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By Thomas Wheeler

In 1986, TRANSFORMERS THE MOVIE debuted in theaters. What dire villain could the Transformers face that would be worthy of a theatrical motion picture? The answer was UNICRON, seemingly a massive planet-sized mechanism that survived by destroying other worlds. In the opening shots of the movie, Unicron destroyed the peaceful world of Lithone, a world populated by mechanical beings, leaving only one survivor.

But Unicron was more than a mechanical planet. It was a massive Transformer, able to turn into a robot as big as the Transformers' homeworld of Cybertron, which was its next target.

Only one thing could stop Unicron -- the power of the Autobot Matrix, which had been passed from Optimus Prime to new leader Rodimus Prime. To that end, Unicron rebuilt the terminally damaged Megatron into the powerful new Decepticon known as Galvatron, and sent him to destroy Rodimus and the Matrix.

It was an astounding movie, introducing many new robots, featuring some pretty cool music, and outstanding animation. Unicron's transformation sequence is remarkable. And the massive being was voiced, in his last role, by Orson Welles.

But -- there was never a Unicron toy. The general argument was that it could certainly never be done to scale, but it would still arguably have to be the biggest Transformer ever. That record was held at the time by Fortress Maximus, who stood close to two feet in height. And even Fort Max wasn't planet-sized. It seemed there was no reasonable way to do a Unicron toy.

There were attempts. Takara developed a huge prototype Unicron, which unfortunately looked more like a mechanical beachball with legs in its robot form. Here, too, was a problem. Unicron was so intricate in design, that effectively pulling him off as a toy might not be possible. Another attempt was made some years later as part of the Japanese Beast Wars Neo line, but the result didn't look especially like the classic Unicron, and had two immense planetary hemispheres stuck to its back. Sort of a beachball in reverse, this time. And again, it was not released.

Fast-forward to 2003. The primary Transformers concept is Armada. Although a pale imitation of the original Transformers concept-wise, and with some really annoying kid sidekicks, the end of one episode does hint that Unicron inhabits this universe. This is ultimately confirmed when it is revealed that there will be a series of episodes featuring Unicron, who now has the power to reach into other realities, and bring Transformers in from other continuities. The effort will be duplicated in both the toys and the comic books. And finally, there will be a Unicron toy!

Admittedly not a giant on the level of Fort Max, but given that Transformers do not reach such epic scales these days, an acceptable compromise, especially given the complexity of the toy and, more importantly, its strong likeness to the original Unicron, despite that this Unicron inhabits the Armada universe.

Finally, after seventeen years, there is a UNICRON!

So, the big question is -- was it worth the wait? The answer is a most emphatic YES!

Although technically part of the Armada line, Unicron is very close in design to his original Generation 1 incarnation, and certainly far closer than either of the two previous toy attempts. The colors are right, and the overall design is as close as toy technology will allow.

Articulation is amazing. Unicron in his robot form, which he thankfully comes packaged in (early pictures showed him packaged in his planetary form), easily matches Gundam levels of articulation. Unicron moves at the head, arms, upper swivel arm, elbows, wrists, multi-jointed individual fingers, something not even the 11" Gundams have done, waist, legs, knees, and ankles.

Unicron features light-up eyes and a light-up right hand. This latter is probably the strongest nod to his Armada incarnation, since the original Unicron entity in the Transformers movie did not have this feature. I wish the electronic features had included vocal effects, but maybe they couldn't get them deep and booming enough or something.

Rounding off the image are the "skeletal bat-wings", for lack of a better term, that plug into the figure's back. In planetary mode, these form a sort of ring around the Unicron "planet". Here is my only complaint about the overall stability of the figure. Two small planetary hemispheres also plug into these "bat wings", which must be installed separately. And they tend to weigh down the "wings" and don't allow them to prop up decently. They sort of have to be "leaned" against the back of Unicron to display well, and that shouldn't have to be the case.

I have not transformed Unicron yet, nor do I foresee doing so anytime soon. The instruction sheet that came with this toy is huge, and transforming Transformers has never been a great specialty of mine anyway.

Unicron comes with a Mini-Con named Dead End, who takes the form of a small sphere, apparently intended as a moon to Unicron's planet. Here, and with the advertised fact that Unicron can "trap" up to 27 Mini-Cons on his framework, are some concessions to the Armada line, but they're easily enough overlooked for those Generation 1 fans that have long wanted a Unicron toy.

Size-wise, Unicron is no Fortress Maximus, which is probably just as well. He stands a powerful sixteen inches in height, though, so he's no slouch. And there's no missing his box in stores where he's appearing, either. It's a good-sized and very colorful corrugated package. The Target where I found him only had room for two in the allocated space, although I have heard reports that this is not supposed to be a scarce toy once the shipments really get rolling.

Overall, UNICRON was well worth the 17-year wait, and is an exceptionally cool Transformers item that, although linked to the present Armada line, easily passes as his original version, which I am sure was the intent of Hasbro and Takara. I highly recommend him to any longtime Transformers fan. You won't be disappointed in the least.