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StryderK's Review: Masterpiece Soundwave

Name: Soundwave
Allegiance: Decepticons (Destron in Japan)
Function: Decepticons Communications (Spy)
Alternate mode: Microcassette Recorder
Extras: Can store and eject plenty of cassete "babies" out of chest/cassete deck (Too many babies to count).

"Cries and screams are music to my ears"

It is said that soundwave can hear a fly sneeze. Uses anything he hears for blackmail to advance his status and cause. An Opportunist, despised by all other decepticons. Sensors can detect even the lowest energy radio transmissions. Able to read minds by monitoring electrical impulses. Acts as a radio link to others. Locates and identifies Autobots, then informs other Decepticons. Carries a concussion blaster gun. Often a target of retaliation by other Decepticons due to his perchant for blackmail.

In my farthest memories, Soundwave have always been one of my favorite Transformers since it appeared in nearly every episode in the first two years. Not only that, he seemed to have an endless supplies of cassete babies, the first few of which I remember was Laserbeak, Ravage, and Rumble. Then it just grew and grew and grew.....Until I completely lost count.

From the cartoons at least, it seems Soundwave is the second in command behind Megatron. Always there when Megatron needs him, always faithfully do his bidding and his orders. He carries a concussion blaster and also a eight round rocket pod on his right shoulder. Although from my memories, he never used it once in any episodes. So for MP13, Takara Tomy and Hasbro produced the ultimate version of Soundwave. So does he measures up as the ultimate Transformer like Optimus Prime or will he fall short like Megatron or Rodimus? Lets find out.

But first, let me tell you how I got this thing in the first place. Working long term in China here. This means sometimes you have to look in all the odd places for specials such as masterpieces and in this case, I know a small shop in Beijing that have these stuff. I've always wanted MP-13 simply again, it's one of my favorite Transformers characters. But unfortunately, these days this is getting harder and harder to do because of a one and half year old son running around the house. However, two weeks ago, while doing a quick visit to this store when my kiddo was taking his afternoon nap, boy did I found a deal!

It turned out several days prior, this shop suffered quite a sprinkler accident and one of the box that got a really good shower before the sprinklers got shut down was guess what? The contents survived due to its plastic outter coverings, but the box...Well, half of paper box destroyed might as be equal to completely destroyed! Because of that, it came in a plastic bag instead...and at least the equivalent of $150 off the asking price! This means I grabbed it as soon as I can get my grubby mitts on it! However, because of this, the figure's value as a collector item went down. Ohh well, fair trade!

As for the packaging itself, well, I'll take a guess since the plastic protective wrapping did survive. From what I saw, the size of the package should be the same size as Grimlock package, and the plastic protective wrapping is the basically the same (hence how the contents survived). It's big, and if it's anything like Grimlock's packaging, it's "loud" . But once you take a look into the contents, well, that's the problem when over 60% of the box is nothing but empty air. Yeah, I know, collectibility. But come on! There's gotta be a better way to keep collectibility while bringing the whole entire thing down to size!

To sum it up about the packaging, I'll borrow Clay's review on Grimlock (MP08), "Masterpiece packaging, or how Takara is ripping you off!" This apply to Soundwave more than ever!

And second, since this is a Masterpiece, the ultimate Transformer collectible (These are not "toys" at all), I will do the review differently so as to be more comprehensive and more detailed.

Accesories

What's a Masterpiece without a bunch of accesories? Soundwave certainly contain a plenty but the thing is, as you will find out, none of the accessories really matters that much except one.

1. Concussion Blaster: Soundwaves main weapon. When not in use, attach to his left back. Unfortunately, despite being his main weapon, due to the latest Masterpiece policy of "everything goes onto the robot or folds onto itself", even the weapon are designed to fold onto itself and then attach to the robot. The end result as you will find out, this policy sometimes bites this Masterpiece right back. In case of Soundwave's main weapon, the main barrel is designed to fold into the main body, so is the trigger butt. But compared to the original G1 Soundwave or even the MP3 (that is the music playing version) version, the barrel's cooling fins are too small and too narrow. And also, because the barrel has to retract into the main body, it's also a bit short, especially after you extend the main body, which you must in order to extract the trigger butt. Compared to the MP3 version, the barrel length is actually the same. That's how short it is. And again, this is not the only time this policy bites the whole thing back.

To attach this weapon, pop out the trigger butt and barrel. Notice there is a slot in Soundwave's hand. The trigger butt has a notch that you can insert into this slot. Unlike Rodimus's weapon, this slot fits tightly. Unfortunately, it does leave a sizeable height between the hand and the gun itself. However, not doing this, and the gun hang loosely in his hand.

