MP36 Masterpiece Megatron Review

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“I am sick of comments about my giant head. The first such incident occurred on…”

You’ve got to hand it to Japan. When it comes to giant robots, spandex-clad superheroes, and animated porn featuring suspiciously “fresh” young ladies, they’re absolutely at the top of their game. It’s the aforementioned giant robots we’re interested in today, but stick with us for the latter. If ever the TMW readership takes a dip we’ve always got the safety net of My Sexy Robot Little Sister reviews to fall back on.

LISTEN TO UNCLE!

The 80’s version of Megatron originated in Japan as a 1:1 scale toy robot who turned into a gun. Specifically, a Walther P38. Even more specifically, it turned into the customised boomstick used by Napoleon Solo in the Man from U.N.C.L.E television series. Weird huh?

One more thing!

This toy was one of many, many existing Japanese figures shanghaied into the Transformers toyline and animated series by Hasbro in 1984. We’ve covered this in detail before, but the discrepancy between the toy version of Megatron and the animated one – which also appeared in the comics, merchandise, and even in Universal Studios as a kid-size replica the little shits could climb over/vandalise –  has been a bone of contention for Transformers fans since the sunny Saturday morning in 1984 the TV series hit the airwaves.

His crotch doubles as a TV dinner tray.

Just look at it. Christ, look at it. It pales in comparison to the tin tyrant who stomped all over our TV screens in the 80’s. So now – well over thirty years later – it’s up to Takara to leap in, banish the old toy to the land of winds and ghosts, and right past wrongs with the release of the new Masterpiece Megatron. Is it worthy of the name? Let’s find out.

THE REVIEW

Put simply – for we ain’t so good with big words here at TMW, hyuck hyuck – the only way you’re getting a better Megatron than this is to shove off to Cybertron with a special shrinky-dinky machine and steal the real one for yourself. There. We said it. It is best Megatron. End of review.

He scales and displays perfectly with his nemesis Optimus Prime, but veers more towards the animated cartoon aesthetic than Prime. In some ways Megs shoots for almost slavish cartoon accuracy, sporting a frankly massive head – with plenty of goofy expressions – and other odd details like the slightly wrong Decepticon sign all the baddies had in the show.

“Yessss!” Megatron finds out he gets 50% of all the movie’s T-shirt sales

He also features electronic sounds activated by a button on his patented fusion cannon. You can switch between three sounds: the transforming sound (you know the one); a very weedy laser sound affect (ignore this one); and a smattering of Japanese phrases, none of which we understand apart from “Destron gundan, TRANSU-FOOOOOOOOORM!” which we never get tired of hearing.

Articulation is what you’d expect from a toy this price. As well as the standard joints, he has ratcheting shoulders and knees, so can really hold a pose. Curiously he can bend over double at the waist in a way that’ll have Marilyn Manson sobbing into his sacrificial altar with envy. We like.

CH-CH-CH CHANGES

Unfortunately, actually transforming this thing is such a pain in the ass. So much so we usually think twice before getting him off the shelf and do something easier instead, like bringing peace to the Middle East . This is mostly due to the boggling amount of tiny movable parts, but is sometimes made harder by the odd oversight on the part of the designer. For a start, the whole figure is coated in a thin layer of matte paint, which scrapes off leaving ugly marks if you’re not careful. Actually it happens even if you are careful. Good job we don’t keep our toys mint or we’d be absolutely fuming. Also, on our sample the hips were basically fused by the thickness of the paint and the tight joints, and just wouldn’t come apart for transformation. We had to take a screwdriver to it in the end.

The gun barrel is a likely point of breakage too. The plastic is just too soft and is liable to bend or snap completely at the hinge if you don’t know what you’re doing. We shaved it down with a stanley knife. Jesus, is this a toy or a fucking model kit?

It took us a good forty minutes to get into gun mode, and even then the whole thing was sort of straining to pop apart like one of those clown cars where the wheels fall off. By this point we were too enraged to care. Seriously, this thing would have had Mahatma Ghandi going beast mode and throwing hands like M. Bison if it came out in his lifetime. Er, if Ghandi played with toy robots, which is unlikely.

