#2032: Starscream

STARSCREAM

TRANSFORMERS WAR FOR CYBERTRON: SIEGE (HASBRO)

Ever the usurper, Starscream is quite a culturally relevant entry in the Transformers franchise.  Not only is he himself well-known, even to more moderate fans, but the role he fulfills has become a fixture of virtually every incarnation, even when he himself isn’t included.  And, after just getting a classically inspired release during last year’s Power of the Primes, Starscream’s back again for Siege.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Starscream is the other half of the second wave of Voyager Class War For Cybertron: Siege figures.  He joins Soundwave in making this particular assortment a completely Decepticon one, which seems reasonable enough, given the Deluxe assortment was all Autobots.  In his robot mode, Starscream stands  6 1/4 inches tall and he has 28 workable points of articulation.  This figure sports perhaps the best posability I’ve seen yet on one of these guys, allowing for a lot of real expressiveness with him.  Honestly, that’s probably the greatest thing you can offer in a Starscream figure, given just how over-the-top the character is usually portrayed as being.  Moving past that, Starscream is sporting a new sculpt, which is already slated for re-use as Thundercracker in Voyager Wave 3, as well as a Skywarp figure somewhere along the way.  If you’re going to re-use a sculpt, you’d hope it would at least be a good one, and fortunately, that’s very definitely the case.  This new Starscream has a sharp, angular, and very modern-looking take on his classic design.  Like Soundwave, he maintains all of the most important elements of his classic appearance, but injects some more modern day levels of detailing into it.  Also like Soundwave, he keeps some left-over elements of his old alt-mode, specifically the old cockpit on his torso, which doesn’t actually have anywhere to go on his new figure.  To be fair, though, he’d hardly look like a proper Starscream without it.  Unlike a lot of Transformers, Starscream and his fellow Seekers actually have established Cybertronian alt-modes in the old cartoon, which means that this figure doesn’t have to do quite as much as some of the others in the line to come up with one.  He turns into a Tetrajet, as he did in the Cybertron sections of the cartoon, though this particular design appears to be heavily influenced by the Colonial Vipers from Battlestar Galactica.  It’s a cool ship design, so I definitely can’t complain.  Heck, I’m not even going to to complain about the fact that his legs are just hanging off the bottom when he’s transformed, because, quite frankly, that’s not uncommon for Starscream figures, and it’s not overly visible when the ship is just sitting there.  What I *can* complain about, though, is the process by which you arrive at the alt-mode.  Quite frankly, it’s the most frustrating transformation process I’ve dealt with since I started collecting.  Essentially, the actual Tetrajet appearance is just a shell that drops over the figure proper, who has to be folded up just right in order to fit in that shell.  The trouble is, that getting him folded up to fit within the shell is really not easy, and my figure seemed to be fighting me every step of the way, and I’m still not actually sure I got him transformed completely correctly.  Additionally, while going through the transformation process, there’s a running flaw in the figure’s design that reveals itself.  The front of his torso is designed to swing upward during transformation, but it is only held in place by tension pegs.  This means that the first time you go to transform him, the plate’s going to pop out of place, and it’s pretty much never going to stay properly seated again after that point.  There really should have been metal pins holding that piece in place.  Starscream includes two “HPI Null-Ray Laser Launchers,” which are the arm mounted guns he’s sporting.  While they’re officially supposed to plug into the upper arms, the 5mm pegs allow you to also plug them into the forearms, which I think looks a lot better.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I knew I wanted Soundwave from the get-go, but wasn’t immediately sold on Starscream.  It’s not that I don’t like the character (quite the contrary), but I just wasn’t sure how far into this line I wanted to go.  By the time he actually started showing up, any pretense of skipping this line had been dropped, and there was no way I was missing a Starscream.  In hand, the figure perplexes me.  The robot mode is absolutely fantastic, and one of the best in the line.  The posablility and general appearance of the character just really work.  However, the transformation is frustrating, and the end result was ultimately unsatisfying.  And then, even if you just leave him in robot mode, there’s that chest plate issue, which will continue to plague him in both forms.  There have been rumors of a running change to add a pin, but so far there’s no evidence that they’re anything but rumors.  Of course, none of that’s going to help those of us that already have him.

