There's been a rumor flying around that Ravage and Rumble are Wal-Mart exclusives, and granted, I did find them at a Wal-Mart. However, I think this may be more a case of them being the only store chain that has any shelf space available for Alternators at this point in time, rather than Wal-Mart making any deliberate effort to secure an exclusive release for these two toys.
Whatever the case may be, I am certainly pleased to have both of them. Now, let's start with RAVAGE.
This is not the first time Ravage has turned up in the Alternators line, and indeed, he's the first character to ever turn up twice.
The original Alternators Ravage was technically called "Battle Ravage", a name the character had to take for a while, no doubt due to legal reasons. He was a Chevrolet Corvette, and was essentially a slight reworking of Tracks, an Autobot Alternator, given a different head and color scheme. And here we need to get into the origin of the character, and some background on the Alternators, as well.
It's been fairly common practice for the Alternators to get more than one use out of any given set of molds. This is understandable. These are phenomenally complex toys. And making the molds for a toy is the most expensive aspect of the procedure. It's small wonder that Hasbro and Tomy want to get all they can out of their investment in the molds. I honestly don't have a problem with this. They'll switch a few things around, such as the head mold and the color scheme, and the end result is a new character. Most Alternator molds have seen two uses. A few have seen three. Fine and well.
Now, let's consider the rather complicated background of the character called Ravage, as this leads in to the review of this newest Alternator. Ravage started out as one of the Decepticons that was assigned to Soundwave. In the Generation One universe, Soundwave turned into a cassette player. He had as his assistants a series of five cassettes that could transform into other forms. Two of these, Frenzy and Rumble, could transform into small humanoid robots. Two others, Laserbeak, arguably the best known of the group, and Buzzsaw, were able to transform into small robotic birds, and generally acted as Soundwave's remote eyes and ears, as spies.
Then there was Ravage. He transformed into a large predatory robotic cat. While never specifically identified by species, it was assumed he was either a panther or a large black jaguar. In the Generation One animated series, Ravage did not speak. He was a robotic animal that could transform into a cassette, and was often used by Soundwave to attack Autobots, or even humans. Ravage was also shown to have a superior sense of smell, and as such was an excellent tracker.
It is at this point that Ravage's history gets rather interesting, and ties into the original Alternators Ravage.
During the Transformers Beast Wars series, Ravage actually turned up at one point. Since the characters from the Beast Wars series came from the same continuity as Generation One, just further down the timeline (even though they were cast back to a point before the Autobots and Decepticons revived on Earth), it was explained that a number of Decepticon survivors from the Great War were reformatted. One of these was Ravage, who had become a special agent of the Tripredacus Council. This Ravage still had the jaguar/panther-like head, but in robot form, had a far more humanoid appearance otherwise. He stood on two legs, and was capable of proper speech, even though he had an accent that, oddly, sounded faintly Russian.
So when Ravage, or Battle Ravage, first became part of the Transformers Alternators line, it wasn't too far a leap to see the character have a mostly humanoid body in robot mode, with the jaguar/panther head.
Now we come to the new Alternators Ravage, and things have certainly changed!
The Alternators never fail to impress me with regard to their basic concept. I honestly cannot imagine what it must take from an engineering and design standpoint to create a precise, 1:24 scale model of an existing automobile, one that matches the real-world car well enough to be designated as an officially licensed product from the automaker, and then have that toy be capable of transforming into a humanoid robot that bears at least a sufficient resemblance to its Generation One counterpart to satisfy the average Transformers fan. It's just absolutely incredible.
Except in the case of Ravage, we sort of need to delete that "humanoid" part of it. Ravage has apparently returned to his animalistic roots, and he now transformed into a four-footed predatory cat that looks like it's made out of automobile parts!
In a pun that should probably have been seen coming a few light-years away, Ravage's automotive form is -- a JAGUAR XK. Hey, at least it's a very classy car, a sleek and sporty-looking vehicle made all the more fancy-looking for its appropriately black color scheme in this instance, but as for the name of the car pertaining to the character it's applied to -- ouch.
In automotive form, Ravage is a glossy, almost metallic black, with rubbery tires, tons of interior detail, opening doors, and a very interesting license plate. Recent Alternators have had license plates from actual locations, and Ravage's is the first non-American license plate I've seen. It's a longer rectangular shape, and reads RAVAGE, but the left side of the plate is dark blue with the letters "GB" on it and a circle of gold stars. I checked with a friend of mine in Great Britain, and he confirms that this is the license plate design for the European Community. And, in fact, they've had Alternators Ravage on the shelves for months.
One of the most impressive aspects of these Alternators is the level of detail that goes into both the automotive and robotic formats.
Now, none of these Alternators have exactly been easy transformations. They're among the most challenging of any Transformers. Ravage is certainly no exception to this, although perhaps as a result of transforming from a four-wheeled vehicle to a four-footed animal-like robot, instead of a two-footed, two-armed humanoid robot, the transformation is not quite as difficult as some have been in the past.
