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Sky-Byte - Robots in Disguise / Generation One - Generations Voyager Figure

Height: 20cm Overall height

Articulation: 24 total points - Neck swivel; Right arm - 6 points: Swivel + hinge shoulder, bicep swivel, hinge elbow, hinge wrist, hinged thumb; Left arm - 7 points: Swivel + hinge shoulder, bicep swivel, hinge elbow, forearm swivel, hinged upper and lower claws; 5 points each leg: Insert joint hip, thigh swivel, hinge knee, hinge ankle.

Colors: Molded yellow, dark blue, grey, dark grey; Painted dark blue, light blue, silver, gold, red, pink, white.

Accessories: Missile

Release Data: Released in the United States in August of 2014 at a retail price of US$24.99

Author: ExVee


The feats of many warriors have been written about in epic tales of battlefield heroism. Sky-Byte might be the only one who writes about his own. Vanquishing his Autobot enemies not only gives him a hard-fought victory, but a chance to wax poetic about it:

Victory is mine
The Predacon Shark has won
You Autobot scum!


The dub for Robots in Disguise in 2001 grabbed a lot of people's attention while it aired, but little has had ongoing staying power with most fans. Sky-Byte is one such element, thanks in no small part to the voice performance of Peter Spellos. Having previously been updated in a Botcon box set, as well as getting a new life in IDW's comic continuity, the character's popularity is well acknowledged. It's not too surprising for Sky-Byte to get a retail update in the 30th anniversary Generations line, but was Voyager really the right size class to put it in...?


Robot Mode

Sky-Byte sure does have some design choices. I'll start at the most obvious, the shark body panels. These float sort of nebulously somewhere above and behind the torso. The obvious place for them to go based on the design this takes after would be flat over the shoulders, and it could be capable of doing exactly that with no more moving parts than are already present. But it can't do that because the necessary hinges and pivots have stops added to them which keep them from going quite far enough. I can't see any obvious reason why they should have to be held at exactly the spots they're stopped, moreso given that letting them go a little farther would help to do something with those panels besides just hanging out off the body. The photography on the box has them hanging down like a cape, but the instructions want them inverted to point up. That at least brings the painted surfaces to the front in robot mode, but it sure doesn't look very good the way the instructions show. You can fold the panels and orient them just so and give them a pretty slim profile from the front, and have them point out over the shoulders which actually doesn't look terrible and is similar to the arrangement of the original toy. But understand that the instructions don't advise anything close to this arrangement.

Above the elbow, the arms are the same on either side; There's a good swivel and hinge combo in the shoulders giving the joints a thick, solid look that I like, and leaving plenty of room to move. There's actually a third joint buried in the shoulder from transformation, but as is often the case you can get some extra mileage for posing there if you find you need it. The upper arms have small fins that pull out, but they have no way to lock and are on rather loose hinges. Generally you're going to find them to have retracted at some point without your knowledge, upon which discovery you'll question why you even bothered with them at all. From here, we get the robot mode's only major element of asymmetry that marked the original Transmetal II toy design. On the left, Sky-Byte has the distinctive tail-claw arm from the original toy. New to the design is a missile launcher to take up for the handheld launcher the original had. The larger two fins hinge to open and close the claw a little. The hinges are reasonably stiff, but the design doesn't allow for trying to grasp things. The elbow joint wouldn't be strong enough to hold anything like that up anyway. An action feature of the first Sky-Byte is maintained and given a slight upgrade, with a plunger on the forearm making the claw spin on a geared action. The missile launches with a small trigger just below the joint the claw spins around. A slight modification and the toy could have had that trip automatically when the claw was spun. But I think I'm happier that they didn't, as I consider it.

The right arm is a fold-around panel structure, hollow inside apart from a bit of skeletal armature needed for transforming and somewhat for posing in robot mode here. The shape of one panel restricts the range of the elbow joint, but even if you pull the arm apart to get that out of the way, the joint itself is made to stop not far past anyway. The hand is pretty nice; the sculpt has some nice detail as the semi-curl fingers go, and the thumb can be moved on a hinge shared with the wrist. That does mean there's no 5mm compatibility for this toy, but Sky-Byte wouldn't be good at holding things anyway. See, as I said there's a hinge joint at the wrist, but not a swivel. And sadly the palm of the hand is aligned with the elbow, so Sky-Byte has the much loathed "gorilla arm" or "curling" design happening. And it's so unnecessary, especially with the panel build of the arm, there's nothing that would have stopped the hand from being turned 90 degrees and riveted from the "bottom" of the hand instead of the side. Along with the empty arm, which most of the time you can see through, it's just more of how this toy sure had some design choices done to it.

