REVIEW: TRANSFORMERS GENERATIONS 30th ANNIVERSARY SANDSTORM
Some Transformers have a bit more meaning to me than others. I'll admit, I never had all that many of the original Transformers, when what is now known as "Generation One" was around. Oh, I had a few, and I certainly enjoyed the concept. I found the comic book very entertaining, and I was a regular viewer of the animated series, and I certainly became familiar with the characters.
But the original toys had a limitation to them that I found difficult to get my head around. Although they certainly all looked cool, they simply weren't especially well articulated in robot form. For someone who had gotten used to the highly poseable action figures of G.I. Joe, this was difficult for me to overcome.
In fairness, articulation wasn't ever intended to be the driving force of Transformers. Their capacity to shift from one form, usually a vehicle of some sort, to another, was their primary purpose. And this they achieved very effectively, certainly. But it was still just a little difficult for me to accept the fact that in the comic book, the cartoon, and even on the package art, here were these robots that were running, walking, jumping, moving all around, and the toys pretty much just stood there.
Obviously, given the popularity of the concept, mine was a distinct minority opinion. The fact that the line is celebrating its 30th Anniversary in 2014, with many of the toys already bearing an anniversary mark, is testament to that fact.
Fortunately, in more recent times, the articulation problem has been overcome. It really started with Beast Wars, then a brand-new concept where the Transformers turned into reasonably realistic (within the allowances of the toy design, anyway) animal forms. Beast Wars was accompanied by a very impressive and hugely popular CGI animated television series, but more to the point, the toys were very highly poseable in their robotic forms, a standard that has been maintained ever since.
And ultimately, we who consider ourselves Generation One fans first and foremost received our due, as the original characters were remade in new but recognizable forms, that finally gave their robot modes the articulation that I suspect most of us wish they'd had all along. To be fair, it might simply not have been possible the first time around. I have little doubt that modern Transformers owe a lot to computer-aided design that enables the toy to be designed with far greater complexity -- and articulation -- than was typically seen in the 1980's.
Which brings us around to SANDSTORM. An Autobot, Sandstorm wasn't someone that I would regard as having been a major player at any point. However, he was one of a handful of original Autobots that was part of my rather limited collection. I liked the name, and the color scheme. It seemed appropriate for the desert environment in which I reside. Along with the name, one of his transformation modes was a futuristic dune buggy of sorts.
And yes, I did say "one of", because Sandstorm is part of that relatively rare breed of Transformer known as "Triple Changers", that had not just one, but two alternate modes besides their robot form! Most of these characters, including Blitzwing, Astrotrain, and Springer, achieved quite a bit of popularity thanks to the animated series. Sandstorm was never quite as prominent, but I still like the guy.
And now, he's been brought into the modern "Generations" line, as part of the 30th Anniversary celebration! Let's consider the history of the character, what we have of it, anyway, and then consider the toy.
The original Sandstorm was an Autobot Triple Changer who appeared in the Transformers animated series, voiced by Jerry Houser in 1986.
In Generation 1, Sandstorm is an Autobot Triple Changer with three modes: robot, dune buggy and helicopter.
Sandstorm appeared in several issues of the Marvel U.K. comics. His first appearance was during the Target: 2006 saga where he joined The Wreckers alongside fellow Triple Changers Springer and Broadside, to serve as replacements for Ultra Magnus, who was on a mission off-world at a critical time.
Following this, he was involved in the battle with Flame in a successful effort to stop the reactivation of the Kalis Engine and Cybertron's resultant destruction, as well as heading to Earth with Emirate Xaaron, Broadside and Inferno, where they ended up battling an alien fire based creature and sending it to Mercury.
During a later mission to stop the mad future Decepticon Galvatron, at the center of a rift in time and space, that the Wreckers encountered Galvatron and his ally -- a clone of Megatron, and the elite squad was routed. As he tried to save the crippled Inferno, Sandstorm was blown apart by Galvatron's cannon blast.
As far as the research I tracked down indicates, Sandstorm never appeared in the US-based Marvel comic.
