ever see the last (and to some, myself included, the best) of the Autobot Combiners: The Technobots (or “Techbots,” as Japan called them), who form Computron. Their futuristic forms along with no official mention from Hasbro or Takara Tomy made it appear unlikely, and things only worsened when Hasbro revealed a lightly remolded version of Silverbolt as Technobot leader Scattershot, who would combine with other limbs to form Betatron, who looked just like what he was: an off-color, cobbled-together makeshift version of the Aerialbot Combiner, Superion.
As time went on, however, a mysterious source began releasing pieces of a larger image that depicted box art for a Hasbro version of an actual figure of Computron. People figured out from the art which previous mold comprised each limb, and all things considered, based on what we knew, it was better than nothing.
Then something happened: Takara Tomy revealed that they were making a set of Technobots, too. And this one was different!
Still remolds, yes, but Takara Tomy’s tendency to follow the originals as close as possible appeared to be paying serious dividends for Technobot fans here — especially once Hasbro then revealed their Technobots officially at BotCon.
Ever since, it’s been a debate for many about which one is the “better” version. It’s all a matter of taste, really; each does things well, but unless you’ve got about $300 or so to spend across both (they’re only being sold in box sets, rather than individually), you’re likely to have to settle for one or the other.
Breaking it down, here are my thoughts on each component of Computron, presented in such a way as he himself could easily process. Hasbro’s is on the left, Takara Tomy’s is on the right, and for reference, the original toy is in the center. Oh, and the cartoon versions are shown in a group shot from their original toy commercial (where they job out to the opposing faction’s new city, as tradition dictates).
Both look good, with Hasbro’s colors adapting to fit the new form. Takara Tomy’s is more toy-accurate, including a newly-remolded chestplate for that very purpose, as well as a pair of new original brown guns (evocative of the shoulder guns from the original) that can combine into a longer rifle, rather than the red recolored gun of Superion wielded by Hasbro’s. The dual-Autobot symbols across the chest of Takara Tomy’s also mirror the cartoon version well, whereas Hasbro’s uses the color blue to simply but effectively evoke a similar detail of the original toy’s chest.
Conclusion: It’s a close call, but while I actually prefer Hasbro’s jet mode color scheme, I favor the remolded weapons and chestplate of the Takara Tomy version.
Datum: Afterburner (aka “Afterbreaker”) is who one might consider the angry “Raphael” of the group, right down to his motorcycle mode. Both versions are remolded from Takara Tomy’s version of Protectobot Groove (who is also getting a special release in the U.S.), but stock art shows that Hasbro’s keeps Groove’s head whereas Takara Tomy’s features a new head which more closely resembles the original version (though the one shown on display at BotCon featured the new head instead).
Hasbro’s version features a color scheme that’s closer to the original toy with a shade of orange — not the shade of orange, but orange nonetheless, complemented by red, white, and a sharp contrast from the green windshield. Takara’s is admittedly a little plainer at first glance, but pays homage to the toy in other ways, such as the white wheels and the black front-end, along with a blue windshield.
Beyond colors, the biggest difference setting them apart — especially if Hasbro is going with the remolded head — is that Hasbro’s features Groove’s guns, whereas Takara Tomy’s has the large cannon and double-rocket launcher from the original. What’s more, unlike said original, he can actually wield them in robot mode now!
Conclusion: Another tough call, especially if the head is the same. For me, though, Afterburner just isn’t Afterburner without those big honking guns! I liked his pistol as well (which seems to be missing), but his alternate mode just felt naked without those guns mounted on either side. I like orange, but not quite that much.
Datum: The other flyer among the Technobots’ ranks, Strafe, is where things really begin to get contentious. Hasbro retooled their version from the Aerialbot Air Raid, which is made most obvious by the signature chest vents. This is where Takara Tomy went in an entirely different direction from their overseas counterparts and instead retooled their version of the Combaticon Blast Off, which was an entirely new mold exclusive to their line as well (Hasbro retooled Aerialbot Quickslinger/Slingshot, who only saw a limited release here, for their Blast Off).
Whereas Hasbro’s replaced some of the alternate mode bits like the wings and front-end to make theirs look more like Strafe, Takara Tomy did much the same and flipped the figure so that the back was now the front and vice-versa.
Hasbro’s Strafe features a lot more orange as well as a paint job wherein the face on the new head more closely resembles the original toy. Meanwhile, Takara Tomy’s more closely resembles the rest of the toy (including the wings on the shoulders) as well as the cartoon, which the face completes. Theirs has also been shown to be able to wield his vehicle mode guns in addition to his included pistol, as the original version could, while Hasbro has yet to show if theirs can and seems to be without the pistol (so one would hope).
Conclusion: I like both here, but I think I prefer the sleeker (if slightly bulkier) starfighter form that more closely resembles the original from Takara Tomy than the more space freighter-ish boxy form Hasbro’s has (though the visible cockpit is nice). Plus, the robot mode just looks more like Strafe to me.
Datum: The patient Nosecone is arguably one of the most jarring differences among the entire set. Hasbro retooled their version from the Combaticon Brawl, literally turning the tank around, removing the gun barrel, and sticking a drill in the back. And it looks exactly as it sounds.
