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Transformers Toy Review Archive (older series, 1984 to date)
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Warcry's Review: Armada Cheetor

Although he was released as part of the Armada line, Cheetor is only vaguely tied to the continuity. He didn't show up on the show at all, only appeared in one or two issues of the long-forgotten Dreamwave comic and in toyline terms looks completely out of place alongside any of the toys that were actually designed for Armada. This Cheetor is a repaint of Transmetal Cheetor from the Beast Wars line, and he's the exact opposite of an Armada toy. That's because Armada toys are big and simple, filled with gimmicks but cursed with minimal joints -- but Cheetor is small and complex, with no gimmicks to speak of and tremendous articulation in both beast and robot modes. If not for the somewhat superfluous Minicon partner that he came with, you could be forgiven for assuming that he'd come out as part of the Fox Kids series of redecos or as a part of the first Universe line. In fact, the five Armada beasts feel more like Hasbro testing the waters for Universe than a genuine attempt to add depth to the Armadaverse. That's not a put-down, though -- I liked Universe and Armada was horrible.

Alternate Mode: The first thing you'll notice about Cheetor is that he's not even making a vague attempt to look like a cheetah. He's a mix of black, dull blue and purple with a few orange highlights, as well as bright green eyes with orange pupils. He might be able to pull off being a panther if you squint, but "Panthro" was already taken so Cheetor he remains.

While his colour scheme might not be very realistic, the original Transmetal Cheetor wasn't either. And whether or not he actually looks like anything, he does look good. The mold was redecoed several times in the Beast Wars years: aside from the show-accurate green, silver and yellow original, there was a predominantly red 'Fox Kids' redeco along with a remold that turned him into Beast Wars Ravage, who was in turn redecoed into Transmetal Tigatron. A character named Cataclysm based on the mold was introduced in Botcon stories in 2000, but they never produced a toy based on the design. Three out of the four of those toys featured the obligatory massive amounts of Transmetal chrome and two of them were exclusives: Tigatron was a Botcon 2001 exclusive, while Ravage was only released in Japan (and is something of a holy grail for Beast Wars collectors like myself). None of them feature the same level of non-chromed painted detail as Armada Cheetor sports, so he's different enough to stand out from the pack.

Cheetor has quite a bit of articulation in beast mode, especially compared to his contemporaries. His rear legs have ball-jointed hips, double-jointed knees (which, sadly, can't quite match a natural feline pose) and ankles, while his front legs have swivels at the shoulder, elbow and wrist. He's also got quite a bit of neck articulation, though not a complete, natural range of motion because his neck is attached on two ball joints (this is due to his beast head and neck splitting into his hands and arms during transformation). He's also got waist articulation that carries over from his robot mode. All in all, he's so much better than the original Cheetor that it's crazy to think the two figures were designed only two years apart.

Like all the Transmetal toys, Cheetor has a "third mode". Like most of them, it's more of a joke mode than anything. Cheetor's sides fold out to become wings with engines attached, turning him into a flying cat. It's a neat play feature, though completely inconsequential and not nearly as hilarious as Primal's flying surf monkey or Megatron's flying roller skate dinosaur. It really doesn't add much to the toy as a display piece either, because opening up the wings leaves Cheetor with a giant hole in his guts.

The engines themselves were retooled for the Armada release, and now include two Minicon hardpoints. Aside from the fact that they were a less-than-optimal place to put them -- he wouldn't be able to fly at all with a Minicon attached since they would obstruct the engine's airflow, not to mention ruining his aerodynamics and balance -- the whole idea of tiny cars and jets attaching onto a giant robot cat is one that you'll either love or hate and nothing I say is going to make much difference. I generally prefer to ignore the Minicon attachments entirely, mainly because Cheetor has been adopted into my small Beast Wars display.

Cheetor only has one real problem, and it's related to age more than anything else. His beast mode head is part of an assembly that includes it as well as his robot mode arms and chest, attached onto his main body by a pair of very small hinge joints. On my Cheetor at least those joints are showing a lot of wear, and they aren't strong enough anymore to hold his head firmly in place. It tends to sag if he's left in beast mode for any length of time, and usually there's a centimetre of space between his neck and his "collar". He's been transformed and played with a lot since I got him, though, and some wear is to be expected.

Robot Mode: Cheetor's Transmetal body has always been my favourite because it had the 'cleanest' robot mode, and my appreciation for it carries over to this toy as well. He's got far less kibble than the original, with the cat head halves forming 'shields' on his forearms and his beast forelegs folding up into nice, compact towers behind his shoulders. Aside from that he could be a normal, non-transforming action figure.

Cheetor's colours carry over from beast mode, but instead of being a fairly even mix of three colours he's now mostly black. The purple and dull blue are reduced to highlights along with the orange, and the resulting figure is very striking and very different from the Transmetal Cheetor seen on the TV show. He really doesn't look like Cheetor other than the head sculpt, but in the Beast Wars days when a character got a new toy there was rarely much recognizable about it other than the animal it turned into so it's hard to hold that against him. He's definitely a good looking figure on his own merits.

