Friday, 17 November 2017

REVIEW: Wei Jiang NE-01 New Evolution Megamaster



INTRODUCTION
Megatron. Has any character caused as much debate or created as much focus in discussions around the Masterpiece line? I certainly doubt it. Whether it’s the now legendary story of how MP-5 was rushed into existence and a comment on the subsequent disappointment that figure created, the longstanding absence of a version 2 Masterpiece figure and the rather colourful debates that created in years now gone by, the polarising opinions on the previous three third party options and in particular the wildly varied schools of thought on X-Transbots Apollyon, or indeed the reactions and disagreements that are still raging today about MP-36, I’m pretty sure that most collectors have been sucked into it at some stage or another. Clearly this is a character that people care quite a bit about, and perhaps with good reason - we are talking about the Decepticon leader after all. Add to that how challenging it appears to be to do Megatron justice - it’s widely acknowledged that the transformation is a difficult thing to do well whilst achieving two decent modes, and that’s to say nothing of the headaches of producing a realistic gun mode in the first place - and perhaps it’s no great surprise that the character is such a common topic in online discussion forums and social media.

Into that landscape steps Wei Jiang with Megamaster, a figure that has itself brought much debate, confusion and certainly a few opinions. The big question that many seem to still be asking is “what exactly is this figure?” Perhaps because the company have previously been known for producing “OSKO” versions - oversized knock-offs if you’re not up on your internet vernacular - of figures like MP-10, many people have assumed that their Megatron is nothing but an OSKO MP-36, although maybe with a twist or two. That’s certainly not true, as we will see. Equally, a lot of people don’t appear to be aware that this figure is not even in the same scale as current Masterpiece figures; I’ve already lost count of how many times I have been asked if I would choose this or MP-36 for my display, when it reality you’re talking about figures of a completely different size. The confusion is palpable.

So then, what exactly is this figure? Well, as it turns out it’s an entirely new mould, a fresh design of Wei Jiang’s creation. However (and this is perhaps where the confusion creeps in) they have definitely taken some clear inspiration from official and third party figures gone by, most notably MP-36 and fairly obviously X-Transbots Apollyon also. This ranges from loosely common methods of transformation through to much more blatant instances such as the face swapping gimmick, although overall I would say that many of the similarities are perhaps not as on the nose as people might suspect, and even when they are evident there’s an argument to say that Wei Jiang have at least evolved things instead of straight-up copying them.

Oh, and as for the size? Whilst not an “OSKO”, this does still sit at the same scale as the company’s MPP-10, so significantly larger than MP-36, and actually more in line with the original Masterpiece Megatron, MP-5, as we shall see.

But is it any good? Well, of course that's the biggest question of all, and one that we shall attempt to answer, thanks to the lovely folks over at tfs-express.com! Final note before we get on with it - this is a test shot, and so there may be some differences with the final retail product, including tolerances and the like. In fact Wei Jiang have already confirmed a couple of changes that definitely will be made, including alterations to the face to make him "more handsome" and a potential change to the grey finish of the figure, but we'll cover those off in more detail as we go.

PACKAGING & ACCESSORIES
This being a test shot, I didn’t receive all of the final packaging, but he does come in a plastic tray inside the box. He's also rather loaded with accessories, many of which have become rather standard for a Masterpiece-styled Megatron figure now, although there is at least one surprise along the way. First up, and perhaps the most obvious inclusion, is Megatron's fusion cannon. As always this becomes the scope in his gun mode, and it looks pretty much exactly as one might expect. It's also really well-sized for his robot mode, helped massively by the fact that the barrel actually collapses slightly in a similar fashion to DX9 Mightron's cannon - a definite plus. There's also some electronics in there, with an LED and some translucent red plastic at the end of the barrel providing a nice effect. For the life of me though, I'm not sure why third party companies continue to equip Megatron's cannon with a red colouring when it was clearly purple in the cartoon, but perhaps I am missing something. Either way, this looks good.


Next up is the "pistol of betrayal", which of course is the rather infamous weapon that Megatron uses to deliver a killing blow to Optimus Prime in the 1986 movie. Despite this accessory being something we've seen included with previous versions of this character, it's still good to see it again here and it looks great. It also slots in really well to Megamaster's hands, and even allows for a decent "trigger finger" pose.



In a similar 1986 movie homage is Megatron's "light saber" (c'mon, that's definitely what it is!) which he uses to strike Optimus' side. It's perhaps not as good-looking as previous attempts, but still it's a nice inclusion here.



Next we have the holo-mace that Megatron wields in the three-part G1 cartoon pilot episode, More Than Meets The Eye during a battle with Optimus at Sherman Dam. In the cartoon the mace appears in place of his retracted right hand, whereas here it's presented as a weapon with a handle that grips inside his palm, which is perhaps a little disappointing. That's especially true as I couldn't get it to grip very tightly at all, and repeatedly found it flopping around during posing. Add to this that the chain on the mace doesn't feature that many articulation points, and it's quite hard to make this look as dynamic as perhaps it could. It's a relatively simple accessory, but the version that comes with MP-36 is vastly superior, in my honest opinion.



