Matchbox/Harmony Gold/Playmates Invid Shock Trooper Toys

Review: They’ve seen your protoculture usage!

Packaging & Extras: (2/5)
Originally produced by Matchbox, the art was pretty decent for the day. The toy comes packaged in a no-frills cardboard box that isn’t too huge at 30.5 x 25 x12 cm.

Harmony Gold used the same packaging swapping out the Matchbox logo for the Harmony Gold one. You would think they would have taken the time to correct the Zentraedi logo next to the words “Invid Enemy” or replace the prototype photo on the back which shows a better painted toy with the final product but… they just swapped out the logos and called it a day. Harmony Gold or Matchbox, the core components of the toy would be locked into a piece of cardboard through folding, cut-outs, and twist ties.

The later Playmates Robotech /ExoSquad toy received a new box with all new art and slightly larger dimensions (31 xc 24 x 16.5 cm). Inside the box you’d find the disassembled toy in a cardboard tray as well as:
1) Stickers
2) Instructions
3) An invitation to join the official Robotech fan club! (Matchbox only)
The stickers vary between the three variants. There are more paint apps on the Harmony Gold version so the sticker sheets for the legs were excluded. These aren’t high end toys so you won’t get frills like a Styrofoam tray, color instructions, or even an included pilot figure. The individual parts of the toys were placed in plastic baggies for the ExoSquad release, I don’t believe this was true for the previous releases.

Charm & Collectability: (2/5)
I imagine I’m going to review quite a few Matchbox/Harmony Gold/Playmates toy so this quick history will probably appear in all of them:
1984 (and prior) USA: Revell creates the ROBOTECH banner to import numerous Japanese models to the states in homogenous packaging (Dougram, Macross, among others). They produce a comic book series to try to give the American audience a pairing but the comic flops. They team with Harmony Gold to import some shows that have/will have models.
1984 USA: Voltron, a combination of the Japanese shows GoLion, DaiRugger, and Albegas, hits US airwaves. Matchbox, primarily the Hot Wheels company, is tapped as the distributor for Japanese toys under the Voltron banner.
1984 Japan: Takatoku, the largest Macross toy creator, completes bankruptcy. It’s mold for the 1/55 VF-1 toy becomes the property of Matsuhiro (an affiliated company) before being sold to Hasbro. Most other Macross molds are purchased by Bandai.
1985 USA: like the model line, ROBOTECH the TV show takes unrelated anime properties and packages them under one banner. Tweaks are made to the three selected shows so they can seem one larger story. Audience response is strong. Transformers, Gobots, MASK, GI Joe, and He-Man are all going gang-busters by being 30 minute commercials for toys. Harmony Gold needs toys. Matchbox, having enjoyed success with Voltron, agrees to pair with Harmony Gold to see if lightning can strike twice.
1986 USA (early): Matchbox teams with Bandai and Gakken (the toy manufacturer of Mospeada products that also sell the toys generically as “Henshin Robo” products outside Japan) to produce Macross toys under the Robotech banner to be distributed by Matchbox outside Japan. However, Japanese children have not been swept up by the 4” action figure craze that GI Joe has fostered in the US so Matchbox decides to make numerous toys themselves, primarily to compete in the 4” figure market (though some of the toys don’t accommodate 4” figures).
1986-1987 USA: Though ROBOTECH performs well in the ratings, the Matchbox toy line fails to compete. Matchbox abandons the ROBOTECH license. Harmony Gold is unable to find another sponsor for Robotech which kills the lofty aspiration of producing brand new animation under the ROBOTECH banner to serve as sequels for the adaptation.
1991 (CHINA): Harmony Gold, somehow in possession of the Matchbox molds, reissues all the Matchbox-created-toys (not the ones by created by Takatoku/Bandai/Gakken and distributed by Matchbox). Did they get the molds through some contract stipulation? Did they purchase them? It’s not clear. They used the opportunity to release some toys that Matchbox had likely created but chose not to ship (like the Minmay action figure). The toys come packaged with Chinese language instructions.
1994 (USA): The show ExoSquad was performing relatively well as were sales for the corresponding toy line by Playmates. Looking to quickly pad the portfolio of products, Playmates came to an agreement with Harmony Gold to reissue and cross-label the Matchbox created toys. At the time, Playmates was being sued by FASA, creators of Battletech, for using an “E-frame” design that looked too much like a Battletech mech. FASA had previously been in litigation with Harmony Gold so that may have helped foster cross-branding arrangement.
So now you know why this toy exists and why it has been reissued three times. Another thing to note is that the original Matchbox toys were produced in at least three different factories: Japan, China, and Macau. Each factory appears to have had some flexibility over color selections so it’s entirely possible to find versions of these toys that look different from the ones featured in this review. I believe my Invid Shock Trooper toys represent Chinese production though the Playmates release lacks a clear “made in China” indicator.
At about 8” tall (20. 5cm) and a bit less than 12oz (328 grams), the Shock Trooper is large with decent heft but its original MSRP of $24.95 seems like highway robbery in comparison to the $29.95 price tag of the Gakken 1/35 Alpha Fighter (23cm tall, 448 grams, and transforms into three modes). My Playmates toy has a price tag that indicated an original MSRP of $17.99 which was fairer. As everything is now long sold out, these MSRPs won’t help you judge current market value but hopefully this review helps you assign a price to what you’d be willing to pay. Ideally, at 8” you would hope this toy to be roughly 1/18 scale (as it pairs with the 1/18 scale action figures) but that’s not really the case (Mech is 510 cm tall, toy is 20.5, scale is about 1/25). That shouldn’t bother you much since Mospeada/Robotech the New Generation is one of the worst offenders of representing the vehicles at whatever size seems best for any particular scene. There is no metal, no transformation, no sentimentality, and no love for bad guys so this toy will never be a hot collector’s item.

