Sunday, 26 September 2010

Alternity A-01 Convoy (Vibrant Red)

Alternity is, in many ways, the model line Takara had in mind when they first dreamt up Binaltech. It was, after all, Hasbro's insistance that turned that line into 1:24 scale cars. Now safely back in the realms of 1:32 scale, the Alternity line isn't just more of the same, only smaller, it's equally detailed and far more intricate... and, just for a change, the line begins with Optimus Prime.


Vehicle Mode:
The Nissan GT-R seems like an unlikely choice of vehicle mode for the Autobots' leader, traditionally some kind of truck. Even Binaltech Prime was a pickup truck, whereas his Alterntity counterpart is very definitely a compact sports car.

Initially available in Vibrant Red and Ultimate Silver, this model was eventually repainted not only in Super Black but, as an E-Hobby exclusive, in Ultra Magnus's traditional white and blue. The only one that seems worth getting to me - admittedly a bit of a purist on occasion - is this Vibrant Red version.

There's no doubting it's a nice car - no only sporty, but solid, kind of a halfway house between a full-on sports car and a muscle car. It looks a little odd from the sides, to my eyes - the front half doesn't quite seem to match the back, with its bulk and curves tapering back quite sharply into the low, sporty, bespoilered back end. The level of detail is quite superb and, given the scale, feels like a huge improvement on Binaltech. All the lights - even the indicators - are molded in transparent plastic, all the windows are present (Binaltech frequently cheated car doors with 'open' windows). Naturally there are visible seams... and these are, perhaps, a little more obvious than on some Binaltech models but, given the scale, I think Takara Tomy have produced a fine representation of the car. The only place that it loses points is the vehicle's interior - while it has a steering wheel, there's not much dashboard detail. Also, and on a related note, the front wheels don't swing/steer, as did those on the majority of Binaltech models.
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Robot Mode:
Given that this model appears to be based quite heavily on the G1 Prowl/Bluestreak style, where the front of the vehicle forms the robot's chest, it's very strange to find that this manages to be a fairly convincing Optimus Prime. Sure, it's only his kneecaps that are blue, rather than the whole lower leg, but most of the other design cues are there. The iconic head is both a successful homage and a unique development of the original, and it's even light-piped.

I was a little disappointed to find that Alternity Convoy is without a handgun/rifle, even though he does come armed with wrist-mounted dual cannons. There's just something not-quite-Prime about a figure that doesn't have a handgun, particularly since his hands are molded with a slot for a weapon. Thankfully, one of the weapons included in TFC Toys' Gears of War 2 set can be weilded by Alternity Convoy, even if it does need a bulky attachment to function as an LED-lit gun.
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Transformation is substantially more complicated than even the most fiddly Binaltech model, though this complexity allows for a far better end result in both modes. Where Binaltech left the front of the car intact with Smokescreen, Hound, Meister, Grimlock, Skids and their repaints, Alternity reduces the impact on upper-body width by breaking the front of the car into three parts, and swinging the outer chunks forward around the centre. Given that the 'waist' swings down from pretty much the very front of the car, this maintains the appearance of his proportions when viewed from the side. The legs are perhaps a little overly complex in the way they split open to increase the length of the lower leg, but it works quite well. One side doesn't peg together quite as successfully as the other, but the end result is solid enough.

Poseability is mostly hampered by terrible feet and top-heavy construction. The latter is unavoidable, considering Takara Tomy wanted to use as much Die-Cast metal as possible, but the feet really could have been better. They're ball-jointed, but it's almost as if the ball joint is there to facilitate transformation only - there's not enough flexibility for the bulk of the foot to sit flush with the surface it's standing on, and thus provide support, unless this model is stood to attention. Additionally, the 'heel' - such as it is - is little more than a couple of struts that are basically conveniently placed bits of vehicle mode. That's not to say it's not a poseable model, just that it needs an awful lot of fiddling and rebalancing.

The arms seem a little stubby and awkward, but this is mainly because of the large amount of car sitting on each shoulder. They're actually perfectly in proportion with the rest of the robot, just not particularly mobile above the elbow.

Alternity got off to a pretty good start with Convoy and, so far, I like the way it's been developing. It does, however, seem a little strange than the type of car normally associated with Prowl and Bluestreak (as seen in the IDW comics) has been chosen to represent Optimus Prime...

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