Ah, the magic of retcons. Retroactive continuity. It's what allows creators to re-write the things that have gone before to make their story make sense, or to make their story better. It's been two decades since the original Transformers cartoon went off the air, but the story just keeps going. The thing is, as more and more gets added to it, the less of the cartoon is considered canon. Each new iteration draws from more and more sources. By this point, the "official" G1 story is, like Hirofumi Ichikawa's offical Alternators/Binaltech story, a mixture of cartoons, comics, and everything else.
For instance: we saw a few glimpses of the Transformers' pre-Earth lives on Cybertron on the old show,
and even saw what Optimus Prime was like before he became the head honcho. A young factory worker named Orion Pax was mortally wounded by Megatron and his followers, and a being known as Alpha Trion rebuilt him into Optimus Prime. Every single scrap of that was tossed aside, however, when Dreamwave Productions released The War Within, a miniseries that re-examined and re-imagined those early days on their homeworld.
Gravitas and the members of the Chamber of the Ancients have spoken.
It has been determined that the fate of the Autobots will rest upon the shoulders of an archivist named Optronix. Although Optronix is initially reluctant to accept this great responsibility, he begins to understand the devastating risks at stake for the entire Transformers race.
Optronix is given the leadership name of Optimus Prime once the power of the Matrix is bestowed onto him. It is a sign that he must lead the Autobots away from Cybertron, not only to escape the war with the Decepticons, but also to escape the self-destructive war that exists within them. After a colossal battle with Megatron that spans the boundaries of both time and space, Optimus discovers the power within himself to step up and provide the leadership his race needs in their most depserate hour.
Other than the name changes, there were other differences, as well.
Notice how there's no mention of the Matrix in the original? That's because it hadn't been invented yet. The idea that the Matrix would physically change Optronix, rather than just being the Autobot equivalent of a sherrif's badge (as it was in the Marvel G1 comics)? That came from Beast Wars.
The Cybertronian forms were designed by artist Don Figueroa, who has a great style for giant robots. The best part about the series was that the vehicles all looked like real, physical objects. They were obviously nothing that had ever been built on Earth, but they also weren't magical UFOs, either. And since they had definite physical form, you could also see how they'd transform.
Optimus Prime looks great in both forms.
He was a truck even back then, though it certainly wasn't a Freightliner cab. It's like a semitruck had a baby with the APC from Aliens. The front half of the car has a sloping cockpit resting between a pair of giant wheels and a bulky exhaust system. The truck form is 5 1/4" long and about 3" wide, and the plastic wheels roll freely. There's a bit of kibble - you can see his knuckles back there - but we've seen worse.
The transformation is just as easy at it looks, and draws heavily from the G1 Prime, as well. The back of the truck becomes legs, the smokestacks are his arms and his familiar Prime head lifts out of the cab. This is easily, recognizably, Optimus Prime. Even his gun is the same. He doesn't have a trailer of any sort - unless of course he's been keeping it in sub-space this entire time.
The sculpt is great. They captured all the little details Figueroa drew, right down to the brush guards on the headlights. Though I don't suppose there's much brush on Cybertron. The figure is a mere 6" tall, which makes him a little small compared to most of the other Primes, but he is the same size as the smaller Armada Prime, which has just been re-released in the Cybertron line, so it's not unheard of.
There's articulation on the figure, but the fact that so much of his body is metal means that it's not the highly dynamic 'bot you might want. He moves at the head, shoulders, elbows, chest, hips and knees, which is still a lot compared to the G1 toys. In general, the "truck" parts of him are metal, while the limbs are plastic. The joints will probably become loose with time, since we're talking about plastic supporting the weight of titanium, but that's mitigated by the fact that the movement is so straightforward - hopefully he won't be a ragdoll in a few years.
I have to admit, when I read that Hasbro was making titanium Transformers, it didn't immediately register that they were part of the Titanium line, the high-end collectibles we'd so far only seen from Star Wars. I thought it was just a throwback to the old days. As soon as you see these figures in the package, you'll know what's up. The Titanium Transformers comes in a really nice isosceles trapezoid box, with graphics that reflect the anatomy of the robot, who's displayed standing on the included base. The back features the bio and tech specs, and the whole thing is really attractive.
The figures are expensive, but worth saving up for. So far, the Titanium series is focusing on alternate versions of the characters - Prime is taken from The War Within, while Megatron comes to us from one of the myriad GIJoe vs Transformers crossovers. It would be great if this trend continued, giving collectors high-quality versions of characters they might otherwise never see. Particularly War Within - there were a ton of great designs in that series, including the only time Megatron ever looked cool as a tank. This Titanium series is basically an excuse to throw out figures that wouldn't be able to support their own toy line, and that's an admirable goal.
Which War Within redesign do you most want as a toy? Tell us on our message board, The Loafing Lounge.