Cliffbee.com: 20th Anniversary Prime Toy Review

Toy Reviews
Individual Review




Name: Optimus Prime
Series: Masterpiece
Allegiance: Autobot
Function: Commander
Alternate Mode: Semi Trailer Cab



TRUCK MODE
Height: 11cm Length: 23cm Width: 9.5cm

   It's the traditional Optimus Prime, a red short nose cab with blue hitch section and a silver stripe around the cab. His hubcaps, smokestacks, grill, bumper and fuel tanks are all chrome silver, in keeping with the original. There are rivets moulded onto the cabin section here and there, and there are four silver rooflight mounts with orange lightbulbs. The windows are a slightly blurred light blue plastic, the tyres rubber with the words "FORMULA" and "DESERT HOG" on them - again faithful to the original G1 Optimus Prime toy.

   The top half of the cabin - well, the front of that half - is die cast metal, as is the bulk of the blue hitch section. This probably only represents about 20% of the volume of the toy, but it makes a difference to the weight - he's very heavy, over a kilo easily. The paint doesn't appear to be easily chipped, it's quite thick and glossy. On the left side, behind the side windows, is a big Autobot symbol, which is raise and outlined in white. This is the only Autobot symbol on the toy, and looks pretty good in this mode. It's about 2cm tall, clearly visible and well painted - the red on the raised parts is actually paint, and a slightly different shade to the toy itself.

   The front windows have raised and silver painted frames, and on the bottom are moulded windshield wipers, which are also painted silver. There are door seams and handles moulded into the sides. There are air vents on the roof which are painted gunmetal grey, as well as a small blue tab that doesn't appear to do anything (it's for a robot mode gimmick, which doesn't work in this mode).

   The front of the cabin opens up, like Prime's Matrix compartments from the movie, revealing a seat, which would fit a Diaclone driver, but is too small for a Lego person (I just tried). It even has armrests, which are the robot mode antennae - a nice touch. All six wheels have suspension, the two rear pairs bounce a little further than the front pair. The reason for this is there are wheels have actual suspension cylinders (visible inside the wheelbays), while the front wheels rely on spring-mounted blocks. The front wheels have to fold away inside the robot mode torso, so there's not really room for proper suspension - the blocks are a good effort in limited space.

   Along with practically every other road vehicle Transformer vehicle ever made, Prime can roll along on his wheels. But you'd be wrong if you thought he'll roll better than the rest. Firstly, he doesn't have a pullback motor, so he's never going to beat the Throttlebots. Second, with all that die cast metal weighing him down, there's a lot of drag, so he doesn't roll very far. He does roll true, though, so if you push him he'll move in a straight line. He has a hole on the middle of the hitch section, which is the connection itself. If you found a trailer the right size, this is where you'd attach it. It's cool that they gave him an actual hitch despite him not coming with a trailer - lot of trailerless cab Transformers never had hitches.

   Unlike the Binaltech/Alternator toys, Optimus Prime isn't designed around a specific truck model and designed from there. He's built around a show accurate robot mode, with a good truck mode. So this isn't a perfect truck, and I suspect it combines features of various real-life truck models. It has a sloped front windshield, which hangs over the headlights. The headlights are twin-light affairs, each consists of two clear domes alongside one another - which is a departure from the single light (well, hole) look of the original Optimus Prime, that suggests they did have a specific truck model as a starting point for this mode.

   The fact that this mode is secondary to the robot mode suggests it has flaws. I'll cover them now. Firstly, there are gaps between the headlight panels and the bottom of the windshield. These headlight panels tend not to clip onto the sockets behind them, which are the robot wrists. The side windows are set further in than they should be, because they're the robot shoulder struts. This is pretty minor, mind you - sure, they're visible, but a good attempt has been made to make use of this almost-kibble.

   Much has been made of the truncated smokestacks. The Takara version, Masterpiece Convoy, has much taller smokestacks. These ones only protrude about 1cm above the roof, it should be around 2cm. The difference isn't enormous, but Masterpiece's smokestacks look better. It has been claimed that the reason for the shortened stacks is safety - but this is clearly a fallacy. Firstly, Takara installed springs so that if you stab yourself, the smokestacks collapse forward - and Hasbro retained the springs, even though they're no longer protruding much. Secondly, the robot mode antennae are sharper and protrude further than these smokestacks do. I suspect the real reason for the change is so that they match the recent Toys R Us G1 reissue, which did have it's smokestacks shortened for safety reasons.

