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By Thomas Wheeler

One of the most impressive aspects of the Transformers cosmos of toys in recent years has been the CLASSICS series. This concept takes classic Transformers characters, generally from Generation One, and brings them into the modern day with entirely new toys that, while bearing a good resemblance to their original counterparts, have a certain modern flair -- not to mention modern articulation.

I've said it with every one of these that I've reviewed -- if the original Transformers line had one notable fallacy, it was that the toys, in robot form, were generally not that well articulated. They could move their arms, sometimes their heads, but rare indeed was the original Transformer that had significant leg movement.

That matter has long since been remedied, and the Classics line has done a generally superb job in updating the classic Transformers into new formats that speak well of their ancestors, and have the modern level of articulation that fans of the Transformers have come to expect.

The line seemed to have been unfortunately canceled with the advent of the live-action movie, but now, Hasbro has brought it back, as TRANSFORMERS UNIVERSE (with a little notation on the package that these are "Classic Series"). They can call it what they like. As far as I'm concerned, the Classics are back, and I'm glad to have them.

Although there was one that I wasn't sure I would be able to have. Perhaps not surprisingly, Hasbro chose a Classic Transformer of Nemesis Prime as part of their exclusive offerings at the 2008 San Diego ComiCon.

So, precisely who is Nemesis Prime? From one standpoint, Nemesis Prime is a character that allows Hasbro to make a good second use out of the very expensive toy molds for a toy that might not otherwise have a second use -- Optimus Prime. This isn't even the first exclusive Nemesis Prime toy that is a recoloration of an Optimus. That distinction would go to the Alternators (another line I wish would return) Nemesis Prime, a black recoloration of a Dodge Ram SRT-10 truck.

Nemesis Prime as a character is a little more difficult to pin down. He wasn't part of the original Generation One series. Nor has he at any point been part of the Decepticon hierarchy. Much as there have been various Transformers concepts over the past several years -- Armada, Energon, Cybertron, etc -- so has Nemesis Prime's backstory -- when he's turned up at all -- been rather varied in the concurrent animated series. Certain comic book appearances have only served to confuse matters.

Arguably Nemesis Prime's most notable animated appearance -- that is, where he really looked like an evil version of Optimus Prime -- was in the Armada cartoon. Here is a character summary: Nemesis Prime was a monstrous Transformer, controlled by Sideways, sent to kill the Autobots and Decepticons while they were on their way to Cybertron. It scanned the minds of the Transformers that landed on the planet it was waiting on to ambush them and took the form of Optimus Prime as he was the most powerful and respected in all their minds. As a duplicate of Optimus Prime, Nemesis had all of Prime's strength and power - in addition to his ability to reconstruct himself. Nemesis Prime subsequently attacked and decimated the two sides, leaving most of the Transformers heavily damaged. However, they were then restored and their abilities enhanced by the powers of their Mini-Cons, and Nemesis Prime was subsequently destroyed by the power of Optimus Prime (powerlinked with Overload) and Galvatron, the newly reformatted form of Megatron.

There was a Nemesis Prime toy, a recoloration of the Armada Deluxe Optimus Prime, made available. More recently, in the Transformers: Devastation comic book, which technically ties into Generation One, Nemesis Prime has also appeared. This incarnation of Nemesis Prime is actually not an evil clone of that universe's Optimus, but the new identity of Nova Prime, one of Optimus' predecessors. Motivated by a desire to expand territorially, Nova led the first Ark on a journey of conquest, but ended up in the Dead Universe. The The Transformers: Spotlight issue on Galvatron hints that the ship's crew (including Prime) became undead as a result of this.

Personally, the backstory that I have always preferred is one that seems to be reasonably close to this newest Nemesis Prime -- that he is a Decepticon who through scheme or accident has been given the form of Optimus Prime and a measure of his power, but that it has been twisted towards evil to a degree that even the Decepticons cannot control. He's not specifically a threat to Megatron's leadership, but he is dangerous to Autobots, since he has the form of the Decepticons' most hated enemy of all, and pretty much can't stand himself in the bargain.

The precise backstory of this newest incarnation of Nemesis Prime reads as follows: Broken by a nightmare eternity of torture at the hands of Straxus, Nemesis Prime does not remember what he was before he was this. He is the culmination of a grand plan never realized by Straxus before his destruction; a lowly warrior reconstructed to be the very image of Optimus Prime. Imprinted with memory engrams and combat algorithms recovered from hundreds of sources, he possesses much of the knowledge of the Autobot leader, but without any framework by which to organize it. Despite his incredible power, he is deeply unstable, a threat to Decepticon and Autobot alike. He cowers in the shadows of Cybertron, living only to stalk and destroy his fellow Transformers.

Straxus, if memory serves, was a Decepticon that turned up rather briefly in the earlier issues of the original Marvel Comics. Talk about dredging up a name from the past.

Whatever the background, there's something about a character that's essentially an evil version, at least appearance-wise, of the greatest hero of the Transformers universe ever, that sort of appeals to me. So I was very glad that Hasbro decided to add Nemesis Prime to the Classics Universe, and was very pleased that my friend was able to acquire him.

