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Transformers Classics
by yo go re

De plane, boss! De plane!

The mighty union of the five Aerialbots, Superion thinks of little else besides destroying any Decepticons he encounters, and protecting any innocent bystanders nearby. The robots that combine to form this powerful warrior are experienced teammates, working in tandem to see that the Autobots emerge victorious from the fire of the ancient war.

Superion was allegedly released as part of Universe/Classics 2.0, a Target-exclusive box set, equivalent to the way Devastator was a Wal*Mart exclusive during the original Classics line. But while finding Devvy was merely astoundingly difficult, finding the Classics 2.0 release of Superion was an epic impossibility. Basically, the thing never came out - it was released in Australia and Singapore, but that's it. Now it's been given a straight re-release in movie packaging. No paint changes, no accessory changes, nothing; just a different box.

This figure is a repaint of Superion Maximus, one of the three gestalts from Energon, so he follows the old "Scramble City" style of one large central "leader" and four smaller limbs. The Energon version was a bit problematic - his legs were harder to find than the rest of him, causing headaches for anyone trying to build the whole team. Thus, getting the whole thing in one shot? Good deal!

Surprisingly, this release's colors aren't quite as good as the Energon version. While that one stuck mainly to the red and white, with dalliances into black and bright blue, this new version is much more muted, offering pale gray and a desaturated red, with one lavender limb and another showing highlights of maroon/chocolate. Really? These toys are an excuse to take things a step up, not shuffle sideways. His malformed extremities are translucent plastic, done in various blues. He stands 9¾" tall, and moves at the neck, shoulders, waist, hips and knees. The shoulders, hips and knees have the same range of motion as balljoints, too - there's a bit of a problem, though, in that the peg intended to lock the waist together is too short, leaving him floppy.

Just as in G1, Silverbolt is the team leader. But rather than turning into a Concorde, he's some sort of futuristic SST, shaped more like an SR-71. The plane is 6¾" long and 6" wide, with three retractable landing struts. The plane's colors work fairly well, with the bright colors all restricted to the top surface, while the underside is mostly white and grey - that would suit a plane trying to blend into the sky.

The original Silverbolt had a very plain, straightforward conversion, but thankfully this version ignores that entirely. In fact, he's quite unlike most airplane TFs, in that he doesn't end up with wings sticking off his shoulders. It really is a complex process, but rewarding. The robot is 6¼" at his tallest point, and moves at the neck, shoulders, biceps, elbows, hips, thighs and knees. His torso ends up very hollow and his hands are buried in his forearms, but otherwise this is a decent robot mode.

There is one problem though, and it's been endemic every time this mold has been used: the legs are misassembled at the factory, causing several different problems: the robot can't bend his knees, the gestalt is weaker, and the altmode can't be formed properly. Honestly, if you don't fix the legs, you're likely to think this toy is a total hunk of ass. Basically you just need to unscrew the black thighs, switch them to the opposite legs, and close everything up again. Be careful, though, because there are some tiny springs in there (to make the ratchet joints work), and if they go flying, you'll never see them again: trust me, I speak from experience. Technically you need to switch the knees, too, but you'll need a special screwdriver to reach the sunken screws, so an easier fix is just to sand down the back of his knees, so the legs bend the proper direction.

We next move to the "small but fierce" Airazor. There was no Airazor in G1 (the name comes from Beast Wars), so this is probably an updated/renamed version of Slingshot, rather than a new character. The original Slingshot was a Harrier jet, but Airazor is instead based on the F-22 Raptor. Without any add-on weapons, the plane is 4½" long, has a 4" wingspan, and clears at 1¾" tall.

In robot mode, Airazor stands 4½" tall and moves at the neck, shoulders, elbows, hips and knees. Converting him is simple, with no real surprises, but that's not to say he's bad - the legs come out of the wings, instead of the center of the fuselage, and that's an unusual situation. He's mostly gray, with a bit of red and yellow on the torso, plus grey for the forearms and lower legs, making him look rather like he's wearing gloves and boots - and, judging by the placement of the grey nosecone, a banana hammock. The Airazor in Beast Wars was a girl, so maybe Slingshot was confused and this is just stage one in his lifestyle reassignment process. After all, we know the BW Silverbolt is the same as the Aerialbot Silverbolt, so maybe by the time we're in the future, G1 Slingshot will have become BW Airazor.

