TFviews Looks at the Power Core Combiners Line

  Posted in Reviews, Toys and Collectibles on September 21st, 2010 by JediTricks

Released in early July, Hasbro’s new Power Core Combiners line brings a 3rd main line to Transformers shelves, after Revenge of the Fallen, and Generations. As Hasbro puts it, “The TRANSFORMERS POWER CORE COMBINERS introduce fans to an all-new assortment of figures that expand on the classic TRANSFORMERS play pattern. This new expression of figures combine with one another, in dozens of variations, to create a wide variety of larger COMBINER robots, with each figure serving as various body parts and weapons.”

At Comic-Con in late July, Hasbro expanded upon fan inquiries of the line by explaining that PCCs are not meant to supplant the existing Combiner characters we’ve grown to know and love over the years, but to supplement them. For example, the PCC Combaticons here are not a replacement for the team that makes up Bruticus, PCC Bombshock and his 4 drones are merely another part of a larger Combaticons team; just because we’ve seen 5 Combaticons in G1 doesn’t mean those are the ONLY ones, the designers at Hasbro consider them a larger sub-group with lots of guys in that group we just hadn’t seen before, some who don’t combine at all, some who can only deal with drones rather than a full merge team, a la training wheels. This explanation is somewhat elegant balancing the needs of the fans with this concept, and also forgives the largest upcoming point of contention some G1 fans will have, that of the Dinobots combiner – they’re not Grimlock, Swoop, Slag, Sludge, and Snarl, the PCC set will be Dinobots we hadn’t met before.

Hasbro also explained from a business perspective what this line is meant to do, it’s meant to bring the combiner experience that old school fans have gotten to enjoy for decades to a new audience, a more casual consumer market that wouldn’t likely purchase a $40 gift set of combiners but might get into a $20 set. In that respect, I can appreciate their choice as well, as combiners have always held fascination for me at all scales, even very small like Legends Devastator and the Minicon Street Action Team have been enjoyable. PCCs come in 2 sizes/pricepoints. Commander sets are 2-packs at MSRP $10 with 1 scout-sized “commander” and 1 minicon partner; the commander goes from standard vehicle to robot, and then has a third mode as a combiner core torso and head to accept the line’s drones (which we’ll get to in a moment); the minicon in this set is a quadruple changer, going from robot to alternate mode to weapon mode to chest armor mode. Then there’s the other size/pricepoint, “Combiners”, a 5-pack at MSRP $20 with 1 scout-sized core figure and 4 drones; the core figure is the same as the commanders above, vehicle to robot to torso/head; the drones are small minicon-sized vehicles that go to limb modes but have no robot modes, instead they auto-transform when plugged into the standardized PCC port plugs.

Hasbro sent TFV a sample of Bombshock with Combaticon drones – a combiner-class 5-pack – and Huffer with Caliburst – a commander-class 2-pack. Also, TFV had independently purchased samples of the other wave 1 commanders (Searchlight with Backwind and Smolder with Chopster) and a wave 2 combiner set (Mudslinger with Destructicons). We had been waiting until the wave 2 commanders came out before giving a full take on the line, to give it the fairest shot possible, but it’s been 2 months and those wave 2 commander sets are still not hitting.

This will be a broad overview of the line itself broken down into several discussion points about the line.

– Concept –

JediTricks: Conceptually, the line makes sense to me both from a marketing perspective and from an in-universe canon perspective. I have no problem integrating this into the “new canon” which starts with Exodus and War For Cybertron. From the in-universe thinking, why not have the teams we know extended into larger groups that we just haven’t seen? From marketing, combiners have always been charming, and Transformers is unique in the current market in that it can make individual figures combine into a larger character – this is fairly unique, stuff like Voltron and Power Rangers are just big mobile suits with pilots, not themselves individual characters, you don’t see GI Joe’s Cobra Viper figures stacking to make a Mega-Viper, that’d be ridiculous. Yet combiners in TF usually require buying multiple separate figures which can get expensive, and thus keeps it out of the hands of casual consumers who might be intrigued but cannot get beyond a certain pricepoint.

