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Cal's Review: Blitzwing

Name: Blitzwing
Allegiance: Decepticons
Function: Ground Air Commander

”Destroy first, think later.”

Within his heavily armoured and highly destructive body, Blitzwing has the ice-cold mind of a master strategist - sometimes. At other times, he is a boiling cauldron of rage, waiting for any excuse to unleash his firepower on the nearest target. And now and again he is a chaotic whirlwind of bizarre behaviour and intermittent bursts of plasma fire. His unpredictability makes him a poor soldier, but his raw firepower and unstable mind make him a useful tool for a commander as capable as Megatron.

Blitzwing is a character that has been in high demand for a Classics overhaul ever since the line began back in 2006. Aside from Astrotrain and Octane (or Tankor if you prefer), Hasbro has been rather wary of the whole triple-changer angle because of how difficult it is to design three successful modes. It's not like the G1 days where you could get away with removing a helicopter's rotors and calling it a car. Blitzwing is faced with the challenge of not only retaining his cartoon appearance, but transforming into two convincing alt modes that would hold up under the scrutiny of the more mature and critical G1 fans. Springer has proved to be immensely popular with the crowd so far, but can Blitzwing follow the same act?

Tank Mode

Blitzwing comes packaged in robot mode, but I'll save that part until later. Let's start with the tank mode. Transforming Blitzwing into a tank requires folding his arms and cannon up to form the turret, extending the treads, concealing the wings, and pegging the legs into the chest. I recently read that one fan had difficulty with the last step. The treads have several notches on the ankles; you need to extend them fully when swinging the front part out, but you have to push them back down one notch in order for the pegs to fit securely into the chest.

Blitzwing's tank mode is a faithful homage to his G1 incarnation. Whereas the original turned into a Japanese Type 74, Generations Blitzwing transforms into a more generalised battle tank. It convincingly reproduces the form of a tank with almost no kibble from its other vehicle mode. The cockpit that was so apparent on the front of the tank on the G1 toy and cartoon model is now hidden underneath between the treads. I'm particularly impressed with how discretely the wings fold into the legs when the treads are pulled out. The only redundant area is the tailfins at the back, but the effect on the tank's profile is negligible.

Blitzwing rolls quite well for a tank, better than Galvatron or Warpath for sure. The turret can rotate and raise its gun to pick off any Auto-brats, but the axis is too far forward due to the transformation, which swings the turret off to the side when turned more than a few degrees. It's a small concession. Blitzwing comes with a purple missile, but there's no trigger on the cannon. In a clever touch, the spring mechanism is activated by depressing the barrel. I just wish safety regulations didn't make the spring so weak. His other weapons include his trademark Electron Scimitar and Gyro-Blaster Rifle, which are supposed to peg into the turret and cannon, respectively. The sword comes off as rather conspicuous in this mode, so I prefer to peg it into the cannon with the rifle on top, if only to preserve the symmetry of the vehicle.

Blitzwing's colours in tank mode are predominantly a desert tan, just like the G1 figure. Since the purple cockpit and wings are hidden in this mode, it brilliantly concedes tan as the primary colour without needing to flip the whole vehicle over. Purple is relegated to the central area in an aesthetic manner that adds a little diversity to the deco. Overall, I'm very pleased with the design and transformation of the tank. It feels as good as it looks, and it's faithful enough to keep G1 fans happy. Now if you told the layman that this chunky vehicle could transform into a jet, he'd probably just laugh at you. Well, prepare to be amazed!

Jet Mode

G1 Blitzwing's transformation from tank to jet mode was simple, but ingenious. It involved little more than flipping the vehicle over and folding the nosecone, wings and tailfins into place. It effectively turned a very blocky vehicle into a more aerodynamic profile, which was impressive by 1985 standards. Does Generations Blitzwing repeat this success for the 30th anniversary? Oh, yesssssss!!

