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Blackjack's Review: Ripclaw

Name: Ripclaw
Allegiance: Predacon
Accessories: Siphon Claw

Unquestioningly loyal to the Predacon cause, Ripclaw crushes her enemies and leaves their circuits burning with her mech-venom!

That up there is a horrible bio. It’s endemic of Hasbro ever since Revenge of the Fallen ended, and every non-show toy has a short two-sentence bio that merely advertised other toys, or give simple ‘rar evil Decepticon’ and ‘oh noble Autobot’ descriptions, almost like the tail-end of G1, but with less nostalgia.

One of the reasons why I love Transformers so much as a franchise and not just as a movie series or a comic book series or a bunch of cartoons is that the toys themselves have a lot of personality, and a lot of that came from the little pieces of bios that came with the toys. Some of my earliest toys are non-show people from the Movie line, who, while are still mostly ciphers, have enough personality in their bios to make me think that I’m buying a character instead of a peg-filler. When I was browsing through pegs and come across a bio that seemed to imply a unique character, sometimes I buy the toy. Well, it’s a feeling I’ve not experienced for a long time now that Hasbro’s skimped on bio-writing duties.

Of course, poor Ripclaw actually has a bit more to her than ‘unquestioningly loyal’, ‘has poisonous gimmick’ and ‘female’. For one, her instructions came with Chapter 8 of story, which is pretty badly written and is mostly about the backstory of the Predacons, but gives a fair bit more personality to this otherwise unremarkable nobody. She’s very protective of her kind, like a mama dragon, I suppose, but slightly gullible as well. There are also additional bios in Hasbro’s website and flash games that reveal quite more interesting tidbits about her personality… so it’s a step up from the days of the 2010 Transformers line, but it’s still a bad presentation of characters.

Ripclaw is among the first few Predacons released in the toyline, the second in the Deluxe Class assortment after Lazerback. And with Beast Hunter’s overhyping and cross-marketing with other Transformer lines, Ripclaw’s gotten Kre-O toys, and I believe a Construct-o-bots version of her is coming next year. Even though she’s otherwise an unremarkable character.

I know I only buy her for her beast mode’s passing resemblance to a Pokemon (hush you all, that’s my childhood), somehow making an already loud and ridiculous colour scheme even more loud and ridiculous. Plus I like beast transformers.

Beast Mode:
Like Predaking, Lazorback, Skystalker and Grimwing, Ripclaw transforms into a robot dragon. Woo-hoo! My dragon-describing vocabulary is extremely lacking, so I’m going to attempt to describe her as best as I can. Ripclaw has four legs, a generic reptilian head with fin-like protrusions, sharp blade-like wings and a giant tail ending with a claw that’s the source of all her poison theme. She’s a generic Westernized dragon, all right? A bit gargoyle-esque, but she’s otherwise a bona fide dragon.

Her paint scheme is rather loud and clashing, and I mocked her a lot when the stock photography first hit the internet, but in the flesh I really, really like it. Ripclaw’s main colour has to be this rather funky shade of bluish-green that simply refuses to be photographed well. Her secondary colour is maroon, and a good deal of her is cast in tasty-looking caramel plastic as well. Her central horn and parts of her thighs are painted in faded yellow. Just because all this are not enough, they went the extra mile and added some puke-yellow coat on some parts of her green plastic, and I suppose it represents all her venom melting her own armour? Or is she secreting all those venom from inbetween armor plates? Whatever the reason… her neck, her tail and her underbelly are where these acid splashes are most prominent, but I absolutely love it. Hasbro has been skimping on paint applications recently, and have been releasing so many mainly-white or mainly-silver toys recently that having a vibrantly-painted toy like this, with additional paint applications to boot, feel very, very satisfactory. Really boggles my mind why they went through all the effort for a non-show toy when dudes like Smokescreen get cheated out of paint, but whatever.

I really like the colour scheme. It’s something like G2 Bruticus where you first see it and go ‘what the hell?’ but after ten minutes of owning the toy you realize that this paint scheme is completely awesome, and highly appropriate for a poison-themed dragon.

Being a beastformer means a lot of joints get translated between robot and beast modes, and since all the dragons in the Beast Hunters subline seems to transform with a variation of ‘stand beast mode up on hind legs, fold around some parts’, that means that Ripclaw, like Lazerback and Predaking, has her robot hands turn into front dragon legs, and robot feet turn into hind dragon legs. Not necessarily a bad thing, since it means Ripclaw the dragon is almost as articulated as Ripclaw the robot.

Ripclaw’s wings are hinged, allowing quite a nice range of posing if you so choose. Her jaw can open and close, and her head itself is on a ball joint that’s relatively loose so she can glare whichever way she chooses. Regrettably the rest of her neck is static, but it’s not exactly a big loss. Her shoulders are double-jointed thanks to transformation, and her elbows have hinges and rotation joints. Her front claws can also hinge up and down.

I have to note that Ripclaw’s front claws are exactly how Predaking’s claws should be, a mix of claws curling upwards and inwards. Even if this is a side effect of trying to hide the robot hands, it’s a great effect nonetheless, and one that not even the big-ass Predaking toy I own succeeds in replicating.

Ripclaw’s hind legs are reasonably articulated as well, having ball-jointed thighs, two hinged knees on each legs (dragons, hey!) and the feet themselves are on ball joints. The hind legs are relatively stable, so they can support the entirety of Ripclaw’s skinny frame without collapsing upon themselves.

