“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas….” and with the amount of toys he’s dropping on my door step Santa must be shattered. One of these toys is X2 Toys Skycrusher, a third party take on a Titans Return style Skyfire. Titans Return may be dead, and third parties may have been too busy falling over themselves making 30 different Trailbreakers to make much of an effort with it, but right as we are all at enjoying sandwiches at the Titans Return wake – someone throws out a whole new compatible figure for it.
But there is a catch, a flaw so frustrating and big that it kept it off my radar until right at the end when the Skyfire fanboy within had to have it.
So read the review to find out what it is….
Before you get to the main figure, it’s important to jot down in your mental scrap-book that Skycrusher comes with not one but TWO minifigures. That’s better than ASDA price. Or are they subliminally telling you to Bogof?
As a key selling point of this package, one of said minifgures is a Titan Master style little bot. He’s the same size, looks similar, lacks paint like many of the Hasbro Titan Masters, carries a face on his back like a Ninja Turtle shell and even has that peg on the back of his feet that locks the TM’s into cockpits and the like better than a seat belt. They styling is on point to the toy line it is trying to blend in with but it also does away with some of the silly things like the belly button screw and oh, little things like a lack of articulation. The X2 Toys boyos (and/or girlos) have given their unnamed Titan Master bot the range of movement that should have been a bare minimum from Hasbro. Don’t get me wrong I love the Titan Masters and consume them like Sloth from the Goonies consumes Baby Ruth bars (weird American chocolate alert) but they shouldn’t all look like Val Kilmer flying down that slide in Batman Forever.
Speaking of lips, the head sculpt is molded in black which makes any facial details tough to see but he sort of resembles Swindle. There’s also a bonus glacier mint on his chest and the feet come with magnets. Yes, just like another of Liam’s most favourite things – Starcom.
Curiously this is a figure you have to build yourself and comes attached to the sprue. Once you pry the parts off it’s very straightforward putting him together but also very clever in how it creates an incredibly articulate little bot. The head is molded onto a stalk that acts as a spine that separate chest and waist pieces attach to, around sculpted orbs that create ball joints and allow for some fantastic, expressive articulation. Again, magnets sit in his feet and it’s the only time you have to use glue in his construction along with the small magnetic base he also comes with. A sole down note is that this is not Titan Master compatible, and is also slightly taller than your standard TM, because its way better in every sense.
Like Aliens over Alien better. This time it’s MORE…..articulation.
If you were in British school yards in the mid 80’s, then chances are some kid claimed to have an actual Skyfire figure, that transformed into the funky made up space jet that zipped around in the show. Course, they were complete liars and it burns me so much to this day that I bring it up in most of my articles, but it was an example of how Skyfire’s unique vehicle mode was a bit of a hit with kids. About as far removed from the Macross Valkyrie as you can get and still have wings, it was one of only a tiny number of non earthen alt modes given to a regular cast member in the first two seasons of the Transformers cartoon. Reason being that the Jetfire toy was a repackaged Macross Valkyrie, with Macross itself being repackaged as Robotech in the US, and Takara not wanting to show off competitors products in Japan. Or some merging of those elements – go read the TFWiki for a better explanation than Rum Liam can give you. Basicallyit was weird and Jetfire became Skyfire the flying brick taxi that Optimus Prime loved so much he couldn’t be bothered to dig him out of the ice until he needed to get somewhere a bit lively.
X2 Toys have taken a very Titan Returns route to making a G1 style Skyfire. Basic shape is crafted with an intent to be faithful to the cartoon with an abundance of white covering much of the toy. The nose cone is not a cone, but the signature angled, blunt block and there is a red shell perched on top like it’s hitching a ride with long wings protruding from either side. All elements you’d expect from anything trying to emulate the animation model but they adhere to the Titans Return style of G1 but with a modern edge. If Hasbro were going to redo Jetfire/Skyfire now this is probably how I’d expect it to look. Robot arms do visibly sit on the sides of the jet, under the wings and the temptation may be to lament this as it’s an expensive third-party product, but I don’t think they are like this because X2 couldn’t find a better way to hide the arms – I think it’s maybe intentional.
Hold tight for crazy conspiracy theory soapbox!
Every part of this figures play pattern is built to resemble Titans Return. Two compartments open to seat Titan Masters, there’s the whole headmaster gimmick and there are peg holes were you could conceivably attach Titan Master carrying weapons. So it’s not shocking that they’d go this route as most of the jets in Titans Return have their arms visible on the sides. Course I could completely be reaching, but I look at most of the Titans Return figures and see many compromises which would render a mini Masterpiece figure a sore thumb in a range defined by new takes on the vintage designs. Smart design approach is to make this figure a seamless part of your Titans Return group, not have it stand out something just stuck in there for the sake of it.
Moonwalking back to that play pattern, any Titan Master can slot into the two opening compartments making it fully backwards compatible. None of the pegs that Titan Masters attach to make an appearance, but the two included mini-figures both make use of the magnets in their Air Jordans to bolt onto the huge volume of die-cast on Skycrushers body. There’s so much metal in this toy that when I think of its production I can’t help but picture steel foundries and Alex Owens welding it together herself. Just for me.
