REVIEW: TRANSFORMERS FALL OF CYBERTRON REWIND and SUNDER
There are two groups of Transformers, that date back to the earliest days of Generation One, that are particularly popular and well-known. Technically, they aren't established, separately-named groups, such as the Constructicons or the Aerialbots, but they are groups nevertheless, and there is one group within the ranks of the Decepticons, and another among the Autobots.
The Decepticon group is led by Soundwave, and his group consists of a series of smaller associates with names such as Ravage, Rumble, Frenzy, Buzzsaw, and Laserbeak. His Autobot counterpart is named Blaster, and he has companions named Rewind, Eject, Ramhorn, and Steeljaw, among others.
Several years ago, Hasbro started to bring back many of the original, Generation One Transformers, into new, modern forms, ones that -- of particular note -- were vastly better articulated in their robot forms than their original ancestors. As cool as the original Transformers were, as much of a pop culture phenomenon as they caused, with their amazing toys, a superb animated series, and an excellent comic book, making them one of the top pop culture concepts of the 1980's that has endured to this day -- the original toys really couldn't do all that much in their humanoid, robotic forms. The transforming function was certainly cool, and most definitely innovative, but this lack of articulation was an unfortunate limitation.
The Transformers, as an overall concept, finally got past this by the time of Beast Wars, and Hasbro finally decided to cut the original Transformers a break, and bring them back in all-new, but entirely recognizable forms in a line originally called Transformers Classics, now known as Transformers Generations. The line has come and gone, mostly to make room for lines based on the live-action movies or whatever the current animation is, but it's back now, tied in to a new video game called "Fall of Cybertron", which relates events that take place just before the G1 Transformers' Earth-based adventures that we know so well.
The Classics/Generations line has, over the years, been quite extensive, and many of the major players from Generation One have made their way into it. But there have been exceptions. And two of the most glaring exceptions have been Soundwave and Blaster, and really, it's been more than two, since their associates have missed out, as well.
Why? Unfortunately, their "alt modes", their non-robotic modes, had the bad luck to become, well, outmoded. Other Transformers can transform into things that either don't become outmoded, or which can be fairly easily updated or upgraded -- cars, trucks, planes, tanks, guns, whatever. But Soundwave transformed into a portable cassette tape player, and Blaster transformed into a portable radio with a tape deck. And both robots' various associated transformed into miniature audio cassettes.
Now, people still use radios. But they don't much use tape decks or cassettes. I do, but then if I was any more behind the technological times, I'd probably have to go join an Amish community. Many people today seem to operate on the principle of, "If it's new, it's cool, I want it", and the previous version ends up tossed out. I operate on the principle of, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it -- use it, don't replace it."
That being said, I know enough to know that I'm not going to be able to buy audio cassettes all that readily, and while I honestly don't know if a new stereo set would include a tape player, since I haven't checked, I'd be surprised if it did. Heck, a friend of mine recently encountered someone -- rather distinctly younger than himself -- who didn't even know what a CD was.
So despite their popularity within the Transformers concept, Soundwave, Blaster, and their assorted associates have had a heck of a time finding their way into the Generations line, simply because the alt modes of these fantastic futuristic robots -- had been trumped by advances in real-world entertainment technology.
Ah, but this new War of Cybertron video game finally gives these fine robots their chance! Taking place on Cybertron just prior to their voyage to Earth, the game features many of the best-known Transformers from the world of Generation One -- in their pre-Earth, Cybertronian modes! And that includes Soundwave, Blaster, and all their little buddies.
Toywise, both Soundwave and Blaster are based on the same set of molds, with obvious color differences as well as distinctive heads and chest hatches. Both transform into "Cybertronian Communications Trucks", but their robotic modes are more than recognizable as the characters we came to know back in the 1980's. And their companions obviously don't transform into cassettes. Rather, they transform into "Data Discs". Works for me...
Both Blaster and Soundwave come with one Data Disc companion, Steeljaw for Blaster, and Laserbeak for Soundwave. The rest of their companions are sold separately in two-packs, which is a very nice acknowledgment of the original versions of these toys, since that's precisely how they were sold back in the 1980's.
For whatever reason, and perhaps it's simply because they received more screen time, Soundwave's minions have always been the better known group. Ravage, Rumble, Frenzy, Laserbeak -- they've always been more prominent than Rewind, Eject, and the others. But I'm pleased to see that they're all being produced.
I came across one of the Autobot two-packs, that contained two of Blaster's associates, REWIND and SUNDER. Let's have an individual look at each character, and each toy. We'll start with --
REWIND - Like Soundwave's companions, Rumble and Frenzy, Rewind, and another robot named Eject, transformed into small, human robots. This in contrast to the more animal-like forms of most of the other cassette-like robots. Also, just as Rumble and Frenzy were essentially identical except for their color schemes, so are Rewind and Eject.
