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Blackjack's Review: Generations Blitzwing

Name: Blitzwing
Allegiance: Decepticon
Size Class: Voyager Class
Accessories: Rifle, Sword, Missile

Blitzwing is a personal favourite character of mine, for no real good reason. He’s never done anything significant other than being the sole sane Decepticon in the G1 episode ‘Five Faces of Darkness’. Otherwise, Blitzwing tends to stick in the background, be it the cartoon or the Marvel comics. He tends to fare better in some modern portrayals, getting a quasi-major role in the second Dreamwave G1 miniseries (although that itself is a mess) and being one of the major Decepticons in IDW’s early –ion comic arcs, although he has since disappeared back into the backgrounds.

Blitzwing returned into the limelight somewhat in 2009’s Transformers: Animated cartoon, where he joins the main Decepticon cast. Although his appearances are sporadic, both he and his best friend Lugnut did appear enough to be memorable. In Animated, Blitzwing has a pretty fun gimmick where his triple-changer form causes his mind to be fractured as well, manifesting in three faces which rotate like a Quintesson: namely a serious ‘icy’ persona with a monocle, an angry ‘hothead’ persona with a G1-based face, and a ‘crazy’ jack-o-lantern maniac who shouts random things. It gives an additional fun quirk to Blitzwing.

Now my first encounter with Blitzwing is from IDW’s “Escalation” miniseries, where he shows up… and turns into a tank. Unfamiliar with Transformers lore, I was really, really confused why someone with ‘wing’ in his name would turn into a tank. He even has wings in robot mode! It wasn’t until I read “Infiltration”, which chronologically took place before “Escalation”, where Blitzwing rolls up in tank mode, blows up some evidence about Transformers existing… and transforms into a jet and flies away! I was really, really taken in by this scene, and for that (and having an awesome name) Blitzwing shot up in my personal ‘favourite Transformers’ list.

Of course, they never made a proper Blitzwing toy. The original Generation One toy is an expensive block that turned from a robot into a tank into a ridiculously blocky jet supposedly representing a MiG but really looks more like a paper airplane. Animated gave us a nice Blitzwing toy, but his tank mode is a tiny, chunky mess and his jet mode is full of gaps. It’s a decent toy, but one that does not fit into my Classics Decepticon lineup… the Animated aesthetic is great, but next to Classics versions of Astrotrain, Octane and the Coneheads he just looks out of place.

Now, I’ve been eagerly waiting for Blitzwing ever since I discovered the existence of Classics toys. The Decepticons triple-changers have been a relatively popular sort. They made a rather decent Astrotrain as part of Classics’ first wave in 2006. In 2008 the Classics line’s second spiritual incarnation, Universe gave us Octane (rechristened Tankor due to trademark issues) as part of their first wave. Octane was… horrid, but it was a step in the right direction because that’s one step closer to Blitzwing.

Of course… in 2009 we instead got Animated Blitzwing. It’s okay, they’ll probably make a new Blitzwing sometime soon, no? So I waited, and waited, and waited… it wasn’t until the late 2012 until toy announcements revealed part of the ‘Thrilling 30’ subline of Generations (Classics’ third incarnation), namely the Voyager class toys. I was already excited by the news of a LSOTW-accurate Springer… but the Blitzwing news really hit the jackpot for me.

So I’ve waited for nearly six years for this Blitzwing toy, and I am super-excited when he and Springer came on my doorstep. I opened Springer first, and he was a really awesome toy. Blitzwing… well, Blitzwing is a very controversial one. On one hand, the things it does well, it does really well. On the other hand… the reverse also applies to him.

Jet Mode:
First up… transforming Blitzwing from robot mode (which is going to be covered below) into jet mode has one particularly annoying part. Namely, you’re supposed to push the head into the body of the nosecone (under the cockpit) and swing up the tip of the nosecone over it. Sounds simple enough… except it’s undoable. The spring that the head has to overcome is very powerful, which wouldn’t pose any problem if the nosecone is made of normal hard plastic, since the pegs holding the nosecone halves together would keep the head depressed. Unfortunately, the tip of the nosecone is made out of soft plastic. So it’s near impossible to transform him properly, unless you use a lot of force… which would then cause an unsightly bulge on the soft plastic nosecone. I prefer to remove the head outright with transformation… it’s on a rotating joint, so it’s not difficult to remove.

