Transformers Toyline, by Hasbro, released 1985
The Granddaddy of Transformers Combiners
Okay, let’s just go ahead and get it out of the way right now: with the exception of a certain five robot lions, Devastator is the most famous combiner in all of mecha fandom. Oh sure, you can talk about Power Rangers, or maybe one of the seemingly infinite number of combining mecha shows that filtered into US audiences in the 1980s and 1990s. But at the end of the day, Devastator (and we’re talking classic Devastor here, not the live-action movie’s Humongastator) is at the top of a class with very, very few peers.
Discussing the history of Devastator is sort of like discussing the history of ice cream (go ahead, look it up). Everybody’s got a different theory and no two are the same. There’s a great deal of debate within the fandom as to just where the character Devastator came from and what his origins are. In the animated series alone, two different versions are offered, with additional versions cropping up in just about every single comic franchise that has come and gone. Whatever particular version you prefer, it is widely considered canon that Devastator was one of – if not THE – first combiners in the Transformers universe, and his origin is intrinsically tied with another classic Transformer, the Autobot Omega Supreme.
When I say Devastator is a combiner, I mean that he is a giant robot whose individual form is composed of a team of (six) smaller robots known as the Constructicons (whom themselves have alternative forms; those being construction vehicles like a dump truck, a crane, etc).
It wasn’t until the second season of the animated series that Devastator had any combiner-peers and by and large, even after others came and went, he was and is still widely considered king. He became the poster child of the combiners for the Transformers line and has generally been revered by anyone connected with the fandom ever since.
Appearance – 3 out of 5
Devastator the toy looks very much like Devastator the character out of the animated series. The overall proportions of the character, the way he is physically built, and even how he transforms, all of it is well represented here. Tactile details are bit lacking, however and there’s nothing overall about the character’s appearance to really make this representation stand out (especially considering that he’s smiling for some reason; we can only assume it’s related to the death and destruction of one or more Go-Bots).
Construction – 2 out of 5
Devastator has a lot of problems for such a large toy. A lot of people playing with this toy back in the day may not clearly remember now, but the toy tends to fall apart rather easily. The individual Constructicons, when combined into Devastator, generally do not snap into place (I’m looking at you, Hook and Bonecrusher; Devastator’s arms). This means that if you tilt the toy, the arms stand a good chance of falling off. Worse, the toy is constructed of inconsistent materials. Some parts of the Constructicons are plastic while some parts are die-cast metal. This makes the toys very awkward in their weight distribution. The result is that even if you don’t move the toy, the arms may still fall off or the whole thing may topple right over.
Where Devastator deserves some praise is in the unorthodox manner in which the character combines. Just about every combiner after Devastator would follow the same (admittedly reasonable and sound) pattern – a large, central character with four smaller characters who would attach almost like some kind of power armor. Devastator is distinct in all six characters are of similar size and the manner in which each connects is unique. Unfortunately, this necessitates having additional parts that are sometimes incorporated into the individual figures and sometimes are not (more on that below).
Movement – 2 out of 5
Devastator doesn’t move very much. His shoulder joints allow his arms to swing, but there’s a risk that any time the toy is moved at all, one or both of the arm’s may pop off. The elbow joints likewise bend and the hands rotate, but only by virtue of being pegs that stick into the forearm attachments. There’re no waist, hip, or knee joints, nor can the head turn (though it can tilt down slightly).
Extras – 2 out of 5
Extras. Yeah, about that. This is a bit tricky because Devastator comes with a lot of additional pieces, but not much of it is really all that useful. He comes with the pieces needed to combine (distributed among the various Constructicons), but they add little to nothing to the toys (they’re like snap-on attachments that don’t make any sense – why would a bulldozer need a drill on its hood?)
Each Constructicon does come with a pistol, but there’s nowhere to put those weapons when Devastator combines. At their size, it becomes almost a foregone conclusion that they will get lost. The result is that regardless of the form Devastator is in, there will be a pile of additional stuff off to the side.
Packaging – 4 out of 5
Each Constructicon came individually packaged with a distinctive picture of each character on the front. On the back were character bios, statistics, and an overall explanation of the Transformers story as well as how the individual Constructicons combined into Devastator. This kind of buy-and-play packaging, where kids not familiar with the animated series could still jump right in, was where Hasbro has always really excelled.
Overall – 2 out of 5
I feel like I’m being a little harsh here with this score. This toy has a lot of flaws, but it is also really ambitious. Having six robots instead of what would become the staple of five, having a unique combining method, all these characteristics lends some impressive credentials to this toy and helps explain why it and the character it represents have been so enduring.
Unfortunately, the plethora of random parts and the lack of overall mobility of Devastator and the individual Constructicons really does just standout too much. While you can transform this toy from one robot into six, and those six into vehicles, you really can’t do much else. If the individual Constructicons had more mobility, if Devastator had more mobility, if the individual parts (such as the weapons) combined like the robots themselves, this toy would rank much, MUCH higher very quickly. As it is, though, this toy really stands solely on its ambition and memories idealized by the haze of childhood.