Sandstorm had a notable role in the animated series third season episodes "Fight or Flee", as the progressive leader of a tribe of peaceful Autobots, and "Starscream's Ghost" acting as an ally to Octane, who had deserted the Decepticons because of personal trouble with Galvatron., and collaborated with Sandstorm to avoid capture.
Sandstorm was an Autobot among those Autobots who peacefully settled the planet Paradron. Outnumbered and fleeing from the Aerialbots, Cyclonus and Scourge took refuge inside a vortex, which transported them to the pacifistic, energy-rich planet of Paradron, which had been settled by Cybertronian refugees. Naturally, the duo immediately overthrew the planet and summoned Galvatron and the other Decepticons there; the plan was ultimately foiled by the Autobots, but at the cost of Paradron itself, which was destroyed.
Sandstorm would appear again, alongside the other Triple Changers in the Japanese produced Headmasters..
In the Dreamwave Comics series, Sandstorm appeared in the second volume of Transformers: The War Within as a member of the Wreckers led by Springer. This was before he became a Triple Changer, and his only alternate mode was that of a Cybertronian car.
After Shockwave gained control over Cybertron and unified the Autobots and Decepticons, Sandstorm joined his cause as one of his soldiers. Sandstorm was present in the Arctic Battle where Shockwave attempted to arrest the Autobots and Decepticons on Earth. They were successful in capturing Megatron and converting the Decepticons, but the Autobots escaped. Seemingly unbeknownst to Shockwave, both Sandstorm and Broadside were, in fact, double-agents.
Later, Sandstorm and Broadside were ordered to escort their former leader, Optimus Prime, to the Autobot rebels. While Broadside escorted the other Autobots elsewhere, Sandstorm and Optimus made their way to the rebels. While on the way, Optimus and Sandstorm were attacked by Runabout, acting in a mercenary/assassin capacity for Shockwave, and Sandstorm was shot and killed, much to Optimus Prime's dismay.
Sandstorm also had a brief appearance in the third G.I. Joe vs. Transformers crossover from Devil's Due Publishing. He and Springer were part of a patrol looking for Decepticon activity, and failed to detect the massive Decepticon army forming under Serpentor. Whoops.
In the IDW comics, Sandstorm, in Cybertronian form, appeared in issue #2 of the Stormbringer series by IDW Productions. He aided Springer's Wreckers on the planet Varas Centralus in the Kol system when Optimus Prime redeployed the Wreckers for a mission on Cybertron. He fought the cultists under Bludgeon and later fought Thunderwing himself, but was grounded when the monster ionized the atmosphere. He was later seen inspecting Thunderwing's inert corpse.
So, how's the toy? Extremely impressive. Sandstorm was originally described to me as a recoloration of the recently-released Springer. To a degree, this made sense. Although the original toys were far from identical, they did have somewhat similar alt modes, in that both could transform into a helicopter and a wheeled vehicle, although the original Springer seemed to maintain more of a Cybertronian look than the original Sandstorm.
I expected Sandstorm to basically be a recolored Springer with a different head. They've certainly done this sort of thing before, and more often than not, it works reasonably well, especially if the color schemes are sufficiently different, which I expected they would be. Springer is a predominantly green robot, whereas Sandstorm tends to emphasize orange and yellow-orange.
However, as it turns out, Sandstorm is not just a straight recoloration of Springer. Much like the "Fall of Cybertron" Generations versions of Soundwave and Blaster, Sandstorm actually incorporates a number of different parts over the basic structure, to make him look that much more distinctive. In fact, I think Springer and Sandstorm have even more individually-unique parts than Soundwave and Blaster did.
The end result is a much more unique robot in Sandstorm than I expected. Certainly, you can see a lot of the same toy structure of Springer in Sandstorm. But there's also no question that the two robots are not identical, and standing them side by side, they look more individual than one might have otherwise anticipated. Needless to say, I'm impressed.
