Sky Guardian review by knoted

Discussion in 'Transformers 3rd Party Reviews' started by knoted, Oct 21, 2015.

  1. knoted

    knoted Resistor Transistor

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    So. much. controversy.

    Controversy has been surrounding this particular Transformers character from the very start of his conception and it seemingly continues until this very day. This not-Sky Fire product, therefore deserves an honest and fair look and review . I will try to achieve this by context of the Skyfire character.

    Sky Guardian review context
    Like many G1 characters, it all started with a toy which was given a Transformers name and bio. This toy happened to be a redeco of the famous Valkyrie design and was designated Jetfire.
    The problem started the moment Hasbro couldn't legally use the visual appearance of this Valkyrie design anymore in its cartoon and comic book media, before the character could even make its debut.
    Hasbro circumvented the legal issue by changing the appearance of the Jetfire character in the cartoon and comic book media. To fully ensure avoidance of further problems, Jetfire was renamed Skyfire, even though the actual Jetfire toy was retained unchanged in retail sales.

    This means there was an interesting premise: we had the Jetfire toy, which was basically a Valkyrie redeco but it never appeared as such in the cartoon – then there was the Skyfire redesign, but this design never fully materialized into a Transforming toy. Never the twain shall meet.
    Basically we can break it down into this: style A, the Valkyrie design - Style B, the Transformers cartoon redesign. The differences between these two styles are reflected in both robot mode and jet mode.
    There was only one way to know how the Jetfire design would look in the cartoon, if it would have made a true cartoon appearance. There happens to be an old Jetfire toy commercial which features a few very brief animated action shots. It is only in these brief shots that you can see what a proper cartoon Jetfire would have looked like.
    The line art for this animated Jetfire therefore provides an ideal foundation to compare both Style A and Style B.

    [​IMG]

    You may ask yourself why this comparison is so vital to this context. The answer is toy engineering. The Jetfire toy was ofcourse engineered already as a fully functional transforming toy. Therefore, it was not a big challenge to adapt this design to a simplified cartoon commercial version onscreen. The Skyfire design – Style B however – was never fully engineered; it never materialized to its cartoon likeness in robot mode and jet mode.
    If you look at the Skyfire line art and if you watch him in the cartoon, you can see the design loosely retains characteristics of the Valkyrie design but his actual transformation scheme and layout lacked proper engineering.
    Hence the Skyfire design only worked onscreen by virtue of cell animation magic. During Skyfire’s animated transformation sequences you can see parts rotate and shift around, but it is painfully clear this would never work in actual toy engineering. Skyfire’s arms and legs seemingly fold away neatly into jet mode, but that doesn’t happen without a lot of cell animation-powered mass-shifting and shape-warping.
    Thus, it becomes clear; fully realizing Skyfire into a proper transforming toy would be an engineering nightmare. I think this is one of the main reasons why the post-G1 Skyfire toys we have been given by Hasbro are basically Style A / Style B hybrids; noting CHUG 2006 Jetfire and Generations 2014 Jetfire.
    With the advent of 3rd party Transformers, somehow the quest for a proper Skyfire started. Sure, in past years we have seen customizers trying to scratch build a proper Skyfire out of MP-01’s and MP-03’s but – with all due respect – they never really nailed it.

    Skyfire criteria
    Noting aforementioned information, we can now identify one of the main criteria for this review: the quest for a full and perfect Skyfire transformation. As it became apparent , Hasbro isn’t pursuing a toy with that criteria, since so far there have only been a few 3rd party developers giving it a shot. Heated fanbase debates regardi ng this subject have been plentiful which is yet another indication why this quest is a big deal. Afteral, people have been waiting for a proper Skyfire toy for decades.
    A few years back some company posted pictures of a work-in-progress not-Skyfire, but that one never made it beyond resin prototype. Then by July 2014, Daca Toys released its not-Skyfire, dubbed Kronos. I think it is clear to see that a wide foundation for comparison is severely lacking, because comparison material is simply limited in numbers and the few which do exist, do so based on very different toy criteria.

    CHUG 2006 Jetfire and Generations 2014 Jetfire are both hybrid style toys at Hasbro voyager and leader class size and retail price respectively.

