Saturday, October 13th 2012 4:26pm CDT
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It was roughly 10 years ago that a series called Transformers Armada
was released. Join Seibertron.com staff members Blurrz, Counterpunch and Razorclaw0000, as they journey back a decade. They celebrate Armada in all of its fashion, as the trio critique the successful toy line, domestically as well as internationally, and show their passion (or disdain) for each figure.
The calm before…
It’s hard for me to imagine that it was a decade ago when a cartoon captivated me like none other. While some find that this series was a grotesque shame on the Transformers brand, it shares a special place in my toy collecting heart for eternity. Transformers Armada entered into my life at the exact time - any younger and I’d really have no funds to tackle a competent collection, any older and I’d be trapped in the stigma of adolescent youth. I ask myself time and time again, if Armada had switched places with Energon
or Robots In Disguise
, wouldn’t I be as attached to it as with Armada? The answer is simply no, there’s this feel to Armada that I personally can’t fixate with in contrast to any other series.
Oddly enough, I didn't much like Armada at first glance. I was buying RiD toys at the time. I jumped back into the hobby after several years of absence. RiD was where I expected the toys to be. Armada was...not exactly what I expected. I bought the toys way before I even watched the show. There were enough interesting molds going into wave two that my curiosity was piqued.
I was working in a deli in the basement of my local Boscov's Department Store during my Junior year of college. I was just starting back into collecting, and had maybe a half-dozen figures, when I stumbled across Armada Starscream
. There was something about the look, maybe the Anime-esque look, maybe the distinctive plane mode, and maybe the little Minicon that pushed all the right buttons.
When Armada hit, it was a bit of a frenzy and a rumble. I had to get the figures when they came out. When a new character came up open the screen, I just had to pick him up. That’s really no longer possible, as evidenced by Transformers Animated, whose character cast was too large to be put into a toyline, and Transformers Prime, in which their toys had a comparable delay time to any Blizzard product. There were relatively no store exclusives, and if there were, they wouldn’t be a show character. Despite how many antagonize the toys, one cannot question Armada’s unwavering availability and unlimited playability.
Jetfire, Starscream, and Megatron were awesome enough that I began to wonder what the other figures were like. I ended up liking the line/concept/show before I even realized it. I began finding reasons to buy new and different figures. Even toys that were problems at the time, like Hot Shot and Sideswipe I found ways to justify purchasing, even if it was out of curiosity. I'm glad I did though, the figures were large and detailed. Though I couldn't put my finger on the issue at the time, in retrospect, what I really liked about these toys was how they reminded me of the late G1 figures that I grew up with.
Blurrz brought up a great point. I vividly remember the releases of figures coinciding very closely with their on-screen appearances. It was so close, that I remember driving 20+ miles to pick up Side Swipe just to have him in time for that episode, that night. What a surprise that was...
The small guys were the stars of the cartoon show, and equally, the stars of the Armada toyline. Each bulk (bigger figure) came with a mini-con, and more importantly as we discuss, there was the release of the individual mini-con teams. 10 different teams, composed of 3, were released domestically alongside their variants.
For the Autobots and Decepticons in the Armadaverse, it was paramount that they control the three most powerful weapons, the Star Saber
, the Skyboom Shield
, and the Requiem Blaster
. In toy form, that was the Air Defense Team, the Race Team and the Space Team, respectively, all capable of being wielded by any bulk with 5 mm peg hands. The Star Saber is combined from the parts of Jetstorm
, and Sonar
, all planes in some form or the other. While in fiction the Star Saber would be comparable to the Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir, the planes don’t flush well together in toy form. Still they are aesthetically pleasing with their whites, bold blues and translucent plastic. They were repainted into their evil variants, the Air Assault team. However grey plastic replaced clear plastic, leaving much to be desired.
The impenetrable Skyboom Shield was composed of Mirage
and Dirt Boss
. Speedsters and a SUV, the cars were colored with whites, yellows and greys, and featured pleasant articulation. Structurally the team makes a rather large shield, and is imposing on the likes of Jetfire, Megatron and Hoist, while laughable in the hands of Hot Shot or Side Swipe. They were repainted in imposing red and black colors, however their predecessor has much better character.
Lastly we have the Requiem Blaster, or in team names, the Space Team. Payload
, Sky Blast
all have individual colors, and aren’t exactly a trio of mini-con’s you’d normally expect to combine. The colors are not exactly the problem either, as the combined gun form is oddly flimsy, especially if your Astroscope is loose. All in all, out of the power weapon mini-con teams in Armada, the original Star Saber – the Air Defense team is my favorite and the superior!
