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Transformers: Prime
by yo go re

Most villains in '80s cartoons were big jokes, so it's hard to take them and make a genuinely threatening update. So when it works, it deserves special mention.

Megatron began his life as a gladiator, built to fight in the brutal darkness of the Kaon pits. It was there that he learned that the strong survive and the weak perish, and there that he became determined to be the strongest of all. His conquest began there, and has since burned its way across the universe.

One of the "First Edition" Transformers: Prime releases was going to be a two-pack of Optimus Prime and Megatron, along with the kids from the show. I tried to get one, but all my Canadian contacts fell through (lousy limited distribution!), so I finally accepted defeat and bought the regular Voyager Class release. Let's find out if he's worth it:

Prime was intended to be closer to the live-action films than Animated was, so Megatron takes his cues from that. His armor is hooked and pointed (particularly visible on the shoulders), and appears to be encasing a smaller robot inside. His toes are spikes, and he has sharp fingers. There are translucent purple panels all over his body, allowing light to shine through (which is what makes him a Powerizer - as Sprocket discovered at this year's Toy Fair, "Powerizer" is a gimmick, not a size class, as was initially assumed).

There are a few G1-inspired details, as well: the legs look like pistol grips, and the head is covered in the same sort of helmet (though it's much more stylized). His silver face is incredibly creepy. He looks like a cross between an ape and a snake, and you can tell just by looking at him that he's one evil emeffer. Terrific design that sells the character.

Megatron is armed with a giant cannon that plugs into his right arm. Well, technically it plugs into either arm, but you know which side it belongs on. If you push the button on the back, a red light swings down, illuminating the translucent parts of his arm. At the same time, two blades swing forward, turning the gun into a sword. You can pull the blades forward manually, if you want it to stay a sword. He also comes with a melee weapon that seems to be a cross between a knife and brass knuckles. The design on it is very similar to his fingers, suggesting it's actually his hand transformed.

Converting Megatron is challenging. You have to flip over his shoulder-spikes, turn the arms around to the outside, raise up the back (which will take the arms with it), split the chest armor and drop it down to the waist, turn the legs to the inside, pry open a panel to form wings, and fold the entire thing in half.

Megatron's altmode is no longer a tank, but is instead a spaceship/plane thing inspired by the movie. For you Trekkies out there, it kind of looks like a Klingon Bird of Prey. There are hooked wings with a 7¾" span, then a thin neck connecting to a larger bulb in the front. The robot's head pokes out the top, which is just poor design, but is also accurate to the show model. In other words, don't blame Hasbro. The vehicle is the same pale gray as the robot, though the purple (both painted and translucent) is more prominent.

The cannon and the hand-spikes can be combined into one weapon, and mounted on top of the vehicle. The light-up feature (and by extension, the moving blade dealie) remains intact, and can funtion perfectly well eithout getting in the way of anything on the plane. The knob that holds the weapon here can also be used to stow it in robot mode as well, if you don't want it on his arm for some reason.

TF Prime Megatron is a great villain, and this toy does a decent job of living up to that. Honestly, I still wish I could have gotten the First Edition set, but since I picked up this figure on sale I'm not going to complain. He's fairly accurate to the show in both modes, and fun to play with.

-- 04/17/12

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