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Transformers Toy Review Archive (older series, 1984 to date)
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Blackjack's Review: Encore Ratchet

Name: Ratchet
Allegiance: Autobot
Function: Medic
Accessories: Missile (3x), Gun Stand, Static Laser Gun
Motto: "You break it, I'll remake it."

Ratchet and his repaint/retool Ironhide are undoubtedly two of the more iconic Autobots, what with their deservedly large fanbase, major appearances, and recently counterparts in the live-action movie.

Now my first voyage into the wacky world of Transformers began with the first live-action movie. The next fiction I read was the Movie Prequel. The next one, though, was the Titan TPB of 'New Order', which featured Ratchet (a name I remembered from the movie) in a great way. Right then, Ratchet became the character that I almost immediately associate with G1. Why not? He's a medic stuck in warfare, forced to make hard choices, forced to battle this monstrous Decepticon leader, had to out-lie a Decepticon... later stories portrayed the stress of war on Ratchet. The issue where he failed to revive Optimus Prime was the most heartbreaking of all. And then he had spotlight issues where he had to sacrifice himself- first to blow up Megatron in a teleporter. He returned as some sort of mish-mash Frankenstein with Megatron, got repaired, and sacrificed himself to kill four Decepticon leaders Megatron, Starscream, Shockwave and very nearly the second Galvatron. And he's a medic. Screw Grimlock!

The cartoon was not as great to him. He had more screentime than the likes of Sideswipe or Huffer, but that is only because he's the resident medic. And even then repair jobs had to be shared with Sparkplug Witwicky and Wheeljack, and later on they got supplanted entirely by Perceptor. Ratchet was among the four popular Autobots killed in the first scene of 1986's Transformers the Movie, where he was torn apart by multiple blaster shots to the stomach from Megatron, Starscream and the Constructicons.

Ratchet and his mold-mate Ironhide were infamous for one more thing other than their appearances, though: their original toys.

While their iconic appearances in the cartoon and the comic had them follow a character model with a head and powerfully-built bodies with the torso made up of the front of the vanette, their actual toys transformed only from the front half of their vanette alternate mode, had no head, a horrendous sticker on the chair behind a windshield to substitute as a head, and had a short torso. The back half turns into a battlestation.

It really doesn't look like Ratchet.

But I found the encore toy at a clearance sale, and thought 'what the hell' and brought it anyway.

The name Ratchet was not used as much as Mirage or Ironhide, since the Beast series had no use for Ratchet and Red Alert was the main medic in the Unicron Trilogy era. But recently Ratchet had gotten a popularity buzz from the live action movie, and have kicked away Red Alert as part of the cartoon cast the way Bumblebee kicked Hot Shot away. It was first used as a random repaint in the 2003 filler Universe line, representing a Ratchet from an alternate universe. The next major Ratchet would be the one from the live action movies, who turned into a lime-green Hummer H2 rescue vehicle. Despite not doing much but being a crowd-filler I love him. The Animated version had Ratchet as a wizened old veteran kind of like Ironhide or Kup, but with Ratchet's role. The new Prime animated series had Ratchet as a cross between his G1 and Animated personalities.

All in all, I liked every incarnation of Ratchet. Got to love that medic. But great character does not automatically mean great toy...

ALTERNATE MODE
Ratchet transforms into a Nissan Cherry Ambulance. Well, it's technically a Nissan Onebox Vanette (Minivan to those born after 1984) with ambulance lights and paintjob slapped onto it. Obviously the main colour is white. A red stripe runs along the side of the ambulance, and the front and rear bumpers, lights, hubcaps and the central piece of the emergency lights are chromed. The lights themselves are transluscent red. A chunk of robot-mode red is visible on the center of the vehicle's rear.

The wheels are black rubber, as is the case with all 1984 toys. Ratchet rolls quite nicely. An Autobot sticker adorns the center of his front, as well as on the middle of the top section of the rear. A rubsign is attached on the top left corner above the windshield.

I suppose I should talk about the windshield. The windshield is cast in transparent plastic, in front of a chromed dashboard. No steering wheels, though. The windows immediately beside the driver's seat are hollow, but those along the length are also cast in transparent plastic. These look like they could pop off easily with excessive force. The rear window Is only molded in, and not even painted.

Kibble, now. The robot mode 'face' is visible since it's pasted over the chair, but the shade makes it kind of unnoticeable. What is jarring is the tank treads folded in, really sticking out seen from the windows on the sides of the vehicle. Ditto for the missile launcher, but it's a huge block that could passably be there. Ratchet's chromed hip is also noticeable hanging from the underside.

But for a toy released twenty five years ago, Ratchet is pretty realistic, with enough details to make it a passable replica of an ambulance. It's boxy, and kind of plain, which is what an ambulance is supposed to look like.

ROBOT MODE
Ratchet's transformation, unlike what fiction might tell you, is not a straightforward ambulance-into-robot. You remove the huge chunk of ambulance from his back, leaving the front half and the length of the bottom, looking all in the world like G1 Kup's alternate mode with the pickup bed shaved off. The huge chunk of the ambulance's rear transforms into a battle station- no, wait, sorry, a repair bay, which we'll discuss later.

