Fortress Maximus - Generation 1 - Figure


"Prepare for war, but strive for peace."
Valiant, courageous, a warrior without peer... but peace is his most fervent wish. Fights only out of necessity; believes all violence is ultimately pointless and counter-productive. Transforms into battle station and city modes. Armed with retractable pulse cannons, twin automatic machine gun batteries on wrists, twin laser-guided mortars on legs, heat-seeking dual laser blasters and fusion-powered photon rifle. Has communications, detection and repair equipment. Controls two armored vehicles, Gasket and Grommet, which combine to form Cog. Head transforms into semi-autonomous Cerebros, who is binary-bonded to the Nebulan leader, Spike.

RANK: 10

Cerebros has three transformations. First, he can be a robot. In this mode, Spike becomes his head. When Spike is plugged into Cerebros, you can open a chest plate to reveal the tech specs for Strength, Intelligence, and Speed, all of which are displayed as 10. This uses the standard Headmaster feature, and as such, other Headmaster figures can be attached as Cerebros' head, and Spike can be attached to other Headmaster figures as their heads. In robot mode, Cerebros doesn't have much articulation, but he can rotate his arms up and down, to aim his gun that he can hold. He resembles a miniature Fortress Maximus in a lot of ways in this form, with a lot of the same kind of detailing being present. Spike's head mode even looks a lot like a smaller version of the much larger head that Cerebros can transform into. Which brings us to his second transformation, that of Fortress Maximus' head. In this mode, he really has a lot of facial details, and just looks great, as far as a giant head goes. One interesting feature is that he can be plugged into Fortress Maximus with Spike either attached or unattached. If you leave Spike attached as Cerebros' head, he's at the bottom in this mode, and there is a space in the plug on Fortress Maximus for Spike to fit into his neck socket. This doesn't hold him in or anything though, and Cerebros is free to firmly attach to Fortress Maximus without having Spike attached as well. A third mode isn't so obvious, but Cerebros can actually transform into a structure for Fortress Maximus' city mode. He really doesn't look like anything in this mode on his own, but when he plugs into a slot in the city compound, he blends in perfectly as another structure. You really wouldn't even guess he's a separate part just by looking at him there. He really doesn't have any functional purpose in this building mode, and it's really just for storage purposes more than anything, but it's really a well done method of integrating him into the city form anyway.

Gasket and Grommet are two different vehicles, which combine into one robot called Cog. What's really interesting is that this consists four separate parts, with no articulated joints whatsoever on any of them. The only moving parts are the wheels on the two vehicles. Grommet consists only of one part, a kind of strange looking flat tank/car thing. It reminds me a little of the armored personnel carrier from "Aliens". Grommet can roll around on simplistic but functional plastic wheels, but doesn't really do anything else. Gasket consists of three pieces, the base vehicle, and two cannons attached to the top. This vehicle has larger wheels than Grommet, which are still functional, giving it the look of an all-terrain type of intent going on. It really doesn't resemble any specific vehicle design I've seen before though, within the Transformers or elsewhere. To combine into Cog, all you have to do is detach the cannons from the top of Gasket and plug them into the sides instead, and then attach the front of Grommet to the back of Gasket. Then, stand it up, and Grommet becomes the lower body, Gasket the upper body, and the cannons become the arms. His arms can actually rotate at the shoulders, but this is only because they're separate pieces that plug in, rather than having any true joints there. He also has a small pistol he can hold in either of his hands. Overall, these vehicles are pretty cheaply made, and don't look very impressive at all. Despite being as tall as a lot of medium-sized Autobots, Cog is really lacking in detailing and functionality. However, one good thing to say is that as Gasket and Grommet, the two vehicles are designed to specifically interact with a lot of the features of Fortress Maximus' city mode. So as a stand-alone product, Cog is basically garbage, but when used as an accessory to the city mode, Gasket and Grommet actually provide a lot of supportive entertainment value within that context. What it really comes down to is that if Cog was ever sold on its own, it would be an almost completely worthless purchase, but when paired with Fortress Maximus, it becomes great to have for its substantial instrumental value.

