Friday, 25 March 2016

Superlink Nightscream Reverse/Rebirth

When Nightscream/Starscream first turned up in the Superlink/Energon TV series, he was a ghost, Starscream having been apparently killed off at the end of Armada. While the original take on the toy - from both Hasbro and Takara - didn't interest me much due to both having uniquely drab colourschemes, the repaint, in more G1-like colours, was just as different between the two toymakers but, while Hasbro went straight G1, to the extent of ignoring much of the molded damage detail, Takara Tomy kept the basic idea of the original, but brightened the palette considerably.

Vehicle Mode:
One of the reasons I wasn't so keen on getting this interpretation of Starscream was that this is basically a marginally-upgraded G2 Cyberjet. It's surprisingly similar to Smokejumper from the RiD/Car Robots Dreadwind & Smokejumper set, even down to the raised Energon chip port directly referencing a similar molded detail that was only there to accommodate (and partially disguise) Smokejumper's neck joint. As yet another TransFormers jet that's loosely based on the F-22 Raptor, Nightscream is not exactly the most successful and, proportionally, it's probably chunkier than the first movie Starscream. The stabiliser wings are mounted on the robot's shins, so they're far lower down on the jet than they should be, making them effectively invisible - obscured by the main wings - from some angles. Also, the sheer size of the legs tagged onto the undercarriage, and the fact that the lower legs peg in quite loosely toward the back almost make them seem like cargo rather than parts of the jet. This effect is exacerbated the the scant detailing and weird arrangement at the back - which are the afterburners: the robot's grey feet, or those two protruding details between the wings and the tailfins?

I may be mistaken, but the nose appears to have been sculpted to vaguely resemble that of the Armada version, just with a translucent canopy without any of the original's linework and a semi-detailed cockpit within. There's also a curious - yet strangely familiar - upward slope to the body of the jet, running from the downward-pointing nose to the raised back end, the effect of which is most noticeable when looking at the wings from the side. With wings at that angle, I doubt a jet could get itself off the ground.

Most of the fuselage is cast in Starscream's traditional off-white, though this plastic has a slightly pearlescent quality, quite apart from the use of silver paint in the panel lines. In places, it looks as though the silver paint was supposed to be a wash - to bring out the panel line and structural damage details - and just wasn't properly wiped off, while other areas seem to be intentionally covered with silver. As well as a nice, rich scarlet on the nose and a couple of blocks either side of his Energon star connection point, the nose features a painted black tip (topside only, curiously) and a touch of gold on the intakes either side (being the only instances of that colour on the entire toy). The original's translucent tealish plastic for the wings has been replaced with a nice, clean blue which fits quite well with the typical Starscream colours. There are plenty of molded damage details, but only one - on the left wing - has been painted for a greenish-yellow 'Energon glow' effect. Some details, as previously mentioned, are highlighted by silver, but quite a bit of the 'damage' has been left unpainted. It's all far more interesting that the original Nightscream/Starscream colourscheme, but the paint job somehow seems unfinished.

This mold has a decent set of landing gear - one long one folds down from the nose, and two small partial wheels flip out from the lower legs on small panels. They're not much more than perfunctory, but they work pretty well and the rear landing gear could easily have been replaced by semicircular nubs on the legs if they had wanted to cut costs/corners.

The weapons are molded such that they can be attached to the undersides of the wings but, really, they're too big, and who attaches a melee weapon to their wings anyway? Nightscream also has spring-loaded missile launchers, but they're not accessible in jet mode without unpegging the wings.

Robot Mode:
The weird thing about this figure is that, despite ticking all the relevent boxes in terms of its silhouette - wings sticking out of his back, cockpit on the torso, two protrusions across his shoulders - and its colourscheme - off white, red and blue are the predominant colours - nothing about it really says "Starscream" to me. They could have made him just about any new character, and I'd think it was cool... but for Megatron's ever-scheming second in command, it's lacking a certain je ne sais quoi.

...And I really don't know what it's missing... it should work... as the newly-corporeal form of Nightscream, the translucent parts of the original have been retained (Hasbro's version molded the right upper arm in opaque white plastic in an attempt to disguise the sculpted damage but simply leaving it unpainted didn't quite do the job),

One thing that becomes more apparent in robot mode than it was in jet mode is that a grand total of three different blue plastics are used - the translucent blue of the wings and weapons, a faintly pearlised, super-glossy blue for his lower legs, left shoulder and right forearm, and a marginally paler, matte blue for any 'functional' parts and the left arm. This figure must have had some pretty jumbled plastic sprues...