Starscream was picked up from my friends at All Time Toys, and can be purchased here.  If you’re looking for Transformers, or other toys both old and new, please check out their website and their eBay storefront.

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#2031: Soundwave

SOUNDWAVE

TRANSFORMERS WAR FOR CYBERTRON: SIEGE (HASBRO)

Now, I don’t want you guys to be getting the impression that just because I’m done reviewing the Wave 2 Deluxe class figures means that I’m done with this here week of Transformers.  No no, I’ve still got plenty of transformers up my sleeves.  Or maybe they *are* my sleeves…hard to tell with Transformers.  Has there ever been a sleeve Transformer?  Probably not, but with Bot Bots, anything’s possible these days…  Sorry, I’m getting distracted.  And this is the worst Transformers review to get distracted from, because it’s a pretty big one.  I mean, it’s another Soundwave.  How often do I review one of those?  What’s that?  Two this year already?  Well, if that’s the case, one more certainly couldn’t hurt.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Soundwave is one of the two figures in the second Voyager Class wave of the War For Cybertron: Siege line.  Soundwave is only the second Decepticon I’ve looked at from this line, after the confusingly similarly named Shockwave, who will join this figure in forever baffling all of my Transformers novice family and friends over which one is which.  In robot mode, the figure stands 6 1/2 inches tall and he has 25 practical points of articulation.  Like pretty much everyone else in this line, Soundwave’s design calls back to his original G1 look, but updated a bit to more modern toy standards.  Soundwave had the coolest look of all the G1 Transformers (I may be slightly biased), and I think that comes across pretty darn well here.  He maintains all of the basic design cues of his classic counterpart (including adopting some of the old figure’s alt-mode elements that no longer contribute to the alt-mode), while adding quite a few smaller details to keep things sharp and interesting.  It also way ups the posablility, which is always a plus in my book.  I’m also really digging the left hand’s extended index finger, allowing for interaction with the latch for his “tape deck”.  It’s not all perfect, mind you.  There are a few things that do bug me.  Primarily, it’s the forearms.  They’re hollow on the insides, which bugs me far more than the hollow backing on Ironhide.  It’s not helped by the fact that he’s got some weird kibble going on on the backs of the forearms as well, which means two sides of the arms are compromised.  It’s not enough to ruin the figure, but it’s definitely annoying.  I’m also not the biggest fan of the back kibble, but that’s at least a more aesthetically pleasing solution.  Soundwave’s typical alt-mode, a cassette player, is outmoded by today’s world.  There’s been a number of attempts at giving him a replacement alt-mode, and this one is yet another.  He turns into a sort of a…drop ship thing?  I’m not big on it.  I mean, the concept’s okay, and, admittedly, I do like how it looks more in person than I’d expected to.  But something about the design just feels…I don’t know…half-formed?  More than a lot of the vehicles in this line, he looks like a brick with stuck on it, but unlike with Ironhide, I don’t really dig it.  It’s also not nearly as easy a transformation as some of the others, meaning the whole thing isn’t really ideal, and I really don’t see myself switching him back and forth at all.  If you don’t like the drop ship, Hasbro’s got a semi-official secondary alt-mode, which turns Soundwave into the lamppost he disguises himself as in the first episode of the ’84 cartoon.  Again, I don’t really feel the transformation myself, but I appreciate what Hasbro’s trying.  What’s that?  Neither of those alt-modes does it for you?  Have no fear, because the fan community is on it, resulting in a fairly widely-accepted third alt-mode, which has a sort of a speaker/boombox appearance.  It’s actually not too difficult to configure, and is by far my favorite potential alt-mode.  The only shame is that the cassette player buttons on his pelvis aren’t visible in this mode, but it’s a minor flaw.  Soundwave is packed with a HI-KEP Concussion Blaster, LR-HD Sonic Cannon, and EMTX Blitz Charge Blaster, all of which can also combine (rather awkwardly) into the “USW HF Sonic Compression Mega-Blaster,” which is really more of a staff sort of thing.  I do like how the charge blaster unfolds into a staff, which will certainly prove useful with other figures in the line.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Okay, you ready for this?  This figure?  Max’s fault.  So Max’s fault.  Because I wasn’t doing Transformers, you see?  But then Max was all “check out this cool Soundwave figure.”  And that turned into “you should get a few other figures to try out this line.”  And now I’ve got a whole darn collection.  Great.  On the plus side, slight issues aside, this Soundwave is a very, very good figure.  I’m super happy to have gotten him, and he’s my favorite in the line, mostly by virtue of being Soundwave.  I dig it.  I dig it a lot.