Also included here is a headset to homage the device Megatron wears in the episode A Prime Problem, used to control a clone copy of Optimus Prime. This actually looks really great, and fits perfectly over Megamaster's head. I also found it to be quite a nice display option, particularly if you have a spare Optimus Prime figure lying around!


With Masterpiece MP-1 Convoy

But wait, there's more! For another cartoon homage, we have a recreation of the key to Vector Sigma, which you might remember from that episode... er, The Key to Vector Sigma! This also looks pretty great, and is recreated with some lovely detailing and a sparkly finish. Perhaps my only slight nitpick is how difficult it is to securely grasp it in Megamaster's hands in any way. It's a neat inclusion, but there doesn't appear to be a natural way for him to hold it. I managed it, but it fell out pretty easily.



We're still not done though, as Megamaster also features no less than four different faces, all of which are easily interchangeable. The default face is a kind-of angry grimace that I think really suits the disposition of the character, and for my money does a great job at recalling the cartoon. If indeed Wei Jiang do end up changing the face a bit for the final version, I hope they don't stray too far as honestly this looks great. Perhaps my only slight note of suggestion would be to adjust the translucent red eyes, which never really seem to capture the light in a way that makes them feel alive. In fact, they frequently look a bit dull and lifeless, especially by contrast to MP-36's vibrant peepers. Still, the overall look is very strong, as indeed are the shouting and laughing faces also included here.




The fourth and final face is another 1986 movie homage, and works in tandem with an alternate chest plate to give Megatron his battered look after his battle with Optimus. This is of course another direct take-off from MP-36, but it still works well. The chest plate is also surprisingly solid despite being quite thin, and I had no worries with snapping it off and on again. Dare I say it's perhaps not quite as good as the version included on the official figure; the gushing green liquid is a little too obvious for starters, but it's cool nonetheless.



As I mentioned above, the face swap gimmick is highly reminiscent of MP-36, even down to what you will find beneath the faces, with a built-in homage to Megatron's "under the skin" appearance from the 1986 movie waiting for you. It looks very cool even if it is a direct take-off.



As if all of that isn't enough, Wei Jiang are also including a bit of a surprise with the first round of orders, which is a rather unique interpretation on Laserbeak! This version actually transforms into a small silencer which fits snugly onto Megamaster's gun barrel, and looks really very cool. It's a super fun figure as well, and a definite selling point for this release. Laserbeak's transformation is very simple, but surprisingly inventive, and leaves you with a nicely-done bird mode even if it is perhaps a bit of a departure from his traditional appearance. I have read a few comments online suggesting that he looks like more of a turkey than a condor, although from what I have seen most of the complaints seem to disappear once people understand that he transforms into the silencer, given how unique an idea that is. He even includes the small pop-up camera on his head!






With Masterpiece Laserbeak

Supposedly Laserbeak features a small magnet which helps him to stay securely in place on Megamaster's arm, although I must admit that I couldn't find evidence of that working on the test shot I was sent. However, Wei Jiang have shown pictures of it working admirably, and have assured it will be in place for the retail release. I think this is a really clever solution, and avoids the use of pegs or what-have-you. And there's no doubt he looks pretty ace in his rightful place!


GUN MODE
Although this figure comes packaged in robot mode (you might be pleased to hear!), I'm going to kick us off with looking at the infamous gun mode. This surely must be one of the most talked about alternate forms in the history of Transformers, and it's fair to say that Wei Jiang have given it a good go with Megamaster. First thing to notice is that this is a pretty tidy gun mode, with everything nicely tabbed together. It looks pretty good overall.



Now look, full disclosure - I'm not a big gun fan and I'll fully admit that my knowledge of how they're supposed to be accurately portrayed is limited at best, so I'm not the best person to tell you how closely this portrays a real-life Walther P38 in minute detail. I can of course see that the overall appearance is mostly as it should be, and beyond that there's obviously been a decent attempt to recreate some of the smaller details. To my eye, the top of the main body is perhaps not quite the right shape, and there's no doubt some deviation in the proportions overall, but I guess some allowances had to be made in order to incorporate an accurate robot mode. Again though, I do think this looks pretty good all things considered. It's obviously considerably larger in hand than a normal handgun, and there's no doubt that you're holding a plastic toy as opposed to the real thing, but it still impresses.


Of course it's also possible to add both the scope and the Laserbeak silencer to recreate the fully-formed Megatron alt' mode as we know it from the cartoon. As with previous Megatron attempts, there's no doubt that the completed look is certainly more impressive than the simple handgun. The silencer is a bit small, but it still looks neat and I will admit to a certain amount of excitement upon seeing it all added together.



