I want to preface this piece by bringing up a simple fact. Sometimes real life sucks. It’s awkward, weird, painful, and tends to derail us when we least expect it. Last August my father was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer and just a year after I had made the decision to uproot from my previous home of 20 years to move in with the love of my life, I was faced with the challenge of moving my parents across country so that I could take care of them. The past year has been rough to say the least. This is not typically something I’d mention here at Branded, but in the end dealing with real life junk kept me away from the site at a time when I just starting to prep for some big things and partnerships. It sucks, I sucked it up, I dealt with the things that needed to be handled and the site got thrown on the back burner. Family is certainly more important than this site, but in the mix of moving them, a million doctors appointments, and my father passing away I dropped the ball with a promotion that has been eating away at the back of my brain.
I haven’t done a ton of promotions on the site. Typically I end up buying stuff myself to give away and front all the shipping. It’s just how I roll. But the super gracious folks at Entertainment Earth reached out to me and wanted to partner up. I was hoping maybe they’d send some inexpensive 80s-centric tchotchkes, maybe a modern He-Man lunchbox or a Back to the Future pint glass or something that I could write about and then host a contest to give away. But they kind of insisted on sending one of the largest, most expensive modern Transformers toys on the market, the Titans Return Fort Max play set. I agreed, worked on an article while I waited for it to be shipped out, and was getting pretty excited to be able to gift one of these things to some lucky reader of the site. Fort Max arrived, I unboxed it, took a bunch of pictures and was all set to finish the review and set up the contest when the news about my father hit me like a ton of bricks.
Over the next three months I had every intention of finding a couple hours to throw the contest up on the site, and every time I finally found some free time to myself something would pop up. I kept telling myself that as long as I got the review and contest up and running by the end of November it would all be cool. I’m sure sending me a free Fortress Maximus is hardly going to bankrupt Entertainment Earth, but I still felt guilty all the same. That monster of a toy cost over $100 at retail and I had made a commitment to help pimp their site for their trouble. And there it sat in the corner of my office like a 2 foot tall guilt monster staring at me. When the middle of December rolled around I had, had enough. I boxed Fort Max back up and gave it to my nephew for Christmas. Ultimately, that was where he was going to go anyway as my nephew is a Transformers nut and seriously, what the hell was I going to do with it anyway. It’s not a bad toy, but I’m just not enough of a Transformers nerd to give it the home it deserves. So at least it found an appreciative owner and I was safely away from it’s frozen-faced stare.
Of course, that didn’t change the fact that I still didn’t deliver on my end of the bargain. Having just recently found some balance in my life I’ve been able to pick back up with Branded a bit. This review has been sitting in my drafts folder for over a year and honestly, I didn’t have the heart to delete it. Long story short, the super rad folks at Entertainment Earth gave me a very cool toy, and here is a review of that toy. Unfortunately I can’t give one away in a contest now (pretty sure that bridge has fallen to ashes), but I can at least ask anyone who reads this to hop on over to the site and consider buying some plastic fun for someone this holiday season. And if you’re curious what I think about a giant toy robot, then by all means, please continue reading…
As a kid growing up in the 80s it was tough not to covet like, ALL the toys. All of them. Between daydreaming about winning the Toys R Us Toy Run Sweepstakes where I’d get a chance to have five whole minutes to grab everything I could get my hands on in the store or pouring over all the little toy catalogs that came packed with vehicles and figures from toy lines like G.I. Joe, M.A.S.K. and Transformers, I was always thinking about toys that I didn’t and in most cases would never own. Even though I think it’s safe to say that as a kid I wanted ALL of the toys, there was a series of toys that I never managed to get my hands on that I desperately wanted, the Transformers Headmasters series that were initially released back in 1987.
At this point in the Transformers mythos we were about a year past the release of Transformers: The Movie, the Hasbro toy line was starting to dip in popularity, I was starting to shift my collecting focus from toys to comic books and according to my parents I was too old to be asking for these for birthdays and Christmas. Of all the various toy design gimmicks of the 80s, none had captured my attention quite like the Headmasters. I was always very ‘action figure’ focused in my toy collecting, and weirdly I was always sort of obsessed with any kind of interesting head-related accoutrements. I adored any figures with removable helmets or working visors, not to mention characters that had some sort of head gimmick (like Kobra Kahn from the Mattel Masters of the Universe line with his water-spraying technology or Mumm-Ra’s light up eyes from the LJN ThunderCats line.) So the idea of a series of Transformers with removable heads that were themselves transforming robots? OMG.
