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Soundwave

Transformers
by yo go re

Though fans were initially leery of the new live-action Transformers movie, they've slowly warmed to it as more information has come out. Everything pointed to the filmmakers honoring the G1 Transformers whenever possible, from the characters to the designs to the actors. Optimus Prime could have been a firetruck, you know? But despite all that, there was one G1 favorite that just wouldn't work in the context of the film: the Decepticon communications operative, Soundwave.

It's said that Soundwave can hear a fly sneeze. Soundwave It's also said that beneath his smooth-talking, affable surface beats the generator coil of a blackmailer. Those who know these facts about him are careful about what they say within earshot of him. Soundwave is the ultimate opportunist & will use anything he can to advance his status in the eyes of Megatron. He doesn't worry about what others think of him because he knows he's nearly indispensable. Although they all despise him, other Decepticons pretend to like him rather than get on his bad side. As Rumble explains, "Soundwave always has the last laugh."

Why is Soundwave so popular? Was it his crazy, synthesized, metallic voice? The way he kept tiny soldiers in his chest? The fact that he was the only bot Megatron could trust? The fact that his face was the basis for the Decepticon symbol? Or was it something more subtle? Consider this: as kids, we could play with toy guns, tanks and planes, but that was just it; they were only toys. However, it wasn't unheard of for a kid to have their own tape player. So while we could play with toy cars, we could pretend that our own Walkman was secretly Soundwave (or that Soundwave was a working tape deck), bringing him a bit more just push play into the "real" world than a tractor trailer that fits in the palm of your hand.

Whatever the reason, Soundwave is a fan-favorite, even if his alt mode meant that he was quickly outdated. The cartoon and comics depicted Soundwave as a normal tape player, but he was originally intended to be a full-sized microcassette recorder - you know, the kind of thing people use to record lectures or meetings. That's why Frenzy, Ratbat and the other Casseticons are smaller than actual tapes.

The detailing on the tape deck is really impressive. 2 AA batteries (included) It's a nice compact size, 4" wide by 2¾" tall by 1½" deep. There are left and right speakers, a battery light, buttons to play, record, rewind, fast forward and stop, an analog counter, an eject button, a headphone jack, and a belt clip over the battery compartment. There's even a volume dial on one side and a direction switch on the other. The biggest bit of kibble, honestly, is the back of the robot's head, which is semi-visible, if you know to look for it. Wow, back in the '80s, "robots in disguise" really meant something.

Transformation is simple and straightforward - in fact, you can probably figure it out just by looking at him. Soundwave holds no surprises, but that's okay - when both modes look this good, you don't need a complicated process to switch between them. Fold down the sides of the tape player and rotate them forward to become the legs. family portrait Bring the arms around to the sides, and slide the hands down. Lift the head and turn it to face the front. Remove the batteries from the rear compartment - plug the short one into his shoulder, and the expandable one fits in his hand. That's it! You're finished!

In robot form, Soundwave stands 6¾" tall, and moves at the neck, shoulders, elbows and hips. There are knees and ankles, but they're just for the transformation, so they bend the wrong way. The tape deck's battery compartment is an obvious bit of kibble on his back, but it's not screamingly blatant. If you want to get technical, a robot doesn't need a tape player's door or buttons on its chest, either, but we all overlook that anyway. Soundwave is a good-looking robot. But that wasn't enough to get him into the movie.

Soundwave's mold was originally "Cassette Man" in the Microchange line, which had small robots turning into real household items. Having scooted his feet across the carpet, Soundwave prepares to introduce an Earthling to Cybertron's new ultimate weapon: static electricity! So Cassette Man was only supposed to be about 7" tall in real life. It was the Transformers universe that introduced the idea of mass shifting: tiny objects becoming large robots. As a tape player, Soundwave was small enough to fit on your belt; as a robot, he was somewhere between 12 and 30 feet tall. How's that happen? Recognizing how stupid that is, the team behind the new movie decided early on that there would be no size-changing in the film, which pretty much cut Soundwave off at the knees. The poor guy had no chance!

