|Masterpiece Convoy Review Capsule|
|Convoy is best known as Optimus Prime outside of Japan, but this toy will soon be known everywhere as the biggest service to fans of the line that anybody has ever done. While the US version will be slightly different, this piece is pretty much the same exact toy the world over. Are you a big fan of the robots in disguise? Buy one. Maybe two. Roughly 9800 yen (US $100) at time of review.|
The alpha and omega of all TransFormers may very well be Masterpiece Convoy. While not the biggest Cybertronian of all time, it's definitely at the top of the list and is certainly one of the heavier toys as a large amount of his construction is die-cast metal. (It's a lost art.)
With posable fingers, a cardboard trailer, and four great accessories this may well be the finest version of the character to ever be released, and when the American version hits, it's certainly going to be the most ambitious collectible robot released on our shores. Aside from the robot and the trailer, there's a removable Cybertron (Autobot) Matrix of Leadership, Megatron in Gun Mode, his Blaster Rifle, and of course the Energon Axe as seen in the first episode, More Than Meets The Eye.
Updated January 30, 2004.
The toy is packaged in this mode, and everything the people at Hasbro have said seems to indicate that they and Takara intend for the toy to be seen in this mode. The good thing is they went out of their way to make sure that this mode the finest they've ever done.
There's no mistaking this toy for anything but Optimus Prime (or Convoy), with its sheer mass weighing down on your hands with enough force to offset the sudden lightening of your wallet. The toy is highly posable, full of hidden surprises, and includes numerous throwbacks to other toys based on the character over the years, not the least of which is one damn fine head sculpt.
The eyes are a metallic blue, so they tend to have a little more character than most Optimus toys have had in the past. The reflective surface really looks great in the right light, and the real kicker is that the mouth plate moves, just like on the large base version of Armada Optimus Prime. There's a button on the back of his head that's actually somewhat hard to see at first, and the Japanese version doesn't seem to highlight it in the manual. As such, it's a nice little extra feature to see included. Pictures that surfaced on the Web months before the toy's release showed an actual full mouth behind the faceplate, but since it looks like it isn't meant to be removed, we opted not to damage our large prized robot.
From head to toe, the figure is full of references to the original series. It's hard to see in the photos, but if you examine the toy up close there are numerous dents, dings, and other damaged bits sculpted into his torso and arms. It's a nice touch and the way the toy was painted keeps them from becoming an eyesore. Also included in the arms were some pop-up view screens which open through the help of your fingernail.
While the screens are merely labels, the panels under them are filled with brightly colored, individually painted buttons. This is the kind of detail you expect when someone says "Masterpiece Edition," so it's nice to see Takara really deliver with this piece. It's a little tricky to open these communication screens, but odds are you won't be messing with them all that much, anyway. The designers decided that extra moving bits on the arms weren't good enough, so they tackled the legs as well.
As you can see here, there's a difference between the two shots. By pushing down on his feet, the vents on the legs pop open, giving the figure a little more texture on his shins. It's not a huge detail, but it's enough to show that Takara and Hasbro really wanted to put a lot of extra effort into a toy of this size and price range.
One of the big differences between Hasbro's Optimus Prime and Takara's Convoy are the smokestacks. As you can see, Takara opted to release the toy with significantly longer stacks. As far as we know, both versions are spring-loaded to help prevent damage, namely their snapping off during play or shipment. This is a greatly appreciated move, mainly because nobody wants to pay a premium for a toy only to have one of its most distinctive features snap off in your hand.
The Japanese toy has a few minor changes from its (as of this review) unreleased American counterpart, namely the Hasbro toy will sport some minor battle damage paint and a few changes in the cardboard accessories, but more on that later. As you can see above, the Japanese version is more or less completely free of dirt, soot, and paint indicating any damage. Although, as mentioned above, there are plenty of disguised sculpted dents on the figure to seek out if you're so inclined.
UPDATE: After owning the toy for a few weeks, I left him to populate my toy shelf, where it stood proudly for some time now. After moving him over, a small oddly shaped patch of blue paint simply flaked off the back of the toy, namely from the lower waist piece. While we heard of Binal Tech (Japanese Alternators) having experience with paint flaking off the metal pieces, this came as a total surprise and greatly reduces our overall opinion of how well this toy was decorated. As such, we would advise you to not transform it or handle it much unless you expect something like this to happen.
In vehicle mode, Convoy, as usual, takes the form of a very large truck. The cab is comprised of plastic and cardboard, while the trailer is paper with a small plastic fastener. The vehicle mode trailer is exclusive to the Japanese release of this toy. The license plate on the toy reads "OP20th" which is particularly amusing as the "OP" is a reference to Convoy's name outside of Japan, and the license plate only appears on the Japanese set. But I digress.
The transformation sequence is a genuine pain in the neck. With all the joints, it's difficult to line up all the tabs and slots in a smooth manner. There are numerous twists and turns and the process is nothing like it was on the original toy as far as the length of the whole thing goes.
The car has a spring suspension that allows the wheels to absorb the shocks of play, but there really isn't much in the way of room for movement. On our sample, the tires only went up and down a few millimeters and as such, we didn't even bother to photograph the action feature in action.
The truck itself has no real action features aside from a rolling action. The trailer has no wheels, and frankly, is a fairly awkward accessory and a bit of a pain to fold properly. It's a nice extra, and with a little work will look quite nice on a shelf with the toy in vehicle mode. But frankly, this is a toy that really just needs to be left in robot mode. The vehicle looks great, though, and is nice and hefty. It's just the least exciting possible way to display or play with Convoy.
