We interrupt our regularly scheduled holiday posts with something very familiar to this blog: a toy review! Yes, we have ourselves another Christmas toy to talk about and it too comes from Hasbro. We already looked at a Star Wars toy at the end of November, and now we’re turning to what I suppose is Hasbro’s flagship franchise: Transformers. Like Star Wars, I don’t have a strong history with Transformers toys from my youth. I had one or two figures in the 80s and I couldn’t even tell you what their names were and I’m not even sure I could pick any of them out of a lineup of Generation 1 toys. When Generation 2 launched in the early 90s, I took a passing interest. I think I ended up with a mere four figures: Grimlock, Megatron, a fire truck, and Optimus Prime. Even though I wasn’t that into Transformers, that Optimus was a favorite toy of mine for at least a little while. I had to save up a lot of money to get it, 30 bucks in 1992 money, and I remember getting it on Halloween. I was pretty blown away by the diecast parts and the rubber tires on him and I quickly learned how to convert the figure with ease from robot to truck mode. The sound effects were neat, and once I had that Prime I basically had to get Megatron which I would for Christmas that year. I wasn’t that taken with that toy though as he was way bigger than Prime, had that camo deco that wasn’t show accurate, and just wasn’t a ton of fun to play with. Transformers was just filling a short gap for me between my obsession with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and my blossoming love of X-Men. Despite my enjoyment of that Prime though, I let my sister sell it in a yard sale many years later. I think she got 50 cents for it.
Even though Transformers has never really been my thing, I’ve still ended up with some toys here and there including the Masterpiece Prime and more recently the Super7 offering. Transformers as a franchise is something I have basically zero interest in. The show never worked for me, I don’t care about these characters, and the movies are terrible. Well, Bumblebee was okay, but it was basically just E.T. with robots. As a toy though, I think the bots to vehicles concept is wonderful – it’s two toys in one! In actual practice, I just tend to find them to be less fun. Most are either clearly better as a car or a robot and it’s rare you get two worthwhile toys out of it. I was also more of an action figure guy and the robots and their limited articulation sometimes frustrated me so it’s been easy to not get sucked in. I am a major sucker for Christmas though, so when Hasbro announced this holiday themed Optimus I was pretty interested and put in a preorder right away. As the weeks went by though, I started to have second thoughts. Is this something I really need? It’s not exactly priced in the usual impulse territory, and I wasn’t sure where I’d put it or how I’d display it. I was pretty close to just cancelling the preorder, and then I got the “processing soon” email from Pulse so I just let it ride. Was that a good choice? I guess it’s time to find out.
This Optimus Prime comes from the Generations subline. I don’t really know what that means, but I see other figures in this line at big box stores. It looks to me like the releases are focused on classic characters with a modern lens. I wasn’t sure what to expect as far as quality goes. My son has acquired a few Transformers figures here and there, including the movie Grimlock from last year, I want to say. That thing is pretty cool, though he doesn’t seem to place much value in it. My nephew had a Transformers phase (and it’s what lead me to get the Super7 figure) and he had more of the standard releases which is what I’m expecting of this figure. That’s to say it’s not a gigantic piece nor do I expect it to feature any diecast parts. Paint is minimal, as it probably should be for a figure with this many moving parts, and it’s not something I expected to be of the rugged nature and I would say my expectations are largely met.
The figure comes in a nice holiday themed box that makes me think of the Hess truck releases over the years. I don’t know if Hess was a regional thing, but the company was a gas station in the northeast when I was a kid that always put out a special truck, or vehicle, each year. I had a few growing up and the trucks are still released through Speedway each year even though Hess no longer exists. Optimus Prime is certainly decked out for Christmas as he features a white and red color scheme. The trailer of his truck looks like a big candy cane and the “glass” on the cab of the truck is tinted green to drive the point home. Optimus is not in his standard Freightliner truck form with the flat front, but his more Peterbilt style as seen in the films, though this truck is actually a licensed model from Volvo. I prefer the gen 1 look for Prime as I think it’s better for transforming. This style of truck has an actual front-end which is something that needs to split down the middle. When in robot mode, it forms the side of his legs and it’s a bit clunky, but I guess this is the Prime the kids today are more familiar with. In addition to the colors, there’s some snow decals on the trailer to give the appearance that Prime is trucking through a blizzard to deliver some holiday cheer. The Autobots logo also has a festive Santa hat applied to it and the overall effect is achieved – this is clearly a Christmas toy. I am left wishing that Hasbro sought out a partnership with Coca-Cola for this one though. Imagine if Optimus was transporting Santa packs of Coke? That would have been pretty damn cool, even for someone like me who rarely drinks Coke products. Maybe Coke is still pissed about that Pepsi Prime variant from way back?
