Hasbro's 20th Anniversary Optimus Prime
by Mr. Stinkhead
MPb Toy of the Year 2004
As for 2004, we have come to the conclusion that the 20th Anniversary Optimus Prime most exemplified what we looked for in a collectible action figure. It wasn't a feat of across-the-board perfection quite like the Stikfas Mechana (MPb Toy of the Year 2003), but it was a feat in action figure excellence. Allow me to count the ways.
Typically I wait until the end of the article to wrap up the overall impression
I get from experiencing a figure (like that better than "make shooting noises
while laying on the floor"?) However the first thing anyone says when first
checking it out is "Whoa." You know a toy is good if you get that excited just
seeing it. Some of my friends have gotten excited just hearing about it. But
that overall feeling of awe, which is quickly reinforced once you get
your grubby mitts on it, is something not many action figures are able to pull
off. Out of all the toys in my collection, this is
the one that the non-collectors and die-hard collectors are equally excited
about. There is instant recognition of the hallowed leader of the Autobots.
And then there is the appreciation of the physical presence this action
figure possesses. After seeing it transform, and all the hidden extra details, most people solidly fall in love with this toy.
To me, this is the most important aspect. Though it's a gigantic improvement, and update of the original Optimus figure, it is clearly Optimus Prime. Representing the cartoon version a bit more than the original toy, I could not name a single thing I would have done differently with the likeness. The colors are solid and shiny. The machine-like articulation only adds to the robot character. His face is more detailed than any likeness before, but is clearly Prime. The fact that the toy transforms into a realistic looking big-rig, but also appears to be a solid hulkin' robot, makes the likeness factor even more admirable.
Holy Moley... with more articulation than I care to count (mainly due to the sweet racheted joints), the figure does not sacrafice any articulation for transforming ability or likeness. Let's start at the head and work our way down. His antennae fold backwards. His head is on a ball jointed neck. There is a switch on the back of his head that moves his mouth plate up and down. That's right, you can make him talk. Autobots, roll out! is collectively the most uttered phrase heard in my basement. That and this place is a stinkin' mess from the wife.
The shoulders move up and down with a great racheted joint, so he can hold his arms up high. Also, the transforming aspect allow his shoulder posts to rotate into his chest a little bit. There is a great rotating bicep joint that leads beautifully into his hyrdolics-laden elbow. The construction on the arm makes every joint clean, but also "disguised" or at least fitting the overall look and feel. No point on his entire body looks like it's there only for articulation. Granted, this feat is more sucessful on robots than people with clothes (worse on people without clothes), but its an important consideration. His wrists hide two tiny pipes that you can see when you bend his hand forward. So you have a twisting, ball joined wrist, and fully hinged fingers. The placement of the ball joint of the thumb also allows for a good variety of human-based hand poses.
His waist spins, and his, uh, pelvis has hinged flaps to allow greater movement of his racheted legs. You can get some wicked poses, but the weight of the upper body will restrict how many poses he will be able to freely stand up in. But there's still a good number regardless.
His knees have a fantastic double-joint system, that really allows the knee to bend his bulky legs a good distance. The more you bend it back, the more hydrolic-inspired joints appear from flaps and folds. It's really quite sweet. There is a ball joint in the ankle, and the toes are actually on a joint allowing his foot to bend in a human type manner. (Also check out the sweet hydrolics connecting the ankle to the hamstring on the back of his leg.)
All great action figures don't need a load of accessories to be great, however a good total package sure helps. Prime comes with four cool accessories; his blaster, Megatron in pistol form, his energon axe, and the Matrix. The blaster is nice and large, however I do wish they had put a peg on the handle, and a dimple in Optimus's palm so that he could hold the blaster in a few more poses. It's a good fit, otherwise. The Energon axe locks into place when his fist is folded into the forearm. It looks great, and it's cast in a translucent orange plastic to give it that slight glowing electricity feel.
He also comes with Megatron as a pistol. It's built to scale so that Prime can hold him, and includes a removeable scope, silencer and arm brace exactly like the old toy. (Which will never see this treatment, stateside anyway). It's true that Prime did shoot with Megatron, in one of the television episodes. It's not something I was expecting when I opened the package, but it was a great surprise. I also liked the little trick the engineers used. The handle extends via a 45° slice so that it fits in Prime's hand a little bit better. This was the perfect solution for the most visually appealing handle not fitting in his hand. Kudos.