    Kronos however, does indeed aim for the full Skyfire criteria, in the form of Master Piece size and price. The extent to which it achieves this goal is of course up for debate.

    Finally there’s the review subject Sky Guardian, which also aims for the full Skyfire criteria, marketed as roughly equal to Hasbro leader class in size, but unexpectedly at Master Piece price point.

    Angle
    What will therefore be the main angle for this Sky Guardian review ? Mechaform clearly marketed Sky Guardian as a toy to go alongside Hasbro’s CHUG and CW lines, but their pricing speaks a very different tone.
    After some pondering, I have decided to review this Sky Guardian toy as a CHUG leader class toy, not as a Master Piece toy. I am very aware of the underlying aura within the 3rd party discussion section in which many items are often judged by Master Piece standards. One could argue I should also judge Sky Guardian on those terms, given its price, but that would be like judging Generations 2014 leader Jetfire by MP standards just because some retailer decided to price it at 150 USD. The point is that usually, the evident core and essence of a toy indicates the true class aspirations of said toy. In the review of this Sky Guardian toy, it will quickly become clear the intention and essence of this toy is indeed in line with CHUG and CW. For example: If I were to judge Sky Guardian as a MP toy, his size is already incorrect, for his Sky Fire character scale dictates he should be a lot bigger if he were to aspire MP class. Hence, it is crystal clear already this toy fits CHUG and CW, not MP.

    Simply put, in what product context should we perceive Sky Guardian? My answer: Generations 2014 Jetfire.
    However, since this Sky Guardian product does retail at a hefty Master Piece price point, I am going to judge any of its shortcomings in a very critical manner.

    Meeting the first criteria
    Does Sky guardian feature a full transformation while achieving the exact Skyfire Style B design goals for both robot mode and jetmode ? As you can see in the video below, indeed he does:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okCYRTRl0ZY

    Here’s how I think about the transformation:
    At certain points, the transformation can get a bit finicky and tricky. However, I do find it to be a layout which is both refreshing – within the context of jetformers – and concise, leaving nothing to chance. Every part, peg and tab is well thought out and they all help to achieve a really solid transformation result. The rotating arm assembly on the slider bar reminds me of G1 Megatron while the way the arms fold reminds me of DOTM deluxe Starscream etc. – the methods used are well adapted for the Sky Fire design.
    Amongst the collection of transforming toy robots which turn into jet mode toys, the Valkyrie design features a transformation layout which has pretty much become a standard;
    Robot legs stretched out along the underside of the jet fuselage, with both robot arms sandwiched side by side in-between those legs. Due to the design characteristics of the Valkyrie design, this method provides the Valkyrie with a jet fuselage which is only a bit wide, but not overly wide – thanks to the relatively moderate depth of the Valkyrie arms.
    However, if Skyfire design were to employ the exact same Valkyrie transformation layout, it might not work out so well. The Skyfire shoulders are rounded, almost entirely spherical with a considerable diameter. Sandwiching these shoulders and arms in between the legs would certainly result into an overly wide jet fuselage. I think we have already seen this consequence in the jet mode of the Kronos toy.

    [​IMG]

    Furthermore, the complications to have both arms sit side by side in the jet fuselage resulted into a gappy side profile.
    In the following screenshot you can see Skyfire’s robot arms tucked away under the red jet backpack ( outlined in green ). Clearly this is only possible by means of cell animation magic.
    Other than that, you can see the jet does indeed feature some undercarriage ( outlined in yellow ) and the robot legs don’t sit that far apart.

    [​IMG]

    As you have seen in the video, Sky Guardian uses a transformation layout which lines up the arms in a single straight column underneath the jet. This method avoids having an overly wide jet fuselage and the screenshot proves that Sky Guardian’s column of arms can pass fairly well for the undercarriage the cartoon Skyfire jet features.
    On top of that, Sky Guardian also features a wing assembly which rotates around to accommodate the opposing wingtip orientations of the robot mode and jet mode. To me this feels as a fresh approach to the conventional method of simply folding the wings the other way. Sky Guardian’s method also ensures that the wingtop surfaces face forward in robot mode. With the other method, that would actually be the underside of the wings face forward in robot mode.
    Therefore I conclude this Sky Guardian toy meets one of the major important review criteria already.

