REVIEW: TRANSFORMERS UNIVERSE GENERATION 2 SKYFALL
I can't really fault Hasbro or any other toy company for wanting to get more than one use out of a given set of molds, as long as those additional uses carry with them a reasonably degree of legitimacy. Molds are expensive to create, and understandably, a toy company wants to see profit for its efforts. Releasing more than one toy from a given set of molds increases that likelihood.
I would also think that would especially be true for TRANSFORMERS. These are quite probably some of the most complicated action figure toys on the face of the planet. Along with having to represent a reasonably humanoid robot with a decently expected range of articulation in keeping with modern action figures, that same toy has to have the ability to switch back and forth between a reasonably plausible vehicle or other mechanical contrivance of some sort.
A typical humanoid action figure, such as a Star Wars or G.I. Joe, might have a couple of dozen parts making up its entire structure. A decent-sized Transformer might have that many screws and rivets holding the rest of the robot together, never mind how many parts THAT entails. On top of that you've got the assembly of the thing at the factory! Small wonder that Hasbro wants to get more than one use out of these guys.
But, for the most part, it's entirely legitimate. Consider the recent Universe line. The same set of molds were used to turn out Prowl, Silverstreak, and Smokescreen. But they were all well established characters within the Transformers concept, and they were all colored very differently from each other.
Similarly, the "Seeker" planes all used a similar set of molds, to give us the likes of Starscream, Skywarp, Acid Storm, and those lucky enough to get the Convention Set picked up the rest of the Seekers -- although I still wish someone would make Sunstorm.
So we come to a Walmart exclusive addition to the Transformers Universe line, a character bearing the 25th Anniversary logo on his package and hailing from Generation 2, by the name of Skyfall. And he's clearly a recoloration of the Transformers Universe incarnation of the popular Autobot -- or should that be Aerialbot -- known as Silverbolt. But that doesn't make him any less of a legitimate character, or toy. And in fact the color scheme given to this Skyfall, and even, to a degree, the type of plane that he is, does have previous precedent.
I looked up the name Skyfall on Wikipedia. I knew I'd heard it before with the Transformers -- well -- Multiverse, really, and that it hadn't initially been applied to a character that looked anything like this. I was right. The original Skyfall was actually an Autobot, and part of the Action Masters line from Generation 1. This was a series of robots near the end of Generation 1 that were more designed as 3-3/4" scale action figures. They didn't transform. This resulted in them receiving a great deal of denigration on the part of longtime Transformers fans, although those feelings are not as harsh these days. Personally, I always rather liked the Action Masters.
The original Skyfall was a burgundy and white robot, with a red head and some other red trim, whose robot form clearly indicated that he likely had the potential to be an airplane of some sort. In the storyline, a new, more powerful form of energy fuel called Nucleon had empowered the Transformers, but also frozen them in their robot modes. I suspect that Skyfall's vehicle mode may well have been an aircraft.
There have been two characters named Skyfall that have been part of the Official Transformers Collectors' Club. One was a toy exclusive, offered with Club membership in 2005, and was a recoloration of a robot used for previous characters Sky Shadow and Terradive from the Energon line. He transformed into a small A-10 Thunderbolt plane.
The other Skyfall appeared in a story based on the Club's "Transformers: Timelines" series, in 2009, and appeared to be a "mirror universe" counterpart to the Action Masters version of Skyfall. No toy of this Skyfall exists, but he appeared to be based on the Action Masters Skyfall, but had the more Decepticon-like color scheme of another Action Masters character, a Decepticon named Banzai-Tron.
However, the Skyfall from which I believe this Walmart exclusive Universe toy to be based does indeed hail from Generation 2. In Generation 2, however, he was named Skyjack. A name like that probably wouldn't go over very well today (and I'm a little surprised they got away with it then). Skyjack was part of the very popular Cyberjets line of small airplanes within the Generation 2 line, and was based on an F-117 Nighthawk, a real world spy plane.
