Review: Robotech: The Masters did too have merchandise!
Packaging & Extras: (2/5)
There are two versions of this toy; one released by Matchbox in the mid 1980s as part of the original Robotech line of toys and a second one released by Playmates as part of the ExoSquad/Robotech cross-branded reissues of the original Matchbox toys. Both toys come in large boxes devoid of flip-top collector’s lids with cut cardboard reinforcements, instructions, and stickers. You do not get the Dana Sterling action figure meant to go with the toy or really any other extras/accessories for that matter. The main cannon from the Guardian mode (aka Flea-hopper mode) separates to become a handheld gun in battloid mode. For the Playmates reissue the instructions got an updating and show off how ExoSquad figures can use the hover tank.
Charm & Collectability: (4/5)
It may not have diecast metal, it may not achieve all three modes of transformation, but this toy still represents the pinnacle of Robotech: The Masters merchandise (it was never sold under the Southern Cross name). Masters fans have it tough and word has gotten out that this is the best Hover Tank they’ll ever see so they’re still willing to spend a pretty penny for them on the secondary market. Had this toy actually transformed into tank mode it might have really been something. The sheer size of this toy also makes it a sought after collectible for classic Robotech fans as any classic collection seems like it has a big hole without this behemoth.
Sculpt, Detail, & Paint: (6/10)
Color me generous, you should, but since no other toy has come along to show us just how much better a Hover Tank toy can really be I’ve decided to leave this score just a bit shy of average. It’s not pretty but it’s a fair likeness. The Playmates release has a speckled black finish that was meant to simulate weathering and battle damage but it’s very ‘meh’. Much of the trim is included as stickers which don’t have the speckle effect so you can imagine the conflict that would cause on a fully decaled toy. There are faint panel lines on some parts of the toy and some molded in detail but by today’s standards it looks very large and plain. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen line art of a hover tank in battloid from behind so I’m not sure how egregious the giant low-hanging diaper effect is.
It’s a genuine shame that Matchbox couldn’t figure out a way to get a toy they were selling as a “Hover Tank” into the TANK mode. I was a bit impressed at how well the toy managed the two mode transformation but that’s mostly because of my ground-level low expectations. The swapping out of the main cannon into a hand gun probably deserves a demerit but it’s hard to say it wasn’t a conscious decision by the way it was implemented. You can fit Dana into the toy in battloid mode but it seems that’s a happy happenstance rather than a feature by design; Dana doesn’t even fit in her flea-hopper chair very well. Some of the transformation mechanisms are reasonably hidden and while the toy leaves a lot to be desired there are just enough hints at how good of a toy it could have been if someone had cared just a little more.
Durability & Build: (7/10)
The main problem I have with this toy is a problem I have with numerous toys of the era: things just don’t fit together as well as they should. You’ll probably notice in my Guardian mode pictures that parts aren’t lined up perfectly but believe me, it wasn’t for lack of trying. From my experience handling it, the toy felt really solid with nice clicky joints (although not enough clicks between natural positions). Had I not seen a Robotech promotional video where a man accidentally snapped his Hover Tank in two I might be led to believe this toy has above average durability. As it is, I’d advise you exercise a little bit of patience but otherwise you should be fine. When buying these toys second-hand, be on the look out for yellowing and missing cannon/gun parts.
You might say I’m spoiled these days as there were a lot of other toys released around the same time as this toy was that had even worse articulation. You get articulated toes, knees, hips, and shoulders as well as a pivot point at the elbow. You don’t get a truly functional elbow, rotating head, twists in the legs, ball-jointed hips, a swivel at the waist, a swivel at the wrist, articulated hands, or articulated ankles. You can strike a decent ‘running and shooting with the arm straight out’ pose or a standing stationary pose but that’s about it.
Total Score: (27/50)
I’ve made fun of the Southern Cross mecha designs in the past and I’m still not a huge fan. That said, handling this toy has convinced me that a really cool Hover Tank could have been made by someone at some point… although this isn’t it. At 31CM tall in battloid this toy is 1/20 scale, nearly perfect for the 1/18 scale figures. That’s a far cry from the very warped scales Matchbox employed with the mecha made for the 1/18 scale figures from Macross (which feature 1/60-1/70 scale mecha for 1/18 scale pilots). If you’re a huge Southern Cross or Robotech: The Masters fan there’s no doubt these toys have a lot of charm and you have no options so you should get one. If you’re a casual Robotech fan I’m sure you already know you could do better.