Blackjack's Review: Prime First Edition Cliffjumper
Cliffjumper was one of the original G1 Autobots from way back in 1984. He's probably remembered most famously among the early fandom for the episode 'Traitor' where Cliffjumper for no reason accuses Mirage of being a traitor, or for his glass gas (screw physics), or for pulling out a gigantic bazooka out of nowhere to try shooting Megatron in the very first episode of the cartoon (and promptly shot off a cliff by Laserbeak afterwards. Oh, the irony!). But that's not much of a resume, is it? Sure, he was deemed popular enough to have a speaking role in the 1986 movie, and he would probably have appeared in the third season had his voice actor Casey Kasem not left the show after feeling offended by the stereotypical portrayal of Abdul Fakkadi. Oh well.
But anyway, Cliffjumper wasn't really the first character that comes to mind when you think of the Transformers. Even the Marvel comics did not give Cliffjumper much of a role other than the first few comics. Thus, he didn't have new reincarnations over the years, because he's not Optimus Prime or Megatron or Starscream or Unicron. But Hasbro had dibs on the trademark for Cliffjumper's name, so they were quick to slap it on toys if they needed some random good Autobot. In the Armada toyline, the name Cliffjumper was used for an obscure toy-only Minicon that came with the Cheetor repaint. In the Energon series, Cliffjumper was an Autobot baja buggy that was part of the cartoon cast... which wasn't saying much, really, because the moronic dub calls him 'Downshift' half the time. Like the rest of the Energon characters, this Cliffjumper probably had less personality than a sack of potatoes.
However, Cliffjumper's antics in the original cartoon (all, uh, three, four of them) was apparently memorable enough for the fandom that when Dreamwave and later IDW rebooted G1 as a comic series, Cliffjumper was given some spotlight. We haven't seen a Transformers: Cliffjumper miniseries yet, but in the recent comics Cliffjumper has gotten quite a bit more exposure than he had before. Especially in recent IDW comics where Shane McCarthy and Mike Costa had shaped him up into one of the more memorable secondary characters. I don't ageree with their writing skills all the time, but Cliffjumper is an angry hot-headed tiny little ball of rage and no one could go wrong with him.
But lo, Cliffjumper had one more additional distinguishing feature, which would prove to be his most important one: he looked like a red Bumblebee. Yes, the original toy had an entirely different head and vehicle mode, and were not made from the same mold, but other than that Cliffjumper and Bumblebee are similar enough. Now, when Bumblebee gained an upsurge of popularity with the 2007 movie, a whole lot of Bumblebee toys got made, and we need repaints or else the molds will be wasted. The perfect solution? Cliffjumper.
Just like it's a rule that Optimus Prime must be redecoed into Ultra Magnus or Nemesis Prime, or Starscream must be redecoed into any or all of the six (or more) Seekers, Bumblebee's default repaint choice is Cliffjumper. Be it several toys from the Movie lines, or the Classics-series toys, whenever they needed a Bumblebee repaint, Cliffjumper seemed to be the first obligatory one. Because he's more awesome than Bug Bite. Thus we saw two more incarnations of Cliffjumper. The first was a repaint toy in the Movie lines which had sort of a larger role in the IDW tie-in comics because he's named after a G1 character, and the second was a cameo in Transformers: Animated as a generic Autobot soldier stationed on Cybertron. He was a relatively higher-ranking soldier, and made subsequent reappearances during the show's regrettably short run. Sadly we don't see him charging into battle or jumping off cliffs.
But soon Cliffjumper as a Bumblebee repaint didn't prove at all satisfying to the fandom and hordes of Cliffjumper fans out there, so when the new Prime series (which would apparently be, like, Ultimate Transformers or something) announced that Cliffjumper was going to be among the six main Autobots, the fandom gave out a collective 'squeeee'. The fact that he's not going to look like Bumblebee (who looks like his movie self), and, better yet, is going to be voiced by The Rock, made the fandom 'squeeeee' even harder. Of course, the fandom neglected to realize that the Rock was hardly someone who's going to show up regularly as a voice actor for a cartoon series, or the fact that practically none of the kids knew who Cliffjumper was (while they were familiar with Ratchet or Bulkhead via recent shows like Animated or the live-action movies).
