For many collectors in the world of so-called third party “Masterpiece” Transformers, FansToys reign supreme. They were one of the first to usher in this current era of collecting of course, with Quakewave having been the figure to lead many of us down the rabbit hole initally. Since then they have bolstered an extremely loyal fanbase and a strong reputation, so it’s perhaps no surprise that each new release is met with almost unparalleled excitement. Add to the mix that their success seems to be allowing them more and more daring efforts, which brings us up-to-date with Phoenix. It wasn’t so long ago that the idea of a quality, full-size Masterpiece-styled Skyfire to fill out your Autobot ranks was the stuff of dreams. Now, here we are, and I for one couldn’t be more excited!
Of course, the excitement for this release stretches back even further than the last couple of years. Many fans have been clamouring for a cartoon-accurate representation of Skyfire since the first season of the original animation over thirty years ago, with licensing issues having prevented his portrayal from matching that of the Jetfire toy on which it was based. There have been updated attempts in the form of mainline figures, and of course Daca Toys took a stab with their infamous Kronos figure a few years back, but for one reason or another most fans have still been left wanting. Is this the figure that will finally hit the mark?
Thanks to the lovely chaps at tfs-express.com, we can find out!
Final note before I begin – this is a test shot, so there may well be some variances with the final product, including things like colours, accessories etc. as well as tolerances. Now, let’s get on with it!
PACKAGING & ACCESSORIES
This being a test shot, I didn’t receive all of the final packaging, and no instructions. I did receive the inner polystyrene casing though, and from the looks of it this is going to come packaged in one massive box! The shipping box it was delivered in was enough to raise my wife’s eyebrows, put it that way. Phoenix seems to come packaged in robot mode, and features a few accessories.
It’s fairly sparse, but everything you need. There’s a blaster that’s very reminiscent of Skyfire’s weapon from the cartoon, a spare set of eyes that are slightly translucent as opposed to the stock chrome, and part of a flight stand. I’m assuming that the final figure will come with an entire flight stand, especially as some of the photography I have seen previously also suggests this to be true, but I only received the top part so I’m not sure. From the looks of it, it will be very similar to the one that came with Soar with the exception of the top bit that fits onto the figure itself, which is what I have here.
Finally, Phoenix also comes with a spare chest piece, which can be swapped out for the one that is in place already. They’re identical, but of course the idea is that you adorn one of them with an Autobot logo, and the other with a Decepticon logo. It’s a neat solution for something that is arguably one of the most fun points of the Skyfire character in both the cartoon and comic; that he was initially a Decepticon (albeit through trickery and only for a brief time in the cartoon), but later joined the Autobots. Whilst I am sure that most fans will just go for the Autobot logo, this is a nice touch.
I normally like to start these things off with examining the vehicle mode, but as I’m fairly confident that Phoenix comes packaged as a ‘bot, I’ll start there. Especially as I want to acknowledge what I have no doubt everyone’s first impression will be as soon as they take him out of the box – he’s absolutely enormous! Seriously, the sheer size of this guy is incredible. The shock and awe value of holding him in hand for the first time cannot be underestimated!
We’ll talk more about the size a little later (even though it is definitely one of the biggest things to talk about, pardon the pun), but of course it wouldn’t do if that was all he had going for him. Fortunately, Phoenix is nothing short (another pun I’m afraid) of beautiful! The design is clean, crisp and absolutely stunning, and can’t help but be met with a positive first impression.
Seriously, I am amazed with how well FansToys have captured the intended character here, including the spot-on proportions. It all comes together so well, and really evokes Skyfire as we know him from his animation model. It’s amazing to think that something that only ever existed in drawings is now made real before you, but there it is. The more and more you look for little details or nuances from the cartoon, the more you realise what a great job they have done. Bravo.
|Skyfire's animation model|
Obviously the main colour of the figure is white (in fact there’s possibly more white plastic in use here than I have ever seen on another figure), which definitely makes him quite eye-catching already, but it’s the little details that really sell it. The red highlights are quite lovely, including the backpack and wings, as well as the translucent plastic used on the hips. I will say that it’s an odd choice to have chromed red pieces on the sides of the legs, but by no means does it look bad. Then there’s the lovely paint details, such as the grey on the insides of the legs, which really makes those mechanical details pop, or on areas such as the chest’s air vents. It’s all just lovely.
However, there’s no doubt that one of my favourite parts is the translucent blue chest canopy, which looks incredible here. The use of a chrome interior under the cockpit window is marvellous, and really makes the blue shine and catch the light. For such a prominent feature, I’m thankful that FansToys saw fit to pay extra attention to this part.
