REVIEW: TRANSFORMERS GENERATIONS FALL OF CYBERTRON AUTOBOT BLASTER with STEELJAW
When I discovered the Soundwave figure, with Laserbeak (other Data Discs sold separately), I wondered if, just maybe, this new Generations line of Transformers based on the Fall of Cybertron video game might also get around to another, similar Transformer.
There aren't a lot of Transformers that have fairly direct counterparts, one on each side of the conflict. The characters are far more varied and diverse than that. But two of them that could be considered counterparts of each other are the Decepticon named Soundwave, and the Autobot named Blaster.
Technically, of the two, Soundwave is probably a bit better known, and may even be somewhat more popular, even though he's definitely one of the bad guys. But that doesn't mean that Blaster should be left out in the cold.
However, they also both have the same problem as far as being brought into any modern Transformers line is concerned. Both of their original "alt modes", their non-robotic modes, are rather distinctly outmoded, as are those of their immediate allies.
In the original Generation One concept, Soundwave could transform into a portable tape player. His various minions, which included the likes of Laserbeak. Buzzsaw, Ravage, Rumble, Frenzy, and a number of others, could transform into miniature audio cassettes.
Similarly, in the original Generation One concept, Blaster could transform into a portable AM-FM radio with a tape deck. His companions, which included characters such as Rewind, Eject, Ramhorn, Steeljaw, and a few others could also transform into miniature audio cassettes.
And, say what you will about the advantages of modern technology, I don't think it would be all that workable to try to create toys of Soundwave and Blaster that transformed into little iPods or whatever, and even if that was workable, I defy Hasbro, Tomy, or anyone else to come up with a way to create practical toys of their respective associates that transform into downloadable content. I mean, what would that even look like?
Fortunately, these characters all caught a break recently, with the new Transformers Generations line based on the War of Cybertron video game. You see, the video game takes place BEFORE the Transformers made their way to Earth. As such, their "alt modes" are more Cybertronian in origin. And, as such, they don't need to adhere to modern, Earth-based, technological developments.
Now, I've been a longtime fan of the original, Generation One, Transformers concept. I still believe it to be the best of the Transformers incarnations. I am delighted that it continues through the "Regeneration One" comic book by Simon Furman, published by IDW, and I was especially delighted when Hasbro and Tomy/Takara created the Transformers Classics line, later the Generations line, several years ago, in order to craft modern, and vastly better articulated, incarnations of the most popular Generation One characters.
Unfortunately, the toy lines for the live-action movies and the more recent animated series bumped the Generations line off to the side. But now, it's back, presenting toys based on the Fall of Cybertron video game.
Now, admittedly, the degree to which these toys resemble their Generation One counterparts tends to vary somewhat, and none of them are as "on the money" as the earlier Classics/Generations line. However, in many cases, they're very agreeably close, and there's also something to be said for the fact that this is the only way we're going to get many of these classic characters in anything resembling a modern, yet recognizable, format.
Certainly that's the case with both Soundwave and Blaster. Hasbro and Tomy aren't about to put out tape decks and radios with cassettes. But reintroducing these popular characters, and transforming their comrades into Cybertronian data discs -- well, that's a lot more plausible, and feasible.
I reviewed Soundwave a while back. Now, BLASTER gets his turn. Before I get into the toy, let's have a look at the history of the character, from a Generation One standpoint.
Blaster is an Autobot who specializes in communications. Due to trademark reasons, he is sometimes called Autobot Blaster.
Blaster's initial transformation was an AM/FM Stereo Cassette Player, commonly referred to as a boombox. Blaster was a popular character from the original series while not featuring as prominently in the modern Transformers universe.
As a member of the Autobot communications sub-group Blaster frequently worked with its other members - Eject, Grand Slam, Raindance, Ramhorn, Rewind and Steeljaw. He is the Autobots' answer to the evil Decepticon Soundwave.
Blaster, like the Autobot Jazz, has a great love of Earth culture, rock music and other forms of music as long as it is hard. He's normally at the forefront of any given situation. As an AM/FM stereo cassette player, he can perform as a deck, plus receive radio signals on a variety of frequencies. Acting as the Autobot communications center, he can transmit signals within a 4,000 mile radius.
In the original animated series, Blaster's first appearance was in episode 30, "Dinobot Island, Part 1" with no particular origin, simply appearing among the Autobots.
He had several important appearances in season 2, most notably in "Blaster Blues", where his love of rock music and transmitting it to the other Autobots meant they were unable to respond to a Decepticon attack and prevent them from stealing a powerful decoder. He redeemed himself when he was able to transmit the location of the Decepticon base despite being captured.
