In Figure 8, the PoP! Stars give their take on the latest and greatest in Action Figures and Toy Lines in eight (succinct) parts.
Its 2013 and Hasbro has launched the latest permutation of their Transformers franchise, a subset of the Prime line entitled Beast Hunters. Following the plot of the upcoming season of the cartoon – wherein a new Cybertronian faction known as Predacons debuts – the new toy line features some brand new sculpts and a number of retools/repaints to bring the Preds and the newly armed and armored Autobots and Decepticons to plastic life. I don’t know what I think of the concept as a whole. The G1 Predacons, who formed the massive gestalt Predaking, were among my favorite of the combiner class from either faction. The later Predacon faction of the Beast Wars era - like the show – did little for me. These weren’t MY Transformers. And then there’s the beast hunting ‘Bots and ‘Cons, themselves a mixed bag. While the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Ghostbusters toy lines virtually MADE their name on thematic subsets, a move to such linewide gimmickry usually comes at the end of a property’s lifespan as a means to milk the most mileage out of existing molds. What’s the verdict here? Let’s take a look at the best and worst of the planned Beast Hunters line and find out!
Looking more like a Mega Zord than an Autobot, the new Optimus Prime is just too rife with obtrusive gimmicks. And why the change in cab configuration? Plus, the effort to add in a trailer to his vehicle mode is hamfisted in toy form – we’ll see how it plays out in the cartoon (though a G1-esque trailer has already been used in prior episodes, so…) Though I shit you not… hours prior to me publishing this article, Lee Rodriguez sent me a link to this figure saying how much he wants it when it comes out, so…
Kibbledee-bibbledee-bop. Let’s reuse an existing mold and add jagged edges to our sports car. And a big disc launching staff thing. Sure. And giant wings. Why not? Ugh.
Where Wheeljack’s big drawback was his horrendous remolding and the addition of egregious spikes, Soundwave’s sculpt remains largely unchanged and he instead suffers from a new color scheme that makes zero sense. There’s neon yellow and purpleish blue and… brown? The mixed blessing here is that in place of a second Lazerbeak, we get Ravage. Unfortunately, his sculpt and color scheme make him look more like a bear cub than a jaguar. ::shrugs::
That’s not a typo. This is LazerBACK. In a continuity where there’s already a Lazerbeak. Because sure. Worse than a dumb name, Lazerback suffers from a rare ailment among Transformers wherein he looks like absolutely nothing in either mode. Whether hideous robot or baseless beast, he’s little more than garrish colors and confounding kibble.
Straddling the line of not quite awful is the Deluxe class Bulkhead whose repaint is evocative of G1 Brawn or Roadbuster. As it’s the first time Bulkhead’s made it to the Deluxe scale, you can display him alongside his predecessors as an entirely new character and it won’t look hinky. That said, there’s still alot of extraneous Beast Hunters crap that holds this sculpt back, regardless of who you’re displaying it as.
G1 Predaking was a massive gestalt. Beast Hunters Predaking, a fun nod to the original, is at least a Voyager class but STILL too small for his namesake. Both modes look pretty decent; streamlined with a great color scheme that is again evocative of the original. The sculpt and size, however, make this a poor homage and I find I’d rather they had held off using the name until they could have better done it justice. Being able to display him in robot mode WITH his dragon head is kind of cool, though, and I almost guarantee this guy gets a repaint as Galvatron.
A single entry on our list from the Legion class line, Twinstrike is a renamed G1 Sinnertwin, it would seem – member of the combiner team of Terrorcons that formed Abominus. For a fairly spartan sculpt and wonderful G1 throwback, Twinstrike marks the first totally positive entry on our list.
Finally. Something truly great comes from the Beast Hunters line. Smokescreen didn’t receive a deluxe class figure in the original assortments of Prime toys, despite being a major player in the show’s second season. In Japan, a repainted Knockout filled the spot on the Autobot roster – a greater tragedy than outright omission, this figure was a poor likeness utilizing a less than impressive sculpt and outlandishly expensive as an import considering his all-too-flawed nature. Beast Hunters Smokescreen rights this wrong with a brand new body. The sculpt works, period, even if it relies heavily on cheats for the transformation. And best of all, every bit of Beast Huntery kibble is removable, leaving behind a pristine and wholly workable figure beneath, both in robot AND alt mode.
When you look at the line as a whole, it’s a mess. But is it worth it to get a few glimmering gems?
Smokescreen could’ve been the lynchpin of a new wave of non-themed figures or even the sole new figure in an assortment of re-releases. It’s not like Hasbro hasn’t made similar moves in the past. Will kids jump at the new designs? Will the cartoon make the whole concept more palatable? Time will tell. For now, I’m putting this one down as a loss. But you better believe I’m getting a Smokescreen and a Sinn… er, Twinstrike.