I hate Jazz. I'm not particularly sure why - I think it's that he's a total embarrassment across myriad continuities and reboots. This has spread to the toy as well - I can't even look at the thing without imagining it banging on about boom-boxes or sounding like Sammy Davies Jr. (Cheers Brad Mick, you cretin). Thankfully in 1987, Takara were employing dribbling mental patients on their design team. When Hasbro expanded the Targetmaster subgroup, they retooled the '86 movie characters. Takara picked two old Autobot cars, seemingly at random - Inferno became Artfire, and Jazz became Stepper.

These were late releases, barely coming out before the Japanese switched from Headmasters to Masterforce, and weren't on the shelves long. Excluding minor variants, and other stuff no-one's interested in like the TF Juniors, they were among the first real Japanese exclusives. This led to them getting a lot of interest from fanboys, with sealed examples of either (they were always kept sealed, got to retain that value) swapping hands for best part of a thousand pounds.

Then something hilarious happened - Takara chose Stepper for their Transformers Collection reissue series, even retooling the figure to make it better. Overnight, joylessly hoarded original Steppers had their value wiped out. Better still, Hasbro leapt at the chance to release Stepper in America, renaming the character Ricochet (a vast improvement, it has to be said). Both versions sat on shelves and contributed to their respective manufacturers ending their reissue programmes at the time. A victory for toy fans over people who collect things as a status symbol.


Stepper's alternate mode is a Porsche 935 Turbo. This was basically a souped-up version of the 930 production car developed to run in FIA Sportscar events. Jazz' colour scheme followed that of the Martini Porsche works team in the mid-1970s. While 935s were sold to privateer teams at the time, and then found their way onto the private market when the type became obsolete (ironically, around the same time Takara were releasing the original Diaclone), I'm not so sure some lunatic painted one black with gold trim and flames. This one stands out among the range as particularly unsubtle (that's right, even compared to the Fire Chief's Countach and the F1 car that blatantly had no driver). I'm guessing they wanted to avoid another racing livery to diverge the figure from Jazz, but didn't want him to be a single solid colour. I can't quite decide if the thing is incredibly cool and vibrant, or tacky and crass.

The 935, while a nice enough car, isn't one of Takara's better days at the office, sadly. It looks great from a yard or so away, but close up it's covered with joint lines and panels that don't meet up - the roof parts, the wheel arches, the plate in the bonnet that covers the head and the doors are all parts that require tweaking to get flush. It doesn't help that the decals are thick, something made all the more obvious by the idiosyncratic colour scheme. Elsewhere, white robot parts are visible, below the doors and at the root of the spoiler, as well as under the front. It just never quite looks like it's gone together properly. Needless to say, all three roof parts are very fragile, while opening both doors at the same time robs the front end of rigidity - these are load-bearing doors, it would seem. The lines are rather spoiled by the Targetmaster hardpoint just in front of the spoiler as well. This can mount sidekick Nebulon (issued in the West as Nightstick with the Targetmaster version of Cyclonus, and confusingly renamed as Nightstick for the American release of Stepper/Ricochet) in gun mode, though it looks a little silly.


Stepper's transformation is a variation on that used for the Datsun Car Robot mould. Sadly, little of the variation is good - the chest and arms being needlessly fiddly. The resulting robot carries this over to a slightly flawed layout - nothing on Stepper goes quite where it should. The bonnet/chest arrangement more balances on top of the lower torso, while the lower torso itself isn't especially secure. The arm arrangement has pots and joints in the wrong places, robbing it of some of the articulation of the Datsun. The gold shin pieces don't line up with the legs. Even the doors don't come forward as much as they probably should. It's sloppy all over.

Adding white to the mix is a positive step, though, gelling well with the black and gold. Shame the thighs weren't done in gold, though - this might have lent a bit more coherence. It's difficult to get past the head cast as well - the design is very much Jazz, and even a change of colours doesn't help convince you this is anyone else. Once more, the robot treads the line between fun and stupid... For me, he comes out just on the right side of fun. The original Stepper only came with the Nebulon Targetmaster figure, which could attach to his shoulder via a specially moulded additional piece. I've never been keen on the Targetmaster gimmick - not only is it a little silly from a practical point of view (the last thing you want in a fire-fight is a gun with a mind of its' own that might override your decisions), but the figures are lousy, not looking like something alive and mobile in humanoid form, and not looking much like a weapon in gun form. The effect is much the same here - Takara have retooled Nebulon so he can be held in Stepper's hand, but this looks awful. So it's a bonus that the reissues included Jazz' original weaponry too. The gold chrome goes well with the figure - Ricochet had black parts, which probably look alright, but loses some of the over-the-top pizzazz of the gold version.


Stepper is a very flawed figure. The mould isn't the strongest in either mode, even allowing for its' age, while the Targetmaster gimmick doesn't go with the design either. The insane colour scheme is firmly in love/hate territory, though at least it's done to the hilt (in case it slipped you by, he has gold-chromed weapons...), and it does make a change from the other, more sober Autobot cars. The clincher is probably that Stepper is cheap the world over thanks to near-simultaneous remaindered reissues from Hasbro and Takara. However, Jazz is also rather cheap, and providing you don't have some sort of random vendetta against the character, probably a sounder buy. And if you already have Jazz, there's not much incentive here to buy his brother in the loud clothes with the silly gun.