Rob's Pile of Transformers: Manic Ramblings

Manic Ramblings and Delirious Ranting
re: Air Attack Optimus Primal
6/30/02

Well, for some ungodly, unknown reason, I felt compelled to plonk down $30 for this mongo mass of monkey last week. I'm not sure what I was thinking.

A lot of folks are really cheesed about getting this toy at long last. So I should probably state where I'm coming from before I dig into this toy. The things I like in a Transformer are:

* Show/comic accuracey for characters who have appeared in whatever media. These things are supposed to be *characters* first and foremost, in my book. You wouldn't sell a Luke Skywalker toy that looked like Han Solo, would you? Why sell a Primal that differs from the one we're shown on the tube? (or if you want to be picky about it, why change the way the toy looks for its presentation on the show? Are you afraid your toy can't sell on its own merits?)

* Aesthetics. This is entirely arbitrary, of course, and there's not much more to be said about it.

* Complexity. The more money I'm laying down, the more engineering I expect from a toy.

* Fun factor. I love toys that I can just twiddle with, make up random stupid useless modes for, etc. I like gimmicks when they're *fun* -- when they give the toy the ability to do something it couldn't do otherwise.

AAOP (or MUNKEE, as he's referred to in some quarters) stumbles at least partially in almost every one of these areas.

Well, I'll grant him aesthetics. I'm not wild about his color scheme, but it's nice enough. Mainly I just don't like the blah grey-brown used on most of him. However, the gold and blue details are beautiful, especially the striping on his arm shields. He's got good proportions in both modes, and his faces are kinda cool. I love the massiveness of his forearms especially, and the taper of his waist where it meets his legs.

Show accuracy.. he comes so *close*! So frickin' CLOSE! I mean, he's got the massive forearms, the jetpack, the arm striping.... and yet he drops the ball in that most critical of areas, the face. I'm baffled as to why they'd adhere so closely to the essence of the show model in both modes... then totally change the gorilla face around. You may like the new face; you may not... but it simply has nothing to do with the guy we watched running around for two seasons of Beast Machines. It looks more like one of those nasty beasties from that gawdawful Michael Crighton movie, Congo.

I'm not too pleased with the robot face either. I don't like frozen eternal screams and snarls, especially on this dude who's supposed to be all guru spiritual peace hippie advisor guy. It would have been damn easy to integrate a working jaw into the head somehow, but apparently it was more important to give Primal a light-up throat.

Complexity: this is where Hasbro and I apparently have a fundamental difference of values. To me, a bigger toy means more room for complexity, more moving parts, more intricate transformation. Hasbro, from what we've seen, generally views it as more of a change in scale for the toys, as well as a way to pack in electronics. (Compare that to Takara, who seems to have the same perspective I do, and thus designs insane puzzles like RiD Prime and Magnus.)

Primal's a good case in point. Look at those huge translucent forearms! They're cool-looking, but they don't do jack for his transformation. They're as big as a BW-era basic, but they don't have any moving parts. That sort of thing drives me nuts. And he's like that pretty much all over. Only his lower torso has any degree of meaningful complexity. His lower legs are complex, but don't end up *looking* all that different when you're done. In ape mode, he's stuck with the same thigh-slapping paddle things that Transmetal Primal has.

And finally, fun factor: Well, the fingers are cool, and to my mind they're the best use that this toy makes of its size. Otherwise, though... well, there's certainly no room for stupid alternate modes or endless fidgetting, one of the things that makes RiD Megatron such a favorite of mine. The electronics, as with virtually all electronics in TFs, are entertaining for about five seconds, and then the novelty wears off. His other gimmick is a lame "punching" action. I really, really *hate* this type of gimmick, since it doesn't add to what the toy can actually *do*. I can make the other arm simulate a punch just about as easily and effectively. Similar offenders include Ultra Jetstorm's missile turret thing, BM Rattrap's head wiggle and TM2 Megatron's dragon-neck thrashing. It's not just that they're dumb and pointless -- it's also the fact that they tend to hurt the toys overall. Primal loses an elbow joint to accomodate the punching motion, and it's a serious loss in my book. Megs' neck is unposable because of the thrashing gimmick. Jetstorm's jet mode is fat because the turret occupies the space that the legs might otherwise fold up into. I've heard complaints about Cheetor's Supreme and Night Slash incarnations as well being hindered by their arm-motion gimmicks.

(For comparison purposes, my ideas of a good gimmick include Rotorforce's launching propellers, the various G1 spark shooters, the Throttlebots-style pull-'em-back-and-let-'em-go action, glow in the dark stuff, Rampage's working treads, water squirters... things that you simply can't *do* if they're not included in the toy as a gimmick. Light-up stuff isn't all that interesting to me personally; I think the Laser Rods probably made the best use of it that we've seen so far. Missile launching is a good thing, though it's so standard nowadays that I hardly even notice it. And finally, I have to grant that TM2 Blackarachnia's roundhouse kick is a pretty good idea for a body-motion gimmick, since it should theoretically have some punch to it. The fact that it doesn't actually work very well is... um.. not the point. :]

So should Hasbro care at all what I think? Probably not. I'd imagine that most kids -- younger ones especially -- feel a lot differently from me on many of these points. About the only one I'd stick to my guns with is show accuracy, which I'll defend to the death. Otherwise, I mean, Primal's a terrific action figure. He's big, easy to handle, probably hard to break, and incredibly articulated -- he's got moving FINGERS for chrissakes!!! Heck, if they'd jettisoned the electronics, maybe they could have sold him at a price more affordable to the kids who are the ones who'd enjoy him most....

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