Superlink Toy Reviews: Superion

in 2004, Action Figure Review, Autobot, Combiner / Gestalt, Energon, Superlink

General Information:
Release Year: October 2004
Retailer: Japanese exclusive
Price: $65 (Depending on Import Retailer, purchased at Image Anime)
Accessories: Energon Stars x 4, Dual Barreled Guns x 2, Single Barreled Guns x 2 (blue), Single Barreled Guns x 2 (Grey), Foot pieces x 2
Images: Gallery featuring all five team members and Superion

Tech Specs*
"In any age, war destroys everything, producing only sadness..."

Ancient warrior who has continued to fight to protect the menacing power of Super Energon. His Combination Spark, condensed over millennia of countless battles, has the secret ability to allow all five of his components to transform and combine. That ultimate Super Link ability is sure to lead to victory in key conflicts.

Strength: 8 Intelligence: 10 Speed: 10+ Endurance: 8 Rank: 8 Courage: 9 Firepower: 10+ Skill: 10


*Tech specs translations by Doug Dlin. The statistic numbers were different between the packaging and tech spec card scans. These final numbers were taken from Takara's web site.

I have fond memories of G1 Superion. I remember seeing the commercial roughly around September and begging my father to help me find him. I remember us searching about six toy stores in Chinatown on a cold, wet winter night, but of course none of them had it. I gave up that night, but months later, in early December, my father gave me a gift that I'll never forget: the Superion gift set. It was one of tne of the best Christmas gifts he ever gave me.

When it was announced that Energon/Superlink would be getting its own Superion toy, I was thrilled! Of course, economic realities sort of put a dampener on things. For Energon, Hasbro would only be releasing the toys individually, not as a gift set (whereas in the 80's, the Aerialbots were available both ways). But I was thrilled to hear that Takara was releasing this team in a gift set! And it is that gift set that is reviewed here.

Afterburner

Afterburner is the largest member of the team, and in the old days, that would have automatically made him the leader as well. Although the largest member of the team, he's not quite deluxe sized, but essentially the toy has to triple change (jet, robot and main body of Superion) so it has a bit more functionality than the average deluxe Transformer.

Vehicle Mode:
Afterburner's vehicle mode looks like a futuristic take on the SR 71 Blackbird. He has the same long neck and dual engine configuration on the sides. However, while the Blackbird is smooth and rounded, Afterburner is much more sharp and angular. This gives him a futuristic look and actually makes the vehicle look extra sleek. The angles on this guy can be found everywhere, sometimes moving in opposite directions. The front nosecone is sharp and the wings on the side sweep back, but towards the rear of the vehicle, there are points which angle forward. His side wings are actually short and sweep back, similar to the fins on the top of the vehicle.

What's great is that not only is the general shape of the vehicle sleek and angular, so are most of the sculpted details. From front to back most of the details on this toy are diamond shaped or triangular, really pushing the whole "arrow shaped" concept of the vehicle. This extends to even the cockpit windows, which are very sleek and end at sharp angles.In the more "standard" department, the top of the cockpit has a sculpted Autobot symbol. A bit behind that is the Autobot Spark Crystal.

AFterburner's color scheme leans towards matching up with Firebolt and Sling. He is made up of red, light grey, silver and black. Light grey and red are the most prominant colors with black making up edges such as the front of the nosecone. Blue is used for paint detail on the front and back of the vehicle. Like the details and general shape of the plane, the color details are angled and sharp as well. On the back, light grey meets up with red at sharp, jagged angles. On the froont section, the light grey meets the red at longer, but still sharp angles. This careful placement of color scheme helps to reinforce the appearance of a super fast and sleek vehicle.

Afterburner has two Mini-Con Powerlinx pegs at the back of the vehicle. These can be used to attach either Energon weapons or Mini-Cons. The vertical fins sort of get in the way a bit, but they're bendable and can be angled inward. On the flip side of each peg is another, but these are a bit less useful. You can attach certain Energon weapons and have them face backwards, which is kind of neat, but also looks a bit odd depending on which weapon you put there. Fitting Mini-cons on the other hand is a much more difficult proposition. This is one time you'll have to pick and choose Mini-Cons by their size and shapes to squeeze into the small spaces.

