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REVIEW:
TRANSFORMERS UNIVERSE CLASSICS ACID STORM
By Thomas Wheeler


In recent years, especially prior to the live-action movie, Transformers has been a notably diverse product line. Along with the "basic" concept pretty much reinventing itself to a certain degree each year, with Armada, Energon, Cybertron, and so forth, there were a number of side-lines -- the amazing Alternators, which I wish would return, presented popular Transformers as real-life cars, scale models licensed from their manufacturers. I can only imagine the headaches that must have caused, trying to take a pre-existing car and get it to transform into a recognizable version of an established character.

Then there were the Classics. I really enjoyed these. The idea behind them was quite simple -- new versions of Generation One Transformers characters. Some might ask -- why do this? I can answer that one rather easily -- modern toy-making.

The Transformers are an immensely cool concept. Robots from another world, heroic Autobots and evil Decepticons, locked in a cosmic war that has finally made its way to Earth. The toys have proven to be popular for decades. But those Generation One characters, as legendary as they may be over all other Transformers, lacked a certain something that their modern counterparts have tended to possess to a far greater degree -- and that is -- ARTICULATION. In their robot modes, the original Transformers couldn't really move all that much.

That is a matter that has long since been resolved, arguably starting over ten years ago with Beast Wars. So -- why not remake some of the Classic characters and give them the poseability in their robot modes that such legendary characters certainly deserve? Works for me.

And the Classics proved to be a very popular and well-received line. However, with the advent of the movie, all other Transformers lines, including the Alternators and the Classics, were suspended. Now, however, the Classics are back, and I hope they're back to stay this time, sequel movie or no. They're being marketed under a revised Transformers Universe banner, but their packages also clearly say "Classic Series", and that's all I need to know.

And clearly, Hasbro is not unwilling to introduce some new characters into the line. And we have one here in ACID STORM, who is the latest named entry in the popular fighter jets that have become such a crucial part of the Decepticon forces, and have picked up the group name "Seekers" over the years.

And here we need to get into a little background information, both toywise and storywise. In the early years of the Transformers concept, there were three established jet fighters within the Decepticons. There was Starscream, of course, the treacherous, scheming second in command to Megatron who was always looking for a way to unseat his leader and take power for himself. Then there were Skywarp and Thundercracker, who more often than not were portrayed as somewhat dimwitted thugs who as much as anything wanted a good fight and the chance to open fire on Autobots.

Toywise, all three aircraft were based on the same set of molds, just with different color schemes. Starscream, not surprisingly the most distinctive of the lot, had a mostly whitish body with blue and red trim. Skywarp and Thundercracker were mostly black, with purple and blue trim, respectively. In their "Earth forms", they most strongly resembled F-15 fighter jets.

The following year, three additional jets were introduced. These were named Ramjet, Dirge, and Thrust. Their heads were designed slightly differently, and they had different snap-on wings, but the basic bodies were the same as the previous planes, from a toy standpoint. In the animated series, they were generally portrayed as typical Decepticons -- brutal and ill-tempered. None of them rose to the prominence of Starscream.

But the animated series presented a third group, seen in one particular scene of the show, during a sequence that took place on Cybertron. Designed to look essentially identical to the Starscream/Skywarp/ Thundercracker group, these then-unnamed Decepticons appeared about once and that was it.

Since that time, at least one of these planes has gone on to a certain prominence, essentially making for a seventh established Seeker. The orange one in the group has been named SUNSTORM. He appeared in a storyline in the Dreamwave comics, and was pretty much portrayed as an overpowered Decepticon with a few more screws loose than usual. He caused a fair amount of havoc for Autobot and Decepticon alike during his storyline.

Toywise, Tomy/Takara issued a special version of Sunstorm based on the original Seeker molds for the Japanese market. In the United States, Sunstorm turned up as a miniature recoloration of a "Legends" Starscream. Personally, I'm still waiting for the Classics version.

But it seems that one of the other Seekers has finally been given a name. Another one of the planes in that animated sequence was greenish in color. And although he wasn't this particular pattern of green, I don't think it's too much of a stretch to infer that this particular toy is, to some degree, intended to represent that green-colored Seeker from years ago. And his name is ACID STORM.

Now, let me add one additional point here. To date, the Classics line has -- for the general market -- produced three of the Seekers. Starscream, of course; Skywarp, who was packaged in a Target exclusive set with Ultra Magnus (a recolored Optimus Prime), and Ramjet.

In a curious quirk, when it was believed that the Classics line was gone for good, with the advent of the movie, the Official Transformers Collectors' Club decided to include the other three Seekers -- Thundercracker, Dirge, and Thrust -- as part of the 2007 BotCon Convention Set. Obviously these toys have proven to be enormously popular -- and SOLD OUT. Not to mention extremely expensive on those occasions when they turn up on the secondary market at all.

