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Astrotrain & Darkmoon

Transformers Titans Return
by yo go re

When the Titans Return (then called "Titan Wars") display was first seen at BotCon, one of the schematics showed what was clearly Astrotrain with Optimus Prime's head. That turned out to be Sentinel Prime, a pre-paint of this figure.

Astrotrain is a master at keeping his enemies guessing. He uses his Triple Changer ability to spread confusion. He shifts so rapidly between modes the Autobots can't tell if they're being attacked by one Decepticon or three. The Titan Master Darkmoon gives Astrotrain an even greater advantage: he has a cloaking mode that makes Astrotrain undetectable to Autobot sensors.

Like I said before, one of the reasons it's taken me a while to get into Titans Return is that most of the characters already had modern toys; Astrotrain is no exception. He was one of the first characters released in the 2007 Classics line, and while that toy wasn't spectacular, it definitely existed. And now here he is again.

There are a lot of impressive details in the sculpt. He has a powerful look, with wide shoulders, a broad chest, bulky forearms, and very large legs. But while the shape of the body is nice, the closer you look, the more little touches you'll see. Vents, support structures, little gaps in among all the sculpted panel lines... it's great work and makes the toy look awesome. He's done in the traditional Astrotrain colors: white (a very pale gray, in this case), black and purple. There are colored panels on his abdomen that seem to be intended to take the place of the missing wing panels, but to really do that they should be on his chest, not below it.

All the Titans Return figures have to have heads that are the same size, so Voyager Class figures like Astrotrain get pieces to flank the head to make it look more appropriately sized for the figure - in his case, purple pylons that mimic kibble from the G1 figure. The head itself is based on the animation model, which features two eyes instead of a visor, and a yellow stripe on top of the head.

In keeping with the Headmasters-style gimmick, Astrotrain's head can be rent from its socket and unfolded to become a 1⅜" robot. This is Darkmoon, an all-new character. Maybe he's related to Revengefallen and Ageextinction. Other than the face screwed to his back, this is the same mold as Infinitus, the Titan Master who came with Sentinel Prime - and looks exactly like Sentinel Prime looks in the comics. That doesn't make a ton of sense here, but as a new character, Darkmoon has no history or personality other than what you make up. Invent a reason.

Astrotrain comes with two purple guns, one of which is based on the '80s Ionic Displacer Rifle" and the other of which... is purple. They can combine into one gun emplacement that has a seat for Darkmoon (or any other Titan Master) to sit in. The combo can attach to any Leader Class figure's base mode, serving as a manned turret, or be held in the robot's hand.

As a Triple Changer, Astrotrain has two altmodes. And as usual, we'll review them in the order of his name.

Converting Astrotrain to a space shuttle is exceedingly simple: remove the head, turn the legs sideways, and unfold some flaps. Honestly, that's almost all it takes. Lay down to altmode. The shuttle is an alien design, not one meant to disguise him on Earth, so it's broad and flat until we get to the back, when it then suddenly pops up a bit with a little canopy for Darkmoon to sit in.

Again, the level of detail in the surface sculpt is outstanding, making this toy look spectacular. Or at least way better than it has any right to. There are tons of miniscule details - doors, windows, hatches - that really sell the scale; it's not the 8" long toy you've got sitting in front of you, it's a massive space vehicle that would be gigantic if we saw humans in relation to it.

Converting to a train is a little more complex, though it's still pretty easy to predict just by looking at the robot. Spread legs to altmode. Instead of an old-fashioned steam engine, or a futuristic bullet train, he's a squarish diesel number. Granted, it's buried under a massive white cow-catcher and some other black armor, but it's there. Again, tiny ladders, tiny doors, tiny wheels... the sculptural elements are what sell the scale, so kudos to whoever sculpted it.

Unfortunately, the toy doesn't stop there. What we've described, we've shown you, is really just a portion of this mode. The full thing is more than twice the size, with guns on top, an entire second engine being pulled behind, and a center section that's clearly just a pair of folded-down shuttle wings. This is a "train" in the same way Energon Omega Supreme was a "train." This would be a stronger toy if they'd found a way for it to just turn into a train engine, rather than doubling up and armoring up.

Writing this review made me like Titans Return Astrotrain more than I did before, mainly because of the sculpting and design that went onto the surface of the toy, rather than the design and engineering that went into the substance of the toy. It's not that it's a bad toy, it's just disappointing. How disappointing? Tell you later.

-- 12/20/16

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