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Transformers ROTF
by Artemis

It's true that quantity has a quality all its own, but that only applies to really big quantities. Thus, even though Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen gave us not just the single fembot we were denied in the first movie but rather three of them, it still wasn't much consolation given how little they got to do. Then again, all the robots who did get substantial parts were shown to be senile (Jetfire), imbeciles (the racial stereotype twins), violently psychotic (Optimus Prime), or so bereft of ideas that they were killing time doing a dramatic reading of the script to Star Wars (Megatron and The Fallen).

Chromia is tough as nails, and always spoiling for a fight. She's been friends with Ironhide for centuries, and their reunion on Earth was one of the high points of the war for both of them. Now, they work side-by-side, hunting and destroying Decepticons. Neither of them has ever been happier. The two robots make great partners, and she, along with her sisters, are an invaluable part of the team.

If that sounds like it's being suggestive of something between Chromia and ol' Dogbane, it's not just the current copy text guy having a creative flourish: back in Gee One, the pair were presented as "life partners," meaning exactly what it sounds like. Since she missed out on the main gig of being "the girl" in the old cartoon Chromia never had the fame of Arcee, but she's managed to pop up here and there despite only having one episode to cop off with Ironhide in the cartoon - and let's face it, it's not like there are a lot of named female Transformers - so she wound up on the short list when Michael Bay decided he didn't like this group-mind triple-Arcee idea his writers had come up with (seriously, that was the bit of the script he thought needed work?) and sent them to go scrounge up another couple of names.

[Not quite: they're still a groupmind in the movie; it was Hasbro that wanted more names --ed.]

One bit of work you can't fault 'em for, though, is coming up with three designs for the three Arcees - back in G1 they'd have been identical for sure, the better to make cheap repaint toys. And whether out of goodwill to all fembot fans, or just because they weren't left with much choice, Hasbro has played ball and produced a Chromia entirely distinct from her forerunner sister. In altmode she's a Suzuki B-King, a naked sport bike - don't get excited, it just means there's no fairing on the front - that's actually a bit smaller in overall volume to Arcee herself, but looks chunkier thanks to the wide body (somewhat inaccurate, to accommodate transformation) and the big air intakes. Her main colour is blue, but it's not a very bright blue, and with so much black bodywork around it's really only the silver suspension and exhausts, a couple of light grey parts, and a quartet of "tattoos," that lighten her up. She also has a silver Autobot logo on her seat, but to be fair to her grasp of concealment, that'd be under the backside of her holographic rider.

Like Arcee, Chromia's unicycle robot mode means she needs a stand, which pulls double duty as a gun module for her cycle mode - in this case, mounting a rotary cannon on one side and some kind of heavy blaster on the other. Unlike Arcee's dwarfish sidecar, Chromia's gun pod doesn't bother trying to be anything other than what it is, and just plugs in atop the exhausts to fire over the handlebars. It's not very elegant looking as weapons go, and its unpainted black plastic is far from convincing as a piece of technology, but on the plus side at least it doesn't stand out as daft like the sidecar did.

Transformation... oh boy. Like Arcee it's a complicated and sometimes inelegant process, but it really had to be to achieve the reconfiguration necessary. Unlike Arcee there is a knack to her, and she makes sense once you have it - the main trick is to realize that the instructions are not just imprecise and difficult to read, but flat out wrong in a couple of key areas, and thereafter just try to wing it from the photos. Essentially, the main body of the bike splits in half, swings out in front of the remaining frame, reconnects to form the torso and arms, and the remaining bike spine then reconfigures to become the weird leg-unipod-wheel thing; where the instructions get it wrong is in leaving the bike seat down over the "foot" wheel, when it should be folded into the spine above it - there's even a catch up there to hold it in place.

(There's also a weird chunk of something that folds out of her "leg" that doesn't seem to correspond to anything on the CGI model, or do anything for the toy - presumably it's involved with the combiner mode the three bikes are rumoured to have. Arcee had a similar piece sticking out of her back - they're some kind of socket, so either Flareup Elita-1 is going to have plugs built into her, or there's going to be some kind of central "hub" piece that all three will attach to.)

At any rate, once you've worked out what on Earth you're supposed to be doing with her, Chromia isn't a bad approximation of her movie form - there are liberties taken, to be sure (much larger shoulder armour, a simplified weapon-arm, and some random kibble being the main offenders) but she manages not to have anything hugely inaccurate anywhere it's hugely obvious, so she avoids looking as off-model as Arcee. She's a spindly, strange-looking thing, but she's supposed to be, and while I can't quite pin down the reason why, I have to say I've grown to like her a bit, once the initial weirdness of her form wore off.

Her face is a lot easier on the eyes, for one thing - she's still not what you'd call "feminine," at least not to compare to the G1 fembots, but mid-blue makes a much better base colour to put silver paint over than hot pink does, the point being driven home further when you realize that the head is the exact same sculpt, just recoloured. Her arms are also a vast improvement - where Arcee had one mucked up by a bulky "sword" module and the other wrapped up in a kibble sandwich, Chromia has one dedicated gun arm, with the other relatively unobscured, with its kibble stuck on more unobtrusively on the outer forearm, like armour. And while Arcee's lower body duplicated the shape of the real thing's serpentine "waist", the articulation down there was a mess - Chromia's lower body may be blockier and, relatively speaking, less accurate to CG, but at least it's not a chore to work with (once you know where to ignore the instructions).

Said lower body has a couple of joints in it - one a hinge at the rear of the "foot" wheel (call it an ankle), and two more more-or-less hinges in the middle section, at either end of the twin grey rods supporting her upper body; there's also a balljoint mount for the headlight pod, on which the handlebars swivel around. Above the sternum she's more traditionally jointed, with a balljoint mounted on a forward-backward tilting neck, ball shoulders, swivel biceps, and double peg elbows - one the standard elbow axis, the other sideways, which is weird but kind of useful, especially in accommodating the bulky weapon arm. Speaking of that, it's got the requisite "mech-alive" gizmo built into it, where moving the elbow joint also moves a rod that slides a techy-looking panel through the weapon. Pointless, but it doesn't really impede the joint. Oh, and the big wheel above her head is on a swivel as well.

The gun pod serves its intended purpose in keeping Chromia upright, plugging securely into the lower wheel - again, the plain black makes it less obtrusive than Arcee's garish sidecar, so that's a minor plus. The weapon arm is her main gun, though, with a spring-loaded missile launcher into it that fires the clear missile stuck between the exhausts.

Overall, her one weakness relative to Arcee is the lack of that purpose-sculpted (if annoying to use) mid-section - that part of Chromia doesn't really look like her CGI model. In all other respects though, she's the superior toy: a bit more fluid to transform (relatively speaking), not so frustrating to pose and play with, and despite the weirdness she inherits from her original design, better looking in a lot of ways. Failing any monumental design disaster I'd resigned myself to getting all three RotF bikes anyway, but after Arcee I didn't feel that enthused when I spotted Chromia on the shelves - now, I'm a bit happier, so call it a cautious victory for Hasbro.

-- 09/29/09

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