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Astrotrain

Transformers Generations
by yo go re

Okay, let's try this again.

Hasbro released an Astrotrain during the "Titans Return" phase of their Transformers line, but it was crap. So crap that merely playing with it made me go out and spend money on a third-party import. Now that their release plan seems to be "the same things, over and over forever," they've released a new Astrotrain in the "Earthrise" segment.

Hey, it has been a full three years, why wouldn't they want to go back to a character as vitally important as the cruel Decepticon army captain and transport, Astrotrain?

With his dark grey body, this Astrotrain is more an homage to the G1 cartoon than the G1 toy. His body is thick and blocky, but covered with tons of extraneous detail, as is the style at the time. The point of greeblies is to make small things look larger, but the... shall we say, "over-enthusiastic" sculpting of all these little details serve only to make the toy look rough and unfinished. What works in photos doesn't necessarily work in person.

Additionally, since they're aiming for the cartoon, he's once again missing the proper tailfin-shield on his chest, and his head looks very little like it did in the '80s: he has two eyes, instead of a visor, and the "helmet" is a different, simpler shape, with a yellow stripe over the top. The silver face contrasts well with the purple, though.

Astrotrain has a balljointed head, swivel/hinge shoulders, swivel biceps, double-hinged elbows, a swivel waist, swivel/hinge hips, hinged knees, and rocker ankles. There are also thigh swivels, but they're surprisingly stiff, and initially did not want to turn at all. His weapons include two JF-50 Ionic Displacer Blasters, a JF-30 Astro Blaster, a W-15 Destabilizer Cannon, and a W-40 Turbo-Core Derailer. In other words, four black guns and one black missile launcher. They can all plug onto him at various points, or combine into one fantastic super-gun.

While Siege had the COMBAT System, Earthrise introduces the "highly advanced" AIR Locks: little bases with interlocking ramps. Astrotrain's base thing functions as a backpack in this mode, with two panels disconnecting to become... shoes? They plug into his feet and help hold him upright even with the added weight of the backpack and the guns.

Converting the robot to the first of his two altmodes is easy: fold the arms up over the head, raise the engines off his back, flip over the chest to reveal the tailfin, and get the cockpit out of the shins. The only tricky bit is remembering to flip over the little panels in front of the hips, or the armor won't close correctly.

This is a rather Earth-like space shuttle, as opposed to the weird alien one from Titans Return. It looks like a larger incarnation of the Generation 1 shuttle mode, complete with large docking bay doors between the wings and the cockpit. There's a section between those doors and the tail that feels bare and unfinished, but it does allow you to plug the weapons on. The "battle damaged" paint that was previously on the robot's shins makes a lot more sense in this mode, since it just looks like heat scoring from multiple re-entries rather than... slop.

The AIR Lock thing (a name that makes a lot more sense when it's coming with a space shuttle than when it's coming with, say, a truck) has two functions in this mode: first, it can fold down into a treaded crawler to transport the shuttle from its hangar to the launch pad, and the secondly, it can turn into the launch pad. Neat!

Again, the "astro"-to-"train" conversion is a lot like the G1 figure: put the tail fin away, fold the wings around the top of the shuttle, and rotate the cockpit around so you can expose the front of the train.

For the first time since 1986, Astrotrain's train mode is an old-fashioned steam locomotive. Is it too "trukk not munky" to prefer that over more modern things? Eh, probably, but the problem with the last one wasn't that he looked like a diesel engine, the problem was that he had a bunch of excess kibble and a highly uninspired design. You want to do a modern engine? Fine, do one, but make it look like a train, you know? (And not a bullet train, because that's cheating.)

Astrotrain's purple really comes out in this mode, while the other two were mainly grey. In this mode, the AIR Lock box serves like a coal car for the steam engine (though a truly massive one with some tank treads and no sign of coal), and it can also store all the weapons if you're not using them.

The paint on Astrotrain isn't great - a lighter gray would have been a nicer choice, and the toy would of course have been better without the silvery "battle damage" - but the biggest flaw is that they felt the need to include the AIR Lock box. Ditch that thing, ditch the battle damage paint, maybe cut back on the weapons, and this would be an amazing Voyager Class release, possibly Toy of the Year material. Selling him with extra junk just to hit the Leader Class pricepoint is a waste of everyone's money, both ours as customers and theirs as developers/manufacturers. This is the best Astrotrain in years, but... maybe wait for a sale?

-- 03/10/20


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