   The robot pelvis is visible immediately behind the cabin. Instead of being blue, like the trailing hitch section, it's silver with yellow recesses, like the cartoon Optimus Prime's pelvis. If not for the yellow, it could be written off as mechanical detail, but with the yellow it has to go down as robot parts peeking through. Lastly, the rear blue section is taller than it should be, since it's the hefty robot boots - hefty because they have to support the die cast torso.

   On the whole, it's a very good truck mode. The shortened smokestacks bother me. I don't mind that they shortened them as such, since the Takara ones were actually taller than they should have been, but they shortened them more than was really necessary. The semblance to G1 Prime is great, the play value is pretty good and this is as realistic as an Optimus Prime truck mode is ever likely to get. In short, considering that the robot mode received priority, this is a damn good job.

TRANSFORMATION TO ROBOT MODE

   There's no way I'm describing every step - I wouldn't expect anyone to read it all, anyway. It's fundamentally the same concept as on the original - the cab is the torso, with a fold out head. The sides unfold to become the arms, the rear splits and extends to become the legs.

   Instead of the hands being pop-on, they actually slide out of the wrists, which is how the animators usually portrayed it in the cartoon. The waist rotates and the hitch hole folds away onto what becomes the inside of the right shin, and the feet rotate around rather cleverly.

   By far the most dramatic change is the way the lower torso forms. On the original, it doesn't really do anything, but to maintain show-accuracy the entire lower torso morphs on this toy. The wheels fold away inside the chest, the seat folds away and there's a Matrix compartment (yes, and a Matrix, which I'll come to later) that moves into what was the driver's cavity. The waist narrows and the groin is now a proper groin rather than just the truck's bumper. There's even a false grille, which sits underneath the truck mode - the real grille stows inside the chest, as part of the Matrix compartment, in robot mode.

   Yes, this is a very involved transformation, but it's not difficult once you get the hang of it. The way this thing has been engineered to have both a show accurate robot mode and a boxy shaped cabin is actually quite spectacular.

INTERLUDE
   It's almost midnight. Robot mode tomorrow - this is your chance to go make that cup of coffee...

ROBOT MODE
Height: 30.5cm Width: 17cm

   A foot tall, partially die cast, show accurate Optimus Prime. The chest, waist and arms are red, the hands, boots and head are blue and the thighs and groin grey. All the major features that make Optimus Prime are there - the grey face with mouthplate and blue eyes, the (truncated) smokestacks on his shoulders, the fuel tanks on his knees, truck grille in the centre of his torso and the silver stripe across his elbows and just above the waist.

   As mentioned previously, the lower torso is not just the truck front - the waist and lower chest is actually the fenders rotated around and the grille is a false grill, and the reason for this is to give him carton proportions. The groin is no longer the truck bumper, allowing it to have yellow panels as in the cartoon, as well as the blue block underneath. The real grille and bumper are now inside his chest, meaning the seat is now gone.

   The head is fairly close to the original's, although the antennae are longer, and more show accurate. The eyes are blue, which does match certain versions (reissues) of G1 Prime, and are reflective, so they almost glow, which is really cool. There's a button on the back of his head, if you push it his mouthplate will slide down, to simulate Optimus talking. If you push the mouthplate down as far as it can go, you can just see that there's a moulded mouth underneath!

   The Autobot symbol is now on Prime's left shoulder, he has small yellow arrowheads on his forearms and the taillights are on his toes. Chrome and silver aside, the rest of the paint is battle damage.

   A lot has been made of the battle damage. Personally, I'm not a fan of it. Not so much because it's a bad idea, in itself, but because it's not as subtle as it should be. There's some scorching on his wrists and lower thighs, which is pretty much symmetrical and looks okay. The shoulders also exhibit scorching - this the only battle damage that can be seen in truck mode, by the way - again this is subtle so I'm fairly neutral. On the right side of his waist there's some less subtle scorching, rather than just faint black paint there's also some grey which is fairly solid. Most of the scorching could be removed without damaging the underlying plastic, if you know what you're doing. I've performed paint removal on Transformers before, I know these scorchmarks could be removed - even the grey on his waist.

