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

Name:Optimus Primal
Allegiance: Maximal
Function: Buddha Monkey/Autobot Leader
Sub-Group: NA
"We will win if we believe in ourselves and our unity."

After his ultimate sacrifice to defeat Megatron, in which he became part of the core of Cybertron itself, Optimus Primal rose to the level of a mythic legend among the grateful populace of Cybertron. Now as the battle against the ancient monster planet known as Unicron has begun once again, Primus himself has called Optimus Primal to be brought back into action to help in the fight for the very survival of Cybertron. Optimus Primal represents a uniquely powerful fusion of the Maximal Forces advanced technology with the raw power of their mighty Autobot ancestors. In this supercharged form Optimus Primal possesses unmatched strength among the techno-organic populace of Cybertron. His weaponry has also been upgraded significantly: He wields an impressive array of both long range and melee weapons including twin battle blades that can cut through solid rock, a vanadium steel reinforced mace, left arm retractable double barreled plasma cannon, and twin indepently targetable shoulder mounted missile launchers. Rear mounted jets give him flight capability. Energy receptors allow him to absorb much of the damage from energy-based attacks and rechannel it back at his enemies. Intelligence, experience, passion and skill are all crucial parts of what makes Optimus Primal a born leader of the Autobot cause. Serves as an inspiration to help others find their own strength to keep fighting despite the odds.

The moment we've all been waiting for is finally here: everyone's favourite hippie primate is back! Nothing could make me happier. Not because I'm that much of a fan of the Optimus Primal character, mind you. I just want to be able to use monkey jokes in a toy review, and this is the best chance I'm likely to get.

Now, I hear some of you grumbling "Optimus isn't a damned ape, he's a semi!", or "TruKK nOt MunKy!" or something to that effect. And I can see where you're coming from. Even after nearly ten years, it seems kinda weird to attach the Optimus name to a gorilla.

I mean, there are quite a few things that I expect a monkey to do. Swing from tree to tree? Certainly. Defecate on his foes? Probably. Climb large office buildings? Sure. Throw barrels at a moustached Italian plumber? Most definitely. But transform into the leader of a group of heroic robots? Nah.

But of course, that's the beauty of the thing; no one would have expected Optimus to be a gorilla. A gorilla is a great disguise for just that reason. A lion or an eagle would have been more obvious choices, but who says we always have to go with the obvious?

This particular Primal is a repaint of the second figure to bear that name, and the first to turn into an ape: the Ultra-class Optimus Primal released in the early stages of the Beast Wars line.

Alternate Mode:
Right out of the box, Optimus is in beast mode. A large, bulky gorilla (apparently the mould was based on a silverback gorilla or somesuch, but the colours are no longer accurate), Optimus is roughly 4.5 inches tall at the shoulder and 6.5 inches long from his face to his buttocks. He is designed so that he balances on both his legs and knuckles, as gorillas are often seen to do. His fur is mostly brown, though there is a stripe of red-bordered silver on his forehead that is quite striking. It looks more like war paint than fur, which lends Op the air of a primitive warrior.

This mode is where the mould shows its age. The fur moulding, while adequate, is far from life-like. Though articulated at hips, shoulders and elbows, Optimus can only really pose in a four-point stance (with feet and hands on the ground); he's far too heavy to hold other poses, and will fall over. He is articulated enough to be fun to play with, though. As well, the larger lever on his back allows you to use his somewhat campy 'chest-thumping action'.

Op also doesn't have a tail, which may or may not be an omission. Some simians don't have one, and I'm not knowledgeable enough about gorillas to say for certain if he should.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of robot parts visible here. His beast arms are used for that same purpose in robot mode, and as such his forearms and hands are a bit too blocky to be totally believable on an organic being. His robot mode hips are also readily visible in his hindquarters. I would be willing to overlook these flaws save for the fact that the robot parts are painted dark red, forest green and bright yellow. Those colours obviously don't belong on a gorilla, and it takes away from the disguise factor.

Robot Mode:
Aside from the head sculpt, nothing about this mode screams "Optimus!". Primal has brown shoulders, lower legs and chest, green upper arms and thighs, and red forearms. His face is painted red, as opposed to the Optimus-standard blue (though his optics are the stereotypical Autobot colour). A large Autobot symbol adorns his left upper arm, and the red contrasts nicely with the green. To be perfectly honest, I think this scheme blows the mould's original scheme out of the water.

His chest, according to the instructions, is supposed to be covered by the breastplate you get when you flip his beast-mode face around. However, I find that he looks better if you use the beast head as a chest; it evokes memories of, amongst others, Predaking.

Optimus cuts quite an imposing figure in robot mode, coming in at 8.5 inches in height and packing a lot more bulk onto that frame than his Decepticon counterpart Razorclaw (who concentrated much of his mass in his wings). His arms, legs and torso are all huge, but in a muscular sort of way rather than a blocky sort of way. Op is also highly articulated in this mode, sporting joints at his hips, knees, shoulders, elbows, waist and neck. The relative lack of kibble means that he can strike quite a few neat poses.

On its own, that would be enough to make Primal a very good toy. But we haven't even gotten to his arsenal yet.

First off, his forearm equipment. His left forearm opens to reveal two fully-functional missile launchers. Unfortunately, the missiles themselves don't fold up into the arm, just the launcher. But that's understandable given that the missiles are about three inches long. Instead, the missiles slide into slots behind Primal's head when not in use.

His right forearm opens to reveal a somewhat small flail (ball-and-chain weapon). Understandably the handle and head of the flail had to be small, since it had to be crammed into Primal's forearm. The head of the flail is moulded to look like a skull, which I feel is somewhat out of place on a good guy. A simple spiked ball would have been better.

By themselves those weapons would have made Primal a very heavily armed Autobot, but they're just the sideshow. To reveal the bulk of his weaponry, one would have to trigger the smaller switch on his back. Two shoulder-mounted missile launchers will pop up, with a blast shield hanging from either of them.

As well, with the launchers out of the way Primal can access the dual swords which are likewise stored on his back. The blades are relatively short compared to Op, but are designed in a way that suggests that their bearer is a primitive jungle warrior. The down side is that they are moulded in bright yellow and Hasbro didn't bother painting them a realistic colour.

The 'chest-beating action' can be used in this mode, though it has another, more interesting function here. If you move the switches on Primal's upper arms, the large switch on his back will cause his arms to spin at the elbow as opposed to swinging at the shoulder. This can be used to make him twirl his flail or slash with his swords.

Primal has one final gimmick. He has a 'mutant face' that he can use as a battle mask. The mask is somewhat vampiric in appearance, but is coloured a hideous combination of yellow and black that doesn't fit the figure at all.

As a point of interest, Primal has what appears to be peace signs sculpted into his upper arms, which is ironic given that this mould was designed several years before his character would take a spiritual, hippie turn.

All in all, this is one of the best Optimus toys I have ever encountered.

Transformation: 5 - Surprisingly simple for such a big toy.
Durability: 7 - The clips for the spring-loaded back segments seem pretty weak, as do the bars that connect the beast head to the body. Aside from that, built like a brick outhouse.
Fun: 10 - Firing missiles, swords, a flail, spring-loaded stuff, great articulation, etc, etc...
Price: 6 - At $20US/$30CAN, the price is a little steep. This is reflected by the way that he can still be found quite easily over a year after his release. I got mine for a bit less than full price, but he's still an expensive figure.
Summary: 9.5 - A damn fine Optimus. Very highly recommended. Virtually a must-buy if you don't own the Beast Wars version.

 
 
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