Botcon Exclusives

Matt Nelson of Pewsitters and Super Deformers is our guest reviewer today, covering an area I do a seriously poor job on - Transformers!  This review will cover two of the Botcon exclusives, Arcee and Tigatron.

So there's this big convention every year, and from around the world, fans flock there to meet online friends, view new merchandise, and screen episodes of TV shows.

Must be SDCC, right?  Wrong, baby.  It's Botcon. the biggest, baddest Transformers convention around, and for Transfans, it's like some kind of holy pilgrimage.

And your reward for the trek?  Exclusive Transformers.  This year, however, they're not just any exclusive Transformers.  This year Hasbro let 'em break the rule of not using any established characters; and apprently, when 3H decides to break a rule, they do it big.  I was unable to attend the 'con this year (oh, but you better believe I'm getting ready for next year's), but through two awesome Transfans who go by the name of Super Fire Ginrai and Techno, I managed to snag a couple sets.

I'd also like to thank xautobotx of the Allspark (, for letting me use his pictures of the characters.  The only alterations I've made is to shrink them a tad (as they were HUGE).

Let's give a big Toy Review welcome -- to Tigatron and Arcee.

Articulation - ***1/2 Tigatron, ** Arcee
In robot mode, Tigatron has 19 points of articulation, all useful except for the head.  All it can do is look up and down, though his mouth also opens in a snarl.  The shoulders and hips are both ball-jointed, he has bicep articulation (just above the elbow joint), forearm articulation (just below the elbow), waist, ankle, and knee articulation in two places.  He can be put in absolutely loads of great poses, and retains his balance rather well.  

In tiger mode, Tigatron has 18 points of articulation.  The only places where it differs from the robot mode is in the front tiger legs, which have only shoulder, elbow, and ankle articulation, none of it ball-jointed.  In tiger mode, he cannot achieve as many poses, but he more than makes up for it in the robot mode.

Arcee has 20 points of articulation in spider mode, which unfortunately are almost completely useless.  Most of them are in the spider legs, and while they're all ball-joints and can be posed in nearly every way imaginable, they don't do a single thing for supporting the toy, which just flops on its belly.

In robot mode, Arcee has only 15 points of articulation.  Her poseability is somewhat hampered by her large "backpack", which tends to overbalance her, and her action feature, which interferes with waist movement, but she can still be posed in a decent variety of ways.  Her articulation in robot mode is in neck, shoulders, elbows, hips, knees, and ankles.

Paint - ** Tigatron, *** Arcee
While I confess that I really like Tigatron's color scheme, it being a very beautiful blend of chrome blue, white, and light metallic blue, there really isn't a paint scheme to speak of -- most of it is molded plastic.  However, what's there is precisely sprayed with no smudging or streaking, which is really typical of all Transformers -- I don't think I've ever gotten one with a poor paint job in my life.  Like it says, though, I can't really speak to it here.

Unlike Tigatron, Arcee's paint job is incredible, and actually quite subtle in many places.  In spider mode, her paint scheme is largely white and pink, as in robot mode, but there are many places where special attention was taken to detail.  There are some blue shaded areas on the spider abdomen, and the Transmetal chrome fades into two colors of pink.  Also, some of the areas on the abdomen that appear merely white at first glance are actually a pearlized pink, which produces a nice effect.

In robot mode, the effect carries over.  The pink contrasts nicely with the white plastic, and the black used for her eyes really brings them into focus.  Also painted is a slight smile on her lips.  A couple of nice touches include the widow's hourglass, in grey, on her bellybutton area, and the classic Autobot symbol abover her left breast.  Overall very pleasing, and in this reviewer's opinion, even better for the mold than the original Blackarachnia's colors, which in places were quite garish.

Accessories - *** Tigatron, ** Arcee
Some of the items that come with Tigatron aren't really accessories, but since they're extra bits in the package, I'll count it.

Tigatron comes with two gun barrels that fit onto the sides of his legs in tiger mode, and fit onto the muzzles of his flip-up guns in robot mode (more on those later, he teased).  They store well, but don't really look like anything unless he's in robot mode.

Also included is the "tail weapon".  A holdover from Transmetal Cheetor's original mode, the tail comes out of his cat rear (ahem), and is meant to be a hook sword of some kind, or something.  However, because of Tigatron's remold status, he can't actually hold this weapon, and it isn't mentioned in the instructions, leaving it part of the robot mode.

There is also a sticker set in the box, featuring a picture of the Vok, characters from the Beast Wars series, and Maximal and Wreckers logos, which are meant to be placed on Tigatron's shoulders in robot mode.  Unfortunately, I could not get them to stick to my Tigatron, possibly owing to the fact that the adhesive seemed quite weak.