In robot mode, which is now Sandstorm comes packaged, he stands just under seven inches in height to the top of his head. This is a very generous height for a Generations series Transformer, but let's face it, "scale" is something that's always been open to quite a bit of interpretation in the world of Transformers. His full height, including upraised shoulders, is more like 7-1/4".
Sandstorm is mostly a yellow-orange in color, with a fair amount of orange and black trim. His head is black with a white face, and transparent blue eyes. He has a transparent blue section to the top of his head, and when light hits it properly, it makes his eyes look as though they're glowing. This has been a fairly common feature on a lot of Transformers in recent years, and the degree to which it works well depends a lot on the structure of the robot. Sandstorm's works exceptionally well. Prior to this, the best one with this feature was Cyclonus. I think Sandstorm is on his level. It doesn't take much light at all to make his eyes appear to be glowing. I wish it came through better in the photos.
Sandstorm has an orange chestplate with the Autobot emblem on it. The emblem is split slightly by a seam, but still looks decent. He has some orange trim on his shoulders and near his knees, and a large orange section on his back.
The rest of his trim is black, including wheels on his upper arms, sections of his lower arms, his hands, his lower torso, and his lower legs and feet. There's a bit of silver trim here and there.
One of the most distinctive differences between Sandstorm and Springer, from a structural standpoint, is that Sandstorm does not transform into a helicopter. He transforms into a VTOL aircraft, and the hover blades for that part of his transformation are visible in his robot form, emerging from his back and protruding out to the sides. These are also large wheels for his other vehicular form. But these massive circular objects are simply not in evidence in Springer's robot form. He doesn't have them. Not like this.
Sandstorm also comes with a handheld weapon, a blaster of sorts, really, that's mostly yellow-orange with a good amount of black. It features a spring-loaded missile.
Let's consider Sandstorm's transformation. Like Springer, both transformations emanate from his robot form. You don't really go from robot to vehicle-1 to vehicle-2 and back to robot. You have to choose one or the other, and start with the robot. Let's try his VTOL form first.
Sandstorm gets a transformation ranking of "2" on a scale from 0 to 3, which is "Intermediate". If he's anything like Springer, that's being charitable, and I find myself wondering what sort of ranking the massive Metroplex is going to get them he comes out. They may have to reinvent the scale.
First, open the colored panels on the lower arms, and fold the hands up into the arms, then close the panels. Raise the colored panel on the back so that it is positioned over the head.
Next, lower the arms along the sides, taking the front side panels along. Then flip the chestplate over the head, and lower the head into the recessed area on the chest. Lower the landing gear on the orange section.
Now, lower the feet, angle the orange knees forward (they become the rest of the landing gear), and snap the lower legs together. Good luck with this last one. I couldn't get them to quite stay together despite the fact that there's a tab that's supposed to snap the legs together, It doesn't want to stay put, but it will get a little more reinforcement in a few steps.
Now, unfold the wing panels on the orange section, and flip it and the yellow VTOL wings back so that they comprise the top side of the vehicle. Use the tabs on the back of the orange section to reinforce the folded legs. Also make sure that the arms are properly folded against the side, and that the little wings on the arms point outward. This honestly isn't made as clear in the instructions as it should be.
In VTOL form, Sandstorm is about 8" long, with a wingspan that is nearly 7-1/2". He looks like a plausible if somewhat futuristic VTOL military aircraft, something that could exist, but maybe doesn't quite yet.
Obviously the color scheme isn't especially military, as in VTOL mode, he's mostly yellow orange, with a healthy amount of standard orange, as the orange section that is on his back in his robot mode becomes more prominent as the top of his VTOL mode.
Of particular note is the fact that the circular VTOL fans not only spin, but they rotate on an axis that's part of the wings. That's an impressive bit of articulation in this particular vehicle mode!
Now, let's consider Sandstorm's dune buggy mode. As before, we must start with the robot.
Start by lowering the arms, and, as before, raising the chestplate over the head, and tucking the head into the recessed area of the chest. Then tuck the hands up into the lower arms. (Personally, I don't think it makes that much difference when you tuck the hands into the lower arms. They just threw that in there for a little variety...)
