Today I will once again review something that is not related to Transformers. I have a treat for all the Mospeada and Robotech fans out there. I will be doing a full review of the Beta Fighter from Robotech New Generation, also known as the the Tlead in Mospeada. This will be the 2nd time in the history of this blog that a post will have nothing to do with Transformers (the first time being my Yamato 1/60 VF-11B review), but seeing as how this is a transforming robot, I don’t think many of you will mind.
As all Robotech fans will tell you, Genesis Climber Mospeada made up the 3rd arc of the original Robotech series called The New Generation. The two main fighters in Mospeada are the Legioss and Tlead, respectively ported over to Robotech as Alpha and Beta. I will be using Robotech names from this point forward, since the Toynami figure is made in reference to Robotech and not Mospeada.
The Alphas are the main forward strike fighters. The Betas can act as bombers on their own, or they can function as artillery and flight boosters when attached to the Alphas. These fighters came in 3 variants of blue, green, and red for most of the show. The blue fighters are typically the “H” variants reserved for combat officers and aces, much like the “S” designation in the VF fighters of Macross. The Toynami Beta I will review today is of the “H” variant (VFB-9H). In the show, this fighter was usually attached to Scott’s Alpha, though sometimes we do see it piloted independently by Rand or Lancer.
As far as the toys go, there have been several attempts at making the Alpha. I’m aware of 2 in the 80s and 2 in this decade, all of them less than spectacular. Each mold has its own strengths and weaknesses so thus far no one has made the perfect Alpha figure. As for the Beta, I read somewhere that there was never a toy made for it in the 80s. The Beta was a concept that only existed for the show and no one attempted to bring this figure to life until the last few years. What you see here is the attempt by Toynami at making a Masterpiece Beta figure.
Let’s start by looking at the box:
This is the same kind of box used for all the Masterpiece figures made by Toynami. In case you’ve never seen one, it is shaped like a book. The front cover opens to reveal the robot figure inside, like you see in the pic above. The Certificate of Authenticity appears on the inside cover. I should’ve took a comparison shot, but just so everyone knows, the Beta is much larger than both the VF-1 and Alpha fighters from Toynami, so a much bigger box is necessary. Personally, I’m not too big on packaging. I ultimately judge the value of a purchase from the figure itself and not how fancy the box looks or feels. However, I know there are many fans out there that do place a certain amount of importance on the packaging, so I will say that the Toynami Masterpiece book-style boxes are impressive. If you’ve seen one, then you know what to expect, only that the Beta box is bigger. If not, then check out any of the boxes for the VF-1 or the Alpha from Toynami and you will get a good sense of what this is all about.
The tray that holds the figure in the box slides out from the top (like all Masterpieces). For the Beta, there is a separate tray on the bottom that holds all the accessories, as shown in the pic above. There are quite a few items here. The big X piece at the bottom and the angled piece to the left of it makes up the display stand. Above that on the left are the 3 landing gear pieces. The missiles that are positioned over the back in robot mode appear on top. Next to it is the pilot figure, I’m guessing this is Rand since his artwork is featured on the box. The two long white pieces in the bottom right corner are the attachment pieces that are required to connect the Alpha. The left one is used to connect the Alpha in jet mode, while the other one for robot mode. The square piece above them is just a filler piece to disguise the square hole in the Beta when the attachments are not used.
The figure is packaged in this mode so I’ll start with this. The first thing you will notice after you take this out (and there are quite a few twist ties here so removing the figure is more work than normal) is that this figure is freakin’ heavy! As far as I can tell, the only die cast parts are the lower legs, but that alone is enough to give this figure significant weight. I don’t think this piece is as heavy as MP Optimus Prime, but it probably weighs more than most Binaltechs. In the show, the Beta is not the most agile fighter, but its got power to spare. It’s nice to see Toynami give the figure a solid and heavy feel to accurately reflect that fact.