And thus despite the fact that Cliffjumper was in most promotional trailers and any preview comics (which probably only the fandom would read), he was killed within the first ten minutes of the show, in which he proved to be as awesome as Cliffjumper should be... and it set the tone of the series. They were going to have all the character of Beast Wars, all the charm of Animated, and, best of all, the stunning robot-on-robot fights like the movies. Cliffjumper's fight against a dozen Vehicons were awesome to behold, and when Starscream kills him without a second thought, well, it tells us just what the series' tone would be like.
But hey, he's voiced by the Rock and the fandom loves him, so Hasbro decided straight off to make two new Deluxe class molds for him. For a character that had ten minutes of screen time.
I'm going to be a bit more verbose here, and talk on a bit on the Prime toyline. Now, instead of the continual reboots that has been of the norm for the past, oh... twenty years after G1 ended, Hasbro is planning for Transformers: Prime to last much longer. With the momentum of the movies pushing the franchise on, they're going to have Prime be the first of a continual series. Seeing that Prime has already surpassed all my expectations in all aspects of storytelling and visual effects for a cartoon, I'm looking forward to it.
Obviously, the marketing and packaging department of Hasbro got this memo as well, so they did their stuff like they usually do... by making a big deal out of it. Thus, stamping 'FIRST EDITION' on the first wave of toys that came out.
The first edition included, among others, a two-pack of Optimus Prime and Megatron with human PVCs, Bulkhead, Starscream, Bumblebee, Arcee and, yes, Cliffjumper.
Now I came along these first edition Prime toys. I immensely enjoyed the TV series — far superior than everything that we had before, even the excellent Animated or Beast Machines series. The only strong contender for Prime is Beast Wars, and because Prime didn't fool around with the characters too much in the first season it's fast becoming my all-time favourite Transformers series. Plot, characterisation, awesome voices, great action scenes... and most of all, great designs.
I was leery at how they're going to transport the designs into toy form. After all, something like Starscream, a tall, reedy, slender robot who turns into a sleek fighter jet? They'll surely mess that up. But I got Starscream anyway, and while he's far from perfect it's about the best I could have expected from the designers trying to translate the design into a toy. Thus, I cashed in and bought Cliffjumper, who seemed to be a better toy than Arcee (and I really didn't want sports car Bumblebee number twenty).
But damn, are they gorgeous toys. And they came with a free display stand, which is Hasbro's sneaky way of repurposing bits of the packaging to act as a hollow cardboard box with 'Transformers Prime' that your toy can proudly stand on. It's more liable to fall apart on the seams, really, unless you keep it in, like, a display case or something. And even then your toy's weight would invariably cause the weak cardboard display stand to collapse.
So screw those display stands.
To those that might be confused, this is the first Cliffjumper mold in the Deluxe Class size. Because soon, like I mentioned before, they'll be releasing a second Deluxe Class Cliffjumper because he's so awesome.Alternate Mode:
I'm not much of a car geek, but I recognized Cliffjumper as a Dodge Challenger straight off and was proud for it. Hey, it's not every day I could look at a car and say that I recognise it... Of course, someone had to ruin it for me and point out that the rear of Cliffjumper's alternate mode is really a Plymouth Barracuda, so it's again Hasbro's attempt to have a non-licensed vehicle that is similar enough a real-life vehicle, but different enough not to warrant lawsuits. Kind of like the cobbled-from-three-different-Lamborghinis Sunstreaker mold we had in the Classics-Universe line.
Still, while the subtle nuances of the type of sports cars may yet again elude me, it does diminish the fact that Cliffjumper is indeed an awesome-looking muscle car. It's got the long hood, and powerful-looking body that you associate with loud, VRRRR-ROOOOOM engines. Both power and speed... which, basically, is what our favourite cliff-jumping Autobot is all about. A powerful, fast warrior. And while G1 purists might whine about why Cliffjumper is not an ugly super-deformed toy Porsche, I'd say this is one of the times when a new alternate mode is likely to supplant the original one. Cliffjumper's alternate mode is just so gorgeous and so true of the character. It's a great choice.
Also, that little horn ornament in front of the hood, a little piece resembling a bull's horns, is actually quite a nice little touch. I think it's supposed to represent the distinctive horns that Cliffjumper had in his robot mode, and while it might be a wee bit tacky, for me it actually kind of gives Cliffjumper a bit of personalization, showing that this is not just another generic sports car, but it's an Autobot. An Autobot with a personality... it's subtle, more in line with, say, Movie Barricade's 'to protect and enslave', or Mixmaster's Decepticon-headed dog ornament, than having shit like 'WE R 1984' or '534-5PR4Y' tampographed all over the wazoo.