Of course, all of this is to say nothing of the face. FansToys have previously been lambasted for their apparent inability to capture character’s faces accurately, at least in some people’s estimations, but I can honestly say that I think this is one of their strongest efforts yet. One of the main points that held me back on Daca Toys Kronos (aside from all those many reports of iffy quality) was that I never really liked the look of the face. Some may disagree, but I think Phoenix nails it, and I think the expression gives him the “gentle giant” nature his character so embodies. I also have to mention those chrome eyes – they’re absolutely hypnotic in how they catch the light, and they certainly make for a fun round of photography!
If you prefer, you can swap out the eyes for the translucent versions, which are supposed to glow a bit through the use of light-piping. I have to say that I definitely prefer the chromed eyes myself, with the backpack section impeding the light enough to leave the translucent eyes looking a little dull and flat for my tastes. However, it's a nice option to have, even if it does require the use of a screwdriver to take everything apart.
As much as he’s easy on the eyes, Phoenix is also a pleasure in the hands, with an initial fondle revealing a pleasing heft. I have to say that I was pleased that the figure isn’t too overburdened with the use of diecast, and what there is seems to have been apportioned well to try and help with stability, giving him a decent balance. He is heavy, but perhaps not quite as much as you might expect given his relative size, which I think is a good thing. I was also pleased to see that the general level of quality here is seemingly top notch, with no obvious causes for concern.
So, is it all good news? Well, sadly no, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention what I consider to be this figure’s one major flaw – a distinct lack of poseability from the waist down. Don’t get me wrong, the top half is mostly all win, with plenty of movement going on in the double-jointed arms (although I do find the shoulders look a little odd if not properly posed), some excellent head movement, and a fine set of hands that would make KFC blush. Unfortunately, the bottom half cannot quite say the same.
It’s not that it’s unarticulated, and there’s a few points that wouldn’t necessarily be a problem in isolation, but added up they serve to hinder his ability to be posed dramatically. First up, there’s no waist swivel. Nothing. I have heard talk of achieving a bit of movement if you unclip the hips in a certain way, but I’m not buying it. This guy is not meant to move at the waist. The second thing is that the hips themselves don’t allow for a great range of motion, with only a 45 degree angle possibly in a forward bend. Finally, whilst there is a little ankle tilt going on, it’s not quite enough for a stable footing, and the hollow nature of the bottom of the feet can make him feel a little unstable in more extreme poses.
So look, it’s not a massive problem, and to be fair there’s more than enough going on here to ensure that you can crank Phoenix into a fair few decent stances. I’d also add that I think the lack of waist swivel is totally forgivable (in the same way that it was on Masterpiece Ultra Magnus) when you consider the transformation. However, I do feel that the hip bend and ankle tilt are both points that stop this figure from being otherwise practically perfect, even if just a bit. Still, almost perfect is still pretty good overall, right?
So, then, let’s get back to talking about Phoenix’s size, shall we? Now, this has proven interesting to me, as I have read plenty of comments from people on-line who think he’s simply too big. I have deduced that a lot of these comments (but certainly not all, don't get me wrong!) are from fans who have maybe not seen the original animation in some time, as when they have been presented with screenshots of Skyfire standing next to his Autobot comrades they immediately acknowledge that he is meant to be towering over them like a behemoth. In that regard FansToys have certainly delivered here; just look at him next to other Masterpiece-styled figures!
|With Masterpiece Prowl, Bumblebee, Optimus Prime & Ironhide|
|With Maketoys Downbeat|
For my money, I think the height is absolutely spot on, and if anything Phoenix offers another exciting extreme in the ongoing quest to collect a relatively scaled animation-accurate collection. Just seeing him dwarfing the likes of Masterpiece Bumblebee and other carbots is really very exciting, and he even puts previously “large” figures such as FansToys’ own Iron Dibots and Masterpiece Ultra Magnus in the shade.
|With Masterpiece Ultra Magnus|
|With FansToys Grinder|
|Also with FansToys Scoria & Sever|
|With Masterpiece Star Saber, the tallest official MP|
Fortunately, he also lines up nicely in a Decepticon display, should that be your thing, and he looks particularly brilliant next to his former colleague, Starscream.
|With Masterpiece Starscream|
|With Unite Warriors Devastator|
|Also with Masterpiece Frenzy (and yes, the figure itself is Frenzy!)|
Overall, I think FansToys have done a cracking job with this robot mode. A few articulation woes aside, it’s absolutely spot on, and does a great job at representing the character. But what about the vehicle mode?
I’ve previously talked about how I think some third party transformations can be a little… overdone at times, feeling more intricate and complicated than perhaps they need to be. Trying to do these things in test shot form without a set of instructions can feel like a bit of a headache at times, so it’s always a pleasant surprise when a figure comes along that is a comparative breeze.
It should tell you all you need to know that my second attempt at transforming Phoenix was in the pub during mid-conversation with about a half-dozen people intently watching my every move – no pressure! Yet such is the relative ease and, dare I say it, intuitive nature of this transformation that it proved to be no bother. There are a couple of steps that you have to conduct in the correct order, but really that’s the biggest challenge on offer here.