In the episode "Prime Target", the big game hunter Lord Chumley captures a secret Soviet jet, leading to panic and the possibility of war. Chumley then set his sights on the ultimate trophy, the head of Optimus Prime. In order to lure Optimus in, Chumley captures the Autobots Tracks, Bumblebee, Jazz, Beachcomber, Grapple, Blaster and Inferno. Windcharger and Huffer are able to avoid being trapped.
When Cosmos learns of the location chumley was keeping the captured Autobots, Optimus Prime accepts Chumley's challenge to meet him alone. Although interrupted by the Decepticons Astrotrain and Blitzwing's attempt to ally the Decepticons with Chumley, Optimus defeats the big game hunter and frees the Autobots. Chumley and the stolen jet were handed over to the Soviets by the Autobots as punishment for his actions.
In another episode, Blaster's audio capabilties served to keep a parasitical mechanoid life-form at bay while Jazz, retrieved the means of dealing with the parasite from a crash-landed cosmos.
He also had a prominent role in "Auto-Bop", where he faces off with his Decepticon counterpart Soundwave in a sonic duel.
In the Transformers animated Movie, set in the year 2005, Blaster was assigned to Autobot City on Earth. During the invasion by Megatron's forces, Blaster was responsible for sending a distress signal to Optimus Prime on Moonbase One. Blaster's transmission is jammed by Soundwave's cassette minions to prevent him from establishing contact with the Autobot Moonbase. For the first time we also see Blaster's own cassettes named Eject, Rewind, Ramhorn, and Steeljaw. The signal is received and Optimus Prime is able to arrive with reinforcements to defeat the Decepticons. After the attack, Blaster picked up transmissions from Moonbases One and Two. He was not seen for the rest of the film.
In episode 78 of the series, post-movie, titled Madman's Paradise, Spike and Carly host a banquet for a visiting ambassador. Daniel gets bored and wandered off. Grimlock follows him, and they fall into a lost chamber where Quintessons banished their criminals to other dimensions. They slipped through to the sorcerous other-dimensional realm of Menonia, and are tricked into fighting on the Red Wizard's side, only to find out that he is the Quintesson criminal, who overthrew the Golden One. Blaster, Ultra Magnus, Eject, Rewind, Ramhorn, and Steeljaw follow, and using Blaster's amplification, they help the Golden One defeat the Red Wizard. With the help of Perceptor, the Autobots and Daniel are returned to Cybertron.
He continued to appear throughout the third season. His last appearance in the U.S. cartoon was in episode 95, "The Return of Optimus Prime, Part 2".
In the Marvel comics, Blaster originally appeared in issue #17, attempting to rescue his friend Scrounge, who was to be executed by Straxus. Blaster is captured himself and later rescued by Perceptor and his Autobot group. Later, spying on Straxus' use of the Space Bridge, the Autobots decide to attack and blow it up. Ultimately, Blaster has no choice but to lead his comrades (Beachcomber, Cosmos, Perceptor, Powerglide, Seaspray and Warpath) across the Bridge to Earth.
In issue #27, "King of the Hill!", Perceptor summons his fellow Autobots Blaster, Hot Spot, Jetfire, Omega Supreme, Ratchet and Silverbolt in order to decide who should take leadership of the Autobots following the apparent death of Optimus Prime. After an attack by the giant Decepticon Trypticon, Grimlock is chosen to lead them.
Blaster would soon regret this. After a mission where their cover had been blown by the Mechanic, a human, he and Goldbug, appalled by Grimlock's willingness to sacrifice humans to achieve their goals, desert.
They had more adventures; facing the Decepticon Triple Changers and a plague of Scraplets, as well as facing off with a Decepticon strike force sent to destroy Galvatron and Ultra Magnus. Blaster is subsequently attacked by both the Combaticons and the Protectobots, who had been sent by Grimlock to arrest him. The two combiner teams battled, with Bruticus beating Defensor. With aid from some human children Blaster takes out the giant Decepticon.
Prime soon returns and retakes command, sending Blaster to investigate the Decepticon island resort Club Con, seemingly run by Buster Witwicky. Accompanying Buster's girlfriend Jessie, he soon had his cover blown by the Seacons and was forced to flee.
Later, Blaster is one of the Autobots revived by Nucleon by Grimlock and the other Dinobots. In the toy line, this was a way of introducing the non-transforming Action Masters, a sadly much-maligned line of toys which included Blaster.
Returning to Cybertron, he battles against the coming of Unicron. After the betrayal of the Decepticons, the Autobots follow them to the planet Klo, where they were ambushed. Blaster is one of the few survivors. Then he is blown apart by Quake's tank mode while Prowl berates Grimlock for inept strategy. He was resurrected when Optimus Prime returned with the Last Autobot and routed the Decepticon forces.