The final result is very evocative of established images of Ravage -- not bad for a toy that started out as a small, relatively flat cassette. The head looks very much as one would expect it would. Hasbro saw fit to put just a little bit of metallic purple trim on the head, and it looks excellent. The mouth opens and the head and neck have an astounding range of motion. The Decepticon logo appears on the left side of the figure's neck, which interestingly enough is very close to where the thermal Decepticon logo sticker was located on the original Ravage.
All four legs have an excellent level of articulation, and there's even a tail. There are two missile launchers attached to the rear hips. This is not only reminiscent of the original Ravage, who came with these accessories, but just a bit of the first Alternators Ravage, who had shoulder-mounted missile launchers. Granted this was a carryover from Tracks, who is better known for that feature, so really, the rear- mounted missiles are more in keeping with the original Ravage.
He's also pretty good-sized compared to other Alternators. This is a pretty BIG cat!
If you want a continuity explanation, maybe we could say that Ravage got tired of his humanoid robotic form and asked to be converted into something more in keeping with his origins. The end result certainly works. Although the robot jaguar body may seem somewhat narrow, the hood and roof of the car act to make a rather effective overhead shield for the character, which would no doubt protect him from incoming fire.
On the whole, though, this is truly an excellent Transformer. As accustomed to making humanoid robots as the company surely had gotten, I suspect this Alternators Ravage presented an interesting challenge, and the result is most impressive.
There's one interesting little tie-in to the Beast Wars Ravage on the package. The original Ravage, in the animated series, could not speak. The Beast Wars Ravage could. And of late, the Alternators packages have included a character quote, in lieu of a full character profile. So what do you do for a character who, in the form most closely related to the one this toy represents, doesn't speak? You look to his other form. Ravage's quote is "Decepticons Forever!", which is what the Beast Wars Ravage said right before he decided to side with the Beast Wars Megatron and attacked the Maximals -- turning into a cassette with the old G1 sound effect, to boot.
The Alternators have also always been numbered. Ravage is #26, the highest number I've yet seen. Curiously, Rumble is #24. I'm assuming Camshaft, who I have yet to find, is #25.
Still, there is the thought at the back of my head -- they do like to get more than one use out of these molds whenever possible, but Ravage is a very distinct character. There were no other Generation One Transformers that really looked like him. There were some other animalistic characters, but none with a really close appearance.
The thought occurs to me that if Hasbro and Tomy want to get another use out of the Ravage molds, should the Alternators line resume at some point, which I certainly hope it does, they may have to look to a related concept for an answer. That answer, in my book, could very well be -- Cheetor! That is, assuming Jaguar would allow a licensed version of one of their cars to be molded in yellow-with-spots. Still, I think it'd be kind of cool.
Now, let's have a look at RUMBLE.
Rumble has his origins in the Generation One series, like most of the Alternators. Rumble was one of Soundwave's assistants. Soundwave, one of the most prominent Decepticons, had the ability to transform into a tape player. His associates consisted of a series of Decepticons that could transform into cassettes. These included Ravage, the birdlike Lazerbeak and Buzzsaw, and Frenzy and Rumble, who could transform into small humanoid robots.
Small, of course, is a relative term, and in this case applies to Transformers standards. Frenzy and Rumble, in their robotic forms, were still moderately larger than the average human being, although their comparatively small size did allow them to enter human-scaled buildings without bringing down half the walls, unlike their far larger colleagues.
Both Frenzy and Rumble came across as, essentially, street punks. They
weren't portrayed as being particularly intelligent. "Bullies"
might be the best term for them. They each had a sort of Brooklyn street
Toywise, both were based on the same molds, although they differed in color scheme. Frenzy was blue and pale purple in color, while Rumble was black and dark red. For reasons I've never determined, the animated series reversed the names with regard to the color schemes.
Both robots, although Rumble seemed to especially enjoy doing so, had the unusual capability of transforming their arms, when in humanoid form, into pile-drivers, which enabled them to pound the ground or floor wherever they happened to be with such force that the result was fairly severe, if very localized, ground tremors. They weren't likely to set off the San Andreas Fault, but you didn't want to be particularly nearby when they pulled this stunt.
Soundwave's assorted cassettes tended to be loyal first and foremost to Soundwave, although given Soundwave's apparent loyalty to Megatron, the Decepti-cassettes also served the Decepticon leader. One scene in Transformers the Movie has Soundwave dragging a mostly wrecked Megatron from the battlefield, while Rumble tags along behind, carrying Megatron's weapon in his arms.
Now, let's consider the Alternators Rumble. Officially named "DECEPTICON RUMBLE", this latest entry in the Alternators line, numbered #24 in the series, is based on a HONDA CIVIC SI. Reportedly Honda makes good cars. But none of them are all that likely to be mistaken for limousines, either. The Honda Civic Si is, fairly stated, an average-size automobile, with a fairly sporty appearance to it. Not inappropriately for the character, the car has been molded in a dark red.
