Armada Toy Reviews: Unicron

in 2011, Action Figure Review, Armada, Generation One, Supreme, Unicron

Armada

General Information:
Price Point: Approximately $49.99 (Depending on retailer)
Retailer: General (K-Mart, Toys R Us, Wal-Mart etc.)
Release Date: July 2003
Transformation Difficulty Level: 4 (Expert)

Dead End Images:

Unicron Images:

Comparison images with screen captures from Transformers: The Movie:

Pictures for the sheer heck of it:

Kranix: "...my world was destroyed by Unicron."
Hot Rod: "Unicron? Who's Unicron?!"
Kranix: "A planet, that devours everything in its path!"
Kup: "So that's the monsters name..."

Okay, let's get this out of the way first. Oh my god! I'm reviewing UNICRON, people! UNICRON!!! By Primus' left toe, I can't believe it!!! This is so incredibly, undeniably, terribly AWESOME!!!

*Ahem*

Unicron was first introduced in Transformers: The Movie in 1986. This titanic Transformer was an actual planet that transformed into a huge robot that could tear apart armies of Transformers without much effort. The legend of Unicron would grow as the comic book stories made him a more epic villain, one which was the arch enemy of
the very creator of the Transformers himself: Primus. As Unicron's legend grew, he would go on to be a major player in the Beast Wars Neo television series and the current Transformers Universe line.

So it may come as a surprise to the uninitiated that this is the first time Unicron has ever taken on action figure form. It wasn't for the lack of trying. Back in the 80's, a Unicron prototype was developed for release on the scope of
Fortress Maximus. Unfortunately, the high price point proved prohibitive, and the toy never made it past a couple samples.

Fast forward to the late 90's, and Takara had developed a Unicron prototype that would have come out in that series, but it was thought that interest was not enough to justify the expenditure of making the toy.

Thank goodness someone finally said "Let's just make the big guy already!", and it took a joint effort between Takara and Hasbro known as "Armada" to get the job done. This Unicron was announced a while back, and you can see
the advance pictures and info on it here. As you can imagine, this toy is one of the most highly anticipated Transformers releases in recent memory.

Packaging:
Quite simply, there is no way you can miss Unicron on the shelves if you're looking for him. His box is huge. The box is about 16 inches tall (about 40 cm), 14 inches across (about 35 cm) and 9 inches deep (about 22 cm).
He's so big that each case only has two of him.

The front of the box has a large cut away window, and is rectangular, not curved as much of the Armada line is. Unicron is positioned standing in robot mode, his arms out, one holding Dead End (his Mini-Con) in plantoid mode.
His "wings" are twist tied down to the floor of the inner cardboard and parts of his planet mode (which snap on) are twist tied to the left side of the same cardboard. Unicron's arms are attached to plastic vacuform trays via
more twist ties which are in turn attached to the inner cardboard via tabs. Unicron is held down by over twelve good, big twist ties, so set aside some time if you're going to take this guy out.

The artwork on the Unicron packaging was done by Don Figueroa of Dreamwave Comics (and "War Within" fame). His dynamic style fits very well with the Dark God of the Transformers Universe.

Dead End Review

He may be designed based on the original Unicron, but this Unicron is still part of the Armada line, and as such compatability with Mini-Cons is a must. In this case, Unicron has his very own Mini-Con: Dead End. Interesting note:
originally Dead End was going to be named Nebulon, which Generation One fans will recognize as the home planet of the Headmasters, Powermasters and Targetmasters. For those curious, Dead End was the name of one of the original Stunticons,
and more recently was used as a name of a Destron in Beast Wars Neo.

Planetoid Mode:
Dead End is basically a "moon" to Unicron's "planet" in this form. He is mostly dark gray and yellow with silver painted onto the large cannon he wields in both modes. In this form, the cannon can be tucked away or brought out to unleash some havoc. Design wise, the cannon is quite detailed with lots of tech parts including a scope for aiming.

Running down the sides of the planet are what appear to be small thrusters, presumably to help the little guy move on his own. He also has two yellow thrusters which may likely be his primary form of transportation.

