REVIEW: TRANSFORMERS GENERATIONS FALL OF CYBERTRON SHOCKWAVE
One of my all time favorite lines of Transformers has been the Classics, later known as the Generations line. This remarkable line of Transformers accomplished something that rather desperately needed to be done -- remaking many of the original and most popular Generation One Transformers in a modern format that took advantage of current toy design capabilities, thus providing a far superior level of articulation to these classic characters in their robot modes that their original editions never had.
I've always enjoyed the Transformers concept, and certainly both the original cartoon and comic book were great. I've been very pleased to see that IDW has brought back the comic book, with new adventures, under the name "Regeneration One", with Simon Furman at the writing helm, and Andrew Wildman providing the art, just as they brought back a certain "Real American Hero" in the very capable hands of Larry Hama.
However, the original Transformers toys left one thing to be desired -- articulation. Oh, they transformed from robot to whatever their "alt mode" was and back perfectly fine. But in their robot modes, most of them had the articulation of a brick -- with moving arms. That was generally about it. And that was pretty disappointing after seeing these robots in their very animated adventures.
The Classics/Generations line corrected that deficiency. Here were Transformers, based on classic characters, but with modern design and articulation. And I still wish the line would come back to a greater degree than it has, because there's still a lot of potential. I can understand wanting to promote the latest movie or animated series, but come on -- a little something for us Generation One fans? There's no shortage of us, you know.
And one of my favorite Transformers characters of all time has always been Shockwave. He was a superbly interesting individual. That largely faceless visage with the single cyclopean eye. There was no expression there to know what he was thinking. Absolutely and utterly steeped on logic, believing that Decepticons should rule simply because it made sense for them to do so -- preferably with him in charge, although he was not the scheming backstabber that Starscream was, nor was he the power-hungry tyrant like Megatron, or the raving madman such as Galvatron. In the animated series, his voice sounded like a mechanical version of a really nasty Charles Emerson Winchester III, the aristocratic and frequently insufferable doctor from M*A*S*H.
And he transformed into a big purple laser gun that could pretty much take out an entire city block with one shot.
I used to have the original Shockwave -- cool toy, and a little bit better articulated than average. I still have the Action Masters version of the character, and I also picked up the Alternators version, even if he was called Shockblast at that time and trying to get behind the idea of this guy turning into a car was a bit of a stretch.
Unfortunately, Shockwave never made it into the original Classics line. I don't know why. Maybe they didn't want to have to call him Shockblast. The Shockwave name has since been recovered. There's been no shortage of recolors in the Classics line, most of them justified, especially the Decepticon Seeker planes. But Shockwave wouldn't qualify for that. Did someone think he wasn't worth his own molds? Or, for all I know, he was planned, and just never made it out because some other Transformers line was given priority. The Classics/Generations line has gone on hiatus more than a few times, mostly due to the movies.
Well, the Generations line is back now -- although with a rather specific focus, and Shockwave has finally made it into it -- sort of. The new Generations line is based on the new video game, called FALL OF CYBERTRON, and the Transformers characters from it have been given recognizable, if rather distinctive and sometimes unusual designs. SHOCKWAVE is one of these.
Let's consider first of all the Fall of Cybertron video game, and then the character of Shockwave, from as much of a Generation One standpoint as possible.
Transformers: Fall of Cybertron is a third-person shooter video game developed by High Moon Studios and published by Activision. It is the direct sequel to the 2010 video game Transformers: War for Cybertron. The game follows the events of War for Cybertron as the Autobots struggle to defeat their Decepticon foes in battle for their home planet of Cybertron.
Fall of Cybertron immediately continues the story from Transformers: War for Cybertron with the civil war between the Autobots and the Decepticons over control of their home world, Cybertron. The developer, High Moon Studios, hopes to show a darker tone than the original game. Fall of Cybertron depicts the final battle between the two robot factions which results in the destruction of their home world, forcing the Autobots to seek refuge in space.
