Fall is here. And while most people are concerning themselves with dropping temperatures and approaching holidays, I've been
looking forward to yet another domestic release in the Transformers Masterpiece line. And while I mainly focus on the TMNT
line and have largely ignored most of the Transformers toys produced in the last decade. But I still look forward to each
new offering in the Masterpiece line. This year there are actually two new Masterpiece Transformers being released in the US
this year. The first is Acid Storm, yet another repaint of the seeker mold shared by Starscream, Skywarp and Thundercracker.
But it is the second release that has grabbed my attention: Soundwave. I never had either Soundwave or Blaster as a kid, but
the cassettes were always a favorite for me. So when Soundwave finally came up for the Masterpiece line, I was excited. I
didn't even mind that it was only going to include one cassette tape. But things only got better when the details of the US
release came out as it includes not just Soundwave, but all five of the original Decepticon cassettes in one package. There
was no way I was going to pass up that offer.
Packaging - 10/10The packaging for the two new Masterpiece releases has been given a radical redesign. The clear packaging of previous releases is completely gone. The new packaging is closer in design to the Japanese releases, though it is a completely new design. The main packaging is a large purple box with white embossed lettering. That box then has a cardboard sleeve wrapped around it which contains all of the photos of the toys for both the front and back. Inside, the figures and accessories are neatly laid out in a plastic tray. I really like the packaging design. It seems very well suited for a toy claiming to be a masterpiece. And while all of the important text is in English, the inclusion of a few bits of Japanese is a nice reminder of the origins of both the Transformers in general and the Masterpiece line. There are a couple of minor issues that I noticed with the packaging. The first is that on one side of the box is a small Decepticon logo with "09 of 30 COLLECT THEM ALL!" printed over it. I had no idea what this meant until I searched on the internet for an explanation. (Supposedly it refers to 30 releases which are to be considered to be the highlight of the 30th anniversary of the toy line.) It's a neat idea. But with no further explanation, it just comes off as weird and rather cryptic. They could have at least included a web address to go to to find the meaning. It is also a bit strange that after more than half a dozen Masterpiece Transformers have been released in the United States over the years, that they would suddenly start a sequential numbering system and start it over with the two figures released this year. It is even odder that they adopted the same system as the Japanese releases, but the figures don't have the same designation in both systems. It makes some sense to have a new designation, if for no other reason than that Soundwave ans all five cassettes were three different releases in Japan. But it would be nice if they had come up with a compromise.
Sculpting - 10/10To be honest, I didn't really think that Soundwave needed a Masterpiece version. Or more precisely, of the original G1 characters, Soundwave's toy was closest to his cartoon appearance. But I must admit that the Masterpiece version ended up being a huge improvement. The proportions are much more accurate. The detail work is excellent. And there is no pieces that seem out of place hanging off of the figure anywhere. The scale works well too. MP Soundwave is slightly shorter than Grimlock or the new version of Optimus Prime but is noticeably taller than the seekers. This also makes him almost the same size as the original Blaster. Finally the two can square off and face each other eye to eye. The added size means that his tape deck mode is quite bulky now. That added size did give them more room for details to make it look more realistic such as individual buttons for the controls and a battery indicator LED. They also did a very good job of filling in the gaps between parts, at least on the front and sides. But there is a large gap behind the waist in the back which is the biggest gripe I have with the figure.
While I didn't necessarily care that much about getting an updated Soundwave, I was very excited to get new, modern versions of the micro cassette figures: Lazerbeak, Buzzsaw, Ravage, Rumble and Frenzy. And they didn't disappoint. Ravage in particular is impressive for managing to both add some variation to the thickness of the figure and incorporating his hip mounted rockets into the figure itself. The same goes for Laserbeak/Buzzsaw. They managed to incorporate the jets on their backs into the figure. They did make the wings a bit short for my tastes though. Finally there is Frenzy/Rumble. They were the least in need of an update. But still, the Masterpiece versions are very well executed. The thighs and arms are a bit plain, but not to the point that it is a significant drawback.
Paint - 9/10The paint work on all six of the figures in my set is excellent. I have no problems with sloppiness or other quality issues. And overall the paint work does a good job of highlighting the details on the figures. Of course, given the size and complexity of the figures, there's a limit to just how much can be painted.
Articulation - 10/10It is very difficult to talk about the amount of articulation on a Transformer since so much of it is meant to be part of the transformation. There is plenty of articulation. I would say that Soundwave is about on par with most Marvel Legends figures that have 30+ points of articulation. It is plenty to preform most poses. He can even push his own eject button. The same is true of the micro cassette figures. Rumble and Frenzy have about 15 points of articulation. Ravage has about 19. Laserbeak and Buzzsaw only have about 10 points of articulation. You can fold their wing tips down and adjust the position the feet and neck but that's it. The place where they could use some additional articulation would be on Laserbeak and Buzzsaw. A ball jointed neck in particular would be nice so that they could look to the side.
Accessories/features - 10/10Much like the second version of Optimus Prime, Masterpiece Soundwave comes packed with accessories. Soundwave has his shoulder mounted cannon and his hand held concussion blaster. He also has a sensor that can plug into his wrist when his hands are stored away. They also included a copy of Megatron in his gun form. It is the same toy as the one included with the original Masterpiece Optimus Prime, but the shoulder stock has been redone. He also has an energon cube that can attach to his chest as well as a scanner panel that attaches over his chest plate. Each of the micro cassettes comes with a tape case. That is all that is included for Ravage, Laserbeak and Buzzsaw. But it is all that they need. Rumble and Frnezy both come with their pile driver attachments as well as a backpack to hold them and their guns. When not in use, the guns can be stored in the pile drivers in place of the arms.
In addition to the accessories, Masterpiece Soundwave has a number of other interesting features. And unfortunately the instructions don't bother explaining them. Both Laserbeak and Buzzsaw have a camera in their heads that can flip out for surveillance. They are also both designed to be able to sit on either Soundwave's shoulder or forearms and be held in place by the plastic ridges. Soundwave has compartments built into his feet that can store Rumble or Frenzy's guns. (Which is nice since the aren't built in like on Laserbeak and Ravage.) Of course you can push the eject button to open his chest compartment. But if you want to store extra cassettes, the back plate can be pushed back to make room for up to three cassettes. Then there is a button on Soundwave's back that will push them forward to remove them. The scanner panel can be plugged into the front of Soundwave's chest compartment. But since they did not include anything to put between the two panels, the feature is a bit of a waste. (The Japanese version came with two panels printed in the instructions that could be cut out for this.) Rumble and Frenzy's pile drivers can be clipped onto Soundwave's forearms. And in tape deck mode, they can attach to the scanner accessory and plug into the side of the tape deck. All of these accessories and features give you plenty of ways to play with Soundwave and recreate just about anything that Soundwave has done in the comics or cartoon.
Value - 9/10The retail price for the US release of Soundwave is $120. That is a lot. But considering that the Japanese version was even more expensive and didn't include four of the cassettes. And getting those extra cassettes would have cost you another $120, I really can't argue with the price. In fact, the only reason I am not giving it an instant 10/10 is that from what I have seen, Toys R Us is going to be offering some significant sales on the set after Thanksgiving. But even if you have to pay full price, I can't think of any reason why a fan of Generation 1 Transformers could possibly be disappointed with this set.
Happy Hunting:Masterpiece Soundwave is exclusive to Toys R Us in the United States. They have been shipping for a while and disappearing from stores almost immediately. But I suspect that they are going to be pushing this set heavily on Black Friday. And the ads I have seen seem to confirm that. So if you haven't found one yet, don't give up hope.