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REVIEW:
TRANSFORMERS CLASSICS OPTIMUS PRIME and JETFIRE
By Thomas Wheeler


The Transformers Classics line has pretty well run its course at this point, but these are still abundantly impressive Transformers that are well worth a good review. Among these were several that came in somewhat larger packages -- and were larger robots. This review will take a look at two of them -- OPTIMUS PRIME and JETFIRE.

Let's start with Optimus. There are two characters that you just can't really do a good Transformers concept without -- Optimus Prime and Megatron. And certainly the Classics line wasn't going to go forth without them. Unfortunately for Megatron, trying to do a toy that resembles a realistic gun these days is a serious PC no-no. Heck, there's even laws about it in some respects. Unfortunately Classics Megatron ended up looking like a bit cross between a Nerf Blaster and a Super Soaker for his trouble. Granted, both are Hasbro products, but still... I'll review him another time.

There have been many Optimus Primes over the years. Virtually every Transformers concept has had an Optimus Prime. And to one degree or another, even if some of the designs have gotten a little strange, and more than a little otherworldly, ultimately, there's a certain resemblance to a truck. And Optimus Prime's main colors are going to be red and blue.

The Optimus Prime that was introduced -- not the one in the two-pack, but the individual one -- was one of a small handful of larger-scale figures in the Classics line, which came packaged in boxes, rather than on cards. Obviously these also had a higher price point to them, but you were also getting more robot for your money.

The Classics Optimus Prime caused a little bit of distress among some die-hard fans, who were dismayed that the toy, although certainly resembling a semi truck, didn't include a trailer. To this I say -- big deal. Even in Generation One, Optimus Prime was strictly the truck's cab. In the animated series, the trailer had the eerie tendency of backing out of the frame whenever Optimus transformed from truck to robot, and seemingly managed to disappear! Where did that trailer go, anyway? Where did it hide all those times, over all those years!

The Classics Optimus Prime doesn't have a trailer? I don't have a problem with this. Optimus Prime has always been, really, not just one of the most popular Transformers of all time, but a popular pop culture character in general. This powerful but compassionate robot has always been portrayed as a caring leader, someone worthy of the respect he receives. It's no wonder that when they did away with him in the movie, and tried to replace him with a new leader, it didn't even last an entire season. Optimus Prime was brought back.

Optimus Prime has been on posters, T-shirts, books -- I even recall reading one time about a United States soldier who had legally changed his name to Optimus Prime, because he respected what the character stood for so much. And, certainly, there have been plenty of Optimus Prime toys over the years, up to and including an incredible 20th Anniversary Optimus Prime a couple of years ago that still remains perhaps the single most impressive Transformers toy ever made, as well as a superb and incredible likeness of the character. I didn't expect the Classics Optimus Prime to live up to THAT, certainly, but I was hoping for a decently impressive rendition of the legendary leader of the Autobots within the Classics concept. Fortunately, I got it. This is one cool Optimus.

In truck mode, this Optimus looks entirely plausible. The rear of the truck is a little on the sci-fi side, but not severely so. The main cab isn't beyond the realm of anything I'd be surprised to see heading down the average interstate. As one would expect, the truck is mostly read, with some cool silver trim, and a blue rear section.

Transforming Optimus Prime from truck to robot is actually pretty cool. I'd love to see someone do a "stop-motion" animation of it, because -- and this isn't something I think I've ever said about a Transformer before -- the various steps of transformation are actually pretty cool. In essence, the arms emerge from the side of the truck, the head pops out of the top, the legs fold in from the rear of the truck, and you've got Optimus Prime. Yes, it's a fair bit more involved than that, but that's the basics, and honestly, it does look sort of cool.

