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Masterpiece Starscream

Transformers
by yo go re

In their war with the Decepticons, the Autobots had a secret weapon. No, not teamwork, or friendship, or anything silly like that. And no, not Omega Supreme or their human friends. It wasn't even anything that was actually on their side. No, the Autobots would have been destroyed in minutes if it wasn't for Starscream actively trying to undermine Megatron every second of the day.

Starscream

Reproduced exactly as he originally appeared in the hit cartoons and comics of the 1980s; this is a figure truly worthy of one of the most skilled and deadly Decepticon warriors. Chosen because of his phenominal skill and bloodthirsty nature to lead the elite air warriors of the Decepticon army, Starscream is a name known and feared across the face of Cybertron and beyond. So supreme is he in his element that wherever he goes, the skies belong to him alone.

Starscream was one of the original Transformers released in the US in 1984, which means two things: one, he was featured heavily in the cartoon, since there weren't a lot of characters competing for air time; and two, his toy was an absolute mess. Transforming him basically meant taking off all the parts, changing him around slightly, then putting some of the parts back on. The toy looked almost nothing like the animated version, requiring a huge leap in kids' imagination to connect the two. And that's not necessarily a bad thing, but still, fans wanted a toy that really captured the look of the character.

After Hasbro and Takara released their Masterpiece Optimus Prime, rumors began to circulate about more offerings in the line. There was the obvious Ultra Magnus repaint, but there was more - eventually, pictures of a prototype Starscream surfaced, promising more goodness to come.

The first thing you'll notice about Starscream is that he's small - get your scale on well, compared to the giant MP Prime, at least. He stands 9" tall to the tip of his shoulder towers, which puts him somewhere between Prime and the Alternators. While the original toy could barely move his arms, Masterpiece Starscream moves at the neck, shoulders, biceps, elbows, wrist, waist, hips, thighs, knees and ankles, as well as a few other joints for his wings and such. The jet's thrusters serve as his heels, and are on balljoints so you can make him stand up easily. He has another five joints in each hand - thumb (balljoint), index finger (balljoint at the base, hinge in the middle) and remaining three fingers (balljoint at the base, hinge in the middle).

The fingers were mis-assembled on my Starscream, this line right here is real important but it was easy to correct: just remember, the curved part of the finger tip should face the palm, and the fingers should fold downward easily, not upward. If you need to fix yours, just pull the fingertips off, use the balljoint to rotate the lower section, and plug them back in. Very simple. Just don't drop any of the pieces.

When MP-03 Starcream (not to be confused with MP3 Soundwave) was released in Japan, there was no announcement of a US release, so a lot of fans paid importers' prices to get one of their own. They found that Takara had chosen a weird dark grey-green color for the figure, rather than the more traditional color scheme. Well, despite how much the Transfanboys like to look down their noses at Hasbro's paint apps, this is one case where they had to admit that Hasbro got things right - the US release is the classic gray, red and blue, and really shows how weird Takara's color choices were.

Starscream is armed with his iconic weapons, Megatron not included the null ray cannons which can interrupt the flow of electricity in any circuitry for up to two minutes. The 4¼" guns plug into his upper arms above the elbow hinges but below the biceps swivel, so they turn with the arm for some really nice "threatening" poses. The turbines on his chest can be raised to reveal missile batteries, as happened a few times on the show.

While Starscream doesn't come with any bonus weapons, his plentiful finger articulation means that he can wield the Megatron that came with MP Prime. That happened plenty of times in the cartoon, but obviously wasn't something the old toy could do. Well, there was a Commemorative Series release that included a tiny Megatron and new fists designed to hold him, but that didn't come out until 2003, 19 years after the fact.

There's some major jet kibble around Starscream's legs. some hip options Rather than having the plane's tailfins on the outside of his ankles like the old toy and the Classics version, they're on long strips of fuselage that attach to balljoints at his hips. Why did they do it this way? Well, the cartoon showed Starscream with unadorned legs, rather than having tailfins there, and the toy was trying to re-create that look. There are a couple of workarounds for this problem. The "real" transformation has them sticking straight out behind the robot, so they can't be seen at all from the front, but that leaves him back-heavy. You can pop the pieces off the balljoints and plug them onto his ankles, but that seems superfluous to me. I just leave them hanging straight down, which keeps the fins near where they should be without having to take anything apart or unbalance the figure.

