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By Thomas Wheeler

For the last several years, Hasbro has overhauled their popular Transformers concept on an almost annual basis. After Beast Machines went on its way, the concept returned, largely, to the more familiar vehicular robots, and has since gone through several iterations as Robots in Disguise, Armada, Energon, and now Cybertron. Granted these last three have been an interconnected storyline to a substantial degree.

I think one good basis for evaluating how these concepts come across is in considering how well they treat the main characters. And with any Transformers concept, that's going to be Optimus Prime and Megatron. I'll review Megatron separately. This review will focus on the newest OPTIMUS PRIME.

Although the largest Transformer thus far in the Cybertron toy series has been Starscream, Optimus Prime and Megatron come in a close second, pretty much on their own in their particular size and price range. I believe this is as it should be. These two legendary characters deserve that sort of status and treatment.

The basic concept behind Transformers Cybertron, as read on the package, is as follows: "Earth - now under the protection of Jetfire, Scattershot, and the other Autobots, is a front line in the struggle for domination of the universe.

"With their homeworld under threat by the giant black hole left by the destruction of Unicron, the Autobots and the Decepticons have secretly moved their bases of operation to Earth.

"With the help of Vector Prime and a few humans that have discovered their presence on Earth, the Autobots must race against time and battle an unbelievably more powerful Megatron and his new army of Decepticons to recover the Planet Keys, ancient artifacts missing for eons. What few realize is that this little planet called Earth has played a vital role in the history of Cybertron for millions of years."

It's no great surprise that the Cybertron concept is being allowed to carry on through most of 2006. The concept is well laid-out and the number and variety of robots being made available in the toy stores is considerable. Transformers Cybertron has a lot to offer any Transformers fan, young or old.

Now, let's turn our attention to OPTIMUS PRIME. There's really only so far you can stretch this most recognized of Transformers without going too far with the design to the point that fans just won't accept it. Bottom line, he pretty much has to be a truck, and his color scheme really needs to involve as much red and blue as possible. Fortunately, the Optimus Prime for this current line of Transformers accomplishes these things admirably.

Optimus comes packaged in robot mode, which suits me just fine. For the most part, that's how I prefer to display my Transformers. And there's certainly no question that this is Optimus Prime. Although certainly more stylized than his Generation One ancestor, he's still very distinctly Optimus Prime. The head sculpt and the overall body design are unmistakable. The huge red torso, the massive blue "boots", and the face -- yeah, this is Optimus. No question about it whatsoever.

This toy has a superb level of articulation. If I ever had one complaint about the Generation One Transformer toys, it was that in robot mode, they didn't do a whole lot. Well, obviously toy engineering has progressed over the past twenty years or so, because this Optimus is highly poseable in his robot form, as well he deserves to be.

And indeed, he transforms into a truck, although I wouldn't expect it to be one you'd see tooling down the freeway. It's a very stylized sort of truck, and in fact clearly a truck intended for the battlefield, since one of its most prominent features is a huge projectile-firing cannon! With the help of the "Cyber Planet Key" accessory that comes with Optimus, a pair of twin rocket launchers emerge, and the truck almost seems to gain a pair of wings.

Structurally, Optimus' "trailer", and as such this weapons platform, can be carried by the Autobots' noble leader as a robot, in the form of a harness that snaps onto the figure's back and around his arms. However, I personally don't recommend displaying Optimus in robot mode with this particular hardware. It makes the figure quite top-heavy and difficult to stand -- although I suspect that young children forced to drag half their own weight in books to school five days a week in a backpack would be able to sympathize.

Optimus has a nice little feature that's sort of easy to miss. He has a lower face-plate that can be snapped into place from a lever in the back of his head. Doing so makes him look even more like the classic Optimus Prime.

The figure has "Electronic Lights and Sounds" according to the package, but I was fresh out of batteries, so I'm really not sure what he's capable of in this regard. One other feature definitely worth noting is that Optimus does have the Autobot Matrix concealed within his chest.

The character profile on the package reads as follows: "Optimus Prime is a leader in the best sense of the word, taking point on every mission and never sending his team into any situation he wouldn't go himself. Dedicated to the protection of all life and the preservation of freedom for all sentient beings, he serves as a role model for his fellow Autobots. It is through his keen intelligence, even hand, steady nerves and endless compassion that the Autobots continue to frustrate the Decepticons' evil plans again and again.

"In a desperate race against time, Optimus Prime has been forced to send teams of his best soldiers into unknown parts of the universe in search of the lost Planet Keys, ancient artifacts with the power to save Cybertron and the rest of the universe from the giant black hole formed from the implosion of Unicron."

I believe that any Transformers fan, new or longtime, would be very pleased with this Optimus Prime toy. Transformers continues to be one of Hasbro's best successes these days, and it's not hard to see why. The toys appeal to a wide audience, that might otherwise not be all that interested in something from the action figure aisle.

One brief note of comparison with Megatron, something I especially appreciated. Although Megatron seems to be a slightly more complex toy, both he and Optimus are virtually the same size. I appreciate that. It tends to make for a fair fight in my opinion.

The TRANSFORMERS CYBERTRON OPTIMUS PRIME has my most enthusiastic recommendation! If you at all enjoy Transformers, you'll like Optimus!