Review by Optimal III
You know you're probably doing something right when you get the chance to do it over without any real penalty. Such is the case with Takara's Transformers Masterpiece line. Yes, most people have been pretty happy with most of the characters produced so far. But even Takara will concede errors were made from time to time, because they realized they could have done it better or differently. Generally speaking, this is due to the early days when they didn't have a long-term plan and went figure to figure. More specifically, the actual issues vary from figure to figure.
In Starscream's case, MP-03 was a project lead by Shoji Kawamori. While the initial design is what you'd expect for a Masterpiece, he didn't like that it was merely a heavily updated version of the G1 toy. So they started over, trying to focus on hiding robot parts on the underside of the jet and making as realistic an alt mode as possible. Which led to the weird/different robot mode and off paint job. He wasn't satisfied with the end result, but didn't want to make things worse, so MP-03 was released as is. Sales were poor till Takara imported the Hasbro version a year later, which featured a more accurate color scheme to the character. So the potential was there. They squeezed out the expected Skywarp, Thundercracker, and (unexpected?) Ghost Starscream figures over the next several years before retiring the mold.
Fast-forward to 2012 and Takara now does have a long-term plan for the Masterpiece line. After their first do-over with Optimus Prime, they followed up with the heavily retooled MP-11, Starscream version II.
While not exactly the same as the original MP seeker design, Starscream v2 is very much based on those plans. I don't know if any of the box text talks about that, but they made sure to show off the things that would probably convince people to buy this whether they picked up MP-03 or not: a cartoon accurate deco, and his cape and crown from Transformers: the Movie.
Additional contents are the usual, a tech-spec card and the instruction manual, which shares some additional details and shows what inspired all the different gimmicks and features.
Pre-labels, Starscream looks the part of "Number Two" Decepticon.
And post-labels, that hasn't changed. This is one of the better approximations of the F-15 Eagle you'll find that isn't a scale model replica.
Red & blue trim the character's grey fuselage properly, but there are panel lines and rivets all over the place to give off the military plane feel. Adding to that are the air intakes, landing gear, and a few lights.
The amber-tinted canopy opens to reveal a fairly detailed cockpit. Replacing Dr. Arkeville from the previous MP Seeker batch is a generic but cool looking pilot figurine, probably a hologram since it's translucent.
Besides looking good from all sides, gimmicks include adjustable thrusters at the rear that can be slightly angled in any direction.
There's an air brake behind the cockpit that goes completely vertical.
There's a radar inside the nosecone.
The panels covering the engines can be raised to see what helps push this vehicle over speeds of Mach 2.5.
And for weapons, Starscream has his cannons mounted under the wings. These can be swapped for missile racks, but this release doesn't come with any. He's also got a mounting port under the nose for the Megatron that came with MP-01/04. All of these features were present with the past iteration and worked well there, so it's good to see version II didn't drop the ball.
Size-wise, he looks right next to his fellow MPs, perfect for riding or getting tossed. If I'd thought about it, I'd have taken a pic of him getting chomped by Grimlock too. And as for the under-carriage, it's pretty solid. I'd say the only parts that stand out just a little are his head and hands, but they're acceptable.
Overall, Starscream's alt mode is very nice. There aren't any problems to be found. Everything fits properly without fuss, what gaps are present are minor, and everything works the way it should. Having missiles would be nice, but I think he's fine without.
Robot mode however does have a bit of a problem. Here he stands without labels.
And here he stands with. It's in robot mode the changes between versions I and II are very apparent. For starters, the face swapping head has been dropped for a new one with collapsing sides, making it easier to move while transforming.
Armatures have been added so the cannons can be set in either mode without having to detach them every time. The hip kibble has been ditched, because the tail fins now stay on his forelegs.
For that matter, the legs are thicker now. That plus proper heel spurs make it much easier for him to stand and stay stable. His wings have also been reshaped, making them less prone to push against each other.
His articulation isn't mind-shattering, but it's pretty good. He's got swivel feet/toes, ratchet knees & hips, thigh swivels just beneath his hips, ratchet shoulders, bicep swivels, hinged elbows, swivel wrists, and hands with poseable thumbs and index fingers, the other three digits being fused. His head also sits on a ball peg. So he can hit solid poses.
He can hold his cannons, but not very well since they weren't made for that. Which is fine, because they look great mounted on his arms.
Most of the sculpted details are visible in jet mode, but going to robot mode puts more emphasis on what was below and reveals some additional areas, like what looks like turbines inside his legs. That's neat since the engines are in the same place. And his hip skirts add to the total look. They're stiff, but move as needed.
The air intakes can be tilted forward, to mimic how they sat in the cartoon parallel to his head rather than behind it.
The chest plates can be flipped up to reveal missile racks, also present on version I.
And his wings can be pulled out to give him more room to move. Sometimes they like to droop though, because there's nothing holding them in place besides the hinges that let them flip over. Sounds all good so far, right? Like robot mode is another hit? Well, not quite.
You might be wondering by now about the problem I mentioned. The problem is in how his upper body is supposed to form up. There's a tab on his backside that sits just above his waist. It's supposed to firmly plug into a slot above. IF it worked, robot mode would be just as pleasant as jet mode. BUT IT DOESN'T WORK! Not all the time. Like, maybe 25% of the time, the tab properly locks in and everything is sweet. The rest of time, it doesn't connect properly. And as a result, any attempt to pick Starscream up by his body lauches it up the rails like a rocket. Even trying to lift his chest plates will do the same thing.
I'd like to think this is maybe just fluky QC with my figure, but my Acid Storm has the exact same issue. So unless I and so many others have really bad luck, this is pretty common. It sucks Takara didn't deign this a problem worth fixing, but supposedly the MP cone heads don't have this issue, so I guess they got around to it eventually. I may try clear polish as some point to see if it helps. I wish they'd engineered more than one place for the body to come together, but it is what is.
Moving on, the other big hook to MP-11 besides the massive retool job is the inclusion of Starscream's cape and crown from Transformers: the Movie. After finally becoming leader of the Decepticons, he wasted no time in putting together his own coronation.
The shoulder pads tab into his shoulders, but are designed in a way that doesn't really diminish range of motion.
The cape, made of plastic, securely mounts over his back plate. It's jointed enough to let it raise up, swing, and expand. It'll only stay raised or swung out if you hold it because of the weight, but it stays expanded until you fold it back up.
The crown, also plastic, is nice and shiny. It's the perfect prop for Galvatron to crush.
He still fits in with the MP crowd, though it's a safe bet Grenadier won't be giving him five.
Starscream version II is a pretty good improvement over his predececessor, and the cape & crown are a nice, character-defining touch. He looks great in both modes and is great in jet mode. But the waist connector makes his robot mode frustrating at times. Completists and fans of the character will probably want him no matter what, but he's not a must-buy for anyone with more casual interests. As of this review, he's already been repainted into Skywarp, Thundercracker, Acid Storm, and Sunstorm. The Japanese version of Sunstorm is the only other one that comes with the cape and crown. All the other releases come with the display stand and missiles instead. You might be lucky enough to find the US versions of Acid Storm & Starscream for under $100, but all the others are more like $200+. So you decide if one or more of these Seekers is up your alley.
|Posted 17 June, 2016 - 21:57 by Optimal III|