Clay's review of: Galaxy Force GX-02 Soundwave
G1 Soundwave in Cybertronian mode, of sorts.
A trend in the past few years of Transformer lines has been to revisit some old character designs and give them some form of an update. In the case of the Armada Megatron, it was to give a character with the position of Decepticon leader a functional alternate mode instead of a gun. With the Robotmaster Beast Convoy and Megatron, it was to give more show-accurate toys than what were previously available.
Some of these 'reinventions', however, have been more abstract. The Alternator Shockwave, for instance, was a new take on the design of the original character. In the cartoon, Shockwave basically never left Cybertron, so he really didn't require a fancy alternate mode to disguise himself. With the Alternator variant, Shockwave has been given a point to being able to transform: disguise and mobility.
The inverse of this is Soundwave. Soundwave always had an alternate mode of questionable usefulness, and the puzzle always nagged me, "What on earth did he look like on Cybertron? Surely he must've been something radically different than a tape deck." Well, I wonder no more. Soundwave has been remixed for Galaxy Force/Cybertron, keeping the good stuff from the original boom box design and gaining what his previous transformation really lacked: purpose.
Soundwave turns into a spaceship, which most resembles an extremely futuristic F117a fighter plane. The goal of this mode is clear: to portray what Soundwave might have looked like on Cybertron, and to give him an alternate mode that is functional as well as stylish. It's perfectly concievable that Soundwave could fly into battle himself and destroy countless Autobot grunts with ordnance from afar, or simply launch Laserbeak and leisurely watch him peck out the eyes of his foes. In other words, Soundwave as a spaceship is a pretty nifty concept, and an even niftier toy.
It also has the same 'sun' design on top of its cockpit that Noisemaze does, which is a neat tie-in to the whole Planet X thing.
Some things change, and some things not so much. The new Soundwave is a combination of subtle and overbearing references to the original Microman toy that would eventually be used for Transformers. The colorization is instantly recognizable as Soundwave: blue with grey highlights, and a gold-trimmed chest. What're less immediately evident are the molded details. The shoulders and forearms share the same knobs and dials as the original, and the chest possesses the same tape-door and play buttons as the old Soundwave had.
That's not to say that this figure is not its own, though. The head sculpt is unique and differentiates itself from the original by augmenting some features such as the cheek guards and forehead detail, and omitting others such as the headcrest and the eyes (the new Soundwave has a light-piped visor instead; if you hold it up to a bright enough light, you can see eyes behind it, as in the picture--Creepy!). Of course, there's also the wings left over from the jet mode. Given the angle that they sprout out at from behind the shoulders, they seem reminiscent of something almost angelic.
There are also some other bits that just hang off the arms. They aren't very instrusive though, since they do form a shield and something of a club. Kibble with a purpose, in essence.
Finally, there are the three oil drum-things that come with Soundwave. Two of them can turn into weapons and be docked under the wings in jet mode, or be hand-held and shoulder-mounted in robot mode. Something especially nifty about the three-barreled piece is that it can actually rotate while mounted, which is a very subtle-but-fun feature.
And that last oil drum? It gets stowed in Soundwave's chest, which is unlocked by his force chip. The reason for the extra security? It's Laserbeak! As a final nod to the original design, the new Soundwave comes with an inner-minion of his own. The new Laserbeak is much more bird-like than the previous incarnation, and has the added bonus of a peg on its underside so that it can be held by Soundwave or perched on his shoulder. There's quite a bit of articulation to the little figure, so it effectively polishes the set as an all-around improvement to the playability of the original.
All in all, what I've really come to adore about this toy is just how imaginative it is. It takes aspects of the original tape deck toy and blends them seemlessly with aspects from the fiction that's been built around it such as the furturistic, outer space backdrop. And that gives my imagination plently of fodder to invent ways to explain the new Soundwave's relationship to the other figures in my collection. Truthfully, this is the most fun I've had with a toy in a good while.
8. Well thought out, and it looks great in both modes. Getting everything to agree when you're trying to wedge it back into jet mode can be tricky, so don't be skiddish about consulting the instructions.
10. Nothing brittle, nothing weak. It should stay intact in most situations.
10. Two entertaining modes, plus all the nifty extra features that the original tape deck had.
6. Fairly expensive. Essentially all import retailers have been charging more for this release than they have for others this size. Soundwave is a popular guy, after all, so I suppose everyone has decided to exploit it while they can. However, Hasbro have seemed to have gotten their distrubution problems fixed within the US, so it'll be well worth the usual $20 when it comes out on the international market.
10. With classic themes like the transforming weapons and containable minions coupled with nutty articulation and wide-availability, what's not to like? It's a Soundwave remix.