If I didn’t know better I’d swear John Warden and pals were making these toys just for me. Hasbro have dialled the clock back to the original G1 cartoon in an attempt to reconcile why on Cybertron in the opening episode of the show the Transformers still had very obvious Earth vehicle parts in their robot forms. Yes, you could argue it is a bit crazy that we are now at a point where we are even paying homage to the animation studio keeping their budget down or rushing to get the show done, but the cartoon was my go to fiction so of course as a kid so this is like my dream. I never had a problem with it, in fact I actually preferred it because it meant the robot forms were their own. One of my biggest irks about modern Transformers is how easy it is for them to change their looks at will, because it not only ignores that the original “Robots in Disguise” premise was dictated by them having to be rebuilt on an alien world after 4 million years of rusting away or whatever, but it also robs them of any real uniqueness. But I am already going off on a tangent which is a terrible way to open an article. Whoops.
Siege is the opening salvo of Hasbro’s new War for Cybertron trilogy, that is in no way related to the previous War for Cybertron trilogy (yes, I sort of count that Rise of the Dark Spark game). It reimagines classic characters not in new forms, but in classic forms. First up is Optimus Prime who as with all Transformers lines gets a toy in the opening act.
Will going backwards prove to be the biggest step forward yet? Read the review to find out.
Of the Cybertronian modes that we did see on screen in the original animated series, most featured a very 70’s sci-fi aesthetic. All graceful curves, as was the time. Siege has returned to this style, but falling somewhere between a Jose Mourinho rant and a misguided Kanye West tweet on the “what-a-shocker-o-meter” – Optimus Prime’s Cybertronian form is a rebellious square, red and blue truck. It’s only fitting that for a line that is playing on a particular form of nostalgia, that the Optimus Prime figure that kicks it off is so remarkably old school. Throughout history he has taken on variations of this theme, but he is so iconic in this form that he rarely strays from this template. Except for that time they made him Gorilla – oh and a shoe
Oddly, the original War for Cybertron design did give him a curvy alt mode but it wasn’t my jam. He looked like a robot Marcus Fenix without the comedy bandanna – not Optimus Prime.
A rolling red brick, you could just a well see it whipping along on the M1 as Sunbow Cybertron. For many it’s not Cybertronian enough but to me it strikes a perfect balance that enables it to slot into multiple collections without overly adhering to one style or another – beyond G1, obviously. All of the signature elements are there, yet slightly retouched to add a more militaristic, heavy duty feel. It’s not a defined military vehicle but there are subtle allusions that fit with Optimus having to redraw himself from whatever he was as Orion Pax, to now being a reluctant soldier.
His back wheels are now partially shielded, there are those metal “X” pattern details you always see in military sci-fi that I have no idea what their relevance is, and even his gas tank and smokestacks return – with fresh detail elements that keep it fresh yet familiar. Weapon storage is limited to piling them on top of his rear like a coat pile at a party. Let’s just hope Sparkplug never kinds a drunk Spike and Carly under there after one too many Bacardi Breezers.
With Siege Hasbro seem to have started to seriously play to a collector gallery beyond just trying to reel us in with obscure characters. Hyper detailing returns but is applied to Prime in a clear and consistent way that never threatens to overwhelm the toy. “Weathering” paint effects are controversial new additions but they tare only lightly applied in truck mode so never intrude. Clear plastic is back but only as a decorative touch. As far as I can tell it’s all encased in solid plastic as a decorative touch, so there is no chance of Boba Fett rolling up and finally getting to disintegrate something.
Everything locks together tightly too. It’s a very solid toy, with a reasonable weight and although many may gripe about it being a little on the small side, that allows the toy to give off a sense of intricacy and higher quality that hasn’t been present so much of late. It doesn’t feel as small as it looks – if that makes any kind of sense? In hand next to other figures it seems about right for what you’d expect from an Optimus lacking a trailer. Prime isn’t often depicted as being a huge bot in truck mode, so in that way this feels about right.
At some convention somewhere one Hasbro rep let slip that Siege Optimus Prime also had a hidden hover truck mode. Studying photos of the toy the only conclusion I could come to was that it had to be just the truck with the wheels flipped down – and that is indeed the case. Prime goes completely Back to the Future. As well as riffing on one of the most iconic movie franchises in history, it also has the dual effect of being a subtle reference to the War For Cybertron video game where the vehicle modes would hover if you happened to not be moving slowly enough. But who is thinking of that game, and not wanting Bluestreak with a Delorean styled alt mode or the trainbots to finally get new toys so you can homage Doc Brown’s time hopping locomotive?
