Transformers Vintage G1 Optimus Prime Toy Review

in 2019, Action Figure Review, Autobot, Generation One (Vintage G1), Wal-Mart Exclusive

Generation One Vintage G1 Reissues

Optimus Prime

General Information:
Price: $49.97
Retailer: Walmart Exclusive in North America
Release Date: January 2019
Accessories: Rifles x 2, Fists x 2

Official Photos above and text in italics below are from Walmart.com:

  • Re-creation of the G1 Autobot Commander Optimus Prime figure -- vintage action figure for collectors and longtime fans of the Transformers universe
  • Reissued figure and packaging both inspired by the styling of the 1984 G1 release
  • Vintage decoration and sticker decals
  • Tech specs showing the capabilities of Optimus Prime
  • Optimus Prime, noble leader of the Autobots, fights for the freedom of all sentient beings
  • Includes: figure, 4 accessories, label sheet, and instructions.
  • Figure scale: 6 inches
  • Ages 8 and up

Experience the figures that started it all. This Transformers: Vintage G1 Optimus Prime figure is designed like the original G1 version -- including figure styling, packaging, and art inspired by the 1984 G1 release, plus classic tech specs and accessories. (Re)start a vintage Transformers collection with this Optimus Prime figure.

Optimus Prime is the largest, strongest, and wisest of all Autobots. He feels his role is the protection of all life, including Earth-life, and fights unceasingly to defeat the Decepticons.

This Optimus Prime figure comes with blaster accessory and converts between tractor trailer and robot modes in 6 steps. Clip out and save the on-box tech specs to share, then see how this figure compares to other heroic Autobots and evil Decepticons (each sold separately). G1 trailer accessory not included. Transformers and all related characters are trademarks of Hasbro.

In 2018, Hasbro released several G1 Transformers figures as the "Vintage G1" line. That line had been announced months ahead of time, so it was no shock to fans when it began to hit Walmart shelves. However, in early 2019, rumors of a G1 Optimus Prime being sold without his trailer surfaced online, and within a month the actual figure was on Walmart shelves! However, when the figure came out it was confirmed it did not include the trailer or Roller.

Packaging:
Generation One Transformers have been reissued before. For about a decade starting in 2001 there were many reissues both in Japan and the North America. However, while those reissues paid homage to the G1 era with their packaging they did not try to reproduce it to the level of this "Vintage G1" line.

Unlike all the 2018 "Vintage G1" figures, Optimus Prime's packaging is different from his G1 counterpart since there is no trailer included with the figure. That means the box is significantly smaller than G1 Optimus Prime's. The box measures a little over 8 inches (20 centimeters) across and it is a little under 7 inches (17 centimeters) tall including the flap. That said, the box retains a lot of the key elements of the original G1 packaging. This includes:

  • The figure is packaged in vehicle mode, which is rare nowadays but was very common in the G1 era.
  • The background of the box features a black to red gradient with a grid pattern overlapping it.
  • The front of the box features G1 Optimus Prime's original artwork on the right side.
  • There is a grey border around the edge of the window that lets you see Optimus Prime inside the box.
  • The giant "Transformers" logo on the flap, including the tag line "More than meets the eye!" and the words "Heroic Autobot" next to the Autobot symbol.
  • The top of the box features photography of the toy transforming in five steps from vehicle to robot mode.
  • The 1980's Hasbro logo is seen on the lower left hand corner and the Age listed is 8+
  • The side flaps feature Optimus Prime (sans trailer) in both modes.

So the front and sides are gorgeous, no surprise there. What about the back? Well, there's plenty more awesomeness there:

  • The artwork on the back features the classic 1984 battle scene with Optimus Prime in front, Starscream firing at him and legions of Transformers flying at each other in space.
  • Overlapping the artwork on top is the classic Transformers logo and the blurb "It is a world of constant change, where things are not what they seem. It is the world of the Transformers...a world of heroic Autobots and Evil Decepticons!" in both English and French.
  • The tech spec features a cut out line around the edges.
  • The "Robot Points" have been replaced with the "Authentic Transformers" logo, but there is still a printed line around it to cut that square out.
  • The tech specs are printed in both English and French.
  • The stat numbers have the G1-esque "pink" lines that you would have needed a red decoder for. However, the pattern is actually just there for show as there is no decoder included and you can see the blue lines for the specs just fine.
  • Firepower is used again instead of "Fireblast" which has appeared on Transformers packaging in recent years.
  • Interestingly this figure is listed as being "Made in Vietnam". This was quite a surprise since previous Optimus Prime reissues from the early 2000's were manufactured in China (more on this below).

