I don't buy a lot of Transformers. Even in the best of times I've tended to pick and choose the ones that interested me. And lately, there haven't been many that have. The one thing that has been tempting me for quite some time are the Masterpiece Transformers. I bought the first one, Optimus Prime, shortly after it was released. While I have been eying the two subsequent releases Megatron and Starscream, I haven't been willing to put up the cash to order the import versions. The folks at Walmart must have felt that there were quite a few people in the same boat because they picked up the figure as an exclusive for last fall. And then to sweeten the pot they even gave the figure his original Generation One color scheme. Looks like their devious plan worked, because the first time I saw the figure in a store I gladly parted ways with my money.
Packaging - 7/10Starscream is packaged in a large plastic box with sloped side all mounted on a cardboard base. The packaging design provides plenty of light and visibility for the toy which is package in its robot mode. Graphically the packaging is based on the Transformers Classic line which itself borrowed heavily from the original G1 toys. It's almost a shame thast they didn't take the extra step and give Starscream Decepticon purple colors though. The back of the packaging includes photos of both modes, technical data and a brief description of Starscream as a character worthy of his own self delusions of granduer. The only complaint I have about the packaging is that with so much surface area on the packaging, very little is dedicated to showing off all of the features. That is a shame since so many of them are not visible with a figure such as this, particularly those of his vehicle mode. I find it quite ironic that they talk about the "amazing detail" on the figure while using a picture of the entire figure and stand that is less than two inches tall.
Sculpting - 9/10The back of the packaging claims that the figure is "reproduced exactly as he originally appeared in the hit cartoons and comics of the 1980's." Thankfully that isn't really true because if you have seen the original cartoon recently you'll realize that they weren't very detailed. That isn't to say that Masterpiece Starscream isn't a great representation of the back stabbing second in command. His jet mode is the better of the two. With the exception of needing to fumble a bit to get all of the body panels to line up properly, but once that is done there is little evidence that it is anything but a toy jet, at least on the top side. The underside is more of a jumble of exposed parts. But the only indication of the robot mode is the exposed hands. The other shortcoming is the interior of the cockpit. It has a fully sculpted pilot's seat and control panel. But behind that is a large empty space which accounts for about two thirds of the area visible when the canopy is opened. There is at least a cover for the area built into the canopy for when it is closed. But not finding a way for that cover to stay in place once the canopy a way for that cover to stay in place once the canopey was opened seems like an oversight that should have been caught and fairly easily fixed.
The robot mode is a bit less on model than the vehicle mode. That is mostly by necessity since unlike in the cartoon, inconvenient pieces of the vehicle mode can't simply disappear like Optimus Prime's trailer. The most noticeable piece of vehicle mode kibble are the tail fin sections which attach to the waist. They can be rotated behind the figure but that leaves them sticking out quite a bit. They can also be left down along the sides of the legs which looks better overall as far as I am concerned but restricts the movement of the legs. The body matches the basic cartoon design though it is a bit thinner in the mid section. There are some larger than usual gaps along the sides of the cockpit though. I'm not thrilled with the leg design or the feet either. The feet are just the jet exhaust nozzles for the ankle/heel with a panel that rotates down to form the toes. Viewed from the front, they look fine. But from any other angle you realize that there is nothing there.
I wasn't thrilled with the amount of exposure on the knee joints either. Of course, now that I've picked the figure apart I need to back track and point out that it most certainly isn't a bad sculpt. Far from it. This is a truly incredible figure that is worthy of the term masterpiece. But it isn't perfect. And when it has taken more than two decades for Hasbro/Takara to make this attempt at the best version of Starscream possible, each short fall becomes important to anyone who doesn't want to wait another twenty years for a better version. There is one final note that I believe will be of great interest to Transformer collectors and particularly for fans of the Alternators line, how will Starscream fit in with the existing Alternator and Masterpiece figures. If you couldn't guess, the jet mode isn't even close to being in scale with either line. In robot mode Starscream splits the difference between the height of most of the Alternators but is still considerably shorter than the Masterpiece Optimus Prime figure. I would say he makes a much better Alternator than Masterpiece figure though. Facing off with Optimus Prime, he looks like Prime could tear him apart with his bare hands.
Paint - 8/10Now that I have this version of Starscream in my hands I am very glad that I did not go out of my way to buy the original Japanese release which had what was suppose to be a more realistic color scheme. I dare say Takara missed the point of creating a new, "masterpiece" version of a Generation One character. Hasbro's version is much closer to the Generation One colors. The red seems to be a bit lighter than I would prefer but it is close. They also went out of their way to add detailing including painting the panel lines and adding a dark wash along the tops of the jets/backs of the legs. It looks nice, but it also looks like your toy has recently burst into flames mid-flight. I'm curious what a clean version would have looked like, but it might have been a bit too dull.
