Saturday, 25 August 2012

The month of Kre-O Transformers continues

Today I went to pick up my pre-ordered copy of the new Fall of Cybertron game (which came with a free poster), and checked the post office to see if anything new I'd bought recently had arrived in the last week.
There was two boxes and one envelope relating to Transformers.

The envelope was just the recent issue of the Club newsletter... which didn't have anything in it even worth mentioning.

One box had a Japanese Translucent Dual Model Kit Optimus, which was a limited edition exclusive at Since it was a "bonus" item for the TF3 movie Bluray, it was able to be purchased ( doesn't sell toys outside of Japan).
I still only barely started the regular DMK Optimus, and now I have another one to do.

The other box had the title of this posting... Kre-O.
The preview wave of mini-changers (single-packed Kreons), which were released in America a couple weeks ago.
I ordered a set from BBTS, to be sure I get these in case they aren't released in Australia, so ended up with a lot of extras to sell/giveaway.

I sorted them in their "code" numbers, and opened one of each pack to verify that the code numbers matched up to what they were supposed to.
I found that the box of 32 had 6 of Spinister, Sunstorm, Scorponok and Waspinator, while only having 4 of Galvatron and Crankstart.
Hasbro must have a thing for even numbers because it would have been better to have 5 of each and two extras, instead of leaving us with only 4 sets and 8 extras. I can understand short-packing Crankstart, especially since it doesn't look like Gen1 Crankcase (if it is meant to be Crankcase).  Actually, Galvatron is the most significant character of the six, so why would that one be short-packed?
Seems a bit stupid to me.

Alt-modes, which mostly suck...

More of a "squint to see what it is meant to be". (click on image for full size)
Waspinator looks best in that picture, but side on it isn't too good.  Sunstorm from the top looks okay as well.
Crankstart is the only one that uses up all parts in alt-mode. Actually, Spinister was supposed to as well, but the placement of the gun on the instructions had it sticking out at an odd position.
On the instructions for Scorponok, it has one part on the tail drawn as being the wrong way around. It doesn't do anything to the alt-mode though, because the part can be either direction to make the hinge.

In Robot mode.

I started building them from the left (Spinister, Galvatron, Sunstorm), and was thinking that they had managed to design these in a way that they didn't have any pieces left over in robot mode (a bit like the big build sets that have very few left over bits when building the robot modes).
But as you can see, the other three have several bits left over.

From the side, to show the kibble...

The Crankstart instructions had two of those pieces attached (chest piece and the clear piece), but it covered up half the face, so I left it off... and it looks better with the painted chest showing anyway.

Actually, that's one of my biggest peeves of the Kreons (not just with these ones - but these have more parts to make this occur more often) - chest parts (to attach kibble to) that end up covering up the painted chest (which has the Gen1 robot details on it).
This is what I mean...

Five of the six were meant to have chest pieces on them, so I removed the other four (to show what is now wasted paint apps), and put on Crankstart's to show how the face is half covered up if you go by the instructions.
I want to point out though, that the CG image of Crankstart on the cover of the instructions (you can see it three pics above) has a black chest. The other CG images have all the other characters with their chest-pieces (except Sunstorm of course), but Crankstart does not, so perhaps the instructions wasn't meant to have it either.

Word of warning - just like with the Stealth Bumblebee set (in Series Two), you need to sand down the wrists of Scorponok, as they are two big to fit into the two grey cylinder, causing stress marks if you do.

All the Kreons I now have (still missing the small two sets from Series Two though)

And everything from Series Two together on the shelf, waiting for the last two sets of the series...

Monday, 20 August 2012

Something crazy - involving the TFs Ride in LA

I was really disappointed earlier this year, when I had to abandon my planned trip to Singapore to try out the Transformers Ride at that Universal Studios (when they had the Transformers convention there in mid-March).  In May, the second one opened up at the Hollywood Universal Studios (in California, America)... and I was equally disappointed that it was just 2 weeks after I was in America for the Annual BotCon convention. So I missed that one as well.
Now I was forced to wait until the middle of next year, for a chance to check it out, as I'd plan a visit on the way to where ever the Transformers convention is that year.