The front of Dead End is reminscent of Unicron himself. The top of the Mini-Con head (visible in this mode) looks like a circle (an open "mouth") and the horns on his head look similar to the claws that Unicron uses to grab at worlds. This is a nice piece of design continuity between the Mini-Con and its larger accompanying figure.

Dead End has a Powerlinx point at the center of the side opposite from the cannon. This is a regular Powerlinx point that can be attached to any Transformer. Also note that the side with his cannon swivels around, allowing you to aim the cannon
in various directions if he is in this form Powerlinked to a larger Transformer.

Transformation to Robot Mode:

  1. Hold the toy so the Powerlinx point is facing you. Swing down the sides and then rotate the yellow pieces around to form the robot legs and feet.
  2. Swing the cannon out.
  3. Rotate the section of the arm with the cannon on it around, and swing the arm down.
  4. Swing the other arm down and rotate the lower arm section around.

Robot Mode:
Although defintely bulier than your average Mini-Con, Dead End is about the same height as others, standing at roughly 2.5 inches (about 6 cm). He has what I call the "Mini-Con aesthetic" where no matter how intimidating his weaponry may be, he still looks a little bit "cute". In thi scase, his form is basically chunks of a planet,
so he has a lot of rounded parts. His robot head has visor eyes, a mouthplate with horns on the sides. The cannon on his left arm looks great, and also makes him one of the few Mini-Cons with a weapon that large and overt in robot form.

While he does have some cool detailing on him including plenty of line cuts, he has no details for his fists, so you have to use your imagination a bit there.

Dead End is cool, but that's not the main event - on to the big guy himself!

Unicron Review

Robot Mode:
This is the form that Unicron comes packaged in, so it will be reviewed first.

If you count his horns, Unicron is a little over 16 inches (about 40 cm) tall and about 9.5 inches (about 24 cm) wide shoulder to shoulder. He is quite hefty when you pick him up, there is definitely a lot of bulk here, and you can feel the money you're paying.

Unicron was designed with the original in mind, but also with some modern additions. The sculpt is rather extensive, so we'll just go from top to bottom:

Head:
Instantly recognizable as Unicron, the head has the same triangular shape as the original Unicron did, along with the horns on his head. The "helmet" section of the head is orange, with the face being different shades of light gray. His horns are orange too, but have a great silver paint brushed on them to fill in detailing. If you look carefully, around his eyes and upper head is a slightly darker shade of orange, painting in a design that looks like the "M" from the Mini-Con logo, a really neat and subtle touch.

Press the gray button on the top of his head and Unicron's eyes light up red. They flash eight times before going dormant again. His head can turn despite being electronic, which was quite a relief!

Wings:
One of Unicron's most recognizable details is the great ring that surrounds in in planet mode. Those rings became "wings" for him in Generation One, and now they do it in toy form! Often considered one of the parts of Unicron that would not get replicated in toy form, Hasbro and Takara found a way to not only make the ring, but make them wings as well.

The wings rest on fairly complicated hinges that hook into tabs in the space between Unicron's main body and his shoulders. They each splay out into two wing extensions, for a total of four wing extensions. These parts are light gray and extremely well detailed, choc full of tech detail and the familiar "circles" that were often shown as lights on the original Unicron's rings. Of course, you'll also notice a ton of Powerlinx points which he uses in planet mode, but can be used here too. There are twenty six of these on the ring altogether.

Arms:
Unicron's arms are big and bulky, as they should be. The shoulder and lower arms have a base color of orange, and the middle arm/elbow section is set in gray. Metallic purple, black, gunmetal gray, red and silver are all used to fill in details. One of the most impressive details is the curve which is painted purple on each shoulder, showing deep cut details. Alos of note are the five circles on each shoulder colored gunmetal gray. One can easily imagine them as missile silos or lasers of some sort. There is a ton of non-colored detailing which adds to the texture of these parts including cuts representing everything from vents to panels. On each lower arm are spikes protruding to the sides (they're rubbery, don't worry parents, your kids are safe), another design inspiration based on the original Unicron.

