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Haha, I was just glad you let me help! I remember when Johnny was soliciting the list ideas, I considered offering soundtracks but ultimately decided to do for the next contest… and then you independently proposed it, and it won. I thought I'd missed my chance!Writing this list was a lot of fun, and I'm so glad conchobhar offered to help me run it because it was a _lot_ of work. I really enjoyed the collaborative process in this one.
To my great shame I still have not played this.It's also the one list I'd like to rerun, just to see how high Sayonara Wild Hearts would place.
No. 3 Transformers (Generation One)
Points 254 | Lists 8 | Highest Ranked: Kirin, Egarwaen, Dracula #1 | Favorites: Blaster; Sky Lynx; Devastator; Fortress Maximus; Hot Rod; Galvatron; Trypticon; Computron; Powermaster Optimus Prime
The Truth That the Eyes Met Before!
Transformers was a 1984 toyline released by – hang on. This won’t do. This one is far too personal.
Let’s start with a story.
Buckle in. This is gonna be a long ride.
I’m guessing it was 1990 or thereabouts. Kid Dracula was four or five. I’d been left to my own devices at the kids’ section of my hometown library. It was just one small room with a bay window, little tables and chairs in the center, and a few cave-like nooks where I’d find discarded building toys, stuffed Wild Things, and Dr. Seuss books. One day, in one of these nooks, I found a stack of old comics. These were random back issues, totally disorganized. In the pile my favorites were an issue of Marvel’s Kool-Aid Man comic, Quest Probe Featuring Spider-Man, and…this:
My origin story in one picture
I sat down with this comic next to some other kid, and commented that those robots getting blown up looked like it must hurt.
“Of course it doesn’t hurt,” he said. “They’re robots.”
The issue was basically a “who’s-who” for the first couple years of Transformers characters. I met Optimus, Megatron, Ravage, Ratchet, Laserbeak, the Dinobots, Soundwave, Shockwave, Devastator, Skyfire, Omega Supreme, and my lifelong favorite, Skids. And I was hooked. The story was clearly part of a larger whole, but where could I find the rest of it?
A trip to the drugstore landed me with issue No. 77, which ended on a cliffhanger I’d never see resolved until I was a teenager. And even then, the run would end at issue No. 80. I had come in right at the end of the story. Just like Star Wars, just like He-Man. I had to find more. So we went to the video store next. And there I saw THIS:
Except my dad seemed to think that was a bit too hot for a first go (maybe due to the PG rating), so instead we came home with this:
"Talk about heavy metal!"
And that was just as well. Now all that was left was to find some of the toys, and here’s where the problem started. Nineteen-ninety was the final year of the U.S. run of the original Transformers line, and instead of Grimlock, Megatron, and Starscream, the Transformers that could be found in toy aisles in those days looked like this:
You better believe I had this picture memorized.
So my first Transformer wasn’t Omega Supreme, it wasn’t Optimus Prime, it wasn’t even Bumblebee. It was…Greasepit.
Although for the longest time I thought "Greasepit" was the name of his crib, and he himself was unnamed
And even though I had no background for this character other than the little bio on the back of his package – Greasepit was too obscure even to appear in the late issues of Marvel – I loved him. Soon I had Iron Works, a few of the little double-vehicle Micromaster squads, as well as the Anti-Aircraft Base with Spaceshot and Blackout, and on a memorable Amtrak journey to Disney World, my mom gave me Airwave and Hot House, completing my set of the little transforming bases.
But ever eluding me were the characters I’d met on the cartoon and in the comic – Optimus, Megatron, Grimlock. Or I should say, the original ones. Because 1990 was also the year of the final G1 gimmick, and probably the most controversial: the Action Masters.
Featuring such A-listers as Krok and Banzai-Tron
So I did own toys of characters like Inferno, Shockwave, Wheeljack, and Bumblebee, but they frustratingly didn’t transform! And what fired my brain most was trying to figure out the transformation schemes of the characters on the show – I’d pause my VHS player and go frame-by-frame to solve the mystery of where Bumblebee’s wheels came from, or how Megatron folded up into a little gun. (What I didn’t realize at the time, of course, is that the animated transformation schemes were mostly nonsense.)
