Archive for the ‘Knock-Off Toys’ Category

The most exciting knock-off  that I’ve been waiting for finally arrived in the mail today.  Sunstorm!  He’s a knock-off/repaint of Hasbro’s Classics Starscream.  The biggest difference with this KO is that it’s a character that fans have been clamoring for that hasn’t been, thus far, released in this line by either Takara or Hasbro.  Sunstorm’s appearances in Transformers G1 fiction have been limited, but he has become a fan-favorite over the last few years.

Sunstorm's IMDB credits are just as extensive as Hauler's

After years of just being a one-off character/possible animation error, Sunstorm was brought to life more fully in the 2000’s by Dreamwave comics.

Textbook example of taking a level

This story arc firmly solidified Sunstorm in the Transformers mythos. If you’re curious about the backstory, check the TF Wiki. Fans have waited for Hasbro to re-color a Starscream toy so they can finally own a Classics version of their favorite character, but have thus far been left wanting, which left the market wide open to KO makers. Of course, the question you may be asking yourself is “do I want to take a chance on a Sunstorm made by Chinese KO makers?

The answer, I believe, is yes.

Let’s have a look:

Ah, the pretty packaging!

As you can see from the in-package photo, this Sunstorm comes from the CHMS mold. The packaging is clearly taking a page from the Takara Henkei line. If there actually had been a legitimate Takara Sunstorm made, the packaging would give away the KO status of the toy. CHMS is clearly marked on the top right of the card and on the left of the blister over the “Transformers” logo. Also, the card-art is blurred and a bit smaller than the real deal would be. Packaging tends to be a little neater than the other Seeker KOs in circulation right now. The toy comes bundled with launchers and a ziplock baggie with instruction sheet and character collector’s card. There are only two twisted ties around the body of the airplane. (The other mold also has ties around the wing tips.)

Sunstorm in jet mode

Here we see Sunstorm in his F-15 jet mode. Unlike many of the KO seekers out there today, Sunstorm fits together quite well in jet mode. The piece directly behind the cockpit is a little bit difficult to fit in, but it does snap together (and quite tightly, at that.) The wings all sit securely. The blasters peg in under the wing, though the pegs are almost too big for the wing mounts. Extreme caution should be used to avoid stress marks.

Now, the question that’s on everybody’s minds… Just how yellow and/or orange is this guy? Judge for yourself.

Who you callin' yella??

As you can see here, Sunstorm falls somewhere in the middle of Classics Bumblebee and Solar Storm Grapple. My wife’s immediate response when I asked her the color was “mustard yellow.” I think most fans were looking for something closer to e-Hobby colors, but I have to say, in person, Sunstorm really does look good. Given that there is a recolor that matches the e-Hobby version more closely in the works for later, some fans may choose instead to make Sunstorm their yellow Rainmaker. Witness:

We make it rain!

Now…on to the quality of the figure.

Joints on this one are EXTREMELY tight. In fact, in some places, they’re almost too tight. The feet are one problem area, as they are a pain to fold down. The chest area is a bit difficult to open and then put back together. The nosecone is very stiff. Don’t get me wrong, it can be done, but this figure is built tight! At some points, I became worried about putting stress marks on the joints and at times outright breaking it. To my great relief, nothing broke, so I have a solid figure.

Perhaps the best news is that the launchers peg into the arms VERY tightly. There is no slippage, and they do not fall out on their own. Poseability is the same as any Hasbro/Takara version of this toy. Paint apps are well done. Overall, the figure is very solid, with only the few negatives that I’ve mentioned above. I would, however, recommend that you leave this toy in one mode, as I am not confident that it can hold up to massively repeated transformations. This is a display piece and for collector’s only, and should not be given to kids who are going to want to play with it aggressively.

WE ARE G1!

I will have more outdoor and natural light photos tomorrow!

Advertisements

Awhile back, I broke the news that Henkei Starscream had been KO’ed and was about to hit the market. I placed an order for it, and it arrived last night.

