Sunday, December 21, 2014

Megaforce Strikemaster

Got a first for The Barracks today, the oldest item I have written about to date (not counting reissues of G1 Transformers) from a line I had a special love for as a kid, the Strikemaster Orbital Attack Shuttle of Megaforce!

One of Kenner's lesser remembered but nifty entries, Megaforce was the loosely defined story of the war between the Triax and V-Rocs forces and the giant, ridiculous war machines they loved. Debuting in 1989 and getting cancelled after only one series of vehicles, the line isn't very big but almost everything it offers is gold. Ridiculous, impossibly awesome gold, the Strikemaster being no exception. As I managed to snag one still in box, let's start with a look at that.

The front features some nicely done art of the Strikemaster preparing to launch the shuttle section while blasting at unseen V-Rocs forces in a desert setting. Until recently, I had always assumed Megaforce was somewhat playing on the popularity of the Gulf War at the time (and if you think nobody would attempt such a thing, you are obviously forgetting how big those Desert Storm trading cards were), but seeing as how Megaforce debuted in 1989 and the Gulf War didn't officially begin until 1990, I guess I just associated the two due to military hardware and desert settings. Though it would have been a much different war if any of these machines had taken the field.

The sides, bottom and top of the box show the Strikemaster in action, but since that action consists mainly of "raising gantry" and "lowering gantry", they are a bit repetitive so I'm only going to show you the top panel. You may have already noticed something a bit off about the scale here, that is meant to be a full-sized battle tank the shuttle is hauling.

The back of the box features blueprints of the Strikemaster's design, highlighting various features. It also shows why I was able to score this item in box for only fourteen bucks with shipping, there's a bit of crushing and water damage to the bottom. As the actual toy was perfectly intact and I'm not a mint in box kind of guy, this doesn't bug me.

Out of the box, the Strikemaster is composed of three main sections; the booster rocket, orbital shuttle and gantry. No assembly is required in this case, but there is a small sticker sheet included. Surprisingly, the stickers are still viable and hold like new, though they have developed a few small cracks and bubbles in the printing.

The gantry section is essentially a mix between a weaponized version of the crawler transport used to move shuttles to the launchpad in real world space missions and a ICBM carrier. The gantry lacks any sort of rolling wheels so I would refrain from "driving" it across rough surfaces as you will most likely scuff up the sculpted treads.

As it is both transportation and launch pad, the gantry is jointed at the base and at the "neck" so the command pod can remain level during launch. The swiveling tan cannons on the roof coupled with the four fixed guns on the nose ensure the gantry isn't a sitting duck when bringing the shuttle within launch distance. While the gantry alone isn't all that exciting, the detail level on it is still impressive, with numerous vents, rivets and panels across it's armored skin.

The next section is the booster rocket and here's where the gung ho absurdity really begins to shine. The packaging claims this is merely a three stage booster rocket and lists no armament or crew for it, unlike the others sections, but the sculpt details say otherwise. The middle section clearly sports a cockpit and there are no less than three double-barreled turrets present (one is on the underside of the central section.) You could argue that the weapons are automated, or that the decision to make it an unmanned rocket came late in the design process, but I prefer a different interpretation; the Triax commanders are so committed to winning (or just firing the most guns ever) that they fill even their disposable rockets with soldiers. Steering back towards the topic at hand, the bright yellow-green of the booster makes a nice contrast with the olive, tan and cream of the rest of the Strikemaster. You may also be wondering about the notched strut jutting from the back of the center section, this is because the rocket acts as a giant missile when attached to the shuttle portion of the Strikemaster, as well as serving another purpose when docked that I'll get to in a minute.

Finally, we come to the shuttle itself. Arguably the "actual" Strikemaster, the shuttle is the largest and most involved of the pieces. Displaying some serious Rule of Cool, the shuttle is a mass of guns and awesome, featuring five sculpted turrets scattered along it's body, spring-loaded wings, a hunchbacked secondary command cockpit and cargo space for two vehicles in it's bed. I'm not entirely sure what the Strikemaster's mission profile would be; it has a large booster rocket, implying it is designed for actual space missions, but seems to be mainly intended to deliver vehicles to battle rather than be an active assault vessel itself, but then it is crawling with weapons. Does it launch at an angle and parachute tanks down? Can it land on it's own and let them off? If so, why does it need a launch system initially? I'm thinking about this too much.

The two clips in the bed of the shuttle are designed to hold any of the individual ground units from the line, like the included tank seen here. I forgot to take any pictures of the tank by itself, but it is nicely detailed for an item roughly the size of a postage stamp with several paint applications and a die-cast metal body.

Putting the Strikemaster together is as easy as plugging the booster into the underside of the shuttle and sliding the combined pieces onto a rail on the gantry's neck via a track on the underside of the booster. The combined vehicle is impressively over the top.

The Strikemaster is at it's best in a mid-launch pose, ready to fling the shuttle off into...whatever it is giant gun shuttles do. Though there is no real way to launch the shuttle from the gantry, the booster can be explosively detached by the small trigger under the left fin, activating the spring-loaded mechanism. This also allows the shuttle's wings, normally held in place by the booster's fins, to spring forward.

Altogether, the Strikemaster is an excellent summation of the Megaforce ideal; giant military vehicles powered by their own sheer absurdity. Despite only being produced for a short time, Megaforce doesn't seem to have the same level of following some of it's contemporaries still hold, so most items from the line can be had for reasonable prices if you keep an eye out (as I mentioned earlier, this cost me all of fourteen dollars.) The Strikemaster is one of the smaller and tamer of the designs, which include such things as a land-based aircraft carrier and massive jets that are also massive tanks depending on how you look at them. Megaforce was an inspired and underappreciated line full of zany, fantastic ideas. If you don't mind the glorification of war, it's a pretty neat line to get into.

1 comment:

  1. Nice review. How about a reviewing StarCom from the 1980's Coleco stuff?