Saturday, 9 October 2010

Superlink Shockfleet (Energon Mirage)

Boats have been quite an unusual alternate mode throughout the many TransFormers franchises, and it's not hard to see why. The shape of the average hull tends to mean a large number of panels hanging off the robot mode, or an incomplete vehicle mode...

...Or, in cases like Shockfleet, both.


Vehicle Mode:
Very clearly intended to resemble some kind of fast attack gunboat, Shockfleet looks the part from most angles. Naturally, he's pretty much open on the underside - the hull is made up of two large shell pieces that join at the front only and do not complete the hull at the bottom. At the back, his ankles and feet are painfully visible, and don't much look like a means of propulsion, futuristic/alien or not. Where the rear missile launchers are mounted, there are flaps that drop down, turning Shockfleet into a hydrofoil, of sorts, though it could easily be interpreted as a flight mode.

A good chunk of the deck at the front is actually the housing for a sound box and its battery compartment. Using a couple of AAA batteries, a switch on the mid-deck deploys the two front-mounted missile launchers and, when pulled all the way back, activates what I'm guessing is supposed to be a firing sound. The deployment sound is also played when the missile launchers are pushed back down onto the deck. There are no lights accompanying any of this - it's all purely sound... and it's actually rather disappointing, especially considering how much of this model is taken up by these electronics.
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Robot Mode:
Lots of the Superlink/Energon line seemed to have been designed by someone intending to pay a great homage to Gundam, and Shockfleet is a fine example of this. Leave aside, for the moment, the chest jewel. Everything from the waist down pretty much screams Gundam in terms of design sensibilities. The legs put me in mind of the Tallgeese, in particular, and even the feet seem typically Gundam.

But this isn't a Mobile Suit, it's a proper robot... and, all things considered, it does a reasonable job of being a robot that has transformed from a boat. Sure the huge hull panels hanging off his hips are a bit of a cop-out... but they do look like enormous scabbards (or just swords) lending Shockfleet something of the air of a samurai. I'm sure I've seen photos of a custom-job somewhere, where these panels were turned into massive swords, but there's no means of attaching them to Shockfleet's fists by default.

The entire deck of the vehicle mode folds up and stashes on the robot's back, meaning the missile launchers can be deployed as over-the-shoulder weapons, with exactly the same sound effects as in vehicle mode. Futhermore, Shockfleet's 'hypermode' supposedly involves merely opening the flaps on his forearms to have the missile lauchers mounted on his wrists stand out further from his arms. Weird... and actually rather silly looking... but still quite striking.

The head mold is curious... Many a time, I've wondered why this hasn't been repainted in purple as a kind of homage to G1 Cyclonus. This model did get a pastel blue/grey repaint, known as Dreadwing, for the US Energon line, but that's closer to being a nod to G1 Scourge. In some ways, I suppose the head could be intended to resemble a fairly ornate samurai helmet. Whatever it's supposed to look like, it's unique, and certainly very robotic.
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There's not a great deal involved in transforming this model between vehicle and robot modes... unfortunately, what there is tends to be very frustrating because of those massive hull panels hanging off his hips. Most of the time, it's far easier to transform him by popping these panels off their ball joints, just so they're out of the way.

Poseability is similarly hampered, although the panels can prove useful in the more elaborate leg poses - they can act as a stand and keep him upright, even when the feet won't. The feet really are the weak point, offering very little in terms of balance. The arms, meanwhile, are very well-jointed. There's effectively a second elbow mid-bicep offering both extra bend (since the 'main' elbow is quite effectively obstructed by the sheer bulk of the forearm), and extra swivel at both ends.

Shockfleet is not without its flaws - much like the whole of the Energon/Superlink line - but it's a quirky and interesting mold with plenty of character. While I might have preferred a more complicated transformation and less bulk given over to electronics, the overall effect of this model is pretty good, and it's one of my personal favourites from my Energon/Superlink collection. Just remember you can't play with this boat in the bath...

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