There's also a transformation instruction sheet, which features superb COLOR pictures of Tigatron, with well-written instructions.  It's probably way too expensive for Hasbro to do as a matter of course with their figures, but it'd sure be nice.

What makes up for any lacking in the previous accessories is the last insert, a cover-variant version of the Botcon comic this year, "Transformers, The Wreckers:  #1".  (All together now, "Aaaaaah, finally!")  The comic explains the origins of the two new toys released this year, and features many of the old Botcon toy exclusive characters as new members of an old team from the Transformers comics.  It has really nice art and a decent story, though it is a bit "fanboyish", as my father put it, and I was put off by a really speechy bit featuring the Arcee character.  Those are really the only two bad points, though, and so it's really quite a nice "accessory".

Arcee doesn't really come with much in the way of accessories.  Her main weapon is actually a part of her transformation; it's her spider face.  This comes off during conversion to robot mode, and becomes a "grappling line" of sorts.  The pincers have a hard time holding onto things, but if you can get them to do it, the mechanism easily holds her weight.  It can also be used to "capture" figures and draw them in (quite quickly!) to Arcee's waiting spider fangs. 

Arcee also comes with an instruction sheet, which is essentially the same as TM2 Blackarachnia's, just with Arcee's name inserted, and after getting spoiled big-time by the Tigatron one, it's a bit of a letdown.  Also there is a Tech Spec Decoder, the little red plastic slip that fits over the Tech Specs on the back and allows you to read her vitals.  Nice touch.

Packaging - ****
Like all the Botcon exclusives, the packaging is nothing short of astounding.

Tigatron is packaged in a black window box, printed all over with a purplish spacescape, that opens with a flap on the right side of the box face.  This flap features a CGI model of the character, created for 3H Enterprises by Mainframe Entertainment, the animators for the Beast Wars and Beast Machines TV series.  Behind this model is a Wreckers logo, which ties into the ongoing Botcon storyline (more about that in a moment).  Opening the flap reveals the toy, packaged in robot mode, and on the underside of the flap, three more pictures of Tigatron; one a CGI model as he appeared in Beast Wars, one the large drawing that also appears on the box's left front face (more on that in a moment as well), and lastly another, smaller Tigatron drawing in his new incarnation, Transmetal Tigatron.  Opposite the flap, on the left side of the package face, is a color photo of the toy superimposed over a drawing of Tigatron by Dan Khanna, well-known Transformers fan artist.

The sides of the box both feature pics of Tigatron in both modes.  The top of the box proclaims that Tigatron "Converts from deadly tiger to heroic robot", and features more photos of both modes.  On the back of the box is Tigatron's Tech Spec, which explains a bit about his origin and abilities.  There is also a picture of Tigatron involved in a larger battle scene with three other Transformers toys, all of whom are rendered in CGI.  Lastly, there is a short origin of the Wreckers (I'm getting to it, I'm getting to it!!)

Arcee's packaging is even better than Tigatron's, and that's saying a lot.

Arcee, like Tigatron, is also packaged in a window-box.  The front has an allover print of a translucent blue spiderweb.  On the left is the Transformers logo from Beast Machines done in silver, and on the right, provided by Mainframe Entertainment, is a CGI image of Arcee in robot mode.  The left side is a flap, which opens to reveal Arcee, packaged in Transmetal 2 spider mode.  On the interior of the flap, there are three more pictures of Arcee, all in CGI, featuring some of the toy's various functions (those'll be covered later).

The sides have photos of the toy's robot and spider modes, and the top of the box shows a "Start/Finish" comparison of the spider mode (with Autobot symbols behind it) and robot mode (with Wrecker symbols behind it).

The back of the package is the real star here, as the Mainframe boys have created another image that is dynamic and exciting, showing Arcee in an underground "lair", lunging at the viewer with her claw weapons extended.  It's a great image.  However, for classic fans, the bigger draw is perhaps the Arcee tech spec, which is done in G1 style, decoder portion and all.  There is also a smaller picture of Arcee on the left side done in wireframe style, showing her various action features.

Sculpting - *** Tigatron, **** Arcee
Transmetal Tigatron is actually a repaint, like all Botcon exclusives to date.  He uses the same mold as X-9 Ravage, a Japanese remold of the Transmetal Cheetor toy.  The toy was created because of an appearance by the Ravage character, a character from the classics Transformers series, in the Beast Wars show.

The sculpt is excellent, but it does not perfectly represent the show model; especially since in the episode, CGI magic allows the Ravage robot to turn into a cassette, his classic show alt-mode, and this of course would be blatantly impossible.  However, as he is drawn in the Botcon comic, "The Wreckers" #1 (aaah, there's light at the end of the tunnel) it's spot-on perfect, therefore Tigatron gets three stars.