In robot mode, Optimus is slightly larger than most of the Classics Transformers, as one might expect him to be. Most of them stand a little over 5 inches in height. Optimus is almost 7 inches tall. And, of course, he us superbly well-articulated. I think I appreciate this aspect of the Classics Transformers more than anything, especially given the very limited articulation of their Generation One predecessors. Optimus is poseable at the head, arms, elbows, waist, legs, knees, and ankles, all with a good range of motion. The back of his head is molded in a transparent blue plastic, so if the light is right, it looks like his eyes are glowing blue. The overall paint work is excellent. Somewhat unusually, the two halves of Optimus' truck cab, which more or less become arm shields in robot form, are molded from transparent blue plastic, in order to showcase the windows of the cab. But they are so effectively painted in red with some silver striping that one almost doesn't realize it. It's really an excellent job.

Optimus Prime's character profile on the package reads as follows:

"No sacrifice is too great in the service of freedom."

The greatest in a long line of Autobot leaders, Optimus Prime is a beacon of hope to those who suffer under the tryanny of Megatron. He is devoted to the defense of weaker creatures, and has dedicated his life to fighting against Megatron wherever he goes. He is unwavering in his compassion, which sometimes allows his enemies to take advantage of him, but he is also utterly without fear in the face of overwhelming odds. Where freedom is threatened, he is an unstoppable force, and a mighty defender of justice and right.

The Transformers Classics line as a whole has been extremely impressive, in essence an updated blast from the past, presenting classic characters in a new, and generally improved form (at the very least with regard to robotic articulation), and this Optimus Prime is a worthy part of this collection. Transformers Classics OPTIMUS PRIME has my definite and most enthusiastic recommendation!

Now, let's consider JETFIRE. It's funny what can make a toy legendary. For some, it's the toy line they came from. G.I. Joe. Transformers. Masters of the Universe. For some, it's the strength of their character. Duke. Optimus Prime, He-Man. And then you have a situation where the origin of the toy itself and some of the implications and consequences thereof result in a certain amount of fame. Such may well be the case with Jetfire.

Back in the early years of Transformers Generation One, while most of the Transformers that Hasbro marketed in the United States originated with Takara, albeit from different Takara-produced toy lines in some cases, there were some notable exceptions. Although all were obtained with permission from their respective original companies, they weren't all from Takara. And certainly the best known of these oddballs was Jetfire.

At this early point in time, the Autobots were all land-based vehicles. This put them at a distinct disadvantage with the Decepticons, who had a number of aircraft, in the form of Starscream, Thundercracker, and Skywarp. It seemed that even those Decepticons who didn't transform into aircraft were capable of flight. The Autobots needed some air power. They would get Jetfire.

Jetfire didn't start out as a Takara toy. He was, in fact, from a toy line based on the legendary Japanese anime series ROBOTECH, also known as MACROSS in Japan. He was one of their fighter craft, recolored to be part of the Transformers line. Early versions of Jetfire even had symbols on him from the Robotech/Macross series. While most little kids either didn't know or didn't care, over the years, an increasing number of older fans, of both Transformers and Robotech, have caught on to this crossover, and as a result, the original Jetfire is one of the most coveted of the Generation One Transformers, often fetching hundreds of dollars if he is in his original box, unopened.

Even the animated series had to make some changes in order to bring Jetfire, known as Skyfire in the show, on board. Since Robotech was an animated series in its own right, and there were some conflicts between the Japanese toy companies as well, there was no way that the animated version of Jetfire could be derived directly from the toy, since it would look too much like a Robotech fighter craft. An entirely new head was designed, with a more human-like face (the Jetfire toy, like the Robotech vehicle it was based on, didn't have much of a face).

Even the character's story was a rather poignant one. He first appeared in an episode frozen beneath Earth's arctic tundra. He had been a former associate of Starscream's before the war had broken out. Starscream convinced him to join the Decepticons, but before long, Jetfire/Skyfire found the ruthless behavior of the Decepticons deplorable. He joined with the Autobots, and ended up in a battle that left him lost once again in the arctic.

Jetfire was a cool toy. Regardless of his origins, he was distinctly larger than any of the Decepticon jets. He brought the Autobots precisely what they needed -- serious firepower in the air. So, it's no great surprise that Jetfire became part of the Classics line, and indeed, one of the larger items, on a par with the likes of Optimus Prime and Megatron.