    Jet mode Design
    So does Sky Guardian’s transformation result into a jet mode which fully adhere to Style B / Skyfire design ? Personally I think it does.
    The cartoon model of Skyfire has always been open to some limited interpretation due to cell animation inconsistencies, but the onscreen model retained enough crucial design cues to identify what makes this design its own.
    Sky Guardian’s jetmode looks great in my opinion. It really evokes the jet as seen in the cartoon, including landing gear. As mentioned before in the transformation section, everything pegs together in a very secure manner, resulting into a very solid jet mode. You can swoosh this one around without worry.

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  2. knoted

    knoted Resistor Transistor

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    Note the nicely modeled thrust nozzles which intersect beautifully with the slanted rear of the red jet backpack.

    [​IMG]

    Sky Guardian also features multiple 5mm pegholes in jet mode to accommodate various weaponry such as CW weapons.
    The silhouette is as clean as it can be, true to the animation model, consisting of only the basic main parts he’s made of. No stairstepping effect on the silhouette of the nose nor any presence of an obtrusive connector plate, nudged in between the red backpack and the fuselage.

    [​IMG]

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    [​IMG]


    Robot mode design
    Controversy resonates here . A lot.
    This controversy amongst the anticipating fanbase ignited the moment people got to see the face sculpt previews for Sky Guardian.
    Face sculpts for Hasbro’s Jetfire’s have always been decent to very good and Kronos’ face sculpt is indeed one of the features which really sell it. Sky Guardian’s face sculpt had a lot to live up to.
    Unfortunately, it doesn’t.
    From the initial work in progress sculpts up to the reworked preview versions, none of them really compare to the face sculpts of the other not-Skyfire products.
    It is therefore even more puzzling why the final Sky Guardian product features a face sculpt which can be identified as one of the earlier prototype versions. I remember a few marginally better versions were posted in the discussion forum.
    However, in person the face sculpt actually doesn’t irritate me. Sure, it is not a very good one, but it is somewhat tolerable. The bottom line is that Mechaform would have done wiser to simply employ a proper face sculpter. Afteral, a good face sculpt is quite literally the face of your product. It is that crucial factor which really needs to sell the product.
    Gauging fanbase reactions to this face sculpt, it seems many deem Sky Guardian a total lost cause in the quest for a proper Skyfire.

    Having the final product in hand, is that really the case ?
    Let’s closely look at this matter. The following pictures show again what defines Skyfire’s robot mode design; he is tall like his Valkyrie inspiration, but not extremely buff and tough like a wrecker would be.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Main visual cues would be the straight horizontally oriented vents on his torso. Slightly downward slanting collarbone area at the top of his chest. Spherical shoulders. Triangular shape on elbow rear. Red L-shapes on the hips. Inverted triangular shapes on shin-legs. Extruded diamond shaped kneepads.
    As far as I’m concerned, Sky Guardian features all of those crucial Skyfire design cues.
    If you know me a bit in these forum posts, I am usually not a big fan of 3rd party character interpretations which deviate a lot from the original character. I am also not a big fan of interpretations which feature an abundant amount of surface detail and panel lining.
    So many arrays of ridges, vents, bevels on top of what should basically pass for a G1 design, it doesn’t make sense to me.
    I guess it is akin to how some people feel about the abundance of CGi detail on movie bots.
    However, I find the overload of detail more jarring on these G1 inspired products, as I don’t perceive G1 design as hyper detail in the first place. Sure, quite a few of the IDW inspired designs look very impressive, but in my humble opinion the fine line is often crossed, to the point where the product is just a G1 colored mess of surface details to me.
    From the start of the Sky Guardian project, it was clear to me that Sky Guardian’s sculpt features the sort and amount of detail I deem appropriate for the Style B / Skyfire design. The detail shapes all look very well placed and they all seem to make sense on the right spots. It’s a sort of visual equivalent of logical cause and effect in a movie script. For example, why would a robot elbow surface feature a relief detail which looks like a turbine fan ( Kronos )?
    Perhaps it is a matter of taste, but such styling irks me. Sky Guardian’s surface details simply look better and more in line with the overall character design – and they are more consistent in nature across the entire figure in both modes. For Sky Guardian it’s not the case that the details on the red backpack, thrust nozzles and wing assembly suddenly compare weak to the surface details on the rest of the body ( Kronos ). Indeed, in Sky Guardian’s case all details are of consistent quality, produced with very crisp and concise plastic molding.
    Another point I want to address are the hands. So far, I have seen allergic reactions to Sky Guardian’s hand sculpts, stating them as poor and MP unworthy.
    Again I emphasize, despite its pricing, Sky Guardian clearly has no MP aspirations. Having gone through the steps of transformation, it has become clear to me why the hand sculpts don’t fold into the forearms. It makes sense why they don’t.
    However, the hands do indeed feature a wrist swivel and they do feature some basic finger articulation. Compare that to Generations 2014 Jetfire which simply features a solid and static molded fist sculpt without any articulation. Therefore, I deem Sky Guardian’s semi articulated hand sculpts completely adequate and acceptable, as he’s practically of similar size to Generations 2014 Jetfire - perhaps a mere inch taller than Jetfire.
     