Characters that appear in the game include: Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Jazz, Cliffjumper, Ironhide, Sideswipe, Ratchet, Perceptor, Warpath, Wheeljack, Hound, Jetfire, Air Raid, Metroplex, the Dinobots (Grimlock, Sludge, Slug, Snarl and Swoop), and Megatron, Shockwave, Starscream, Soundwave, the Combaticons (Onslaught, Blast Off, Brawl, Swindle and Vortex) and their combined form of Bruticus, and an Insecticon swarm, including Hardshell, Sharpshot and Kickback.
The game begins with Optimus Prime talking to Bumblebee on the Ark, the spacecraft the Autobots use to flee Cybertron. On their journey the Decepticons attack the Ark. Optimus goes to engage Megatron directly, and Bumblebee later heads to join him after being temporarily rerouted. He finds Optimus engaging Megatron and just as the Decepticon leader is about to deliver the fatal last blow, Bumblebee takes the hit. The game then flashes back to six days prior the launch.
Optimus and the Autobots are defending the not yet launched Ark from Decepticon forces. Realizing Decepticons have broken through Grimlock's post, Optimus tries to contact him to no avail. He sends Jazz and Cliffjumper to investigate, and whilst trying to eliminate enemy tanks, Optimus' turret suddenly deactivates. As he leaves to try and repair it the room shifts around him, leading him to a brightly lit chamber where he activates the city-sized Transformer, Metroplex, who manages to disable two Decepticon cannons, being shot point-blank by a third. Optimus is captured soon after by Starscream and his Combaticons and brought before Megatron. As Megatron is about to execute Optimus in front of his Decepticon army, Metroplex arrives and pummels Megatron into the ground. Having lost their leader, Starscream claims leadership of the Decepticons and orders a retreat.
Meanwhile, Jazz and Cliffjumper are sent to the Sea of Rust to find Grimlock and his Lightning Strike Force, where they soon find the dismembered body of Sludge. They stumble upon an enormous tower firing a bright beam into a portal in Cybertron's orbit. They find Shockwave at the scene and soon realize it is a Space Bridge. They also find a map room featuring an small, primitive planet inhabited by large, powerful creatures. Shockwave escapes the confrontation, and Cliffjumper becomes trapped, leaving Jazz to fight off the incoming Insecticons. Cliffjumper overloads the tower, and it begins to melt down. Sideswipe arrives to save Cliffjumper and Jazz from the Tower's explosion, and all report back to Optimus.
After salvaging all the Energon they can from the tower, Starscream and his Combaticons arrive to reclaim it. Onslaught, the team's leader, briefs them on a complicated plan to force the gigantic Autobot Transport into an ambush. Combaticons Vortex and Blast-Off fly into the canyons and meet Brawl at a bridge the transport must cross and destroy the supports. Meanwhile, Swindle engages Autobot ground forces and destroys the four wheel struts underneath the transport. The transport transforms to levitate off the ground and begins engages the Decepticon team. The Combaticons then combine to form Bruticus, who levels the upper deck of the transport and brings it down.
Elsewhere, Soundwave assembles a newer, more powerful chassis for Megatron, who awakens and stops Starscream's coronation as King of the Decepticons. He then leads a full scale assault on Iacon, where the massive Decepticon Trypticon's remains are being kept. Megatron invades the facility and takes Trypticon's power core. Megatron informs the lifeless beast that he is not there to rescue him, but is instead reassembled into Megatron's flagship, the Nemesis.
Starscream, having been humiliated at the hands of Megatron, infiltrates Shockwave's base of operations where he stumbles upon Grimlock being held prisoner. Grimlock breaks his restraints and goes on a rampage trying to find his fellow teammates. He finds Swoop, Slug, and Snarl and defeats the defending Insecticons. Grimlock learns from Shockwave that he found a new planet by way of his Space Bridge that is inhabited by large creatures that he used to inspire all of their new alternate forms.
Suddenly, the observation wall of the deck is ripped clean from the structure, pulling Grimlock out. Swoop dives in and saves him, carrying him to the top of the Tower. Grimlock fights his way across and finds Shockwave at the controls. Grimlock then bites off Shockwave's arm, knocks him from the Tower, and destroys it. As he tries to escape the crumbling the tower falls and the portal in Cybertron's orbit begins to decay.