One of the coolest little features on the figure, though? Two-Face You can change his expression. The silver face is a separate piece from the grey head, and is basically a hollow tube held in place on a peg. You can pull the face down, spin it around, and push it back in place, giving your figure one of two expressions: a dour frown or a slight smirk, either of which work perfectly for the character, depending on what stage his newest rebellion against Megatron is in.

yes, it matters There's also one part of the transformation that everyone showing off their figure online seems to be overlooking: the air-intake towers on his shoulders should be tipped forward in robot mode, not in the same position they were in for the plane. It's a minor thing, but it matters. Why? Because it facilitates an otherwise-difficult part of the transformation. So just remember, tipped forward? Right. Tipped backwards? Wrong.

If we stopped right there, Starscream would just be a very poseable, highly detailed action figure. That's nice, but you have to have more. A real Transformer needs to earn its name by changing into something else. There have been a few figures that duplicated Starscream's cartoon appearance, but this is the first one that could also become an F-15 Eagle.

The Takara release of Starscream had notoriously brittle plastic, highway to the danger zone which felt like it was going to break when you moved him (and, in fact, did in several cases). That's another correction the Hasbro version makes: this is a nicely sturdy toy, and shouldn't fall apart in your hands. Transformation is quite complex, but after one run-through with the instructions, I had it down.

Ball up his fists, rotate his hands back, then rotate his forearms to the side and pull the hands up. Pull up the head, chest and wings, flip the shoulders upward and rotate the arms back down. Push the chest and nosecone through the body, raise the canopy, and fold down the pilot's seat. Finish bringing the nosecone up into place, then rotate the entire section to point up, locking it in place. Swing the "ribs" into the center of the body, and turn the arms inward. Push the legs together, then move the lower legs up toward the hips and plug the tailfin kibble into place. Swing the feet around and fold them against the body. Flip the wings around, raise the flaps and push that big plate down to finish the upper body.

it's as easy as that Remember how we told you that the air intakes needed to be forward? Here's where it becomes important. There's just a little bit left to do, but if the towers were leaning back, it'd be insanely frustrating trying to get the pieces in place. Fold the small flaps to the outside, turn the whole assembly around and then, as you raise the air intake to its "jet" position, everything will slide easily into place. Then just fold down the tailfins and you're finished!

In jet mode, Starscream is excellent. While Masterpiece Prime focused mainly on the robot, Masterpiece Starscream is more about the vehicle. About 12½" long, the plane has an 8½" wingspan. Since a real F-15 is more than 63' long, that puts Starscream in a 1:60 scale, far too small to blend in with the 1:24 Alternators. To fit with those guys, he'd have to be more than twice the size he is now. 1:60 is popular with Gundam kits (another Japanese favorite), but the only TFs he'd be in scale with are the original Minibots, like Bumblebee or Windcharger. Maybe.

Despite that, there's lots of authentic detailing on the plane. The flaps move, the landing gear play features can be lowered, the canopy opens, the nose cone flips aside to reveal a detailed radar assembly, the air brake raises from the back of the plane, and panels above the engies raise for maintenance access. This really is a nice representation of an F-15 Eagle, especially since it's painted the correct shade of gray. Hasbro also airbrushed a dirty grey down the center of the plane, to suggest the kind of stains left by exhaust and smoke over the years.

that looks fine, until you see the US release Takara's release of Masterpiece Starscream got a lot of mixed reactions, due mainly to its paint job. Most fans disliked the odd grey-green used for the body, while others claimed that made it look more realistic as a plane. Some said that since no real service jets had ever been painted with red and blue like this, it wasn't realistic enough. And of course, the red Takara chose was more of a dark magenta, which also annoyed some. But by going with the G1 colors, Hasbro avoided all that. The gray is closer to what real jets use, the red is richer, the blue is deeper, the canopy is orange (just like it was on the cartoon) and he's even got Decepticon symbols on his wings. Takara's release had a sheet of stickers that Hasbro's doesn't, but is that going to be a deal-breaker for anyone? Hardly.