2. Energeon Cube: Made out of clear polystyrene plastic. Not really to write anything home about though. The only big gimmick is that the top comes off, allows you to attach it to Soundwave's chest to simulate him popping off clear cubes to be filled with energy. Heard there is a extra box full of this stuff sold seperately. Why bother though? Anyone with some modeling skills can easily buy a few clear and solid evergreen sheets, use this one as a template and build dozens more. And also, since it's clear, it's a box. Why do I get the feeling eventually, this energeon cube will be used for something else...Like say, storage box for some of the smaller model parts....

3. Date Display Panel: Attaches to Soundwave's chest. Can display various data. Two of these data sheets, a starship of some kind (Look like the second starship built by the Decepticon during the first three episodes) and some data stencils in Cybertonian are offered at the back end of the instruction booklet. It's highly suggested you take it to a color copier and copy this off rather then cut them off directly. Also, it's easy to grab a few more pictures off the web, take it to Photoshop and produce more. This lead me wondering whether some people will grab a few nakkid women and have Soundwave display them...

4. Energy Sensor: Attaches to Soundwave's wrist by folding in his hand into its storage compartment. Can be stored in his back to become part of the robot itself. Nothing to write home about again.

5. Microcassete Case: Used to hold Laserbeak whenever he's not in use. As you can imagine, like the original G1 Cassete babies, I doubt anyone would use this since in cassete mode, you store these guys in Soundwave's chest. If his chest is filled, you transform them into robots and display that way. Basically useless in my honest opinion.

6. Megatron: Umm....if you have either MP1 or MP4 Optimus Prime, this should be familar. It's the same basic Megatron in his gun mode with the silencer and gun butt. The only minor difference is that there is an extra pivot joint on the gun butt connector to the shoulder butt so that along with the pivot joint on the shoulder butt, it lowers the shoulder butt so that it doesn't get in the way of the figure's lower hand. This was a minor problem with Optimus's megatron gun, especially in Starscream's hand. Overall, this shouldn't even be packaged, especially if you have Optimus Prime's.

7. Laserbeak: Now we come to the main and biggest (in a sense) accessory in this package. Since Laserbeak is such a important character in the cartoon, I will do a more detail separate review of him.

Score (Sans Laserbeak): 7. There are a plenty of accessories. The problem is that none of these are really important or fun, and the biggest one sans 'Beak would be the Concussion Blaster. But that got brought down some what by the Masterpiece policy of "Everything goes into the weapon then on the robot". This is why the score is lower than some.

Before we go, a big note needs to be mentioned as all of the Masterpiece cassette babies, up and including Laserbeak, and the seperate Buzzsaw and Rumble (It's Rumble damn it, NOT Frenzy!), Ravage and Frenzy (see above) are the same size as their G1 counterparts. This means you can port G1 versions over and have MP13 hold them and vice versa.

Name: Laserbeak
Function: Spy, Interrogator
Alternate Mode: Mini Cassette

Stright from Wiki-
Laserbeak is not usually found on the front lines of battle. His chosen role is that of the spy, lurking in unseen corners and inconspicuous perches, snatching up any useful information he can to relay to his superiors. He has also been known to serve as an interrogator, using his lasers to carve up helpless prisoners to extract anything and everything they know. On occasion he's even played the role of assassin, striking quickly at unsuspecting (and particularly vulnerable) targets, and vanishing in a flash in the chaos following the attack.

He much prefers this "hide and sneak" tactic, as to his core, Laserbeak is a coward. Should his weapon's energy reserves start running dry, he starts running for the hills. A sufficiently big threat will also send him screaming off for the horizon at top speed. His self-preservation habit even dictates his attitude towards Decepticon leadership power-shifts: he basically allies himself with whoever's in charge at the moment, a loyalty that can vanish almost instantly once the reins of power change.


In the cartoons however, Laserbeak not only serves as a spy, often quietly sneaking into Autobot's base to gather useful info, but also as an attacker, using its two laser cannons to attack unsuspecting foes. These laser cannons are "self-homing". In other words, these cannons can detach and attack one target while "beaky" as I liked to call him when a young-on, can focus on another. Overall, Laserbeak is one of the first cassette mini-cons and one of the most popular cassete-ta-cons also. As mentioned, by year three of the cartoons, Beaky sadly got replaced by Ratbat and left the show. His last episode was "Web World" where he and alongside some other Cons threatened Cyclonus to do something about Galvatron's insanity problem.

Alternate mode: Cassette.
When transformed, Laserbeak like his other buddies, is a cassette, or mini-cassette. But the problem like the his original G1 counterpart is that well, there are cracks and seams all along the cassette. One side coloring is red and silver, the otherside...Well, the other side is basically a bunch of robot kibbles, with beaky's upside down head hidden in there. Nothing to write home about.

