o86 reviews SWTF General GrievousBackstory:
The Star Wars universe is as diverse a one as Transformers. You have your 'G1' characters like Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, and then you have more modern ones like Darth Maul and Qui-Gon Jinn. One such character is the droid commander General Grievous, who debuted in the Clone Wars animated series and showed up properly in Revenge of the Sith. But will a character who's not as synonymous with Star Wars make as good a figure?
When ROTS was in the theatres, I did plan to go see it..but on the day I made the trip, I came across Cybertron for the first time, and ended up buying Crumplezone instead. The real question is, does that make me more or less of a geek? Point being, I haven't seen Grievous or the wheelbike in live action, just eyeballed the toys and caught him a few eps of Clone Wars. I don't know a whole heap about the character, and I think we can all agree that he's not quite the icon that Vader is. An emancipated cyborg with Optimus Minor's arms and a ridiculous name doesn't really scream 'icon', but he seems to have a fairly large following. All the same, Grievous wasn't my first choice when purchasing a Star Wars Transformer.
As I mentioned when I reviewed Vader, I was pretty skeptical when the SWTFs were unveiled. They looked like gawky, mangled things, not quite the generic robots with pilots that many had hoped for. I'd intended to wait for reviews before making a purchase, yet I warmed to the idea and took the plunge with Vader. Turned out he was a good solid toy, if a touch bland. His success inspired me enough to shell out for Grievous here.
Thanks to the boxing day sales, I got him for 10% off, and a lucky break it was too. Y'see, over here in New Zealand, the SWTF are exclusive to our major retail chain, The Warehouse - I've been told it's like a bigger, redder, trashier Wal-Mart, for those after a mental image. Not only that, they sold…extremely well. TFs were one of the big sellers this year, Cybertron totally thrashed Armada and Energon sales-wise. Not a Prime to be seen anywhere. Along with them, the SWTF have practically disappeared. Out of the three Warehouse stores I visited during the sales, I found exactly one SWTF. And here he is.Packaging:
I covered the basics of the SWTF packaging design in my last review, this will just note the changes.
Firstly, it lies. The gimmick listing on the back is recycled, and incorrectly proclaims Grievous has 2 launching projectile lightsabers. In reality, he has 3 lightsabers, only one of which actually launches.
The bubble and backing card are more or less the same as Vader's, colour-wise. He has the same kind of Cybertron-style boxart, and I'll just take a moment here to note how much I prefer this style to the Dreamwave-era's. The early TF boxart was always unique, and didn't look like the same stuff you could find everywhere else. While this particular piece isn't as dynamic and nifty as Vader's, it does the trick, and refrains from falling into the samey pose trap that Cybertron's has.
The back of the card gives us a bio note: "The much-feared General Grievous has trained with the evil Count Dooku in the art of lightsaber combat. Using unorthodox fighting methods, such as a furious multiple-lightsaber assault, Grievous has managed to cut down several Jedi Knights. Now, Grievous changes into wheel bike mode to engage and destroy Obi-Wan Kenobi and the remaining Jedi."
And a right tough time he'll have, if he does it in wheel bike mode.. He gets stupidly high stats, too; 8, 10, 10, 10, 10, 10, 9, and 5 for the Force Knowledge stat that stands in for Skill. Wow, I just noticed that these guys get Firepower instead of Fireblast. Kids are no less likely to buy SWTF than Cybertron figures, judging by what I've seen.
It's worth noting that the stock photos on the packaging sport a different colour scheme to the final figure, the one shown is much darker. No huge complaints here, though, I'm happy with what we've got.
Unlike Vader's cross-sell, Luke Skywalker is referred to by name here. Why? No idea. Perhaps Vader loves/hates him to the point where he doesn't even like having his name on the same package.
Hm. Now that I look closely, they have different symbols on the bottom of their bubbles and in the background of their silly flippy disk things. Grievous gets a hexagon design, I assume it to be the separatist insignia. But I can't be bothered checking, so you'll have to take my uninformed word for it.