Nightscream came packaged with the same oversized, combining rifle and sword combo as the original release, molded in the same translucent blue as his wings. While the rifle is unpainted, the blade at the tip of the sword has been lightly sprayed silver to highlight the edge. Individually, they don't look too bad - though the gun looks way too big for a figure the size of Nightscream - but combined into one large anime/videogame-style megasword, they become completely unwieldy. On a form of figure known for having weak elbows, long, heavy weapons are a terrible idea.

The big gimmick with Energon/Superlink Decepticons was their Hypermode feature and, honestly, I was surprised that a figure as small as Nightscream actually has one, and that it's another evolution of the G2 Cyberjet design - unpeg the wings from the body, flap them down and rotate them up over his shoulders, and a pair of missile launchers are revealed. Weirdly, the missiles included have tails far longer than they need to be for the mechanism - something like an inch of plastic sticks out of the back of the launchers. Whether this is a measure intended to reduce the choking risk, I don't know... but the long blue protrusions don't do much to improve the look of his wings.

What I haven't included in any of my photos are the additional bits he came with. Just like Galvatron G and Roadbuster W, Nightscream R comes with an Energon star and a weapon from one of the other toys, in this case Energon/Superlink Insecticon/Chrome Horn's Energon drill/cannon combo. The cannon always struck me as needing a large fist to hold it because the guard - which doubled as shielding for Insecticon/Chrome Horn's head - is so large and, while the 'drill' can be held like a sword, it looks more like a slim Energon Christmas decoration. It also seems, now, that I've managed to lose a couple of Energon stars, Nightscream's among them... which is a bit of a pain.
The head sculpt is tiny and fairly basic. It carries some elements of the Armada version, but has about as much in common with the Galaxy Force Thundercracker head sculpt and lacks Starscream's trademark smirk. Again, it's something that's rather Cyberjet about the model, rather than being uniquely Starscream/Nightscream and, at best, it's on a par with one of the Energon/Superlink combiner components rather than the more interesting sculpts that came out of the line.

This mold was clearly not conceived with any notion of turning it into a GERWALK, even with the above-the-knee rotation joint allowing his legs to bend the right way. There's no way to get the arms below the wings and, while the wings can be finagled into the right orientation by rotating the back into its robot mode position, then swinging the wings 180° backward so they're the right way up again, that leaves them sticking out almost level with his nose. On the upside, it does mean the missile launchers are facing the right way, even if the triggers are inaccessible. Still... there is something undeniably awesome in this wacky configuration... or am I alone in that opinion?

The basic transformation is the usual G2 Cyberjet thing, the only real changes are to the lower legs, where the jet's stabiliser wings flip round 180° so that they end up at his knees rather than getting in the way of his feet. That said, if it ain't broken, don't fix it... right?

The big changes for this incarnation of the design are all to the benefit of Starscream's articulation. The shoulders may not peg into place, but the flaps they're mounted on are slightly bulkier than the usual, stay more firmly in place and don't stand out quite so far from the body. the rest of the shoulder articulation is about par for the course, though the chest and wing sections place minor restrictions on their forward and backward movement as the shoulder armour is quite bulky. The elbows are typically floppy - not surprising considering the minimalist construction of the joint - but the other joints are reasonably sturdy and stiff enough to hold a pose well. The legs may not have much thigh swivel - that all comes from the hip ball joint - but there is a rotation joint just above the knee. The feet, being the 'new standard' of two hinged flaps, help him remain stable even when they're not perfectly flat on the ground, but I find the rear flaps on mine looser than the front, which can lead to him toppling over backwards in some poses.

While I like this figure as an improvement on an old staple design, I don't really see it as Starscream, even with such a G1 homaging colourscheme. It's strange that I can accept the Armada design as Starscream, despite such a massive change to his design, while this one doesn't work... but perhaps it's because the G2 Cyberjet format has been so extensively overused in the TransFormers brand history. It's not a bad figure overall... it's just too small and too generic to be an entirely suitable homage to the Decepticon Air Commander.

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