Transformers Animated Toy Reviews: Soundwave

in 2008, Action Figure Review, Decepticon, Generation One, Transformers Animated


Transformers Animated

General Information:
Release Date: August 2008
Price Point: $10.99 (varies depending on retailer)
Retailer: General (Toys R Us, Target, Wal-Mart etc.)
Accessories: Laserbeak figure

Images:

*Images from the Hasbrotoyshop web site.

Text from Hasbrotoyshop.com:
SOUNDWAVE has only been around for a little while, but he knows that if there’s one thing he loves, it’s noise! Sound is like clay that he sculpts to his purpose. The more noise there is around him, the more elaborate he can get in how he uses it. He can imitate voices, make humans fall asleep, and even take control of simple robots with sound. He hopes the AUTOBOTS are ready, because he’s about to rock them harder then they’ve ever been rocked before.

Join this mighty DECEPTICON defender in pursuit of the AllSpark! With a guitar that attaches to the roof in SUV vehicle mode, this fearless SOUNDWAVE figure is ready for battle. When it’s time to call in the fierce and mighty, convert the SUV to robot mode, and the guitar converts to a LASERBEAK figure that fits in the robot’s hand!

Figure comes with weapon and detachable canister accessories.*

*Soundwave does not include "detachable canister accessories" and this may be an error carried over from Hasbrotoyshop's Oil Slick listing.

Ask the average person on the street who grew up in the 80's about Transformers to name ten, and inevitably one of them will wind up being Soundwave (or for those who have long since forgotten his name, "that tape guy"). In the original Transformers series, there was something simply awesome about a character who could become a tape deck with tapes that became his own personal army. In many ways, he epitomized the term "more than meets the eye" at the time since he did not become any of the obvious forms such as race car or jet, and that just added to his coolness factor. Since "Animated" seeks to reimagine key G1 characters, Soundwave was a logical choice to be included in the series.

Vehicle Mode:
As cool as the character may be, Soundwave as a whole presents creative problems for the Transformers team. The fact is, the music industry has long since moved on from tape decks and even CD players. As time has gone along, Soundwave has taken on a variety of forms including a race car and a military truck with a rocket. For his new form, the designers decided to take a look at pop culture and the type of vehicle one would associate with a character so linked to music as Soundwave. The solution was a vehicle mode of a boxy SUV-like vehicle, loosely based on the Scion xB vehicle.

Unlike most SUV type vehicles, the Scions have a very boxy look, with high front ends. Their unique, rectangular shape is part of their appeal, offering customizers a broad canvas to work on. Many Scions are outfitted with powerful sound systems as well, making this a perfect form for Soundwave to take on. Like the vehicle he takes inspiration from, Soundwave's front end is rather high, with a huge front fender section leading up to a grille/headlight level and then an even higher hood. His front end is so high that there are even extra round headlights sculpted into the lower portion of the front end. Unlike a Scion, the cabin section's cover angles back from the windshield all the way to the rear where the back end extends over the back of the vehicle slightly. The front and rear windows are separated by an angled line as well, offering up a very sleek set of details to what could have been a very square looking figure.

Above the windshield on the top of the car are two raised strips as well as smaller raised details towards the middle. Some of Soundwave's finer details owe their designs to his G1 form. On the front end in the middle of the rounded headlights is a raised rectangular section with button details painted in. On either side are triangular details pointing in opposite directions. The result? Buttons that look like they came straight from an 80's tape deck! Another wonderful detail nod to G1 Soundwave can be found on the sides of the vehicle. On either side there are oval details with circles inside, representing the look of his old cassette tapes. Extrapolate the somewhat rectangular shape of his doors even further and essentially his doors are reminscent of the look of his old cassettes! One more "sound" based detail can be found on the back of the vehicle. In lieu of a rear window, ther are more circular details that resemble speakers and in between are several raised bars indicating sound equalizer levels. This "speaker" theme carries over to the center of his wheel covers, which have three inset lines and give the appearance of the top of old style microphones. These details work together wonderfully to convey both the "sound" theme in his name and the heritage of this character from his G1 days.

Soundwave is primarily cast in dark blue plastic. His wheels are cast in black and the windows are a translucent black plastic. Harking back to his G1 predecessor, several key details are painted in gold including a Decepticon symbol on his hood and the "radio buttons" on the front of the vehicle. A majority of his paint apps are done ina light blue color, forming shapes all over the vehicle from the hood to the top of the car to the inner edges of the wheels! The result is a very striking visual play on colors. The light blue looks like it is a type of neon glow eminating from within the car, and it's a fantastic effect. Finally, the center of his wheel colors are painted dark blue to match the majority of the plastic on the vehicle. One of my favorite details is the standard "Power" symbol on the top of the vehicle (a semi-circle with a line through it). My only regret is that the speaker/equalizer details on the back of the vehicle are not painted at all. The details can easily be missed if you're not looking for the, which is a shame considering how nice they are.

Soundwave includes an accessory that furthers the connection to sound and music - an electric guitar that transforms into Laserbeak. This whimsical addition to the figure truly fits the mood of the series, and the guitar looks great. The overall shape looks like two V's connected by the neck. Look carefully and you'll note that the overall shape of the guitar has a theme: the Decepticon symbol, which was originally based on G1 Soundwave's head to begin with, making this a very appropriate design shape for Soundwave's guitar. Smaller details can be found on the guitar including strings, turning pegs, volume and tone control buttons and a bridge.

