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Transformers Toy Review Archive (older series, 1984 to date)
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Warcry's Review: Animated Electrostatic Soundwave

Name: Soundwave
Partner: Ratbat
Allegiance: Decepticon
Function: Sonic Warrior
Motto: "Are you ready to rock?"

After a couple of years working alongside Laserbeak, Soundwave realized it was time for a change. His new partner, Ratbat, lets him lay down multiple tracks of sound at one time, creating frequencies that can do more than just control other robots. Now, Soundwave is into straight-up mind control. Using complex synth beats he can make people -- and even Autobots -- do whatever he wants.

I'm not very familiar with the Animated universe, because I was only able to watch the last half of the final season. Because of that I missed all of Soundwave's appearances, but the motto and profile that came with this toy is enough to tell me that this guy doesn't share much common ground with original character. That's fair enough, since his role as Megatron's favourite henchman seems to have been pretty much co-opted by Lugnut in this series. Animated Soundwave seems to be one of the wacky theme villains that the show used when it wasn't dealing with the primary Megatron-related plot that ran throughout the series. Soundwave's schtick is music, obviously, and that's completely fitting. Like the original, this Soundwave has animal minions to do his bidding. Instead of being cassettes, though, they now turn into musical instruments. The original toy came with a guitar Laserbeak and this one comes with a keytar Ratbat.

Alternate Mode: Soundwave's alternate mode was very, very familiar to me, but it wasn't until I actually held him in my hands that I realized why. He turns into a Scion xB, the same vehicle mode as Alternators Skids. The instructions call him an SUV, but he's actually more of a cube-shaped subcompact with room for four people and not much else. He's slightly modified from the real car, though, to dodge license fees and lawsuits. Most Animated vehicles are heavily stylized so that they fit in with the line's distinctive look, but Soundwave is actually a fairly realistic depiction of a real-life vehicle. That's probably because the xB looks pretty odd and cartoony to start with, so it didn't need much tweaking to fit in with the Animated look.

Soundwave's colour scheme is based on Soundblaster, a Japanese-exclusive redeco of the original toy that was released in 1987. His main colour is a very dark greyish blue, with translucent red windows and red, gold and silver paint highlights. He has a gold Decepticon badge on his hood and his grille is painted silver and shaped to resemble the tape deck controls on the original Soundwave. His doors have faux tape player spools molded onto them, and his hood, roof and rear fenders all feature generic red deco patterns. He's actually very pretty, and I definitely like this look over the blue and gold original version of this toy.

Robot Mode: The original Soundwave was probably the blockiest of the original Transformers, even more so than Optimus Prime. Because of that, translating him into an Animated design was always going to be a dicey prospect. As a huge Soundwave fan I appreciate the effort, but the design compromises necessary to make him look like Soundwave while at the same time making him look like an Animated toy are just too much.

Soundwave's main colour is the same grey-blue that you saw in vehicle mode. He has red highlights on his shoulders, forearms and knees, as well as a translucent red chest plate that's meant to evoke the original's tape-deck door. A set of silver play/pause/stop/rewind buttons right below it add to the look, along with a gold Decepticon badge and border around his chest plate. His head resembles a highly stylized and cartoony version of the traditional 'Soundwave' head, complete with a light-piped red visor and a light blue-grey faceplace.

Soundwave doesn't have much to brag about in the articulation department. In theory his ball-jointed elbows and universal-jointed shoulders should allow him a wide range of arm movement, but in practice he has so much kibble that they are pretty severely restricted. As a consequence of his transformation Soundwave has articulated wrists, which aren't very good for display but add a lot of value if you're posing him with Ratbat. Soundwave's head appears to be mounted on a ball-joint, but it can't move more than a fraction of a millimetre up or down so he's pretty much restricted to looking from side to side. His waist can rotate 360 degrees, but he's severely bow-legged, so his ball-jointed hips and knees can't be posed in nearly as many poses as they should be. In his normal stance his hips are spread apart almost as far as they'll go, and he won't stand very well if you try to push them together because he has no ankle articulation.

The whole package leaves me cold, as if I'm looking at G1 Soundwave reflected in a funhouse mirror -- my brain knows what Soundwave is 'supposed' to look like and something about this toy just doesn't compute. I feel the same way about most of the older characters who've been re-imagined for the Animated series, though, so take that with a grain of salt. I really do think that this toy would have worked a lot better if it wasn't trying so hard to be a slavish G1 homage. In that respect Revenge of the Fallen Soundwave is a much better re-imagining of the character, keeping just enough of the original to be recognizable but not afraid to do its' own thing.

Ratbat: The original version of this toy came with a Laserbeak that transformed into a guitar, but he's been dropped for the 'Electrostatic' version of Soundwave. Now he's paired with Ratbat, a keytar patterned after everyone's favourite G1 fuel auditor. And while Ratbat is recognizable as...well, Ratbat, his colour scheme is very different from the original. Mostly black, he features purple keys and has some red bar displays on his neck in keytar mode. He also features a gigantic bat's head at the end of his neck, looking for all the world like some sort of crazy instrument from hell designed by Ozzy Ozborne. That's the sort of thing I'll never quite get used to, because even though it looks cool it's obviously the result of Ratbat's designers not knowing what to do with his head and just saying "eh, it'll do". He looks really cool as an accessory to Soundwave in this mode, though, and he's pretty much the only thing that makes the bigger toy's robot mode worthwhile.

Ratbat features a very simple transformation (the keytar basically splits in half to form a bat) and almost no articulation (his head can rotate 360 degrees on the wrong axis and his wings can wiggle a bit). I expected as much from the get-go, but once I realized how big he was (almost as big as a Scout-class figure) I'm not quite so accepting of that. There's no reason he couldn't have been designed with better wing articulation, a proper neck or even functional feet. As it is he can't do much but stand there and look cool -- and he even has issues with that, because it's almost impossible to get him to peg into his mountings on Soundwave's roof or forearms, and he can't stand on his own unless you push his wings forward and let them hold his weight.

A new Ratbat toy doesn't have very far to go to make me happy, but this one falls pretty short of what I'd deem acceptable.

Marks out of ten for the following:

Transformation Design: Soundwave's transformation leaves him with a lot of kibble, and I don't think they were even trying with Ratbat. 4/10

Durability: Ratbat feels very flimsy. Soundwave appears to be as durable as your average modern Transformer, although mine has some issues with a few joints being too loose or too tight. 6/10

Fun: It's Soundwave! With a keytar! Unfortunately that's all it is, and the novelty wears off fairly quickly. 4/10

Aesthetics: Ratbat looks pretty cool, but Soundwave tries too hard to be GEEWUN and sort of falls on his face because of it. 4/10

Articulation: Soundwave has lots of joints, but too much kibble to really make use of them. Ratbat can't even that. 3/10

Price: I got them on clearance and I'm still not sure they're worth it. 4/10

Overall: Soundwave and Ratbat aren't the worst toys ever, but any stretch of the imagination. They're not very good, though. Unless you're a Soundwave fanboy (guilty as charged) or a hardcore Animated completist, there's no reason to own them. 4/10
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