Titans Return is off and running, focusing on a very specific era of the Transfomers – the 1987 Headmasters. Takara’s Transformers Legends line takes the same Titans Return figures and puts them through the Headmasters cartoon blender to bestow them with more accurate colours, better paint and a teensy bit more polish – but the main lure is the completely different faces Takara have sculpted.
Drink it in man, we are getting updates of all the original Headmasters. Buckle up, I’ve got a feeling that this is the start of a wonderful nostalgic odyssey.
Hardhead follows the Titans Return trend of closely matching the characters original alt mode. He’s not a SWAT vehicle, or based on a real world military – he’s a space tank. In his case it’s a H tank and in fact Hardhead may well have been the first example of the H tank, I dunno and my Google Fu isn’t strong today, but I can’t think of an earlier Transformer with a H tank alt mode.
Is there one? If you know, feel free to leave a comment below and make me look daft.
Put Titans Return (or in this case, Legends) Hardhead side by side with his 1987 forebear and it’s cool to see how many details have been picked out and then carried over in some form or another. Every where you look there is something that calls back to the vintage toy, but modernised. Take the cannon, it looks different but when you look closely you notice that almost every detail is tied to one on the much more basic vintage toy.
He’s a little sleeker and lower slung than the G1 Hardhead toy that someone at Hasbro obviously dearly loves.
Takara are well known for veering towards anime accuracy and so Legends Hardhead is follows the Headmasters cartoon as closely as possible where possible. Green is much more vibrant than his Hasbro counterpart, and where the Titans Return release used a grey as the third main colour,
Transformers Legends Hardhead revels in his lovely 80’s beige. Silver outlines the edges of the tank treads, as it did on the vintage toy and the animation models for the Headmaster’s and the western sort of equivalent- the Rebirth. This simple paint app not only looks pretty but it helps to stop the tank treads being absorbed into all the black plastic.
As a Headmaster Titan Master (actually, as it’s Takara it is Headmaster) vehicle, there has to be somewhere for the pilot to sit and you get a couple of options.
First up is the all important the opening cockpit. Earlier on I was pointing out all the effort Takara put into following the animation with the colours, but with the clear canopy they went rogue and cast it in a clear bloody orange colour. Not yellow.
I love that Takara using a different colour feels like they’ve gone off the reservation. Like someone in the offices just went totally beserk, lobbed all of the Headmaster model sheets into the bin and decided blood orange tinted plastic was where they were making their mark. That mental image fills me with even more joy than the toy.
…and the toy fills me with a lot of joy.
So yes, a Titan Master pilot can sit comfortably in the cock pit and feel important. Where it get’s more impressive is the cannon that can not only rotate (a luxury not afforded to poor Brawl) but can pivot upwards, backward and forwards on a multi hinged assembly that seems a little luxurious for a deluxe toy.
Titan Master pegs are littered across the tank, allowing them to connect via the holes in their feet, but Takara/Hasbro throw in probably the best feature in an almost sneaky way – the back of the cannon flips open to seat any Headmaster/Titan Master figure. Adding one last glorious Flake on top of this 99, the cover can fold back with peg holes for a Titan Master to stand on (only facing backwards due to foot peg clearance) and it can also fold up tidily behind the seat to look more pleasing to the eye.
Brilliant HasTak, bravo and I’m humming that Pavarotti song from Italia 90 (Nessun Dorma, I’m not a philistine) with the same tears in my eyes as I did when time slowed down David Platt swivelled on that turf, on a hot night in Bologna to volley the ball past the Belgian goalkeeper.
It may seem a trivial thing to be excited by, but it’s indicative of a thoughtfulness that has gone into producing this figure. Often when we see modern updates of classic characters, features from the original are binned, and it feels like they have a policy of “it’ll do”. Here it’s a rare case of Hasbro keeping all the features of the mode intact and then building upon them in a way that makes sense and strengthens the play pattern.
Coming out of Combiner Wars with it’s abuse of a handful of simplified transformation schemes it does feel like a larger budget has been available to the Transformers design team. Hardhead’s tank rolls, on wheels, as you’d expect and pegs together fairly securely, with no loose joints and does a great job of remaining accurate to the vintage design with an updated comic book feel.
It’s a very good way to kick off the Titans Return/Legends deluxe lines.
When I was a kid I wasn’t struck on the Nebulan concept, my head fiction preferred an idea of the Headmasters being designed to allow the Transformers to interact with other Alien races, like Humans or Nebulans where their large size wouldn’t be practical. Someone in Japan was on a similar wavelength, so in the Headmasters show they are all just small robots with the larger bodies/vehicles being called Transtectors. I’ve always felt like I belonged in Japan – not just cause I’m not tall.
Even if that one episode of the cartoon had Hound walking around in a museum….that don’t fly.
These new Headmasters are heavily modelled on the originals and articulation (or lack thereof) is much the same. However, being 2016, the new HM’s gain head articulation and the arms are on ball joints which in practice only really allows them to all look they are using arm gestures to show how fat they think some is.