Dominic: The mix and match element is really selling me on the line. I do not like every Minicon or drone, but the mix and match element of the line does add a new level of fiddle-a-bility. I am normally very orthodox in my thinking about keeping figures and accessories together, but with PCC I find myself mixing and matching for the heck of it. Some of this is for the sake of testing out custom ideas, but much of it is just for the sake of fiddling.

Aside from some quality control issues, (just about every copy of Bombshock I have seen has notable flaws on top of the robot’s head), my general impression of the line is favorable. This is the first line in a good long time to not have a Megatron or an Optimus. While some of the character names are recycled from old lines, Hasbro has said that Huffer is the only legacy character in the line, meaning the other characters are new characters.

JT: While it is nice to have a line that’s not just all the same ol’ guys (and my Bombshock has no flaws that I can see with either robot head), something about the concept that I’m not thrilled with is the previews for later waves show an intense amount of repainting and repackaging of early waves’ figures and drones to fill the line, which makes later all-new sets less likely to get proper releases when they’re surrounded by shelfwarmers. So finding those Dinobot combiner sets is going to be really tough in a sea of older, unselling “remixed” combiner boxes on store shelves. It’s already happening in my area with just wave 1 combiners drowning out wave 2, and we haven’t even gotten to repaints yet.

Dom: The sales of the recolurs is tough to call at this point. The Crankcase set is probably going to sell absurdly well, owing to using the Huffer mould for the body, as well as being a half-assed Overlord homage. Do we know the case breakdowns at this stage? Short-packed recolors could prevent shelf-warming.

JT: The Combiners wave 3 case consists of 2 repaint sets, Crankcase (black Huffer) & the Destrons, and Stakeout (white Smolder) & the Protectobots – the drones are all the wave 1 drones repainted and split in half, each set gets 2 air, 2 ground military. To be thorough, Commanders wave 3 is also all repaints – repainted Searchlight, Bombshock, and Skyburst – each with repainted wave 1 minicons. Both Commanders and Combiners wave 3 cases are even-packed, each set is 2 per case.

– Packaging –

JT: For this summer’s reset, Hasbro has gone for a “family of products” look with TF, Revenge of the Fallen and Generations share a package shape and graphic cues, differing only in tagline and coloring. Oddly though, PCCs share almost everything about the Generations line’s packaging, the die-cut shape, the color, it’s somewhat odd. The packaging sizes are different though, with a wide scout-class card, and a bigger, flat gift-set style box. Inside both are 2 trays, a clear tray for the commanders and a blue tray for either the minicon or the drones depending on the pricepoint; I find this multi-tray system does help the little figures stand out as “different”, but something about it looks off about the whole affair that way. Dealing with the multiple trays is also a little problematic getting figures in and out, and is difficult for collectors who want to keep product packaged. It’s not terrible though. My main issue with the packaging is really that the line isn’t saying enough for itself, using the generic red TF packaging feels… well, it feels “generic”.

Dom: I am forced to partially agree with JT on this point. The packaging does lack a certain distinction. At a glance, especially from certain angles, the Commanders look like deluxes from “Revenge of the Fallen” or “Generations”. If I am vexed by this despite searching for the toys, it is a good bet that casual buyers (Hasbro’s stated target with this line) may simply overlook the blister carded figures, which are the more marketable of the line – the boxed Combiners are more distinctive as a line unto themselves. However, they are indistinct internally. In other words, I can spot Combiner sets from some distance away, but not know which figure I am looking at. The generally dark/subdued colors on the boxes make it hard to tell which set I am looking at unless I am right on top of it. (And, this just makes the sting of not finding anything new all the worse.)

The separate trays for the figures and Minicons/drones help to accentuate the idea that the Minicons and drones are not bound to the main figures and are intended to be swapped around more effectively than saying “mix ‘n match fun” on the side of the package ever could.

