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Warcry's Review: Generations Titans Return Voyager Class Optimus Prime (w/ Diac)

Name: Optimus Prime
Allegiance: Autobot
Size Class: Voyager Class
Accessories: Diac Titan Master, double-barrelled rifle, sword

With the Decepticons rising, the Autobots power up with Titan Master partners to stop them! Diac gives Optimus Prime the ability to teleport and unleash attacks from out of nowhere.

Being the main character of the Transformers line, you'd think that Optimus Prime would have a ton of great figures out there by now. But that's not quite how it's worked out. He gets multiple figures every year, certainly. But good figures? Those seem to be a bit thinner on the ground. Honestly, figures of characters like Optimus, Megatron, Bumblebee and Starscream sometimes feel like the toy equivilent of shovelware -- the designers know they'll sell, and frankly they're probably sick of spending so much of their time making and re-making the same handful of characters over and over again, so the third new Optimus of the year simply doesn't receive the same amount of love and attention as that shiny new Triggerhappy, Mindwipe or Weirdwolf. Perhaps that's not fair to the designers, and maybe there's something uniquely difficult about those guys that makes it hard to nail a perfect figure of them, but either way the end result is that after a decade of Classics, Universe and Generations figures there's been a pile of figures made of the "core" four (flipping through TFWiki I'm counting thirty-six, and every time I think I've got them all I remember another one) but each of them is lucky if they've got even one figure that's actually good. Starscream has a neat Legends-class figure to crow about, Bumblebee can point proudly at his Classics Deluxe, Megatron has found success in both War for Cybertron and IDW bomber flavours and Optimus...Optimus is still looking.

None of his figures have passed muster, frankly. Not the badly-dated Classics Voyager or Deluxe. Not the War for Cybertron or Fall of Cybertron car crashes. Not the Reveal the Shield Laser Rod with monkey limbs and no torso. Not the various Legends-class figures, which are good for what they are but absolutely useless for someone who wants a representation of the character to go with normal figures. Not Orion Pax, who's neither good nor actually Optimus Prime. Not the frankly embarassing Combiner Wars Optimus. Not the gigantic but too-simple Powermaster Prime in the Titans Return line. And, alas, not the figure I'm about to review either.

Titans Return Voyager Optimus Prime is, quite simply, a train wreck. I don't mean that in the sense that it's an amazingly awful figure, but that it's been hammered from all sides by conflicting design criteria that wound up making it impossible for the damned thing to be good. If Combiner Wars Prime was ruined by being a "pretool" of a figure that was obviously meant to be Motormaster, and by being built around a combining gimmick, then the Titans Return Voyager was already doomed, because he's a pretool of Octane that's built around being both a Triplechanger and a Headmaster. He's also in the first wave of figures to use stickers instead of paint and tampographs for some detail work, a change that has attracted some well-deserved flak from the fandom. The figure just has so many things going against it that I don't know if it ever could have been good.

Truck Mode: Prime's truck mode is, to say the least, lacking. The truck and trailer are actually molded as a single unit, with no articulation or even space between the cab and the fuel tanker. This creates a "cheap" look right off the bat. Now to be fair, Octane has pretty much always looked like this and for a new toy of him, at this price point, this kind of vehicle mode is pretty much required. But for Optimus Prime? Nah. At the Voyager price point, "big, detailed cab with no trailer" is always going to beat out "tiny, underdetailed cab and trailer molded as one".

A good paint job could have made it easy to look past that, but instead we got stickers. The traditional blue "Optimus stripes" running along the side of the trailer before terminating with an Autobot sigil are acutally quite fetching, but the stickers they're printed on are about as thick as a hair, with nothing but the most weak-ass glue you could ever imagine holding them on. I've barely handled the stickered parts of the figure after hearing how delicate and prone to peeling they are, but a month in almost all the corners are dog-eared. I doubt they'll last more than a year, and if you gave this thing to a kid they'd probably be gone in a few days. I actually think stickers are a fine way to add extra detail to a toy, but they have to be good-quality for that to work. I can look across the room and see G1 figures like Spinster, Trypticon, Triggerhappy, Metroplex and the Terrorcons standing proudly with their thirty year old stickers essentially intact. Some of them have faded a tad, but all of them look better than this practically mint Optimus and that's fucking inexcusable.

