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TFX-01 City Commander

by yo go re

If you've read our review of the "TFX-ABT-01" ABT OP Upgrade kit, then you're already familiar with the Fansproject. Custom Transformers accessories, made from scratch but produced to professional standards? That's a step above your average customizer, that's for sure. They first came on the scene with a kit to make Cliffjumper look less like Bumblebee, but they really stepped things up for the TFX-01 City Commander set.

In our Ultra Magnus review, we talked about how Hasbro had considered making armor for the Classics version, but discarded the idea because it would have been prohibitively expensive. Well, Fansproject picked up the idea and ran with it - and in the process proved that, yes, it would be prohibitively expensive.

The upgrade kit is sold in a blue and white box with simple graphics on all sides - no images, just the sort of stuff you could make in Illustrator with a bit of text thrown on. Inside, the actual toy rests in a true clamshell tray in front of graphics repeated from the front of the box, as well as some line art of the eventual robot mode.

Ultra Magnus' armor, just like on the G1 figure, takes the form of a trailer hauled by the cab. It's not a car carrier anymore, but rather some kind of odd futuristic freight container. It's definitely not something you'd see on the road, but the style of it does blend perfectly with the Classics Ultra Magnus figure, a mixture of curved lines and harsh angles that says the two belong together. The colors even match up well, with the only thing seeming a tad out of place being a large patch of red on the front.

The trailer is just a bit more than 7" long, 4¼" wide and 4¼" tall at its highest. The wheels are the same style on the trailer as they were on the cab, adding to the continuity between the two. The rear gate opens, a bit, and though there's definitely empty space inside, don't count on being able to fit any cargo in there. Maybe some of the new Legends class figures, like Brawn or Beachcomber, but that's about it.

TFX-01 takes advantage of a conveniently placed knob on Ultra Magnus' flatbed to attach. Since the peg and the hole it fits into a square, the trailer won't actually turn, but the positioning is so close, it doesn't look like it's meant to turn - the entire thing looks like one large, nearly seamless piece of machinery. What more could you ask for?

Changing the kit from one mode to the next really is a question of taking everything apart, converting what you need to, and then putting it back on the figure - the City Commander is a real "partsformer." Rather than a plain instruction booklet, the package contains a mini comicbook, TF-Parallax: Orion. Showing an Egyptian-themed alternate reality, the story sees the ersatz Autobots about to be executed by "Pharaohtron" and his version of the Seekers when the unnamed version of Optimus Prime leaps to their rescue ("Orion" is the name of the city, not the character). Their god's name is Ra-Mus. The instructions are then shown mid-story, as the hero dons his armor. It's a clever way of doing things and the Egyptian designs are neat. Mega-- er, Pharaohtron transforms into a sphinx, and one of the characters, Empress Havoc, is an entirely new creation.

Interestingly, the comic shows the City Commander set in red and blue, rather than blue and white - if you know your Transformers history, you'll recognize those as the colors of Powered Convoy, the pre-TF Diaclone version of Magnus. A hint at a future Fansproject release, perhaps? The set also includes a sheet of eight metallic stickers: they're all license plates, and you can choose which one put on the rear bumper. There's a surprising variety of styles, too, with a few US plates, some European and even a few Asian. Wherever you want your City to be, this figure will be able to Command it.

Eight pieces comprise the full armor: legs, hands, shoulders, crotch and chest. Some of the pieces are easier to attach than others (the legs are particularly tough), but they all fit on perfectly and stay in place securely. You'll definitely be able to play with the full figure without worrying about the armor falling off (though you will be able to re-enact the "armor-stripping" scene from the Dreamwave comic).

Once it's clamped onto the little white robot, the City Commander upgrade kit stands 8½" tall - still shorter than the G1 figure, but also frelling mighty by Classics standards. Not quite huge enough to lift single Constructicons in each hand, but still pretty damn big. I already use the "Ultimate Battle" Optimus Prime as my standard version, so Magnus towered over him even without the armor. Now that he's got it? Ultra Magnus! Oh, and if you chose to put one of the license plates on, the panel it goes on flips up so the plate is hidden in robot mode. How clever is that?

Most of the Classics figure's articulation remains intact. His chest/waist thing gets locked down, and although his head has to be folded away, the armor kit has its own head - on a balljoint, rather than a swivel, so the range is improved. The City Commander head has much more of an anime styling than the old toy, which bothered some people, so in what has to be a first, there's an upgrade kit for this upgrade kit: some other customizer has created a swappable head that's closer to the old look, but that's a bit too much for me to worry about. The existing head looks fine - after all, Classics is about giving us modern updates of the old familiar faces (no pun intended), not about being a slave to nostalgia.

The armor's hands are designed to hold Magnus' two weapons, or they can be stored on the back of the shoulder pylons. There are holes on the sides of the shoulder which are apparently the right size for the G1 figure's missile launchers (or the set included with the previously mentioned "upgrade head"). However, if the old weapons aren't enough firepower for you, there's still one piece of the trailer left, which folds over itself to form a tremendous cannon. Seriously. Remember Big Convoy's huge gun? This one makes that look like it shoots spitballs.

The gun is 5¾" long, 1½" wide and at least 3" tall. It's so big, you have to find ways to pose it that won't make Magnus tip over. This is the doom-bringer. And even more impressively, it has two modes: the first is a shoulder-supported missile launcher, sort of a combination bazooka/rail gun; when that's exhausted, flip the body of the weapon forward and you've got yourself a giant rifle, which looks like it'd be capable of punching holes in Unicron. And you don't even have to take the gun out of his hand to convert it! The shape of the weapon makes it obvious that it's meant to be held in the figure's right hand.

There are a lot of details in the armor that tie back to G1: the shape of the chest, the waist, the red details on the lower legs, stuff like that. Something that is missing, however? Any sort of Autobot symbols. See, creating and selling TFX-01 City Commander set is already skirting the edges of legality; it's quite clearly based on Hasbro-owned concepts, so they (or Takara, for that matter) could come down on Fansproject if they wanted to. Including Autobot symbols, even as an unattached sticker, would probably be too much. But hey, that's what ReproLabels is for! That's probably also why there's no sort of character artwork on the outside of the box - it prevents Hasbro from claiming that any sales occured because consumers were confused about what was inside.

Although the colors are designed to blend perfectly with Classics Ultra Magnus, any version of this mold can use the armor: normal Optimus, Shattered Glass Optimus, Nemesis Prime, whoever. In fact, Fansproject has already made a "Shadow Commander" kit designed for Nemesis. And the "Powered Convoy" colors seem to go perfectly with the standard Optimus. And just like the "TFX-ABT-01" ABT OP Upgrade kit, the quality of the materials used is good - every bit of the armor looks and feels like it truly is an official part of this toy.

TFX-01 City Commander set is not a cheap purchase - it cost about $80 new, and since it promptly sold out, prices are creeping up over $100 now on eBay. But it really is a very good set, and "completes" the TF Classics Ultra Magnus. You'll be hard-pressed to believe that this isn't an official part of the toy, but just some fan's work. It's kind of funny to think that if Hasbro had made this armor, even for $40, no one would have bought it: for a mass market item, it would have seemed too expensive; but for twice the price, we snap it up. The City Commander armor may be slowly exiting even the outside realm of possibility for most Transfans, but the Shadow Commander set is still available - if you have Nemesis Prime, seriously consider buying him the upgrade.

-- 03/03/09

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