JT: Good point about the packaging being internally hard to distinguish, something I hadn’t realized was bothering me in my searches. I find for the Commander carded 2-packs, there is so little distinguishing one from another that in the search for newer figures I just look at the names on the left side of the bubble. The boxed sets are even worse, the character art unfortunately has no pop and doesn’t resonate at first glance, I am holding Bombshock and Mudslinger and at first glance they were identical to me, that generic character art style that’s been growing more and more pervasive since Classics is especially bad in this line.

– Value –

JT: Here’s where the trouble starts to creep up on this line. The pricepoint on other Scout-class figures hit $8 in the past year, which is a tough pill to swallow seeing as it’s been $5 to $7 for over a decade. But for PCCs, both sizes/pricepoints are centered on a single Scout-class figure. The perceived value barrier is pushed with the Commander-class sets, it’s just a Scout-class and a Minicon, so is a minicon really worth $2 on its own? Not in my eyes, but between including extra combiner engineering and a new minicon, the Commander-class sets are only a bit too inflated, though I do admit paying $10 for basically a Scout is more than a little annoying.

The real problem is the center of the line, the Combiner-class boxed sets for $20. There you’re getting the same Scout-class sized figure as basics with 4 drones. The drones aren’t robots, they aren’t characters, they’re just simple little Micro Machines-like vehicles, and they’re not particularly good ones most of the time. They also make rather mediocre Transformers, though we’ll get more into that later, but the truth is they’re not great limbs. As a set of toys, the Combiners come up woefully short in play value and display options. So you’re getting a box with a small Transformer in the middle worth at best $8 and then 4 small, unexciting drones that a consumer wouldn’t buy at any price by themselves, and as a value here they certainly don’t feel worth $3 each drone. That’s a rather big flaw to the line, in my eyes.

Dom: I disagree with JT on this front. However, I do think that his perception, while wrong, will become dominant. I miss the days of a $5 Scout, (remember when they were called “Basics”?), as much as anyone. Hell, I am kind of nostalgic for $7 Minicon sets. But, prices increase over time. (I also remember when Ultras were a mere $20 and it was possible to get a Voyager (then called a Mega) and still have enough change for a slice of pizza.) But, prices go up. Objectively, $10 for a Commander pack (Scout and Minicon) is about right, even before factoring in that Hasbro likely wants to recover research and development costs on this line.

The Combiner sets are a bit more difficult to justify, both in terms of price and perception. If we assume that the main figure is $7 or $8, then the drones are around $3.25 each – this assumes one is not paying sales tax, there will be some variation in price depending on where one lives. Toys of similar complexity to the drones, such as the Legends scale, sell for about $4. By this measure, about $20 is about right for a Combiner set (1 Scout and 4 drones). But, and I say this as someone who likes the line and concept, $20 feels wrong here. I like the figures. There is plenty of fiddle-value to the line. But, at a visceral level, $20 seems to be a bit high. Some people complain that the drones do not have robot modes. The point of the line, as Hasbro has stated, is not to replace or supplant existing combiners, but to compliment said combiners. In this case, the limbs are intended to be drones subordinated to the Commander figure rather than characters unto themselves. In terms of concept, story and play, this works well enough. But, from a price standpoint, it seems wrong.

JT: Hasbro said at SDCC they wanted to make the limbs into robots of their own, but the concept got costed out. The idea of limb-drones that just roll around and do essentially nothing else is pretty boring for a play pattern – it’s why you don’t see a mountain of Roller toys today, and why the Vehicles Voltron didn’t take off the way the Lion one did back in the day.

Another point I should make about the Combiner value problem is that their core Commander figures are small and worse quality than the basic 2-pack Commander figures, so the center of those boxed sets aren’t even worth $8 on their own really.

