There were a few Transformers who really intrigued me as a kid: the two-in-one Punch/Counterpunch, who could transform into either an Autobot or a Decepticon was one, for instance; so were the Headmasters, robots whose transformations depended on a smaller 'bot that became their head.
Imagine, then, how happy I was when both of those themes were combined into one new character for Armada, Sideways.
Sideways is a conscientious, ninja-like warrior who races to battle. Disguised as a sports bike he exceeds speeds of 250mph. Mysterious and silent, he reveals little about himself except a fierce drive to confront the enemy and quickly return to Cybertron. On Earth, he undergoes a personality change that gives him both a good and a bad side based on Mini-con influence. This split makes him highly unpredictable. It's hard to predict which half of his split personality will win in the end - the good side or the evil side!
I liked Sideways when I first saw him on the cartoon: not just because he was a fairly decent character, but because his vehicle mode seemed particularly inventive. Yes, we've had motorcycles before, but how many of them have included a rider?
In vehicle mode, Sideways is a fairly nice racing motorcycle, which makes sense: Japanese designers aren't going to immediately think of a Harley as inspiration, and these little rice burners have a dynamic enough chassis to make the robot look good, as well. The bike looks great, with shiny blue headlights, rolling wheels (that are sculpted to include disc brakes) and an ergonomic seat.
In robot form, Sideways does look appropriately menacing. He's fairly thin, so he looks fast, but his chest is bulky enough to suggest that he really packs some power. He's still mainly purple and yellow, and the more I look at him, the more I hope a repaint shows up sometime. Or, actually, "not," since I'd then feel obligated to buy it. Such dichotomy!
Sideways is kind of lacking in the articulation department, since he really only moves at the hips and shoulders. I don't think it would have been too hard to get some more points in there, some knees and a waist, at least, so Sideways will spend a lot of time just standing around watching your battles. Well, at least the bike's exhaust pipes become some nifty missile that he can fire to defend himself.
What really stands out about this toy is the Minicon - or, more accurately, Minicons. Sideways is the first figure to come with two Minicons, and the first to come with Minicons that do not turn into vehicles. Crosswise and Rook have fairly bland robot forms (even if they are kinda fat): it's their alternate forms that matter.
Both figures transform into new heads for Sideways, and each, when attached, will switch his allegiance to either Autobot or Decepticon. Too cool! Even better than that, the pair combine to become the unnamed robot who rides Sideways in bike mode. These guys have everything!
Biker Bot is a pretty good figure. He has no official name, so most fans are coming up with their own - me, I call him "Castle," because that's just the kind of obscure joke I like. He stands about 3" tall and is articulated at the shoulders, elbows, hips and knees. He fits on Sideways well, though he does look a little undersized, but it's still a very nice function that we haven't seen before.
There was a bit of confusion with the Minicons, though. Originally, Rook - the light purple Minicon - turned Sideways into an Autobot, while Crosswise - black - changed him to a Decepticon. Simple enough, right?
Then Sideways showed up on the cartoon, with the allegiances reversed, so the toy followed suit. Even the instructions included with the toys still list them the old way. The black head really did look better as a Decepticon (dark face with red eyes = evil, you know?), so those who got their Sideways early really lucked out. I liked the original set-up so much that I cracked him open and switched the logos. It's not show-accurate, but who will ever notice?
So, where do Sideways' loyalties really lie? Well, we don't know. He betrayed, spied on and secretly helped both the Autobots and Decepticons while he was on the show, before proclaiming himself to be above both factions. It's rumored that he might be a herald of the long-awaited Unicron, but for now he remains an enigma.
Who's your favorite under-appreciated Transformer? Tell us on our message board, the Loafing Lounge.