Fortress Maximus really lives up to his name in this mode, which is really his most impressive form in my opinion. This giant city block really does make a worthy base/playset for other Transformers figures, unlike previous attempts like Metroplex which were simply much too small to really interact with most of the other figures very well. There's a lot of great detail in this mode, with tall towers that really look like buildings, convincing looking roads, and the look of a high-tech metropolis area really comes through in everything here, making what can easily be identified as a large city compound. And what's even more impressive is his assortment of fantastic features and gimmicks in this mode, of which there certainly are a lot of. Descriptions of each are listed here:
1. The two ramps at the sides of the compound have little sliding sections on them. These serve to launch vehicles off the ramps. What you do is place a vehicle on the platform when it's at the back of the road, then slide it forward with a handle at the side. This carries the vehicle forward, and then when the platform hits the end of the straight part of the road, the vehicle goes sliding down the ramp. It may sound kind of confusing, but its really a lot simpler in practice, and easy enough to figure out. This feature works great with all kinds of small/medium Autobots, and Gasket is actually made to specifically fit into grooves at the back of the launching platform, giving you a custom made vehicle to use the gimmick perfectly with.
2. The center ramp works with a similar idea, but a little differently in practice. For this one, you can place a small vehicle into an elevator shaft at the bottom of the center tower, entering it into either side onto a platform. Then, you use a turning crank on the back of the tower to raise the elevator platform up to the level of the ramp. When the platform gets up to the top, you can then press on a peg-like button to raise the back of the platform up. This slants the elevator platform forwards, sending the vehicle rolling out the front of the tower, and then zooming down the center ramp. Again, this works great with any vehicle that can fit into the elevator, and Grommet is specifically made to be the exact size to fit perfectly, giving you another custom vehicle to use with this gimmick as well.
3. A radar dish on the center of the can spin around by turning a wheel on the side of the tower. Nothing too fancy, but still kind of neat.
4. A jail cell can be opened on one of the sides of the compound, which is designed to hold the Headmaster or Targetmaster mini-figures of the time. Since they were basically all the same size and shape, any of them can fit nicely into the jail cell, including the Spike figure that comes with Fortress Maximus.
5. There is a repair bay on the opposite side of the compound, where any small vehicles can be placed into, including Gasket and Grommet. There unfortunately isn't any functional repairing tools that you can operate here, so it's mainly for cosmetic purposes. Still, it does resemble a garage of some sort, so it's easy to imagine that vehicles are getting repaired here.
6. A helicopter pad sits between one of the side buildings and the main tower. Although Fortress Maximus doesn't come with any helicopters, or any other flying vehicles, the Protectobot "Blades" fit perfectly here, as well as most other small flying Autobots of the time, like the Aerialbots, or Powerglide or Cosmos.
Overall, that's a lot of amazingly cool features, and surprisingly all done without needing any electronics at all (Fortress Maximus doesn't take batteries). This makes the city mode one amazing playset on its own, with just a ton of great stuff that other Transformers can do and interact with.

This is a bit confusing, since it's called a battle station in the tech specs, but it clearly looks more like a giant space cruiser. And since that's what it was in the Japanese Headmasters cartoon, that's what I like to call it as well. Besides, it's really the only way this guy could have a speed of 10 on his tech specs anyway, because I don't think his robot mode could move anywhere close to that fast, and a city compound doesn't move at all! Anyway, so we have a giant battle cruiser here, that looks fairly impressive overall. It's a transformation that lies between his city and robot modes though, and it shows. Although the city and robot modes hide the other forms well, some aspects of both of those forms are clearly visible here, and there are very few spaceship-only aspects that are specifically used in this mode. The couple that do exist are the following:
1. Wheels. He has working wheels on the bottom of the spaceship, letting it roll around on flat surfaces. These are really only for functional purposes, as you can't even really see them unless you flip him over and look directly at the bottom of the spaceship. These wheels are only used for this mode, and aren't functional as anything in the robot or city forms.
2. A cockpit now faces forwards, looming above the rest of the ship. This cockpit is designed to hold Spike, or any Headmaster mini-figure, who you can place inside in a sitting position. It's really a pretty cool gimmick, and really looks like he's piloting the giant vehicle this way.
And that's about it. Aside from this, there is an assortment of guns on the thing, and a lot of stuff that just makes up the body of the spaceship and doesn't have any specific functional purpose. In addition, although his other two modes can effectively store all of his parts, he's left with some extra in this mode. Gasket and Grommet have nowhere to really be stored, except in his feet, which are at the front of the spaceship pointing forward. And Cerebros doesn't really have anywhere to go at all, which is made even stranger by the fact that Spike is obviously intended to be manning the helm in the cockpit, and as such isn't even free to form Cerebros' head. All in all, it's a fairly cool design for a spaceship mode. But his city and robot modes are just so much more impressive overall, in both appearance and functionality, and this spaceship mode can end up looking a little bad by comparison as a result.

