Sunday, 4 May 2014

Armada Megatron

One of my biggest problems, as a collector, is that I often end up buying things I had originally intended to ignore. So it goes with all my TransFormers: Armada (and Micron Legend) purchases, which basically happened because the first one (Laserbeak, if I remember correctly) was kinda fun. That was the only one I really intended to buy, in part because it was broadly 'to scale', making it the distant ancestor of things like the Real Gear subline of the 2007 live action movie toyline.

Some years ago, when Woolworths still existed as a real world shop and before it became impossible to see a movie in Harrow without it being interrupted by people talking all the way through, I often ended up buying old TransFormers toys that were on clearance in Woolies, and much of my small Armada collection - in particular, Optimus Prime (for about a tenner) and Unicron (for not much more) - is from there.

Some, though, I chose to buy because I ended up wanting them... After all, when one has Optimus Prime, one must surely have Megatron as well...

Vehicle Mode:
Just about any way you look at it, Megatron's tank mode looks somehow incomplete. From the large, empty front end occupied only by the alleged 'Capture Claw' (which, even in this mode, is obviously just Megatron's head) to the large, empty rear end occupied only by robo-butt, it feels as if something is missing. Indeed, at least one knock-off version of this mold did a better job of recreating a tank simply by adding a panel that sat between the treads at the front and became a shield for the robot.

All that said, what's there is covered with detail. There's an odd feature of the toys in the Armada series, in that the Autobots and Decepticons look almost as if they were designed for different toylines. Most of the Autobots were pretty simplistic in and of themselves, looking chunky and somewhat 'cute', while the Decepticons tended to be harsh, angular and replete with molded features.

Whereas most of the detail and features in Armada Optimus Prime were in his trailer (with the main robot being a much simplified version of the Deluxe version to support the Infra Red trailer control electronics and dual transformation), Megatron is littered with sculpted detail, additional features, gimmicks both Mini-Con activated and independent, as well as a whole bunch of light and sound features. Running on three watch cell batteries (LR44), there are no less than four soundbites, each activated in a unique way. Merely moving the turret to either side issues forth the battle cry "Decepticons, attack!" followed by multiple firing sounds. Pushing the cannon back both launches its friction-activated missile and sets off the firing sound effect (which will activate with or without the missile in place). Plug a Mini-Con into the entrance hatch (strangely placed right at the back of the turret, so I can only imagine a 'driver' would have to slide in almost horizontally... if this were anything other than an alien robot disguised as a tank) and twitch it left or right, and a machine gun sound effect plays. Attach a Mini-Con to the L-shaped slider, pull back, and Megatron's dual mortar is deployed along with a rather premature launching sound effect. For all of these, a pair of red LEDs will light up behind the clear panel featuring a molded Decepticon insignia, on the front of the turret.

But the fun doesn't stop there! Megatron has a total of eight Mini-Con ports dotted around his alternate mode without any further fiddling... then, at the flick of a switch on his left side, just by the front of the turret, three more Mini-Con ports are revealed in what would otherwise seem to be a concealed missile bay. The port over the righthand front treads is actually double-slided. Lift the orange panel, and you get a kind of launch ramp. In theory, Megatron can accommodate up to twelve Mini-Cons.

But the fun doesn't stop even there! The rear flanks of the tank have concealed Mini-Con traps. On the left, there's a trap that pulls out and opens like a large claw, revealing what looks like a particularly mean Mini-Con shredder. The right flank opens up and deploys a ramp to scoop up Mini-Cons and a spring-loaded claw to catch 'em and drag 'em in... So that's up to fourteen of the little buggers attached to the Decepticon leader in one way or another.

The colour scheme can only be described as weird. Most of the tank body is molded in a fair approximation of Olive Drab, though perhaps a little oversaturated, as tanks go. Then miscellaneous panels, the 'capture claw' and the tank's main cannon in are molded in a dark sort of sea-blue. Odd parts and panels and joints use purple plastic, and what little is visible of the main body of the tank, plus the weird bits sticking out of the back are a slightly pearlescent grey. Paint has been liberally applied all over, with an almost fluorescent orange complementing (if that is the word) the plastic colour used for the missiles and the Mini-Con ramp, other details picked out in silver or dark grey, and what must be headlights highlighted with yellow paint. As tanks go, Megatron really ain't subtle.

Naturally the treads are molded detail and don't move in any way, but Megatron does roll along quite nicely on a set of four plastic wheels at the rear of each set of treads. The turret rotates freely through 360degrees and the cannon can raise to almost 90degrees on a nice, solid ratchet. Due to a feature of transformation, the cannon can also droop down... though that isn't generally useful in a tank.

One thing I rather like about this tank is its asymmetry. Past the headlights, barely a single detail on the left side of this vehicle is mirrored on the right. This makes of a very interesting and intricate model that's really only let down by the garish patches of orange and the obvious robo-feet and heels sticking out at the back.
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Robot Mode:
Out of all the many Megatrons in the history of TransFormers, even including the Beast Wars varieties, Armada Megatron is probably the strangest looking... and not because he's a tank. After all, Generation 2 gave the world its first tank-based Megatron, that that's roundly considered to be pretty cool.

