REVIEW: TRANSFORMERS FALL OF CYBERTRON RAVAGE and RUMBLE
There's any number of adages about the concept of history repeating itself. In the toy world, the notion of history repeating itself, that is, of familiar toys making some sort of return to the toy shelves, isn't all that uncommon. However, I think one has to be impressed when a group of toys manages to return in a very similar fashion to their predecessors, especially when it's a group of toys whose formats one would think would not lend themselves all that well to a return.
One of the most popular Transformers from the original line was a Decepticon by the name of Soundwave. He was one of the most prominent characters in the concept. He had a group of agents, smaller robots that he actually carried within him, that could be dispatched on his orders to carry out Megatron's wishes. Although I have very few original Transformers myself, one of the ones that I do still own is one of these agents, by the name of Ravage.
Although many of the original, Generation One Transformers have been brought back, through the Classics/Generations line, in familiar forms but with greatly enhanced articulation, something the original Transformers sadly lacked to varying degrees, Soundwave and his cohorts understandably had some trouble making it into this group, despite the popularity of the characters.
The problem, as much as anything, were their alt modes, the items that they transformed into when they weren't robots. Soundwave transformed into a portable cassette tape player. His various agents, which in the original line were sold separately in two-packs, transformed into miniature tape cassettes.
That's fine and well for the mid-1980's. But in an age of iPads, iPods, MP3's, an age in which a friend of mine encountered a kid who didn't even know what a CD was...! A tape player and cassettes just isn't going to work that well for Transformers.
Enter the video game "Transformers: Fall of Cybertron". This video game features Generation One Transformers, but takes place just prior to the adventures of the original animated series. In the Transformers series, the Autobots and the Decepticons were given new alt modes, in keeping with their new lives on Earth. But in the video game, they're still on Cybertron. As such, their alt modes are still Cybertronian in nature, and it gave Hasbro the opportunity to bring back the Generations line, and bring in reasonably familiar versions of a number of characters that hadn't previously made it into the Generations line, and give them alt modes that were more agreeable to the modern day, since technically, they didn't necessarily have to look like anything Earth-based.
This has worked better for some than it has for others. While I have no complaints about the toys based on characters that have already appeared in more familiar G1 modes, such as Optimus Prime or Starscream, I saw no great need to add them to my collection. But then there's been others where it has worked out very nicely. And topping that list was definitely SOUNDWAVE.
Needless to say, Soundwave doesn't transform into a tape player. He transforms into a Cybertronian communications truck. Nevertheless, his robot mode is abundantly recognizable as Soundwave. He looks very much as he did in the original series.
Then there's the matter of his agents. They don't transform into cassettes. They transform into Data Discs, and I have to give Hasbro and Takara/Tomy a lot of credit for coming up with these clever little Transformers, and moreover, for packaging them just as they did back in the 1980's -- selling them as two-packs. That's a clever little blast from the past.
One of the two-packs features two well-known Decepticons, by the names of RAVAGE and RUMBLE. We'll have a look at them here. Let's start off with Ravage.
Ravage is one of a very small number of Transformers to have featured in both the original Transformers series and its 1990s CGI successor, Beast Wars: Transformers. His history within both series is intertwined back and forth in a unique fashion.
The original Ravage toy was packaged along with the Decepticon Rumble. When Soundblaster was reissued in Japan, and his repaint as the original Soundwave in the US, Ravage was included.
The stealthy, shadowy Ravage operates best alone. A creature of the night, Ravage performs most of his actions in the darkness, both literally and figuratively—there are times when he will cloak himself in such shadow and subterfuge that not even his fellow Decepticons know where he is or what he's doing ... but since whatever he's up to is sure to be bad news for the Autobots, they do not really mind. Ravage is aloof, but his craftiness and deadliness mean that his actions command respect from his comrades.
Not in possession of a conventional humanoid form, Ravage's robot mode resembles an Earth panther. He is capable of masking himself from many forms of detection: he walks without a sound, becomes virtually invisible in subdued light or shadow, and he can shield his internal electromagnetic radiation from monitoring devices. Superior sensors in his nose module give him highly advanced senses of smell, hearing and electromagnetic wave detection, and he is armed with two low-radiation one-megaton proton bombs mounted on his rear hips. Ravage's greatest weakness is the light - in addition to robbing him of his invisibility powers, he is simply particularly sensitive to it, and can be blinded by especially bright bursts.
