It has been a long time since I had any new Transformers to review. But a few more Alternators have trickled out over
the course of the summer, so I guess it is time once more for some robots in disguise. Up this time are three more Autobots:
Ricochet, Mirage and at long last Optimus Prime. While I would like to see the Decepticons' ranks filled out a bit more,
I have been looking forward to an official Optimus Prime Alternator for quite some time and I have a certain fondness for
Mirage as the G1 version was the second Transformer I ever had as a child.
Packaging - 5/10All three Alternators come in the newer 'fish bowl' packaging. There is a small cardboard box upon which a large plastic bubble is attached. (hence the fish bowl name) The toy is packaged in its vehicle form and prominently displayed in the bubble. But the new design has several drawbacks. The large bubble shows off the vehicle mode well. But it doesn't leave room for many graphics. As a result, the only photo of the robot mode is on the bottom of the packaging. It odd shape also makes it difficult to stack the figures on a shelf. I can't count the number of times I have found the Alternators that are on store shelves falling down all over the place. I do have to admit though that they stand up to wear and tear much better than I would have expected. I have yet to see a bubble that was seriously damaged or even dented.
Sculpting - Prime & Ricochet 7/10, Mirage 9/10I won't go into much detail about Ricochet. He is a complete reuse of Silverstreak, right down to the head sculpt. It's not a bad sculpt and fits the Generation 1 character reasonablly well. But I'm deducting a point for sheer laziness.
Optimus is a bit of a disappointment. His vehicle mode, a Dodge Ram SRT-10 pickup truck is pretty good. It has the same level of detail that we've come to expect from the Alternators line. I do have two minor quibbles with it. The first is that there is very little room in the cab. In particular, there is no leg room at all. I don't know that many people put figures into the Alternators, but it is at least nice to know you have the option. The other issue is the hood, particularly where it opens. The front grill is attached to the hood and raises when the hood is opened. Aside from simply looking odd, it also means that rather than looking at the top of the engine/gun, you actually end up looking under it. It's the robot mode that is the real let down. He's a brick. Well, he's not that bad, but the proportions aren't very good. The lower legs are formed from the bed of the truck and completely dwarf the upper legs. In fact, unless the knees are slightly bent, you can't even see the upper legs below the hip joints. Then there are the shoulder pads which are made up of the front bumber and fenders. They have a really incomplete look to them, as if they are only two quarters of what the finished shoulder pads were supposed to look like. The arms and head are nicely designed. It's just a shame they are overwhelmed by the shoulders, torso and legs.
Mirage is my favorite of this lot. His vehicle mode is as slick and sleek as you would expect from a Ford GT. It does seem a bit small compared to the others, but it isn't that noticable. The opening hatchback is a nice touch, though the brace that holds in place is more noticeable throught the back window than I would like. The engine itself doesn't look very realistic either. Mirage's robot mode is excellent. The proportions are better than any of the Alternators so far. The body isn't too bulky and the arms and legs are well defined. The front fenders used as shoulder pads are the one area that could stand to be trimmed down.
Paint - 8/10The paint work on the Alternators line has always been strong. There is never any sloppiness or smearing. So the main concern here is the color scheme that they selected. For Ricochet, it is pure G1 goodness. The car panels are all black with flame decals. The arms and legs are white to provide plenty of contrast without looking like a police cruiser. Optimus Prime is close to his traditional color scheme with red for the body and a blue head. But for the legs they went for mostly black with a few blue accents. It's a simple change, but it gives it a much more realistic look than if it had been entirely blue. Mirage retains the blue and white color scheme of the Generation 1 character, but with a much darker blue. He could use some detail work on the limbs or at least a darker shade of blue used for the hands and elbows.
Articulation - Mirage & Ricochet 9/10, Optimus 7/10How much articulation do they have? A lot. To much to count. Both Mirage and Ricochet have the equivilant range of motion of a figure with twenty five to thirty points of articulation. Mirage in particular is quite poseable since there are no bulky body parts to get in the way. Prime on the other hand is almost all bulky body parts to get in the way. Because they are so disproportionally large below the knees, the legs always appear to be straight, only the angle to the body differs. The arms are fully articulated, but the truck parts get in the way quite a bit. Of course the vehicle modes of all three have rolling wheels, opening doors and hoods. Even Optimus Prime's tailgate can be lowered.
Accessories - Prime 9/10, Others 5/10Ricochet is a simple repaint of Silverstreak, so it should be no surprise that so is his gun. The added length of a fold out barrel helps to make it appear more impressive than a simple pistol. But the white color doesn't work well. It looks a bit cheap. And in addition to that, mine sufferes from overly flexible plastic which allows the barrel to droop or even fall off. Mirage has yet another engine block that transforms into a weapon, only in this case it is two weapons. The engine splits down the middle and forms a pair of pistols. The top portion of the engine remains attached to on of the two pistols and can rotate around to form a longer barrel, albeit a bit off center. Optimus has the best gun yet in the Alternators line. Despite starting off as a fairly unimpressive flat panel from the top of the engine, it folds up into a very convincing pistol. It isn't quite as the cannon that the G1 Prime carried, but it does the job and looks good doing it.
TransformationRicochet's transformation is identical to Smokescreen and Silverstreak with whom he shares a mold. If you have been following the Alternators line for the last three years, it should be quite familiar to you by now. It takes a bit of practice to get the legs lined up just right when transforming him back to robot mode, but nothing too difficult. Prime is fairly straight forward as well, especially since there is very little to do from the waist down. The only tricky part is the shoulders. During the transformation they have to be pulled down from the body and then swung out on a pair of hing joints. (just like Grimlock and Wheeljack) But doing this is difficult since you can not grip the arms near the actual joints. The front bumper parts are also quite prone to falling off. But of course they can be popped right back into place. Since Mirage has a new mold, he has a brand new transformation as well. It is similar to the transformation for Ricochet in that the front end forms the arms while the rear forms the legs. However, Hasbro/Takara did a much better job of breakign up the body panels so that there are fewer large chunks of car hanging off of the figure. But of course, it take a little practice to figure out where all of those parts go in either mode.
Value - Optimus & Ricochet 8/10, Mirage 9/10You can expect to pay between $20 and $25 each for the Alternators figures at retail. With a slick vehicle form and the best robot mode yet, it's a great deal even if you have to pay a little more from a specialty store. Optimus Prime also has a great vehicle mode. And the chance to add another Alternator to the collection that isn't a car is a bonus. But I really wish the robot mode had been stronger. I may leave the Masterpiece Optimus Prime in with the rest of the Alternators after all. I actually passed Ricochet up several times before buying it just because I already had Smokescreen and Silverstreak. But the truth is that it is still a great toy. And if you missed the either of the first two or happen to be a fan of the character, it is worth picking up.
Happy Hunting:The Alternators line has been losing favor with retailers over the last year. Toys R Us seems to have dropped them all together. Both Target and Walmart still carry them. (Perhaps Kmart and KB Toys as well. But I don't have either of those stores locally anymore.) There are a few more online options now though. Walmart.com has both Ricochet and Optimus Prime available. You can also order directly from Hasbro at Hasbro Toy Shop.com. Mirage is a bit tougher to find and will probably remain so until shipments catch up with demand. Big Bad Toy Store has him listed for a decent price if you are impatient.