The Reverend's Review: Slamdance
The combiner cassette duos first appeared in the 1988 toy catalogs, at a point when the animated series was gasping badly for its last breath. The Autobot representatives, Grand Slam and Raindance, would appear briefly in the Marvel comic (in cassette mode and displaying no sentience - either dead or offline), but that's as much as we saw of them at the time. Each cassette transformed into a vehicle (Grand Slam as a tank and Raindance as a jet), with no individual humanoid mode. They could combine, however, to form the bipedal Slamdance. Both served as a sort of a "press corps", with Grand Slam recording the audio and Raindance the video of the repeated Autobot-Decepticon battles. The playability and general usefulness of this function seems debatable to me, but you may see it differently. And, after all, just how many "Warrior" functions were there floating around at the time?
In 1988, I found Squawktalk & Beastbox more interesting, due to their primary beast modes. I obtained those a couple of years ago; the review is here on TFArchive for your reading pleasure. It was only more recently I was able to grab their Autobot counterparts, after a few years of looking for a good deal...
"The sounds of war are history speaking."
War-weary veteran of ten thousand battles on a hundred worlds. Dedicated his life to recording the sounds of the Autobot-Decepticon conflict: the nervous laughter, the cries of pain, the blistering explosions, the chilling quiets. Hopes his work will one day serve as a grim reminder of the awful price of war. Can audio-record up to 20 years of sound. Armament is purely defensive: smoke discharger combines with dual repulsors. With his partner Raindance, combines to form Slamdance.
Grand Slam is the red cassette of the pair. He bears yellow-gold labels, with obvious screw heads all over his cassette side. His tape reels are rendered in simple black (though they are molded three dimensional parts and not a simple sticker like some of his fellow cassettes), with stickers giving him black cassette teeth. As TF cassettes go, I suppose Grand Slam's not the best ambassador - his need to transform into both his tank mode and Slamdance's upper body leaves him with a lot of exposed joints and space between parts that make his resemblance to a mini-cassette more of a matter of imagination than anything. I don't know if he'll fit inside Blaster (my G1 Blaster has a bad tape-door mechanism), but he won't fit in G1 Soundwave. (This was true for Beastbox & Squawktalk as well. The combiner cassettes may very well fit inside Twincast or Soundblaster, I don't have either of those to try it with.)
With a few manipulations of his blocky cassette parts, Grand Slam becomes a very small, squat tank once his chrome repulsors (small upright "missile launcher"-like accessories) and smoke discharger (longer gun barrel) are fitted on his top. Most cassette TFs of the time tend to suffer from "flatness", but Grand Slam's transformation actually involves folding one part of the cassette over another, making him one of the very few to escape this problem. Although he doesn't have a rotating turret, I often leave off one of the repulsors so that the remaining one can be rotated in its mounting hole, bringing the attached smoke discharger along with it and giving him a look reminiscent of the the original Tron
tanks. Whether you use one repulsor as I've described or both, the discharger does have some ability to tilt upwards if you like. He does have some molded detailing on his lower parts that simulates tank treads - although its subtle and not particularly good, it would probably be too obvious in cassette mode if they were as detailed as Blitzwing or Warpath's treads. He also has two small cannons or lights, one on each side of the elevated platform at his rear, which are to be rotated forward and give him a little more detail. Because he's also Slamdance's head and shoulders, the combiner face is visible from below the tank - notable, but not quite like Beastbox having Squawkbox's face in his rump. The tape reels are visible at the "hood" of the tank, but he still has a lot of molded detail elsewhere on his body - various vents, tubes, and raised detail that adds to the figure. Sure, it's not exactly a replica of any known tank, but having to transform into a cassette clearly had its limitations. There's also a tiny Autobot faction symbol visible at the junction between his "turret" and his lower body. On his own, I find him to be really kind of fascinating, but he's definitely an oddball among his fellows.
"Every picture tells a story."
The death-defying daredevil of the skies. Willing to take any risk to record the best picture. With partner Grand Slam, he's covered thousands of battles. Entertains everyone with stories about each one of them. Witty and well-liked. Can video-record up to 20 years of pictures. Carries two self-defense air-to-air proton missiles. Combines with Grand Slam to form robot Slamdance.
A blue cassette, featuring siver foil decals, black reels (these, however, are represented by a sticker) and black teeth on the reels (also stickers). Despite the fact that he's not as molded or ornate as some of the previous cassettes in the line, Raindance looks the part adequately, with little obvious space between his parts. Judging the realism of G1 cassettes usually means looking only at the flat, labeled cassette side of the toy, but in Raindance's case the molding on the edges of the cassette mode and the grey plastic that serves as his joints in transformation both look remarkably like their real-world counterparts.