Like the other Decepticon cassettes, Ravage is connected to Soundwave, although the strength of this link varies from continuity to continuity, appearing at its strongest in the original animated series.
Although never fully explored, it is safe to assume that Ravage, along with his other fellow cassette tapes share some sort of close bond to Soundwave, whether this be as a leader or as a parental-type figure. Whatever the relationship is, the cassettes must coexist with Soundwave for both protection and possibly regeneration, after all they stand more chance of survival housed in his compartment than on their own due to sheer size and power output. As Soundwave's loyalties ultimately rest with Megatron, the cassettes follow suit, obeying their leader's orders without question. Ravage would most likely come to Soundwave's defense or protection in battle, much like a dog and its owner, and portrayals in various continuities would show him to be almost fanatically loyal to Megatron.
In contrast to his growling, animalistic portrayal in the animated series, the first incarnation of Ravage featured in Marvel Comics' Transformers series was an intelligent, cunning and loquacious warrior. In Cybertron's past, he and his partner, Nightstalker, were the bodyguards of the Overlords, the Autobots who had ruled Cybertron for generations. The two guarded them until only one, last, enfeebled Overlord remained. Before the beginning of the Autobot/Decepticon civil war, when the Overlord was visiting the city-state of Tarn, a war between it and its neighbor Vos erupted, and Ravage, Nightstalker, Megatron and Optimus Prime attempted to get the elder mechanoid to the safety of the capital, Iacon. When the bridge from the city collapsed, Prime lept the ravine to get aid from Iacon, but as the forces of Tarn bore down on them, Nightstalker self destructed to save the Overlord. In constant need of re-energizing to survive, the Overlord turned to Ravage to help him, but Ravage refused and allied with Megatron, believing that he would be the next ruler of Cybertron, allowing the Overlord to perish.
Ravage was one of Megatron's closest allies as he began the Autobot/Decepticon war, and accompanied him in his attack on the Autobot spacecraft, the Ark, which resulted in Megatron and Optimus Prime's forces being entombed on Earth in stasis for four million years. When the Transformers then awakened in 1984, Ravage used his stealth powers to survey a nuclear power plant, and had a series of encounters with the naive Autobot Mirage, who appealed to Ravage to stop fighting and work together with the Autobots so that they might return to Cybertron. When Ravage severed Mirage's arm with his jaws, Mirage saw the light and defeated Ravage.
In the original animated series, Ravage was strongly tied to Soundwave, spending the vast majority of time not battling stored in his chest compartment. Notably lacking in the power of speech (barring one unusual incident in "More Than Meets the Eye, Part 3", although the incident could be accredited to the fact Ravage was merged inside Soundwave at that time), Ravage seemed marginally more intelligent than the animal he resembled -- capable of basic deductive reasoning and the ability to manipulate simple mechanisms -- but was treated by the Decepticons in much the same manner as a human being treats a pet.
In the episode "More Than Meets The Eye Part 1", upon the Transformers' awakening on Earth in 1984, Ravage was first deployed to dissuade humans from investigating a Decepticon attack on a power plant. Later, when Soundwave infiltrated the Autobots' headquarters, Ravage inserted himself into Teletran I's cassette drive in order to access data on natural resources which Soundwave recorded, but while Soundwave escaped, Ravage was captured by the Autobots and later used in an attempt to tricking Megatron into a trap. Autobots Hound and Mirage spoke loudly of a nearby rocket base and the fuel it housed, deliberately allowing Ravage to overhear them and purposefully dropping the key to the cage he was held in so that he might escape and pass the information on to Megatron, allowing the Autobots to ambush him. Ravage acted according to plan, reporting to Megatron (this being the strange instance in which he appeared to speak, as he relayed information in a voice belonging to no other character from his cassette mode), but Megatron realized the trick at work, and successfully fooled the Autobots and acquired the energy required.
Ravage was frequently deployed on hunting and spying missions throughout the Transformers' adventures on Earth, often pitted against the small Autobot, Bumblebee and the Autobots' human allies—opponents that his comparatively small size did not prevent him from engaging. Occasionally, he even tussled with Optimus Prime and Skyfire, but such fights rarely lasted.