Eject is sold separately with Ramhorn, and I haven't seen that two-pack yet, so I don't have those two, but I do have Rewind. I wasn't able to find much about his backstory -- like I said, the Decepticon cassettes were a lot more prominent -- but he did have some appearances of note.
Rewind's biography painted him as the Autobots' memory man - he can remember just about anything. Unfortunately, he fills it with pointless trivia, and is hence slightly defunct when it comes to important matters.
As a member of the Autobot communications sub-group Rewind frequently worked with its other members - Blaster, Eject, Grand Slam, Raindance, Ramhorn and Steeljaw.
Rewind first appeared as one of Blaster's warriors in The Transformers: The Movie, where he defended Blaster's communications tower from the Decepticon cassettes.
His most prominent role came in the episode, "Forever is A Long Time Coming". In this episode, Rewind, Blaster, Ramhorn, Blurr and Wreck-Gar are transported to Cybertron's past via a Quintesson time window. Rewind's information allows the Autobots to identify where they were in the timeline. He aided the prehistoric Autobots in defeating the Guardian Robots, thus keeping the original timeline intact. In this episode Rewind shows a love for exact timetables, when Blaster remarks that the asteroid they were going to investigate had been there for millions of years Rewind comes up with a date to last year, month,day, hour, and minute.
In episode 78, "Madman's Paradise", Spike and Carly hosted a banquet for a visiting ambassador. Daniel got bored and wandered off. Grimlock followed him, and they fell into a lost chamber where Quintessons banished their criminals to other dimensions. They slipped through to the other-dimensional realm of Menonia, and were tricked into fighting on the Red Wizard's side, only to find out that he was the Quintesson criminal, who overthrew the Golden One. Ultra Magnus, Blaster, Eject, Rewind, Ramhorn, and Steeljaw followed -- thanks to Rewind deciphering the ancient writing on the walls. With Blaster's amplification abilities, they help the Golden One use a counterspell to defeat the Red Wizard. With the help of Perceptor, the Autobots and Daniel are returned to Cybertron.
Although Rewind would not appear in the US Transformers comic, he appeared in the UK "Space Pirates" arc. When the Quintessons attacked Autobot City and killed Blaster and the rest of its inhabitants, Rodimus Prime came to investigate. However, when he lost the Matrix and reverted to Hot Rod, he decided to use Blaster's cassettes, including Rewind, to fend off the Quintessons while he reactivated Metroplex.
So really, not a bad history, if not as extensive as some.
So, how's the toy? Small, but impressive. The idea behind these Data Discs is that they largely auto-transform, so extensive articulation isn't the primary factor. That being said, they're not badly articulated for their size and built-in gimmick. Eject, who stands not quite three inches high to the top of his head, can mode his arms, and is also movable at the legs and knees, although these are spring-loaded and tend to spring right back into place.
Detail work is excellent. There are extensive ridges and mechanical details sculpted into Rewind's body. Rewind has a silver head with a sort of "crown" around the top (not an unusual feature among Transformers), a yellow visor across the front of his face, representing his eyes, and a red sort-of muzzle across his lower face -- also not an unusual feature among Transformers -- just ask Optimus Prime.
Rewind's body, in keeping with the original, is mostly black and pale gray. Hus upper body is black with gray sides. He has black arms, gray upper legs, and black lower legs with gray feet. He has metallic gold detailing on his torso and upper legs, and an Autobot emblem on his abdomen.
Transforming Rewind into his Data Disc mode is a little on the tricky side. There are several "species" of Data Discs, and my experience with the other "humanoid" ones -- Rumble and Frenzy -- is that they're the trickiest of the lot.
To transform Rewind into his Data Disc mode, swing Rewind's arms up, tuck his feet into his lower legs, fold his arms behind his back, and, in a move that's trickier than it sounds, swing the entire lower body up over the upper body, and then pivot the lower legs around so that they lock into place, forming the disc.
It sounds easy. It's not as easy as it sounds, believe me. However, once you've accomplished this, Rewind has transformed into a disc that's about 1-1/2" in diameter. It is mostly black, with dark brown detailing on the top, highlighted with intricate gold circuit-like patterning, and an Autobot emblem in the center.
To transform Rewind back into his robot mode, simply set him on a surface and press down. He'll transform almost all the way back, although you'll still need to lower his arms and extend his feet. Still, that's not bad, and I think it still qualifies as "auto-transform" for the most part.
Now, let's consider --
SUNDER -- and here I was presented with a mystery. The name didn't ring any bells, and Sunder was obviously a bird-like Transformer, using the same molds as Soundwave's Buzzsaw and Laserbeak. I had no memory of Blaster having a bird-based cassette companion.
