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Coming in to the reviews of Titans Return Deluxe Wave 1, let's get started with Skullsmasher. I think it's the most relevant to lead with because of these first four Deluxes, it's the one where basically all the problems went. But that's not the toy's fault.
The most common issue at this point is the leg joints. The hips are almost universally loose across the run as reported so far. It seems like a materials issue, and something the factory identified and tried to fix after the fact. If you pop off the hip - not a difficult task, honestly - you can see marks like this where the plastic was deformed inside to try to increase the grip around the ball joint. It didn't really work. This example of Skullsmasher has already had an acrylic floor polish treatment done on it, which gives the hips a nice bit of grip they were lacking. Some copies also have problem thigh swivels. Those can be corrected with the floor polish too and these things together go a long way to help.
Because that's the thing; Skullsmasher is going to get a bad reputation, when it isn't deserved. The engineering doesn't seem to be at fault, it's a problem of the materials used not behaving correctly. And apart from these loose joints, Skullsmasher is pretty well designed. We do have one noteworthy exception however. There's kind of a lack of heel support. Of course you have the outside edges, but that's not where it's most needed. This whole empty region in here is.
And it's annoying because you have the rear crocodile legs right here. On the outside. One hinge and they could have been moved inside the empty space of the shins, forming a useful heel AND tidying up the robot mode appearance.
There's a couple other minor issues. The toes don't lock open, so depending in situations you might find them half folding back up to storage. On the other hand, they pretty much don't contribute anything functionally, so if this bugs you there's no harm in leaving them folded up. The hands have a similar thing going on, but less pronounced at least on my copy. You'll probably notice it more with the tail weapon due to its weight, but at the same time the shape of that part stops the hand from traveling very far. Thing is, the hands want to lock in place. You can feel a really soft snap when you flip them out. But it just doesn't catch in there enough to stop them trying to fold back in sometimes.
Articulation-wise Skullsmasher does pretty well. These extra shoulder hinges seem to be common in this round of Deluxes, and despite being transformation joints, serve posing well too. Which is for the best since despite swiveling just fine, the shoulder ball joint has no capacity for outward movement.
There is of course a bicep swivel, and the elbows are good single hinges.
And rather than a wrist swivel, it's actually a forearm swivel just below the elbow.
The waist swivels freely and smoothly, but it's not loose by any means.
The hip joints have a pretty standard range of movement, and of course we also already acknowledged the thigh swivels.
Okay, so the knees. You have the regular hinge that gets you a 90 degree bend.
But if you keep pulling, the shin unclicks and bends on a second hinge. That's the transformation joint. The knee actually has a notch and tab to lock that in place in robot mode. It's only intended to use a single hinge for the knee joint. On mine, one leg is a bit loose on that second hinge, the other is not. If the strength is good enough, you can use this as a double joint. Your mileage will vary.
And of course the head can turn.
Skullsmasher is one of the developing cases where the Titan Master connection can be a bit of trouble. At least a few instances had the head installed in package with the Titan Master's head turned sideways, more or less jamming it in the socket. So be watching for that if the head is hard to disconnect when you first try it. What I've found is the connection isn't very stable unless you have the Titan Master's face pointing forward. That is to say, the same direction the main robot face is pointing. That's reverse of how it's supposed to go, but it works, and prevents Skullsmasher from bobble-heading or having Grax fall out entirely.
Skullsmasher's deco isn't exactly complex. And most of the robot mode surfaces are just the base plastic colors. The white chest panel and its detailing is painted of course, but that's really all for what's specific to this mode. But I don't care at all that there isn't more paint because the plastic layouts do their job and get the colors in the right places.
I'm sure there's little bits and pieces that might benefit from picking out details with a little color, but nothing looks missing.
Grax is the same thing. Most of it is plastic colors, but the green and black contrast well and it looks right. Grax has some of the nicer quality of sculpting among the pack-in Titan Masters, about on par with Emissary, so everything looks sharp.
The face is painted gold, and that finishes it off.
Grax has the standard jointing, with the head and shoulders on ball joints, and pinned hinges for the hips and knees.
In transforming Skullsmasher there's only a couple things to watch out for in particular. The arms need to be oriented very specifically, so there are guide tabs and slots to help line it up.
The crocodile head should plug in the slots immediately above the bicep swivel, here.
Folding the robot legs takes a few steps. Don't clip them together until after you fold them over.
Then you'll most likely need to adjust the knees since they won't quite have settled in to place on their own. Once that's done, go to the top and push down. You should feel a very soft click as the legs settle in place.