Soundwave, like all of my other Siege figures, came from All Time Toys, and can be purchased here.  If you’re looking for Transformers, or other toys both old and new, please check out their website and their eBay storefront.

#1991: Soundwave

SOUNDWAVE

TRANSFORMERS (HASBRO)

So, this Transformers thing…it doesn’t appear to be going away, does it?  Like last month, I am once again bookending a month’s reviews with Transformers.  Today’s offering is slightly different, however, because rather than looking at something new, I’m actually looking at something quite old.  About as old as a Transformer can possibly be, in fact.  It’s no secret that Soundwave is my very favorite Transformer, so it’s probably not a huge shock to see me go back to his beginnings, and take a look at his vintage figure.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Soundwave was released in 1984, as one of the line’s first Decepticons.  He was a re-working of the Microman Micro Change Cassette Man figure, and is actually one of the least changed imports the line had to offer, with only minimal re-tooling and some slight changing of his color palette.  In his robot mode, Soundwave stands 7 inches tall and has 15 workable points of articulation.  Though his sculpt is certainly boxier and more rudimentary than more modern offerings from the line, Soundwave is probably one of the best sculpts of the 1984 line-up.  He’s pretty posable, and maintains that sort of retro robot feel without getting too goofy or basic.  He’s also a rather sturdy feeling figure, which is certainly nice to find in a figure that’s 45 years old.  I particularly like the metal feet, which help to keep him up and standing.  There’s also virtually no kibble left over from his alt form which is downright impressive on such a figure.  Said alt form is, of course, that of a micro cassette player.  Cassette Man was part of a line of figures meant to be mini robots masquerading as everyday items.  While Soundwave in the show had to rely on some weird mass-shifting to go from one form to the next, the toy just sticks with letting him be a realistically scaled player, which is certainly a neat idea.  His transformation from one form to the other is pretty straightforward, which was a relief to a relative Transformers novice such as myself, and the cassette player form is a convincing one.  I mean, it’s not like it’s super complex or anything; it’s really just a box, but it does that whole box thing pretty well.  Soundwave, like many earlier Transformers, foregoes paint for more decals and the like.  For the most part, they’ve held up well, but mine is missing his Decepticon logo (which was actually replaced by a rubsign decal for figures released in 1985 and beyond).  Soundwave was originally packed with a shoulder cannon, a handheld weapon, and one of his cassettes, Buzzsaw.  My figure only has the shoulder cannon, which is really the most important to him personally.  Soundwave included an “action feature” of sorts as well; the door on his chest is spring loaded, allowing for a proper ejecting of any cassette-based associates.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

This Soundwave was traded into All Time alongside a larger collection, and spent a good couple of months just sitting back behind the counter, just the see if anyone might as to purchase him.  No one did, and I found myself sitting there fiddling with him one night, at which point I realized I kinda didn’t want to put him back.  So, home with me he came.  He’s somewhat dated, but still pretty darn awesome, and I’m honestly pretty happy I snagged him.  I mean, what kind of a Soundwave fan would I be if I didn’t have the original?

