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Numbat's review of: Unicron

Name: Unicron
Allegiance: None
Function: Lord of Chaos / The Chaos Bringer
Sub-Group: God / Planet-X

Many Transformers still superstitiously toss a small handful of Energon coins over one shoulder whenever his name is uttered, for the word itself means chaos and destruction. Once an all-powerful eater of entire planets, he was destroyed decades ago by the Autobots. For too long he was trapped in the rusting hulk of his old body. Now, resurrected and redesigned as an unstoppable destroyer tank, he is not yet at full power, but soon the entire Universe will know him, and tremble.

Unicron holds a very special place in Transformers mythos, and fandom. Along with Primus, official fiction has it that only the two Gods exist in all universes. That is, unlike Prime, Megatron or any other character you may choose – there is only one Unicron, and one Primus. (Personally, I would also expect this applies to the 13 original Transformers, but haven’t read anything to confirm this.)

However, as a character, Unicron has existed far longer in real time, since his introduction in Transformers: The Movie. In legend, he also existed before his brother, Primus. Evil, before good. However, despite various prototypes cropping up (some good, others thankfully unreleased), fans had to wait for Transformers: Armada, before a toy was released (reviews 1 & 2). This figure, as most people reading this will know, is very similar to the original G1 character design, is massive, and does transform into a planet.

When it was discovered that a Unicron toy was in the works for the Cybertron line, I’m sure many of the world’s TF fans were very excited. Given the character had been destroyed in the Western ‘Unicron Trilogy’ (Armada, Energon & Cybertron – the Japanese equivalents are not linked, hence the plot holes in the imported cartoons), I for one was interested to see what the designers would do – hoping they weren’t to stray far from established designs. When images began to surface, though, excitement turned to disappointment for many (including me). Unicron, once massive planet-sized robot, God and destroyer of worlds was to be released, re-imagined, as a… Deluxe sized tank! It just seemed to me to be messing far too much with something that ought not to be.

However, the design looked rather good – I just couldn’t get my head round it being Unicron.

After asking around, I did finally buy the figure, at least for how fun it seemed. The design is in line with many of the biomechanoid features I love in Beast Machines Vehicons, so I thought I’d take the plunge. And, I am actually very glad I did.

I do not know the fiction explaining this incarnation of Unicron (I believe it is covered in the Official Transformers Collectors Club comic), but I think the gist is that Unicron has been reborn, his spark inhabiting a new body, and that he is beginning to increase his power and alter his new frame. I do like this idea, and the concept of a Unicron which is on scale with other Transformers is rather nifty. After all, Unicron reformatted many of our G1 heroes (largely into non-characters – i.e. Sweeps, but hey?), so why not himself? Plus, barroom brawls with Hot Rod (Classics Rodimus) are now possible – as rickety rat so correctly pointed out!

Still – I think that’s more than enough for the preamble. Let’s get on to the nuts and bolts of this controversial figure.

Alternate Mode:

Unicron’s alternate mode, as we all know, is a world eating mechanical planet… Erm, well, not any more.

Unicron, now reformatted and re-imagined, has lost his power and massive bulk. As such, his alternate form is now something suited to his smaller size – a ‘destroyer’ tank. Perhaps the vehicle form is somewhat residual – left over from whichever poor Transformer had the misfortune to be taken over by Unicron’s spark – but it has certainly already been heavily modified by the Chaos Bringer.

The tank is quite sizeable for a Deluxe figure, and measures 6 ½” (16.5cm) in length, and 5” (13cm) in breadth (excluding ex-wing protrusions).

The general frame is reminiscent of the Trade Federation Tanks in Star Wars Episode 1, although the cannon is not mounted on a turret (but does swivel within a limited range, and has a degree of elevation). It is also clear that this is not a hover tank, but a half-track, with treads at the front and large balloon tyred wheels at the rear. There are many features carried over from Unicron’s previous form – such as the prongs towards he front, the ‘mouth’ in the centre of the vehicle, and the protrusions on either side which resemble the ring structure (or wings in his old robot mode).

He is orange, rather than bright yellow, as with his Armada incarnation (although his orange is a shade darker now), while purple, grey and red are still prevalent in details. The molded techno-detailing is amazing, with just the right balance of painted and unpainted.

The functioning cannon fires a missile – and, unlike many recent Transformers, it really does fire! It can knock over Classics Rodimus, for instance, whereas old Hot Rad can’t even knock Unicron back a step. This primary weapon is supplemented by a ball mounted laser, and a hidden triple canon (I hesitate to say chain or Gatling gun, as it does not turn) activated by the Planet-X key supplied.

