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Screen Battles: First Encounter

Transformers
by yo go re

Though Hasbro initially had some trouble getting enough Transformers merchandise into stores to satisfy demand, they did their best to keep the popular characters on shelves in one form or another. Repaints were one way of doing it; big "Screen Battles" multi-packs were another.

Against the combined assault of Barricade and Frenzy, a pair of humans has no chance of survival. robot foreplay is a bit more vigorous than Sam is used to And yet, Sam and Mikaela are faced with exactly those odds. The monstrous robots demand that Sam surrender the ancestral artifacts, forcing Sam to try playing for time while he figures out what to do. Little do the two humans know that even as they slowly back away from almost certain doom, Sam's secret protector Bumblebee races to the scene to rescue them.

Barricade was, of course, available by himself, but since he was one of the main Decepticons, finding him proved pretty tough. Didn't hurt that in buying him, you were actually getting two bots - Barricade and his little buddy, Frenzy.

Original plans called for the movie to include Prowl, police car but Michael Bay liked the idea of making the police car evil to undermine expectations. And while most of the Autobots were officially licensed GM automobiles, Barricade is a Ford. Specifically, a Saleen S281 - a modified Mustang. Since Saleen kitbashed the concept Bumblebee, including one of their "standard" vehicles in the film is a nice nod.

The Barricade in this set is pretty much the same as the standard release, which is nice. The majority of the car is black, though the doors are white and the windows are clear; detailing well, except the rear window, which is solid black. He has red and blue roof lights, and police markings all around - including the "to punish and enslave" slogan on the back. Awesome! There are a few decos missing when you compare the toy to the real car, but nothing major. They're missing on the solo release, too. There's a crash bar on the front grill, since a police car needs more protection up there, and the Saleen logo is sculpted into the rear bumper.

Barricade Transformation isn't bad, but like a lot of modern TFs, his instructions fail to mention a few things. It's all minor stuff - it's not like they don't tell you how to transform his arms or something - but it adds up. For instance: the car panels and wheels on his shoulders are on balljoints, so you can pose them like they are in the movie; his hands have two joints, so that the thumb and fingers can both be pulled away from the taillights to make his hands more distinct; and the spikes on his feet can fold up to match the movie render.

In robot mode, vauely Decepticonish Barricade's head tops out at 5½" high, but the kibble poking up off his shoulders takes him up to 6¾". His head actually looks like a more organic the Decepticon symbol, another tie (along with his partnership with Frenzy) to G1 Soundwave. The car's hood is retained almost entirely in robot mode, which is disappointing, but the limbs are rounded and mechanical. The black body is broken up by a bit or purple and silver, and his face is golden.

pinchy Barricade doesn't have any Automorph features, but he does have an action feature: press the small triger on his left arm, and the hand pops forward. It's supposed to suggest the way he could turn his arm into a flail, but it's just annoying. Thankfully, it doesn't get in the way of any of the articulation, so you can just ignore it. Sadly, we don't get the "blender hands" he threatened Sam with when they first met.

engine block Like the standard release, Barricade has Frenzy folded up inside his chest. Unlike the standard release, there's a sturdy plastic tab jammed in there keeping you from removing Frenzy. What? Why? If you want to free Frenzy, you'll have to remove four screws on the undercarriage, Frenzy and his bar pry the top and bottom halves of the car apart, and quickly yank the figure out before the pieces come back together. Way to go, Hasbro.

The Frenzy figure is the same mold as the regular toy, just molded in solid black plastic and not painted (since you're not spposed to take him out). He stands 3" tall and moves at the neck, shoulders and hips. There's some nice robot detailing on the little guy, but you can't really see it since he's all-black. The Japanese version of this set doesn't have the stupid restrictor plate, so their Frenzy works the way he's supposed to.

Most of these Screen Battles sets include one Frenzy Deluxe TF and three pvc human figures. The "First Encounter" set keeps that trend alive, somewhat. It still offers three pvcs, but only two of them are human. See, we may not be able to remove the transforming Frenzy, but we do get an unposeable figurine of him. Woo. On the plus side, he's painted up well, has lots of sculpted detail and gets a more dynamic pose than any other toy version of the character, so that has to be worth something. The scale is a bit off, since he's the same general size as a human - he should only be about two feet tall at the most.

Frenzy's pose works so nicely because we have his quarry, ladiesman217. Er, sorry, Sam Witwicky. Run, Mutt! Sam was the winner of a generations-long sperm/egg lottery system that resulted in him coming into possession of eyeglasses that revealed the location of the All Spark cube. When the Decepticons discovered that, finding him and forcing him to give up the eBay item 21153 became top priority. Showing the kind of bravery that his blind, raving great-grandfather would have been proud of, Sam is running away. He's sprinting bravely over a collapsed fence, and has not yet valiantly sacrificed his pants in an effort to ensure his escape. Showing that his fight-or-flight response isn't entirely mis-wired, there are several large tears in the back of his shirt, one even going all the way through his second shirt to expose his skin.

Since Sam's not about to save his own skin, Mikaela this set includes someone to do it for him. And boy, if anybody does it for Sam, it's Mikaela Banes, ultra-hot daughter of a so-so car thief. After all, if he was a good car thief, he wouldn't have gotten caught. Anyway, while she may look like the typical jock arm candy, she's actually self-confident and doesn't dumb herself down to win favor with the boys. And far from being a damsel in distress, when the world goes crazy and a robotic chicken starts chasing her new friend Sam, she grabs a reciprocating saw from the tool shed and chops the damn thing's head off. Technically this figure should see Mikaela wearing her fashionable jean jacket, but who's going to complain that Megan Fox has too little clothing on?

The Screen Battles sets are sold in angular boxes with a large bubble to show off the dynamically posed figures inside. First Encounter The back of the tray features a full-panel diorama specific to the set: in this case, it's the factory/railyard/gravel pit where Barricade and Bumblebee's apparently day-long chase ended up. Remember, the whole thing started in the morning while Sam was on the phone with his friend Miles, and it was dark by the time it finished. Bumblebee is printed on the back of the diorama, sliding down a small hill and aiming his blaster somewhere above Barricade's head. This set hasn't undergone the Photoshop trickery the Final Stand set did, but it's still nice.

The "First Encounter" Screen Battles set is nice, if you want figures of Sam and Mikaela, but its coolness factor is brought way down by the way they neutered Barricade and Frenzy. If all you want is the evil Decepticon police car, then skip this set and get the Premium Series repaint that was available at the tail-end of the line. The transformation is exactly the same, but the paint apps are much better, both in car mode and on the robot.


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