Villainous toys have never been big sellers in Japan. The original Machine Robo had just five Devil Invader figures from a range of around a hundred figures. Little had changed by the time the line was revamped to tie in with the Revenge of Cronos anime series - the villains consisting of reissues of the old Devil Invaders, a new playset (the Varigale-X), the Evil Rock People and a brand new combiner.

This was Devil Satan Six, one of only a few toys to actually be designed for the 'Cronos' tie-in line, where the character had a recurring role as the Gylandar's muscle. The team was only available as a giftset. Later that year, Tonka decided to issue the figures in America, recolouring them and naming the combined form Monsterous (often misspelt). The toy was sold both as a Giftset and as six individual, carded figures. In Europe, Bandai issued the same figures as Tonka, with the toys sold under the subgroup title Puzzler Fiends under the Robo Machine banner.


FRIGHT FACE

Fright Face is a futuristic jet/spaceship thing, and his alt mode suffers heavily from folded-up-robot syndrome. The blatant robot mode thighs and obvious legs are pretty bad, but worse still are the robot arms at the back, which they've made no real attempt to hide.

The robot mode is one of the better-looking from the set, even if you can't do much with him. Articulation is just something that happens to other combiner figures, and Fright Face's arms just lift outwards while staying parallel to his torso. However, the blue/silver colours actually click nicely, the proportions aren't too bad, and there's a genuinely funky head cast - just a silver dome which really does look a bit sinister. Fright Face is possibly the best of the individual figures, but still dreadfully lacking compared to just about any regular Gobot.


SOUTH CLAW

South Claw is a winged monster of some sort and it's one of the better alt modes from the set. There are still large clues that this is a barely-disguised robot, however, especially the arms along the back. It doesn't really hang together well once looseness sets in, with the arms and legs flapping around a bit. This can carry over to the robot mode, obviously - the toy does seem to work loose fairly easily.

The robot itself doesn't look too bad, to be fair. He looks like a robot for a start, the only one of the set to get anything approaching decent arms. The claw hands look nice, and the silver highlights work well with the dark pink colour, and there's another insane but fun head cast, with a cool cyclops eyepiece, mouth and what look like Viking helmet winglets. Only the obvious placement of the connecting piece for Monsterous lets it down much.


WEIRD WING

Weird Wing follows the same rough layout and South Claw, with both doubling up as Monsterous arms. The alt mode is another winged beastie, and in some respects it's better than South Claw's and some ways it's worse. While the wings look a lot better for not being propped up on his arms but the legs are more obvious underneath. It's also a big shame they picked such similar colours (well, or that this wasn't carried on for the leg members; Monsterous is such a mismatch that giving him similarly-coloured arms is a bit weird).

The robot mode isn't quite as good, sadly - we've got a return to the barely-moving perpendicular arms, which is a shame as the rest of him is not too bad. Weird Wing suffers badly in comparison to South Claw, though - he's less striking, with a more ordinary face and spindly little arms, but has many of the same drawbacks (such as the prominent connector).


HEART ATTACK

Heart Attack is another futuristic plane job - this one's a bit more different to look at, if a bit weird. I especially like the arbitrary straight wings and the way the design just stops for the second half. The source of the robot legs are rather easy to spot, for one. The deep green works nicely with the silver, however, and like Fright Face it's nice to have someone who takes more than three seconds to transform.

No, Heart Attack takes at least seven. Also like Fright Face, he comes close to becoming a respectable figure, with some respectable proportions, nice detail work, smashing colour scheme and a rather weird face design (what seems to be a red love heart). The downsides are the legs sprouting from the front of his hips, while he's once again got those weird swinging arms - except in this case, they're fixed bending upwards. Oh dear.


FANGS

Fangs' alt mode appears to be a spaceship of some sort. Y'know, the sort of thing a designer comes up with when they can't think of anything for a weird, misshapen robot to turn into. I mean, the thing's ludicrous - barely disguised arms as prongs, a whacking great big hole in the front, a panel resting on the back. Shortcut alley, this is. The colours are a nasty clash as well - dull grey and a rather violent green don't blend well at all.

This simplicity is matched by the transformation and robot mode. To transform Fangs, you stand him on his end, then pull his arms and legs down slightly. That's it. The robot mode does sort-of gel with the look of monster-styled Gobots. Articulation is non-existent, and to be honest he looks a bit stupid. Fangs is probably the worst of the bunch, against some stiff competition.


GORE JAW

Gore Jaw follows the same basic layout as his fellow Monsterous leg, Fangs. The alt mode is the same sort of shape, but the tail gets done a bit better and the detail work seems less half-hearted. The prongs and hole are still there, but a slightly improved design and a much better colour scheme makes it a bit more palatable.

The transformation is moderately different as well, with the tail splitting into two legs. For some reason the big chunky metal feet appeal too. While the robot mode still isn't great, retaining the conical shape and useless arms, the colours work better, the legs look a lot more passable, and the face design is so OTT it's got a mad sort of charm to it.


MONSTEROUS

Combining Monsterous is the right sort of level - everything's fairly intuitive, but not mindlessly straightforward. It's less frustrating than Puzzler and much more secure - all the segments slot together solidly without any of the worrying bits of the line's earlier attempt. This isn't a combiner that falls over or falls apart very easily. The construction lends even more to the idea that this chap was intended as a set first and foremost - the limited transformations of the individual figures are almost throwaway. Of course, the most important thing is that Monsterous looks excellent. The colours work nicely (though, as mentioned above, the arms being so similar when the rest of him is the usual patchwork is a minor shame) and the proportions are really good. Bandai have learnt a few lessons from Puzzler, and Monsterous has a more natural shape to his body.

Notable changes are an altogether smoother waist, and a head that's a more reasonable size. Plus he's sturdy enough to make use of his articulation. I do like the way they've designed the arms as he really has four of them, bunched in pairs. Nice touch, very different. I seriously get the impression that Bandai designed these figures entirely to be sold as a set; as individual figures, they're all massively lacking, even allowing for the disappointment combiner team members usually provide. It's not really their fault Tonka split them into individuals, and some poor kids ended up with a Gore Jaw and a Weird Wing.


SUMMARY

Monsterous is a figure I recommend, but with the qualifier that you should get all of him. Until fairly recently, I only had three of the figures and by themselves they really aren't up to much - I barely counted them towards my collection, it's more like just having parts. The individuals don't stack up well compared to just about any other figure in the line, but the combined robot is a great piece of work that displays really well. It's best to think of him as a great big cool robot that just happens to split into six components. It's hard to wholeheartedly commend him with these reservations, but if you have patience, don't expect much from the individuals and just hold out for getting the set, Monsterous is ultimately rewarding.


THE FACTS
[Corrections? Let me know!]

RELEASES:
1986, Machine Robo Revenge of Cronos - Devil Satan Six
1986, Gobots - Monsterous (recolour; figures also sold individually as Fangs, Fright Face, Gore Jaw, Heart Attack, South Claw and Weird Wing)
1986, Robo Machine - Puzzler Fiends (Tonka colour schemes; figures only sold individually as Fangs, Fright Face, Gore Jaw, Heart Attack, South Claw and Weird Wing)

PARTS:
None

WEAK POINTS:
None