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By Thomas Wheeler

Although the TRANSFORMERS UNIVERSE (formerly CLASSICS) line has had as its emphasis producing new versions of popular Generation One characters, generally upgrading them in their robot modes in the process to something far more articulated than the original toys from the 1980's, Hasbro has opted, as part of the 25th Anniversary celebration, to incorporate a few characters from other Transformers concepts over the years.

This has included, notably, Cheetor and Dinobot from Beast Wars, and now HOT SHOT from TRANSFORMERS ARMADA, which along with subsequent series ENERGON and CYBERTRON, is listed on the back of Hot Shot's package as "The Unicron Trilogy.

On the Transformers 25 Years Timeline presented on the back of the card, TRANSFORMERS ARMADA, logo and all, is presented as running from 2002-2003. As such, it's recent enough so that the toys from it carried the heightened level of articulation that the original Generation One Transformers tended to lack, a problem that was remedied, really, by the time of Beast Wars. So one might question the logic or need of including one of these characters in the Universe series.

However, it makes sense, since if you're going to celebrate 25 years of Transformers, you might as well do the best possible job in celebrating all of it. Hence the appearance of a couple of Beast Wars characters, certainly an extremely popular aspect of Transformers, and also hence the appearance of a character from the Armada-Energon-Cybertron era, which certainly saw a distinct popularity of its own and kept Transformers toys in the toy stores in force.

And Hot Shot is an entirely appropriate choice. Many of the notable Transformers during this time were, to one degree or another, either based on or at least named after notable Transformers from the original concept. Optimus Prime, Megatron, Starscream, and many others, all had counterparts. They technically weren't the same individuals from Generation One, but they carried the same names. Entering any of them into the Universe line would likely have been confusing.

Although there technically was a character named Hot Shot prior to this one, he is not quite as well known, and was part of the Robots in Disguise series. It can very readily be argued that if there was one distinctive breakout character in the Armada time period that did not have a precise predecessor in a previous Transformers concept, it was Hot Shot. Thus his entry into the Transformers Universe 25th Anniversary line.

In vehicle mode, as he is packaged, Hot Shot is a sports car, yellow in color, and about five inches in length, with a double spoiler in the back, one of which has the Autobot logo on it, and a visible engine area up front. His front and back windows are transparent blue. His side windows are painted opaque greyish blue. His headlights are separate pieces, molded in clear plastic. Nice touch! And he has some dark blue trim on his sides.

Let's learn about the character of Hot Shot:

Hot Shot appeared in the Armada, Energon and Cybertron series. Although seemingly two different, but similar, characters by Takara, he was portrayed as a single developing character when Hasbro made Cybertron part of their Unicron Trilogy. He bears several personality similarities to the Maximal Cheetor and the Generation 1 Autobot Hot Rod.

In Transformers: Armada, Hot Shot is a member of Optimus Prime's Autobot Squad, partnered with the Mini-Con Jolt. Hot Shot is one who rushes into danger without regard to his own safety; it was that brash attitude that enabled Sideways to take advantage when Hot Shot got too over-confident with the Star Saber, despite Scavenger's warnings. He took over as Autobot Commander when Optimus was briefly destroyed, and evolved to Powerlinx Hot Shot on the way to Cybertron.

Originally Hot Shot was friends with Wheeljack in the early days of the war on Cybertron. In one battle Wheeljack was crippled while an inferno raged all around him. Hot Shot left to get help, the other Autobots forbade him from going back. Subsequently Megatron rescued Wheeljack and twisted his mind against Hot Shot, ensuring the former friends became the bitterest of enemies. He also served under Rodimus at one point.

Hot Shot and Red Alert were with Prime when he journeyed to Earth to locate the Mini-Cons, battling Megatron and his Decepticons many times. After his acquisition of the Star Saber he battled Starscream on several occasions, defeating him in spite of the Decepticon's skill. His ego growing, Hot Shot was promptly given a humiliating lesson when Scavenger easily defeated him, proving that without the skill to use such a weapon, Hot Shot had a long way to go. Unfortunately Hot Shot didn't learn the lesson, and the Star Saber was stolen by Sideways.

After Starscream joined the Autobots Hot Shot clashed with the more ruthless Decepticon on several occasions, but was distracted by the arrival of Wheeljack on Earth, and the two clashed, with Wheeljack full of hate. Hot Shot only survived after Side Swipe interfered. Events forced Hot Shot to grow up fast, however, after Optimus Prime was destroyed saving the Earth. Thrust into a leadership role Hot Shot tried his best, but all too gladly gave up the role when Prime returned. He was one of those injured by Nemesis Prime and upgraded into a more powerful Powerlinking body.