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  3. knoted

    knoted Resistor Transistor

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    The overal robot mode articulation of Sky Guardian is adequate as well. In my opinion it’s sufficient to pull off poses which can go very well alongside most CHUG and CW figures. I think the following pictures show that Sky Guardian is able to articulate a nice array of action and mellow idle poses.

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  4. knoted

    knoted Resistor Transistor

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    Overal product quality
    The good news is that overall production quality is very good in terms of:
    -plastic quality
    - overall mold and detail quality
    - most of the paint apps
    - most of its engineering

    The plastic quality is pretty nice. No swirly dollar store plastics here on Sky Guardian. As mentioned in the design paragraph, overall details and mold look concise and tidy. There is no real mold flash to be seen, nor are there any warped parts present. Most of the white on Sky Guardian is made of nice white plastic. The only painted white is the white ribbed ‘ribbon’ on the backpack. Most red parts are made of a really nicely vibrant red plastic. The only red paint app issue I could find was a bit of subtle overspray on the left wing next to the red painted stripe. And although the face sculpt wins no beauty contest, at least the paint apps on it are good. No smudging or finger prints.
    There were some other problems though. As I stated in the discussion section earlier, I found the hinge assemblies above the elbows to be tight to the extent that one could declare them as glued stuck. Apparently the plastic tolerances were way too tight and this meant I had to wedge them loose with a flathead screwdriver. You do not want to attempt to pull them loose by pulling at the arm, because that exerted force would probably shear off the bicep swivel mushroom /peg joint, despite the good plastic quality. Once I got the hinge assemblies loose with the screwdriver, I shaved down the tabs which are supposed to grab into each other. Having solved this, it cleared the way for the proper transformation, since this step of folding the arms, is vital to Sky Guardian’s transformation. In the forums, one person reported these hinges to be stuck as well. Another person reported no issue here, as he was able to instantly get the transformation correct.
    Aside from that, the hinges on the finger digits seemed to be very tight as well. It seems the individual fingers were glued together, whereas the preview pictures seemed to indicate otherwise. However, after a bit of hot water treatment, I got the finger articulation to become less tight. They are still joined together, but they do now rotate nicely at each knuckle.
    Then there is also the fact the thigh legs are very hollow, but I can understand this shortcoming as a result of transformation complexities. In person, it doesn't irk me as much as I feared it would.
    As a transforming toy robot, overall this Sky Guardian reminds me a lot of AOE Evasion Mode Optimus Prime; Both of them feature really fresh and neat engineering. They both feature pretty good plastic quality and precision detail molding, with a similar feel and weight at their respective physical size.

    [​IMG]

    The only difference is that Sky Guardian has a few tight tolerance issues, whereas Evasion Prime virtually had none ( although he also features some precision tolerances ).

    Conclusion
    Taking everything aforementioned into consideration I conclude that Sky Guardian only suffers from two crucial problems: the lackluster face sculpt and the ridiculous price of course.
    If you can get past the face sculpt, he is actually a really nice alternative for a CHUG leader class Jetfire. I have owned Yamato V2 Valkyrie VF-01's, I have owned Bandai VF-01's etc. I know what they feel like and the quality range they offer compared to other Transforming toy products.