But after looking through some photos people were posting up in America about the recently opened Transformers Ride there, I started getting an urge to go sooner, rather than wait another 12 months, to try out the ride, as well as buying a number of items from the gift-shop I was interested in.

Being fairly experienced at travelling to and from America, via LA, I started mapping out the logistics of travelling there (from Brisbane, Australia), in the shortest timeframe possible (to keep the total cost down - each day there has accommodation and day-to-day expenses).
I then started to look into the viability/possibility of not staying a night in America, at all.
After all, I knew that flights arrive in America at the crack of dawn from Australia, and leave America just before midnight... giving you about 18 hours in America.
So a couple weeks ago I had a look at the QANTAS website for flight options, and the prices I'd be looking at.  To make it as economical as possible, I would have to get a discount/sale fare, so looked for any days that were around $1500 (or less), and were on a day that had direct flights both ways (to reduce the amount of "wasted" time travelling).  I may well sleep on the flight back, but between the two flights, I'd be looking at about 27 hours doing nothing constructive. (plus about another 4-6 hours at both airports doing nothing)
Since I wouldn't be staying overnight, and would have to carry around luggage with me everywhere, I don't want to risk taking a computer to damage or lose (and the power wouldn't last long on the 13 hour flight anyway).

The planned trip would have to be a Tuesday or Wednesday, because it would be the quietest days at the Themepark (from my experience at being at a few over there), and would be the two quietest days at work to improve my chances of getting time off.
I found a day (Tuesday August 28th) with the cheapest direct flights, and almost booked it.  But being hesitant at spending any large amount of money, I held off, wanting to confer with a travel-agent first (to see if this short trip would be a problem).  In the end, I was told that a lot of business people will do the same thing - fly over in the morning for a meeting, and fly back that night... so that wasn't a concern now.
The biggest barrier now was convincing myself to part with $1500.
I have the money, and want to do this (not just for the Ride, but also for the story to tell others of a crazy "day trip" to America).
Breaking it down as a dollar value, it would be $1500 for 18 hours of fun/adventure (8 of which would be at the Theme-park).  A big hourly rate, yes, but on par with what I spent to see the three Transformers movies on IMAX - I had to fly to Sydney or Melbourne, as they were the only IMAX theatres showing it, with each trip to see a 2-hour movie costing me about $500.
In a way, this would be more economical... but still didn't make it easier to willingly hand over that amount of money at once. (heck, I even hesitate when it is that much money for a 2-week trip to America... so this wasn't because of the shortness of this trip).

I didn't end up booking that flight, and I let it go for a week (I was still recovering from a nasty virus, so didn't feel too energetic to commit to anything at this time).
At the end of last week I got more motivated about it, thinking that if I don't do something now, I won't be going before the end of the year (school holidays start at the end of September, and the pre-christmas period after that makes it very difficult to get time off work from October to January).
So I looked again and found I only had two days left with cheap seats both ways, before the school holiday period (which didn't have discounted seats).
I went into the travel-agency the next day to book it, and knowing my luck, it was all boarded up with no signage to say if they were moving, renovating or just completely shut down.
I returned home, thinking that I'll just have to book it myself through the airline's website (something I only do for domestic flights, as it they don't cost as much if I make a mistake)... but I give the Travel-agent's phone-number a call first, just to see if they had relocated.
The phone answered, and was told that they were just renovating for 2 weeks, but no one had put up signs yet.  And during that time, they were working out of another branch a few suburbs away.
I told her what I was planning, and how the previous person I saw a week ago never got back to me, and she told me that she would organise the flights and get back to me.
Paying over the phone, I didn't need to drive all the way over to where she currently was, and when they returned to their old location at the beginning of September, I could just drop in there and pick up my paperwork (including the all-important Travel Insurance - never leave the country without some).

So there you have it.  I'm now booked in to "day trip" California from Brisbane, leaving on a Tuesday and returning on a Thursday - missing only two days work (Tuesday & Wednesday) because I work at night.