Transformation to Robot Mode:

  1. Lift up and swing back the front cockpit section.
  2. Rotate the cockpit around.
  3. Swing down the leg pieces (the silver pieces with the three circles on them in the back of the vehicle).
  4. Twist the leg pieces around so the screws face the back.
  5. Swing each silver/blue/black leg piece out and down.
  6. Swing the cockpit down and slide the rectangular piece on the landing gear into the groove at the center of the waist.
  7. The sides/wings of the vehicle mode straighten out to form the robot arms.
  8. Swing down the metallic silver piece at the top of the figure to reveal the robot head.
  9. Swing out each of the red pieces on either side of the head and connect them to the shoulders.
  10. Turn the head around.
  11. Flip out the four black pieces on the legs to form the robot feet.

Robot Mode:
While managing to still look sleek, somehow this toy also looks bulky, making for an imposing looking Cybertron warrior. The bulkiness is obvious. A lot comes from the arms, which are quite big, especially the lower arms. But he also has armor on the back (really, vehicle mode bits) while his legs
are pretty thick compared to his fellow Superion teammates.

However, at the same time, Afterburner continues using sleek and angled design elements. His lower arms are rectangular, but have the triangular vertical vehicle mode fins on them. His chest is the front of the vehicle, making it essentially one elongated arrow. The legs have triangular details on the knees and feet as well, rounding out the group of angled and sharp angles on this toy.

The head design for Afterburner is a different than the other members of the team. His head is rounded, but has curious details. At the top of the head, instead of a typical crest with ridges, we get what looks like a tiny radar dish. The sides also have small circular details next to each cheek, another rather unusual design element. What I really like is a grey "V" shaped design which starts on the sides and meets in the middle, forming a sharp point at the nose. This is very much in tune with the angular design on the rest of the figure.

A lot more black is revealed in this mode via the feet, upper legs, arms and the head. We also see a different shade of silver that looks like it has some super light bronze color mixed in. These parts look almost metallic, which I'm sure was part of the point. The silvers and blacks work well with the light grey and red colors. Overall, a very nice color scheme.

Afterburner comes with no weapons for himself, so I assume he's expected to borrow the other team member weapons or use Energon weapons from other figures. This is sort of a shame. It would have been nice to give him at least a gun or something, even if they just recycled a weapon sculpt from another figure it would have added to the value of the five pack.

Afterburner has a whopping twenty one points of articulation. This is due in part to his joints mostly being on hinges and ratchet joints. However, due to his transform scheme, he does not have waist articulation. Still, you can strike some pretty nice poses with this guy.

There is on design oddity. When you connect the rectangular landing gear piece to the groove on his waist, there is also a circular hole there that looks like you're supposed to connect to the peg on the underside of the nosecone. While the two definitely meet, the peg is a bit too wide for the hole. This makes the figure slightly more unstable than it would be otherwise. Curious.

Final Thoughts (on Afterburner):
Afterburner is one neat toy. I wish there was more included with him, like an Energon weapon or something. It seems odd to have a Transformer with no weapons at all, but the figure itself is very cool.

Air Rider

Vehicle Mode:
Air Rider is a modified F-22 Raptor in vehicle mode. I say modified since its shape does not exactly match the fighter of that type. Still, this is one cool and neat looking jet. The front has a pointed cone rather than a purely cylindrical one. The rear fins angle outward and are rather high, and the small wings on the sides look like they're attached to huge engines or power boosters of some kind.

There is quite a bit of detail on Air Rider. Inside the cockpit is a seat and control panel. Right outside the cockpit window is a nice angular design. The front has vents and the top has jagged designs seen on the real life Raptor, albeit in different places. Design lines run along the back and sides of the jet, adding some sleekness to the appearance of the toy.

Color-wise, Air Rider has a simple, yet effective color scheme. He is mostly black. Silver is used on the area around the cockpit cover and on the sides. The lines on the back and sides along with the vents and other minor details are painted orange, giving them a nice glowing look against the black. The wings are light blue plastic whereas the fins on top are partially painted light blue. The cockpit cover is translucent blue plastic. An Autobot Spark Crystal rests at the back of the jet while a regular sculpted Autobot symbol is found on the left side near the cockpit. The background is painted white, and the raised parts of the symbol are red.

