Cliffbee.com: Henkei Astrotrain Toy Review

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Name: Astrotrain
Series: Classics
Allegiance: Destron
Function: Psy-Ops Warrior
Alternate Mode: Space Shuttle & Bullet Train



SHUTTLE MODE
Height: 6.5cm Length: 14.5cm Width: 11cm

   A darkish grey shuttle with purple wings and skirting, Astrotrain has red cockpit windows. He's a different take on Hasbro's Classics Astrotrain, using the cartoon colours rather than the unfocused colours of the Classics toy. The colours are nothing like those of the NASA shuttle fleet, of course, but they work for the character. The boosters at the back are silver chrome while the back end piece to which they attach is chrome purple. Unlike the Classics version there's no rubsign here - instead there are stamped purple and white Decepticon logos on his wings. The colours are not at all realistic, so this is one for G1 fans. Mind you, the Classics version is neither realistic or in colours that really represent Astrotrain, anyway.

   The shape isn't quite realistic, and while he's still obviously based on the shuttle, there are quite a few differences. The tail is smaller than it should be, perhaps more significantly there's considerable kibble around it in the form of blocks on either side of the rear fuselage. These blocks sit over the wings and are predominantly purple with white stripes along the sides and some grey on top. These blocks are fairly easy to recognise as the halves of the front of the train mode, but they stand out less than on the lighter Classics version.

   As I've already mentioned, there are quite a few physical departures from the normal space shuttle shape. The front of the ship is pretty accurate while the rear end also works well - with the three thrusters typical of a shuttle. Astrotrain will happily stand upright on these thrusters, I get the feeling this is no accident. The slices of train on either side of the fuselage resemble rocket boosters, and this works well if you do stand him up in "launch" position. Okay, they're not designed to look like rocket boosters, but the general fit allows them to look like add ons to the fuselage rather than just kibble. In truth the overall shape is actually close to a space shuttle than the original Astrotrain - especially the front half, but the departures are more prominent here.

   There are three purple plastic wheels underneath, one under the nose and two under the mid wings. All roll fairly well, and the front wheel is actually two wheels right next to one another. There's a slot underneath into which you can plug his grey handgun. This gun can swing out to the sides, which looks a little silly but gives him a positionable weapon nonetheless. I love the look of Astrotrain standing upright, ready to launch, since it makes much better use of the blocks on either side. The shuttle holds together fairly well, and feels quite solid - not always the case with Triple Changer vehicle modes.

   A very unrealistic shuttle thanks to the kibble and colours, but it's more Astrotrain than the Classics version's shuttle mode. To be fair, the white version _is_ more realistic, but I still prefer the darker colours since they play down the train bits over his wings a lot better. Plus they just look more like Astrotrain. This is the stronger of his two vehicle modes, despite the kibble. The colours are for G1 fans, which is the emphasis of the Classics & Henkei lines.

TRANSFORMATION TO TRAIN MODE

   Detach the gun underneath, fold away the front wheels. Rotate the tailfin through 180, split and lay the halves flat. Detach the wings from underneath, swing under the nose, fold the wings themselves up around the nose, pivot the thrusters around and fold in front of the nose. Unclip the "boosters", swing around to the back the shuttle and rotate. Bring the halves together to form the front of the Shinkansen, flip Astrotrain over and reattach the gun on top, near the back.

TRAIN MODE
Height: 6cm Length: 22.5cm Width: 4.5cm

   A purple Shinkansen (bullet train) with a grey roof and white stripes running down the sides, containing black passenger windows. The driver windows on the front are also black, and there's some white on the nose. That sums up the front half. The back half is little more than a folded up shuttle, sadly. It's purple with the wings folded over the sides. This does give this train mode Decepticon logos on either side - they're at the bottom corners, facing forward (and clearly placed for the shuttle and robot modes). The colours aren't really what you'd expect on a Shinkansen, but I guess you could find an operator who might consider these colours. They do allude to the character, of course. While the colours are unlikely, it's the kibble at the back which really hurts Astrotrain's train mode, visually.

   The end result is a pretty unimpressive train mode - despite the front half actually being quite well done. It's true that this Astrotrain relies less on panels than the original, but at this size point the end result is that one mode ends up being compromised. Frankly, while the sculpt on the front half is good, the back half is messy enough to ruin this mode. Even the top section is a functional plate rather than the top of a train.

