|Strongarm Review Capsule|
|Strongarm is a real oddity for a TransFormer in that it's small, posable, painted very nicely and it's relatively free of garish, bright colors beyond its Energon weaponry. Everything fits together nicely and the amount of detail on a TransFormers toy this small is quite excellent, and as such, is worth snagging. $6.99 at most stores.|
With the Energon television show not yet on the air, it's hard to say just how Strongarm fits in to the whole thing. He does have a lead role in the first Energon comic book that comes packed with the toys and, for all intents and purposes, is a most excellent toy.
From the look of things, this is the first-ever TransFormers toy with this name, although there has been a Strong-Bot toy as well as a Long-Arm. This figure is an Autobot Omnicon, which means it's more or less the blacksmith of the Energon Universe. He has the ability to forge Energon weapons, which are the translucent red, green, or yellow weapons that come with these toys.
The most striking thing about this toy is that it doesn't look cheap or feel cheap, yet it is cheap.
The face alone has three colors of paint, plus there are a lot of other painted details throughout the toy. While it isn't much to look at from the back, the front of the toy has lots of little grooves, ridges, and additional paint applications that seem very uncharacteristic of a North American Hasbro TransFormers toy. The red on the shoulders and the red lights around his pelvis are just very unusual things to see on a toy of this nature and price point, and are a welcome change from the relatively bland-by-comparison toys of recent years.
As far as personality goes, this toy doesn't have much. There's no awkward asymmetrical pose, angry scowl, or grease and grime to make this toy appear as if it's been through much, which is more like a traditional, Generation One-era toy except this one is actually somewhat posable with joints everywhere you'd expect. There are ball joints at the shoulders and hops, normal joints at the elbows and knees, a turning waist and neck, and feet which means it's not exactly a statue. There's also a tab on his right shoulder that can move up and down which allows for the mounting of Energon weapons, but not Minicons. If you look at the hands, it looks like they were sculpted with wrist joints. No such joints are present.
One of the nicer details which I missed at first were the hands. Initially, it looks like he just has small hands with a really big hole in it to accommodate the now-standard weapon size. If you look at the place where the thumb meets the fingers, though, you can see that it's just not a solid wad of hand-- they actually cut out plastic from the portions where, in reality, there would be no hand instead of just leaving it filled in. Kudos on a detail well executed, Hasbro!
A variety of new elements have been introduced in this new toy line, including the return of some older ones like the spark crystals introduced for Beast Wars Neo and TransMetals 2. It doesn't seem to hold much in the way of an action feature, but there's an Energon Chip included with the toy that slides over it for some reason and, as far as the toy goes, serves no real purpose other than to make it look like the toy is wearing a piece red hard candy or perhaps a cough drop. It's not necessarily a bad addition to the toy, but it looks like it should serve some greater purpose than just being a second, smaller, and hard to see faction symbol on the toy.
In robot mode, this is a good sturdy toy that has no difficulty standing up and while there are obvious elements of its vehicle form on the toy, they don't overwhelm the robot mode. All in all, it's a quality toy.
Strongarm has no Minicon hardpoints in robot mode.
In Japan, he'll be called Blast Arm and feature a few extra paint ops, although apparently this means nothing significant enough to warrant purchasing two versions.
In vehicle mode, Strongarm takes the form of some sort of a Jeep-like 4x4 off-road vehicle.
The transformation sequence is logical, easy to remember, and fairly involved. The feet twist over, the back of the legs form seats for the vehicle, the "doors" are capable of opening, and the arms flip under the car. Of course, it's easier to see the instructions than to describe the process, but it's and interesting change and is sure to delight anyone complaining about simplistic toy transformations.
While he is capable of rolling along surfaces, his wheels don't tent to have much traction on a desk and he seems to roll best on carpet or fabric of some sort. The wheels are nice and big, and when you spin them with your finger they keep going for a little while.
Strongarm has no Minicon hardpoints in vehicle mode.
Accessories & Gimmicks
He includes four red energon pieces that can take the form of a firearm, an axe, or a spare tire.
The two half-circles can form either a spare tire that mounts on the back of the vehicle or the sharp part of the energon Axe. The firearm can be a firearm or a tow hook, complete with articulated hook. The Energon Chip serves no purpose but to cover the spark crystal that exists on all newly molded Energon toys of all sizes.
Strongarm has no problems grabbing hold of his weapons, but our sample didn't seem really easy to combine into the axe mode, as if the tabs were too big or the holes for the tabs were too small. As this is a clear plastic toy, this could be bad for the long-term play value of the figure as clear plastic tends to show stress a lot easier. Still, with a little patience all the pieces connect to the toy without a problem and none of the accessories have a gimmick that extends beyond the realm of what's expected of them. As such, they're winners.
Unlike most new TransFormers from Generation 2 onward, the weapons don't all form a convincing part of the vehicle. Like many G1 toys, though, they snap onto the vehicle mode making it seems like an armed car. While it may look odd to see a vehicle of this nature with a big red candylike hook on it, it fits the context of the line as a whole doesn't seem forced.
If you're looking for minicon connection points, there's a Powelinx connector on the long red piece so it can both go on tabs found on Energon toys and on to Minicon hardpoints found on Armada and Energon toys.
Packaging, Tech Specs, & Co-Sells
This toy came packaged in regular TransFormers Energon packaging with the usual compliment of twist-ties which is more limited than previous toy lines.
The packaging itself is typical trilingual fare, but it has a really neat feature in that the bubble features character art on the side so if you look down a row of Energon basic-sized toys, you can quickly see which ones are available without having to flip through them. This was a really slick move on Hasbro's part, but unfortunately the art on the side of the bubble is only on the smaller toys. The larger deluxe toys have their trading card tech specs on the side of the bubble instead, which serves a similar purpose.
Strongarm shipped as part of the very first wave of Energon toys in December of 2003 alongside the Energon Saber, Skyblast, and Battle Ravage.
While this probably won't appeal as much to older fans, or fans that have little to no interest in Hasbro TransFormers releases after 1990, this is sure to please kids or adults wanting something fun to mess with on their desk at work. It has articulation above and beyond what's expected for a smaller toy, a fun transformation process, and lots of goodies to play with that can even help add to other, larger figures. Optimus Prime needs an energon axe, right?
If you're only going to buy a couple of Energon toys, or need a good, cheap gift for a kid in your life, this is a good one to get. It's not the best toy of all time, but it's solid, it's sturdy, and just looks good. Snag it if you've got the cash.
Reviewed and photographed by Adam Pawlus
Sample purchased at a Phoenix Toys "R" Us on December 5, 2003 for $6.99
Reviewed on December 8, 2003.