To transform Blitzwing from tank to jet mode, fold out the cockpit, give the legs and arms a quarter turn, rotate the cannon underneath, and extend the wings. I have to say, the difference is truly amazing! The distinction between tank and jet modes was the first thing that impressed me when I saw photos of Blitzwing and still impresses me today. Practically nothing of the tank remains in jet mode and it could easily be mistaken as the toy's sole alt mode. When reviewing the jet, I can't help but think of Blitzwing's last incarnation in the Animated line. If you remember, the jet mode had a rather hokey design that looked more like a loose-fitting plane sitting on top of tank treads. Here, no such dodginess is present. The treads tuck into the body as discretely as the wings did in tank mode, and the legs peg securely into the shoulders to stop the assembly from rotating. Everything holds nice and tight. The cannon also becomes the jet's exhaust, but it's just a tad too long because the barrel doesn't stay depressed due to the spring mechanism.

The jet is visually quite different from the Blitzwing's original MiG-25 mode. Now he transforms into a futuristic fighter plane with a rocket backpack. I love the look of this form, and the backpack lends Blitzwing the same Macross vibe as the Autobot guardian Jetfire. You could easily picture them going nose to nose in a daring space battle between the forces of U.N. Spacy and the Zentradi army. I like how the hips form the jet intakes, and there are panels underneath the wings that fold out to give a fuller appearance. Retractable landing gear is featured in the nosecone and sculpted into the legs at the back. He has the option to swivel the cannon forward as depicted in the instruction manual, but I don't recommend it because the jet doesn't stay level. An alternative would be to swing the gun up top like in tank mode to give Blitzwing an overhead cannon.

Blitzwing's weapons can peg into the tabs underneath his wings as the stock photos show, but they look even sillier in this mode, not least because I've never seen a sword on a wing before. A more sensible option would be to peg the sword between the two halves of the backpack and fit the gun on top. This looks much cleaner and boasts the added benefit of concealing the Cyclonus-like gap in the centre of the fuselage.

The deco is as sweet as the design with purple superseding tan as the main colour just like the G1 toy. The colour change is one of my favourite aspects about this figure, because it highlights the difference between the two alt modes beyond the design itself. A red stripe substitutes the busy G1 decals on the wings, and Blitzwing seems to share Thrust's taste in fashion for yellow cockpits. It's a wonderful mode all around and I honestly can't decide if I prefer this over the tank. Both of them are so distinct and well executed that I can't help transforming Blitzwing between them for play as much as display. But don't forget that he still has his robot mode, and this is where the design takes the true test of integrity.

Robot Mode

So now to get Blitzwing back into robot mode. Depress the wings, rotate the legs down, swing the cockpit into the chest, fold the cannon behind the back, open the nosecone, and lock the shoulders into the chest....

Lock the shoulders into the chest......

Lock the.... *grunts*.... shoulders into the.... *heave*..... Gah! It's not working!

If you're reading this, you're probably well aware of the widespread problem plaguing a key aspect of Blitzwing's transformation. Due to excess plastic between the two halves of the torso, the shoulders don't peg securely into the chest. The result is that Blitzwing's whole arms swing out of place whenever you rotate the shoulders. It's a rather asinine design to begin with. Given the common use of square pegs on Blitzwing, it's a mystery why Hasbro didn't include something similar on the shoulders instead of such a weak fitting. It's become the bane of Blitzwing owners everywhere, but fortunately there's a solution. SnakeEyes1975 provides a useful video offering a permanent fix to keep the shoulders locked in place. Admittedly, the process took a lot longer than the alleged fifteen minutes for me (a couple hours at least), but the result is well worth it. Now I can turn the shoulders every which way without the transformation coming apart. Thanks, SnakeEyes1975!

Before the fix, I found that I didn't transform Blitzwing into robot mode as much as the alt modes. Perhaps I was subconsciously avoiding the shoulder problem, but more outspoken critics have gone so far as to say that the figure sucks and Hasbro should redesign Blitzwing entirely. Wow, real mature. If you prefer to complain about a problem instead of taking the time to fix it, there's no hope for you. I won't deny that Hasbro is at fault for not picking up on this issue during testing, but I'm not going to moan about it indefinitely when there's a simple solution online. Use it!

