Hybrid Style Convoy
Review by Optimal III
If there's one thing I'll say for Takara when it comes to Transformers toys, it's that they experiment fairly often. And when they do, it's usually at higher price points, which hopefully means the results are good. I have no idea why they started the Hybrid Style series, why they ended it, or what "Hybrid Style" even means. But, it's probably a safe bet when each figure (a fat whopping total of three) is another take on the most famous, iconic, and popular Transformer of all time.
Optimus Prime, AKA Convoy, is the face of the Transformers franchise the same way Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and John Cena are the faces of WWF/E. So it's not surprising that he was given the nod to participate in this little experiment. In terms of gimmickry, Hybrid Style is about figures coming in at 3.75 inches made with die-cast parts that are loaded with accessories highly articulated, and transformable. At this size, it's that last thing that surprises people. Sounds ambitious, but worthy of a look.
The box is impressive. It's kind of thin but not small. The presentation is there and lots of pictures catch my eye. So much so that I almost ignore how his alt mode looks sort of off. The sides and back show some of the same stuff and a few features, but it's the inner flap and window that seals the deal.
Besides the inner tray, contents include the manual and the typical trading card. Flipping them over shows specs, and more interestingly, a picture of Shoji Kawamori holding a G1 Optimus Prime toy. Kawamori designed not only this toy, but also worked on the original back in the Diaclone days. I dig Kawamori and what he's done, so this brings a certain expectation. And I'm not sure if I ever considered his track record before, but based on this, he's at least not perfect.
No, you're not seeing things, and no, you don't need to change the channel. Whether it was found that one mode would have to suffer to make the toy work at this size or it somehow slipped pass all forms of QC, Prime's truck form is atrocious. Did you ever watch the G1 episode "Dark Awakening"? He never transformed, but I assume it'd look something like this. The problem here is two-fold. First, Prime's wheel wells are sort of floaty, so they don't really lock into place and don't press against anything solid. This leads to the second issue. Prime's arms/lights are supposed to peg into the wheel wells, but the wheels themselves tend to get in the way. And even if you can get around them, the wells being floaty makes it almost impossible to securely peg. The effort isn't worth it either because the truck still has wacky proportions.
The rear end isn't as bad, but also has issues. Prime's legs are so heavy (die-cast) that they tend to droop, which sometimes displaces the wheels. And they don't like to stay pegged together without the trailer's help. Some have speculated the paint is too thick, but I don't know. Regardless, he only rolls sort of smoothly with trailer in tow, despite his rubber wheels.
Comparing him to his G1 and MP predecessors doesn't do him any favors.
All that said though, once you get past the crappy truck form, this toy has a lot of upsides. Some is what you'd expect, but there are some twists and innovations here. While the G1 and MP toys use a peg system, this combat Deck has a rotating bar that latches onto the back of the truck. This limits the turning radius, but it's secure enough that you can lift the trailer or cab with one hand and still keep them together. It still has a support stand (MP) and the top breather hole for externally deploying the control module, but now a jet pack can be mounted up front, which in turn can mount the laser rifle, fuel canister, and fuel nozzle.
The rear end has two doors like the MP, but the ramp is now stored below and spring-loaded, launched by pressing the dark grey trigger on the right side.
This Roller, while small, is the most sharply detailed I've ever seen. It has a nice metallic sheen that isn't too much. He's got the red light in the back and two front seats, but the back half looks like it has standing room only now. The pegs on the back are now tail pipes, possibly to make up for the loss of the launcher. The front and rear wheels now share an axis, so turning either set makes the other turn the opposite way, simulating turning. Very cool. And my favorite part is that Roller now has two mounting ports on the back, so it can rock the laser rifle and fuel canister and nozzle at the same time.
With combat Deck, the two really noticeable changes are that the command stations on the ground are gone, and now there's a container on each side in the middle. Each one holds three of Prime's alternate hands, making for eight total. I don't think I used them all in this review, but he's got two for holding his laser rifle, two open palmed, two for holding the Matrix, one pointing, and one for clutching the ammo stock of his laser rifle.
