Rio Blast was one of my favorite figures as a kid, and I think a lot of that had to do with anticipation. I first heard of the character in one of the Star comics, in which he was partnered with Snout Spout – something I of course took as absolute canon from then on, not realizing that the Star comics were mostly just gratuitous plugs for whatever the newest toys were. But point being, I found out about the figure’s existence the summer he came out in the U.S. – and had to go back to Ireland before being able to buy him. As Ireland was at least a year behind in terms of what toys they got, that meant I had no chance at getting Rio till Christmas
The original Rio Blast had a cool gimmick, which was that his backpack slid up and over his head to become twin cannons, and guns would pop out of his chest and knees, and rotate forward from under his forearms. I’m pretty sure that on earth, he’d be a Tea Party member.
Now, given the way that Masters of the Universe Classics has had a “no gimmicks, heavy parts reuse” policy, I was thinking they’d maybe punt on Rio for as long as they could…and they did, until this new policy of finishing up the line kicked in. I was hoping they’d make a new torso with a chest compartment that could also be used for Buzz-saw Hordak…and they didn’t. The result is that Rio has bulky armor, a chest flap that doesn’t quite close, and a blasterpack that sits higher on his head than it did on the vintage figure. This is nothing we shouldn’t have expected, yet it’s pissing a lot of fans off.
Unusually for a figure this elaborate, Rio is still available to buy as of this writing on Mattycollector.com. This may be because fans don’t like the execution, it may be they don’t like the character (he represents a later period in the line when it went away from fantasy and more into pure sci-fi, and as far as I know was not in the cartoons), or it may be that people are sick of this line already and it’s time for it to die (face it: we’re not getting 2016).
Rio is not without his problems – but for a Classics figure, he’s quite the good deal, with a heavy piece count and a lot of new parts.
The flap and the blasterpack aren’t the problem. The figure’s biggest issue, rather, is that he uses standard He-Man thighs, and so the fold-out thigh pads are designed to clip on to just regular figure knees. In other words, since the figure’s base pieces weren’t necessarily designed to have a hinge there, these clip-on parts are only loosely attached, and can fall off quite easily.
There’s also a really weird design choice in his forearms, where one has the hose from his backpack plug in underarm, and the other has it go overarm. This gets weirder when you plug in the handguns – one would think Rio would hold both the same way, but again, one goes overarm and the other under. It would make sense if it were because both forearm parts are the same, but they aren’t. This was deliberate.
The transformation, such as it is, involves plugging in a lot of things.
The figure’s packaging is pretty standard, but one thing on his bio stands out…
That means somebody (probably Scott Neitlich) took a look at this character, and said to himself, “You know what part of this character’s name is hard to believe? Not the ‘Blast’ part, which describes a gimmick, but the ‘Rio’ part, because it isn’t like that’s a name that actually exists and Duran Duran wrote a whole song about.”
If you’re Cockney, of course, you can go, “Cor! Riolus!” and then spin in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction, depending which hemisphere you’re in, for a super-nerdy joke nobody around you will get.
Anyway, yeah – I’d love a Rio with a gimmick more closely matching the vintage, but we were never going to get that. This is more like the higher-end Transformers figures that don’t transform, but have better detail. For what we knew were getting, I do think Mattel put more work into this figure than most, and I’m still a fan, glad to get him in a version that looks like him.
He’s also the first subscription figure this year that came early.