Now, rotate the black wings on the lower arms down and around, and lower the feet. Bring the legs together as before (or try to). Now, here's where things really start to change from the VTOL. Slide the orange section from the back, including the VTOL wings, down and back, but then you need to slide them further than usual, taking along the window section which was the canopy of the VTOL craft. It almost looks like it shouldn't work, but it does. This effectively creates the "hood" of the dune buggy.
Next, bring the arms forward, and rotate them around and bring them into place as the rest of the front of the dune buggy mode. I found this to be a session of moderate trial and error. The pictorial instructions don't quite do it justice. You actually end up tucking the wings on the arms into the knees, and then folding back another section of the arms to reveal the front wheels.
Pivot the lower legs sideways, and bring them up against the sides of the car. Fold and slide the orange section forward, and fold the wings down over the side windows. Finally, make sure the rear wheels are pointed upward on their VTOL wings, and then fold them down against the sides of the car. If you like, you can mount the handheld weapon on the roof of the dune buggy.
"Dune buggy" is perhaps a slight misnomer. Dune buggy that looks as well armored as the average tank, maybe. In fairness, Sandstorm's dune buggy mode does have some dune buggy-like attributes, including the front bumper, and the distinctly larger rear wheels. But I wouldn't expect to see a dune buggy like this tooling down a beach, and if it did, I think the beach patrol would probably try to pull it over -- after calling in the SWAT team for backup.
In dune buggy mode, Sandstorm is about 6-1/4" in length. His three main colors -- orange, yellow-orange, and black -- seem to be almost evenly distributed throughout his appearance in this mode. His Autobot emblem now appears as part of his hood.
Of the two transformations, I'd have to say that the dune buggy one is the more complicated of the two. However, I also think it is, slightly, the more impressive. Not that there's anything wrong with the VTOL mode. They're both cool, and I have no complaints.
I am impressed by the degree to which both of Sandstorm's vehicular modes don't really resemble Springer's vehicular modes all that closely. The VTOL wings, which are also the massive rear tires of the dune buggy mode, are the single biggest differences in both modes, although there are others. But it's remarkable the degree to which this one significant change very significantly affects both vehicle modes, relative to the other toy. That had to keep some designers up a few extra nights, figuring out how to get that to work.
Sandstorm does have a character profile on the back of his package. It reads as follows: "Sandstorm lives for action. His only real fear is a fear of boredom. As a result, he takes unnecessary risks, both in combat and out - risks that can sometimes threaten the success of his mission. He lives fast, loud, and dangerously - traits that make him fun to hang out with most of the time. But his fellow Autobots are getting a little sick of his habit of giving away his position to the Decepticons just so he has the opportunity to enjoy a fight."
And, I can't say as I blame them. Frankly, this personality description makes Sandstorm sound more than a little annoying, and I certainly wouldn't want him as a neighbor, or planning battle strategy, and it's certainly in opposition to his animated appearance as a pacifist. However, in fairness, I tend to think that the character was used in that role in that particular episode as a convenient, available character who hadn't otherwise been featured, as much as anything.
His various power rankings give him a "10" in Courage and Skill", a "9" in Intelligence (which I think it an overestimation), a "7" in Strength and Endurance, and "6" in Speed, Rank, and Fireblast.
So, what's my final word? I'm truly delighted that Sandstorm has been brought into the modern Generations line, and he has been brought into it in spectacular fashion. Although he may be based on the same format as Springer, who's also an impressive addition to the line, there are more than enough differences between the two -- in all three of their respective modes -- to allow them to stand on their own as distinctive individuals.
It is my sincere hope that as part of the Transformers 30th Anniversary, we can look forward to more classic, Generation One characters being brought into the Generations collection. In the meantime, I'm very pleased to have added Sandstorm to my collection, and I am convinced that you'll like him, as well.
The TRANSFORMERS GENERATIONS 30th ANNIVERSARY edition of SANDSTORM definitely has my highest recommendation!