The packaging for this figure is really gorgeous and recalls a time when Transformers packaging sought to both tell the story of the Transformers and sell the toy inside. The tech specs and artwork really help immerse you into the fantasy of the world in a way that only the recent "Siege" line even attempts to do (and even that wonderfully done packaging lacks tech specs). This box is both beautiful and fires up my 1980's nostalgia.

Accessories:
This release of Optimus Prime includes four accessories: two fists and two rifles. The fists are the modified version of the fists first released in the 2001 that allow Optimus Prime to hold his rifles properly. The original G1 toy's fists forced you to move the rifle at an angle, sometimes scraping the forearm sticker. These fists allow Prime to hold the rifles pointed forward. Both fists are cast in a blue color that is slightly lighter than the 2001 release.

The other two accessories are different versions of Optimus Prime's rifle. When the figure was first released the rifle sculpt used was a carry over from the "Diaclone" Convoy figure. This figure had a thick barrel. Later versions would have a slimmed down barrel. The first few reissues of the G1 Optimus Prime featured the "slimmed down" rifle. Only the 2002 "New Year Special Convoy" release featured both. Now thanks to this release fans can have both to choose from. Both rifles are cast in black plastic.

Vehicle Mode:
The Generation One Optimus Prime sculpt has been re-released several times over the years, long before the 2000's. Over the years the figure has seen some changes (for instance, the United States releases in the 2000's had short smokestacks as opposed to the "long stacks" of the original). There is also some color variance among the various Optimus figures depending on the release. These differences are often slight (ex: darker blue on the legs or brighter red plastic etc.). For the purposes of this review I focused on comparing this release to the Japanese version from 2001.

Optimus Prime's vehicle mode is a Freightliner WFT-8664T cab. The general shape is boxy in front with a flat front end and a flat hitch section in the back, a template that would be followed by other Optimus Prime figures for years to come. This figure also features small details that would carry over to other Optimus Prime figures in the future. These include:

  • The row of lights and horns along the top edge of the cab.
  • The two separated windshield windows.
  • Windshield wipers sculpted right under each window.
  • A distinctive grille in the center.
  • Smokestacks on the back (and yes, they're long again!).
  • A series of raised, round details all over the vehicle intended to represent bolts.

Purely from the perspective of trying to emulate a real life vehicle, this was a beautiful piece of sculpting. Also keep in mind this was released in 1984, which means it was designed long before that (you need to assume roughly a year between initial concept designs and a final product). For the time this was a truly impressive sculpt that holds up beautifully to this day.

Color wise there have been tons of variations of G1 Optimus Prime over the years. When comparing this to the 2001 version, the red plastic is slightly lighter. The blue is also slightly lighter, but only just enough to be noticeable. Now, the chest panel is a separate piece from the rest of the torso and the red paint on it is also noticeably lighter than the 2001 release. Mind you, none of these colors are shockingly dramatic and you have to pretty much place this figure side by side with its predecessors to see the differences.

Optimus Prime does include a sticker sheet based on his G1 stickers. Two of these are Autobot symbols that wind up on the sides of the vehicle. On the top of the vehicle is a heat sensitive rub symbol. Instead of a direct reproduction of the originals from the 80's, this is the version seen on other reissues such as Hot Rod with a slightly different outline and a different reaction to heat than the originals, turning red orange instead of several colors (including blue and green).

Of course, one of the things the early G1 era was known for was the heavy use of vacuum metallized parts on Transformers figures. Optimus is no exception. There is vac metal on the grille, the headlights, the front fender, the smokestacks, the sides of the wheels and the cylinders on the sides. It really adds a brightness to the figure that helps it visually pop.

While I have no documentation to back this up, I speculate that this figure may have been produced from a new set of tools for G1 Optimus Prime. First, the packaging states that this figure was made in Vietnam. All previous G1 Optimus Prime reissues, including the most recent "Bathing Ape" versions were manufactured in China. Now, it is absolutely possible that Hasbro and Takara moved the tooling to the factories in Vietnam, but this seems unlikely. Tooling for toys are made up of giant pieces of metal that can weigh tons. I would be very surprised if they spent the money to move tooling from one factory to another.

