REVIEW: TRANSFORMERS GENERATIONS AUTOBOT DRIFT
Several years ago, the world of Transformers released a whole new chapter in its long and diverse history. Dubbed TRANSFORMERS CLASSICS, these were updated, yet faithful versions of many of the most popular characters from the original, best-known "Generation One" Transformers, making use of updated construction capabilities to give them, most especially, the level of articulation in their robotic modes that was now possible.
I really enjoyed the Classics. As much as I liked the original Transformers concept, my one lingering complaint about them was that, in their robot modes, they didn't do all that much. With rare exception, they could move at the head and arms and that was about it. The Classics finally gave these legendary characters the articulation that they deserved.
Alas, the Classics came to an end with the arrival of the first live-action movie. However, somewhat to everyone's surprise, the Classics returned, following the movie, merged into a new line that included a wide variety of new Transformers. And then the second movie came along, and that was pretty much the end of the Classics for a second time.
Now, we're past the second movie -- and the Classics have returned yet again! They are now part of a line called TRANSFORMERS GENERATIONS, but there's no mistaking who these cool robots truly are, and I am sincerely delighted that they have returned. To me, these are the best of the Transformers. Classic characters, or at least characters in the classic motif, with a level of articulation in their robot modes that these cool characters always deserved.
One of the new additions to the Transformers Generations line is an interesting fellow by the name of AUTOBOT DRIFT. And what's interesting about him is that, even though he is part of the Generation One universe, and has been seen to interact with those characters, he's technically a relatively new character! I'm impressed that we have a toy of him in such short order.
Drift was properly introduced in a comic book a while back. The Transformers comics license is currently held by IDW, and for the most part, they've done a good job with it. One of their popular, if somewhat sporadic, series of Transformers comics is called TRANSFORMERS SPOTLIGHT, which produces single issues focused on a single Transformer. Characters such as Sixshot, Galvatron, Grimlock, Optimus Prime, Blurr, Prowl, and many others have received individual stories within this title. It was here that Drift was fully introduced. In fact, IDW recently commented that this new Autobot Drift toy is the first Transformers to be produced from a character that they created.
I'm good at reviewing toys -- not so hot at relating a comic book story, and it is Drift's main appearance to date. Fortunately, some online research into the character, especially to see if he did significantly exist before this Spotlight issue (and I think I was briefly mistaking him for an independent-minded Autobot who turned up in one episode of the original animated series who was actually named Defcon), and I was able to come up with some background information on the character, as well as an excellent relating of the comic book story.
Drift once served Megatron and the Decepticons under the name Deadlock. He was one of the most-feared warriors on Cybertron. Then, one day, he looked back on the horrors he had committed, and since that time has dedicated his life to hunting down Decepticons all over the galaxy.
As to the story related in the Transformers Spotlight comic bearing his name: On an alien planet, Drift infiltrates a Decepticon ship carrying Autobot prisoners, only to confront the Autobots Kup, Perceptor, and a team known as the Wreckers. Moments later, the ship's commander, a Decepticon known as Turmoil, appears. Drift fights alongside the Wreckers, but during the battle, Turmoil recognizes Drift as the former Decepticon Deadlock. He then sends Drift and Kup into a lower level by shooting a hole in the ship's wall.
Later, Kup questions Drift about his origin. Drift admits having been a Decepticon in the past, but tells Kup that a visit to a nameless third faction changed his ways and gave him his sword. The two robots then decide to blow up the ship.
As the two plant an explosive, Kup is informed that the other Autobots have left the ship and will circle back for them. Suddenly, Turmoil confronts them again. After a lengthy duel, Drift pins Turmoil to the wall with his short swords. The Decepticon tells Drift to finish him off, but Drift instead takes a damaged Perceptor and jumps off the ship before it explodes.
Shortly after the ordeal, Kup offers Drift a place on a new Autobot team he is forming. Despite the objections of another Autobot, Springer, Drift accepts the offer, with Kup telling Springer that "everyone deserves a second chance."
I love these stories where a former bad guy becomes a good guy, even if Drift's bad-guy past was never extensively presented within the concept. It's happened before in other Hasbro-based concepts. The character of Mercer, a member of Sgt. Slaughter's Renegades, was a former Cobra Viper.
So, how's the toy? Very cool. Drift comes packaged in his vehicle mode, which looks like a somewhat futuristic sports car, white in color, with bright red detailing on the sides that looks like several wavy lines, almost a flame-like insignia, with a couple of Japanese characters in it. I don't read Japanese so I don't really know what it says. For all I know, it might actually be "Drift".
