Monday, 18 July 2016

REVIEW: KFC E.A.V.I. Metal Phase Five Opticlones

There was a time when third party skirted carefully round the fringes of the Transformers character roster. The various companies seemed to have an uncanny knack of choosing characters that neither the official TakaraTomy Masterpiece line nor any of the other 3P outfits were looking to attempt. Well, that bubble has now well and truly burst, as it seems more and more commonplace for us to see multiple different versions of the same characters rolled out one after the other. If anything, fans have learnt to expect it! However, I'm not sure that many would have predicted that treatment for a relatively minor character such as Reflector.

Yet here we are, with what is now the third (and currently final, though I doubt it will stay that way) attempt at a Masterpiece-styled Reflector to make it to market. After previous attempts from both Maketoys (with their Visualizers) and FansToys (with Spotter), we now have KFC debuting their Opticlones.

KFC have often had a decidedly mixed reputation with many fans, many of whom are often worried about the quality of their figures. Still, they recently stepped up their game with the likes of Transistor, and have already revealed some pretty exciting designs for other new figures on the horizon. So how do they fare in the Reflector wars?

This being a test shot, it doesn't come with all of the final packaging, thought I did have the inside plastic bubble so we know that the figure will come packaged in camera mode.

As for accessories, there are quite a few, most of which form some part of the camera mode itself, only to later transform into weaponry for the robot mode(s). There's the lens and a small tripod for the camera, both of which split apart and then re-combine to form guns, as well as a mounted flash.

As with the other two previous attempts at Reflector, the Opticlones come with a mini-replica of their own camera mode. It's rather cute and superbly detailed!

It's actually a lot smaller than the versions that come packaged with the other companies' Reflectors, and certainly on the nicer end. Without a doubt Maketoys have the weakest attempt here (it doesn't even really look like the figure...), but I'd say both FansToys' and KFC's versions are equally good. It is a little small to be held by the likes of Masterpiece Thundercracker though!

Finally, there's also a set of three energon cubes. FansToys collectors have already become accustomed to receiving mini-energon cubes with a few of their releases, including their version of Reflector, but KFC's are quite different. Firstly, they're quite a bit larger, and secondly, they vary a little in size & shape. You have one straightforward cube, one which is half-empty as though being spilt or drunk(!) and one which is flat like a squished pancake. It's all quite good fun and overall they're a pretty neat inclusion.

So, let's kick off with the Opticlones' camera mode first. And what a mode it is! I was quite impressed when first taking these guys out of the box as a camera, as it really does look fantastic. We'll get into conversations on cartoon accuracy in just a moment, but there's no denying that it's quite a visually striking mode all to itself.

Everything is nicely proportioned and roughly the shape it should be for a camera of this size. I'd also say that it's mostly pretty tidy & compact, with not too much kibble or robot details visible.

As mentioned, you can also position the camera mode on its own mini-tripod, something that neither of the other versions included.

The colours used are rather lovely, with a nice silky purple and quite a warm grey. The grey is somewhat different to that used on other companies' attempts, and actually has a touch of a light red-ish hue to to it. It's more noticeable on comparison with the likes of FansToys Spotter, which will we come to shortly.

There are lots of little details that all help to sell this as a working camera, including a "working" shutter button. The lens is generally quite attractive too, with a clear plastic enabling a view onto the silver lens mount below.

The flash is also rather nice, again with a rather attractive silver finish. It is on a ball joint necessary for when it's converted to a weapon for robot mode, which makes for quite an odd feature on this camera!

Where this mode does suffer slightly is from a rear view. Thought quite neat & tidy, it's still pretty clear that we can see three sets of robot legs folded up into a rectangle. I guess there's no getting away from that, to be fair, especially as this is a problem that all three versions of this character have now suffered with. I will add that the viewfinder on the Opticlones is a bit of a poor attempt though, even though it's not really the end of the world.

Still, everything holds together really well, and the camera mode definitely feels very solid. I'd also add that it does do a good job in the cartoon-accuracy stakes, although of course this often depends on which screenshot of the cartoon you're actually looking at! Many people often reference Reflector's camera mode appearance in the three-part pilot episode of the G1 cartoon, though if you check the character's official animation model, you'll note some subtle differences, most notably the grey viewfinder on top. Going by the animation model, it's easy to see that KFC's Opticlones are quite superbly cartoon accurate in this mode, and certainly more so than either of the versions we have had from other companies.

