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Transformers: Armada
by yo go re

In 1983, the FCC eliminated almost all regulation on television advertising, including the ban on so-called "program length commercials," or shows tied directly to a certain product. This opened the door for - most famously - He-man and the Masters of the Universe to enter our homes and our tiny sugar-fueled hearts. Of course, there were other beneficiaries as well, including GIJoe and, of course, the Transformers.

The Transformers blitz eventually led to a feature-length film about the Robots in Disguise. Whenever a tv series makes the jump to the big screen, the creators usually take the opportunity (and the bigger budget) to go all out - huge storylines, huge events and, definitely in the Transformers' case, big characters.

A lot of new toys-to-be were introduced in Transformers: the Movie, from loudmouthed jerkwad Hot Rod (voiced by loudmouthed jerkwad Judd Nelson) to Megatron's reincarnation as the Leonard Nimoy-voiced Galvatron. Of course, none of them even stood a chance in our hearts against the might of Unicron. Forget Omega Supreme, forget Fort Max: this is the biggest and best Transformer of them all.

Unicron is bigger than ALL cattle!

The Transformers learn that Unicron, a planet-sized robot thought to be only a legend, is making his way toward Cybertron, bent on its destruction. To defend their homeworld, the Autobot and Decepticon armies form an unlikely battle alliance, with Optimus Prime and Megatron as their leaders. True to his nature, the power-hungry Megatron secretly plans to claim Unicron's sinister power for himself. Can Optimus Prime stop this terrifying menace, or will Megatron get in his way?

those little specks are Starscream and his brothers Though there have been attempts before, collectors have never had an official toy of the planet-sized monster (voiced by the planet-sized Orson Welles) - more enterprising Transfans have kitbashed their own from various sources (one of the most enterprising utilizing the outer shell of a TMNT Terrordrome). At long last we have our king; amidst a sea of bad choices, TF product manager Aaron Archer managed to let something good escape unscathed.

Unicron comes packaged in robot form, which somewhat limits his size. Personally, I would have liked Unicron to be packaged in his planet form: after all, that's how we were introduced to him in the movie, before we even knew that he transformed. The box is 16" tall, and a cellophane panel on the top half allows you to see the mighty destroyer within. This will be a fine item for the MOC crowd, truly intimidating on their shelves, but really: who would actually think that you could enjoy Transformers without opening them?

Visine gets the red out Once you release Unicron from his cardboard, plastic and twisty-tie prison (which really stymied Matt over at X-E), there is some assembly required. In order to fit him in the already-massive box, some pieces were left unattached. It's nothing major, though - no tools required - and a quick job.

All together, Unicron stands more than 15" tall to the tips of the horns on his head, and his wings and various accoutrements add a few more inches. True, he's not the tallest Transformer toy ever released, but not even Fortress Maximus is that much bigger, and he certainly couldn't stand in Unicron's way.

Unicron doesn't look exactly like his movie counterpart, but at this point I don't think anyone cares, especially when compared to the utter horror that was the prototype G1 figure; we're all just too happy to finally have him. The likeness may not be perfect, but this is still obviously Unicron and no one else. Hasbro has really done their best to re-create the movie villain.

Unicron has quite a bit of articulation, obviously, to accommodate his transformation, but some joints are more blatantly intended to be movement for the giant robot. Unicron, in robot mode, moves at the shoulders, biceps, elbows, wrists, waist, hips, knees and ankles. Additionally, all ten of his fingers move, whether with one joint (the thumbs) or two (the remaining eight fingers).

Unicron is not without his fair share of action features, either: press a button on the top of his head, and his eyes light up; press on his right hand, and it too glows red. Since this is an Armada toy, various features are activated by the Minicons, including missiles that fire from his legs. Plug a Minicon into Unicron's back and his eyes ignite as his chest opens and fires a spring-loaded rocket from within. Overall, a very nice effort.

Of course, a good-looking robot isn't the point of the Transformers - it has to, well, transform. Rather than describe every motion, I'll just say this: though not taken directly from the movie, Unicron's transformation is very similar to what was created all those years ago, and very easy to master after a few tries.

Behold our fully operational Death Star

In planet mode, Unicron reaches about 8 1/4" tall to the tips of those giant pinchers. The planet's surface is about 7" in diameter, while the ring extends about 2" beyond that. The "top" of the toy is really the front of the planet, as seen in the cartoon, and while it looks very nice, the back (or bottom) is mostly kibble - rather than a smooth spherical shell, we can quite clearly see Unicron's knees poking out. Since they're intended to rest on the ground (there's no way to display the planet with the ring running vertically), it's not a major loss.

Pluto! Is a planet!

Unicron's ring, in addition to some great technological detailing, has enough slots to hold 24 Armada Minicons, on both the top and bottom. There's an indentation on the planet's shell for Dead End, Unicron's Minicon, as well as two spaces on the robot form's shoulders, two on his legs and three hidden compartments that can also house the small 'bots, for a grand total of 32 Minicons held in place at any given time.

I had some trouble figuring out which way to assemble the planet's ring, but it really only fits into place one way: the "skinny" prong slides into the front, while the "blocky" prong fits into pegs in the back. The instructions don't really make that clear, so I thought I'd point it out.

Unicron has action features even in planet mode: squeeze his giant pinchers together, and the devouring "mouth" opens and closes. This is a nice nod to the original version, and something that might have been easily overlooked, so I congratulate the designers at Hasbro.

Tiny robot, bigass gun As mentioned above, Unicron comes with a Minicon of his own. Named "Dead End," this 'con suits his owner perfectly: if Unicron is a planet, then it just makes sense that his underling would be a moon. Measuring 1 1/4" in diameter, Dead End is a nice black and yellow sphere. The shape is marred only buy the large silver gun which, despite being movable, protrudes at all times. Dead End transforms into a robot just over 2" tall.

That's no moon! Actually, Dead End looks a great deal like the microphone moon pictured here next to the original prototype Unicron. How cool!

Really, this Unicron figure is everything fans could have ever wanted - well-designed, fun to play with and big enough to crush all resistance. The only thing potentially missing from this set is a tiny Autobot Matrix of Leadership, the one thing, the only thing capable of standing in his way, but that's from G1, not Armada, so its omission isn't any great oversight.

If not for the deregulation of advertising standards, there never would have been a Transformers tv show; if not for the show, there never would have been a feature movie; and if not for the movie, we would never have gotten the piece of beauty that is Unicron. Thank you, Ronald Reagan, for this bright spot in our otherwise screwed up childhoods.

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