Among Ravage's most notable misadventures were his time-traveling in "A Decepticon Raider in King Arthur's Court" to medieval England alongside Starscream, Ramjet and Rumble, and his displacement in "Child's Play" to an alien world populated by giants, where a regular housecat hunted him down like a mouse. He also, at one point, ended up battling a real jaguar, defeating it with the aid of his rockets.
Ravage was among the Decepticons who attacked Autobot City in the Earth year 2005, disabling an Autobot communications array alongside Rumble, Frenzy and Ratbat, then battling their Autobot cassette counterparts. In 2006, the episode "Call of the Primitives", Ravage was among the "Primitive" Transformers amassed by the ex-assistant of the ancient genius, Primacron in order to combat his energy-draining creation Tornedron. Alongside Ratbat, Steeljaw and Ramhorn, Ravage was defeated and had his energy drained by Tornedron in the form of a tiger, but was later restored when Grimlock defeated the monster.
Ravage played a minor role in Dreamwave Comics' reimagining of the animated 1980s cartoon universe. In the course of publication, the company introduced a new Cybertronian body for him—a bipedal, clawed semi-humanoid form. This body was meant to be a bestial version of the robot modes used by Rumble and Frenzy.
Ravage was recruited as a Decepticon under the leadership of Megatron in his war against the Autobots on the planet Cybertron. He worked under communications officer Soundwave. When a new Autobot leader, Optimus Prime, was chosen, Ravage was sent along with the Insecticons and Soundwave, to attempt to kill him and bring the Matrix to Megatron, but they failed, forcing Megatron to confront Optimus personally.
Later, after Megatron's disappearance, Ravage stayed with the Decepticons under Shockwave. Ravage was chosen as a member of the crew of the Nemesis when Megatron launched it to attack the Ark, an Autobot ship. Both ships fought, and after the Decepticons boarded the Ark, it crashed on the planet Earth, where all on board were placed in emergency stasis lock for millions of years. In the Earth year 1984, a volcanic explosion awakened the Ark and its computer, Teletran One, reformatted all on board to be able to assume the forms of Earth machines.
Ravage made his first chronological appearance in the main IDW Publishing continuity in issue #2 of The Transformers: Megatron Origin, where he, Laserbeak and Buzzsaw were shown to be already working with Soundwave, unlike Rumble and Frenzy. Accompanying Soundwave to a clandestine meeting with Megatron, leader of the underground gladiator games. When they realized Autobots had tracked them, Laserbeak and Buzzsaw took out one while Ravage dealt with the other. He is shown briefly in issue 3 on Ratbat's viewscreen sabotaging an industrial plant.
Unlike the wide array of other characters featured in the Beast Wars concept who shared the names of older original characters but shared no other connection with them, the Predacon known as Ravage was the original Ravage from Megatron's army.
Following the end of the Great War, when the Decepticons finally met their defeat at the hands of the Autobots, some of Megatron's army were granted amnesty and were reformatted along with the majority of the other Transformers on the planet into new, smaller energy conservative forms. Thus, Autobots and Decepticons became Maximals and Predacons, each ruled by a council, but with the Maximals firmly in control of the planet. Ravage put his espionage history to work serving under the Predacons' ruling triumvirate, the Tripredacus Council, as a covert agent -- in his new bipedal Predacon body, his stealth abilities were enhanced from invisibility in darkness to true invisibility, imperceptible to both the naked eye and any scanning mechanisms.
Despite his new body (still a jaguar but now bipedal), his alternate mode was still a cassette tape. It is interesting to note that while Ravage had a new body in Beast Wars, when he transformed he still made the same classic transforming sound as the original series Autobots and Decepticons, unlike the Maximals and Predacons' quieter, more metallic sounds. He also spoke with a Russian accent.
When a rogue Predacon known as Megatron stole a Transwarp cruiser and traveled back in time with the goal of altering history to ensure Decepticon victory in the war, the Tripredacus Council outfitted Ravage with a Transwarp cruiser and dispatched him to pursue and, under the guise of arresting Megatron, eliminate all Transformers on the planet. Doing this would prevent the Maximal elders from ever finding out about Megatron's rebellion. Arriving on prehistoric Earth, Ravage allied with the local Maximals after helping them fend off a Predacon attack. The Maximals did not take this well.