Unicron's hands bring back a feature last seen with Air Attack Optimus Primal: individually articulated fingers! Each finger (except for the thumb) bends at the knuckles and the middle of the finger! The hands can turn at the wrists allowing for some fantastic posing. His left hand is solid gray, but the right hand is translucent clear plastic. Why? Press the wrist in and the hand lights up! Like the eyes, the hand flashes red eight times and then goes dormant. This is meant to represent the great power Unicron derives from the Mini-Cons, and it looks really cool. Another thing to note, on each finger you'll find a semi-triangular detail sculpted on (but not painted), that's actually a detail that Unicron had in the movie!

Upper body:
Unicron's upper body shows tremendous influence from the original animated version. The chest halves (more on that in a moment) each have panels on them that show three circles, a detail carried over from the original Unicron. The chest pieces are translucent clear plastic, but there are metallic red and purple details painted in. The mid-body has six panels on it, just like the original Unicron had (these were dramatically shown during his transformation sequence towards the end of the movie). These are painted red on top of translucent clear plastic. The sides and back of this section are painted orange.

This section doesn't just hark back to the movie design, it also has functionality! Lower the waist plate a bit and you can open up the mid-body panel for a Mini-Con to attack from!

The primary divergance from previous Unicron designs are the big claws on either side of his head. In the movie we are led to believe that the horns on Unicron's robot head form the claws in planet mode, but that really doesn't work out well in real toy physics, thus the claws on his upper body. Really, they add a detail that is needed, without them that area would be fairly empty looking. Instead, they are nice and detailed with silver paint that gives some nice highlighting effects on the sculpted details (something I'm a huge fan of).

Unicron's upper body has three Powerlinx points. One is on his back. Plug in a Mini-Con and his chest panels open and the missile inside his chest comes flying out and his eyes light up. It's really quite dramatic and reveals a whole new set of details on this toy. In the center is of course the huge cannon that the missile fires out of, but this is no plain jane projectile. The yellow missile is surrounded by three gray pieces which are meant to spread apart when the missile launches, creating a dramatic "cluster bomb" type effect. The cannon inside the chest is impressive too, made in dark gray plastic with a dark metallic red trim on the edge. The inside of Unicron's chest is gold with blue and metallic red details such as missile racks and blasters painted in. Some tubes and wires also run through Unicron's chest mechanism, adding a whole new layer of detail to this form.

Unicron also has one Powerlinx point on each shoulder. They are somewhat hidden since the front and back of the shoulders raise up a bit, but look over head or at an angle and you'll see them. Each of these Powerlinx points are on a circular, turning platform, but not all Mini-Cons are small enough to turn properly on them, so pick and choose who Unicron will enslave carefully!

Lower body:
Unicron's waist area also uses details from the original Unicron. He has two large metallic purple circles as details and the center is a gray piece which protrudes out slightly (refrain from the jokes people).

Unicron's legs are also designs right out of the movie, but with some additions thrown in for added play. His upper legs are orange and designed with the same downward angle slope as the original Unicron. They even have similar detailing in the center with lines extending out to the sides.

The knees also borrow visually from the movie model. His knees have rectangular sections that extend outward, in this case the rectangle's center is painted purple. His lower legs are gray with purple details. Most of the tech detail has been added on since the original Unicron's lower legs were pretty flat on detail. Unicron's huge clawed feet serve a double purpose. They help give the figure a sturdy base to stand on, and they hark back to the design of the animated Unicron's feet, which actually protruded in four directions. No complaints here though, one big clawed foot is good enough for this fan!

On the side of each lower leg are missile launchers with Powerlinx points on them. Attach a Mini-Con to the Powerlinx points and push forward to launch three missiles at once. Also, the front panels on Unicron's legs swing open (manually) to
reveal storage compartments for captured Mini-Cons!

In robot mode, Unicron has thirty eight points of articulation. That of course, includes the fingers and thumb, but subtract those points and you're still have quite a lot of articulation happening in the rest of body. This is particularly nice to see since the stereotype for large robots such as this is a supreme lack of posability. Unicron bucks that stereotype and does it well.

Unicron's robot mode has fun play value, is huge and uses very classic design cues while giving the toy updated details and abilities. The robot mode is extremely well done, a true marvel of design.

