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By Thomas Wheeler

There was a time in Transformers, when the notion of robots that turned into animals was unimaginable, unless they were distinctly robotic animals, such as the Dinobots, or the original Predacons.

Beast Wars changed all that. Suddenly, Transformers turned into reasonably realistic animals. And thanks to an intelligent storyline, excellent characters, a connection to the original Transformers, a superb animated series, and no shortage of creativity in the design, Beast Wars was a hit, and the notion of Transformers that turned into animals wasn't so implausible.

These days, it's fairly commonplace, and the extensive CYBERTRON line of Transformers has made abundant use of this. Certainly, the majority of the line has consisted of vehicular Transformers. But there's been a fair number of animal-based Transformers in the line, as well.

And for the toy I'm about to review, we need to draw an interesting connection back to the Beast Wars. They recently celebrated their 10th Anniversary, and Hasbro and Takara did so by releasing a special series of 10th Anniversary Beast Wars figures. This line consisted of reissues of many of the most popular characters, using the original molds, but recoloring them slightly to better match their animated counterparts. This line consisted of Waspinator, Rattrap, Dinobot, Rhinox, Tarantulus, and Cheetor.

There were also two versions of Optimus Primal and Megatron -- individually carded versions, and a special two-pack that was a Toys "R" Us exclusive. There was just one slight problem in the minds of a fair number of Transformers fans. Neither version of either Optimus Primal nor Megatron used the original molds, and frankly, the new versions were somewhat less than impressive. They were distinctly smaller, if nothing else, no doubt to meet the same price point.

In fairness, they weren't necessarily bad toys in and of themselves. But trying to pass them off as these particular characters, when a lot of fans remembered the originals, just didn'y fly too well with those fans
-- myself included. I opted to take a pass.

Then something interesting happened. One version of each of these turned up in the Cybertron line, recolored, and renamed Optimus PRIME and -- well, the T-Rex was still called Megatron, but technically, this was a different Megatron. I'd honestly liked the basic look of the T-Rex, even if I didn't think it was particularly passable as the official Beast Wars Megatron, but recolored and reassigned to the Cybertron line -- and frankly with a lower price point -- I decided to pick him up.

Let's start with one obvious difference -- the color scheme. The Beast Wars Megatron was a sort of lavender-grey. Apart from being an unusual color for a tyrannosaurus rex, I'm of the opinion that there's one too many big purple dinosaur in popular entertainment as it is. This Megatron is mostly olive green, at least in beast mode, with dark green legs. Frankly, it's a substantial improvement.

Although Megatron looks more like a "real" tyrannosaurus than, say, the original Grimlock, there are still robotic attributes to this character even in his beast form. There is painted gold trim on his sides that definitely looks like mechanical cables or plating or some such. There's also a series of dark brown "V" shapes on his back that look very mechanical in origin. This isn't quite a T-rex that you're going to see stomping through a prehistoric jungle. It might fool you at first glance (and you'll probably be running too fast to bother with a second), but a closer look reveals the robotic origin. If nothing else, I doubt very many actual tyrannosaurs had the Decepticon logo emblazoned in silver on their left hip... Nice touch, though.

Definitely worth noting is the articulation level in beast form. The small forearms are on a ball-and-socket articulation, and have extensive movement. The head, neck, and jaw are also very poseable. From an articulation standpoint, this Megatron may have its original Beast Wars counterpart beat in some respects.

In robotic form, Megatron is quite colorful. At the same time, the resemblance to the Beast Wars Megatron is even more pronounced. The right hand is actually the head of the T-rex, and the left arm is a missile launcher that was formerly the tail of the beast. These are both attributes of the Beast Wars Megatron, without question. The color scheme remains radically different, however, and it's not just the green. The head is purple and orange, the upper torso is brown, the hips are orange, and the upper legs are purple. If this is a Decepticon's idea of camouflage, they must all be color-blind.

So, how did Megatron, who in the Cybertron universe started out as a vicious-looking vehicle that seemed to be equal parts tank, jet-fighter, and race car, end up as a tyrannosaurus rex? That's unknown, but the fact that this version of Megatron is clearly assigned to the Jungle Planet is a partial clue. His background, on the package card, reads as

Thought he was initially frustrated by the mutation of his body caused by the chaotic influence of the Jungle Planet Key, Megatron has come to enjoy the terror of the residents of the Jungle Planet at his powerful jaw and razor sharp teeth, and the shake of the ground at his every step. Now, he crashes through the jungle, swatting giant trees aside with his powerful tail, blazing a path of destruction so complete that Optimus Prime can't help but notice. He can't wait to feel the Autobot leader struggling in his crushing jaw.

Sounds like the Decepticon version of a vacation. I honestly have no idea if any of this is reflected in the animated series, since despite the fact that the Cartoon Network logo appears on this package, the scheduling for that show has been even more chaotic than average for Cartoon Network, and that's saying a fair bit. I'm convinced that most of CN's scheduling decisions involve a blindfold and a dartboard, but apparently in the case of Transformers Cybertron, it's even worse than that.

That aside, however, this is an impressive toy. I might not have been all that impressed with this toy in its attempt to replace the original Beast Wars Megatron, but in its own right, as an unusual version of the Cybertron Megatron, it's really pretty cool, and on that basis, it definitely has my recommendation!