Hacking its way back from near toy oblivion, Air Attack Optimus Primal blasts its way onto shelves at TRU. Judging by the amount of discussion it generated on some discussion boards, AAOP may be one of the most anticipated TF exclusives of the year. Does it live up to expectations? Read on.
At long last, fans of BMach get a show-accurate version of OPrimal. Well, okay, his shoulders are different, but the rest of the toy echoes Primal's CGI model very nicely indeed.
OPrimal's appropriately heroic color scheme features bright gold, blue, orange, and red mechanical parts, which contrast nicely with his brown fuzzy bits. His hands are fleshy pink, but unfortunately so is his butt. Yes, the mighty leader of the maximals has a Rosy Red Rump. I thought he was a gorilla, not a baboon :P
It looks like the sculptors put in overtime on this guy. Intricate little mechanical parts blend in with wonderfully detailed fur, putting Supreme Cheets to shame. His robot mode has only one piece of extraneous beast parts, and that's the aforementioned RRR, but it keeps out of the way pretty well. The design makes excellent use of translucent plastic on the forearms, chestplate, and back.
His gorilla mode is probably the best-looking beast form Primal has had yet, but it's not without flaws. If you bend Boss Monkey at midsection to get a correct gorilla posture as it says in the directions (yes, it will bend, but it requires about 400 PSI to get it to work :P ), you can see his robot head. It's not too obtrusive if you turned it around, but it's obviously the back of his head. If you opt not to bend him back, his robot six-pack juts out his rear. I think he looks better bent, myself, but it's a clothespin vote. The blue patch of fur on his back doesn't bother me at all, though. Real alpha male gorillas have a silver patch on their backs, so it's no stretch to imagine a techno-organic gorilla with a blue patch on his back, especially if he's in a leadership role. And, surprisingly, his robot form's lower legs really don't detract from the gorilla's overall appearance.
Structurally, not much changes. From robot mode, his legs flip up, his heads and hands switch around, and he bends. Pretty simple, huh? Well, that's if you disregard all the steps that effect purely cosmetic changes, like flipping around his arm shields, switching around his chest, and all those weird contortions his legs go through. Overall, satisfyingly complex for the size of the toy, if somewhat straightforward. It does what it sets out do to, namely, change one thing into another that looks sufficiently different from what it was before, but it's nothing special.
Here's where this toy really shines. Now, I'm normally no big fan of sound gimmicks. Most of the time, with TFs at least, they do nothing to enhance the playability of the toy, and oftentimes there's no way to control what they do: you simply turn them on and off. So when I say that AAOP's sound system is INCREDIBLE, is STUPENDOUS, and may possible be the BEST PART OF THE TOY, you know it's gotta be worth checking out!
To activate the sound features, press OPrimal's chestplate. The mechanics of the other gimmicks will work without the accompanying sounds, but if you want to enjoy the sound elements, press the chest. You will hear some kind of internal generator power up, then it will hum for about ten seconds if left unattended, longer if you use any other sounds. The sound is surprisingly clear--not perfect, but clear, especially for the size of the speaker. You will notice, too, that most of the sounds are wonderfully choreographed--that is, they fit with whatever action they're meant to accompany. When you activate Primal, his chest also lights up. This doesn't look particularly special in robot mode, but in beast mode it is spectacular. Red LEDs light up behind what looks like Primal's blue spark crystal (which actually is to scale, even though it's just molded into the plastic), illuminating his innards. Ooooptimuuuuus Priiiiimaaaaal phooooone hoooome :} And, dare I say it, might those inner mechanics bear any resemblance to, say, the Matrix?
In describing the rest of the gimmicks, let us build to a climax, shall we? First being worst, he has an auto-punch feature in his right arm. Just pull back and let 'er rip. Occasionally, Optimus will even let loose a manly grunt in a familiar voice when he smashes Vehicons with his organic fists of steel, but not often. Maybe I just need practice, but even if the mechanism works perfectly, this gimmick, like so many other auto-fighting gimmicks, does nothing for me.
Primal is also armed with a Depth Charge style disk launcher. On the down side, the trigger is kind of hard to reach, and it only stores one disk, but we can forgive both of these facts, considering the amount of electronics Primal's packin'. The sound is pretty nifty, too, and even echoes a bit.
