Tetsuro's review of: Reissue Star Convoy
Name: Star Convoy
Function: Supreme Commander
"Freedom is the right of all sentient beings."
As far as I have been able to tell, there are really two kinds of Transformers collectibles: those that are rare and great toys of classic characters, and those that are just rare. Star Convoy unfortunately seems to fall into the latter category; As a Japan-exclusive toy from the latter days of G1, Star Convoy is one of the most rare, and thus expensive; even loose sets have gone for $100, and MIB for around $300. However, now Takara has reissued him, in a G1-styled packaging no less and with considerably more reasonable price, making him available for much wider audience to see what the fuss is about. Unfortunately, this is a bit of a double-edged sword: with wider audience gaining access to this rarity, opinions have been divided. With the collectible value cast aside, many fans have gotten to see for themselves that Star Convoy looks like a total brick, which it undeniably is.
Casual TF fans whose knowledge is largely west-concentrated may be at loss at first upon the mention of the name 'Star Convoy'. Allow me to explain; after Micromasters were introduced in Victory, they proved to be a huge success in Japan, and because of that, the following Transformers toy line "Zone" consisted almost entirely of Micromasters with the exception of the three Powered Masters, who could transform into Micromaster bases as well aside from the traditional robot/vehicle setup, and a couple of micromaster bases, most of which did gain western release as well. The same trend continued in Battlestars: Return of Convoy, in which the original Convoy (better known as Optimus Prime in the west) returned (after dying in the third episode of Headmasters) as Star Convoy, being one of the three Battlestars, who, like Powered Masters, could transform into robot, vehicle or Micromaster base. The other two Battlestars are Grandus and Sky Garry, who are yet to be reissued by Takara.
Despite the popularity of Micromasters, it still wasn't popular enough and the popularity of Transformers was quickly declining in Japan. Zone already received only one episode of the anime with the rest of the story told in manga form, but Battlestars didn't even get that lucky: only one chapter of manga and the rest of the story told in TV Magazine spreads and toy ads. The actual storyline of Battlestars goes somewhat like this: Autobot forces resurrected the original Convoy using the Zodiac energy (from Zone) to battle Super Megatron who had been resurrected by the new series villain, Dark Nova. The Autobots defeated Super Megatron, who was resurrected again as Ultra Megatron, only to have his ass handed back to him again, after which Dark Nova took matters into his own tentacles and fused with Megs into Star Giant, whom Autobots finally beat to a pulp.
First off, I have to mention certain things. It seems that the reissue Star Convoy is not exactly
the same toy as the original. According to various online reports, some changes have been made; the robot mode's chest windows are in different hue, the star on his chest is golden rather than yellow, nearly all the white parts have been replaced with silvery grey, and many of the details that were previously stickers are now painted onto the toy itself, and, according to Takara, these changes were made due to the original not turning out as intended due to last-minute cost-cutting, and that this reissue represents original intention. So, here's my review for Star Convoy: Director's Cut...?
Since this is what the reissue Star Convoy comes packaged in, I'll start off with it. Prime certainly has changed since we last saw him: gone are the boxy trailer and a cab, and in place we have a huge (about 14 inches long), streamlined half-track trailer stuck on a tiny 'nosed' cab, a '91 vision of Convoy of the future. If the design looks familiar, there're more than enough similarities with Armada Prime in this mode, and I wouldn't be surprised if the designers of that toy were inspired by this one. However, unlike the previous incarnations of Convoy, the truck and the trailer are one piece, essentially putting it in the cargo truck category... although the large, pointy box above the cab reminds me of Rodimus Prime in a way, making Convoy's vehicle mode look like some kind of 'Best of Convoy'.
Other than that, Convoy largely consists of his classic colors, making him almost instantly recognizable: reds, greys and blues. The reds are placed entirely in the front half of the truck, with the cab, the roof piece and the underside of the 'trailer', sort of giving the idea of a semi. The grill of the cab is grey, and the trailer itself is almost entirely silver except for the roof and the bottom. There are two yellow buttons on the top of the trailer (which I shall get to soon), and the tabs in the back of the truck, the backdoor as well as the cannons on the front roof are black. There are blue-silver banners on both sides of the trailer-section with huge Autobot insignia towards the back, a reference to the original...and the backdoor has numbers 1 and 2 on silvery background on both of the doors (which is actually just one door).
The vehicle mode isn't by all means perfect of course, and there's some definite kibble here. First off, the cab looks rather goofy: it's connected to the trailer by it's roof
rather than rear, leaving a huge gap between it and the trailer, and although this undeniably is because of the transformation, it still looks awkward. The other problem is the 'second' pair of front wheels right behind the cab, which do rather poor job hiding the robot mode's chest (and don't even think about looking UNDER the truck...), but the rear roof of the trailer that forms the robot mode's legs isn't that bad. Other than that, I love this form nevertheless and this behemoth rig more than makes up for its appearance flaws in play value section.
