Toy Review - Transformers: Power of the Primes Leader Class
So what happened to the toy reviews?!?
I was kinda surprised. [Given how long it takes you to write a damn article anymore, has it occurred to you that everyone’s moved on to sites that can actually update routinely? – Ed.]
Anyway, to make a long story short, it’s hard to write up toy reviews when you don’t have any space to take pictures of the toys!
After a long, apartment-wide restructuring, we’ve finally got a set up that works…for now.
In the time since our last review though, an entire line of Transformers figures has come and gone. In an effort to catch up, here we’re going to take a look at all the leader class figures released from this shortened line.
It’s natural, nay, expected that each line have an Optimus Prime figure…and Power of the Primes was no different as Optimus here was front and center in Wave 1. What’s notable about this Optimus is that it accomplishes what I sought to do with Titans Return Powermaster Optimus Prime in that it gives us a tractor-trailer that has the cab turn into a robot, then combine with the trailer to create a larger one. This play pattern dates way back to Generation 1 and, given the economics of toys, the rising cost of plastic, so on and so forth…well, we just weren’t seeing it anymore. If there was an Optimus toy, he either had no trailer or both the cab and trailer merged into his robot mode. Not only does this toy reclaim that old play pattern but it goes a step further. The theme for these leader class figures is ‘evolution’ and as such, for Optimus the cab doesn’t turn into a smaller version of the Autobot leader but instead turns into his earlier iteration: Orion Pax.
So how is Orion in his first cartoon-accurate toy form? A bit of a mixed bag. I mean, for the most part, I actually like him, but there are a couple of things that keep me from recommending him on his own. First off is the hollow plastic issue that’s been plaguing the line since back in the Thrilling 30 days. This practice ends up making Orion’s arms and legs feel a bit flimsy…even though they hold most any poses just fine. Orion’s feet however are something that I’ve learned to hate while taking the pictures for this review. They’re like two little floppy paddles. [Probably could disperse the fabled ‘Hate Plague’ with these damn things. – Ed.] In most instances, Orion will stand okay in spite of them. Not helping matters is the fact that in bot mode, Orion’s got a bit of a backpack…not a huge or terribly noticeable one, mind you, but if you’ve got flapper feet…well, then any sort of backpack, big or small, is going to introduce stability issues.
Now, once you play the part of Alpha Trion and upgrade little Orion into his ultimate form, here’s where the toy really shines…although with some minor faults. A lot of pictures on the internet will show you this toy standing side by side with MP-10, helping to illustrate just how good this Prime looks. Sure, there’s a bit of a backpack formed by Orion’s legs, but I didn’t find it to detract from the figure they way others might. Articulation here is pretty decent once you consider the limitations of the ‘evolution’ gimmick…meaning you’ve got most of the standard points except for a waist swivel. Some form of wrist articulation would’ve been nice too…but not a deal breaker for me. No, the thing that keeps this combined mode from being perfect for me is some of the plastic/coloring issues…as it looks like there were certainly methods that could’ve been used to keep Prime’s forearms red on the sides or his legs blue, also on the sides but likely not explored due to ye olde cost-saving. And since I’m being nit-picky, yeah, Prime’s hands should be blue…not gray. Oh, and I nearly forgot…which is weird given that this is another prominent play pattern introduced here, but the chest opens up to reveal his Matrix of Leadership…which, of course, is awesome.
The transformation of the trailer to and from bot mode has plenty of panels and such which make it interesting and never quite a chore. Sure, for nostalgia reasons, I do miss being able to store things in the trailer aside from Optimus-bits…but again, given modern sensibilities, not something I’m gonna lose sleep or dock points over. But as we discuss vehicle mode, well, we do have to talk about the cab. It’s strange, when you consider that one of the marquee characters of the franchise is indeed a semi…sometimes you get the feeling that Hasbro has forgotten what one actually looks like and that kinda feels like the case here. Or, even worse, it feels like they just ran out of money and said ‘screw it’. Now, having the wider bottom compared to the top (you’ll see what I mean in the front-on pictures)…I’m okay with that given what the toy has to do. But the situation with the arms…well, you’ll see in the pics that I’ve tried two methods for transforming them and neither one of them looks acceptable to me. Now, I can admit that part of this might be a bit of bias…after all, the original Optimus had no problem stowing away the arms…and most Primes since have had no problem with this either (Armada gets a bit of a pass…but Energon…I’m looking directly at you). Having Orion’s chestplate, which is painted translucent plastic, fold down to fill in gaps in the rear of the semi and having the head be the hitch…all the while having to deal with those hollow legs...ugh. I want this to work and every time I pick up and fiddle with the toy I keep trying to make it work somehow…but it just really feels unfinished.