Skyjack's basic persona of a "Spy" has been carried over to the new Skyfall, as the black and red color scheme of the original, even though the new Skyfall is far larger and more complex than his Generation 2 predecessor.
When I first purchased this plane, as Silverbolt, I believed that the aircraft design was something that had largely been made up by Hasbro and/or Tomy, the Japanese company that merged original Transformers' creator company, Takara, under its corporate umbrella. The original Silverbolt was based on the Concorde, a fancy supersonic passenger plane which -- admittedly -- didn't particularly look like a fighter plane, and was no longer the high-tech marvel that it had been in the 1970's and 1980's, when Silverbolt first came on the scene.
The new Silverbolt appeared to have some characteristics of the Concorde, with a rather long and narrow fuselage, but the wings and back of the plane were more fighter-jet oriented, with a distinctive modern, angular look.
It seems, however, based on the Wikipedia entry that I discovered, that Silverbolt -- and as such the new Skyfall -- are in fact based on a single real-world plane, called an XB-70 Valkyrie.
I decided to look this up on Wikipedia, since the entry on Skyfall was kind enough to provide a link.
What's funny is that it's not even as modern a plane as either the Concorde or the F-117. According to the entry, The North American Aviation XB-70 Valkyrie was the prototype version of the proposed B-70 nuclear-armed deep penetration bomber for the United States Air Force's Strategic Air Command. Designed in the late 1950s, the Valkyrie was a large six-engined aircraft able to fly at beyond Mach 3 at an altitude of 70,000 ft, which would have allowed it to avoid interceptors, the only effective anti-bomber weapon at the time.
Two XB-70 prototypes were built for the U.S. Air Force. The aircraft program's high development costs, and changes in the technological environment with the introduction of effective high-altitude anti-aircraft missiles, led to the cancellation of the B-70 program in 1961.
The plane is described as a strategic bomber and supersonic research aircraft, officially retired in 1969. Of the two prototypes built, one crashed following a mid-air collision in 1966. The other is on display at the National Museum of the Air Force in Ohio.
Photos and diagrams accompany the article on the XB-70, and they're pretty close to Skyfall here. The XB-70 is longer and leaner in appearance than Skyfall, and it doesn't look to have quite the same jagged back, which is what made me think of more modern stealth planes, but the basic shape is definitely there.
The article is really quite interesting and extensive as to what the XB-70 was capable of, and how it was designed. If you're an aviation aficionado, you should definitely have a look at it.
The entry on Skyfall indicates that he works out to being, as a toy, approximately a 1:222 scale version of the XB-70. That's probably based on length alone, since I don't think the shape is quite precise enough to calculate all dimensions. However, the entry goes on to say that, at that scale, in robot mode, at full size, Skyfall would be 178 feet tall.
That's pretty dang big even for a Transformer...
The toy, in plane mode, is a far more convenient 10" in length, just a little longer than 10" actually, with a 6-1/2' wingspan. Skyfall is mostly black, with red cockpit windows, some gold trim on his sides hear the front, and extensive red trim in the rear, looking like jagged flames, and very much in keeping with his Generation 2 counterpart.
He has a button on the top of the plane, that when pressed, activates a series of different sounds, including engines and weapons. These also light up his engines and weapons in red, which is a distinct variance from Silverbolt, who lights up in green. Wonderful thing, LED's...
As to the transformation itself, from plane (which is how Skyfall comes packaged) to robot:
The front half of the place should be swung back over the back half. It will snap and lock into place. This has the added advantage of activating a button on the underside of the front half of the plane, which serves the same purpose of activating the sound and light effects.
Next, release the arms from the underside of the plane, swivel the hands down and snap them into place, and rotate the arms at the upper arm swivel at the the elbow joints are facing forward.