Transforming into a massive robot form, Fortress Maximus stands about two feet tall. The really amazing thing though is just how good he looks even at this size. There's an amazing amount of detail on him, a lot of it due to stickers, but they've been worked really well into the design. And what's even more impressive is how the robot mode is so well proportioned. Some of the other larger G1 bots, such as Omega Supreme and Metroplex, tended to have rather bulky appearances and somewhat unnatural looking body shapes. But Fortress Maximus looks perfectly normal as a two-foot tall robot, with his limbs and body looking very natural in terms of size and shape in comparison with each other. As a result, he looks powerful and menacing, but more as a sort of giant mechanical humanoid-shaped robot, rather than as a big bulky block of machinery. In terms of articulation, he's not too bad. His arms can rotate at the shoulders, his elbows can bend, and his hands can twist at the wrists. His legs can rotate at the hips, and bend inward at the knees, but that's really only for transformation purposes, as it doesn't allow his legs any real functional posability. So he's really just got six points of articulation, and they're all in the arms. But let's face it, with a bot this big you probably don't want to be messing around with the legs while he's standing on them anyway, since the most likely result is just going to be him lying on the floor in a mess. And the arms are really what's most important anyway, and there's enough articulation to have at least some moderate motion functionality there. He's left with a bunch of extra parts in this mode, but rather ingeniously, they made them all fit inside of him somehow. This is mostly due to his left shoulder housing a large hollow compartment, which can be opened and filled with all the extra stuff. The only thing that can't fit in there is Cog, but you can actually find a few other places on the body to store him anyway. In any case, all of his parts can definitely be securely stored inside of him, and is a great way not to be losing any of his many small accessories. Another thing to note is how durable this guy is. You'd think having a robot that stands two feet tall and weighs about 10 pounds would spell disater for his durability. But he's actually pretty amazingly well-made. I've had my Fortress Maximus fall down on numerous occasions, and used to play with him constantly as a kid, and nothing has come close to being damaged on him. Unless you maybe pushed him down a flight of stairs, or threw him out a second floor window, I can't imagine much that would be likely to actually break this guy. The worst thing that can happen from rough treatment is just that some of the detachable pieces will occasionally fall off. But even they're all pretty well secured for the most part, requiring substantial force to pop them off, and even then you can always re-attach them easily enough.

Now, a two foot tall robot is already easily enough to probably send all other toys fleeing in panic from the sight of it. But when you just want to be absolutely sure to get the point across that nobody messes with Fortress Maximus, that's when it's time to brings out his big guns. And by big, I also mean lots of. Compartments on his lower arm flip over to reveal twin cannons, and a smaller version of the same sort of thing is on the back of each of his hands. Then you can lift the larger cannons on his lower legs, and flip another twin cannon around from the back of his right leg. As if that wasn't enough, two huge cannons flip out from his waist, and point forwards from his lower torso. To top it all off, he's got two huge guns he can hold in his hands, that are each bigger in size than a lot of the smaller Transformers are. All in all, there's nearly a dozen individual guns here, most of which having two barrels. As a result, the amount of artillery he sports here is almost comical in its extremity. It certainly is an awe-inspiring display of firepower though, the likes of which has never really been seen to my knowledge from any other Transformer, ever. This isn't really a truly separate transformation of its own, but more appropriately labeled as simply a variant of his robot mode. Still, I think it deserved a section of its own just because it's so darned cool.

I still remember that fateful Christmas day of my childhood when I recieved Fortress Maximus as a gift. Costing somewhere inbetween the price ranges of "way too expensive" and "you've got to be kidding", he was something I desperately wanted, but wasn't really sure I actually had any chance of actually getting. To be honest, if I hadn't gotten him, I wouldn't have really been too surprised or disappointed about it, because I knew I was probably asking for too much. But when he did show up for me on Christmas morning, I was simply ecstatic. Although I had been a loyal fan of the Transformers toyline and television series since its inception in 1984, all other Transformers I had collected up until that point seemed to pale by comparison to this amazing colossal giant. Fortress Maximus instantly became my #1 favorite Transformer figure on that fateful Christmas day, and has remained so ever since. Although there have been plenty of other great Transformers that I've collected, not even the most impressive attempts at both size and quality since then, like Omega Prime and Unicron, have managed to de-throne Maximus from holding the position of being what in my opinion is the single best Transformers toy ever produced. It's not just becuase he's big, but how in addition to being the largest Transformer, they also managed to get everything else right on him as well. He looks amazingly cool in both his city and robot modes, has a ton of ingeniously entertaining and functional features in city mode, has plenty of extra accessories that get used or integrated into all his modes pretty well, is a triple-changer, is a double-headmaster, and is more durably constructed than the large majority of Transformers in general despite his size. And if all that isn't something that would have you simply squealing with glee, then I would argue that you're either simply not a Transformers fan, or... no, that's actually the only explanation I can possibly think of.

DateOctober 21st 2003  
Score 10 stars (10 out of 10)  

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