Monday, May 14, 2012

Voltron: Third Dimension Action Figure

I was all about Voltron growing up. Sure, I was a fan of Transformers, GI Joe, M.A.S.K., Thundercats, and just about every other awesome cartoon/toy line for boys in the 80's (they had a pretty hard and fast girl/boy divide back then. Everything seems to have gone much more unisex since then), but Voltron was always my favorite. I remember back in the day that only one store in my hometown carried the coveted Voltron lions. I know they must have been sold as a set somewhere, but my hometown general store sold them separately. They were $5 each, and I never had that kind of money.

Fast forward to 2000 and Voltron: The Third Dimension was freshly cancelled. I was home from a two year stint in Cambodia and biding my time before getting back into college. I saw a box with all five Voltron lions marked down to a mere $19.99 and I couldn't resist. I bought the very Voltron pictured above and have loved owning the #1 most highly coveted toy of my childhood (close #2 was Optimus Prime. I remember my Mom was part of a toy drive once and someone gave away a pristine Optimus Prime complete with trailer and all accessories. I begged her to let it "fall out" of the collection for the drive and into my own personal collection. I offered several of my own toys, but my Mom didn't budge. I guess there are more important things in life than a mint condition 1985 Generation 1 Optimus Prime complete with trailer and all accessories, but not many).

Though my love of Voltron will always let me love the figure pictured above, I do have some complaints which seem to be common for this particular iteration of Voltron. First of all, the black lion has a projectile in its back (I've never liked projectiles in toys. You never use them like the kids in the commercial who always seem to have plenty of plastic bricks to blow up (an item I have never seen for sale anywhere) and you always end up losing them and/or having them shoot off when you lest expect it). This particular Voltron really suffers from premature ejection of its projectiles. I tend to leave them in the slots without pushing them all the way down, so they aren't armed. When you fold up the tail of the black lion for the transformation to Voltron (a mighty robot. Loved by good. Feared by evil.) you always hit the button that shoots the projectile. It's a poor design and it gets really annoying. Also, the nubs that hold many of the moving parts in place, most notably the yellow horns on Voltron's head and the covers for the compartments that hold the feet of the black lion, wear out and those pieces end up falling off constantly. Oh, and the pieces of the other lions that lock into the black lions come in varying strengths. The ones for the arms are too good, and I'm always afraid I'm going to break something when I'm taking Voltron apart. The pieces that lock the legs in are too weak, and if you pick Voltron up too quickly, one or both of his legs will fall off.

Here's the thing: I know how hard it must be to make a decent Voltron toy. It's a complicated thing. It's like making a good Devastator (the Constructicons have to look good on their own and have all their parts work, and then they have to turn into a decent Devastator that looks good as a whole and has pieces that work). First of all, there's no way to make the lions all the same scale. The arms have to be smallest, the legs slightly bigger, and the torso even bigger. You simply don't have cartoon magic on your side. Also, you have to design interfaces that don't get in the way of the individual toys when they're separated. It's a tall order. I appreciate this Voltron for what it is (the only one I own), but I'm also well aware of its flaws.

Now here's the thing, I'm going to give this thing a rating and I'm using Voltrons as the unit of measurement for action figure goodness. I want to give this thing 5 full Voltrons, but I can't. Not with its flaws. So I'll say this: If this was the original die-cast Voltron, it'd be worthy of all 5. As a plastic representation of the original, I'll give it...

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