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Transformers Generations
by yo go re

Once again, Transformers proves that change can be a good thing.

Laserbeak is one of the most famous Transformers to come out of G1. He's right up there with the major players, because he was always hanging around, spying on the Autobots and kidnapping Spike Witwicky and whatnot. He's often thought of as Soundwave's "main" deployer, even though the original toy came with Buzzsaw, not Laserbeak. The cartoon pushed Laserbeak because he was sold separately.

We already told you about the "Generasians" figures, how they were intended only for the Asian market, but eventually got picked up by the small importer store known as Toys Я Us. But here's a fact that we didn't mention before: when these toys were sold in China, they had English text on the packaging; now that they're being sold in North America, the text is entirely in Chinese. So, what, was the plan to make the toys look more "exotic," no matter where they were sold?

Laserbeak is a repaint of Skystalker, which may seem like a weird choice: he changes between a bird and a cassette tape; he never had a robot mode. But this isn't entirely without precedent, either. Ratbat, another G1 Cassetticon, has retroactively been given a robot mode in recent years, so why shouldn't Laserbeak get the same kind of love?

This body is a decent choice for Laserbeak, honestly. The kibble is all sleek and pointy jet parts, suggesting his air-based altmode. He even ends up with a pair of wings on his shoulders, like a little junior Seeker-in-training. The choice of colors really help, too: he's black, dark red, and silver, which are the same colors as classic Laserbeak, even if they're applied in different locations.

Another good effect of the paint? It completely changes the look of the figure's head. Skystalker had a black head with a single red eye in the center. For this figure, the "eye" is the same silver as the area around it, while the top of his head is now gold. The effect is like a tiny cockpit, rather than a face, and it works beautifully.

Laserbeak does very well in the articulation department: the head, shoulder, elbows and hips are balljoints, there are swivels for the thighs and knees, a hinged neck, and the feet are springloaded, so they fold up automatically when you pick him up. Yes, he only has 12 (or so) points of articulation, but he's dynamically poseable, and that's a lot of fun. He's armed with two axes, which can plug into his palms or clip onto his forearms, depending on how you want to have him fight.

Converting Laserbeak is slightly tougher than it seems, due mainly to the interaction of the balljoints and getting everything aligned properly. The instructions show a Gerwalk mode, like pretty much every other airplane TF can achieve, but this time it's official. You can officially ignore it. Laserbeak's true altmode is a UAV drone similar to a few real-world designs, but distinct from them all.

Laserbeak is one of the few Transformers whose Cybertronian mode was shown on the cartoon. Rather than a metal bird, he was some kind of disc-shaped aircraft. Who's to say that wasn't his altmode, with a robot left unseen? Again, good enough for Ratbat, good enough for Laserbeak. Granted, the shape of this toy is nothing like the cartoon, but as we said above, paint to the rescue!

The drone has a black base coat, but gets large silver and red panels on the wings. There are red stripes down the sides of the fuselage, and the two silver air intakes do a nice job of taking the place of the laser blasters that were mounted on the G1 bird's back. It has a 6⅜" wingspan, is 3¾" long, and has only a single landing gear: it's under the nose, so the back of the plane doesn't roll. There are purple Decepticon logos on the wings, and the mold can still plug into Mindwipe if you want.

Skystalker was apparently hard to find when he was first released, though his repaint did eventually set up shop at discount stores like Five Below. The mold is an unexpected choice to turn into Laserbeak, but the final product works very well. I never would have gotten this figure if I'd had to order him online, but picking it up on a whim at TRU turned out for the best.

-- 01/29/13

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