My planned itinerary is:
Tuesday 10.35am - depart Brisbane
Tuesday 6.40am - arrive LA Airport (crossing dateline, so it is actually the same day)
8-9am - bus to Downtown LA to catch a train to Universal Studios
10am - Universal Studios (park is open 10am to 6pm on that day)
 Before 6pm (or earlier if I get bored) - leave themepark by train to Downtown LA, then back to the Airport
(during this time, until 10pm, if I don't have too much stuff to drag around (from the gift-shop), I would be catching a Taxi to the nearby Target for toy shopping... or, if the check-in desk is open early enough, I can check in my luggage and do a quick visit to Target and hope I don't find too much stuff there to buy)

(10pm - need to be checked in by now)
Tuesday 11.45pm - depart LA
Thursday 6.45am - arrive Brisbane
8am - home... sleep, if I feel like it
2pm - leave for work.

There is a lot of on-the-spot planning with this trip, as there are variables I can't plan ahead for.  But if this trip ends up working out without too many dramas, I'll then look at doing the Singapore one as a day-trip as well. It will be cheaper to fly to, but it is unfamiliar territory, that may have some challenges for an English-speaking tourist with no (time) margin for error.

Hmmm... I gotta remember to purchase a new 2-year visa-waiver too, as the first one finally expired in June (managed to get to 3 BotCons with it, but now have to pay for a new one).

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Doritos Fuzed Corn Chips

Doritos had mastered the "two flavours in one pack" concept in America, but it was the Australian CCs that managed to get a product to shelves here first, with their "2 flavour Smash".

Unfortunately, that product didn't see wide release here, and despite being the best flavour CCs ever had, it was cancelled about 2 months ago, and is no longer available.

Now, American-owned Smiths/Lays have taken the opportunity to get their version out here, with a "Fuzed" branding.

The two flavours chosen are Sweet Chilli and Lime Chilli.
Not the most creative pairing, as they are both spicy flavours.  The only thing differentiating them is one is noticeably sweet, and the other is noticeably sour/bitter.
It was actually rather boring, and since the CCs version (with a better contrast of Sweet Chilli and Tasty Cheese) was a much more interesting and tasty combination, I can't see this lasting very long.
The whole point of two flavours in a pack is to have two different flavours that create a third flavour when combined. This Doritos pair didn't do that, as the Lime Chilli was the dominant flavour.
If anything, the packaging artwork was more exciting than the chips inside.

More kreo for August

August is likely to be the month for Transformers Kre-O for me, as five of the seven sets in series two have arrived so far, and the first wave of Preview Mini-figures are on their way, so should get here before the end of the month.  I also ordered the remaining two second-series sets from the Hasbro Online store a week ago, via a shipping agent, but they are not likely to get to me before this month ends.

So, yesterday I went to the post office to see if my latest two orders had arrived, and sure enough, they were both there.

Kreo Battle for Energon (Optimus Vs Megatron)
Kreo Street Showdown (Wheeljack Vs Knockout)
Kreo Rotor Rage (Vortex) 
Movie ball set (small squishy football, soccerball, baseball)
TFs comic compilations (Autocracy, RiD, MTMTE) - the most recent three releases
GIJoe Classic Vol 14 & 15 - that completes the original 155 issue original series, as volume 15 was just released. Now to read it all. I read through the first 5 when Marvel were releasing them, but since that was almost 10 years ago now, I'll probably have to restart from the beginning again).
GIJoe (continued) Vols 1-4 - this is the new series that followed on from #155 of the original series, replacing the Devils Due GIJoe series that was also meant to follow on from the original series (but is now an alternate timeline, known as "Disavowed"). This means when I finish the 15 volumes of the Classic series, I have 4 more volumes to read after that. So much to read. So little time.
GIJoe (1986) movie - it was cheap, and I wanted something to go with Kre-O Vortex and the soft balls, to make the order more worth it. I'd never seen the movie before, and I can see why many GIJoe fans pretend it never existed.
It also explained characters in the fourth volume of GIJoe & TFs by Devils Due (I might have to re-read it now).
I was a bit disappointed that there was no Snake Eyes or Storm Shadow, who were major players in the comics. I guess it was like Grimlock in Transformers, in that he was a key player in our comics, but not in the cartoon.
So after about 6-7 hours, I had constructed the vehicle modes of the next three Kre-O sets...

