Masterpiece Theater - A Seekers Sampler: Skywarp, Sunstorm and Thrust.
You ever get the feeling that perhaps there’s a game amongst the Decepticon ranks that’s a variant of the old “duck, duck…goose!”? This review will likely back that up as we play a game of Seeker, Seeker…Conehead! The lead picture above shows two of the three Seekers we’ll be taking a look at, Sunstorm and Thrust, but we’re also going to take a look an older version of the mold, Skywarp, as well.
Let’s start off with the old fart, Skywarp. The version we’re looking at here is the WalMart exclusive from 2009 and, like Wally’s exclusive prior to that…2007’s Masterpiece Starscream…Skywarp is based on the MP-03 Seeker mold. The controversy surrounding this mold is that it made compromises to the robot mode in order to facilitate a very realistic jet mode. This is most notable in the ‘skirt’ formed by 2/3 of the fuselage. How much of an issue this truly is depends on the individual. While it does interfere with hip articulation to a degree, personally, I really can’t say it’s a deal-breaker. One thing that gets really close to that level though is how the feet are designed…with the jet’s engines serving as the heels of the robot. Without very careful posing…and making damn sure you don’t hit the table or platform you have him posing on…there are going to be some serious stability issues. Thankfully, releases of this mold (both in Japan and in the US) each came with a flight stand/base that eliminates this issue and frees up the figure for more dynamic posing. Still, a lot of aspects of this mold have been carried over to subsequent versions [Perhaps a little too much, but we’ll get to that. – Ed.] and for good reason, it’s a pretty decent transformation scheme overall.
With the success of the re-do of Optimus Prime in MP-10, Takara decided to take another look at their Seeker mold and similarly modify that. The result, MP-11, was a Starscream that lost the skirt and had a more G1 accurate robot mode/silhouette and increased stability but at the expense of the sleekness of the jet mode. This isn’t to say the jet is crap, far from it, but it does fall into the axiom that a Transformer usually has one mode that is the focus and one mode that makes concessions. In this instance, we’ll be focusing on the Toys R Us exclusive Sunstorm to provide insight on the renovations to the mold. As I mentioned with Skywarp, the core transformation here isn’t much different at all. One big improvement though is the introduction of heels that fold out from the rear jet engines, making the figure infinitely more stable. The bits that formed the skirt on Skywarp have been pared down and restricted mainly to what become the calves in robot mode. One thing in particular I’ve noticed in this changeover though is that the tail fins here can end up getting pretty loose. While I’d chalk this up to an individual copy of a mold…I’ve had it happen to both Sunstorm and Acid Storm (though I can’t recall whether or not this happened on my copy of Thundercracker). That proves to be only a minor annoyance though. This change in the rear of the jet/calves of the bot, do end up impacting the sleekness of the jet mode, as I already mentioned…but it’s really only noticeable when comparing this to the old MP-03 mold. If you don’t have that…the jet mode ends up serving its purpose well. And with the added benefit of a better robot mode silhouette and much better stability due to the inclusion of a dedicated heel, this is certainly the mold to get when it comes to getting the classic Seekers. [The only reason why we haven’t? Already have Skywarp and Starscream in the MP-03 mold and replacements are pricey. – Ed.]
Like all good things, though, they have to come to an end. Let me jump right out in front of this and clarify that I’m NOT saying that the Conehead molds are bad in any way, shape or form. No, they adhere in general to the advancements made in the MP-11 mold with a clever twist or two to account for the differing placement of their wings and, of course, the titular Conehead. Instead, what we end up running into here is our old friend mold fatigue. Take my Thrust for example…while generally the toy is solid, there’s a gap in the waist, between the torso piece and the hip piece, making him feel a bit floppy in robot mode. Thankfully, that seems to be the limit of the issues with this particular Conehead…but I’ve also heard of widespread reports of assembly errors in Ramjet (shoulders). Dirge, while I could have sworn that I’d heard there was something not right about him…well, searching Google and YouTube have failed me, so, if you’re interested in this particular version of the mold…perhaps he’s the best one to start off with. I can’t say that for certain though, due to the fact I haven’t gotten him at the time of this writing. The biggest problem I have with the coneheads has little to do with the main bot, however. While these guys will run you just as much as any of the other Masterpiece Seeker molds, you don’t get nearly as much for your money. You can tell it from some of the pictures. Earlier versions came with the main bot as well as a flight stand that worked for both robot and vehicle modes (the MP-03 molds and the early releases of the MP-11) or a crown and cape for “coronation” (the more recent MP-11 releases from Takara). With the Coneheads, the bot is all you get. All things considered…that’s kinda crap to me. These guys are expensive enough, you want to make sure you get your money’s worth…and while the main bot itself is (mostly) solid, the lack of any extras, particularly when they’ve been included before, is definitely felt…and not in a good way. So while there are a couple of transformation innovations on this last iteration to keep you interested in this very reused mold…the lack of anything to go with it ends up making these particular releases a mixed bag at the very least while more cynical fans would certainly have enough ammo to suggest that these are merely quick cash-grabs by Takara.
In the span of doing this review, it re-ignited by liking of this mold and the need to get them all. At the time of this writing, all I’m missing are Ramjet and Dirge. [And provided a certain someone grows a spine and starts telling a certain girlfriend ‘no’ on her many money requests…perhaps those two will be acquired in short order…but we know better…don’t we? – Ed.] If I were to single out a particular version for someone to start their Seeker collection with, I’d definitely point to the MP-11 releases of the classic three seekers: Starscream, Thundercracker and Skywarp. I do have to admit a more personal preference to the MP-03 appearance though…as the skirt never really bothered me too much and the jet modes are so much better served by them. But, if you’ll forgive the pun, the ‘Achilles’ Heel’ of that particular mold is the lack of any real heels. [Ugh. – Ed.] And although the transformation variations on the Coneheads are pretty cool, the lack of any real feeling of value when comparing what you get and how much you pay makes it feel like I could only recommend those to completists…to say nothing of potential assembly errors or mold fatigue issues that arise in these later releases. To simplify:
MP-03 molds: Recommended, but only if they come with the flight stands.
MP-11 molds: Highly recommended. Start your Seeker collection here.
MP-11 NR, NT and ND: Recommended if you’re a completest or have money to burn.