Monday, 6 May 2013

Reveal the Shield Strafe

One of Hasbro's stranger habits is releasing the same mold in two different colourschemes, but with exactly the same head sculpt, where one version is an Autobot and the other is a Decepticon. In many instances, this works well enough, as the colourschemes and paint layouts are sufficiently different that a very different character clearly emerges.

Reveal the Shield Strafe is a strange homage to one of the G1 Technobots, so the mold originally given to Revenge of the Fallen Mindwipe seems a rather odd choice, not least in the choice of size class. In fact, this mold was also used as a Japanese exclusive update of G2 Dreadwind/g (which, in my humble opinion, probably should have been Soundwave). Also, considering the 'partner' Scout mold, Skystalker (repainted as Laserbeak and G2 homage Smokescreen - aka Smokejumper) has never been released as an Autobot, it seems extremely strange for this mold to be used for one of the good guys... But does it work?

Vehicle Mode:
I can understand an Autobot transforming into a Stealth Bomber... but surely the purpose of disguise is to blend in, and I don't believe there's a single country in the world which would dare paint any Stealth aircraft in this lurid combination of red, pale silvery-grey, sunshine yellow and silver. The choice and distribution of colours might be appropriate to a plane from some kind of display team, but not for anything that wants to maintain any sense of secrecy... Or, for that matter, decency. The paintjob on mine is a little shoddy - a couple of smears and drips here and there, but nothing to ruin the model.

The mold itself is fairly detailed... in fact, given that Stealth planes are meant to be as featureless as possible, with blank facets for diffracting radar, there are probably too many extra details evident on this aircraft. Still, in other ways, this is easily one of the better TransFormers aircraft, as the robot has little to no impact on the silhouette of his disguise - no sign of limbs sticking out on the underside or the rear. While lots of robot parts - including the head - are visible on the underside, they're not conspicuous from the side, making this mold one of the slimmest planes in a long while and certainly an improvement of the Starscream mold from both the original TransFormers live action movie and Revenge of the Fallen (Voyager and Leader Class versions). He doesn't even suffer too much when viewed from behind - the gap in the rear could easily be explained away as a slimmer part of the fuselage between two engines.

Making matters all the more fun, there's a full, retractable undercarriage. The front wheels are split in half due to transformation, and the rear wheels don't exactly retract far, but an undercarriage is always appreciated.

Strafe comes with no additional weapons... which is odd when you consider his whole schtick was shooting everything whenever he got startled. There's also something of an irony in placing Strafe in the Reveal the Shield line, since part of his paintjob involved having massive prints of (half) the Autobot logo on his wings, making the whole heat-sensitive badge a little redundant.
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Robot Mode:
A couple of odd things happen in robot mode. Firstly, the colour scheme somehow conspires to looks a little better, with the grey being broken up somewhat by some creamy-white and a couple of touches of sky blue - a colour not seen in vehicle mode. Secondly, it starts to look vaguely believable as an Autobot.

Not Strafe, mind you... This model puts me more in mind of the Beast Wars Fuzor, Silverbolt: the broad, winged shoulders, the bird-like legs, even the face, while not an accurate representation of Silverbolt as such, seems to have taken some design cues from Beast Machines Vehicon general, Jetstorm who, as fans of Beast Machines will know, was given Silverbolt's spark by Megatron. His 'dagger' weapons even look slightly like feathers, which fits Silverbolt's original aesthetic. Then there's that sunshine yellow formation on his chest, which seems to reference the strange orange jewel-thing in the Silverbolt toy. Given the time, tools and inclination, it might be fun to repaint him...

Similarities to old favourites aside, this is a strange look for an Autobot, movie-related or otherwise. From the clawed hands to the clownish feet on the ends of his bird-legs, this is actually just an all-round strange-looking robot. The arms in particular are rather bizarre, with their angled-back wings (complete with Mech-Alive folding-out 'feather' details, further referencing Silverbolt) to the forearms which seem to bend in the middle due to the vehicle mode panels they're attached to.

The head sculpt, held over from the original Mindwipe release (which never officially arrived in the UK as far as I can tell) is actually one of the more impressive non-movie movie molds. It's very robotic, with molded optics visible behind his visor... it's just a shame that the area behind the visor wasn't painted to make them a little more defined. There's also some overspray of silver paint on the righthand side of his face, though it's not especially noticeable in person.

The spring-loaded dagger gimmick is a nice idea, but the soft plastic used for the catch, and the awkward placement of the notches they latch onto - not to mention the interference from the angles of the arms and wrists - make them somewhat less effective than they could have been. Again, it's a shame there were no additional weapons, and that this model predates the C-Clip weapon attachments.
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Strafe is fairly easy to transform, once you know the best sequence. He also clips together well in both modes, though it's not immediately obvious how far to rotate his chest into robot mode, even though this tailfins slot neatly into a recess in his back. The issue is that the 'vent' detail looks like it should be his chest, but it actually ends up on his shoulders.

And, for such an awkward-looking robot, Strafe is actually remarkably poseable. While he lacks any ankle tilt, leaving his footprint rather slim (and made mostly of transformation tabs!) in some positions, he stands quite stably, and the wings on his shoulders have little impact on his arms' freedom of movement. The elbows, while double-jointed, don't offer anything more than about a 90degree bend, but there is a bit of bicep swivel. The head, meanwhile is on a ball joint with a hinge at the base, making it quite dynamic. His weapons mean there's no effective wrist articulation, but he has enough other joints that this isn't important.

I would have much preferred to get Mindwipe, if only because he had a more sensible colour scheme (which matched the Scout Class Skystalker) but, even with such a garish and unlikely colourscheme, Strafe makes for a striking addition to the non-movie Autobots line-up, or the extended Classics selection.

Not making him Silverbolt was a real missed opportunity, though...

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