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Skyquake87's Review: Encore Metroplex

Name : Metroplex
Allegiance: Autobot
Function: Battle Station

"Vigilance is the foundation on which victories are built."

Bio: Startlingly versatile, staggeringly strong, the Autobot's last line of defence... a mighty instrument of titanic destructive force. Extremely modest about his achievements... berates himself for not doing more. In robot mode, he can lift 70,000 tons, has shoulder-mounted twin high-energy maser cannons and omni-directional receiving and transmitting antenna. In city mode, has heli-pad and fully equipped repair bays that can handle four vehicles at once. Left rear tower transforms into tank, Slammer, who has rocket-propelled mortar cannon. Scamper is sports car with side mounted electro-blasters; transforms into robot, uses high-energy particle beam pistol. Six-Gun is small robot, has ion-pulse rifles for arms, twin surface-to-air guided missile launchers on back, acetylene pistol. In battle station mode, uses all these weapons and twin disrupter rays, laser lances, powerful anti-matter projectors.

Ah, Metroplex. Always a big playground attraction when I was a nipper, in part due to his sheer size and bulk. The toy debuted in 1986, amongst the melee of Special Teams and Movie toys, with their odd mix of realism and futurism, respectively. These 'Citybots', as they became known, added a degree of interactivity with other figures in the range and, more importantly, functioned as proper bases for their respective factions. Bases are very important in play, you see (Him turning up meant Optimus' trailer could finally be retired from this function). He was also something of a hit over here in the UK, as he was the only one of these behemoth Transformers that showed up (both Omega Supreme and Trypticon were skipped for UK release and we'd have to wait for Scorponok in 1987 for someone to pit against him). And as we all know, the bigger toys are more fun. Like a couple of the Movie figures, he was available with the usual chrome and rubber parts, or as an all plastic version. As with the other all plastic versions of Ultra Magnus and Rodimus Prime, there were some catcalls if you ended up with 'inferior' plastic version (See, kids do notice this stuff and it is important!).

He had a notable run of appearances in Season Three of the cartoon, but this went largely unnoticed in the UK, the cartoon having long since disappeared from TV screens over here by 1986. His stand out appearance - and the reason he's so memorable to me came in the UK comic adventure 'Space Pirates' , where besieged by Quintessons and Sharkticons, Hot Rod activates Metroplex, whom punches his way out from the bowels of Autobot City on Earth to squish the invaders. Fantastic!

The figure has been a fairly stable presence on the aftermarket, thanks to being widely available back in the day, was serviced with a shiny new reissue as part of Takara Tomy's Encore series in 2008, and recently got a new toy in the form of 2013's massive Generations figure. So if you're after a Metroplex at the moment, you shouldn't find him terribly difficult to pick up. The original's where its at for me and if there's a chance a shiny new reissue will scratch that itch, I'll take it.

Robot Mode: Metroplex's robot mode is..boxy, to say the least. If you asked someone to draw you a picture of a robot, they'd likely draw something that looks exactly like this guy. He has a very classic Sci-Fi robot look to him and isn't a million miles away from the tin robots of the 1950s. He is very stocky looking with his big beefy limbs, huge great mitten hands and clompy feet. Despite being largely grey in robot mode, some complimentary blacks and reds help bring him to life, along with the chrome on his face and thighs. Tooled up with his shoulder mounted MASER cannons (Microwave Amplification through Stimulated Emission of Radiation, fact fans) and his twin hand held ion-pulse rifles, plus the flip out chest panels that reveal a missile salvo and disruptor rays, Metroplex looks pretty awesome. For an added power up, you can clip Special Team members to his shins and shoulders a play feature largely undocumented in the West, but one that formed the core concept of the Japanese take on combiners, Scramble City. It doesn't look as daft as it sounds, either, just adding some extra bulk to his already beefy robot mode.

Alternate Mode: In city mode, Metroplex is a futuristic complex of repair bays and towers. Minibots and Micromasters get the best out of this mode. Anything else is a bit too big to really work. As a playset, it is a little bit limited because of this, but some healthy imagination and the fun of launching small cars from his chest compartment easily compensates. Tucking away sold-separately figures in his various bays is neat and good fun (and wouldn't you know it,the Encore Minibot set makes a great 'add-on' set for 'Plexy). He doesn't have much in the way of play features in this mode, and its very much a piece that involves you deciding what to make of it. The detailing is nice and the surrounding towers with their tiny window stickers help lend a sense of scale to the thing. This does instantly show how wibbly scale was in the line though as this would make the Minibots gigantic by comparison. The helicopter landing pad is a nice touch, but its use is restricted by the placing of the central tower. Whilst Micromaster Blaze Master will have no trouble using this, larger toys like Blades can't quite fit in the space remaining.