Score: 7. Yeah, not anything to write home about. As you will find out, it's the same with all cassette babies, G1 or Masterpiece. There is no way to get around it unless they invent "Memetic Polyalloy" or something!

Main Mode: Condor robot
When transformed, like in just about every single contiuity, Beaky is a condor. In fact, his Japanese name is Condor. To transform him, pop out his head, fold out his turbine jets and lasers, then his legs and his wings. Overall, his look just like his G1 counterpart in the first three episodes with the cranked delta wings and the delta triangular head. However, in some episodes, Beaky wings looked more like his G1 toy counter part. Although his head is still the triangular version with the short beak, not the long curved gargoyle like beak. Overall, it's a great figure. However, once again, the Masterpiece policy of "everything goes into the robot" bites again, and this time, bites the hardest.

The problem is the turbine jets and lasers on his back. The G1 figure, these are detachable. This means the whole entire cassette can be used for Beaky himself. For the Masterpiece version, these are folded into the cassette itself. This means not only it takes away from the robot, but also are smaller and painted silver, instead of chrome. His afterburner nozzles suffer the most. On the Masterpiece version, these are tiny and cut in half. The venetian blind intakes are also smaller. The famous self homing laser cannons are almost none existant. And because these are part of cassette, the whole entire figure is actually smaller than the G1 version with a smaller winspan. If Takara Tomy just break this rule and give us chrome detachable versions of the intakes, it would've been perfect.

Score: 8.5. This score isn't anything inspiring simply because the policy of "everything goes into the robot" bites Beaky the hardest! He does look good mind you. The detail fidelity and the way he transforms means he's a dead ringer for his G1 cartoon counterpart and the articulation is awesome. You can "flap" Beaky's wings or get mean and give him a "Bent-wing bird" if you want to. But again, the tail end....Those big afterburner nozzles and those famous self-homing laser cannons got shrunk down to near nothingness, hence why it did not reach over 9. In fact, give me a pick, and I'd still pick the G1 version. This is one of few (ok, not few) times where the G1 version beats the Masterpiece version, though not by much.

Now to the main lead of this show.

Soundwave

Main Mode:
As a robot, I would say MP13 Soundwave is now third after of course, Optimus Prime and then Grimlock (Came close, but "Grimmy" is tad better as you will find out). He looks absolutely amazing! Unlike the G1 version, which is stocky and short legged, this version legs, arms and body are all in proportion and most important of all, like OP, almost exactly like his cartoon counterpart. The detail fidelity is what we came to expect from the Masterpiece line. The face for example, has red eyes, mouth cover and detailed "crown".

There also no less than 30 points of articulation, up and including: head that rotate up down left and right, shoulder joints, arm, elbow, and wrist, hip rotates, swing up and down, knees swings, and foot plate can also rotate to a limited degree. The hands, like all other Masterpieces, the fingers can extend etc. Oddly, the index fingers can extend all the way and can point at something. The rest can not while the thumbs are fixed. This is an odd choice as it leaves the tippy end of the index finger extremely weak. Any force stronger than a tap can easily knock them off and send them feeding the "carpet monster" below so becareful! The only break is along the legs as there are parts of the recorder sides that hang there, breaking the otherwise smooth line of the robot. This is what kept Soundwave in third place behind OP and Grimmy. That and also, the figure is small. The packaging is the same size as Grimlock's but if you thought Grimlock was small, then Soundwave will have you shake your head even more. He definately does not have the mass as MP-08 and that may cause consternation for some who now have to shell out $250 for a full set.

Score: 9.3. Not any higher simply because of his size (limited by his recorder mode) and those two kibbles along the legs. But still, Soundwave looks GOOD and that's all capitalized for a reason! He's also stronger and very much like Grimlock. After the Rodmius Prime fiasco (the last new large sized Masterpiece), Soundwave has much more playability and most importantly, A LOT more durable! Hence it's high score.

Alternate Mode:
As mentioned, Soundwave transform into a microcassette recorder. This time, the recorder is more rectangular and about 1 to 1 scale. This scale probably comes from the second episode of the series when Spike unknownly carried Soundwave into the Autobot base. There is a clear scene where it is shown him putting a hand on him and that's the base measurement. In fact, pause that scene and put your hand on it, and it's about the exact size! The transformation, when compared to some of the nastier Masterpieces such as Megatron's or Rodimus, is rather simple like Grimlock's. In fact, like Grimlock, the upper body transformation is almost exactly like his G1 counterpart. The only exception is that the head folds into a box on the back, and the rocket launcher folds on the right back side, rather detach and stored into a "battery compartment" and a small covering flips out of the shoulder to cover up the weapons. Otherwise, the arms folds into the back in the same way.

