Armada Toy Reviews: Sideswipe

in 2003, Action Figure Review, Armada, Autobot

Armada

General Information:
Price Point: Supercon (Approximately $10.99)
Retailer: General (K-Mart, Toys R Us, Wal-Mart etc.)
Release Date: March 2003
Transformation Difficulty Level: 3 (Advanced)
Accessories: Nightbeat Mini-Con figure, Dagger, Gun

As Hasbro tries to retake many of its lost Transformers copyrights and trademark names, they are reusing many classic names for Armada characters. The latest Transformer to take on a name from the first Generation is Sideswipe, who is paired with a Mini-Con named after yet, another Generation One character: Nightbeat. Fans were actually worried for a bit when the RID Spychanger Side Swipe was released. Although close, the space between the two words in the name seemed to indicate the original "Sideswipe" name had been lost. It's nice to see that Hasbro still has it,especially if they're going to reissue the classic toy down the line!

Nightbeat Review

Vehicle Mode:
Nightbeat's vehicle mode is a motorcycle. Rather than being a ninja bike or some futuristic motorcycle, this one has much more of a classic 'hog' type feel to it. The two exhaust pipes on the side are huge, starting from the back of the front wheel all the way to the back. The Mini-Con symbol is etched into the left hand side near the front tire. In between the handlebars are two small circles indicating meters of some sort. The gas tank has the detail of the screw cap on top molded in as well. Nightbeat's Powerlinx point is on the underside of the motorcycle.

Nightbeat is rather simple color-wise, primarily consisting of yellow and silver. The front of the headlight is a metallic red. The wheels and the bars connected to them are black. Overall, the vehicle mode looks nice and the level of detail is definitely appreciated.

Transformation to Robot Mode:

  1. Swing the exhaust pipes down.
  2. Move the hinge that the exhaust pipes are connected to towards the middle of the vehicle.
  3. Lift the gas tank/headlight section up and turn it so the front wheel becomes the robot's right arm.
  4. Move the headlight section down, this forms the head.
  5. Swing the rear wheel down.

Robot Mode:
Okay, I'll be the first to admit that Nightbeat's robot mode is...well, not much of one. He's a motorcycle standing on exhaust pipes, yes. But the charm of the toy here is its almost "kitbashed" look. This is not meant to be a sleek, powerful looking robot. Rather, Nightbeat is meant to be this cute little guy who tags along with Sideswipe, and in that respect, he looks very neat in robot form. That being said, I know he's not everyone's cup of tea, and I could see where the designers could have made him a bit more robot like, such as adding arms that extend from the underside of the motorcycle or even having the arms be thin like High Wire's.

Nightbeat is a curiosity more than anything else. A cute little Mini-Con, but not some super warrior.

Sideswipe Review

Vehicle Mode:
Officially, Sideswipe is listed as a "Sedan" in his vehicle mode, but that can mean almost anything. It would seem the designers were going for a street tuner race car of some sort. The tires ride pretty low, it has some bulk but is streamlined, and the tires aren't just angled lines drawn in a pattern. At the middle, the pattern changes. In sculpt the car looks great. You can see the handles for the four doors, the gas tank cover is on the left side and there's even an area for a license plate to go in.

Where this vehicle mode suffers is its deco. The car is almost all blue. The windows are translucent orange. Shades of silver and black can be found on the front o the car and the spoiler. Metallic red paint has been used for the rear lights and part of the headlights. Heat stamped Autobot symbols rest on either side of the car right above the tires. A larger Autobot symbol (sculpted) is on the top of the hood, near the center of the windshield. On the windshield itself you will find the word "Transformers" applied to the top edge of the windshield, something reminscent of stickers that Generation One Transformers such as Jazz had.

While the front of the car is nicely decorated, the rest of the car is super plain. For the most part, the rest of the vehicle is a big mass of blue. The wpoiler is painted silver, and the rear lights are metallic red, but that's it. Now, normally if you were talking about some average, every day compact car this would not be an issue, but what we have here is 1) A toy that has to draw you in visually and 2) A car meant to be some type of street tune up car. Keeping those two things in mind, much more detailing should have gone into this design. Flames, lightning, any generic pattern such as this would have really helped elevate this deco from mundane to being exceptional.

In terms of abilities, Sideswipe's vehicle mode has two: one which is very cool, another which mystifies me.

