Blackjack's Review: Breakdown
Voyager (sort of)
So, back when Transformers Dark of the Moon's toyline died out and I bought my last toy from the line, I told myself I would not buy any toys from the next cartoon, and only collect Generations toys.
Of course, Hasbro had to screw me over by making the best ever Transformers cartoon show (so far, anyway) in the appropriately-named 'Transformers: Prime'. It took everything that worked from Animated, namely the Beast Wars-esque small cast, focusing on characterisation, threatening Decepticons, did away with the irritating bits, wrapped everything up in the Movieverse aesthetic, created an actual overreaching plot... and created one of the best pieces of Transformers lore.
It infuriates me that the characters are so engaging, because then I won't be able to resist buying the toys!
Of course, I decided only to buy the show characters, although that's what I said every time. So far it's working, although my Autobot collection is sorely incomplete -- I've already decided not to splurge for another Optimus Prime or Bumblebee on account on them being too similar to the movie versions. The RID version of Bulkhead looks ugly, and I'm waiting for a reissue of the First Edition toy. Both versions of Arcee never showed up here, which is a shame.
Of course, one by one my Decepticon cast grew. Starscream. Soundwave. Megatron. A Vehicon. Even the rubbish toys of Knock Out and Airachnid.
I was only missing a Breakdown from the main season one antagonists, and waited patiently for the inevitable voyager class release. He never came, and since I had not been following toy news, I was shocked when someone told me Breakdown's a Takara exclusive.
Apparently, work on Breakdown's toy began very late. Then again, the Prime toyline's release began very late too, and by the time they finished releasing the main Autobot and Decepticon casts, it had already been season two... and in the middle of season two, poor Breakdown had been, well, killed. Sort of.
Word is that Hasbro apparently decided that they didn't want an expensive Voyager class toy of a dead minor baddie (even though he showed up in half of the season one and two episodes) shelfwarming... although since we got Voyager class Skyquake, who showed up once in season one for one episode before dying, I doubt this was the real reason.
In any case, Breakdown's tooling was exclusively made by Takara, and they took the opportunity to do away with the silly 'light up weapon' that has been the unifying gimmick for Transformers Prime voyager class toys, and added more mass to make Breakdown bulkier. Japan's much more variative in their price points, so it's not much of a problem. But it's too expensive to fit in Hasbro's price range, and they've stated that they won't be releasing Breakdown. Not unless it's an exclusive, anyway.
I panicked, for no good reason. It's not that Breakdown wowed my by his appearance. He's not as interesting Starscream or Soundwave or Knock Out. He's basically the dumb muscle to Knock Out's melodramatic hammy mastermind, the big guy who had a rivalry with Bulkhead, the guy who was voiced by Adam Baldwin. And, really, compared to the other Decepticons, he's basically just a thug with a rather memorable voice.
And a knack for getting himself into extremely humiliating situations matched only by Starscream.
But anyway, he isn't someone that carries any sort of attachment to me. Yet since I live in Asia, I can import Breakdown for a non-unreasonable price, especially since I got together with a friend of mine who's ordering Takara's Soundwave, and we split the shipping cost. It comes to about the price of an Ultra class toy, which isn't insanely expensive.
And, well, being a Takara release of the Prime toyline, Breakdown comes with a build-it yourself Minicon. I love Minicons! Also, stickers. Why. The stickers aren't really that difficult to attach, it's just bloody troublesome to get them right, what with all the curves on Breakdown's sculpting. Expect me to bitch about the stickers a lot.
Breakdown's a beautiful, beautiful toy, and I'm not saying this because I've imported him or anything... he really is gorgeous.
I still don't get why I went through all the trouble... it's not like Breakdown was any sort of legacy character. I mean, he is from G1, where he's a neurotic Stunticon, which was rather distinctive, I guess, but I've never felt for him. The name Breakdown saw reuse as the completely-nonsense 'Brakedown', in the Cybertron line as a generic Autobot, and in ROTF as a toy-only homage to the G1 guy. Hasbro got the correct spelling back, and released a Botcon-exclusive Animated version of Breakdown. And Prime came along, and gave us this guy, who, like so many Prime characters, takes some visual cues from past incarnations, but is otherwise an original guy.
In Breakdown's case, it's borrowing the G1 guy's red face and yellow eyes... and... um, yeah. The G1 guy had blue as a secondary colour, but that's about it. Prime Breakdown has nothing in common with G1 Breakdown other than light visual homages. G1 Breakdown was a neurotic, twitchy Stunticon, Prime Breakdown is a powerfully-built thug that moonlights as Knock Out's assistant. Kind of a giant, muscled nurse.
