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Transformers Toy Review Archive (older series, 1984 to date)
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Clay's review of: Optimal Optimus

Name: Optimal Optimus (Primal)
Function: Maximal leader, captain of the Axalon
"Look who's back, and feeling prime!"
"Die cast construction: it's a lost art"
"Maximals, transform and roll out!"

Optimal Optimus, a wise and compassionate Maximal commander, developed his trademark valor and heroism during his role in the Beast Wars. Exposure to a nebulous entity reconfigured him into the ultimate four - mode Transmetal, Optimal Optimus reactive smart missile cannons are functional and all modes of operation. In hypersonic attack mode he has upgraded Cybertronian "air guardian" jet technology equipped with scramjet modules specialized for unmatched velocity. In armored ground-assault mode, he transgresses all terrain and overcomes all opposition. Battle-reactive blast shields supply him with an impenetrable defense, making Optimal Optimus the most potent threat ever to face-off against Megatron and his Predacons.

Well, after finally seeing some of Beast Wars (seasons two and three), it occured to me that, after buying lots of random BW figures that just looked good to me, I was only missing two or three figures to have the entire cast of the show (funny coincidence, eh?). One of the last things I hunted down was the final incarnation of Optimus Primal, and ironically enough, the sequence I aquired everything in turned out to reach a pretty sound apex with this figure. (i.e. I got the figures in the same sequence as the show introduced).

Fun fact: I got the Beast Wars Megatron toys in reverse order, by accident!

Anyway, on to business!

Monkey Mode:
By and large, the inclusion of this mode was probably just grandfathered in from the previous incarnations. It's not bad or anything - it's like a bigger version of the transmetal gorilla - but it's just not as useful when stacked against the other modes. The writers of the show apparently thought this, too - we only see the ape mode once, maybe twice in all of season three.

Even so, it has its advantages. For one thing, this is mode that the blast panels were designed for (according to me, who did not design them). Despite being quite labor-intensive, these legitimately are quite fun to blow apart. It also makes a masterful show-of-force to any felines who like to chew on any toy parts that stick out on the lower shelves: 'Don't be messin with ma' toys, lest you wan' some of this wacky, arm-panel blow-off whoop-ass, and I don't think you do, Ms. Kitty'.

The articulation isn't as good as the robot mode, though, since the blast panels intrude a bit on the forearms and the shoulders are hunkered down.

Ground Assault Mode:
Another one-time-only mode is the ground assault apparatus. In the show, Optimus Primal was a separate character from the original Optimus Prime, and in the resolution of the cliffhanger from season two, Primal saved the napping Prime's life by absorbing his soul for a time. At this point in the toy line, it's probably safe to say that the show's writers were helping influence which characters got grafted on to the various toys. As a result, the Optimi's mixture on the show got manifested in the toy with a ground vehicle mode.

As for the execution itself, it's alright. It easily dwarves the Transmetal Optimus' flying-hover-board-monkey mode, and is right around the same length as the original Optimus Prime toy with the trailer attached. It's definately not a 'robot in disguise' anymore, though.

The 'action features' of the blast panels and the light-up missle launchers work in this mode, but it does leave one thing to be desired from a structural view (the same applies to the flight mode): the big gun battery is more or less left hanging in the air with very little support. The plastic it's made of does seem to be more durable than would be required even for this, but still, the obsessive compulsive in me won't let me keep the toy in this mode for that reason. There are also wheels, but those are mostly for show, since they don't touch the ground very well.

Look mommy, up in the sky... (Plane Mode):
The flying juggernaut mode, unlike the previous two, was utilized heavily in the show. Optimus Primal could always fly: the original plans for Optimus and Megatron were to blend together the gorilla/TRex modes from the larger toys, the bat/alligator modes from the smaller toys, and the robot modes for each to have each character be a quaduple changer (whether this was for the TV-show only, or if they planned to cement the various toys together with super glue as well, I"m not entirely sure). Though this idea was abandoned, the gorilla Optimus Primal could still fly in the show via little jet packs in his back (this was not in the original toy; this feature was, however, incorporated into the Robot Masters version). The transmetal Optimus could fly by turning into a hover-boarding gorilla--which I would love to know the story behind, because it's so weird it works. In his final incarnation, Primal's ability to fly gets amalgamated into an alternate mode all its own--a rather large flying vehicle straight from the annals of B-movie sci-fi. Which I love.