  • The Cool Feature: Press the yellow button on the rear of the vehicle and part of the vehicles rear section flips to reveal a hidden compartment. Nightbeat fits into this compartment in vehicle mode. The best part is that you can close up the compartment with Nightbeat still in it, making for a neat "surprise" feature. This is very neat and well executed.
  • The Mystifying Feature: Push down on the Autobot symbol on the hood and the two front halves of the front of the car flip forward. Now, the instructions seem to indicate that you can now take Nightbeat, press him against the Autobot symbol and have him "jump" or "bounce" off the front halves of the hood and move forward, I guess as some type of stunt move. Unfortunately, the spring under the Autobot symbol is nowhere near strong enough to do this. This result: Nightbeat just sort of flops over. This was a great idea, but very badly executed. In addition, it's very easy to scratch off paint
    from the Autobot symbol when fumbling and trying to push it down.

Overall, the design of the vehicle is nice (except for the odd gimmick that doesn't do much) but the deco really should have been amped up a bit.

Transformation to Robot Mode:

  1. Flip the storage compartment for Nightbeat ou.
  2. Flip the front halves of the car out by pushing down on the Autobot symbol.
  3. Swing the car doors back.
  4. Move the back halves of the car down, unfolding the yellow leg joints.
  5. Swivel the front halves of the car down to reveal the robot head.
  6. Separate the front halves of the car and straighten them out to form the robot arms. You can snap the car halves back against the lower arms.
  7. Flip the chest piece down.
  8. Flip the black feet pieces (near the rear wheels) down.
  9. Slide the robot head forward.
  10. Detach the weapons.
  11. Place the weapons in Sideswipe's hands, or combine them into one weapon and place it in either fist.

Robot Mode:
I stared at this robot mode and played with it quite a bit before writing this portion of the review. Why? Because at first, second and third sight, I really, really didn't like it. But I wanted to give it a chance, and over time, I have warmed up to it. However, it's still far from being a very good robot mode.

At first glance, Sideswipe is not a bad looking design. His head is somewhat reminscent of many past characters (including, as some have pointed out, Rumble and Jazz). Sure he has huge forearms, but they look tough enough to bash a 'con in battle. His main body looks nice and tech, kind of less streamlined than some of his fellow Autobots, but still nice, especially with the Autobot symbol right at the center. It's when you get down to the legs that things start to get iffy.

Sideswipe's legs have the front halves of the car windshield/door section on it. The result is that he looks like he has two huge saddlebags on him.
I would almost venture a guess to say that his "cowboy" type look was done on purpose as a design scheme, but nothing else in the design suggests this is the case. The fact that the saddlebags are there is not really the problem, it's that they don't serve any purpose. Two suggestions I would have made:

  • Place Powerlinx points in the saddlebags so you can attach Mini-Cons for extra firepower.
  • Add a platform piece similar to the one that Red Alert has on his leg to make the sides
    some type of Mini-Con platform.

The idea here is not just to improve the way the saddlebags look, but also to add a level of interactivity with Mini-Cons.

The other thing which kind of bugs me is the "secret compartment" from the vehicle mode is so prominant in between Sideswipe's legs. It's just...there and doesn't contribute anything to the mode. However, given the design limitations of having a nifty feature like that and then somehow integrating it into the robot mode, it's understandeable why it's there, it just bugs me personally.

So, is there anything positive for me to say here? Well, yes there is.

Sideswipe has two Powerlinx points in this mode on his legs, and one on his back. Attach a Mini-Con to his back and push it up and down to activate his right arm's "quick draw" feature. Basically the arm moves up and down, but it can also be used to simulate a punch. This gimmick is nice. The other two points are just dead pegs that you can attach a Mini-Con to. nfortunately, not every Mini-Con will fit since the tires kind of get in the way.

Sideswipe has ten points of articulation, which, for an Armada figure is pretty darn good. Just because Sideswipe may look like an unposable brick, it doesn't mean his is one. His arms move up and down and to the sides a bit. His legs can move out to the side (side kick anyone?) or forward and back. You can lock them together for added stability when he's just standing there (not that you have to). His weapons are neat. You can use them as separate weapons or together as one gun, plus I like the translucent plastic being used for the weapons.

In terms of detail, Sideswipe is actually nicely sculpted. His forearms have tube and machine like details. His legs have a nice cross of vertical and horizontal details. His legs have tubing, vents, missiles and line cuts that all add up to a nice looking set of details. A bit of extra paint or wash would have helped bring details out. I would have loved to see silver/gun metal gray details on his forearms for instance, but in general Armada is not done like that so I won't complain since this is hardly an abberation.

If there was ever a mixed bag with an Armada toy, this is it. I can't totally damn the toy since it does have some cool features. Nor can I wholeheartedly endorse a toy that took me well over a week to even approach liking. My recommendation is to see if you can borrow someone's Sideswipe, play with it and judge for yourself whether or not you want him. At best, I recommend him mildly.