Optimus calls for the launch of the Ark to try and make it through the portal before it closes, but Megatron arrives in the Nemesis to stop him. Soundwave leads the first wave of troops onto the ship through giant tow cables and destroys the Ark's automated defense system. Jetfire is then launched into space to break the tow cables from the Nemesis. Bruticus launches from the Nemesis and destroys the Ark's fuel line before being blasted off the back of the ship by Jazz and Jetfire into empty space. Nearby, Megatron and Optimus engage in battle. Before a winner can be declared, Optimus and Megatron are pulled off of the hull of the Ark and pulled with both ships into the portal, where it finally closes and leaves Cybertron alone and quiet.
Characters in the game will feature an updated appearance, and superior transformation schemes. Not only does appearance in character change, but also in weapon design.
As for Shockwave he is the Decepticons' military operations commander. Shockwave's power is second only to Megatron, and even that is disputed. His actions are carried out with the cold, brutal clarity and perfection one would expect of a purely mechanical being—his way is not that of blood lust, like so many other Decepticons, but rather that of a scientist attempting to solve a problem. And that problem is: how can he use his abilities to most effectively eliminate the greatest number of enemies? Unfortunately for the Autobots, it is rare that Shockwave does not find an answer.
Unlike most early Transformers Shockwave was not modified into an Earthly form, and retains his Cybertron alternate mode—a 35-foot-long ray gun. He possesses the power of flight in both modes, and commands the totality of the electromagnetic spectrum allowing him to emit beams of energy in a wide variety of forms. His high energy output makes him particularly fuel inefficient, but radioactive fuel sources stored in the reactor in his chest can help Shockwave to overcome this problem. Although his logical brain center is usually an advantage, human adversaries often pose more of a difficulty to Shockwave, as more intuitive and emotional thought processes often confound him.
While the animated series established Shockwave as fanatically loyal to Megatron, Shockwave's original bio and most fiction since have described him as coldly and patiently looking for ways to overthrow Megatron, not for personal power, but simply because it was logical for him to do so. Shockwave concluded that he should rule so that no emotion should prevent the Decepticons from conquering the universe. This was retained in most comic books, where Shockwave became leader of the Decepticons.
Shockwave's characterization in the animated series is based on an early profile written for the character which presented him to be the guardian of Cybertron, with no desires beyond that station. His toy's tech spec and Transformers Universe profile, however, wrote of a character who sought to overthrow Megatron and rule the Decepticons because he views it as the logical thing to do. This was the version of the character who impressed fans with his appearance in Marvel's Transformers comic book series.
In the comic book, Shockwave was part of the Decepticon unit that pursued the Ark, but he held back from actually attacking the craft, remaining on the Decepticons' own space cruiser and following the Ark down to prehistoric Earth when it crashed. His guidance systems disrupted by his travel through Earth's atmosphere, Shockwave touched down in Antarctica, specifically, in the Savage Land, whose dinosaur inhabitants the Ark used as a basis to reconstruct five Autobots to battle Shockwave. These Dinobots engaged Shockwave, but he slyly outmaneuvered them, and managed to trap them in a tar pit one by one by picking them off from a safe distance with his superior firepower. A stalemate was reached when the last strike by the Dinobots before sinking into the pit saw them bury Shockwave under a landslide, where he remained for four million years.
In 1984, Shockwave was reawakened by an Autobot probe dispatched from the Ark. He quickly struck the weakened Autobots, who had just defeated Megatron's forces. Deactivating them all and stringing them up in the Ark, which he took for his own base, Shockwave brought the Decepticons back online to serve him, and was soon challenged for leadership by a wounded Megatron, whom he soundly defeated and brought under his heel, becoming Decepticon commander.
When Megatron resurfaced, he and Shockwave clashed again, but settled into a brief period of shared leadership until Shockwave fell victim to an Autobot trap, and saw the logic in Megatron's accusations of failure, ceding command to him.
Though a major character in the Marvel comics, Shockwave was a relatively minor character in the cartoon, only making rare appearances. When Megatron prepared to lead his troops in pursuit of Optimus Prime and the Ark, Shockwave was instructed to stay behind and guard Cybertron in Megatron's absence. Swearing that Cybertron would remain as Megatron left it, Shockwave performed his duty to the letter for four million years, after Megatron and the other Transformers were entombed in stasis on Earth.