Anyway, getting on with it, the flight mode is very nice. In the show (and most of the other shows), Primal was the only individual to get a non-disguised, cybertronian-esque mode; when he did, he used it like there was no tomorrow. As for the toy, it's pretty much like it's counterpart on television: it's huge next to the other BW figures, it fires missles, the little cockpit opens, etc, etc. The downside of this mode is that, despite some twisting around, it's still basically the gorilla laying down. As I said earlier, it's not really a robot in disguise anymore. It also shares the same lag with the ground mode: the blaster cannons hang in the air, mostly unsupported. The flight mode is fun, but I don't leave it in this mode for that reason.

Maximals, transform and roll out! (Robot Mode):
Optimus Prime was a cool guy. Optimus Primal was a cool guy, too. Together, they're quite spiffy in their own Frankenstein-ish right. The transformation to robot the mode from any other mode is quite a deal more complex than the other shifts, due to the delicate twisting, turning, "Am I going to break it?", procedures involving the blaster cannons.

Once you're finished (yeah, I slinked out of that), you get a robot that's really quite intimidating next to the Beast Wars rank and file. He's roughly the size of Fire Convoy, or twice the size of the typical BW deluxe figure. This was reflected in the show, or maybe the show was reflected in the toy... at any rate, he's stonking huge for a BW toy. To give the proper idea, once the Optimi's were united and confronted Megatron, Megatron quit shooting lasers about and started using his words. That kind of big.

The robot itself doesn't suffer from the 'blast cannons hang in the air' faults of the other modes, so it can bet set on the toy shelf indefinately this way. But who has time for that? All the articulation is freely available in this mode: rotating waist, knees, a little bit in the ankles, the hands open and close (yay!), wrists, elbows, shoulders, you name it, he's got it. Given all of that, there's no reason to worry about the long-term stability of the mode and the stress-resistance of the plastic since you'll be too busy playing with the thing from time to time.

The gimmicks are still present and accounted for in this mode, as well. The lights still work with the added bonus of illuminating the eyes now instead of just the gun barrels. The blast panels are still technically viable, but they restrict the arm articulation, and snapping them on to the top of the shoulders as prescribed by the instructions just looks goofy, so I don't bother with them at all.

At any rate, he's a big, fun, terrific transforming toy, but no robot in disguise. Given that, I'd say he's hit or miss if you've never seen the show. If you have seen it, and liked it, then you're a doofus for neglecting to get this earlier.

OK kids, let's review...

Transformation: 5. It's very intuitive and easy, but the "am I going to break this?" fear will probably dog you when you're trying to get the blaster cannon assembly correct for the robot mode.
Durability: 9, excluding the above. He's pretty gosh-darn solid.
Fun: 10! Character imprinting is not required here. The toy is fun, if only for the articulated hands alone.
Price: X. It's a toy that's getting older all the time. Since it was a main character on the show, there's still a draw for it on ebay even now. Since it's long out of production, expect the price to vary with relation to completeness, condition, etc. I got mine complete, in very good condition (no scratching on the chrome), with the box and instructions for around the original retail price, which is perfectly reasonable.
Overall: X. It depends. If you're collecting transformers because you like realistic alternate modes, you definately won't like it. If you like collecting transformers because you like the engineering that goes into them, you'll probably like it. If you like collecting transformers that have a lot of articulation, you will like it. Finally, if you've seen the show, the character will resonate loud and clear, and you'll definately like it.

(If you're wondering about my opinion: I like it. Could you tell?)
 
 
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