He then joined up with Wheeljack and Starscream again, trying to stop Thrust and Sideways from reactivating Unicron, failing due to Unicron's internal defenses. Trying in vain and failing to make Galvatron (a reformatted Megatron) see the truth of Unicron's threat (although this, ironically enough, made Wheeljack respect him, and went some way to repairing their friendship), Galvatron was finally convinced by Starscream's sacrifice, earning Hot Shot's respect in death. Hot Shot fought against Unicron, and was appointed leader of the Autobots along with Jetfire when Optimus Prime went into seclusion.

In Transformers: Energon, ten years after the end of Armada, Hot Shot "matured" (both physically and mentally), becoming an officer in Prime's inner circle. Still a yellow sports car, he was given the Spark of Combination from Primus, which allowed him to combine with other Autobots into one unit. Later in the series, he was upgraded into a silver form of the same body as Energon Hot Shot.

Hot Shot would be the commander of Ocean City, the Autobots' first outpost on Earth. His Powerlinking partner was Inferno. He was idolized by Ironhide for his heroic status after the battle with Unicron, but saw the young Autobot as too reckless and hotheaded - unable to appreciate that this was how he had been years before. Hot Shot was present for many of the battle against the Terrorcons (including a severe beating at the hands of the newly reborn Megatron, who tore his arm off), but it was when his former commander Rodimus arrived, having gone into seclusion years before, that Hot Shot experienced a real crisis.

Rodimus had been convinced by Alpha Q that Unicron could be used as a force for good, recreating all the worlds that Unicron had destroyed, and he wanted Hot Shot to help him. Hot Shot refused as his loyalty to Optimus was too great and the two came to blows. Later the two would be reconciled after Megatron had reactivated Unicron to use as a weapon, even becoming Powerlinking partners.

Hot Shot took part in many of the battles surrounding Unicron, battling both Decepticons and Terrorcons multiple times, once again being reformatted after being nearly destroyed in an attack by Unicron. He also spent much time mentoring Ironhide into a more responsible and mature Autobot. He eventually combined his Spark with those of all other Autobots to empower Optimus Supreme to battle a Unicron possessed Galvatron.

In the series Transformers: Cybertron, Hot Shot is supposed to be the same character as from Armada and Energon; in the Japanese version of Cybertron, he is a completely new character called Exillion. His weapons in the series included a Grenade Rifle, Missile Launchers, Battle Dagger, and Shoulder Rifles.

When Cybertron was threatened by the Black Hole left by Unicron's destruction at the end of Energon Optimus Prime ordered the planet evacuated. Many of the inhabitants, including Hot Shot, fled to Earth, where he took the form of an Earth sports car.

However the search for the Cyber Planet Keys soon took priority and Hot Shot, once again partnered with Red Alert, journeyed to Velocitron to search for that planet's Key. His confidence took a severe dent when he was soundly beaten in a race for the Key by the planet's leader Override. Hot Shot quickly became obsessed with beating her, to the exclusion of all else - something that did not endear him to Prime when the Autobot leader arrived. However, encouraged by the Autobots' human allies Hot Shot eventually beat Override (as well as the Decepticon contenders), winning the Key for the Autobots.

Hot Shot was involved in many of the Key battles, fighting not just the Decepticons under Megatron, but the army of ancient Decepticons gathered by Starscream. He was nearly killed by Megatron, but was reformatted by the Omega Lock into a more powerful form. Alongside Red Alert and Scattorshot he became part of the Cybertron Defense team, battling at the forefront of many of the most dangerous battles. Later they fought Soundwave, the powered-up Starscream and Galvatron himself (a once-again recreated Megatron).

After the eventual defeat of Galvatron Hot Shot, along with Dirt Boss, Ransack, Dark Crumplezone, Brakedown and Clocker, raced in the Speedia 500 to see who would become the new leader of Velocitron after Override left to join the Space Bridge project. Hot Shot won, becoming leader of Velocitron and signifying his growth from a cocky impetuous rookie to a confident mature leader.

After Red Alert, Hot Shot and Scattorshot were nearly killed in combat with Megatron, the power of the Cyber Planet Keys was able to not only heal their wounds, but reformat the trio of Autobots into new forms based on vehicles found at the military base they were being repaired at. The three Autobots became the Cybertron Defense Team .

In the episode "Unfinished", when the Autobots attempted to use a gigantic rocket to move the Animatros back into its orbit, Galvatron attacked and damaged the rocket. The jungle planet threatened to crash into Cybertron. Scourge, the Autobots, the former Decepticons, and their allies from the various planets were able to combine their strength and move the rocket back into place. In the episode "Beginning" he became leader of Speed Planet once Override is gone.

It's worth mentioning, if it hasn't been obvious, that the series "Cybertron" was not initially considered a direct follow-up to Armada and Energon in its original Japanese broadcast, the way it was in the United States. I seem to recall this being a point of some controversy among Transformers fans at the time. Was it or wasn't it?

