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Optimus Prime - Energon - Figures

Optimus Prime

Never in fandom has such a toy been so reviled before it had ever touched a single shelf. While I tried to reserve judgment, it was easy to understand the sneers and jokes. An open mouth faceplate, a rhomboid trailer, painted windows, Technicolor drones, an unrealistic, kibble-ridden alt mode, and a Santa-like belly all sharply diverged from the Primes fans have come to love. What a shock then to find out that the toy itself is not only not horrible but downright impressive and a great deal of fun.

A highly stylized truck and trailer. Long time Transfans will likely look at this and wonder what the Hasbro was trying to pull. It’s hard to accept this as a terrestrial vehicle, even one from 10 years in the future. As a “robot in disguise” Prime is a total failure. It is easier to accept if looked at as a Cybertronian vehicle, but for many its bizarre aesthetics will never pass muster.

The cab is without question the most unique design we’ve seen for this character, but it is still clearly Optimus Prime. Relatively long and boxy, mostly red (as expected), but with a white rimmed windshield and black beneath the windows. The windows are a bit large and painted a deep metallic blue. While I prefer clear plastic, these look nicer than most opaque windows. The plastic tires also appear larger than usual, as if the truck was meant to be off road as much as on the highway. At the very least it adds a “moon rover” element that emphasizes its futuristic design.

In a nod to Armada the cab has two minicon ports, one on each side, These are well placed and work especially well with the minicon weapons and missile launchers.

Behind the windows, in their usual spots, are the faction symbols. On the passenger’s side is a standard, and rather large, Autobot symbol framed in white. On the driver’s side is a silver Autobot spark crystal. Finally the third symbol painted – a black “spark of combination” emblem – is painted on the roof over the driver’s seat.

I think fans would be kinder were this all the design offered, but there is also a great deal of “kibble” to contend with. First is the “radar dish” which folds up from the back. I imagine this is what Prime uses to control his drones (all of whom sport a similar feature), but it is obvious this is part of his head (to be fair it might not be so obvious to someone unfamiliar with the character’s design). Prime’s gun lays across the back of the truck and no attempt at all is made to hide it, Perhaps if it were a dark color it would blend, but being white, it stands out like a sore thumb. Finally there are, unforgivably, two arms – and there’s no mistaking them for anything else- extending down from the back of the cab. While some attempt was made to blend them into the vehicle’s design, it’s not fooling anyone.

Like the cab, the trailer has a unique design- a gray, forward tilting rhombus. The trailer has a great deal of sculpted detail, and a little gold paint near the top of the right and left side. Two minicon hard points, one on each side, are also located near this area, and as with the cab are in a good position to mount minicon weaponry.

The main purpose of the trailer is to hold Prime’s 4 drones. The sides of the trailers are cut away to reveal 3 of them, with the 4th compartment uniquely covered by a black panel. Next to each cutaway is a sliding black lever that can be used to “launch” the drones in tower mode. The top of the trailer sports 4 more black panels, labeled OP1, OP2, OP3, and OP4.

The rear of the trailer has a huge Autobot logo, unfortunately covered up by another radar dish. While this can be raised to better show off the logo, it doesn’t quite look right in truck mode.

Overall I’d say I was pleasantly surprised by this vehicle. The design concept may have been flawed, but it was well realized. It is pretty fun to fool around with once you get past the odd appearance.

Grade: B-

Robot Mode

This is the mode that has condemned Energon Prime to months of scorn and ridicule. It’s a shame as it is, by far, better than all but a handful of the Armada figures, and a few past Prime’s as well.

If you know your Transformers, there is no mistaking this for anyone but Optimus Prime. The colors, chest windows, abdomen grilled, blue helmet and faceplate are hallmarks of the character, yet in the end this is also what damns the toy. Despite his familiarities, there are a number of differences that radically depart from the Prime tradition. His electronics give him a large girth and “rear package,” and his face plate has a hole cut in it so his mouth is visible. Optimus Prime’s image is so iconic that such substantial changes are at odds with most fans’ expectations. Some will even complain about his gun color. While I can see why some are disappointed, when I look at this toy as his own unique character rather than try to fit him in the G1 mold, I find these issues substantially lessened.

This is not to say that the toy is without its own flaws. Kibble and proportions are legitimate -if overstated - issues. He IS fat, no question, and this makes his arms appear stubby and his legs too skinny. The “radar dish” hangs off the back just as it did in cab mode. If you don’t mind robots with odd proportions, you’ll likely find these flaws to be minor, but again, some will be turned off.

Colors, of course, are classic Prime red and blue, this time augmented with quite a bit of white and black as well. No real surprises – everything carries over from the truck mode.

Articulation is well above par. Ratchet joints are used on the shoulders, elbows, hips and knees to give flexibility without the instability of ball joints. The shoulders and hips have both front-back and in-out joints, greatly increasing the range of motion. A nice touch is that the wheels on his hips will swing up so as not to hinder leg movement. His head can turn side to side, but not up and down. On my figure at least, the joints are the perfect tightness – stiff enough to hold their position, but otherwise easy to move. If there is a flaw it’s that the toy lacks mid-arm and thigh swivels, so he doesn’t have quite the range of motion as Bendy Prime, This omission was most likely necessary to keep his Powerlink mode stable.

This mode doesn’t possess any unique gimmicks, but it does share most of the same features as the Powerlinked mode, so I’ll deal with them here. First up is his sound effects.

He has 5 different sounds, one of which is unlisted in the directions. On his ample backside is a 4 way switch. Each sound is clearly numbered and corresponds to one of his drones. The sounds are activated by a well camouflaged button above the switch. Sound 1 is a fire siren, 2 a helicopter, 3 a drill (I guess) and 4 a “ping”ing sub sonar. Sounds 2 and 3 are a bit vague, and would have been hard to decipher without 1 and 4 as a guide.