Ravage successfully arrested Megatron and put him in captivity. His craft was out of power, and while the Maximals sought energon to re-energize it, Megatron and Ravage were left together...long enough for Megatron to reveal that his plans to alter the timeline had been obtained from a message left by the original Megatron, Ravage's former commander. Discovering this, Ravage immediately switched sides along with Tarantulas (who was working towards his own agenda), siding with Megatron in attacking the Maximal base. During the attack, Rattrap infiltrated Ravage's cruiser and planted a series of bombs on Tarantulas and quickly made his escape. Tarantulas and Ravage were destroyed and the ship crashed, Ravage raising a fist of glory to honor the Decepticons before dying.
Speaking as a fan of the Beast Wars concept and series, I have to say that it was a huge kick whenever there was a connection to the original Transformers, and Ravage was a real treat in that show.
So, how's the toy? Very nicely made. These Data Disc Decepticons are not really designed to have the same level of articulation as their larger counterparts. Rather, they have the unusual feature of automatic transformation. If you put one into its Data Disc mode, you can then press a button, and it will almost completely transform into its non-Disc mode.
In Ravage's case, of course, this is a robotic panther. Ravage is somewhat over three inches in length in his panther mode, mostly black with silver trim, and small purple Decepticon emblems on his shoulders. His legs and tail do move independently, so his articulation isn't bad, really.
To transform him into his Data Disc mode, you fold his tail up and over, bring up his front legs at the elbows, tuck his hind legs up, fold his entire upper body over his mid-section, bring his back and tail up and click them into place, and then fold his rear legs up and in. It's a little odd, but it works.
Ravage can be partially transformed back into panther form simply by activating the button on his underside, but you still need to fold his legs down and bring his tail out.
I have to say that I'm impressed with these Data Discs. There's quite a supply of them out there, sold in two-packs much like the original cassettes were -- which is a nice little marketing nod -- and they transform into a variety of robot modes -- humanoid robots, birds, bats, four-legged animals... To get these toys to do that, and then to get them all to transform into largely identical Data Discs, circular objects measuring about 1-1/2" in diameter and 1/2" thick -- that's some impressive toy engineering.
In Disc mode, Ravage appears mostly black, with intricate patterning on his main surface in silver, with a Decepticon emblem in the center.
Now, let's consider RUMBLE. He is one of two of Soundwave's agents that transform into relatively humanoid robots, the other being his twin, Frenzy. Technically, this isn't the first time Rumble and Frenzy have existed in a Generations-type of toy. Unfortunately, those other versions were not released in the United States. They were offered in Japan. I managed to acquire them, and they're great toys, and I highly recommend them. Those particular toys stand about 3-3/4" in height, not counting their laser cannons, and are really great likenesses of the characters. As one would expect, though, they don't transform into cassettes. They transform into mini-tanks.
It's a shame that two-pack wasn't brought over to the States, but it might have hindered their Data Disc versions, and that would have also been unfortunate. Let's consider the character of Rumble.
Throughout the animated series Rumble was perceived as tough and full of firepower, but his fellow Decepticons, being much larger, were significantly more powerful. He gave the weaker Autobots, such as Hound, Mirage and Bumblebee hard times on the battlefield, due to their lack of warrior-like capabilities, although in one episode, Hound soundly defeated Rumble during a huge Autobots/Decepticons battle. Due to his small size and average intelligence, he displayed a Napoleon complex and often tried to prove his loyalty to Soundwave and Megatron through tough talk and destructive tendencies.
Rumble debuted in the series opener "More Than Meets the Eye part 1", being used by Soundwave and Starscream to destroy a power station with his piledriver arms, and later to cause a large wave that would allow the Decepticons to create energon cubes at a nearby dam. He battled and defeated Hound underwater, although the Autobot would get his revenge later on. Rumble appeared regularly throughout the series, although he rarely had major roles, and was usually called on to create tremors with his piledriver arms.