The Land Military Team was the first set of Mini-cons I purchased. Bonecrusher
, and Wreckage
were all various forms of military style missile trucks. In many ways, they were the easiest for collectors to come to terms with as legitimate transformers. They look like the Micromasters of yesteryear and somehow avoid the goofiness other Mini-cons gained when attached to larger figures. You could almost view them as Targetmasters but they were actually decent figures in their own right both in robot mode and vehicle mode. I'd even recommend them today for someone looking at a place to start with Mini-cons. Honorable mentions go out to their uniform color scheme cousins in the Night Attack team, who in addition to having cool colors, have an awesome sinister name.
Then there's the unfortunate but somewhat necessary Street Action team. Ever wanted a bicycle Transformer, a skateboard Transformer? how about a moped Transformer? Me neither, but Highwire
, and Sureshock
were core characters to the show. Now, Grindor is great. The others? Not so much... That being said, their ability to combine into Perceptor
(in name only) was AWESOME. Perceptor, despite his limited articulation is legit. He's a cool concept and character I would not mind seeing a return of.
The Sea team is almost a continuation of the Street Speed team's advances in engineering. Waterlog
, and Stormcloud
are all great little Transformers with solid transformations, great amounts of detail for Mini-cons, and useful joints. Their variety of colors across all releases will inevitably make it so that there is some version out there you like. Additionally, because of their missile launchers, they make for decent Targetmaster style figures just like the Land Military team did.
I keep talking about these pseudo Targetmasters but the Emergency team was the real deal. These were the guys everyone was waiting for, legitimate three-mode Mini-cons. Prowl, Firebot
, and Makeshift
were also interesting in that they were some of the few Mini-cons to make purposeful use of clear plastic. Even among those who hated Armada and Mini-cons, this team was almost universally loved for its versatility and ability to mix in with almost any line.
As for me, my recommendations on these would be the Japanese TRU exclusives for the Land Military team
, the Universe 2003 versions of the Street Action team
, the Powerlinx version of the Sea team
, and the Micron Booster 2
versions of the Emergency team. I think I just like the color selection of those, not so much for any particular matching with larger figures.
The Air Military team is another Targetmaster homage, with each member transforming into some type of weapon, all the emphasis here is decidedly more melee. Thunderwing
transforms from robot to SR-71 style stealth jet, to a three pronged claw weapon. Terradive
is the second member of the team, transforming from robot, to "flying wing" stealth bomber, to a "ninja star" or shield. Interestingly Terradive's port is actually on a swivel, allowing him to spin freely when powerlinked to a bulk. Finally, Gunbarrel
rounds out the team, transforming from robot to cargo plane to six barreled gattling gun.
The Street Speed team has the dubious distinction of being the most articulated Mini-con teams produced, as well as toying with several copyright and trademark violations. Backtrack
is almost completely a Cadillac XLR in a rather unrealistic shade of green. Oval
continues the trend of mimicking real vehicles by transforming into a Saleen S7 in a muddy orange color. Finally, Spiral
takes a stab at ripping off the Germans, with a deep blue Mercedes C-Class alternate mode. While the articulation was impressive for the time, all three figures can suffer from loose, floppy joints, and may have difficulty not falling apart completely. This is a team that is either loved or hated.
Next, the Destruction Team makes up for limited articulation by packing in some interesting play features, particularly with Cyclonus. Each figure featured a center roller which would activate some action feature when rolling along, and there was a small gear and clip mechanism which allowed them to dock to the underside of Cyclonus. Spinning the rotors would trigger the gear and cause the action to occur. Dualor
is the most straightforward, transforming into a dual-barrelled reciprocating tank. His gimmick works well and he's impressively bulky for a Mini-con. Next, Drill Bit
transforms into a giant, well, drill. There are some small issues to his design, however, as the body of the drill is blocked by his legs, which transform into the wheels and bed of the vehicle. The drill does spin quite well. Lastly, Buzzsaw
does not actually transform into a saw. Instead, the vehicle is technically a "Bucket Wheel Excavator", and his rotating bucket/blade works extremely well.
Finally, the Adventure Team uses the same gimmicks as the Destruction Team, but unfortunately suffers from having gimmicks that don't make as much sense docked to Cyclonus. Dune Runner
starts off the set as a dune buggy with roof mounted machine gun. This feature works well both in rolling and attached to Cyclonus, in theory, but minor tolerance issues prevent the gun from turning smoothly. Iceberg
is the next figure in the team, transforming into a snow plow tank with opening and closing plow jaws. Again, minor tolerance issues prevent this gimmick from triggering on Cyclonus, but the vehicle mode is a lot of fun. Finally, Ransack
is a green jeep with a real working winch. Unfortunately, the winch aspect doesn't work very well at all with Cyclonus, as a few short turns will have the length of string fully retracted.
Out of all the Mini-con three packs, the Sea Team is probably still my favorite, particularly with Waterlog's elegant transformation and real knees.