Now, for all that being said…and I know a lot of it sound negative…I love this guy. He’s definitely one of my favorite Optimus toys in some time. I love having a Prime that comes with a trailer, the combined mode is EXACTLY how you want an Optimus Prime to look, he’s a PERFECT match to Combiner Wars’ Leader-class Megatron and I totally dig the ‘evolution’ gimmick. To borrow a quote from the girlfriend: “completely perfectly imperfect.” That perfectly captures how I feel about this Prime. Sure, he’s got flaws and certainly could’ve benefitted from a little more time or a little bit of a bigger budget and yet for me, he’s absolutely a must have.
Whether this has a basis in reality or not…I was always under the impression that Rodimus here wasn’t exactly a hit with fans when he was released (and probably still isn’t). It would make sense, given that he has two features that drive online Transformers fans absolutely nuts (in a not good way): a killer backpack and some parts-formering in his transformation.
But I totally dig him.
That says a lot, given that I’ve pretty much despised the character ever since Hot Rod got Optimus killed back in Transformers: The Movie. Adding to my surprise was the fact that we literally just had a Hot Rod in Titans Return. (And no, I’m not counting the Legends-class figure in Combiner Wars.) And while we’ve seen our fair number of Roddies, we’ve never really had a real update to the old Flaming Space Winnebago [Trademark Hasbro. – Ed.]…well, except for the Masterpiece…and we don’t like to talk about that one.
So let’s talk about this one…and let’s start off with Hot Rod. Now, if we’re judging him as an interpretation of the G1 character, then yeah, this is a pretty solid Hot Rod! He looks great in his robot mode but once you get past the looks…well…things start to fall apart a bit. Articulation here isn’t particularly great…especially in the shoulders and transformation ends up being fairly bland or, when it does get interesting, it gets interesting in the ‘am I gonna break this?’ way and not in the good interesting way. Once you get him into car mode…so long as you don’t look at it too hard…he seems fine. But under scrutiny…he doesn’t hold up so well. The thing that really bugs me is that there’s a fairly sizeable chunk where you can just see right through him…just a couple of holes right there in the alt mode. And that’s the thing, on that first look, you think that okay, maybe he’s more solid and more polished that Orion was…but when you take that second look, sure, there aren’t any robot bits hanging off the alt-mode…but it still lacks a finished feeling.
Getting into the combined state is simple in some ways but can be a real pain in others…most notably getting the parts-forming forearms locked into position and then getting Hot Rod/Rodimus’ torso connected to the main body/legs. All in all, I actually dug the parts-forming and how it was done…although getting those forearms to attach to Roddy takes some force. And sometimes that’s a level of force you typically don’t want to use on a Transformer, getting awfully close to that “I’m gonna break this” feeling. Now, you don’t need that level of force to get the torso to combine with the main body/legs…but to get everything to lock in, sometimes it feels a little finicky…which is in sharp contrast to Optimus where everything snaps together easy-peasy. Once assembled though, he looks good. Sure, other reviews tend to lament two things: yes, Hot Rod’s hands can be visible at times and for some the shoulders are going to seem a little funky. I didn’t mind the hands given how minor it was and honestly, I kinda dug how the shoulders were done. In some ways, it felt like the designers saying “hey, sorry about Hot Rod’s barely moveable shoulders, here’s a little overcompensation” and, like I said, I like it. As I opened with, sure, I don’t like the character…at all…but no Rodimus toy to this point (excluding that abomination) has really given him the heft of a Prime and this toy really gives him that. You’ll see in the pictures though that one thing I’m not a fan of is the Matrix storage. Granted, I really don’t see how they could have done it differently, as Hot Rod’s mold really doesn’t allow for anything in the way of storage…but it’s definitely not as cool as Optimus’.