Although Drift doesn't appear to be any specific car model -- few Transformers actually are since the Alternators line sadly ended -- the same online research that gave me the comic book synopsis described Drift's automotive mode as "a Japanese-style sports car, appearing to be a cross between a Nissan Silvia S15, a Honda S2000, and a Mitsubishi FTO." I don't know cars well enough to comment on the accuracy of that description. I figure somebody is either a sufficient expert on Japanese sports cars to spot enough distinctive traits of three different cars in this one, or they're indulging in a little wishful thinking. I'm inclined to lean towards the former. Tomy, formerly Takara, a Japanese toy company, still maintains a strong interest in the Transformers, and I can readily see them incorporating actual automotive design elements into these toys.
In vehicle mode, Drift is about 5-1/2" in length. He's definitely a sporty model, regardless of any real-world basis, with a fancy spoiler in the back, and a somewhat raised section to his hood.
I'd like to make one packaging comment -- Drift is attached to the inner plastic frame inside his package by heavy string, some sort of twine. This accomplishes the desired purpose of holding the toy in place while being VASTLY easier to cut and remove. Even if the twine is interlaced with the toy, it just comes right out, rather than having to be bent and twisted and possibly recut to be extracted. I've encountered this now on two Transformers and one G.I. Joe vehicle, and I really hope it's a trend, not only for Hasbro products, but I hope that other toy companies take it up as well.
In vehicle mode, Drift has free-rolling wheels that allows him to roll across any smooth surface very effectively. Now, let's consider his transformation. Transformers have a numerical scale of difficulty printed on their packages, which ranges from 0 to 5. Drift is right down the middle with a "3", which is listed as "Intermediate". Based on my experience in transforming him into his robotic mode, which is how I prefer to display my Transformers, I'd call that a fair rating. In other words, Drift has a few tricky spots, but he's not exactly Unicron, either.
I'll admit I do miss the days when the instructions for Transformers included not only diagrams, but a written explanation of what one was supposed to do. There are times when it's just not that easy to figure out from a two-dimensional diagram what's supposed to be done with a three-dimensional toy. That's one of the reasons I try my best to provide a written description of the transformation process with these reviews. It is my sincere hope that, coupled with the diagrammed instructions included with the Transformer, which you should certainly pay attention to, you'll be able to transform the toy, maybe just a little more easily.
Interestingly enough, there's apparently an official Web Site for assistance these days. It's marked on the back of the instruction sheet with a robotic silhouette and the words, "Heed Help? Transformers.com/Instructions". Very nice of them to provide this.
Anyway, as to the process of getting Drift from car to robot. Split the hood down the middle, and then slide the raised sections up and over the split sections. Fascinating little transformation here. Never seen anything quite like this particular step. This will also serve to reveal Drift's head.
Next, extend the split hood sections outwards. They will ultimately form Drift's shoulders. Then, bring the front windshield up, and snap it into place at the top of what will be Drift's chest.
Now, take the side doors, and move them away from the main vehicle, to the side. Then take the rear half of the vehicle, and separate it down the middle. These will eventually become Drift's legs. Then pivot the doors slightly. These, in a very interesting feature for Drift, will become sheaths for two of his swords. More on his accessories in a bit.
Now, pivot the split hood section back, so that what was the front bumper is now facing the rear of the robot. Then pull out the two short swords that are secured on the doors, and fold the door windows in. The doors will still serve as sheaths for the two short swords.
Next, swing the legs down, and open the feet. This is a little more complicated than it looks in the instructions. At first, it doesn't look quite right, as there appears to be sort of open space between the legs and feet, especially relative to the photograph of the toy on the back of the package card (which I recommend keeping on hand for visual reference). The visual instructions are a little vague here, as they show a certain movement procedure from the side, which is probably not the best perspective to view it from. Ultimately, the lower legs sort of snap up into the rest of the leg, even as the feet are brought down. It does work, it's just a little odd. Probably what got Drift his "Intermediate" rating.