Befitting his function of 'Battle Station', Metroplex can transform from city to a rolling weapons platform I wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of. This thing sits halfway between robot and city mode and sees Metorplex making use of those wheels inexplicably stuck to his legs. This rolling weapons array 'Attack Mode' is a stroke of genius from the designers as it means Metroplex can join in with the more mobile members of your Transformers cast with any fray. It's not a particularly pretty looking thing, but it is great to have a vehicular mode worked in which stops Metroplex from being a forgotten jumble of grey boxes.

Of Course, we'd be remiss to skirt over Metroplex's three little pack in buddy-bots, or 'autonomous units', as his Universe Bio would have it.

Scamper then, is the best of the bunch and the defacto 'proper one' out of the three, being that he actually has two actual modes. He's the little swish black six wheeled Scout car that bombs around doing, uh Scouty stuff.

Robot Mode: Scamper is a cheap and cheerfully realised little robot. He has some decent proportions for a toy of his era and actually looks pretty boss rendered all in black (certainly beats the Generations figure's odd choice of a painful red pimple of a head). He's got articulation in the arms, which can move about, but its just a shame Hasbro decided that he should have his fists clenched facing forwards like he's doing some sort of magic trick. He comes with a couple of neat little guns that he can hold. Awkwardly.

Alternate Mode: The vehicle mode is pretty slick and I really like it. Its like some Mad Max version of Kitt off of Knight Rider, all black and fearsome looking. His robot arms clamped to the roof do look silly, but jamming his guns on improves the look no end. He zips around freely enough in this mode, but does have that slightly cheap feeling hollow clatter of a pound shop toy.

Slammer is the cute little tank. He used primarily for perimeter defence and trundles about looking for things to blow up.

Robot Mode: I'm going to put his tank mode down as his robot mode, so there. This is a cute little box of a thing. It has no wheels built in, just being a nicely moulded bit of plastic with some stickers on. Clearly a toy from simpler times, when we had more imagination and were more forgiving of such flaws. He came out today, this thing'd be getting ripped online. Still, he's nice and detailed and does the job.

Alternate Mode: Uh, he forms the rear tower on Metroplex's City mode. That's right, a tower with tank treads and a big ol' cannon on it. Shouldn't work, but fits in neatly enough with Metroplex's other oddball futuristic design flourishes.

Six Gun is the big lanky one with no proper arms and like his name suggests, is made out of Six Guns (see what they did there?). Actually, he's made out of four guns, a dual cannon shooty thing and the central control tower, but then I guess Four Gun or Six Barrel don't sound quite so sexy.

Robot Mode: For something designed as a bit of an afterthought, Six Gun isn't half bad. He's tall and has some good sculpted detail, including a very impressive noggin, but his lack of any proper arms does kill him somewhat. Instead he's got these weedy long black cannons for arms which just make look half finished. Shame.

Alternate Mode: Six Gun collapses into a pile of guns that the big fella can use. Fair enough. His torso also forms the tower sat behind the helicopter landing pad, which just looks weird. Not much of a fan of this, I have to say. Especially as it restricts things coming into land on the thing.

Marks Out Of Ten For The Following:

Transformation Design: A simple, clickety -clacky few twists and turns gets you to where you need to be between Metroplex's various modes. Its no fuss, but the shins flapping about whilst you switch from either battle station / city to robot are a bit unwieldy. The red guns on his head also get in the way when you're flipping the helicopter landing pad out, but other than that, its all straight forward. 8/10

Durability: There's no escaping that the Encore release feels a lot more fragile and less dense than a vintage example. The plastics don't feel particularly flimsy, but there's definitely something in his construction that makes him feel fragile. Ebay is also littered with vintage examples that have been cleaved in two at the waist. Its not a joint that I've felt has ever been particularly weak, but here on the reissue, this part feels very much like it could give way at any minute, which is a bit of a concern. 5/10

Articulation: Slightly above average for a figure of this era, with movement at the shoulders, wrists, waist and hips. 8/10

Fun: Whether its mucking about with him in City mode with his pack in 'bots Scamper, Six Gun and Slammer or adding your own guys into the mix, Metroplex is enormous fun. The various compartments and his interactivity with smaller 'bots and the Special Teams make him an excellent playset/ base. That he throws in a passable vehicular mode and a cracking robot is the icing on the cake. 9/10

Price/Value: The Encore version tends to hover about in price. On a good day, he shouldn't cost more than a loose and complete original version, so around 50. 9/10

Overall: Of all the Citybots, Metroplex is the most fun. He's a good size in robot mode and is a great chunky pile of boxes with some decent articulation for his age. The City mode is a great home for Minibots / Micromasters and the odd Special Team member. If you don't have any of those, well Scamper and Slammer can have a whale of a time bombing around guarding the perimeter. Add in the rolling shooty death platform and Metroplex is onto a winner. The only downside with the reissue is that he doesn't feel quite so durable as a vintage version. 8/10
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