There's a shark head on the chest, which is an influence from IDW's use of Sky-Byte. As it's realized here it looks really awkward though. In the middle there's a simulation of a spark crystal with tampographed Predacon symbol, meaning this Sky-Byte should at least be capable of unleashing the Tsunami Blaster. The shark head is a very light blue, which while based around the original's deco is made to seem out of place given it's exclusively on an element that already looks tacked on unnaturally. The two elements work together to seem more wrong than either could separately! The two main shark fins hang out on the back and can be arranged on ball joints to stay out of the way or otherwise just rest as you prefer.

Sky-Byte's head... It has all the right shapes and basically the right design elements. But it's been styled to look really nasty, and not in the almost charmingly cartoonish way the original toy went about it. The face is a little too organic looking, so things like the big toothy mouth or the pointed chin or nose come off as ...well, gross for want of a better simple description. More importantly, it doesn't go with the feel of previous media depictions of Sky-Byte's face which I think is what bothers me the most. It follows the concept of the original design but throws away any of the character applied which made anyone care about Sky-Byte enough to justify making a new toy like this. Getting down to a more basic problem, the toy is made so the head is always pointed kind of down. I hate that in general. You can pop the neck panel above where it's supposed to click in place to get him a little more forward facing, but it doesn't help very much. This is where a nice ball jointed neck could help a lot, but sadly his neck only moves as a swivel. With this eye line, I can only imagine Sky-Byte is staring at the huge shark head on his chest and wondering how his life came to this.

Sky-Byte's legs do the same thing I noticed in Movie Drift where the hip joints want to move in tandem. Apart from that, everything is good right to the knees. The joints have smooth movement and are tight enough to hold their place as necessary. Sadly moving past the knee we get back to Design Choices. From the front, Sky-Byte's shins are large yellow structures that wrap half way around the leg. But from any other angle the truth is revealed, and the lower legs are entirely empty. The panels are a facade, and the legs are only a structural frame inside. The yellow panels, made from the shark's gills are hinged in front to close in the shape of the leg some. But like those fins on the shoulders, nothing holds them in place at any point. There are guide grooves on the inner parts obviously meant to stop the panels at the intended resting point, but only the tension of the hinge could keep them there. Spoilers: it doesn't. I suppose the only positive to be found is that being made this way doesn't functionally compromise the legs. They have at least a frame inside to make structural support, unlike the right arm whose support is the outer structure. The feet are ...made from platypus skulls? That's all I can see looking at them. They're big and flat and actually pretty good at carrying the robot mode though, so I guess whatever works? The ankles are forward/backward hinges, no side to side action, but posing goes fine without that extra. Functionally the worst possible flaw with the legs is in the shin struts needing to tab in on the front of the knee joints themselves. It's only a problem that I've found if you try to adjust the knee pads too far, and you can pull the shins out from under the tabs. It's actually really minor, and ends up proving that the legs are more or less fine if you can not be bothered by them having no actual substance behind them.

Transformation

The same body panels that official documentation can't be bothered to tell you how to arrange correctly are the biggest source of problems in transforming the toy. Most of what happens in transforming makes some intuitive sense, like unfolding the shark head from the torso and collapsing the legs - make sure you get them bent in just right so the feet fit flat against the shark body! - but even though it's obvious the body panels will close in around everything, getting them to perform that behavior is no smooth process. There are many tabs which are beneficial to the final product for giving the body structural strength, but you still have to get them all tabbed in first. You can basically ignore the tabs toward the rear, as they'll end up seating themselves. In the front there are tabs that have to fit on top, at the back of the head, and along the gill panels. And they all have to tab together at virtually the same time or else some combination of them will be locked out. It's a big headache and I really question if the toy couldn't have functioned without just the big topside tabs and the ones in back and removing about 50% of the frustration factor of transforming this toy.