The next few years of childhood fueled my obsession. G1 died in my arms, so I spent my time drawing new characters, scouring rental stores for episodes I hadn’t seen, digging through bookstores for more Marvel issues, and turning over toy cars at yard sales to see if robots were folded up underneath. At the library, I checked out that one issue so often that it started to fall apart, and the library gave it to me. In pre-K, I would lie down on the ground and point my toes to pretend I was transforming into a car. Every new kid I met, the first words out of my mouth were “Do you have any Transformers?” My dad made me a Bumblebee costume for Halloween.
It smelled like paint and I could not hold a trick-or-treat bag, but it ruled
Anything that even barely resembled a Transformer was fair game. My collection was made up of the few late-end G1 figures I’d tracked down and a haphazard pile of abused and incomplete Transformers salvaged from yard sales and other kids, their ranks swollen by a cohort of GoBots, Rock Lords, Convertors, and cheap no-brand transforming robots from catalogs, drug stores, and discount shops.
I used this guy as Laserbeak. True story.
I used many of them as stand-ins for Autobots and Decepticons I didn’t have. I pretended Action Masters transformed into cars by closing my eyes, pantomiming a transformation sound, then swapping them out with a toy car that vaguely looked like their alternate mode. I came up with my own headcanon for why so many important characters were missing.
By the time I turned 8, Generation 2 had started to hit store shelves – bringing a new level of need, but also a dissatisfaction with the new color schemes and accessories – and the next phase was about to begin. I met a guy who worked at the Wal-Mart toy section, through my mom, who wanted to set us up as pen pals. We wrote to each other, talking mostly about video games. He gave me his collection of vintage Nintendo Power issues, which, I noticed, came in a wooden box emblazoned with an Autobot symbol. It turned out he’d been a big Transformers fan in the 80s, and I immediately started pestering him about them. He still had all his toys. I wanted to borrow them. No, that was a ridiculous request, but he gave me a consolation prize: several of the fold-out pamphlets that came with the G1 figures.
The feeling of opening this for the first time must have been about the same as it was for the scientists who discovered gravitational waves. I’d never even so much as seen most of these toys. Who were the “Deluxe Insecticons?” Why don’t Ratchet or Ironhide have heads? Why is Skyfire called “Jetfire?”
Later, my parents struck a deal with him and purchased his Metroplex and Constructicons, and he threw in a banged-up Ratchet and Ironhide for free. (Much, much later, I reconnected with him, and he ended up gifting me his entire childhood collection. This was one of the most exciting moments of my life.)
My interests changed little as I got older. Access to the Internet in the late 90s finally answered most of the questions I still had about G1, popped my eyes at the prices the originals were already commanding, and introduced me to the burgeoning TF fandom (which at the time was arguing over whether it was appropriate for the leader of the Autobots Maximals to be a primate). I attended my first Botcon when I was 16. My first CD was the soundtrack to the Transformers movie. I’d doodle little Prowls and Starscreams in the margins of my notes, and sign my name with a Decepticon symbol.
So what was it that was so compelling to me about the everlasting war between the Autobots and Decepticons?
I’m not sure if I can answer that. Deep analysis of my soul comes up with a simple “I DUNNO MAN, I JUST REALLY, REALLY LOVE THEM ROBOTS.” But I can at least tell you a bit about how the legend of Cybertron came to be.
Let’s go for a moment back to G.I. Joe. I’ve already mentioned that in Japan, the militaristic Joe was repurposed into Henshin Cyborg, a highly articulated robot toy-man. The cyborg was soon scaled down to Microman, a highly successful sci-line that lasted well into the 1980s. And in the 1980s, Takara had introduced two things into the Microman line: Microchange, and Diaclone.
CHANGE CHANGE CHANGE!
Microchange was a line of household objects and life-size replicas of weapons that could convert into humanoid robots. The objects interacted directly with Microman figures in various ways.
Robot Base is my toy Holy Grail now
Diaclone was a full-fledged line that featured huge vehicles, spaceships, and bases that could transform and combine into giant, robotic warriors, piloted by tiny, two-inch-tall pilots patterned after Microman. The earliest Diaclone figures were esoteric sci-fi designs, but by 1983 the line had introduced piloted robots that changed into realistic cars, trucks, and airplanes.