With hindsight, the Armada super-con figures, or in modern terms - Deluxe class figures - aren’t exactly a breakthrough in Transformers toy technology. They aren’t going to hold much against the modern figures, such as the Classics or the Generations, but they have their own uniqueness to them. What they lacked in articulation due to their gimmick-based interactions with their mini-con partners, they made up in playability and overall ‘fun’.
Tackling the Autobot super-cons, we have the first wave release, Hot Shot
. Hindered by the axle-bazooka system, Hot Shot still offers movement in the important areas, however he won’t be moving his head anytime soon. Being in the year 2012, we expect our Transformers to offer both great alternate modes, as well as robot modes. Hot Shot isn’t exactly endearing to that philosophy, but his mini-con partner Jolt
interacts well with Hot Shot’s vehicle mode. Not the best figure on the Armada market and not one you’ll have a struggle with when trying to obtain it on the secondary market. Much like a handful of figures at the end of the Armada toyline, Hot Shot was repainted as Powerlink Hot Shot
, homaging Generation Hot Rod. While this repaint doesn’t exactly increase the mold’s stock, it’s certainly a nice change for those who were tired of seeing yellow (get out of here Cheetor)
also fits in to the same category as Hot Shot, as in he has a great vehicle mode, but his robot mode is still a few years behind. The Lamborghini-Ferrari-something can grow wings thanks to Red Bull and Blurr’s mini-con partner, Incinerator
. In robot mode, the majority of his car bits are a massive backpack, and Blurr has limited arm movement and no knee joints. The colors are aesthetically pleasing, but alas, hindered by the mold’s interaction with Incinerator.
Next up to bat is what some claim to be the worst Transformer of all time. It’s funny that this figure also fits into the same category as Blurr and Hot Shot. Despite the lack of suitors for Armada Side Swipe
(Not Sideswipe, please don't mix the two!), the young Autobot warrior features a rather sleek vehicle mode, and up to its release date in 2002, offered one of the most realistic alternate modes the Transformers fanbase had ever seen. Side Swipe even featured a fun and interactive powerlinking gimmick with his mini-con partner, Nightstick
. However folding the car’s pieces and parts into robot mode yields a nightmare. Side Swipe has the chunkiest limbs, kibble, and clumsy articulation. The figure has a tendency to just not stay still. It surprises me that this figure has as many repaints as it does, and its character was even homaged in this year’s BotCon set. Well….. there are cults for worse things I suppose.
isn't a very popular toy, and I can’t wonder why. Yes, he does not exactly have the best articulation, and he’s a bit chunky, but isn't that what should be expected for the tough guy of the group? His gimmick is a large crane on his shoulder; it’s the saving grace and also the downfall of Smokescreen. Its size will likely topple the figure in robot mode unless you position it properly, but its interaction with the mini-con Liftor
turns the crane into a massive sniper rifle! Smokescreen even has a working winch, which fits with the rescue vehicle theme. While Smokescreen is full of fun, his min-con Liftor is also worth a shot, the little guy is sturdy and is solid in both modes.
Next up is another underrated figure, Armada Hoist
. Smokescreen’s character in Armada kicked the can, but he was then resurrected as Hoist. Hoist is a construction vehicle with a giant crane-claw, and his mini-con Refute
is one of the tallest in the scale. Despite Hoist’s massive crane-claw, he has the best articulation of all of the deluxe figures, as he can actually bend his legs 90 degrees!
Rounding up the batch is Armada Optimus Prime
. He’s got quite the hype as being a great figure, and yet I think it’s more because the bigger Optimus Prime had a lot of follies to it. To me, he’s not that great, but I get my panties in a bunch when it comes to scale and Armada figures. Optimus Prime, also known as Bendy Prime features good, all around articulation, and a fighter/gun mini-con partner in Over-Run
. (No, not this Over-Run
!) I’d recommend this figure, but you probably already have it, and if you don’t, there’s the Nemesis version which Razor will allude to. Out of the figures we have here, the best Armada Autobot Super-con would have to be Hoist. He’s all around dynamic and you’ll always love that sound when you hear his gear-joints bend! The mold is also worth it in his Cybertron Longrack
remold or the rather lucrative BotCon Dinobot
It seems that the Decepticon Supercons (deluxe figures) are up to me. These toys all feature an interesting if largely unnoticed design point: They are all asymetrical. It's not that obvious and it's not that big a deal but it's there. The idea was to show the Cons as being edgier in this manner. It kind of worked and if you examine the toys you'll pick up on the little cues that show it off.
The first wave of figures gave us Demolisher
. Now neither of these guys are going to go down in the annals of TF history as being marvels of engineering but they are interesting never the less.
