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Warcry's Review: Generations Titans Return Chromedome (w/ Stylor)

Name: Chromedome
Allegiance: Autobot
Size Class: Deluxe Class
Accessories: Stylor Titan Master, two rifles

If anyone can produce an Autobot super soldier, it's Chromedome. The computer scientist can reprogram a bot’s systems to make them function at beyond-peak performance. Autobot Stylor gives Chromedome a rare programming tool: the power of mnemosurgery, the ability to access and edit another bot's memories.

Ah, Chromedome. A few years ago, if you'd asked me to describe the Headmasters it would have gone something like this:

Mindwipe: the hypnotist one!

Skullcruncher: the Killer Croc one!

Weirdwolf: the Yoda one!

Brainstorm: the smart one!

Hardhead: the stubborn one!

Highbrow: the snobby one!

...and then after going through the citybots, Horrorcons, small Headmasters, Japanese Headmaster Juniors, Arcee, Armada Overload and Sideways, I'd realize I'd forgotten someone. Oh, right, Chromedome!

The boring one.

But that changed in 2012, with the launch of IDW's More Than Meets the Eye comic. Chromedome was a major focal character for the first couple years of the book, which characterized him as an amoral mind-rapist trying (and mostly failing) to become a better person. His relationships with the other characters in the book -- most especially Rewind and Prowl -- quickly made him one of the deepest characters to ever appear in official Transformers fiction, and quite possibly author James Roberts' best work. So now, instead of being the uninteresting, forgettable one, Chromedome is quite possibly the most interesting and well-developed of the Headmaster characters this side of Marvel Scorponok.

And since I no longer forget that he even exists, when the Titans Return line was announced Chromedome was one of the characters I was most looking forward to. The execution left a lot to be desired, though, at least at first glance. While IDW Chromedome is the only version of the character that most people care about these days, the toy is based heavily on the G1 design...except for the head, which is heavily based on the IDW character model. And the figure itself was a bit bland, with a rote Combiner Wars-style transformation and a layout that's nearly identical to the CW mold that was practically run into the ground to give us Dead End, Wildrider, Streetwise, Prowl, Smokescreen, G2 Dead End, G2 Wildrider and probably at least two fanclub figures that I don't know about.

The design that Chromedome apes isn't a bad one by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, Streetwise and Dead End are two of my favourite Combiner Wars figures. But after two years' worth of figures that transform exactly like this, Chromedome simply wasn't all that exciting. And it's a shame that, after all that's been done to raise the character's profile in the fiction, Hasbro seems dead set to send him right back to being the boring one again.

Alternate Mode:

Chromedome's car mode has traditionally been a weak spot. He came out in a year that included tons of mechanical beasts, futuristic space fighters, giant tanks and all the things Sixshot turns into. And then there's Chromedome, who's one of a bunch of different cars, with boring colours and blocky, uninteresting lines. The Titans Return figure looks a bit more like a real car than the original, but it's still a box on wheels that just doesn't bring the same flash and excitement as Hardhead, Highbrow, Brainstorm, Hot Rod, Triggerhappy, etc., etc. But it's a solid car with a few nice, futuristic flourishes if you look closer.

The wheels are cast from transparent plastic, which of course is completely impractical, but it adds a funky WFC or Tron vibe to the design. The flip-open driver compartment is also a neat touch, reinforced by the fact that the mold doesn't have any doors molded into it. Stylor (or any other Titan Master) can ride inside the driver's cabin comfortably, though there's no steering wheel or any other recognizable controls sculpted in. The vehicle has a lot of sculpted-in vents and details in general, all of which add to the look of the car save for the unpainted tail lights, which really jump out as ugly. Chromedome is coloured in dark and light brown, with red and silver highlights, and blue headlights. Unfortunately, some of his dark brown parts are molded plastic and others are painted, and the colour matching between the two leaves a lot to be desired.

Chromedome comes with two weapons, a small carbine and a big "gun" that's obviously a Titan Master seat. The two of them can combine into a weapon pod that can mount either as a sidecar or on Chromedome's roof. Stylor can sit in it and man the little gun, though honestly that looks pretty silly on what looks like a regular passenger car.

Overall the only word that comes to mind when I try to describe Chromedome's car mode is "okay". There's nothing wrong with it, but it's simply not very exciting.