Now for the real stuff. Press down on his head, and guess who's voice pops out? Not some measly imitation of Optimus's voice, but the genuine article, Garry Chalk. HOLY HECK, THIS IS SO BLASTED COOL. Why has Hasbro not done this before? Okay, maybe some infernal copyright legalities, but it makes SUCH a world of difference. The toy is almost worth getting solely because of this ground-breaking achievement. Oh, and by the way, his eyes flash green.
What could possibly top the voice gimmick? Answer: Primal's jet pack. Press the button on his back, and his jet pack will flip out, causing three things to happen. First, you will notice that the blue patch of fur now represents plumes of jet exhaust, which is weird, but not as bad as it sounds. Second, little LEDs in the boosters light up. They're red, and they aren't terribly effective, but you will forget this when you hear how it sounds. The jet powers up, then blasts off. If Primal dives, the sound goes to a lower pitch. If he pulls up, the pitch goes up. Note to Hasbro honchos: give whoever designed this system a big promotion, and give raises to whoever approved the project.
One of the neatest points about this TF is also the most subtle. Convert AAOP to gorilla mode. His auto-punch feature actually works better, even though its a left hook now instead of a right, and he still fires disks. His jets don't work anymore, but that's actually a plus, since they flip up backwards in this mode--you must admit that a techno-organic gorilla flying backwards like a squid ramming Vehicons with his RRR would look pretty ridiculous. Now try his voice chip again. Notice any difference? Well, okay, his forehead glows red and his belly glows green, but LISTEN. Yes, you get two bonus sounds in this mode to replace his robot mode's voices. The fact that two of AAOP's gimmicks are mode specific when they didn't have to be show how much thought was put into this toy. Little touches like that can make or break the quality of a toy, and it's nice to see that Hasbro had TF fans in mind when they put this guy together.
I'm not too strict with poseability, depending on why the normal motion of the toy gets limited. In robot mode, Boss Monkey's poseability is nearly perfect. Nearly. The infernal auto-punch mechanism locks up his right elbow. His head can only rotate, which means that he can't see where he's flying or watch the skies for Jetstorm. I'm disappointed about the right elbow, but I can live with the head. His wrists can rotate, but they can't bend. The fingers can compensate for this, though, since they can bend back a little. Those are the only flaws, and they're quite minor. On the plus side, Primal's fingers take the next step in the evolution of large TF's hand designs, building off of OpOp's grabby mitts and Supreme Cheetor's semi-independent claws. Each finger sports two, count 'em, TWO points of articulation. I guess the next step is to give a large toy an operational thumb.
Primal's beast mode suffers here, too, not that that's highly unusual for a BW-era toy. The gorilla has no knees, and the robot mode's lower legs limit poseability at the hips, but his ankles can rotate a little. He also loses what limited range of motion he had in his elbows, though his shoulders get freed up a little. Okay, I guess you can unlatch his arm shields and free up the elbows somewhat, but I think that looks strange. His head can rotate, though, and they really didn't have to include that, so I'll will give the designers props for that one. Thank Primus for little things.
I've never actually SEEN any episodes of the BMach series, so I'm judging by info gleaned from the 'net. As far as the toys go, it struck me as pretty hit-and-miss. Some designs looked weird/cool, others looked weird/disturbing, and others just plain didn't work at all. There were, however, some real winners, like Tankor, Strika, and Jetstorm. I admit some concern over how this design would turn out before I bought it.
So, WAS it worth the wait? Let's just say that, even though his techs and packaging classify him as RiD, AAOP is the capstone and crowning achievement of Beast Machines. He even outclasses the mighty Tankor in my mind, which took some doing. If you are a fan of BMach, do whatever it takes to get your hands on one. Well, not WHATEVER it takes, but you know what I mean ;} This toy boasts several firsts, namely, his super-poseable hands, his show-accurate voice effects, and his innovative sound system, which, when coupled with the fact that he is a TRU exclusive, makes him highly collectible. But even if, like me, you've never seen the show, or you don't give a rip what the thing will be worth in twenty years, if you're just interested in TFs, I promise that it will make a worthy addition to your collection. I have to score it 9/10 because of the many minor flaws which kinda build up, but overall AAOP is a high-quality, highly playable, and highly recommended toy.
Special thanks to Cosmicrust.com
for the images. Check out the full gallery of Air Attack Optimus Prime images HERE
|Date||July 1st 2002 |
|Score|| (9 out of 10) |