Demolisher is perhaps the best Decepticon Supercon. His transformation is clean, he locks together, and while he doesn't have modern articulation, he still has a great number of useful joints. His...head doesn't rotate, so there's that. -_- To make up for it, Demolisher has perhaps the best integration of Mini-con to Bulk out of the entire line. His Mini-con Blackout
is useful no matter what mode Demolisher is in and there is even a third mode to compliment all this. Demolisher even has a nifty and fully functioning gimmick to shoot Blackout across a table in vehicle mode.
To make this $10 marvel (yes, deluxes used to be huge and 30% less expensive) even better, he has several Macross-style bot configurations where his arms can fold up into artillery formations. It's a nice touch that really makes use of his missile firing gimmick.
Cyclonus is less awesome but perhaps equally interesting. He has the same articulation range as Demolisher and even as good a Mini-con integration but that's where the similarities end. Cyclonus seems to have been the starting point for an abandoned Mini-con gimmick that would pair geared Minicons up with Bulks who could implement those mechanics. (You can see on Hoist where this might have been implemented had it continued) So there are a whole host of Mini-cons who work only with Cyclonus. (Spoiler: They don't work well with him)
In vehicle mode, Cyclonus is kind of awesome. The helicopter is well done, the blades spin properly, and kids can hold it in a gun-style way for pretending he flies. All and all, a nice figure. His robot mode...not so much. His missile firing gimmick is hampered by the need for a Mini-con and he has what are in all honesty, stupid guns in his knees. Despite his joints, he is virtually impossible to pose in any meaningful way and his head looks like he's hiding in a turtle shell. So...yea. When people point at Armada with an accusatory finger, it's because of figures like this. You should still track one down though. He has a little gun that goes back and forth when his blades rotate and that...is very cool.
Late line Decepticons included Thrust
Thrust typifies all that was wrong with Armada. He has another, though this time criminally bad, abandoned mechanic. He has no real hands. He has a fake transformation. But...his vehicle mode is rather nice and his Mini-con
is quite good actually. Thrust is even somewhat posable in robot mode if you can maneuver around his giant hanging cockpit.
I went there.
What happened with this figure is that he was essentially ruined by his gimmick. Though it is unobtrusive, all the engineering went towards its integration so several important things like...hands were factored out. Thrust is a loss and I would never recommend him to someone. But he's not a complete loss despite what I just said. The figure is very well detailed and the transformation is good if not a bit cheat-y. If you are completing an Armada cast, you could do worse than paying the $8 it would take to get this guy and have him standing majestically behind Galvatron with betrayal in his squid-eyes.
On the other hand, we have Wheeljack, who still holds up to today's standards in many ways. Wheeljack has simple and straightforward articulation and a simple but mechanically interesting transformation. He's large, detailed, and honestly quite well done. His Mini-con Wind Sheer
is even pretty decent as Mini-cons go in design and shape.
Wheeljack turns into a slick black (or gray depending on your hemisphere) car. He has a M.A.S.K. style gimmick when you apply his Mini-con and God knows why we never got a red redeco of him. Some people might be turned away by his insignia, which shows off his faction change but I suspect more will be endeared by it. I only wish he had a larger and more pronounced Decepticon symbol.
For those who really like this figure, I suggest you track down the Japanese or Korean versions
. The black and blue deco is easily nicer and more show accurate than the gray and yellow North American version.
Out of all these guys, I would recommend Demolisher. He's everything an Armada figure should be and I feel that he holds up very well after all these years, even if he has to turn his entire torso to look to the left. (but he can! He has a waist joint...)
Lastly, we have Unicron's Agents from both the cartoon and comics. Sideways
is one of the two Mini-Con Headmasters in the line, but actually features two different heads. A futuristic, if chunky, motorcycle, Sideways transformed into an oddly articulated "ninja", but lacks traditional fist holes, knees, a waist, and features some odd arm articulation. Despite that, Sideways has a special place in my heart. His Minicons, Rook
also exhibit the ability to merge into a single, surprisingly articulated, robot rider for Sideways' bike mode. This, combined with the campy Headmaster gimmick, grant Sideways a pass, from being a forgettable mess, to maintaining a place, to this day, on my shelves. An odd variant exists, with the factions swapped between both Mini-cons.
Next, Nemesis Prime
is a sinister redeco of the Super-con Optimus Prime mold, which Blurrz has so elegantly described. Hot off their successes with RID Scourge, Hasbro and Takara wished to cement the idea of a "Black Prime" as more than just hyper-exclusive repaints in Japan. A monstrous beast in the show, Nemesis Prime sported a strange dark gray, teal, and dusty brown color scheme, punctuated by intense red highlights. In a twist of a pun, his Minicon is slyly named "Run Over
", a corruption of Super-con Prime's Over Run. Because of Nemesis Prime's show nature, and a rare case ratio, this figure still commands a comparatively high price on secondary market, easily outpacing other Super-cons by two to three times. Micron Legend Scourge
at first glance appears to be similar to Nemesis Prime, but virtually every color has been replaced. The main body is different. The reds are different. The details are different. Scourge is virtually impossible to track down at this point, and frankly the domestic version is heading there as well.
