When the line debuted in 2004, Transformers Alternators was intended to comprise 10 vehicles, released one per month. But the toys really caught on with fans, to the point where that number was nearly tripled. However, with the pending release of the Transformers movie, Hasbro doesn't want to confuse the market with two toylines based on real-world vehicles, so the Alternators are going on an indefinite hiatus. That's fine, it's been a good run and we've gotten a lot of kickass toys from it, but there was a problem: at the very end, it looked like some of the most anticipated figures would never see the light of day.
Rumble is your basic street punk. He compensates for his small size by always acting tough. And he is tough. Cross him and he'll punch your optic sensors out. He has a quick temper and a mean disposition. The other Decepticons try to keep their distance. Yet, this unpleasant, swaggering little hoodlum is one of Megatron's favorites. Rumble follows orders blindly and hungrily; he always waits impatiently for Megatron's next assignment. A good time for Rumble is shaking a building into a heap of rubble. He loves the sight of crumbling bricks.
There is a longstanding confusion about Rumble and his visual twin, Frenzy.
The toys were identified differently on the packaging and in catalogs than they were on the cartoon, so who you knew by which name depended on what source you believed. On the cartoon Frenzy is red, Rumble is blue (FIRRIB) - and according to the toys Frenzy is blue, Rumble is red (FIBRIR). This lead to something of a split among the fans, a (mostly) good-natured arguement over FIRRIB/FIBRIR.
Back in Generation 1,
Rumble was definitely not a car. Anything but. He was, in fact, a microcassette, though the cartoon and comics portrayed him as a regular cassette tape. And while it certainly would have been... interesting if they'd made an Alternator that just turned into an out-moded storage medium, that's not what this line is about; these are literally "robots in disguise," since Hasbro has licensed actual car designs from real manufacturers, re-creating specific cars with uncanny detail.
Alternators Rumble is a Honda Civic Si, one of the few "normal" cars released in the line.
That's "ess aye," short for "Sport Injected," not "si," Spanish for "yes." Most of the other cars have been high-end models that you're unlikely to ever see unless you're hanging out in front of a Miami nightclub. Sure, the Civic Si is always the name for the highest performance Civic in a given market, but it's still more basic than a Dodge Viper or a Corvette Z06. And though the Civic is a favorite of tuners - the guys who have nothing better to do on a weeknight than park somewhere and pretend they're race car drivers - this is quite obviously a completely stock version, straight from the showroom floor.
The detailing on the car is dead-on. Witness, if you can, the tiny "Si" badge on the grill. The fact that the grill is colored, rather than black.
The unique 10-spoke wheels all spin freely, and the tires are real rubber, though they seem to sit a little too far back on the rims. Inside, the steering wheel and seats are adjustable, and everything on the instrument panel is sculpted. The hood opens to reveal the engine, and the hatchback trunk opens to reveal... a thing. Really, it's nothing recognizble - it's just a thing. Pretend it's a nitrous tank or something. Did you know Rumble is Hawaiian? That's what his license plate tells us.
On a side note, the car's seats are misassembled at the factory. The toy car's. It doesn't really impact the toy, at all - just keeps the seats from reclining as far as they should. It's, like, five milimeters at most. If you want to fix them, it's easy: just remove two screws, swap the seats, and screw them back in. Won't take three minutes.
Since Rumble doesn't even change into the same kind of object any more, you wouldn't expect that his transformation has any kind of connection. Surprisingly, there are some definite parallels. The way the arms fold over the head, the way you have to spin his legs as you fold them down... go figure. Obviously, things are much more complex - you're turning a real car into a real robot, not turning a box into a boxy robot - but there's some definite old school flavor. Once you get him transformed, Rumble stands 7½" tall. That's a big upgrade for him - in his cassette form, Rumble only turned into a human-sized robot, which at Alternators scale would be 3".
Rumble does bear somewhat of a resemblence to the G1 robot, thanks mainly to good design. The chest is blatantly intended to look like the old cassette, and you can catch hints of the old look in his shoulders and feet. He moves at the neck, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles. He has a waist, but it's locked in place by two flaps. There are no elbows or wrists because Rumble's ams are real spring-loaded piledrivers. On the show, Rumble could turn his arms into giant hammers to create earthquakes - something the old toy could not manage.
Surprisingly, Rumble gets some weapons. Considering that Honda actually forbade their last Alternator from having a gun, this was unexpected. The engine and the thing in the trunk turn into shoulder-mounted jetpack/blasters, exactly like the '80s toy had. They clip onto the car's roof, so they poke up above the robot's head just as they should. Too cool.
Rumble, here, is the first Alternator Decepticon to have an original body - all the others were repaints of existing Autobots, as suggested by the official Alternators/Binaltech story. And of course, new cars are always popular. Unfortunatley, like we said at the beginning of the review, he was almost never released. Rumble was picked up by a few distributors in Europe, but it seemed that no US stores were interested in carrying the final Alternators. At the last minute, though, Wal*Mart stepped in to save the day, picking them up as exclusives.
Speaking of exclusives, last year Hasbro offered Nemesis Prime at SDCC and online - how cool would it be if they remolded this figure in blue and sold him as Frenzy? It would be an exceedingly simple change to make, but having the two be identical twins would still make perfect sense, since they shared the same mold in G1. Hopefully they'd correct the giant snafu that was last year's exclusive sales process, though. Get cracking, Hasbro!