Thursday, 24 October 2013

KFC Micro Robo (Magnificus)

Trigger lickin' good. /KFC jokes

I'm not supposed to like stuff like this. An unofficial, unlicensed Generations/Classics-style figure that not only impedes on the intellectual property of Takara under the Transformers banner, but also makes obvious reference to the holiest of the holy, pre-Transformers! It's a mould that has been pencilled in for repeated use (see Mugan Scope and Mugan Vox) and is Keith's Fantasy Club's first humanoid figure. "Micro Robo MC20" is, in the simplest recognisable terms, a 3rd Party version of a black Perceptor. 

The MC20 in the name refers to the 1980s Takara Micro Change Series MC-20 Micro Scope, a black, grey and red toy that would later become the Transformers G1 Perceptor, except in red and blue. E-Hobby released an exclusive G1 homage to the MC-20 in 2005, a Decepticon called "Magnificus" who was able to enlarge items through his own scope and was seeking revenge for past wrongs. Since then "Magnificus" has had another E-Hobby release as a repaint of Reveal The Shield Perceptor. 

That's the largest warning label I've ever seen on a TF-related toy

KFC's Micro Robo has a very interesting backstory printed on the rear of the box that references not only the Japanese Micro Change heritage, but also the E-Hobby Magnificus tech spec. Highlights include "released at the tail end of a cancelled Japanese toyline" and "literally pulled himself through his own matter-enlarging scope", but despite the nods, the character is spun as being a neglected toy in an aisle that adds other toys to his army of full-size robots. That characterisation, along with the tongue-in-cheek nods to the figure's history and the hilarious KFC company logo keeps one from taking the whole thing too seriously.

There's no question though, it comes in an attractive package. The contents include a giant IDW-inspired sniper rifle, two handguns, the most ridiculously hard to read instruction sheet I've ever seen, a decent enough collector's card, a nifty gold collector's coin & case with a distinctly All Hail Megatron #15 feel to it and a number of empty spaces in the plastic insert - maybe for accessories that come with future uses of this mould.

Darkness incarnate

All Hail Magnificus?

First impressions of the actual robot were that it was a little on the small and fragile side. This was a slightly biased view though as I am becoming increasingly caught up in the Masterpiece scaled Transformers revolution. The whole Classics/Generations explosion passed me by. Proportions are excellent and the light-piping for the eyes is, frankly, astonishingly good. The amount of darkness this figure exudes is palpable, and the slightly indistinguishable facial features thanks to colours chosen add to this effect. Compare with the reissue exclusive G1 Magnificus toy:

E-Hobby Magnificus and Microman-style partner Ga'Mede - pic courtesy of HighPrime

Excellent poseability a real plus

Ah yes, the gun...

The poseability of the robot mode is by far and away the greatest quality of the KFC Micro Robo. There seem to be an endless amount of stances and poses one can squeeze out of the figure. The legs are pretty solid, as are the shoulders, and Micro Robo can hold poses with relative ease. I found the most tricky part was getting the scope to stay in position, adjusting it often led to it popping out of its ball and socket joint on the figure's lower back.

See "Spotlight: Drift" and "All Hail Megatron" issue 15

Handgun holsters another classy touch

Micro Robo's weapons are another definite plus point. The idea for the gigantic sniper rifle that he comes with originates in the IDW comics where Perceptor has a near death experience in Spotlight: Drift, and the mini-arc comes to a conclusion in the fantastic All Hail Megatron issue #15. The short version is that Perceptor ends up with a rocking great sniper rifle, which maybe makes more sense released with the later Mugan Scope, but hey I'm not complaining about its inclusion here. The handguns are very stylish too, their inclusion augmented by the excellent holsters on Micro Robo's thighs. I can't ever remember owning another Transformer with this feature - but then I've been very insular in my collecting for years.

You lookin' at me?

How to make Perceptor look mean

The addition of these weapons and the generally excellent poseability of Micro Robo add enormously to the play value and displayability options. Morgan wasn't joking in his Mugan Scope review when he said the figure is truly difficult to leave alone, it's a real grower.

Many famous movie poses possible
What does he even need that scope for any more?

Yes, there are a fair amount of positives to this figure, and it can honestly be called a success in many areas. It would be dishonest of me to say that it's perfect though, and without flaws. On the particular specimen that I have reviewed, the chest plate/tray does not sit flush against the chest in robot mode and evokes nerves when moved. The scope piece is very tricky to keep attached when posing and the whole back-flap area is quite delicate.

Will they make a Blaster out of this mould too?

Far better robot proportions than the original G1 mould

Do not under any circumstances push beyond the point of increased resistance without a care in the world. Excessive force does not solve anything on this toy, take a pause and try again or try a different approach if something isn't fitting/moving as it should. There have been stories of broken Micro Robos - at the shoulders and also the aforementioned back flap. Getting the robot head to sit in exactly the right position for transformation, allowing the back flap to close properly, can also be difficult. Remember, don't push if something isn't fitting, you'll regret it!

Slightly fiddly transformation...

...leads to a tidy enough scope mode...

...but it's a shame the treads don't work.

I like the scope mode, I think it's just about good enough to be called a second mode. Initially I felt both the scope and tank modes were something of an afterthought, maybe resulting in the KFC Micro Robo being classified as a poseable statue which had 2 passable alternate modes that looked mostly like a kneeling robot with a hidden head. Much like the figure as a whole, the alternate modes have grown on me and once you are used to the fiddly nature of the transformation (things don't seem to stay aligned particularly well requiring constant adjustment) it's not that bad at all. The arms and legs depend on a small tab/hole combination to keep them in place but it's easy to undo that while holding one part of the toy to align another, and with the temperamental scope attachment, it can all get a little tiresome. As mentioned before, the instructions require a microscope themselves to properly follow - another humorous nod to the nature of the toy by the designers?

Let's face it, without the scope/turret, this could be anything

If the scope mode is passable, this really is pushing it

Because of the size of the figure generally, I feel a lot of compromises have been made that affect both alternate modes adversely. The dials on the scope and arms don't do anything besides act as ornaments, and the tank treads on the arms and legs are purely decorational too. While the latter is no different from the original G1/pre-G1 mould, this makes the tank mode the least believable of the alternate configurations. The lack of any small wheels or rolling parts further adds to its relative redundancy.

Prove me wrong kids, prove me wrong

If ever an evil character was not in need of a Decepticon sigil, this is it

Because of everything I have mentioned about the alt modes, I'd be hugely surprised to hear that any collectors display their KFC Micro Robo in anything but the standout robot mode. I did wonder why KFC chose to release the lesser known black repaint of Perceptor as the launch character for this mould, but maybe they were counting on fans jumping on the first release, letting the promotional pictures do the talking. After capturing their imagination, KFC would move in for the kill with the far more recogniseable Mugan Scope (Autobot Perceptor) with its IDW-style eyepiece and then the eternally popular Mugan Vox (Soundwave) and Badbat (Ratbat). Maybe that was their thinking.

As I said at the start, this really is not the kind of figure I normally like or go for, and first impressions didn't do a huge amount to alter that perception. On repeated handling, and especially during photography, I started to get the appeal of it and understand the achievements of the design. That said, I would have wished for the figure to be slightly larger with less ornamental nods and more functional peripherals/parts, and to be a little more sturdy under manipulation. The current pricing of Micro Robo will also act as a turn off for some too, but there are enough nice touches and promising qualities to not only make this a toy worth keeping, but also to create suitable anticipation and interest in KFC's future figures, helping to establish them as a recognised player on the 3rd party scene whose products have a style of their own.

Can definitely see some Soundwave in this mould

All the best