It's hard to improve on a good toy. Arguably the original Hot Shot was a deeply weird but somehow almost nearly perfect plaything - he had limited robot mode articulation, but was a bug chunky guy with a spring-loaded rocket launcher that could flip out! And a sidekick robot. And an articulated visor. And engine armor. It had a weird head and was a kid's toy, but I defy you to name another toy that could be a car with a helicopter stapled to his butt that allowed you to pretend it was a speed booster. Everything about it worked pretty well as a toy, although collectors complained about car chunks hanging off the body and the painted, not-clear windows. Those people were wrong - it was an excellent little toy.
The Universe release from roughly 2009 was not very good - you got clear windows, more articulation, and a less silly head, but it wasn't fun. It wasn't gimmicky - the US release dropped the wrist cannons for cost reasons. I don't love it - but I like the new-for-2023 version. The robot is smaller, but looks more like what you remembered in the cartoon with less car debris on the arms. The silhouette is good, the panels all seem to go to good places. I think it might've been better at a slightly higher price, but it's certainly acceptable for the money.
The robot mode is far from perfect but it looks good, the articulation is clever, and it's ambitious in spots. The shoulders freely rotate without any clutter in the way! You get ankle tilts! The knee joints are an impressive feet of engineering, in that they can still bend despite there being chunks pegged into other chunks. It's pretty sturdy, but he does come in a little bit shorter. The engine can no longer serve as armor, but the targeting visor looks great and has some paint on it too. Hasbro kept the axelzooka, now being a manually flipped-out extra that can use the blast effects you no doubt stockpiled.
The main reason to buy this toy is to have a Hot Shot that's capable of being posed like your other super-articulated robots. There are no wrist joints, but you can see a lot of work that went in to this toy with at least four colors of plastic and a figure that took great pains to ensure that a simple transformation's appearance could be kept despite the toy being much, much more complicated.
Transformation is more complicated than the 2002 one, but not as unpleasant as the Universe release. I'd still nudge you to keep instructions handy to make sure parts are facing the right way and you don't break anything.
This is one of few vehicles I'd say is worth keeping around in this mode, just because it looks so cool. Good job, Hasbro people, I love it. But a Mini-Con in the box would be nice.
The car looks good, but isn't as fun as the 2002 Armada toy. That toy was $10 ($16.63 adjusted for inflation) but had a Mini-Con sidekick named Jolt, and also had pop-out claws in his front bumper if you pushed the engine down. You could also mount the helicopter on a Mini-Con port - and the port is here, but Jolt isn't. Neither existing Jolt copter fits there either, which tells me someone at Hasbro or Takara-Tomy has one planned. Where I'm going is that the car is a car with no play features. The wheels don't roll very well, but it's yellow, it's clean, it's nice. Sadly the yellow doesn't all match because the clear blue windows are painted, so the yellow paint doesn't look great - maybe if it were thicker? It's an acceptable model, and for a super-articulated robot for $25, it's a very nice alternate mode. But it's not fun.
I don't see this as a replacement for the 2002 original release, but it makes me want to sell the Universe one. I like the car, I like the robot, it's fun to pose, and it looks nice. You can pose it, and it's decent
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