You may remember me talking earlier about a KO Henkei Thundercracker. I praised this toy very highly, as I felt that it was a very high quality toy–perhaps even higher than the original, and certainly higher than your ordinary KO.

Sadly, I cannot praise Henkei Starscream so highly.

This release is clearly made by the same KO producer. The packaging is very similar, and the subtle “tells” that mark it as a KO are also present on this release.

A closer look at the "tells"

As you can see from the pic, there are several things that can identify this as a KO. First, look at the head, or more specifically, look at the sides of the head. The “vents” on either side of Starscream’s face are unpainted. They are white when they should be black. Also, the notches on the shoulders are too low. I circled an area of concern where the arm connects to the shoulder, because the plastic there has jagged edges and is in really sloppy condition. Also, there are no notches in the kneepads as there should be on an official release. This release also has the same issues as the other two, in which the back and the chest don’t quite fit together in bot mode. Also, Starscream stands with a bit of slump, as he tends to be back-heavy. The paint apps are also a little sloppy in places.

The biggest issue in my mind is the arm blasters. To the best of my recollection, Henkei Starscream did not have loose arm blasters. The KO does. They will fall off if an amoeba farts nearby. This is the deal-breaker between choosing between the KO or the real thing.

Alright, let’s take a look at the packaging. The big tell here is the placement of the collector card, which is squarely in the center, when it should be tucked under the jet. (Thundercracker’s card is to the right. Skywarp’s is also centered.)

Dressed up to fool you!

Here’s the card back.

Am I real or am I not?

Here’s what you see on the side.

Packaging, side view

The worst part about this KO is the jet mode. Because the wings and arms are super floppy, it doesn’t hold together well in this mode. The wings tend to slump, and as mentioned before, the body doesn’t fit together very well.

Make sure you pack your parachute

So the question you’re probably asking is this: should I even bother with it? To answer that, I give you the only reasons you should buy this particular KO:

1.) You already have Henkei Starscream and want to replace him in a display with something that you won’t care if it breaks.
2.) You can get it in a package deal with the other KO Henkei seekers which are much better.
3.) You can’t find the real deal anywhere for a reasonable price and don’t really care about a dip in quality.
4.) You simply have to have every variant of every Seeker that has been, is now being, or ever will be produced.

If that’s not you, then you should probably just stick to the real deal.

In any case, as far as I can tell, no online shops have stocked this KO yet.  

Here’s a short gallery:

Decepticons! Retreat!

Droopy legs and floppy wings, don't fail me now!

No, this is not photoshopped. There is a yin-yang symbol formed by trees on the mountain in the background.

Why does my arm feel so loose? And where did this gash on my knee come from?

I just received the new KO of Fansproject’s DIA Commander set today.  This third party set was developed as an upgrade for Classics Optimus Prime and to homage the original Diaclone colors of Transformers Generation 1 toy Ultra Magnus.

Lately, the knock-offs coming from China have been getting increasingly more and more high quality.  This is no exception.  This one is copied right down to the box and every piece is high quality.  You won’t know you’re getting a knock-off.  There’s really no two ways about it.  Usually there are tell-tale signs that let you know you’re getting a KO, but as far as I can tell, there aren’t any readily recognizable tells here.

There were no shortcuts taken on the quality of this thing.  The stickers are not cheaply made; rather, they are exact and well-cut.  The comic/instruction book is fully reproduced on high quality paper.  The box is basically the same, and the plastic on the actual kit feels authentic.

For those of you who are considering getting this and putting it on a KO Optimus Prime, I would caution against it.  The pieces don’t fit nearly as well on a knock-off as they do on the real deal.  This set, like the original, is meant for legit product, as ironic as that may seem.  That being said, when the armor is put on a legit Classics Prime, it stays put with no problems.

In fact, there is only really one problem with this kit at all — the shoulder-mounted rocket launchers.  The peg is a loose fit and they tend to fall off the shoulders or slump a bit.  The shoulder stacks are a bit loose occasionally, but generally stay in place.  A couple parts in trailer mode are a little loose.  But I’m told that these problems exist on the original as well.

