Last week I wrote about my history with Hasbro’s Transformers franchise. That post started off as a review of the newest line of toys from that franchise – War for Cybertron: Siege. I like to open toy reviews with a bit of my personal history with what I’m reviewing, but sometimes if I haven’t written a whole lot about what I’m reviewing it turns into more than an intro.
So now that I’ve gotten that history out of the way, I can explain how I ended up collecting Transformers again after quitting (several times) and I can also review some toys.
Rather than individual reviews I’m just going to talk about the line as a whole. I’ll run down each figure I’ve bought so far, but probably in less detail than my normal reviews because I feel a little weird about even reviewing Transformers. They’re a very different thing from a standard action figure, obviously.
I think we saw the first Siege figures last year at San Diego Comic Con, but I could be wrong because I wasn’t paying as much attention to the line then. I just know that I remember seeing Sideswipe and Hound and being impressed.
It’s probably worth explaining why the second tier G1 characters are the ones that grabbed my attention. For decades now Optimus, Megatron, Starscream, and Bumblebee have mostly been the same. Each of those characters have had wild variations, of course, but we never go too long without identifiable, 80s-inspired versions of these guys.
Meanwhile, supporting characters often go long stretches with barely recognizable robot modes, huge color variations, and vehicle modes that may not even closely resemble their G1 forms. That’s okay because toy lines need to evolve and Hasbro needs to try new things to please up-and-coming customers, but it makes it a little more special when we get a familiar-looking G1 character.
Note: Hound and Sideswipe were terrible examples for me to use because Hound is almost always a Jeep-like vehicle and Sideswipe is always a sporty car; though his colors have varied greatly. But these Siege figures adhere pretty closely to their G1 looks.
My point here is that these new figures are firmly rooted in the looks of the toys and animated characters I grew up with. But even that isn’t the main selling point because Hasbro does return to the G1 well on a regular basis.
What’s gotten me is that these toys seem to have achieved the best balance of robot mode and vehicle mode I have ever seen from a line of Transformers toys and that switching between those modes is unbelievably intuitive and easy to master. And that’s something that I have found to be rare in the Transformers lines that have appealed to me over the years. I can’t even remember the last line I was able to transform without instructions, but I can convert all of these figures with ease after just a couple of times.
I have spoken many times about how my pickiness prevented me from becoming truly invested in Transformers as a toy line. The originals were very good vehicles with fun transformations into pretty crappy action figures. Don’t get me wrong – plenty of them were neat-looking robots and there were even a few that made decent action figures. But for the most part they just sort of stood there after you transformed them.
And don’t even get me started on scale (again).
Some Transformers have had great vehicle modes with ugly robots. Some have had highly articulated robots that turn into vehicles with noticeable gaps and parts that don’t ever seem to line up. Some have loose ball joints that pop off every time you attempt to transform them.
Honestly, with a toy concept as complicated as Transformers there is so much that can go wrong. It’s surprising that the amazing engineers that design these figures are ever able to release toys that satisfy picky jerks like me.
Impossibly, this new Siege line does it all.
They hit my nostalgia buttons by resembling the G1 characters I know so well in robot and vehicle modes. In robot mode they have plenty of articulation and are sturdy. It’s not fair to expect a single figure to be both a perfect robot action figure and a perfect toy vehicle, but I do. And this new line has done it in every instance. These are figures I would admire even if they didn’t transform and they are also vehicles I would think were cool as toys on their own.
Then, above and beyond that, Hasbro has created additional play value via interchangeable weapons, blast effects, and other gimmicks that are awesome but not even necessary for the play experience.
I have yet to purchase any of the smaller companion figures because I know they’re just extra pieces that I don’t need, but I am impressed by their functionality and compatibility with the larger figures in the line. If you don’t know, the Siege line is accompanied by a number of blister-carded, lower price point toys that are action figures in and of themselves. The best of these are essentially triple-changers reminiscent of the Targetmasters of my youth – robots that transform into weapons for the larger robots.
There are Micromasters and Battle Masters in these sub-lines. They’re slightly different in that Micros have vehicle modes and combine to form weapons while Battle Masters are weapons on their own and include various blast effects. Both are under ten bucks – a key price point for any major toy line looking to satisfy customers across the spectrum.
Now that I’ve run down the line as a whole I’d like to take a look at the individual toys I’ve bought. This isn’t every release, just the ones that really sparked that G1 nostalgia zone.
Sideswipe – This is the one that really caught my eye; the single one that I was absolutely going to buy. Sideswipe’s robot form is a near-perfect recreation of his G1 look from his head to his feet. Both modes look great and the transformation is intuitive and easy, but not simplistic.
Articulation-wise Sideswipe would make a good action figure even without the transformation feature. His arms, legs, and even head have more range than I expected from his somewhat blocky (but appealing) design. He’s got more range than a Real American Hero GI Joe figure, and that’s plenty for a Transformer.
Sideswipe comes with a simple two-piece blaster. It doesn’t look amazing, but it is kind of neat to have him dual-wielding the separate pistols. They fit into his hands or into various peg holes on his body.
The vehicle mode is basically a slick Cybertronian Lamborghini – nice way to skim copyright, Hasbro! There’s plenty of eye-catching detail and a nice translucent windshield. I know it’s a small thing, but to me it makes so much difference when a toy has translucent parts as opposed to solid plastic. It takes them to a different level.
Hound – Hound was always one of my favorites due to the military theme, but this version loses a tiny bit of favor because I don’t totally love the Cybertronian jeep mode. It’s okay – good, really – but something about the design isn’t quite perfect to me. This is one hundred percent personal preference, though. You might love it. Heck, I bet you do.