    The price is of course an issue. Then again, getting a full transformation Sky Fire is a pretty big deal to some of us. Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if the price is simply the consequence of Mechaform trying to achieve mere ROI. The production run seems very limited, so I would be inclined to believe that. One is not going to make a decent profit with such a limited production run, even at this price. However, the bottomline reality is that Mechaform is shooting themselves in the foot with this pricing, despite the fact I find their debut product to be very nice actually.

    In the end, after overcoming the face sculpt disappointment and dealing with some tolerance issues, I am actually very happy with this Sky Guardian. If you are pure-G1-style oriented like me and you really want a proper Skyfire, this Sky Guardian might be worth a try for you.

    Final Score
    For the price issue, I subtract 1 score point. For the lackluster face sculpt I subtract 1 score point. For the tolerance issue I subtract 1 full score point as well. However, my overall feeling so far does give it a 0.5 bump on top.
    My final score for Sky Guardian is therefore a 7.5 out of 10. Pretty nice debut Mechaform !

    [​IMG]
     
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  5. Backstop

    Backstop Have you seen my box art?

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    Nice review,
     
  6. zfarsh

    zfarsh Big Penguin Chief

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    wow, your love for Skyfire, and detail of your review are remarkable, and my hats to you for taking the time to do all this.

    I can visually see a lot of things I dislike a lot about the looks in both modes.
     
  7. knoted

    knoted Resistor Transistor

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    Thanks ! :cool: 

    Indeed, a review is an opinion afteral. A lot depends on personal taste.
    However, I do hope I have proven, to some extent - that it is a fair product.
     
  8. maxxzander

    maxxzander Well-Known Member

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    seems like the maker tried so hard to make tis toy...the buyer tried so hard to justify it is a good toy, worth the purchase.....
    my 2cents....the only thing similar to skyfire is his color scheme...robot mode is fugly..where is his mouth? jet mode is fugly...where is the under carriage cockpit? and those hand touching his head....omg!! creeppy as hell!! easy pass for me..hate the fact his hand cant conceal.... toon accuracy wise..not even close!
     
  9. Backstop

    Backstop Have you seen my box art?

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    :rolleyes2 
     
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  10. Timesynch

    Timesynch Go For Broke! TFW2005 Supporter

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    Very fair and thorough review. Nice job!

    Personally speaking, the bot mode doesn't really do it for me given the wonky face sculpt and the generally strange proportions (torso looks OK, but the waist and upper legs are an anorexic mess, IMHO, which clashes with the big and powerful appearance that Skyfire ought to project). Kronos (which I do own) wins the bot mode accuracy for me in terms of bulk and sculpt, even if his materials and engineering design choices are a bit suspect when in-hand.

    I do feel the alt mode is where Sky Guardian does shine. It almost looks worth the price of admission. Almost. That price is indeed hard to swallow for what amounts to a Classics Leader figure (and Generations Jetfire is a very decent toy in its own right for a fraction of the cost) rather than something priced as if it were an MP quality toy instead. If this were priced closer to $120-$125, I'd bite. But $170-$175 is way too much for me.
     
  11. Gaigaan Dnok

    Gaigaan Dnok King of Daikaiju

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    Nice review!
    The flaws that are there, are pointed out, and when taken in a balanced context, are not that big of a deal.
    Good quality, does a good job representing the character in both modes, can't wait to get one now.

    Obviously I would've preferred a lower price tag, but considering that I collect CHUG figures, and there is nothing out right now that I want or need, until the CW Bruticus, I've got the extra to drop for him.
    Also willing to pay a little more since he was a limited release, and to date the only true attempt to make the character in this scale.

    It's a great thought, but unfortunately, for whatever reason, there always seem to be 'those' people.
     
  12. knoted

    knoted Resistor Transistor

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    I hope yours will be without any QC / tolerance issues. Goodluck !

    Indeed, he's about an inch taller than Generations 2014 Jetfire ....which
    makes him the same height as the actual G1 Jetfire toy and a Yamato Macross 1/60 VF-01.
    Toyworld Orion will probably fit well with Sky Guardian in terms of size.
     
