Friday, 16 June 2017

REVIEW: ACE Collectables ACE-03 Trident



INTRODUCTION
ACE Collectables is still a new and fledgling company, although one already with a bit of notoriety under their belt. For one thing, they were the very first (and as of today still only) third party producer to put out a Masterpiece-styled Cliffjumper (or Hubcap for that matter) with their debut release, ACE-01 Tumbler, potentially plugging a rather gaping hole in a number of collections. Unfortunately that release turned out to be met with a rather lukewarm response, to put it politely, and it was sadly not enough for many fans to be convinced to jump on board.

So it was met with perhaps slightly muted anticipation when ACE revealed their follow-up effort, putting out a picture of an unnamed grey resin prototype of a Seaspray homage (another character who, at the time, had yet to be brought to market, even if that's since changed). The photo itself didn't inspire confidence, although as I have since discovered there was some mistransformation going on... in any case, I wasn't quite sure what to expect when this test shot sample landed at my door.

Since then? Well, actually I'm warmed to him quite a bit! But there's no doubt that ACE still have a bit of a hill to climb in order to get some fans on board. After posting a round of photos of Trident on social media, I would say the reaction has been mixed to fairly positive, but still there are quite a few vocal detractors. He's proving to be a bit of a divisive figure, to say the least! Let's see what he's really made of, shall we?

Final note before I begin – this is a test shot, so there may well be some variance with the final product, including things like colours, accessories etc. as well as tolerances.

PACKAGING & ACCESSORIES
I didn't receive any packaging or instructions for Trident, but if I had to guess I'd say he came packaged in vehicle mode. Accessories-wise there are a couple of surprises! Firstly, he comes with a hand-held blaster which features two small harpoon-like missiles. The blaster is actually spring-loaded, with a working trigger than can be used to fire them should you be so inclined.


Also included are two versions of the character Alana, from the G1 cartoon season 2 episode Sea Change, which of course heavily featured Seaspray. I say of course, but as it turns out this was one of the episodes that I was less familiar with... I'd evidently forgotten how utterly bonkers the whole thing is! Alana is an alien who Seapsray falls in love with. During the course of the episode he goes into a magical pool to turn himself into a humanoid like her, only for her to later turn herself into a robot to fight the Decepticons. It's, er, interesting stuff. When in robotic form, Alana can even transform (although who knows how!) into a gondola-type boat, which of course this figure cannot do because it would be impossible! You can read more about this character here.



In any case, both versions of Alana are included here. They're nicely moulded and also come with small black stands that you can peg into the bottom of their feet, should you wish, though they do actually stand just fine without them. They're partially articulated; the smaller organic version can just about turn her head and has movement at the shoulders, whilst the larger robotic version has better head movement and also has an ankle swivel. Size-wise even the smaller figure is quite a bit larger than the likes of MP-10 Spike, but then she was an alien and shown to be quite big in comparison to the Autobots in the cartoon, so I suppose that works. The organic version is funnily enough about the same size as Hasbro Masterpiece Rodimus Prime's Targetmaster, Offshoot.

With Masterpiece Offshoot

With Masterpiece Bumblebee



Overall, these are some fun accessories, and might be enough to tempt some collectors into picking up this release.

VEHICLE MODE
I think Seaspray was one of those G1 toys that pretty much everyone had. He was simple, fun, and quite unique in that he transformed into a hovercraft. Yet it's only been recently that third party companies have started to pay attention to him, and so this is my first experience of seeing his vehicle mode in updated form. It's pretty good fun!



First impressions-wise, there's a lot to say here. As I mentioned, I was a little nervous how this was going to seem straight out of the box, especially as all I had to go on previously was that slightly unfortunate photo of the prototype. So, I was rather surprised to take Trident out and see before me a very faithful recreation of Seaspray's vehicle mode! It's really rather lovely actually.



As far as direct recreations of the cartoon go, this is really quite spot on. There's a couple of small details, such as the raised section on the white bit of the body being a little further back, but for the most part I think they've nailed it. Perhaps my only slight disappointment is not knowing where I would put an Autobot logo here. Still, that's a small nitpick on what is otherwise a very nice vehicle mode.

