As we (rightly) keep pointing out, most modern main-line Transformers are just "the same thing, but greeblier." This one, though, is "the same thing but better." Much better!
We just got a Sky Lynx in the "Combiner Wars" line, so you'd think this one would be unnecessary, yes? But that one was released at the end of the line, meaning most people never saw it, and it didn't have as many features as this one. Thus, "better."
Sky Lynx's altmode is a space shuttle being carried on a transport platform. A few years ago, those were permanently attached pieces, but "Earthrise" has gone back to the 1986 original by making them two separate things. The crawler sled doesn't look like much, but it does exist, and that counts for something. Plus, after it's done hauling the shuttle into place, it converts to a launch platform - at last, Astrotrain has some competition in the space race!
As a base, it's okay. The shuttle engines plug in to keep it standing upright, and there are tiny little ramps all over the place that make it look cohesive. Weapons panels removed from the crawler become sensor arrays (or more weapons), so you end up with something that looks sturdy and protective.
The shuttle is a large piece with a nice solid heft to it. For the first time, Hasbro's gotten permission to use the NASA logo on a spacecraft, rather than having to fake it. Neat! The ship is about 10¼" long, 7" wide, and 4¼" tall, and features golden windows on the cockpit and retractable landing gear underneath. There's a section sculpted like heat-resistant tiles, but they're not painted black. We do get a name for this shuttle: the Magnificence, befitting Sky Lynx's inflated ego.
One problem with the altmode, though? The shuttle and crawler don't snap together very easily. It's so tough to get them affixed, in fact, that I thought they didn't really connect at all, just rested gently together. The best way to do it is to push the rear tab in first, then jam the front end down onto the spring-loaded latch to secure them. Once you know how to do it, it's barely a hassle at all, but getting to that point takes some time.
Converting Sky Lynx to his dinobird mode is about as easy as you'd expect: lower the legs, move the pods from the shoulders to the hips, flip the wings forward and raise them, slide out the feathered wing tips, pull the cockpit out to be his head, and (the trickiest bit) open the rear engine compartment so you can unfold the tail into place.
The articulation in this toy is impressive. Lots of swivel/hinges in the legs, rocker ankles, a neck that's five sgements long and has hinges between each one, several more hinges in the tail and wings, a baljointed head, and a mouth that opens to reveal a moveable gun/tongue. Beaucoup playability here! Plus, all the hinges are ratcheted, to help them hold their position.
As we said, the big advantage this release has over the last one is that the shuttle and crawler are not permanently attached - which also means both halves convert independently as well. Press the small white tab on the front, and the dinobird splits into its constituent halves: a bird-thing, and a cat-thing. The bird doesn't look great - all you have to do is fold down his red legs, and they're very skinny in proportion to the rest of the body. And while the joints are again heavily ratcheted to support the weight, finding a balance point can be tricky.
The lynx (or "puma," if you believe the Transformers Universe profile Marvel put out back in the day) is similarly unchanged: it's the same body as the crawler, duh, just with a head pulled out the front and two(?) tails folded out of the back. We dasn't judge the toy too harshly for either of these, because that's how it was on the original: if suddenly they were doing something drastically different, fans would be annoyed and busy trying to work out "proper" fanmodes. The cat's body articulation remains the same, while his head adds a working jaw and tongue, a balljoint, a hinge to look even farther up or down, and a hinge at the base of the neck to tilt side-to-side. Judged individually, the "Lynx" looks better than the "Sky."
The set includes a baggie of seven semi-opaque orange blast effects, the same Omega Supreme came with. It's the same principle
as the ones that have been coming with a few Iron Men lately: nesting effects of various sizes, so you can choose how big you want your blast to be. While both beast mode tongues are compatible with the fire effects (and even the "COMBAT System" ones seen in Siege), the weight of them pulls the head down. They do look absolutely awesome stuck into the shuttle's engines, however!
The earliest store listings indicated Sky Lynx would come with a pack-in "Astroscope" figure (the name coming from an Armada character who turned into a satellite), but that didn't cost out for the final product.
Sky Lynx has a convoluted history. In the '80s when Hasbro was developing the character, the idea that he'd be a Decepticon hung around long enough that several model sheets were commissioned and distributed that showed him with Decepticon symbols - presumably he and his rivals, the Autobot Anibots, switched allegiences at the same time. But before that, the toy was not designed by Takara, but was rather one of the transforming robot designs Hasbro licensed from other companies to fill out their line - you know, like Jetfire. The company Hasbro licensed it from, however, had outsourced the actual design work to Tomy, so when Takara and Tomy merged, suddenly those old patents were under the same roof, which is why we were able to start getting toys that referenced the original, rather than just reusing the name. (It's also said that while he was in charge of TF, Aaron Archer kept a G1 Sky Lynx on his desk as an example of "what not to do," but who knows if that's true or not?) So if not for that roundabout history, we wouldn't have this awesome beast today.