For the casual Transformer fan such as myself for whom the recent Transformer lines has produced little of interest, the
Alternators line has provided a welcome infusion of old school style. The accurate vehicle designs based on real vehicles
and the use of Generation One character names and head sculpts make this a natural for collectors. After a slow end to
2005, Hasbro seems to be trying to make up for lost time and have released four new Alternators since Christmas. The
new recruits include Prowl (an Acura RSX police car), Skids (a Scion xB), Sunstreaker (another Dodge Viper) and Rollbar (a
Packaging - Prowl 9/10, others 4/10The Alternators line has undergone a second redesign of the packaging. Prowl is the last Alternator to be available in the older style box. That's a shame because I really like that packaging design. It is attractive, collector friendly to open and helped to connect the Alternators line to the original Transformers toys. That's not to say the design didn't have any drawbacks. The open window did leave the box prone to damage around the window. But the new design simply leaves me flat. The new design has each Alternator packed inside a clear plastic holder just like the old design. But that holder is now attached to the top of an extremely thin box instead of inside of it. Then there is a larger clear plastic dome over the first which makes a stack of figures with the new design difficult to stack neatly on a store shelf. To be perfectly honest, there is not one thing I like about the new design. The reduced surface area on the box means that there is very little room for photos or graphics. For the most part it is now limited to smaller versions of the Alternators logo and character information. There is an insert in the clear bubble that does include a slightly smaller comic style image of the robot mode. They also managed to retain the detailed photos that used to be on the back of the boxes. But now they are relegated to the bottom. The new design is obviously meant to tie the Alternators line into the Transformers Cybertron line. But the two lines are completely unrelated and should have been left as such
Sculpting - Sunstreaker & Rollbar 8/10, Prowl & Skids 9/10I've already covered both Sunstreaker and Rollbar in my previous reviews of Dead End and Swindle because they are identical! Hasbro seems to have gotten lazy and didn't bother making any changes, not even the usual alternate set of rims or a new head sculpt. I'm probably being too harsh. But I really expected at least a little effort on Hasbro's part.
Prowl makes a great addition to the Alternators line. His vehicle mode is highly detailed as you would expect from an Alternator. The inclusion of the light bar on the roof is a great idea and it means that they can easily reuse the molds later. The biggest drawback to Prowl is that the legs are quite visible through the rear window. His robot mode is one of the best so far. Of course there is the issue of vehicle mode kibble hanging off the robot mode, particularly the back. But the minor changes such as having the hood pointing down instead of straight out helps to keep the torso in better proportion to the rest of the figure. And having the doors lie flat across the shoulders makes them less visible. The arms do seem a bit small compared to the rest of the figure though, as does the head.
Skids makes a welcome addition to the line as just the second Alternator mold whose vehicle mode isn't a traditional car. I'm not a big fan of the Scion xB design, but they captured the design well. I was particularly amused that they even got the 60/40 split to the rear seat correct. Unfortunately the doors and door frames don't seem to match up as well as I have come to expect. Straight out of the box there were noticeable gaps around the doors. And if the factory can't get everything aligned properly, it doesn't bode well for the average consumer. The robot mode follows the same pattern as most of the Alternator figures with the front end of the vehicle sticking out to form the chest and the doors sticking out on either side behind the arms. The legs are better than average. Except for the rear doors hanging off the sides of the legs and the tires, very little of the body of the vehicle is recognizable on the legs and they are not nearly as bulky as many of the other Alternators. The arms are a bit undersized compared to the bulk of the front end/chest. And the same is true of the head as well. The design does a surprisingly good job of condensing the large body of the vehicle behind the torso and head. But of course it still looks like a folded up car more than a robot.
Paint - Rollbar 6/10, Sunstreaker 8/10, Skids & Prowl 9/10Given that Rollbar and Sunstreaker are simple repaints of previous figures, you would hope they would go the extra mile when it came to the paint. The repaint works well for Sunstreaker. The only complaint I have about him is that the sharp contrast between the yellow and black highlights the unfinished look of the upper half of the torso. Rollbar didn't turn out as well. Much of it is that I simply don't care for the unpainted orange plastic. Personally I don't think light colored plastics (orange, white, yellow, etc...) don't show off the details of a sculpt as well as darker colors. In Rollbar's case, when seen in person it is quite evident that the color comes from the plastic and not paint which generally gives a sharper, brighter color. But even putting the color choice aside, they cut quite a few corners on Rollbar. Many of the small details such as the door latches and the spaces between the grill are not painted. The difference may not jump out at you at first. But when you compare it to Swindle and Hound that did have those paint applications, they do make a difference.