Since "null rays" aren't a real weapon, and would therefore blow his disguise, Starscream has some replacements. Specifically, four missiles that can plug under his wings - two on each side. These aren't the oversized clusterbombs of G1, but realistic missiles; AIM-9 Sidewinders. They don't come off their brackets, but they still look really good hanging under the wing. You can even leave them in place in robot mode. Of course, if you want to arm him with the cannons, you can - the pegs are the same size on both weapons. Technically the missiles should be mounted at a 45° angle from where they are, but that's a minor thing.

take THAT, Autobots! If that wasn't enough firepower yet, Starscream also comes with a small black plastic clamp. Wow, exciting! Yeah, okay, so it looks like something you'd throw away if you found it in the package of any other toy, but it serves a purpose here: plug it into the underside of Starscream's nosecone, and you can snap the Megatron gun in there. Take that, Autobots!

Starscream also has one other accessory that's never come with any other functional Transformer: a human. Yes, Spike has been seen both as a PVC figurine and a metal-encased Headmaster head, but those don't really count. This is a human figure specifically designed Dr. Arkeville to both look like a human and to pilot the vehicle. The man in question is the nefarious Dr. Arkeville, the chrome-domed mad scientist who sided with the Decepticons. Maybe you remember him from the Alternators story? Yeah, that guy.

Dr. Arkeville is a single solid piece of plastic, moled in the same light gray plastic as Starscream's body - another improvement over the Japanese version. See, the Japanese release was molded in that dark grey-green, and only given a paint app to turn his lab coat white. Which meant, yes, his skin was dark grey. This one is already molded in a light color, so his one paint app was used to turn his face pink, making for a much better-looking accessory. Despite being molded in a sitting position, Dr. Arkeville is just about 1" tall, which, given our 1:60 scale, is perfect: do the math, and you'll find he'd be 4'4½" seated, and 5'7½" standing up.

Original plans called for MP Starscream to come with a few other accessories; namely, the cape and crown he wore at his coronation in Transformers: The Movie. You can even see the folding tabs in his shoulders where the cape would have plugged in place. Neither the US or Japanese release has these extras, but our Starscream does have his crown, sort of: it's painted on the sides of the cockpit. Maybe Takara will release Starscream with these extras sometime in the future - after all, look at how they milked Optimus with release after release. Still, it's not really worth waiting just for those. You can be sure kitbashers are already working on versions they can sell you.

Sold in a large, angular box with Classics-style graphics all over it, Masterpiece Starscream comes with a large grey display base measuring 7 wide, 4¼" wide and a full ¾" thick. The base is covered with intricate technological detailing, rather than being smooth and flat. base montage There's a Decepticon symbol on the top, and a nameplate in the front. The clip that holds Megatron under the nosecone can be stored underneath the base, and whichever weapons you aren't using - the Sidewinders or the null rays - can be plugged into the top so you don't lose them. It's a very nice base, but we're not done yet.

The set also includes a clear 6" display stand shaped vaguely like a lightning bolt. There are 1¼" long notches on the rear and right of the base this stand can slide into. Depending on which side of the stand you put in, there are special connectors that allow you to display Starscream "flying" in either jet or robot mode. Awesome! The connections are sturdy - a hook and bracket for the plane, a simple hole for a peg on the robot's waist - and the toy looks superb displayed in either mode. And when you're not using it, the clear stand can be stored under the base, as well. With the great level of detail in the sculpt and a dark paint wash bringing out the details, this toy looks like a high-end statue when it's on its display.

Masterpiece Starscream is an absolutely fantastic toy, make no mistake. He may look small at first glance, but don't be fooled - this one is highly recommended for any oldschool Transformer fan. A must-buy. The paint is better, the quality of the plastic is better, and yet this Wal*Mart exclusive costs only about 1/3 as much as the Japanese release. We're paying less for a better toy? If this wasn't basically a re-release of a toy from last year, it would be a strong competitor for the ToY Awards. Heck, it might still be, based on the improvements alone.


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