GUNNING PLAN

So. After all that straining, grunting and sweating (ooer) it sort of looks like a gun. Card-carrying NRA members (not sure there’s much crossover between gun nuts and Transformers fans, but we’ve been wrong before) beware: it definitely doesn’t look like a real Walther. Quite apart from the millions of seams and cracks running over the thing, it’s way too blocky and oversized. In any case, we’re glad they traded a bit of real-world accuracy away in favour of the impressive robot mode. No electronic sounds in this mode unfortunately, so pulling the trigger gets you nothing. For shame.

That being said, it really is incredibly satisfying to turn it back into robot mode. The level of engineering skill on show here is something else. We’re very impressed. If a man in Japan asked us to design a functioning robot toy with nothing but an 80’s cartoon and a handgun to go on, we’d quite frankly shit ourselves. It’s worth a fiddle just to see how everything works.

This selfie stick obsession is getting silly now.

THE VERDICT

There’s lots of value to be had here. The stock and silencer are configurable into loads of different modes, and there’s a bundle of quirky accessories to have fun with. Our faves are the battle-damaged face/chest bits, and the doofy looking “control helmet”. All of Megatron’s iconic weapons and gizmos are included. There’s so much to mess about with. If you like to have a guilty play with your high-end collectable toys it’s a must. But maybe leave it in the box if you don’t fancy getting the figure – and yourself – into a right state.

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Legacy Communicator In-hand Review

We love a bit of die-cast here at TMW. The playthings of yesteryear were absolutely loaded with the stuff, lending them a hefty weight and an impress-your-friends factor that is sorely lacking in toys today. So we’re inclined to give the Legacy Communicator a solid 10/10 based on the fact that it’s more than 90% metal. We’re clearly biased, we know. But the metallic heft of the Communicator elevates it from embarrassing kiddies plaything to a Manly Action Device that you’d be proud to wear out and about – or even to your work/school/court hearing depending on your level of badassery*. This looks so real you’d expect a call from Zordon any minute.

*TWM accepts no responsibility for any social ostracizing that may occur.

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“Rangers, did you know you can claim for PPI? It’s simple and there’s no risk.”

SOUNDS LIKE FUN

You’d be hard pressed to miss your summons to action because this thing’s loud. Loud as fuck to be more specific. We guess that’s so you can hear it in a busy street or packed juice bar or whatever – so don’t hold it up to your ear unless you want your eardrums to crumble like a Japanese parking garage at Megazord time.

LOOK WHO’S TALKING

The lights and sounds are activated by a single button and are dished out in a set order for maximum role-play fun. You press the button and get the classic communicator noise. You know the one. Beep-beep-boo-boo-bee-beep. Press it again and you hear Zordon. He’s got a few different soundbites of sage wisdom. Stuff like:

  • “Teleport to the Command Center, immediately.”
  • “Morph [sic] to the Command Center. It’s urgent. We have a desperate situation, Power Rangers.”
  • “Congratulations, Power Rangers, on a job well done.”
  • “Power Rangers, I need you at the Command Center, immediately.”

The third time you get the teleporting sound effect or – very occasionally – a dud noise that means you’ve got a long walk to the Command Center ahead of you…

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We took this to the watch shop to get the strap fitted and the man laughed at us.

CROWNING AROUND

Sometimes you get Alpha 5 doing his classic “Ai ai ai!” bit, except they flubbed it so it sounds like “Ai ai aaaaaaaaah!”, which is disappointing. Also you can hold the button down for a few seconds and get the Power Rangers theme song. We weren’t tired of that two years ago, and we’re not tired of it now either.

They’ve made some changes to the screen-used design but they’re small and barely noticeable. We remember the crown of the watch extending as a sort of antenna but try as we might the Legacy one won’t do that. On the plus side it wins points for having changeable strap things in the box, so you can customise it to your liking. The left and right sides aren’t interchangeable, so make sure you don’t lose one or you’ll have a tough time replacing it. You get five colours and – surprise surprise – the green one is absent from the standard release. Groan…

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It’ll end in tears if you try this, sunshine.