The Energon Stars included with Superion are all the same dark, translucent blue as the cockpit cover. The barrels of the weapons are the same. Air Rider's weapons are long cannons with a barrel on either end. The barrels can swivel (for the Superion form) on a central piece with two hinges. This piece is light blue. These cannons mount on each wing which has a hole in it that fits Energon weapons. What's nice is that the wing is thick enough to allow a weapon to be attached on the top and bottom, giving this guy some added artillery potential.

Air Rider has three landing gear pieces, one on each side and one under the cockpit. They have non-working wheels, but serve the purpose of allowing you to keep the figure even in vehicle mode.

Transformation to Robot Mode:

  1. Detach the Energon Star and weapons if attached.
  2. Fold in the landing gear if extended.
  3. Swing out the sides of the jet, and straighten them out.
  4. Flip the robot feet up.
  5. Flip the jet over and swing out the robot arms.
  6. Fold the front of the jet down and turn the robot head around.
  7. Swing up the rear of the jet onto the robot back.
  8. The weapons fit in the robot fists and the Energon Star can go over the Autobot Spark Crystal.

Robot Mode:
Air Rider is a fairly simple jet-to-robot Transformer in robot mode, but it's that simplicity which works for the toy. The head design is a typical "helmet over face" design, with the face having large visor eyes. In some ways, the rather square head reminds me of the square heads of the G1 Aerialbots (whose heads were used as the point of connection when combining). However, this head is nicely sculpted and not exactly square in shape.

The aforementioned sculpted Autobot symbol is on the left side of the chest, but what's neat is that the other side has a matching indentation, but instead of another Autobot symbol, there are four "bolts" in there, making it look more like the Autobot symbol is a badge that is attached to the robot.

The robot arms and legs are nicely proportioned and have nice detail work. The upper arms have about three "layers" of armor, with beveled surfaces making up detail. The lower arms have what look like pistons sculpted into the middle. The upper legs have similar beveled patterns as the upper arms, and the lower legs are nicely angled so they don't look clunky at all.

A lot more light blue shows up in this form thanks to the upper arms and upper legs. The lower arms are black with orange paint on the fingers, a nice carry over of color from the vehicle mode.

While Air Rider comes with two weapons that he can hold in his hands (top or bottom). Technically if you wanted to go nuts you could attach more on the wings attached to his knees. I actually prefer having him hold his regular weapons under hand, that way you don't have to angle it and he can hold it pointing straight. Air Rider has thirteen points of articulation in this form. That's excellent considering the figure size, and most of these are ball joints!

Final Thoughts (on Air Rider):
Air Rider is one cool figure. I like both modes a lot, and he has some awesome posability. His proportions are also nice, which makes for a clean, sleek looking figure.

Firebolt

Firebolt is a redeco of the Air Rider figure. This portion of the review will just focus on the changes made to the toy for its change to Firebolt.

Vehicle Mode:
If Air Rider is the dark member of the team, then Firebolt is the bright one! His colors are very reminscent of the classic G1 Aerialbot, Fireflight, who was primarily red and white. Firebolt is primarily red, with white and grey adding to the list of colors. What's nice is that the designers did not just take the exact color pattern from Air Rider and just do a one to one switch. Rather, Firebolt has a deco design all his own. The front edge of the cockpit is painted white, while the intake vents on the front are metallic grey surrounded by white. The back does not have a stripe pattern going to the back on either side. Rather, it is mostly red with white at the center (where the hinge is for transformation). The fins are partially white as well.

Firebolt has the same accessories as Air Rider. However, whereas the base of Air Rider's weapons were light blue, Firebolt's are grey to match his wing color. The barrels of the guns and the Energon Star remain translucent blue however, a theme that remains consistant from figure to figure in this set.

Robot Mode:
In robot mode, we get to see much more grey. This almost makes him look more like a Starscream homage between the grey, red and blue. The robot head is mostly red, with black on top, translucent blue light piping eyes and a grey face. Firebolt actually has a bit less deco in this mode than Air Rider, but you really don't miss it since everything goes so well together.