Dom: As I said above, $20 seems viscerally wrong. And, I can see where JT is coming from about the boxed Commanders. But, this line is not really aimed at adults. It is aimed at kids. Kids are not likely (at least at this point) to know that the drones are failed attempts at Minicons. And, if Hasbro ditches the automatic transform gimmick and swaps in a robot mode on later limbs, kids will see it as an upgrade. The drones have the potential to be as collectible as Pokemon or Hot Wheels. As it stands now, the drones are ornate accessories for the main figures. There is plenty of fiddle/play value to these drones.

JT: I don’t believe for a second there is collectible value in those drones. Pokemon and Hot Wheels have unique qualities that make them collectible such as rarity, personality, unique packaging, quality sculpting, recognizability, and media tie-ins, which the drones simply do not.

– Commanders –

JT: I am counting the core figures with the Combiner sets as “commanders” in this respect since they’re the same scale and do the same thing. These are scout-sized figures, and fit with the style of scouts we’ve been getting since Energon, a little chunky, somewhat simple, a few cheats, but mostly standard. These scouts use 5mm pegs and pegholes, not the newer 3mm clip/rail system found on Revenge of the Fallen scouts. The PCC commanders range from fair to mediocre. All of them are saddled with the bright blue PCC combination pegs that end up a burden in vehicle and robot modes, though some hide them better than others or use them for heel spurs. Since more sets are sold without drones than with, I consider this class to be the true center of the line. While Huffer is as good as it gets with what this scale in PCC can do, he’s certainly not outstanding in any way, he’s a fairly middling figure on his own, and yet he’s the zenith of this scale for PCCs so far. The scout designs here definitely feel 5 years out of date. I can’t even speak for Double Clutch or Skyburst as the reviews I’ve heard on them have been bad enough to keep me away altogether.

The vehicle modes take a lot of liberties. The back of many of the vehicles are gappy to an unpleasant, cheap degree. I’ll call out Bombshock, Searchlight, and Smolder, but really looking at it, Mudslinger and Huffer have it to a lesser degree as well. Bombshock and Searchlight are vehicles largely through facades that can’t even cover the entirety of the vehicle.

The robot modes remain in that 5-years-behind-the-times simplified look and feel, less detail, over half the figures have a bit too much kibble to overlook, and all have lots of PCC cube-pegs everywhere which stand out like sore thumbs due to their blue color. Bombshock and Mudslinger are much smaller, Skyburst and Double Clutch are apparently quite simple. Oddly, the Combiner sets’ combiners, as I mentioned above, are lesser designs than the basic 2-pack figures. Articulation ranges from ok to good, nothing outstanding but nothing too bad, except that a lot of points of articulation are inhibited by design issues. Joints that hit other surfaces is very common in this line. Out of the 5 I have, only Mudslinger and Huffer have loose joint problems, but the problems they have get magnified later as combiner cores. The faces have less personality than I’m used to with TF basics, though there is a range, but so far there’s no head design I especially like, with Huffer & Searchlight bringing up the rear.

I have the most to say about this section because I feel they’re the center of the line. And as the center, they feel a bit lacking and below the curve. They’re not as much fun, they’re not full of personality, they are a tad frustrating to pose, they’re not really modern quality in any way, and that’s a huge problem in my book.

Dom: As with any line, any group of figures will fall into a range. Some, such as Huffer, are excellent. Others, such as Skyburst, are skippable. Given the scope of this line, the fact that the gimmick is new, and the price-point of the Commanders, the first wave of Power Core Commanders is actually pretty good. For Scout scale toys, the figures have a good amount of complexity. For Scouts with a mandated gimmick, (being the core of a combiner), these figures are exceptionally well executed. And, remember, this line is aimed at casual collectors and kids, two groups unlikely to be as troubles by the details that JT mentions.

The biggest problem with the Commanders is that some of the figures show a break between Hasbro’s stated goal with the line and its practical execution. So far, figures that were initially sold with Minicons have hard points on their chests to let the Minicon combine with the base robot or combined modes, while figures sold in Combiner boxes do not have the hard points on the chest. While it makes sense that figures not originally designed to be sold with Minicons would lack hard points on the chest, it contradicts the line for the figures to be inconsistent in this regard.

