There is a lull in Transformers fandom at the moment. We are in the dark days between two toylines. Last year was the excellent Combiner Wars, featuring modern takes on the iconic five-in-one combiner teams of the past. This years line, Titans Return, looks to continue the great stuff, with characters from the latter years of G1 getting their first new toys in decades. That’s all well and good, but as of this writing there are no Transformers on the shelves to be excited about.
During this quiet time, a highly desired Combiner Wars toy was released: Deluxe class Groove. A bit of background before we proceed: the first Combiner teams available last year had one new member that wasn’t a G1 original. Superion came with Alpha Bravo, a helicopter. Menasor came with Offroad (I had to google his name!), a truck. Both toys shared the same color scheme as the missing G1 members. Defensor came with Rook, an armored SWAT team vehicle. Rook was a bit different in deco from his G1 counterpart, but more about that later.
I had mixed feelings about these lineup changes. It looked weird seeing a helicopter on Superion and a truck on Menasor. I delayed purchasing the CW toys for budget reasons, and when funds finally became available, new releases had been announced. There would be special, online only toys of the original G1 characters for the “missing” Aerialbots and Stunticons. Slingshot was an airplane, and Wildrider was a sports car, and all was right with the world. I purchased them as soon as they were available and thought how awesome it was to not have been “forced” to buy Alpha Bravo and Offroad.
Let’s go back to Rook for a moment. He was mainly white with some blue trim, big and blocky, and his head reminded me of a football helmet. He was super posable, and looked great as an arm, or a leg, or a robot, or a SWAT vehicle. Rook was almost nothing like the G1 Protectobot he replaced, motorcycle Groove. I grew quite fond of Rook over time. Rook might be the best CW toy. I never look at my Defensor and think Rook doesn’t belong there, like I did for Alpha Bravo and Offroad. Somehow it seemed acceptable for CW Defensor to be a bit different than G1 Defensor. My feelings were beginning to change.
Bruticus, the Combaticon combiner, was released late last year. True to form, Hasbro changed one of the limbs/members. Blast Off (same character this time, not a new one sharing the same color scheme) was an airplane, not a space shuttle. I was a bit surprised when I saw the pictures and the plane limb didn’t bother me in the slightest. A space shuttle is a strange choice among the other war vehicles on the team, so changing it to a fighter jet made sense. Also, airplanes and space shuttles are the same basic shape, so Bruticus still looked plenty G1 for me. This tolerance for a change from the original toy is unusual for me; I consider myself a G1 fan first and foremost. Would I purchase a space shuttle Blast Off if it was on American shelves? Probably, but only to see the new mold, not because I consider the airplane version Blast Off to be inferior in any way.
Last month, a deluxe-sized version of Protectobot Groove was released (said release was a mess, but that’s not the point of this story). I snagged one off Amazon and he arrived two business days later. I opened Groove, transformed him to a motorcycle, and waited for the sense of completion and G1 accuracy to wash over me. It never came, so I set him aside. Groove is merely “all right”. I don’t usually care for motorcycle Transformers much, but Groove is a good one. He’s a bit plain looking in color scheme, but so was the G1 version. I find myself preferring Rook to Groove in nearly every way. The only area in which Groove could be considered superior is strict adherence to G1. Given the plainness of the toy as well as the goofiness of a motorcycle being as large as a helicopter or ambulance, I don’t see myself using Groove as a Defensor limb over good ol’ Rook.
I’m shocked to say it, but I prefer a new character over a slavish recreation of a G1 toy. Granted, it was a pretty bad G1 toy in the first place, and I have no particular affinity for it since I never had one as a kid. I feel like my priorities as a collector are shifting a bit. I’m not sure exactly what I’ll do with Groove now. Maybe I’ll make that all-white Optimus Maximus I’ve been thinking about. Or maybe I’ll trade it for something else that gets me more excited. Perhaps it deserves to belong in the collection of someone who really, REALLY wants a G1 accurate Defensor. For once, I’m surprised to NOT be that guy. And I am totally fine with that.