Generally speaking, I try to feature Transformers according to how they were sold. If a toy came with another toy, I'll review both (or all, as appropriate) at once. If it was sold by itself, I'll just review the single toy. So far, I'm aware of only one instance where I have consciously broken this rule, but I'm sure that there will be others. Combiner teams can be especially difficult to deal with. I can deal with all the individual robots and the combined form all at once, as I did with the Seacon set, but that makes for a rather long article that doesn't give very much attention to the individual robots. On the other hand, if I chose to feature each individual robot separately (even if I can argue that they were sold that way), I not only spread the team out over several weeks and risk being monotonous (there's not always a lot to say about one member of a team that I didn't say about another), I would still have to deal with the combined form. These Target exclusive Universe figures offer a bit of a compromise. They were sold in two sets of 2 figures each. Once you have all four figures, you can combine them into the larger robot. I'll deal with just one of the 2-packs this week, and give a bit of the history behind the molds. Next week, I'll take care of the other 2-pack and the combined form, but focus more on the figures as they exist in this release.
These molds were first created for the Japanese-exclusive Car Robots line in 2000. This line was, in many ways, a return to basics: a line of vehicle-form Transformers (although there were still some "beasts") fighting on modern-day Earth. When a group of combiner characters in construction vehicle forms were revealed to be a part of this line, people naturally made comparisons to the classic Constructicons: the original Transformer combiner team from the original line. Of course, the comparisons weren't exact. In Car Robots, this was a team of Autobots, and they sported a rather vibrant and varied color scheme instead of the classic Constructicon green-and-purple (as seen in the Universe versions here, although Scavenger--on the left--did end up more purple than green). Still, it really came as no surprise when these molds were repainted and released in the "Constructicon" color scheme in 2006. The only real wonder was that it took so long (In fact, the Universe release is actually the third time these molds were made into toys in America. There was a Wal-Mart exclusive release in mostly-yellow before the powers-that-be went with the obvious Constructicon homage, but those toys were still the same Autobot characters as the original version. By the time Hasbro got around to producing these versions, several other Universe figures in the previous year or so had sold so poorly that Hasbro decided to cancel the line, causing all remaining Universe figures already planned to be delayed and released only as store exclusives).
The Car Robots line was not created with the intention of selling these toys in America, and as a result, these toys have a few notable peculiarities in terms of design and marketing. In America, for example, toys are sold according to fairly well-defined "price points," and Hasbro makes efforts to conform all toys to those prices. This is not the case in Japan. When Car Robots was carried over (with some additions) to America as the Robots in Disguise line, the four construction-type combiner toys were each sold individually at the (approximately) $10 price-point. But, as you can see with the Universe repaints pictured here, the figures weren't all the same size. Wedge (which used the same mold as Bonecrusher, here on the right) was a lot smaller than Grimlock (who has been repainted into Scavenger, as seen here). Packaging the two figures together and selling them for roughly twice that amount doesn't really hide that discrepancy all that much (FYI, I got these off of eBay for about $10 per 2-pack a few years ago, so I figure I did pretty well).
So, that gets these figures from Car Robots toys to Constructicon-themed Universe releases. I'll have more to say about these guys next week.