Takara's release calls him 'War Breakdown', maybe because of trademark purposes.
And, for the love of Breakdown, do apply his stickers with utmost care, and follow the instructions.
Breakdown is packaged in robot mode, but I'll start with the vehicle mode first. A far cry from the sports car that his G1 counterpart sported, this Breakdown transforms into a very boxy, powerful-looking armored truck. It's a very distinctive alternate mode, and looks suitably threatening, especially in Breakdown's beautifully-rendered solid dark blue colour. It's a fetching, classy shade. Quite glossy, yet subdued enough not to be too bright like the blue they use for sports car Transformers.
The windows are cast in transluscent dark plastic, the wheels (and the iconic spare wheel) are cast in black, his front grill is silver, his front bumper a shade of dark grey, and his fetchingly asymmetrical rearview mirrors are cast in silver. The piece that connects the mirrors to the car body (which should be empty space, but since this is a toy...) are cast in silver as well, but it's a minor complaint compared to the fact that the mirrors only have sculpted detail from the front. From the back, it's completely flat. Although to be fair, Breakdown is an alien war robot who doesn't need rearview mirrors. It's far, far more detailing than the other Prime Voyagers I've seen.
They went all out to give him sculpted details. Every inch of his front and rear are covered with detailings and moldings, and this works in Breakdown's favour -- his join lines aren't that distinctive due to the amount of vehicle mode details. What is distinctive, however, is the fact that the aforementioned stickers are quite reflective. The Decepticon insignias on his doors are, in particular, very eye catching, being bordered by a very reflective silver. So are the rear bumpers, again done in silver, and the robot mode kneecaps, which would be pointing out inconspicuously from under the rear bumpers. The robot mode kneecaps are surrounded in large silver stickers, and these are quite distracting.
Fortunately, the other stickers aren't so bad. There is a line of red on the piece of rims above Breakdown's rear wheels, but the stickers have an additional shade of dark purple, which is supposed to blend with the blue plastic, but since blue and purple are, you know, different, it makes the detail stick out like a sore thumb.
The back half of the side windows are stickered black, although it looks quite good. The little headlights and fog lights and what have you are all picked out in miniscule stickers, which is a shame -- the lights are sculpted, and it's a shame to cover them with ugly stickers which are a pain to line up properly, instead of painting them. Still, this is preferrable to leaving them unnoticed, so there's that.
Breakdown holds very well in vehicle mode, although the rear piece may need some fiddling so that it clicks into place, but it's no more fiddly than any other contemporary. And other than the aforementioned knees peeking out, Breakdown is relatively kibble free.
What he has in abundance, however, is an insane number of 5mm weapon mosts, so he can have many guns -- or Arms Micron, as it were -- plug into him. There is one on the right side of his hood, two on each side of the roof, one in the center, one on each side of the vehicle's front, one on each side of the front rims, one on each side of the rear rims, one on the spare wheel, and, in a nice touch of asymmetry, the left side of the rear has a 5mm hole, and the right has a C-joint clip that many of the Generations toy used.
So if I ever bother to gather lots of weaponry from the rest of my collection, I can turn Breakdown into a most ridiculously weaponized armored truck. Beacuse, hey, twelve holes and one C-joint! They don't call this 'War Breakdown' for nothing. The picture in this review has all slots filled with whatever weapons happened to be handy, although those big chunky Mechtech weapons from the DOTM line would suit him best, I think.
The beauty is that the holes aren't that inconspicuous, by virtue of some of them being hidden away with the sculpted details, and the end result means that only the ones on the roof and hood really looks odd, and even then not so much.
Breakdown's transformation is relatively typical in difficulty for a Voyager class toy, and he's very, very fun. The way the sides of his vehicle mode wrap around his lower legs is just fun, although if you don't do it at the right angle one of the plates may pop off. It does take some time to figure out the arm transformation (and instructions don't help much either) but once you've done so transforming Breakdown is a fun, fun thing to do.
I absolutely love the fact that every bit of Breakdown that doesn't turn into part of his robot mode gets hidden away in recessed compartments. Breakdown completely has no vehicle kibble not in the show model, apart from the pieces of his windshield integrated into his arms. Yes, that backpack with the spare wheel is supposed to be on his back! Truly a beautiful design that isn't compromised by random 'dramatic head reveal' or 'glowy weapons' or 'giant weapons' gimmickry.