STRAPPING LAD

We’ve got to mention that Ban Dai know their audience and the Communicator is obviously designed to fit a fully-grown person, which is good for most of you reading. But the younger ones – or those with a smaller build – will definitely have to take the bastard thing to a watch shop to have a few links taken out of the strap. While slightly annoying, it’s infinitely better than finding out that your brand-new gizmo won’t fit. So full marks there.

KNOW THE SCORE

Another place it gets top marks is quality, as it’s a sturdy bit of role-play kit that’s as fun as you’re willing to make it. It’s a shame we had to play into the stereotype of stingy Brits and mark it down on value though. Our Scrooge McDuck money vault is 65 quid lighter because of this (that’s well over 90 dollars for our American friends), and we can’t help but find ourselves yearning for a time when fun didn’t have such a steep entry price.

COMMUNIRATING

 

5 Moments from TRANSFORMERS We’d Rather Forget

1. SHOCKWAVE’S SHOCKER

Shockwave is kind of like the Mr. Spock of the Transformer world, but whereas ol’ elf-ears relies on the Vulcan nerve-pinch to dish out the smack, Shockers can simply change into an enormous laser gun and blow his enemies away. Read on to find out why his toy is “packing” more than just heat!

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Eye, Eye! Shockwave costs the Decepticons a fortune in fairy lights.

The original toy of Shockwave was not actually produced by Hasbro. Instead it was made and released independently by a Korean company called ToyCo. This toy – nicknamed “Shackwave” due to being primarily available at Radio Shack in the US (very clever) – hit the market just slightly before the more famous Transformers version. Apart from lacking the Decepticon badges or any other branding, it has another rather obvious… point of difference:

Shocker

You’ll have someone’s eye out with that thing.

Yeah. Despite being a completely faceless robot, Shockwave still seems really pleased to see you. Luckily Hasbro got rid of the offending member when this mold was eventually snaffled for the Transformers line in 1985, making this the first time in history a robot was cockblocked by a Rhode Island-based toy company – but not the last.

Continue reading

Legacy Blade Blaster Review and Comparison

Yep. It’s another pleasingly-scaled prop for Power Rangers fans with adult-sized hands and kid-sized imaginations. And, er, preferably a Megazord-sized wallet as well because this ain’t no pocket money toy. Toys-R-Us have it listed for a monster sum of £89.99, which is roughly $136 US dollars when translated to American. Whether or not it’s worth that much is a question best saved for… later on in the review.

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And you thought only Kimberly had a nice pair…

SIZE WISE

At first blush it looks like a better-painted remake of the original 90’s toy, but it’s actually a whole new tooling. To start with, its slightly bigger in every dimension, which really is saying something as the original is a chunky bit of kit anyway. The distinctive teeth are made in die-cast metal and chrome, along with the barrel tip and the core of the gun. Everything else is plastic but it’s still got a nice weight to it.

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Why is everything… chrome?

Aside from the new paint job, it has a refined, slightly angrier looking sculpt. The handle has a matte finish grip, which is a nice touch. It would’ve been cool to have gone a step further and had a soft rubbery finish, but what do we know? We’re not allowed to design toys any more since “the incident”. In better news, little Brandy is recovering well.

GET TO THE CHOPPER

Right. Pressing the trigger gets you some “pew pew pew!” noises and some explosions – which always follow in the same exact rhythm you fired the shots in, which is clever – but you’ll probably be bored after squeezing a few out. It’s time to transform into blade mode then, which is actually pretty awesome. You pull the top part of the gun back as you’d expect, but you have to hold a small button on the side of the gun to fold the handle back and complete the transformation. This is because of the crazy strong ratchet that holds the handle in place in either mode, so you can swing the thing around to your heart’s content. Another button pops the blade out like a flick knife, which makes you feel like a badass in an 80’s gang movie. In blade mode the whole thing is considerably bigger than the original, and has actually got a slightly menacing point to it. We like!

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Top: Legacy version. Bottom: Yesterdays news.