The Super-con line was filled out by four Beast Wars redecos, featuring dead Minicon ports molded in key places. All four sport decos significantly different from their Beast Wars personas, with darker tones. Cheetor
is paired with Cliffjumper
, a redeco of Ransack. Rhinox
is also paired with another Adventure Team redeco, Armorhide
, from the Iceberg mold. Terrorsaur
completes the Adventure Team pairings, joining Ironhide
, a redeco of Dune Runner. Lastly, Airazor
gets her partner Nightscream
from the Street Speed Team, a redeco of Oval. While absent from the cartoon, these characters feature prominently in the defunct Dreamwave Armada and Energon comics, making them a must for any fan of those series.
Out of all the Super-cons, my favorite is probably Nemesis Prime, because he was from a time when the idea was still relatively fresh, and I have a soft spot for figures that have puns in their name. Run Over is a great little guy.
Max-cons, or in today’s terms – Voyager Class – were bold, big, and sometimes were just annoying all together. If you were max-con or bigger, it was likely that you’d have light and sounds.p RED ALERT RED ALERT RED ALERT WEEWOOWEEWOO
, a character who homages the Decepticon G1 Scavenger, was first acknowledged as a Decepticon in the cartoon, but then switched sides to the Autobots. Everyone wants to be Counterpunch, eh? Just because Scavenger is bigger, doesn’t mean he deviates from the Armada super-con formula. At the heart of the figure, there is just a giant brick. It makes for a great truck, as Scavenger has a solid alternate mode – his mini-con Rollbar
, if in robot mode, fits right into the canopy of Scavenger acting as the truck driver. You also have rolling treads and a moving scooper. This doesn’t exactly yield the brightest robot mode, as Scavenger doesn’t exactly have what we’d call ‘legs’. Still, as an Armada figure, it went big on the gimmick factor and is still a fun figure to toy around with.
Next up we have Red Alert
, taking the form of a rescue vehicle. The mode is rather bland until you perch the mini-con Longarm
on to the back of Red Alert, and thus begins the electronics: RED ALERT RED ALERT WEE WOO WEE WOO. Transformed, Red Alert offers a bunch of fancy gadgets and moderate articulation. He has interchangeable hand weapons, a chest disc-launcher, a giant shoulder gun/handheld gun, and RED ALERT RED ALERT WEE WOO WEE WOO. The mold’s repaint is Powerlinx Red Alert
, exchanging the medic red and white with vibrant blue and orange. Still, the same old RED ALERT WEE WOO WEE WOO. Out of these two, I’d have to give it to Mr. Wee Woo for actually having legs and the best……. or annoying electronics in the line.
I can't believe I didn't get to write on Red Alert...
More Decepticons for me. Seekers. Starscream
, other Starscream, and Skywarp
. Yes, yes...the package for Thundercracker
says Thundercracker but by the show it was Super Mode Starscream.
These guys are the same so I'm not going to split the discussion up too much. This mold is very G1-esq to me. It's big, bulky, and has limited or fake articulation. The legs have a full range of front to back movement but no side to side movement. All versions of this guy will be standing at attention. Likewise, his arms have several points of articulation, none of which help to show that Starscream is a master swordsman in Armada.
This mold is a brick, but that's ok.
Jet mode is interesting. It's large and well detailed. It's perhaps one of the best Cybertronian jet designs we've seen. Mini-con integration on this figure is well done with two distinct ways to actively engage it's workings.
The primary gimmick on this figure is the flip out Null Ray cannons. As far as gimmicks go, this one is quite screen accurate but also one of the drawbacks the mold suffers from. Where as on-screen, Starscream has a flat back, the toy is forced to have a large backpack to accommodate the cannons. Were there a simple hinge back there to fold the whole thing down further, the toy would have been near perfect.
Now, this Starscream is a swordsman. His blade is quite interestingly stored in his left wing. Removing the wing arms him and gives that asymmetrical look once again that was discussed before. Now, the show plays off the whole sword thing much better than the toy but the gimmick is quite clever and truly unique. I wish his articulation gave him a bit more use of the blade or that the handle was placed differently but this is a very fun alteration to Starscream's usual character portrayal.
Let's talk interesting toy history here. The US and Japanese versions have two distinct differences. The US versions have a slanted nosecone. It's pointed down in the way that some supersonic jets have an angled nosecone. This was ultimately a safety thing. The angle allows the nosecone to collapse if your kid brother charges at you with Starscream pointed straight out as to avoid impaling you. The Japanese (and Korean) versions are straight and more accurate to the show.