But what of those other versions? How does KFC's attempt stack up against them? Well, as with all of these sorts of comparisons, I truly think it's in the eye of the beholder. If cartoon accuracy is your thing, then no doubt KFC wins out here. They also have the advantage of allowing a space to add a Decepticon logo on the front of the camera which won't be visible in robot mode (something that Maketoys Visualizers also allow), which cannot be said for FansToys' version.

Proportions-wise, I also think this is one of the better attempts, and certainly superior to the odd-looking camera mode from Maketoys.

That said, it does miss some of the smaller but nicer details that Maketoys' version has to offer, and I have to say that I am quite a fan of the green lens used on both other companies' versions over KFC's clear lens, even if it is more cartoon-accurate yet again.

Still, there's no denying this is a solid camera mode overall, and certainly good-looking. I would probably say it's just about on par with FansToys' version, both of which I would personally say are superior to Maketoys' Visualizers in this mode (even if not in other areas). As a toy, I think FansToys' has the nicer finish and details, but as a cartoon-accurate representation of the character, KFC's definitely takes the game here.

One thing that's always interesting about collecting different versions of the same character is how varying the transformation schemes can be, and Reflector is certainly no exception. Maketoys Visualizers were praised for their fun & intuitive all-in-one transformation that featured absolutely no partsforming, the lens and other camera parts all storing away rather cleverly in robot mode. By comparison, FansToys' Spotter was a bit of a nightmare to transform (or at least, the retail version proved to be - the original test shot was not as bad) thanks to overly tight joints & panels and lots of fiddly bits.

KFC's Opticlones fall somewhere in-between, for me. They're definitely quite a step up from the frustration that the retail version of FansToys' release can cause (not to mention the painful fingers!), but they're also not as clever or as intuitive as Maketoys' version.

Still, they are pretty clever in their own right, with the main difference to the other versions being the large panels on the front of the camera which basically conceal the majority of the robot parts that fold out from underneath. I guess this means they're what many folks would call "shellformers", though I don't think it's a detriment here as it equals accurate-looking & clean camera and decent robots.

It's all pretty simple on the face of it, but where I have to add a note of caution is in some of the smaller details - most notably the feet. Unfortunately, the feet are nothing short of a nightmare. Why is that? Well, it's not because they're particularly complicated, but more because you have to be exceedingly careful to transform them in the right way, otherwise you will forever ruin the figure. It's all to do with the small panel which ends up on the forefront of the ankle in robot mode. This must be flipped out of the way first before moving out the rest of the foot, or it will be trapped underneath without any hope of releasing it (as you will see on the left of the photo below). Even worse, you can't even unscrew the foot to solve the problem - the whole thing is on pins.

Sadly, this is a major design flaw of this figure, and one that I know will cause issues for a lot of people if they're not careful. It is also possible to accidentally move that little panel the wrong way during normal play in robot mode - it nearly happened to me at least once.

Still, if you're aware of that little panel, there's not much else here to trouble you, and the overall transformation is fairly simple.

Onto the robot mode then, and fortunately this is another area that Opticlones really shine. Yes, these are some lovely looking 'bots indeed.

There's lots to like in this mode. The robot forms are well-proportioned and visually striking, and they're also pretty tidy, doing a great job at hiding most of the camera kibble. If you're simply after a good-looking robot mode for your Reflector, then you can't go too far wrong here.

Of particular note is the attractive "lens" on the main robot's chest. The clear plastic is very attractive and catches the light well.

The headsculpts are also a strength. I've seen a few people comment saying that they have big chins, but I don't really see it myself - I think these guys look great, and they do a good job of representing the dead-eyed, emotionless character in question.

One odd detail of these robot modes that I have seen a few people ask about is the small "flag" emblem on their chests. Many people may be wondering where this comes from, as it certainly isn't featured in the character's cartoon appearance. Well, it's actually a callback to the G1 Reflector toy, along with the horizontal stripes on the green section of the chest. On the original, this was only featured on the main robot, however, as the other two were quite different in design.

Perhaps the only angle of the robot modes that lets these chaps down a little is the back, where it becomes quite clear that they are essentially "wearing" the front of the camera as backpacks. It's most obvious on the "main" robot, as he is clearly carrying around the lens mount for all to see. Still, it's not something that particularly bothers me, although it is a definite downside of the camera's cartoon-accuracy that this solution affords.

The mix of colours used works really well for the most part, with the solid green chests being a particular highlight (and certainly better than the dull green used on FansToys' version). Perhaps my only real hesitation with the colour choices is the white thighs - a seemingly odd choice that doesn't really fit the rest of the scheme. You can see that KFC were trying to imitate the colour scheme of the animation model, but as the official Masterpiece line has shown us, cartoon white often looks better as a light grey on a figure. KFC's sister company, X-Transbots made a similar mistake on their Boost figure, and whilst it's not nearly as glaring here it is still a slight misstep, in my opinion.