Breakdown is still mainly dark blue, but a few new colours emerge. His rotch, shins and part of his shoulder are cast in a light gray, and so are part of his feet. His hands and the front of his feet (and some robot mode details) are cast in dark grey. The faux-grill stomach (the real grill fold under Breakdown's chest neatly) is also cast in dark grey. Stickers, however, soon fix that. A black-with-orange detail paste on either side of his crotch, stimulating the now-tucked-away fog lights. As mentioned before, his large jutting knee guard armour, which is an aesthetic choice I approve, is stickered in reflective silver, while the center is black. Some silver stickers are also placed along the length of his lower legs, and a purple stripe run across his feet.
To top it off, thankfully his face isn't stickered, and, boy, is his head sculpt wonderful! His helmet is a fetching shade of silver, and his eyebrow-crest thing are painted in a very similar shade of blue... but his face is painted a glorious, glorious vermillion, the exact colour of the show's model. He's got yellow eyes, and a slightly scowling serious face. Breakdown's vermillion face is a very good contrast to the rather dark shades of blue and grey, and I think it makes Breakdown rather distinct. His face's the one with two eyes, not the eyepatched look he'd later have to suffer for a good part of his appearance, but knowing Takara they'll probably release an eyepatched version sooner or later if you must absolutely have a pirate Breakdown.
As a whole, Breakdown is a very burly Transformer. He is slightly shorter than Prime's Voyager Megatron, but I'll argue that Breakdown has the same, if not more mass -- it's just that a good chunk goes to making his massive arms and shoulders, as well as his rather large torso, and thus Breakdown does not suffer as Movie Blackout, Animated Lugnut or Animated Bulkhead did and have a short and wide robot mode. Breakdown has both girth and height, making him relatively tall and wide. And besides, since in the show he is
shorter than Megatron... I'm not sure how well Prime's Bulkhead handle the girth problem, but Prime Bulkhead has stubby legs and small shoulders compared to Breakdown, so it doesn't really count as fair, no?
As mentioned before, Breakdown has few vehicle kibble that isn't part of his show model. The plates on his feet may extend backwards a bit more, the wrist's windshields are incorporated into the wrists and the shoulders may have more rim than the show model, but honestly, how little is that compared to every other toy out there? Besides, everything that makes Breakdown distinctive is present. Those inward-facing shoulder spikes surrounding his wheels, bulky arms, bulky feet, a wide, boxy torso, his face...
What about playability, though? Well, fear not -- Breakdown's got an insane amount of joints, and his feet are wide and stable enough to support his entire weight through any pose you want him to be. You want him to rush Breakdown, hammer raised? No problem. Stimulate a sweeping kick? Easy. The Dreamwave crouch? Piece of cake. Sliding as he transforms? It can be done. Basically, so long as you don't demand him to stand on one foot or anything, he can do it.
His head is on a ball joint, and can even crane upwards. His shoulder has two hinge/ratchet joints so the spikes won't get in the way of posing -- a second joint will take over when it does. Elbows are on a pin-and-ratchet assembly, and while his wrists don't turn, you can flip it around to replace it with his hammer (covered below). His waist can rotate, his thights are ball jointed, his knees are jointed, his ankles are jointed... all the joints at the right places, and the bulk and weight are so well-distributed that he holds himself well.
And, well, those insane amount of peg holes still exist here, so he can be covered in guns if you so choose. His hands are molded open, and weapons can fit there.
And, well, Breakdown's robot mode as close to perfect as you can get. It looks like his show model, it's coloured correctly, it's well-proportioned, its kibble doesn't get in the way, it doesn't have backpacks or pieces of vehicle mode hanging off awkward places... ah, a good, good toy. But it's not over yet!
Zamu the Rhino:
Last but not least, the Japanese release of Transformers Prime does away with the weapons and instead replaces them with Minicons... although these are considerably larger than Minicons of ages past, and have pegs that peg into 5mm holes instead of the Minicon pegs from Armada and its ilk.
And you totally get to assemble them.
It's been pretty hit and miss... none of the Autobots' Minicons look good, and most look oversized in weapon modes. Knock Out's fiddler crab/torture prod thing, and Soundwave's cute scorpion pet does look pretty good, but the rest are meh. Mind you, these guys aren't Minicons in the traditional sense, in that they don't peg into special ports... they just turn into weapons with 5mm handles, making them more akin to Targetmaster partners. But that's semantics.
Breakdown comes with 'Zamu' the evil rhinoceros. Zamu is a silly name that doesn't mean anything in Japanese. Zamu is a stumpy rhinoceros that turns into Breakdown's in-show weapon, namely a hammer. The packaging and instructions also substitute Zamu as the vehicle-mode gun that Breakdown deploys, but it looks silly.
