1. Integral parts for one mode, that don't have anyplace to go in the other mode
I'm talking here about those bits and pieces like Optimus Prime's hands, or the Decepticon jets' hands and jet landing gear, that you need to make them look right, but need to be kept in a cup or something when your toy's in vehicle mode. (You can keep Optimus's hands in his truck cab when he's not using them, but not all the cars and jets were that lucky.) Pity anyone who has a stumpy Skywarp or Sunstreaker because their fist fell behind the dresser. This also includes those super-robot pieces that were needed to make Superion or Ruination look like more than cars or planes stuck together. Most of the toys' guns sorta fit this category too, 'cause pretty much all of the early toys didn't have anywhere to stick their weapons when they were a car, plane, or dinosaur, but it wasn't like they were necessarily part of the bot. A bot without a gun is one thing, a bot without a hand, wing, or head is another.
Examples: Optimus Prime(g1), Starscream(g1), Trailbreaker(g1), Bruticus/Ruination (g1, g2, RID combiner)
2. Transformers that need to be taken apart and reassembled to change modes
Actually, this is a feature of most Transformer toys - take a gun off the back of the vehicle mode and put it in the robot mode's hand, or take a section of the animal mode's back off to become the robot's shield. That I can take, but when a major part of the robot, like an arm or leg is taken off and plugged in somewhere else, I get the feeling that they just weren't trying very hard to make a good toy. Take Godbomber, a trailer/robot that combines with Super Ginrai (Powermaster Optimus Prime) to form God Ginrai. He disassembles not only to become the add-on armor for Ginrai, but just to change modes himself. Take the trailer apart and put it back together in a way that looks like a robot. With a 'transformation' like that, you could call Legos transformers too.
Examples: Omega Supreme(g1), Godbomber(Japanese g1), Ultra Magnus(RID)
3. Unposeable 'Brick' Transformers
The majority of the old-style Transformers didn't often have much power to move their arms and legs, unless those joints were also necessary to transform. Toys from the 'Generation 2' and 'Beast Wars' lines changed that, proving it was possible to have a figure that could transform AND have articulation that was equal to or better than most other 'normal' action figures. It's a little unfair to single out the older G1 toys as unposeable 'bricks', because all the lines have varying amounts of articulation from toy to toy. G1 just had a lower grading curve because making the robots poseable was not considered a priority, and was difficult to engineer. There were some out there that went above and beyond the call of duty, by not only being almost totally unposeable, but LOOKING a lot like a peice of masonry as well. Broadside was a triple-changer that went from aircraft carrier to airplane to robot, all of them immobile and block-shaped.
Examples: Broadside(g1), all Throttlebots (g1), Go-bots and Spychangers(g2 and RID)
4. integral parts or sections of one mode that come off and become a lame weapon or accesory.
This is a close relative to number one, but instead of a part needed for the robot mode going nowhere, it's usually a large integral chunk of the animal or vehicle mode coming off, and with a peg, flip-out gun barrel or blade, or whatever, becoming some kind of weapon or another accessory. While it sounds pretty clever, and is better than just taking that chunk off and doing nothing with it, A lot of these 'weapons' end up looking more silly than dangerous, usually because they still look like the peice that was removed. For a case-in-point, lets take the Beast Wars Cybershark toy (the original, not the TM2 version) He starts off as a hammerhead shark, but to transform to robot mode, both the head and tail of the shark are removed. He makes a nice looking robot, but with some very curious weapons. A blade filps out from the tail, making a handheld claw or scissors or something, and the shark head goes in the other hand, making what I'm told is a hammer. If it's necessary to remove half of one mode to make the other look decent, some real effort should be put into making those extra parts look like something more than just extra parts. And don't get me started on the gun made from Cheetor's butt. :3
Examples: Blurr(g1), Grimlock(g1 Pretender), Wolfang(BW), Cybershark(BW)
5. Made-up alternate modes that don't look like anything.
There were transforming robot toys before the Transformers, and the Diaclone and Microman toys toys that gave birth to them, existed, but few of them made into anything that was easily distinguishable as a car or plane or the like. Most of the time, they looked like a robot lying flat, or bent in half, with wings or fins that flipped out from somewhere. What made the Diaclone and Microman toys special back then was that they were modeled after real things. Bluestreak was a Datsun sportscar, Megatron was a pistol, Starscream was an F-15 fighter jet. It's kinda special to have a robot toy you can match up with a real-life thing. That's not to say I don't like any of the Transformers that turn into made-up things, like futuristic vehicles or monsters. In fact the Vehicons are some of my favorite toys. I have nothing against futuristic or fictional designs, but sometimes they harken back to those older toys, and they have 'vehicle' modes that look more like a robot bent in half, or lying down, with wheels, wings, or a windshield giving the scant impression that it's a car or plane of some sort. Once again, it just seems like no one put in the effort.
Examples: Wreck-Gar(g1), many Pretenders(g1), Clones(g1), Pretender Monsters(g1)
6. 'Kibble' from the alternate mode that spoils the looks or hampers the poseability of the robot mode.