How does the toy stand up to it's show counterpart, though?
Well, for starters, obviously the Cliffjumper toy has join lines, as is the problem with every Autobot car out there. In some, it's a hideous problem, while in some the join lines are barely noticeable. Cliffjumper falls between the two categories. The join lines are visible, especially in the windshield and near the doors, but other than that the rest of the vehicle mode is extremely flawless unless you take a closer look. It's probably as good as we're going to get with current technology, so it's a passing grade on that part.
The toy duplicates the alternate mode seen on the screen quite flawlessly, with loads of moulded details. Sadly, as usual, some of the smaller moulded details are not painted. Still, most of the more distinctive features — the general silhouette of the car, the pipe intakes near the rear wheel, the four exhaust vents, and, of course, the horn ornament.
Obviously Cliffjumper is cast in a shade of darker red (almost maroon, but not quite). It's not exactly the metallic shine we saw in the show, but it's passable enough on the toy to be distinctive. The windows are, pretty fetchingly, moulded in a transluscent blue plastic which doesn't exactly reveal the kibble within but helps to keep the realism of the alternate mode. The wheels are obviously black, and the rest of the details are painted silver. The front grille, the inner parts of the wheels, the exhaust pipes and the rear part of the vehicle. The headlights are cast in the same clear blue plastic as the windows, and the horn is in a soft grey rubbery plastic. An tiny Autobot insignia on the left side of the vehicle, near the rear wheel, is painted in silver... catchy enough without being distinctive.
Sadly the rear lights or exhausts are not painted in, but on the upside we don't get an icky vanity plate (although the space is left in) so at least it's not a big loss.
Kibble wise, there's not much that you could see unless you flip him around. Bits of the arm show up under the exhaust vent, but are passable for parts of the vehicle. Cliffjumper rolls on the ground quite nicely and, well, frankly I like powerful-looking, classic cars like this, so the alternate mode is full of win.Robot Mode:
Cliffjumper's transformation is smooth and well-designed, and I'm frankly quite surprised by the amount of work the designers did to put in additional details and joints, like bits of the side of the front bumper folding away, the knees being tucked in with an additional joint so the vehicle mode would look better... heck, buts of the side windows are folded away in the leg so the chest won't have an entire slab of window on either side! there was a lot of thought put into the design of the transformation, and I for one am impressed.
Cliffjumper's chest is formed by the roof of the vehicle, and they move around ever so slightly in their places to show a mid-line of black in the middle. His stocky, muscular shoulders and arms are formed from the rear of the vehicle, his equally atheletic-looking legs are formed from the sides of the vehicle. The hood folds up to form his back, and the headlights swivel to their place on either side of Cliffjumper's waist.
All in all, I cannot stress how alike Cliffjumper is to his character model in the show. The artists designed Cliffjumper to look athletic and muscular, without looking as bulky as Bulkhead, or as sleek as Bumblebee. He's somewhere in the midline of the two, and kind of brings in mind a more squat brawler. That's probably the best word to describe him, his wide shoulders and thick lower arms are indeed quite threatening. Again, as with all Prime characters you could see the inspirations taken from the complexity of the Movieverse — sharp edges, parts that have bits in it, that look like they are parts of the car transformed instead of just blocky chunks as with earlier franchises, but. But you can also see the popular stylised style that the Animated franchise utilised, like the thin manga-esque upper arm, the chin, and generally looking very awesome.
He's got the exact same silhouette seen in the cartoon design, and compared to the other Cliffjumper toys that are yet to hit the shelves at the time of writing, he's the closest to resembling the stout brawler from the TV. The other upcoming Deluxe seems to have fiven his arms a fair bit of thinning.
A lot more black appear in robot mode. Basically, anything that's not part of the vehicle mode — the neck, the inner torso, the upper arm, the hands, the crotch, knees, feet, shoulder joints... It's all black. Again, a great foil to the red and odd bits of silver.
His head is red, but the horns are cast in the same soft grey plastic as the vehicle horns, and the face is painted silver with a serious 'don't mess with me' scowl on it. His eyes has blue light-piping, which actually don't work as well as it should. Also, his hands are sculpted in open fists, moments from being balled into full fists to break your face with. Like the tradition began in the 2010 Transformers (subtitleless/Reveal the Shield/Generations) line, HasTak are phasing out the 'fist with a circle' and instead moulding actual hands that could grip the standard 5mm weapon. Cliffjumper's hands are moulded like this, with individual fingers lovingly sculpted, but the 5mm hole might not be that obvious unless you realise it's supposed to be there.