Beast Mode

Credit where it's due, this is a really nice looking shark. Setting aside the exposed tech details, the body is smooth and pretty much follows one line. Even underneath the body is pretty clean despite using a similar process of having the legs form the jaw and some under body, that results in a much cleaner form this time. The downside to having such a tidy body design is its virtual immobility. The jaw can open and close, and the fins can move a tiny bit but are mostly locked in place by the panels surrounding the connecting arms. It's not unexpected, as it's an uncommon case where this kind of beast form would have meaningful poseability. The one part that can move freely, I wish didn't. The tail still spins as it did as the robot mode claw, which is okay, but I really wish it had a way to lock in place instead of spinning freely. No, what's bad is the tail always bending downward at the robot's elbow. There's no way to lock that in position and it's not afraid of drooping or slipping just with movement of the toy. It's exacerbated by the other thing I count as a flaw.

The original toy was designed curved to one side, presumably to imply a swimming motion or other dynamic appearance to the beast mode. This time, Sky-Byte is made to look like it's in mid-jump, with the body arcing upward. That's a very dynamic action, and it does look cool when held looming over another figure. Thing is, at some point you have to put a toy down, and then you run in to the big problem: the toy can't rest on a flat surface. Even allowing for the tail to rotate to the side, Sky-Byte is still going to be pointing nose-first in to your table or shelf or wherever else you might leave it. And that bugs me a lot. Sky-Byte isn't the first to do this, but the toy does have a 3mm port underneath (and one on the robot's back) that's compatible with at least one leading brand of Japanese display stand, but probably other kinds as well. Even though Tamashii Stage arms can connect, I'm wary of relying on that. I know from my own experience that those things crack and break under even a small amount of weight, and a shark might be too much for them in the long term.

Sky-Byte lacks the outright beautiful paint apps of the first Sky-Byte, which is really a shame but not unexpected. But there's only a few places with sculpting that looks like it was expecting paint but got cut for budgeting. The big tech bits on the sides are mostly painted in silver, but where they cross over to the next panel, an interesting transition takes place. Those pieces are molded in grey plastic, but mostly painted over in blue, except where the mechanical details are present. It's obviously different from the painted silver right next to it, but it's not quite as visually jarring as the transition from a color of paint to color of plastic can be. Plus on that side of things, the blue paint is an excellent match to the dark blue of the plastic on the shark body. Good enough at least that I didn't immediately register what the real color of the grey plastic parts was.

In this mode, those body panels are the most obvious locations of the characteristic asymmetry of the Transmetals 2 that the first Sky-Byte toy originated from. There is a good deal of that aesthetic in the toy's beast mode, but as most of it goes unpainted, it's harder to detect casually. Since that design style was purely a side effect for the original, it's great to see that embraced and emphasized with a major chunk of the toy's paint allocations for this mode.

Closing Remarks

Sky-Byte suffers for its end result. As has been the case previously with beast updates, a lot was put in to the appearance of the beast mode and this is another time the robot ends up suffering as a result. The shark mode is really nice, but still remains significantly flawed by the forced body posture even while looking really nice and having a largely solid structure. The easiest way to sum up Sky-Byte is that it's over engineered. For the cost of a less ideal alternate mode, the robot could have been improved, and the transformation made easier to perform, and the toy would have been better overall. I question if it was even necessary at all to put this character in the Voyager size, but if it would have had to be this complicated regardless it's probably better to have been at this size.

Sky-Byte is a little too frustrating for me to call good; I'm impressed by what they managed with the beast mode, and I've learned not to hate the robot mode, but I'm far from outright liking it. Sky-Byte comes in at Could Have Been Better on the Figurereviews.com Non-Numeric Scale. Heck, just setting up the tail so it could bend UP as an option would have helped considerably - you at least could have had a mostly flat underside to rest the toy on then, even if it would mess up the body line a bit.

I guess we can see what the designers felt was more important, though.



ReviewerExVee  
DateAugust 10th 2014  
Score 4 stars (4 out of 10)  
Reads7915
LinkGenerations Sky-Byte Review Album  


Generations Sky-Byte Review Album Image Gallery


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