I'm not sure who exactly coined the term, but 'kibble' basically refers to parts of the toy's vehicle or animal mode that are hung somewhere on the robot mode, not really contribulting much to it. Jazz may have car doors stuck out like wings on his back, and Optimus Prime may have truck windows on his chest, but these are not necessarily considered kibble, because they add something to the look of the figure. Toys like the Terrorcons or Seacons aren't as lucky - the animal legs on their sides look awkward and tacked-on. Many Beast Wars and related toys, especially the ones native to Japan, suffer from kibble badly, in part from the tendency to design toys as if the robot was balled up inside a shell made from the other form, which ends up hanging off the robot in large chunks, making it hard for the robot to move its arms or legs well. On toys like this, 'kibble' is often a fact of life, but it's best if it's minimized or tucked out of the way, or better yet, designed into the robot form in a creative and artistic way, like Jazz's doors.
Examples: Terrorcons and Seacons(g1), Rhinox(BW), Break(BW Neo), Side Burn(RID)
7. Toy gimmicks that hurt the looks or play value of the toy.
If you didn't already know, a 'gimmick' is something special or extra to make a toy more fun to play with. In the early days of Transformers, their capability to change from one form to another WAS the gimmick. Later on, just transforming started being taken for granted, and more and more new ideas started being put in, Like toys that transformed in new and interesting ways, toys that shot sparks or missiles or whatever, toys that changed color, toys that moved, toys that lit up, made noise, or even spoke. The big problem with many of these gimmicks is that when they get put in, a sacrifice has to be made somewhere else. The 'Robots in Disguise' version of Optimus Prime lights up and speaks, but to do it, the speakers, electronics and batteries had to go somewhere, filling a large ungainly backpack. Some Transformers have three modes of transformation, fewer still have six or more, and to accomodate all those modes, few of those modes are acually that recognizable or distinct. For another Optimus example, the Beast Machines 'Blast Punch' Optimus has a wind-up punching and shooting action built into one massive arm, and that same arm loses its elbow joint to make it work. Gimmicks that work well can add to the fun of a toy, but occasionally the gimmicks are too ambitious or badly designed, and end up spoiling the rest of the toy in the process.
Examples: Quickswitch(g1), Retrax(BW), Cheetor, Supreme Cheetor, Night Slash Cheetor(BM)
8. Wierd proportions in robot mode, or a robot that can't stand up.
Actually, this is a very common thing in the world of Transformer toys, mainly because it's very challenging to make a toy that changes from one mode to another, and have both modes look well proportioned. It's tolerable and forgiveable to a point, since they are robots and not people. After all, most robots I've seen in anime look pretty diferent than most people I know, and they still look pretty good. It's still odd though to see robots with short arms, tiny heads, wide hips, or oversized legs. It's not really the same thing, but related, to see robots that can't stand up without help, either because they're topheavy with too-small feet, or because they were designed with wheels for feet.
Proportion examples: Astrotrain(g1), Swindle(g1), Grandus (g1 Japan), Ultra Magnus(RID), Midnight Express(RID)
No-Stand Examples: Depth Charge(BW), Blackarachnia(BW TM2), Thrust & Cycle Drone (BM)
9. Obvious robot bits showing on the vehicle or animal mode.
The idea of a Transformer being a 'robot in disguise' is helped a lot when it's not too apparent that the toy car you're holding turns into a robot. (Ignoring the Autobot sysmbol on the hood, of course. :3 ) It's kind of a giveaway when you filp the toy car over and see the face and chest of a robot on the underside, but it's forgiveable because you don't usually look at the undersides of most cars. You see the undersides of airplanes a bit more often. It's another matter when you see a pair of robot hands sticking up from the trailer of Powermaster Optimus Prime, or robot legs tacked underneath Dinobot with little to disguise them. It's a challenge to get every last thing hidden away, to be sure, but they're meant to be robots in disguise, even if that disguise is a futuristic tank that looks a lot like a robot folded in half. Hide those hands and hide that face! It shouldn't be that easy to tell exactly what the robot mode looks like just by looking at the underside of the vehicle. Examples: Optimus Prime(g1 Powermaster), Predator Jets(g1 Europe), Dinobot(BW), Wind Sheer and Skyfire(RID)
10. Problem Transformations.
They're the Transformers - the whole toy line is made to transform from one mode to another. (most of them anyway) It's too bad there are a lot of what I consider poorly-designed transformations around. Some of this has already been covered in the earlier sections. Some of them are too simple, like a car or animal that does little more than just stand up to convert to robot mode. There's the other extreme, where a transformation is way too complex and involved. Complexity doesn't really bug me that much, as long as everything moves where it should without problems. My problem is when there are parts that get in each others' way in the normal transform process, or pieces that have to be in just the right place to line up, with hardly any indication of whether you have it right or wrong. If you run the risk of popping off a limb or body section EVERY TIME you transform a toy, there's something not quite right with the design. What's even worse is when one or more of those frustrating part-snapping elements are loaded on to an otherwise simplistic design. There are a lot of beautiful toys with smooth and elegant transformations - not too easy, but not frustrating either. It's just too bad there's at least as many that fit in the 'far from perfect' category too.
Examples: Monster Pretenders(g1), Magnaboss(BW), Cybershark/Sky-Byte(BW TM2/RID), Mega Cheetor(BM), Sideburn(RID)
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