In the Dreamwave comics, Blaster was among the Autobot resistance during the Age of Interment, shown in the third War Within series. In the second Generation 1 miniseries from Dreamwave Productions, Blaster is part of a resistance group led by Hot Rod. He accompanies Optimus Prime during his attack on Iacon.
In the IDW Transformers comics, Blaster was the subject of a Spotlight issue in 2008. The comic depicts Blaster as "The Voice", acting much like a radio DJ and bolstering Autobot morale in the war against the Decepticons. In the comic, Blaster's alternate form is a tank with a pair of large sonic cannons.
In "Spotlight: Blaster", Blaster was badly damaged and left adrift in space, but was discovered by an alien ship who bought him back to the Autobot Command Hub under the command of Silverbolt. Having little memory of the event himself, Blaster finds that he was betrayed and nearly killed by a fellow Autobot just before his regular broadcast, in order to demoralize the Autobots just before a Decepticon attack. When the assassin tries again, Blaster eventually finds out that his attacker was Beachcomber, who was being controlled by the Decepticon Bombshell at the behest of Soundwave. Blaster manages to talk Beachcomber into resisting the control, which nearly burns out his mind. Blaster swears to get revenge on Soundwave.
So, how's the toy? Extremely impressive. And, no great surprise, it's a recoloration and slight reworking of the Soundwave toy. Although the original Generation One toys were not structural counterparts of each other, I can understand how these would be. And just as neither the War of Cybertron Soundwave nor Blaster are exact replicas of their original versions, both are nevertheless abundantly close enough to pass muster in my opinion.
One thing in Blaster's favor giving him a decent amount of individuality is the fact that he has a drastically different color scheme than Soundwave. Soundwave is mostly dark blue, with a certain amount of dark gray on him. Blaster is mostly red, with some yellow, and a much lighter color gray.
Also, some of Blaster's parts are distinct to the figure. These include the head, obviously, the pop-open chestplate which reveals a storage area for data discs, and Blaster's wheels are also unique to him, complete with hubcaps that have a stylized Autobot logo on them -- something Soundwave obviously wouldn't be caught dead rolling through Cybertron on.
Just as Soundwave does not transform into a tape player, so Blaster does not transform into a radio with a tape deck. Both robots transform into Cybertronian communications trucks. Here is Blaster's transformation procedure.
Start by stretching Blaster's arms outward, and fold his hands up into his wrists. Then pull his back hatch all the way out, and fold his arms backwards.
Now, fold the claws and hatch on his chest upward so they're posed at an angle, and open the flaps on his upper arms. Then fold the arms down and bring them into the sides of the robot. They should snap into place. Then fold the flaps in over Blaster's head, and swing the front wheels forward. Next, swing the lower arms around 180 degrees at the elbow joint so that they help to form the sides of the vehicle.
Right now I want to advise you that the diagram for Instruction #11 on the sheet is rather deceptive. Given the positioning of a directional arrow on it, it almost looks as though you are supposed to remove a part. You are not.
Rather, you are supposed to slide the back panel back on its hinge, fold it downward, and then bring this section upwards on the second hinge, and fold it down and in so that it effectively creates part of the roof of the vehicle.
Then, swing the rear wheels, which are on the sides of the legs, around 180 degrees, fold the entire lower torso and legs backward, bring the wheels up by way of the knees, fold the feet in and slide the roof hatch back, essentially locking everything into place. For what is certainly a series of very major steps, this portion was surprisingly easy.
And, Blaster is now in his communications truck mode. In this mode, he has a red front, a grayish back, and the yellow hatch becomes the truck's grill.
As a robot, Blaster stands about 7-1/4" to the top of his head. His full height is more like 7-1/2" because of the panels on the shoulders. Of course, he is superbly articulated in his robot form -- something these Generations Transformers have all over their more limited original counterparts. Blaster is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivels, elbows, wrists, legs, upper leg swivels, knees, and ankles.
In vehicle mode, Blaster is about 5-1/2" long, 3-1/4" wide, and somewhat over 3" in height. Given those measurements, he makes for a rather boxy vehicle. However, we need to keep in mind that this is a Cybertronian vehicle, and, apart from having a marginally truck-like body atop four wheels, doesn't really resemble any Earth-based vehicle. It's still a cool design.
Now, let's consider Blaster's companion, known as Steeljaw. Obviously, in the Generation One era, Steeljaw was one of Blaster's cassettes. But the cassette mode has been replaced by what's now known as a Data Disc.
A little bit of history on the character of Steeljaw. In robot mode, takes the form of a robotic lion. He is described as a vicious hunter, and fights with a pair of blasters.