Paint apps on this KO look really good, and the chrome is really well done.  I only noticed one small chip on the chest-plate.  Otherwise, it looks really great.

I really recommend this to anyone who is looking to pick up this set.  

Photo gallery ahead!  Click the images to enlarge.

Here it is, still in package

The bottom of the packaging

Freed from the box

The comic/instruction booklet

Sticker sheet, launchers, and energon case

inside bottom of the box

Optimus and trailer in tractor/trailer mode

Optimus, before the armor

First, you put on the waist piece

then snap on the legs

Attach the chest armor. This can take a little fiddling, but it will snap securely.

Next are the shoulders. They can be a little loose and may fall off, but usually they sit securely. The OP gun pegs into the back of the right shoulder.

Now for the rest of the arms and the shoulder launchers (again, they're very loose, as you may be able to tell)

Add all the humongous guns and Optimus is BANGIN'!

Armor on a different Prime, a knock-off Ultra Magnus. Not recommended. The arms and chest piece do not snap on or stay as well as they should.

Optimus alongside the DIA Commander

Breaking news in the world of knock-off Transformers:  I’ve recently sighted a KO of Henkei Starscream on Taobao, the Chinese equivalent of eBay.

This appears to have been released by the same folks who recently produced the high quality KO Thundercracker, Skywarp and Ghost Starscream figures.  I have not as yet received this figure, so at the moment I have no in-hand pics, but I should be able to review it within a few days for those of you who are curious.

I will share with you how can you order it as soon as I’m made aware which retailers are carrying it.

Meanwhile, you can view the Taobao auction by clicking here.

(thanks to Seibertron.com for front-paging this news!)

I posted earlier on this blog about Henkei Thundercracker, and I mentioned that a knock-off had been made of Botcon ’07 Clear Mirage. While this was not as sought after as Botcon Thundercracker, Mirage was still a figure that many fans wanted, and scoring one was likely to empty your wallet faster than a drunk trip to Vegas.

See, most Transformers fans have a need that has been inculcated within them since birth (or 1984, whichever came last) that they absolutely NEED every single variant of every single toy that has been or will be produced.  Thus, if Hasbro or Takara produce thirty of the exact same jets, shaped the exact same way, that transform in the exact same manner, fans will still have to have EVERY. LAST. ONE of them.

The character Mirage, in the Transformers fiction, had the special ability to disappear and be invisible while spying on the enemy.  We as Transformers fans saw this, and in our collective minds said “this has to be made into some kind of toy.”

Lo, and behold, the powers that be at Botcon granted those wishes in return for a price that most people, alas, could not pay.

Once again, the makers of KO toys have come to your rescue.

I happened across this first on Taobao. When I saw it, I knew it was a knock-off because of the extremely low price tag. Still, I had to have it in hand ASAP, so you, my lucky readers, could get a glimpse of it.

I don’t have an actual Botcon Mirage to compare him to, but I do have Classics Mirage, Fracture and Drag Strip.  All of these molds appear to be alike, so I will be pointing out where KO BC Mirage differs from these molds.  This will again be one half review, and one half tutorial.

Here he is next to Classics Mirage.  As you can see, the reproduction is 1:1.  There is no size difference. He’s reproduced part-for-part.  There don’t appear to be any shortcuts taken in this KO.  All parts are clear blue plastic with the following exceptions:  the ball joint that the head is on, the biceps, the two inner parts of the torso, and the part that connects the thigh and the calf.

I should apologize right off the bat for these pictures not being clearer.  My camera is a simple digital camera and isn’t made for high quality photos.  This is the first difference I noticed between the KO and all the other Mirage molds I own.  In the solid piece between the thigh and calf, there are markings.  On the KO, there are 2 straight horizontal lines.  On the other Mirage molds, there are 3 slanted lines.

