Saturday, 10 December 2011

The Big Chief - MP10 Convoy/Optimus

For those unfamiliar with Transformers, or at least the Japanese component, the character of Optimus Prime was called Convoy in Japan... but I may refer to this toy as Optimus for convenience.
First up, a correction to what I posted the other day with my initial impressions. The trailer does have parking-legs, to prevent the trailer falling over when the truck cab isn't attached. It just took a look at the instructions to see this.  I also found that it's smaller interior, when looking through the back doors, was due to panels that separate the empty (car-carrying) section to the blue extending module at the front end of the trailer. The purpose of these separating panels seems a bit pointless, and only ends up reducing the overall carrying capacity of the trailer.

(pic is the official product image of this toy)

Overall impression, now that I've transformed this toy to truck and back - a nice toy, but shouldn't be anything more than AU$150 (so for American fans, that would relate to a US$75 Transformers price point - because in Australia we are so used to having twice the US retail price of our toys, even after parity of currencies, it's like a default value rate of our toys over Americans... for example, a deluxe size figure is valued at about $13 in America, so fans there would rate a Deluxe toy based on if it is worth $13, while here, we rate that size class on its value as a $25-30 toy. It's just what we are so used to, that any odd size classes are rated/valued according to our higher prices).
Unfortunately, this thing was released at about $250, which for us in Australia doesn't seem like a huge hit (it's like 10 Deluxe-class toys, or 3 Leader-class toys), but to the American fans, this is worth 20 Deluxe-class toys, or 6 Leader-Class toys, so has to impress them more, because they can buy more regular figures in America with that same amount of money.
The first element to determine the value of a purchase is its size, and the problem with this figure is that it is a small robot (somewhere between Voyager and Leader-class sized) packed with accessories that are bigger, but with less engineering (so would take less time and resources to design and produce than the convertible robot).  Other initial factors of value is the weight, the quality of components, detailing/sculpting, electronics, and paint apps, as the cost of all of these components can certainly justify the end purchase price-point.
This figure doesn't have any electronics, and appears to be lacking in diecast parts, making it almost a third of the weight of the original MP Optimus (1150gm vs 450gm).
As for the size, the photo below shows the difference between this figure (in the middle) and the original MP Optimus (on the left) and the original 1984 Optimus (to also show what the original character toy looked like). (I just noticed that I didn't push in the arms of the MP10 toy at the shoulders, like in the pic above)

So it is about half the size of the earlier MP Optimus (released in 2002), and about a third of the weight.  Add in the trailer and other accessories, this MP Optimus toy ended up being a little more expensive than the MP4 Optimus/Convoy toy (which also had a trailer, but as you can see above, was bigger and heavier).

Next up is how does it look in both modes - as in, does the "quality" of the modes justify a hefty price tag.
The truck mode isn't as square/cubed as the original figure, while the robot mode is a bit off with the proportions (the head is too small, and the abs/grill is too long and stretched).
The hiding of the wheels bugs me, but I guess this toy is trying to replicate the cartoon form, rather than the original toy form.

Now, the transformation - the whole point of a Transformers toy, but rarely is it ever quoted as being the reason for spending more for a figure.  This figure's engineering is intuitive enough to figure out how to transform it without resorting to the instructions, but still has a few "hidden" features that make it fun to go through the instructions later to see what you missed (with me, it was the extending smokestacks, folding side-mirrors and pushing the feet together in truck mode).  Personally, my idea of a "fun" Transformers toy is one that doesn't take a loooong time to work it out (or even convert when you do). I like the idea of the occasional "brain-teaser puzzle", but Transformers are still just toys after all. And the designers need to remember that when they over-complicate a whole line (like the recent Movie toys), as it won't hook in new collectors if they don't have fun "playing" with their first Transformers (experience).
The most "challenging" part of this figure was being careful with the lower abdomen, in that I didn't want to force some of the hinged parts that looked like they should move, in case they weren't supposed to (and thus, breaking this reeeally expensive toy). But I guess it is better having tight joints and hinges than loose ones that make the toy unstable and flimsy.
 I do like the way it slowly takes the shape of the classic Optimus truck, from a robot mode that doesn't look like it could fold up into a cubic shape.  As you're folding parts into place, and moving panels around, suddenly you have a truck... something that you'd never have expected from looking at that robot mode (if you didn't know who Optimus Prime was, or what he turns into).
Accessories - I've already commented on the battle-axe and gun, so won't repeat myself on why they suck on this release. The addition of Roller in this MP version was necessary, but I'm not sure why it has been designed to be attachable to the trailer for, as if it can act as a truck cab. Also, having Optimus's gun attach to the back of Roller seems unnecessary, but makes it look interesting.
As for the trailer itself, I like the look and detailing of it. It's almost an exact upscaling of the original 1984 trailer, with the way it opens up and acts as a "combat deck". It also has a third mode to it, that has it standing up and acting as a "repair station" for Optimus/Convoy. I've never liked the look of that concept, as it just looks forced (and I don't recall it ever being used in any official media(comic or cartoon). It's kinda like the repeated inclusion of the battle-axe - it seems to only be there because previous versions had it... not because it makes sense or is explained as to why it exists.

A couple of flaws with the toy that I have been able to pick so far. The feet are a bit loose, so it tends to fall forward alot. And the finger joints are very small, so the fingers are prone to coming off easily, which will happen more with useage (warping/bending) and wear.
This would be a 5-star toy if it were no more than half the current price... and I would recommend it to anyone if it can be found for a lot less, or if Hasbro releases it to the western market as a full set, and cheaper. I'd prefer that Hasbro release it with the full accessories and trailer, but their pricing limits (for pitching it to the retailers) would probably have this set neutered to get it under US$50 (as just the robot). Unless of course they can get enough US retailers to take it on at a $100 price point, to justify a large enough production run (making it cheap enough to produce and sell that cheaply)... because remember, US retailers are selling Transformers at half the price they are here, so they would be twice as critical of any new product at a higher price, than our retailers would be if offered product at that same price (compared to what is currently being stocked and priced in that Brand). I think some time next year, we will see this toy being release by Hasbro... and even if it is less than half what I paid (I managed to get mine for about $200), I think having the JP version to play with for a whole year beforehand, is worth paying a little more for it.

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