That out of the way, Blitzwing transforms into a generic fighter jet. Generations gets a leeway by saying that both Blitzwing and Springer are designed after the ‘Fall of Cybertron’ aesthetic, but if Blitzwing’s cockpit and wings are any indication, he’s pretty obviously patterned on a decidedly earthen fighter jet, albeit a non-specific, slightly-futuristic one with a bunch of streamlined parts on top of the hull that I assume is some kind of future engine thing like the one Jetfire has. It’s a pretty awesome look, from the nosecone to the air intakes to the great wings to the booster engines to the… well, everything about Blitzwing’s jet mode is awesome…

Except for one glaring problem. Blitzwing, you see, is kind of like a Y-wing. His hull is nearly hollow in the center except for the tank turret trying to fill the void. It’s really glaring and unsightly (since they already had a similar problem with Animated Bltizwing, albeit with the gap on a different location) although one that is easily fixed… pegging the purple sword with the tip pointing backwards covers the gap excellently. The sword does kind of spoil Blitzwing’s aerodynamic look, though, but it blends in rather well. It’s not the best look, but Blitzwing’s rather futuristic look kind of makes me forgive this one oversight.

Also, while the packaging advertises the ‘opening cockpit’, this is not possible in the toy itself. The joint is there and the cockpit works fine… except in jet mode, because the soft plastic will get in your way, and if you force the issue it’ll probably warp.

When transforming him, the main wings have these little pieces that swing out and give his wings a fuller feel. It’s just a little detail that made me really, really like the toy. Oh, if only there were less problems with his toy…

Blitzwing is mainly purple and beige, with several parts being detailed in gray. The rims of his main wings are painted in red, his cockpit is clear orange, and several parts being cast in a slightly lighter shade of purple. Including the rubbery nosecone…. which simply stands out as looking really out of place next to the darker tone of the hull.

Still, I can’t really complain since I really, really like this mode, warts and all. Everything clips together nicely into a very cohesive and distinct shape. It certainly looks a whole lot like a proper fighter jet than the random triangular block the G1 toy turns into, or the jet-with-tank-treads that the Animated incarnation turns into. A really great jet mode that highly improves upon the Animated version... although not one that’s pulled off perfectly. The Y-Wing gap really bugs me.

Tank Mode:
Transforming Blitzwing from jet to tank is simply fun, and, for me in particular, is the key defining moment that made me decide that I really, really like Blitzwing’s designers. Transformation is simple yet pulls of a highly distinctive (if not very convincing) tank mode). Generations Blitzwing’s tank mode is very, very distinct from the jet. Taking Animated Blitzwing as comparison, the jet has giant tank treads on its side and is very chunky, whereas the tank mode is very small and is obviously a folded-up jet.

Generations Blitzwing, though? Other than the folded-up tailwings on the rear of the turret and the jumble of tailwings and robot feet on the back (which really can be passed over as some kind of futuristic kibble), there is no indication he turns into a jet at all. The wings fold into the sides of the tank very, very neatly, and he really gets the tank thing down. His turret rotates, there are additional tank treads that fold out to complete the shape, and additional pieces fold out from his crotch to fill out the front. There is a lot more steps involved than I thought, but it’s fun and not unnatural to do. Pegging the robot legs into the main body takes a little more effort than I’d like to wiggle the latches in, but otherwise there’s no major problem… transformation would work better after you do the fix, detailed below.

Goes without saying that Blitzwing probably isn’t modeled after a specific sort of tank, except maybe the kibble on his main body.

He’s still predominantly beige and purple, although the beige takes more dominance here. Don’t really like the layout with purple slapped all over the turret, but it’s a minor complaint.

The tank turret rotates around (although it can’t angle upwards unless if you pull the turret straight out of the cradle of the transformed robot-arms, which looks stupid), although I think the rotation joint is a wee bit too front for a proper turret. Indeed, if you move the turret around too much, you embarrassingly reveal the jet nosecone sticking out towards Blitzwing’s rear end. It’s ugly and ruins an otherwise smashing tank mode. It’s not too difficult to have the excess robot feet and tailwings move around a little and cover this gap, and it’s a shame they didn’t do that. No, instead they just hang off the back, leaving a gap in the center.

