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Series: KFC Toys
Allegiance: Autobot
Year: 2016

Simba´s origins are clouded by the mists of time, some say he is the reincarnation of an ancient hero, whose intellect has been suppressed by the savage nature of the cyber jungles he now inhabits; others believe he was the leader of an experimental pack of robotic beasts, escaped from a secret laboratory somewhere in the equatorial regions. Not even he can be sure where he came from, but recently some records have started unlocking in his databanks, images and words about a great swordsman, the greatest ever.

In robot mode, Simba wields a massive handgun, back mounted laser cannons and waist machine guns. He can use them all at the same time in a devastating power surge. His lion tail can also change into a sonic boom whip, especially feared by other cyber beasts. Able to convert into a space jet and gigantic flying lion, he controls the cyber jungle sector´s ground and sky without contenders to his rule. It is believed that Simba´s lightcore may be powered by the experimental Victorium ore, which would allow him a combination ability, though who or what he would combine with is the subject of speculation.

After receiving a mysterious transmission about old friends in trouble, he has decided to come out of the jungle for the first time in ages. It may be time for him to be a hero again and perhaps even search for the swordsman who will fulfill his destiny.

Prelude: Simba, son of Mufasa, Lion King and protector of the Circle of Life... no, wait, wrong franchise. Simba, aka Victory Leo, formerly known as God Ginrai, combination of God Bomber and Super Ginrai, known in the West as Apex Armor Optimus Prime, and... yeah, the Disney version is far less complicated. Anyway, Simba is a figure released by third party company KFC Toys and is of course meant to portray the Japanese Victory Leo character from Transformers: Victory. For legal reasons he can’t be called by that name, naturally, so Simba it is. Doesn’t Disney own that name? Disney owns everything these days, don’t they?

Robot Mode: Simba is a huge robot, a good deal bigger than Leader-Class, and there is little doubt that he is based on a Japanese Anime character. He’s got horns on his head, he’s got wings on his back, he’s got shoulder guns and hip guns, and he carries a huge, oversized rifle. This guy couldn’t look more 80s-Anime-Meccha if he tried. Well, he does try and can, see below for his combined form. But more on that later. Despite his size and being rather chunky in design, Simba is very nicely articulated, down to hands with individual fingers. Fair warning, some of his joints are fairly loud, though, so don’t play with him when someone is sleeping nearby. I speak from personal experience. He holds together very well, though, and can easily be posed without fear of falling apart or breaking anything. Nice, solid design.

Simba comes with quite a few extra parts, including the aforementioned weapons. The two shoulder guns can be folded back or unclipped and put on his arms, while the big rifle can also be attached to his hip or stored on the back. The hip machine guns have extending barrels, just like the rifle. Like most Transformers that transform into a beast mode with a tail, said tail can be used as a whip in robot mode. Finally he comes with a shield, actually the nose of his jet mode, which he can plug into either arm.

Bottom line for this robot mode: excellent. The design might not be for everyone, but fans of 80s-Anime will find little to complain. The figure is well-articulated, nicely detailed, solid, and well-armed. No room for complaint at all.

Alternate Modes: Simba is a triple changer, so he has two different alternate modes. The first is a Starfighter, which is basically just the robot folded together into a rectangle with the shield now serving as the nose of the jet. The two shoulder guns attach to the nose, the wings extend, and the lion/robot head moves on top. Now according to the instructions (as well as the original G1 figure design) the lion head is supposed to be upside down. It’s possible to turn it around, though, and to me it looks much better with the lion head right side up. But make of that what you will. Simba also comes with a stand to display the jet mode in flight. The foot of this stand actually becomes part of the combiner alter on, so don’t put it too far away. Bottom line: a nice jet mode. Not particularly streamlined or aerodynamic, mind you, but looking good.

Simba’s second alternate mode is a lion, more specifically a winged sabre-tooth lion. The horns of the robot mode become the saber-teeth. The transformation basically consists of going down on all fours and the resulting lion certainly doesn’t look organic in any way, shape, or form, but I like it. Articulation is quite good. All four legs are poseable, including individual claws on the front paws. The lion’s mouth and saber teeth can move and the tail is fully articulated, too. You can either extend the wings here in lion mode or keep them folded in, your choice. The big rifle from robot mode can be mounted on his back as well, giving the lion awesome firepower as well. A very nice robotic beast mode.

Overall the two alternate modes of Simba are very nicely done, despite not being the main focus of the figure.

Combiner Modes: Probably the primary reason to buy this figure is, of course, the fact that he can combine with Masterpiece Star Saber in two different configurations. Number one is in jet mode. Simba ditches the nose of his jet mode and attaches to the back of Star Saber’s bigger jet mode, thereby creating a humongous super jet. So big you actually need the stands that come with Star Saber AND Simba in order to present this monstrosity in flight. The connection between the two jets is solid and the resulting superjet looks fabulous. Though it is something of a challenge to fly it around the room, making “pew-pew” and jet engine noises, due to its size and weight.

Then, of course, Simba and Star Saber can combine in robot mode. Simba’s upper body becomes a winged rucksack for Star Saber, while the rest of Simba’s body splits in two and becomes a pair of humongous platform slippers. Now please be aware that in order for you to get the most out of this combined robot (Simba Saber? Victory Simba? Star Simba?), you really need the KFC joint upgrade for Star Saber. Without it, the combined robot can stand there and look pretty, but do little else without Star Saber’s joints giving out. But be it just standing there or actually able to pose, Victory Saber looks fabulous. You will probably not find a more 80s-Anime-looking Transformer in the entire franchise. Gundams hide their faces in jealousy. Macross who?

Victory Saber can wield all of Star Saber’s and Simba’s weapons, no problem. The proportions do seem a bit off with the huge feet, maybe, but it still looks cool and he does need the bigger feet to balance out the huge backpack. Overall this combiner is, of course, basically Star Saber with some extras, but it still works great. Just fair warning: the combined mode is huge and won’t fit into most standard display cases. He isn’t Titan Class, mind you, but still pretty big. And I love this guy. Two thumbs up for this combined mode (when you include the joint upgrades, naturally).

Remarks: As mentioned before the history of Victory Leo is rather complicated. It began with a human called Ginrai, who found a lifeless transector originally intended for Convoy (aka Optimus Prime) in the Japanese Masterforce series. Of course the fact that the transector was meant for Convoy was only revealed in the accompanying Manga, but I digress. Anyway, Ginrai bonded with this transector via the Godmaster process, thus becoming Super Ginrai. Then he got a further upgrade via the God Bomber system, becoming God Ginrai. Then the transector awoke to become a lifeform in its own right, ditching the human Ginrai. Fast forward to the follow up series Victory, where God Ginrai was mortally wounded in a fight with Destron combiner Liokaiser. In order to save him he was turned into the savage Victory Leo, who could combine with Star Saber into Victory Saber. Fast forward to the follow up series Zone, where Victory Leo was reduced to being a permanent part of Star Saber and never referred to as a separate, living character ever again. Got it? Good, that was exhausting.

I must say that I really like Simba, both as a stand-alone figure and as an upgrade for Star Saber. Much like Star Saber himself, he a is a very faithful adaption of the original TF Victory toy, but bigger, more detailed, better articulated, and just plain great. That said, he is a very expensive third party item, portraying a character that many non-Japanese Transformers fans probably never heard of, and to get the most out of him you really need the almost-as-expensive Masterpiece Star Saber and the KFC joint upgrade. So bottom line: recommended to fans of the Japanese G1 sequels who are willing to put down some cash.

Rating: B+
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