Meanwhile, Takara Tomy opted to heavily remold Protectobot Rook from a six-wheeled S.W.A.T. vehicle into a treaded tank with a huge drill that can be attached to the end of his arm in robot mode (while the giant Combiner hand can be placed on the other). He even has his pistol and missiles from the original version to boot, and altogether more closely resembles the original in almost every way (including a new head, of course), while Hasbro’s features treads on the arms and a color scheme that’s a bit closer to the original toy’s than Takara Tomy’s, including a red face where Takara Tomy opted for the cartoon’s silver.
Conclusion: This one is no contest: Takara Tomy’s Nosecone by a mile. The alt-mode form is not only better armed, but actually resembles the form of the original Nosecone (who was my first Technobot, for whatever that’s worth), while the robot mode doesn’t just look like a differently-colored Brawl. Hasbro’s is like a whole ‘nother bot altogether — then again, that’s probably because it is.
Datum: As jarring as Strafe and Nosecone were, perhaps no other Technobot is as jarringly different as Lightspeed, aka “Lightsteed” (because you have to renew your trademarks). This one is just mind-blowing.
Hasbro repainted the Protectobot Streetwise for their version, and it shows — right down to the lightbar in vehicle mode, which they inexplicably drew attention to with the paint job. His accessory is Streetwise’s shotgun, and in robot mode, he’s a straight-up repaint. The vehicle mode is passable enough as an updated Lightspeed with its bright red and white deco, whereas the robot mode looks so far off the mark that he just looks like another Autobot altogether, one that seems familiar yet I can’t even place.
Meanwhile, Takara Tomy’s adopts a darker crimson as they did what many fans thought obvious: reusing the Wheeljack retool of Breakdown with a new head, since they share the naturally domed windshield/chest. Meanwhile, a dark brown or maroon is used instead of white to break up the sea of red that is Lightspeed’s original color scheme while not diverging so drastically.
Takara Tomy’s also gets two all-new guns, and while these aren’t accurate to the missiles sported by the original toy, they do replicate the dual-handgun dynamic shown by the comic/animation model featured in Marvel’s Transformers Universe bio.
Conclusion: Do you really even have to ask? Unite Warriors if you want Lightspeed; Combiner Wars if you want a guy who can’t even call himself “Lightspeed,” much less look like him.
Datum: Scrounge is a short-lived Autobot (literally) who appeared in the early Marvel comics run who has developed a bit of a fan following since then, yet never had a toy form to call his own — that is, until now.
Unique to Hasbro’s Computron set, Scrounge is a retooled Generations Cosmos with a new head and color scheme to match his appearance in the comics. He turns into a flying saucer instead of a wheel now, and comes with a smaller Targetmaster shuttle, Scrounge Jr. (Actually, the name apparently hasn’t been settled on yet.) He combines with Hasbro’s Strafe in forming an arm for Computron, but no word on what happens if Strafe decides it’s Leg Day.
Conclusion: For some, this is the reason above all others to go with Combiner Wars‘ Computron. And as nice as the toy is, I am not one of those people.
Datum: This is where everything comes together at last as the Technobots/Techbots unite to form the Combiner warrior Computron/Computicon.
On Hasbro’s side, new details appear, including a recolored Superion chestplate (which strangely doesn’t match the rest of the parts impersonated from the original), albeit one augmented by details which are based on the original toy. The weird thing is, those details were prominent features of Scattershot’s that happened to carry over to the combined form. Meanwhile, Takara Tomy has a remolded chest that more closely resembles Computron’s additional chest armor, and has a deco that represents the lights used in the cartoon while he’s calculating data.
Hasbro’s Strafe arm has Scrounge and Scrounge Jr. sticking up off the top for what we can only currently describe as “reasons,” whereas Takara Tomy’s Afterburner has his guns sticking off, the reasons for which are quite clear. Nosecone, meanwhile, can deliver a mean knee to the groin in his Combiner Wars iteration, though there’s no proof that Unite Warriors couldn’t readjust the more accurately hanging drill in order to do the same. Or theirs can just replace a fist with the drill; that works, too. Plus, all the regular robots’ weapons that don’t find homes across the body of Takara Tomy’s version combine into a nice four-barreled rifle for him to wield.
Topping everything off are the combined forms’ added parts. The Hasbro head is a repaint of Superion’s with the color scheme of the toys, including a cool red face with golden eyes, while Takara Tomy shakes and stirs things up with an all-new mold more closely resembling Computron’s head and cartoon colors of a gold face with Autobot blue eyes.
Then there are the hands and feet. Hasbro’s diverges from the entire rest of both versions of the line by featuring dedicated hands and feet for the combined form. The feet have ankle-tilts, which is nice, but that’s about it. Takara Tomy, meanwhile, opts to stick with what’s worked so far and offers parts that can be a hand or a foot as needed, as well as turning into a weapon that can be wielded in robot and vehicle modes, whereas you’ll just have to put Hasbro’s off to the side.
Conclusion: As much as I do like Hasbro’s version of Computron on its own merits — which are mostly lifted from the same places it lifted its parts — I just like the package that Takara Tomy is bringing.
And in the end, that’s what it’s all about. When it looked like Hasbro’s was the beginning and end of what we were getting — with the possibility of just a different paint job from Takara Tomy — it was fine. It was enough. It took what was available, and gave us something we were hoping for.
But then Takara Tomy came along and went the extra mile, effectively making a toy that doesn’t just assume the Computron identity, but owns it, and that goes for all its components, too. I think I like Hasbro’s color schemes more on the whole, but in the end, I like what Takara Tomy has done with the molds, and since Transformers are like finger-candy for me, I think that’s where I’ve got to put my money when and if the time comes.
David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you’re interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.