Toy Review - Transformers Earthrise: Wave 1 (mostly)
Updated: Mar 24, 2020
Hey! Now that we’re fully moved in and set up in our new headquarters, we finally decided to get up off our butts and do something about the massive backlog of toys we’d have ordinarily reviewed by now.
Okay…actually, a lot of those are in storage. Dammit.
Anyway, we just got a shipment from Hasbro Pulse containing most of Transformers: Earthrise wave 1…along with some Generations Selects versions of a couple of Siege molds, so let’s dive in and take a look.
[Note: We’re hoping to backtrack and do some Siege coverage should circumstances allow. Better late than never…right?]
Wheeljack borrows a bit from his Masterpiece iteration. Thankfully, Masterpiece Wheeljack is old enough to have fallen under a different design/engineering regime. It was back when MPs were still (mostly) fun to transform and served as a middle ground between toy and animation accuracy…not now where the bots are slave to the animation designs and the engineering is overwrought/overthought. [But that’s a rant for another time, thank you very much. – Ed.] Siege Sideswipe is actually similar in borrowing from his MP counterpart as well…but we’ll have to get back to him. Wheeljack manages to maintain a good amount of poseability all the while having a transformation that is fun and not too fiddly…just about everything you’d want in a modern Generations toy. He’s certainly an excellent update to the previous CHUG version we got with a bot mode that’s far more streamlined. [We’ve chosen to ignore the Combiner Wars abomination. – Ed.] And while I’ve been getting tired of the hinged-unfolding legs transformation gimmick Hasbro seems to be very much over-using ever since Combiner Wars, there’s a neat enough twist here to make me tolerate it. As for his car mode, there’s no mistaking that this is Wheeljack as there are just enough callbacks to the Lotus Lancia he originally transformed into to satisfy most G1 purists. Overall, a great figure.
It’s not that I don’t like Hoist…but if I had to choose a weak entry for this wave…well…it’d be him. To be fair, I’ll admit that the fact that the instructions weren’t helpful at times may be coloring my opinion. And he’s not bad. Heck, comparing him to the earlier ‘Thrilling 30’ release we got will show you the leaps and bounds improvements of this toy. He’s certainly a tall deluxe, which is cool…but I think I know what’s killing the toy for me. First, the shoulders. Don’t get me wrong, you can get the full range of motion out of them, but the sides of the truck hanging down off of them means that in order to get that range of motion, you’re now depending on 2 joints instead of 1…and for some reason, rational or not, it just rubs me the wrong way. Second is the ‘hand cannon’. One, to me, it just looks…cheap. I mean, it’s the same plastic that the backpack/towing rig is made up of…and I’ve got no beef with that…but…maybe it’s the size. I think it could be a little slimmer. Pare it down about 15-20%. As I mentioned earlier, the transformation is a little finicky…but not movie/studio series bad. And overall, the tow truck mode is pretty decent…except for one major problem…and we saw this with Siege Hound too (so it’s gonna come up again when we look at Hot Shot in a bit). I don’t wanna say Hasbro/Takara engineers are getting lazy (because current MPs are certainly showing the pendulum WAAAAAAAAY on the other side of that arc!) but just as the bots during the Energon era had ‘what do I do with my head’ syndrome, Hoist, Hound and Hot Shot suffer from ‘what do I do with my arms’ syndrome…and I can’t say I’m a fan. I dunno…two molds doesn’t necessarily make a pattern…but as of late, Hasbro’s been doing their best to milk each mold or transformation scheme for all that they’re worth…and as such, I don’t feel bad for raising the alarm on something that isn’t a trend yet…but likely will become one as we get deeper into Earthrise and whatever the final chapter of the War For Cybertron trilogy ends up calling itself. Still, it’s a good update and I’m looking forward to the eventual Trailbreaker we’ll be getting.