After dealing to an insane amount of those clear rubber band things, and an extremely tight couple of batarangs, you manage to free the toy-related goodness. On to vehicle mode!Vehicle Mode:
It's an..uhh..spikey wheel on legs, yeah. With guns and a seat. Hey, don't ask me, I'm not Lucas. Whatever it is, it's officially a wheel bike, and like many such things in the Star Wars universe, it's insectoid in design. From the spikes to the claws to the antennae-like guns, the vehicle resembles a mechanical bug. And this is a good thing, what with Grievous himself being not totally unlike an insect.
Colourwise, he's mainly made up of a light grey plastic. Not the same pale grey we've seen entirely enough of, this is a bit darker, and doesn't swallow the detail so much. The large section on each leg is tan, with light brown painted parts. More brown can be found on the wheel itself, bringing out lines around the sides, and on a piece at the back. The four claws are made of darker, more flexible grey plastic.
Turn the bike upside down, and you'll see the robot mode's head and chest. Considering how rarely you'd display the bike like that, it doesn't worry me, but it may be a concerned to some. Bear in mind that his transformation is nowhere near as simple as these exposed parts would have you believe.
There's a surprising lot of nice detail going on here, with the toothed gears on the sides, the flexible spikes of the wheels, the sticks in the control chair, and assorted tubes and wires. A light wash could've brought some of it out a little better, but as I said, the grey plastic doesn't swallow it as much as it could have.
Scale, for those who care about it, is an issue. While Vader's minifigure was pretty much the right size for the TIE Advanced, Grievous' wheelbike is monstrous, more than twice as large as it should be in proportion to the minifigure. I quite like this, mind, as it gives it more of a 'monster truck' feel. What was originally designed as a mere form of transportation is now a metal-mashing tool of destruction. Between the spiked wheel and the claws, that's easy to believe.
The whole thing is actually fairly small, with the wheel forming the bulk. The large legs give it an illusion of being bigger than it actually is, which is obvious if you attempt to fold the legs up. They're not really designed to do that, and the wheel doesn't actually spin, meaning it looks a tad funny.
One of the first points I noticed when fiddling with the wheelbike is that it's a little challenging to balance. The four legs are extremely well articulated, with each leg having 8 POA a pop, and each claw sporting a movable 'thumb'. These allow for many neat poses - hunched up, fully extended, running, crouching, even rearing like a horse, but they make the whole standing up thing a bit more of a problem than it should be. However, once all four are positioned correctly, the vehicle's nice and stable.
The second point is that it's not all that solid. Those wheel sections can be dislodged with relative ease. This turned out to be a fairly intricate problem. Y'see, the actual toy is far more complex than instructions and pictures would have you believe, and the robot mode's head has to be wedged just so between the bottom halves of each wheel to get it to hold together. The ball joints for the back legs slide out for clearance, also. The head takes a bit of fiddling, you have to fully slide out the lower half of the robot body and then push the neck in somewhat. Once done, it's easy to see where you went wrong, as there are slots for the sides of the head.
I'll take a moment here to mention the way the legs are assembled. At a point on each, there's a swivel, and these swivels are constructed with a clip joint. While the front legs hold in well, the back are annoyingly easy to pop out. I solved this problem with a twisty tie on one and a clear rubber band on another. It really should've been fixed during the design stages, yet it's simple to counter with materials found in the toy's packaging, and they shouldn't pop out anyway if you're gentle. Better to have that 'some parts are made to detach' line that end up breaking things, y'know?
The minifigure is boring. He's got a whopping one point of articulation, allowing him to sit. Yay. That said, he does his job as a pilot for the wheelbike, tucking snugly into a seat on the side. I've found a little poster putty does wonders for keeping him from straying. Vader fits in there too, if you're so inclined.