Flipping the front of the chest forward, along with the arms, then accordioning the legs down as you flip the feet out are all tricks that the original delivered back as part of it’s transformation back in 1987. Even the cock pit flips behind him to peg into place to form the back – just as the original did.
Why mess with a winning formula? Especially when this line is so heavily bathed in nostalgia. After Combiner Wars, I am relieved to see the return of actual feet…no it’s not a fetish.
Some of the Headmasters require their tiny heads to rotated in order to fit into the neck socket – but it doesn’t seem to be universal. There’s not the satisfying clunk of the originals either, in fact it feels on the delicate side of things.
Robot mode is as unmistakeably G1 Hardhead as the tank mode was, but with all the refinement that you’d expect from nearly 19 years of time passing. Blocky shoulders give way to a chest that tapers inwards to make Hardhead look buff but like something that burst from the pages of a comic.
Hasbro inexplicably moulded the hips from black plastic to match the waist which instantly put me off. I couldn’t get past the visual of hot pant Hardhead and it has an effect of making him look short. Crucially, at least for me, Takara left them the colour of the thighs which has the effect of making him appear tall and athletic which is something I frequently opine that third parties fail to do.
With arms that can look Apeish, double hinges offer some wiggle room for better proportions by shortening them.
It’s in this mode where the Headmasters anime influence is most sharply felt. Detail from the toy is alluded to but in a simplified way that echoes an approach animation companies employ to keep the budget down. Yet here it’s not cost cutting, it’s purposefully done to maintain the aesthetic.
Yellow, silver and red paint apps adorn his waist (trying not to be crude here) that aren’t found on either of his animation models – but evoke details on the original toy. Takara have a reputation for obsessively maintaining cartoon accuracy with their paint apps, but they usually add little flourishes that are in keeping with the style but put the toy first. This is a great example of this.
Colours are all super saturated to play up that cartoon look and the silver trim on the sides of the lower legs is a nice touch to retain a detail that it would have been easy for them to skip. Not a fan of those beige wrists though, that’s definitely a “what were they thinking” moment.
Combiner Wars gave us some of the best head sculpts in any line and I’m relieved to see that continue in Titans Return/Legends. We can discuss shades of paint and differences in slight detailing but the most fundamental difference that will ultimately influence your choice of purchase (outside of price) is the different Small Faces.
Takara give Hardhead a wonderfully sculpted face that leaps straight out of the animation and bursts with character. Tis incredible, it really is and plays perfectly with the figures sculpt. Takara knocked it out of the park with this one – wham bam thank you mam.
His head may no longer activate a series of tumblers to give you his stats, but I can pretend that is hidden behind the chest panel. My brain rationalises not being able to open it as a sagacious homage to the original figures chest flaps propensity for breaking.
Imagination is everything.
|“NO MORE KARAOKE!”|
Articulation is a significant step up from recent deluxes. It’s not just feet he gains, but wrist swivels, mulitple hinged elbows, bicep swivels on top of all the standard articulation we’ve come to expect from a deluxe Transformer. No waist swivel, but the added articulation he has instead is well balanced and lets him pull some elegant poses.
As an added bonus that cannon assembly I enthused about earlier plays it’s trump card, by being on a small slider to enable the head to have full clearance to rotate. Yes, this is really a deluxe.
The shoulder cannon can also pop off and be used as giganormous gun too, demonstrating once again how well thought out it is. Titans Return is built around a theme of connectivity and as such all the deluxes come with parts that pop off to act as mini vehicles and connect to the base modes of larger bots like Blaster and Fortess Maximus. Hardhead’s is probably least overt of all of these as the opening seat feature is so well hidden.
Hasbro have been releasing Titan Master packs which feature a Titan Master paired with a transforming mini vehicle. Cool, but Takara skipped that and instead threw the mini vehicles in with some the deluxes, leading to an annoying bump in price.
Hardhead is packaged with Tankette, who far from just being a simple drone, actually has some of character according to the Legends fiction. As a little toy it’s a fun bonus, being a small tank that can turn into a mini jet and dubious Targetmaster like weapon, but it does just feel like it was a way for Takara to scrape some extra cash from the bottom of your wallet.
So, that’s Hardhead. Takara have done some extra work to add what I feel are finishing touches to this guy that make confident I made the right decision in choosing him over the Hasbro version.
Is it the best deluxe ever? No, far from it, but it’s polite reminder that when the mood catches Hasbro and Takara they can still put together a deluxe that doesn’t feel cheap, lacking in features or simplified. He’s a fun toy that drives home the message that Hasbro/Takara have found what they think is the balance between creating toys for collectors and kids. The characters and designs are all echoes of 30 years ago, but with a briliantly involved play pattern that is at the core of the whole experience.
My hopes are high that this a trend that continues through Titans Return and beyond.