Sunday, 2 November 2008

Universe Classics Powerglide

While the original Classics line reimagined Bumblebee as a sporty compact rather than a Volkwagen Beetle-like car (licensing issues, coupled with the obvious desire to repaint the same model as Cliffjumper, obviously), the updated form of Powerglide is still an A-10...

...Albeit a much larger one.

Powerglide has gone from being a mini Autobot (not much larger than today's Mini-Cons, but far less poseable than most) to being an Ultra-class figure with electronic lights and sounds. He's also developed a quite ingenious transformation, that folds the back end of the plane over itself. Bizarrely, though, he's still perfectly recognisable thanks to some very clever design than borrows just enough of the original's look, but updates it in terms of engineering.

Now, confession time: I didn't buy the official UK release of Powerglide. First and foremost, I saw this one - the Japanese 'US Edition' release - before I saw the UK version, but that's not the reason. I didn't buy the UK version because they got the colours wrong.

I know, I know, I'm such a G1 Fanboy. Gimme a break, he just looked wrong.

The Japanese version basically reverses the colours - red for white/grey - and results in a far more authentic Powerglide.

Vehicle Mode:
It's interesting to note what a popular alternate mode the A-10 has been in the TransFormers line. From the original Powerglide, through the limbs for the Energon gestalt Superion Maximus, through the Classics Mini-Con Steel Wind right back to Powerglide again. It's an awkward plane that really doesn't make for an easy transformation. G1 Powerglide was very simple - flip the wings up, pull out the arms, pull out the legs, turn the head round. Robot mode was neither convincing nor poseable. Before this one, probably the best A-10 Transformer would have been the Energon gestalt limbs, but they suffered from being gestalt limbs, and the plane mode wasn't that convincing. This one really makes the most of it. While it appears to be a substantially upgraded A-10, it remains recongnisable. and actually looks like it could fly. In this form, the sounds rotate through a sequence - Engine ignition, engine roar, and machine gun fire.

Transformation is bizarrely complex, though very simple once you get the hang of it. The back end literally rolls over itself to form the robot's chest, the front of the plane splits into three parts - one hangs off the robot's back, the other two become the legs - and, just like the G1 Mini Autobot, the arms are formed by folding the wings up and pulling the arms off the bottoms.

Robot Mode:
Aside from being built with a far more powerful-looking upper body, it's amazing how similar this new Powerglide is to the original. The head sculpt is familiar, and yet far less cartoonish than the original, resulting in a far more serious, dangerous looking robot. This may be partly to do with Hasbro's repaint policy - there's already a Decepticon made from the same mold - but even so, it retains enough design cues from Generation 1. The only thing that detracts from the look of the robot is having the cockpit hanging off his back. Were it not for the fairly unnecessary LED occupying the cockpit, I'm sure they could have folded it away better.

Despite having such comparatively small feet, Powerglide is pretty stable - only really losing balance when the swivelling thigh joints have to take the weight of the electronics-packed upper body. That said, he's able to adopt some pretty dynamic poses. Given a decent stand, he'd look even better suspended has if he was jumping or floating in mid-air. The only real weak point is that the wings don't attach very securely to the sides of the engines. I read that the Japanese version is an improvement on the US/UK version in this respect, so I'm even more glad I didn't buy the UK version.

As with most of the recent electronically-enhanced TransFormers, some effort has been made to conceal the batteries in such a way that they don't affect the look of the toy in either mode. Very cleverly, they're stashed one in each engine - already just the right size and shape to accommodate a battery. It's good that the Movie has lead to such improvements in the toys, both in complexity and in aesthetics... But it's a shame that the other first-wave Ultra - Onslaught - is so boxy.

Overall, Powerglide looks to be one of my favourites from an already excellent toyline. Can't wait to see what comes next!

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