JT: The idea that casual consumers won’t recognize the issues I’m bringing up is unrealistic. They may not vocally say it, but they will respond to them.

Nobody else seems to be making note of this, but the combiner 5-pack commanders all have those hardpoints on their BACKS in combined mode. All of them have it, that cannot be a coincidence. Hasbro clearly designed something in mind there, but heck if I know what they are getting at – back armor is not impressive, minicon-derived or not.

Dom: I get the feeling that the back mounted hard-points were intended to play up the Minicons as weapons. (For example, Chopster works visually mounted on a robot’s back.)

– Minicons –

JT: I really liked Minicons back in Armada, and was actively sorry to see them go in Energon. With the recent Universe Jolt minicon and now these PCC minicons, it’s clear that Hasbro has entirely lost the ability to design quality minicons. With the PCC minicons, there is no transformation anymore, nothing clicks together, nothing is really hidden, it’s just shamelessly folding ball-jointed limbs around – any GI Joe figure could be a minicon the way these are. They claim to be quadruple-changers, going from a weapon for a vehicle to robot to a weapon for a robot to power-up armor, but aside from the robot modes, the other modes are vague and arbitrary and not locked down, and in the case of Backwind not even possible thanks to the inaccurate design on the legs. The robot modes are cast in bright translucent plastic, which hides a lot of their sculpted detailing and just doesn’t fit very well conceptually, making them look cheaper than they are even. The armor modes are fat T-shaped folded-over robots that plop onto the chest of the commanders, they don’t really add much in this respect. The weapon modes aren’t particularly exciting either.

Of all of them, Caliburst is the best, but again, that’s not saying much, he’s only ok for what he is, he’s got a big gun and gear detailing, and his vehicle-weapon mode at least looks like something that could be an emplacement. The other 2 I have aren’t even remotely good in robot or armor modes; and while Chopster does make an adequate-looking axe, it’s not stable at all and has the bot arms and head just sitting out there doing nothing. Backwind is bad in all modes – except armor where he’s just a wall of green – having an ugly robot mode with a screw dead center in the chest, he actively makes his Commander figure worse in vehicle mode by having just a bunch of loose bright-green junk hanging off the front, and the weapon mode is nothing but limbs flopped about in no particular order.

The minicons seem entirely tacked onto this line, an afterthought, which forced powerlink pegs onto all the other toys in the line. Or maybe they were intended and the concept got downplayed and somewhat lost in the mix. I dunno, but their inclusion is just confounding and their execution lacking.

Dom: I am a sucker for Minicons. I am a Minicon junkie. And, this line delivers the sort of Minicons that I have been waiting for. Rather than turning into under-sized and out of scale vehicles, Minicons in PCC turn into gear and henchmen. Caliburst turns into an artillery unit that can be mounted on the back of a larger figure or set on the floor. And, the robot mode looks pretty good as well. Not all of the Minicons are winners, some of the modes are less than perfect. (Chopster is a piece of junk and comes to mind here, owing to his signature axe mode looking like a fan mode.) But, the idea behind them is solid enough.

I also admit to finding appeal in the Microman vibe these figures seem to have.

JT: So you’ve been waiting for minicons that don’t really transform and are just little guys to hang out with your Transformers? You’ve been waiting for Diaclone?

Dom: You have a problem with Diaclone?

JT: I have a problem with fans trying to shoehorn that line into this one, it’s quite different. Also, now that I think about it, Backwind’s weapon modes are so bad they couldn’t even be called fan modes.