So accurately did Shockwave carry out his task, however, that no advances were achieved in the war, and the deadlock slowly caused what little supplies of energy the planet had to dwindle. In the Earth year 1984, Shockwave again attempted to make contact with the lost Megatron - only this time, he received a reply. The Transformers on Earth had been awakened, and immediately, Shockwave and Megatron co-created the Space Bridge, an inter-galactic transport system, with which to send energon cubes made from Earth's energy to the depleted planet. In the first tests of the spacebridge, Megatron was transported to Cybertron himself, but Shockwave soon returned him so that further transport runs could be conducted.
Spacebridge technology was taken to its ultimate extreme in "The Ultimate Doom" when Shockwave and Megatron co-ordinated the transportation of Cybertron itself into the Solar System via the use of a colossal spacebridge.
In "Countdown to Extinction", when Starscream arrives on Cybertron together with the evil human Doctor Arkeville and proclaims himself the new leader of the Decepticons instead of the "late" Megatron, Shockwave does not believe him and tries to call up Megatron again and again. Starscream forbids him to do this and even fires at his computer terminal, but then he becomes too busy with preparing to receive the energy of the Earth's annihilation. Meanwhile Shockwave succeeds in getting through to Megatron at last and in warning him of the explosive device installed by Starscream in the Arkeville's laboratory, so that Megatron and Optimus Prime have time to prevent the explosion and to save the Earth.
Shockwave briefly came to Earth and joined Megatron's troops in episode #23 "The Autobot Run", but returned to Cybertron shortly thereafter.
In 1985, Shockwave contended with the power of the Dinobots when they splintered off from the Autobots and came to Cybertron in "Desertion of the Dinobots", episodes #37-38. With the aid of his guards, Shockwave was able to overpower them and put them to work in the Cybertronian pits, but failed to prevent the escape of Spike Witwicky and his girlfriend, Carly, when they pursued the Dinobots to the planet and were able to effect their release.
Soon after in episode #53 "The Search for Alpha Trion", Shockwave discovered that a guerrilla team of Female Autobots had been raiding his Energon stores for years, and successfully tracked them back to their hidden base, arranging the capture of Elita One. Optimus Prime and several of his warriors came to Cybertron to aid their female allies, and Elita One herself blasted Shockwave out of the battle.
Subsequently, Shockwave located the key to Vector Sigma for Megatron (and in a cut scene, battled and seriously damaged Omega Supreme). Spying on the Autobots, he then discovered the key's hidden power to transform organics into technomatter.
When the Combaticons invaded Cybertron, Shockwave attempted to fend them off, but was turned against his sentinel drones when Bruticus seized him in gun mode and opened fire on them with him, before launching him off into space, where he crashed into Starscream. Shockwave and Starscream returned to the planet, but were captured and imprisoned. They both were discharged when Megatron and Optimus Prime's forces arrived to stop Bruticus' rampage.
Over the next twenty years, Megatron turned his attention away from Earth, and succeeded in fully conquering Cybertron. In 2005, however, the planet came under attack by Unicron, and Shockwave attempted to mobilize the Decepticons against the threat.
In Shockwave's first appearance, in "More Than Meets the Eye", Part One, he has two hands. By his next appearance, in the first episode of the ongoing series, "Transport to Oblivion", his left hand has been replaced with a gun barrel, matching his toy appearance.
Shockwave was a major character in the Dreamwave Productions' 21st century re-imagining of the Generation One Transformers. As a major player in the Decepticon army in Cybertron's past, he led the main attack on the Autobots' stronghold shortly after the appointment of Optimus Prime, and personally destroyed two Omega Sentinels with one blast in space gun mode. There was also tension between him and Starscream about who would lead the Decepticons after Megatron's supposed death, which eventually led to the creation of multiple splinter factions within both the Autobots and Decepticons.
As in the animated series, Shockwave was left behind on Cybertron while Megatron's forces pursued Optimus Prime and were subsequently lost on Earth for four million years, and became Decepticon leader on the planet. He began experimenting with cloning, and through studies of Astrotrain and Blitzwing, began to conceive the idea of a Transformer with multiple alternate modes. Eventually, however, Shockwave and all the other Transformers on Cybertron succumbed to stasis lock as the planet's energy ran out, and it entered a hibernation phase known as the "Great Shutdown."