THEME’S FINE

You can play the Power Rangers theme song by holding down the trigger, which is something we’ve come to expect from the Legacy series (despite this function actually being incredibly annoying to anyone else in the room) and you can also access a few clashing blade noises instead of having to do them with your mouth, like when you were a kid. Of course, as kids we never imagined that twenty years on we’d be able to buy a perfect replica of the Ranger’s signature weapon in toy stores (even if there was always that one kid who said he had a working dragon dagger or the actual Megazord or some other bullshit) and that’s exactly what this is. A perfect replica, we mean. Not bullshit.

Anyways. On to that price. Is this thing worth it? It’s certainly a step up from the original, but it’s more of a baby step than a full-on acrobatic leap. If you don’t have or never owned the original (we can’t expect everyone to hang on to their old tat for twenty-plus years now can we?), and you’re looking for an awesome display piece, then we think you should absolutely plump for it. If you’re more into playing rough with your toys, save your money for the classic version and buy two!

KNOW THE SCORE

From now on we’ll be rating everything on Toy Meets World’s Score-O-Meter (patents issued and pending) which grades the toy out of five in different categories, before giving it an average score. A low score on Quality, say, means the thing’s likely to break apart into sharp pieces when so much as touched, while a high Value score means you get a lot of features or parts in exchange for your hard-earned. Fun is… well, do we really have to explain fun? You remember fun right?

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Let’s Get Along Again!

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Every now and then we like to go through the site stats and see what exactly is bringing in the punters, be it toy reviews, our occasional random list articles, or our unique brand of “journalism” and bestiality jokes. Far and away the most hits come from people looking for the obscure 80’s cartoon The Get Along Gang. We don’t pretend to know why.

“We wrote this with the blood of our enemies!”

So, because we’re super nice and always give you readers what you want (and because Luke blew this month’s entire toy review budget on a life-size Cadbury Bunny, for reasons best kept to himself) we’re going to revisit the gang with a view to reminding you what they were all about. We’ll cover the toys (obviously), the animated series, and even the disastrous 21st-century relaunch that no doubt ruined someone’s childhood FOREVER. And maybe we’ll even delve into the shameful Get Along Gang pornography scene if time and/or the law allows.

This one made our eyes water.

No on both counts, as it turns out.

THE GANG

A group of furry preadolescents created in 1984 by American Greetings (they of the Care Bears fame), the main six members were:

  • Montgomery Moose – the well rounded, personable one,
  • Dotty Dog – the smart and peppy cheerleader,
  • Bingo Beaver – a compulsive liar and gambling addict,
  • Zipper Cat – the sporty, tough guy with an attitude,
  • Woolma Lamb – a spoiled and vain waste of space,
  • Portia Porcupine – basically a toddler toted around by the gang for some reason.

Their sworn enemies were Catchum Crocodile and his slimy subordinate Leyland Lizard. Most of Catchum’s villainous “schemes” involved cheating in a contest of some sort, or trying to get into the gang’s clubhouse. Phew, make sure the kids are in bed before he comes on.

THE STUFF

The main line of GAG merchandise consisted of six 11-inch plush dolls. Each doll came with removable clothes and accessories (you can even take off their socks and shoes, which we find funny for some reason). All of them were packaged wearing roller skates, because that was apparently law in 1984 when they were released. The skates are actually the hardest thing to find on the secondary market, possibly because most kids took them off one time and promptly lost them. The dolls themselves can be found cheaply and easily second-hand and are remarkably well made; ours are still holding together after thirty years of rough play. Christ, turns out you really can trust Tomy.

Before we go any further, we’ve just got to mention that while the likenesses are generally very good, we feel that poor Woolma really got the short end of the stick here. We’d like to interview the designer and ask him what medication he was taking at the time this abomination was made. Behold:

They tried.

You tried, drug-addled designer man!

The main cast were also rendered as 5-inch hard plastic figures, advertised as Dress-Up Kids. Oddly, the male characters had their trousers painted on, just like Olivia Newton-John in Grease. Unlike Olivia Newton-John, all the characters had slightly creepy, shapeless bodies underneath their clothes, so we can’t imagine many people wanted to disrobe them.