As a truck, it looks fine. I hate the seam in the middle of the front-end, but that’s the type of thing you just have to accept with Transformers. As a robot, the Christmas theme is a little less obvious, but still apparent. Prime stands around 7″ tall and basically looks like Optimus Prime. He has his standard blue head, but the rest of the body is pretty well dominated by the color red with some white and probably too much black. The underside of the truck is what forms the front of his legs so there’s more black than I would like for a Christmas toy. They should have just substituted that for a dark green. It’s basically not important in truck form, so it could have been any color, really. I get why they kept his head blue, but I would have gone with green like the Super7 ReAction figure of Christmas Prime. We do at least get a hit of green right in the center of the chest as the transparent green plastic is used there to house the Matrix of the Holiday Spirit. The only other thing I’m not crazy about, visually speaking, is how most of the tires of the truck are now positioned on the figure’s back rather than the legs. It gives Prime a very rugged appearance and it’s a little messy. As for the trailer, it opens up into a “battle station” like the G1 Prime. It’s basically just all white plastic inside and it’s incredibly dull to look at. It has an articulated fixture with some claw arms on it, I guess like a repair station for Prime, but it’s so lifeless looking that I’ll never display this thing open. It’s basically just a play feature for the kids.
When it comes to accessories, there’s not a lot to talk about. I suppose the trailer can be considered one, but we’ve covered that. It looks fine as a trailer, bad as anything else. Prime has his Matrix of the Holiday Spirit, which as far as I know, is just the usual Matrix of Leadership. Only now it has a red core with a green center. It’s fine and it’s something that’s basically expected to come with every Optimus Prime figure. It fits in his chest, or it can be removed, but the figure can’t actually hold it since both hands just have a hole through them. The only other accessory is Prime’s ion blaster which also has a red and white candy cane deco applied to it. In his hand, it looks okay. He doesn’t have trigger finger hands so it’s not the most convincing thing when the figure is brandishing it as a weapon. It has a hinge in the center so it can be folded and stored on the figure’s back. What’s far more notable about it though, is Hasbro left a slot for it on the underside of the trailer when Optimus is in truck form. When it’s placed there it, well, looks like a penis:
Now that you’re done giggling, we can talk about the figure as an action figure. The set arrives in vehicle form and Optimus transforms in what Hasbro considers 37 steps. It sounds like a lot, but some of the steps are pretty basic and are simply “this little piece needs to move on a hinge 90 degrees – done!” As someone who doesn’t handle many modern Transformers, I found the directions mostly descriptive enough. There are no words, just images, likely so that Hasbro didn’t have to print this in multiple languages. The only part I found tricky was actually pretty early in the process, step 3, as it involves moving the rear cab panel down, but they didn’t engineer much in the way of anything to gain leverage with. And it being the first time, it’s hard to pinpoint where the piece separates. Plus, the hinge is on some transparent, green, plastic and that stuff is usually pretty damn fragile. It’s not really a good idea to do that type of piece on transparent plastic, and I’ve already seen people share images online of the part breaking, so definitely be careful with step 3. It can be freed up from the side, just don’t force it.
Once transformed, Optimus has what feels like the usual amount of articulation for a Transformer. The head rotates and can look down and up a little. The shoulders rotate and the arms can raise out to the side below the shoulder joint as there’s a hinge inside the shoulder housing. Past that is a swivel and an elbow hinge that achieves a 90 degree bend. The hands just rotate. At the waist is a twist and he can crunch forward a little bit at the same spot. The legs kick forward and back 90 degrees and he can even do splits, if you wish. The knees bend 90 degrees as well and that’s where the articulation stops. There’s nothing at the ankles which is what will limit the posing the most. The most exotic thing he can do is simulate a running pose or a walking one. He looks convincing enough in a “blasting” position too, but like most Optimus figures I encounter, can’t do a two-handed pose with his blaster. This one also has some extra bits and such to watch out for, mostly on the back of the calves related to the truck’s front end. The mirrors and smokestack could conceivably be a breaking point if this guy were to take a shelf dive or something and I definitely tried to avoid grabbing those parts when transforming the figure.
Which brings us to the last bit of info that’s probably worth having: the price. This guy retails for $56 via the Pulse website as well as other retailers. I have no idea if this guy is headed to any brick and mortar locations, so feel free to tack on a shipping charge as well. That’s a bit steep for a Transformer with no diecast, no rubber, and few accessories. I’m guessing the plastic box that is the trailer is contributing to the cost, as well as a smaller production run, but it definitely feels like there’s a Christmas surcharge here. I already mentioned I was contemplating cancelling this one before it shipped and it was mostly due to the price. If this were 35 bucks I would be far more likely to recommend it, but at more than 20 beyond that it’s a tough sell. I guess if you’re into Transformers you may want this in your collection, or perhaps being really into Transformers makes it easier to pass since you’re probably sitting on a mountain of Optimus Prime toys. As a result, this figure feels like it’s more for people like me: toy collectors who are into Christmas offshoots. And as a Christmas version of a popular character, it’s fine. I would have liked more accessories, maybe a blast effect for the gun or something other than the matrix that the figure can actually hold, but it does get the job done. This is clearly a Christmas toy on your shelf. It’s just the price that’s hard to get past. If you’re okay with spending $56 or more on this guy, then you’ll probably be content to roll him out each Christmas to decorate your house. If the thought of spending that much on a red, white, and green Optimus makes you recoil, then feel free to ignore it. And if you’re somewhere in the middle, maybe waiting it out will pay off in the form of a discount in the new year.
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