Every so often, Hasbro releases a nice two-pack of Optimus Prime and Megatron. They did it for Energon, they did it for Classics, they did it for Titaniums, and now they've done it for Transformers Animated, as well.
Until now, Optimus Prime never thought he would come face to face with Megatron. The legendary villain was thought to be long ago deactivated, but on Cybertron his power and his evil are still feared. He knows that to face Megatron is to face his own mortality. Megatron, on the other hand, does not know who this young Autobot is, and does not care. All he knows is that the AllSpark is under this fool's protection. If he will not give it up, Megatron will tear him apart to get it.
This set is a bit odd - Prime's in his Earth mode, but Megatron is still Cybertronian. That's sure to make some fanboy's head explode, since the two were never in these modes at the same time. But who cares? If the toys are good, that's all that matters.
Optimus Prime is, of course, fairly reminiscent of his G1 incarnation; Transformers Animated is rife with homages. His chest is a windshield, his abdomen looks like a grill, and his blue shins connect to gray thighs, all that. It's not so much that they were trying to copy or update the original Prime, but more like G1 Optimus was some sort of platonic ideal to strive for.
The robot is only about 6" tall, but that's fine: this is a Deluxe-sized toy, so he shouldn't be much huger. The design intends Prime to stand with his knees bent slightly, which you can tell because of the way his feet align. He has swivels and hinges at the knees,
balljointed hips, elbows and shoulders, plus a little more: his wrists and ankles are hinged, but that's just for transformation; the head can swivel, but it's blocked by the neck; plus, he has a waist, but it's got a spring-loaded action feature.
The sculpt isn't entirely true to the cartoon, but it's close.
He actually seems to split the difference between the Cybertton-mode and Earth-mode versions of the character, with wheels on his shoulders and his arms formed from the back of the cab rather than the sides. He has tires on his heels, but they're not low enough that he can roll on them. He's painted up with battle damage, which basically amounts to some black lightning bolts/cracks on his waist, chest, right shoulder and face. Prime's got his classic mouthplate, which is only around part of the time on the show.
Transformers Animated draws a real distinction between Autobots and Decepticons: the 'bots were originally workers, while the 'cons were war machines. That's why the Decepticons all use actual gun-type weapons, while the Autobots use things that are more akin to tools. Optimus' weapon is an axe, which he can hold in either hand. Surprisingly,
out of all the various Optimus Prime figures available in the Animated line, this one has the most accurate axe of the bunch.
Prime's transformation is not what you'd expect. It's the small things that make a difference, like the windshield raising up on a pivot, rather than the head lowering down somehow. The arms don't fold over the wheels, and instead of being the waist, the bumper folds out from behind the chest. The axe stores on the back of the truck, but it's never really disguised.
The truck is 5¼" long, and features six free-rolling wheels.
Its design is a bit more of a G1 homage than the cartoon, oddly enough, with smokestacks on the back and no black beneath the silver stripe. On the show, Optimus gets his altmode from a firetruck, much like he did in Robots in Disguise, but that doesn't mean he is a firetruck. Though we've seen him hauling that kind of trailer, he's also pulled a G1 homage container and the back half of a dumptruck, meaning he's actually a semi-truck designed to work with any number of generic trailers.
Optimus Prime may be a G1 homage, but Megatron is more like the movie. After all, turning into a gun just wouldn't fly. So to speak. And though Meggy may not turn into exactly the same sort of... thing that the movie version did, he's still some sort of crazy alien vehicle.
Megatron stands 6" tall, though in the show he seems to be about twice the size of Prime. Plenty of movement here, with joints at the knees, hips, elbows, biceps, shoulders and neck. He has the same spring-twist waist as the Optimus he's packaged with, so at least they can fight it out together. He does have the large fusion cannon on his right arm, which wasn't a movie feature,
and it can also convert into a sword of sorts: fold it in half, swing the blade around so both halves are on one side, and lock it in position.
The general shape of Megatron's body recalls the G1 animated version,
with a large grey chest and thick black legs. He's also got a "battle damaged" paint app, though his is inexplicably metallic pink. ¿Como? You could almost understand the black on Prime, but pink? Wow. His upper arms are translucent red, matching his light-piped eyes. His pointy helmet is inspired by an early design for the movie version of Megatron. That design was eventually scrapped, but lives on through Animated Megatron. Yay!
You have to remove the cannon to convert Megatron from robot to space... thing. His chest and arms become the front of the ship, while his legs become the back. Maybe. Some people are apparently confused about which way is forward. Perhaps these are the same people who couldn't figure out if Ravage was a panther or a wolf. You know... morons.
Megatron's Cybertronian form was only seen for about 20 seconds, yet it gets two distinctly different toys in the line.
Neither looks anything like what we saw on the show, amusingly. He turns into a sort of double-prop hovercraft, which is sort of shaped like the Serenity from Firefly - if you squint really hard and don't look directly at it. Whatever the source, it's a neat design, and definitely looks like something extraterrestrial. The craft is more than 7½" long, 2¾" tall and 5½" wide, and has three rolling wheels on the bottom. In this mode, the trans red elbows almost serve as headlights. Unfortunately, all the screws holding the legs together end up visible on top of the vehicle, which kind of mars the design.
The Battle Begins set is a great way to get both Autobot and Decepticon leaders in one shot. The set gives us two fully unique toys as well as a DVD, and costs the same as one Voyager class figure. No, neither of these figures is entirely show-accurate, but they are fun and well-designed, and really, that's what Transformers are all about.