He was defeated by Sludge in "S.O.S. Dinobots" when his attempt at generating an earthquake was thwarted by Sludge's own.
One of Rumble's missiles damaged Red Alert in "Auto-Berserk", plunging the Autobot into a paranoid stupor.
In the episode "Sea Change", Rumble was humiliatingly turned into a tree through magic. He was sent by Megatron to steal the cars that would become the Stunticons in "The Key to Vector Sigma part 1".
One of Rumble's most prominent appearances was in the episode "A Decepticon Raider in King Arthur's Court". Warpath, Hoist and Spike were battling Starscream, Ramjet, Rumble and Ravage in England. Low on power, the Autobots and Decepticons discovered a magical stone formation called the Dragon Mound and were transported back to the year 543 AD. Although Starscream attempted to take over a castle and build a new empire with himself as lord, the help of local knights and a wizard refueled the Autobots, who defeated the Decepticons. After defeating a dragon who nested in the Dragon Mound the Autobots and Decepticons and returned to their own time where they rejoined the fight in modern day England. Here, Rumble ended up in a jousting contest atop his "steed" Ramjet.
Rumble appeared in The Transformers: The Movie, cutting off the Autobot communications alongside Frenzy, Ravage and Ratbat, before battling their Autobot counterparts. During the leadership debate aboard Astrotrain, after a severely damaged Megatron had been unceremoniously set adrift in space, Rumble and Frenzy were deployed when the Constructicons insulted Soundwave's leadership ability, with Rumble declaring: "Hey! Nobody calls Soundwave un-crasamatic!" (uncharismatic). When they tried to form into Devastator, Rumble and Frenzy used their piledriver arms to shake the giant into his component pieces.
Rumble also appeared during the beginning of the third season in "Five Faces of Darkness," but disappeared shortly thereafter.
So, how's the toy? Not bad at all. Rumble stands about 2-7/8" in height to the top of his head -- 3-1/8" if you count the upraised shoulders -- and is a capable likeness of the original Rumble, in that he's a humanoid robot, mostly dark blue in color, with a fairly broad chest and large lower legs. The chest markings from his original cassette mode are missing, but he has a Decepticon emblem there. His abdomen has been painted silver, as has the lower part of his face, and he has a reddish slit above this to represent his eyes.
Rumble is articulated, but he's not all that poseable. A lot of his articulation is for the purposes of the spring-loaded auto-transformation feature of the Data Disc mode. His arms do move independently, but his legs and knees, although movable, will spring right back into place. But it should be noted that poseability is not the primary purpose of these particular Transformers.
To transform Rumble into his Data Disc mode, swing Rumble'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.
As with Ravage, in disc mode, Rumble is about 1-1/2" in diameter and 1/2" thick. 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. Rumble appears mostly dark blue, with a light blue top surface with intricate silver detailing and a Decepticon emblem in the center.
Although Rumble and Ravage do not have accessories, they do each come with a transparent purple storage case, with Decepticon emblems. Rather looks like a cross between a CD case and an Energon cube, and I'll bet that was intentional.
The character profile on the back of the package for both characters reads as follows: Ravage rarely speaks, and when he does it is often only to recite some worn piece of Decepticon dogma. In contrast, Decepticon Rumble never shuts up. He issues a constant stream of sarcastic patter designed to provoke enemy and friend alike to violence. They couldn't be more different, but both are totally loyal to their master Soundwave.
Their various power rankings are as follows: Ravage gates a "9" in Skill, "8" in Courage, Strength, and Intelligence, "7" in Speed, "6" in Fireblast, and "4" in Endurance and Rank. Rumble gets an "8" in Speed, "7" in Courage, "6" in Endurance and Fireblast, "5" in Strength, "4" in Rank and Skill, and "3" in Intelligence. Ouch.
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 Frenzy and Ratbat, Laserbeak comes with Soundwave, and Buzzsaw comes with a Soundwave recoloration called Soundblaster. Additionally, the Autobot counterpart to Soundwave, Blaster, is also available, and he has Data Discs of his own. The Data Discs can also fit within the robots.
If you have fond memories of the original Soundwave 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 RAVAGE AND RUMBLE from TRANSFORMERS GENERATIONS: FALL OF CYBERTRON definitely have my highest recommendation!