The 5th sound, a firing cannon, is activated by a switch on the driver’s side of the cab. This 5th switch will also activate his Matrix light. Open up his chest windows and you will reveal the Autobot Matrix. When you press the button, a red LED in its center will flash 3 times. All in all, neat but not terribly inspiring. It is highly debatable if these features were worth all the Fatimus Prime jokes.

Of course being an Energon toy Prime can also sport an energon chip and wield energon weapons.

Lastly I should point out that the powerlinx points on his cab are covered by his wheels.

I don’t believe that this mode deserves all the misery fans have heaped upon it. It is a fairly decent, if not quite spectacular, toy.

Grade: B

Base mode

Turn Prime’s trailer into a base by tipping it over, raising the radar, and pulling out the kickstand (which in profile makes it look like a high heel shoe). While the rhomboid shape looks wrong for a trailer, it seems perfect here as the launching pad for Prime’s drones. Ops 1, 3and 4 can be launched by pushing their respective levers, forcing them to roll out the door (but not very far). Op 2 is a helicopter, so a rolling launch wouldn’t make sense. Instead Op 2’s compartment opens on the side, forming a landing pad. Slide out Op2 (alas no lever here) and he’s ready to fly.

The base has a radar dish on its roof, which I assume is to control the drones. Quick examination of each drone will reveal a pair of radar arrays similar to the one atop the trailer and on Prime’s back.

In addition to its minicon pegs, the base radar also has a standard sized hole in its stem, allowing you to mount energon weapons for improved defense.

I’ve never been fond of base modes, but this one’s simplicity and practical function elevates it above most previous designs. It may not be much of a trailer, but as a base its pretty good.

Grade: C+

Drones

Prime’s drones have suffered the same insults as the rest of him, and again I think such slights are not entirely warranted. While they are each brightly colored, they are far from childish. Each has a nice amount of sculpted detail, and its own unique action feature – something that really isn’t necessary for glorified body parts.

Each vehicle has the ability to become an arm or a leg, and those with clear hands in arm modes have placed the thumb so that it can serve as either the right or left arm.

OP1 is an orange fire truck with an extending ladder and a rotating pair of nozzles over his cab. It is possible to hide in the “hand tab” in arm mode by swinging out the foot, tucking the tab, and putting the foot back.

OP2 is a white helicopter with (what else) rotating blades. This is a bit too bulky, and is the least convincing of the 4 drones.

OP3 is a yellow drill (what is it with Japanese and drilling vehicles?). Its bottom wheel is a gear that turns the nosecone when the drone moves, This is a very effective gimmick, and makes me wish that a similar device was installed in OP2.

OP4 is a blue sub with a grabbing claw. While I think it has nicest color scheme, the claw and wheels serious takes away from the illusion of a sub.

The only complaints I have is that their modes only vaguely resemble real world vehicles, and each has a huge hole in the back to connect to Prime.

The drones are fun little toys, and a worthy descendent of Roller. While not a reason to buy Prime, they are a nice bonus.

Grade: B-

Powerlink Mode Yes, once again the PLOP acronym raises its ugly head. As if the fans need any more reasons to poke fun at this toy.

Transformation is fairly simple – fold up Prime’s feet and arms, open his chest, and slide on the drone however you like. Finally pull up his radar helmet and you’re done. It doesn’t sound like much, but this transformation is a dramatic improvement on the basic figure. The drones add needed bulk to his limbs, and with the larger body his girth no longer seems as obese. The one real flaw is his helmet, which is a bit too large,

The ability to configure the drones however you like (in a scamble city manner) adds a great amount of play value. Op 1 and 2 give you basic hands (right or left as mentioned above) to hold his gun or energon weapons. Op 2 also gives him a spinning blade attack, though unfortunately the blades are a bit long and sometimes hit his shoulder. Op3 gives him a very powerful drill punch, and Op 4 a vice-like grabbing claw (unfortunately the claw is in a poor position to actually hold most weapons).

As for legs, there isn’t much difference one way or another, though certain people may prefer to keep certain color combinations. The one I don’t much care for is Op3, as the drill gives a pointy-toed look that seems out of place. Nothing awful, just odd.

There have been complaints about the colors, and again I feel this is largely justified by the fact that he is a Prime figure, and Primes have to have certain colors. Multi-colored combiners have been a staple of animation for years (not just Power Rangers as some younger fans may believe), and that includes some of the G1 scramble city teams.

While the figure is always seen with his matrix exposed, there is no reason why you can’t keep the chest closed. While it does lessen his appearance, the chest flaps now won’t interfere with the arm articulation.

Speaking of articulation, this is one of the most articulated Super Primes ever, just behind Fire Convoy. He has all the articulation of his smaller form (though the head is more restricted, the arms actually have greater range), and puts Armada’s “Pants” Prime to shame.

Without a doubt this is the toy’s best mode, and I feel it justifies whatever sacrifices had to be made in other modes. My one real complaint is that there are no usable minicon pegs or mounting holes (aside from the hands) that could be used to augment his firepower.

Grade: A

Overall I would say that it would be a mistake for any fan to dismiss this figure out of hand. While I have granted that most of the complaints have merit, they are also overstated. The play value packed into this figure is tremendous. I think any child would dearly love this toy, and in 20 years will be as fondly remembered as any G1 figure. For older fans, I think the enjoyment largely hinges on how much you can put aside past prejudices and accept some new design elements in this character. As far as I am concerned, it is well worth the price of purchase.

Final Grade (not an average): B+

ReviewerMichael T. Dunleavy  
DateDecember 14th 2003  
Score 8 stars (8 out of 10)  
Reads5167
LinkMy Prime Gallery  


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