Final Thoughts (on Firebolt):
I already like this mold a lot, and it is nice to have a bright color mold as a counter to the dark one used on Air Rider. The only improvement I would have liked would have been spray ops to add a "rough" look, but that's a rarity among Transformers, especially those put out by Takara.

Skydive

Vehicle Mode:
Skydive is a variant on the A10 Thunderbolt jet. Befitting a jet that is meant for heavy duty combat, this toy winds up looking a bit bigger than the average basic sized toy. This is mostly due to how long the jet is and how wide the wings span. The designers chose to go a bit light on the armament for this guy. On the nosecone he has one large cannon, and then on the underside of the jet, there is a dual barreled cannon, resembling the old cannon pods that some old military bombers had on their underside. What's nice is that the dual barreled cannon can turn in a circle, allowing him to take on threats in any direction! However, what Skydive does have is room for extra weapons to be attached! On each wing, there is a hole on the top and underside for Energon weapons, giving him potential to be heavily armed.

There is a good chunk of detail on this toy. Among the ones I really like are the small "bolts" on the cockpit cover, the cut lines onthe nosecone and the fan blade details sculpted into the engines.

Skydive's deco is primarily made up of blue, white and gold. Light blue and black are in the mix as well. The central body, engines and rear are a combination of light blue, blue and white. The middle portion and the wings are mostly white and gold. The fans inside the engines are gold as well. White, blue and gold is hardly a new color combination for a Transformer, G2 "Jaguar" of the Rescue Force is just one example. The black portions help give a visual break between the various lighter colors, resulting in a Transformer with a solid color scheme. Another nice deco touch: two large Autobot symbols tampographed onto the wings.

Transformation to Robot Mode:

  1. Detach the Energon Star and Energon weapon.
  2. Separate the engines and the main body of the jet.
  3. Twist the engine turbines around to form the robot arms.
  4. Swing the white/black/gold panels in the middle of the jet out to the sides.
  5. Flip the dual barreled cannon the underside of the jet forward.
  6. Swing the entire back section, wings and all up and lift the dual barreled cannons to reveal the robot head.
  7. The jet wings can be folded back.
  8. Twist the front half of the jet around.
  9. Split the legs apart and flip the feet up.
  10. Attach Energon Star and Weapon as desired.

Robot Mode:
Skydive's robot mode has few surprises color-wise since most of it is easily seen in the vehicle mode. The most prominant "new" parts are the robot head, wings and arms. Behind the turbine fans in the lower arms are the robot fists. The wings are white and metallic light blue on the underside and the robot head is gold with blue details.

The robot head is a different design than the typical Transformer head. Instead of being squared off or rectangular, it is rounded, with visor eyes that look like they have sleek, rectangular goggles around them. Nice and different. I also love how the dual barreled cannon from the vehicle mode can still flip down to look like a pair of night vision goggles or something, a neat touch. I like the way the robot mode was designed to have the Spark Crystal wind up right at the center of the chest, where it doubles as an impressive looking Autobot emblem.

Technically, Skydive has seven holes to attach Energon weapons in in this form. However, with four being on his back, you'll wind up making him a bit back heavy, so you'll have to play with the pose a bit to get him to stand. Without extra weapons, you can just take the weapon included with the figure, flip down the handle and place it in his hands. Skydive has twelve points of articulation, most of them being ball joints, allowing for a wide range of movement.

Final Thoughts (on Skydive):
Skydive is a neat little toy. He'd be cool on his own as a basic, no less as part of a combiner set. His vehicle design is powerful and imposing looking while his robot mode design is a bit quirky thanks to the head and arm designs. With good posability and the ability to arm himself up the wazoo, this is one cool Transformer to add to your collection. The name homage doesn't hurt either. Very cool.

Sling

Sling is a redeco of the Skydive mold, so this portion of the review will focus on the changes made to the deco.

Vehicle Mode:
Balance seems to have been on the minds of the designers when they created the decos for these team members. Whereas Skydive is rather light colored and bright, Sling skews towards the darker colors and shades. In this form, he is mostly grey, black and red - a personal favorite combination of colors on any robot. The front half of the central body, the rear fins and parts of the wing are grey. The sides of main body and half of the wings are black. The engines are the same combination of colors, red and black, but instead of grey, silver is used on the fans and the area immediately around them. A spot of orange is at the center of the jet's back, adding a small splash of color. The end result is one neat looking jet that goes along in theme with Firebolt and Afterburner. Very nicely done.

