I've been staring at the pictures and drooling ever since word of his existence first hit the net. I read everything I could about him. I despaired that he was Japanese-only. I had believed I would never own him.
I was wrong. Through circumstances not interesting enough to bother you with, Binaltech Smokescreen has found his way into my loving hands.
Is he everything a longtime transfan, forged in the fires of G1, could possibly want? Oh yes. Is he perfect? Well...
I'm going to rave for a bit about this bad boy's shipping crate. It is utterly amazing. The graphics are fairly simple, but very cool. There's some English, including the original Transformers logo and the classic slogan 'More than meets the eye!' The back is covered in pictures of the toy and its many features.
There's a big window to allow you to see the side and top of the toy, and two more in either end to view the front and rear. The end windows have a riveted porthole look to them. Open the flap, and the inner flap has a multi-layered image of metal panels opening over a background of gears. Someone put a lot of thought into this box; just opening it up you feel drawn into the Transformers world.
The wonder continues inside, when you pull out the tray Smokescreen rests on. I'm used to Transformers toys being tied down with elastic bands and many twist ties wrapped around important parts. None of that for Smokescreen! He comes in a folding tray that perfectly fits and protects him. To release him you merely undo a single twist tie that is threaded through the tray, not the toy, and open it like a clamshell. It's beautiful, and functional; you'd have to run over the box with a truck to actually damage the toy inside.
Finally, you can pull out the interior of the box. It's a little carboard display stage with BinalTech and Subaru logos on the front and a giant Autobot logo on the back.
Why all this hoopla over the box? Well, for one thing I'm sincerely amazed at the design. So much care was put into it that it's almost a shame to open it. But when you do open it, it's like unwrapping a work of art. That clamshell tray is a great idea; I wish that Hasbro would adopt it...
Smokescreen is, say it with me now, a 2003 Subaru Impreza WRC. He's based on Subaru's actual rally team vehicle, and as such he's covered in racing logos. Some people will find all this advertising irritating; personally I love it. It evokes fond memories of the G1 vehicles and their phony racing logos. Good times...
Smokescreen is a deep, beautiful metallic blue, attractively highlighted with yellow racing logos. Looking at him, you'd be hard pressed to find evidence that he's a robot in disguise. All four doors open, revealing a spacious interior with steering wheel, instruments, and even a tiny parking brake. The trunk lid opens a little, as does the engine bonnet. Inside the engine bonnet is an intercooler with a molded Autobot symbol - the first real giveaway that it's a robot. In fact, about the only exterior giveaway is his trunk and rear window; they have a fairly obvious split where the legs come apart.
Everyone wants to know, where's the die-cast? Well, I'll tell you. His hood, doors, roof and rear fenders are all metal. The rest is deep metal-flake blue plastic, painted in the same shiny metallic blue as the metal. A bit less metal than expected, perhaps, but I'm not complaining.
Much has been made of Smokescreen's 'steering' gimmick. It's not really that impressive; the tires only move through a few degrees of arc in either direction. It is, however, a nice touch, one they didn't need to add, and it pumps up the toy's cool factor just that much more.
The details are just amazing. It looks almost completely like the real thing, down to the sponsor logos. The more you look the more you see. For instance, there is a tiny little Subaru logo in his front grille. It's only a millimetre or two across, but it's fully detailed. They didn't need to put that there, but they did.
For the incredible attention to detail, the wonderful color scheme, and the eerie resemblance to a famous real world car, I hereby nominate BinalTech Smokescreen for Coolest Vehicle Mode of any Autobot, Ever.
This is where BinalTech Smokescreen actually starts to lose some of his lustre, figuratively and literally.
Figuratively, because the transformation is far more complex than I can go into here; I've already run on too long about the box. It's nothing like transforming the old G1 Smokescreen. It requires a gentle hand, a lot of faith, and careful study of the joints and the instructions. Now, complicated transformations are not a bad thing, but Smokescreen's has a couple of really irritating issues.
Namely, his roof, doors, and hood. There is no latch or peg to hold them still as you work on transforming other parts. They rattle, they get in the way, they generally get annoying.
Literally, he loses some lustre because you get grubby fingerprints all over him, and it's ridiculously easy to chip his paint. Also, you must be very careful and gentle, since he has a few delicate parts and if you break him you're out $60 or so.
If you want to transform this guy, clear your schedule for about a half hour the first time you do it, and study how every part moves very carefully. The pay-off is an intact toy, and one of the coolest robot modes ever.
Yes, he is everything you'd expect, plus some.
In robot mode, Smokescreen looks like every fanboy's dream of what a G1 Transformer should have been. He is the spitting image of his G1 self, from the wing-doors to the shin-windows and back up to his pointy little head-crest. However, he's twice the height of his old self, and immensely more detailed.
Details? Let's see. His head is great, with classic blue Autobot optics and a gold crest that recalls his G1 self. His mouth is molded in a grim, determined line. His arms and legs are fairly plain, although his forearms are grooved in a way that, once again, pay homage to the original. His feet have panel lines and fake screw-heads on the inside of his ankles and the top of his toes.
Where he really shines is in posability. His legs have several points of articulation each, including a great ball-mounted hip joint and a posable toe. His arms bend at the elbow, rotate at the shoulder, and have some lateral movement. His hands are very impressive, with a wrist joint and a posable fingers. The head is ball-jointed and can look side-to-side or up, and even down slightly. His index fingers are actually separate from the other three, allowing him to egg on opponents and look like he's got his finger on the trigger of his gun.
Oh yes, his gun. Remember the intercooler? It detaches and turns into his weapon. It's got a molded autobot symbol on either side. It also looks pretty cool.
There is a downside, though. His metal doors and roof make him rather back-heavy, and it can be tricky to get his legs posed with the back doors and window in the way. It will take some care and thought to get that perfect pose you wanted. Thankfully the metal in his feet helps balance things a bit.
Minor quibbles aside, Smokescreen's robot mode will rock your world. The strong resemblance to a classic G1 character, combined with all the posability modern toy design can give, gives this guy a strong aura of cool. He's got the second-coolest robot mode ever, second only to the upcoming Masterpiece Prime.
BinalTech Smokescreen is everything Transformers should and could be. The whole process of opening the box, examining the car, and turning him into a robot also transforms you into a ten-year-old all over again. It really is just that amazing. You will find that everything has an unexpected move or function. Nothing about this guy is simple, not even his box; indeed, in every facet he is more than meets the eye.
If I could say one negative thing about Smokescreen, it's that he's not really a toy. He's much more of a work of art, something to be admired and only occasionally touched. And that's fine. If you want a toy you can beat up and pose in battle scenes, Hasbro has you covered; Alternator Smokescreen is much less expensive and much easier to play with.
In the end though, it all comes down to this: Smokescreen will blow you away. Remember that incredible feeling when you got that first Autobot car, the one with the cool red box? Remember opening it to find that it really was two toys in one? Remember the excitement of seeing it transformed for the first time? You can feel that way again. If you can afford it, you owe it to yourself and your inner child to track this toy down as fast as you can.
For even more information about Smokescreen, the BinalTech storyline and the Subaru Rally Team, visit BWTF.com, where it's all gathered together in one convenient place.
|Date||November 26th 2003|
|Score||(10 out of 10)|
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