Now, one thing you’ll notice in the conversion to robot mode but most notably in the combined vehicle mode is that the flames on the Flaming Space Winnebago are handled by the foil stickers that have been the bane of collectors since they appeared in Titans Return. And here, those stickers live up to their reputation as they’re broken up by a pin-joint and, as such, will start to peel IMMEDIATELY. This, unfortunately, has persuaded me to rarely, if ever, transform this guy back and forth…because it really is only a matter of time before these give out completely…and that’s REALLY disappointing. Sure, I understand the foil stickers on the details…I’m not crazy about them, but I get it…and even how they’re used on Optimus’ trailer…but to use them on a major design feature? One with a transformation joint breaking up the design? God…this was just stupid. I know I’ll need to, but I’d certainly recommend looking into some replacement stickers for this. Focusing on the vehicle itself, for the most part (like the robot mode) I dig it. Yeah, the combined robot mode hands kinda hang down just a bit too much and are visible in the front and the feet are pretty much just there on the back…but hey, it’s a Flaming Space Winnebago, who am I (and who are you) to judge?
Like Optimus, a lot of this sounds negative, but again, I really like this toy. It feels like a good update that in some ways was really needed. Sure, I like Optimus more as a character, but when I saw the pictures of both of these guys in the pre-release hype, I was actually looking forward to Rodimus here just a little bit more than I was Optimus…and for me, I’ll admit, he doesn’t disappoint. For reasons that are both different and yet the same, Rodimus and all his parts really does overcome the faults present to become something really cool and fun and EASILY worth a recommendation.
I haven’t checked in a while…is this one still the fabled white whale of the line? To be honest, I’ve only seen him twice and bought him each time: once in Japan and again just last month for my nephew as a X-Mas gift. I’ve stopped paying attention since. If he is…well, you’re looking to me to answer the age old question: Is he worth the hunt?
Like the other leaders here, he’s a mixed bag and really is an extreme example of all the entries here: where he’s good, he’s GOOD…where he’s bad, he’s BAAAAAAD. If I had to give you a short version, I’d say that if you can find him at retail price or below, yeah, pick him up, he’s a good update of the old Beast Wars Transmetal with none of the potential foil flaking. But there’s enough wrong here that I can’t really recommend paying secondary market or scalper prices.
But you didn’t come here for the short version, let’s take a more in-depth look. Starting off with the smaller Optimus Primal, this is a really good looking bot…but then again, so have all the other smaller bots, so thus far he’s par for the course. Of the three, I’d actually say that Primal here has the best articulation. Why that is the case is likely to be part of the epic fail of the figure…and that can be summed up in one question: Can anyone tell me what the holy heck he transforms into? He turns into a long flat…thing…with a cockpit to hold his Matrix. I mean, yeah, you can use this as a hoverboard for the separate monkey to surf on, but wouldn’t that be a combined vehicle mode? [No. Because you have a holey monkey. More on that later. – Ed.] So, yeah, Optimus Primal, for all intents and purposes, doesn’t have an alt-mode. At all. That kinda sucks…and really reeks of a bit of a cop-out on what was the fan-voted Prime.
Before we move on to the combined robot mode, let’s talk about the monkey. On the plus side, this is the only one of the three where the “trailer” is actually usable without the smaller bot…so that’s pretty cool. The problem with this is, as alluded to above, is that you end up with a pretty hollow monkey and…whether it’s looking at it from certain angles or something just not feeling ‘right’ about it when playing with it…well, it’s just not as cool as it could be.
Now let’s merge into Optimal Optimus…and here, like the other two, is where he shines. This is a great update to the character. You’ve got the option to shift the cockpit down and attach a pair of guns for the attack mode that the original figure was always stuck in or you can remove the guns and shift the cockpit up to better resemble the character within the old show. Just doing that makes this figure really cool. One thing that bugs me here is that more so than any of the other figures, Optimus Primal really only serves as mostly a backpack here. Let me clarify that: most of what makes up Optimus Primal all really does just fold up into a backpack for Optimal Optimus. The bits that were Primal’s backpack, the cockpit and the storage for the combined mode head, are all that’s vital to Op Op…and like I said above, it all just feels like a big design cop-out. It’s not all bad though. This combined mode has the best articulation of the three (even sporting a waist swivel…provided you negotiate with the backpack sufficiently in order to use it). The biggest thing I want to point out though is that this Prime? Yeah, he can actually HOLD the Matrix he’s carrying in his chest. Not the way a Matrix is typically handled in the lore, mind you, but at least he can actually hold it in his hand…unlike all the others!
Switching to the combined alt-mode, first off you have the standard monkey with a backpack…and this is probably your best bet. It’s the one the designers ‘intended’. [You go on with your pretentious self with the quotation marks there. – Ed.] As mentioned above, you can do the monkey-on-a-hoverboard mode that’s a nod to the original Transmetal Optimus Primal (I didn’t take any pics of this because…meh) and you can do Optimal Optimus’ ‘jet’ mode too. Although I can’t say I’m a fan of how the cockpit doesn’t really lock into place anywhere. (Unless I’m doing it wrong.)