And speaking of confused robots, let's move on to "aerial strategy expert" Skydive, whose chosen altmode is a light purple A-10 Warthog. Ooooh, fancy! He originally turned into an F-16, which means he's gone from a fighter (ie, one-on-one combat) to an attacker (aimed at specific targets). Both planes have been in service about the same length of time, so the change is logical on that front, at least. The plane is more than 5" long and matches that number in width. The large rear-mounted engines bring it up to 2" tall.

Skydive's personality quirk was that he was the Aerialbots' resident bookworm, more likely to be found reading about flight and combat than actually engaging in either. Funny thing is that he was the most skilled flier of all the Transformers, but was simply too modest to realize just how good he was. Hey, at least that kept him from being a jerk about it. The robot design is more complex than it looks, and although he does get the usual "shoulder wings," the legs are particularly clever, being formed from the cockpit and nose gun of the plane. The small guns that were mounted under the plane end up on Skydive's head, where they can flip down in front of his eyes like goggles.

Superion's left leg is the "reckless divebomber," Air Raid. Originally another F-15, like Starscream and the rest of the Seekers, Classics Air Raid is now based on the F-22: yes, just like Slingshot/Airazor. Why? Because these Energon gestalts doubled up their designs. Only the paint sets them apart, with Air Raid being a dark grey, with black and a few red highlights.

Since this is a shared mold, the conversion is the same, and so is the robot mode. Same 4½" height, same nine points of articulation, all that. However, thanks to a few decent paint choices (such as the gold on his head highlighting the forehead instead of the brow) and a few bits of robot that can be positioned differently, the two don't look like identical twins.

Our suggestion is to flip the fins on his lower legs, and raise the tailfins from his hips to his shoulders. Those minor changes, though technically a mis-transformation, change the outline just enough that Air Raid and his twin will look similar, yet distinct. Small changes can add up, after all.

The final figure in this set is Fireflight, the "easily distracted daydreamer." By the process of elimination, you can probably guess that this is going to be another A-10 Thunderbolt. This is the one that's painted chocolate and maroon, which is better than lavender, but still not great. Especially garish are the yellow panels on the underside of the wings - no way would those escape detection.

You can't get as big a variation between Skydive and Fireflight as you can between Airazor and Air Raid - best you can really hope for is to fold the wings straight back and put the gun/visor down. You might be able to switch the lower legs, too: they're on balljoints, and theoretically the conversion should still work right. But really, the look is still clearly the same for both 'bots.

Each style of Aerialbot gets a specific weapon: the Warthogs have a single piece with a rounded top and two barrels; the Raptors have two double-sided guns that can attach with the use of a third plastic tab. The set includes four "Energon stars" color-coded to match the weapons: blue, sea blue, seafoam green and purple. It's up to you if you want each bot's star to match his weapon, or if you want to mix them up.

The weapons serve double-duty as Superion's hands and feet, but the function isn't as good here as it is on Devastator. If you really dislike the design, Fansproject, the same people behind the TFX-01 City Commander set and "TFX-ABT-01" ABT OP Upgrade kit, have an Aerial Team Appendage Add-On Kit that will change the assembly slightly and give him some real hands and feet. I don't have the set yet, so I can't speak to its quality, but I sure know I want one.

Straight off the shelf, this isn't a particularly good set. Devastator was a big step up from the previous use of the molds, but Superion doesn't have that advantage. The colors are only a minor improvement, and there are just some basic problems with the design of the toy. You have to perform surgery on Silverbolt to get him working properly, and to really bring the set up to par, you need to double the cost by buying an add-on kit. So based just on that, we can't recommend this five-pack. If you are aware of the shortcomings, though, and still want it, go ahead: we're just saying that this isn't one of those TFs that you pick up and gain a new appreciation for the artform. It's not fundamentally disappointing, but it's not one for everybody.

-- 09/08/09

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