God help you if you want to collect these toys.
That same year, some Hasbro representatives visited Japan for the Tokyo Toy Show, and liked what they saw. They knew there was a chance they could strike it big with those little die-cast robots.
But they needed an edge. Takara had actually already exported some of its Diaclone items to the U.S. under the name “Diakron,” and the fact that you probably didn’t know that should give you an idea of how successful the venture was.
So what they did was bring to bear the fully operational power of Hasbro’s marketing team. Neither Diaclone nor Microman had a great deal of storyline background – they were mostly told through the pack-in pamphlets or tie-in manga. Plus, in Japan, kids didn’t much care for baddie toys. None of the Microchange robots were “bad guys,” and only a handful of the evil Waruder were on shelves alongside their Diaclone foes.
So Hasbro came up with a fully new story for the toys. They tossed out the idea of piloted mecha, removing the Microman figures and Diaclone drivers from the picture. The robots were now living organisms, fighting a battle of good and evil. They were “robots in disguise,” hiding in plain sight while carrying out their missions to protect or destroy.
Like what they did for G.I. Joe, Hasbro brought in a Marvel writer, Bob Budiansky, to flesh out the worldbuilding they started. Bob created nearly every Transformers character who hit shelves in the 1980s. He wrote the little dossiers on the backs of each package, and told the ongoing story in the pages of Marvel’s comics for the first 60 or so issues.
Reading this makes me want to take Optimus off the shelf and play out a mission with him. Seriously.
Piggybacking off of the initial success of the comic, Hasbro again worked with Sunbow for the animated series, and that’s where most 80s kids got their nostalgic memories of The Transformers. The series ran for three full seasons and one truncated three-episode fourth season finisher, along with the infamous theatrical movie that famously killed off Optimus Prime and many of the other first- and second-year [STRIKE]product[/STRIKE] characters.
DOES PRIME DIE!?
When they ran out of Diaclone and Microchange product, Hasbro first turned to a few other Japanese mecha toylines for additional product, like Macross (Jetfire), Dorvack (Whirl and Roadbuster), and Beetras (the Deluxe Insecticons), then to cancelled Diaclone product (the 1986 combiners, Metroplex), and finally to Takara’s designers to create all-new Autobots and Decepticons through 1990.
Meanwhile, in Japan, Takara saw the wildfire that was Transformers and jumped ship on their own original properties, importing Transformers to its own shores. Japanese G1 eventually took on a different flavor than the American counterpart, with the animated series continuing through 1989, and with many Japan-exclusive toys seeing release. (The Japan-exclusive G1 figures have historically been the most valued and sought-after items in the entire G1 range.)
When the simple idea of a converting robot wasn’t enough to set the market on fire, Hasbro started introducing additional features and gimmicks into the line, like Headmasters (with heads that turned into tiny robots), Targetmasters (guns that turned into tiny robots), Powermasters (engines that turned into tiny robots), Pretenders (outer shells that disguise robots), and the aforementioned Micromasters and Action Masters, along with plenty of other smaller gimmicks like the Duocons, Sparkabots, Throttlebots, Clones, Triggerbots, and on and on.
I unabashedly adore the Pretenders
But eventually, no matter the effort, the market eventually lost interest in Transformers. Which brings us back to Kid Dracula.
I never lost interest in Transformers. I remember my dad yelling at me one time because I flippantly mentioned that Transformers was probably the most important thing in my life (it should be God, he said). I wouldn’t necessarily go that far, because toy robots is a fragile temple to build your life around, but I would certainly say it’s been the most consistent thing in my life since childhood. I’m still slowly building my G1 collection, and I’ve participated a least a little bit in almost every new chapter in the Transformers story that’s unfolded since then.
I suppose it’s comforting sometimes to have that cornerstone in my identity. My entire life could crumble to pieces around me, and my brain will likely still give a little “YEAH!” when I think about a robot guy with windshields on his chest. In that way, perhaps this toy and media franchise is more than meets the eye.
Year 3 – The Shades, Ankh-Morpork
There are some, few benefits to being born into poverty. An accommodation with hardships, a familiarity with filth, that six-sense that nearby a knife or bolt is looking to bury itself between your shoulder blades, and being comfortable with people who if one is being very generous would be designated “indigo,” “blue” being even too respectable for them. All of which you will need if you plan on surviving a trip through the Shades, let alone staying the night!