Laserbeak can attach to the top of Soundwave's vehicle mode by attaching the two small "feet" into the rectangular hold on the top of the vehicle. It's a bit silly looking and cool at the same time, which is a difficult balance to achieve, but here it works in context with the character and the aesthetic of the figure.

Staying true to the original Laserbeak's colors, the guitar is cast in black plastic with red details on both ends.

Transformation to Robot Mode:

  1. Detach Laserbeak if attached and slide the headstock down and the halves of the main section back to form Laserbeak's robot mode.
  2. Split the vehicle mode's front end from the back end by pulling the front forward while holding the back.
  3. Split the front end in half.
  4. Swing out the sections with the "radio buttons" in the front.
  5. Swing each half of the front of the car out to the side and down.
  6. Swing the sections that form the top of the cabin and windshield up to form the robot feet.
  7. Pull each door/side section out to the sides and swing the shoulder joints down.
  8. Flip out each palm and swing the wheels on each shoulder forward.
  9. Swing the panel in the middle between the arms down to reveal the robot head.
  10. Swing the robot chest piece up.
  11. Rotate the waist around to correctly align the legs.

Robot Mode:
Hasbro and Tomy/Takara have become masters at reinterpreting characters in new forms, but like Optimus Prime or Starscream, Soundwave is one of those iconic characters that has features that most fans would consider requisite details that need to be carried over to any interpretation of the character. Perhaps the most recognized parts of Soundwave are his head and chest. His head always had an angular appearance with visor eyes and a mouthplate. His chest was originally the front of the tape deck, where a panel would open to eject his cassette force. I am happy to report that both these features and more have been put into this figure, along with other neat details.

So let's start with what I call the "classic" details, that is, those influenced by Soundwave's G1 predecessor. The robot head is a clear evolution from the original G1 head. He has the familiar pointed crest in the center along with angled points on either side. He has emotionless looking visor eyes and a mouthplate instead of a mouth. Where this version deviates from the G1 head are its proportions. The crest and points on the top of the head are quite small in comparison to the lower portions of the helmet, which almost overshadow the mouthplate in the center (it winds up looking almost more like a beak here). His eyes are so wide they extend from one side of the head to the other, looking almost like funky sunglasses. It's a very appropriate look for the character and updates his appearance to match the "Animated" aesthetic.

Another classic Soundwave component is his main body and chest. Despite having a vehicle form and nary a tape player on him, his chest has been designed to reflect the "tape deck" look of G1 Soundwave's chest and waist. The middle portion of the chest is a panel with a window and right underneath are smaller versions of the buttons seen in the front of the vehicle mode. In effect, his chest looks like an old tape deck. However, the beauty of the design is that the chest piece is more of a display screen, with sculpted volume level bars inside the "window" on the chest.

Two other details carried over from the original Soundwave, though they are minor in comparison to those described above. On Soundwave's legs, you'll find raised details where his knees are. These are not too dissimilar from similar designs on G1 Soundwave's knees. Also, Soundwave's feet are clearly larger and somewhat flatter versions of his G1 predecessor's feet, which had a large rectangular section with a smaller one on top. These have the same, but the smaller section is a lot flatter than the original's.

While he has tons of G1 influence, he has plenty of details all his own. As with his vehicle mode, a "sound" theme carries into his design. Mounted on the panel on his back behind his head are two circles that look like speakers. The way his wheels swing forward on his shoulders also look like speakers. While this figure did not include any guns, these are clearly very threatening looking devices, and having them built right into his body is a nice thematic touch. His overall shape is very bulky as well. Between the speakers on his back, his huge shoulders and thick legs, he has a very brutish appearance, giving him the look of a physically powerful Transformer in addition to having special abilities.

The same colors used in the vehicle mode carry over to this form. G1 touches include the use of gold for the outline on his chest panel and buttons. The same gold is used for his feet and mouthplate. The light blue color is used for small details such as lines on his knees and the circles around the edges of the speakers on his back. His eyes are painted red, which really helps them stand out from the rest of the rather dark colored figure. A purple Decepticon symbol is painted on the center of his chest. A majority of the figure is dark blue plastic, but certain smaller parts such as his elbow joints and upper legs are cast in black plastic.

Soundwave has nineteen points of articulation. This includes five in each arm and the ability for his chest panel to flip open! What's really amusing about that is that the flipping open serves no practical purpose in the figure other than being a component of the transformation. Yet it harkens back so much to G1 Soundwave that it's a super cool thing to have in the figure regardless of its purpose. The only point I wish was better are the knees. The knees are on a ball joint, and unfortunately they are slightly loose. While he stands and poses well, he can feel rather floppy and you have to mess with the joints a bit to get him to stand firmly.

Laserbeak is a rather static figure. He looks like a robotic bird in flight head pointed forward, and has no posability to speak of. The head design is heavily influenced by G1 Laserbeak, looking like a mechanized bird head with hard angles and designs on the sides that resemble feathers. He even has a slot sculpted into the top of his head that matches an equivalent panel that was shown in 1986's "Transformers: The Movie" as a slot for Laserbeak's spy camera. It's a nicely sculpted piece, especially if you consider he's meant more as an accessory than a figure. In this form he can connect his feet to the notches on Soundwave's lower arms. He can also be held by Soundwave in guitar mode so he looks like he is being played as an instrument, which is again another balance of silly and cool that this figure manages to strike well.

Final Thoughts:
Soundwave is truly a wonderful example of how "Animated" can update a character into a different form than his G1 predecessor while retaining the spirit of that character. My only gripe are the floppy legs, which brings this down from highly recommended to recommended.