Now, the big deviation to talk about here from previous attempts at this character is the stock at the end of the gun handle. On Megamaster, this piece doesn't actually detach in the same way that it does on every previous version of Megatron; in fact, this piece folds up to become part of the legs and feet during transformation, which is certainly a unique take. As with the silencer, it's not completely accurate-looking, especially as the two foot pieces pegged together is a little bit obvious once you notice it, but it's still a neat touch and a unique spin on this mode nonetheless.



Closer inspection reveals some lovely details, all of which help to sell this mode a little. I really like the moulded detail on the handle, and the black plastic used works very well. There's also enough moulding elsewhere to help try and convince you that this could be a real-life weapon, including small touches like the "P.38" writing on the one side. Overall, I do think it looks really good, despite the flat grey plastic finish for most of it. Apparently this is something that Wei Jiang have plans to update slightly for the final version, although I have to say that I actually quite like it myself and don't think it needs changing. Still, I'm sure some will be happy to see a slightly more speckled finish of some kind.






So, overall I'd say that there's a lot to like about this mode. It's by no means perfect, and I somehow doubt that collectors looking for maximum gun accuracy will be completely satisfied, but it's still a lot of fun and looks suitably impressive overall.


TRANSFORMATION
Megatron transformations are often known to be the stuff of nightmares, let's be honest. MP-5 was thought to be one of the more complex Transformers around at the time of release, and subsequent attempts at the character have done little to change this. X-Transbots Apollyon is a toy that I have absolutely no plans to transform ever again, personally speaking, and MP-36 is still seen by many to be a big challenge, despite my own feeling that it's a very clever (and fun!) transformation overall. So I was certainly curious to see how Wei Jiang would fare with bringing us an original take on the Megatron transformation scheme, and if they could find ways to make it a little more fluid that some previous attempts. Well, I'll sum it up quickly and say mission accomplished!

Yes, there's plenty of clever touches with this scheme that make it much smoother and more enjoyable. I particularly like the spring-loaded pop-out parts that feature in the abdominal area and on the sides of the legs, and the way in which the arms so neatly fold around one another to take shape - it's really quite something. I also credit this mould with having the absolute best solution to the gun barrel being stowed on the robot mode back on any Megatron toy ever made; the fold and peg mechanism is brilliant in its elegance, and shows how the simplest solutions are often the best. Oh, and there's no doubt that a couple of sections are at least inspired by previous Megatron figures, most notably the way in which the hips separate, which feels very derivative of Apollyon, despite being a lot smoother.

So, overall this is a pretty fun transformation scheme, and shouldn't give you too many headaches along the way. That's not to say it isn't without its challenges, and of particular note is the way in which the legs come apart to take account of the stock section. There's a couple of thin panels that can be a bit of a mare to get tabbed in just so, although nothing ever seemed as though it was likely to break so that's something. I also had a bit of drama getting the knees to stay solidly pegged in, as well as a slight trouble getting everything tabbed in just so on the return to gun mode, but with a bit of expertise this appears to have become easier.

ROBOT MODE
Megatron toys often seem to be able to get one of the two modes right. Either you end up with a stunning gun mode and a slightly questionable robot mode (as on MP-5), or go full tilt on the robot mode and leave the gun mode as a bit of an afterthought (as with some other 3P attempts). Megamaster shows that on occasion you can have your cake and eat it, as despite sporting a fairly decent alternate form, you're left with what is pretty obviously a mean and menacing robot mode too! Just look at this chap.




What a sexy beast. I have to be honest and say that this figure wasn't especially on my radar before being asked about doing this review, but as soon as I held him in my hand I couldn't help but smile! He looks the absolute nuts, and is a pretty convincing representation of the Decepticon leader, at least for the most part. Proportionally, he's a bit more lanky that some previous attempts (especially the likes of Maketoys Despotron), but he still looks really powerful and well-proportioned overall. He also "feels" a lot like the character, with the essence of the maniacal tyrant seeping through.




Closer inspection will show you how lovingly recreated this mode is too, with details such as his rather iconic abdomen section done full justice here. He looks really great in hand, with the warm grey finish and cartoon styling absolutely oozing character. I'd say that he feels pretty solid too, despite being considerably lighter than perhaps you might imagine from pictures. That's not a criticism by any means, but he's certainly not loaded with diecast if that's what you were expecting. Overall he does feel stable though, despite there being some give in the hips and the ankles on the test shot. I'm assuming this is something that will be sufficiently corrected on the final version, where there shouldn't be any concerns about putting him through any number of poses.