Robot Mode:
In robot mode, we get a bit more grey from the robot head, waist and upper legs. But the basic red/black/grey color scheme remains intact. The robot head, though molded in grey plastic has a bit of green on it for detailing, a rather unexpected color. The eyes are translucent blue just like Skydive's, with a light piping bit on the back of the head. A bit more orange shows up to as we see the orange bit on the top of the jet in vehicle mode is actually for the knee, and both knees have rectangular orange bits, as well as
the chest.

Final Thoughts (on Sling):
Of the two versions of this sculpt in this set, I prefer Sling's colors to Skydive's. There's just something nice and dark about them, but they don't look
run down or too dark at the same time. Very nicely done.

Superion

While the individual robots on this team are cool and all, fact is everyone who is getting this set is going to do it for the big show: Superion. Following in the footsteps of their G1 counterparts, the four smaller team members can become either arms or legs and Afterburner forms the core body. First this portion of the review will cover how to transform each into their respective parts, then the combination, then the toy itself. All transform instructions begin with the toy in vehicle mode.

Afterburner Transformation:

  1. Swing the nosecone/neck of the plane back.
  2. Swing the robot waist piece and legs down.
  3. Rotate the neck of the plane around.
  4. Rotate Afterburner's legs around.
  5. Slide the lower legs up so you can see the blue connection pieces.
  6. Flip up the light grey pieces on the hinges underneath the arms.
  7. Swing each arm inward, then swing the lower arms out and attach the robot fists to the Powerlinx pegs above the shoulders.
  8. Swing down the nosecone section of the plane, connecting the peg to the hole on the waist piece.
  9. Flip the cockpit cover down to reveal Superion's head. Flip the head up and rotate it around, then close the chest piece.

Air Rider/Firebolt Transformations (Arms and Legs):

  1. Fold the rear of the jet up to reveal the connection point.
  2. Swing each robot leg out to the sides.
  3. Rotate the lower leg pieces so the wings face up.
  4. Swing the robot legs forward, splitting the robot waist section in half.
  5. Connect the rectangular holes on the upper legs into the thin rectangulr pieces on the sides.
  6. Flip the robot feet up.
  7. Attach the long hand held weapons to the small, rectangular piece with two tabs.
  8. Push the pegs on the weapons into the holes on the underside of the feet.
  9. Flip up the small tabs on the rectangular piece to lock them into place.
  10. Flip each gun barrel down.
  11. Adjust the connection point to Afterburner to the proper position for an arm or leg.

Skydive/Sling Transformations (Arms):

  1. Fold the dual barreled weapon in half.
  2. Slide the weapon onto the gun port at the front of the nosecone.
  3. Flip the wings up.
  4. Move the connection piece at the back down a couple clicks to form the arm.

Skydive/Sling Transformations (Legs):

  1. Make sure the dual barreled weapon is folded out.
  2. Split the nosecone to middle section in half, and flip the foot pieces up.
  3. Attach the two foot pieces by attaching the hole on the foot with the cockpit window to the peg on the piece with the gun port.
  4. Attach the dual barreled weapon piece to the underside of the feet, with the curved part facing forward.
  5. Fold the wings up.
  6. Adjust the connection piece at the back of the vehicle as desired.

Assembly:
Much like their G1 predecessors, each member of the team connects to a connection point on the central body (Afterburner).
The arms and legs can be interchanged since the connection pieces are all the same.

Review:
Since its announcement, I have been very eager and excited about Superion. It was great to hear that a combiner utilizing five team members (who was not a G1 redeco/retool) was being released. I usually try not to build up high expectations for a toy because ultimately, nothing can live up to the designs that a fertile fan's mind can come up with. And inevitably, some toys will have oddities in their design that you just can't quite wrap your head around.

Most people tend to say that I am far too lenient with my toy reviews, and perhaps they're right. And my enthusiasm for this toy is high, but even I will admit to two very large flaws with it, and I will address those before gushing about the good stuff.

