I was never a big Transformers fan as a kid - I was more into He-Man and GIJoe.
Probably because they were cheaper, so that's what everyone bought me. At any rate, I've really had to put some time into learning about the Transformers in order to deliver the best reviews possible (and to figure out what's going on in the comics). Still, there were a few Transformers that I did know by name back then, and one of them has just gotten a great update.
Although nearly as capable as his twin brother Sunstreaker in the combat arts, Sideswipe is far less cold blooded about it. He thoroughly relishes engaging an opponent in a fight to the finish, and will use any dirty underhanded tactic he can think of to come out on top. Back on his home world of Cybertron this conduct extended itself to the rest of his lifestyle: getting what he can out of life, enjoying it to the fullest, and cheating to get the rest. His exile to Earth hasn't changed his behavior, just his cause - now instead of doing everything for himself he does it for the sake of freedom for all. Personal safety takes a backseat to his reckless, but brave actions.
Back in Generation 1, Sideswipe was a sweet red Lamborghini Countach, one of the most recognizable sports cars around. The idea behind the Alternators is simple: robots in disguise. Which, okay, yes, is the basic premise behind all of the Transformers. This time Hasbro has licensed real designs from manufacturers, re-creating specific cars with uncanny detail.
Alternators Sideswipe is still a sleek sports car,
but since the Countach is no longer in production, Hasbro went with a newer roadster, the Dodge Viper. In car form, Sideswipe is entirely indistinguishable from the real thing. The fastest and most powerful automobile Chrysler has ever made, the Viper was the mid-90s Holy Grail for gearheads. A bit of research reveals that this is specifically a 2003 Dodge Viper SRT-10 - if you've got $79,995, you can own a Sideswipe of your own.
Even the interior of the car is detailed. The dashboard has all the readouts and gauges of the real vehicle, a few speakers scattered about, a gearshift, parking brake and moving steering wheel. The hood and both doors open. This really is a terrific 1/24 scale model of the SRT-10, and would be a perfect addition for any car fan's collection. But this is a Transformer, so we're not finished yet.
Sideswipe doesn't draw as heavily from his G1 namesake as the first Alternator, Smokescreen, did. His head used to be under the hood, for instance, but now it's in the trunk. Still, there are a lot of visual hints to his previous form in shapes and colors and kibble. The transformation begins by opening the hood and removing the engine. The front half of the vehicle splits to become legs, the seats fold down to help form the chest and the arms fold out of the rear. In robot form, Sideswipe stands 7 1/2" tall.
Sideswipe isn't perfect - his transformation, particularly in the arms, can be tremendously hard to get right even if you know what you're doing. There's a lot of bending and twisting to get the arms in the right position, but unless you do everything in the right order (not specified in the instructions) and have things aligned precisely, you'll just get frustrated. The steering wheel is made from a very soft rubber, because if you don't tuck it into the body just right, the wheel can get bent. Also, the robot looks top heavy: using the windshield as part of the torso adds a lot of needless bulk right above the legs.
The point of the complex transformation is that Sideswipe looks somewhat like he used to, but actually has some articulation. He moves at the neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, waist, hips, knees and ankles. He's also got two articulation points in each hand to move his fingers. In a wonderfully creative move, the car's engine folds out to become Sideswipe's gun, which doesn't really look much like the G1 version, but still looks impressive. We're missing the giant rocket launcher on his shoulder, sadly.
No, the figure isn't 100% G1 accurate, but I'd rather have a brilliantly engineered and executed approximation like this than any slavish re-release. It's great that G1 is inspiring new and better toys.
The Alternators seem to be off to a great start. With the first two American releases selling briskly and many more to come, fans have a lot to look forward to. Heck, there are even plans to release some Decepticons (even if they're just repainted cars). Sideswipe is the most recognizable character chosen yet, but let's hope they get to some of the real stars of the show soon.
What G1 toys do you want to see turned into Alternators? Tell us on our message board, the Loafing Lounge.