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Warcry's Review: Triceradon

Children like dinosaurs. They have for a long time. Hasbro, on the other hand, likes money. So it's only natural that Hasbro struck upon the idea of selling transforming robot dinosaurs to children. The original Dinobots were hugely popular back in the 1980s, but efforts since then to revive the group have gotten a more mixed reception. Dinosaurs were sprinkled throughout the Beast Wars line and it's various continuations: the Japanese series, Beast Machines and -- most relevantly for this review -- the 2003 Transformers Universe line. One of the Dinobots who saw release under the Universe banner was Triceradon, the fifth use of a mold that dates back to the Japanese Beast Wars Neo line. It saw release there as the triceratops Guiledart, then got modified into the styracosaurus Killerpunch. Later on the design was imported by Hasbro and dubbed Triceradon, a character who was released in different colour schemes for the Beast Machines, Walmart-exclusive Dinobots and finally the Universe edition that we're talking about today.

The Japanese Beast Wars design have the reputation of being rather odd and unconventional. One look at Triceradon's robot mode will convince even the most unrelenting skeptic that it's a reputation that has a grain of truth to it. But the Japanese Beast Wars toys also have a reputation for being awkward toys with poor transformations with random beast-mode parts left in awkward places in robot mode...and one look at Triceradon will lend a lot of credence to that as well.

Alternate Mode: Triceradon's beast mode is a triceratops like you might expect (although it would have been funny if Hasbro had swerved expectations and made him an elasmosaurus or a hadrosaur). His hide is primarily grey with a thick, leathery pattern like what you'd see on an elephant or a rhino. His beak and horns are a darker grey, his spine is painted gold and red detailing abounds on his head, neck frill, back, tail and knees. An Autobot symbol is stamped dead-centre on the middle of his frill, unfortunately in my opinion because it stands out in a bad way from the rest of the design. All in all, though, this is a colour scheme that works very well on it's own merits as well as calling back to the traditional Dinobot colour scheme from the 80s. Out of the five versions of this toy so far, I think this one is the nicest.

A triceratops doesn't really lend itself to poseability, but Triceradon does have a little bit. His shoulders and hips are both on ball joints and can move freely, though the knee joints in his rear legs can't be used without revealing his robot-mode legs as well. His head is also jointed, and can twist from side to side a bit, although its movement is restricted by the necessities of his transformation. It's about all you could ask for in a beast form like this, honestly.

Triceradon does have some more play value in beast mode, though. He can "play dead" by sticking his tongue out and peeling back a panel on his side to reveal broken ribs and guts. I'm not entirely sure what good that does him, since any Decepticon worth their salt would empty a few more rounds into him to make sure he was dead before they approached to check on his condition -- this is a gimmick that probably worked a lot better for Predacon Guiledart than Autobot Triceradon.

Unfortunately, the toy does have some flaws. Triceradon is made up of a lot of different parts and panels, and those parts don't stay locked together very well. His side panels tend to slide down and lose contact with his back, his belly cracks open and his ass falls off all the time. Triceradon (or at least my second-hand Triceradon) also has an extremely loose right front leg. It doesn't fall off, but it'll flap around every which way if you pick him up. These are only issues if you're handling the figure though, and on a shelf he'll stay together just fine.

Triceradon also has one more issue, more a point of confusion than a true flaw. His skin has a lovely, wrinkled, heavy texture to it everywhere on his body except for the area above his shoulders, the back of his frill and on either side of his spine in stripes running from his hips to the base of his tail. The lack of texturing in those spots seems a little random, though, and I'm not entirely sure why those areas weren't sculpted as well.

Overall, though, Triceradon has a nice beast mode. It's a good change of pace from the predators that dominated the Western Beast Wars lines, and definitely the nicest triceratops toy we've ever gotten in a Transformers line.

Robot Mode: Triceradon's robot mode is a mess, sadly. His right arm is a triceratops head, and has more bulk than his entire torso. He has a gigantic shoulder pad on his left arm made up of triceratops legs and back, while the actual arm is so tiny that you can barely tell that it's there. The large hump on his back made up of triceratops parts gets in the way of any attempt to pose him, and his legs are an awkward combination that looks like a triceratops on stilts. Individually some of these features would have been cool, but combining them all into one toy made for a very awkward figure.

Colour-wise, Triceradon is very different-looking from beast mode. A lot of his beast mode is still visible, obviously, but the newly-revealed robot parts add a lot of blue-grey and silvery white as wel as quite a bit of maroon and a few splashes of red, orange and yellow. The new colours contrast nicely with the grey, red and gold of the beast mode, though the resulting robot looks a lot less like an original series Dinobot than the beast mode did.