Additionally, consider that list that was mentioned in Rewind's profile: "Rewind frequently worked with its other members - Blaster, Eject, Grand Slam, Raindance, Ramhorn and Steeljaw." Now, there's two names there that haven't been brought into the modern line -- Grand Slam and Raindance -- and I'll admit I'm not enough of a Transformers expert to be able to tell you much about them, but neither of these names is Sunder, and Sunder isn't even mentioned!
I was faced with a mystery -- and I hate mysteries. Sunder certainly sounded like a good name for a Transformer. I'd go so far as to say it sounded like a name that would work well alongside names like Rewind, Eject, Ramhorn, and Steeljaw. But it wasn't there.
Who was Sunder? Had Hasbro and Tomy/Takara just invented a new character out of the blue to get one more use out of the bird-disc molds? While not impossible, it didn't strike me as likely. That doesn't seem to be how this Fall of Cybertron Generations line is playing out.
Fortunately, I have friends who are more expert in some concepts than I am, including Transformers. When I contacted one of them regarding Sunder, his reaction was something along the lines of, "Hoo-boy, where to start?!" But he was able to point me in the right direction. That direction was to a Web Site called TFU.info.
One needs to remember that the Transformers did not originate in America. They started in Japan, where they have continued to remain highly popular to this day, and have had not only a somewhat different but far more extensive run than they have had in the United States. And it is here that we first encounter a character named Sunder -- or, to use the spelling of his Japanese counterpart -- Sundor.
The original Sundor was released in 2005, and was indeed a remold using the same molds that had originally made Laserbeak and Buzzsaw. He was available as an E-Hobby exclusive along with a couple of other cassette remolds, including a pink remold of the Rewind/Eject cassette, named Rosanna.
Although Sundor is an Autobot, his character profile would also indicate that he's more than a bit nuts. His personal quote is, "The universe revolves around me. That's because I'm the sun!" And if that isn't enough to make you question this bird's sanity, read on...
Sundor is a relatively new recruit amongst the Cybertronian Cassettebots. However, he never shows any respect for his more experienced seniors... or rather, he doesn't realize that he should. Due to his extreme confidence in his blindingly shiny body, the only thing that Sundor respects is the beauty of the sun as he looks up at it from Earth.
Sundor was originally a Destron Cassetron warrior, but he was affected by sunspots while passing through the Space Bridge from his home planet of Cybertron to his assignment on Earth. This caused an abnormality in his component molecules, giving him a mutant body that glows with a unique light that cannot be explained by current Cybertronian science.
Shortly afterwards, Sundor cut off communications. He did not join the Destron Earth Army, but instead appeared as a Cybertronian warrior. Rumors spread throughout the ranks that the sunspots had affected his logic circuits and driven him mad. Nobody yet realizes that this is a top-secret spy mission to which only Sundor and Megatron are privy. The Cybertron Broadcast, who had been suffering a lack of aerial support compared to the Destron Soundwave, welcomed Sundor without suspecting a thing.
Okay, a few things need to be explained here. In the Japanese Transformers concept, not all Transformers come from Cybertron. The heroic Autobots, or Cybertrons, come from Cybertron, whereas the evil Decepticons, or Destrons, come from a second planet called -- Destron. I've always been of the opinion that this second planet was dropped when the Transformers were brought to the United States because the name was a little too close to a prominent character in the G.I. Joe universe named Destro.
It would appear that Blaster's name in the Japanese concept is Broadcast, and a legitimate point is made here -- none of Blaster's companions had the ability to fly, unlike Soundwave's.
One wonders what we really have here -- is Sundor really a spy, or is he a bit nuts? A lot of his backstory, the sunspots, the mysterious glowing body, the superiority complex, even the color scheme, is very similar to another character named Sunstorm, who is a Decepticon Seeker plane much like Starscream, Skywarp, and Thundercracker, who experienced a similar alteration and, in at least one comic book storyline, proved to be a threat to everybody. I'm still waiting for Hasbro to give us a Classics version of Sunstorm, using the same molds they did for Starscream, Skywarp, and Thundercracker.
Let's continue to have a look at Sundor's abilities and weaknesses, according to TFU.info:
Abilities: Sundor's twin automatic-targeting blasters can fire 10,000 degree Celsius Corona rays that can melt even Trithyllium steel, but his rapid-fire chatter is even more powerful. Sundor's pride and joy is his beautiful shining skin, which not only repels null rays and laser rifles but is also impermeable to physical missiles and ammunition. Sundor's cassette mode recording module is primarily full of information on the sun, and he continues to record the constant changes of the sun. The sight of Sundor flying through the sky with a fiery tail trailing behind him is such that, even if an enemy warrior were to find him, he would be so entranced by the sight that he would forget to pull the trigger.