Cliffjumper stands a bit shorter than some Deluxe classes, but not that short. He's about a head shorter than Generations Jazz (Goldbox, RTS, whatever), which actually fits with his stout brawler image.
He's also quite well articulated, living up to the lofty standards set up by modern Classics and Movie series. Cliffjumper's head can swivel, his shoulder is double jointed (ball and hinge), his elbows are triple
jointed (two hinges and a swivel), his wrists are on swivel joints, his thighs are on ball joints, his knees are on hinges and his ankles are on ball joints. To those who didn't want to process the lengthy description I just typed, basically Cliffjumper isn't a brick, and he's got as much articulation as the normal Deluxe class vehicle, though obviously not as much as Starscream. He could assume most poses, although the ankle joints are a bit restricted, so the footing isn't that flexible. He can, however, assume poses related to beating up Vehicons, which is really all we're going to need of him. Now, I just need to grab a couple of Vehicons (they look SO DAMN PRETTY) so I can pose them around with Cliffjumper...
Now, with a great alternate mode, a great robot mode and damn-near-perfect resemblance to the cartoon model, you'd think Cliffjumper is an excellent Deluxe Class figure. Well, Hasbro made sure to raise the notches up a little... now, you see, Transformers have been using weapons from their wrists ever since the first cartoon, but these are far and few between. It's not until the more modern series like the Movieverse and Animated that numerous characters can retract their hands into their wrists and replace them with a weapon. Smart thing, really... why carry weapons you could drop if you can transform parts of you into the weapons? The Prime series takes it to the extreme, that every single character had some sort of built-in arm weapon. The only exceptions are Megatron and Bumblebee, whose weapons are mounted on their wrists anyway. But designing these on toys usually had mixed results, due to the difficulty of having to include both hands and weapons.
Cliffjumper has the advantage of having chunky lower arms, and his on-screen flip-out arm weapons are these kickass triple-barrelled blaster things. I did not even realise that they included this awesome feature until I fiddled around with the wrists, and rotated out the guns. It's an extremely smooth transformation, there are no signs of the guns when the hands are out and vice versa, and most importantly the guns look quite awesome as they did in the show. And, lo behold, there are no pointless levers or strings or mental Cyber Keys or whatever kind of stupid gimmicks to activate these weapons. Ho yeah.
Bottom line? Cliffjumper is an excellent toy that falls short of being perfect, but that doesn't mean that he's not a damn good one. He ticks every single criteria of being a good toy in my book, and the fact that I love the onscreen character is a great bonus. Between Starscream and Cliffy, I'm having high hopes for the Prime toyline.Points out of ten for the following:Durability:
8/10 The silver paint on the tiny Autobot insignia will no doubt flake off with time, and I'm worried about the decorative horns, but otherwise Cliffjumper has survived many attempts at shelf-jumping.Transformation Design:
10/10 Splendidly thought out. And when they go the extra mile and design joints on tiny parts of the windows and the like so they can fold away neatly in robot mode, well, it just goes to show how much effort they put into this toy. My only quibble is that the headlights my droop from time to time in robot mode, but it's a small quibble.Aesthetics:
9/10 He looks exactly like his show counterpart in both modes, and I for one love the hybrid stylized-complicated style that the Prime show uses, so it's exactly my cup of tea.Articulation:
6/10 The aforementioned leg problem does lead to a few difficulties trying to put Cliffjumper in Dreamwave poses, but other than that he's got a wee bit more than your average Deluxe size toy.Price/Value:
7/10 Depends, really. Getting him at retail price like I did would be fantastic; he's exactly what a Deluxe Class toy should be, but if you had to import him it's going to be a little iffy.Fun:
8/10 The lack of actual features makes him quite boring... until you realize that you're probably not going to care much about a non-show-accurate gun with an ugly transluscent projectile or something similar, which means the only way Cliffjumper could even be more awesome is if I had half a dozen Vehicon toys for him to pound. Overall:
9/10 A very solid toy. Like Starscream, Cliffjumper does not disappoint in nearly all aspects of what I see in a toy. He's durable, looks good, has a decent transformation, looks like the show model, has little trinkets in his design that endears me even more... it all boils down whether you like him, really. If you do, this is a must-buy.