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REVIEW:
TRANSFORMERS TITANIUM 6" OPTIMUS PRIME & MEGATRON
By Thomas Wheeler



I don't know if it's possible to create a hero, certainly not a legend. I think that all anyone who comes up with a creative character can hope for is to do the best he can with it, and wait and see what happens. And the fictional characters that have become the great heroes, the legends that often go beyond their initial parameters to become part of the culture, are indeed few and far between. One of them is certainly Optimus Prime. Not bad for a giant robot that turns into a truck. Certainly in the recent years of Transformers, Optimus Prime has fared quite well. Although the designs have differed somewhat across Robots in Disguise, Armada, Energon, Cybertron, Optimus Prime has remained very recognizable. There's only so far you can take Optimus Prime designwise before people are going to object.

But Optimus Prime did not start out as a recognizable truck. This may be how we first and best knew him, but come on -- he's an alien robot from Cybertron. What did he know of Earth trucks before being reformatted into one after the Ark crashed on this planet? Which sort of begs the question -- what was he like, what did he look like, BEFORE coming here.

That question was answered in the extremely well-received DreamWave comics mini-series "The War Within", which took a look at the adventures of the Transformers on Cybertron before their fateful journey to Earth.

And Optimus Prime, it turns out, was still pretty truck-like. Not like any truck we would expect to see tooling down any Interstate. If we saw something like this on a freeway, we'd probably pull over to the nearest hotel and try to get over what was causing an obvious hallucination. But Optimus is not entirely unrecognizable. The elements that would become the truck that we know so well are clearly in place.

As part of their TITANIUM series of 6" die-cast and plastic Transformers, Hasbro (and Takara) have brought us this War Within Optimus Prime.

A brief word about the Titanium series: For the most part, this line has consisted of small vehicles and robots, with a few die-cast statues along the way. It encompasses, to date, Star Wars, Transformers, and Battlestar Galactica -- unfortunately the new series rather than the classic. The bulk of the line is small vehicles and 3" representations of popular robots.

This explains why the "Micro Machines" product logo appears on all Titanium packaging, even though the 6" robots, and for that matter the Star Wars statues, are about as far removed from Micro Machines as one can imagine. Even the instruction sheet for Optimus has both the Hasbro and Galoob (the original makers of Micro Machines, a company since absorbed by Hasbro) logos on it, with a note above the Micro Machines logo that "Titanium Series is a subdivision of Micro Machines". Given that Hasbro tried to bring back the Micro Machines cars a few years ago, with less than successful results, I can't help but see this as mostly copyright and trademark preservation. Use it or lose it.

The 6" Transformers line thus far consists only of Optimus Prime and Megatron, but a small catalog included with Optimus makes mention of Jetfire, Thundercracker, Optimal Optimus, and Scourge in this format, as well.

Unlike the Megatron file card, which strangely related the origin for the Megatron from the G.I. Joe vs. Transformers mini-series -- interesting in its own right for being the first official toy acknowledgment of that mini-series even though the toy was clearly the War Within version of Megatron (see separate review), the Optimus Prime file card is in keeping with the War Within storyline. It reads as follows:

Gravitas and the members of the Chamber of the Ancients have spoken. It has been determined that the fate of the Autobots will rest upon the shoulders of an archivist named Optronix. Although Optronix is initially reluctant to accept this great responsibility, he begins to understand the devastating risks at stake for the entire Transformers race.

Optronix is given the leadership name of Optimus Prime once the power of the Matrix is bestowed upon him. It is a sign that he must lead the Autobots away from Cybertron, not only to escape the war with the Decepticons, but also to escape the self-destructive war that exists within them. After a colossal battle with Megatron that spans the boundaries of both time and space, Optimus discoveres the power within himself to step up and provide the leadership his race needs in their most desperate hour.

Pretty heavy reading for a toy package. Let's now discuss the toy. I didn't expect Optimus to be easy to get out of his package. He was clearly wired into a plastic framework within the box. Overall, the toy on display in its box isn't bad-looking, but I prefer to open my toys.

Now, let's remember one key factor about the Titanium line. These toys are die-cast metal, along with plastic. And for a 6" Transformer, that means they're pretty heavy. Optimus torso, most of his arms, and his very large lower legs are all die-cast metal. Optimus weighs in at 9 ounces. I know that doesn't sound like much, but consider this comparison: Optimus is 6 inches in height -- and frankly that's just the listed scale of these figures. He's more like 5-1/2". And he weighs nine ounces. By comparison, the largest and bulkiest G.I. Joe Sigma Six figure, Heavy Duty, who's about 9" in height, weighs a meager 7 ounces. And a typical 12" G.I. Joe figure with full uniform weighs in at 8 ounces.

Honestly, I think Hasbro has done a remarkable job here with Optimus. He generally holds a pose well, and is far more articulated than the average original Generation One Transformer, which while also known for combining metal and plastic, didn't tend to be known for much articulation in robot form.