Finally, bring the arms down. This, thankfully, is a fairly easy procedure. And you have Drift in his robot mode! Transforming him back to a car is also shown on the back of the instruction sheet, and as one would expect, it's basically just a reversal of the procedure. I haven't tried it myself, and don't really expect to, since I do prefer my Transformers to remain in their robot modes. I've always enjoyed the Transformers concept, but I'd be lying if I said I considered myself an expert at transforming these toys back and forth to any substantial degree. Heck, when I take the photos for these reviews, I photograph the Transformer in his vehicle mode before I do anything else, because it's likely the last time he'll be in it. Somehow, it's always been more difficult for me to get these from robot to vehicle than the other way around.
In robot mode, Drift stands about 5-3/4" in height. He is mostly white with mostly dark grey arms and legs. He looks a bit more angular in robot mode than in car mode for some odd reason. He has some visible red trim on his robotic body, around his wrists, and his lower legs. There is also some gold trim. His face is silver, with a rather determined expression on his face, and pale blue eyes. The toy uses the frequently-found feature of transparent eyes with a little transparent area in the top of the head that reflects light, making it appear, at the proper angle, that the eyes are glowing. The way Drift's are molded, there's the rather curious feature of his eyes almost looking as though they have pupils. I doubt this was intentional, but it's kind of cool.
The paint trim on the entire robot is very neatly applied, and in some cases quite intricate, such as the little yellow highlights at the tops of his arms. One of his Autobot symbols is a little off -- the one on the right arm looks like it was stamped twice. But it's not too bad. I've certainly seen worse. I have a Cobra Viper here with the same problem. I'm sure this is not something common to all of the Drifts out there, and I can always explain it with the fact that Drift is fairly new to the Autobots, and maybe he wasn't that good with the stamp or something. It's a little carelessness at the factory, ultimately, but nothing major. The Autobot emblem on his left arm is perfect. I do want to commend the Transformers for maintaining consistently neat paint jobs, even when sometimes other toy lines seem to be having problems in this area.
Anyway, as to accessories. Drift was known in his comic book adventure for using swords. He had a long one for duels, and two short ones, which he used, at the very least, to pin the Decepticon Turmoil to his own ship prior to its explosion. Drift comes appropriately equipped. He has two short swords, which fit very nicely into the sheaths that were his car doors. While Drift's articulation isn't quite good enough for him to "actually" pull them out on his own, it looks darn cool.
Drift also comes with a much longer sword, that measures a good five inches in length. It is a very Japanese-looking blade, with some high tech thrown in. It's metallic gray in color, with a circular gold detail at the top of the hilt, and a ridged handle. There are some Japanese characters sculpted into the blade, identical on both sides. As with the script on his doors, I have no idea what this might say. Between this and some of the Japanese toys I've collected, sometimes I really wish I could read Japanese.
Of course, Drift is superbly articulated in robot mode. This is one of the things that really sets these Transformers ahead of their Generation One predecessors in my book. Drift is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and the feet -- sort of, but that's more part of the transformation process. His hands readily grasp his swords, and as can be seen by the package illustration, he can hold the large sword with both hands and assume any number of reasonably authentic sword-fighting poses.
The backstory on Drift's package card reads as follows: "Autobot Drift used to fight for Megatron, and was known as one of the most terrible warriors ever to stalk the face of Cybertron. Something happened that changed him, bringing home all the horror he'd inflicted. Since then, he has hunted the Decepticons from one end of the galaxy to the other, bringing his own brand of justice to the evil robots."
That's some pretty heavy stuff for a toy package. His various power levels are as follows: He gets a full "10" in Courage and Skill. That right there is enough to keep anyone sensible from messing with him. He has an "8" in Intelligence, "7" in Endurance, "6" in Strength and Speed, "5" in Fireblast -- but hey, he prefers the swords -- and a "2" in Rank, but that's doubtless just due to being a relative newcomer to the ranks of the Autobots. Give him time. Someone like this will work his way up.
So, what's my final word here? I'm impressed. Drift may be a relatively new character to the Transformers Generation One universe, but he's a cool character, and the toy of him is definitely very cool. It's an impressive sports car in vehicle mode, and an equally impressive Autobot in robot mode. And the swords with sheaths is an immensely cool feature. If you're thinking that because this character doesn't have the same history as other characters in the Generations line, you'd be talking yourself out of an impressive addition to your Transformers collection. Bring Drift in. You won't regret it. Then go track down his premiere in the Transformers: Spotlight series, as well as the four-issue mini-series about him that followed! I intentionally didn't tell any of that story here, so you can enjoy it on your own.
The TRANSFORMERS GENERATIONS figure of AUTOBOT DRIFT definitely has my highest recommendation!