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Warcry's Review: Transmetal Cheetor

Following the massive quantum surge, Cheetor emerged as a cybernetically enhanced cheetah. Meanwhile, his robotic form inherited the organic traits once attributed to his beast mode. Now Cheetor prowls the jungle with more agility and power than ever before. Flip-out cyber-thrust wings provide enhanced speed and limited flight while in beast mode, making him part jet, part mechanical cheetah.

I've written intros to so many Cheetor reviews by now, I'm not even sure what I can say that wouldn't just be a repeat of other ones. If you've read the previous reviews or followed the Transformers franchise in the early 90s, you already know who Cheetor is. A major player in the Beast Era, he grew over the span of three seasons of Beast Wars and two of Beast Machines he grew from an annoying whelp to a strong leader, with a different body for each step of the way. Transmetal Cheetor was the second of his four bodies, and it's undeniably my favourite. Though this version of Cheetor is relatively new to me, I've owned the mold for over a decade courtesy of the Armada release, and always been quite fond of it.

This Cheetor is a toy I'd been wanting for a long time. In fact, it is actually one of the things that made me take a second look at Beast Wars. Although I owned a few of the early-wave toys, my parents' disapproval got me to more-or-less stop buying toys entirely at about that time. Since I hadn't seen much, if any, of the show, I wasn't entirely sure what to make of this new take on the series I'd grown up with. Then I opened up a Sears Christmas catalogue, flipped through the toy sections and saw a page of new Beast Wars toys. The figures were mechanical instead of organic, which surprised me. And one of them really caught my eye -- a grey, green and gold feline with shiny chrome and an overall neat look. And then I said aloud, with all the weight of my thirteen or so years and experience as a grizzled Transformers veteran "that's what animal Transformers looked like in my day". (It really isn't, of course, but I was a kid.) It's easy to laugh about it now, but that glimpse of Cheetor, in spite of not being able to buy him, caused me to look far more favourably on the rest of the Beast Wars line and even to investigate the TV show. In a very real way, that one fleeting moment is what turned Beast Wars from a passing fancy in the twilight of my childhood to a lifelong interest.

And that, for me at least, meant that this toy had a lot to live up to. I waited nearly sixteen years to own one, always ranking it as one of my most-wanted Beast Wars toys in the interim. And even though I'd bought Armada Cheetor to try and sate that desire, it didn't meet the high expectations I'd had for it. Would the real thing fair any better?

Alternate Mode: Cheetor's colour scheme is every bit as gorgeous as it was when I first saw it as a teen. Flat light grey, aqua green and gold chrome are distributed in even amounts, with the gold covering his back and the other colours adorning his flanks and extremities. He is every bit as fetching as I thought from those old catalogue pics, and in fact is one of the nicest-looking beast alt-modes I've had the pleasure to own. My particular example is marred slightly by some minor dings, flakes and scratches in the chrome, but sadly that's just something you have to expect when you're dealing with Transmetals. The chrome tends to get damaged on all of them, so keep your eyes open if you're planning to buy.

The mold is very highly detailed, something that I didn't really appreciate when looking at the darker Armada deco. Every surface has a great deal of mechanical sculpted detail, making the whole package look that much more "real". It's not quite on the same level as the Transmetal II toys that followed, but it definitely makes him stand out from the crowd.

Cheetor has a lot of articulation in cat mode, and most of it is even useful. He is an extreme rarity among Beast Wars toys, a figure that you can actually play with and pose in more than one way in beast mode. His rear legs have ball-jointed hips, double-jointed knees and swivel ankles, and his forelegs have swivel articulation at the shoulder, elbow and wrist. He has a waist swivel and a neck with restricted mobility as well. The total package isn't as articulated as his robot mode, but by beast mode standards he's a revelation.

Like all Transmetals Cheetor has a third "vehicle" mode, in his case a fight mode. His flanks flip up and open to reveal a stubby set of wings with small jet engines attached to the ends, a configuration that's not practical in the least but manages to be funny and cute anyway. This mode appeared pretty frequently on the TV show, but unlike the show model, when the toy is in flight mode there's a big unsightly hole in his torso that reveals the robot mode head.

All in all, Cheetor is a great toy with a lot to offer in cat mode. In fact, it's almost worth buying the toy for just on its own.

Robot Mode: Cheetor's beast mode is lovely, but his robot mode is even more striking. The figure keeps the grey, aqua green and gold from the beast mode, but also adds bright yellow upper arms and a lot of parts painted with a cheetah-print motif. The design runs the risk of almost being too busy, but it is executed perfectly and the end result is one, not "one of", the most eye-catching robot mode in the entire Beast Wars line. The only thing that mars the otherwise perfect look is the head sculpt, which has the snarling mouth that so many Beast Wars figures were stuck with.

Cheetor's articulation is up to modern standards and then some, with ball-jointed shoulders, elbows, hips and neck, double swivel knees and swivel ankles and waist. He features a dearth of kibble -- nothing but the folded cat arms behind his shoulders -- which means that his joints have almost no unnatural restrictions to their motion. And unlike the Armada toy I reviewed earlier, his joints are tight, including the hinges that his shoulder pegs are attached to. In that review I complained that those panels needed to lock in place securely, but on this version of the mold they do, eliminating the biggest complaint I had with the newer figure. With poseable feet, tight joints and good proportions, Cheetor is a figure with excellent balance that can stand freely in a lot of different poses. If he had thigh swivels and a bit more range of motion in the elbows he'd be perfect, be as it stands he's pretty damn close.

Like a lot of Beast Wars toys Cheetor lacks any real accessories, instead using a bit of his beast mode as a weapon. His cat tail detaches and can be used as either a flail (if you hold it by the tip) or a sword (if held by the base). The TV show went with the former, though I tend to prefer the latter. I wouldn't go so far as to say either one of them really looks good, but it's suitably silly and whimsical enough that it doesn't seem out of place alongside the more out-there Beast Wars toys like Sky Shadow or Manterror.

I complained when reviewing the Armada incarnation of this mod that it didn't really "feel" like a Beast Wars toy, because it was too normal and not bizarre enough. But the original colour scheme, with all the gold chrome and animal-print robot parts, has all the "bizarre" you need. This Cheetor fits right in, in a sense, but still stands apart as one of the best toys in the series.

Transformation Design: The transformation is smooth and nearly kibble-free. Without the loose joints that plagued the Armada version, the end result is practically perfect. 10/10

Durability: Although the toy itself is really solid, the gold chrome paint is not. Even after covering mine in several layers of protective clear-coat, it still occasionally leaves chips behind when I handle him. 6/10

Fun: A great toy with a distinctive look. He would be better with a more inspiring accessory, but there's still lots to do with him. 8/10

Aesthetics: Really, really well done. 10/10

Articulation: Not perfect but damn close. 9/10

Price: As a show character, Cheetor's price does skew higher than your average Beast Wars figure. That doesn't mean you'll break the bank buying him, though, and there are deals to be found -- mine only cost $10 at a convention. 9/10

Overall: A triumphant example of Beast Wars done right, and one of the best Deluxe Transformers ever. This is easily the best figure Cheetor has ever gotten, and a must have if you're a Beast Wars fan. 9/10
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