Also on the legs, on the upper part of the thigh, there are air intake vents right where the exhaust pipes fold up in bot mode.  The KO has 3 vents.  The original mold has 4.


I’m not certain if this next difference is also present on the real Botcon Mirage, so maybe somebody who has it can let us know.  If you look on the KO BC Mirage’s shin, there is a lot of detailing that is not present on Classics Mirage, Drag Strip or Fracture.  Also, the dead giveaway is the rubsign.  KO BC Mirage has no rubsign.

There is a seam on the outside of the forearm of each Mirage-mold figure.  On Mirage, Fracture and Drag Strip, this seem perfectly bisects a detail, making it essentially look like teeth.  The legit molds have the seam running straight down the middle.  The KO does not.  It’s rather widely off center.

Here’s one that’s really easy to spot.  The screws on KO BC Mirage are smaller than the screws in any of its mold-mates.  The holes are obviously meant for larger screws, but smaller ones are used.

Oopsie!  Don’t worry too much, though.  This is not actually broken.  It’s just a place in the torso that can be detached.  All the other versions of this mold have this too.  The reason I point it out is that the one on the KO slides out really easily.  It showed up in my mailbox split in two, and it also fell out while I was fiddling with it.  The legit figures have never done this for me.

The gun actually does fit, but you have to press it into the fist really hard. Be careful, because this could cause stress marks on the hand, if not outright breakage. If you’re handy enough with a blade, you might trim down the peg on the weapon for a better fit.

And here they all are together.  As you can see, KO BC Mirage does fit in to the classics collection, as long as you don’t look closely.

QUALITY: Sadly, Mirage does not quite live up to the high quality of the Henkei seekers.  He’s floppy for one thing.  His joints are not tight at all.  The plastic quality also feels a little light.  I realize this is clear plastic, but the Henkei Ghost Starscream KO felt a LOT sturdier than this guy.  The looseness of the figure hinders his ability to achieve all the great poses the original Mirage could achieve.  Additionally, as I mentioned, he tends to come apart at the waist, and he cannot hold his weapon.

PROS: About 99.9% of the world will not know this is a fake. Only true rabid collectors will notice.

PACKAGING: There is none.  No Botcon bag.  Er go, one of the simplest ways to ensure you are getting a REAL Botcon Mirage is to purchase one bagged.  So far, anyway. Mike at KOToys is now selling bio cards to go with this figure, so it’s one step closer to the real thing.

One more thing:  I don’t know if this is true for all of them, but there was a flaw on my KO BC Mirage’s face that stemmed from it being improperly removed from the sprue.

In summary, there are two reasons to get this figure:
— if you are planning to get a real one in the future and want it as a placeholder
— if you don’t want to pay the money for the real thing and can settle for the next best thing.

This will be really easy to spot as a fake in person.  If you buy it on eBay or another online source, be sure to get close-up pictures of it.

I don’t regret buying it, because it fills a spot in my collection that was previously unable to be filled. And it’s not too shabby a toy, as long as you leave it on display (as Botcon toys should stay anyway) and don’t look too closely.

A long time ago, 2007, in a convention center far, far away–well, at least if you don’t live near Providence, RI–events were transpiring that would forever split and destroy the unwashed rabble that is the Transformers fandom.  Of course, if you are a fan of the aforementioned robots in disguise, you’re not all that shaken, because you know that an event like this happens just about every week.  The tears of Trans-fans have washed away many worlds over the years.  This particular instance of “RUINED FOREVER” saw the characters Thundercracker, Dirge, and Thrust released as a convention exclusive for Botcon ’07.

Traditionally, Botcon toys were simply repaints or retools of previous retail-release toys.  The characters might or might not have been easily recognizable names.  Botcon ’07 changed all of this by releasing these three seekers, three core characters, who had not been released previously, and who now, because of exclusivity agreements, would never be released at mass retail.  Or so we thought.

