The Transformers Classics line is pretty much a glorified placeholder. Cybertron is over and the movie tie-ins won't be here for a few more months, so Hasbro needed something on shelves. Their answer was a line of G1-inspired toys that will introduce the original characters to new, younger fans. And what would any TF line be without Optimus Prime and Megatron?
Long before the dawn of man on Earth, the war between Autobots and Decepticons raged. Two titans - huge metal warriors, each committed to total victory - emerged as leaders. Optimus Prime, wise, just and gentle, despite having strength enough to move mountains, took command of the Autobot forces, hoping to lead his people to peace and freedom. Megatron, an evil, destructive tyrant bent on total domination of the universe and all its resources, led his Decepticons on an endless war of conquest. For millions of years their battle has raged like fire across the galaxy, and now they are here on Earth in a fight that will determine the fate of the planet and all its people.
Actually, the line has two Primes and Megatrons. First are the big deluxe "Voyager Class" ones, which are nice enough, but a bit expensive. Or, for the price of only one of those, you can can get both characters (and a DVD) in the Ultimate Battle box set.
The Ultimate Battle Optimus Prime is actually closer to his G1 roots than the normal release.
He's specifically designed to look like the original toy. Not "a little bit like it," entirely like it. Like Masterpiece Prime, he splits the difference between the G1 toy and cartoon, leaning a little more toward the animated side. Because the toy looked like crap.
Optimus Prime is 5½" tall, and moves at the ankles, knees, thighs, hips, chest, elbows, biceps, shoulders and neck. His "waist" plays a part in his transformation, but then gets locked in place. His chest joint is due to an action feature: press the button on his back and he twirls about with "power punch action," according to the box. The tab clicks into place to keep the chest from spinning, but it can be very hard to push it in initially and to pull it back out to the locked position. It's not a great action feature, so you'll probably want to leave him locked most of the time.
The sculpt does a great job of capturing the idea of Optimus Prime. He looks a lot like Robotmasters Convoy, from the Japanese-exclusive line of small-scale, highly playable figures from 2004.
But the similarity is only because they're both based on the same source - UB Prime is entirely new. He's got the classic chest, with the cab windows as his pecs and smokestacks out on his shoulders. Actually, one of the shoulders has sculpted wires, while the other is smooth. It seems likely that the designers were expecting an Autobot symbol would be stamped on there, but now it just looks blank. The waist actually captures the blocky, angled look that the toys never seemed to be able to duplicate. His legs are really detail-heavy, with stuff never seen before, but it works.
The body details can certainly change,
but what makes a Prime a Prime is his head. You've gotta have the helmet with a crest on the forehead and antennae over the ears, and you've gotta have the big, smooth faceplate - that's why so many fans were unhappy with the Cybertron Prime, since he had a mouth for some reason. This one, however, is total G1. The face is a little flat, but not terribly so. His eyes are light-piped, glowing a cornflower blue or periwinkle when there's a light behind him.
Prime has a rifle, but it's not his usual model. It somewhat resembles a Tommy gun, with a drum mazazine underneath. It actually transforms right along with the robot, becoming a mounted machine gun, the kind you might see in the back of a military jeep. Transformed, it can rotate and elevate to aim at any enemy. Interestingly, the handle on the gun is the same dimension as an Armada Mini-Con port, for whatever that's worth.
The transformation is pretty much what you'd expect, with one or two little tricks. The legs and feet form the back of the truck, and the arms form the sides. His head doesn't get covered when it fold down into the body, which always seems lazy. At least you can furn his face around so he's not staring at the sky. The gag is that the whole cab needs to be turned around.
The front wheel wells are what form his "ribs," and they're spring-loaded to fold down when you slide the hips forward and move them into place.
The truck is 5½" long, and features six free-rolling wheels. The gun mounts between what were previously the robot's knees. The vehicle looks pretty good, but it does have its flaws. One is the fact that his head remains visible, as we said. Another is that the front of the truck seems to be squashed in a bit. Prime's supposed to be a COE - "cab over engine" - but this is a bit much. It's more "cab over empty air." Looking in through the windshield, you can see the seats inside.
You ever wonder why we get "Optimus Prime," while Japan gets "Convoy?" It's because of GIJoe. See, after Hasbro had such huge success getting Marvel Comics to come up with personalities and backgrounds for their GIJoe characters, they went back to the well for their second big property, the Transformers. Longtime Batman editor Denny O'Neil came up with the name "Optimus Prime," while Bob Budiansky named Megatron.
Transformers Classics is a landmark, the first line in twenty years to honor Megatron's G1 origins as a handgun. But that's the Voyager Class version - the Ultimate Battle set draws from something else.
In 1993, Hasbro introduced a new Megatron for Generation 2, and this one was a tank. UB Megatron has a lot of references to the G2 version, but improves upon them all.
Megatron stands 5¾" tall and moves at the ankles, knees, thighs, hips, waist, neck, shoulders, biceps, left elbow and right wrist. While Prime's action feature spun his whole chest around, Megatron's is housed in his arm. You can turn the cannon into a "spinning battle blade," if you so choose. The button that conrols it is on his right forearm. Of course, if you don't rotate the weapon down into "blade" configuration, then you've got the classic G1 "blaster on the forearm" look. Sweet!
Unlike Optimus, Megatron isn't supposed to directly invoke a previous figure,
though there are no shortages of subtle parallels between this version and the G2. His chest is still the front of the tank, and his arms still form the turret. The tank treads still run down the outside of his legs, but this time there's no armor on the fronts. Of course, the original figure was rather smooth, all over - this one has a lot more intricate detail. The head, of course, looks perfect, and features red light-piped eyes.
There's a slight problem with the figure that you might not even notice. If you do, it won't be until you try to transform him. We'll get to that in a moment. G2 Megatron couldn't actually turn his turret, because of the way the figure's arms folded up, but this figure fixes that. The arms actually attach to a thin plate which rotates freely, rather than directly to the figure's body. The arms cover the head, leaving us with a plain turret, and the legs form the back half of the tank. So what's the problem?
His feet are on backwards.
You can't really tell by looking at the figure, since the feet extend both in front and in back of the legs, but when you go to transform him, the problem becomes clear: the feet are supposed to rotate all the way back and up onto the top of the tank - assembled backwards, they stick out behind. It's easy enough to fix: just undo two screws on each leg and swap the feet. It probably won't even take five minutes.
The tank is 5¾" long,
and rolls on small wheels in the tank treads. The turret rotates 180º and the barrel can raise or lower. Megatron's handgun, reminiscent of the G2 accessory, can plug into the roof, and it has a fold-out stock for when he's in robot mode. The tank is a nice, dark green, with a surprising bit of copper around the top. The big patch of gray in the front stands out a bit. This figure would have benefited from being all-gray: Megatron's G1 colors.
The Ultimate Battle set also includes a DVD that features a half-hour look at the fight between the Autobots and the Decepticons. Unfortunately, though the set is obviously G1-inspired, the DVD is footage culled mainly from the Unicron Trilogy - Armada, Energon and Cybertron. There's one brief glimpse of dying robots that's either from G1 or the movie, but that's it.
I resisted this set for a while, until a "buy two get one free" sale tipped me in its favor. Now I'm sorry I waited so long. Both these figures are really good, and the fact that you're getting both commanders for one price is always a bonus. I mainly bought the Ultimate Battle set for Optimus Prime, but Megatron is great, as well. I've said before that the only time Megatron ever worked as a tank was in The War Within comic series, but this particular figure has proved that wrong.
Do you like these two or the Voyager class versions? Tell us on our message board, the Loafing Lounge.