Ironworks continues what we saw from the Weaponizers in Siege, but adds a new twist. Yes, he’s a parts-former…and yeah, I’m okay with that. (We’ll revisit this topic when Arcee comes out though. I feel a rant coming on there…) I mean, sure, I never use the weapon modes, but the play pattern is a pretty cool option, so I’m good with it persisting. Ironworks is what they call a Modulator because, well, he turns into a Micromaster base…heck, two versions (one horizontal, one vertical) if you’re so inclined to do the necessary Google search. In some of the pictures, I’ve included one of the Micromaster repaints from the Target exclusive multi-pack to complete the G1 homage and I’m certainly excited for more Modulators to make Micromaster cities out of. As you can see on the ramps, you can connect him to most of the other cities/Titans as well as the ‘bases’ formed by the larger Titans Returns figures [We still don’t formally recognize those…okay, except for maybe Overlord. – Ed.] Ironworks does have two glaring weaknesses though. First, when it comes to his base mode, well, on his own…he’s just a little island. For this to work best, we’d need several of these guys making a little Micromaster metropolis…and we’re not there yet. Sure, you could by several of this guy to get started…and some have…but meh…too many of the same building, you can’t help but wonder if this would be an example of Cybertronian gentrification. [And now we know that the Seattle hippies have finally eroded enough of your brain to cause significant damage. Way to go. – Ed.] The other problem for Ironworks is the yellow paint used on some of the parts. It feels different to paint used in 99% of Transformers…thicker. This creates two problems. First, the paint ends up dulling or outright eliminating some of the detailing from the plastic molds. Second, it actually interferes with the parts-forming, making some holes now too small for other pieces to fit into. This is most noticeable when attempting to assemble the tower mode…you’ll need to use pretty excessive force with at least one connection and given that the peg really doesn’t like to stay in place, well, let’s simply say that you’re gonna wanna brace for the cavalcade of profanities that’ll be cascading out of your mouth while trying to do this. Ultimately, I’m just not sure why they didn’t use yellow plastic instead. Oh, one last thing…but it might just be relegated to my own copy…but while I applaud their attempt to give him at least some waist articulation…well…mine never wants to center. He’s always just a little off to one side or the other. It’s a nit-pick…but it bugs me and this is a review, so there you go.
It’s weird to have a tall deluxe, like Hoist, in the same wave as a tiny deluxe…like Cliffjumper. But I gotta admit…the little bastard is charming. Look, he’s still probably about a whole head taller than the old Legends class where it seems like he might be a better fit, but between the engineering and the dense, compact nature of him, Cliff feels like he’s got enough plastic in him to be as much a deluxe as most of the offerings listed here. And, as would seem to go naturally with his vertically challenged disposition, sure enough Cliffjumper here is packing a bazooka that just screams ‘little bot syndrome’…if you know what I mean and I think you do. And this bazooka manages to avoid the whole “hey, remember that one G1 episode where this happened? Yeah, we should base the whole figure around that!” in a couple of ways. Yes, us old farts with long memories or large DVD collections will recall this bazooka from the pilot miniseries “More Than Meets The Eye”, but it also breaks down into Cliff’s amphibious gear…which I can’t remember if it was from “Atlantis Arise” or “Dinobot Island”…or maybe some other episode. It can also be reconfigured into a smaller weapons cache…giving Cliff many options in firearm selection…probably none of which I display in any of the pictures. What can I say? I’m a year out of practice! Now, some might frown on this, but yes, Cliffjumper is a bit parts-former-y. The rear quarter of his vehicle mode needs to be removed during transformation and, once completed, can be attached as a backpack. The only reason I’m not too much against this is that, honestly…it looks good. If you’re not crazy about it though, you can use it as a shield for him. [Something else you didn’t take pictures of…jackass. – Ed.] Also going back to a theme mentioned earlier in this review, it feels like the engineers borrowed a bit from the original MP Bumblebee, MP-21. And just like with Wheeljack, it works pretty well here. Naturally, we’re going to see this remolded into Bumblebee pretty soon and even though I’m about as sick of that little yellow bastard as I am Batman…I look forward to see how that turns out. Oh, one last little nitpick though…his vehicle mode does give off more of a Windcharger vibe than traditional Cliffjumper…but honestly, it’s pretty easy to get over given the pretty fun nature of this toy.
On the plus side, Grapple is pretty much exactly what you’d want in a G1 upgrade. Hell, aside from a couple of steps, even the transformation is nearly identical. Which is kinda what rubs me the wrong way about it. He feels…boring. Perhaps as a way to make up for that, Hasbro threw in some accessories, like the gun hand that we typically associate with Inferno and a claw that…hell, I dunno, maybe it was in a G1 episode or something…but it’s not anything that springs immediately to mind. In fact, this claw really only ends up being a storage problem. “Great, where can I put this where it doesn’t look like Grapple is either pinching one off of is packing heat?” if you know what I mean and I think you do. [That’s two in a row. Watch the Joe-Bob-isms. – Ed.] Now, I mentioned transformation earlier, but there’s something that you’re gonna need to watch out for. A fair number of internet reviews have pointed out that the pegs that go into Grapple’s feet when connecting the rear of the construction arm to the back of the truck…those can get a little snug. Now, I’ve had no problems with mine, just use slow and constant force…maybe a gentle wiggle…and they’ll come out just fine. Just be careful and know that this is an issue. Some folks have recommended sanding the pegs a bit to allow for a looser grip, and I’m sure that works too. But I try not to modify if I can help it and, fortunately, Grapple doesn’t really seem to need it. Just remember that slow and steady wins the race and you’ll be fine.