The other significant difference is in the paint details and masking. The US versions of Starscream and Thundercracker do a really ugly version of masking on the symbols to just plop purple on there. The Japanese versions are painted, detailed, and lined. The difference is staggering. Further, the US version of Starscream is gray and the Japanese version is white(ish). YMMV depending on what you're willing to pay. Oddly enough, Skywarp, who got a US release and a very limited Japanese release in US packaging has the properly done and painted symbols.
Out of the the three US versions of this, go for Skywarp. He has the best paint decos, a unique, different, and quality Mini-con
, and an interesting head sculpt that makes him anyone you might want him to be. If we're talking the best version overall in my opinion, I would say that the Japanese Super Mode (Thundercracker) Starscream is the best. The colors and deco just shine and the toy looks brilliant.
Did someone order a brick? Featuring almost G1 levels of articulation, Overload
was the last original mold Voyager for the toyline. With only shoulder, hip, and head swivels, Overload still managed to be thoroughly impressive with his shoulder mounted missile batteries and giant fists ready to pummel any Decepticon into scrap. The toy’s articulation was scrapped to allow him to become a pair of giant shoulder mounted cannons for Superbase Prime. His third mode is a large launchpad/trailer, which can carry Jetfire and be towed behind Prime’s trailer, creating a massive convoy of Autobot might. Overload was also one of the first modern toys to include the iconic transformation noise we’ve all come to know, love, and subsequently despise as it’s included in dozens of figures over the years. Finally, Overload featured a unique interaction with his Mini-con, Rollout
. Instead of having a typical transformation, with Rollout activating some feature, Rollout became the head and chest of Overload, unveiling a proportionate head and slotting into a giant cavity in the main body.
As with the Super-Cons, the Gigacon range also feature a Beast Wars remold and redeco, in the form of “Predacon
”, a repaint and slight retool of the Transmetal Megatron mold, with added Powerlinx hard points. The figure features arguably the best deco of that mold, in rich greens, browns, and grays, with a dash of orange for visual pop. Predacon is also notable for coming with two Mini-cons, Side Burn
, which round out a full team of Street Speed redecos with Air Razor’s Nightscream partner.
Out of all the Max-Cons, the Starscream mold still has a soft spot for me, as it’s the figure I originally discovered in that dark Boscov’s basement and set me on the path to the raving lunatic completionist I am today.
Space shuttle Transformers are few and far between and yet for their lack of numbers, Armada Jetfire
certainly makes up for it. Jetfire epitomizes the ‘White Knight’ character, as he gallants in with his wings, engines and massive blaster. His mini-con Comettor
is specific as it acts as Jetfire’s landing gear in alternate mode. Combined with his shield and Comettor, Jetfire can roll out on the ground, as well as fly without it. Jetfire also has droppable missiles, but they are rather bland. Amidst transformation, you’ll find that Jetfire’s blaster/rifle has been blessed or cursed with electronics, a countdown sound, the G1-Autobot blaster sound, and if a mini-con is attached, a blaster sound. Now fully transformed, Jetfire has a bunch of nice hawk-like aesthetics, and is full of character. My personal favorite with Jetfire is his ability to yield all of the power weapons (Blaster, Saber, & Shield) at the same time, with two of the weapons in his hands and the last of the trio perched on his wings. Jetfire also has the ability to bolster the power of Optimus Prime by combining with him, but we’ll leave the question of ‘who wears the pants in the relationship’ for later on. Jetfire was repainted under the Powerlinx
Banner into a combination of blue and grey, homaging Jetfire’s pre-Transformers origin (Macross/Robotech). Overall you can’t really go wrong with a Jetfire figure, whether it’s in Armada, Energon
I'm lucky in that I get to talk about my favorite Armada figure, Megatron
Imagine Megatron taken to a samurai extreme. He'd be a ruthless killer, willing to do anything or step on anyone to get to his ends, and all of this would be bent around a form of honor that somehow, only he and his rival understand. That's Armada Megatron. Now, the cartoon version is a bit hammy but the comic version...now there is a villain.
I dream of a TF comic where Armada Megatron goes around to different multiverses killing off the Megatron in that world Highlander style. I digress.
Megatron actually has a good range of movement in his top half. He even has bicep swivels that most people don't know about due to how tight the joint is. His lower half is another thing entirely. He is essentially immobile below the waist. Now he can combine with Tidal Wave
but...honestly, that's a mess.
His tank mode is perhaps the best H-tank this side of Generations Warpath. The transformation is clean and there's not really any kibble in either mode. He can hold, store, or capture Mini-cons in virtually any part of his alt mode. Additionally, there are two different ways to fire missiles out of this mode, both of which work well.
