Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Armada Thundercracker

Hasbro and Takara/Takara Tomy are an interesting pair of companies: they are ostensibly working on the same toyline in TransFormers, but frequently handle them in a very different way (and often with a very different story coming out the redubbing of the same TV series). One case in point - rather ancient now, being from a toyline that appeared 14 years ago - was the Decepticon jets in TransFormers Armada, where Takara Tomy introduced Starscream and had him later develop a 'Supermode', while Hasbro evidently took one look at Supermode Starscream and decided he looked sufficiently similar to G1 Thundercracker to turn him into a unique character for their version of the continuity...

Vehicle Mode:
...And, honestly, you can see why. This very much fits in with Thundercracker's traditional blue, red, black and silver colourscheme. The jet is identical to Starscream in terms of the sculpt, but I really like the adjusted paint job and the way it fits the details - particularly on the wings, where the red stripe starts at the leading edge, then swings toward the back so as to partially disguise the black plastic used for the 'sword'. Unlike a lot of more recent Thundercrackers (or those that homage the G1 character, at least), this one uses a nice, rich blue, but the red is very dull and flat... not to mention sloppily applied in places. The black and blue paints, where used, match the plastic colours quite well, and the silver paint is used sparingly - for effect more in robot mode than vehicle mode. The sculpted Decepticon insignias on his wings are painted purple, but it's a blanket coating where Arms Micron Starscream has only the raised areas painted (not sure about AM Starscream Supermode - having searched for images, all I can find are photos of Armada Thundercracker), and Armada Skywarp has the insignia outlined in white.

Due to the choices in plastic colour, Thundercracker's missiles ended up grey, which strikes me as a rather foolish choice... but the only other options were black and blue, so I guess they made the best of a bad selection. This mold is also a fairly early example of rubber being used for potentially breakable (or otherwise dodgy) parts, though the nose and small wings either side of the cockpit are made of a rather more rigid rubber than those of some more recent jets.

I noted in my write-up of Starscream that he has some battery-powered (3x LR44) sound effects but, at the time, didn't have any batteries to try them out. That being the case, I decided to nick some batteries from a couple of other toys (some convenient TF Prime Poweriser weapons) and stick three into Thundercracker, as I'm pretty certain all three of Hasbro's Armada jets used the same sound chip. Pushing down on the cockpit elicits the sound of weapon fire (continuous as long as the button is held down) unless a Mini-Con is plugged in underneath, in which case a one-off 'Mini-Con deploying' sound is played. The second button, up the back, also serves two functions, depending on whether or not a Mini-Con is attached. Without, it generates what I can only guess is meant to be an engine sound (also continuous as long as it's pulled back, and staying active for about 12 seconds after release), while adding a Mini-Con first redeploys the FAST Pack-style boosters as forward-facing cannons (no sound effect other than the clatter of plastic), then activates a very 1950s Sci-Fi B-movie sound effect which is continuous as long as the switch is pulled back, or plays six times if released immediately... but it's annoying enough that twice would have been perfectly sufficient (and I really like 1950s Sci-Fi B-movies!)

Robot Mode:
...And so robot mode really ain't much different from Starscream - in terms of molded detail and the head sculpt, it's entirely identical, with the only differences being in the plastic and paint colours. The reuse of the same head sculpt is disappointing, though not unexpected given this colourscheme's original use as Supermode Starscream, but the trademark smirk looks out of place on a character Hasbro treats as Thundercracker.

There's really not much else to say about this, except that robot mode reveals a bit more grey plastic and a few more molded details. Also, unlike AM Starscream, the Decepticon insignias on his forearms are painted purple though, like those on his wings, it's blanket coverage.

No changes are made to the sound effects in robot mode though, obviously, the Mini-Con deployment effect is basically unavailable as the button which activates that - as opposed to the gunfire sound effect - is now hidden behind his jet-nose-crotch... making Zapmaster even more useless than he was in Thundercracker's jet mode.

Mini-Con Partner Zapmaster:
I really don't have much to say about this fella... He was crap with Starscream, he's crap with Thundercracker. Poorly conceived, poorly executed, with a more drab colourscheme and minimal paintwork - even less than the original, in fact!

One thing I neglected to comment on when writing about AM Starscream was the amount of asymmetrical detailing on this toy - the jet's nose and the legs feature very different detailing on each side, and I always appreciate little things like that, because perfect symmetry is dull. On a related note, the hip ratchets in mine seem to be misaligned, as the left leg tends to drift forward a couple of degrees versus the right. Given the mold differences between the legs, I'm a little surprised the wings don't follow the same pattern (beyond the obvious difference that one transforms into a sword/baton).

Ultimately, though, this is another simple repaint from Hasbro, worth considering only if you're a Seeker completist or simply if the mold appeals to you. It's quite amusing that, since I wrote about Starscream, Hasbro/Takara Tomy have not only created an updated, Deluxe class Generations Armada Starscream (which Takara Tomy then repainted as Supermode Starscream), but they made just about all the changes I suggested in that write-up. I'm not planning on buying any of the variants, but I will be getting the TFCC 2016 Membership Incentive figure Ramjet at some point, so it'll be interesting to make a comparison.

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