This new voyager class Starscream feels like a knockoff…and I mean that in the best possible way. You see, over the past few years, Third-Party companies such as Wei Jiang and Black Mamba have been taking Hasbro/Takara molds, upscaling them…and even engineering a few improvements here and there. And, at least in my experience, the quality has been pretty decent. So for Hasbro to pull this trick, this time upscaling their own Classics seeker mold back when this G1 nostalgia first hit store shelves, adding some new articulation to boot…well, it’s exactly what I said, it feels like one of these Third-Party knockoff upscales that I’ve actually been happy with when I’ve purchased them. If you’re familiar with both the Classics mold and the MP mold, there’s nothing here that will surprise you. And for you MP-11 haters, the only thing that this new mold takes from that MP mold is a little bit of the action you need to perform to the arms when going into plane mode. But yeah…that keeps this review kinda on the short side, since again there’s nothing new here, but honestly, it feels like an injustice has been corrected since the Classics seekers always did feel a little small. Here, it just feels better. And given that he still fits in pretty well with the veritable plethora of tetra-jets we got in Siege, that’s cool too. While all the scuttlebutt seems to point at this mold getting reused for the Coneheads, I gotta admit that I could probably be suckered into another Skywarp and Thundercracker. [You know what they say about a fool and his money. – Ed.]
Well, here’s where I get to be negative. Fuck this toy. Generations Selects Nightbird is based off of Siege Chromia…who in turn is based on the various female autobot molds: Firestar, Greenlight, Moonracer and Lancer. So, not only do you have ‘mold fatigue’ in the sense that I’m sick of this mold in the same way I’m sick of that damn Combiner Wars car mold…fuckin’ Dead End and the seemingly millions of variations they made of him…but you can’t help but wonder if there’s some actual mold fatigue in the production process as well…because parts of my Nightbird were loose as hell while others were excessively tight. These factors would combine in a shitstorm that takes a mold that didn’t necessarily want to transform properly to begin with and make it more trouble than what it’s worth. So much so that I actually managed to break mine during transformation…which is something I’ve only done maybe one other time…and I’ll be honest, I can’t even think of who it was. [We’re not counting poor Gold Plastic Syndrome disintegrations. That’s nobody’s fault but shitty plastic. – Ed.] Look, don’t get me wrong, the toy looks good in both modes…the bot mode looking as animation accurate as possible given the huge backpack and the vehicle mode kind of giving off a Batmobile sort of vibe…but the transformation process just isn’t worth it. If you’re gonna pick this one up, I’d say keep it in bot mode…and if you have to transform it, if you’re able to safely get it into vehicle mode…then keep it there. Because at some point during transformation, you’re gonna lose your cool and it doesn’t take much on this mold before you reach HULK SMASH levels. [Translation: It doesn’t take a lot of force to break it. – Ed.]
Hot Shot’s a slight remold of the Siege Hound mold…the choice meant to invoke his Cybertron Defense Mode from the old Cybertron toyline. As such, what works for Hound: the solid bot mode, the reuse of the Titans Return Kup leg transformation gimmick and a mostly okay vehicle mode…works for Hot Shot too. Alas though, that mold’s weakness…most noticeably the aforementioned “What do I do with my arms?” syndrome…is present here as well. If you’ve got an affinity for the character, sure, I’d say pick him up, he’s solid. But there isn’t anything that he does differently from Siege Hound…so if you just want a version of this mold, I’d opt for the easier to acquire, more readily available Hound.
So…that’s Earthrise wave one with a couple of extras thrown in…and Optimus missing. And Astrotrain is just a repeat from Siege. Sigh…okay, so that’s MOST of wave one. [Don’t forget, you skipped the Micromasters and Battle Masters too. – Ed.]
As I was saying. All in all, this new chapter is off to a decent enough start. Many have already pointed out that this wave is a bit Autobot heavy…and that’s very true. Could’ve handled another ‘Con or two…but alas. Between this and what has already been announced at New York Toy Fair…well…okay, Doubledealer looks a little dicey to me…but otherwise…okay, and the slight remold on Megatron is kinda getting into double-dip territory…sigh…ANYWAY…yeah, the line looks to be off to a good start and I look forward to most of what’s on the way.