– Drones –

JT: What are the Drones by themselves? I don’t really know what Hasbro thinks they are, they certainly wouldn’t be sold by themselves. They’re around Hot Wheels-sized vehicles (the Dinobot drones won’t be vehicles obviously), and they currently fit a particular Combiner 5-pack theme (though it seems there will be mixing and matching themes in repaint sets). They each have a minicon-style 5mm peg for no real reason, and each has some level of automorph when plugged into a PCC peg-cube to unfold into an arm or a lower leg depending on the drone. They’re not fantastically-detailed or -painted, they’re not great in much of any way by themselves, content with ok for the most part. What is their stand-alone play pattern? They have no robot modes, so they’re not really “in disguise”. It seems like the Drones are just supposed to follow their commanders around with no other goal than to wait to become limbs. So they’re just basically add-on bits that look like vehicles so you won’t toss them in a drawer when you’re playing with only the commanders. And we all know how much TF fans love “legoforming” with parts that serve little other purpose, right? Right? Yeah.

I currently have the Combaticons and Destructicons, and while the Destructicons are a team of vehicles that have been “aftermarket up-armored” to become war machines which gives them an interesting idea at least, the Combaticons are merely just military vehicles which adds no backstory value. The Combaticon drones mostly have some decent sculpting, except for the Armored Car drone which looks downright terrible with chunky styling and mediocre detailing, and is well out of scale to its fellow teammate drones.

As limb designs, it’s a very mixed bag. They’re all spring-loaded, most automorph fully into limb mode when plugged onto a PCC cube, but a few of the wave 2 sets require additional manual positioning which is a drag, the Destructicon Armored Junker drone is the worst offender there that I have. I like that they don’t just mirror each other or rip off their designs, each arm and each lower leg looks and transforms different from another (although there are some similarities since there’s only so much unique engineering possible in this size a toy). Wave 1 arms seem more interested in making real hand-looking hands with fingers and thumbs, while wave 2 is more content to have them ending in “pointy things”. The feet in general have less creativity, mostly they’re all a toe-block unfolding out and a second bit unfolding with it for an aesthetic change. The transformations to limb show a lot of vague piston and armature elements, it’s good to get new details going but I would have liked more detail in those elements and additional ones like hoses and gears and such. Both the Combaticons’ hands transform partly through gravity, and both have issues here for different reasons, the missile drone hand isn’t free enough to fall into position so it requires manual transformation, while the tank drone’s hand flops very freely which is annoying for the vehicle mode.

Dom: Based on comments I have seen, the drones are the most controversial part of the PCC line. None of the drones are really stand alone toys. Each drone converts from a vehicle to a limb. Arms are always arms and legs are always legs. Many fans see drones/limbs without robot modes as a cheap way to execute a combiner design. But, the fact is that Hasbro has never been able to pull of a graceful combiner figure, despite 25+ years of institutional knowledge. Most combiners are cumbersome, often involving extra parts being added or subtracted from the combined form. PCC is really not far off from Hasbro’s average in this sense.

But it is also not fair to label the drones simply as “extra kibble that does nothing”. The drones have play value as, appropriately enough, drones. Many living room couches will be conquered by Bombshock’s land-ship and half-track. Many table-top rescues will be conducted by Skyburst’s helicopter. And no small amount of infanty will be pounded by Skyburst’s A10/AWACS hybrid.

The drones are a new concept in TF. Aside from “Beast Machines”, drones have been few and far between. The Combiner sets are effectively a Transformer packaged with advanced accessories. TFs usually come with a gun or two, or perhaps a skirmish weapon. The PCC toys almost have the feel of gaming models. (When opening the first few figures, I half-expected to find a rule book in the package.)

Of course, I would be lying if I said that the execution of the drones, either as drones or as combined limbs, was perfect. The drones are often out of scale with the Commanders they are packaged with, (the Rallybots), if not each other, (the Combaticons), And, as much fun as the auto-morph/mech-alive spring-loaded gimmick transform is, the resulting limbs are stiff despite looking spindly and flexible, giving the toys a brittle feel. While many of the drones have hard-points, few of them have hard-points that actually look good. And, while some of the drones look really good, (the Combaticon land-ship tank), some of them are terrible, (the Aerialbot’s attack chopper and fighter jet).