Shockwave steadily worked to restore Cybertron, reactivating its population and solving their energy needs, ending the war and unifying the planet. He also continued his experiments into multiple transformations, successfully mastering the process with Triple Changers.
In 2003, Shockwave made his move, heading to Earth with his Triple Changer troops and capturing Megatron and Optimus's forces, planning to try the two leaders as war criminals. Later, however, Megatron returned to Cybertron and bested Shockwave, taking him to Earth where he did the same to Starscream. But now, the three players were assembled, each knowing certain dark secrets of Cybertron's past. Unfortunately, Dreamwave's closure at the start of 2005 means that currently, this story remains unresolved.
There's been no sign of him in the Regeneration One comic book from IDW -- yet, anyway...
So, how's the toy? Very impressive, really, but -- okay. This isn't quite a real Classics Shockwave. He's based on his likeness from the new video game. And in most respects, it's very close. It's certainly closer to a recognizable Shockwave than some other Shockwaves that have turned up in recent times -- like the one from the live-action movies. And also granted, there have been some other Classics toys that have missed the mark more than a bit -- like Nerf Blaster Super Soaker Megatron.
So what we really have here is a very agreeable, if not precisely G1 accurate, version of Shockwave for the Classics/Generation line, for those who, like me, feel that this character's presence in the line is vastly overdue.
In robot mode, which is how Shockwave comes packaged, he stands about 5-1/2" in height. His most notable features -- the cyclopean eye and the trapezoid-like chest, are present and accounted for, as are his somewhat narrow legs, a carryover from the original toy, in which Shockwave's legs comprised the handle of his ray gun mode. The animated series and the comic books tended to keep the basic shape, but added some bulk.
Shockwave also has the angular -- well, I don't know if they're supposed to be antennae or ears (although on a robot I suppose they could be both) -- on the sides of his heads. And the toy is a deep purple in color.
Some of the other details on the figure are a little less akin to his original likeness. He has what appears to be large, angular wings on his back, his mid torso is very angular in appearance, and his waist and lower torso are extremely narrow. Additionally, he has two arms, complete with hands, unlike the traditional Shockwave, whose left hand was replaced by a blaster.
However, Shockwave does come with a blaster which can be attached to his left arm, and he also comes with an additional long, wide, silver barrel for it. The shape isn't like that of the original, but the basic principle is the same, and it does help this Shockwave more closely resemble his Generaiton 1 counterpart, at least in the basic details aspect.
Shockwave has a small Decepticon emblem just below his chest. On his mid-torso. Like many Classics/Generations-type Transformers, the back of Shockwave's head is transparent, which allows his eye to glow when lit from behind. Traditionally, Shockwave's eye has generally been portrayed as yellow. However, on this particular toy, it's pinkish-purple. He has several other transparent parts in this color, including his chestplate and part of the blaster barrel. In a sense, it works, because it maintains the overall purplish color scheme of the character.
As one has come to expect of these Transformers, Shockwave is superbly articulated, and is fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows (including several swivels), wrists, legs, knees, and ankles. The sculpted detail on the figure is considerable, with a great many angular lines. There's a degree to which it seems excessive, and relative to a Generation One design, it is. But this is supposed to be Shockwave from "Fall of Cybertron", and I certainly can't complain about the quality of the detail work. It's excellent.
Shockwave's transformation is an interesting one. It's described on the back of his package as a "Mobile Artillery Mode". We have to keep in mind here that Shockwave has not encountered Earth yet, and even the Generation One Shockwave didn't make much accommodation to an Earth form. This Shockwave's alt form is entirely Cybertronian in appearance. Think of an extremely advanced, futuristic tank that wasn't designed by human beings, but rather highly sophisticated creatures that had never even seen an Earth tank before, and you've about got it. And there's a definite Japanese anime flavor to it.
Here's how to transform Shockwave from robot to tank. On a scale of 0 to 3, Shockwave is described as a "2", or an "Intermediate" challenge. Let's find out.
