Following the defeat of the Unicron-sized Galvatron at the end of Transformers Energon, Hasbro and Takara decided to start on a new planet-hopping concept which involved robots in disguise from a number of worlds, but it seems the "disguise" part, once again, is more or less moot. Premiering in Japan in late 2004 and the USA around the middle of 2005, this line incorporated elements from nearly every page of the "modern" era of Transformers starting with Beast Wars. A number of animal-based figures were created, as well as a number of vehicles that look a lot like Vehicons, some Armada remolds, and a ton of fanservice calling in references from nearly every generation of American and Japanese Transformers.
Instead of having gimmicks activated by Mini-Cons, Energon weapons, or clever little switches, this time around you can worry about losing a special Planet Key, which also happens to be the focus of the show-- the Autobots and Decepticons are collecting these for various reasons, and the toys use these keys to unlock their special attacks. For example, it might activate a flip-out pair of guns, or a head-butting attack-- these are on the same level as the features activated by a Mini-Con, minus the tiny nifty bonus toy.
While Hasbro and Takara usually have a few differences in their lines, it seems like once again we're going to see some unique sizes on each series. The USA Starscream is enormous, rivaling Unicron in terms of sheer size, while in Japan, he's a much smaller sized figure. The USA release also has different features, but the two look about the same otherwise.
As far as marketing goes, Hasbro has really amped up the toys as characters rather than as mere toys, making sure to include biographical information online, on the packaging, and as special unlockable content on its web site. Not many lines since Bionicle have really attempted to up the ante on using the Internet as a marketing vehicle, but all of these, combined with wacky accents on the cartoon, are making these characters some of the most memorable sounding in years.
Japanese toys began appearing at the end of 2004, with American ones showing up in July 2005, making this a fairly sizable gap between the Japanese and American launches. As of today, the American line will be overall larger and last much longer than the Japanese one, as plans call for it to continue through the end of 2006.
There are dozens of excellent sources for additional information on these robots in disguise on our link page. To find out current and upcoming product, please consult our checklist.
Pages last updated October 22 2005.