Chromedome was leaked a few weeks ago showing only a head, leading to a fear that this popular character would fall in the Titan Master pricepoint as just a head. Relief abounds with the showroom reveal that it indeed does have a body and will be a Deluxe. But if you look close you might notice something else: The shapes of the body parts, the layout of vehicle anatomy on the robot... it looks more than a little like Combiner Wars Dead End! Did we get just a remolded Combiner Wars toy in Titans Return? Keep reading.
No, we didn't. So, back in 2004, or maybe even late 2003 - the exact timing gets fuzzy in decade-plus-old memories - we saw the first look at Energon Starscream, and it was almost no time at all before a common cry was heard that it was simply a retool of a prior figure: Generation 2 Smokescreen, the smaller jet from the Dreadwing and Smokescreen two pack (which would also see use in Transformers: Universe and Robot Masters). This was based on the immediately obvious factor of the two toys transforming in a fairly similar way, and from one point of view the leap is not that incredible. But it wasn't true. Yes, those toys did share a number of aspects of their transformations. That's a thing that happens in a long running line that revisits common types of alt modes a lot. And that's what's going on today.
If you look at the promotional images for Chromedome, it doesn't take long to see the design similarities it has with the Dead End mold family. The robot arms work the same way, the hood is laying on the back, and the legs are structured similarly. But you have to look deeper than these broad strokes. Obviously since Chromedome has a Titan Master for a head, there's a change to the torso right off the start. Having the Titan Master have a compartment in the vehicle mode means another big torso change, which precludes that being in any way a shared part with Dead End. That's the big, obvious difference, and even so it would still be possible for it to otherwise share parts with Dead End and be a retool of that toy. But even the very similar things like the arms, upon close examination, show no details in common. Fundamentally the parts work together in much the same way, but the details of them, even their basic shapes are different. And that's when you start breaking away from being a retool, and you enter the realm of shared engineering.
As the Energon Starscream example proves, shared engineering is by no means a new concept. Many Combiner Wars toys took this principle, though it's believed that in those cases a great deal of such efforts were actually done at the time of initial design. Thus you get Streetwise as a planned reshell of Dead End, or to a greater extreme you have Swindle versus Rook, where the changes around an engineering skeleton are so great that even the vehicle modes are not even the same type anymore. Chromedome appears more like the traditional example, where a new mold is cut using the design principles of an already existing toy. And from this template there is probably also a set of extra parts on this new mold to create a heavily modified version of this frame for later use in Titans Return.
With the amazing jobs of preplanned modifications to base toy designs to get distinct new figures out of them, it's really easy to see something like this and misconstrue the situation. In those cases of reshelled toys there are always a few shared pieces - frequently the unpaintable nylon parts sprue - and those link the two together. In a case like this where no parts can be identified that are precisely the same between instances, that's the point to tell that this is a full new development, based on the design of the similar previous figure. Once upon a time there was a rule of thumb. When you go past remolding about 20% of a toy, it's cheaper to just make an entirely new toy. In the last few years we have signs that point to that math changing a little bit, but the basic premise still exists. By the time an existing mold would be modified so that literally every piece and surface was different, you might as well have just started over from scratch. And that's what they did in making Chromedome.
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