Blitzwing’s sword and gun can peg onto the 5mm posts, but I usually leave the sword aside. Pegging his gun on top of the turret really looks great, though, evoking real tanks which usually have smaller machineguns on top of the turrets. I really like the cannon, by the way. Instead of a button, you fire the missile by depressing the front (brown) end of the barrel, which then launches the missile. It’s a great and different way, looks like a real tank’s recoil, and has the additional bonus of having the missile not poke out conspicuously when plugged in. Really digging the cannon.

I think that other than that awesome feature of the cannon, the tank mode is kind of weak. It is distinctively a tank, and the transformation is wonderful, but it’s pretty messy and the tank turret is a jumble of shapes that barely resemble a turret. The hodgepodge paint scheme doesn’t help either, with the purple and beige kind of just out there instead of being cohesive like the jet or the robot. It doesn’t really hold together well without some force as well.

It’s really amazing how Blitzwing gets two very, very distinct alternate modes down without compromising either (Animated Blitzwing; Universe Octane) or having both modes look somewhat similar (Generations Springer; Classics Astrotrain). Of course, the tank mode isn’t perfect, but the sheer fact that he’s a triple changer that turns from a tank to a jet to a robot counts for something. It’s a shame that the tank mode is kind of underwhelming, cannon aside.

Robot Mode:
I have to confess that I transformed Blitzwing straight into his two alternate modes straight out of the box and didn’t really get into exploring the robot mode until sometime later, being distracted by his other modes and the joy that is Springer. At this point, I thought that the only problems the toy had is the head spring, and that the shoulder-problems the internet is clamoring about is exaggerated. Well… am I wrong. But we’ll leave that for last, because I’m going to talk about the good parts of the robot mode first.

I am not ashamed to deny that Hasbro really knocked this figure out of the park in terms of design. Glaring problems aside, Blitzwing’s robot mode is truly marvelous. It isn’t as proportional as Springer’s, and I will always be bugged by the fact that the knees are so high, but it’s very necessary to store the tank treads and jet wings, so I let that slide. He’s kind of gangly, but otherwise he’s a very, very faithful update to the G1 toy… minus the blockiness. Everything the G1 toy had is replicated faithfully here, up to the paintjob and kibble placement… something that really impressed me, considering neither Astrotrain nor Octane bothered to homage the original with such detail (then again, they didn’t have the mass of a Voyager toy to work with).

Articulation wise, Blitzwing is decent for a Voyager class. Not great, but decent enough. He’s got ankle, knee and thigh joints, his head turns around 360 degrees (although do not ever try and push his head in when it’s not looking forwards – it will get stuck), he’s got two elbow joints on each arm, his wrist can rotate and his shoulders are double-jointed with a hinge and a rotational joint as well. Although, as described below (soon, dear readers. Soon) the shoulders aren’t likely to work perfectly. It’s a decent range of articulation – not as much as many Voyager class toys I own, I’m afraid, but he’s well-balanced enough and comes with some accessories to strike some awesome poses.

Blitzwing comes with a relatively decent-sized rifle (a ‘Gyro-Blaster Rifle’ according to the crazy 1985 bio) and a light purple sword which I really like. It’s supposed to be an ‘Electron Scimitar’, but scimitars are curved and Blitzwing’s sword is just a sword. Both the sword and the gun are nicely detailed, and fit in very well in Blitzwing’s hands. Kind of small compared to Springer’s massive sword and missile launcher, but he still looks great with them nonetheless.

Blitzwing has a predominantly purple torso with a cockpit in his chest like a Seeker and chest detailings similar to the stickers the original Blitzwing toy had. The cockpit isn’t as predominant on the original toy, but both Transformers Animated and the IDW comics redesigns all have placed the cockpits on his chest, which I think is a smart move since it nicely fits the yellow helmet. His shoulders are beige with purple wings sticking out and pointing down – again, similar to the G1 toy, albeit with a lot less brick-like proportions. Beige lower arms, purple hands... and tailfins and jet afterburners form the feet… except that they actually do form actual feet instead of just awkwardly supporting Blitzwing up. He’s got the tank turret sticking straight up from his back, again a call-back to the G1 toy.

Blitzwing’s colour scheme is less haphazard here, with beige and purple all mostly being concentrated to some spots instead of being all over the place like in the tank. He’s got more gray, and black features dominantly on his lower legs. He’s got some silver and vermillion detailings on his chest, and his helmet is a striking yellow, again a homage to G1.