Anyone that’s owned an Alpha fighter from Toynami will tell you that it’s biggest flaw is in the construction. In robot mode, the Alpha does not hold poses well, and gravity quickly misshape the figure into a convoluted mess the moment you pick it up. I’m happy to report there are no such issues with the Beta. Being such a heavy figure, I was afraid that this piece might suffer the same issues that plague the early Titanium TFs (metal pieces supported by weak joints that can’t support the weight). However, all joints on this figure are well reinforced. Most joints are of the ratchet variety, and they all have a nice clickly feel to them. The Beta certainly have no problem holding poses. I’m glad that Toynami have made significant strides in this area.
The colors on this figure accurately reflects the show colors, so no complaints here. The figure is also nice detailed. The Beta kinda has a simplistic appearance to begin with, but I think the level of detail that Toynami has provided here is more than sufficient. I know my figure may look a little plain, but that’s because I didn’t put the stickers on. As a kid I used to love putting stickers on my figures. But now I guess I’m either too lazy, or I just prefer to leave them off and keep the figure slightly more mint, in case I decide to sell it later.
For a figure that is so heavy and big, the Beta is actually quite well articulated. There is plenty of movement in the arms, and they can be positioned just about any way you want. The legs also rotate and bend in all the proper places. The head swivels 360 degrees, but will not look up and down (not that it really needs to). There is no waist articulation, but in this case I don’t think its really necessary. The Beta does not have any hand weapons, but it more than makes up for it with missiles on the back and chest. There are also some serious guns built into the forearms, near the hands. Speaking of hands, the Beta hand mold is way better than the Alpha’s. On my green Alpha (the only one I opened), both hands are broken because of weak joints and shoddy plastics used to make them. The Beta has no such problems.
The pic above shows the Beta getting ready to punish some Invids with some serious chest artillery. We saw this quite often in the show. Extra points to Toynami for including this feature.
Overall, I have no complaints about the Toynami Beta whatsoever in robot mode. I think Toynami has really made a Masterpiece of a robot Beta here. Bravo!
I’m going to skip the Guardian Mode of this figure and go straight to Jet Mode. The reason for that is I really don’t think the Beta has a fully qualified Guardian mode, even though the instructions does provide for it. The “Guardian” for the Beta is really just the jet standing on its legs. Kinda boring if you ask me.
The transformation to Jet mode is not at all difficult. In fact, it’s probably one of the simplest transformations I’ve done in a long time for a figure of this size. The Beta kinda reminds me of G1 Transformers made in season 4 in terms of mechanics and complexity. Figures of that era are solid, durable, and not hard to transform, and the Beta captures that essence well. There’s nothing too revolutionary in the transformation process so I’m not going to describe it. Just know that it is simple to do, but at the same time complex enough to make it feel like the figure has transformed.
The Beta figure in Jet mode looks just like how it does in the show. As far as appearance, I have no complaints. This is how the Beta looks and Toynami did good of accurately portraying its design.
I do have a few gripes about the Jet mode. As you can see in the 2 pics above, I attached the connection piece that is used to link up the Alpha, even though the Alpha is not there. The reason I did that is because the Beta cannot be placed on a flat surface without it. This piece is required to attach the front landing gear, which leads me to my next gripe: landing gears are not built in and need to be attached. Vigilant readers probably already noticed this when I went into the Beta’s accessories earlier in this post. Most other premium jet figures that transform (whether they be Yamato, Bandai, Hasbro, or even Toynami themselves) have landing gears built into the unit. I seriously think the designers of this figure could have implemented a proper landing gear mechanism, but for whatever reason they decided against it.
My third gripe about the jet mode, and this is difficult for me to say, is that the figure is too heavy. I know, in the above sections, I went into how this figure is nice because its heavy. Well, that works for the robot mode, but in the jet mode it doesn’t work so well. There are pegs and holes on this figure that are designed to hold the jet as one cohesive unit when the parts come together. However, because this is so heavy, they don’t stick to each other as well as they should because the weight is pulling it apart. I seriously think that if this figure was all plastic, the jet mode would come together much nicer. Or if they decided to make the chest housing die-cast instead of the lower legs, I think that would work too. The chest is a relatively un-transformed area in the figure. So if that was made die-cast, the figure would still be heavy, and at the same time doesn’t really affect the transforming mechanism. Don’t get me wrong, its not like the jet mode will come apart as soon as you touch it or pick it up, but it does require some careful handling.