Though the box claims that this is "identical to the original toy," tapes that's not true. This release actually uses the "Soundblaster" mold, which has one noticeable change from Soundwave: instead of the door closing flat against the robot's chest, it sticks out about ¼", and has its hinges on the outside. The door looks a bit out of place on the recorder, but it makes the robot more balanced. Why did they change it? So two Tapeformers fit in the chest instead of one. Woo! In honor of this, Soundwave comes with two tapes (so you don't have to provide your own): Battle Ravage and Laserbeak. Maybe.

Ravage is clear enough. Everyone knows this black panther. Though some fans apparently thought he was a wolf. For some reason. Ravage Obviously this toy went into production before Hasbro realized they could once again use the plain "Ravage" name, sans "Battle," for their toys (as evidenced by the Alternators version). Like Soundwave, his transformation can be recognized at a glance, and is easy to master. Two low-radiation proton bombs plug into his hips, and he moves at the ankles/toes, elbows/knees, shoulders/hips, head, and tail. He's about 2" tall, and since his feet are immediately next to each other, decode it! a slight breeze can topple him easily. A sticker on his side highlights sections of Fortress Maximus - and when held under a red decoder (the kind that used to reveal the TFs' tech specs) one spot is singled out. Maybe that's where they plan to attack?

Back in G1, Soundwave was packaged with Buzzsaw, the less-famous clone of Laserbeak. Laserbeak? The packaging claims the bird-bot in this set is Laserbeak, but that's open to debate. See, Beaky's body is a nice bright red, while Buzzsaw's body was golden yellow. This bird is a rich orange, which doesn't really match either of them - but that is the way Buzzy was colored in the comics and cartoons. Thus, this could be almost anyone. Maybe it's a brand new birdy? We shall call him Buzzbeak! Because "Lasersaw" just sounds silly. Buzzbeak has his twin back-mounted laser cannons, though they're a bit loose. That's a fault of the bird, by the way, not the weapons: they fit the G1 birds perfectly. His wings seem slightly warped. birds Both cassettes include clear plastic tape cases - a feature familiar to Japanese Transfans, but never before seen on a US release. Though today we think of Soundwave hitting the button on his shoulder to eject his tapes, early animated commercials for the toys showed him actually reaching into his chest and physically throwing them into battle - how weird is that!

Just like in G1, a lot of the deco on the cassettes and Soundwave is in sticker form. Unfortunately, most of the stickers applied at the factory are noticeably crooked - as crooked as they'd be if you had applied them yourself. And, to capture the kind of fun not seen on toys in at least a decade, Soundwave does include a sheet of decals to apply yourself. How neat! Remember when most toys had that? You don't see it any more. The info on the stickers is all in Japanese, which suggests that this was re-used from the 2003 boxy Japan re-release. One thing missing, though: any instructions on where those stickers are supposed to go. You'll have to look it up online.

Soundwave was originally intended to be released as part of the Commemorative Series, but that line was cancelled before they got around to him. So instead, he was dropped into the recent Classics line, ostensibly. The packaging reflects the Classics design aesthetic, being mainly red with angular silver elements around the edges. There's some nice Dreamwave-style art on the front and back. The front flap opens to show off the figure (boxed backwards in the second run of figures) and has a big pop-up cutout of Soundwave. It's very cool work. It's just a shame most fans won't ever get to see it in person.

Soundwave is wildly popular with Transfans - unfortunately, this re-release is also wildly popular with scalpers. A Toys Я Us exclusive, this figure supposedly shipped months ago, Soundwave and friends but most fans never even saw them on shelves. It wasn't until the "backwards" second wave that casual shoppers had a chance against the scalpers, who bemoaned the fact that the reversal made the toys "worthless." Oh, just die already, you utter bastards.

If you see this Soundwave at TRU, absolutely do not hesitate: buy it. Snap it up. The $30 pricetag might seem a bit high, but once you get him home and start playing, you'll quickly forget it. The stealth bomber was a nice homage, but owning the real version is where it's at - and it completely overshadows the Titanium version. Two tapes, all the weapons and the time-warpy feeling of applying decals? Who cares if Soundwave isn't in the movie, or that you haven't seen a tape recorder since you were going through your grandparents' closet? You call this TF "outdated," and he'll make you sorry.


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