   There are two pairs of purple plastic wheels underneath the front, roughly in a bogie configuration, and a single pair at the back - those wheels which were under the wingtips in shuttle mode. There are moulded wheels in the middle of the train - but they don't scale with either the other wheels or the train itself. The hole that allows us to plug the gun into the underside of the shuttle is now on top of the back of the train, allowing you to mount Astrotrain's gun on top.

   This is his weakest mode, both in terms of the mould and the colour scheme. It has to be here, of course, but it's the mode that suffers. The update from a steam engine to a Shinkansen is a nice idea, but with a lot of kibble and minimal play value, this is a poor train mode.

TRANSFORMATION TO ROBOT MODE (from shuttle mode)

   Detach the gun underneath, split and lay the halves of the tailfin flat. Fold back the thrusters, detach the wings from underneath, allowing you to open the bottom and flip out the head. Close the bottom, reattach the wings and spin the thrusters against the wingplate. Unclip the boosters, which will become his arms. Extend the front section which will become the legs. Split the legs, fold up the upper cockpit halves to form his feet, fold the base of the nose up onto the outsides of the ankles. Lift up the shoulderpads, slide out the sides of the train nose to reveal the robot forearms. Lastly, place the gun in either hand.

ROBOT MODE
Height: 14cm Width: 11cm

   A predominantly grey robot with a purple head, white face, red eyes and a red and chrome purple chestplate. Astrotrain has purple fists and thighs and the wings behind his arms are also purple with the white and purple stamped Decepticon logos visible. While the white, black and purple colours of the Classics version worked reasonably well, the colours of this Henkei version provide a much stronger tribute - tying into the cartoon Astrotrain very well.

   Astrotrain basically follows the pattern of the original, although there are a few changes and improvements. The legs, wings are torso are largely the same while the feet are bigger and the thighs are longer (a definite improvement). The arms are different, and like the thighs, are much longer. The longer arms themselves are a nice enhancement, as are the shoulderpads. The head looks quite similar, but is slightly bigger and sits further forward, making Astrotrain's robot mode far more natural looking. While there are significant flaws introduced into the train mode and a few setbacks in the shuttle mode (more a change of focus than a regression), this is the mode that gained the most from a redesign of the character. Probably the only added drawback relates the to front of the train, which sits on the outside of the forearms and looks a little awkward.

   The poseability is a vast improvement on G1, which I guess is to be expected. The head turns, the shoulders and elbows are ball jointed while the shoulderpads can tilt up and down. Both the knees are hips are hinged with rotators while the feet can swing down and the heelspurs swing up _and_ down. The heelspurs are clever- they're actually the stowable front wheels of the shuttle, making double use of the hinge. The backplate (which holds the wings) does get in the way of a few poses but generally the poseability here is good - and easily better than G1 Astrotrain's (one of the first Transformers to feature ball joints, actually). The gun is a long grey affair, fundamentally similar to its 1985 equivalent. The post for attachment to shuttle mode sits on one side, as a result it works better in his right hand than left - though he can hold the gun in either hand.

   The clear winner in this revision, Astrotrain's robot mode is not only the focus of this toy but the closest match to the original. The play value is good and the proportions work well. There's not much kibble here - most of the extras are well worked into the robot, save for the forearm-mounted train nose. The colours here line up nicely to Astrotrain in the cartoon - and are an improvement over the vague colours of the Classics version in that respect (although those colours work well enough, aesthetically). While the triple changer concept is obviously the headlining feature of the toy, the robot mode is the real star.

VARIATIONS

   None as such, although as mentioned this toy is a repaint of Hasbro's Classics Astrotrain.

OVERALL

   One of the weaker Classics toys made a lot better with a more focused set of colours. The train mode - which represents the biggest departure from the original toy - is quite frankly a mess. The shuttle mode is more realistic but also sports more kibble. The robot mode is very good and it's clearly the mode the designer has focused on. The change of colours for this version works well even if the white was perhaps more realistic - the Classic's colours weren't _that_ realistic and failed to really capture Astrotrain. I'd rather a character focus than a half-baked white shuttle mode, anyway - so I find this toy a lot more satisfying. This toy has tried to move away from the panelling so common in the original Triple Changers - but in reality Astrotrain needed more panelling to work at this size. I would have preferred to see him done as a Mega (or "Voyager" as the box calls it), but still enjoy two of the three modes. If you're after the mould for the strength of the alt modes, you're likely to be a little disappointed either way, but in terms of nostalgia, this is the better version of Astrotrain - 7.5/10

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