Twister has unusually convoluted origins, so bear with me. Well, or skip to the next paragraph, where I'll start telling you whether I think the thing's any good. Now you've clicked I get the hit anyway. The toy was designed for Bandai line Zenmai Kahen Winch Robo or Winch Robo for short. As with many Bandai brands, it was co-opted for the European Robo Machine line in 1985 and released as one of the Winchers, simply 'named' Helicopter.

By 1986 Machine Robo was on the way down in Japan, but Bandai decided on a full line of toys to support the Revenge of Cronos anime and managed to cobble together a series largely composed of reissues and reuses from other lines. The Winch Robo helicopter toy was one of these recoloured as Battle Gyror, a Dash Robo who also appeared in the series. The recolour came out in America in 1986 (with minor changes to the stickers) as Twister, one of the Secret Riders. The back-of-box picture for the range advertised Twister as predominantly white (which formed the basis of his cartoon look) but instead the Japanese scheme was used. I've only got the European version at the moment, so the review will apply to that version.


ALTERNATE MODE

Twister's helicopter mode seems to be a hybrid design - at least I can't think of anything that looks much like it. The mode is about 8" long (ignoring the guns on the nose) and very boxy. The presence of the winch mechanisms in the fuselage presumably means space is at a premium, and so the legs and arms can't do much beyond fold into themselves and look as discrete as possible - which, it turns out, isn't particularly discrete at all. The block below the rotors does its' best to deceive you into thinking this is just part of the design philosophy and the placement of some details (such as air intakes and what look a little like guns) offer a slight distraction, but the thing is just too ungainly to be convincing. I mean, there are some really ugly helicopters out there in the world (basically, the lot of them bar the Sea Sprite and the Lynx), but there's no reason for this one to be so damn square.

Though all that said, I rather like him. There's no way to rationalise it, there's just something satisfying about the bulk of him. It helps that he's sturdy and a nice sort of size and that the colours work - the European ones aren't quite as sharp as the US/Japanese release, but they get the job done. It should also be said that Twister's a lot of fun - winches are always entertaining and this one - with a two-way switch and sensible placement - is fantastic for airlifting out injured Guardians.


ROBOT MODE

In terms of transformation Twister is by far the simplest of the Secret Rider figures. It's all perfectly sensible but it's a bit too obvious, with the needless 'sidepod' parts clearly the source of the limbs. The stature's good - while he's only an inch or so shorter than a Dread Launcher, the robot looks a lot less lanky. The proportions aren't superb, sadly - the arms are longer than his legs, though thankfully the elbow joints mean you can disguise this a bit. The only real gripe is the solid helicopter tail, which almost reaches the ground.

It's a big shame the end couldn't hinge away (perhaps in a similar fashion to that seen on the Helicopter Transport Combinator), but I guess there's too much winch-related gubbins in there. Which brings us to another problem - the winch position in robot form is a bit unfortunate. It's not that it can't be used in robot mode - on the contrary, it's completely without obstacles. It's just the idea of Twister dragging things towards his crotch is a little unsavoury. It's not a Takara line after all. However once again despite all these drawbacks, I still really rather like him. The overall look when he's posed right and if you keep your gaze above the equator is very nice - a good boxy eighties robot. The head sculpt is passable and there's some decent articulation in the arms, even if the winglets interfere a little. It's also worth noting the fancy shiny stickers on the European version enliven the thing.


SUMMARY

Twister is a good solid figure, albeit with a few aesthetic drawbacks. It's symptomatic of the line in a way, being less impressive than several smaller figures despite the increased opportunities you'd think a larger figure would offer. The gimmick's nice and he's presentable, if flawed, in both modes. It's fair to say Twister's the weakest of the Secret Rider figures, and it's not worth forking out the cost a US or Japanese version could set you back. The European version isn't quite as good-looking, but is easier and cheaper to find.


THE FACTS
[Corrections? Let me know!]

RELEASES:
1984, Winch Robo - Jet Heli
1985, Robo Machine Winchers - Helicopter
1986, Machine Robo Revenge of Cronos Dash Robo - MRJ: Battle Gyror (black recolour)
1986, Gobots Secret Riders - Twister (black recolour)

PARTS:
1 x gun I
1 x gun II
1 x stand

WEAK POINTS:
None