Articulation is above average, too. His hips, shoulders and elbows are on ball joints, his knees and ankles are hinged, he's got a waist swivel (something sadly missing on most modern Transformers toys, to their detriment) and his neck is a strange mix of ball joint and swivel that gives him a good range of motion. He's very poseable and has very good balance, something that's definitely helped by his articulated ankles. His shoulders, however, are a bit of an issue. They're on ball-joints, but the ball-joint is on a small piece of plastic that's hinged to his chest. That piece doesn't lock into place, so any lateral movement of his arms is just as likely to pull that plate away from his torso as it is to rotate his shoulder around the ball joint. To make things worse, his chest is a somewhat larger plate that is itself hinged to the torso and (as mentioned in the beast section) those hinges have gotten weak with age. Trying to move his arms up will move his chest as well, every single time, unless I hold it in place. These are wear issues, mostly, but all it would have taken to render them moot is a couple of tabs to hold his shoulders in place.

Accessories were scarce in the later Beast Wars waves, and the Transmetals in particular usually came with "weapons" that were clearly part of their beast anatomy. Cheetor is no exception. His cat-mode tail can detach to become a flexible sword (or club or whip or something). Cheetor's one of the lucky ones, because his weapon actually looks really good and it's scaled accurately to his body (unlike Jawbreaker or Transmetal Megatron, whose tails become weapons that are way, way too big for their owners). He's articulated enough to use it in a lot of dynamic poses, too, which helps to hide the fact that it's really just a tail.

Minicon Partner: The Armada release addresses Cheetor's dirth of accessories (and the fact that he's nothing like an Armada toy) by giving him a Minicon partner named Cliffjumper. Although she's stolen the name of a prominent character, this Cliffjumper is nothing like the more well-known G1 or Prime guys. Gender and personality aside (aside from establishing her as female, the Dreamwave Armada profiles characterized her as something of a shrinking violet) she's a purple, orange and black pickup truck with a working winch. She's actually one of my favourite Minicons, with decent articulation for a figure of her size, good aesthetics in both modes and a colour scheme that fits with her larger partner.

Unlike a lot of Minicons, Cliffjumper is built around a gimmick but isn't crippled by it. Her winch is fully-functional, and you can spool out several inches of string from her with a hook attached. Rolling her forward will reel in the string, though sometimes it takes a bit of downward force to engage the wheel in her chest that activates the feature. She can also be attached to any larger Armada figure with a gear mechanism (Cyclonus is the only one I'm aware of but there's probably more), and the gears will retract the string as well.

Her Minicon port is built into her spare tire, which is a nice touch and definitely a step up from the numerous Minicons who have random holes in their stomachs.

The only real problem she's got are her arms. They're made from the same soft, flexible plastic as her tires and thus are prone to warping or even tearing. She's a small toy, so she's got small arms and that mitigates the threat somewhat. If you tossed her in a spare figures box with her arms held out, though, you could get a nasty surprise when you went looking for her next.

All that aside, she really has no business being packaged with a Beast Wars toy and the two of them just look silly when combined. I tend to forget that she's actually supposed to be Cheetor's partner. In fact, I almost forgot to take pictures of her or write anything about her for this review. She's a genuinely good toy in her own right, though, and really doesn't deserve to be forgotten like that.

Transformation Design: The Transmetal Cheetor mold is a quantum leap of an improvement over the original figure. The issues with his shoulders/chest/beast head assembly keep me from calling him perfect, but among Beast Wars toys he's as good as it gets. Cliffjumper is a one of the best-designed Minicons I've got, too. 9/10

Durability: Joint wear has become an issue, though surprisingly not in the ball joints like I would have expected. With ball joints and heavy-duty hinges everywhere, breaking Cheetor would take some work. I worry about Cliffjumper's arms a bit but I'm probably just paranoid. 8/10

Fun: Hrmmm. You know...even though Cheetor's an objectively good figure, I don't enjoy him as much as I might expect myself to. Even though the lack of beast kibble makes him a better action figure than other Cheetors, he's got so few visible animal parts in robot mode that he doesn't really feel like a Beast Wars mold and that takes away some of the fun for me. It's funny to say because I'll hate on shellformers like Rhinox all day long, but this Cheetor almost needs a bit more kibble just to fit in. The original use of the mold made up for that by painting his chest, hands and inner thighs like cheetah-skin, but this guy doesn't have any of that and he's poorer for it. I enjoy him, don't get me wrong, but probably not as much as I do the other, objectively worse Cheetors that I've got in my collection. 6/10

Aesthetics: Cheetor's a very unique figure. The mold looks good, and the colour choices are bold -- maybe a bit too bold. I like it, but I could understand if some folks thought he was a bit much. And like I said above, he could really use a splash of "animal" in his robot mode. Cliffjumper's matching colours are a nice touch though, since a lot of the Armada Minicons don't look at all like they belong with their partners, and it really helps them work together as a set. 7/10

Articulation: Cheetor's one of the most poseable figures from the Beast era, in my opinion. Frankly, he has most modern figures beat in that regard too. If his shoulders clipped into place properly, he'd be pretty close to perfect. As it is, he's good but flawed. 8/10

Price: As a non-show redeco from a series nobody likes, Cheetor could easily be had for less than what you'd spend buying a modern Deluxe at retail. And unlike most of his Armada brethren, he's worth it and then some. 10/10

Overall: I'm not as enthused about Cheetor as I thought I'd be when I started reviewing him. He's not a bad figure by any stretch of the imagination, but even though he's very different from the other uses of the mold he's not really any better than them. Unlike Armada Predacon (who outshone the original Beast Wars figure pretty handily) Armada Cheetor is just one more in a long line of Cheetor figures. He's a good Cheetor, but so are lots of others. I like him, but there's nothing definitive or even consequential about the guy. That said, there are certainly a lot of worse things to spend your money on. 7/10
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