Arcee, like Tigatron, is a repaint of an earler figure.  In this case, it's the Beast Wars Transmetal 2 Blackarachnia.  Poor Blackarachnia was first a repaint herself, of the very un-ladylike Tarantulas toy.  Not so the case here; this toy has obvious indications of its fembot status, including high heels!

The spider mode is excellent, with loads of fur detailing, mechanical bits, and other miscellany that make it really eye-catching.  It's not entirely accurate to a real spider, especially around the head area, where it almost appears to have picked up legs nine and ten (the robot mode arms, obstensibly some kind of pedipalps or something in beast mode), but since it's a giant freakish robot spider from another planet anyway, we'll cut her a little slack.

The robot mode is similarly well-sculpted, and it's interesting to note is a slight remold.  The original Blackarachnia toy had a breastplate which could actually be removed from the robot mode, leading to countless "topless BA" jokes on Transformers message boards.  That problem has been solved here, as the breastplate is simply not included, and the interior section, which had two small holes to hold the original breastplate on, have been filled in.

Transformation/Action Features - ** Tigatron, *** Arcee
Tigatron loses a few points here because of his action features and remold.  In transforming the figure to robot mode, the robot arms just fold under the tiger chest and hang there, between his forelegs.  This detracts from the otherwise aesthetically pleasing cat mold.  This was a change from the original mold, in which the arms snapped together to become the head, and therefore there was no kibble to speak of.

In robot mode, the action features are nice, but as mentioned earlier in the accessories category, it makes Tigatron completely unable to hold the "tail weapon".  They do work well, though, and are rather fun.  The gun barrels snap onto the spring-loaded handles in his hands.  When pushed all the way back, they rest under his forearms, and with the flick of a finger, Tigatron has quick-draw action!  Try that one, Eastwood!  He also has opening chest panels, which hide a cool little sticker of his spark (the Transformer version of a soul).

Also, in tiger mode, the sides of his body flip out to reveal jetpacks.  The jets inside extend and Tigatron is a flying tiger!  Not that tigers are really known for their flying ability, but hey.

The transformation is relatively simple; chest flips up, robot arms fold in, cat arms fold down and over from back, rear legs swing down, head pushes in and looks forward, and voila, tiger mode.  Not too difficult, but it is only a Deluxe-sized figure, and they're not always that hard.

While I'm not going to go into Arcee's transformation in detail, as it's long and complex, I will say it's satisfyingly difficult for a Mega-sized figure, and not too frustrating.  It's well-engineered, and the robot and spider modes are significantly different.

Arcee has two action features, and a gimmick.  The gimmick surrounds the Spark Crystal in her spider abdomen, which is an allegiance decal of sorts.  On the original TM2 Blackarachnia, this could be flipped to Maximal or Predacon, showing her dual nature as a bad good guy.  On Arcee, there's a pink (VERY pink) Maximal symbol on one side, but on the other is a white-and-red Autobot symbol, showing her heritage.

The action features are actually kinda neat.  The one is the aforementioned accessory, which works quite well in both modes (though you do have to fiddle with it a bit in spider mode).  The second is in Arcee's robot mode, and it requires that you get the transformation just right (it's not as hard as it sounds).  When you twist Arcee's waist to the left a time or two, lift one leg, and push back on her head, she executes a powerful roundhouse kick!  Fun stuff, and makes it more than just a pretty 'bot.

Value - ****
This is tricky, to be honest.  The Botcon exclusives are a ridiculously low run of toys, and what with licensing costs, packaging, etc., they're VERY expensive to make.  Tigatron, the smaller of the two exclusives this year, was $45. 

Now, if you are a serious Transformers collector, as I am, who loves the toys, is not necessarily buying them for playing with (aside from posing, etc., but that's a debate for another day), and just really think they look neat, then he's worth every single penny. 

On the other hand, if you were thinking of getting them for your kid, turn around and go to Toys R Us and buy some of the Robots in Disguise figures.  Your wallet will thank me.

As mentioned with Tigatron, this is tricky, but I'm basically going to give the same review here.  Arcee was a $60 toy at Botcon.  For serious collectors?  Oh, it's a must-have, especially as this is the only _actual Transformer_ ever released of the Arcee character.  For casual collectors/shoppers for kids?  For $60, you could be buying three of the Car Brothers in some places.  It depends on which side of the fence you're on.  Me, I'm on the side that occasionally likes to make it hurt so good to pay.  ;)

Overall - *** Tigatron, ***1/2 Arcee
Tigatron is one nice Transformer, and being a repaint of a mold that was VERY limitedly available in the States to begin with, it's just one more chance to get ahold of a really good toy.

This is the only Arcee ever made, and hopefully not the only one, but if you can get ahold of one at non-horrifying eBay prices, DO IT.  You won't regret this awesome toy. 

Figure from the collection of Matt Nelson

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