At 3.75 inches, Optimus Prime is quite the striking figure. He's got a slick modern look, but isn't a simple downsizing of the MP toy. Transformation is somewhere between G1 and that. His legs are G1, but the wheels are covered like the MP, and they're now external, having to be flipped over. His arms also bend, because while his hands are removable (G1), they only need to be covered up (MP) by the headlights here. What's new is that his grill does a vertical-180 between modes, and his upper body extends up from the waist, providing room to flip the front wheels and wheel wells around to form his sides.
He looks right at home and worthy of his transforming brethren. But AM Optimus looks like a cartoon doodle next to him. Also, someone's measurements are off, because while both figures are officially listed at 3.75 inches, THS Prime has a bit of a height advantage. He's also got the detailing with lots of rivets and lines, every light and horn pointed out, and tiny indentations in his exhausts. He doesn't have the working hydraulics of the MP, but his limbs are as sculpted as anything I can imagine.
Speaking of advantages, check out his articulation. He's not exactly showing off here, but THS Prime is pretty flexible. His ankles are stiff rockers that tilt from side to side, and forward to back. His knees are double-jointed hinges. His upper legs have a small nub at the bottom, up front, that lets you pose him straight up or with a sunken in, more relaxed look. His hips are on ball joints, but are subdued by his waist and upper body. The waist is three pieces that allot for a ton of forward and back, but not a crazy amount of side action. His upper body rotates at the waist. His shoulders are ball jointed and extend out to allow for more dynamic moves. He has bicep swivels, hinged elbows, and hands on ball pegs. And his head is on a ball joint that gives him enough range to look straight up or slightly down. So basically he's on par with MP Prime and can do almost anything you can think of. Visible die-cast consists of his forelegs and chest plates, so he's got just the right amount of heft to boot.
If innovation hasn't already been observed, it starts now. I remember seeing G2 Prime's exhausts used as weapons, so it was only a matter of time before it happened again. Only now his exhausts and fuel canisters rotate forward to serve as extra firepower. The former look like lasers, but the latter appear to be Gatling guns. As if Prime needed to be any more dangerous.
Of course, it wouldn't be a G1 Optimus Prime without his laser rifle. In a first, the stock can swing from side to side. So now he can easily make some fancy shots and be posed just like in the animated movie, when he stopped the Decepticon attack on Autobot City.
He comes with this stand that mounts under his crotch that rotates 360-degrees and swings from side to side, making aerial shots an option.
Last but not least among his personal armaments is his trusty energon ax. It looks like the MP version, but is textured on both sides and both ends of the blade. And it mounts in the wrist socket like the G1 toy, but can be tilted and angled since it's on a ball.
Another first and original is the inclusion of the previously mentioned jet pack. It looks like the ones the Autobots used in the two-part episode "Dinobot Island". But Prime's also famous for flying near the end of "More than Meets the Eye" pt. III. Putting it on is easy enough. His arms need to be turned backwards, which lets the "straps" slide over, and then swing in. They just fit around the edge of his upper body, so it's a nice, snug fit and Prime's the beefier for it.
Prime can also man the control module for Combat Deck. This first happened with the MP, but here it's a two-handed operation, the grips able to rotate 360-degrees independent of each other.
On top of all of this, his chest carries the Autobot Matrix of Leadership, it and the interior of his also die-cast.
And finally, Combat Deck can still serve as a repair bay. But now, Prime actually attaches to it, just high enough that his feet dangle over the ground.
No two ways about it, his alt mode sucks. But everything else about THS Prime is solid and sweet. He's not the massive undertaking the MP toy is, but shares its modern pizzazz. He's smaller than the G1 toy too, but a tidier and better package. I wonder what could have been if this line hadn't been cancelled. But seeing as the MP line is really flourishing now, I guess it was never meant to be.
I paid $50 for mine, and his price hasn't really changed much since then, which makes him fairly cheap. The E-Hobby black version isn't much more than that. So if you're an Optimus completest, or like the idea of a tiny semi-metal Prime making your home his stomping grounds (can't roll for it to save his life), you may want to check him out.
|Posted 15 April, 2015 - 14:58 by Optimal III|