There are some Animated influence seeping in, however. The jet cockpit being much more Seeker-like and prominent being one, the face-swapping gimmick (covered below) being another, and most notably the tank treads making up the lower legs. It's a great amalgamation of the two, taking some cues from the Animated version yet still staying faithful to the G1 design.

And now, the face-swap design inspired by the Animated character. I really like Animated, and having this feature on him is a huge plus point for me. Unlike the Animated toy which has the face spin horizontally, Generations Blitzwing has the faces spin vertically. And the face sculpts are pretty decent, with each face being G1-ified (i.e. less outrageous chins). I find the icy, monocled look the one that fits the toy least due to the light purple being kind of odd among Blitzwing’s colour scheme, and both the angry and crazy faces fitting the overall colour scheme much more cohesively. Still, all three faces look great… although the fact that they turn vertically means that the ‘angry’ face has a second, black-coloured chin and the ‘icy’ face has an additional gray chin due to the backs of the other faces being visible. Shame.

The 'angry' (G1-based) head looks a bit... odd for some reason. Maybe because it's very two-toned and lacking in details? Dunno why they sculpted such a stone-faced expression onto him.

One big problem that is apparently rampant (but one which my toy is miraculously exempt of) is the fact that the face-changing gimmick doesn’t work due to excess paint on the inside of the helmet. Why they have to paint the inside of the helmet I do not know… maybe they dipped the helmet piece in paint? In any case, the extra paint essentially neuters the face-swapping gimmick, and you need to disassemble the head and trim the paint off, maybe with the aid of a freezer to help freeze the paint. It’s really stupid that this went past the QC lines, although since I do not have that problem I can’t really comment about it.

What I can comment about, however, is the problem that plagues the shoulders. It’s something that’s so fundamentally obvious and stupid that I cannot believe this went past the prototype stage, let alone be prevalent among every single copy of Generations Blitzwing. The tabs that are meant for the shoulder assembly (which are on a mechanism made out of several thin, loosely-hinged plastic) can never lock into place with the tab on the front end of the chest. Why is this? There is excess plastic on the front and rear halves of the torso piece. The fact that the tank treads on my copy can only peg in on the top and not the bottom supports this. It’s really very stupid.

See, these purple parts that refuse to peg are supposed to be immobile, and be an anchor so the tan bits of the sholders can rotate and the gray bits of the upper arm can pivot, giving Blitzwing awesome shoulder articulation. In theory, anyway.

The entire shoulder assembly simply just flops around weakly, and any attempt to even move the shoulder will bring the purple bits that are supposed to fill up the chest with it. It’s variable in how rampant the problem is, but your copy of Blitzwing will most certainly have it. And sometimes the problem is worse on one shoulder than the other.

There are like seventy Youtube videos out there telling you how to fix this problem. And generally there are two methods to fix this. The lazier one is to put material like Blu-Tak on the back of the shoulder pieces, but I tried this and it didn’t work very well. It made one shoulder kind of bearable, but the other is still as loose as ever. Besides, it really looks hideously ugly.

The more commonly recommended method is to disassemble Blitzwing’s main body, sandpaper off the excess parts like this (image courtesy of someone over at Allspark), then reassemble him to get what Blitzwing should be designed to be like. In theory, pretty simple.

However, in practice, it is really much more frustrating that it seems. Now I am a beginner in kitbashing, and had literally never attempted to do anything of this sort before. It took me a lot of tries to sand off the right parts, and it took me a while that to test out the hinges I need to re-assemble the screws and peg Blitzwing together again. And he still didn’t fit. And I simply cannot believe how much plastic I have to sand off and sand off and sand off… and he still couldn’t work. All other guides and reviews out there only say things like ‘he works like a charm after the fix’. No one ever said how frustrating and tiring this thing should be.

And after umpteenth sandpapering attempts, while his left shoulder does work now, his right shoulder still refuses to click flush. I just don't- it's really bloody frustrating, you know?

And you know what? I shouldn’t have to do this at all. I paid for good money for Blitzwing, and this is a mass-retail product meant to be complete. One or two problems, yes, but such a glaring and obvious mistake should really be flagged down before the toy entered mass production. A customer shouldn’t really be expected to take apart and modify a toy like this… not everyone has access or the skill to modify a toy. I admit that it's partly because I’m very inexperienced in kitbashing or whatever, but my point still stands.