The running theme with this toy seems to be everything comes in two’s and that includes two gigantic cannons that can peg into the ports on the sides of the jet, under the wings. Two clips can slide over the smaller fins and allow the guns to peg onto the top for that Jetfire/Macross booster pack look. An over the top solution that could have been solved by adding two more peg holes. If you are looking for a bit more firepower, there is a small laser cannon that flips out from the back of the robot mode helmet in homage to the vintage Jetfire toy. It’s not the only homage either. Landing gear is present and the two rear wheels are attached to die-cast struts and emerge from the shins. No nail bruising spring loaded shenanigans, but X2 did make a small misstep by making them both identical pieces – not reversed. Aside from being a minor cross in the aesthetics column, it means one of them is tougher to pull out on mine due to the wheel catching on the inside of the leg.
Skycrusher’s jet mode is an easy win. Contradictory messages of luxury third-party item (wait till I get to talking about the finish on this guy) and Titans Return 5 a-side football regular aside, it’s a lovely attempt at a Skyfire brick jet which doesn’t strip away the fun elements of Titans Return. Far from it in fact – it revels in them. It’s intended to blend in rather than just be that character at a matching size. Is it perfect? No. As much as the visible arms are no worse than what you see on much of Hasbro’s products, it doesn’t make it appealing to the eye and there is a middle ground here where they could have been blended better. But that doesn’t spoil much – it’s no less fun to swoosh about the place. Then drop and break your toe.
Before we get to the robot there’s more. Double more, actually.
As Jetfire exists within Robotech/Macross territory it means most of his toys are destined to possess some kind of Gerwalk mode which if you think I’ve suddenly started speaking dutch, is the name of a sort of halfway mode between jet and robot forms. It’s very easy to put it into Gerwalk (like an Egyptian, haaaa) mode but owing to the knees being required to bend and the abundance of die-cast throughout the toy, it stands about as well as I do at 3 am on a Sunday morning as the final rum erases my ability to deal with gravity. In fact being bent over like that also strikes similarities between me in the early hours, hunched over the toilet when the rum decides it needs to exit via the gift shop….
As with all good things Titan Return – there is a base mode. To achieve the base mode, it’s mainly the robot mode with the torso and knees unlocked and guns pegged onto the side. I assume with it being Skyfire it’s intended to be some form of science outpost or it may just be someone at X2 shouted “base mode” a lot, because despite the massive guns it doesn’t really stand up as a weapon base. Not only would lasers get in through the exposed seat area, but any Titan Master having to sit there would have chilly feet. Maybe there is a storage locker filled with slippers within? Despite having a base mode because of Titans Return there’s none of the Titan Master pegs or ramp connections that feature on most of the leader class TR base modes. Aesthetics must override that idea.
When I look at this base mode, my mind conjures that door opening sound from the deserted colony in Aliens. Anyone else getting that? Or should I be down the doctors asking for an MRI?
Skycrusher’s transformation fuses third-party ingenuity and Titans Return simplicity with some clever tricks. Of particular worthy mention is the way the jet nose splits and folds to form with the abs, with the whole cockpit sliding up into the collar to reveal the Titan Master helmet and port – but there are plenty more. Never does any of it get in the way and spoil your enjoyment of the transformation though. A lot of engineering is involved but where it can be frustrating is with the insane tightness of some of the pieces which is particularly an annoyance going from jet to robot. This is one of those toys where you find your nails hurt every time you have to pry things apart.
On my figure one of the screw covers on the inside of the knee is not flush so requires severe force to compress the leg for jet mode. Double impacting the problem like a Van Damme twin, the same piece then catches when inside in the knee making it even harder to extend. Each time I’ve attempted it I’ve been convinced it’s going to snap but luckily it has survived. I get the feeling it’s living on borrowed time unless I can fix it though.
An action figure can live or die on its looks and Skycrusher gets it 95% right, but that final 5% might be the chokeslam through the ring that ends it’s dreams of victory. You can probably guess where the problem lies from the picture above – that face is awful. He looks stupid, resembling a Goomba from the Mario Bros. movie. Even the drawing on the boxart looks bad. For the ball to be dropped on such an important element like this is as brutal as an Iain Dowie own goal and for many people will automatically make the choice whether or not to buy the figure. Yes, the face is too small but Skycrusher’s helmet is also slightly too big as the original Skyfire head design rendered it like a skull cap from the inside of an astronaut’s helmet. Unfortunately it looks like it’s in a 1950’s hair salon from a Cher video. As he was designed to be compatible with most Titans Return figures it feels like the designers got caught trying to serve many masters with the sizing of the head and failed on all fronts. A rummage through your pile of Titan Masters won’t be much help either as being such a massive figure only a handful Leader Class TM’s look okay. The three I’ve come across are Soundwave, Godbomber and Sixshot but none is perfect and sacrificing Leader Class figures to the third-party gods is a bit on the wallet busting side of things.
