Monday, 8 January 2018

REVIEW: TakaraTomy Masterpiece MP-15E/ 16E Cassettebot Vs. Cassettron

If there's one thing that can be guaranteed in the Masterpiece line, it's that TakaraTomy like to throw us a complete curveball every so often. The history of the official line is peppered with examples where particular releases went against expectations, or were released in a manner that defied the perceived logic of what came before them. Well, I'm not sure there's ever been a better example to show us that really, we have no clue what the future might hold than this release. I mean, c'mon, who seriously would have predicted that a Masterpiece Nightstalker would be on the way any time soon? Yet, here we are.

(L-R) Stripes, Nightstalker, Wingthing & Enemy

So, what's the deal with these characters anyway? Shameless cashgrab repaint or a loving homage to something from a time gone by? Well, it's definitely the latter, although the original figures in this case are not from so long ago, despite being Generation 1 moulds. All four characters were originally released in 2012, with the Autobots Stripes and Nightstalker being packaged with Encore Twincast (a repaint of Blaster), and the Decepticons Wingthing and Enemy being packaged with Soundblaster (a repaint of Soundwave). Encore Stripes & Nightstalker were particularly interesting, in that whilst they were repainted versions of Ravage and Steeljaw respectively, they swapped those figures' weapons over for a further bit of individuality. Meanwhile, Wingthing was a repaint of Ratbat and Enemy of the Rumble/ Frenzy mould.

(L-R) Stripes, Nightstalker, Enemy & Wingthing

Here of course, all four characters have had a significant upgrade, and make hugely welcome additions to the burgeoning line of Masterpiece cassettes already available. I'm really pleased to see TakaraTomy continuing with repaints of some of the more recent new characters based on G1 moulds, and it makes me hopeful that there may yet be more to come. Not to mention that the whole notion of an "Autobot vs. Decepticon" box set is a very cool thing, and previously unseen in this line. It opens up a lot of possibilities for smaller figures, I think.

So, let's have a look at each one individually, shall we? I'm going to kick off by checking out Wingthing, as this figure strengthens my belief that the Ratbat mould is the single best Masterpiece cassette we've seen so far. The engineering is absolutely spectacular, with a transformation that begs to be repeated over and over. Not to mention that the cassette mode is about as clean and compact as they come, whilst the bat mode is just incredible, and does a sterling job at representing the character. Oh yeah, and that orange pops something fierce!

With Masterpiece Ratbat & G.I. Joe Club/ Transformers Club Crossover Exclusive Ratbat

Next up is Enemy, who breathes new life into a fantastic mould. I particularly like the colours on offer here, even if something about them has always felt a touch more Autobot-like to my mind. Still, he looks really fantastic and is nicely finished indeed. Despite owning several versions of this mould already, I'm still in awe with how much detail and play value they managed to cram in.

With Hasbro Year of the Goat Frenzy & Rumble, and TakaraTomy Masterpiece Frenzy & Rumble

Of this whole box set, Enemy is the only figure to feature separate weapons, with the others all being integrated. As with Rumble & Frenzy, he comes with his piledrivers, which can be clipped over his arms or stored on his back like a backpack (a feature I'd actually forgotten all about until this release!). There's also some interaction with Masterpiece Soundwave or Soundblaster available there too.

As for the Autobots, Stripes is definitely the more eye-catching of the two. That striped orange deco' is just amazing, looking really sharp even up close. The gold missile launchers on his back hips also look incredible, and really catch the light very well. The eagle-eyed amongst you will even notice that Stripes is not quite a simple repaint of Ravage - yes indeed, those missiles launchers have been redesigned significantly to make them closer to the weapons sported on the Encore Stripes. It's a really nice touch that TakaraTomy probably could have done without if they really wanted to, but it's truly appreciated and adds a bit of extra value to this set.

With TakaraTomy Masterpiece Ravage and Hasbro Year of the Goat Ravage

Finally, we have Nightstalker, who proves to be the biggest talking point of this whole set. Why's that? Well, in case you haven't noticed yet, he's actually an entirely new mould! Yes, Nightstalker is not a Ravage retool if that's what you were thinking, but consists of completely new parts. Again, something entirely unexpected in a release like this, I think. Not to get too excited, but there's no doubt in my mind that this new mould is based on Steeljaw, which at least means there is the possibility that a Masterpiece Blaster (and the rest of the cassettes) are being worked on behind the scenes... well, we can hope, can't we? If it does happen, I would imagine that Steeljaw's missile launchers would be quite different to Nightstalker's, just as with Ravage and Stripes, to take account of the weapons-swap on the G1 versions.

Nightstalker himself is surprisingly involved, with a transformation more complicated than some of the other cassettes we've seen. He's also rather fiddly in places, and proves quite difficult to transform back into tape mode solidly. There are also a couple of joints that I think you will need to be careful with, as they seem very thin and possibly might not respond well to significant rough handling. He is a lot of fun overall, but I don't know if I would rank him amongst my favourite of the MP cassettes, for these reasons. Still, there's no denying that he's a very welcome inclusion in this set, and especially so for the potential of future releases that he appears to tease.

With KFC Iron Paw

As with all Masterpiece cassettes, these guys are the exact same size as the G1 moulds, which makes for some very interesting play opportunities indeed. In a bizarre turn, I only picked up the Encore versions of Wingthing & Enemy recently, so it's great to see them compared to the new MP versions. I think they make a worthy upgrade.

With Encore Wingthing

With Encore Enemy

They fit snugly inside the chest compartments of the likes of Encore Soundblaster, should you really wish! Alternatively they come with their own pink-ish cassettes boxes, which I imagine would look really rather eye-catching on display.

With Encore Soundblaster

With Encore Soundblaster

Of course, the real play value is lining them up with other Masterpiece-styled figures. Both Soundwave and Soundblaster make for excellent companions to Enemy and Wingthing, whilst KFC Transistor, as the current main option for a not-Masterpiece Blaster, makes a decent enough foil to Stripes and Nightstalker.

With Masterpiece Soundblaster

With Masterpiece Soundwave

With KFC Transistor

So, overall I have to say I found this to be a really fun set. Enemy & Wingthing are both fantastic new renditions of current moulds, whilst Stripes and to a great degree Nightstalker bring something a little new to the table. Again, I never would have predicted that we'd be seeing a release like this, and although I'm sure they won't be for everyone, I personally couldn't be more grateful that TakaraTomy have seen fit to give us a great upgrade of the Encore versions of these characters, as well as a really fun set in its own right.

What's HOT?
A great little set overall, with four fantastic figures that include stunning new paint schemes and some welcome retooling. Oh, and Nightstalker being an entirely new mould is a great touch.

What's NOT?
Nightstalker is a wee bit fiddly and I suspect ever-so-slightly delicate in places if you're not careful. Oh, and I haven't mentioned this already, but they're pretty pricey! At £80-ish for the set, you may decide they're not worth it.

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  1. Have mine in my stash but there's always something else coming soon that I decide I'll wait for it to arrive before I ship, lol. Thanks for giving some more pics to mull over whilst I wait!

    Well written review as always!

    1. Thanks so much, glad you enjoyed it! And certainly hope you enjoy these guys when they eventually arrive. :)