Sculpt, Detail, & Paint: (6/10)
if you’re into resin models then you have a few more choices but if you’re into toys, this is the one-and-only Shock Trooper toy that has ever been made. Is it a perfect recreation of the line art? No, not by a long shot. That said, it could be much worse. The area where this toy suffers the worst is the torso region where all the simplified joints come together and the simple construction leaves a big protrusion at the base of the crotch for an easily accessible screw. On the Matchbox toy, the paint applications are very basic but, when the stickers are applied, the toy has enough contrast to look good. The Matchbox toy also features a sticker for the eye that makes it look suitably Invid. Inside the opening canopy is some molding to look like a seat but you’ll need to apply stickers to make it seem to have control surfaces. There’s a clear plastic stripe across the head so you can see the pilot. In the show, there’s just some larval-looking Invid inside the Shock Trooper so the cockpit gimmick and clear window are derivations but at least the window mimics the stripe that would go over the vehicles head. Unfortunately, the picture of the invid on the back of the box looks a lot better than the final product. That toy has a two-tone cockpit, trim-colored abdomen, trim colored brow, and more black accents. The Made in Japan version of the Shock Trooper toy has curious coloring. On that version of the toy, the bulbs on the head and the cannons are molded in pink with the tips being the body color purple and the trim being a different lavender… it’s garish.

When Harmony Gold did their reissue they added several paint apps that spruce the toy up. The leg trim, which was a sticker on the Matchbox toy, is now painted black. Also painted black were the accents and barrels on the cannons. Finally, the cowl above the eye received some white paint. I would have preferred that the cowl be painted in the same accent color already present on the claws/legs/tips of guns. If you’re looking for differences from the show, you can probably find a few different screen shots with slightly different coloring, but the area below the eye down to the crotch should probably also be painted the accent color. Sadly, while this toy is a visual upgrade in most other respects, the eye, which was an applied sticker on the Matchbox toy, is just a painted semi-circle without any detail on the Harmony Gold release. This blank, lifeless red splotch is much less menacing than the sticker.

Playmates went for a gritty version of the Robotech toys by incorporating black freckling paint. It looks like there was a malfunction with an air brush causing overspray specks to coat the toy… think of it as an incredibly poor, mass production effort at ‘weathering’. The Playmates version of the toy retains some of the Harmony Gold paint improvements, the black accents on the legs and the tips of the cannons, but loses the black accents above and below the cannons. The white brow from the Harmony Gold release is now a matte, light gray. The soulless red splotch of ‘eye’ remains.
Fun fact, an Invid Shock Trooper toy was later re-crafted into the Ferengi pistol/phaser on Deep Space 9 with a leg serving as the grip and the cannon serving as most of the barrel.

Design: (4/10)
This toy is incredibly simple but it does have a couple tricks up its sleeves:
1) Opening cockpit to accommodate sold-separately 1/18 scale action figures
2) Spring-loaded claws on the arms
3) Ratcheting gun, shoulder, and hip joints
The box says the toy ‘Converts into deep space and surface terrain combat modes’ but that’s like saying Superman needs to ‘convert’ to fly. Basically, ‘converting’ this toy means swinging the legs back before you woosh it around your room.
If you prefer your Shock Trooper to have less shock, you don’t have to install the cannons to achieve the unarmored look.
One interesting element is that the connection for the cannons are very similar to the dimensions for the arm connections. You can find pictures online of people who have made toys with four arms or four cannons.
What would we want from a more modern toy? The ability to swap out the cannons easily to go for the cannon free look without it seeming obvious something was missing. Another cool feature would be an eye and the ability to swap it out with a blue eye for when Corg is piloting. Most other improvements would probably focus on sculpt and articulation sections.

Durability & Build: (8/10)
The area you will need to be most concerned with is the cockpit canopy. It connects via two thin plastic pegs which are probably getting brittle after all these years. There’s also a peg at the front of the canopy that keeps it held down but could scratch the paint on the Harmony Gold or Playmates versions where the brow is painted. The flimsy connection method of the canopy also means that it will frequently be askew leaving gaps on either side of the head. Once the arms and guns are installed I don’t recommend trying to remove them. The arms and cannons install like drywall fasteners, pinching through the whole and then expanding when they hit the cavity on the other side, so pulling them back through can be very difficult and can lead to loose joints. Over a lot of play it seems like the plastic that creates the ratcheting feel of the joints will wear down and the arms or cannons might spin freely.

Articulation: (4/10)
There are only a few points of articulation to discuss but they do, fortunately, all work independently:
Ratcheted cannons spin around until they hit a body part (in either direction)
Ratcheted shoulders spin around until they hit a body part (in either direction)
Ratcheted hips spin around until they hit a body part (in either direction)
There’s also a pivot after the shoulder that allows the arm to swing away from the body.
The foot claws are attached to a pivot in the middle of the foot allowing them to rock forward/back. All Unfortunately, though the attachment to the elbow is circular, there’s no twist point where the elbow meets the forearm. As mentioned in the design section, the claws do open and close. The ratchets are far apart and pronounced so you might not be able to get a limb at exactly the angle you would like.

Total Score: (26/50)
I like this toy more than the score indicates. It has some pretty significant shortcomings but it’s one of the better representations Matchbox managed to pull off. Compared to Gakken’s 1/20 scale ride armor toys, this Matchbox Invid toy is quite good! Though it wouldn’t scale well with the 1/8 Gakken toy Ride Armor, it wouldn’t look awful next to it. Hopefully the included pictures here help you determine if it would make a good addition to your more modern ride armor collection.