Articulation - 8/10Starscream has come a long way from his G1 toy that had less than a handful of points of articulation. In his robot mode he has double jointed knees, elbows, hips and shoulders, rotating joints in his thighs, biceps and wrists, ball jointed neck and thumbs and double jointed fingers with the middle, index and pinkie fingers molded together. That is a lot of articulation and gives the figure better range of motion than I generally expect from a Transformer. But there are limits. The hips are quite restricted due to the pieces connected to their sides. The fingers offer enough articulation to form a nice fist or hold the Megatron accessory that came with Masterpiece Optimus. But the articulation isn't tight enough to hold the gun firmly. And the figure doesn't have enough flexibility to balance out the considerable weight of all of the plane pieces hanging off of his backs. Ideally I would like the lower legs to have been made of die cast metal to give them more weight and lower the center of gravity. In vehicle mode Starscream also has an impressive amount of articulation. The canopy opens of course. The nose cone will come open to reveal the sensors inside. The landing gear comes down under the nose and both legs and feature rolling wheels. The wing flaps, two on each wing, can be adjusted. The afterburner nozzles move. And the covers over the jets in the rear can be opened. All of that is impressive. The only thing I would like to see improved is to lower where the wheels sit on the rear landing gear to give the jet better clearance in the rear.
Accessories - 7/10Starscream comes with far more accessories than I would have expected. But they seem to have valued the quantity over the quality in this one aspect. To start with, there are Starscream's cannons which attach to his arms in robot mode or under his wings in vehicle mode. Honestly, they look cheap. The color doesn't vary from the arms at all. And where the details on the rest of the figure stands out due to the painted panel lines, the cannons have very little paint. If you want a more realistic looking vehicle form, you can replace the cannons with two pairs of missiles. But like the cannons, they look significantly less impressive than the rest of the figure. There isn't much point in giving you access to Starscream's cockpit if there is no one to ride inside so they included a small, unarticulated human figure. I've heard that it is suppose to represent an actual character from the cartoon, but I don't really care. While it's sculpt is nice, the only paint on it is a sloppy patch on the face. If you are going to paint the figure either do the entire job or don't bother at all. Doing just the one small part just shows how much the rest is needed. (And I'm to lazy/untalented to do it.) Starscream also includes a small clip which can attach to the underside of the nosecone in vehicle mode to hold the Megatron gun accessory that came with Masterpiece Optimus Prime. But unless you have Optimus that is worthless. As long as they already had the molds to make a Megatron accessory they should have just reused it with Starscream. The final accessory is a display base with Starscream's name on it and a support that can be positioned to work for either mode. While not necessary, I have to admit it is a nice touch, particularly since it can be used to store all of the other accessories when not in use.
TransformationIn terms of complexity, I would say that Starscream's transformation is comparable to an alternator. It is a bit complex, but still follows the basic design of the G1 toy. They do cheat just a bit by requiring that you remove the cannons from the arms and reattach them to the wings. But if you count them as accessories instead of being a true part of the figure, that isn't a big deal. And learning the transformation process isn't too difficult. I walked through the instructions for the first transformation from robot to vehicle mode and was able to change the figure back after that with no further need for the instructions. I should note though that the instructions don't appear to be very well illustrated resulting in them being fairly unclear exactly how parts were to be turned or adjusted.
Value - 9/10With a retail price just under $50, Starscream seems like a pretty good deal. For a retailer exclusive it is an even better deal. And if you know that the price for the original Japanese version which wasn't as accurate to the Generation One color scheme was over $90, it seems like a great deal, unless you already shelled out the $90. But if you get beyond the fact that you are saving $40 compared to the Japanese price and start to compare it to the Alternator figures which were less than half of the price it doesn't compare quite as well. And if you are quite fortunate, you may be able to find the figure on post-holiday clearance and save even more money.
Happy Hunting:Starscream is an exclusive here in the United States, sold only through Walmart or the secondary market. Given that Walmart is the largest retailer in the country and runs its own web store, finding Starscream should not have been difficult. But the distribution has been lackluster at best. While I don't go to Walmart stores as frequently as I do to other local toy retailers like Toys R Us and Target, there are four different Walmart stores around that I do check when the opportunity arises and when I'm looking for something in particular like Starscream. From what I have seen, only one of those four stores ever received any inventory of the Starscream figure and that store never restocked once they quickly sold out. Their web site is another option if the figure didn't show up in stores in your areas, but its availability there has been as bad as it was in the physical stores in my area. I have seen a couple of reports of Starscream being available on line recently, but he sold out very quickly in both cases and doesn't even seem to be listed on their site now. Still, it may be worth checking periodically and is certainly cheaper than the gas for multiple trips to local stores. If you do have trouble finding Starscream and can find an employee who is willing to help, the UPC for Starscream is 653569 275510. If you ask politely, they may be willing to look it up and see if there are any in stock in your area.