Since two of the sets above were two-packs, the individual vehicles were fairly small and simplistic. The back of Optimus could have used a few more pieces to fill out the "skeleton" look of the back end.

The rope for Vortex is too thick to tie into a proper knot (the rescue rope is kinda pointless though - looks better without it).
The missile launchers on Vortex are quite inventive, to actually fire the missiles without having a spring in them.

The ATV (quad-bike) with Vortex doesn't move too well, because the wheels rub against other parts.

They still can't get the stickers right, as most are the wrong size (compared to the sizes shown in the instructions). There were even some stickers left over, which aren't even used in the Robot mode, or can go anywhere.

Once again, it seems that the robot modes were what they first created, and then they built alt-modes from those parts, as there are lots of pieces left over with each set (20-30 at least).

Disappointed that the Wheeljack/Knock Out set only had a small railing and 2 traffic cones as the extra "diorama" build. Compared to the other sets (guard house, construction site, bank, ATV), this felt "cheap". (note - the pieces used in "diorama" items are not used in either modes of the Transformers characters, so they should have given us something substantial for that set)

The non-convertible Kreons look so much better than the blind-pack ones... when you compare Vortex Kreon with the Spinister Kreon. (two helicopter characters)

First August items

The first weekend of August had my SDCC Transformers arrive in the mail (from two different sources), costing me twice what they were priced at at the SDCC. But the longer I waited, the more expensive they'd get, as seen with some of last years figures.
I also got another shipment, with a couple of the Series 2 Kre-O sets and two of the three Marvel Avengers Transformers.

Marvel Avengers Ironman - a more metallic finish compared to earlier versions.
Marvel Avengers Thor - a better colour scheme to the earlier one, with no bright yellow this time.
Kreo Destruction Site Devastator
Kreo Stealth Bumblebee
SDCC Bruticus, Cliffjumper, HISS Tank

I had to take a couple photos with Cliffjumper out, to show the sheer size of the boxes for the SDCC figures.

Some comparison pics...
GIJoe set with the one from last year.

 SDCC Terrorcon Cliffjumper

Below is with the exclusive Dark Energon shards - the big one in his hand, and the little one in his chest.
I had to look at the official pics to work it out, but the small dark energon shard has two hooks on the top, that hook onto the top of the chest... but in doing so, close up the chest halves.
A trade off I guess.

The Fall of Cybertron Bruticus/Combaticons.

Combined, next to Gen1 Bruticus.
 As you can see, the FOC Bruticus has a bit of a Popeye look happening, with over-sized limbs. This was because the core figure was the same size as the limb figures, but none of the limb figures added to the bulk of the abdomen (to reduce the size of the limbs, and add a greater proportion to the abdomen).
 The upper legs and even the waist should have been formed from the two "leg" figures, while the shoulders and maybe some of the upper torso should have been formed from the two "arm" figures.

 With the various WFC/FOC toys...

 The toys that you could see in WFC...

 And the toys so far released that are in FOC game...

 Plus a battle scene...

The Marvel Avengers Thor (new one on the left, old one has the yellow, which looked really bad in vehicle mode.

And Ironman, which has a fancy new paintjob (compared to the previous 3 versions of that mould).

 But it wasn't all good, as the foot on mine was missing a pin. The foot was attached, but when moved it just slipped right off.

 The two Kre-O sets...

When I get all 7 sets, I'll build the robot modes. I just want to have a group shot of all the vehicle modes first. (they'll be on display in robot mode, so this is probably the only time I'll have them in vehicle mode)

If you get the Bumblebee set, sand down the wrist of the Kreon, because it is just a little too big to fit in the translucent "gun barrel", cracking it when you force it in. If it wasn't translucent plastic, it may have been more stretchable, but that plastic is just too brittle.
And the rope for Hightower is way too short.

Rest of my July items

Have been busy (and a rather nasty virus that had me bed-ridden for 6 days, taking 3 weeks to get over), so haven't been posting up my new stuff... or new food either. But that later.
First the toys.

These were the rest of the July items added to the collection.

Middle of July I got a couple items, bought from the one ebay source (to save shipping, hopefully).

