Review by Optimal III
Third-party Transformers are so prevalent now that it's no longer a question of "if", but "what's next" and "when". So when I wondered "if" anyone could top ToyWorld's Orion for the title of best 3P-Prime, I guess it was really a question of when. As it is with official figures, Optimus also has the most unofficial figures. So it's kind of ironic that what's surpassed an IDW (best TF comic publisher) design by Don Figueroa circa-2009 is one of his Dreamwave (worst TF comic publisher) designs circa-2002.
SPARKTOYS made a big splash when they announced their first figure would be a Masterpiece-scaled take on Optimus Prime from Dreamwave's War Within mini-series. Helmed by fan-favorites Simon Furman & Figueroa, it stands out as the first in-depth look at the war on Cybertron before it came to Earth, and particularly follows Prime as he assumes command of the Autobot forces. Figueroa was already popular for his fan-fiction work, so being brought on for art chores and getting to design every Transformer who'd get to appear in the series was good stuff before, during, & after all the way to today. SPARKTOYS started to worry people as the release was pushed back by 4 months, but they ultimately came through, and I can honestly say the wait was worth it.
The clean cut box does a good job of showing off what's inside, but it's the statements on the back that really get my attention.
"More than 400 steps of printing process". Are they referring to the painting process or are they saying some or all the toy's parts were created with 3D-printing? Either way, it sounds impressive.
Besides the increasingly common QR code and surprising UPC, the bottom of the box also shows off the next two figures SPARKTOYS plans to tackle, WW Megatron & Grimlock. Grimlock hasn't made any public appearances yet, but the Megatron prototype has, and it looks on par with Alpha Pack when he was still a prototype, so that's promising.
Additional contents include a large manual that's easy to follow and a credit card-style techspec card. If the number's accurate, I got unit # 492 out of this production run.
Alpha Pack in vehicle mode is a Cybertronian truck. The red, blue, and grey is what you'd expect where you expect it. What's different from all the official photography and doesn't show up in all my pics is how sparkly the red and blue is. I'd prefer more flat, solid colors, but he's fine as is.
More surprising is his size. I didn't measure him, but he's like one of those over-sized toy cars toddlers tend to have. He's not too heavy but doesn't feel overly light either, making him just right. He's solid. The design is sort of simple, but he still gets credit for being completely solid. There are zero fiddly bits. Appearance-wise, he's spot-on to the comics.
His panel lines aren't inked, but he's got them, indicating how much sculpting went into his construction. It makes him look heavy-duty, like he could run through or over anything that gets in his way. I've seen plenty of trucks with brush-guards over their front ends, but I don't recall seeing any with brush-guards over their lights.
The canopy's transparent, so you can see what's inside. But if you want a better look, it can be opened. Just be careful doing so, because the piece is very stiff.
Adding to the tough appearance, the rubber wheels are huge. The rear sets are only a little smaller. Their being caged adds to the ramming notion, like he'd be good for swinging into obstacles too. They make for easy rolling and have an interesting texture. Not sure if it's the paint or composition, but they feel different from any other rubber wheels I've got on my toys. I also noticed in that first pic that I goofed on transformation. The juncture between the fenders and exhaust should be turned around, which obscures the screws and presents a glossier look.
The exhausts are the only chromed parts, but they'd stand out even if they weren't because of the similarities to Hot Rod & Rodimus Prime. It almost looks like there are more in the rear end too.
On the back end, we get more exhausts and lights, but also a distinct area for mounting the gun.
It easily tabs into place and stays put. Alpha Pack looks great without, but adding his main weapon makes him look more complete.
Beneath, there's even more details running from the center of the vehicle to the front. Not sure if it's more mechanical or electrical, but it's there.
Compared to the other 3P Primes who were out before him, he simply looks unique like all the others.
Compared to the official Titanium figure, the difference is vast. The Titanium is skimpier on the details, and what it does have is harder to make out because of its much smaller size.
