By mid-1983, Machine Robo was moving towards a steady diet of realistic vehicles, but every now and then something a little bit more extraordinary slipped in, like Missile Tank Robo. By the end of the year the bulk of available moulds had been issued as Gobots, and the Missile Tank Robo was no exception, becoming the Guardian Blaster (incidentally arriving in stores nearly two years ahead of the Transformers figure of the name - that's not bad for a rip-off line).

The initial orange version did appear on-screen (albeit briefly) in the TV mini-series "The Battle for Gobotron", but when the regular series hit the screens (with the character getting a couple of sizeable roles for a non-central Guardian, most notably in the "Invasion from the 21st Level" two-parter), Blaster received a new head design and a predominantly green colour scheme. And an annoying, nasal voice. For the second series of toys, as with Crasher, this colour scheme was changed for the figure when production switched to the figures carded with holograms - though unlike Crasher this recolour was allotted a fresh Gobot number (35, just in case you were wondering). The head was not resculpted, however. The original was reissued in Japan in 1986 for the Revenge of Cronos tie-in line, and the character made a handful of appearances in the anime itself.


ALTERNATE MODE

The missile tank mode (according to Machine Robo Wedge, this is an M33, though I've yet to turn up a picture of one of these to verify the accuracy) is an ugly little thing, to be blunt. It lacks both aesthetics and neatness despite the vague Gerry Anderson vibe coming off the thing. Aside from the hunchbacked appearance, the missile mounts are obviously the robot arms, while the torso details can be clearly seen between these. The arms don't really lock in place either, meaning any looseness in the arm joints (more on these in a minute) robs the mode of what little rigidity it has. The chromed tracks don't move, though Blaster can be pushed forward on four small plastic wheels added underneath. Even the orange plastic isn't that great - display-wise it means he blends in with the likes of Dumper, Dozer and Crain Brain, while only the tracks, stickers (incidentally, the figure above is a Machine Robo example; the stickers on the launchers/arms and under the windscreen aren't on the Gobots release) and exposed robot parts breaking up the colour.

The cockpit and tracks add a sense of size to the tank - these must be ICBMs or something mounted on him, while the huge chromed weapons themselves look pretty good (and add a little fun to the mode). Incidentally, the raised areas on the front of the mounts do look a little like missile tubes, and Blaster doesn't look (any more) ridiculous without the parts, though obviously you've then got the exposed tabs on the top.


ROBOT MODE

By this stage of the line, Bandai were beginning to get more inventive with transformations, rather than just fitting the vehicles around the same few rough templates, and thus Blaster changes like no other Gobot. All of the problems with the alt mode could probably be saved by a good-looking robot coming from it, but Blaster manages to be even more of a mess. The sequence itself isn't actually completely without merit, with the sides of the tank swinging forward to form the legs (with the cab splitting and folding to provide the feet), the top becoming the arms ad the head neatly flipping out of the back.

The execution is lacking, however. Nothing on Blaster clicks into place. Getting the feet to stay at 90° is very difficult, while the leg joints work loose very easily, leading to a bandy-legged robot. The ankle joints are also notoriously weak, the plastic tabs connecting the cab halves to the metal ankles being prone to breakage. The usual Gobot ball-ended metal bars are pressed into service for the shoulders, but here they're ridiculously long, coupled with long, chunky arms that make Blaster look like a monkey. Add to this his ridiculous pinhead (which, needless to say, doesn't stay in place half the time, tending to fold back with the slightest movement) and his comically flat profile, and nothing's going for him. The embellishments aren't too bad (some good detail on the chest, tasteful stickers and a decent face casting) and the orange colour itself works better in this mode, but it's a bit like putting icing on a turd.


SUMMARY

Blaster's a mess, no two ways about it. On top of this, he's quite hard to get hold of, seeing as the feet break on many (due to a ludicrously thin metal part in the ankle), and that's before we take into account that, like Zero, this is a figure that needs to be tight. And then there's finding one with the missiles, which can be tricky. An overcomplicated mess, and not a good representation of what Bandai were capable of by this time.


THE FACTS
[Corrections? Let me know!]

RELEASES:
1983, Machine Robo Series - MR-23: Missile Tank Robo
1983, Gobots Series 1 - 23: Blaster
1985, Gobots Series 2 - 35: Blaster (US-exclusive; green/orange recolour)
1986, Machine Robo Revenge of Cronos - MRB-4: Missile Tank Robo

I'm currently unsure as to whether Blaster came out in Europe or not.

PARTS:
2 x chrome missiles

WEAK POINTS:
Shoulder joints, ankle joints