Raindance transforms into a sort of miniature fighter jet, with tiny little "wings" at the rear of the fuselage, a plastic piece that folds over the top and makes a sort of twin-tail assembly, and a near-flat black cockpit perched behind a very tiny nosecone. Essentially, he looks weird, but the tapered appearance from nose to tail helps preserve what illusion he can muster. His solid blue color admittedly looks good on him. Dreamwave's description gave Raindance the ability to "hover" in his jet mode, so he can "stand" around and yak with other Autobots. His proton missiles can be placed either above or below his wings. The instructions have them below the wings in typical jet fighter style, but I've seen him pictured with them on top of the jet (a la Laserbeak) as well. You can pick which one you like better, although I'll point out that when they're installed below the wings, a long edge on each missile allows him to "stand" properly on your desk or table. He features some degree of molded detail, especially on his wings, although it doesn't add to the figure as much as it did with Grand Slam. (Most of the detailing actually adds more visual appeal to the combined form, but there are some paneling lines here and there that look nice on the jet.) There's an Autobot symbol just ahead of his tail. Because he suffers so badly from the "chunky pancake" look, its hard to imagine Raindance having a lot of play value, but kids do like planes. Bottom line, if he wasn't a combiner piece, he'd be worthless; the ugliest plane in the G1 line.
SLAMDANCE (Combined form)
(Slamdance came with no tech spec; the following text is edited together from Dreamwave's "More Than Meets The Eye" publications)
"Information is only as accurate as the being who gathers it."
The unified form of Grand Slam and Raindance was designed to make up for the awkwardness of the duo's individual robot forms. Slamdance's personality is a combination of the two's traits, he is both stuffy and vainglorious, but an expert at gathering and coordinating news and data. Slamdance takes great pride in his work, but his self-importance makes him want to announce everything personally; he'll stand up in the middle of his commander's briefings in order to make sure his message is relayed "correctly," meaning by him. Despite his quirks, Slamdance is absolutely dedicated to the Autobot cause and works hard to make sure their information is correct and unbiased. He is extremely intelligent. He is a highly skilled journalist and he's able to disseminate myriad streams of information to ascertain common threads and meanings. Has a talent for knowing when information is doctored or incorrect. He possesses all of his components' armaments, including Grand Slam's entirely defensive arsenal and Raindance's proton missile launchers. Has only average strength and is not a very sturdy warrior.
The massive sides of Raindance's fuselage expand to become Slamdance's legs, and adequately large feet flip out of the base of each leg. Grand Slam's treads become the arms, with small fists that rotate out of their ends, and his turret/upper platform is folded behind Slamdance's face. Now, inserting Raindance's tiny little nosecone into the squared-off hole under Slamdance's torso joins the robot together, but Raindance's grey tailpiece folds upwards to cover this awkward junction, creating the basic robot. Slamdance looks good in terms of proportions, with long arms and legs that don't look too gangly, some chrome detail on his chest, and the folded grey tailpiece on his torso bearing a large Autobot symbol. Although his head is square and has a large rectangular block behind it, it's well molded and features a yellow visor. Articulation is limited - although Slamdance stands well, he can only move at the knees (sideways) and the hips (likewise sideways), and the shoulders (likewise likewise sideways). Yes, that's right, he really has no useful articulation whatsoever. He can't raise his arms outside of a 45 degree angle to his body, and he can't point at his enemies. This is a real shame, because Slamdance has some interesting weapons options...
...which frankly it will take another paragraph for me to describe. There are lengthy notches in the sides of his arms that hold Raindance's proton missiles very nicely - these can be pointed up, down, or forwards if you like. Alternately, the holes from Raindance's cassette mode are just below his knees, and you can install the missiles there as an alternate configuration. Grand Slam's repulsors can be placed behind his head, but depending on which direction you point them in, you can use the holes in their sides to mount either the discharger (as an over-the-shoulder cannon or pointing straight up or down his back), or you could have the missiles sticking out forwards from either side of Slamdance's head. Or you could put the repulsors in his knees, or... look, there's a lot of combinations here, and one of them might look cool to you.
As far as judging Slamdance's robot mode in general, I find it helpful to compare/contrast him with his counterpart Squawkbox. Squawkbox does possess articulation at the shoulders, which Slamdance sorely lacks. However, Squawkbox has a large, wide torso that is very obviously two cassettes placed on top of one another - I'd describe him as "fat" if he weren't near-flat, he's just plain awkward - while Slamdance (viewed from the front) has a more triangular, tapered build that looks better. Overall, Slamdance LOOKS better as a combined robot, while Squawkbox has more play value. I hope that helps.
4/10. As G1 cassettes go in this area, both Grand Slam and Raindance are relatively satisfying. Visually, Grand Slam relies much heavier on having his weaponry attached than Raindance does.
6/10. Grand Slam is relatively sturdy. Raindance has more flimsy parts due to his transformation. However, they should stand up well under normal play, even with chrome and sticker wear.
4/10. The combining ability is a good idea. The combined figure may be lacking somewhat, but the weapons options are interesting. The individual tank and plane have debatable play value, though.
5/10. The components' individual appearance is plenty iffy, depending on how much imagination you possess. Slamdance himself makes a very nice display piece, especially when viewed from the front in a crowd of figures.
There's so little of it, I may have to mark it N/A
! Well, Grand Slam and Raindance don't have any in their "robot" modes, and Slamdance has so little useful articulation...
5/10. I suspect the duo were somewhat unpopular and henceforth rarer on the secondary market, as finding them in good condition is quite a chore. They seem to go for about US $30-60 as a pair on the secondary market. It was two years before I finally picked them up, as I saw the high end of that range as being overpriced.
3/10. I could take a big shortcut here and say "CASSET COMBINERS SUK DONT BUY THEMS", but I don't think that's fair. Let's put it this way: if you just looooooooooved the factions' communicators and their subordinates, you should add these to your collection.