Seaspray's animation model


Of course the other thing that I was interested to see here was the fit and finish going on. Although I thought that Tumbler had all the makings for a decent-enough vehicle mode, one thing that frustrated me was getting it all tabbed together properly. No such concerns here, I'm pleased to report! In fact, this guy feels very solid and well-tabbed together - a definite step up from what I was expecting. There's also a pleasing heft to him, mostly down to the presence of diecast in the section that becomes the robot mode feet. Plastic quality also seems much improved, and there's even some nice touches such as the rather lovely translucent blue windows.


As far as play value goes, he has three wheels on the bottom of this mode and rolls suitably well. He also features a gear mechanism in the rotor section, meaning that you can spin both sets of blades in tandem with each other. Neat.


Overall then, this is a pretty nice vehicle mode! It's big, chunky and fun, and feels suitably sturdy in hand. If anything he kind of reminds me of something like Unique Toys Allen in how he looks and feels. He's also a fair bit bigger than I might have expected, which is a benefit in this mode at least. He lines up nicely with the likes of Masterpiece Tracks, in an effort to recreate one of my favourite scenes from the cartoon... see if you can guess the episode!

With Masterpiece Tracks

So, looking good so far, but how does he fare in robot mode?

TRANSFORMATION
Tumbler's transformation was notable for being essentially the same as Masterpiece Bumblebee. Clearly the intention there was to build off the work already done, whereas Trident proves to be an entirely new proposition. That said, I did chuckle when I discovered that the way in which the legs unfold from the vehicle mode is basically the same again - the waist folds up to lock in place, and the knees straighten out. Still, that's not to take anything away here, as there's plenty of other stuff going on.

In fact, there's a couple of quite clever touches, such as the way in which the feel unclip, fold down and clip together again to make them quite a bit smaller for robot mode. Getting the chest to come together can be a little fiddly on account of the spring-loaded mechanism involved, but it works fine. Overall, I think it's much easier getting him into robot mode than vice versa, but still there's really nothing that should take you more than a couple of minutes here. Fortunately, everything continues to tab in quite well, and you're left with Trident in robot mode pretty easily!

The retail copy will also be able to fold in the small wheel on his left foot for a bit of extra tidiness, apparently. It is also possibly to leave the feet slightly untransformed, essentially making them larger and perhaps more akin to the G1 toy, though that's not something I think many folks will be looking for necessarily.

ROBOT MODE
One thing I always admired about the G1 Transformers line was its willingness to put less obvious characters forward as heroes. Whereas the focus could easily have been on the jock-like sports car action heroes the whole time, there was a surprising amount of focus given to the less-intimidating, quirkier and less-conventionally "cool" characters. In fact, these characters were celebrated for who they were, and given equal importance in representing their efforts to take down the Decepticons. I am of course thinking about the likes of Perceptor, Grapple, Cosmos... and Seaspray. Even just a glimpse at his cartoon physique will tell you that this is not a traditionally heroic character, and in that vein you could argue that ACE Collectables have done well with Trident here. There's no doubt who this is meant to be!

Seaspray's animation model


So, first thing to comment on - this looks way better than that dodgy prototype photo I first saw! From that regard it's quite a pleasant surprise! I became immediately aware that the feet can collapse down further than was originally shown, and the arms rotated round to seem more natural. It makes quite a bit of difference, and leaves Trident looking all the better for it. It's a very clean robot mode overall, even from the back.




So, let's talk about those proportions. This seems to be the main reason that detractors of this figure are citing for not liking him, based on pics, and to be fair I can see why. He does have big feet, and there's no doubt that he has a comparatively small head. Lining him up next to Seaspray's animation model will tell you that. But here's the thing - the proportions actually work much better in hand than I would have expected. The feet are big and kinda ridiculous, yes, but they at least suit the character to my eye. Also, I don't know if it's just that I have warmed to it a little, but the head doesn't seem entirely silly to me, if I'm being honest. Yes, it would be better if it was a little bigger, but it's fine as it is, and at least does a relatively good job at representing the character. Perhaps the other thing that feels slightly too big in this mode is the rotor section, but that's a consequence of the vehicle mode, I guess.





Now look, I'm not saying it's all hunky dory, but honestly it all works a fair bit better than I might have expected, and there's no doubt that through playing around with this guy I have started to like him more and more. He is also quite good fun to pose for photography, even if there are a couple of limits on the articulation going on. The arms have a lot of range and can do pretty much whatever you want, and the head can be swivelled as you wish (although I would have liked it to be able to look up and down a little). The legs are slightly more tricky on account of accommodating the large feet into your poses and the need to move the hipskirts out of the way to get a decent hip bend, but you can free up a bit more range by slightly untabbing the sides for a bit of unofficial ankle tilt, which helps. There's also a hint of waist swivel going on, though it does involve moving the chest panel slightly out of the way, and even then only gives you a little movement at best.