The oldest, and it shows, part of Ankh-Morpak the Shades also happens to be the most exciting and its denizens the most colorful. Yeah, yeah, I know you’ve heard all about the footpads, assassins, trolls, and whores who are all lying in wait to ambush you as soon as you take your first steps down Cheap Street. And you’re not wrong. They are. But, just like you, they’re all just trying to make an honest day’s living and failing at it. And second, if you take the time to talk to them you might just learn something about yourself and the world.
Or you could just end up oozing down the Ankh. Depends on how clever you are and how fancy your boots look. Regardless, you’ll have quite the story to share afterward!
#4 Discworld (Discworld series)
275 points, 10 votes, highest voter: Doctor Nerd, Zef (2)
Notable locations: Ankh Morpork
The Discworld is the fictional setting for all of Terry Pratchett's Discworld fantasy novels. It consists of a large disc (complete with edge-of-the-world drop-off and consequent waterfall) resting on the backs of four huge elephants which are in turn standing on the back of an enormous turtle, named Great A'Tuin as it slowly swims through space. The Disc has been shown to be heavily influenced by magic and, while Pratchett has given it certain similarities to planet Earth, he has also created his own system of physics for it.
#37 Okami (PS2, NA, 2006, Capcom/Clover Studios)
Created by Kenichirou Yoshimura
Votes: 2 for 53 points
Highest: Taeryn (#8)
Okami is a gorgeously artistic game in its own right, with some of the most compelling visuals I myself have come across in a video game. The box art gives one a sense of that focus, with a powerful rendition of goddess Amaterasu drawn in a delicate touch embracing the sumi-e painting style with aplomb. The subtle background rich with texture and nuance adds a lot to the piece, giving it a flourish most boxes cannot approach.
Okami had many illustrators working on creating its distinctive look, including Kenichirou Yoshimura, who illustrated the box art. Having some work on Resident Evil, Onimusha, Devil May Cry and Viewtiful Joe under their belt, this would be the last project for Capcom they produced any art for. As Clover dissolved and many of its employees left for Platinum Games, Yoshimura followed. Having contributed to Bayonetta, Anarchy Reigns and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, it seems that they have been away from video games for a few years.
25. Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow: KONAMI'S BEST edition (NDS) (yo, I heard you like DS box art, so...)
I guess yours is the first Top 50 to get a direct in-continuity sequel, huh?
Calvin, Pretending He's a T-Rex
(96 Points, Issun, Gunther An Otter and WildCatJF are so cool, so stupid)
HE CAN PILOT AN F-14
Hold on to your friggin' hats, folks. Our next exhibit is something else! Up to now we've had Cloneasaurs who are gargantuan, super intelligent, famous actors, mechanical, alien, invulnerable and friendly, but this is the first dinosaur we've ever encountered that can pilot an advanced military jet-fighter! Even ignoring how a creature with the brain the size of a baseball could learn how to operate such a complex machine, there's the mystery of HOW it managed the incredible manual dexterity required to pull off even the most basic components of this. This is less an achievement of evolution as much as its proof of the impossible!
Jerry, I'm in the middle of a tour, this is the worst time to inter-
Okay.... well... you should have told me that earlier, Jerry.
Well, folks, apparently... our next exhibit is not a tyrannosaur in an F-14. It is an imaginative little boy who is pretending to be a dinosaur. This... is embarrassing.
I bet the news is going to have some... creative things to say about us for putting a child in a zoo full of giant mutant carnivores.
Calvin is one of the title characters in the comic strip Calvin & Hobbes which, not infrequently, went ahead and told stories from the perspective of Calvins imagination. And, not infrequently for a 6-year-old, these would involve him pretending he was a dinosaur. Once, he pretended he was a dinosaur who could fly an F-14.
It was So Cool and also So Stupid
I guess yours is the first Top 50 to get a direct in-continuity sequel, huh?
That makes it even more perfect that it's the first one here then. Hadn't thought of that!
Hahahaha I suppose so! Hell I'm even in your continuity Kirin lol. Who knows how many more I'll enter by the end of the contest
Pretty sure I chose the represented dino as my #1