#1961: Shockwave

SHOCKWAVE

TRANSFORMERS WAR FOR CYBERTRON: SIEGE

You didn’t think I was done with the Transformers reviews, did you?  Of course not, that would be preposterous.  The Transformers are my new life.  They give, they take, and I am merely their humble servant…wait, no that doesn’t quite sound right, does it?  Joking aside, Transformers sure do have a way of forcing themselves into a collection.  They’re a little like potato chips: you can’t have just one (unless you’re me and you don’t actually like potato chips all that much.  I’m weird).  Fortunately, for all of us who feel an undying need for multitudes of Transformers, Hasbro has a tendency to release multiples of them, all at the same time.  Crazy, I know.  I’m mixing things up a bit today and taking a look at a prominent Decpticon fixture, Shockwave!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Shockwave is the second of the two figures in the first Leader Class wave of the War For Cybertron: Siege line. The line is very definitely G1-inspired, and so is Shockwave…after a fashion.  I’ll get to that in a moment.  Right out of the box, in his fully-kitted robot mode, Shockwave stands just shy of 7 inches tall from his feet to the top of his head, and he has 30 points of practical articulation.  Shockwave’s out of the box design takes his G1 appearance and sort of amplifies it.  He gets a lot pointier, and of course gets the extra arms as well.  It’s a decent, rather menacing sort of look, and further adds the that inhuman charm of Shockwave.  As we saw with Ultra Magnus, Shockwave is full of a lot of small detail work, which makes him a little more kibbly than the very clean Optimus figure, though it certainly works for Shockwave.  Shockwave may lack the traditional face, but that doesn’t mean Hasbro skimped on the detailing on the head.  It’s chock full of details, and, most impressively, features lightpiping to keep that single eye constantly bright.  So, where does the G1-inspiration hit?  Well, like Magnus, Shockwave is at his core a Voyager-sized figure, with extra attachments meant to bump him up to the Leader size.  While Magnus’ armor transforms him into an almost completely different figure, Shockwave’s extra parts just enhance the base figure.  You can remove the shoulers/extra arms, the backpack, and the “shoes”, and you’re left with a figure that’s a rather spot-on recreation of the original Shockwave.  The resultant figure is a lot more basic, and will slot right in with Voyager-sized figures such as Optimus.  The extra armored parts can then be re-formatted into a goblin glider-looking thing, so they aren’t just sitting in a pile in a corner, like Magnus’ are when he’s stripped down.  Because of this, I find myself most drawn to this configuration for the character.  Of course, the distinction between these two modes is far less drastic than it was on Magnus, meaning switching between them is also a far simpler process.

From his stripped down robot mode, you can transform Shockwave into his next alt-mode.  Like his leader Megatron, Shockwave’s G1 toy transformed into a gun.  With current safety standards, this is less feasible in a modern market, and would result in detrimental changes to the entire figure.  So, Shockwave does *not* turn into a gun, but is rather a Cybertronian battle cruiser of some sort.  In his stripped down form, this cruiser looks vaguely like a submarine, I suppose.  Oh drat, I seem to have left it flipped over for my photo.  Well, would you look at that, it seems to look vaguely gun-shaped when flipped over.  That’s crazy.  Certainly, this is just a coincidence, since Shockwave *doesn’t* turn into a gun.  If, by chance, someone were to try and use this as a gun, I would note that the handle does seem kind of small for the average collector’s hands.  But they definitely wouldn’t be using it as a gun.  Because it’s not.  It’s a submarine–no, sorry, Cybertronian battle cruiser.  For his next mode, you can add the various armor pieces into the mix, which gives the build some wings, thrusters, and more pronounced front end, all of which make for a more distinctly battle cruiser-looking shape.  It’s actually a pretty cool design in its own right, and of the three I’ve looked at so far, this one does seem to have the alt-mode that most fully embraces the Cybertronian vehicle aesthetic.  Shockwave lacks any addition weaponry, but given the ability of the armor to go into the drone/glider configuration, he still feels decently armed.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

This one is once again Max’s fault, but I’m willing to give him a little more of a pass.  After I agreed to pick up his Ultra Magnus, he also found Shockwave elsewhere.  In this particular instance, he said he was prepared to take the second Shockwave, but I was, at this point, starting to feel a little more committed to the idea of grabbing a Shockwave of my own.  I don’t have quite the connection to Shockwave that I do to Magnus, and of the two, Magnus is undoubtedly my favorite.  I feel like he warrants the Leader Class treatment a bit more than Shockwave.  Shockwave definitely feels more like a more basic figure with some extras thrown in than a full-fledged higher tier offering.  That being said, there’s still a lot more to this figure than there would be at the Voyager price-point, and I don’t feel like he was overpriced.  He may be my third favorite of the three I have from this line, but that’s not a shot at him in the slightest.

I picked up Shockwave from my friends All Time Toys.  If you’re looking for Transformers, or other toys both old and new, please check out their website and their eBay storefront.