Weaknesses: However, Sundor's abilities are all absorbed from the sun, and his confidence begins to cloud over at night when the sun is absent from the sky. In order to prevent others from realizing this, Sundor flees the battlefield, claiming that staying out late is terrible for the skin. Sundor is criticized by his comrades for his self-centered attitude and tendency to look down on others. He refuses to change his behavior, however, for he knows deep inside that he will never be able to surpass the sun.
This sounds to me like whatever plan Sundor and Megatron might have hatched, in some respects, it might have worked too well. It seems that Sundor has virtually become what Megatron only wanted him to pretend to be. But, who really knows? It still makes for an interesting character profile.
The question needs to be asked -- how much of this applies to the American figure of Sunder? Clearly there's an obvious structural connection. Sunder is a recoloration of the Data Disc versions of Laserbeak and Buzzsaw, just as Sundor is a recoloration of the cassette versions of these two Decepticons. The color scheme is the same, as well, and the name is too similar to be coincidental.
Unfortunately, we don't have a lot of backstory on Sunder as a separate character. The back of the package for Rewind and Sunder reads as follows: Autobot Rewind remembers everything. This makes him an excellent spy, though data overload often causes crushing headaches. Luckily, Sunder is there, to soothe his friend's aching circuits with the gentle thunder of the dubstep beats he loves.
Okay, so obviously Rewind and Sunder are friends, and Sunder is obviously a useful ally to Rewind. But there's still not a lot there. I think it would be fair to say that Sunder comes across as a little more accommodating and agreeable than Sundor. And also, there are times when it is hard to reconcile some of the contradictions between the Japanese and American versions of the Transformers. At the same time, I don't think it would be correct to state that Sunder is an entirely original character. He clearly derives a lot from Sundor, with the possible exception of his personality, and I think it was still worth delving into Sundor's origins to show that Sunder has more of a history in the overall Transformers concept than one might otherwise believe.
So, how's the toy? Extremely cool. Sunder is mostly a very bright orange, with a yellow-orange beak and trim, and some dark gray areas on his body. There is some metallic gold on his shoulders, but this is mostly visible Data Disc trim. He has an Autobot emblem on the top of his head.
In bird form, Sunder is 3-1/8" long with a 4-1/2" wingspan. There's no real independent articulation to speak of, since his entirely body is dedicated to the auto-transform function, but honestly, I'm not sure where you'd put any major articulation in him.
The bird-based Data Discs are definitely the easiest to manage from a transformation standpoint. To transform Sunder into Data Disc mode, raise the head and bring it around and back, so that the dark gray central body and the wings rotate back, fold the tail over the central body, and then fold the wings back and down into the body. Everything should click into place, and Sunder is now in his Data Disc mode.
In this mode, Sunder is 1-1/2" in diameter. I have to give the designers a lot of credit. There's at least three different versions of these Data Discs out there, and they all transform into the same size and shape of Disc. That had to be something of a challenge. Sunder is mostly bright orange, with a red-orange top with intricate metallic gold patterning, like advanced circuitry, and he has an Autobot emblem in his center.
Transforming Sunder back into bird mode couldn't be easier. Just set him on a surface and press down. Instant bird.
Although Sunder and Rewind do not have accessories, they do each come with a transparent red storage case, with Autobot emblems. Rather looks like a cross between a CD case and an Energon cube, and I'll bet that was intentional.
Their respective power rankings are as follows: Rewind gets a "9" in Intelligence, "8" in Skill, "5" in Speed and Courage, ""4" in Endurance and Rank, and "3" in Strength and Fireblast. Okay, so he's not the best in a fight. That's not his specialty. Sunder gets a "7" in Strength, "6" in Speed, Endurance, Courage, and Fireblast, and "4" in Intelligence, Rank, and Skill.
So, what's my final word? I'm impressed. Although certainly not as articulated as their big brothers, these Data Disc Transformers are a cool concept, and a nice way of modernizing the cassette gimmick from the 1980's. It should be mentioned that there's no shortage of them out there, either. A second two-pack features Ramhorn and Eject, Blaster comes with Steeljaw, and then there's not only Soundwave and all of his cohorts, but a Soundwave recoloration named Soundblaster who comes with Buzzsaw. That ones seems to be rather elusive at the moment. The Data Discs can also fit within the robots.
If you have fond memories of the original Blaster and his cassettes, then I'm certain you'll enjoy this modern take on them. The design principles are very clever, the detail work is excellent, and they're all a definite blast from the past brought into the 21st century!
The DATA DISC TRANSFORMERS of REWIND AND SUNDER from TRANSFORMERS GENERATIONS: FALL OF CYBERTRON definitely have my highest recommendation!