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Nebular Starscream

Transformers ROTF
by yo go re

Because I'm so notoriously cheap, I don't like buying multiple versions of the same character. I got one of each of the Autobots from the first movie, so I didn't need any of the versions from the second movie. And since I already had a Starscream, I wasn't really interested in a new one. Yep, totally not interested. At all.

On Cybertron, tattoos are more than mere decoration. They can be packed with super conductive materials and symbiotic nano-machines to enhance a robot's sensors and strengthen his weapons. Starscream designed his tattoos to help him locate the fragments of AllSpark, as well as extend his range and power in the air. When his new sensor net detects any ancient artifact from Cybertron, they glow softly, charging his weapons and boosting his engine output.

The new mold is smaller than the previous version, despite them both being Voyager class figures. Some people view this as Hasbro trying to cheap out on the toys and screw us out of our money - a more realistic view is that everything gets more expensive, and Hasbro is trying to keep prices flat. It's just like ice cream, shampoo or cereal: used to be sold in one size, but it's been getting incrementally smaller.

This figure, Nebular Starscream, is a Kmart exclusive. No, seriously. Stop laughing, it is! Kmart's a real store, it can get exclusives people would want. The mold is the same as the standard ROTF Starscream, but the paint apps are new. His body is a rather dark grey, vastly different from all the previous Starscreams. He still has the tattoos (which I was personally no fan of when the design was revealed), and though they use the same paint masks, they're metallic green, rather than black. It's a very sharp look (though it will make you hungry for Andes Mints).

G1 Starscream was your basic boxy robot with wings hanging off his back. Movie Starscream did away with that completely, making him a look like he was built from triangles. The original toy did a good job of duplicating that, but this one is even better. To begin with, the proportions are truer: his chest is bigger than before, but his arms and legs are smaller; yes, that makes the proportions weird, but that's the way the CGI model is. The limbs aren't just shorter, they're smaller all the way around, making Starscream a very thin TF overall.

The head sculpt is much better on this figure than the old one, with better proportions, sharper detail, and a more accurate shape. To be fair, though, this one has the advantage of being sculpted after the movie model was finalized - the previous version would have been done at the same time, which would account for any variances. The back of his head is molded from translucent orange plastic, for light-piping purposes, but red paint covers the eyes.

One of the most notable features of this Starscream is that he actually has hands. You'll recall that a major problem with the first movie toy was that his arms just ended in giant Gatling guns, with missiles standing in (roughly) as fingers - a terrible design marring an otherwise okay toy. Now Starscream has hands, real hands, and the guns are just mounted on the backs of his arms. For a lot of people, that alone will be worth the price of admission. The instructions suggest there's a hinge in the middle of the hand, though there isn't, and the packaging calls out "pop-out missile launchers," but they're just sculpted in place on the final product - the remnants remain, though, in the form of sculpted hinges where the guns would have moved.

Rather than the "Automorph technology" of the first movie, the Transformers 2 toys have "Mech Alive" features, which means small gears or panels that move as you move the figure. Nebular Starscream's feature can be found in the panels of his ches: as you turn his head from side to side, eight gears buried deep in the sculpt spin back and forth. It's very cool, and definitely one of the better examples of Mech Alive implementation in the line.

Nebular Starscream is packaged in robot mode rather than jet mode, and obligingly, his instructions run the same way. Push in the panels on his chest, unfold the wings on his back, spin the lower arms around and push them up into the upper arms. Spread the waist-flaps and fold down the small flaps on the shoulders. Straighten and contract the legs and raise the arms to the side. Flip the legs out, unhook the groin and spread the torso to the sides. Turn the chest panels to face the rear, then bring the two legs together. Raise the nosecone, move the wings into place and you're done.

Starscream still turns into an F-22 Raptor, but this is far better than the previous iteration. Better than any Transformer F-22, really. There's still some robot kibble visible, but it's minimal - just the arms and hands. Without a bunch of junk hidden under the body, the plane is appropriately thin, and ends up looking quite realistic. The missing hand joints would have helped to hide those from view, but it's not nearly as bad as the '07 plane.

The plane is 8½" long, 6¼" wide and about 2" tall. The missiles can be stored under the wings, and the landing gear folds down. The front gear actually folds down twice: there's an extra hinge to make it fit beneath the cockpit. The "tattoos" really show off in this mode, and the green-on-grey looks a ton better than the black-on-beige.

Nebular Starscream is packaged in an angular box, much like the Best Buy exclusive Megatron was. It really shows off the figure beautifully, and I can tell you that getting to see Starscream in robot mode is half the reason I bought the figure. However, the real surprise comes from the twist ties. Yes, the twist ties. They're all over the figure like we've grown to accept, but they're not the usual thing strips of wire sleeved in plastic; instead, they're just plain paper, rolled tightly into thin strings, then tied like usual. They're easy to cut through even with plain scissors, and they're 100% recyclable. This is quite honestly a brilliant move on Hasbro's part, and it's something I'd love to see expand to not only the rest of the Transformers, but the entire industry. It's a solution that works just as well as what we have now, but creates less garbage, and that's admirable. Hasbro, keep it up. Everyone else, get on board.

At the beginning of the review, when I said I didn't have any intention of buying TF2 Starscream, I meant it. I already had one, and the tattoos looked bad. But Nebular Starscream has a great color scheme, and the new sculpt is well worth the purchase. He's one of the most unique airplane TFs we've ever had, and a lot of fun to play with. Even if you got a Starscream from the first movie, Nebular Starscream makes it worth upgrading.

-- 03/30/10


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