So, for those not in the know, HasLab is Hasbro’s own-brand crowd-funding platform that they have been using for the last few years to market the sort of products that, whilst awesome to look at, would not perhaps sell well enough at retail to justify a mass release. Past (successful) efforts have included Jabba’s Sail barge and the Razors Crest ship for Star Wars, a Marvel Legend’s-scaled Galactus, and the Sky Striker & HISS Tank for GI Joe. The first Transformers-related project was Hasbro & Takara quite literally being all “go big or go home” with a frankly outrageous (both in size & price) take on iconic planet-muncher Unicron, a figure that made the display cabinets of collectors weep at its sheer volume.
For their second go around in the Transformers space, Hasbro opted to go a little smaller in late 2021 by seeking 11,000 backers willing to drop £180 on Victory Saber, the combined form of Autobot Supreme Commander (and Greatest Swordsman in the Universe™) Star Saber and his savage cohort Victory Leo from the Takara show Fight! Super Robot Lifeform Transformers: Victory, last of the full G1 Transformers cartoons that aired in 1989. Somewhat of a niche, if fan-favourite character, Star Saber had previously been in line for a modern figure in the Power of the Primes line but lost out as HasTak put it up for a vote out of nine possibilities and Star Saber lost out to Optimus Primal. Question is though, did the delay do him any favours? And was it worth the price tag that was being asked? Whelp, 27,000 of us ponied up, so we are going to find out.
Off the bat, unboxing Victory Saber feels like discovering a premium product: you get a durable plain brown shipping box, inside of which the Victory Saber box comes with a very swish outer sleeve. Surprisingly, this is double sided - the default is black with metallic red-inked line drawings of Victory Saber (very in keeping with the more low-key packaging of the Generations Selects sub line), overlaid with illustrations of Star Saber & Victory Leo in action poses, with a picture of the combined Victory Saber toy on the back and product shots of the component characters along one side. Opening the sleeve up reveals that it's reversible, offering an alternative display of box art that mimics that of the original Generation 1 toy release of Victory Saber, and that’s a really nice touch.
Putting the sleeve to one side, the contents of the main box are protected by a thick sheet of cardboard that - surprisingly - has another variant of the art from the sleeve (I won’t lie, part of me is tempted to have this piece framed for display). Under this we get a tray containing the majority of the extra pieces - the display base, blade for Star Saber's sword, cannons for Victory Leo, a shield and finally an array of blast effects. Taking out the tray gets us to the main event - 2 more plastic trays. The first containing Victory Leo, as well as the Micromasters Holli & Fire (companions of Star Saber's adopted human son Jan in the Victory cartoon), the nosecone/hilt for Star Saber's sword, a laser rifle, and a piece to use for mounting the shield. The second tray holds Star Saber himself, along with his V-Lock Cannon.
Oh yes, and there is a plastic baggy holding both the epic instructions, as well as a set of foil stickers that go on Victory Leo’s wings.
Holli & Fire
Nothing special here, these two are simple repaints of Stakeout & Red Heat from the War For Cybertron: Siege subline, to match their characters in Victory. Basic, but a nice touch all the same that they were included. Simple transformations into a patrol car and fire engine respectively, and - as was a tendency in the mainline Micromasters - legs and arms do have a tendency to pop off their ball joints.
Roughly analogous to current Voyager-class figures, Victory Leo is a hefty chap with some quite lovely articulation. No waist swivel, but that’s forgivable as the nature of the transformation to the parts that make Victory Sabre mean his body splits in half down the middle. And honestly he’s quite posable even without that joint, and can carry pretty much all the kit that comes in the box, although his default are the 2 cannons and the larger V-Lock cannon.
Now in theory Leo here is a triple-changer, having both a winged lion mode and what is charitably described as a spaceship, but that third form is really just a way to let him combine with Star Saber's star-ship form, so we’ll get back to that one later. That winged lion though? Woof. Heavy shades of Power Rangers. The transformation is nice and chunky, with a neat bit of gimmickery in the head so that the robot face is not peaking out. My only slight quibble is having to use stickers on one part of the wings, but it’s not a deal breaker and it really is a tiny section.
Forming the core of Star Sabre, Saber - once removed from the chest - unfolds into a somewhat dinky (smaller than Deluxe but larger than Core) figure who is just a delight to fiddle with and is surprisingly articulated for his size. Open up his chest and you find the Brainmaster of Courage, a tiiinny wee man whose backpack folds out to form the face of Saber. As an additional neat touch he stands while in the chest chamber allowing Saber to turn his head
Alt-mode is a nifty little space fighter that is neat and compact. As a bonus the cockpit opens up to seat the Brainmaster.
For me this is the main event - something I’ve wanted for years - a CHUG-scaled version of the character I first came across in the early 90’s and always regretted not finding a figure for the shelf. It's not like there weren't choices either Masterpiece, Flametoys or some of the third party versions are avaiable, but none really felt like they’d fit into my collection. This though? Yeah, that’s the good stuff right there.
Effectively fitting into the Commander size class, out of the box Star Saber stands a little shorter than his class-mate from Siege, Jetfire, and even shares a bit of engineering (with both having articulation in the hands where as you close the fingers into a fist a hole extends out that allows them to hold their guns/swords), but Star Saber feels a bit more hefty in hand.