Optimus has an excellent paint job, unfortunately dirtied somewhat on the "cab/chest" section, the red area of his torso. His lower legs are a very striking metallic dark blue, slightly dirtied, but it doesn't show up as much there. Overall, the paint job on this figure is quite intricate, appropriately colorful, and extremely well-done. Neatly, too. I'm trying to decide if the silver "grills" around his "headlights" are a very bright silver, or the bare metal color.

Optimus Prime is not an especially difficult transformation. Either that, or I've gotten more used to the high complexity of the Alternators more than I realized. The instruction sheet only has eight steps -- and one of those is just plugging his gun into the top of the truck.

In vehicle form, Optimus shows off his distinctly alien origins. Yes, he looks reasonably truck-like, but as I said, it's not like any truck you've ever seen on Earth. The red cab almost looks like a racing vehicle, and has a very small "cockpit" area, for lack of a better term. The well-known "smokestacks" of any convention truck are actually much larger and swept back at a diagonal angle. The rear of the truck, Optimus' "blue" section with the four rear wheels, is probably the most truck-like looking aspect of him, but it's a truck out of Star Wars or Star Trek or something, a truck we might expect to see in a science-fiction movie, not on the interstate.

On the whole, for all its weirdness, the design works. it's still very definitely Optimus, and the basics of what he would become when he reached Earth are certainly obviously present, and he also remains fully recognizable in robot form. As both vehicle and robot, this is an Optimus Prime the Earth never knew. This is Optimus Prime of Cybertron -- but it's still Optimus Prime, and even in this form, he's not going to be mistaken for anyone else.

Optimus comes with a nice display base, that is essentially identical to the one that comes with Megatron, but it has a snap-in Autobot logo with Optimus' name on it.

So, what's my final word on the Titanium Optimus Prime? I am extremely impressed. I'd rank him a little higher than Megatron, if only because he does seem a bit more stable structurally. I have no complaints, and one has to expect certain things when combining heavy metal and plastic. And honestly, Optimus holds up better than I expected. (So does Megatron, really, if it weren't for a few too-small plastic pegs that are just having too much expected of them.)

Perhaps not surprisingly, it looks like Op is selling better than Meg. I've seen several lingering Megatrons in the stores that are carrying this line, but Optimus seems to clear out fairly quickly.

Honestly, I recommend both of them, but I can understand why Optimus would be a little more popular. And certainly, the Transformers Titanium Optimus Prime has my recommendation. This is one cool Transformer and a superbly interesting version of Optimus Prime that any Transformers fan will enjoy!

Now, let's consider the MEGATRON figure in this line...

Toywise, it has seemed to me that Megatron -- the original Megatron, anyway -- has really had some trouble getting respect in recent years. Even his counterparts in other concepts -- Robots in Disguise, Armada, Energon, Cybertron -- they've been cool robots, but their comparison to the original Megatron, at least when you start comparing all the various Optimus Primes to one another, well, it just doesn't hold up very well.

Ultimately, it boils down to the fact that the original Megatron toy has become a victim of political correctness. Plain and simple, he's a gun, and a pretty realistic-looking one at that. That may have worked in 1984. It's not going to work in 2007.

Personally, I'm realistic enough to realize that guns are, like them or not, not likely going anywhere. And it seems to me that banning a robot who turns into a kid-sized toy gun so there'll be one less toy gun on the shelves for kids to play with is just plain silly. But, such is the state of things these days, and the original Megatron has suffered as a result of it. Even the upcoming (as I wrote this) Classics line has Megatron as some sort of Nerf blaster. That's just got to be a little embarrassing.

At the same time, I can't help but question the decision to have Megatron transform into a gun in the first place, especially since, as leader of the Decepticons, his primary adversary is going to be Optimus Prime, who transforms into a truck! Truck vs. gun -- THERE'S an even battle. The gun might get off a few good shots and do some damage, but unless something vital is hit, all the truck has to do us run over the gun and that's the end of that battle. It seemed horribly unequal in basic defined terms.

I was actually pleased when, with the advent of Generation 2, Megatron became a tank. This made a bit more sense. Truck vs. Tank is a more equal battle. If anything, it probably gave Megatron something of an advantage, and would make it that much more heroic when Optimus Prime overcame such superior odds.

And apparently, the people who came up with the "War Within" mini-series agreed. This mini-series, which showcased events before the Generation One Transformers made their way to Earth and were reworked into more recognizable Earth forms, clearly had Megatron as a tank. A rather unusual, alien-looking tank, but not an implausible one, and certainly preferable to being a gun and going up against Optimus Prime's alien truck mode.

It also allowed Hasbro and Takara to create a toy of this Megatron, so finally, the Generation One Megatron returns to toy form.

Now, before I proceed with reviewing the toy, I really need to address one matter here, and that's the character's file card. I honestly don't know how this happened, but the file card is for a completely different mini-series. There's no question that this is the "War Within" Megatron. But the file card is for Megatron from the first G.I. Joe vs. Transformers mini-series from a couple years back!

In that mini-series, Megatron did transform into a gun, and in robot form, pretty much looked like how we remember him. So clearly this toy cannot be that Megatron. And yet, the file card is interesting from the standpoint of this being the first official acknowledgment by Hasbro of that mini-series on a toy product, and to the best of my knowledge, the first time G.I. Joe references have turned up on a Transformers file card!