Robot Mode:

After a transformation that you could sleepwalk through if you've ever handled a Combiner Wars Deluxe, Chromedome folds into a nice, compact robot mode with minimal obtrusive kibble. Comparisons to the Dead End/Streetwise mold are impossible to avoid in this mode, because they're basically the same toy. There are no shared parts, but the transformations and articulation are engineered almost identically, the only real difference being that one keeps a Combiner port in his chest and the other has a Titan Master cockpit. This sort of thing was fairly common in olden days -- look at the Firecons, Jumpstarters, Throttlebots or Battlechargers -- but in modern days it's rare to see two completely different molds that are so similar to one another released one right after the other. It's unfortunate for Chromedome, because even though he totally isn't, in a lot of ways he still feels like yet another in the seemingly unending two year long line of Dead End repaints and retools. And that's not necessarily a bad thing, since that's my favourite of the Combiner Wars molds... but he still feels like old news even though he's brand new.

In robot mode, Chromedome's colours are basically the same as vehicle mode. But while the car is basically dark in the front and light in the back, the robot mode distributes it a bit better. Basically, the "inside" parts (his torso and upper legs) are dark brown while his extremities (minus elbows) are light brown. Red and silver highlights are still abundant, with small amounts of blue and orange. The colour scheme is intensely boring in car mode, but the robot mode makes the best of it. The brown chunks are small enough, and broken up enough with highlights, that he winds up looking quite fetching.

Chromedome has pretty solid articulation all around -- double-jointed shoulders, ball hips, hinged knees and elbows, thigh and bicep swivels, a waist swivel and a ball-jointed neck. His wrists and ankles also have a bit of movement thanks to his transformation, though it's not super useful for posing. The window kibble on the back of his lower legs are insightly but don't really get in the way, while the car's hood basically melts away into his torso. The end result is a figure that's quite pose-able and stable.

Chromedome's weapons leave a bit to be desired. Most of the Titans Return figures I've got do a decent job of hiding the fact that their guns turn into a chair for their heads, but Chromedome's designers didn't even bother. His smaller rifle is fine, if a tad undersized, but the larger one is literally a chair with a barrel on it, and it's hard to pose Chromedome with it in any way that doesn't make it look intensely silly. But that's a minor problem, and all in all Chromedome's robot mode is very solid.

Titan Master:

Stylor is probably the weakest part of the set. In robot mode he's simply a mostly-red blob, because he doesn't have a lick of paint and the type of red plastic they used hides almost all of his molded detail (which, on close inspection, seems to be identical to Brainstorm's TM Teslor). He's got the standard TM articulation (ball shoulders and neck, swivel hips and knees), which is fine for a toy his size.

Stylor turns into Chromedome's head. Or more specifically, he turns into IDW Chromedome's head. It's a very distinctive look, and very different from the head that Chromedome sported in the '80s, both in the toys and the fiction. Which is fine, as far as it goes, and it's a nice head design. The problem is that Chromedome himself is very heavily G1-based, and the IDW head on the G1 body isn't the greatest fit. The Takara version of the figure comes with a more traditional head, which I think fits the figure better. I don't think it's better enough to be worth spending twice as much money on though, especially since Hasbro's figure has the nicer body colours.

Transformation Design: I suppose "tried and true" is the best way to describe it. It's not complicated, but it's functional and you get two solid modes out of it. 7/10

Durability: There's always the chance of losing the Titan Master I suppose, but Chromedome is quite solid and durable. 9/10

Fun: I'll try to be fair here -- if I didn't already own so many figures with the same transformation and robot mode engineering, I'd love this guy. As-is, I think he's alright, but not stellar. So I'll split the difference with the score. 7.5/10

Aesthetics: I'm not sold on the car mode at all, and Stylor is really unattractive. Chromedome's robot mode is quite a bit better, but for the unsightly gun. All in all, I don't think the figure rates much more than a "blah". 6/10

Articulation: If you compare him to the Combiner Wars toy, you'll find a few joints where Chromedome's got a few degrees less range of motion than the old one. And it's easy to get picky when there's such a similar figure to stand him up beside. But honestly, that's nitpicking. Chromedome's not perfect in this category but he's still very good. 8/10

Price: Prices have been creeping up over the last few years, but the Titan Master gimmick adds a lot of value and Chromedome in partucular is definitely worth the money. 8/10

Overall: Never have I been so disinterested in such a good figure. But Chromedome is a good figure! It's hard to work up too much enthusiasm for him when he's so similar to other stuff that's come out so recently, but on his own merits he's quite good. 7.5/10
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