Attach the tail, and then obsessively make constant tiny adjustments to the legs until you're sure that it'll sit flat.
So straight away the crocodile mode is quite visually impressive.
It occupies a great volume, being almost as long as two other alternate mode Deluxes end to end. But unlike something else with an elongated vehicle mode where it really looks like the mass is stretched out, Skullsmasher still reads as big and solid.
The rear limbs are effectively immobile. They have a ball joint at the hip, but sculpted as they are and with no added joints and the low ground clearance, there's really nothing to be done with them. The front limbs are a little more movable, though the effectiveness is limited because you have to coordinate with the rear legs. Since the crocodile doesn't have complete shoulder movement, using just the robot's bicep swivel for a shoulder joint, you have to coordinate between that swivel and the forearm swivel if you adjust the position of the front legs. The joints work together to let you keep the front feet level as you adjust their positioning otherwise. But again, there's little you can actually do with that because of being a low rider and the back feet being next to useless.
The tail can wag a little bit. I recommend holding down on it if you're going to move it very much; it pops up off its peg pretty quickly when you start hinging it.
But the crocodile shines with the head.
It articulates around a big ball joint, giving it a fantastic range of movement. Very expressive posing is easily possible.
The jaw is hinged, and opens to reveal a detailed interior. All these grey parts are made of a rubbery plastic, for the benefit of the rows of teeth. As a side effect the soft feel of the inside of the mouth makes for an almost creepy sensation. That part I'm sure was unintentional, but it's a great overall result.
It seems to not be uncommon for at least one of the prominent teeth to have ended up bent under the jaw. You can't really tell in package, either. If it has, pull it out and close the jaw. If left long enough it may warp the plastic back to its intended position.
So the head is one of two highlights. Here's the other ...under this soft plastic flap.
It seems like in exchange for just having a plate of crocodile skin instead of a fancy canopy, Skullsmasher's driver compartment is among the more detailed so far in Titans Return. Grax fits in loosely, there's not slots or guide flanges to hold it in place. But it doesn't particularly need them, either. Just be mindful of the hatch. Soft as it is, it can get pushed down inside the cockpit and will be a little difficult to pull back up.
Skullsmasher has a little more paint in this mode. The head has a dark gunmetal patch where the G1 toy's cockpit window was, which seems like a really silly thing to keep when you get right down to it. There's a bit of silver, purple, and black accenting on the sides, and off white paint on the rear legs to pick out the claws and the "cap" over the hip joint. You know what else is paint? The entire midsection. That's cast in the same pinkish magenta as the back half of the body and then given a very close color match to the green plastic. The only thing to give it away is that it lacks the glossy finish the green plastic has. Well, and how in some tiny spots the paint doesn't always quite cover.
The tail is an accessory. Kind of.
It can be held as an awkward club from this peg underneath. There's no way to hold it upright, though. hence awkward.
The gun is based on the G1 toy's gun, of course.
It pegs firmly in the tail to form the tip.
In this way I tend to like to imagine the combined tail and gun as a larger rifle, which makes the tail's peg placement make a bit more sense. It even has a targeting sensor or scope.
The other use brings all the loose parts together. Peg the gun in by the short peg, and sit Grax (or some other Titan Master) inside.
The gun is angled so as the tail slants forward the barrel aims straight.
And using the hinged peg there, Skullsmasher can also carry the turreted mode around.
As far as storage in robot mode goes, there's not a lot of options. The tail can plug in the bottom of the crocodile head, though it makes the backpack unwieldy.
The shoulders have 5mm holes, in which the tail and gun could be plugged. Of the few options, I'm finding this one preferable. It's still not the cleanest, but it works and doesn't threaten the balance or anything.
I'd say Skullsmasher has maybe one legitimate engineering flaw in the absence of meaningful heel supports. The open shape of the lower legs limits the ways it can be posed, and given material is literally right next to that space which maybe could have been made to help with this, I can't call it anything but a design screw up. Everything else comes down quite simply to material tolerances, and there's every chance that later instances of Skullsmasher specifically, or another subsequent use of the mold will see all of this improved, much as it was for Combiner Wars Brawl.
The foundation of a good toy is here, and I'm very pleased by the crocodile mode which does not itself suffer any for what's going on otherwise with the toy. If you're not averse to tightening some joints yourself, you can make even an early Skullsmasher be quite nice. There's a good chance the TakaraTomy Legends series version could also be improved right out of the box. But we have at least a few weeks to wait to see on that. Just don't let the reports right now color your perception forever. This is a good toy that has a lot of chance ahead of it to be redeemed.
|Date||July 8th 2016|
|Score||(7 out of 10)|
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