Articulation is probably Triceradon's biggest flaw, though. He's got lots of it, but can't make very good use of any of it. Below the waist he comes off fairly well, with ball jointed hips, hinged knees and hinged ankles with separately poseable heel and toe segments. His knees are actually his triceratops-mode feet, which looks pretty silly when he's standing up straight. They give him tremendous balance while kneeling, though, so I can't say they're all bad. He also features a second set of knees (these ones intended for dino mode) a bit farther up his legs. These ones don't have much range of motion, but do help out when you need his legs to flex just a tiny bit more for one pose or another.

Above the waist, though, it's another story. He's got a swivel joint at mid-chest (used as part of his transformation) that would have been very useful except that his gigantic arms get caught up on his back kibble and prevent him from turning more than a few degrees. His head also has a restricted range of motion, since it's mounted on a simple swivel instead of a ball joint. And while his head mold is really unique and impressive, the giant horn would restrict his field of view and make it really, really important for him to be able to look up once in a while.

His right arm has a double-jointed shoulder (a ball joint mounted on a hinge) as well as a bicep swivel and an elbow hinge, but features very restricted movement. Though I really like the triceratops head arm in theory, in practice the head is so big that it tends to get caught up on his backpack and legs if you move it in those directions. It's still serviceable as both a shield and a melee weapon though, and looks very intimidating. The "stick out tongue" mechanism still works in robot mode, though it's a bit galling that the designers chose something silly like that over giving Triceradon a functional jaw -- a feature that would let him grip things or bite his enemies, great play features to have in robot mode.

His left arm, on the other hand...huh. What can you say about a mess like this? Triceradon's left arm is 90% of what's wrong with the entire figure. The arm itself is tiny compared to the right, and very awkward. A triple-jointed mess of a shoulder approximates the range of motion that you'd get from a single ball joint, and the elbow itself actually is ball-jointed. The molding on his forearm is very nice, with lots of little mechanical details and a nasty spike protruding from his fist that looks like it could punch through a smaller robot's armour. Unfortunately, the design also features the dinosaur's entire back as well as it's front legs sloppily attached onto the shoulder joint. Not only does this massive chunk of kibble look bad, it also kills most of the arm's meaningful articulation. Moving Triceradon's left arm is an exercise in frustration, and any attempt to get a decent pose out of the limb will involve a frustrating dance of shoulder pad and backpack, trying to adjust both parts perfectly so that the arm's messy shoulder joint can rotate enough to do what you're asking it to do.

The real frustration, though, is that that Triceradon's shoulder pad could easily have been a separate piece entirely. And in doing so it would have become an absolutely kick-ass riot shield accessory with no additional parts and only minor tooling modifications (a handle to grip the shield by). Not only would the figure look a lot better, but it would make huge gains in the articulation department and pick up a cool accessory as well. As it stands you can just about swing the shoulder kibble down to make a shield and get an idea of what such an accessory would look like...but like everything else with Triceradon's robot mode, doing so is more frustrating than satisfying.

The one accessory that Triceradon does come with is a missile launcher. Like a lot of Beast Wars toys, his weapon is made out of his tail. It works a lot better than most, though, and actually looks pretty good. My Triceradon didn't come with his missiles, so I can't rate how well the weapon actually fires. It looks just fine as a weapon even unloaded, though, and my only real complaint is that the gun is so much bigger than the arm holding it that you can barely even see the arm at all.

Triceradon's robot mode is very sloppy, unfortunately. Though most of the problems can be tracked back to one really boneheaded design choice, there are a lot of little things wrong that really detract from the toy.

Transformation Design: Well, the toy certainly does transform. I can't take that away from it, at least. 1/10

Durability: Triceradon the character looks big and tough, and Triceradon the toy has the same feel to him. He's molded from strong plastic and his joints look very heavy-duty. Unless you plan on dropping him down the stairs, he'll stay in one piece. 10/10

Fun: Frustration is more like it. Triceradon could have been cool, but he's got way too many little things wrong with him. 2/10

Aesthetics: Again, a case of the "what might have beens". I do like Triceradon's beast mode, and some elements of the robot mode are cool. Taken as a whole package, though, the flaws outweigh the good. 2/10

Articulation: He could have been good, but he's not. I'm starting to feel like a broken record now. 2/10

Price: Well, this is a category I can praise at least. Universe toys are not very expensive, though the lack of demand does mean that they're a bit harder to find since no one is making big money selling them. I paid six dollars for mine, and at that price it's hard to argue that he's not worth it. All three Triceradons seem to sell for $10 or under loose pretty frequently, though the other two seem to be more common than this guy. 10/10

Overall: I was under no illusions when I bought the toy: I knew exactly what I was getting and I wanted to laugh at his silly design. And while he is the nicest-looking use of the mold, that's what we call damning with faint praise. Triceradon is cheap and an interesting novelty, but good? No. 3/10
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