Obviously I am a fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. But there is another property from the 1980's that runs
a close second, Transformers. It is the only other comic book that I read as a kid. Sunstreaker and Mirage were
some of the earliest toys I remember receiving. And while I never had nearly as many Transformers toys due to
their higher price, to this day I still watch the pegs for cool Transformers to add to my collection. So you might
be wondering why I haven't added a single review of a Transformers toy in the last four years? Well, the Alternators
line spoiled me. I really like the idea of robots that change into realistic alt. modes. So a lot of the recent
Transformers lines just haven't interested me. The one line that has consistently made its way into my collection
is the Transformers Masterpiece toys. I didn't bother with reviews on the last few releases since they were either
simple repaints of Starscream or I didn't end up getting them until they had disappeared from store shelves making
a review a moot point. But with another holiday season upon us, Hasbro has brought yet another Masterpiece figure
over to the U.S. as a Toys R Us exclusive. Actually there are two Masterpiece figures out now. Thundercracker, a
repaint of the previously released Masterpiece Staracream
and a new, smaller version of Optimus Prime. There have only been six Masterpiece Transformers released in the U.S.,
so making a new version of one of those characters already might seem a bit strange. But the new version sports two
major differences. It is smaller, making it closer in scale to the other Masterpiece figures and it includes Optimus'
trailer and accessories that were not included with the first version. (A trailer was produced for the original Masterpiece
Optimus Prime in Japan, but it didn't get distributed in the U.S.) So now the question is whether the scale change
and additional extras make replacing one of the greatest Transformers toys ever produced worth while.
Packaging - 8/10This latest Masterpiece offering keeps the packaging design that Hasbro has been using for all of its U.S. Masterpiece offerings. The toy is packaged is a large clear plastic box which sits in a cardboard tray. The graphics have been updated to match the current Generations toys. I generally don't like these types of creative package designs since they usually don't hold up well. But the Masterpiece packages seem to resist damage surprisingly well. The design also has an added benefit here. Transformers can never fully show off the toy in a package since you only get to see one form. But with Masterpiece Prime, Optimus is in his robot mode with his chest open showing off the Matrix inside. Meanwhile the trailer portion is packaged in its vehicle form. So you end up getting a good sense of both modes. Everything about this packaging is great... until you turn it around and look at the back or bottom. This is a big box, over 19 inches wide. So there should be plenty of space on the back of the box and on the back of the insert in the top portion of the box to show off all of the features and play modes. Instead they wasted half of that space on a single paragraph of text that had to be blown up to a ridiculous size to fill the space. It's not that bad looking, but it is certainly a wasted opportunity.
Sculpting - 9/10The original Masterpiece Optimus Prime was and amazing toy and deserving of the masterpiece name. So there was a very high bar set for the new version. And in most respects, Takara and Hasbro managed to surpass it. In particular they managed to create a more organic flow around the waist, the thighs and elbows. In comparison, the original MP Prime has minimal variation in the thickness of his limbs that makes him look a bit like a brick. The new figure's head is also smaller in proportion to the rest of his body than the first version. The smaller head combined with the arms that are thicker at the shoulders and forearms gives this Optimus more of a body builder's build. In truth, I'm not sure if that is an improvement or if I prefer the proportions of old figure. There are two negatives to this new version. The first is that the lower portion of his legs are huge. The calves themselves are not that bad. They are thick, but more or less in proportion to the rest of the figure. But the wheels for his vehicle mode and fuel tanks stick out from the rest of the leg way too much. The problem is compounded by the fact that they put a plastic cover over the wheels making the entire area look like a giant growth on his legs. When the covers are left behind the legs, they look much better. The other issue is that the back of the figure is very dull. Granted, it isn't something most people are going to look at much, but if you are going to call a toy a masterpiece, it shouldn't look like you forgot about it.
In vehicle mode, the new version of Optimus Prime does a much better job of fitting all of the panels and pieces together to make it look like it is meant to be a toy semi instead of a robot folded into a semi shape. But the bulkier proportions of the figure causes some problems here. The arms are so thick that when they form the sleeper section of the cab it is huge. The same issue comes up with the legs which form the rearportion of the semi where the trailer connects. It is about 50% too large to be in proportion with the size of the cab. So overall you get a semi where all the details are great but the overall look of the figure is chunky and toy like instead of realistic.
