By the mid-1980s, the success of the Machine Robo line was beginning to peter out, and Bandai took a break before they began to redirect the series, eventually culminating in the anime-backed Revenge of Cronos series.

However, in America Gobots was continuing to be a success, and Bandai agreed to design a handful of toys especially for the Western market. These figures were designated 'MRT-##' (most likely standing for Machine Robo Tonka) and released in 1985. Scratch was one such figure, and the toy was only released in North America. The character - a Guardian - made a handful of appearances in the animated series, notably in the episode "Genius and Son".


ALTERNATE MODE

Scratch's vehicle mode is an unprepossessing 4 x 4 (a first-gen Ford Bronco, I think), and it isn't particularly pretty. It's sturdy, workmanlike, blends in nicely and is a rare example of a vehicle that a family were likely to own appearing in a transforming toy line.

The dark grey means the mode doesn't leap out, and like all the MRT figures, it's a little bit too chunky and under-detailed. It is solid though, and a few bits of moulding - such as the differentials underneath - are quite good. Overall, though, it's a bland, forgettable alternate mode.


ROBOT MODE

Of course, these things tend to function as disguises (well, they did in Transformers; probably less so in Challenge of the Gobots, but it's a good opening for a paragraph), and Scratch's unimpressive vehicle form hides a fantastic robot mode. The transformation itself is a good, fun sequence, very addictive and with some neat touches. The result is small robot that nevertheless looks really good. The head sculpt is one of the line's best, for once oozing personality thanks to a humanoid face and the dabs or red.

The back-piece works nicely too. I love the big shoulders, even if the forearms are a little thin by comparison. The boxy chest and legs are a delight, too. Best of all, though, is the articulation. The arms are as standard, but the waist can twist, and each leg moves at two points, meaning Scratch can strike some pretty impressive poses for such a small figure of this vintage. He doesn't even seem to suffer from any looseness or fragility either, while the stubby figure tallies nicely with the personality hinted at by the face.


SUMMARY

Despite the bland alt mode, Scratch is one of the very best all-round Gobots, and personally I'd trade an impressive robot mode for a detailed vehicle with a poor robot mode. He's a good place to start for Gobot collecting as well, being a perfect example of how good the line could be when they got things right - he's easily the equal of just about any Transformer of this size (being about the same size as a Throttlebot). In America, the figure is fairly common, and with few cartoon appearances or much of a following can be captured for the base rate - say $5 at the most. In Europe, having not been released this side of the Atlantic (though obviously examples creep across one way or another), so importing is your best bet. That said, the figure is cheap and small, so it won't break the bank and he's well worth a total outlay of around £10. One of the best.


THE FACTS
[Corrections? Let me know!]

RELEASES:
1984, Gobots Series 2 - 38: Scratch
1985, Gobots Series 2 - 38: Scratch (reissue with sticker)

The figure was stamped MRT-41, though this code was not used on any packaging.

PARTS:
None

WEAK POINTS:
None