Articulation is a delight, with everything feeling nice & tight, including a butterfly joint at the shoulders to allow the arms to pivot inwards for better poses (very nice for sword-wielding figures). My only real issue is the limited shoulder joint to swing the arms outwards, but that’s more of a consequence of the design they have to work to. And it really is a great design.
I always knew that Star Sabre was the most anime-influenced character in the franchise, with a distinctly Gundam/super robot feel to his design, what with those bold whites, reds & blues offset by yellow & gold and the distinctive head design. In doing a bit of background research for this review I learnt that the final design for Star Saber was created by Kunio Okawara, the mechanical designer on Mobile Suit Gundam (amongst many, many other mecha shows), so that makes sense really - the most Gundam-looking Transformer was designed by Daddy Gundam himself.
Now I’m going to skip over the next two modes slightly, as one is the inevitable Battle Base which all trailers seem to turn into (and really this is a trailer) and is a case of yeah, that’s a thing that exists, and the other is the V-Star, the booster/sled that Saber can either ride on the back of, or his fighter mode can fold up and attach to the front of for the classic space bomber look.
Alright, so it’s basically Star Saber wearing Victory Leo as a backpack and a pair of platform boots, but this does work really well. There’s some neat stuff going on in how Victory Leo’s torso splits in two one you’ve removed the backpack, and then each half collapses down to form the feet extensions that just clip in so snugly to Star Sabres feet. Actually, a great comparison here is the Takara Super God Ginrai that came out for Titans Return/United, and is not too dissimilar a combined form with Godbomber breaking apart to form boots, gloves & a backpack for God Ginrai. But where as Ginrai in this form can be a tad loose in places, Victory Sabre is wonderfully stable with the joints of the Star Saber body being more than up to the task of holding the extra weight of the added parts.
The alt-mode variation of Victory Saber is basically Victory Leo’s “spaceship” attached into the gap at the rear of Star Saber's spaceship mode, secured by a pair of notches on either side and the back panel of Star Sabre that folds back and clips into the top of Victory Leo. And yes, this is just the sort of nonsense I am here for. This is clearly an Autobot who believes in the philosophy “Speak softly, and carry a big stick”.
This is a helluva set. Star Sabre and Victory Leo are quite wonderfully realised, with a combination into Victory Saber that is delightful beefy. Holli & Fire are a take-it-or-leave-it proposition, but I don’t mind them coming with it, whilst the rest of the accessories just enhance things. However, there are some issues to address.
The hollow sections on Victory Leo’s cannons are a genuine shame at this price point, likewise some of the hollow areas on Leo & Saber. It would also be remiss of me to fail to mention how a number of backers have experienced QC issues with their Victory Saber figures, ranging from paint to parts either mis-assembled or mis-moulded. And that’s to say nothing of the poor backers in Tawan who had their entire shipment binned off due to water damage. They did get a refund from HasTak and the Alpha Trion/Orion Pax two-pack, but its not really the same. Now in fairness, from what I’ve been hearing Hasbro & Takara are responding to people raising any issues they have and is trying to make them right, but at this level, it's not really acceptable.
So overall I am happy with Victory Saber - as a completionist , a fan of the Victory cartoon and as a Transformers fan in general. Does this mean I’ll go in for the currently live Deathsaurus project? It does seem likely. My only major disappointment is that folks who did not get in on this last year are either going to have to pay after-market prices, or be out of luck. And that’s a shame as it’s a cracking set.
Knowing that Star Saber was designed in part by Daddy Gundam, the fact he comes with the classic, “Sword, Board, Beam Rifle & Big Honking Bazooka” accessories suddenly makes a LOT more sense…
Blast Effects: the same effects that Jetfire, Sky Lynx & Rodimus Prime came with, just coloured in a wonderful translucent bright green. Nifty, and they do make displays look even better.
Sword: comprised of two pieces, a separate blade in a softer silver plastic and the cockpit of the Saber fighter mode, the blade fits into a slot just below the nosecone. In a neat touch there are two options for positioning the blade. Handily there are even multiple ways to store it - the combined sword can either slot into a post hole on either side skirt for the classic scabbarded sword look, or store on the back of the shield. The blade, if not in use, can also be stored in slots along either of Star Saber's legs. My only quibble is I would have liked 2 blades, as the one we get seems a little short for Star Saber in hand.
Shield: I mean it’s a shield really. The handle is a neat bit that offers up several ways for Star Saber to carry the shield, the shield itself can be used for storing the sword & blaster. There are also some neat ways to store the shield on the back of both Star Saber & Victory Saber.
Blaster: probably the most boring extra as it is just a nicely designed blaster presented in unpainted grey plastic.
V-Lock Cannon: Let’s be honest, that’s a Hyper Bazooka if ever I saw one. Very cool though as the handle can be folded for different mounting options, and there are pieces of armour that can both fold down to provide a more secure attachment to whoever is carrying it. Some lovely paint on there as well.
Victory Leo Blasters: Again, nicely done, with extending attachment points so that they get a nice range of movement, with some clean paint going on as well. But the hollowness on the undersides is really not a good look.
Display Stand: a godsend, nicely sturdy with some great paint and cast in a stunning translucent blue. The stand can be placed in two configurations on the base, and an adaptor allows the Victory Saber bomber to sit nice and snug. However I eventually end up displaying these guys, it’ll be using the base in some way.