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REVIEW: TRANSFORMERS COMMEMORATIVE SERIES GRAPPLE
By Thomas Wheeler

I think people tend to remember many of their firsts. First date, first car, that sort of thing. I also tend to think toy collectors remember the firsts, as well. My first action figure was Captain Action, when I was seven years old. My first G.I.Joes were Snake-Eyes and Flash, purchased on the same day in 1982. My first Transformer was Grapple.

I'll admit that when Transformers first came along, I wasn't into them quite as much as I was into G.I.Joe. I simply didn't have the money or the space. Heck, I still don't, which is why I tend to stick to the Alternators for the most part.

However, I had been interested in the reissue of GRAPPLE in the Toys "R" Us exclusive Transformers Generation One Commemorative Series. But given the price tags on these toys, I just couldn't justify it.

It's a shame, really. I don't know if the retail pricing came from Hasbro or Toys "R" Us, but whichever the case, the Commemorative Series basically prices itself out of its own market. This could have been a very cool way to reintroduce the original Transformers to a whole new generation. Instead, it seemed to languish on the shelf due to the price point.

Hasbro has slowly been clearancing the remaining supplies recently, and a friend of mine informed me that he had gotten Grapple at a substantially lower price than even the stated clearance price that was marked on the package. Like me, Grapple had been his first Transformer, years ago, but also like me, that original Grapple had not survived to the present day.

So after this news, I headed to Toys "R" Us. After snagging the G.I.Joe Winter Operations Set, my other main reason for dropping in on TRU that day, I headed over to the Transformers section. I saw ONE Grapple. The sign beneath him said that he was $12.98. Still a little pricey for my budget, even if it was a substantial markdown from the original price. But I took him over to the price scanner to see if there was any difference. He scanned at $4.98. Grapple would be coming home with me.

Grapple is an Autobot. In fact, his official name for the Commemorative Series has been listed as "Autobot Grapple". In vehicular mode, which is how he comes packaged, Grapple is a bright orange construction crane. He's very authentic looking. A lengthy six-wheeled truck, with a large crane mount on the back, that includes an raising and extending crane rig with a hook at the end.

The only apparent evidence on the toy that this is anything other than a construction crane vehicle is the Autobot logo on the front of the truck.

Grapple comes complete with attachable hands, a gun, and missiles, which, like his hands, can launch out of the spring-activated sections of his lower arms. He also comes with a sticker sheet, most of which I chose not to use, and an instruction sheet, which although a new version of the original, still makes mention of the thermal Autobot color-change sticker that Transformers used quite a bit in their initial run, when other transforming robot toys were running so rampant that assuring one's identity really wasn't a bad idea.

Grapple's transformation is not especially difficult. It's completed, basically, in six steps on the instruction sheet. Some newer fans of Transformers may be a little disappointed in some respects. Grapple is not terribly large. He's barely 7 inches long in vehicle mode, and a little shorter than that in robot mode. Also, in robot mode, about all that's articulated on him are his arms.

To me, this was a disappointment twenty years ago, and one of the reasons that I didn't get into Transformers all that much. It was a bit of a letdown to watch the cartoon and see these robots running all over the place, and the toys couldn't. But realistically, Takara and Hasbro weren't really creating an action figure line here. They were creating a line of transforming robots, something of a different concept altogether.

Granted, today's Transformers, from the Alternators on down, tend to have greater articulation. And also granted, the original toys have become classics even for their lack of articulation. But someone expecting these Commemoratives to be as poseable as their modern relatives is going to be disappointed. Fortunately, I knew what to expect, so I was not. I just really wanted Grapple back in my collection, and at $4.98, I wasn't about to pass him up.

Grapple's bio-card reads as follows:

Function: Architect "Beauty is in everything except war."

On Cybertron, Autobot Grapple's buildings are considered works of art. On Earth, his ideas are limited by war. Takes pride in his works, prone to severe depression if they're destroyed in battle. As crane, can life a 35-ton object and position it with precision and grace. As robot, has high-temperature arc-welder rifle. Can launch rockets 4.5 miles from wrist sockets. Prone to breakdowns in vehicle mode.

Just what I need -- another glitchy vehicle. Like my real car isn't trouble enough...

It's worth noting that Grapple's basic body form was also used for a second Autobot, a slightly better known character named INFERNO, a fire engine. The crane rig was replaced with a rescue ladder. Inferno was also part of the Commemorative Series, but I don't know (yet) if he's been granted the same discount. I expect this is something I will investigate.

Do I recommend GRAPPLE? Absolutely. Especially now. It's a shame the Commemorative Series had to go the way it did, but at the same time, if these cool Generation One reissues have been dropped this far in price, it'd be just as much of a shame not to take some advantage of it, for those interested in bringing in really nice remakes of these early Transformers, but who were not comfortable with the original prices.

So check your Toys "R" Us! You might be able to not only get Grapple at a distinct bargain price, but if you see anyone else you like among the remaining supply, which if my TRU is any indication is likely to be fairly substantial, give them a wave under a price scanner. You might be pleasantly surprised, and take some cool Transformers home with you!