Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Galaxy Force Thundercracker

Considering how much G1 referencing went on in Galaxy Force/Cybertron, it's worth noting that it wasn't so completely slavish that it gave us another set of Seekers all repainted from the same mold. In a somewhat surprising move, while Starscream got a Voyager-scale (or Supreme-scale in the US/UK) model of a futuristic/Cybertronian jet/spacecraft, Thundercracker - the only other Seeker to appear in the TV series - took a completely different form, was released in the Deluxe size class only... and wasn't even in his traditional colourscheme...

Vehicle Mode:
Thundercracker took the form of a Sukhoi SU-34, a very real Russian fighter/bomber which came into service the year after the toy came out - sneaky old TakaraTomy! While it's not a perfect replica - not only due to the needs of a transforming toy but due to the implementation of the key gimmick - it's accurate enough, and makes for an excellent, sleek alternate mode. The only visible impact the robot parts have in this mode are that the upper legs are fairly obvious on the undercarriage. That said, they've been fairly cleverly designed to sort-of resemble the jet intakes on the plane (albeit rather oversized). The lower legs have been molded in such a way that they blend in almost perfectly with the rear of the plane. On significant deviation from the source material is that the SU-34 is a two-seater, where pilot and co-pilot sit side-by-side, and so the canopy over the cockpit is split in half. Thundercracker's cockpit is a single-seater, with a canopy molded much like the old-style seekers.

The colourscheme is odd, especially when you consider that Thundercracker's traditional blue/silver/black look would have made this a more real-world accurate model (I'm serious!). Still, grey tends to be a good colour for fighter jets, so it looks pretty good. The orange highlights are where it loses realism - the pattern of the orange paint is spot on... it just shouldn't have been orange, particularly where it's been used to pick out the panel lines on the wings.

There's a bit of mismatching in the molding of the main bulk of the plane and the afterburners, leaving a large gap on top, where the legs connect, and I'm sure the area behind the key slot could have been molded to look more like the plane it's based on, but that may have caused the loss of some of the all-important tech detailing.

Galaxy Force's gimmick was a bit of a mixed bag - some were excellent, some were rather pointless... Thundercracker's is best described as strange. Plug in his key, and what could be called a massive airbrake pops out of his fuselage... only it's not just an airbrake - it contains a spring-loaded missile launcher! This might have made more sense if that part was on the underside - after all, that's where most fighter/bombers keep their payload. On the other hand, an airbrake which can also deploy a missile is clever disguise for a weapon... even if it might make the plane tricky to fly.

A set of (rubber) missiles is attached to the undersides of the wings - two on each - and there's also a full working undercarriage which gives him surprisingly good ground-clearance. It's not free-rolling, of course, but it looks pretty good.

Robot Mode:
Deviating even further from the conventions of Generation 1, Thundercracker's robot mode is very clearly derived from the G2 Cyberjets. In some ways (particularly the tidiness of vehicle mode) it's a massive improvement... then there's 'that' arm.

Yes, the entire airbrake/missile launcher assembly becomes Thundercracker's left arm... and it's so darned long that he can't even hang it by his side. Furthermore, when the key plugs in, having that massive arm open makes it look rather like a hair-curling iron.

The head sculpt seems to reference G1 to a degree... though not as much as Starscream's head. It's a bit bland, to be honest... possibly not helped by the blue plastic (which is far darker than it appears in these photos - my camera really isn't much good with blues), but the silver detailing on the 'helmet' seems a little misplaced. The two prongs behind his head further recall the G1 Seeker stylings, which is a cute effect.

Seen from behind, the shortcomings of the mold become obvious - there's what looks like 70% of his jet mode just hanging there, doing nothing. Mind you, that's a huge improvement on the likes of Universe Darkwind, where 100% of his alternate mode is hanging there...

Considering this model is a G2 Cyberjet at heart, it should come as no surprise that transforming Thundercracker is simplicity itself. The only downside is that, unlike the G2 Cyberjets, very little actually pegs into place in robot mode. While the right arm is secure enough, the left is a good couple of millimetres away from the shoulder, and a touch lower than the right as well. The way the plane's nosecone folds behind the groin, allowing that to peg into place, is pretty clever... but the main bulk of the plane hangs rather loosely off the back. I might have preferred the tail section to fold up a little, so as to cause less obstruction to the legs.

That said, the legs still have an excellent range of motion though, despite having ball joints in the hips, they seem to like to snap to specific angles, rather than moving smoothly. Thundercracker's feet, being particularly dainty, aren't especially good for dramatic posing, though the 'heel' and 'toe' are independently mobile, so one or the other can be angled down as necessary to improve stability. The arms, too, have a good range of motion, but that massive missile launcher looks rather daft, and one of the hinges on mine is a little loose. He's also rather back-heavy, with all that mass just hanging there.

Despite the floppiness of the main bulk of robot mode, I was impressed enough by Thundercracker to also buy the Skywarp repaint when it hit the UK shelves. It's an excellent model for its size, it just feels a little flimsy and cheap in places (not just due to the use of rubber), could have done with a bit mode 'folding away' of the plane parts, and that weapon arm is just a touch oversized.

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