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Series: DNA Design
Allegiance: Autobot
Categories: Upgrade Sets
Year: 2017

Prelude: I am a huge Fortress Maximus fan, but like quite a few people I was somewhat disappointed by Titans Return FortMax, simply because there were so many things missing from the figure that fans of G1 FortMax had been expecting. Thankfully we’re living in the world of 3rd Party Upgrades and DNA Designs has taken it upon themselves to improve upon Hasbro’s somewhat lackluster Titan class figure. Let’s see if they succeeded.


DK-02 UPGRADE KIT: The DK-02 kit is basically for the upper part of Fortress Maximus, improving the hands, the hip, and the head (that last one is debatable, though). Let’s go through the upgrades one by one.

Hand Upgrade: The hands of Fortress Maximus were already pretty good with individually articulate fingers, but they lacked one of G1 FortMax’ signature features, the added guns in the backs of the hands. DNA gives us new hands that are not only a bit larger, not only far more articulate (three joints per finger, two per thumb), but also do contain those guns. They are mounted in a swiveling plate on the backs of the hands, somewhat similar to how they were installed on G1 FortMax. Of course the guns aren’t completely hidden when tucked in, but that’s just a minor thing. Add in the insanely well-articulated fingers and the hands are a winner. Just be aware that you need a very long, very thin screw driver to open up those forearms and install the new hands.

Hip Guns: The main reason why I wanted this set is the hip guns. It simply isn’t Fortress Maximus without those huge hip guns. Since FortMax’ torso is still basically that of Metroplex, the hip guns are now external attachments. They hold pretty steady, though, and the barrels can extend. If you want to imagine them fully retracted, you can store them on the back of FortMax with the help of two tiny clips that attach to the big ramp. Very nicely done and a vast improvement for the robot mode, even more so than the hands in my book.

The hip guns can also be used in battle ship and city mode, where they attach to the side of the central tower. This is actually a slight improvement over G1 FortMax, who couldn’t use his big guns in these modes at all. They look good in either mode and can definitely be considered an improvement. So bottom line: you need those hip guns. Main and best reason to buy this set as far as I’m concerned.

Cerebros Legs: Third and final component of this upgrade kit is a pair of new lower legs for Cerebros. They are grey instead of black, thus closer to the G1 original, and feature an extra gimmick in that you can fold back part of the shins in head mode, thus making for a somewhat slimmer head. This is the part of the kit you can safely leave inside the box. Not only is the added value somewhat dubious (did anyone really complain about FortMax’ head being too wide or Cerebros’ legs being too black?), the parts don’t really fit well in head mode. The heel spurs are being bent apart and the folded shin-halves don’t align properly. So while the idea behind it isn’t bad, I’ve given my Cerebros back his original legs after the photo session. Feel free to skip this part of the upgrades.


DK-04 FOOT UPGRADE KIT: Now the DK-04 set is for Fortress Maximus’ lower body, improving the feet and the leg joints. The feet double as improvements for the battle ship and city mode, too.

Feet / Helipads: FortMax gains a pair of slippers in this upgrade set, which also basically gives him tilting ankles. The robot also gains about an additional inch in height this way and a somewhat more stable stance. Dynamic poses now come a bit easier to him.

The true purpose of these slippers is to be found in FortMax’ alternate modes, though, where they turn into helipad platforms. A few pins are inserted into Max’ thighs and upper arms so they can plug in. In city mode the helipad platforms attach to the back of the arm ramps. It doesn’t really change the look much, to be honest, and the city mode still remains FortMax’ weakest mode. But it does give the city a bit more… well, city, so even a little improvement is appreciated.

In battle ship mode the two platforms basically disguise Max’ thighs, thereby going a long way toward making it look less like a robot lying on his back. The battle ship mode now looks pretty great and with the joint upgrades (see below) it’s a bit more stable, too. Very nice. The only downside is that the platforms plug into the back of the thighs, so you need to twist the hip and then twist the lower legs again. This means that Max’ little weapons module can no longer attach to the left leg, as the connector piece is now on the inside. It’s a small price to pay, though, for a much better-looking battle ship.

Joint Upgrade: If you’ve tried to lift TR FortMax off the ground in battle ship mode or tried to adjust his legs as towers in the city mode, you know that the joints connecting the legs to the hip are somewhat wobbly. Thus the DK-04 set contains an upgrade for those joints to make them sturdier and less wobbly. Installing them isn’t that hard, but I’m not sure it’s really worth the effort. Sure, the legs are now less wobbly in battle ship mode, but in city mode you can still barely get them to stay straight as towers. They are part of the set, though, and offer SOME improvement.

Crotch Plate: If you remember your G1 Fortress Maximus, you might also remember that he had a somewhat curious feature in robot mode, namely a red crank lever situated directly on his crotch. Its purpose was to spin FortMax’ red antenna in city mode, but its placement in robot mode led to a score of juvenile jokes and dick references. What can I say, we were kids back then and thought it really funny, though it wasn’t. TR FortMax skipped that feature, but apparently someone at DNA thought it worth including. So the kit contains a replacement crotch plate, featuring a prominently placed red disc. No crank lever, though, which is somewhat disappointing. I mean, I didn’t miss it, but if you’re going to include a new crotch plate in the first place, shouldn’t you go all the way and include the crank lever / dick-joke-inducer, too? Just saying!

Cerebros Fillers: And for the category “nice but not really necessary” we have the fillers for Cerebros. Not even advertised on the packaging, I almost missed them. Included are two plates to fill up Cerebros’ hollow forearms, as well as two tiny little pieces to fill in the screw holes in his torso. So... yeah, nice, but not really necessary.


Remarks: I’ve written about the shortcomings of Titans Return Fortress Maximus in my review of the figure. I’m glad to say that the DNA Design upgrade kits DK-02 and -04 address most of them. Side note: I looked up the elusive DK-03 kit and apparently it was supposed to be a big gun for Fortress Maximus, but from what I could find online it was never actually produced. Please correct me if I’m wrong. As for a big gun for Max, Perfect Effect and Heisenberg have both created such guns for him, too, if you want them.

Now as for the individual sets, the DK-02 set is a must, even if you can safely skip the new legs for Cerebros. Fortress just needs his hip guns and hands-with-guns-in-them. The DK-04 set is also pretty nice, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a must. It does add value, no doubt, but doesn’t really add any features, just slightly improves the robot’s articulation and stance, as well as the look of city and battle ship mode. So bottom line: if you have or intend to buy Titans Return Fortress Maximus, you should at the very least add the DK-02 set. If you have money left over, add the DK-04 set, too. And if you still have money left over, get Max a gun, too.

Rating: A- (for DK-02) and B (for DK-04)
Toy DB Link      Toy DB Link

            DK-02                                DK-04

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