Nightbeat came out at a bad time for Transformers. Transformers the Movie had basically burst the bubble, and the toyline had picked about that point to simply throw as many lumps of plastic on shelves as humanly possible. This was going not so well. The backlog of aged but well-made Microchange and Diaclone designs had been exhausted, and whoever designed them had either left Takara or just ran out of talent. The year is 1988, and the quality of figures in the line varies between "Yeh, he's not too bad" at the top of the scale, and "those fucking Pretender things" at the bottom. This was the time when Hasbro and Takara were inventing irritating gimmicks for every single figure, and then designing the toys around them - rather than the more sensible route of designing a good figure and then seeing if any extra features could be added on without totally compromising the thing.

While the toyline was flailing around and doing its' very best to get cancelled, Marvel's comic was in rude health - well, in terms of quality rather than sales, at any rate. It was near enough this time for me to fudge it and say that Simon Furman was taking over the American series in addition to the UK, and Nightbeat was one of his Chosen Ones. Furman tended to do this, picking someone from Hasbo's latest disappointing assortment, and making them a star character. Actually, the only other time this was successful on the US book was with Bludgeon (Thunderwing was a spectacularly bad Decepticon leader - c'mon, the Matrix took over his body because he was so awful; nobody liked the Triggerbots or Longtooth either). But never mind. Nightbeat got to be a detective who'd seen a few too many film noir thrillers, with excellent results. The upshot is that Nightbeat will cost you twice as much as the other 1988 Headmasters. Cheers for that, Si.

As a brief fact-attack that you already knew anyway, in Japan the same mould was used to make Minerva from the Super God Happy Awesomo Power Otaku Teenage Masterforce. In the cartoon Minerva is a pathetic little cow, although she did inspire a large number of pedophile Jafanboys to orgasm (which is something Nightbeat probably can't claim). Being a female robot in a Japanese cartoon, Minerva was all curves and shapeliness (if that's your thing). This amusingly contrasted with the white and red box that was the action figure.

It might be worth noting that the Official Transformers Collectors Club recently produced an exclusive Classics Nightbeat figure. However, as it was a rather poor recolour of the already ugly Energon Hot Shot and costs three nubile virgins, a Caribbean island and a pair of Godaikin Tetsujin 28 fists to buy, it's only really relevant to any insane completists out there.

Nightbeat's car mode is modelled on the Porsche 959 - this is not long before direct copies of cars were shunned by the line (pesky copyright laws, see). Not that this is an especially accurate representation of the 959, mind - while the overall shape of the car is hard to mess up, detail is at something of a premium. Even the headlights are stickered.

Despite feeling like a Playskool toy, Nightbeat somehow looks just about alright. The blue and yellow, capped off with the flame stickers, works rather well. The main problems come from some real corner-cutting - there's a yellow patch in front of the windscreen just because it's the same piece as the robot legs, and the yellow trim doesn't continue across the front or back - simple painted parts would have solved this. There are also massive hinges on the roof and bonnet. The roof can hinge up so Nightbeat's Headmaster partner Muzzle can sit inside, with Nightbeat's helmet acting as a seat - though between it simply being a big hole inside with no detail, and the completely opaque canopy, it's debatable whether this is a feature or just storage. The weapons (Nightbeat should come with one larger rifle and two smaller guns; I don't have the latter) can be mounted on three hardpoints - one on the roof for the rifle, and two on the bonnet for the smaller guns. Sadly this looks awful.

For a relatively large figure (the robot mode stands 6" tall from head to toe) Nightbeat's transformation is laughably simplistic - not counting the opening cockpit or Headmaster component (which, sadly, is where the budget probably went) there are a grand total of six moving parts on Nightbeat - the central bonnet, the two car sides and their hands, and the entire mould back third of the car. Hrm.

Problem #1 - the drawback with Headmasters has always been the Nebulan figures getting lost - it's a problem with Targetmasters and Powermasters as well, but at least with those you're still left with a Transformer with two modes. Not so with the Headmasters. So what do Hasbro do for the second batch? They make the Nebulan smaller, make it so the legs of the Nebulan can easily come off (and also make the Nebulan a truly pathetic figure in its' own right, with just the folding legs as a moving part), and add more removable small parts to the mix like the seat/helmet and the small guns (which would attach to the sides of the head in robot mode). Good work, guys. Hrm.

Problem #2 - at some point, probably at Marvel's end, the heads for Nightbeat and Siren were switched on the character model sheets, so the face doesn't even look much like Nightbeat from the comics. The head doesn't look bad in itself, it just doesn't look much like the star of "Bird of Prey" and "The Big Shutdown". Hrm.

All things considered though, Nightbeat isn't too bad. Between the colour scheme and the large, distinctive shoulders, the toy actually looks a bit different without being ridiculous. There's a moderate amount of detail and a few stickers as well, and he is quite interesting-looking. Sadly, the cut price engineering continues to hamstring the figure - while the shoulder articulation really isn't bad, the arms badly need some sort of elbows, even a simple hinge. Similarly, the lower legs (a single hunk of plastic) would have benefited from better separation than a simple line - simply being separate parts would have helped.

Because of his comics profile, and the number of parts that were lost back in the day, Nightbeat can be difficult to find in decent shape - the head and helmet really are essential - and comes at a price. If you can find one cheap and don't mind the mind-numbing simplicity or lack of resemblance to the comic character, he's worth a look and is much better than his companions Siren and Hosehead, or quite a few other post-Movie Transformers (though it must be said this is more an indictment of his colleagues than a real positive for Nightbeat). However, the usual price for the figure is much more than he's worth, and sadly he's best avoided.