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Transformers Titanium
by yo go re

The advance of technology is supposed to make things better, not worse. A figure that was pretty cool in 1984 should be able to get a truly impressive update more than two decades later. Why, then, does the new Titanium Soundwave suck so hard?

Behind every villainous leader is a cadre of shadowy figures who remain hidden, offering vital encouragement, support and advice. These secretive advisors are often the true power behind the leader, Soundwave for they control the flow of information that motivates his actions. They feed him flattery and lies that allow him to continue on his path of destruction without suffering the pangs of conscience or the depredations of being proven wrong.

Soundwave is one such individual. A creature of secrets and silence, he fades into the shadow of his commander Megatron, all the while subtly steering the Decepticon commander to his own ends. He prefers to remain out of sight and out of the fight, often appearing only as a menacing presence behind his leader, arms folded, his inscrutable visage promising nothing beyond cold calculation. Despite his maneuvering to improve his status, he is totally loyal to Megatron. He hides information or lies only if he believes it would be to his leader's detriment to hear the truth.

At times, it seemed that Soundwave was the only G1 Decepticon who had anything resembling a concept of loyalty. Starscream tried to usurp command almost every day, See? Still not bad. Shockwave would have dropped Megatron into an active volcano if he found a logical reason to do it, and even schmoes like Astrotrain and Blitzwing took a turn at running the show. Meanwhile, the one guy who might actually be qualified for the position was content to stay in the background. I bet Shockwave's mother constantly chided him for being an underachiever.

Most folks think Soundwave was a Walkman in G1, but that's not quite right - he was actually a microcasette recorder, which is why his tapes seemed so small. And as far as the old toys went, he was one of the better ones: decent transformation, good proportions, no real kibble in either mode... there are TFs today that can't manage to get that right. So a modern update should really have a lot to work with.

The robot looks awkward at best. and thus begins the crap parade The arms and chest look good enough, but below the waist, everything goes to hell. His legs are too thick at the bottom, and his hip/groin area is entirely screwed up - there's some pretty inexplicable kibble there. It's really bad.

On top of that, the construction is pretty crap, too. Barely any of the figure is actually made from metal, a real crime for a "Titanium" figure. The transformation involves the legs telescoping, for some reason (more on that later) and they want nothing more than to collapse under the weight of the figure. Plus, his left leg falls out of the hip far too easily. Bleh.

The transformation is mediocre. Okay, that's harsh. Let's just call it straightforward. Workman-like? Unsurprising? Disappointing, however you say it. One of the little-known features of G1 Soundwave ("little-known" because it wasn't included in the instructions) was that his weapons transformed just like the rest of him, batteries? good. everything else? bad. becoming normal-sized batteries that could store in the tape deck's battery compartment. This time that's made clear, however, so his gun and shoulder cannon plug into his back. The robot's head drops back into the body, and there's even a little notch on the back of his head so you can fish it back out again. Those are both nice features, but it just gets worse from there.

The weird "bracelets" on the robot's wrists plug into place when his arms are folded behind his back. The feet fold up against the shin, that giant crotch plate splits in half and the legs collapse as they come up around the sides. It's a lot like the G1 transformation, but that whole deal with the crotch/hips is just stupid. What is that? Why, Hasbro!? It's a bad design that should have been cut from the figure in the early planning stages.

And speaking of bad design, the Walkman mode is less than impressive, as well. Realizing that today's kids wouldn't know a casette recorder if it punched them in the eye, it's the iPod's grandpa Soundwave's alt mode has the proportions of a boombox or stereo, just forced awkwardly onto a tape deck. The too-big lower legs come back into play here, making the player stick too far out to the sides. The robot's arms aren't integrated into the tape deck at all, instead just hanging off the back. In a perverse way, that almost turns out to be a good thing, since Soundwave doesn't have a cover for the battery compartment - the kibble arms are the only things keeping the batteries from being completely exposed. The best thing we can say about this is that the robot's feet could almost pass for speakers.

Soundwave's chest opens, as it should, and his little pal Laserbeak fits inside. Yes, the figure includes a tape. this is not a tape Well, if you can really call it that. It's really just a block. Though the bird form is nice enough (it'd be better if it had a neck), there's no kind of "tape" detailing on the transformed mode: it's a rectangle with lines on it. It fits in the compartment perfectly and the bird can perch on the robot's shoulder, but Laserbeak suffers from the same rampant half-assery as the rest of this set. And technically, the way Soundwave is built, the tape doesn't go into his chest so much as it goes into the hollow door that holds it against the chest.

Soundwave was one of the cooler Transformers from Generation 1, and this Titanium version is just a disappointment. There are a few good points, but a lot more bad ones. Odd design choices and a poorly planned transformation scheme really cripple what should have been a good figure. As it is, Titanium Soundwave is not an improvement over the version we got 23 years ago. It's not even an improvement over the Cybertron stealth bomber. Save your money. If you already bought this, take it back - I know I will. Takara's releasing a transformable Soundwave later this year that's based on the G1 design and is also a functioning MP3 player; get that, instead. Or, if you're cheap, watch for the Toys Я Us exclusive "Classics" version of Soundwave, which is a slight retooling of the orginal figure. The Titanium one is just unnecessary.


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