Prowl's vehicle mode has quite a sharp look thanks to the Highway Patrol paint job. The lettering turned out very well. And the two tone paint job for the dash panel is great, although they still haven't gotten to the point of fully painting the dash. In robot mode Prowl could stand to have a bit more contrast. The light blue and grey for the legs seem to blend together, especially with the sharp contrast of the black automotive parts on the sides of the legs. The same is true of the area around the head. The entire area is surrounded by black trim, but the head itself sits in the middle of a large light blue area. Had they gone the extra mile and painted that area black it would have really made the head stand out.
I have less than zero interest in ever owning a vehicle that looks like Skids, but I have to admit it is a unique and fitting for a Scion. The flames in particular are interesting, transitioning from a dark orange in the front to orange with gold spots, to gold with orange spots to gold. The windows also have an unusual tint to them. The top third of each window has a dark tint with slight golden flecks while the lower two thirds have a lighter tinting. Skid's robot mode looks great. The red, silver and yellow highlights contrast nicely with the dark blue of the body. And the bits of flame that are visible add a little extra touch. The arms could stand to be improved. The red paint is not quite thick enough in some spots. But this is a great looking paint job.
Articulation - Skids 10/10, others 9/10To try and actually count all of the articulation on one of the Alternator figures, including all of the joints used for the transformation would be extremely difficult and largely irrelevant. As with all the previous Alternators, the doors all work in vehicle mode as well as the hoods. Skids deserves special note as he not only has four opening doors and a working hood, but the rear hatch opens as well. Of course all the wheels spin freely. And all four have mechanisms built in so that the front wheels steer together. Their robot modes have between twenty two and twenty seven points of articulation. But how useful that articulation is varies greatly. Most of the individual joints have fairly large ranges of motion. Of course there are exceptions such as Rollbar's shoulder joints. And the bulkiness of the limbs often restricts the articulation as well. Skids has the most posibility of the four thanks to his thinner limb. But in general you end up being limited more or less to basic standing/walking poses.
Accessories - Skids 4/10, others 6/10Skids, Sunstreaker and Rollbar all come with just one accessory, a gun. Rollbar comes with the same pistol as Swindle and Hound which can be folded up and stored in the spare tire. It seems a bit small though. Sunstreaker and Skids both have guns that are formed by removing part of their engines and folding out a handle. Sunstreaker's vac-metal plated headers actually make a convincing gun. Plus they're nice and shiny! ;-) But Skid's pistol is positively puny. And rather than incorporate the engine into the design of the gun as they have done previously, they just sort of tack gun parts under a panel with part of the engine sculpted on it. Prowl has a gun very similar in its poor design to Skids, but of a more reasonable size. Of course it also has a much larger panel of engine slapped on top of it. But Prowl also has the distinction of being just the third Alternator after Grimlock and Wheeljack to have two weapons. His second weapon is a small club cast in transparent red plastic. It isn't anything special, but it makes a nice bonus.
TransformationFans of the Alternators line should be quite comfortable with the transformations for Rollbar and Sunstreaker by now. Rollbar's is probably the easiest of any of the Alternators. The biggest challenge with Sunstreaker is just getting the door sections out of the way of the arms and then back into the correct position. Prowl's transformation isn't too difficult either. It may take a bit of fiddling to get the arms in just the right position though. Skids is the toughest of the four to transform. There is a lot of folding required to compress the boxy body of the vehicle down into the form of Skids' body.
Value - Rollbar 5/10, Sunstreaker 6/10, Skids & Prowl 9/10Rollbar and Sunstreaker are decent figures. And if you passed on Swindle or Dead End, these make a nice substitution for them. But if like myself, you already have the four previous uses of these molds (Hound, Swindle, Dead End and Side Swipe) then these two have little more to offer. But both Prowl and Skids are strong additions to the Alternators line. Not only to they offer some variety to the vehicle modes, but add two more fairly well known G1 characters.
Happy Hunting:Prowl shipped in limited numbers in the older style packaging before Christmas last year. He, Sunstreaker and Skids have all been shipping in greater numbers now in the newer fish bowl style packaging. Tracks, the blue corvette, is also shipping with them for those who may have missed out on him due to poor distribution earlier. I ordered Sunstreaker and Skids from Big Bad Toy Store.com and they are still available there. They are also listed on Amazon.com though you will have to search for them. I stumbled upon Rollbar at a local Target store last week. That was the first and only indication I had that he was shipping already. But keep your eyes open because he should be showing up in greater numbers soon.