Of the twelve characters actually designed by American Greetings, the toyline focused heavily on the main six featured in the cartoon. The others were available only as small figurines. These were scaled perfectly, though, for the Clubhouse Caboose playset. It was basically a red plastic wagon with a fold-down wall, and it featured a small platform for the toys to hang around on and a kind of turntable thing so they could spin around. It’s quite poor by today’s standards but don’t worry: it was quite poor by yesterday’s standards as well.

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The live-action  Attack on Titan strayed from the source material slightly.

THE SHOW

Thirteen episodes were produced by Dic (cough) between 1984 and 1985. The same company was also responsible for the Super Mario and Sonic cartoons, but is probably most famous for creating the Robocop/Don Adams hybrid Insepctor Gadget. The show followed the adventures of the gang in and around their home of Green Meadow, a strangely anachronistic American small town. Actually, the whole show has a slightly outdated feel now that we think about it. The title sequence shows the gang riding around on soapbox carts they made themselves (not exactly the vehicle of choice in 1984 – when the skateboard, Big Wheel or even Pogo Ball were all popular) and instead of staying home and playing Atari these kids preferred to hang around in the malt shop or play with simple toys like marbles and the like. Very odd.

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The ’84 cartoon, in a rare moment of frantic action

Anyways, the stories themselves are standard-issue children’s TV fodder; we have treasure hunts, encounters with pirates and other bad guys, and typical power-of-friendship escapades. In fact, these very quaint “adventures” could have been written for any show at all, so generic are the settings and characters – but the stories chug along very nicely anyways. It probably won’t hold the attention of an adult audience but if you were expecting a furry version of Twin Peaks, then a) you’re asking too much of a kids cartoon, and b) someone get on that shit ’cause it sounds amazing.

THE REMAKE

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What the hell are the moose and beaver playing?

Round about 2004, American Greetings started sending out press packs detailing the relaunch of the Get Along Gang. This would be an all-new show, with a fresh and funky 21st-century look. Plans were to show off the new gang at a licensing exhibition that year (the kind of thing where smaller companies acquire the rights to produce merchandise like lunchboxes, stationary and the like) but as far as we can tell the powers that be put the kibosh on the whole thing before any licensed tat could be made.

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Left to right: Mogo, Hatch, Mayfield, Reagan, Domino, and Portia!

Some digging tells us that the characters were designed by artist/animator Saxton Moore, whose recent work includes The Twisted Whiskers Show and an original children’s book called Yin the Master of Yo. Instead of just freshening up the old gang, Moore created a whole new bunch of characters designed to be their successors.

Although the characters and (planned) merchandise had a  hand-drawn look, the accompanying cartoon was to be a computer-generated affair – presumably for cost reasons. Behind-the-scenes info and drawings have since leaked online, and the first, or perhaps only, episode has somehow made its way to Youtube. We’ve given it a look, and we quite like it. We can say it’s got a bit more of an “edge” than the original show (not hard, we know) with snappy humour and lots of fourth-wall breaking gags. They’ve also modernised the gang’s clubhouse a tad. It now has a hologram artificial intelligence built in – think Power Rangers’ Zordon, and you’re there. If “there” is a random designer’s crazy cheese-dream.

Curiously, in the course of the episode the new gang are actually shown stock art of their 80’s progenitors- we don’t quite know how to process this because it makes no sense – and are explicitly told that they are distant relatives of the originals. There’s no counterpart for Portia Porcupine (here given the actual surname of Bristlemore) because she’s revealed to be the old woman in the line up above. Erm, we hate to point this out, but only twenty years had passed between the original show and this one, so either it’s set far into the future or cuddly forest animals really don’t age well.

Watch the show below, and try not to snicker when it invites viewers to “get loose in the caboose”.

Theme song by Prince Paul. No, really.

