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Optimus Prime

Transformers
by Artemis

You have to hand it to Optimus Prime, he's got his target audience figured out pretty well. Warrior, hero, robot, truck - if only you could play Mario Galaxy on the guy, he'd be the only toy boys would ever want.

Optimus Prime is the leader of the Autobots. Once, long ago, he was co-ruler of Cybertron Optimus Prime together with his brother, Lord High Protector Megatron, but Megatron grew greedy and attempted to claim the AllSpark for himself. Optimus rose to stand against him. As obsessively as Megatron strives to achieve his objective, Optimus is equally as dedicated to stopping him, even at the cost of his life, his world, and - if necessary - his own people. It was on his order that the AllSpark was jettisoned to space, dooming Cybertron to a slow death and his people to nomadism. The sacrifices he has made weigh heavily on his spark, but they must be done, for there is no other choice. He knows the ambitions that lurk in Megatron's spark, and they must never see the light of day. Lives must be kept free from the threat of Megatron's tyranny, no matter the cost.

Brother, huh? That makes a lot of slashfic pretty awkward. Anyway, Optimus Prime is the alpha and omega of Transformers (even though other bots got those names) - he's the main man, the head honcho, the robot without whom the whole franchise might as well just pack up and go home. So whether a Transformers toy line is bringing us old-fashioned blockish robots or dinosaurs and munkys or newfangled CGI whatnots, Optimus Prime had better be good. Is he good? He's good.

Prime in his movie incarnation takes the altmode of a Peterbilt 379, a long-standing workhorse of the trucking game, Trucktacular! chosen because it was the biggest truck Michael Bay could find - movie Transformers don't mass shift (other than Frenzy, the bastard), so if Prime was a small truck, he'd be a small robot, and Optimus Prime is not small. Fans ranted and raved about the truck not being a "cab over" design, and the flame deco job, et cetera ad nauseum - Transformers fans can make a room full of warring DS9 and Babylon 5 zealots look mellow - but there's no ignoring the fact that the 379 is a big, powerful working-class-looking machine (Prime's a man of the people, he's not going to be some multi-billion-dollar stealth tank or something) and the toy captures that from the top of its exhaust stacks to the bottom of its tires.

All six wheels roll freely and maintain good contact with the ground, meaning he won't veer off to the side if you push him and let him go, Kibbleicious! and the button on top of the cab makes his horn blare - a nice, meaty big rig sound - and the windscreen light up. The colours are clean and clear, but not fake-looking - the blue is quite sombre in fact, lending realism to the whole thing, and the flame job adds a bit of visual interest to several big flat surfaces. The only kibble worth noting is the back half of Prime's gun, which extends out of the rear of the cab towards the trailer lock - in its defence, it's by no means obvious that it's a gun, so it could pass for a big techy trailer attachment system or something of that ilk. So far as design drawbacks go, all that's worth noting is that the radiator grille is quite broken up by transformation seams - it's a bit noticeable, but on the plus side the way it splits apart and reconfigures is a nice nod to the start of the CGI Prime's transformation.

Speaking of transformation, it's complex, elegant, and most importantly, fun. Firstly, push down on the engine cover to hinge it open, then swing out the sides. Separate the halves of the truck front (the legs), separate the halves of the rear wheel assembly, and swing the front and back pieces down towards each other, unlocking the hips along the way. Fold the hood pieces in half and swing them up to lock in the shins and form the knee plates. Slide the bumper bar sections outwards and around by 90° to automorph the feet - Transformarama! a simple mechanism, but cool to see work - and flip up the heels to complete the lower legs. Lock the rear wheels in place against the thighs, and hinge the rearmost of the two rear wheels on each side back. You've now got a truck cab with legs (if this were Robotech, that'd probably be some kind of special combat mode). Separate the back of the cab and, using the joints to keep the parts out of each other's way, swing them out to either side. Detach the cab side bodywork from the upper cab and use the multiple hinges to swing all the side body panels around behind the back, where they fold together into a backpack... kind of... thing. Disengage the forearms from the shoulders, swing them down, open the vent panels, rotate the hands out, close the vent panels to lock them in, and close the rear chassis pieces up beneath the forearms. Rotate the shoulder armour into position, rotate the shoulder lock upwards (they should be vertical, to mirror the CGI model, but the exhaust stacks are already sticking up there so I like to rotate the locks all the way over to break up the flat expanse of the cab top) lock the hips into their forward position, and pull down on the little chevron-looking thingy around about where a belt buckle would be to engage the final automorph, which splits the windshield in half and raises the head up out of the cab, to the accompaniment of flashing lights and laser blast noises.

You'll probably go and repeat the whole process a few times, because it's so much fun - this baby brings out your inner 10-year-old real good.

