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Transformers Classics
by yo go re

Since the first Transformers Classics line covered all the major characters, the second go-round had to resort to some real obscurities.

With three slobbering, ferocious heads, and only one brain to split between them all, Predacon Bruticus is a perfect dungeon guard. Short-tempered, brutal, and unimaginative, he takes his job of guarding Autobot prisoners very seriously. Megatron doesn't trust him to do anything beyond serve as a guard, but he is content in the dark, stinking dungeons beneath the Predacon leader's headquarters. As long as he has a full complement of prisoners to look after and a steady supply of energy, Predacon Bruticus is happy.

The original Bruticus was released in 2001, and changed into Cerberus, the three-headed dog. He was originally designed to be a good guy in Beast Machines, but that line ended before he came out. The production was far enough along, though, that it was cheaper to push ahead and release him than to scrap the entire thing, so he became a bad guy in Robots in Disguise instead. Thus, hardly a character anyone expected to see updated.

Universe/Classics 2.0 Bruticus is no longer a three-headed dog - he is, instead, a three-headed dragon. Yes, this is the Scourge mold from Cybertron, apparently chosen merely because it had three heads. The dragon is quite sizeable, 14" long and 6¾" tall, and definitely more technological than organic. Even Leo Prime had more natural elements than Bruticus does. This is like what you'd see under the skin of an animatronic themepark decoration - it's not even trying to hide.

Since this mold originated during Cybertron, it has Cyber Key-activated features. Plug in the included key, and you'll hear the transforming sound, as two smaller heads pop out of the dragon's shoulders. With the key in place, pushing the button on Scourge's back activates laser sounds - when it's not there, the button gives you a huge mechanical roar.

Converting Bruticus to robot form is pretty straightforward, with no real surprises along the way. Pull off his tail, stand him up on his hind legs and call it a day, more or less. Okay, there's more to it than that - a few fiddly little bits that elevate the process above "drug store knockoff" level - but for the most part, you can look at a picture of the dragon, look at a picture of the robot, and guess what needs to be done on your own.

As a robot, Bruticus is still really massive. He's nearly 10½" high, and will require about 9½" of horizontal space to accommodate those gigantic shoulder spikes. Articulation is decent, but the lack of wrist joints kills a lot of potential. Ankles, knees, hips... elbows, shoulders, neck... Good stuff all, but he can't bend his arm and hold a weapon at the same time, so he fails.

The weapon in question is formed from the dragon's tail: pull it off, swing a piece around, and you've got yourself a huge axe. The instructions show a spike sticking up from the top of the handle, but that's not right. If you look at the sculpt, you'll notice that the spike is meant to be rotated 90° down, acting as the other side of the axehead. Yes, there's a joint there to allow that, but unless you move it yourself, you'll never realize it.

The original RiD Bruticus was the first TF toy to have its colors designed by Aaron Archer, and he made the figure red, black and yellow. Classics Bruticus retains some of that, but is mostly an ungodly eyesore: he's red and yellow, yes, but also grey, burgundy, silver, gold and purple. Good lord, guys, did you even look at the toy before putting it into production? It's like a bag of Skittles melted in the packaging and coated every inch of the figure. It's truly ghastly. There's a Predacon symbol on his chest, but these Predacons aren't the same as the Beast Wars Predacons - it was a slow transition back to cars after the dark times.

The Cyber Key feature works the same in this mode as it did on the dragon: lights, sounds, dragon heads over the shoulders, whole deal. In addition to the spring-loaded jaws, each of the extra heads has a stiffly ratcheted neck joint, so they can point appropriately forward. Oh, and if you don't like the vaguely Optimus Primey robot visage, you could always just leave the beast head up and make Bruticus a bipedal dragon. He looks quite intimidating that way.

You know, considering the way the dragon's head ends up on the robot's chest, I really think Hasbro missed an opportunity here: there's already a Classics Bruticus, so why not pull a Menasor and turn this mold into a new Predaking? They could have said all five G1 Predacons had just been forced into one body for some reason. If nothing else, at least the colors would have been better.

-- 12/08/09

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