TFPrime Cmdr class Ironhide - a character that was originally planned for the cartoon, but then replaced with Bulkhead when it was known that Movie Ironhide was going to die, and they didn't want to confuse the kiddies watching the cartoon.  A Deluxe Ironhide toy was also developed, but after the cast change, it was given a new colour and name (Kup) by Hasbro.  TakaraTomy in Japan will still be releasing it as Ironhide though.
TFPrime First Edition Bumblebee Blaster - a slight recolour of the TF2 Movie blaster, but for me to complete the set of "First Edition" toys, this was the only thing I was missing. I have the various NYCC/SDCC toys from last year, and any JP figures in First Edition packaging, so this was a loose end for me. Although, it now looks like Hasbro will be releasing the cancelled Terrorcon Cliffjumpter later this year in First Edition packaging, which will now have to be acquired to complete the set.
The hunt never ends.

Some comparison pics between the Prime blaster (left, with blue highlights) and the Movie blaster (right).

Then at the end of July, a big arrival of items in 5 boxes (which was a big surprise for me at the post office a couple of Saturdays ago.
This was following the chance discovery of shipping some Transformers toys outside of America (in the past it was either not allowed, or it just wasn't easy to find the items we could access). I found 11 items I wanted, and placed the order, each at about half the retail price here. But the best part was the cost of shipping.  US$25 to post 11 items in three boxes, all the way from Kentucky America, AND it arrived in 3-4 business days. Posting stuff from one side of Australia to the other would take about as long and cost a lot more.
In the end, one of the three boxes (which had a Deluxe toy in it) had a "postage" value of $1.56, because Amazon broke up the $25 across the three boxes.  That Deluxe toy ended up costing me about AU$16, which is LESS than what Hasbro Australia charges retailers here with their wholesale price.
I ended up saving about AU$100 with these 11 toys, by not buying them in Australia, something quite common from the foreign-owned toy companies (Lego, Hasbro & Mattel)... how much of a scam is that.

So three of the 5 boxes were from Amazon, which included all this:

TFPrime Cmdr Ultra Magnus - good, but not excellent 
TFPrime Cmdr Nightwatch Optimus - boring recolour  
TFPrime Cmdr Dreadwing - a nice toy  
TFPrime DLX Hot Shot - boring recolour 
TFPrime DLX Knock Out - very very tiny car.  
TFPrime DLX Dead End - ugly recolour 
TFPrime DLX Shadow Strike Bumblebee - boring recolour  
TFPrime VOY Bulkhead V2 
TFPrime VOY Starscream - a tiny toy for this size class (weighs less than some Deluxe toys), but too big for the character if we don't get a bigger Megatron toy. 
TFPrime Optimus Maximus - very disappointing figure, which I can't recommend, unless it appears in the cartoon.
Rescue Bots Police HQ - more fun than Optimus Maximus, with heaps more sounds & lights. 
And from the other two boxes (from a HJ online store and from ebay)...

JP Reissue Soundblaster, Enemy & Wingthing - bought for the cassettes, because I have the earlier reissue Soundblaster. Since this one ended up being different, I'll keep both.
 JP Reissue Twincast, Stripes & Nightstalker - same as Soundblaster, so I'll keep both. 
Generations Deluxe (book) - been wanting this second edition ever since it was released, but couldn't find one cheap enough. This one wasn't cheap, but was getting desperate. 
TF1 Ultimate Guide (book) - bought with the Generations book to save shipping, and because I have the one for TF2, so thought it would be a good pairing. 
HK Gen Legends - Motorbreath, Thundercracker, Bluestreak, Hoist 
Fall of Cybertron Gen - Optimus, Jazz, Shockwave 
JP Kissplay Convoy - A loose end, as I have the other two, but never got this one. It was too similar to the Alternator Optimus, and when I finally wanted to get it, the prices had gone up $200-300. This one was only $125, so I jumped on it. 
 JP TFP Breakdown - not likely to be released by Hasbro, so wanted to get it before its price went way up for being "rare".

It took a few days, but here are the five boxes of toys out of their packagings and transformed.

 So many new toys to play with, and most were very unexpected, so it was like a kid on Christmas morning.

I'll post up some comparison pics in another posting.