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Transformers Toy Review Archive (older series, 1984 to date)
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Numbat's review of: Astrotrain

Name: Astrotrain
Allegiance: Decepticon
Function: Psy-Ops Warrior
Sub-Group: Triple Changers

Quote: “The enemy's weakness is his uncertainty.”

Astrotrain thrives on panic and fear. Though he is mainly used as a transport vehicle for moving warriors and supplies, he only truly feels at home pounding Autobot warriors into scrap metal. His ionic displacer rifle can scramble Autobot sensors, causing confusion in the enemy ranks, and his huge bulk casts a terrifying shadow across the battlefield. Those Autobots who survive a fight with Astrotrain often need only hear the echoing boom of his engines in the distance to once again quake in fear.

G1 Astrotrain was my first Triple Changer, and a very well received Christmas present, so when the Classics line was announced, I cannot tell you how surprised I was to see Astrotrain in there – let alone part of the first wave of deluxe figures! Given the seriously iconic characters making up the rest of the wave (Rodimus [Hot Rod], Bumblebee and Starscream), there could have been any number of equally pivotal mainstream Transformers who could have been co-opted to round out the set. Yet, Astrotain – long a fan and cult favourite, if not in a league with greats such as Hot Rod – is the fourth character to receive the Classics treatment.

The series ostensibly aims to present updated versions of G1 characters. The fact that a triple changer should be included – and in the deluxe size class to boot – seems too incredible to be true. Still, there is a huge question mark over this figure – in some ways more-so than any other of the Classics deluxe line. The reasons for this are twofold:

1.Astrotrain is not an integral character in any G1 plot (other than his star supporting performance in the G1 Season 2 episode 'Triple Takeover'), and so is obviously a tip of the hat to the fans by the Hasbro Gods.

2.Astrotrain is a Triple Changer, and so the expectations are more difficult to meet after over 20 years of fan and technological maturity.

How does he deliver?

Well, from the bio, at least, he is already delivering well (although I fail to see how his robot form would be particularly intimidating on the battlefield if size were all that mattered! And, although the bio is an elaboration of the G1 original, the tech specs are different.). The packaging – something I very rarely comment on or even care about – is actually quite fun, with a flip box showing a shuttle change (his packaged mode) to Astrotrain's robot form. But Astrotrain does not only transform into a shuttle... (well, of course, with the exception of the long-delayed Collector's Club Astrotrain repaint of Armada Jetfire...)


Alternate Mode 1:

Being a Triple Changer, Astrotrain turns into two vehicles, just like his G1 ancestor. Triple Changers often have one obviously superior alternate mode, and, although Classics Astrotrain tries very hard, he still falls into this most major of Triple Changer groupings. As with his predecessor, the designers of Classics Astrotrain have clearly concentrated on the space shuttle as the most important alternate mode, to the train's detriment.

Definitely the better of the two modes, the 5 3/4” (14.5cm) long shuttle, with its 4 1/4” (11cm) wing span, is just jam packed with detail and sweeping curves. It is without doubt my favourite TF shuttle mode to date!

It is predominantly white, with black details for the heat tiles on the nose, underside and wing rims. The front windows are gold, and there are flashes of this elsewhere. The level of molded detail cannot be overstated. Hasbro have achieved a perfect balance of smooth areas and subtle detail. And the boosters! Wow! They are very delicately detailed, and are a superb cross between a more realistic shuttle and the G1 cartoon Astrotrain!

The underside is also rather nice – although there are structural elements along the wings.

As the box advertises, there are retractable landing gear – but only at the nose. The wing's wheels a molded in place. Still, it's a nice touch, and something not done nearly often enough in recent toy lines.

Now, there are hints of train in this mode. Most obviously, the nose of the bullet train resting alongside the shuttle's fuselage. However, you do actually have to know that's what it is for it to twig – otherwise it just looks a nice part of the shuttle's near-real design. This is largely thanks to the paint job, which uses very dark purple for a stripe along the side, and black to highlight the train windows – without looking, these do blend together. The biggest giveaways in reality are the train wheels just before the tail. These are not coloured, so they do blend in rather well, but are still an omission on the part of the designers.

The robot mode's gun can be stored under the shuttle – although this does just look like you've stuck a giant gun to the underside (you know – like when G1 Megatron attached to the underside of a G1 Seeker in the cartoon).

The paint used is a little powdery, unfortunately, and mine did come with areas of black already scraped from the wings. Also, the boosters lack an attachment, so are apt to move away from the fuselage a bit – giving the impression of subsidence!

Still, these are really fairly trivial points when the figure is taken as a whole. It is a notably solid and hefty deluxe, which looks very nice displayed in this mode.

Oh, and now is perhaps the time to mention – for those that do not know – the Classics all have the old rub stickers! And, true to the originals, they are a right midge bite to get to work in Scotland's colder climate...


Alternate Mode 2:

The transformation from shuttle to train is not too dissimilar from the original. The biggest difference is the use of the arms as the train's nose, and, overall, we have moved away from simply flipping panels down to enclose the shuttle in a train 'box'. I would note, though, that the shuttle's tail can be swiveled 180° before being split apart. This swivel is not used at any point in the instructions (omission?), but gives a far more pleasing train mode in my opinion.

Now, in case you had not already guessed, Astrotrain now turns into a bullet train. (Sorry to disappoint anyone.) I am a big fan of this, as the combination of a shuttle and steam train – although prosaic – was kinda daft in my view. Plus, I love bullet trains!

The train measures 9” (23cm) from nose to, erm, booster, putting it in line with the RID bullet trains.

