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Optimus Prime

Transformers: Armada
by yo go re

Everything '80s is undergoing a revival, and that includes toys. While GI Joe is again fronting for the Military-Industrial Complex and He-Man has returned to make the world safe for freaks in fur underwear, the Transformers never really went away. There has always been a Transformers show in one form or another. Most of them were terrible.

When the robots in disguise finally returned to disguising themselves as robots, things were looking up. True, Optimus Prime wasn't an 18-wheeler any more, but he was still decent. When Transformers: Armada was announced, old-school fans got some good news: Prime was back to his old self!

Once again a red and blue tractor-trailer, Optimus Prime was a blend of old and new. Transform the cab into a robot, and the trailer automatically transformed into a base. Pretty swank. Also pretty expensive. If you wanted Prime, you had to drop almost $50 for him.

Hasbro, not wanting anyone to be left out (and not being ones to pass up a quick buck) soon released a second Optimus Prime. A bit smaller, and a bit less complex, this Prime was cab-only: no electronics, no trailer, affordable price. Score!

In vehicle mode, Optimus is a little more than 5½" long. His "glass" is a nice metallic silver, though his wheels are molded plastic rather than rubber. Lame.

His transformation to robot mode is pretty simple: his feet are under the rear wheels, his arms are the smokestacks, and the grill folds down to reveal his head and become his chest. Not an exact copy of '80s Prime, but a fine approximation. And there's no mistaking that head. Since Hasbro didn't have to work around electronics or alternate modes, this Prime has much better articulation than his big brother.

There is a small problem with Optimus Prime's elbows: the joints are designed to turn (inexplicably) inward. When turned to the front as they should be, his arms cannot bend very far without pushing smokestacks forward and over his hands. Other than that, everything works well: he's articulated at the neck, shoulders, elbows, waist, hips, knees and ankles. That give you a lot of playability for something so affordable.

Since this is an Armada figure, he comes with a tiny, retarded robot. In Prime's case, it's Over-Run, an inexplicably named jet plane. 2¾" long and with a 2⅜" wingspan, Over-Run is a tiny little thing. His transformation is necessarily simplistic: fold the wings up and spread his legs, rotate his arms out from underneath and fold the nose down to reveal his head. In plane form, Over-Run has retractable landing gear, which is a nice feature on something this small.

Like all the Mini-Cons, Over-Run unlocks special features on the larger 'bots. Hooked to Prime's back, he releases the "super punch" feature, which is really little more than Optimus shaking his shoulders. In addition to transforming between plane and robot, Over-Run becomes a gun by folding his wings down and dropping his tail backwards into the body.

Prime's smokestacks fall off easily, but some superglue will take care of that. In his vehicle mode, there's a hitch that suggests he'll be able to pull some future accessories. Overall, Armada Super-Con Optimus Prime is a good value, and a great alternative for those who don't want to spend a lot of money.

-- 05/20/03


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