Robot mode has several gimmicks but coolest of all his his hidden shiv in his hand. Even if this Megatron is close to losing a fight, there's always a chance you'll get shanked. Megatron has perhaps the most useful Mini-con ports for attaching extra Mini-cons and not looking ridiculous. Spots on his arms and legs as well as his back allow him to hold 4-5 of the little guys and look perfectly balanced.
In looking at this mold, I would recommend Megatron over Galvatron
. Megatron's color scheme is classic and well balanced. You can always pay a little bit extra and get the Japanese version for the improved faction symbols too. Galvatron in his US colors is a nice figure but it is still a white and lavender color palette and many people will not have a place for that outside of an Armada shelf. Of note, the Japanese version of Galvatron has a more accurate color scheme but that one is actually white and pink-ish purple. He's considerably more difficult to come by when compared to the US version of Galvatron.
Razorclaw0000: Tidal Wave
rounds out the Giga-Cons, and has the dubious distinction of having even less meaningful articulation than Overload! However, don’t let this brickish brute fool you; Tidal Wave is an imposing addition to anyone’s collection. Comprised of three naval vessels – an aircraft carrier, a hovercraft, and a submarine-ish thing, Tidal Wave combines in a similar fashion to Beast Wars Neo Magamatron. Each vessel lacks an individual robot mode, but instead combines to create either a giant warship, or the robot mode of Tidal Wave. One of the tallest figures in the line, with the exception of Unicron, Tidal Wave can raise his arms, and that’s it. The legs are articulated, but only laterally, so if you’d like to have Tidal Wave doing the splits, you are set.
Tidal Wave also features the ability to combine with the Megatron mold, creating a set of overpowered arm gauntlets and a booster pack to compliment Megatron’s already absurd cannon mode. Paired with the smallest Mini-con, Ramjet
, Tidal Wave is large enough to accommodate a fully functional elevator on the deck of the aircraft carrier to deploy Ramjet.
Tidal Wave also features a second, also dubious, distinction. He is the most different in deco from the Armada and Micron Legend releases. While the Armada version looks like a crayon factory accident, with olive green, gray, neon red, purple, gold, and dark gray, the Micron Legend deco
simplifies to a lush purple, softer orange, and grays, unifying the decos between the three vessels, and building a beautiful palette of destruction.
If you like big, chunky, feature filled figures, Tidal Wave has should be on your purchase list. A word of caution, however… all the Armada and Micron Legend versions of this figure feature a design defect in the “armpits” that will fire the missiles accidentally and constantly. This flaw is fixed in the sublime Energon deco.
Garry Chalk Optimus Prime
By itself, the Optimus Prime
figure is about the size of an Ultra figure, and I’m sort of lethargic and depraved to say anything good about it. The only thing that this version of Prime has on the deluxe version is his size and how it fits in with the rest of the scale for Armada. Out of all of the Armada figures, Optimus was hit the hardest when it comes to gimmicks, as they force him to not do anything else. Prime is one of the most static modern-day large Transformers. However when he takes the 1+ Mushroom, which Counterpunch is about to talk about, he gets a little better.
Optimus has several versions of powered modes and in a way they became the symbol for any kind of Prime combiner mode. First off, Prime has the ability to combine with his trailer. What's really cool about this is the way in which you can have the trailer auto-transform for the merge. There is an infra-red light signal that cues the trailer to mechanically reconfigure for this mode. Prime then forms the upper half. Once combined, there's only limited arm movement and a head turn. It's more about stature and the fact that you can have the trailer reconfigure itself rather than making a bigger more posable prime. There's also a light gimmick that extends into his gun if positioned properly.
On top of this, you can attach Overload as a massive gun battery atop his shoulders. The instructions basically have you cram in on there but there is a series of latches that make it surprisingly secure. I have a hard time imagining who Prime needs this kind of firepower to go up against. Overload as a gun system looks like some kind of mass-murder machine...
Additionally or apart from Overload, Prime can combine with Jetfire who replaces the trailer and becomes a set of winged legs, presumably for flight mode. Don't be fooled, there is no added posability here but he does look damn cool with all of these units combined into one Supreme Optimus.
is Prime’s Minicon, homaging both the G1 human by name, and very clearly Bumblebee by appearance, complete with the iconic horns on his tiny head. Transforming into a highly generalized Lamborghini, this mold remains one of my favorites today, with its clean lines and surprisingly complex transformation.
To this day, I still think of Unicron
as a Transformers piece that is unrivaled. He’s menacing, loading with articulation, gimmicks and is a Transformers figure that everyone needs to own in one form or the other (Energon
). I remember getting Unicron for Christmas back in ’03, and it was a thrill to receive. I still remember the agony of having to hack him open from the jumble of twist-ties he was trapped in. He’s also got a really well engineered mini-con named Dead End
, in which his mass appearance in the cartoon resulted in an increase in popularity and a penchant for Dead End to be army built.