Accessories & Gimmicks
The gimmicks were mentioned above, but the accessories include an axe made of energon, Megatron in gun mode, a removable and expandable Matrix of Leadership, and a nice big gun.
The Matrix of Leadership is a real highlight for this release, as it will be the first classic-styled full-size Optimus Prime/Convoy toy to see worldwide release with such an extra. There's a bright LED in the Matrix chamber that lights up by way of a blue button next to his head, which, sadly, is a bit of an eyesore. The light is very bright, and the Matrix can open to, as they say in the movie, "Light [their] darkest hour." It's a wee bit tricky to remove from his torso, but it's a nice extra and a welcome addition to this already great package.
The energon axe is fairly true to the original designs from the cartoon, only it isn't exactly vibrant and it doesn't light up. In the right conditions, it looks pretty slick, although we must point out that it's a little tricky to get it on and off the arm and at times, it feels like it's going to snap. A more flexible plastic would have helped here, but the important thing is that it looks good and stays on nicely once it's on his arm. There are some nifty energy patterns in the weapon, too, which make this look like a better accessory than it really is.
Another nice bonus is the Megatron Gun, which has a several removable parts as well as fantastic detail work. The tiny Destron/Decepticon logo on the side of the firearm has been handled quite nicely with no shortcuts smudging any of the detail that's required for the purple robot face to look its most distinctive. The grip is able to reshape itself to fit Convoy's hand because, as it is, it really doesn't work. It doesn't hurt the look of the weapon, although it does make it feel a little bit fragile. And when you're dealing in $100 toys, it really shouldn't feel fragile.
Lastly, there's the gun. Hasbro claimed that the US version will have a black gun, but the Japanese one has a grey gun with a green piece of plastic inside for reasons unknown. The truly odd coloring choices don't seem too bad up close, but these are things that are really easy to pick on before actually getting one's hands on the toy. The robot can hold his firearm without a problem, although it does require a little bit of futzing with the fingers and thumb to make sure it's being held with a good, tight grip. It's a great looking weapon, but the issue of color is a little tough to get past. Especially with the baby blue coloring on a few spots.
Overall, the plastic accessories were excellent choices that were executed in a way that doesn't feel cheap in the slightest. They do, however, feel like a little extra effort couldn't have hurt them any. As the robot is really the reason to buy this set, the accessories are really not something that hurts the toy's visual presentation. But let's face it, when we're plonking down a c-note, we usually want perfection, not almost perfection.
The American release, instead of the trailer, will include the trailer in its battle station mode as part of its packaging. While not as neat, the cardboard component is an amusing extra but by no means anything that should make the decision as to which version(s) of this toy you buy.
Packaging, Tech Specs, & Co-Sells
This toy came packaged in a box specific to the "Master Piece Edition" which is so far unique to this piece. As of now, no other toys are known to exist in this series.
The packaging is very striking. The image of Convoy is glossy, while the black on the front of the box is actually quite dull. As far as the insert goes, the toy is tied in to the plastic insert through twist ties, and the cardboard part of the insert, as seen above, is actually the toy's trailer. To protect it from scuffing, it was packaged with a plastic bag around it.
A plastic bag with the manual includes a complete history of Convoy in Japanese and includes shots of numerous toys based on the character through the Micron Legend or Armada series. It is by no means complete, given all the repaints and special editions over the years, but it's a job well done. The booklet also has early concept sketches for the toy which are a real treat to see.
Obviously, over 20 years there've been more than a few versions of Convoy and Optimus Prime, from truck modes to sports cars to various beasts.
This new version isn't really based on any specific design, but draws from several older models to create a new toy that really is a masterpiece. As you can see, in the original toy, you can see the tires in robot mode while they hide some of them on the 20th Anniversary edition. The cartoon and comic version of Convoy is usually illustrated with no tires being visible in robot mode.
Numerous details of this toy were borrowed from other versions, like the moving mouth plate from Armada and the metallic eyes we started to see with Beast Wars Neo's Big Convoy. Obviously, the toy is modeled after the original G1 designs, but there are a lot of nice features that will remind fans of the many others they've purchased over the years, or perhaps it may bring to mind the many robots to come.
It's the best TransFormers toy to be released in quite some time if you're a fan of the original series. It's $100. If the second sentence doesn't scare you off, then you need to have this. The Japanese version seems to be slightly more desirable for the cardboard trailer, lack of damage paint, and the longer smokestacks. If these things don't matter to you, then the Hasbro release, estimated at $65-$90 depending on the store, may be a better buy for you.
If you only want the best, or if you only want one TransFormers toy, this is the one for you. It's big and impressive, it's heavy, it's made up of metal, and it's just so gosh darn pretty to look at. It's doubtful they'll ever do a better one, as it seems unlikely the toy collecting bug will still be with the 80's generation come 2034 when the 50th Anniversary of the character rolls around. If you're young or old, try not to miss this if you think you need one. Toys like this don't come along every day, and at this price, you should be thankful. So get one, and have him sit by your Alternators or Binal Tech toys.
The biggest complaint? This would have been a significantly better toy if it didn't transform. The transformation process is long and overly complicated, and if you have one that has a foot that's prone to popping off, it can lead to a lot of stress for you, the hapless consumer.
As a robot, it's gorgeous and probably the toy to beat in 2004 if you're a collector. If you're a kid, though, this is pretty frustrating and not a lot of fun as a plaything, so this is more of a toy for the shelf and the overly patient collector than it is someone who's looking to re-enact scenes from the movie.
Reviewed and photographed by Adam Pawlus
Sample purchased at NCS in late December, 2003 for $98.00
Reviewed on January 22, 2004.
Updated on January 30, 2004.