It was pretty exciting around the start of 2013 to get Transformers United Artfire, a redeco of Universe (2008) Inferno as the sort of obscure, and immensely expensive The Headmaster manga-original character, especially since it finished off the pair begun with United Stepper a year or so earlier. While Stepper, known to Hasbro as Ricochet, had its G1 toy reissued and thus made very accessible to anyone who wanted one (and judging by the deep clearance reissue Ricochet could soon be found under, it seemed very few actually wanted one), Artfire to this day has not had a reissue of the G1 mold. And there’s been a modest but decent assortment of Steppers/Ricochets in the years since that reissue. But Artfire? A much smaller offering.
Until this Generations Selects release, in fact, there had only been the United toy, which was I should add was a mailaway exclusive and not even a regular retail product, and then that was followed by a Masterpiece. Those were the options for a modern revisit, or anything at all cheaper than getting G1 Artfire, and they still tended on the expensive side. Selects Artfire, though? About $35. Way better for less specific enthusiast interest. This also has a certain benefit thanks to how Grapple and thus Inferno were visually styled: Selects Artfire looks a lot like the G1 original. That fact has to be worth something to the hypothetical discerning Artfire collector. Though such a collector probably has the United and Masterpiece versions too, so maybe that’s a bad example. Anyway, what really gets me in all of this is that Hasbro’s the one bringing it to market. I mean yes, Takara will be releasing it as well in a few months, but there’s nothing to suggest that they had any special hand in making this happen.
Artfire is essentially a “free” mold reuse. It doesn’t need any new parts, because it never had any new parts. It comes with Nightstick, sure. But the Targetmaster is just another redeco of Battlemaster Firedrive, and comes with existing blast effect pieces. But it’s all very true to its origins, just putting together readily existing parts. In Japan Artfire and Stepper were a means to utilize the Nightstick and Fracas Targetmasters as well as pad out the toyline for The Headmasters a little. Cheap and easy. Perfect for Generations Selects.
So, Targetmasters. This is a mess. Artfire came with Nightstick, which was actually Fracas. Stepper came with Nightstick, but which was called Nebulon. Nebulon was renamed Nightstick when Hasbro sold the reissue as Ricochet. So in fact Artfire and Stepper both come with Nightstick, thanks to Hasbro’s name uses. Artfire’s Nightstick is about as Fracas as Firedrive can reasonably be made to be, with a grey torso and head block, but black everything else. The arms, legs, and gun barrel parts are all unpaintable plastic, as I understand, and would seem to reside together on one sprue, necessarily being all a common color. What occurred to me though is that Firedrive was also sold as Fracas, in a Siege set with Skywarp. That has a dark grey body and light grey limbs and gun parts. If you swapped some bits around, you could get something in a closeish color arrangement to what Fracas and Nightstick are meant to look like. This is only partly successful though. While Battlemaster Fracas’s arms are close enough to Nightstick’s torso shade to pass a casual inspection, the mismatch between the black arms from Nightstick and the dark grey torso of Fracas stands out a lot more. It’s not to say that this plan is completely doomed, but you’d probably be better off grabbing a spare Firedrive to use the torso from. That’s a blacker black, and not being part of a now expensive to get multipack, is a better candidate for repainting if it still needs some help to get everything to match up. Firedrive’s arms might not be as good of a match for Artfire’s Nightstick though. Yes, I’ve been thinking about this for a while.
Of course, since I own United Artfire, I can also just lend United Nightstick to Selects Artfire. United Nightstick is not only more completely decoed like Fracas, but the Universe 2008 Nightstick mini figure is actually based more on Fracas than Nightstick to begin with. I swear, these Targetmasters are the most confusing thing ever. This whole mess would have been made much more simple if Takara had made a Fracas in Legends when they started doing Targetmasters in the later part of that series. Sadly, Scourge got released before that point and so was omitted from the fun. I’m sure even if they had tried to give Scourge a Targetmaster, something would have gone wrong anyway to add to the manifold confusion that already exists.
Back to Artfire though, on the subject of “gone wrong” I’m pleased to note that the QC on my copy of Artfire is actually quite excellent. There’s a slight issue of the firetruck mode not always wanting to have straight body lines, but that’s more a problem of the mold family than it is anything this iteration has done wrong. And actually, my Inferno can’t even have the robot arms peg down in vehicle mode; the parts don’t quite line up and they just push back out. Artfire’s fit in place just fine. And for the record, Artfire does use Inferno’s updated tooling that eliminates the well-known peg-breakage issue from Grapple. In this way, Artfire might well be the best version of this basic design. I guess the third time really is the charm.
I don’t even really know why I wanted this Artfire so much, but it really grabbed me from the moment I saw the leaked stock photos. I was amused at the blast effects being blue, implying water blasts. A Targetmaster who is in effect a water gun is a hilarious idea to me. Plus, using the burst effect from… Pteraxadon, I think… you can kind of make it look like Artfire is spraying a surface and causing water to splash back. It just feels like there’s a spirit of fun about, even if only a little bit. That definitely has an appeal to me. But whatever the reason, I’m really pleased by it now that I finally have it. Unfortunately, the contemporary Ricochet/Stepper to go with it is a mold I have no affection for whatsoever – and from what I’ve been told, is not even a good instance of that mold. I doubt we’ll get a Ricochet from Studio Series Jazz very soon, but that’s okay. I have another idea about a partner for this Artfire…