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Sunstreaker & Sideswipe

Transformers Classics
by yo go re

As you know, here on OAFE we consider "batch" reviews to be utter crap. Throwing separate releases (no matter how related) into one post is unimaginative and just plain lazy. "Oh, I'm going to review half of the newest series of DC Classics all at once!" Yeah? Then you're doing it wrong. Today we're going to make a rare exception to that rule, in honor of the original Autobot Twins, Sideswipe and Sunstreaker.

Sunstreaker is a fighter for a cause, and that cause is Sunstreaker. If it's not in his best interest (and not too threatening to his paint job), he'll take out anyone he needs to, no matter where he is. Still, he'd rather be back home, kicking back, polishing his chrome and preparing for a good, old-fashioned arena fight, rather than hunting Decepticon assault squads across deep space.

In the '80s, Sunstreaker was a yellow Lamborghini. These days Hasbro and Takara would have to pay licensing if they wanted the real vehicle design, so the new Sunstreaker is the STBLDF equivalent. It's low and angular, all smooth panels and sleek lines. There are layered panels on the back, and a rear spoiler. Sunstreaker's dominant feature in G1 was the large, exposed engine that rose out of the back of the vehicle - that's here as well, albeit in a slightly smaller and much more detailed form. It has scoop air intakes, a vent fan, and other enginey apparatus.

The heaviest area of detail is the back end of the car. There are four oval lights with a line running through the centers. Behind those are more horizontal lines, and below that, a sort of cross-hatched mesh with a thick frame. He has a printed license plate, "WE R 84" - a nod to the year Transformers began. Very cool. Oh, and you can even see the car's exhaust pipes; suck it, Hot Shot!

When I first got Sunstreaker, I had some trouble converting him. There were a few things on the instructions that were unclear, and some I just misinterpreted. Now that I've got the hang of it, though, changing him is easy enough. Hasbro really fell in love with "dramatic head reveals" for Universe 2.0, and in Sunstreaker's case, that means his head rises up to his shoulders as you rotate the car's roof 180°. Dramatic indeed!

Sunstreaker stands 6" tall, and is nicely articulated. There's a balljointed neck, balljointed shoulders, swivel biceps, double-hinged elbows, swivel wrists, swivel waist, balljointed hips, swivel thighs, hinged knees and balljointed ankles. The car's exposed engine can be removed and plugged into the robot's shoulders, keeping the scoop look alive. The design of the legs owes a lot a lot a lot to Alternators Mirage, but it isn't something that's been seen on Classics figures yet. Besides, you could do worse than to steal from Alternators.

We've said before that Sunstreaker had one of the most distinctive heads in all of G1, and it's carried over here. He still has the big ear-hooks, though they're spring-loaded and fall into place as his head comes up out of his chest. The shape of his shoulders and forearms are nods to the G1 toy, and of course, he has a large Autobot symbol in the center of his chest.

The car's exhaust system becomes a blaster for the robot, and can be held in either hand. While the car was overwhelmingly yellow, the robot mode introduces black, gray and even a surprising splash of blue. The orange stripes on his shoulders are carried over from the car's turn signals. The windshield (and by extension, everything attached to it) is smoky clear plastic; since the roof is painted over that, the color doesn't quite match what's on the body of the car.

Sunstreaker came out fairly early in 2008, and wasn't too hard to find. He wasn't quite a pegwarmer, but he was plentiful. Near the end of the year (and the end of the line), we finally had the release of his brother, Sideswipe, who proved to be pretty darn rare.

Sideswipe is a natural-born fighter. He's had little formal training in the arts of war, yet he has an instinctive nature that makes him one of the most dangerous warriors among the Autobots. He is not as self-centered or cold blooded as his brother Sunstreaker, but the two are nonetheless close. When they fight side by side, they are truly a force to be reckoned with.

The reason Sideswipe and Sunstreaker were considered "brothers" in G1 was they both had the same altmode - a Lamborghini. Their robot modes were entirely unalike, but since they changed into the same car, that made them related. Obviously they're the same car here, as well, though Sideswipe gets some slightly different paint apps - black stripes on the side, and a license plate that reads "SWIPE."

Although the photo at the top of his instructions shows Sideswipe, the actual content is all about Sunstreaker. And yes, that matters. See, while Hasbro's original plan was for these two toys to just be palette swaps with different heads, Takara designer Hisashi Yuki came up with a brilliant bit of engineering.

Despite their similar altmodes, the G1 twins transformed in entirely ways: Sunstreaker ended up with the roof of the car on his chest, while Sideswipe's chest was the car's hood. So if both toys had shared the same body, it wouldn't have really been a proper update, would it? It was Yuki who struck upon the idea to flip the design around, making one bot's chest the other's back, and vice versa. That means the two toys can use the same mold and engineering, but still look distinctly like their old disparate versions. Outstanding!

Though the colors are different, Sideswipe isn't merely a palette swap. His limbs are white, rather than gray, and even subtle things like the pattern on his shoulders and crotch are different. He doesn't have any visible faction symbols in vehicle mode, but one is revealed on his chest when you fold it over. His head shares no pieces with Sunstreaker's, and it definitely looks like the weird old style of art.

Sideswipe has the same accessories as Sunstreaker, but he uses them differently. Rather than a pistol, his gun can be mounted on his shoulder, just like the G1 incarnation. And since he shouldn't have an engine behind his head, it mounts lower on his back, serving as the rocket pack he had in one episode of the cartoon.

By themselves, both Sunstreaker and Sideswipe are decent Universe/Classics figures. The vehicle is cool, conversion is challenging but not impossible, and the robot mode is distinctive. The real beauty of the toy, however, only comes out when you've got both versions, and you can really appreciate the clever work that went into making them unique.

I initially passed on Sideswipe because I didn't realize how different he actually was. We've talked before about buying only one version of any given mold, but in this case, it's actually worth it to buy both - it's better if you buy both. Hell, the mold is being reused by the Transformers Collectors' Club this year, and I'm trying to figure out a way to get it a third time! The secrets behind these figures turn so-so toys into great ones.

-- 02/02/10

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