The only negative to this mold is the fact that the head is carelessly folded to present a radar dish of some description. Still – why should he hide his head? Why not fold it down, to menace those around him (reminiscent of the Beast Wars Vehicons). Unicron is not in disguise – far from it. Despite the fact he is no longer a planet, it is impossible to mistake him for any other ‘bot. The designers have done a phenomenal job carrying over the feel of the God into a new form. Basically, this tank is terrifying.

Robot Mode:

Unlike Armada & Energon Unicron, the Cybertron incarnation has a somewhat complex transformation, similar in style (if not process) to Cybertron Sideways. The instructions (if you are so stuck and desperate so as to look!) are of little help. The process is just rather counterintuitive, but great fun – it’s as if the tank mode is unfolded, and to get the robot you fold parts together! A bit like origami…

The end result is very impressive, and very technorganic. The result reminds me of the horrendously damaged Transformer on the inside cover of the old UK annuals (a warning as to what could happen if you don’t write your name inside, apparently), and many of the more futuristic / less disguised Transformers introduced in later G1 and G2 comics. Alternatively, he also looks like what a Beast Machines character could well be if they released an updated anniversary line (could happen…).

Basically, rather nifty, if you’re into that sort of style – which I most certainly am.

But is it Unicron?

Well, as many people have pointed out to me, he would make a great Bludgeon. And, man, that is true. (Perhaps we’ll get a future repaint, at least as a collector’s exclusive… but probably not.)

As Unicron, though, I’d say he’s a fitting re-imagination, on a smaller scale. He is rather skeletal, adding to the impression of something dead and unfinished, while the heavy armour beginning to hide large sections hints as to what’s to come. All in all, not to be trifled with. The exposed machine skeleton of the lower face is a nice nod of the head towards Unicron’s destroyed body, while giving a demonic feel with the dark (very dark) red eyes (which glow, if you have enough natural light, courtesy of some very bad light piping).

The head is generally consistent with the traditional Unicron design (ignoring the skull, which screams Bludgeon or Skeletor dressed as a Viking for Halloween). As with the Armada version, the helmet is a lighter yellow than the more orange body parts. It’s just unfortunate that the head seems to float on the clear plastic of the tank’s radar dish… Perhaps the transparent red was a bad idea here, whereas solid plastic would have looked a lot nicer. Live and learn!

The rest of the body, despite the spindly design, captures Unicron’s major features and essence well (bar the astronomical scale of his previous life), while adding plenty of new. The degree of miniscule, and asymmetrical, detailing is unbelievable. If Transformers had a robotic interpretation of Death, then this would be it.

Articulation has not been overlooked either, with fully 21 meaningful points for extreme poseability! In addition, there is a degree of personal freedom in how you have your Unicron appear, with the leg shields (with a further three points of movement on each), ex-wing protrusions and knee spikes! So, including these, the number burgeons to a massive 33 points! Great displayability (with the option of standing upon his own severed head, as supplied with the initial release of Cybertron Primus).

Of course, the wing spikes can be removed from the leg shields, and placed in Unicron’s hands – making him look rather crab like, although the ‘pincers’ are forever crossed.

Negatives? Well, apart from the floating head, Unicron seems to have developed an enlarged stomach / chest (probably due to too much beer in those bars…) and large balloon wheels hanging off his back. I have also heard that his hips are often rather loose, although my figure does not suffer from this.

The planet key still reveals those three guns, now in his chest, which looks just as good in this mode as it did on the tank.

So, all in all, despite my original reservations, this radical reinterpretation of a pivotal character has actually turned out brilliantly. If you share my enjoyment of style, then you can’t go far wrong adding this 6 ¼” (16cm) tall version of Unicron to your collection – now the devil walking amongst Transformers (as opposed to the devil walked on by Transformers…).

Marks out of ten for the following:

Transformation: 9 – Rather tricky – particularly turning back into tank – but you’ll get the hang of it, and enjoy it.
Durability: 8 – He seems rather solid, but somehow feels slightly brittle.
Fun: X – I find him amazingly enjoyable – I love the whole concept, despite my prior reservations, and would happily give him a 10. However, if you can’t stand the idea of Unicron on this scale, and can’t convince yourself he’s Bludgeon (even with a lick of paint), then he’ll probably be a 1.
Price: 7 – At roughly a tenner (UK and US, in respective currency), he’s not bad, but I always feel it’s a little steep – at least in pound sterling. There are a lot of retailers overcharging for this guy - don't accept it unless you absolutely have to.
Overall: X – As with the ‘fun’ you’ll either love this unique piece of Transformers history, or hate it. A 10 for me could well be a 0 for you, if unable to accept Unicron as anything other than a world eating mechanical planet.

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