   Unfortunately, Hasbro have stuck a black spot on the false grille. Since this paint is over chrome, it's almost impossible to remove without damaging the underlying chrome. Even if you managed, you'd have a spot of chrome that's noticeably duller. As it is, the painted spot on the grille is duller, and obviously darker, than the rest of the grille. It's not subtle at all, and is a real blemish on the paint job. It doesn't ruin the overall look, but he'd be better had they left it off.

   There are positives. As you'd expect of such a complex toy, there's heaps of play value in this toy - most of it designed with collectors in mind, and designed around the principle of making a cool display piece (as opposed to tacky sound gimmicks). Prime comes with wrist panel communicators, three weapons, a Matrix and a boatload of articulation.

   On the outside of Prime's left forearm is a panel, that when flipped out, displays a picture of Bumblebee, and on the right wrist is one of Starscream. I'm not really sure why Prime (or anyone else) would want to converse with Starscream, the comlink feature is really cool, and Prime can be posed so that he's talking to his comlinks.

   There are three weapons that Prime can wield, although with only two hands he can't wield them all at once. The first is his traditional rifle, which initially cam in grey, but later shipments came with a black gun - which is what I have. It's faithful to the original gun, except that Optimus can actually hold it. It's a solid feeling weapon, with some blue and silver paint apps and a laser sight underneath.

   The other two weapons are clear cartoon homages - there's of course the now iconic Energon axe, done in transparent orange, on a rotating base. If you retract one of Prime's hands you can attach the axe, although since now that toy laws in the U.S. prohibit the sale of toy guns (guns are ok for sale over there, apparently, though...) we're unlikely to ever have a mace-slinging Megatron to counter Prime in all his axey glory. It doesn't matter - Megatron is included in the box!

   The third weapon is another weapon that Prime wielded in the cartoon - more than once in fact - Megatron in gun mode. The mini Megs gun is just the right scale for Optimus Prime, and is distinctly Megatron - there are Decepticon logos on either side of the chamber, as well as detachable stock, sight (the fusion cannon) and silencer. The stock and silencer attach just as on the real Megatron toy, although the sight just clips on rather than slides. There's a sliding joint on the handle with allows the toy to fit into Prime's hand - since the handle itself is too short to fit into Prime's hand. Extending the slide looks weird on it's own, but once in Prime's hand it looks fine. For some reason, the stock is made of a flexible plastic, even if the much sharper barrel and silencer are hard plastics and are both more likely to snap and take an eye out (more proof that the sawn-off smokestacks aren't about safety). It also has a rivet based hinge for some reason, so it can point down while Prime holds the gun.

   The metal chest panels, the windows of the truck, open out to the sides, revealing a grey panel. Flip this up and the accumulated wisdom of the ages is staring you in the face. Yes, that's right, Prime comes with his own Matrix. Remember that blue button on the roof - now just behind his head on the left shoulder? Well, if you press it now you'll activate a high powered white LED behind the Matrix, which glows with a blue tinge. If you remove the Matrix and press the button, you'll find the LED itself is really bright - this thing has to be at least 1,000 MCD, so luckily it's a 3mm transparent affair, not some huge bright disc that'll send you blind. It's bright enough in a dark room to use Prime in a blackout (or keep ships away from rocks!).

   The Matrix itself opens, the two sides of the casing slide out to reveal the bluish internal crystal, and it's possible to position Prime so he's pulling the Matrix open. The Matrix itself is about 3.5cm wide, extending to 4.5cm. The handles are chromed silver while the casing itself is chromed gold, rather than the solid gold in the cartoon and movie - but then shiny surfaces are pretty difficult to colour in cel animation.

   Wow, six paragraphs of play value without really talking about articulation. That says something about how much effort Takara put into Masterpiece Convoy. And I'm trying to be fairly concise. Anyway, the Megatron gun is very cool, the Matrix and it's bright LED rock and the rifle and axe are useful accessories. Now onto the poseability.

