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Transformers Toy Review Archive (older series, 1984 to date)
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Clay's review: Shadow Commander trailer set

Name: Shadow Commander
Function: Upgrade armor for Nemesis Prime / Scourge

This trailer kit is a repaint of the Fansproject's City Commander set, which is itself a transforming trailer that can become the armor for the Classics Ultra Magnus included in the Battle for Autobot City box set with Skywarp. The Shadow Commander version of the trailer is intended for the Classics / Universe Nemesis Prime.

Basically, the Shadow Commander trailer set comes from a confluence of lazy ways to repaint Optimus Prime toys. While Hasbro is not as much to blame as Takara, both companies have indulged in pitching out white repaints called Ultra Magnus and black, evil repaints called a variety of things (Nemesis Prime, Black Convoy, Scourge, etc.). The City Commander trailer kit was made especially for an Ultra Magnus version of a Prime toy, but Fansprojects decided that it could just as easily be repainted for the other "character" that shares the Prime mold. Unlike a lot of these official offerings, the Shadow Commander set does have some extra effort put in, and includes a few modifications to the original release to help make it more distinct. Most obviously, it includes a translucent red/pink sword, but the face has also been changed to include mouth plate to help strengthen its homage to Robots In Disguise Scourge.

Trailer mode:

The trailer is loosely based on Ultra Magnus' trailer, albeit that it's a closed box trailer instead of a car carrier. The back end, which becomes the feet, is the most obvious carryover, but the less-obvious arms and chest are in the same relative spots.

The best thing about the trailer mode is that it makes the truck not look naked. As far as deco goes, Fansproject have done a splendid job of matching color tones, and the stripes from the cab carry down the trailer to make the whole ensemble look like a genuine set. The only lacking feature is the way the hitch is constructed: it cannot rotate while connected. It's simple enough to just lay the trailer on the back of the cab at angle to make it look a bit more dynamic, and expensive enough that you'll likely not roll it around on the floor for a rotating hitch to even matter.

Certainly the outstanding success of the trailer is that it looks like a trailer despite that it is, essentially, an assemblage of add-on parts for a robot. Wonderfully done, all things considered.

Robot mode:

Shadow Commander's robot mode looks intimidatingly snazzy, or snazzily intimidating. The trailer disassembles into parts that for the arms, shoulders, legs, chest, and waist, along with enough left over make a giant gun. Obviously the robot mode is meant to look like Ultra Magnus, but the designers saw fit to provide a new face for the head sculpt, now including a face plate to better play up the Scourge aspect. Alternatively the set includes an extra piece that makes the Ultra Magnus "open" face to swap out with the face plate, but I've not fooled with it to comment on how easy this is.

Regardless, the robot mode is big and boss, the extra armor bulking up the figure to size of an Ultra. For the boss part, the shoulders still have the holes to mount the missile launchers (from the original Ultra Magnus toy, not included with either Fansproject set), and this set includes the new sword. It's an excellent, minimalist sculpt, and made of plastic strong enough that it won't droop when held at odd angles for long periods of time. Alternatively, Shadow Commander can still use the smaller guns that come with Nemesis Prime, as well as giant cannon made of the remainder of the trailer. The gun is a bit too heavy for the figure to hold without some sort of support, though. It either needs to be balanced on the knee guard as it is in the picture in this review, or held up vertically as in the City Commander review. It is a bit of a let down that the figure can't hold the cannon at any angle, but nothing's perfect I guess.

The only real flaw with the set (aside from the weight of the cannon) is the way the foot pieces connect. It's a bit awkward to get them on and off and, given the expense of the set, harrowing. The plastic is strong enough to withstand the stress (especially once you figure out how to properly attach the pieces), but this is the only part of the design that really warrants any criticisms.

All the extra armor doesn't hinder the articulation all that much, either. The forearms become a bit cramped, but the poses allowed are not much more restricted than those of the base figure. All in all, a great upgrade.

Transformation: 8. Really an amazing feat of backwards engineering. I dare say this set is on the same level as the Soviet backwards-engineered U2, but that plane didn't turn into a robot.
Durability: 8. Very stout overall. The gun fell off the top shelf because of my clumsiness and broke a small peg, but every piece seems to be designed with multiple connector points in case something breaks.
Fun: 9. It's not quite as rough-and-tumble as the core figure because of all the extra pieces, but it's still a great display piece to mess with frequently.
Price: 4. This is an expensive, limited set for a somewhat limited figure to begin with. On the other hand, it's far cheaper than the Ultra Magnus upgrade set nowadays, which seems to have skyrocketed in cost. Despite being produced in half the numbers of the City Commander version (about 1000), this is the less costly version!
Overall: 7. It's a fantastic set, and doubly so since the original Prime mold wasn't ever designed to accommodate an armor kit like this. However, it's expensive and has more limited appeal than Ultra Magnus: you need to have the Nemesis Prime figure for the colors to match and you need to either like Nemesis Prime or just think it looks cool enough to justify. If you do get one, you won't be disappointed though!
 
 
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