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by yo go re

Our review of Transformers Classics Astrotrain was less than glowing, and suggested that the original toy was better. Is that really the case? Let's find out.

Creating confusion is Astrotrain's specialty. As a Decepticon Triple Changer he can switch form from robot to locomotive train to space shuttle almost instantaneously. This ability not only leaves unsuspecting enemies perplexed, but often vulnerable to his attack. His favorite ploy is to lure an Autobot to chase him as he enters a railroad tunnel in train mode and then exits in shuttle mode. The Autobot is usually ill-prepared to battle the shuttle-mode Astrotrain and rarely knows whether two Decepticons or one confront him. But it is that particular moment when his opponent realizes his mistake that epecially delights Astrotrain. He truly lives for that moment and thrives on his foe's panic and fear.

Judged by modern standards, Astrotrain's robot form is clunky, but back in 1985 it was pretty top-notch - which really shows you how far we're come in 22 years. His arms are stubby, his legs are giant blocks and his head is miniscule. The thing is, it works. Unless you actively try to determine what his proportions should be, everything seems fine. Astrotrain stands 4¾" tall and moves at the... well, at the shoulders. And that's it. Sure, other stuff moves so he can transform, but that doesn't count. Shoulders.

Astrotrain's colorscheme is nice. The bulk of his body is white, but it's contrasted against a rich purple and the decals really stand out against the light color. He has a gun (ionic displacement rifle, if you want to be specific) that's bigger than his torso, which makes sense once you realize that robots have no genitals; like your boss, he's overcompensating.

With the release of Astrotrain, the Transformers were introduced to a new concept, triple changers. That's exactly what it sounds like: a robot with three modes. Like his fellow triple changer, Blitzwing, Astrotrain's modes are telegraphed by his name. You can transform between of the three modes in any order; for this review, we're just going to go in the order of his name.

To transform him to a shuttle, fold the arms in. Close the chest flaps and slide the piece to the top of its track. Rotate up the engine, and press it into place. Slide his legs up, open the hatch and flip the shuttle's nosecone around. In this form, he's 6" long and 3⅝" wide.

Unlike Classics Astrotrain, this shuttle mode has no obvious kibble. There are two panels on the sides that stick out a little further than the rest of the ship, but not terribly so. The colors are kind of wonky, of course, because there's never been a purple space shuttle. Still, this is a very good representation.

To convert from a rocket to a train, slide the tail fin all the way forward, then fold it into the body. Open the front hatch and rotate the cockpit into the body, as well. Wrap the wings up and around the top of the shuttle, then bring up those extra-wide side panels, straighten them out and flip the entire toy over. You now have a 5" x 1⅜" train engine. That makes you a winner!

Astrotrain's train is a good, old-fashioned locomotive, not a stupid bullet train. The detail is actually better here than it was on the last form, since a train has so much more going on outside. Piston-driven wheels, welding lines on the boiler, a tiny window for the engineer to look out... all very awesome. There's no white in this mode, either: all black and purple. The only kibble comes in the form of three retro boosters on the back of the engine, but they actually blend in fairly well.

What's most impressive about this toy is that despite being more than two decades old, it still does some things better than its modern equivalent. Yes, the robot is fairly blocky, but the transformation is impressive in its simplicity and there's almost zero kibble, two things the new Classics version can't claim. If you got the new Astrotrain and like it, you might think about tracking down this G1 version to see where he got started.

-- 02/27/07

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