Assembling Zamu is simple enough, although be warned -- the pegs and pins that hold him together are very strong, and his main body, once joined, can't be separated without breaking things. Not that you have any reason to take him apart, except if you forgot to put the Decepticon insignia sticker on his back before putting the clear piece over it. Which I did, so the insignia sticker covers the clear plastic piece instead of the other way around.
Zamu is coloured a light gray to match the hammer, but stickers give him purple and red highlights to match Breakdown. The details looks completely silly in hammer mode since they only cover bits of the hammer rhino and look quite random, but it does brighten him up in the otherwise plain rhino mode. He's got a silver-bordered Decepticon symbol on his back, and his cyclopean eye (he's a cyclops rhino) has a red sticker. The stickers on his main body are a pain to attach and line up.
Zamu's legs are all articulated, and his head can nod due to transformation.
Zamu folds nicely into his hammer, with his handle running through the length of his body and poking out as his tail. Breakdown can hold it in his hands, which contain 5mm pegs. Or you can plug it into the hole in his wrist so it sticks out awkwardly at a right angle from his hand.
But, see, in the Prime show Breakdown retracts his hand and the hammer sprouts from his wrist. You can do that with the toy, kind of. Rotate the hand back so that the vehicle mode windshield roof swings out, revealing the hole that allows Zamu to be snugly plugged in, and he fits there tightly, replacing Breakdown's hand. Of course, this is undocumented in the instructions, probably because the hand becomes blatantly visible, but I like to see his hammer replacing his hand, so this is my preferred mode of attachment.
Like all Prime-series Arms Minicon, Zamu has even more 5mm ports to make him into an even insane-looking weapon. One above his rhino head, one on his back, and two on his hind legs. There are two additional ports on his side where he can plug into other Arms Minicons, but since he's either an awkward-looking hammer or a rhino, I'm not sure if that's going to be impressive. The packaging certainly makes it look absurdly ridiculous.
I tried plugging in weapons into Zamu, and he looks like a cute little rhino with guns poking out of his sides and back.
He's a decent Minicon, I suppose, but he's nothing special. Better than a simple hammer accessory, though.
Marks out of ten for the following:
9/10 Breakdown is very well designed, with vehicle mode bits that fold away neatly into his robot mode parts. I absolutely adore how the vehicle mode plates fold around his leg, or how the hands form the windshields... barring the knees peeking out of the vehicle mode's back, it's a very clean transformation that leads to a very show-accurate robot and vehicle.
7/10 Breakdown himself is a very sturdy toy, with thick-set limbs that absorb the shock from falls. The only worrying bits are the pieces of the lower leg that fold upwards, which tend to pop off with force. Zamu the Rhino is also quite a durable Minicon provided you put him together properly. Unfortunately, those doggoned stickers are a pain to attach, and may peel off if you had not applied them properly -- I've seen reports that many sloppily-applied Takara Prime toys with stickers peel off, although I've never experienced the problem myself.
9/10 Breakdown is beautifully show-accurate in both modes, the oddness of the glossy stickers set against a plastic backdrop notwithstanding. Zamu the Hammer doesn't gel quite well with his sticker detailings, but it's easily overlooked.
10/10 Breakdown has got a wonderful set of articulation, and his well-sculpted legs can hold any pose you want Breakdown to do, short of dancing in a tutu.
8/10 Breakdown's a great fun toy to transform and pose, and his little Zamu buddy is a surprisingly great accessory, which was unexpected. Assembling Zamu and attaching the stickers, not so much. Also, as an added bonus he's got so many weapon ports dotting his body... if only there is a good Knock Out toy to pair him with...
3/10 I think he's worth it, but then I got it with a rather acceptable import price, which makes him only slightly more expensive than what a normal Voyager costs in retail over here. If you're importing more, though, then no.
9/10 Despite those damned stickers, Breakdown is a wonderfully sculpted and designed toy, a refreshing break from all the shortcuts many Prime toys utilize. Breakdown sacrifices neither mode, and comes with a little buddy to boot. The fact that he's bereft of any silly weapons-lighting or head-revealing gimmicks that get in the way of articulation or transformation is a great bonus. Unfortunately, he is rather pricey to import, especially outside Asia, so it ultimately comes down to how badly you want Breakdown... especially since Hasbro will probably end up releasing this toy as a TRU or Target exclusive or something... but rest assured, if you do decide to splurge the money to import him, at least you're getting a good toy.