Minifigure fun isn't all you get, mind, Grievous comes well-armed with three lightsabers. One red, one blue, and one green; the red one doubles as the missile for the launcher. The launcher's located between the guns on the pod on the opposite side of the wheelbike to the pilot, and can rotate up and down. It pops off fairly easily, that's necessary for transformation. Powerful enough for its purposes, the launcher spits its missile the right sort of distance. It's not pathetic, and it's not going to cause you grief when you're wondering just how far the missile went. Now that I think about it, where'd he get a red saber from? His bio 'does' say he was trained by Dooku, and there's no sign of a Dooku figure yet.. Dun Dun Dun!
His other two sabers are, pleasingly, different sculpts. The green is slightly longer than the blue, with a silver handle, while the blue has gunmetal. Though it's not mentioned anywhere, they're clearly meant to store in the holes down the middle of the wheelbike, between the wheels. Obscured by the side panels and wheel halves, they hide well enough. Weapon storage is always something I approve, since I biff all the weapons that can't be stored on the figure in my Accessories Box. 99% of 'em are in robot mode, mind. Speaking of which..Transformation:
Let's get this straight: The instructions are a piece of crap. They very poorly represent the steps necessary to get this toy from one mode to another, completely overlooking many essential movements. Grievous is much more complex than you'd think, the sore of intricacy that we haven't seen since Beast Machines. Yes yes, Alternators can be frustrating little puzzles, but they functionally turn from a brick into a robot - it's just a matter of unfolding them. This, on the other hand, is the same kind of plastic origami as, say, BM Skydive. Not so much that it's hard as it's not intuitive, and you'll often find yourself noticing new parts each time you transform him. And thus, the transformation begins.
When you're taking him back to vehicle mode, the pegs on the ends of the inner wheel sections and the parts in the middle come in handy to prise them apart, since they get pretty firmly locked in there. Don't forget to align the head just so or pull out the hips either, or the job'll be that much more of a hassle.Robot Mode:
After all that twisting and turning, one would hope you're left with something worth the effort. And you certainly are. Grievous' robot mode looks great, from the thin, angled limbs to the distinctive head design.
To begin with, when I first saw pictures of the General, I didn't like his design at all. Yet, after examining his head more closely, I've come to appreciate it, nay, enjoy it. The top half is of the head is skullish, while the bottom resembles the mandibles of an insect, mirroring the alt. mode.
He has an extremely short torso, which makes his limbs look too long. His arms extend to below his knees. He sports clawed feet, long, thin hands with two thumbs on each, and rib-like designs on his chest. This is all very skeletal, an interesting aesthetic. Due to the nature of the toy, however, he's not as anorexic as the regular design. The armour sections on his forearms and legs, plus the huge spiked backpack, give him a whole lot of additional bulk. This is, uh, Steroids Grievous. There's a lot of artistic liberties taken, the colours, the gun, the sabers on his back, the feet.. The arms, understandably, don't do the Optimus Minor splitting thing, as it'd severely compromise the alt. mode. It helps distinguish him from regular Grievous figures, and makes him that little bit more like a generic robot. But he's still undeniably Grievous, there's no mistaking that look. I particularly like the tubes in his neck, and hope to see more of this kind of detail in mainline TFs. Yes, I loved the G2 comic aesthetic too.
Robot mode carries over all the colours from vehicle mode, but exchanges much of the light grey for dark, with the robot torso and the interlocking lines of spikes on his back. A new colour is introduced - creamy off-white. His head, torso, waist, and knees are all painted white, while the prototype had this as an actual plastic colour. In fact, the only thing molded in white is the minifigure. They bothered to paint all the details on his back, too, and that's very much appreciated. Dark brown comes into play with the shoulderpads, and works well with the dark grey. Greenish gold paint apps highlight some sections of his chest, and his robot eyes are yellow. Normally, he'd have organic eyes, but this being a piloted mech, he's all robot. A simple conversion from a barely organic design, much like Vader's. Vader's about a head taller than him, thanks to Grievous being that much more intricate.