WATCH IT NOW

At some point a company called Mill Creek Entertainment released a DVD containing 10 two-part episodes. We do wonder were they sourced the episodes from, though. The picture and sound quality is abominable – it’s the worst we’ve ever seen on a store-bought DVD. It looks for all the world like it was straight-up ripped from YouTube… after being recorded off the telly in 1985. And it’s Region 1, so UK readers will have to nab a multi-region DVD player to even watch the damn thing. It also says the gang “travel the countryside” bringing help to “wherever they’re needed” which pretty much confirms the manufacturer never actually watched the product they’re selling.

Maybe we’ll revisit the gang in the future. There are rumblings of yet another remake in the works, so with any luck a whole new generation of kids will get to enjoy their own version of the gang, but as it stands it’s a nice throwback to a simpler time. The Get Along Gang were a nice bunch, and their exploits and adventures were many and quaint. It seems that the show was an effort to instill some positive values in the young audience, to prepare them for the tumultuous decades ahead.

You’re never too old to learn – so maybe we should all sit down, watch some Gang, and all learn how to get along.

I Clean My Gun and Dream of Galvatron

Next year marks the 30th anniversary of the animated Transformers movie, and the masterminds at Takara have promised to celebrate the event the only way they know how: by making more awesome toys. So far revealed for 2016 are new figures of movie posterboy Hot Rod – which makes sense – and menacing Decepticon Shockwave, which makes far less sense when you consider he has exactly two lines in the movie and is quietly squashed out of existence in the final act.

Both are part of the reinvigorated Masterpiece line, which aims to correct the mistakes of the past and produce new figures of existing characters improved with today’s toy technology. So why the hell have we not got a Galvatron yet?

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“Who’s a guy got to disintegrate to get a new toy around here?”

In the movie, Galvatron was created by Unicron from the remains of Decepticon boss Megatron. His job was to cover Unicron’s considerable ass by hunting down any pesky Autobots who would seek to destroy him. Unbelievably, Unicron was voiced by Orson Welles – whether or not the animators modeled the foul-tempered planet-eater on Welles himself is not certain at this time. Galvatron sets out to capture the Autobot Matrix for his master, but not before getting his own house in order by challenging Starscream for leadership of the Decepticons. And by “challenging” we mean straight-up terminating his ass in one of the movie’s most brutal scenes.

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Our faces looked just like this when Starscream carked it.

The character of Galvatron came about, in real-life terms, because of a number of factors. Changing gun laws in the United States meant that the continued production of Megatron – who turned into a perfect replica of a P-38 Walther handgun – just wasn’t viable. The toys had been on the shelves for two years by this point, so it was decided to shake up the ranks of the Autobots and Decepticons with two new leader characters. The new, improved version of Megatron would now turn into a futuristic-looking laser gun, and if need be further transform into a static laser cannon.

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The battles of the future will be fought with… these things.

Galvatron’s original animation model was designed by artist Floro Dery with little consideration for how it would work as an actual toy – leaving the people at Hasbro to do their best to make a transforming action figure from his sketches in short time. The resulting finished toy has a good amount of weight to it, and even fits nicely in an adult’s hand in laser gun mode. It’s also one of the first – if not the first – Transformer to have electronic lights and sounds. Alas, this figure of Galvatron is probably best described as the phrase “you tried” manifested in physical form.  If you squint a bit it kind of looks like him. Or at the very least it looks like a random Transformer in a home-made Galvatron Halloween costume.

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“If you do just 50 crunches a day, you can have abs like these!”

It would take Hasbro 22 years to muster up the willpower to crank out another toy, and you can guess how that went. This time Galvatron was a tank – a mandate by Hasbro deems that all new TF lines must contain at least five tanks because “kids love that war shit” – but the figure has vestiges of some kind of third mode, a symptom of being drastically scaled-back in both size and complexity at some point in production. The result is a figure that not even a God of Chaos could love.

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Tanks, but no tanks.

And that’s how Galvatron’s story ends. These days, the name has variously been applied to new characters in the live-action movies and comics, and by all accounts Hasbro is more than happy to leave Megatron’s alter ego well enough alone for another 20 years. In the words of gravelly-voiced old timer Kup, it’s not the end we’d wish for, lad. Someone at Takara needs to put this right!