There are a couple of gimmicks in the truck mode. If you open the black backdoor, you will see two compartments big enough for a couple of micromasters to hitch a ride. However, if you open up the blue roof, you can stick two microtrailers in the compartments, and when you push those yellow buttons on the roof, the micromasters inside the compartments with blast away. So what's a microtrailer? Basically it's a small, black truck-shaped box with no wheels and only serves one function; a launcher for micromasters. There is a small button right on the nose, and pushing it will launch whatever micromaster is placed inside. In an ideal situation, the door should be closed so the micromaster comes crashing out, but mostly this just causes the micromaster fly uncontrollably over to it's roof, and just leaving the door open will allow the launcher to use it's full potential. The rear door also has a peg + hole for those micromaster combiners to stick on, although this will render the launcher mechanism useless.
Roller too has received an upgrade, and this time, he plays an important role in the toy itself; rather than being just an accessory you can misplace without affecting the toy itself, he is now a vital part of Star Convoy himself, playing a role of his rear wheels...or treads, rather. Roller is almost entirely blue, aside from some black for his wheels and treads. And those are real treads too; none of your 'molded treads with tiny wheels beneath'-nonsense here! If you remove Roller and have it around by itself, you will notice few things; the 'front' of Roller has silvery-blue 'windows' and molded front lights of sorts, giving Roller an appearance of a large, treaded transport vehicle of some sort. I could imagine it carrying a rocket or something. Also, there is a battery compartment beneath, and a switch on the side, allowing Roller to move forward and reverse by itself, albeit slowly. Thanks to the real treads, I don't see something like a carpet edge stopping this thing, either. Anyway, real treads and battery-operated movements are a big plus, and despite the fact that the fun of Roller himself is limited, he adds a whole new level of playability to Star Convoy himself.
For 'attack mode' you can stick the two guns on top of the trailer; Star Convoy's standard BFG (Big Fraggin' Gun), which is also obviously based on the classic design of Prime's gun, on the front hole and the smaller cannon in the back. If you choose to not place the BFG on the front, you can use the smaller cannon there instead in which case you can also place a micromaster to man it. There is one more peg right in the back for Grandus to tag along. And, since Roller is stuck beneath the trailer, you can use him to have Star Convoy drive around. When you do this, and if you placed the small cannon in the rear peg (not the big one), it will rotate as well. Having Star Convoy able to move around by himself is a cool addition, if only to mess around with the family cat (as I continued to do on several occasions).
Although I deem detailed descriptions of the transformation rather redundant/uninteresting, I shall give it here anyway, if only to showcase the immense simplicity of the transformation. First, flip up the tabs in the back of the trailer to form Star Convoy's feet. Then lift him up into the standing position, so that the cab nose points directly upwards; after this, flip up the middle wheel pairs up against the sides of the trailer, split the cab along with the roof piece all the way down until the sides of the roof piece snap on the sides, forming Star Convoy's shoulders. Flip down the arms, push the fists out, open the chest compartment to flip out his head, then flip up the midsection of the trailer to allow you to turn the waist around 180 degrees so Convoy is facing the right direction with his feet. His shoulders, elbows and waist are ratcheted, so if you put his arms into a pose, they'll stay there. You'll want to have Star Convoy armed so stick his big gun into his fist.
First off, I must say that I have never been fan of Laser Optimus Prime, because for some reason, the fact that his front is just a faux version of the classic Prime design (with window chest and grill stomach) never sits quite right with me. That said, I still love this bot: despite having had a huge revision, he's still clearly recognizable as Prime, with the red, grey and blue. In his robot mode, Star Convoy is nearly 12 inches tall, making him one of the biggest transformers. Ignoring the back of the robot (cough
), I'll start off the head, which alone sets him apart from other transformers. The familiar features are all there: blue head, silver faceplate, blue eyes, and antennas on the sides of the head. The only entirely new addition is the angular, crescent moon-shaped silver forehead plate.
Moving downwards is the aforementioned chest, which has obviously been made to look the way it does in continuity to previous Convoys, while also being entirely unique: the familiar windows-for-chest and the grill-belly are there, but that's where the similarities end; the windows are trapezoid-shaped for far more futuristic look (and kinda make him look like Galaxy Convoy), and between them is a yellow star, an apparent reference to 'Battlestars'. The 'belly-grill' is silver and very small, and the headlights are very angular as well, giving Star Convoy rather aggressive appearance. Moving to his arms, he has Autobot logos on both shoulders as well as those 'sergeant' stripes, and two cannons mounted on both shoulders; those along with his large cannon stuck in his fist really make him look ready to kick some Destron heinie. Below his waist, he has a black hips with a little bit of red and grey detailing, and the platform upon which his upper body rotates on is yellow. Below his grey thighs are those familiar yellow buttons, now his knees, and below those, blue legs with black feet.
Star Convoy really falls into the 'brick' category, if only for his legs which are permanently stuck together, which is rather disappointing since his arms have some decent articulation; his elbows bend and his shoulders rotate as well, so you can at least make Star Convoy throw his arms up in the air just like he would not care. The robot mode's fun value would be sadly limited for display purposes only if Roller didn't come to rescue again; Star Convoy has small wheels beneath his black feet, and with Roller's treads touching the floor/ground, you can push that switch again to make Star Convoy move forward or backwards. The only downside is that if you don't hold him down while doing that, he will easily fall over on takeoff. His chest compartment opens, and inside is a peg to stick a micromaster onto, so now Soundwave and Blaster aren't the only ones who can keep their friends close to their heart.