This time he's a whole lot more solid than in vehicle mode. The gun still pops off, as will the limbs if you're rough, but the rest of him is pretty well locked together. You can safely mess around with no danger of him falling apart, assuming he's transformed correctly. The legs are the most important part, especially the heelspurs, as that's where his balance comes from. I was impressed at the way they don't lock until you've raised the foot fully, that's a clever piece of engineering. The same goes for the brown piece that rotates into the wheel. Angled parts like this were used extensively during G1, and haven't really made a comeback, since their primary use was for automatically separating legs. Good to see they haven't forgotten the old tricks.
The backpack now carries all his gear. Functionally, it's just one large bit of kibble, and he'd be a decent action figure without it. A lot of his transformation is in the fiddling of his limbs, mind. The gun module from his vehicle mode sits behind his shoulder, on the right side, sticking up like an antenna. The instructions suggest using this as a handgun, which would be possible if it still had the long handle shown there. As it is, the clip's just not suited to his hands, and flops around horribly. You can rotate the guns so they sit under his arm, though, and that actually looks really good. Plus, it leaves his hands free for the sabers, which store in the backpack instead of on his belt, with the blades partially obscured by his body.
Speaking of his hands, they're strange. Long and slender, with two pin joints through them and two thumbs, they can form fists or open. While it's a neat idea in theory, it doesn't work so well in practice. The pin joints aren't quite stiff enough to hold the sabers exceptionally well. They'll hold in, but they tend to flop around a bit. It's fine for display, just a disadvantage if you expect to be able to whirl him around and hack up the Jedi.
On the other side of the backpack is the control chair. Now, it seems to me that, if you're driving a giant, armoured, robotic version of yourself, sitting just behind its left shoulder might not be a totally great idea. One stray laser blast and you're pretty screwed. Intelligence 10? I think not. It does give the mech an old-school piloted feel, though, like the Super Robots of the '50s who were controlled by small Japanese children. Yeah, them.
Grievous 'bot is no slacker when it comes to articulation, with a grand total of 21 points, including four in each hand. The great thing is that the shoulders and hips are exposed ball joints, with a huge range of motion, allowing for a ton of neat poses. And to compensate for that large backpack, he's got plenty of joints in the legs to balance him. Giant robots with swords and guns are cool, giant robots with swords and guns and lots of articulation are even better. He can hold a saber with both hands, or even go all-out and hold one in his foot as well. With a little fiddling, crouching, leaping, stabbing, and many other dynamic actions 'pose' no problem. Ahaha. In fact, you can even have him pull his sabers out from their slots, very cool indeed.
Vader was the first SWTF to catch my eye, and he was worthwhile. I was never particularly taken by Grievous as a character, and more or less ignored this figure until I realised the line was surprisingly cool. Grievous, with his accessories, intricate transformation, an alt. mode you can actually do things with, and plentiful articulation has Vader beat as a straight-out cool toy. However, he takes a lot of liberties in design, and isn't quite the signature character that Vader is. My ties are with TF, and Grievous gets the win. So, if it's a SWTF you want, stick with Vader. If you're after something different and interesting, Grievous is your toy.
The SWTF are treading new ground for the first time in a while, I'll bet the designers are having the time of their lives coming up with these things. And who wouldn't, really? They're the ultimate geek toys.
So impressed am I, after Vader's solidness and Grievous' badassery, that I'm prepared to buy the rest just to see how they fare. Even 'Luke'. They're that fun. For all you skeptics, this is my opinion flipping from 'ehh' to 'heey!'. Go forth, try these. This I Command!
Though, there is one major problem. Where in the collection do I put them?
|Date||January 9th 2006|
|Score||(10 out of 10)|
|Link||Remys General Grevious Gallery|
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