In recent years transformations have gradually skewed towards simplicity, safety as the chief concern of the design teams. Combiner Wars is a particularly potent example of this, where most of the limbs have about 5 steps and feature mainly the same pattern of switching between modes. Often, think of CW Optimus Prime as an example, you moved large, chunky pieces that didn’t require even the slightest hint of finesse. Siege Optimus Prime rolls back the years with a conversion process that is unlike anything we’ve seen on a Hasbro toy in ages. It’s not that it’s suddenly full of complexity and requires you to conduct a seance with Patrick Moore in his Gamesmaster garb in order to complete it, but it features a lot of smaller panels and thinner parts (in a good way) that flip out and move in an elegant fashion, almost as if Hasbro are saying that they trust us again.
There are some lovely little tricks featured here too. Prime’s entire truck roof lifts up and swivels round to give him a completely clean back with storage for both weapons. Also, the roof lights now point downwards in what may be a subtle homage to him borrowing Sideswipe’s jetpack. Prime’s front grill folds into the backpack and is replaced by a “fake” chest, which will cause many a tear over cheating, I am sure, but personally I really like it as a way to get a cartoon style robot mode from a vehicle mode that is less Earthy AND give me a more elaborate transformation. Panels open and flip to fill in the backs of his legs which leaves absolutely no hollow parts or gaps (which makes me super happy!). Where toys like Titans Return and Combiner Wars almost dared you to yank pieces this way and that, this demands you move each piece delicately, but not because it might break. Transformations should be fun and this is, but in a manner that doesn’t make you feel like you are in the Early Learning Centre watching some irksome child trail snot into the sandpit.
A gorgeous representation of the Autobot leader, Hasbro have skewed as close to the G1 animation model as possible whilst still trying to be mindful that this is technically an Optimus in his Cybertronian duds, so he really shouldn’t look completely like that truck from the start of Beverly Hills Cop on legs. Still, that doesn’t stop this being about a close to the most perfectly distilled form of Optimus Prime’s essence that Charlie Sheen would probably try to snort up his nose. This Prime figure carries himself with that John Wayne, Cowboy swagger that he exuded in the cartoon, but has again been largely forgotten or ignored since.
Look closely and you’ll see all of the signature elements as well as smaller details lifted from the animation model, vintage toy and even the two Masterpiece figures. A lovely new touch is how the front wheels tuck into his abdomen in order to store and fill any potential hollowness. Equally nice is the vintage throwback of having the distinct wheel well shape under his forearms. Regular readers will know that I worship at the altar of Hasbro and Takara church of the amazing headsculpt, but Siege Optimus Prime may have one of the best of all. It’s so cartoon-esque, carved from the heart of an exploding sun, with an expression that seems to change with your pose AND FINALLY PRIME DOESN’T HAVE DEAD EYES!!! This is both a Prime that feels classic and modern. Imagine a Dragonball Z fusion of G1 Optimus Prime and Perfect Effect’s Ginrai Prime….then blame the rum.
Much has been made of shrinkage (get your mind out of the gutter) and whilst a case can be made that the alt mode doesn’t exactly take up even Ryanair’s stingy baggage allowance limit, the robot mode is spot on. He is the same size as the original Classics Prime and varying in size has been a voyager class trademark for years, so I am not convinced the claims of him being Snow White’s 8th dwarf would stand up in front of Judge Rinder. Using the animation model as the basis for the figure comes with the added advantage of him appearing tall, lithe and athletic – which is something not many figures capture. Yet on this figure it’s one of it’s best achievements for me, as I always moan about Optimus Prime toys ignoring that so much of him is long legs and a small torso.
We all have to pick a stupid hill to die on and that’s mine.
As one of the first figures to be released in EVERY Transformers toy line, Prime has often suffered from needing to be the torch bearer of a new lines core gimmick. Luckily Siege’s key gimmick is relatively unobtrusive and is about fitting around the toy, complimenting it rather than being shoehorned into it and consuming it. A plethora of peg holes cover his body and act as attachment points for weapons, or the “tear and share” bodies of COG and Sixgun, but again they don’t compromise the premium perception of the figure. Likewise, small pegs can be found for attaching the weapon effects parts (another sign of Hasbro fluttering its eyelashes at more high-end toy lines) but they are worked into the sculpt in such a way that they blend in without catching your eye.