I probably sound a bit nitpicky about certain aspects of the robot modes, but in truth I do like them a lot. Without a doubt one area where they really shine is in the articulation stakes. These guys are simply loaded with joints and hinges that allow them to pull off some very dynamic poses indeed. I am a particular fan of the wide ankle bend, allowing for some quite unusual stances.

I will add that it's a shame that the hips cannot achieve a 90 degree bend, which does inhibit some poses. The elbows are also a little odd, as whilst they're well-articulated, they do actually look a little strange in a neutral position and can feel a little awkward.

Still, as before these are really just nitpicks when compared to a lot of the major plusses that these robot modes offer, and I have to also comment at this stage that the overall fit & finish of these guys is very good. I know that many people are often concerned about what the quality of a KFC release is going to be like, but I honestly feel that the Opticlones represent KFC's best step up to the plate so far. Joints are tight, plastic quality is decent, and there are no major QC issues that I can spot (not including the aforementioned design flaw with the ankles) aside from the backpack on the middle figure not clipping in completely securely and that same figure also having a small chip in the light blue paint on its left shin. This is seemingly a problem on at least quite a few releases of this figure.

Accessories-wise, the lens & tripod from the camera mode transform into three rather large guns, and the flash opens up to reveal a rocket launcher. It's quite similar in style to the weapons that come with FansToys Spotter, although I preferred the fact that figure also came with smaller, more handheld blasters as an alternative. Here, the camera-parts weapons are the only option, and whilst they're fun they're also a little silly, to be honest. Still, they do make for some dramatic poses.

So then to the first set of comparisons for this figure. Let's start by having a look at the Opticlones versus other Masterpiece-styled Decepticon figures. It's fair to say that they work very well, and fit the general aesthetic outlined by the official line. They also have a neat little touch in being able to have Laserbeak or Buzzsaw perch on their wrists due to a little peg. Neat!

Perhaps one area that has caused some commentary is the height, with many people thinking that they're perhaps a little too tall. It is true that they're the tallest of all three versions and about a half head taller than a Masterpiece carbot. How this works for you is up to you, although I will admit that I personally prefer my Reflector a bit smaller.

As for how they stack up against the other Reflector figures on offer, well, that's a tough one. Again, much of this determination will boil down to your own personal preference - I can't really tell you what looks best to your eye. Personally, I'd say that all three versions have their strengths and weaknesses, and as is so often the case the best version would probably be some combination of all three!

Opticlones definitely have the most "heroic" robot mode, and they actually looking quite beefy when compared to the other two. Whether this suits the character or not is up to you, but I would say that Maketoys Visualizers are probably the most cartoon-accurate overall.

I also really like some of the smaller details on Maketoys' version, such as the translucent green chests with their beautiful robot styling. By comparison, KFC's version is quite strikingly similar to FansToys Spotter in many ways, and it's definitely possible to mistake one for the other with a passing glance.

Overall, I would probably hand this round to Maketoys, if I am being honest. I do also really like both of the other versions, but something about the look of Visualizers just better evokes the character, in my mind. Still, that said, I've also had a lot of fun with seeing all three versions lined up, and there's something about the nine robots altogether that certainly makes for an impressive addition to the Decepticon ranks!

So, three versions of Reflector in, and what's the verdict? In truth, I would likely say that I prefer one of the other versions overall, although that's not to take away from what a great release Opticlones is. I really am impressed with KFC yet again upping their game, and there's no denying this design has some major strengths. Perhaps it's more accurate to say that whichever version of Reflector you choose, you're not really making a bad choice!

What's HOT?
Great looking & highly cartoon-accurate camera mode, and a strong robot mode. The transformation is simple enough and allows for proper placement of the Decepticon logos.

What's NOT?
Going to have to mention that awkward foot transformation (definitely the low point of this figure). The weapons are also a little silly and the robot mode a wee bit tall for my tastes.


  1. It looks good1 Thancks for the cool review.

  2. Great to see KFC making steps to improve their products, tho there is still some way to go till they can challenge the big 3 I think.
    FT wins it for me, tho this is one set I don't mess with which is rare for me.
    Awesome work as usual Sixo.

    1. Thanks very much! I think overall the winner of the Reflector wars is a tough one... I might well have said FT too, expect that like you I don't mess with my set all that often. Maketoys is more fun, by comparison, I think...