Following this, pivot the legs down. These emerge at something of an angle, but can be quickly and easily straightened. Then extend the feet, and swivel the legs so the feet are facing forward and the knees are properly positioned. As with the arms, this is done with a swivel in the upper legs.
Finally, push both legs up into the upper body. This will also bring the robot head up from its concealment at the top of the upper body. Skyfall's eyes will, at this point, light up and flash red, and he will made the traditional "transformation" sound from the original animated series. Cute touch.
In robot mode, Skyfall stands eight inches tall to the top of his head. However, since the nose of his aircraft mode, now on his back, extends upward beyond that, his total height is about 9-3/4". Wonder if that was figured in that 178-foot measurement that Wikipedia came up with...
Actually, for his size and fairly complex appearance, and special features, Skyfall has one of the easier transformation procedures I've encountered in recent years. Mind you, that's not a complaint. Although I still lament the demise of the Alternators line, those things could be a serious pain in the transistors to turn into robots...
In robot mode, Skyfall's color scheme is as identical as possible to his Generation 2 counterpart. Skyfall has a black head and body, red arms and legs, and black lower arms and "boots". There is some additional painted detail that the original Skyfall (or more accurately Skyjack) did not have. Skyfall's hands are painted silver, and his face is gold.
He has the traditional Decepticon emblem on his upper right shoulder, painted in silver. There are no apparently Decepticon symbols on him in his airplane mold. Rather, the identification number of "FB-129" is painted on his fuselage. If this alphanumerical series has any particular significance, I am not aware of it.
In robot mode, Skyfall is very well articulated, and is poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and feet, although the foot articulation is more a part of his transformation than anything.
As to accessories, Skyfall comes with a fancy weapon that looks like it has stealth fighter wings on it itself. It's a long-barreled weapon that is mostly black with gold trim, and fires a spring-loaded missile. Skyfall can carry this in his hand in robot mode, and it attaches to the underside of the front of the plane when he is in aircraft mode.
Skyfall has a fairly extensive personality profile written for him on the back of his package. His original Generation 2 character quote reads, "Trust me if you dare!", and this trait certainly seems to have been extended over to the modern version. His bio reads:
No one trusts Skyfall, and rightly so. If he proposes a toast to your health, it's probably because he poisoned your drink. He is a master spy, with connections throughout both the Autobot and Decepticon armies. Rumors about him run rampant, and he does nothing to confirm or deny any of them. He enjoys the uncertainty and even fear with which other Decepticons regard him. He is one of the few Decepticons to enjoy face-to-face meetings with Megatron, and yet he has been spotted openly walking through Autobot bases as well.
Sounds like a fun guy. Not sure "enjoy" is the right word for "face-to-face meetings with Megatron", though. You wonder whose side he's really on, too, after reading this. I would suspect -- he's on his own side. Period.
His various power rankings give him an "8" in Intelligence and Speed. Good combo for this guy. He gets a "7" in Fireblast and Skill, a "5" in Strength and Rank, and "4" in Endurance and Courage. Still, he's got to have some guts to walk the line the way he does.
The package also has the 25th Anniversary Timeline graphic on it, clearly showing Generation 2, running from 1992-1995, with the phrase, "The adventure continues".
So what's my final word here? This is an abundantly cool Transformer. In robot mode, he incorporates the look of the classic Transformers, with modern design and articulation. That's what the Universe line as a whole does best, and why I enjoy it so much. The name and the character clearly have history in the Transformers world, and in this particular instance, Skyfall is connected well to a previously established character, although I would also consider that this new version is more complex and fancier version than the original Cyberjet -- not that there was anything wrong with those toys.
And just on its own, Skyfall is a cool plane, and a cool robot. I like the black and red color scheme.
If you're looking to add an interesting new Transformer to your collection, look no further, but you'll have to look at Walmart since he's an exclusive to them.
The TRANSFORMERS UNIVERSE figure of SKYFALL definitely has my most enthusiastic recommendation!