Sunday 27 November 2022

Puffer and Road Ranger (Kingdom, 2021)


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This was initially going to be a set I was going to pass on as I predominantly avoid the mainline releases.  The Golden Disc Collection are a set of four Amazon exclusives including Mutant Tigatron (based on the Beat Wars Tigatron prototype), Jackpot & Sights (based on the 1990 Action Master of the same name), Terrorsaur (an updated version of Beast Wars Terrorsaur) and the giftset of Autobot Puffer and Autobot Road Ranger.

The original moulds, Huffer (left) and Pipes (right)

Leaked photograph of the set from September 2021

When this latter set was leaked in September 2021 and later released in December 2021, I was intrigued because of the history of the toys they represented however as I saw lukewarm reviews for Kingdom Huffer (on which the moulds are based upon) I decided to pass. However when these came down in price, and after I read the interview with the designer, Ittoku Kuwazu, I thought it was too good to pass up and I'm glad I bought the set.

Autobot Puffer is a redeco of Kingdom Pipes with a minor head retool (there is a red visor in place of Pipes eyes and nose). Puffer was an unofficial name fans gave to the European 1986 Ceji release of Pipes and the Mexican 1987 IGA version of Pipes. Whereas Hasbro's original 1986 version of Pipes was a remould and redeco of Huffer, in order to save money on new moulds, both Ceji and IGA opted to use Huffers mold and simply change the colours. This was already standard practice with IGA but Ceji usually mirrored Hasbro's releases although they have had other variants such as the yellow Constructicons.

Ceji "Puffer" (left) courtesy of Ras & IGA "Puffer" (right) source: eBay

As this was Pipes in Huffers mould, it was named Puffer. Both Ceji and IGA didn't completely copy Pipes' colour scheme either as the robot body was changed to white instead of blue. Ceji also chose a light blue colour for their version while IGA chose a darker metallic blue colour. IGA also released an all blue variant.

Kingdom Puffer goes a slightly different direction to its G1 counterpart as it uses the Pipes mould but retains the white and blue colour scheme from the Ceji and IGA versions. I'm guessing Hasbro chose this option due to Puffer being packaged with Road Ranger which is a repaint of Huffer.

In January 2004 Takara had released the Minibot Team in the Transformer Collection reissues. Each of the members were repainted and released in March 2004 exclusively through eHobbys website. This exclusive set was named G1 GoBots. When the set was originally revealed by eHobby, each of the six members had names which originated from Tonka's GoBots. The Drag (Huffer) repaint was named "Road Ranger" and was coloured black and orange with red windows. As the set neared release, Takara removed the names. I'm not sure as to why this was as although Bandai owned the original moulds, Tonka and their trademarks including the GoBots were owned by Hasbro, having bought Tonka out in 1991. 

Despite Takara removing the names, fans still call the original members by their intended names. I'm not sure what the basis of Road Rangers colour scheme was, as although it has the name of the Tonka GoBot, it does not share the colour scheme.

Kingdom Road Ranger is a redeco of Huffer with a new head sculpt based on the G1 toy. Due to the colour scheme it is far more striking than Puffer however the QC on my figure is far from perfect.

Overall this is a decent set if you can get it at a good price. The robot modes have great articulation for their size but the vehicle modes are not as good. When the legs are folded to form the bed of the truck I'm finding the truck mode does not look flat so I'm not clipping the tabs in all the way to solve this. The G1 versions of Huffer and Pipes have slightly different transformations and the Kingdom versions share the same transformation but the vehicle cab can rotated on Puffer. Although the vehicle mode is the weakest mode, they can tow Earthrise Optimus Primes trailer which actually scales with them a lot better than it does with Optimus Prime.

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