Friday, 11 May 2012

Galaxy Force Vector Prime

Once I get more Cybertron/Galaxy Force toys up on this blog, it will become abundantly clear that I'm a real fan of the line - the mixture of G1 homages, bold designs, a comparatively understated gimmick (as far as the Unicron Trilogy goes), and the sheer scale of some of the toys all work to make it one of the more interesting toy ranges, even though the story continuity has its detractors. Lessons were clearly learned from the reaction to Armada/Micron Legend's ugly chunkiness, and the sacrifices made to accommodate the combination gimmick in Energon/Superlink. But who would have thought that this would lead to the revelation that one of the Primes was effectively made of clockwork?

Vehicle Mode:
From the outset, I have to concede that, by and large, I don't much like 'spacecraft' alternate modes. Galaxy Force gave me a few exceptions to this rule (most notably Noisemaze) but, more often than not, spacecraft alternate modes are an excuse to be lazy and unimaginative and, sadly, Vector Prime exemplifies this problem.

At first glance, this model wouldn't look too out-of-place in Generation 1: the robot is quite clearly visible in vehicle mode - not just 'bits of robot hanging off', but 'this is the robot, kind of folded up a bit'. On the back half of this ship, you can clearly see the arms on the sides, and the legs folded up underneath. The front of the ship is one gigantic piece that will, inevitably, hang off his back. Not exactly Galaxy Force's finest hour in terms of vehicle design...

...But, once you take the time to really look at the model, you see how completely overboard the designers went on the detail. Just about every surface is packed with sculpted cogs and gears and some ridiculously opulent decorations... It's as if Vector Prime is some kind of Steampunk dreadnought, and the colour scheme furthers this impression.

Molded largely in pale grey plastic with a subtle metallic flake effect, Vector Prime features details painted in gold and a sort of coppery-bronze colour, which closely matches the brown plastic used (also featuring metallic flakes in some parts). Great chunks on the nose (a sort of sheathed sword design) and sides are painted with a metallic sky blue, which seems to complement the transparent blue plastic used for the 'wings', the cockpit window and the missile. There are also touches of red, in jewel-like parts dotted about, including a weird sort of 'power core' orb towards the back. The undercarriage - a.k.a. the robot's legs - is tipped with some kind of sensor array, also molded in transparent blue, and possibly some cannons.

What's particularly impressive about this mold is that Vector Prime's weapons - a sword and the Mini-Con, Roots - can be stowed conveniently in alternate mode. His sword plugs neatly into the lefthand side of the ship (the righthand side has a matching mini-wing), while Roots docks on the top, just behind the 'cockpit'.

Right at the nose is a spring-loaded missile launcher, activated by a small black button just in front of the 'cockpit'. It would have been nice if the Mini-Con port to which Roots attaches could have been a secondary firing mechanism - plug him in, then push down to fire the missile - since the port is otherwise inactive.

This is an excellent example of a very bland model that's dramatically improved by detailed molding and a paint job that's just right.
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Robot Mode:
The old rule that a simplistic alternate mode equals a simplistic robot holds true and, again, the only thing that really rescues Vector Prime from mediocrity is the stunning level of sculpted detail and the paint job. That said, he is about as well-articulated as any Voyager from the Cybertron/Galaxy Force line.

This mode also reveals the purpose behind some of that details that seems so superfluous in vehicle mode - those whopping great pods on the sides of the spacecraft become arms with whopping great shoulderpads, and the two sort of intake/vent things each side of the key slot turn out to be (independently moveable) hip armour.

With all this armour, Vector Prime looks like an ancient Cybertronian (clockwork) knight... which, I guess, fits the character - he has, after all, been named as one of the original 13 Primes, and carries a sword as his primary weapon. What's really cool about this model is the head sculpt, which is very clearly based on the Autobot logo and, since this Japanese release of the figure has no Autobot logo stamped or molded anywhere, it's a good reminder of his place in their ranks.

Vector Prime's sword could have done with some paint on the hilt, but it's another nicely detailed part to the model, and suits him well. The only downside is that, with no wrist articulation - rotation or tilt - he always seems to hold it rather stiffly.

Roots fares better, as he plugs in to the Mini-Con ports on either vambrace-analogue, and becomes quite a powerful-looking cannon.

While I'd normally complain bitterly that any TransFormer, in this day and age, feels the need to have an enormous chunk of otherwise redundant vehicle hanging off his back, in combination with the 'wings', Vector Prime gives the impression of having a cape. A bit of a chunky cape, maybe, but it means he even fits in quite well with Dark of the Moon's Sentinel Prime. In fact, rather than being displayed in the Cybertron/Galaxy Force shelves of my collection, I have Vector Prime in a cabinet with DotM Sentinel, TFCC Nexus Prime and Cybertron Primus.
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Mini-Con Partner Roots:
Considering that Roots is only a Mini-Con, he's also packed with a fair amount of detail. He's also very similar in design to Vector Prime - the fore-section of his spacecraft mode hangs of the robot's back, while the legs fold over the top of the vessel, rather than onto the underside. With the right paintjob, this mold could pass as a Shockwave Mini-Con, considering the 'big gun' design element.
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As mentioned, Vector Prime is a triumph of opulent decoration over technical excellence. The simplistic, G1-throwback transformation is insultingly simple and extremely unimpressive, considering that some of the Cybertron/Galaxy Force Scouts were fairly intricate.

With feet as large as these, it is perhaps surprising that Vector Prime isn't as stable as he could be in some of the more dramatic poses he can adopt, but here the nosecone/backpack/cape comes into its own, as a third point of balance. The ankle joints aren't very firm, so he does have a tendency to droop backwards, since all the stuff hanging off his back affects his centre of gravity.

This is one of those models that I like almost grudgingly. Cybertron/Galaxy Force offered far more innovative designs and intricate transformations... All this one really has going for it is the 'clockwork' look and the well-judged paint job. In a choice between this version and the US/UK version, I would always go for the Galaxy Force release - the plastic colours are more accurate to the TV series (the US/UK version was off-white!), while the paintwork is more extensive and follows the molded details better.

On the disappointing side, the key activated gimmick is the transformation sound effect... no lights, no other sounds... and that's definitely a bit crap.

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