I'm generally not a big fan of futuristic-styled Transformers, so most of Takara's later 'Generation One' (a brief pause while I wash out my mouth...) figures generally aren't my thing... However, for some reason I've always been quite fond of Star Saber. Leader of the Cybertrons (that's the Japanese name for Autobots, keep up...) in the Victory Anime, Star Saber was your average Japanese good guy leader - a paragon of all things good, and pretty boring. This was enlivened by an interesting character model and a few choice moments of extreme violence. The character's toy was a massive thing, the largest of the Brainmasters. These were a gimmick which was a sort of cross between a Headmaster and a Powermaster, where a small figure was placed in the chest of the robot, and the larger robot's face would slide up out of the smaller one. It's actually quite neat (the other three Brainmasters were also released in Europe as the Motorvators in the early 1990s - this release made the sound choice of omitting the parts for the woeful combined form, Road Caesar). Anyway, Star Saber took the concept a stage further, by having the large robot combine with a massive one. The original figure costs around the same as Dairugger XV, and for a giant brittle plastic brick this has never really appealed, so I didn't really get chance to own a transforming Star Saber until Takara revived the character as a Robot Master.

The Robot Masters line was broadly Takara's answer to Hasbro's first Universe recolour line, being cheap versions of classic characters from a number of eras. However, Robot Masters saw a number of new moulds join the recolours. Star Saber (available with or without Victory Leo, another Cybertron who - like the original figure - could combine with Star Saber to form Platforms Victory Saber) was one of these, issued in 2004 and coded RM-15.

The Robot Masters version broadly condenses the ~12" figure down to 5", and as such there are a few changes - most notably the Brainmaster gimmick itself is dropped, this version just consisting of the small jet (Saber) and the spaceship/full body module. For the new moulds especially, alt modes weren't a strong area for Robot Masters - the emphasis was on articulated robot modes that resemble their onscreen counterparts (where they existed) to a fair degree.

Not that this is really mitigation, as you're buying a Transformer here. Star Saber's space ship mode is, then, a bit of a mess, a half-heartedly rearranged robot lying on its' front. It only really looks that much like a space ship because we know Star Saber turns into a space ship, and the groin and thighs are especially obvious. The helmet doubling as a turret isn't particularly subtle, either. The whole arrangement just lacks rigidity, and is full of holes where the parts barely fit together. To be fair, the original figure suffers from this to a degree, though the simpler Robot Masters version exaggerates the problem. The smaller jet can detach from the nose, and isn't bad - aside from the massive ridges that contain the hinges and the sword hilt utterly failing to masquerade as a gun, it's quite cute.

The jet module can then transform into a 1.9" Micromaster-sized version of Saber - considering the size, it's quite a nice little replica, with moving arms and legs and some decent paint apps, thought aside from the nosecone clipping to the arm, all the alt-mode features fold onto the robot's back, making him a bit generic looking. The remaining space ship module does actually have a base mode on the full-size version, but this can't be approximated with this version due to the simpler leg arrangement. Transforming it into the full robot body is a simple process, featuring only a handful of moving parts - it mainly concerns extending the legs and standing it up. Saber then folds up and slots into the empty chest, and (in a simple but neat touch) the full helmet flips over from the back, forming the full-size head.

The full robot mode looks good, to be fair, sleeker than the original figure and pretty close to the Anime look. The red/white/blue colour scheme works nicely, while I've always loved the head design (accurately reproduced here). The figure is armed with an accurate replica of his sword and a less accurate but still funky-looking handgun. For a Robot Master, the articulation isn't fabulous - while there are ball-joints at the shoulders, hinges at the elbows and a swivelling waist, the hips and knees only have minor movement and the head can't move at all. This limits his display value a little, though he can still strike some decent poses. The Robot Masters line has also attracted criticism for the quality of plastic used, but it isn't too bad - not as robust as the stuff found on most Transformers lines, but still far from brittle, and there aren't any points on the mould that are likely to stress or break unless you're a right clumsy bastard. The only wear issue is the vinyl used for the blade of the sword and the antennae, which bends easily.

In summary, the robot mode, despite limited articulation, is a nice display piece, looking good from all angles (Takara finally beginning to cotton on to the idea that figures having backs is not just an optional extra). As a Transformer, the weak alt mode lets it down somewhat, though the removable, transforming Saber adds a little interest. As a cheap and cheerful redux of an elusive character it's a good option to have open, though it's only really recommended for those fond of the character. As with much of the Robot Masters range, bootlegs of the figure (and Victory Leo) are copiously available, and these might be worth checking out first. A slight disappointment.