When he's on the hunt, his prey is as good as caught. Determined, tenacious, coolly professional when on a mission. Likely to trace any scent. Range of 800 miles. Super-strong jaws—can snap a foot-thick steel cable with one bite. Carries two solar-powered pellet guns that fire 1,200 rounds per minute. Lack of sunlight hampers the guns' performance. Can electromagnetize himself in cassette mode.
Steeljaw made no appearance in the original US Transformers comic. He would appear in the alternate future of the Marvel UK series, in the storyline "Space Pirates". Along with his fellow cassettes Rewind and Ramhorn, he assisted Hot Rod and Arcee in defending Autobot City from a Quintesson attack.
He next appeared in the US comics' prelude to Generation 2, as part of a strike team sent to stop the rebuilt Megatron. Steeljaw was the first to fall, killed by a blast from Megatron's new rail gun weapon -- which was a heck of a way to make his American debut.
In the animated series, Steeljaw appeated in "Call of the Primitives" as one of the Transformers "Primitives" (animal themed Transformers like the Dinobots and Predacons) summoned by Primacron to battle his creation Tornedron, but was deactivated by the energy creature. He was revived when Grimlock defeated the creature.
In "The Quintesson Journal" he was a part of the Autobot team that recovered the Quintesson's recording device. He also had a small part in "The Ultimate Weapon", teaming with Ramhorn to ram Galvatron's cannon mode.
Steeljaw was among the Autobots injured by Superion during the hate plague outbreak. After Optimus Prime was revived, Steeljaw was among the team of Autobots that joined the expedition to Chaar to recover the metal developed by Drs. Morgan and Swofford, previously stolen by Galvatron, which was impervious to the plague. Steeljaw bought time for Optimus and Sky Lynx to escape with the metal, before becoming infected with the plague himself. Steeljaw, along with everyone else who was infected, was subsequently cured by the power of the Matrix.
So, how's the toy? Not bad. It's rather obviously a recoloration of Ravage, with a different head and color scheme. Steeljaw is bright yellow with some white trim. But he looks lion enough, in a rather small and robotic fashion.
The Data Discs have a somewhat automatic transformation feature, but you still need to get the back into robot mode, which is easier on some than it is on others. Steeljaw is a little more complicated than some. You fold his tail up and over, bring up his front legs at the elbows, tuck his hind legs up, fold his entire upper body over his mid-section, bring his back and tail up and click them into place, and then fold his rear legs up and in. It's a little odd, but it works.
Steeljaw can be partially transformed back into lion form simply by activating the button on his underside, but you still need to fold his legs down and bring his tail out.
I have to say that I'm impressed with these Data Discs. There's quite a supply of them out there, sold in two-packs much like the original cassettes were -- which is a nice little marketing nod -- and they transform into a variety of robot modes -- humanoid robots, birds, bats, four-legged animals... To get these toys to do that, and then to get them all to transform into largely identical Data Discs, circular objects measuring about 1-1/2" in diameter and 1/2" thick -- that's some impressive toy engineering.
In Disc mode, Steeljaw appears mostly yellow, with intricate patterning on his main surface in black and copper, with an Autobot emblem in the center.
Although Steeljaw doesn't have any sort of personality profile or power rankings on the package, Blaster does, and these read as follows:
Autobot Blaster has assembled an incredible collection of music from across the galaxy. From hundreds of worlds, he's gathered the loudest, fastest, most brutal, earsplitting, guitar-shredding rock-and-roll he could find. When you charge into battle alongside Autobot Blaster, you are accompanied by a thunderous soundtrack of which the mightiest Viking would approve.
Assuming, of course, that a Viking would have the slightest clue about rock-and-roll. Blaster's power rankings give him a "9" for Strength, Courage, and Endurance, "8" in Fireblast, "7" in Skill and Rank, "6" in Intelligence, and "3" in Speed. There's no ranking for Volume, but the levels only go up to 10, anyway.
So what's my final word? I'm truly pleased that both Soundwave and Blaster have been brought into the modern Transformers era through the Generations line. Although neither is a new edition of their most classic versions, they're still entirely recognizable from a character standpoint, and the Data Discs are a more than adequate replacement for the admittedly obsolete audio cassettes. With both Soundwave and Blaster available, the sonic rivalry begins once again, and sales of earplugs on Cybertron are sure to skyrocket.
Fortunately, the toys are a lot quieter, and if you're any sort of Transformers fan, you'll certainly want to bring Blaster and Steeljaw into your collection, and keep an eye out for the other Autobot Data Discs, which include Eject, Rewind, Ramhorn, and Sunder, especially if you've already brought Soundwave and his Data Discs into your collection. If you haven't -- well, heck, get them all! They're all cool Transformers, and I know you'll enjoy them.
The TRANSFORMERS GENERATIONS: FALL OF CYBERTRON set featuring AUTOBOT BLASTER and STEELJAW definitely has my highest recommendation!