Joints-wise, it mostly feels nice and tight, with the only exception being the hips; they move loosely under the weight of the diecast in the feet, but it's important to note than this hasn't hindered posing or stability at all. In fact, he feels very stable overall, only slightly belied by the back coming untabbed if you're not too careful.





The other question that a lot of people have been asking is how big he is. There's no doubt that he might be a bit taller than some people will be expecting, as he stands about shoulder-height to a Masterpiece carbot at the top of his head (not counting the rotor section). Whether this works for you or not is up to you, and I will say that on viewing the cartoon again I could find plenty of evidence both to suggest that he should be a bit smaller than this, and indeed that this was a good height for him after all. I think he works quite well in height versus FansToys Tesla, for example.

With Badcube Wardog & FansToys Tesla

Also with Toyworld Spaceracer & Masterpiece Bumblebee

With Masterpiece Red Alert + & Inferno

With Hasbro Masterpiece Optimus Prime

Also with X-Transbots Arkose & Badcube Grump

So overall, there is actually a fair bit to like here, though he's certainly by no means perfect. I think ultimately if you like the look and design aesthetic of this robot mode, then you're unlikely to be disappointed by what you get in hand, whereas if the proportions or design are not to your taste then that probably tells you all you need to know. For my money, I'm pleasantly surprised by what is a decent step up from Tumbler, and as I say I have actually warmed to him quite a bit whilst having him in hand.

With ACE Collectables Tumbler

CONCLUSION
So, Trident proves to be at least a definite step in the right direction for ACE Collectables. If anything, I have to credit this guy for winning me over as much as he did, as I was rather nervous going in. In the end, it's tricky to know what final rating to credit him with; I won't lie when I admit that this has been one of the biggest cases of deliberation over a rating for any review figure so far. I debated quite heavily between a 2 or a 3 rating, and if I had a snazzy little graphic for it then I might even go 2.5! As it is, I'm feeling a bit generous, and I do want to recognise how much ACE have improved with this new figure, so there it is. Ultimately though, I think your potential enjoyment of this figure is going to come down to what you make of him from photos, regardless of what I say.

What's HOT?
The vehicle mode is really rather lovely, and tabs together well for the most part. The inclusion of several mini-figures is a neat touch, and this represents a significant step in the right direction for this company.

What's NOT?
He's certainly not without his flaws. I'm sure some collectors will still not be convinced by his proportions in robot mode, though for what it's worth, I've warmed to this a lot. Otherwise the hips are a bit loose and the back section can come unpegged.


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6 comments:

  1. The 3p market being mature now it must be hard to break into it, anyone not bringing their A game from the start is in for a rough time of it I feel.
    I'm taking a punt on FT's, partly just to see how they handle a mini-bot. Great work as always, thanks Sixo.

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    1. Thanks for the lovely comment, as always! The FT one does look interesting too, though quite a departure from the cartoon I feel. Will be interesting to see how the other versions turn out.

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  2. So there are a lot of liberties taken with this as far as design goes in bot mode. However, as far as they take it away from the animation model, they seem to me to bring it towards the precident set by MP10. Which is the basis of my collection standard.
    Thanks for the review and the wonderful images. I'm convinced. I think this will be my Seaspray- Plastic Therapy

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    1. Thanks, dude, and glad it was helpful. That's an interesting point about the "combined" aesthetic, actually. I do think he feels quite cartoony in hand, but I see what you're saying.

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  3. Thanks for your lovely review. I think it's safe to say that you sold me on this guy, in no small thanks to your ace photography. I know that scale is a bit of a contentious point in our fandom, but I personally am of opinion that mini-bots don't necessarily have to be 'mini'. Wardog is a case in point - he's a tank, after all, so his carbot-size robot mode makes a lot of sense to me. Trident looks very nice in the mini-bot line-up of your last picture; looks nice with Cosmos and Wardog. I'd love it if ACE would try their hand and a large version of Powerglide.

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    1. Thanks for the nice comment! Yes, I agree about the relative sizes of the minibots. In truth I wouldn't mind if Seaspray was a little smaller, but this size works for me too, and it certainly benefits the vehicle mode if that's a consideration for you. Glad the review was useful!

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