In the final analysis, this is a great figure to look at and a good update to the character (well, in the Optimal Optimus mode anyway)…but this figure is also a prime example (sorry about the pun) of why Power of the Primes feels like it was a filler line comprised of leftovers from the two preceding Prime Wars chapters: it feels rushed and poorly thought out. I mean, I still like him…but maybe part of that is that I found him while on vacation in Japan…I dunno. But if I sit and think about him critically, aside from being able to hold his Matrix in his hands, there’s really nothing spectacular about him and certainly nothing that merits inflated secondary market or scalper prices.
Here’s where we get into the obligatory black repaint territory…and since this one was widely available everywhere, let’s start with him. As would be expected, there are no major mold changes here, so we’re looking at the same toy as the already reviewed Rodimus Prime. There are two things to point out though. First, the flames of Hot Rod/Rodimus have been swapped out for a more…well, the best way I can describe it is almost a tattoo like pattern. And, co-inciding with that, Rodimus’ mug is now adorned with a handlebar mustache and soul-patch…giving him a biker sort of feel to him. The color scheme has been switched to black, purple and gray and it works pretty well. This ends up solving one of the beefs some fans had with the initial Rodimus release: the mismatch in shades of red between the parts of the arm formed by Hot Rod’s legs and the lower parts formed by the front sections of the trailer. This never bugged me personally, but now that the arms are entirely black…problem solved.
Here we have an Amazon-exclusive with the well-established color scheme of black, gray and red with teal highlights and, like Rodimus Unicronus before him, the mostly black deco takes care of any color woes one might have had with Optimus. Unlike Rodimus though, there’s remolding on both the combined form head and the head of the smaller bot…plus lots of extra weapons. Nemesis comes with two swords, one of which can transform into a bird and the other being red to evoke RiD Scourge and two double-barreled wrist cannons (evoking his Armada interpretation). And if having weapon storage on the vehicle mode for you is a must…well, you’re not gonna find it here. At least, not in any satisfactory capacity. Yes, the double-barreled cannons can be mounted onto the sides of the trailer, but in order to accomplish that, you have to flip out a couple of panels…which means that now you’ve got a sizeable hole in your trailer with plenty of daylight pouring through. Not the best look.
Getting back to the remolded parts, the Nemesis Prime head feels very much like a mix between the Decepticon logo and a bird. It’s cool…but I always seem to have to get used to it. Switching to the smaller bot, Nemesis Pax (a name I’ve got issue with given that ‘pax’ means ‘peace’ in Latin, I highly doubt it’d be a moniker associated with such a bot), his head has more of a ruffled raven feel to it…with some spikes thrown in and proves to also be a pretty cool variation.
Ultimately, in spite of the faults of each individual bot, the play pattern here is really awesome to me. I love the ‘evolution’ concept and it could’ve been put to further use on some really cool characters (Star Saber and Thunderwing spring immediately to mind). There are three major faults here the keep me from claiming these guys to be plastic perfection. First, if you’re gonna make it a theme that each toy has its own Matrix…then for the love of Primus, MAKE SURE EACH CHARACTER CAN HOLD THE BLOODY THING! Second, having absolutely ZERO representation from the Decepticons in the leader class just isn’t acceptable. Now, look, I get that I’m weird and I like to have the sides balanced…I want the same number of Autobots as Decepticons…but going back into the lore, both Bludgeon and Thunderwing were Pretenders that held the Decepticon Leadership at certain points and would have played EXCEPTIONALLY well into this play pattern…ESPECIALLY Thunderwing given that both the interior bot and the shell were capable of transforming. Lastly, if you’re going to take a fan vote for a figure, put in the work to make it a worthy tip of the hat to the fans. As much as I’m ‘fine’ with Optimal Optimus, the more you scrutinize him, the more he just doesn’t hold up: no real alt-mode for the smaller bot and no real integration of the smaller bot. It just felt downright lazy. Fans of Beast Wars and the character himself deserved better.
Even though it had faults, I’d love for this play pattern to re-emerge. Sure, you could nit-pick the end results…and I have…but damn, they are fun toys. But if we look at these guys as a test run for future characters, this is a concept that with a little work can be fantastic!