From the robot mode, hold Convoy's arms upwards to keep them away as you rotate his top 90 degrees to the left until he's facing his side. Then, split his legs from Roller all the way down until they're facing away from each other, and remove Roller from his connector piece and open Convoy's chest compartment all the way down. Attach the peg in Roller's connector to his corner hole now visible, stick the two ramps included on both ends and the smaller turret with it's stand in the middle, and flip open Star Convoy's legs.
As you could probably already guess, the base mode is...not very good. The biggest problem in my opinion is actually logistics than the fact that you have the entire upper body of Star Convoy sticking up in the middle of this thing; for a good base mode, I think that a figure should be able to get it's way around within the base without having to leave it. The only micromaster base I ever owned before this was the Countdown rocket base, and aside from the utmost level which ramp lead outside the base itself, I could easily imagine a micromaster moving around from one post to another without having to move off the base.
Not that Star Convoy's base mode has many posts anyway; the storage/launch compartment on the far left was already available in the truck mode, and the only really useful addition aside from the ability to place a micromaster standing in the hollow chest of Convoy himself is on Roller, which now plays an entirely different role. There is a gun post for one micromaster to stand in and a rather unusual launcher mechanism; place up to two micromasters on both of the upper ramps placed in the back of the roller. Push that switch again so that the treads move forward (i.e., away from the micromasters you just placed on the ramps), and the gun post in the middle begins to rotate. Push down the ramp's flap so the micromasters roll to the treads, on which they ride all the way to the front ramp and slide off. It's not entirely original however: a very similar feat was featured in Dai Atlas, another Japan-exclusive toy. There are only two foot pegs in the entire base, one in the chest and the other on the turret, but considering that the only micromaster set released in battlestars line was Sixliner, most of whose components didn't even have the holes beneath their feet, it's not a much of a surprise.
All in all, the base mode is the form you either love or hate; in one hand, the gimmicks are pretty nice, but the fact that the other one was available already in vehicle mode, the base itself is rather impractical and you have the robot mode blatantly visible in this mode are more than enough against the little good the base mode offers. I'm still puzzled by Star Convoy's upper body being so prominently visible in this mode; was it laziness in design or was it done on purpose? With so many toys hiding their alternate modes so well at the time, I'm strongly in belief this was done on choice rather than necessity. Of course, you have the alternative to NOT transform the top half into robot mode and keep it in truck mode instead, but it will look even sillier that way.
And what would this review be without a section regarding this fellow?
The original Hot Rod toy was, and is still, one of the better G1 toys made, so turning him into a micromaster must've been quite a challenge...fortunately, he turned out rather well. He comes in his robot form, and his head and chest are what make him so easily recognizable; the only difference to the original really is that his spoiler goes down to his feet instead of his back but that is understandable for a micromaster. He is almost entirely red, with the yellow flames on his chest and the yellow spoiler on his legs. He has the standard micromaster articulation so don't expect anything groundbreaking.
To transform into car mode, bend his knees till his heels come to his hands, flip up hood and voila! Hot Rod is still red in this form (surprised?) with those yellow flames on the hood and the yellow spoiler. He also has blue windows. It is a shame that Takara didn't paint his engine and exhaust pipes with silver because then he would really look like his original version, because in vehicle mode, Hot Rod is much closer to the original than in his robot form, with the back of his head now forming the hood-mounted engine.
Well, I decided to have a little blurb about this too, since for some reason any mention of it has been excised from the reissue version of the instructions. Basically this is just a small orange piece with gears inside. What's the point? Well, it really only serves any purpose in base mode; stick the other end in the rear wheel of Roller and attach the other end into Grandus, so when you push that switch, Grandus' radars begin to spin and his elevator moves. That is, if you can afford him; I haven't seen Grandus on ebay for anything less than $450...
Star Convoy is a brick, but he's a damn fun brick. He was created in the latter days of G1 so having just five points of articulation is hardly a surprise. Although Takara's decision to reissue such a toy is a bit of a surprise as well, considering nearly all of their reissues so far have been of the original Diaclone-based toys. It's all for the better though since the original was rare and sought-after toy, and the reissue brings him to a price level that even non-collectors would be inclined to buy him. I certainly do not regret my purchase.
Transformation: 3 - You can do this even without the instructions.
Durability: 9 - Solid as the brick he is. The only part I can see breaking off anytime soon is the peg of the small turret.
Fun: 10 - Although the limited amount of foot pegs for micros (only two) is a bit of a disappointment, he more than makes up for it with other great gimmicks.
Price: 9 - Although many retail stores still sell him for $125, you can find him on ebay for as low as $30. I got mine for $56 and still consider him worth every dollar.
Summary: 8 - Strongly recommended, unless you can't stand bricks.
Now, if Takara only reissued Grandus and Sky Garry as well...