But like Grimlock, the legs are more involving. But if you look carefully at the instructions, even if they are in Japanese, they are easy to figure out. The biggest differences lies in the foot plate and some kibbles on the side. Beware as you swing the legs up, in order for them to fold against the arms, you need to press a small button just behind the kness to fold part of the legs into a hole. This is not that clearly shown in the instructions. Otherwide, you can figure the rest out on your own.

The biggest gimmick in this mode, as in Soundwave, is that the chest cavity, or the cassette deck can be pushed further into the chest, leaving more space to store extra cassettes. Pushing all the way back (There are three steps) should allow you to store as much as three cassettes. The deck is the same size as the G1 counterparts so you can store G1 cassettes in here also. To reduce space, a button on the back will swing the deck back into it's original one cassette space position.

Overall, from the front at least, Soundwave look absolutely awesome and just like a mini cassette recorder! The problem is the back.....There just not enough stuff to hide the two weapons hung on the back, and a big massive empty space that just hang there also. This is where that stupid policy once again bites back. If Takara just give us a detachable cover, then once again, everything would've been perfect. But probably to save costs, we get nothing but empty spaces rather than cutting down packaging costs. That, or get smarter. How 'bout have more than one energeon cubes? One side blue, the other side creamy pink? So that when transformed, becomes backside coverings? Or for pete sakes, say create two battery compartments to store those two weapons hanging of the back shoulders? that would've solved some of the problems here. This is another reason why Soundwave lost to Grimlock, as Grimmy's T-Rex mode is just...Let's just say he even beat Optimus in his alternate mode!
Score: 8.5. Mainly brought down by the mess of a mess of a back. If Takara had skipped on that big end huge of a packaging, with the money saved, give us a back covering, then that score would be a perfect 10 since from the front and side, it's a dead ringer for a recorder!

Overall Score:

Split into two parts of course

Laserbeak
Transformation: 1. Not hard at all. In fact, like Grimlock, you can easily figure this out without the instruction booklet. Like I did.
Durability: 8 No metal at all, so that brings the overall score down. But Beaky is tough no doubt. As long as you don't bend and pull him too hard, he will be ok. But watch out for those jet turbines. I get the feeling sooner or later they will be pretty loose.
Fun: 10. Despite what I said, Beaky is just as fun as his G1 counterpart. Especially now that he has his spy camera on his forehead. Also, he has grooves that allow him to attach either to Soundwave's shoulders or wrists. Great fun to be had!
Playability: 9 Again, he's fun to play with. His wing articulation will have you pose all kinds of "flapping modes" for sure. Although again, those afterburner noozles, or lack thereoff tend to throw things off.
Price: See Soundwave.
Overall: 8.5. Again, score brought down since those damned lack of afterburners! It does not ruin the fun or playability, but it's damn annoying to say the least! And also, Beaky's size got reduced thanks to jet intakes also.

Soundwave
Transformation: 3.
Not hard like Grimlock. But legs slightly more involving. But still, you can probably figure this out on his own even without the excellent instruction booklet.
Durability: 8.5. Soundwave should be plenty tough compared to some, **AHEM, Megatron**. **AHEM, Rodimus**. However, again, I get the ill feeling that his ball jointed hip and his shoulders are "loose ends" that are waiting to happen. So becareful.
Fun: 10. What can I say? I now have three Soundwaves, MP3 playing version, Commenrative version, and now this one. Soundwave is one of my fav. And he is FUN to play with, unlike some, which are now stuck up on the top shelf and never to come off again.
Playability: 9.5. Articulate, bendable and tough, Soundwave is designed to be played. And if you have more Cassette babies, G1 or otherwise, that playability gets doubled.
Price: 8-2. Well, if you got him at my price, then it's a hell of deal, especially if you are a fan of Soundwave. However, if you can't....Well, at Big Bad Toys Store, the current asking price is around $250......That's alot to ask for something that's slightly taller than 12 inches and weight even less than Grimlock. So unless you are a mega-ultra-super-duper-uber fan of Soundwave, he's not really worth it at $250.
Overall: 9.3. Slightly lower than Grimlock's simply because it's lack of mass, the kibbles on the lower legs, and the mess of a mess on the back for the recorder in recorder mode. But still, he's worth it at around a price of $130. At around $250 though, well, that's up to you.

Conclusion
Well, whew! That was a long review, but it must since it turned out to be two reviews for one! So, again, is he worth it? The answer is up to you and whether you can find a good deal. If you can, he goes great with Megatron if you have him. But at $250 that is the big question. Also, his value goes up if you have more cassete-ta-cons, either from G1 or Masterpiece series. Either way, the choice is up to you. But certainly though, Soundwave belong in the same class as Optimus and Grimlock. So there is that much.
 
 
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