The first oddity that most people noticed from early pictures of this toy is the lack of hands. Now, realistically speaking, we are talking about an alien robot here, emphasis on the word alien. I think there is an expectation (and not an unwarranted one) that Transformers (or most action figures) in general have to follow a particular body type. In general we expect two arms, two legs, two fists/claws (or some other type of hand) and a head on our Transformers. It's been that way since G1, why stop now? Well, Superion really doesn't violate that "rule" very much. He has a head, two arms, two legs, a central body etc. But somehow, in the design process, it was decided he would not have hands. Sure you can kind of interpret the four laser barrels on the Air Rider/Firebolt hands as "fingers", and maybe you can think of the dual barreled weapon for the Skydive/Sling arms as a big "claw", but they really aren't meant to be either. So Superion doesn't have hands. That's one oddity that most people I've talked to just don't seem to like, fair enough.

The second oddity (more of a design flaw really) involves the central body formed by Afterburner. When the nosecone of the jet attaches to the waist piece, we're talking about a fairly tiny peg that is meant to rest in a fairly small hole. The problem: the hole does not hold he peg well. The result? A part that tends to slip out and make Superion look like he is partially hunched over. Now, I have heard from someone who already has the US version of the toy that the US version holds much better, so perhaps this is something unique to the Takara release, but it is still a bad design. It would have been better to have a larger peg that flipped out or something attaching to a larger, more secure hole. Not something the size of a Powerlinx peg necesarily, but bigger than what is there.

Okay, so Superion is not perfect. But he is far from a disaster either. First off, the new joint system developed for this toy is very nice. It is secure and holds the joints together well. When they connect, they really lock into place. That's critical, especially since the toy needs to have some range of motion by today's standards. These tight joints help keep him in different poses.

Being made up of five jets/planes, Superion cannot help but look angular and sleek in many places. This is most evident in the chest/head design. The head (despite what many have thought from preliminary pictures) is not a replica of Armada Megatron's head. While both do have horn like protrusions on either side of the head, Megatron's has serrated teeth while Superion's is more like a smooth blade. Megatron's head is rounded in the "helmet" portion whereas Superion's is squared off and angular. Any similarity between the two is very superficial at best.

The chest piece is probably the most angular, and sort of harks back to G1 Superion's chest piece. G1 Superion's chest piece looked like some type of aerial vehicle itself, with small "wings" on the sides and a central triangular section that looked like a nosecone. Here, the chest is a nosecone, with two smaller wings out on the sides.

Being jets, the four limbs all have wings and fins etc. that really give Superion a further angular appearance. Unlike his G1 predecessor who hid the wings on the legs (basically by sweeping them back), here the wings on all four limbs are quite apparent and look great. In a sense, you want to be reminded that this guy is made up of five individual vehicles instead of being made up of plain squares or rectangles (as the animation model for G1 Superion did).

Superion has seven points of articulation. This doesn't sound like a lot, but you have to consider that the five-combiners of the past usually had about two. Also consider that four of these points, the legs have more than one possible range of movement. For instance, the knees can bend and you can rotate the legs to face outward or inward. The hip joints can move to the sides, back and forward. Also, if you use Air Rider or Firebolt as a leg, he sort of has an added point of articulation in that the robot feet of these two team members effectively become Superion's feet, allowing you to bend them on the hinge of Air Rider or Firebolt's feet. Very cool. Having the head of Superion be part of Afterburner rather than a piece you add on allows it to move side to side. These are all dramatic improvements over the old G1 combiner designs.

Each one of Superion's limbs has several places to attach Energon weapons. You pretty much just need to use your imagination, but for the purposes of my photos, I was able to attach eleven weapons between all the parts of Superion (this includes putting two on his back, looking like he is carrying them as spare weapons). However, I honestly think I could have squeezed in a couple more. On his own, Superion has roughly ten barrels of firepower (depending on who's an arm and who's a leg), but his potential is much greater than that, and I really dig that.

Final Thoughts (on Superion):
As a whole, Superion is a very cool toy, and a fascinating take on a classic design scheme. As mentioned above, Superion is far from perfect, but he is fun to assemble and disassemble (something I did quite a few times for this review) and he looks very cool. The individual team members are neat toys in their own right, and the fact that they all come in a gift pack just really makes the sale for me. If you are watching your budget, wait until the US versions come out, but if you don't mind splurging, go for this gift set!