So now that Blitzwing is as he should be, I can get back to enjoying the robot mode. Rather than being a straight update of his G1 appearance, he incorporates elements from his erratic Animated counterpart. The most obvious homage is his ability to switch faces, alternating between a monocled face, crazy face, and a more traditional G1 visored face. It's a fun little gimmick that I enjoy playing with, although you can just leave it as his G1 face if that's how you roll. The faces are a little tougher to change, but they fill the helmet better than Animated Blitzwing because they rotate vertically instead of horizontally. It's an ingenious design that I hope to see on other Transformers as a way of changing expressions. Make it happen, Hasbro!

Other Animated aspects include tank treads on the legs, tailfins that angle down on the shoulders, and a cockpit on the chest. A universal motif for Blitzwing is the cannon on the back, improving his silhouette and ability to shoot down pesky Aerialbots. The robot is very cleanly designed with virtually no kibble beyond parts intended to homage his G1 origins. The chest detailing is a nice update of the original toy stickers, featuring a mix of silver plaques and red triangles. His weapons find the most use in this mode, but be advised that the back of the rifle is too big, which limits its ability to slot into his fist somewhat.

Blitzwing's articulation is excellent. Due to the lack of cumbersome kibble, his limbs can move unimpeded and they all have a wide range. The feet are quite big and ball-jointed, so he's well balanced. The only thing really missing is waist articulation due to the transformation. As for colours, this is pure G1 through and through. The tan and purple colours that dominated the tank and jet modes, respectively, blend together in robot mode in a faithful homage to Blitzwing's roots. The use of translucent yellow for the cockpit becomes more obvious here, since it complements the head in what would be a lone yellow spot on an otherwise tan and purple deco. The colours are much more vibrant than the desaturated Animated palette and assures Blitzwing will stand out on your shelf. After such a long-awaited release, I think he deserves as much.

Marks out of ten for the following:

Transformation Design: 9 - Ingenious! Blitzwing's alt modes are even more distinct than Springer's and peg together more solidly. It's a marvel that two vehicles with radically different profiles can be reconciled into an aesthetic design. Naturally, I had to dock a point because of the shoulder gaffe.
Durability: 6 - Various reports of QC issues, but Blitzwing is pretty solid all things considered. The head puts a little too much pressure on the nosecone and the cuffs sometimes fall out, but these issues can be managed with careful handling.
Fun: 9 - I can't stop transforming this guy! Not since G2 Dreadwing have I experienced a triple-changer that's so fun to play with. The ability to switch faces gives Blitzwing more personality than just another grunt on the battlefield.
Aesthetics: 10 - Blitzwing has never looked so good. His alt modes are as gorgeous as they are convincing, and the robot mode is a wonderful fusion of G1 and Animated design. For fans complaining that Hasbro shouldn't have incorporated Animated aesthetics, I only have two rude words for you.
Articulation: 9 - Superb. Blitzwing has a wide range of motion and excellent balance. He's very poseable and the interchangeable faces should help his expressiveness.
Value: 8 - Unlike Springer, I bought Blitzwing when he was knocked down about eight quid on Kapow Toys, probably because of the widespread criticism he received. It's a point in your favour, since it saves you money on a figure that can be just as good as Springer with a little tweaking.
Overall: - Dependant. I would rate Generations Blitzwing an 8.5 out of the box, but tightening up the shoulder pegs warrants a solid 10! Some corrigible QC issues aside, I honestly love everything about Blitzwing, and I believe the variable score reflects how much a simple fix can affect your outlook on this figure. Scale be damned! I'm glad Hasbro released Blitzwing in Voyager class to do this design justice. Transformers Senior Design Director Josh Lamb stated that with triple-changers, "usually you get two modes that are great, and the last one is, ehhh, sure, it works. Not here. All three are awesome." Nothing could be more true with Blitzwing. He complements Springer as one of the best triple-changers ever made and leaves me drooling for more. Flywheels repaint please!
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