In 1984 Hasbro bought the rights to several lines of Japanese toys
that featured realistic vehicles and items which transformed into robots. They
called the new line Transformers. Though the line has continued in one form or
another for almost twenty years now, for many fans no matter how much Hasbro and
Takara (the company who produces Transformers in Japan) worked to improve the line(s)
there was no better Transformers the original ones that were modeled on real vehicles.
So when the news hit that the two companies were bringing back the real life vehicle
forms the response was phenominal (once everyone went and changed their shorts that is)
Smokescreen is the first in this new line of Transformers, a Subaru (WRX if I'm not mistaken).
Packaging - 10/10Alternators is being marketed as a higher end, collector aimed line, and the packaging nicely reflects this. (In fact, early reports of it's release generally had it being mistakenly placed in the collectible car aisle rather than with the action figures.) It comes packaged in the vehicle mode in a nice window box. The front of the box uses a logo similar to the Robots In Disguise line as well as a drawing of the robot mode. The ends of the box have photos of either the robot mode or vehicle mode. The back shows both modes and some of the features. The bottom has some information on the second figure due out in the series, Side Swipe as a Dodge Viper. Two other things of note about the packaging, for MIB collectors there is a nice insert showing various angles of the vehicle mode as though seen through a sunny window. And more importantly, there are NO twist ties used! So those of you who still haven't been able to extract Unicron from his twist tie prison, Alternators will be a welcome change.
Sculpting - 8/10It is hard to judge a Transformer on the sculpt since there enevitablly seems to be some compromise made to on of the modes for the sake of the transformation. Alternators is supposed to be a line of realistic vehicles, so the compromises had to be made to the robot mode. Fortunately they are quite minor. The first is the feet. Smokescreen doesn't so much have feet as he has the rear end of a car twisted into the general shape of feet. The other shortcoming I've noticed is that it take a fair amount of fiddling to get all of the rear end pieces to line up properly.
Paint - 8/10The paint work on Smokescreen is quite impressive. The plastic is molded in blue so that color is very consistent. The paint on Smokescreen's face is also niely done. But the real winning feature is the decals in vehicle mode. Smokescreen is based on the real Subaru rally car and has all of its decals. The end result is quite impressive. One note, the domestic version from Hasbro is simply molded in blue plastic but the Japanese version from Takara is supposed to have a metallic blue coat of paint. However there have also been several reports of the metallic paint suffering from chipping, something that is not a problem with the Hasbro version.
Articulation - 9/10This is another area where it is difficult to judge a Transformer figure. It is one line where you can't simply count points of articulation as many of those points are often used for the transformation but don't improve either of the modes. But Smokescreen's articulation holds up well in both modes. In vehicle mode all four doors, the hood and trunk all open. (The trunk doesn't open very far.) both front seats also fold down. Even the front wheels turn. Plus in an impressive and creative addition, the front wheels actually move in synch thru the use of a magnetic tie rod.
In Robot mode he also does well. The legs and waist are on par with most current action figures if not superior. The arms are also quite nice, featuring around eight points of articulation including double jointed elbows, ball jointed wrists and jointed fingers. The head is ball jointed which allows great range of motion. The only place he can't look is down at his own hood/chest. There is really just two improvements I would like to see. It would have been nice to include a bicep swivel and the shoulder movement is restricted by the small protrusion from the tire that connects them to the tie rod. But these are very minor quibles at most.
Accessories - 5/10Smokescreen comes with just one accessory, but it is a nice one. He has a gun which folds up to form a portion of his engine. While this may seem lite for a higher price figure, I actually prefer it when a transformer only comes with as many parts as can be stored in or on it. I have enough misc. pieces sitting around as it is.
Special NotesAs I mentioned earlier, Smokescreen ,like the rest of this line, is being released both domesticly by Hasbro and in Japan by Takara under the Binaltech name. This review was based on the Hasbro version. I have not seen the import version myself but I have heard about at least three differences. The figure itself is not supposed to be any different in either release but its construction does. The Hasbro version has all plastic body components except for the rubber tire. The Binaltech version is supposed to feature at least some die-cast metal components, though I don't know how much. The second difference was the one mentioned in the paint section. Hasbro's version is not painted, it is molded in blue plastic. The Binaltech version has a coat of metallic blue paint. Though since this leaves it open to paint chips that may not be an entirely good thing. The final difference is price. The Hasbro version should retail for $20 to $25 compared to Binaltech's price of $anywhere from $45 to $70 depending on the importer plus shipping charges. I may be a sucker for a cool toy, but I'm a bigger sucker when I can get two or three cool toys for the same price.
Value - 9/10Given the amount of design and engineering that has gone into a figure like this, $20 is a great deal, especially for old school Transformer fans. At the import price, this score would take a fairly substantial hit. But if money is no obstacle, and you really want the full G1 experience, the Binaltech version shouldn't disappoint you.
Happy Hunting:I picked up Smokescreen at the west side Target in Madison, WI. Thus far I have heard of it showing up mainly at Target stores with a few Wal-mart sightings. But in a few weeks it should be widely available in most stores including TRU. If you want the import version, you'll have to check local import stores or one of the many online sites. I would suggest Big Bad Toy Store. They do a great job, their prices are usually quite fair and at a flat shipping cost of $4.99, orders of multiple items can really be quite affordable.