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By Thomas Wheeler

Obviously, you can't have a line of classic-based Transformers without having Optimus Prime and Megatron in it. Or even more than one of each of them.

Apart from the individually sold Optimus Prime and Megatron toys in the Transformers Classics line, there's a special two-pack, very reasonably priced and features different, but nonetheless very impressive-looking incarnations of the legendary leaders of the Autobots and the Decepticons, along with a DVD.

The two Transformers are packaged in robot form -- thankfully as far as I'm concerned. Let's consider them individually:

OPTIMUS PRIME - Noble leader of the Autobots, and probably one of the most legendary characters in pop culture in the past 25 years. Regardless of the background concept -- Armada, Energon, whatever -- there has always been an Optimus Prime, and more often than not, he's borne some resemblance to a truck, generally a big red one with a fair amount of blue trim.

These variants over the years have, of course, taken their cues from the original Optimus Prime, who was one of the first Transformers introduced all the way back in 1984. This brave leader of the Autobots stood out so well that when an attempt was made to create a new leader for the Autobots, Rodimus Prime, it just didn't come across all that well. The character simply wasn't as accepted, and in the animated series at the time, Optimus had to be brought back.

And he's certainly not going to be left out of the Classics assortment. The Optimus Prime that's part of this special two-pack is not the same as the individually-sold Optimus, obviously. This Optimus stands about 5-1/2" in height in robot mode, and is surprisingly intricate, and has a number of special features. Opinions of these features in several online discussion boards have tended to vary.

Optimus has a button in his back that, once unlocked, can be used to activate a special feature called "Power Punch Action". His entire upper torso, arms, and head spin around. Frankly, it looks just a little silly.However, the button can be locked, so the figure doesn't have to do this, and it doesn't adversely affect the articulation of the figure.

And the articulation is considerable! If I've ever had one complaint about the original Transformers, it's that a lot of them weren't especially well-articulated in robot form. Fortunately, that hasn't been the case for years, and Optimus is very nicely articulated. He moves at the head, arms, elbows, wrists, mid torso, legs, an upper leg swivel, knees, and feet.

Optimus is very nicely designed and has considerable detail, arguably more than most incarnations of the original Optimus Prime, especially in his legs. He has a transparent section to the back of his head that, when light passes through it, makes it appear as though his eyes are glowing light blue.

Part of his transformation is spring-loaded, and this can be a bit of his problem, because it doesn't want to stay locked down quite as well as the "Power Punch" button. If you push his torso backward too far, the wheels and fenders spring out to the side, and his upper body springs forward at a 90-degree angle. I'm really not sure why this was designed to do this, as the overall transformation of Optimus is not particularly complicated. The end result of the transformation is a plausible if slightly futuristic-looking truck that echoes if not precisely duplicates the original Optimus Prime, but still looks cool and has space in the back to mount his very large gun.

MEGATRON - One thing always has bothered me just a little bit about the original Megatron -- his gun mode. And it doesn't bother me in the way that it bothers some people who don't think gun-based toys should be manufactured. It just always struck me as a mismatch. Megatron turns into a gun. Optimus Prime turns into a truck. It seemed to me that unless Megatron got off one heck of a lucky shot, all Optimus would really need to deal with Megatron would be to run him over.

When the Transformers entered their Generation 2 phase, and Megatron became a tank -- this made more sense to me. Truck vs. tank seemed like a more even fight to me, if not giving a bit of an advantage to Megatron (thus making Optimus seem that much more heroic), than truck vs. gun. Unfortunately, the rather alarming green-and-purple color scheme the Generation 2 Megatron was given tended to put fans off a bit.

Although the standard Classics Megatron does take the form of a gun, the Megatron in this two-pack is in fact a tank -- and one with an improved color scheme, at that. Although the green remains, the purple -- except for the Decepticon insignia, of course, has been excised, and most of the additional trim has been done in copper and off-white, the latter of these being not an inappropriate color for Megatron at all.

This admittedly is a different sort of Megatron than we've seen before, but it's still very impressive. Like Optimus Prime, the toy stands about 5-1/2" in height in robot form. He is articulated at the head, arms, left elbow, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and feet.

Like Optimus, he has a spring-action function, but unlike Optimus, it's located in the right arm. Press the button and the weapon attached to his right arm spins around. It's described on the package as a "Spinning Battle Blade". One word of warning. The tip on the dark grey portion of this comes off fairly easily. I think it could, and perhaps should, be carefully glued into place to prevent loss.

Megatron is well-detailed and nicely painted, but it's a little difficult to compare him to a specific Classic Megatron, since the original Megatron didn't really look like this. The closest comparison that can be made is to the Generation 2 Megatron, and at the very least colorwise, this new one is certainly an improvement.

Like Optimus, the back of Megatron's head is molded in transparent colored plastic, which allows his eyes to appear to be glowing a rather malevolent red when light catches him from behind.

There are no individual character profiles on the package for this two-pack. Instead, the story of the history between Optimus Prime and Megatron is outlined. It reads as follows: Long before the dawn of man on Earth, the war between Autobots and Decepticons raged. Two titans - huge metal warriors, each committed to total victory - emerged as leaders. Optimus Prime, wise, just and gentle despite having strength enough to move mountains, took command of the Autobot forces, hoping to lead his people to peace and freedom. Megatron, an evil, destructive tyrant bent on total domination of the universe and all its resources, led his Decepticons on an endless war of conquest. For millions of years their battle has raged like fire across the galaxy, and now they are here on Earth in a fight to the finish that will determine the fate of the planet and all its people.

The DVD that comes with this set is entitled "Optimus Prime vs. Megatron - The Ultimate Battle". It's about 25 minutes in length, and although it's packaged with a couple of Classic Transformers, the animation on the disc isn't from Generation 1.

It actually uses animation from some of the more recent series, such as Armada, Energon, and Cybertron. As such, it may be just as well that it doesn't include any G1 animation, which would probably come across looking pretty poor compared to the more advanced and more-detailed -- and often computer-generated -- animation techniques of the more recent series. For that matter, some of the animation from even these more recent series doesn't always come out looking so good compared to its own successors.

The DVD is narrated by Optimus Prime, and presents a somewhat generalized history of the Transformers. A certain amount of overall continuity is hinted at with Optimus' explanation that the Transformers have the ability to alter their forms, with Optimus commenting that he himself has looked different over time.

On the whole, the DVD is an excellent basic introduction into the modern world of the Transformers, with some details that are applicable to all aspects of the Transformers, including the Classics, and in its own way, isn't a bad review of the various recent series from the past several years. Here's hoping for some DVD boxed sets someday. The newer adventures of the Transformers may not involve all of the Classic characters, but they're certainly impressive tales in their own right.

With a final word on the toys, I won't say that these are the most impressive versions of Optimus Prime and Megatron ever created. But they ARE very cool in their own right, and they do have one distinct advantage for those whose display space may be a little limited -- their relatively small size. Most of the Transformers Classics, when transformed into their robot modes, seem to be of a very reasonable size that will make good use of perhaps limited display space. Not all Transformers have to be gargantuan specimens, after all. And as such, these two also work well with the rest of the Classics collection.

I personally think this Transformers Classics Optimus Prime/Megatron Two- pack is pretty cool, and it certainly gets my enthusiastic recommendation!