Paint - 5/10For such a large figure and such an expensive figure, there is surprisingly little paint work here. Most of the color comes from the use of different colored plastics. Paint applications were reserved for a few places were it was absolutely necessary such as the silver on the sides of the fore arms or for where the paint applications would have the greatest impact in both modes such as the windshield wipers, lights and Autobot symbols. To Hasbro's credit, the paint applications are well done. There is no sloppiness or stray marks. But in the end, I have to admit that there is so much untapped potential left in this figure.
Articulation - 9/10The articulation for Masterpiece Optimus Prime is impressive:
Accessories - 8/10The first Masterpiece Optimus Prime wasn't packed with accessories, but what he did have were very good. This second version tries to give both quality and quantity in the accessories by including everything from both the original 1985 toy and even a few extras.
First up is Optimus' trailer. In vehicle mode, the trailer is fairly impressive. There is a lot of sculpted details even on the bottom. As with the original, there are two stands that swing out to support the trailer when it is open. But this version has a cool feature which lowers the feet when they are swung out to the side but keeps them up off the ground normally. But if you want a more realistic look, this version also has two supports in the front that swing down to support the trailer when it is parked and not connected to Optimus. The rear doors open and there is a ramp that can be pulled out to allow other vehicles to drive into the trailer. The vehicle mode of the trailer is very worthy of the Masterpiece title. Unfortunately things go a bit downhill when you open the trailer. There is a tremendous amount of detail inside the trailer. But there is zero paint work. So suddenly this incredible show piece looks very toy-like. Inside is two work stations for human figures, platforms with storage for the energon axe and cannon accessories and repair drone/crane. The repair drone has the movable radar dish and manipulator arm of the G1 toy. And like the G1 version, there is even a spot where a hole can be opened in the roof so that the repair drone can be positioned on top of the trailer when it is closed. The trailer has has everything, which makes it all the more disappointing that they dropped the ball in decorating the interior.
In addition to the trailer, Prime comes with five additional accessories. First there is Roller, the six wheeled vehicle/drone. Roller can no longer be launched from the back of the trailer as it could with the G1 toy. But instead it has two other cool features. First, you can open a panel on the back to reveal a spot where Optimus' cannon can be mounted. You can also flip the back section over to reveal a mounting point for the trailer. So Roller can be hitched to the trailer. Finally there is an explanation for how the trailer would disappear or suddenly reappear when Optimus transformed into his vehicle mode. Optimus comes with two weapons: an energon ax that fits over his right hand and his cannon. The cannon looks nice and has the neat feature that it folds up to fit in a compartment in Optimus' back. It might be a bit too small though. This version of Optimus comes with a small, articulated version of Spike Witwicky from the original cartoon. The figure is fully painted and has six points of articulation. The articulation means that the figure can easily ride in Roller or Optimus Prime when in vehicle mode. He will also fit in any of the seats in the trailer including the repair drone. Unfortunately the paint on the face cover just about all of the detail, so it is a fairly generic looking human. But the shirt, blue pants and huge yellow boots are enough to make it recognizable as one of the Witwickys. Finally, there is the removable matrix of leadership. It is a metal piece with a translucent blue core. It looks amazing and fits securely in Optimus' chest. It is a bit small for Optimus to hold it in his hands. But I can forgive that given the space limitations. within the figure.
The accessories make up a big portion of the total package with Masterpiece Optimus Prime. When it comes to the smaller accessories, they really knocked it out of the park. It just too bad that the interior of the trailer can't live up to the standards Hasbro/Takara set with every other part of this figure.
Value - 8/10Retail price for this set right now is $120. I suspect that we will see at least a few good sales on it through the holiday season which could bring the price down as low as $100. There is no doubt that this is an impressive toy. If you don't already have the previous version of Masterpiece Prime, and are a fan of the G1 Transformers, it's a great deal. (Though I don't know why you would not have the first version of Masterpiece Prime if you are a fan.) On the other hand, if you already have the first version, the $120 price tag is fairly steep for a version which has modest improvements at best and the trailer. But Optimus Prime without his trailer just doesn't feel complete. And the scale change does make this version of Optimus work much better with the other Masterpiece toys released so far and those coming down the pipeline and puts it fairly close in scale to all of the Alternator figures I already have.
Happy Hunting:Masterpiece Optimus Prime is a Toys R Us exclusive. So you don't have a lot of options for finding him. He has been showing up in limited numbers at Toys R Us stores for around a month already. And several people are reporting seeing large quantities of them showing up in stores for the holiday season. The local Toys R Us store received their first shipment the week before Thanksgiving and has more than a dozen of them. It is also available from Toysrus.com . But its has been popping in and out of stock quite often.