The instructions themselves are interesting in that, for the first time ever, they do not seem to use drawn diagrams, but rather derive images from a three-dimensional model of the toy. This could actually be helpful. I find myself wondering if they photographed an actual toy, or picked up these images from whatever computer-aided design they used to come up with the toy in the first place.
First, rotate the lower arms so that the palms of the hands (if they weren't clenched into fists) are facing outward. Then fold the hands up into the lower arms, and then bend the arms at the elbows so that the lower arms are facing outward, and raise the arms outward so that the lower arms are ultimately facing upward. Then rotate the arms at the shoulders so that the lower arms are facing forward, and then separate the arms from the torso at the shoulder and angle them downward.
Next, swing the upper torso upwards ninety degrees, And fold the arms into the space left by swinging the torso out of the way. It may take a little to snap the arms into the torso, and into each other, but it will work.
Now, pivot the "wings" 180 degrees on their posts so that they seem to be pointing towards the legs, and then fold the feet down.
Now turn the robot over. Push Shockwave's head down into the upper torso, spread the legs slightly, and snap the arm weapon into the slot on the lower torso. Then close and lock the legs around the weapon. This is probably the trickiest step from a "fit" standpoint, but it does work.
Now, swing the chestplate section 180 degrees so it's facing forward on what has now mostly become Shockwave's mobile artillery mode, and swing the former lower arms up into the back of the chestplate. They will snap into place.
The last step involves swinging some armor plating that was part of the lower lags back. Here's something the instructions don't tell you. It doesn't work too well if you don't pivot the "wings" out of the way first, and then pivot them back once you've got the armor plating moved. But it does ultimately work if you do it this way, and the transformation is complete!
So, how does Shockwave look in his alt mode? Well, he looks like something I'd expect to see in a futuristic battle-oriented video game, I'll say that much -- although I'd hate to have been the game designers that had to program something this complex-looking into the game play. Admittedly, my video game skills tend to top out at the computer versions of Solitaire and Pinball.
In vehicle (what else am I going to call him?) mode, Shockwave is about 6-1/2" long. There are no wheels, so I think it's reasonable to assume that he hovers or even flies. He looks best from the top or sides, as his underside still retains many of his humanoid robotic characteristics. It's where he's the least well "hidden", in other words.
As much as anything, in his vehicular mode, Shockwave looks like an extremely futuristic, and very anime-oriented cross between a tank and a locomotive. The former chestplate now almost becomes the "head" of the vehicle, and it doesn't take much to assume that Shockwave "sees" through the translucent former chestplate.
The former hand-held weapon arm is now the entire central part of the main body, and the entire front of the vehicle is clearly the business end of a massive blaster. It's an effective, dangerous-looking, and rather stylish transformation, but it doesn't look like anything one would ever expect to see on an Earth battlefield. Granted, it's not supposed to, and credit should be given to the designers for coming up with something so totally alien in appearance.
Shockwave's character description on his package reads as follows: Shockwave may appear to be loyal to Megatron, but in reality he serves only one master - pure logic. Behind his emotionless face rests the mind of a brilliant strategist and mathematician. He calculates constantly, and enforces his solutions through the precise application of the vast power of his laser cannon.
Shockwave's various power rankings give him a full "10" in Intelligence and Fireblast, an "8" in Strength and Rank, a "7" in Endurance, a "6" in Skill and Courage, and a "5" in Speed. I'm surprised Skill isn't higher, given how precise his mind is.
So, what's my final word? I'm pleased to have this figure. It's not quite the Shockwave I know, but as far as the Classics/Generations line is concerned, it's almost certainly the closest I'm going to get, and he's decidedly close enough. His alt mode is a little odd, but he looks very impressive, and certainly recognizable, in robot mode.
If you're a fan of the Generation One Transformers, and have waited for this legendary character to join the Classics, don't overlook this "Fall of Cybertron" version just because he's a more recent and somewhat different take on the character. He works, and he works well. I can't imagine any Transformers fan being disappointed with him.
The TRANSFORMERS GENERATIONS "FALL OF CYBERTRON" figure of SHOCKWAVE definitely has my highest recommendation!