Otherwise, it’s all very smooth and quite forgiving too. For example, the hands fold in and out of the forearms so easily that you wonder why more figures cannot achieve this with the same degree of simplicity. Similarly, the leg extension is ably achieved through use of a release button which works wonderfully. Perhaps the only bit that gave me slight pause was how the legs then clip onto the hip pieces to stay in place, but they proved to be sturdy enough to take it.
I also think that there’s a couple of real masterful strokes here, most notably in the red backpack section. I absolutely marvelled at how this unfolds and extends to become a much larger piece on the vehicle mode, including longer thrusters. It’s a stroke of genius and the kind of attention to detail that really sets a figure like this apart from the crowd. I similarly love how the chest pieces pull out and rotate round to form the sides of the jet, and how the underside unfolds to cover all the kibbly bits.
Oh, and to answer a question that I have already been asked many times – no, Phoenix cannot go “full GERWALK” (the half ‘bot/ half jet mode made famous in Robotech, from which the original G1 Jetfire toy hails in origin), but he can achieve something very similar to how his animation model design transforms in the cartoon, as seen below. Amazing, eh?
|Skyfire's on-screen transformation; image courtesy of TFwiki.net|
With a robot mode as impressive as Phoenix’s, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the vehicle mode was comparatively less exciting. Don’t worry, it isn’t! In fact, I’d say that the excitement was equal for both modes during my trip to the pub to show him off, and it’s not hard to see why. This is one cracking jet form.
Stunning stuff. Again, the size may be the obvious point to note here (and it is), but don’t let that belie how beautiful this mode is. All of the little details that made the robot mode impressive are here, and then some. This is an incredible looking figure in all respects, and from all angles.
I said it earlier, but it bears repeating – I am astounded by how well this design apes the animation model in both forms. Considering that this design was crafted specifically for the animation, it’s a miracle that FansToys have been able to realise it so accurately. It really is like the character model come to life.
|Skyfire's animation model|
Again, those small details are what really sell this for me. The blue translucent canopy is put to good use here, and we’re gifted with a similar effect on the wing section – it really pops under the light. Then there’s lovely little paint apps like the yellow sections on the wings that just really help to sell this as a high-end figure. Perhaps my only real complaint here is the rather flimsy rear tailfins, which have a habit of popping off just by looking at them!
The landing gear is a miracle in itself for being quite easy to deploy; I’ve become so accustomed to reaching for a small tool to help me with the Masterpiece Seekers that I had forgotten what a pleasure it is to be able to do it without. He also looks rather marvellous on his wheels, in a way that some jet modes don’t seem able to carry off.
Of course, he also looks rather spiffy atop a flight stand! Here I have borrowed a stand from one of my Soars and switched out the top bit, so that at least you can get an idea of what this should look like. It’s more than stable enough to carry Phoenix at a range of angles, and looks the absolute business.
Many will remember Skyfire as being the season 1 Autobots’ regular transport, with his large robot form growing even bigger through transformation to function as a shuttle for his comrades. This figure is obviously not capable of a similar feat of engineering, but he does still look suitably impressive alongside some of his fellow Masterpiece-styled figures. As before, it’s a joy to see him flying alongside Starscream most of all. It’s one of those things that remind you how lucky we are to be collecting at a time when we’re receiving a figure like this!
|With Masterpiece Sideswipe & Badcube Sunsurge|
|With Masterpiece Ratchet, Bluestreak and Ocular Max Sphinx|
|With X-Transbots Boost & ACE Collectables Tumbler|
|With Masterpiece Spike|
|With Masterpiece Starscream|
I’m sure you’ve garnered by now that yes, FansToys have most certainly done it again. Despite pushing the boundaries quite a bit with their choice of character, they’ve more than lived up to the challenge and given us one of the more impressive (in every sense) figures in recent memory. Phoenix is an absolute knockout.
I will stop short of saying he’s absolutely perfect though, and as I mentioned it’s the robot mode articulation that really lets this down a touch. Fortunately though, it’s not enough to dampen the enjoyment of an otherwise impressive effort too much, and especially not one that adds so much to the ranks of your collection.
The size of this guy may well be one of the most-talked about facets of this release, but it certainly shouldn’t be the only one – he has far too many positive qualities for that. Besides, his reign as the tallest Masterpiece-styled figure on the market may be very short-lived… it’s not that long before FansToys themselves drop their version of Omega Supreme, after all! And if this guy is anything to go by, that’s something I cannot wait to see.
Almost perfect in lots of ways, with two stunning modes that closely resemble the original animation. Transformation is also quite easy, and the quality and fun factors are ably taken care of. Top drawer stuff all round, really.
My main complaint is a lack of poseability in the lower half of the ‘bot mode. The lack of waist swivel is forgivable but he really could do with more hip movement and ankle tilt.
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