  13. megatroptimus

    megatroptimus Translatorminator

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    You sold me on that toy. Still, after checking the transformation video, Sky Guardian doesn't look like a Transformer to me. It looks like it belongs to a completely different line. That long rod, all the weird thin panels and how they work... it's something else. I have tons of non-Transformers transforming toys but I haven't been able to find yet the style it reminds me of.
     
  14. Initial_G

    Initial_G Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the review, nice write up and pics. Not my cuppa tea but good to see and read your thoughts about him.
     
  15. knoted

    knoted Resistor Transistor

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    The thin panels are actually a fairly clever mechanism, as they function as a sort of guidance/indicator for the positioning of the shoulders in jetmode, and they also help to make the side profile of the jet to look gap-less.

    But yeah, they do indeed feel moreso like a Macross Valkyrie thing, rather than a TF Chug type of engineering.
     
  16. AnonymousDwell

    AnonymousDwell Well-Known Member

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    I'm actually going to be an outlier and say I actually love the look of this figure. He looks more like a G1 inspired Skyfire to me than Generations Jetfire does, in both modes, and I like that. His flaws don't bug me as much as they do other people.

    Unfortunately, the price is the big deterrent for me, combined with the scale. If he were MP scaled, the price would be justifiable to my wallet even with his flaws since, as I said, they really don't bug me. There's just something charming and Skyfire-ish about him. But for this scale, at this price, there's just no way personally.

    Great, thorough review though!
     
  17. knoted

    knoted Resistor Transistor

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    Thanks !

    Like I said in the review, it's all about different types of interpretation of a design style - in the case of Skyfire, it is a design style which only really existed in cell animation form - therefor, it was never defined, in engineered plastic form.
    In the end, it is all a matter of personal preference, on choosing which style interpretation fits you best.

    Literally speaking, the visual cues of G1 Skyfire are all present in Sky Guardian. Anyone who denies that is flatout wrong.
    I think what happens is that when many people mention "G1 Skyfire" they no longer refer to the actual G1 cell animation model, but rather, they think of one of the many modern interpretations of that design, as portrayed in contemporary comic books ; a chiseled updated look with many maaaaaaaaaany surface details.

    So when they see Sky Guardian they are disappointed because he doesn't fit the expectation of a comicbook contemporary stylized look.

    However, that is exactly the reason why I like Sky Guardian; because he is so literally G1 - yet he fits with CHUG and CW really well.

    Due to cell animation inconsistencies, Skyfire's robot mode proportions were often all over the place. Personally I like to think he takes after his source of inspiration in terms of proportions: the Macross Valkyrie design ; which is a tall and slightly buff design, but it's not an extreme kind of buff, Bulkhead style.

    The price is indeed a big detractor. Then again, I was just watching Peaugh's review on Voodoo Robot's Stealth Animus and he also thinks that product should be at half the price.

    Despite some potential tightness/tolerance issues, at least Sky Guardian's plastic and mold quality feel good. I am not sure that other, bigger not-Skyfire, can say the same.

    Perhaps at some point, I might attempt to shapeways design a new head for Sky Guardian......
     
  18. Backstop

    Backstop Have you seen my box art?

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    Wow someone that gets it! I laugh when ppl think something is not accurate looking and they have no idea what its based on, To date I feel this is the best Skyfire in terms of look in Bot and Alt mode and for sure transformation. Kronos to me does not look G1 but more Dreamwave and that's in bot mode only because his jet mode stinks and transformation is worse. Why do ppl compare the price of this to Kronos and MP? Kronos was priced cheap and ppl got what they paid for so how does that create a standard for Skyfire pricing? Anyway the recent Hasbro version I consider to be based on Jetfires look not G1 toon Skyfire for the most part. I think there is a number of fans that have limited knowledge but talk like experts or just feel the need to bitch. I remember the good ol days of this fandom prior to the Bay movies, Much simpler happier fan base lol...
     
  19. Tontus314

    Tontus314 Well-Known Member

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    Awesome review. Reading it makes me really want to get this guy, but not at that price. Just can't do it, especially with so many other things coming out in the near future. Maybe on clearance in the future.
     
  20. odeean

    odeean Infiltrator

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    Reading this got me pretty excited. I am supposed to have one coming but it's taking a while. I can't wait to play with it. Really good detailed review. Thanks.
     

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