The favorite accessory however is the light-up Matrix. Swing open Prime's windshield, flip up the one flap, and there lies one of the most powerful items in the world. (Much like sweetly wonderful breasts under a bra and blouse, hee hee hee). Pull back on the small switch on Prime's shoulder, and the center of the Matrix will blind you with a glowing blue light. You can also pop out the Matrix for Prime to hold, and even open, just like the Transformers movie. This little bit of extra goodness was certainly expected (I would be pretty pissed if Prime had no wondefully magical breasts, I mean Matrix hidden deep inside.) I could not have dreamed of anything more pefect [Ed note: Dude, yes you could...] I'm very happy.
One of the most dificult things about this toy is the transforming process. The important thing is that the robot mode and the vehicle mode look their best. I will gladly sacrafice some of the ease of transformation for a perfect end result. Kind of like how puberty itself is so awkward and horrible, but the end result is so amazing, that its all worth it. [Ed note: I don't know if I should cheer or be disgusted. No more boob talk.] Anyway, even with the directions, it took a little bit of practice to be able to transform him in under 20 minutes. The feet and legs were the hardest for me to get the hang of, but I eventually did, and it doesn't hurt my love for the toy. Just sometimes I refuse to show people the truck mode because I know they don't care enough.
After transforming it, I have a greater appreciation for the vehicle mode. All of the tires (rubber!) have independant suspension. The overall vehicle would easily pass for only a toy truck. The seams are just a little more visible than I'd like, but the whole point of transformers is have two enjoyable toys in one, and I feel it surpasses that requirement. His scale also makes him look great along side the Alternators that are slowly coming out.
One of the contributing factors to this being the Toy of the Year is the extra touches the toy makers stuck in here. They could have quit after all of the things I mentioned above, but no, they just kept on going, finding new things to fit in, without hurting any other aspect for its inclusion. I've already mentioned the moving mouth plate and the fact that the Matrix opens and lights up. On each of his forearms is a little pop-up flap that has a view screen on the underside. One side is presumably a surveillance screen, as it features an animated style picture of Starscream. The other flap is conclusively a communications device as it features an animated style Bumblebee. If I had flip-up arm panels, you'd know what I would watch? Oh yeah... I guess you do. Press up on his heels and the leg vents will flip open. I'm telling you, these little things are simply nice additions, but they push this toy up into the of the Year league.
Why It Almost Didn't Make It
You'll notice on our Staff Picks of the Year, that Lando and I felt that this was definately a contender, but not the clear cut winner. One of my major problems was that a toy this beautiful was pretty expensive, and difficult to find. A few readers out there got lucky with clearance sales, but for the most part, you could expect to pay anywhere between $60-80 for this toy. That's a lot of clams when you're responsible for feeding other people. Also, after I showed it to many, many friends, a lot of them had some dificulty in tracking one down. To me, accessability and availability are important if something is the best of the entire year, and that's why it tied with other sets for this designation.
One More Small Gripe
Most of you know that when this toy came out in Japan a bit earlier, it was called Masterpiece Prime. That particular figure contained quite a bit more die-cast metal pieces (only the chest and legs are die cast on the American counterpart), and the cardboard tray it was packaged in could be re-folded to make a mock-up of Prime's trailer for when you displayed it in vehicle mode. Sweet! I cannot tell you how disappointed I was that our version differed so much. I understand the die-cast changes (no I don't... at $80, this is clearly made for collectors not kids. Stinkin' Wal*Mart mentality again!) But that cardboard trailer would have been kind of sweet. It's not enough of a difference to make me not want the toy, but it's kind of like knowing that you got ten less french fries in your Happy Meal than the guy in front of you.
Don't get me started on the number of twist-ties that were keeping this guy strapped in. You know those charities that accept the pop-tops from your soda can for dialisis? Someone out there should start collecting twist-ties for a similar effort. Then something like the experience of touching but not being able to play with a toy for 20 minutes could be a little bit more enjoyable.
But its true, after all of this, I can comfortably call the 20th Anniversary Optimus Prime the Toy of the Year for 2004. It possessed playability, value, aesthetics, and overall enjoyment that was head and shoulders over most of the other figures I got this year. If you don't happen to have this yet, but you have some holiday money burning a hole in your pocket, I whole-heartedy urge you to pick it up.
Check out the other super-articulated Transformers, the Alternators.
You can still find this Optimus from Brians Toys for $65.
If you dig the Transformers, check out the TF themed desktop wallpaper I made. And then swing by and check out the rest of the MillionairePlayboy.com staff Picks of 2004.
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