I, for one, would like to think that someday, even if slight alterations have to be made in their paint patterns, we would still see general-release versions of Thundercracker, Dirge, and Thrust, as long as they still bear good resemblances to their original Generation One counterparts. I don't think I'll ever quite feel that my Transformers Classics collection is complete without them. Which, of course, won't stop me from adding to it as new characters come along.

Meanwhile, at least Acid Storm here, is proof that the basic molds still exist and can still be put to good use. Hey, maybe we'll at least get Sunstorm at some point.

So, what about ACID STORM? Well, he's a pretty cool plane. In aircraft mode, Acid Storm is about 7-1/2" in length, and is extremely effective-looking as a fighter jet. He looks entirely plausible, as if this were something one might well see flying over a battlefield anywhere in the world.

Somewhat unlike his apparent animated counterpart, and this is the only thing that might make me doubt that they're sort of intended to be the same robot, Acid Storm is not a bright green in color. He's generally a darker green, and has camouflage imprinted on him, in swirls of brown and a sort of goldish-green. The Decepticon insignia is present on his wings and tail fins.

The underside of his wings feature two spring-loaded missile launchers. These eventually become arm-mounted weapons.

Let's consider Acid Storm's transformation to robot. Allow me to say this -- I do sort of wish that the instructions for modern transformers included printed "verbal" directions as well as diagrams. Sometimes it's just a little hard to figure out what's going on, and what's supposed to fit where.

Granted, I've already done three of these guys in the past, but it's also been a while. Let's see how this goes. The first thing you do is swivel the wings around and remove the missile launchers. Then you raise up the front of the aircraft.

Now, here's where the diagrams sort of fail, because the next illustration doesn't really express itself all that well. You fold the arms OUTWARD, and turn just the front piece of the airplane, the nose and the cockpit, around 180 degrees. This doesn't really show itself that well in a sideways diagram.

Split the front of the plane. This will reveal the figure's head, and fold it down into the torso. Then snap the back into place. It should all snap together quite effectively. Lower the remaining part of the front of the plane behind the back. By now, Acid Storm should look more like a robot and less like a plane.

Now, split the legs apart, bring the small side wings up flush against the former tail fins, lower the feet, and rotate the tail fin assembly 90 degrees until it's pointing forward so Acid Storm can stand on his own two feet. Finally, lower the hands from the lower arms. They flip outward and down.

If you've done all of this correctly, you should now have a very nice green-hued robot that looks to be very much in the motif of Starscream, Thundercracker, and Skywarp. If you haven't done it right, you probably have an unfortunate pile of broken plastic on your hands and I doubt I can be of much help to you.

You can also reattach his spring-loaded missile launchers at this point. He can either hold them in his hands, or they can be attached to his upper arms. The diagrams show them attached to his upper arms, but this restricts arm movement a bit, since they bump into the wings on his back. On the other hand, the wings have a certain amount of movement to them, and really, the arm-attached weapons are a little more traditional from a Transformers point of view, so -- whatever you choose.

In robot mode, Acid Storm stands about 5 inches in height to the top of his head, but the two jet parts on his shoulders bring his total height up to 5-1/2". Not as big as some Transformers, but still, the guy's a Decepticon and a fighter jet. He's still not someone you want to mess with.

In robot mode, Acid Storm is highly articulated. This more than anything is what puts these Classics ahead of their Generation One ancestors. Acid Storm's head turns, and is best turned by moving the nosecone of the plane to which it is attached. His face is painted silver, and his eyes red. Indeed, all of the painted details on this toy are exceedingly well done. Additionally, he is fully poseable at the arms, elbows, wrists, legs, and knees. There's also a swivel at the knees for better leg poseability, something the original Transformers seriously lacked.

Acid Storm's character profile reads as follows: A member of an obscure squad of Decepticon air warriors known only as "The Rainmakers", Acid Storm is known as an individual only to his teammates and a very few others. He is highly intelligent, eager, and dedicated utterly to the Decepticon cause. He has a talent for marshaling vast amounts of data, as well as a way with words that would make him a powerful speaker. However, he prefers to remain anonymous, as part of his team. His Hyperion3 blasters can seed natural clouds with a highly destructive form of acid rain."

His highest ranking among his various abilities is Skill, which comes in at 10, followed quickly by Intelligence (no surprise there) and Courage, which rank at 9. Speed and Endurance rank at 7, Fireblast and Strength at 6, and Rank at 5, but Acid Storm doesn't seem to care about rank that much.

So what's my final word here? Well, for those of us who like the Decepticon planes but just weren't able to get that Convention Set, here's a cool new addition to the line, and evidence that the basic plane mold still exists. That's good news right there. Some might decry that Acid Storm doesn't qualify as a Classic since he didn't exist as a toy in the original line, to which I say that's being overly nit-picky. He MIGHT be the modern counterpart of that plane spotted in that one episode, and even if he isn't -- hey, this is a cool Transformer.

Obviously, the TRANSFORMERS UNIVERSE CLASSICS ACID STORM definitely has my highest enthusiastic recommendation!