He's also easily one of the most complex Transformers in the Classics line. In vehicle form, he looks pretty much like an F-14 fighter jet with a more futuristic nose, and with a huge pair of cannons on his back. The design is remarkably in keeping with the essence of the original Jetfire, since the Robotech toys tended to be more realistic than most Transformers.

The wings on the Classics Jetfire are adjustable in a "swing wing" format, just like a real F-14 would be. The tail fins are also adjustable, although I think this is more to accommodate the huge cannons than any actual aircraft function. Jetfire also has lowering landing gear with little rolling wheels. His overall color scheme is perfect, mostly a very slight off-white with a lot of red trim, and some black. The detail level is absolutely astounding. There's just an incredible amount of sculpted detail on Jetfire.

In plane mode, he looks entirely plausible and realistic, huge cannons notwithstanding. The cannons themselves, which are removable, I might add, have spring loaded barrels. They can be tucked into the main housing of the cannon structure, and held in place by two sliding bars. Slide the bars back and the cannons emerge. With the removal of the large cannons, Jetfire's rear wings can be brought up to a proper height, and the end result is a Transformer that looks entirely like a plausible fighter jet. The red trim markings and well done and < dramatic. The sculpted detail is astounding. Park him on a G.I. Joe air base and watch Ace mistake him for a SkyStriker.

Transforming Jetfire is no easy task. You know you've got your work cut out for you when you unfold the instructions, and it's an 11x17 piece of paper that's printed on both sides. However, some of these instructions are for additional "modes". Jetfire is tricky, but he's also no Alternator. In robot mode, Jetfire stands about 6-1/2" in height, not counting his upswept wings, and is extremely impressive. The headsculpt is the epitome of the likeness created for him in the animated series. His feet are a little strange, but he stands up well.

Articulation is, of course, excellent. Jetfire is poseable at the head, arms, elbows, wrists, legs, knees, and ankles. There is a transparent blue area on the back of his head, which if it catches the light properly, makes his eyes look as though they're glowing blue

Jetfire's additional modes include a "Super Robot" mode. This involves reattaching the large cannons, and also, interestingly, placing a second head on top of Jetfire's. This second head is notable for a visor right across the front. rather than the "basic" Jetfire's two individual eyes. It's molded from transparent plastic and will continue to reflect the light from behind, but more to the point, this head looks a little more, although certainly not precisely, like the Robotech head of the original Jetfire. Nice way of acknowledging this without getting into serious trouble for it, if you ask me. The final mode of Jetfire is a Super Vehicle Mode, which is really just pretty much how Jetfire comes packaged. It's the jet mode with the huge cannon attachment in place.

Jetfire also comes with a couple of spring-loaded missile launchers that attach to his lower arms, and he comes with two transparent blue missiles that they can launch. He also has a separate handheld weapon, that's not given any specific name, so let's just call it a blaster rifle and leave it at that. Hey, it works for Star Wars Clone Troopers. But it's an impressive piece of hardware.

Jetfire's character profile on the box reads as follows:

"Victory lies in the conquest of unknown mysteries."

Jetfire was once famous across the face of Cybertron. As a great scientist and explorer, he was the first to journey to the black depths of deep space, and the only one to ever face and defeat the Star Pirates of the Blot Nebula. It was because of his status as a hero that his sudden disappearance was greeted with worldwide dismay. He was discovered
millions of years later, frozen deep within the Arctic glacier on Earth, and rose immediately to the challenge presented by the Decepticons. He is among the mightiest and bravest of the Autobots, diving into battle without a moment's hesitation, the stuttering roar of his particle beam emitters drowning out all other sounds.

Shorn of his one-time friendship with Starscream, this is an excellent and accurate outline of Jetfire's background.

I honestly have to say that the Classics Jetfire is perhaps the most impressive toy in the entire line. It is incredibly cool, as well as a worthy successor to its Generation One predecessor.

If you can find a way to get him -- get him. But don't expect to
turn him up all that readily at this point. Nevertheless the Transformers Classics JETFIRE most definitely has my highest and most enthusiastic recommendation!