   Pretty much everything you'd hope can move does on this toy, since the robot mode is the main focus. As mentioned, his mouthplate moves, and his neck is a ball joint. The shoulders rotate and have ratcheting joints allowing the arms to lift out to the sides. The elbows hinge, and above them are rotating joints allowing the arms to point out to the sides. The wrists are ball joints, the thumbs are also on ball joints and each finger has it's own hinge at the base. The fingers are permanently curled while the thumbs are permanently straight - since he has to be able to form fists, and the digits have to stow away. His grip is pretty variable, as you can imagine.

   The waist rotates 360 - which is part of the transformation, and the hips have full motion. Concealed inside the hips pelvic section are swivel joints, and on the front and back the panels lift up to allow Prime's hips to swing. There are also hinges allowing his legs to swing out to the sides, although you'll have to lift out the side panels first. The knees bend, thanks to rather loud ratcheting joints inside the thighs - basically they work like pistons, with extensions coming out of the thighs when you bend the knees.

   His ankles are ball joints, and if you push Prime down he has springs inside his shins, almost like suspension, absorbing the force. At the same time, air vents on his shins will open, as if to release the air trapped inside, which is a very cool effect - and goes above and beyond what you'd expect of poseability.

   There are cosmetic pistons on some of the joints, with grey housing cylinders and chromed shafts. There are single pistons inside the elbows and three sets behind the elbows, which oppose each other - if the front one is extended the rear ones won't be. There are double pistons on either side of each knee, although you only really see these when his knees are bent to 90 or more. If you bend the knees further - they'll go to around 140, you'll see doubled all grey pistons buried inside his thighs. On the back of the ankles are more double pistons rounding out Prime's rather cool mechanical theme.

   Which brings me to probably the only engineering flaw of this robot mode. The feet on a lot of these toys tend to pop off their ball joints fairly easily, and can be tricky to reattach since the chromed shafts of the pistons will have to be reinserted before you can pop the feet on again. Mine, luckily, has feet that tend to stay attached (I've had one pop off only once), but most seem to pop off more.

   On the whole, this is a ridiculously poseable toy. The metal chest is very heavy, but the big boots - which have die cast thighs - anchor the weight fairly well. With the right foot posing, most realistic poses are possible, since he has solid heels that are specifically included (they transform). I've just put Optimus on my desk, sitting on the edge, looking rather relaxed. I did have to fidget with the arms a little so the weight of the boots didn't send him face first over the edge, but I can deal with that.

   In summary, it's a great robot mode, with great accessories, articulation that's unlikely to ever be surpassed since it's pretty much as it would be in real life, and the toy is very cartoon accurate. The only real flaws are the battle damage and to a lesser extent the truncated smokestacks. Both were easily avoidable, which is annoying, but before I blame Hasbro I should point out that Takara's Masterpiece Convoy had smokestacks that were a little too long (although MPC's stacks are better). In terms of his engineering, the loose feet are really the only issue I can find. It's a superb design, brought down slightly by Hasbro's modifications.

VARIATIONS

   Prime initially shipped with a grey rifle, later shipments came with both black and grey rifles in them, allowing you to choose the colour rifle you wanted. I chose black.

   As mentioned, Takara's Masterpiece Convoy - which came first - lacks the battle damage, and has much longer smokestacks. This version, logically, came with the grey gun that Prime's earlier version shipped with.

   The Masterpiece version was repainted as in Asian markets and Australia.

OVERALL

   Despite the unnecessary modifications Hasbro made, this is a great toy. Whether you have Hasbro's or Takara's version, you should like this version of Optimus Prime. The truck mode is slightly disjointed, mainly because the focus was clearly on the robot mode, but that robot mode is exceptional. If money's not an issue, then I really recommend you get this toy (actually, I recommend Masterpiece Convoy). The price tag is hefty, and I waited until Target had 20% off Transformers to grab mine since he's so expensive, so I'll stop just short of saying "go out and buy him - now". If you can afford this toy, I recommend it. 10/10 for Masterpiece Convoy, 9/10 for 20th Anniversary Optimus Prime, mainly for the stupid battle damage, and to a lesser extent for the truncated smokestacks.

Want more on Masterpiece Convoy? Read Goktimus Prime's
review.

"Transformers" and other indica trademarks of Hasbro and/or Takara.