The shoulders, however, are just one of the myriad problems that plague Blitzwing, and the frustration and anger I had to experience in fixing that one problem doesn’t do the toy any favours. I’m sorry, Blitzwing… I really like your design and the thought put into you, but there’s just too much wrong with you that I can’t really consider you a good toy. As a buyer, one really must do a lot of modifications before Blitzwing can really achieve his actual quality, which is a shame… executed properly with good QC and good plastics, Blitzwing would be as good as Springer. As it is, though, he’s a really good design executed in a very piss-poor manner.

Marks out of ten for the following:

Transformation Design: 6/10 Transformation design is pretty ingenuous... on paper. Granted, Blitzwing switches forms from robot to tank to jet very smoothly. I really, really wanted to give him a higher score. I particularly like how the panels on the crotch open in tank mode, how additional tank treads slide out, how there are extra panels to build the wing... but then I remember the various problems that plague his transformation. The big Y-Wing gap in jet mode, the weird-looking tank turret assembly, the gap on the tank’s rear, the stupid head-refusing-to-depress problem… it’s certainly a step up from Animated Blitzwing, but he’s still got a lot to improve on.

Durability: 6/10 Blitzwing’s entire rotating platform on his back is made out of softer plastic, so that can warp with some barbaric handling, but that’s not the main concern. The nosecone is made out of rubber, and if you keep forcing the head down, the force from the powerful spring will put a lot of pressure on the nosecone. Anyone who attempts to open the cockpit in jet mode will put stress on the rubber nosecone as well. The kibble bits on his wrists also tend to pop off, and I’ve talked about the face and shoulders in the review proper. With proper handling, Blitzwing can last for a long time, but he’s got a lot of QC problems.

Articulation: 4/10 Blitzwing is decently articulated, but not quite enough on par of a Voyager toy. He’s missing a waist joint because of his transformation, and his head isn’t quite able to look up at down, and neither can his tank turrets. Turning his head… well, let’s hope you remember to remove or align his head when you try to transform him, otherwise the head will get stuck and it will be extremely troublesome to pop it back out. And then there’s the shoulder problem, which is really stupid.

Aesthetics: 9/10 I really, really liked how Blitzwing turned out. He’s near-perfect in robot mode once you get over his high knees. Everything simply evocates G1 Blitzwing, yet is done in such a way that makes him not look like a bricky blocky mess. The Animated influences works like a charm, and the result is very well done. The alternate modes are a wee bit more iffy, especially the tank mode... but, well, Blitzwing makes a great display figure in robot mode but a crap toy to play with, and it’s vice-versa for his alternate modes – excellent toys but not the modes you want to display him in.

Fun: 7/10 Even with the shoulder problem, Blitzwing is really, really fun to play around with. He’s a really fun transformer, and I really had fun with him. Modifying him, on the other hand… is a horrid, horrid business for me personally, and to anyone who does not like to kitbash figures. Not everyone can kitbash.

Price/Value: 2/10 He is an awesome toy that by rights should be equal to the greatest of what the Voyager class can offer – he is around Springer’s quality in design, but the simply awful quality control really hurts the value of this toy. I paid a lot of good money for this toy, and he’s really expensive… the fact that such glaring oversights were found in every sample of the toy is simply inexcusable.

Overall: 3/10 Blitzwing is a toy that I cannot recommend highly unless you are willing and confident enough to fix him. I, personally, had Blitzwing unmodified for a month or two. While the work of the designer team that made him is simply fantastic (he's certainly a step up from past triple-changers or past Blitzwings in terms of design cohesiveness), Blitzwing is a prime example of how a simple problem can bring down the enjoyment of a toy… and Blitzwing doesn’t have just a single glaring problem. He has several. Shoulders being a horrid floppy mess, head refusing to peg down for transformation, soft plastic for the nosecone neutering the cockpit and head transformation, gap in jet mode, gap in tank mode, turret looking like a mess, high knees… any one or two of these problems would’ve been forgivable, but they all compound to make one hell of a mess. It really is a shame to this gloriously designed mold. I would happily recommend any future releases of this mold with a score of 8 or 9, but I cannot honestly call this toy good. Cursing for four hours while sanding a toy is not something that I, or any buyer, should do to enjoy a product he bought. The modified Generations Blitzwing I own kind of rock since it eliminates one of the major offenders… but the retail Generations Blitzwing, which the subject of the review here… simply isn’t worth your consideration unless you’re prepared to fix him.
 
 
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