But where Armada Megatron's tank mode is pretty much the standard TransFormers H-Tank, robot mode doesn't even try to do anything useful with most of the tank parts. The rear treads just end up on the backs of his legs and the front treads do literally nothing in transformation - they stick up over his shoulders looking like the weirdest shoulder pads since G1 Ultra Magnus. While there's something of a tradition in tankformers to have the turret end up on the robot's back (incidentally a trend bucked by G2 Megatron), most render it almost entirely useless, while Armada Megatron actually manages to make use of it simply by rotating the turret to one side and folding the cannon round so that it faces forward at hip level... So, yes, Armada Megatron can quite literally shoot from the hip. It's also something of a reference to G1 Megatron, if only in toy form, since the barrel of the Walther ended up doing much the same, while the character model in the TV series and comics, bizarrely, placed the barrel upright, on his back.

Colour-wise, Megatron goes from being mostly green to giving the impression of being predominantly grey, even though he isn't. There is more grey plastic on show, certainly, but it's broken up with even more paintwork. The waist area features some silver paint and a couple of touches of orange but, other than that, the only paintwork on show below the waist comes from vehicle mode.

Hasbro have accomplished something quite clever with their paintwork on this model: the torso could easily be mistaken for one of the T-shaped blocks from Tetris because that's it's basic shape - the chest is a block about three times the width of the waist. The paintwork - more of the eye-watering fluorescent orange on his shoulders, dark grey on the central part of the chest and under the 'robo-pecs' - serves to give the impression of a more subtle, less right-angular shape. That doesn't help the fact that the mobile parts of his shoulders are basically blocks (topped with massive tank treads) and his forearms are basically blocks (with Mini-Con ports) and his right fist is basically a block (with hand detailing).

But what's this? Only his right fist? Why yes... because the asymmetry of vehicle mode continues into robot mode. While the right arm has a static Mini-Con port, the left features a slider which activates another of Megatron's weapons... a slightly weedy-looking dagger that pops out of between his thumb and fingers, then flips up to look as if it's being wielded by the spring-loaded digits of his left hand. These are the only two Mini-Con ports unique to robot mode, but all those from vehicle mode are still more-or-less accessible. Even the two Mini-Con traps - now mounted in his legs - are operable in this mode.

To complete his arsenal, Megatron's packaged Mini-Con, Leader-1, is a triple-changer (something like Over-Run, the Mini-Con packaged with the Deluxe version of Optimus Prime), becoming a deeply unconvincing double-barreled TargetMaster blaster. He can also be plugged into either of Megatron's arms in vehicle mode.

The head sculpt is a mixed bag. It's better than a lot of the chunky, bloated head sculpts that plagued the Autobots' ranks in Armada, but it's got those honking great robo-antlers that look silly rather than menacing. It's all molded in the blueish plastic, painted with dark grey, metallic purple and, yes, even more of that migraine-inducing orange. It's fairly typical of the helmeted look some Armada figures had (very similar, in some respects, to Hoist and Smokescreen), but also similar enough to Beast Wars Megatron that it kind of works.
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Mini-Con Partner Leader-1:
Considering this is the Mini-Con packaged with Megatron and that it's kind of a triple-changer, it's hugely disappointing. The vehicle mode looks like a folded up robot with a cockpit on its back and guns protruding from its feet, and the robot mode isn't much more convincing. It has average articulation for a Mini-Con and more paintwork than some... but it looks rather cheap and crappy, and the face has no character at all.
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Tidal Wave Weapon Mode (aka 'Burning Megatron'):
Part of the reason I bought Armada Megatron was that he combines with the three components of Tidal Wave, which was another figure I picked up on clearance because it looked vaguely cool. Of the set, the weird flying thing becomes a backpack with no discernible purpose, the aircraft carrier becomes a bulked-up forearm and the dual-hulled gunboat becomes... a dual-hulled gunboat mounted on Megatron's arm. This mode necessitates the movement of tank mode's turret to Megatron's front, so the main cannon can no longer point forward... but it does mean that his dual missile launcher is pointing in something approaching the right direction...

As you can probably gather from the photos, Megatron's transformation isn't exactly complex - the legs basically pull straight down, the feet and heel spurs flip up, the arms fold out of the front tank treads and the plate in front of his face is withdrawn into the body. That last step is interesting, if only because extending the plate from his body is pretty much pointless to begin with. His face points to the ground in vehicle mode.

I'd have to say that articulation is the low point of this model. After all the cool sound effects and the myriad ways for him to interact with Mini-Cons, Megatron is a bit of a brick. No matter how mobile his arms are - and they are pretty good - nothing detracts from the huge tank treads sticking out of his shoulders. Making matters worse, while he has waist articulation, he's practically immobile below the waist. His hips could so easily have been universal joints, but they only move outward for transformation. His knees could easily have accommodated similar joints, but they only bend inward for transformation. That said, if they did bend in a sensible fashion, he'd still be limited by his enormous brick feet...

Armada Megatron, like Optimus Prime and Unicron, succeeds as a toy in spite of all its flaws. It has plenty of interactivity, with and without Mini-Cons (and, certainly, there are very few Mini-Cons which would actually fit his leg traps), while the added bonus of fairly well-thought-out sound effects and the ability to combine with Tidal Wave makes for excellent play value. My only gripes would be that those same sound effects are irritatingly easy to activate (particularly the one activated by moving the turret, though the machine gun effect often doesn't actually require the presence of a Mini-Con to set it off), and that the dual mortar can stubbornly refuse to properly reset. The lack of poseability is mind-boggling considering this is the same toyline that gave us 'Bendy Prime'... But with Hasbro remaking Armada Starscream as a super-articulated Deluxe in the new Generations line, maybe they'll follow up with an improved, Deluxe-scaled Armada Megatron... Then again, without all the extra features of this model, the additional articulation wouldn't be that great.

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