Completely upright, Alpha Pack comes in around 8.75-inches. That makes him a smidge shorter than MP-10, but what he lacks in height he more than makes up in bulk. Transformers don't get much beefier than this. And that fits. For better or worse, the "Dreamwave" art style emphasized big proportions, so War Within being mostly original designs meant almost everyone got robo-jacked. In Alpha Pack's case, his robot mode is an almost perfect snapshot of the comics. I'd say better since his proportions are more even.
Most of Prime's classic traits are present. He's mainly got more grey instead of red & blue. His joints aren't as hidden. And his antennae are rounded off, angled to the back.
From the sides and behind, he's just as impressive a specimen. Since his transformation is simple too, there aren't many new surface details, just different angles to look at. It's the same as the Titanium, but several things were added. The panels that form the base of the truck separate and flip over to add to the back of his forelegs. His hands rotate out of his forearms. The rear part behind the canopy folds down and under, resulting in a pseudo-jetpack. The piece connecting it to his body has two stress marks, but I'm guessing holding it while moving the canopy would prevent that and is probably how it should be handled. Also, a couple of pegs were added for mounting his weapons. The gun plugs up pretty well, but the axe doesn't take much to fall off.
In polish and most other ways, he makes Knight Morpher Commander & Grand Patriot look like chumps. Orion & Positum hold up better, but now that I've had Alpha Pack for a few weeks, they just don't wow me like they used to. The Titanium......just look for yourself. It's almost unfair for them to even be in the same photo.
Being so thick limits his flexibility in certain places, but Alpha Pack has enough joints to comfortably get by and pull off lots of great poses. Besides having Veritech/Valkyrie-like feet, each ankle is an inner hinge that tilts forward, back, and into the inside.
His knees are firm ratchets with a near 90-degree bend to the back and a little forward. His hips are universal clicky ratchets, and just below them are the thigh swivels. The skirts are stiff, but move easily. His waist also swivels, smooth but not loose.
His shoulders are attached to disc ratchets for vertical motion and have hinges for horizontal. The shoulder armor can be pulled outwards to accommodate the latter. He has swivels below the shoulders, above the forearms, and at the wrists. His hands are open-close grip, but his index fingers have all three knuckles.
He does subtle and stoic very well, but I only thought to get pics of "squats for days", "Shakespeare", and "beating up has-beens".
For weapons, Pack's (the name's starting to grow on me) got his exhaust pipes/arm cannons. I mean, if Hot Rod & Rodimus can use them, I'm sure he can too.
He has a large gun that's a nice take on Prime's famous laser rifle. The light piping works, and the tab used for alt mode neatly folds into the butt.
And lastly, SPARKTOYS added a folding axe. It goes from tidy & compact to deadly and back. I'm surprised they didn't throw some orange in there, but not having any adds to the intensity and realism factors.
Of course, there's the near-requisite matrix which pegs into his chest too. It looks good in or outside of him, and the back makes it look empty.
No major or consistent QC issues have been reported yet and the price tag is reasonable ($120+), so the only reason I can think of for passing on him is if you don't like the Dreamwave/War Within look. He blows the other 3P Primes out of the water, so it'll be interesting to see if any of the upcoming ones can usurp him.
I'm not saying Alpha Pack is a terrible name. It isn't. It just seems kind of odd for a singular character. It'd make sense for an object or a group. But Alpha may be referring to "best" or "first" in this case. And Pack is fairly close to "Pax". It wasn't their first choice either. "Alpha Prime" was, but I guess that's a little too close for comfort. Name aside, ALPHA PACK IS FANTASTIC! My pics don't do him justice! Mostly, I enjoy the quality and the design. But another high point is how simple he is for a convertible toy. There's nothing wrong with a toy being complex, but it's refreshing to get such a well-made one that doesn't take any real work to interact with, especially at the MP-scale. Perhaps SPARKTOYS gets the lion's share of credit here for making this happen, but if they scored the touchdown, then Hasbro has to be recognized as the coach, and Don Figueroa the quarterback. Between the comics and Titanium figure, they made a good blueprint for SPARKTOYS to follow. And now I'm really looking forward to seeing if their next two figures are just as awesome.
|Posted 10 October, 2016 - 12:07 by Optimal III|