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Transformers Toy Review Archive (older series, 1984 to date)
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Warcry's Review: Sky Shadow

An intelligent, brilliant colored robot, Sky Shadow is one of the most charismatic and popular of the Predacons. A good statesman and leader, he acts as one of Megatron's most trusted counsellors. In actuality however, he despises everyone and wants nothing more than to rule the Predacons with his own, "more imaginative techniques." He is an expert in concealment and surprise-assault tactics; with reptilian patience he can lie for days in wait and then suddenly attack with a powerful turbo-missile, or convert to robot form and overwhelm unsuspecting Maximals with his devastating saw-edged pincer. Powerful wings allow him to hover over targets, giving him a distinct advantage with targeting accuracy and in reconnaissance missions.

Among all of the Beast Wars characters who never made it to the show, Sky Shadow is a real standout. Why, you might ask? Because when everyone else in the Beast Wars toyline was being characterized as a badass warrior, he was the one and only Predacon politician. While that doesn't do much for him when you're selling him to children, it makes him a favourite of mine as an adult because it gives him way more personality than most non-show toys. That combined with a really interesting beast mode that always caught my eye to make him a toy I was interested in tracking down. I wasn't sure what to expect though, because as both a Fuzor and a toy with missile-mouth it was possible that he'd turn out to be very, very odd.

Alternate Mode: Happily, the beast mode doesn't disappoint. 'Odd' is definitely a word you could use to describe it, but it's a good kind of odd. As a Fuzor, he is part iguana and part dragonfly. His two beast forms don't want to blend easily, though. There's a definite separation between the lizard and dragonfly bits rather than a smooth blending of the two forms. Where the sculpt falls a bit short, though, the colour scheme comes to the rescue. He is mainly green, but his head, lower legs and some parts of his tail are steel blue. Orange splotches run from one end of his body to the other, starting with a thick pattern on his head and slowly petering out as they run towards the tail. Combined with his orange wings, the overall look of the beast mode is pretty cohesive even though the details on the bug and lizard parts don't quite fit.

Articulation is spotty, unfortunately. His limbs are very mobile, with ball-joints at the hip and knee, and joints at the ankle as well (ball joints for the rear legs and a simple hinge for the forelegs). All four of his wings are jointed as well, with the front ones moving freely in three dimensions and the rear set swinging back and forth on an axis with the push of a button. Unfortunately, his tail and head don't move at all unless you're willing to partially untransform him in the process. The overall effect is kind of disappointing -- Sky Shadow has lots of joints, but there's not actually very much you can do with them in this form.

He's a very pretty beast and that counts for a lot, especially if you like the mismatched, alien look of the Fuzors.

Robot Mode: Where Sky Shadow's beast mode tries (and only partly succeeds) to blend the two beast modes into a single cohesive form, the robot mode goes in the opposite direction. He's an insane mash-up of lizard and dragonfly bits haphazardly arranged into a vaguely humanoid form. But that description doesn't do him justice, not at all. Because he should, by all rights, look like a ridiculous piece of crap. Except...he doesn't. In fact, the robot mode actually has a twisted sort of beauty to it. Sky Shadow's robot mode is a riotous mix of bright green, steel blue and translucent orange, with the same darker, orangey-red colour for details that the beast mode used, and like in beast mode the colours provide the whole thing a sort of cohesion that it would otherwise lack.

His body's layout is similarly ridiculous-yet-awesome. His head is a weird alien-looking thing with a pressure-fired missile in his mouth. His left hand is a perfunctory claw with a lizard's face hanging off of it. His right hand doesn't even have fingers, instead being made up of a dragonfly's head and a pair of wings that serve as pincher claws. And the remaining two wings just randomly hang off the front of his torso. The whole package is so silly that I can't help but love it.

However, I'll be honest. A good part of the reason why I'm so willing to look past the toy's flaws is it's biggest asset: articulation. Sky Shadow has a crazy amount of joints with great poseability. His neck, shoulders, elbows, hips, knees and ankles are all ball-jointed, and most of those ball-joints have no major restrictions to where/how they can move. His head will bind up some if you leave his missile loaded and the shoulders of his beast-mode legs are directly behind his robot shoulders, though they really don't get in the way much. He also as articulated chest-wings (something I doubt you can say about any other Transformer) on double-hinges and wing-claws in his right arm that can clamp down on unsuspecting Maximals. He even has a waist swivel, a rarity among even modern Transformer toys, though it is restricted a bit because his robot-mode "spine" and head are attached to his buttocks with a hinge. He has tremendous mobility, especially in his legs, and is one of the most fun Beast Wars toys I own to just play with.

His only accessory is his mouth-missile, and if you've listened to me talk about Beast Wars toys for any length of time you'll know that I'm not a fan of that design quirk. It showed up in a few figures in the line other than Sky Shadow, most memorably for me Bonecrusher and Transquito, and in general I think it makes the robot's head look flat-out idiotic. Sky Shadow's head actually looks like it was sculpted with the gimmick in mind rather than having it added in at the last minute, though, so it's much, much less obtrusive.

All in all, Sky Shadow is very unconventional but he's a top notch robot.

Transformation Design: Considering how much of a mess this had potential to be, Sky Shadow turns out to be surprisingly good. However, the random bits of beast kibble for hands hurt this score quite a bit. 5/10

Durability: Ball joints everywhere. leaving very few possible points of failure. He's a well-built and durable figure. 9/10

Fun: A ridiculous-looking bug-lizard with zillions of joints? There's no end to what you can do with him! 9/10

Aesthetics: Amazing, in an "I can't believe they did that!" sort of way. I like it, anyway, but this category will be a matter of taste. 8/10

Articulation: As good as it gets at the Deluxe price point, even stacked up against today's offerings. He reminds me why I miss ball-jointed knees so much on modern Deluxes. 10/10

Price: I don't think I could call any of the toys from the US Beast Wars retail line "rare" or "expensive" with a straight face, and Sky Shadow is no exception. It's easy to track one down for $15-$20, if you're patient. For a toy that's over fifteen years old, that's hard to beat. 10/10

Overall: I didn't think I liked him this much before I started working on this review, but you know what? Sky Shadow is a great toy. It's easy to look at him from a distance and go "huh", but sit down and fiddle with him for a few minutes and you start to realize that this is truly a hidden gem. It's hard to call any Beast Wars toy "essential" when it wasn't in the TV show, but if I was going to put together a list of the best non-show figures Sky Shadow would be very, very high on it. 8.5/10
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