JT: BW Magnaboss & Tripredacus, RID Build Team & Omega Prime & Rail Racer & Build Team, Armada Jetpants Prime and Minicons Perceptor and the weapon combiner Minicon teams, even ROTF Ice Cream Skids & Mudflap suggest that Hasbro can do better. Even the Energon Maximus crowd were better in some ways despite needing kibble to make hands and feet. The drones are no more an acceptable concept here than they were with Energon Optimus Prime, a rather underwhelming figure in the scheme of things, nobody played with those drones and I doubt they’ll play with them the way you describe either.

Dom: I would debate the merits of all of the combiners mentioned above, especially the combiners marketed as combiner teams. Rail Racer and “Armada” Perceptor are good. But, they are hardly high bars to clear. The difference between these drones and “Energon” Optimus Prime’s drones is primarily price. And, “Energon” Optimus Prime was a terrible looking toy in every respect, even discounting that fact that it was a $40 Leader class toy. PCC figures are about half that, and they look better in many respects.

– Combined Forms –

JT: Combining for the core Commander figures I’ll credit for not being merely a bolting of bigger limbs to smaller. Instead, actual transformations take place: wider shoulders and hips occur, intentional knee joints form (the core figures have the combiner bots’ thighs), and new, larger heads are brought out. Some of the Combiner 5-pack core figures even deliver alternate chests from the regular commander modes. A few cores though don’t really have an idea of what to do with the commander’s arms, the worst offense being Mudslinger and I hear Double Clutch is an absolute disaster because of design flaws attempting and failing to address that. Thanks to variations from core to core, each combined bot has a different width of stance and shoulder, which adds variety. A lot of the shoulders are near or at head height and I don’t like this too much, but most don’t make it a dealbreaker – I’d say Smolder does, and his neck design already made him a hunchback so it’s really bad.

For the most part, the combined bots look alright as static figures. TF combiners have never been pose-kings, they usually have to make concessions to the combining system, and PCCs are no exception, they are “stand there and don’t move, just look combined!” figures. The size is the small, thin side of Voyager-class. The combined bot forms almost request mix-n-match, each team’s limb variety leaves the arms looking disproportionate, with some arms having tons of excess shoulder width and their partner arms having none, some legs being svelte while others have bulk sticking out. I can’t find one combined figure that looks better wearing the minicon armor though.

Articulation is derived from the core commander figures and their PCC peg-cubes being able to rotate. There’s swivel head, shoulder, and knee articulation; the lower legs can rotate for whatever that’ll get you; the thighs generally swivel like a classic T-crotch design. Some of the heads are ball-jointed. Additional jointing can sometimes be had by transformation joints, but there are no elbow joints. The figures don’t really look all that good with their arms moved anyway, kind of zombie-wants-a-hug-like, and they don’t have accessories to hold.

Ultimately though, the combined bots are what damn this line, and they are damned through engineering failures that undermine the concept. The first problem is that the PCC peg-cube system fails at the legs far too often inside the drones, the internal system doesn’t lock the peg down so it kicks back out partly before it grabs, this is especially bad for the legs since they often require being fully transformed via that peg to get full leverage to the feet, and when they don’t have it, they can’t stand securely. Adding to leg troubles, some of the peg designs are hollow and allow the part of the PCC peg-cube to get sucked in one way while the back gets kicked out, leading to a lower leg bending forward and detransforming part way, which is entirely unstable. Another massive engineering problem is that Core joints are often loose while PCC peg-cube joints are very tight, and coupled with the previous problem, it results in limbs drooping or falling off during simple posing or even just picking it up. So, they can’t be picked up sometimes without falling apart, and they can’t be put down sometimes without their lower legs failing in one way or another sending them crashing down. The final engineering problem is the cores themselves just not holding together all that well. In each, you’ll find varying degrees of issues with shoulders and thighs that dislodge and flop about, limbs that don’t work well with their predetermined stops, and stuff just generally not holding together the way it should. Many of the thighs are also vague how/where they stop and lock together, which is pretty bad when they’re holding up the entire figure.