It should be noted that Botcon exclusives are not like exclusives to other conventions, such as the San Diego Comic Con.  SDCC “exclusives” can almost always be ordered for a reasonably sane price via the internet the day after the convention closes.  No, Botcon exclusives are almost always a very limited production and the prices are without fail sky-high, which placed these characters well out of the reach of the pocketbook of the average fan.

Naturally, a lot of this happened:

The more stoic Transformers fans trudged on, grim in their acceptance that their cast of Decepticon jets would always fall three short, the inclusion of Acid Storm in the line-up be darned.

And then, as if a gift from Mt. Toylympus, an announcement was made that these three characters were going to be released. There was much rejoicing in the land. Until we found out where the toys would be exclusive to:

Oh Japan, how you tease us.

Still, the price was far too much to pay for many collectors.  So they went on again, consigned to the fact that though they could have any number of Starscream decoes, they would never have the blue sidekick and coneheads that they desperately desired.

Until…

2010 saw the release of Thrust and Dirge under the banner of Transformers Generations.  Finally, the seekers we desired at retail price!

Well, except of course for Thundercracker, the most desired of the three.

That’s where our friendly neighborhood makers of Chinese knockoffs FINALLY stepped to the plate, and this time they did so with a retail quality Thundercracker.

What follows is a review of the toy, and a way to tell whether or not you’ve purchased a KO Henkei Thundercracker. NOTE: I am told that there are two molds that are being used to produce this toy. The mold reviewed here is for the Thundercracker being sold MOSC (mint on sealed card). The version of Thundercracker that is being sold loose differs somewhat from this mold.

This is the knock-off–or KO, if you will–on the left standing next to the legit original Henkei Thundercracker (right). As you can see, there aren’t a lot of differences between the two. The differences are mostly very very subtle. As you can see, though, the actual Henkei figure has its launchers held onto its arms by rubber bands, whereas the KO is actually able to support its own launchers. Your mileage may vary, though, as the launcher port on the KO’s right arm (your left) is a little loose, but nowhere near as loose as the actual product.

To be perfectly frank, this KO is perhaps the best KO I have ever seen. It is sturdy, the transformation process is fluid, and the plastic quality feels like the real deal. I had no issues in transforming it, and it’s actually a bit less floppy than the Henkei version. The only joints I thought were too stiff were on the bottom right tailfin, which took a little more pressure to fold up than I was comfortable with. Otherwise, the figure fits together in both modes quite comfortably. All in all, the KO has BETTER paint apps than the original, and holds its launchers better.

The only real problem was that one of the launchers was broken and the missile won’t fit in correctly. A simple fix, really.

Simply put, if you want Thundercracker and can’t afford the Botcon or Henkei versions, this guy is the one for you, and the price is unbeatable.

Now…I imagine a lot of you are wondering how you can avoid being taken in and buying the KO thinking you are getting the real deal. Well, I’m glad you asked, because I’m about to tell you how you can tell the difference between the two:

The real Henkei version has a notch in the “knee pad” of TC’s leg. The KO is perfectly squared.

As you can see from the back of the two TCs’ wings, the red on the Henkei version is a much lighter color. This is most noticeable on the wing backs, but is true for the whole figure. The KO figure’s red is a much deeper red. Also, I feel like the blue on the KO is a tad deeper blue, and I’m quite sure that the cockpit is a MUCH deeper amber color.

As you can see, the alignment of the Decepticon sigil on the front of the wing is a bit off. That’s only true on one wing of my KO, so I’m not certain that this is common to each figure. However, it is one of the few differences that can be detected BEFORE opening the packaging.

This one is a dead giveaway. It’s so small, it’s almost unnoticeable, but there is a notch on each seeker’s shoulder. On the real deal, the notch compromises the silver swatch. It’s this way on every seeker that I have, including other KOs. But on this KO, the notch is significantly lower on the shoulder and doesn’t cross into the silver swatch at all.

All things considered, I recommend this KO to people who don’t have Thundercracker and can’t afford him. And I hope this review helps those of you who want to know the difference.