Hound’s robot mode, however, is just as fantastic as Sideswipe’s. His head has the cartoon likeness while his body is an articulated version of the G1 toy. It’s still one of my favorite robot designs from the original line.
The Autobot scout is equipped with two blasters and a spare tire piece reminiscent of the spare on the original toy. For this version that piece attaches to one of the blasters as a sort of ammo magazine. Both blasters can be attached to the toy in vehicle and robot mode via a series of peg holes.
Hound’s transformation is a little less intuitive than Sideswipe’s. The kibble on his back that forms the top of the jeep has to be moved in a specific way. It’s easy enough once you figure it out, but if you fold something out of sequence it can be a bit confusing. Still, it’s a conversion I can now easily do without the instructions.
Megatron – I bought Megatron and Prime after Rad Ranger taunted me with images of them on Messenger. I had seen them in stores, but needed that surge of nerd jealousy to pull the trigger on purchasing them.
Megatron was another one that really grabbed me. His robot mode isn’t perfectly G1 – though his head is – but I love how blocky he is. He’s big and intimidating and despite the fact that the figure doesn’t recapture every aspect of that G1 design, it absolutely captures the spirit of the Decepticons’ leader.
The vehicle mode is okay. It’s a pretty classic Megatron tank. I find the turret to be a little underwhelming. Overall it doesn’t pack as much punch as other vehicles in the Siege line.
This Megatron comes with his arm/tank cannon and a sword that is part of said cannon in tank mode. The sword is HUGE. I like that it can be carried on the figure’s back in robot mode.
Megatron’s transformation is the most frustrating of the bunch. I can get it without instructions, but getting his legs and the treads on his back into place for vehicle mode is a pain in the ass.
Optimus Prime – Prime is great. I don’t know why he didn’t immediately impress me like Sideswipe and Megatron because he’s very evocative of post-battle Prime from The Movie. I think I’m not a big fan of the circuitry behind the vehicle windows. And once you turn him around the extraneous kibble on his back is pretty big.
But this is a great Optimus. He can achieve a huge number of pleasing action poses and is the perfect foil for the chonky Megatron.
The vehicle mode is a bit of a blend of his G1 Earth truck and Cybertron modes. All the parts line up and it rolls out nicely. I’d love to see a trailer to go with this. I don’t know if that’s the sort of thing third party companies would release, but I bet Rad Ranger knows.
Optimus comes with a rifle that’s reminiscent of every rifle every Optimus ever has had, as well as a battle ax that folds up for storage. Both are neat and can be inserted into a number of available peg holes on the figure’s body.
Ultra Magnus – “Disappointed” is too strong a word, but once I got Ultra Magnus out of the box he was the least satisfying of the new Transformers. He looks very cool in robot mode, for sure. But if Megatron is chonky, then Ultra Magnus is an outright thunderchonk.
The toy works basically the same as the G1 version. The truck cab transforms into a white robot that isn’t just a repaint of Optimus. This on its own is pretty cool, but it’s not the reason anyone paid fifty bucks for an Ultra Magnus figure. They did that to put all of the armor pieces on that white robot and make the big lieutenant we all know and… think looks cool.
The robot mode is limited by its thickness. Some poses can be achieved, but this toy is not nearly as fun to play with as the rest of the line. And the transformation is fairly complicated thanks to the way the trailer works, though still not as frustrating as Megatron’s can be.
Vehicle mode is where this toy suffers. I have yet to successfully get all of the parts to line up to the point where the wheels can all touch the ground at the same time, let alone roll together. On top of that the trailer is full of kibble and isn’t even functional. I’m not a fan of the way the top lines up, either. It doesn’t secure into place, you just put the front top where it goes and it’s there. I’m sure that’s a poor explanation, but you’d know exactly what I mean if you were transforming this guy.
Still, fans of Ultra Magnus are going to want this guy and he is still better than the G1 version by leaps and bounds.
Shockwave – I had to save the best for last.
Or my favorite for last, anyway. Because Shockwave is my favorite Transformer. He’s the one that I’ll buy just to have him, regardless of whether I’m collecting a line or not.
The Siege Shockwave is perfection except for one thing – the price. He’s a fifty dollar figure, yet is smaller than the thirty dollar Megatron, even with his ridiculous(ly awesome) battle armor on. This battle armor is why the figure costs so much and I can’t decide if it was necessary or not.
The base figure in the box is a complete Shockwave toy. In robot mode it looks just like G1 Shockwave, but better. In vehicle mode they did this clever thing where it’s a spaceship, but it’s in the shape of Shockwave’s gun form. Just upside down. This makes an absolutely perfect, Yamato-style space battleship (that isn’t in scale with anything, but whatever).
While all of the extra armor pieces are just kind of extra junk in robot mode, they make the starship look way more badass. It’s a necessary improvement.
For Shockwave’s robot mode, he just gets bigger feet, giant shoulders, and an extra pair of arms. It’s okay, but nothing I’d display.
I can’t say this Shockwave needed to be fifty dollars, but surprisingly I find him worth fifty dollars.
I’ll close by saying that if you’re a Trnasformers fan – lapsed or current – you owe it to yourself to buy some Siege toys. They’re my favorite Transformers in a long time; perhaps ever. There are a couple of less-than-ideal concepts, but overall this initial wave is fantastic and I cannot wait to get more. Soundwave, Starscream, and more should be hitting shelves any day now!
I hope you’ve enjoyed my attempt at reviewing a batch of overall cool Transformers! If you’d like to share your thoughts about any toy line be sure to join the Needless Things Podcast Facebook Group and get in on the conversation!