In car mode, Rumble has a nicely detailed interior, as far as it goes. The seats are nicely done, as is the dashboard, and there's even a visible stickshift. But I think if this particular Honda Civic Si existed in real life, someone would get a heck of a surprise if they stepped into it by accident. There is no back seat area, and in face you can see Rumble's head emerging from where the back seat area normally would be! Talk about your back seat drivers!
This is NOT a complaint about the design of the toy. As I've said with every other Alternator I've ever reviewed, I honestly cannot imagine what it takes to create a decently accurate 1:24 scale representation of a real-world car, do a good enough job with it to meet the satisfaction of the automaker so that they'll allow it to be an officially licensed product, and then enable the toy to transform into a humanoid robot that at least bears some decent resemblance to its Generation One counterpart to the reasonable satisfaction of what are probably the most nit-picky fans on the face of the planet.
Not a job I'd want, thank you very much, and much kudos and credit to those at Hasbro and Tomy that ARE responsible for them.
One other thing -- of late, the Alternators have had license plates representing actual States. Rumble, whose licence plate, not surprisingly, reads RUMBLE, has a license plate for Hawaii. While I'm not certain why a Decepticon would be hanging around in Hawaii -- what the heck, maybe even the Decepticons need vacations, and there's certainly worse places. Just keep those pile-drivers of his away from the volcanoes.
In car mode, Rumble's doors, hood, and trunk open. His engine block becomes one of his weapons, and his other weapon is in the trunk of the car. He'd better hope he doesn't get pulled over pulling a stunt like that...
Now, none of the Alternators are especially easy transformations, but Rumble isn't too bad. Honestly, the toughest part is in the first steps, getting his legs transformed. The rest is relatively easy, although I'm still not entirely sure where to mount the weapons. There's only so much that can be derived from the illustrated instructions, but honestly, that aspect of it isn't that big a deal to me.
In robot mode, Rumble is just a little shorter from head to foot than most Alternators. This perhaps isn't surprising given his diminutive size in Generation One. He comes in at about 6", although his large arms and "shoulders" add another half inch to that. But that's still shorter than the 7" or so of most Alternators.
In robot mode, Rumble looks very much like an automotive version of his original incarnation. This is greatly aided by a flip-down panel on his chest that does a nice job of duplicating his "cassette upper body" from the Generation One Rumble. His robot body's main coloration is a sort of very dark steel grey, not quite black, although he does have some black trim on him, including his face. There is some dark gold trim on him, as well, and, of course, the dark red of the car body. So the overall color scheme is certainly Rumble's.
Now here's an interesting feature. Rumble has his pile-drivers. Unfortunately, this has cost him having any actual arms with hands and fingers, but doing both probably would've been a bit much for the designers. The pile-drivers are chrome silver, and in a distinctly unique design aspect, they're spring-loaded! I don't think I've seen this used as a feature on any Alternator for any reason before. You can snap the pile-drivers up into the upper arms, and then use a couple of VERY well-concealed buttons to cause them to spring down, with what in real life would doubtless be considerable force.
Of course in robot mode, Rumble stands well, and has excellent articulation. He is also well-proportioned. There have been a few Alternators that have looked a little odd in robot mode, with occasionally rather thin legs or some other unusual feature. Rumble, admittedly, has very large arms, and the pile-drivers cost him any articulation a more humanoid arm would've had, but on him, it's appropriate, and on the whole, he looks excellent.
While the package doesn't contain a full character profile for Rumble, it does include a character quote. For Rumble, this reads, "Chaos is the seed of victory". Pretty eloquent for someone that comes across as a cheap thug most of the time. What's next, they get the Dreadnoks quiting Shakespeare in G.I. Joe?
Now, while I have no idea if the Altenators line is going to resume once the movie toys have tun their course, although I certainly hope it returns, as such time as it DOES return, if Hasbro and Tomy don't redo this model as Frenzy, they're crazy. Frenzy is easily the most obvious remake since Sideswipe and Sunstreaker, if not moreso. The original Rumble and Frenzy from Generation One used the same set of molds. There's no reason Alternator versions couldn't do likewise. Let's sincerely hope it happens.
Let me say this in conclusion - As I said at the start of this review, the Transformers Alternators line is easily the most impressive series of Transformers I have ever seen. I would hate to think that we've seen the last of it. I realize that in the very near future, the toys based on the live-action Transformers movie will be taking over the Transformers display in any given toy department. So be it -- this is to be expected.
However, I would also hope that once the movie has run its course, and Transformers as a toy line has to move on to something else, that the Alternators will return. There's still a lot that can be done in this line, still no shortage of popular characters that can be worked into it. For a good long time after their initial introduction, the Alternators were amazingly popular, and if there has been any level of diminishing in that in recent times, it's probably because there hasn't been much new product, except for these last two.
So, here's fervently hoping we haven't seen the last of the Transformers
Alternators. And meanwhile RAVAGE and RUMBLE certainly have my highest
and most enthusiastic recommendation!