When it comes to Transformers, I dig the gestalts: the robots that not only transform, but also combine with each other to form new and bigger 'bots. Those are cool. There's just something swank about robots that change not only into vehicles (or whatever the case may be) but also into an even larger robot as well. They've been my favorite kind of transformers since way back when G1's Devastator came out, so I was glad to see the trend pop up once again with Armada's Tidal Wave.
Tidal Wave is one of the largest Decepticon warriors, with a weapons arsenal as menacing as his size. He transforms into a powerful warship and is able to unleash a full-scale assault on his enemies from a single location. Although he is massive and powerful, Tidal Wave's lack of intelligence prevents him from becoming a true Decepticon leader.
Tidal Wave is the first Armada figure to really live up to the name - in one fell swoop, you get an entire floatilla of ships. Dubbed the "Dark Fleet," these three ships are all visually distinctive: in one set, we get an aircraft carrier, a battleship and a troop transport.
The best (read: most realistic) part of the fleet is the aircraft carrier. At 6 1/2" long, this little beauty looks just like a real ship, though it does have some ugly green kibble under the bow. The body is mostly a nice light gray, with a few darker pieces and some red highlights. The detailing of this carrier includes everything a ship like this would need, including a command tower and a launch platform. In a nice bit of ingenuity, the launch platform can descend into the body of the ship, storing the included Minicon nicely.
The battleship is an odd beast: while the turrets on top look appropriatly militaristic, the actual body of the ship looks like a double-hulled (tandem) tanker. It's like a pontoon boat on steroids. Its twin hulls, painted bright green (thanks for nothing, Aaron Archer) double as missile launchers, and there are four articulated gun turrets - each set of barrels can be individually raised or lowered. Plug a Minicon into the Powerlink port and the weapons rotate to take aim at the Autobots.
Finally, the troop transport is the largest of the ships. Dark grey overall (one might say "battleship" grey, but then why would the battleship be green and purple?) with a few spots of purple, red and gold, the transport is fairly bland. There are two articulated "wings" that sport torpedos, and several batteries of missiles in the back. The deck of the ship opens to reveal fold-down seating, perfect for those few Minicons who actually have knees.
Tidal Wave is sort of the anti-Reflector: where that G1 set had three robots that became one camera, Tidal Wave is one robot built from three ships.
Tidal Wave's transformation begins by combining the three Dark Fleet members into one large ship. The new 13" long uber-boat is fairly decent, though it does sort of resemble any generic anime space cruiser. The aft looks open and incomplete, however, and really could use another element to help tie it together.
It's this massive cruiser that becomes the robot Tidal Wave, not the individual ships. A few twists and a few clicks, and you have a 11 1/2" tall behemoth ready to rain destruction on the good guys. Tidal Wave looks pretty good in robot form, though he is a little bit skinny. His mobility is fairly good as well: shoulders, elbows, hands, waist and hips, though his knees - which only move sideways - are all but useless.
The majority of Tidal Wave's joints are ratcheted: in theory, this is a good move; it keeps heavier parts from flopping about pointlessly, and helps support this very tall figure. In practice however, the joints are just a little bit loose, leaving some parts sagging, and the ratchets click loudly with every movement, making them more of a nuisance than anything else.
When it coes to Minicons, Tidal Wave is entirely unique. His included Minicon, Ramjet, is a tiny fighter plane. Very tiny. He's the smallest Minicon yet released. In vehicle form, Ramjet is 2" long and has a 1 1/2" wingspan. As stated above, Ramjet can be stored below-decks in the aircraft carrier: fold his wings up and move the cockpit back, and he'll slide down into the ship effortlessly.
As a robot, Ramjet is very simple. Due to his small size, he only has one leg and one foot (they're molded that way, but intended to represent two), though he is fairly articulated for his size: elbows, hips, knee and ankle. Having the plane's nosecone behind his head gives Ramjet a surprisingly good likeness to his G1 namesake.
If you think of Minicons as something attached to a larger Transformer to provide new powers, then Tidal Wave has not only the smllest Minicon to date, but the largest, as well. The three Dark Fleet ships can be transformed into armor and a jetpack for Megatron, making them quite like Minicons themselves. Or maybe Maxicons. Something. Still, you get the biggest and the smallest all at once with Tidal Wave, which is just another cool feature.
Yes, the colors are terrible, but the upcoming "Energon" rerelease is even worse. If you're willing to pay twice as much, you could find the original Japanese version, "Shockwave," which is all done in grays, blacks and purples. Overall, Tidal Wave is a big impressive figure and a very worthwhile purchase.
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