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Transformers Toy Review Archive (older series, 1984 to date)
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Clay's review: Leader class Optimus Prime

Name: Optimus Prime
Function: Franchise linchpin.

Right, so two years ago Hasbro released this Optimus Prime figure, and most people (internet people, mind you, not actual people who don't care about these things) seemed fairly impressed with it, considering it was an execution of a CGI model robot that should have been impossible. And at the time, it was. It had many compromises, such as the big tires hanging off the legs and assorted junk mounted on the back that everyone seemed to overlook.

Now, in 2009, we have a new movie coming and a need to make new toys. In Prime's case, it is a mixture of "do-over" and the need to combine with something else which hasn't been released yet. As it stands now, the mulligan attempt itself delivers most of what anyone could want from a $45 movie Optimus Prime toy: it looks like what it's supposed to in both forms. As it turns out, this is not a miraculous design, as the devil comes out in the details, so to speak.

Truck:

It's a truck. They remembered all the flame decals this time, and the back end of the cab is closed instead of having a large gun jutting out the back. The tires are plastic this time, and it has a working hitch.

...

I suppose the thing to say is that, when done right, there isn't much to say about the truck. It's really quite convincing, and as such I have no real comments on it. However, it is worth noting that because of the window visors being mounted on ball joints (for the purposes of the robot mode), Optimus Prime - The Truck - could be the first Transformers/Pixar's Cars crossover figure. The 'eyebrows' give the truck a wide range of emotive display roughly parallel to some actors.

Robot:

This toy is far and away the best representation of what's seen in the movie. Although it still has junk on the back, it's at least arranged to look like the junk on the back of the movie character. The toy has a large range of articulation that isn't hindered by other parts getting in the way as was the case with the earlier toy, aside from having the swords 'stored' up. It can't quite straighten its arms then. What's really nice is that the head can actually look up and down thanks to the mount; given how tall Prime is over the other movie figures, this is handy for him to be able to make polite conversation in which he can tell them, "I am Optimus Prime." He'll tell you that too; many times in fact.

Of course, the robot isn't super-completely accurate to the movie design model, but it's close enough in almost every regard, especially the proportions. Prime's legs are longer and more of a fit to his cinematic model, and give the figure a more recognizable frame than a cluttered pile of parts. More importantly, it's stout so that you can play with dramatically pose the thing without six different parts falling off in the process like Masterpiece Megatron. I think that's a fair comparison too considering both toys have a similar "square peg in a round hole" problem regarding how distinctive both their forms are. The difference between the two is that you can actually have some fun without frustration with Prime's modes, along with far greater durability as Prime doesn't have any parts falling off.


Compromise:
Getting the truck into robot form isn't too difficult, although it is tedious. Getting the robot back into truck form is another matter. Expect an hour long, uphill battle the first time you attempt this. I again compare this to Masterpiece Megatron: the two modes are thoroughly recognizable, so getting them both into the same toy is something of a feat. I will give them credit for not cheating as the voyager toy does, what with a second set of fake truck windows on the chest while the actual truck front is in the backpack. This version has none of those shenanigans employed.

Even so, transforming this thing is outside the scope of what most children - and a lot of adults - are willing to suffer through. If you're reading this review, you're probably not in that category, though.

The only real problem with the toy comes when trying to disconnect the windows on the chest. They actually pop out of their "mech alive" grooves, but none too easily. No "easy pop-out slot" is apparent, so you just have to force them out. It's a legitimate flaw that could have easily been remedied (and still can be if you have a small power rotary tool to cut some notches).

Marks out of ten for the following:

Transformation: 9. Amazing overall given the accuracy for both modes, but points off for the above-mentioned windows. The sound trigger is also super-sensitive.
Durability: 9. Prime has no parts that want to come off, and the rest is plenty solid. The rubber smokestacks could get bent out of shape, but that's about it.
Fun: 10. Looks great in both modes and is robust enough to be played with in either one without falling apart. Changing between the two modes is a chore, but they're fun enough that you can leave it in either form for a while once you're done.
Price: 7. The price of the leader class has gone up ten percent since the first movie, so this Prime is slightly more expensive than its predecessor. It's also likely that people own the first version, so that may make this one a harder sale despite it being a drastic improvement.
Overall: 9. It's a big step up from the first version, but if you have already that, then this will cost another chunk of change. However, it's an improvement in basically every quality and leaves very little to be desired (rubber tires? chrome? metal parts? eh, maybe not). Only be wary of the fairly high learning curve for switching modes.
 
 
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