White is again the colour of the day, although a black stripe runs along the top, with a purple one underneath, then red and purple stripes along the sides. The effect is rather sleek, and enough for me to find the mode displayable. It's a nicely subtle 'evil' colouration, as opposed to a blatant dark grey or purple domination. It is unfortunate that the windows are so dark – but, as mentioned previously, without this the shuttle mode would have been seriously compromised. There is also the issue of the gaping hole, through which the shuttle tail halves peek, but this is growing on me (but only with the tail rotated, as above!). Interestingly, the 'Made in' stamp is on the top of the train – yet Hasbro / Takara are usually more careful to hide such things in actual modes. I guess Hasbro were proud of this one, as there are ample other far more subtle locations.

You can attach the gun to the top of the train, by the way – but I am never a fan of such 'attack' modes.

The rear is rather blocky, with the shuttle wings folded down, but, all in all, I'd say Hasbro have done rather well to achieve two such definable modes on a deluxe-scale Triple Changer with all the modern transformation and articulation expectations...


Robot Mode:

The transformation sequence does depend on which alternate mode you are going from (the toy's instructions only give from train, but I'd guess you'll all work out that you can do it from shuttle too!). It is not at all complicated either way, but it is well thought out.

The result of this transformation is an exceedingly well balanced robot mode, with an over all aesthetic reminiscent of G1 (dragged kicking and screaming into the 2000s!).

Standing 5 1/2” (14cm) tall with the legs straight (why on Earth you would pose him thus I do not know, especially given this guy's range of movement below the protoformers – erm, crotch!), the figure is an excellent likeness of G1 Astrotrain – far more so than the original ever was! Of course, if they couldn't at least reach par there, I suppose there'd be no point in the line anyway. But, I mean, this guy looks amazing! I really cannot stress enough the fact that the promotional images do not do this guy justice (and I doubt my photos do either).

Of course, we know that this version of Astrotrain has followed the toy colours, rather than the G1 cartoon (for those of you unaware there was ever a difference, you are either relatively new to the Transformers universe, or have serious eyesight problems that really do require immediate medical attention!). You'll have noticed from the shuttle and train modes. The great thing, though, is that the scheme really comes together in the robot mode.

This is not in small part due to the brilliantly planned mold. In his robot form, this new incarnation of Astrotrain meets the figure and animated versions in the middle, and comes out far better than either. There are train and shuttle elements present, which looks really cool as, when you think about it, the original really only took parts of the shuttle in the robot mode (at least round his front). I'm a huge fan of where alternate mode parts end up in a robot mode, and so this Classics Triple Changer concept is not quite a wet dream, but you get the idea. We have the bullet train's nose on his arms, windows on the shoulders, shuttle parts on the legs and feet (which split from the nose quite ingeniously) – not to mention the wings and train wheels at the waist! And, true to form, we have the boosters on his back, and the split shuttle tail on the chest (not the waist as in the cartoon version, nor is it as insanely large as the original G1 toy – great balance!).

And, I have to say, the head sculpt is perfect. There is no other way to describe it.

The major colour is white, while black makes a solid impression on the shoulders, and alongside the legs. Red stripes add a nice touch, while that cool dark purple is found on the upper arms, shoulders, knees, and chest. Gold brings out a few more details, while the face is silver with yellow eyes (true to the original G1 toy). The paint job, ignoring the poor application (expanded upon below), does not leave anything to be desired other than, perhaps, colour for the train wheels at the waist (although, as mentioned, this would be detrimental to the shuttle mode).

Articulation is excellent, with eight meaningful hinge joints, two swivel joints and five ball joints! That makes 15 points of meaningful articulation! Plus, you can alter the position of the wings and shoulders, using additional hinge joints, to display taste. The only thing I can quibble about with the articulation is the lack of adjustability to the feet (although this is extremely minor given the great number of possibilities realized by the extensive articulation already in place!). Poseability is superb when the articulation is coupled with a perfect centre of gravity – you rarely even need to extend the rear supports to strike that display pose!

The 'ionic displacer' gun rifle looks good in his hands (and developed from G1 Astrotrain's identically named weapon design) – just large enough to be big but not crazy. It's a definite nod to the old-school Transformers arsenal.

Although there are negatives, such as sloppy paint applications (there are strands of hair-thick black on some white areas), lack of a locking mechanism for the train nose on the arms, and the fact that my figure (at least) has one almost black side to the chest crest, and one purple, this is such a superb homage to the G1 Astrotrain that, in at least this reviewer's mind, the new version has supplanted the original.

All aspects considered, I feel that this is the best Triple Changer yet produced. Although it has its shortcomings, it delivers consistently well in all details, producing a superb Transformer!



Marks out of ten for the following:

Transformation: 7 – Not too complex, but rather well thought through – just would have benefited from a few more locking tabs for various parts.
Durability: 6 – To be fair, aspects feel rather flimsy – particularly the thin and brittle tail halves! Also, paint wear is going to be a huge factor in coming years.
Fun: 10 – The closest thing to a perfect Triple Changer we are ever likely to receive! He turns into a shuttle and a bullet train, and is amazingly articulated in robot mode – you don't get much more fun than this!
Price: 9 – At the base retail, he is an excellent bargain when you consider how much you get compared to the other deluxe Classics currently available. How he will be valued in the future is anyone's guess, but right now it is possible to get him for less than £10 ($19 – normal deluxe price in UK stores!) in the UK, including postage (as I did, from Robot Kingdom, as part of a set of the entire first wave of deluxes), so do not be fooled by the extortionate prices on some online stores and eBay! Of course, our friends across the pond have it great with the deluxe figures selling for around $10 (£5.30)!
Overall: 8 – He is a great toy, but is likely to suffer in sales for being the least iconic Classics release so far. Take this opportunity to grab a fantastic and fairly unique Transformer! And, if you are part of the Astrotrain cult following, you do not need me to convince you!

 
 
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