What paint is actually there isn't done well, either. His cab section is molded in red and for the most part that red is left bare. His grille and bumper are painted silver and his windshield is painted a fetching dark blue, but that's it. Headlights? Side windows? Hubcaps? What are those? Even his smokestacks are left bare, which is mildly hilarious considering they're half red plastic and half grey. Moving back, it's not much better. The rear two-thirds of the tanker trailer are painted a lush silver. The front third was left a dull, flat grey. When you look at the parts more closely it's easy to see how this happened -- the front third is molded in grey but the rear two-thirds are molded in blue, and they figured they could get away with cutting the paint app on the front third and it would be "close enough". Except it obviously isn't, and it looks ridiculous.

At this point, I feel like I need to stop and talk about the figure's wheels for a moment. Much has been made in the fandom over the last few years of the switch from pinned wheels to pop on wheels. And while I don't think all pop on wheels are bad -- Chromedome's are fine, as are Hot Rod's rear wheels (his front set is pinned). But Optimus? His wheels are everything that can possibly go wrong with the concept. The wheels themselves look flimsy, being extremely narrow with some majorly unsightly holes in them. I've also had them pop off a couple times purely by accident, and I've been extra careful with them. They're not as dire as the Combiner Wars Hot Spot/Onslaught mold, but you should still handle them with care.

I've been going on for four paragraphs about how stupid the thing looks, but don't let that trick you into thinking it doesn't have serious engineering flaws too! The jet-mode wings store inside the trailer in this mode, poorly. They were engineered to lock together using a couple of tabs, but instead of the tabs lining up with their respective slots on the opposite wing they line up with each other, and actually serve to keep the wings from folding together properly at all. Because of that, it's difficult to get the tanker halves to pop together around them properly and even more difficult to get them to stay popped together.

The fact that I've made it to the end of the truck mode review without bitching about how the Titan Master cockpit is inside the tanker trailer goes to show just how serious the problems with this figure actually are. It feels more like a knockoff than an actual Transformer. And not one of the good quality, is-it-or-isn't-it modern knockoffs either. I'm talking about the dodgy early-2000s knockoffs that came in boxes covered with random Engrish and gave the figures awesomely-bad names like "Supply Pawn" and "Brain Man".

Cargo Jet Mode: When the jet carrying half of a truck under each wing is the better alt-mode, you know something went wrong in between the design stage and the factory. And in spite of how obviously stupid the truck kibble is in jet mode, it actually is a ton better than the truck. Now, that's not to say it's actually good, but at least it looks like some effort went into it. The fuselage still stops being painted half-way down, but it's got a wing assembly between the two sections so it at least looks like a semi-natural division between two parts of the jet. It also has some paint apps along the wings and the nosecone section, so it doesn't look nearly as unfinished as the truck mode. The cockpit windows look deceptively like clear blue plastic from afar, but looking closer it becomes clear that they're actually stickers. But unlike the tanker ones (which are visible along the jet's fuselage in this mode) they actually look like they might stay in place.

But where the truck was mostly kibble-free, the jet mode is anything but. Aside from the truck cab just hanging out under the wings making no attempt to blend in (not even the perfunctory attempt that Classics Astrotrain's train kibble made in his shuttle mode), if you flip Prime over it becomes pretty obvious that he's carrying an entire truck under his fuselage, and a whole robot. Now, triplechangers understandably make some sacrifices in order to get two serviceable alt-modes out of one figure, but this goes beyond that. We're not quite in Universe Silverbolt territory yet, where you could take out a few screws and wind up with separate, fully-functional jet and robot toys, but you can see that territory from here and you don't need binoculars to do it.

Diac still doesn't pilot the vehicle mode from inside the proper cockpit, but considering all the other things wrong with this toy that seems like a minor gripe.

Robot Mode: At last, a mode that at least has an argument for being good! Optimus Prime's robot mode is designed to be a throwback to his Generation 2 look -- both of them, in fact. While he's got the accessories, shoulder towers and alt-mode of the Laser Rod, his (fake) chest windows, bulky forearms, torso wheels and simple head design all hearken back to his Hero figure. But while the resemblances are obvious, it's dampened by using the colour scheme of the original, 1984 Optimus Prime (though a more heavily Laser Rod-based deco will be available in the Chaos on Velocitron box set). The end result is a kind of generically retro figure that looks a bit like a lot of different, past Primes without borrowing too much from either.

The robot mode is fairly customizable, too. Like all of the line's Voyagers, it features a pop-out "head extender" to make the nominally Deluxe-scaled Titan Master figure seem more proportionate on a Voyager (this makes the figure look silly). The Laser Rod shoulder pylons can be folded away if you'd prefer a more streamlined Optimus. And if you'd like to give him a flight mode DOTM/Beast Hunters-esque flight mode, you can fold out his alt-mode wings. The end result is a figure that can have a bunch of different looks, which is fun if you like to mix up how you display him, and also a nice feature to let him look as different to the upcoming Octane as possible.