Another interesting note. This figure has the same trailer hitch peg as earlier releases of the figure. However, when it was released as part of the "Chronicle" series in 2011, the trailer hitch section was modified to accommodate the "Dark of the Moon" Optimus Prime trailer. The "Bathing Ape" versions of the figure also had this modification. This version has the original hitch piece again and connects to a G1 trailer with no issues. I speculate that it is possible a new set of tools were created in Vietnam for any future G1 Optimus Prime releases.

Transformation to Robot Mode:

  1. Swing the back of the vehicle forward, and swing the ends up to form the feet.
  2. Swing the sections with the headlights out, then swing the sections with the smokestacks forward.
  3. Swing the robot head up and forward.
  4. Attach each of the fists.
  5. The rifles can fit into each fist.

Robot Mode:
This robot mode is the basic design that has inspired dozens upon dozens of design variations in the last thirty five years. These design elements include:

  • The head has a crest on the top of the head, a mouth plate and antennae on the sides of the head connected to circles.
  • The windshield windows wind up on the chest.
  • The smokestacks wind up on the sides of his shoulders.
  • The middle of the torso features the truck grille.
  • The legs have wheels on the sides with the cylinders above them.
  • The lower legs feature a series of horizontal lines inside a rectangle.

There are some very minor mold differences between previous versions and this one.

  • The piece that forms the hinge for the arms to swing in and out during transformation is shaped differently. The original G1 Optimus and past reissues had two curved pieces where the top half was bigger with a small notch on it. On this version both the top and bottom are the same size and both have a small notch.
  • The back of the left shoulder piece has the text "2018 Hasbro SA © TOMY Vietnam V-29768" molded into it. On previous releases this section was smooth.
  • The right shoulder has the letters "CE" sculpted into it. This represents a certification mark for items that are (or may be) sold in the European Economic Area. On previous versions this section was smooth.
  • The piece that forms the back has the numbers 82921 carved into it. On the other side, the alpha numeric "#E5003" is printed in silver. None of this is seen on previous versions.
  • Previous reissues of Optimus Prime had a rod that went through both front wheels and stuck out a bit on the sides. This was so the tooling could be reused for Ultra Magnus. However this version does not use the same rod. Instead this is more like the original G1 Optimus Prime where the ends of the rod do not stick out on the sides.

While these details help differentiate this figure from its predecessors, they do not dramatically change its overall appearance. They do however lead me to believe that this may be a new set of tooling intended for future G1 Optimus Prime reissues partly because of the physical changes and partly because of the location of manufacture.

Aside from the red, blue and vac metal parts there are some paint applicatons on the head. The crest and mouthplate are painted silver and the eyes are yellow. Other details are filled in with stickers including details on the forearms, knees and feet. These stickers are different than previous releases. They are printed on a very reflective silver background as opposed to a more solid silver used on past sticker sets.

All ten of Optimus Prime's joints are nice and tight. You will feel a difference the way the shoulder hinge swings back. Because the "notches" from the previous releases are not there, it moves more smoothly but it is not floppy at all. The fists hold the weapons nice and tight and the smokestacks are attached nice and tight so they do not spin around (as they do on some older figures).

Final Thoughts:
Many fans have taken issue with the $50 price point. Unlike previous "Vintage G1" releases, there is no real one to one comparison with this release since Optimus Prime was never released without a trailer like this to the international market so comparing a 1980's Optimus Prime price to the modern day one is difficult. That said, I will say that $50 was higher than what I had expected. My original expectation had the figure at around $40 USD. I agree that $50 is a high price for this figure, but I do not believe it is a completely unreasonable one. However, if you can find this figure at a clearance price or even for a few bucks off I think it is worth it.

From a detailing, sculpting and construction perspective, this figure is solid. I have no issues with my copy of this figure and everything looks clean and well put together. Recommended for those who are not looking for a full Optimus + trailer reissue.

Pros:

  • Whether this tooling has been fixed up or is new, the figure details are nice and sharp.
  • Unlike previous U.S. reissues, this version has the "long" smokestacks.
  • Includes both versions of the "Convoy" rifle.
  • Die cast metal helps give the figure a nice weight.
  • Gorgeous packaging.

Cons:

  • $50 USD is a high price point for this figure alone.
  • Many fans lament the lack of a trailer with the cab.