Saturday, February 2, 2013

Fall of Cybertron Air Raid

Generations is a sub-division of the primary Transformers line, used primarily to bring characters from media other than the current cartoon to toy shelves for kids and collectors. Generations started life in 2008 as Transformers:Universe and was mostly garish repaints of older molds, but the line changed names and got a better handle on what it was offering by the time High Moon Studio's highly successful War for Cybertron video game hit shelves in 2010 to give us really fantastic versions of Megatron, Prime, Bumblebee and Soundwave based on their game designs. To this day, War for Cybertron Soundwave is one of my all time favorite versions of the character. Needless to say, I was pretty excited to hear Hasbro had plans of releasing figures based off of War's sequel, Fall of Cybertron! The first wave was...a little less than exciting. Rising costs for labor and materials meant higher prices for smaller, less decorated figures containing less metal (which in some cases means less structural stability.) Really, only Shockwave was worth the sixteen dollars in my mind, Prime and Jazz will have to wait for Marshall's/T.J. Maxx runs. Long story short, I was planning on spending less money on Transformers from here on out if this was the trend, but the latest wave of Generations deluxe class figures changed my mind. To find out why, let's look at one such figure, Air Raid.

Air Raid in Generation One was one of the Aerialbots, a team of Autobot jets who combined to form the super robot Superion. Though I believe this is meant to be the same character, this Cybertronian Air Raid will not be joining his fellow Aerialbots in combination anytime soon as he is a clever repaint and slight retool of Generations Shockwave released a few months ago.

"Do I know you?"
Yes, this heroic Autobot owes his form to one of the most nefarious Decepticons! A new head, chest plate and color scheme goes a long way however and even side by side, they are clearly two distinct figures. Some have complained that this is cheap even for a repaint, as neither the robot body, nor the alt mode (more on that later) really scream "Air Raid." This doesn't bother me however as this is meant to represent Air Raid before he came to Earth, possibly before the Autobots even had combiner technology (depending on which canon you're going by), it's not really a big deal. In his defense, Fall of Cybertron Air Raid does have a similarly shaped head and a large amount of red in his paint scheme like his G1 predecessor (descendant?) and his silver detailing could stand in for the original Air Raid's white in a pinch. To throw things off even further, this figure was originally announced as Fireflight, a different Aerialbot with more red and a bit of gold in his G1 color scheme. The name changed to Air Raid before his actual release, undoubtedly due to a legal snag of some sort. I sort of wish he had remained Fireflight however, as the name seems more appropriate with the blazing red and gold color choices on the final figure.

As I mentioned, two of the biggest changes from Shockwave to Air Raid are the additions of an entirely new head sculpt and a new chest plate. The head is a cool, but almost generic helmet plus face plate combo with the visor lighting up red due to light piping. Sadly, his head still only swivels like Shockwave's. The chest plate is interesting with two shallow, gold rimmed cavities on either side lined with hexagonal translucent red cells within, bridged by two mechanical "arm" like details extending from a central panel with a nice bright Autobot symbol on it. The overall effect is like some sort of energy collection array, except on his chest. But these are not the only new features Air Raid sports.

Air Raid has quite a few weapons available to him, including a slightly modified version of Shockwave's arm cannon. Instead of the three barrels that Shockwave's sports, Air Raid's cannon has only two so that it can better interact with another of his accessories. The cannon can still be wielded on it's own however, and can be held in Air Raid's fist or be pegged to his wrist if you fold in his hand. I've found that it does not peg quite as tightly as Shockwave's did however. Though considering how much I had to fight to get his off for a couple of pictures in this review, that might be a good thing.

An entirely new accessory comes in the form of this gun and/or sword weapon. The translucent red blade can fold under to form a short "nailgun" style blaster as seen here or be extended fully to be a gun-blade of sorts. This piece can also snap onto the two-barreled cannon to form a slightly larger blaster with extra barrels when hand held or be clipped to his hand fully extended to give Air Raid a literal sword arm.

Like so
There is still one more new piece added to this figure and I absolutely spoiled it by accident in the last picture, so before we move on to that, let's rattle off articulation real fast. Air Raid's articulation scheme is identical to Shockwave's but to the unaware, that means swivel neck, shoulders that pivot forward, back and hinge out, inward/outward hinges right above the elbows, ball joint elbows, hinged wrists, ball joint hips, mid-thigh swivels, hinge knees and toes that can point if need be.

And now onto a sweet sword! This weapon is my favorite new addition because it feels like we don't get that many sword wielding robots these days. The sword is cast in more translucent red with nice silver and brownish-bronze detailing and splits down the center of the blade. Not because it's awesome battle damage action or anything, but because Air Raid still has one more surprise up his sleeve. Er...cowling.

Spread the halves of the smaller sword's blades and peg it into the handle of the larger sword and you get a really big, impossible to realistically swing sword! This is a nice play feature, but what I really appreciate about this modular weapon system is the sheer variety you can get out of three weapon pieces and a few connection points on the figure. Being able to hold a weapon in either hand, connect a sword or cannon to either arm, connect his sword to his cannon, connect all three into his mega-sword and/or still carry a weapon on the peg hole in his back makes Air Raid very versatile and gives you tons of options of what he might need on "missions." And I totally commend Hasbro for this, all the figures in this wave have either larger than normal weapons or several smaller weapons that combine in different ways. To me at least, this says the Hasbro understands our displeasure at higher prices and smaller figures and has given us larger or more plentiful accessories as a trade off. I can live with myself a little easier when my sixteen dollar figure makes me feel it's worth those sixteen dollars.

Vehicle mode is where I can at least understand where "This isn't Air Raid" complaints are coming from. While for Shockwave, a ship that is essentially a flying cannon is perfect, the design is less of a fit for Air Raid. The new weapon pieces give it a different central "engine" and the new chest plate and sword attached to the top break up the outline a little, but it's a stretch. The best  I can come up with is that this class of ship is a fairly common patrol cruiser or what have you on Cybertron and a few characters use variations of it as their alt modes. The new larger sword piece is cleverly notched to lie flush against Air Raid's torso in vehicle mode, but unfortunately the edge of the blade projects in such a way that the ship cannot rest flat on a level surface and always leans one way or the other.

"Seriously, did we go to high school or something?"
While Air Raid tends to have more paint aps overall when compared to Shockwave, one area that really could have used a spot of paint is the triangular arrangement of emitters at the bow of the craft.

As you can see here, Shockwave got some light pink detailing to show the energy storing up within his cannon, while Air Raid looks a little bare without having that area painted. A touch more gold or silver paint on these details would have gone a long way, but seeing as how the review is almost over and that is the only negative thing I've found to say, Air Raid's doing pretty well.


All in all, I think Air Raid is a fantastic entry in the Generations line. Toy collecting has hit a bit of a rough spot in recent years due to increasing costs of pretty much everything and some companies (Hasbro included to be fair) are experimenting with reducing the number of paint applications, points of articulation and accessories some toys have in an attempt to keep prices reasonable, but it's nice to see that while some of them might be shrinking a little or losing weight, Tranformers is a brand that continues to try to give you bang for your buck. If around sixteen bucks sounds like a reasonable price to you, I highly recommend hunting down Air Raid and his case mates. Really, every figure in this wave (except maybe Swerve) is great looking and has fun accessories, you owe it to yourself to have a look. Keep in mind Air Raid will also be made available in Japan soon with a much darker color scheme of black, maroon and orange under their version of the Generations banner for around thirty dollars from importers if you don't mind spending a little extra for a very cool deco.

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