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Human Alliance Sideswipe

Transformers ROTF
by yo go re

For my money, the Alternators are the best Transformers toys ever made. They were big, complex figures, with fully licensed designs and real-car features. The line was canceled to make room for the movie toys, but it took until Transformers 2 to actually get anything that even felt slightly like an overlap.

When Sideswipe arrived on Earth, he was a raw, untrained fighter, used to battling alone and outnumbered. He was teamed with Epps so the Tech Sergeant could whip him into shape as an effective member of the strike team led by Ironhide. The two have become good friends. In combat, Epps' combat-hardened instincts direct the speed and cunning of Sideswipe with devastating effectiveness.

So Sideswipe was a badass loner, and Epps taught him how to work as part of a team? Doesn't that basically make him Wolverine, with Epps as his Professor X? Sure, he could have still brutally dismembered Sideways in the opening scene of TF2, but thanks to the military acumen of the America's finest, he knew to hang out and let the Arcee triplets drive the Decepticon toward him. Yeah, you can't just think up that kind of thing on your own.

Sideswipe is the second entry in the "Human Alliance" subset of movie toys, which offers (more or less) in-scale vehicles with real driver figures. The Human Alliance sets maintain the fully-licensed vehicle designs, but are still all-new figures, not just repaints of the existing movie toys. Which, yes, is the only reason I broke my "no duplicate movie characters" rule.

As you know, the movie continuity is all about real designs licensed from real manufacturers, re-creating specific vehicles in the utmost detail. As detailed in another review, Sideswipe is a concept Corvette Stingray that was brought out of development specifically to appear in this movie. Of course, due to GM's bankruptcy and all, the odds of the car ever appearing in the real world the way Bumblebee the Camaro did are pretty much nil.

The interior of the car isn't detailed as accurately as the Alternators' are, but the designers tried their best - there's a lot of kibble in there. Of course, who knows? Maybe the real Stingray really does have the tail-end of a missile jammed up against the rear-view mirror. The gull-wing doors open, and the dashboard has a steering wheel and a glove box, but it still doesn't look completely real.

Converting Sideswipe is a bit disappointing, honestly: he's pretty massively a shellformer, with the entire upper body of the car lifting up and hanging off the robot's back. I know the standard excuse for this kind of thing is that Hasbro doesn't want to "ruin" the design of the car with ugly seams and joints, but you know what? If I want a model car, I'll go buy a model car. I'm spending money on a Transformer, and by Primus, I want it to transform. No one is a Transfan because they want to collect toy cars, and sacrificing the playability for aesthetics this way is just wrong.

These days it seems no TF toy actually has its full, proper conversion printed on its instruction sheet, but Sideswipe has a ridiculous amount of undocumented features. For instance, his face: you can pull up a thin panel that runs from his chin all the way over his head, revealing a different face beneath. Is he wearing a battle mask, like Bumblebee did? Or are we actually dismantling his face for no good reason? There are pegs on his forearms that drag on the ground in vehicle mode. What are those? Ridiculously out-of-place attachment points for the included human. There's a folding handle on the inside of the roof that seems to serve no purpose in either mode. Finally, small panels fold out of the robot's waist, to make him more movie-accurate. None of that stuff is even hinted at in the instructions.

In the movie, Sideswipe's movements were based on speed skaters, just with wheel-feet instead of blades. This figure doesn't quite have the articulation needed to mimic those Olympic origins. There's a balljointed neck, swivel/hinge shoulders, swivel/hinge elbows, swivel wrists and hinged fingers. There are also four joints in and around each hip, but the rubber "pistons" keep most of them from moving very far. Apparently you can pop those out of place to increase the range of motion, but getting them back in is a bitch. He also has knee hinges, but with retarded hips and absolutely no ankles, there's not much point.

Sideswipe has his arm-swords permanently deployed, and if you push the hands down slightly, it engages a gear that makes them and the blades spin when you turn the wheels on his forearms. A double-barreled gun is mounted on his right shoulder, and a positionable missile launcher points over his left. But since this a Human Alliance toy, the only real accessory of note is Tech Sergeant Robert Epps. The figure is 2½" tall, and the proportions are screwed up: his legs are way too long for his body, enough that you can tell something's wrong just by looking at him.

There was an un-articulated Epps available in one of the Screen Battles boxed sets from the first movie, but this is obviously a step up. He has a balljointed neck and torso, swivel/hinge shoulders and hips, and hinged knees. Well, technically there's a swivel in the knee, as well, but the particular design of his kneepads keeps it from working as well as it should. Also not working as well as it should? The likeness, which looks nothing like mahogany demigod Tyrese Gibson, and instead like the derpy synthoid of one of the twins.

In addition to the bumps on Sideswipe's forearms, the figure can attach to either of the car's seats. The driver's seat gives Epps access to Sideswipe's shoulder gun, but you lose the missile launcher if you put him in the passenger's seat. Some folks think the mystery handle is meant for Epps, but that doesn't make any sense. Of course, neither does standing him on the robot's bare arms, so make of that what you will.

As far as Sideswipe figures go, the Human Alliance version is okay, but not spectacular. His joints are lacking, he's loaded down with back-kibble, the play features are only so-so and about half of them don't even get mentioned on the instructions. I like this figure because it fits in with my Alternators, but if you just want a Sideswipe for your collection, any Sideswipe at all, get the Deluxe Class version, because it's not hampered by needing to fit a human inside it.

-- 12/29/09

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