My fourth and final gripe about the jet mode, and this is really a direct consequence of the third gripe, is that this figure is really hard to hold in your hands in jet mode. This is kinda hard to explain in words, but there’s not a part on this jet that you can easily grab. Part of this has to do with how this jet is shaped. VFs and Alphas are more aerodynamic whereas the Beta is more bulky, so its kinda like holding a stick versus holding a block. But the bigger issue is that the Beta is heavy and parts don’t come together well, so unless you handle it carefully by holding the legs, some pieces are likely to come apart. I guess the Beta in jet mode is more of a display piece than something you want to play with.
The above pic shows the Alpha and Beta linked up as one. I only have the green Alpha opened, so here they are. We do see this combination occasionally in the show. To perform the link up, simply fold down the cockpit unit on the Beta, spread out the feet pieces a little and fold in the tail fins on the Alpha, and place the Alpha on top of the connector piece. Surprisingly, this mechanism actually works quite well. You might think the connection here is weak based on the way its described, but in practice the combination is solid. Other than the connector, there are no pegs or grooves that would hold the two units together. But the Alpha is positioned in a way that it would not easily detach from the Beta. However, I should point out that I did not try inverting the combined unit. I have a feeling the Alpha would fall off if that’s attempted.
As you can see in the above pic, the display stand is quite small when compared to the two units combined. I keep mentioning that the Beta is heavy, and the whole thing gets even heavier when the Alpha is attached (the Alpha has a decent amount of die-cast as well). While the whole combined unit does sit firmly on the the stand, I have a feeling the stand will not endure the pressure over time. The combined unit is simply too heavy, and the stand is not large enough to support this IMO. I only had the units on the stand for a brief period to snap these pics, and it already felt like the stand would give out. I do not recommend displaying the figures this way. If you really like to display the combined mode, then its probably better to use the attached landing gears.
It is also possible to attach the robot mode Alpha to the Beta. A different connector piece would be used to do this. We saw this configuration frequently in the Shadow Chronicles movie. I did not try this. Toynami Alphas are quite flimsy in robot form and both hands are broken on my green unit, so I really didn’t feel like getting it into robot mode. There are Alphas made by Aoshima, which is the same mold with supposedly reinforced joints, but I read they are even worse than the Toynami ones. But I’ve never seen the Aoshima units first hand so it’s not something I can confirm.
The combined form is not too bad overall. I guess my only gripe, other than the weak stand, is that connector pieces are necessary to perform the link up. I kinda wish the toy designers came up with a way to hide the connector piece somehow into the Beta’s frame when it’s not used.
As a side bar, I want to point out that the only other Beta ever made to my knowledge is by CM. CM made an Alpha and Beta pair a few years back, and together they retailed for around $350! The price was definitely a turn off so I don’t think they were purchased by too many. I have read reviews of the CM versions. The Alpha is a toss-up between Toynami and CM, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. However, Toynami wins the Beta hands down. I don’t have the CM versions so its not like I can validate these claims, but at $350 a pop I think I’ll pass.
Overall, I highly recommend the Toynami Masterpiece Beta figure. The robot mode is awesome, and I will most likely display this piece in robot most of the time. I know I made it sound like there are a lot of weaknesses, but I’m trying to be as objective as possible. I’ve read way too many reviews that simply raved on and on about how this Beta figure is the best thing ever made, and I’m here to offer a counter opinion. I’m not saying the Beta is bad by any means. I’m just saying that this is a very good figure, but it does have its shortcomings. I bought this for $99 on ebay ($114 if you count shipping), and I think it’s worth every penny. That is a very reasonable price IMO. If you are a Robotech fan and you got money to splurge, you should not hesitate to get this.
Well, that’s all for now. Toynami I salute you! Transform and Roll Out!