After a quick transformation, you might want to stop and apply Ratchet's stickers. Ooo, stickers! So cute, so satisfying to peel off and paste, and so horribly annoying when you can't get them to stick properly, or to look straight and good.

Where was I? Ah, you get to transform Ratchet. Instead of something that's similar to his character model like that of my other reissued G1 toys (Soundwave and Jazz) Ratchet is horribly spindly and stout. His legs are stiff, and his torso is rather squashy. His arms jut out on red things, and look alien. Instead of having a face above a torso made of the windshield, his torso is made up of random pieces of machinery, and the bottom part of his windshield becomes the shoulders while the windshield itself turns into a shield that covers the face... which is an ugly sticker attached to the seat.

The result is an alien-looking robot. As expected for half of a vehicle, he's shorter than most G1 Autobot cars, about a wee bit shorter than modern Scouts sized toys. By itself it doesn't look too bad, if you don't take that horrible face sticker into consideration. Kind of cool, really... that windshield could be passed off as some kind of HUD or something. But as something supposed to represent Ratchet? Blargh.

Ratchet's articulation, if Soundwave and Jazz are anything to compare by, is average for his line. The shoulders and wrists can rotate 360 degrees due to their pin joints, and the location of the shoulders could be adjusted some. Colour-wise, more chrome appear, in this case on what I assume to be the crotch section. More yellow and blue via stickers also appear, but mostly he's still white and red with a little black.

Since this is Encore, they added a small bonus feature. A cardboard punch-out of Ratchet's upper torso and head, inserted on one of the flaps on the box's side.

...you threw away the box, didn't you? Sucks to be you.

Anyway, it's something resembling the cartoon model, with the windshield coloured an ugly blue, and the face having a standard cheery cartoon expression. He uses the cartoon gray helmet and gray horns colouration instead of the more attractive red helmet and gray horns scheme that the comics use. Also, his face is light blue for some reason.

You insert the cardboard chest-and-face behind the windshield, covering the sticker face, and the cardboard head ends up perfectly above the windshield... but it causes Ratchet to look even more weirder. Two-dimensional head aside, his hands how look like they sprouted from his stomach, and he now looks to have an abnormally long stomach and hips. Plus, the blue is really ugly, and sticks out among the paintscheme of whites, reds and silvers.

BATTLE STATION REPAIR BAY
The back half transforms into a repair bay by unfurling three treads from underneath it, one thick one from the rearmost of the ambulane and two spindlier ones that complete the tripod. They don't really roll, of course. Then the ambulance cracks open to reveal a battlestation like that of Optimus Prime's trailer. Similar, anyway. You have to paste lots of stickers here, too.

Unfurl the boxy missile launcher which now stands up on an adjustable backbone. Three missiles are included, realistically short and looking like real missiles instead of long blobs of plastic. The treads and missiles and the launcher are all chromed, by the way. The gun post and the 'static laser gun' are attached to the front of the battlestation (the rear of the ambulance). The static laser gun is also chromed, and it's basically a circle with two gun barrels pointing on either end, one longer than the other.

It's clear that this set-up wasn't built for repairs in mind. A missile launcher and a gun pointing forwards? And Ratchet's robot mode able to ride on it like some sort of platform? Nah, it's a battlestation repurposed into a 'repair bay'. Perhaps the weapons are for security reasons?

In any case, the repair bay looks cool, and Ratchet can stand behind the missile launcher. His feet fits nicely on the space, and tabs retooled into the mold for this Encore release makes it sturdier.

Not the best toy, though.

Marks out of ten for the following:

Transformation Design: 4/10 I'm giving this a leeway since the toy was constructed first before the character model was made, but it's not that spectacular either. All other Diaclone toys have heads and whatnot, there no excuse for this one to be an exception. Love the battlestation, though.

Durability: 3/10 The windshield can break. Plus as with all G1 toys, the chrome can snap off and stickers are fragile. The windows also seem like they could snap off with too much pressure. And that's not counting the fact that white G1 toys (including Ratchet) are known to turn yellow after some time...

Aesthetics: 4/10 Meh. It's vintage, it's Ratchet and it has a battlestation but there's no denying it's really ugly, carboard cut-out or no. Vehicle mode is awesome, though.

Articulation: 1/10 Abysmal. But then, it's G1.

Fun: 5/10 Again, only by the virtue that it's Ratchet and that it is a cheap vintage toy. Otherwise it won't be anywhere resembling fun.

Price: 8/10 I got it at half price. Should've gotten someone else.

Overall: 3/10 Well, it's vintage, of course. But there's a reason that it's on clearance. As cool as having a G1 toy may be, the fact that it's a crap toy stands. The vehicle mode looks great, the battlestation is kind of cool but the toy fails to deliver, and you'll get tired of it eventually. Still, if you're a perfectionist and can find it at a reasonable price it's far better than forking over three-digit-dollars for this toy.
 
 
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