Hasbro and Takara have done a great job of playing to the nostalgic fanboys with their recent Transformers lines, and that's not just Alternators. There have been a lot of refernces to the G1 Robots in Disguise ever since the toys finally moved away from those silly animals and back to vehicles. But despite all that love, there's at least one classic Decepticon who's never basked in the warm, loving glow of a modern update: Soundwave.
Soundwave's problem was his alternate form. It's different than Megatron and Soundwave, for instance, who can't get a straight re-release because of new laws regarding toy guns. It's also different than Jetfire and Omega Supreme, who were based on designs leased from other companies. No, Soundwave's problem was just more mundane: the world outgrew him.
In the '80s, Soundwave turned into a cassette player.
Cassette players, of course, were what we had before you kids and your iPods. Pretty hard to update that - it's not like a CD player would make for a good robot or anything. So while all his Decepticon brothers-in-arms made eventual returns to the toy aisles, Soundwave was left out in the cold. Until now.
Appearing at the tail-end of the Cybertron line, Soundwave follows the path set by so many other Decepticons: he turns into a plane. Specifically, some sort of advanced stealth bomber. The radar-baffling angles are present and accounted for, and the dark blues will help it hide at night. The way the toy is constructed means that there seems to be a lot of empty space in the rear fuselage, but that's less of an error than a lot of Transformers have.
The gimmick of Cybertron is that the figures have key-activated play features. Oh, yippee. In Soundwave's case, plug in his big orange key and the plane's bomb bay opens, dropping a hexagonal cylinder on the ground below. It's nice and all, but it would be a lot better without the key controlling it. The plane has real rolling wheels and a little pilot's seat inside the cockpit. As far as recent Transformers go, this is a slightly above-average vehicle mode.
But let's face it, you're here for the robot, not for the plane. Any time a Transformer's robot form isn't readily apparent from looking at the vehicle (and vice versa), it's a good thing, and there's almost nothing on the plane that's a giveaway to what's waiting inside. Slide back the canopy and fold out the sides of the plane to become legs. The arms fold out of the interior, and the whole thing flips around to form a body. It's an impressive transformation, and easy enough to master.
One glance at the robot and you can tell this really is our old favorite, Soundwave.
If the general design wasn't enough to convince you, then just look at his head (that blue helmet, that metallic faceplate) or the big yellow block that rests across his chest. Even his shoulders and feet are the same shapes, and the designs on his abdomen look vaguely like the tape player's buttons. He's gray in the same places, blue in the same places... it's him! Huzzah!
The wings of the plane don't go anywhere in robot form, leaving him with some major kibble. On the plus side, they're also completely symmetrical, so he doesn't look unbalanced - Soundwave looks like a robot with wings, not like a robot with half a plane sticking out of his tailpipe. The arms have some distracting kibble in the form of the cockpit (left arm) and nosecone (right).
Soundwave is 7" tall (9" if you count the wings) and articulated at the neck, shoulders, biceps, elbows, hips, knees and ankles. Even his weapons are throwbacks to the old days: one gun, one shoulder-mounted cannon, both of which are somewhat tube-shaped. See, the instructions never mentioned it, but on the G1 toy, Soundwave's weapons turned into batteries that could be stored in the back of the tape player. Now they fit under the plane, either as weapons or fuel tanks. Brilliant!
The final fun nod to G1 is his chest. Remember how the key dropped the plane's bomb? Well, that hatch is now the robot's chest - it opens, and out pops Laserbeak!
He's not a cassette tape any more, but as sure as the big guy is Soundwave, this is Laserbeak. The bomb turns into a bird, with shoulder-mounted guns and all. He's much more poseable than the G1 version ever was, of course, with ankles, hips and a neck, plus several joints in his wings. A peg on his underside allows him to rest on Soundwave's shoulder, or at least the tip of the big guy's wing. So very cool!
Soundwave is a definite classic -
it was his head that became the Decepticon symbol, just like Prowl was the Autobots' - so it's great that Hasbro finally found a way to update him. A lot of effort went into making both Soundwave and Laserbeak excellent toys with lots of nice throwbacks to the G1 figures that inspired them.
Who's your favorite Decepticon sub-commander? Tell us on our message board, the Loafing Lounge.