OK, so we absolutely have to talk about how clean this robot mode is, don't we? I mean, just look at the back section for starters - there's barely a whiff of gun mode kibble to be found there. Wei Jiang have overall done a terrific job at creating a convincing robot mode here, having employed some creative solutions for shifting everything out of the way for a tidy look. It's not perfect, and if we're being overly critical you will of course notice the presence of the trigger in a fairly ominous place, but it's not really a problem in hand in all honesty. Perhaps the one and only thing I do feel rather down on here is the ugly feet. Formed of the end of the stock section, there's really no getting around the fact that they look pretty hideous, especially as they don't sit flat on a surface either. It's a shame as they're probably going to be the first thing that a lot of people will comment on when judging this mode, when so much elsewhere is done absolutely right. Don't let them put you off too much though, there's plenty of good that should take your attention instead.




When it comes to poseability I found Megamaster to be a bit of a mixed tale. No doubt there're plenty of articulation points and enough opportunity to bend him this way and that to make for any number of decent poses, but there's although a few spots that I found to be a little limiting too. Take the arms, for example, which can prove to be slightly awkward on account of long forearms and big shoulder sections, so require perhaps a little more thought than you would imagine to get into a convincingly natural stance. Likewise, the legs look great in most poses until you try to do something too dynamic and then it can feel a touch awkward. Still, there's more than enough opportunity to contort him as you please overall, and there's no denying how badass his looks in most poses. He's also a lot of fun once you start mingling him with other figures. Now, the opportunity for doing so is a little bit limited if, like me, you don't own Wei Jiang's own MPP-10. Fortunately though, MP-1 Convoy makes a decent enough stand-in, and I'd actually say they work pretty well together. In truth, Megamaster is perhaps half a head taller, so there is a little size difference between them, but it still looks good in my opinion. If this guy had been released as the original Masterpiece opponent to the Autobot leader, I would certainly have been happy at the time!

With Masterpiece MP-1 Convoy








On that note, perhaps the best comparison to make with Megamaster is to other Megatron toys from years gone by. I mean, I'm sure it won't come as a total shock to hear that this fella is a better figure overall than MP-5 (despite some latent feeling of sentiment for that figure on my behalf), and in fact I think will likely end up replacing it to take place alongside my MP-1. What about other attempts though? Well, I've found this to be a bit of an awkward question to be honest, as a lot of people seem to be wanting to pick up either Megamaster or MP-36, for example. To my mind, it's a bit of a fruitless comparison, as they're completely different sizes, and so surely no-one would be considering them both for the same spot in a collection, but I guess who am I to judge? For what it's worth, I do think that MP-36 is a better toy overall, for many reasons, but that's not to deny Megamaster a decent accolade for being a terrific figure it its own right. I'd also add that he is by far my favourite third party attempt so far, despite being in a larger scale. He more than earns a spot on my shelf, whereas previously I hadn't even considered picking him up. In fact, he's so good that I'm actually now very curious to see what Wei Jiang cook up next, having done such a top job here.

With Masterpiece MP-5 Megatron


With Masterpiece MP-36 Megatron

Also with X-Transbots Apollyon

Also with G1 Megatron (Chronicle version)

CONCLUSION
OK here it is. This guy is the best third party Megatron figure so far, and a worthy attempt at the Decepticon leader for your collection. He looks great in both modes, but the robot mode is mostly pretty stunning despite a few jarring elements such as the obnoxious feet. He's solid, generally well-made and features a surprisingly smooth transformation. There's some fun accessories and I think the inclusion of Laserbeak is a lot of fun. Overall, a solid figure and for me, a great Masterpiece-styled Megatron to sit alongside my MP-1.

What's HOT?
Cracking robot mode, smooth-ish transformation and a decent gun mode. Plenty of fun accessories, including a neat attempt at doing something different with Laserbeak. Overall he looks the absolute nuts.

What's NOT?
There're a couple of points of articulation which can feel a bit awkward, I had trouble locking in the knees completely solidly, and I also found a bit of give in areas such as the hips (though I suspect that's because it's a test shot). The feet in robot mode look bad, and the eyes are a little dull. Expect some improvements for the final version however.


Keep in touch:
FACEBOOK | TUMBLR | TWITTER | INSTAGRAM

4 comments:

  1. I can't say I care for this, but that's OK we're all grown ups and can like different things right! Oh, wait......
    It's funny, I picked up the 2nd run mp36, and like a lot about it but still think my customised my one rules the roost.
    Interesting read as always tho, thanks So.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. MT one even, darned auto correct lol.

      Delete
  2. Took about 2 months in shipping, but I recieved mine about 2 weeks ago & he's exactly what I needed. Much like you point out in your review, I wanted this to Replace MP-5, to go alongside MP-1, as awesome as Ive always thought MP-36 is, he just wouldn't fit in our collection. Megamaster here fits like a glove, honestly that should be their biggest selling point, Fill in that old MP-5 shaped hole in your collection!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you're enjoying him, Dax!

      Delete