Review: Beggars couldn’t be choosers when it came to destroids
Packaging & Extras: Matchbox (2.5/5), Playmates (1.5/5)
The classic Matchbox toys released in the mid-80s came in boxes with the toy, stickers, and instructions in a box that featured some very 80s art work and pictures of the toys. The later Playmates ExoSquad reissues came packaged with similar instructions and stickers on large blister cards… and I hate blister cards.
Charm & Collectability: Matchbox (2.5/5), Playmates (1.5/5)
Both the Matchbox and Playmates toys clearly identify themselves with the Robotech license but the Playmates toy is cross-licensed with 1993’s ExoSquad show. How did Robotech toys get mixed up with ExoSquad? Well, that’s a long story, but here’s the text on the back of the box to give you an idea of how the toy manufacturers figured it could work from a story perspective:
“Far from the Homeworlds of ExoSquadTM, the ROBOTECH TM Master Zor develops Robo Technology and launches reflex-powered machines through a hazardous and unstable Space Fold which empties into ExoTerritory! Joining the battle alongside mankind’s final hope, ROBOTECH war machines reinforce ExoSuad’s fighting teams with their special class of Attack Mecha E-Frames. It’s the ultimate battle with the ultimate machines – ExoSquad and ROBOTECH!”
Needless to say, these toys don’t feature any sort of transformation (they’re not supposed to) and they don’t have any diecast. These mecha were not piloted by heroes in the cartoons and were never very popular amongst consumers. As a result, these toys are not coveted and generally easy to find today for the same price, or less, than when they were originally released. Pristine Matchbox examples may demand some premium… but not much.
Sculpt, Detail, & Build: (6/10)
As you can see from the various line art comparisons, these toys don’t have much in the way of detail and they take numerous liberties in terms of proportion and shape. Obviously these toys were designed well before the days of CAD. Each toy has some fairly significant faults. For the most part the Matchbox toys are the same as the Playmates versions except that Playmates added a sprinkled black effect to simulate what modelers call “weathering”. If you weren’t a fan of Yamato’s attempts at weathered toys you’ll really hate Playmates’ effort. Of all the toys I felt the Raidar X toy (Macross’ Defender) was particularly bad looking from a sculpt perspective as the whole upper body seems like it was designed completely by someone’s memory of the show rather than by looking at what the toy is supposed to look like. There are lots of bits on these toys you’d wish were made of clear plastic but instead are covered by a sticker (like the Excaliber’s cockpit), by paint (the lights on the Spartan’s head or the spotlight on the Excaliber) although the Raidar X does get some credit here for actually having clear plastic employed for its chest-mounted spotlights.
I’ll ignore these toys’ lack of joints and terrible articulation here since I have another section dedicated exclusively to design. Each toy has a gimmick of its own:
Raidar X (AKA Defender): this toy has “Shoulder-mounted auto cannons, a short-range weapon for guarding Raidar X against infiltrating enemies.” If you’re a Macross purist this is probably quite confusing to you. In the Robotech universe the weapons aren’t physical munitions, they’re beam weapons, so, it wouldn’t make sense for the Raidar X to be walking around with huge magazines on its torso. So, oddly enough, the Matchbox destroid features a hinge allowing the user to open what should be magazines and reveal what is allegedly mini guns… but they look nothing like that.
Excaliber MK VI (AKA Tomahawk): this toy has torso missile bays that open revealing interior missiles. The shoulder-mounted missile bay does not open.
Gladiator (AKA Spartan): Side note, it’s fine that the writers of Robotech wanted to change the names of the destroids… but couldn’t they have picked unique names rather than the other Japanese names of the destroids?? Anyway, the Gladiator features a center section that opens to reveal a big gun.
Spartan (AKA Phalanx): This toy features missle pods that open.
What you won’t get with any of these toys are cockpits, the ability to partially disassemble them to Frankenstein them with other destroids, panels that reveal more detaili, or anything beyond each toy’s main gimmick.
Durability & Build: (5.5/10)
These toys feel cheap and are poorly made. Paint lines are not crisp and flaws are frequent. Seams are very pronounced. Parts do not fit together well. Fortunately, there’s not a whole lot to these toys so while they may be poorly built they don’t seem particularly easy to break. While they do lack any heft in your hand they don’t feel like they’re about to fall apart while you handle them. You can handle them with little concern of breaking them.
Generally speaking you get the following joints:
1) Toe moves up (not down).
2) Hips rotate. Since the toe moves up this allows you to rotate a leg backward for a straight forward walking pose.
3) Shoulders rotate
4) There generally one rotation point in the arms. On the Raidar X this is at the hinge just after the shoulder, in the Gladiator this is at the wrists, in the Excaliber this is at the point where the cannon attaches to the arm. The Spartan has no other swivel point than the one at the shoulders but it does have a swivel point at its neck (none of the other destroids have heads).
5) A rotation point at the waist.
You don’t get knees, ankles, ball-jointed hips, so all poses you achieve will look fairly rigid.
Total Score: Matchbox (25.5/50), Playmates (23.5/50)
Destroids don’t have a large audience to begin. Even superb destroid toys like Yamato’s 1/60 products didn’t sell particularly well. If you are a hardcore destroid fan you should just stick to those Yamato toys. If you’re a Macross completist you should just convince yourself that this is a Robotech only product and leave it alone. If you’re a Robotech completist you should hunt down the Matchbox variety and stop there. Everyone else can safely avoid these toys.