What I really want to gush and talk about, though, is the tail. The awesome, awesome tail. It’s a gimmick that apparently had been used once before with Transmetal 2 Dinobot way back in Beast Wars, and is, in my book, the one and only good uses of the bane we know as soft, rubbery plastic. Which four out of five toys in the deluxe size upwards seem to have now. In Ripclaw’s case, the soft plastic is found on her head’s upper jaw, and… the ‘spine’ of the tail. Why do I say spine? Well, it’s a bit difficult to describe, but I’m going to do my best. See, most beast mode tails are static. Or jointed very loosely in several places, especially thin, curving tails like what Ripclaw has. It’s difficult and probably fragile to implement so many ball joints, after all.

But Ripclaw, well, there is a long, thick strip of rubbery plastic running through the center those five segments of her tail. The segments are hard plastic, and they lock into the caramel-coloured peace sticking out of Ripclaw’s butt. But once you ‘unlock’ the tail assembly, well, you can literally move the tail in whichever direction you want. It’s not that great for display since it’ll flop down or be locked into a scorpion-esque curling-upwards position, but it does wonders for its play value. Ripclaw can lash his tail around, she can rear it up, she can use it to support herself… it’s a ridiculously fun play feature I had no idea existed until I bought Ripclaw. Bonus for being based on how real tails work. Sort of.

And to top it off, her venomous tail is ended with an insanely awesome-looking giant siphon claw thing that clicks in ‘open’ and ‘close’ positions thanks to some nice spring mechanisms. It’s another accessory which I enjoyed more than I should, and is one that looks genuinely threatening.

They got the beast mode down in my books.

Robot Mode:
Ripclaw’s robot mode has a fair bit more maroon and caramel, plus some additional silver in her stomach and forehead. She still looks quite as much threatening as she did before, especially when I realized that Hasbro photography screwed up again and mis-transformed her in stock pictures. Their photography makes it look like Ripclaw has some freaky missing lower jaw Bludgeon-dealie going on, when in fact she’s got a full face. It’s still an ugly looking monster face, kinda looks like Batman’s cowl when you think about it, but that’s kind of the Predacons’ thing. Being ugly monsters, I mean, not looking like Batman.

As always, her transformation is simple, requiring only a few moving parts here and there to transform her. She doesn’t have a very… obvious feminine build like Airachnid or Arcee, and could really be called a dude and no one would think the wiser. But she’s a lady, and a poisonous one at that. She’s pretty skinny still since the limbs are still the same, although the dragon’s neck halves have turned into some sort of shoulder armour which makes her look quite a bit more threatening than if she’s without them.

Articulation remains the same, with the addition of a ball joint in the robot head, plus the sometimes-elusive waist joint. The wings don’t have that much range due to other kibble pieces blocking the way. The arms can move whichever you want, though, since the shoulder-plates aren’t exactly connected to them in any sort of way. She’s a pretty articulated robot. Her tail juts out from her butt again, and still retains the same play-value. She’s like the Scorpion or something. It also helps to keep her balanced if you want to put her in some unconventional poses.

The giant siphon claw can be left attached to the tip of her tail or be removed and used as a hand-held weapon. It’s a nice-looking hand-held weapon, and as with most Prime accessories the attachment point is pretty deep to make you think that Ripclaw’s hand has transformed into the weapon itself. It’s a nice giant claw, and as Omega Supreme has taught us, giant claws that may or may not be able to shoot deadly lasers are the quickest way to win an argument.

Ripclaw is a great robot, and one that I ended up liking much more than I thought I would.

Marks out of ten for the following:
Transformation Design: 7/10 It’s your standard ‘stand dragon up’ transformation endemic with this line, although compared to Skystalker, Lazorback and Predaking, Ripclaw does it a lot better and with more class. It’s also not ROTF-level in complexity, so there’s some bonus points there. I’m not judging that they reused the same transformation multiple times, mind… every other car or jet uses the same layout anyway.

Durability: 6/10 I’m kind of worried about the soft rubber plastic, to be honest. The tail seems very fine to abuse now, but in ten years I’m not sure if it’ll still be as stable. The dragon head feels kind of flimsy as well.

Aesthetics: 7.5/10 Kind of subjective, but I really do like Ripclaw’s look. She’s a dragon and a monstrous draconic robot, coloured in a rather garish paint scheme… I personally think the mold has a lot of character in both robot and alternate modes, and while I admit that the paint scheme could have been better (the repaint they release in Japan’s toyline, for one, looks a lot better and has a more conventional head) but there’s something to be said about owning one or two toys coloured ridiculously like this. I personally like how Ripclaw ended up.

Articulation: 9/10 Ripclaw is one hell of an articulated robot. Without even going to the awesome tail I gushed over earlier, she already outclasses nearly all of my deluxe class toys in robot mode articulation. She’s got a lot of joints. Add the tail and she’s a really fun action figure.

Fun: 7/10 I have to admit that while I bought Ripclaw as a joke, I never expected to have as much fun as I did with Ripclaw. I think I fiddled around with her more than I did with Predaking.

Price/Value: 6/10 She’s what I was expecting from a deluxe class, yeah. Great for fiddling around, complex enough not to feel cheap, but simple enough not to frustrate. Add some great play value and a rather unusually pleasing paint scheme, and I really don’t feel that I wasted too much money.

Overall: 8.5/10 Ripclaw is a great toy. She’s not spectacular, she won’t blow your brains away, but she’s a really, really great toy. I’m really surprised she got this high of a score, in the original drafts of this review she got around the 6-7 range. But I found out that I really, really enjoyed a lot of things about Ripclaw, and over time I’ve really grown to like this Preadacon much more, even if she doesn’t have much to go personality-wise. She's a great mold, and most definitely the best out of the deluxe Predacon molds compared to the messy Lazorback or the effortless Skystalker. She's a different toy, certainly, but different in a good way.
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