Saturday, 6 March 2010

TransFormers Collection #11 - Astrotrain

While every other reissue I've picked up is to supplement a lack in my original G1 collection, I felt compelled to buy this reissue, even though I own an original, for two reasons:
  • My original has exceptionally weak legs, and can't stand
  • This one has a far superior colourscheme in both modes

There's also the fact that it comes in the usual (excellent) TFC presentation box with Filofax pages...

While actually quite basic, these packages were always very effective - it must be be amazing to have the full set lined up on a bookshelf. I only have four of these and a further six in the US/UK packaging, which was styled after the original G1 packaging, but in a box similar to these. Of course, in many instances, the US/UK versions were cut-down or in some way different (read: inferior) to the Japanese reissues. Most of the time it was just lost chrome (one of my favourite things about the original G1 toys - chromed weapons looked brilliant!), but sometimes the overall paint job seemed somehow lacking.

Vehicle Modes:
Astrotrain, being one of the Triplechangers, has two vehicle modes and, as the name might suggest, one is a spacecraft - a decent rendition of the US Space Shuttle - and the other... is a train. The remarkable thing is that, while sacrifices have been made in all three modes to make sure they all work to some degree, Astrotrain's vehicle modes suffer very little.

Space Shuttle mode - in this version - is painted just like the real thing - largely white with black edging to the wings, and the odd detail here and there. With this colourscheme, the model is far more convincing than it ever was in the G1 grey and purple. Even the proportions are good... Better, in fact, than the recent Classics/Universe 2.0 version which, on balance, did a fair job of updating all three modes, and yet succeeded with none.

Train mode is incredibly simple... much of Shuttle mode folds in to become, effectively, a train shell. There's plenty of molded detail but, since it's entirely black apart from a couple of tiny details, not a great deal of it is easily visible. It's almost an excellent model train, except that all the wheels are molded detail (though it does roll on four pinned wheels - two at the front, two at the back) and... well... why, even in 1984, would a transforming alien robot disguise itself as a steam locomotive? The Classics/Universe 2.0 version attempted to correct this anachronism by transforming him into a bullet train... but the effect was decidedly less convincing... not least because the train wasn't as solid, and because it's nose wasn't significantly different from that of Astrotrain's Shuttle mode.

Robot Mode:
Generation 1 gave the world an awful lot of bricks, and Astrotrain is no exception. Bizarrely, the shoulders are one of the earliest examples of balljoints I recall... and yet these stubby arms still don't really do much. They barely reach beyond his chestpiece. All the more unfeasible is his gun... it's absolutely huge... almost as long as the robot is tall! Oddly, the arms almost look as if they were originally designed to extend... and the pre-production version shown in the ads and leaflets packaged with the toys had longer arms that definitely seemed to extend... but these are stubby and of very fixed length.

Where it really falls down - and where the weakness is in my original - is the legs. They extend only very slightly, and the 'knee' is incredibly unreliable. On my 20-something year old one, the 'knee' doesn't lock into place, so he sags down and never stands properly. On this one, the left leg doesn't extend quite as far as the right... but they're both pretty solid.

Transformation between all three modes is incredibly easy - between the two vehicles, it's just a matter of folding in (or out) the wings and tucking in (or bringing out) the Shuttle nose. Robot mode starts about halfway between the vehicles, and just needs the limbs pulled out, the boosters flipped down onto the back, and the Shuttles tailfin opened out.

It's no secret that the vast majority of Generation 1 toys have very little articulation. In so many ways, Astrotrain is a prime example of how poor it was. Often, arm articulation was all any of the toys had going for them, but this one has precious little to offer in spite of its balljoints.

This version is much better than the original G1 version for purely cosmetic reasons - even without the included stickers, it looks darned good. Astrotrain is actually the only G1 Triplechanger I own, and it's strange that he was the first to get a Classics/Universe 2.0 refit... only to become the only Classics/Universe 2.0 Triplechanger I've bothered to pick up. 'Tankor' (aka Octane) was better in some ways, but still not a massive improvement on the original - just like this one, both vehicle modes have their flaws, and the robot mode just wasn't that impressive.

Overall, I'm glad I managed to pick this guy up, but he's hardly Generation 1's finest creation.

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