Transformation to Planet Mode:

  1. Detach the "planet shell halves" from Unicron's back.
  2. Turn the horns on Unicron's head forward, and then swing back the head.
  3. Flip open the panels on the lower arms and flip the fists into them and close the panel doors.
  4. Rotate the lower arms so the spikes point out to the sides.
  5. Push down the shoulder pieces.
  6. Swing the arms up.
  7. Swing the arms down at the black piece that connects the arms to the main body. The wings will move with that piece.
  8. Rotate the lower arms again so the spikes point to the left and right side.
  9. Connect the two lower arms together using the pegs on the right arm and holes on the left.
  10. Swing the waist plat down.
  11. Rotate the missile launcher sections on the legs so that the missiles face down.
  12. Rotate the front "toe" section around and then swing it up so it rests against the lower leg.
  13. Swing up the rear section of the leg so it rests on top of the front "toe" section.
  14. Swing the robot legs back so they rest on the robot back. The robot feet have holes and pegs that connect to stabilize the hemisphere.
  15. Expand the wings to form the rings. Each end of the rings bend on a hinge to allow you to connect it to the other wing. Note that each side is different. The wing ends with the pegs on them go on the lower part of the planet (where the robot feet are) and those pegs connect to holes on the robot feet.
  16. Have Unicron's robot chest piece facing forward, and point the pegs on his ring forward.
  17. Attach the planet/wing pieces to the pegs, and then swing them in to complete the planet mode.

    Planet Mode:
    Unicron's planet mode is where a lot of changes had to be made to accomodate the transformation and some play action, but overall, this is undeniably Unicron!

    What's like the movie design?
    Lots actually. You can't really look at this toy without thinking about the movie model. First of course you have the big claws out in the front and the big gaping mouth at the center. Not only is this design feature present, it's functional. Move the claws and you'll see the silver mouth piece in the mouth move together "crunching" hapless victims. However, you can't actually throw anyone into the mouth which is probably for the best since even a Mini-Con could just get stuck in there.

    The ring around Unicron also looks like the one from the movie. While the movie one was orange/gold, this ringis gray, which works out well as it contrasts against the orange, purple and silver colors of the main body. The details are definitely there including the "balls" which would light up in Transformers: The Movie when Unicron would feed on a world. The designers added two parts to the ring, rectangular shaped parts on each side that are positioned horizontally in this mode. Although I'm not sure as to the exact purpose of these parts they do look very cool, adding a layer of detail to the toy.

    Much of the designs on the translucent purple parts of Unicron are lifted straight out of the movie. There's an amazing amount of lines and designs in the clear plastic, which work together to form a very textured appearance. You'll find silver parts which come up at sharp curves as well, these details are very similar to designs on the movie Unicron in planet mode as well.

    Of course, we also have the spikes on Unicron to consider. Whereas the movie Unicron had the spikes on the sides of the planet, here they wind up on the top. I really don't see any problem with this at all. The details are still there, they look great and the sides of Unicron are taken up by the ring connections and play functions anyhow.

    While Hasbro is advertising Unicron as having the ability to hold twenty six Mini-Cons in this mode (on the ring), I think they're selling themselves short. Technically Unicron can hold twenty nine Mini-Cons in this mode. Aside from the rings, you can attach Minis to his missile launchers, which still function as they do in robot mode and he has one unique Powerlinx point above his mouth, where Dead End can connect to in his planet mode and act as a cannon for Unicron. Unfortunately, this is one flaw in this run of Unicron toys (which I hope will be rectified in the future). Dead End fits into the Powerlinx point, but he doesn't hold securely in place. Essentially he just drops in but can fall out easily. A bit of nail polish in the Powerlinx point might solve this problem, but it's one I hope is taken care of at the manufacture level.

    Early pictures of Unicron placed him at angles where it would seem he was extremely flat on one side with little or no curvature beyond the top to the mouth. But in reality, he is only flat enough on the back to rest on his back. The robot feet curve enough so that he does look like a pretty respectable sphere. The ring helps add to the round appearance
    as well.

    Unicron is a toy that Transformers fans have rooted for, begged for, petitioned for and wanted since 1986. Hasbro and Takara have responded with a toy that has fun play features, awesome posability and most of all, a design obviously meant to make old and new fans alike happy. If you buy only one Transformer this year - make it Unicron! If you buy more than one Transformer this year, make sure one of them is Unicron!