In terms of articulation, the only real disappointment is the lack of a waist swivel, which probably could have been worked into the design without introducing too many engineering issues. Beyond that, he's got everything you'd expect but nothing that you wouldn't -- double-jointed shoulders and hips, forearm and thigh swivels, hinged elbows and knees, and a ball-jointed neck courtesy of his Titan Master. Wrist swivels would have made the sword a lot more fun, but they were not included. He's got big feet, which help him stand but get in the way if you try to do any extreme posing, so the figure is about average overall.

Prime comes with two weapons: a translucent yellow sword and a double-barrelled cannon that serves as a homage to his Laser Rod weapon while also serving as a seat for Diac or any other Titan Master who may happen by.

Unfortunately, bad quality control really hurts this mode. Out of the box, Prime's hips and ankles were so loose that the figure could not stand, at all, in any pose. His hands were also too loose to hold his accessories properly, and the Titan Master's arms were so loose that they would flop around from side to side like wobbly little antennae. A liberal application of acrylic polish to each of the affected areas eventually tightened him up, but I can't remember ever buying a figure with so many parts so drastically loose. And the cause is fairly evident, stamped inside of his right shin: "Made in Vietnam". Because when Chinese factories with their low wages and fairly lax quality control are too expensive and you move your production lines to another country that's even cheaper to manufacture in...well, all too often you get what you pay for. Transformers have increasingly suffered from poor tolerances and fit ever since the move was made, and unfortunately the lower quality gets passed along to the consumer. And in this case, it's so bad that it practically ruins the figure. Yes, I fixed it, but this is a review of the figure I bought, not the one I've got after an hour or so spent fixing it. And out of the box, the figure is quite simply substandard.

Titan Master: Floppy arms are, unfortunately, just one of Diac's problems. The much larger one is that he's just plain ugly. In robot mode, he's mostly flat grey plastic. His shins are painted in Optimus's blue, and his head is drowned in gobs of shiny silver. There appears to have been a halfhearted attempt to paint his eyes blue as well, but you'd need a magnifying glass to see it clearly. He simply doesn't look very good, and that's only going to get worse as the silver paint slowly gets chipped away every time you cram his head into Prime's Titan Master port.

Since Diac's robot mode is so unsightly, it's a good thing that his Optimus head mode is so damned good. As I said before, it's a minimalist take on the design, with only one set of horns and no extra protrusions or spikes. You could argue that it would look better were Diac's arms painted blue to serve as the second set of antennae that some Optimus designs sport, but I like it as-is. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that Optimus's head is the single best thing about this figure. It's just a shame he doesn't have a better toy to plug into.

Transformation Design: I can't believe I'm going to say this, but this is a worse-engineered Triplechanger than Universe Tankor. Worse than Universe Tankor. That shouldn't even be possible, but here we are. 2/10

Durability: Prime's wheels are flimsy. But more importantly, wear and play are only going to make the toy even more floppy than it already is. The transformation also features a lot of moving parts that don't strike me as especially durable. And then on top of all that, the stickers are already peeling off. Optimus doesn't feel like a figure who will age well. 4/10

Fun: Even with the bad alt-modes, this is a toy that could have been fun. But sloppy engineering and bad QC left it frustrating to transform and disappointing to pose or play with in robot mode. 3/10

Aesthetics: The robot mode is really nice and has lots of options, but the truck and jet modes are just so, so bad. 4/10

Articulation: Unfortunately, bad quality control conspires to take this from an average figure to a sub-par one. Joints don't do any good if the figure can't even stand. 4/10

Price: Around $30 has been par for the course for Voyagers in Canada for some time now. The quality of what you get has been pretty variable over that time, but (execution aside) a Triplechanging Headmaster with a couple big weapons and some complex engineering definitely feels more worth it than what the price point got you during Combiner Wars. Of course, Optimus being awful does skew the value for money equation down somewhat... 6/10

Overall: This is a toy that could have, should have and in another era would have been better. Honestly, the low-quality stickers, missing paint apps, quality control issues and clunky engineering leaves me with the impression of a toy designer whose reach exceeded his grasp -- he had a very good idea that just wasn't workable within the budget of a modern Voyager. But good intentions are no excuse for bad results. 3/10
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