Dom: The combined forms are the result of interesting experiments. The drones tend to unfold into limbs that are far more spindly than one might expect from simply seeing the drones. Sadly, the limbs are also very stiff.

The combined robots stand about as tall as a Voyager, though are much thinner. Some bodies work better with some drones than with others. Similarly, some bodies make better cores than others. (Huffer is easily the best. Skyburst is the weakest, though still passable.)

Hasbro could have spent more time and effort developing and executing the drone designs. The helicopter and fighter jet drones packaged with Skyburst are, put simply, junk. There is a difference between an unorthodox design that makes use of abstraction, (Gigalonians from “Cybertron” come to mind here), and just plain bad designs. The copter and jet make unbalanced legs that barely support the robot they were designed to be a part of. They only barely resemble, (in either form or function), the limbs they are designed to be.

If Hasbro smooths over these problems with future releases, and sells the idea of drones as accessories rather than characters, PCC could take off. Hasbro might even be able to use drones to muscle in on the market for small collectible toys.

JT: It doesn’t sound like you’re actually that impressed with the combined forms themselves.

Dom: I like Bombshock far more than Skyburst. Based on pictures I have seen, the Rallybot drones will work nicely with Huffer. (And, based on rumours I have heard, Hasbro also thinks this and there will be a Stunticon set made along these lines later this year.) My main complaint right now is that the copter and fighter jet leg drones are terrible. A kid could have done better. If there were more toys in the line, and those drones were not slated to be recoloured as part of two different sets, I could be more forgiving. But, as it stands now, there are 3 teams with at least one unforgivably badly-designed limb.

– Bottom Line –

JT: I want to like the Power Core Combiners line, I bought figures when they came out, and I keep looking for the new ones. The idea of mixing limbs to different cores to make different figures has appeal. I’m not really sure what minicons were supposed to bring to the party, but their addition shouldn’t have been a problem. I usually like scout-class figures. But the value is terribly lacking, the core Commander figures are fair at best and on a sliding scale, the minicons are underwhelming to say the least, the drones by themselves aren’t particularly interesting, and the combined forms have massive engineering flaws leaving them frustrating and unposeable and too often just not worth the effort to combine. The combining system ends up also being a drawback to the core figures when not combined.

Ultimately, I think Power Core Combiners could have been a memorable addition to the Transformers lore, but a sense of laziness about design, the use of drones that have no robot modes AND are underwhelming on their own, and numerous engineering problems have doomed it to being a quickly-forgotten footnote that fans and casual consumers alike won’t flock to and unfortunately seems to be suffering pegwarming status early in its life and will likely risk cancellation before it even gets to its anticipated Constructicons and Dinobots. If it survives this holiday season, it will absolutely require a second wind from Hasbro to even make it to the next, and I unfortunately don’t see that happening with Hasbro having already shown us later waves filled with re-paints and mix-n-matched sets from the first 2 waves of problematic items that have already been sluggish sellers in their first iterations.

Dom: Overall, I *really* like this line. In fact, I like it more than I anticipated, (and truth be told, intended), that I would. Put simply, this is a *fun* line. Scouts and deluxes are generally some of my favorite figures. There are plenty of larger toys that I like. But, when I am lying awake at night, or trying to spur myself awake in the morning, I generally reach for a good old trusty scout or deluxe to either calm myself down or to get myself thinking. The PCC figures have a good balance between overly simple and overly complex.

Many of the problems with Power Core Combiners are likely the result of a stiff learning curve. If Hasbro spends a bit more time and money on developing the line, there could be some fantastic toys down the road. The concepts, (new characters, drones, cheap combiners), are all sound. But the execution needs work.

Discuss TFviews’ PCC overview in its forums thread.


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