A kind soul on Shapeways has crafted a Skyfire Titan Master face, but it’s still not quite the droid you are looking for. Even if X2 had enlarged the face, it’s a face only a mother could love and even then only to make him feel better about himself. Throughout Combiner Wars and Titans Return, Hasbro have knocked almost every face sculpt for a Joe Root 6, so placing this on any other TR figure only serves to further demonstrate how rough it is. No matter who you put it on it still looks out of place. I keep looking at it and my mind jumps to the Penguin shouting about “the pinhead puppets of Gotham!” in Batman Returns. Total Christmas movie that.
An LED does live inside the face to give it light up eyes which is fun but it’s pointless as few people are going to want to keep that face and the LED gimmick will be lost.
“Replace the face!”. Sounds like a Trump slogan waiting to happen.
Making such a monumental error with the face is a devastating shame considering how incredible the rest of the toy is. The closest thing I can liken it to is Perfect Effect’s Warden figure. This has that luxurious finish and feel yet still achieves the rare feat of feeling like a toy because of the Titans Return connection. I can’t recall another transforming figure I own being built from so much metal, and thick chunky plastic. It feels premium and heavy in almost every sense with paint, the right balance of detailing to make it less bland than the animation model but not over the top so it steps away from the Generations trappings. Tight joints, many of which are ratcheted, but not too tight that they don’t move work with the excellent articulation that still manages to cope with the heavy weight of the figure without worrying about it taking a tumble. Rubber pads are even provided for the underside of each foot to add extra grip.
Usually you expect this sort of quality finish from a real high-end Masterpiece wannabe from someone like Fanstoys, but here on a toy trying to be in the Titans Return crowd at a not too unreasonable price point? The Ambassador from the Ferrero Roche adverts must have taken over X2 because with this finish they are really spoiling us.
*Insert Ferrero Roche advert theme tune*.
Move past the face and everything else is stunning. The design is probably the best looking Jetfire/Skyfire robot mode I have ever seen, indulging in G1 accuracy but going over it in a similar manner to the Generations figures where old details are replicated but also updated. This is how I prefer my Generations style figures, G1 styled but with every edge and detail made sharper and bulkier. Skycrusher takes the idea of Skyfire’s size making him one of the stronger bots and works it into the proportions to emphasise that despite being a science guy – he could hold his own in a Cybertronian wrestling ring.
He is physically large too, as any self-respecting Skyfire should be, snuggling into the Leader Class bracket but eye to eye he is still taller than most other figures of that scale. It’s not Masterpiece sized, like Fanstoys Pheonix, but that just means you can actually fit it onto a shelf somewhere.
As the majority of this figure is completely new, it’s interesting to note is that several things are taken from X2’s upgrade kit for Combiner Wars Ultra Magnus. Weird things. The forearms are repackaged from that set, but there’s no obvious reason for it. Most of this toy is built from the ground up so why not the arms? It presents an awkward visual when the inner forearms are hollowed out but every other part of this toy goes out of it’s way to project a feeling of luxury. Notice you can’t see any screw holes in the pictures? That’s because almost every single one is covered as are most gaps but the forearms resemble a set of apartment block letterboxes.
Both of the guns in the set are the same as the one from the Ultra Magnus set but retooled to add blade that I don’t think anyone associates with Skyfire. The gun barrels extend to create a handle and there is a small clip that pegs into Skycrusher’s hand. However, the guns aren’t mirrored so the clip is on the same side on both, meaning only his right hand can hold them. Bizarrely the gun handles themselves are reversed parts so both hands can hold them securely. Pegs on the side allow them to mount on the forearms though which is cool in an anime way, but I never pictured Skyfire as a Wolverine fanboy. Maybe he’s suffering PTSD from being trapped under the ice for millions of years and has created an extreme solution for if it happens again.
Attempting to raise the stakes even further, the two guns feature a clumsy combining gimmick that requires two new pieces (the clips to put them on the back of the jet mode) in order to hold together. Nothing comes out of this with any credit. Why not just mould a single, new, no fuss gun? Sigh. A gimmick I didn’t want, that doesn’t work.
This may sound extreme or over the top, but if it weren’t for that dreadful face sculpt this toy would have been right near the very top of my Top 10 figures of the year list. The attention and care X2 Toys have paid to almost every facet of it is excellent and makes it feel luxurious, but at the same time the aesthetic and design of it keep it in step with your Generations collection. However there is just no way of getting away from that awful head and the disappointment of it infects your view of what would otherwise be a standout figure. No matter how impressed I am, my brain instantly snaps back to “if only that head…” – it owns the conversation around the toy. Once you have that thought, and the realisation that you will need to replace it then the cost starts rising and it becomes more effort than it’s worth. I honestly think it hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves because people see the head and instantly move along. That is a shame, it’s a massive bald-headed, Cersei sized shame as everything else is pretty stellar and that one Death Star exhaust port flaw scatters it across Endor.
If you can get over the stupid head, replace it or whatever then Skycrusher is an excellent figure, at a really reasonable price point for the kind of build quality you are getting and is one of the most under appreciated toys you will come across all year. Plus you’ll be in the most niche fan club that has ever existed.