Just as most of the Transformers from the Universe series now read "Generation 1 Series" on them, as opposed to "Classics Series" (or also "Beast Wars Series" in the case of Cheetor and Dinobot), Hot Shot clearly has "Armada Series" on his package, so this is intended to represent Hot Shot at is earliest, so the Cybertron controversy isn't a factor.

So, what's involved in the transformation? You start by opening the doors and swinging them all the way forward. Then you take the two halves of the rear of the car and move them apart from each other and back a bit.

That's the easy part. It gets weird from here on out, and the illustrated instructions are only so much help. One thing I wouldn't mind seeing brought back from the original Transformers is the written instructions accompanying the pictures.

Technically, you swing the rear halves of the car open and around in a sort of diagonal fashion, but this doesn't work all that well because the two halves of the tail of the car get in the way a fair bit. Essentially, you're forming the eventual arms of the robot. If you can figure out how to do this effectively, write me. I'm still not sure I got it right. The diagram and even the photo of the prototype toy on the back of the package don't quite seem to match the parts.

Next, you split the front of the car apart. This starts to form the legs. It will be somewhat disconcerting to find that Hot Shot's head is also located in this area. Rotate the legs around, and then pretty much in one single, significant move, you swing the head and chest up, the legs down, and snap all of this into one place. I'm making this sound a lot easier than it actually is.

After this, you rotate the lower legs around, extend the feet, and actually fold the windows into the legs. This completes Hot Shot.

I'm still not entirely certain I got this quite right. This is a robot that definitely lived up to the "Advanced Conversion" grade he was given on his package. It looks to me like some portion of the rear of the car was somewhat re-engineered between prototype and production phase, but from the look of it, it shouldn't've interfered with the arms as badly as it does.

By my own admission, I'm not a Transformers expert when it comes to actually transforming the toys. The two rear car pieces will not line up behind the robot in a symmetrical fashion. Maybe they can't. Maybe I just goofed. Hot Shot is otherwise in a good humanoid robot stance, and his articulation is operational, so I'm going to have to simply leave it as such until such time as I can get further information as to what, if anything, I messed up.

In robot mode, Hot Shot stands slightly under 5-1/2" in height to th top of his head. The car parts add a little extra height. This makes him of average height compared to other robots in this line, perhaps slightly shorter than some, which isn't at all inappropriate given that this is supposed to be "early" Hot Shot, and as such perhaps more youthful in appearance (as robots go) and demeanor.

In robot mode, Hot Shot is very nicely articulated, and is poseable at the head, arms, elbows, legs, knees, and ankles, although the ankle bit is tied more into his transformation needs than anything. His head is a good likeness of the Armada character, and has a flip-down visor over his face. Hasbro tried to do the usual bit of making the back of the head out of transparent blue plastic, which would reflect through to the eyes and make them look like they're glowing, but for some reason, it didn't work that well on Hot Shot. I think part of it is the assembly. There's a screw in the way.

Hot Shot comes with a Mini-Con, a special division of robots partnered with both the Autobots and the Decepticons throughout Armada, Energon, and Cybertron. Hot Shot's little friend is named Jolt. In robot mode, he stands about 2 inches in height, and is surprisingly well articulated at the legs, arms, and elbows. He transformers into a helicopter fairly easily, with a nicely rotating propeller, and can also be mounted to Hot Shot's shoulder, when Hot Shot is in robot mode, as a weapon. He can also be attached to the top of Hot Shot in car mode.

Hot Shot's character profile reads as follows: Impatient, impulsive, and actually sometimes kind of annoying, Hot Shot is young, but full of potential. Optimus Prime sees in him the qualities of a great leader, and has taken it upon himself to mentor the young warrior in the ways of command. His Mini-Con partner Jolt tries his best to keep his erratic behavior under control, but Hot Shot is quite skilled in ignoring the voice of reason. He's also obsessed with something called JaAm, which most Autobots think is some obscure fuel source, but no one knows for sure.

Obsessed? Yeah, I'd say so. It's on Hot Shot's license plate. Hot Shot's various power rankings give him a 9 for Speed, an 8 for Courage, a 7 for Intelligence (one would assume despite his occasionally reckless behavior), 6 in Strength and Endurance, 5 in Rank and Skill, and 4 in Fireblast. Not too bad.

So, what's my final word here? Some might see Hot Shot as an unusual addition to a line that, for the most part, has focused on Generation One. But as part of celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Transformers, I think it's only fair to bring some other Transformers concepts into the line. Certainly Beast Wars is deserving, and so is the Armada/Energon/Cybertron series, and Hot Shot is, as I said earlier, the most logical contender for that.

As for Hot Shot, he's cool. I would hope that if you are reading this and decide to purchase him, you have somewhat better luck transforming him than I did. Maybe this is just how he is. In any case, the TRANSFORMERS UNIVERSE ARMADA SERIES HOT SHOT definitely has my enthusiastic recommendation!