As a robot, Prime is a pretty good rendition of his movie self - and even better, where he deviates, it's in the direction of looking more like G1 Prime, which is pretty neat in itself. There's no mistaking the "shardformer" G1derful! Prime model in him - the heavily reconfigured truck bodywork, the big claw-like feet, the flame job still visible on his chest and the wheel arches on his legs, the distinctive knee plates, you know it's the guy from the movie. At the same time, he's very much like the guy from the old cartoon - the chest is squarer, with the windshield halves more prominent, the shoulders are less tilted, and the forearms are big square blocks, very reminiscent of the G1 design. It's a real best of both worlds situation. The face is clearly Prime, dark blue with the distinctive silver faceplate, no enormous amount of detail but plenty good enough - the eyes aren't light-piped, but depressing the automorph lever just a little will kick off the sound and light show, making his eyes light up. I'd have preferred a button for that (the truck horn button is disengaged in robot mode), but it's no big deal.

The distribution of red and blue over his body is well-balanced, with grey standing in for silver, and giving a pleasing overall effect - no one colour dominates, but they work together well. Visible kibble is limited to the rear wheels, which stick out the back of his legs a bit - though being the back, you tend not to notice them much - and the collection of stuff on his back, which is fairly well broken up to remove any large, obvious "trucky" bits. In fact, the truck as a whole vanishes pretty well into the robot mode - aside from the parts that are meant to be visible, like the front wheel arches and the windshield on his chest, the rear wheels are the largest unmodified piece of truck remaining on Prime's body.

fingerbanging! Articulation-wise, this guy doesn't disappoint. His neck is a swivel joint - necessary for the light-up eyes, so it's not as annoying as the Voyager-Class swivel necks which could have been balljoints. He has swivel/peg shoulders, a peg joint in his bicep (it's for transformation, but can aid posing as well), another swivel/peg in the elbows, and no wrist, but individually articulated fingers - pegs for each finger, and a balljoint for the thumb. Those individual fingers were a really nice surprise, and you can get a lot of subtle expression by working with them.

There's no waist (transformation requirements don't allow one), but his lower half is otherwise very versatile, with ratcheted swivel/peg hips, swivel/peg knees, and full balljoints mounted on swivels for ankles - you can get some very dramatic action poses out of him, and he'll stay upright easily, in spite of all that weight in his upper body.

Prime's blaster is stowed alongside his right forearm - pretty obvious, though it's (semi-)removable if you want your Prime to be fighting bare-knuckle. Swinging the blaster into position (touted as an automorph, though all it does is extend a couple of little targeter thingies from beneath the forearm) covers the right hand, so it looks as if the hand has turned into a blaster, rather than holding one - since that's how the weapons happened in the movie, I like that, even though it's hardly the most sophisticated effect. The transparent blue missile sits snugly deep in the barrel, and flies a respectable metre or so, fired level from shoulder height.

Prime is Leader Class - well duh, he's a leader - so you'll pay a decent chunk of rhino for him, but I have no hesitation in saying he's worth every penny. He's big, he's a good-looking toy truck, he's got a complex but not frustrating transformation, he looks great as a robot and has the poseability and ruggedness to play well, and he's got fun bells and whistles like the horn and the flashing lights and the gun that actually fires more than a few inches (there've been some sorry spring-loaded guns in recent times, I can tell you). There are several good Primes on the market, but if this is the only one you ever buy, you'll be happy.

That said, if you already fell for yo's clever ruse and bought the Voyager-Class Prime instead of his bigger brother, worry not: you can get this exact same toy in a different colour scheme with Nightwatch Optimus Prime.

Optimus Prime prefers a straightforward battle, in which opponents can look one another in the eye and know that what they do is for real and forever, Nightwatch Optimus Prime as adversaries should. When fighting an enemy like the Decepticons however, he knows that more subtle tactics are often called for. Using the new powers granted him by the infusion of AllSpark energy, he is ready for even the stealthiest mission. The darker colors are sensor transparent, letting him slip in unseen, often even directly under the eyes of Decepticon guards. New servos in his joints move him silently across the ground, and AllSpark powered punches let him take out enemy troops without a single pulse from his ion blaster.

Nightwatch Optimus Prime is the same mold as the regular release - there is a slightly retooled version coming (new head and a sword instead of a gun), but that's not for a few months yet. This is a straight repaint.

While some were hoping for (or living in dread of) a red and black repaint, the final figure is mostly blue. Not the dark blue seen on the standard version, but more of a teal color. Why, if he's supposed to be blending in with the darkness of night, Powered Convoyeur! is his blue lighter than before? It's okay, though, because the reddish orange that used to cover the truck's nose is now black, and the formerly blue hood-flames are silver.

In robot mode, Prime's grey body is accented with gold and bright blue elements. This blue marks Nightwatch Prime as part of the "AllSpark Power" line, which... doesn't really mean anything other than he's a repaint with bright blue spots on him. It's some merchandising thing, I don't know. All the clear blue bits from the original toy - the eyes, missile, headlights and windows - have been replaced with clear purple. Since the LED lights behind them are still yellow, a sort of brown colour is the result.

Due to all the blue, many fans are pressing Nightwatch Prime into service as a movie version of Ultra Magnus - especially since he towers over the Voyager version. Ironically, the combo of blue and black makes him somewhat resemble Powered Convoy - the pre-TF Diaclone version of Ultra Magnus. It all comes full circle, I suppose.

Elita-One, my darling, I will break you in half.


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