My gripe with Hasbro’s lack of paint has never been that they need loads of it, it’s that they frequently cheap out and leaving the figure feeling unfinished and missing details. Happily Siege looks to buck this trend and Prime has almost the perfect amount of paint apps. It’s never about a toy needing to be smoothered in paint to feel finished, it’s about picking out the correct details as needed and all too often Hasbro drop the ball on that. His torso has a lovely white stripe, the stomach grill has switched from translucent blue plastic in truck mode to a silver painted piece in bot mode. Even his roof lights are picked out in yellow paint, which is funny considering they aren’t visible in truck mode so are fake. The most important effect of all of this is that the toy comes across as a finished piece with a more premium feel that the line as a whole seeks to convey from the packaging, marketing and into the toys themselves.
This luxurious aura extends to the articulation, materials and overall finish to the figure. Returning full-time, after sporadic appearances that often seemed unintentional, are things like wrist and waist swivel but most importantly – ankle tilt. Normally, the lack of a wrist swivel does not irk me, but having it back only adds to that more complete figure feel this guy has. His chest can open and can store a small Matrix, but only in bot mode, whilst his smokestacks are on panels that move to allow the arms to fully extend outwards. Prime doesn’t feature ratchet joints but it’s not needed as each limb moves with a buttery smoothness and nothing is even remotely loose. This is one of those figures you’ll struggle to put down as he’s so much fun to pose.
Early renders and prototypes made the “battle damage” paint look like Slimer had been passing through, but in hand it’s so much better. None of it is applied wit a heavy hand nor is it offensive in any way. In fact, it only appears to have been applied to unpainted plastic surfaces so if you fancy yourself as Neil Buchannon, then you can probably remove it with some kind of paint remover. Me, I actually really like it, plus I’d probably melt my eyes if I tried using chemicals.
If there is one area Hasbro have consistently lagged behind even their own other toylines – its accessories. Rarely does a figure slip by without you wondering where a signature weapon or accessory is, but finally someone at the big H seems to have cottoned on to this being annoying. The Dinobots were a ludicrous example during Power of the Primes, each lacking something and Grimlock coming with a pair of slippers to fit the combiner gimmick at the expense of his own weapons, so it’s lovely to see Prime equipped with his iconic Ion Rifle, (that now gets extra characters in front of it like R2D2 or something) and also his axe that is seen as something of a signature item – despite only ever appearing in one episode of the cartoon. Course, it’s not quite perfect as it’s not glowing orange, but it does have a minor transformation gimmick that allows it to double as a shield, that doesn’t overpower it like Mechtech or other transforming weapon gimmicks have in the past. Actually it kinda looks like a Cybertronian Police badge – I dig it.
Sadly there is no trailer, so you get no battle platform or roller, but the way Hasbro are going they will probably show up as their own unique characters that just happen to combine with everyone and everything like the Cybertronian equivalent of chicken pox. Roller has to on the list of bots to savagely rip to bits in order to give Sideswipe some new Air Jordans.
Every single Transformers line invariably features an Optimus Prime figure, so you’d think it would be tough for them to keep them interesting. But Siege’s flies out of the traps with one of the best interpretations to date. By accepting that they want to make just a great looking G1 Optimus Prime, and not laden it with gimmicks or try to bend it to fit something else, whilst still casting loving glances back at the vintage design – it’s freed them up to create something that for once actually nails what it sets out to do. Every choice made feels deliberate, rather than being a compromise to serve multiple ideas. By aiming for the novelty of this figure to be that it’s a very G1 accurate Optimus Prime, but with extra modern detailing to boot, and keeping the gimmick as a literal add on, you get an idea that feels fully realised. Moving the theme of Siege to be something more high-end than we’ve come to expect also makes the vintage feel seem fresh because the quality is so significantly improved that it doesn’t feel old or like a retread. You can tell that the Takara influence is strong here, and it appears that the decision to unify their brands has paid off in a major way for fans like me who were worried we were going to lose that extra bit of luxury that a Takara toy gives you.
If Hasbro have finally decided to make the long overdue decision to bump Generations up to be the Transformers version of Marvel Legends/WWE Elite/MOTU Classics/Power Rangers whatever it is/insert every other property can think of, then this is a great way to kick that off and ensure we all continue to stay hooked.