For the bulk of the 1990s, the scheming Decepticon rarely made toy appearances. But Starscream has been getting semi-regular new releases since 2006, when Hasbro realized its "Classics" subline had a built-in audience that wanted new takes on the red, grey, and blue air commander. This is almost a great toy, minus one engineering flaw that just left me feeling deflated despite the fact this is a nicely-detailed, well-sculpted, pretty-painted figure with above-average articulation.
Warning/Variation/Running Change: I got the first run of the toy, which has a chest panel connected with plastic tabs. Word is a metal pin goes through later releases. Since the chest panel falls off during transformation without said pin, make sure you get a metal version. I should also note that the robot wrists do tend to slide out as you rotate them in the arms.
The robot is Starscream - it's a good pastiche of previous takes on the character with some clever transformation bits. I love that the shoulder pylons are real elements from the tetrajet colonial viper mode that swing up, and the shoulder cannons are wing cannons just like the G1 toy. Rocker ankles are a real surprise, as is the fact we get about 24 joints. This is a figure with a great range of motion with a good amount of detail on its 7-inches-at-the-pylons frame. Thanks to a ball-jointed neck and the dubious return of the light-up eye port, Starscream can emote nicely. I preferred the painted eyes, just because in darker rooms that eye port is worthless - I was happy to see it go away for the Prime Wars Trilogy lines.
Hasbro walks a weird tightrope with Siege, as most of the robots look a fair deal like their 1984 cartoon counterparts with alt modes that are either Earth-based or Cybertronian in origin. Most of the toys work nicely - Sideswipe has a great classic robot mode with a spacey car, and Optimus just feels Terran all around. Starscream has a robot mode recalling his Earth form complete with fake jet cockpit and air intakes, all of which get shoved to the back during transformation. It's kind of goofy, but Hasbro and Takara-Tomy seem to think you can't deviate from the classic character design. The form was a result of the transforming function, so the kibble was real - now it's just vestigial weirdness, and I hope team HasbroTakaraTomy can disregard the past when it comes to transformations. Starscream could have a new chest - it would be a nice change of pace. There's nothing wrong with how this one looks, it just doesn't make a lot of sense.
Transforming the toy exposes its shortcomings - the wrists and chest can pop out, and the forearms open up and close in a way that doesn't seem quite right. The guns pop out, the head tucks in, and a lot of the robot legs become ugly undercarriage kibble. Along the way you'll note that the painted battle damage makes a lot more sense here - his forearms, shins, and chest have seen a lot of damage. A lot of wave 1 toys were clearly shot in the crotch, leaving one to wonder what is up with Cybertronian warfare or Hasbro designers. Much of that damage carries over to vehicle mode, and while there are no action features of any kind you can plug weapons in to the jet's wings or kibble.
The space jet kibble serves little purpose in robot mode, with the wings folding back and the rest tucking out of the way. The design isn't quite 1984 tetrajet, and it isn't quite Battlestar Galactica, but it does seem like a new classic sci-fi space vehicle. That's not an easy thing to pull off, so kudos to the designers for giving us something old and new all at the same time. I wish it had any sort of action feature whatsoever at the $30 price point, but here we are. A firing rocket or an opening cockpit for smaller figures would have been really cool, as would have alternate weapons.
Optimus and Megatron had a lot more of their budgets seemingly allocated to extra weapons, and here it seems to go to deco and articulation. I was revolted by this toy at first, because I don't like it when pieces fall off. Thanks to an improved running change - or perhaps your indifference to such things - this is a pretty fun toy. I love how the joints are nice and tight, plus Hasbro made sure the chest panel plugs in tightly when in robot or vehicle modes. Sure, it looks goofy hanging out the back of the jet, but it had to go somewhere. It's an ambitious design that would blow your minds 20 years ago, but today we have high expectations as costs increase. It's a very good Starscream with a lot of articulation and personality, and I'm glad to have it. I wish I had a "fixed" one, but that's what happens when I roll the dice and get a toy early sometimes. With at least 15 5mm ports in robot mode, you're going to be able to bulk him up with all kinds of goofy accessories - and if you don't, I'm sure some third party will come up with something else to cram on there.
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