Megatron's file card reads as follows:

Megatron does not suffer fools gladly. Yet here he is, forced by the power of the Matrix to obey the commands of a simpering braggart in a hood, and a fleshling no less! Still, Megatron is nothing if not patient. Let that shrill simpleton Cobra Commander collect his trinkets and treasures. Megatron will watch, and wait his time to strike.

His chance is given him, shockingly, by the Autobots, whose cooperation with G.I. Joe has smashed Cobra's outer defenses. Feeding his own warriors into the furnace of Cobra Commander's insane tactics, Megatron holds one desire at the forefront of his mind - he will see his tormentor dead and the Matrix in his hand before the Autobots arrive.

Very interesting...

It's worth mentioning that while Megatron is listed as just "Megatron", Oprimus Prime is listed as "War Within Optimus Prime". One can't help but wonder between this and the file card, if Hasbro and Takara initially had different plans for Megatron, and finally decided to go with his War Within version, which is also pictured in the catalog. Honestly, though, the "gun mode" issue would've come up again had they gone with the "G.I. Joe vs. Transformers" Megatron.

Getting Megatron out of his packaging is an interesting endeavor. I had a feeling it was going to be difficult. The figure clearly had plastic-coated wire twist-ties holding him in place, but he also had a clear plastic packaging framework around him. I figured both were going to be colossal pains to deal with.

As it turned out, the plastic framework, initially at least, wasn't. It wasn't glued to the backing cardboard, so it was fairly easy to detach. Not so for the twist-ties, though, as usual, and these were woven into the plastic framework in a few places that struck me as physical impossibilities. If I thought the technology existed, I'd be inclined to think Megatron had been BEAMED into his packaging, twist-ties and all. For the removal of Megatron from his packaging, I recommend a pair of fine wire cutters.

Granted as a somewhat collector-oriented line, I suspect a fair percentage of the purchasers of this item will want to leave him in package, and really, it's quite a nice box, and Megatron also comes with a cool display base. Your decision. Me, I prefer to open my toys.

Now, let's remember that the Titanium series features DIE-CAST toys. There's a lot of metal on Megatron. And he's one heavy robot. I put him on a postal scale I have here. He came in at 9 ounces. That doesn't sound like a lot, I know. But consider the following comparisons. Megatron is 6 inches in height -- and frankly 1/2" of that is his shoulder-mounted gun. And he weighs nine ounces. By comparison, the largest and bulkiest G.I. Joe Sigma Six figure, Heavy Duty, who's about 9" in height, weighs a meager 7 ounces. And a typical 12" G.I.Joe figure with full uniform weighs in at 8 ounces.

But you know, I remember something that Optimus Primal said during the Beast Wars series, when the Maximals first encountered the Autobots' Ark and were unable to breach the doors. He said, "Die-cast -- it's a lost art". Well, it may not be lost, but it could probably use a little review. Because Megatron has these heavy metal limbs -- and they're held in place by some pretty small plastic articulation points, and I can't escape the notion that someone engineered this toy without taking the weight of the metal pieces into consideration. Because Megatron is very loosely articulated, especially in the arms, and in fact his arms don't even want to stay attached at the shoulders very well. They WILL stay put, and Megatron is a very cool-looking toy, but he won't withstand a lot of posing and playing and stay in one piece.

Transforming Megatron into his tank mode is not an especially difficult procedure. I must be getting more and more used to the complex Alternators, with their road-map sized instructions. Megatron's instructions are on a basic-sized piece of paper and consist of all of seven steps. Most Transformers toys have a complexity rating on their package. Megatron doesn't, but if he did, it probably wouldn't be very high. This isn't a complaint. I'm just as glad it isn't all that difficult.

Paintwise, Megatron is very well done. I never really approve of weathering, which Megatron's white arms do have, but it's not too bad. There's a nice bit of airbrushing on his chest, and his legs are mostly a very impressive metallic purple. His face is well-sculpted and nicely detailed, and neatly painted. Transformers have thankfully avoided some of the sloppy paint work that has cropped up on other toy lines here and there.

About the only aspect of his paint job that makes me raise an eyebrow are the two small Autobot logos on his right wrist (which becomes part of his tank turret). Now, Megs does have proper Decepticon logos on him, but honestly, I can't see him wearing Autobot logos for any reason, even if they're indicators of Autobots that he has destroyed. Just a personal impression there, nothing more.

Megatron comes with a nice display base, that is essentially identical to the one that comes with Optimus Prime, but it has a snap-in Decepticon logo with Megatron's name on it.

So -- do I recommend Titanium Megatron? Definitely. Anyone who enjoyed the "War Within" mini-series will like him. Some who enjoyed the "G.I. Joe vs. Transformers" mini-series might want him just for the file card. And it really is the first appearance of the Generation One Megatron in quite some time. I will throw in the provision that, as a functional, playable toy, Megatron doesn't work quite as well, given the combination of metal and plastic parts, and a few inherent problems therein. But he's still extremely impressive, he certainly beats being some statue (I will never understand the appeal of statues), and Titanium Megatron definitely has  my recommendation for any longtime Transformers fan!