Review by The Enthusiast
Collecting-wise, I have sat out the Bay era of the Transformers. The designs just don’t appeal to me. Why not? The short version is “it’s not what I grew up with.” If you want my tl;dr explanation, read on. If not, just skip to the review below.
The first wave of transforming mecha (for simplicity’s sake, let’s just say TF:G1) did something special and new. Its designers reorganized the formal elements of iconic machines, be they sports cars, military vehicles, or household objects, into robots. The vocabulary for the robot forms came from the unique and immediately recognizable design elements of the machines. The angular sweep of a Lamborghini Countach hood, the blocky cab elements of a truck, the fuselage of a jet, these features became figural components of a humanoid robot without losing their identity. And because the robots had a clear, disciplined organization, they made visual sense. They held together beautifully.
Bayformers derive from a very different design principle, one based on translating the idea of a Transformer into plausible reality. In reality, a complex machine would not retain whole elements of its form when transitioning to a different mode. The vocabulary, by necessity, needs to fracture into smaller “words.” Instead of a fender, the building block becomes a gear or a piston. The natural result of this is what we’ve seen in the movies, relatively plausible objects with a more homogenized appearance. Sure, there are variations of massing, but each character has become a marvelously detailed frame of whirring gears with a few colorful bits tacked on to remind you of the alternate mode. It’s a perfectly reasonable way of doing things, but it’s not my cup of tea.
The Review of the Toy in Question
I picked up Sentinel Prime because he appeared to be more nuanced and refined than the movie Transformers I’ve seen. I like the colors and both modes looked pretty.
Sentinel comes in a large window box befitting a Ultra Deluxe Master-Class toy, or whatever they are calling the larger toys.
The figure itself: beautiful; has real personality, presence and depth; WILL NOT STAND UP. I have a real problem with big expensive toys which cannot do the simplest thing a toy can do: stand up. But here we are again. The damned thing will not stand up without serious attention. I had to manipulate all kinds of joint to get the most basic poses, and even then he’s hunched in some awkward position. I really considered just scotching this review. I enjoyed the piece well enough when I was just playing with it and transforming it, but I hadn’t attempted to make it stand up on two feet before I photographed it. But I do in fact enjoy this thing, so onward and upward.
He does look pretty, though. Though at first he appears to have a serious case of Transformer Back, his back is not that awful. The floating panels aren’t ideal, but make a certain sense, and he looks complete.
Posing is solid, and Sentinel looks appropriately dynamic with his shield and sword.
The shield is one of the figure’s Mechtech features. It will spring into a blaster of some kind with the touch of a button (see fire truck mode for details).
Another Mechtech feature is button-activation of Prime’s mouth, with accompanying flashing eyes and “I am Sentinel Prime” sound. It's a neat trick, but I don't really care.
Transformation into fire truck is...involved. I just assume that a child these days can just grab this thing and transform it in seconds into the truck, but man I struggled with this. Sentinel Prime is essentially a very complicated shell-former. Getting his legs and arms to fit in that shell was a long, frustrating process.
For most of my collecting life, I enjoyed and welcomed additional complexity in transformation. Now I’m over it. I appreciate an elegant, simple transformation more than a CAD-engineered wonder. When I fiddle with, say, Golion, I’m pleasantly engaged. When I get Sentinel Prime into one mode, I dread getting back to the other. I know it’s not going to be any fun. Maybe it is to a child today.
The result is a very handsome vehicle mode. Getting all of the shell panels in place is a hassle but it has its rewards. You don’t dare breathe on it though, lest the delicate balance of interlocking panels get disturbed and ruin the last twenty minutes of positioning.
You can place the shield on the top for more Mechtech action.
A few of the rear panels fold out.
This toy is simultaneously nice and maddening. I really like both modes. Each is rich and well-detailed and a fun plaything. But the robot doesn’t stand. And transformation is no fun.
Would I buy another Bayformer? Probably. The Shockwave looks nice, and it takes awhile for me to learn my lesson.
|Posted 26 June, 2011 - 18:29 by The Enthusiast|