Actually during the time of writing this article, we're in the middle of packing for yet another move. I have my four Unicrons out, ready for packing and my wife comments on them, "I remember when you got that and how impressive it was. I never thought we'd see a Transformer that big again...and you have four of him now." She was right though, Unicron was a big deal when he came out. It's almost a "you had to be there" thing at this point. Funny thing for me is, I'm not sure we'll ever see a Transformer this big again considering how things are going.
This guy was it for me. He cemented my love for the character and the awful chaos he represents. With the creation of this figure and the accompanying fiction across both the Unicron trilogy and the Universe 2003 line, my quest to collect all things Unicronian began. Years later that awful quest morphed into the disease of completionism, but Unicron was the dark seed that set me off.
The Legend of Micron
While Takara had their own toy line in with Beast Wars II and Neo, it was never until Armada, or in Japan – Micron Legend - that every Takara figure started to have their own differences in contrast to Hasbro figures. With two piles to pick from, Transformers collectors started to change their collecting habits. Takara’s Micron Legend focused more on show accuracy, and with that I have to say my favorite variant would have to be Blurr, or in Takara terms, Silverbolt
. Silverbolt’s deco gives a new feel to the figure, as his yellow-stained windows are now red. Even his micron Incinerator, now called, Turbot, features a new deco. It’s just these little things that made Micron Legend deserve a second glance from me, and now I’m proud to own a majority of the Micron Legend figures.
I've spoke a bit about this in my post but for me the most interesting difference between the Hasbro and Takara releases is Tidal Wave. It's a complete change in colors and really manages to give the big guy a color scheme that screams "death bringer". As a dark horse candidate, I'd mention Jetfire
who's ML color swaps are simple but brilliant.
As CP alluded to, Jetfire destroys his domestic counterpart by replacing the “heat scorched” white with the most crisp and pure white ever seen on a toy. The figure gleams in gorgeous brilliance. I’m also a fan of the “crystal” standard/deluxe Optimus Prime mold.
The I In Team
Blind packs, new decos, exclusives and the sort. Micron Legend went full force with their mini-con friends, and to this day I’m still trying to track down every mini-con that has been released by Takara. My counterparts are jerks. way ahead of me in that race, but I still have a fair share of little guys. Out of all of the Micron Legend variants, I have to say that my favorite would have to be X-Dimension Glide
, whos blend of black, white, orange and chrome come together in a beautiful combination. Glide is a part of the X-Dimension Air Military team, and his teammates are gems as well! No don’t mind me as I start to cry myself to sleep as Counterpunch and Razorclaw0000 brag about their favorite micron.
I will be forever grateful as a fan of Microns to JRFitzpatrick for setting me up with my Linkage Microns
. I remember them when they came out but did not understand their relevance until later. The fiction tied into these guys and their simple but balanced color choices really work for me.
Honorable mentions go to Atlas
who are wonderful vibrant redecos of Sparkplug.
The Aqua Raider team
, a DVD repaint of the Sea Team, is stunning in rich dark bluish grays that compliment Nemesis Prime exceedingly well. Also, the X-Dimension Destruction team
gets a nod for the luxurious metallic orange and teal paints that would fit in with any modern United figure. Finally, the Micron Booster Emergency
Team repaint, in all of its “Minty Fresh” glory delight me, with emerald transparent plastics.
When Armada was done, I was taken aback by the fact that it was finished. I went on a Transformers hiatus and skipped Energon -> Cybertron -> Classics, and didn’t get back to the hobby until the 2007 Movie. The fact that there weren’t any mini-cons anymore was a big disappoint on my end. As long as I continue collecting Transformers, Armada/Micron Legend will be my favorite line, and I’ll cherish every little bit. The fact that lines like Power Core Combiners and Takara’s Arm Microns continue to carry the Armada banner thrills me beyond words. Armada begets a lot of distaste, but as I hope we’ve alluded to – there’s diamonds in the rough.
I didn't like Armada at first but it was the line that got me to try and have everything in hand before making a solid judgement on a figure. I would come to love the large and simple designs as they were a straight call back to the G1 figures I grew up with. It's really the mark of my collection in a way because while I started back with RiD, it was Armada that got me to complete my first line. I still have one piece to grab though. Eventually I will find a Micron Legends Black Convoy to replace my US version. I may be holding out on finding him though so that I still have something fun to hunt for at Botcon. lol, I'm stupid. I know.
I am a Mini-con and Micron collector, through and through, dedicated enough to even collect the minor variants between Armada and Micron Legend. With a count somewhere in the 500 area, I’m swimming in Microns, Scrooge McDuck style.
(Thanks to tfu.info and the lens of Counterpunch for additional images)
So, we leave the floor to you, the members of Seibertron.com. How does Transformers Armada resonate with you?