Well, after almost 30 years I’ve finally been able to get my hands on a Transformers Headmasters toy. For those who aren’t aware, Hasbro has been releasing a series of Transformers Classics toys over the last decade under a number of different product line names (Classics, Combiner Wars, etc), and the most recent series is called Titans Return which has finally brought back the Headmasters gimmick to Transformers. There are a bunch of figures starting to trickle out into stores (including characters like Scourage, Blurr, and Blaster), and by far the most impressive (and imposing) is the Classics re-release of one of the largest Transformers toys ever released, Fortress Maximus!
Full disclosure, I received this toy to review from the folks at Entertainment Earth, and I typically don’t do reviews of releases from modern versions of classic toy lines (unless of course they do crazy things like combining brands like G.I. Joe and Transformers.) That being said, they very cool folks at EE made me and offer that I just could not refuse
which is the ability to hold and contest to give away one of these massive toys to one lucky reader of Branded. I love being able to pay it forward whenever I can and there was no way that I was going to pass on the opportunity to get one of these rad toys out to the folks who read this site. I’ll get to the nitty gritty of the contest at the bottom of this post, so with that out of the way, let’s take a look at the new Transformers Titans Return Fortress Maximus…
First and foremost, this thing is MASSIVE. I mean like almost two feet tall and the size of a toddler massive. Having never had the original toy that this new figure (playset?) is based on I have no idea if it’s larger, but I did have a friend who had a Metroplex toy and this Fortress Maximus seems to be a lot larger by far. Second, for a toy this large Hasbro really pulled out all the stops in terms of pose-ability and articulation. Now that may seem like a weird statement on the surface, I mean with a larger scale format figure like this there is obviously way more room to implement articulation and detail into the design, but from what I’ve seen in the larger scale toys like this there is usually a distinct lack of articulation. Bottom line, for once it seems like you can realistically recreate the poses and action stances from the packaging with this toy and I find that pretty darn awesome…
The level of detail is also off the charts. Not only articulation-wise where can you independently move his fingers, but in the mold as well. There are a million tiny details in the mold that make the figure incredibly realistic without falling off the cliff into the Bayformers territory of becoming too alien in design. This figure really is like a beautiful, highly detailed, ultimate version of what the character was meant to look like. Like a cross between the old Marvel comics and cartoon episodes mixed with the base of the original G1 toy.
Now, as cool and massive as this toy is, it’s not without its drawbacks. Even though you can put Fortress Maximus into some cool poses, because of his heft it’s hard to have him standing up independently in them. Also, again, because of the size and weight I don’t see this being a great toy for kids as it would be quite unwieldy to try and play with, and I say that as a kid who had a G.I. Joe U.S.S. Flagg as a kid and hated it. Just because something is big does not make it awesome when it comes to playtime. No, Fortress Maximus here is very much for the adult collector.
Another drawback is the way the head connects to the body. Much like the original G1 version, Fortress Maximus is a headmaster, so his head detaches and becomes Cerebros. And to finish off this nestled doll of a Transformer, Cerebros is also a headmaster, where his noggin comes off to become Titan Master Emissary. As cool as this is from a conceptual standpoint, there are some logistical problems that make the overall head attachment on Fortress Maximus a bit precarious. When Cerebros transforms to form FM’s head, Emissary acts as the connector piece. Because it’s so small and the over all head piece is so big I’m betting it would be pretty easy to accidentally snap off Emissary when trying to remove or attach Cerebros to Fortress Maximus. It just felt a little fragile to me when playing with it. So again, an aspect that puts this in the camp of the adult collector that will most likely just transform the toy once and then display it.
Lastly, and this is just an aesthetic thing for me, I’m not a huge fan of Fortress Maximus’ city alt mode. Much like Tom Hanks in big I just found myself holding it wondering why a kid would want to play with a city instead of the robot…
That being said, I am still really stoked about the overall toy in general and think that for Transformers fans this would make an amazing centerpiece to any collection.