Of course, he is derived from the Classics Optimus Prime, and technically speaking, this is the fourth use of these molds, so I imagine Hasbro's been getting their money's worth. The first was, of course, Optimus Prime. The second was an Ultra Magnus figure that was sold in a Target-exclusive two-pack that also featured Skywarp. The third was an evil Optimus Prime that was part of the 2008 Official Transformers Collectors' Convention Set. And now we have Nemesis Prime.

In truck form, Nemesis Prime is about 6-1/4" in length, 3" high, and 2-1/4" wide. He is part of the "Voyager" class of Transformers toys, which is the next step up from the "Deluxe" toys. He came packaged in a very impressive box, one with a great many angles on it. I pity the box designer. The box looks as though Nemesis Prime could have been ready for the stores. It is fully illustrated, with all of the proper details, including the words "Classic Series" on the side, and a very nicely done painted image of Nemesis Prime in his robot form on the front and side. Appropriate, since Nemesis Prime is packaged in his truck form.

Nemesis Prime has a color scheme concurrent with several previous versions of the character. He is predominantly black, with some dark silver trim, and dark steel blue details on him. The Decepticon logo is present on the driver's side of the cab. The headlights are an eerie metallic turquoise.

As a truck, Nemesis Prime looks somewhat futuristic, but not implausible. I could picture something like this heading down the freeway -- probably at speeds not recommended by the Highway Department. That's not an insult at truckers, by the way -- but Nemesis Prime. You expect a Decepticon to care about speed limits?

Let's consider Nemesis Prime's transformation. As I have said before, the one thing I do miss from the original Transformers is the written instructions as well as the diagrams. Sometimes a two-dimensional diagram just isn't quite up to showing what one is supposed to do with a three-dimensional toy. Hopefully, I can help a little bit, although I would state for the record not to rely just on my comments to try to transform this toy. You should definitely refer to the instructions provided.

The first thing the instructions tell you to do is to remove the little stacks in the back. These are packaged separately anyway, and I couldn't quite figure out how to attach them, so this wasn't a problem. Next, you flip back the curved top of the truck -- right after you snip the little transparent rubber band holding it in place.

Now, move the sides of the truck away from the main cab. This is best done by moving them from the headlights and gently swinging them outwards. Let me make one comment here. The Alternators version of Nemesis Prime had a transparent red windshield, and somehow, it made him look a bit more evil. The Classics version here has a blue windshield. NOT a complaint, this is still a cool toy -- but red might've been a bit better.

Next, stretch out the arms all the way. The cab doors will seem to look out of place in this process, but that will be taken care of in the next step when you more or less wrap the cab doors around the lower arms.

Now, lift up the head, rotate it around, and fold the former top of the truck into the back. Then fold the front bumper and front tires up and under the front grill.

Next, fold the legs down, pivot the feet out, fold the side panels of the rear of the truck down to the sides of the lower legs, and raise the knee pads.

Last, turn the upper body around 180 degrees, not at the waist, but right below the front windshield. Then bring the arms down. Your Nemesis Prime is now in full robot mode and ready for battle.

As transformations go, Nemesis Prime is pretty straightforward and not that difficult. Transforming the upper body is actually distinctly tougher than the lower body, which basically amounts to lowering the legs. However, the results are certainly impressive.

As either Optimus or Nemesis -- or for that matter, Ultra Magnus -- this toy is extremely cool. It looks very much like a modern incarnation of the famous truck. about the worst thing I could say about it is he seems a little back-heavy with that truck-top hanging off his back, but you know what? That piece transforms into one of his weapons! It becomes his disruptor cannon. The smokestacks which were packaged separately become a second weapon, listed as a Stellar Converter Cannon.

So really, what you have here is a very impressive robot that started out as a very cool upgrade of Optimus Prime, and now works just as well as an imposing version of Nemesis Prime.

In robot mode, Nemesis Prime stands about 6-3/4" in height, slightly taller than average for a Classics Transformer, but that's not inappropriate, certainly. And, of course, a hallmark of the Classics line, we have an extremely well-articulated robot here. Nemesis Prime is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, mid-torso (technically part of his transformation), waist, legs, knees (including a swivel) and ankles. In other words, precisely what he should be, and very impressive.

I related Nemesis Prime's backstory earlier in this review, but let's consider his various power rankings. Not too surprisingly, his highest is Strength, in which he scores a "10". In other words, someone you want to get out of the way of and let Optimus handle him. His next highest levels are in Endurance and Courage, at "9", also not surprising. Nemesis gets an "8" in Fireblast and, somewhat surprisingly, Intelligence. I would not have figured him to do quite as well there. Next is Speed, at "6", Skill, at "5", which I sort of expected to be higher, and finally, Rank, at "3". That one's no great surprise. Nemesis Prime is not a leader. He's not Megatron. He's not even Galvatron. He's a weapon with an eerie psychological advantage. He looks like an evil version of Optimus Prime. That's going to upset the Autobots, and given that Nemesis Prime himself probably isn't too happy with it, it's just going to make him madder, too. Probably keep the Decepticons at a distance, for that matter.

So, what's my final word here? If you're any sort of fan of the Transformers Classics, you will want this toy. Of course, depending on when you're reading this review, he might well be sold out. But I still suggest making some effort to track him down. This is an extremely cool and very impressive Transformer, and would be a welcome addition to any collection, especially among the Classics.

The TRANSFORMERS UNIVERSE CLASSICS NEMESIS PRIME definitely has my highest recommendation!