"Transformers Universe" Depth Charge Toy Review

General Information:
Release Year: November 2003
Retailer: General (Target, Wal-Mart, Toys R Us etc.)
Price: $19.99 (depending on retailer)
Accessories: Missiles x 2, Missile launcher/Shark Gun, Discs x 5, Tail/Sword

Depth Charge was introduced in season three of the Beast Wars series as the new resident tough guy. The character became a fan favorite, and the toy was considered one of the more unconventional Transformers released at the time. Now this toy has surfaced (okay, okay, that was a bad pun) again in Transformers Universe. This time, Depth Charge is an Autobot, not a Maximal. Since it's been ages since I reviewed the toy, I'll do a thorough review of the toy instead of just noting changes made from the original.

Beast Mode:
The original Depth charge was a Transmetal, meaning part of its gimmick was the vacuum metallized parts found all over the toy. The current Transformers team has tried to avoid using this method, even in redecos of former Transmetals. Depth Charge is one of those. However, the trade off was worthwhile, as the new Depth Charge easily has one of the most incredibly well done paint schemes to be found on a Transformer in quite some time.

From the overhead look, much of the beast mode is made up of the wings. By themselves, the wings already have a large amount of sculpted detail. This ranges from small circular indentations to rows of lines. The wings are not flat, but rather curve up at a rather organic looking shape. This adds a certain elegance to the beast mode's appearance that would have been absent had the wings just laid flat. It looks like the figure captures Depth charge in a moment as he is swimming through the water and he is raising his wings, just about to flap them. It's a subtle detail that the Beast Wars design team deserves much credit for.

Now, about that color scheme. Depth Charge's wings are cast in beige, however, the light color just serves as a canvas for what's laid on top. The sections closest to the beast mode eyes are blue with silver at the ends. The curved lines that sweep from end to end of the wings in the middle are dark red. The three ridged sections at the back of the wings have all been painted with a beautiful orange to yellow color blend. This orange/yellow blend is especially nice as it looks like those ridges are serving as some type of propulsion unit, giving off an "engine glow". On top of all this is a gorgeous black spray op that accentuates the details and other colors so well it's amazing. These spray ops are especially strong on the underside of the wing, where they are used to help bring visual focus to the incredible sculpted details resembling wires and organic lines. Keen eyed fans will also notice that the sculpted Maximal symbols are still on the underside of the wings.

The rest of the toy is dark, allowing the wing colors to be the centerpiece of the toy. The tail is dark green and the head is black. A large Autobot symbol is stamped onto the center of Depth Charge's head.

Depth Charge has eight points of articulation in this form, three in each wing and two on the tail.

Depth Charge is hardly a helpless beast in manta ray mode. At the center of the body towards the back is a fin in the center which doubles as a launching trigger. Press it down and discs shoot out from his mouth in the front. This feature really helps add to the beast mode, and the "disguising" of the trigger was a fantastic idea.

Depth Charge is also equipped with a small partner, a shark like robot that doubles as his gun. This attaches to the underside of Depth Charge and holds two missiles that are fired by pressing the blue fins at the back. The shark is molded in the same beige as Depth Charge's wings. Black paint is used for a neat little pattern on the top of the shark. The underside has a nice silver spray op that helps offer some contrast to the lighter beige. It is interesting to note that there has been a mold change here. Originally this weapon was just one solid piece, but now it is made up of two pieces. The tail detaches. It's quite possible this was done for safety reasons since the tail is a rather pointy part.

As Universe toys come out, we fans are constantly reminded that the toy industry is a constantly changing entitly. Back in the late nineties when this toy first came out, the front sections (which look like small lasers) on the head were made of a semi-hard rubbery. However, safety standards evolve, and now those pieces are made with a very soft, rubbery material. While this doesn't harm the look of the toy or anything, it is something to keep in mind as those parts can get stuck in one position. Mine were sort of bent to the side for a few days, but after I "set" them with some tape and cardboard, they went back to the original shape in a couple days. But in warmer months during the summer, it may be a good idea to be careful how you rest those parts on your display area as they could bend out of shape in the heat.

Transformation to Vehicle Mode:

  1. Swing each wing down to the sides.
  2. Rotate the wings around so the ends of the wings point up, and the tops of the wings face outward.

Vehicle Mode:
This mode is really just a slight variant of the beast mode, to the point where Hasbro didn't even bother to include it in the instructions. However, since it was part of the original design, I'll mention it here. There's not a whole lot going on here. No functionality really changes, but in hindsight, what I will say is that this sort of provides an interesting look at what Depth Charge's vehicle mode on Cybertron may have been (at least, in roughly this shape). You can still utilize the disc launching feature, but I stand by my original assertion that at least one other feature in this form would have been nice.

Transformation to Robot Mode:

  1. Detach the shark weapon and set it aside for now.
  2. Detach the end of the tail and set it aside for now.
  3. Swing the wings out to the sides.
  4. Fold the sides of the beast mode head forward. Flip out the dark green pieces which form the robot feet and flip out the toes/heel pieces.
  5. Rotate the wings at the red piece which connects it to the main body so that the rear portions of the wings point up.
  6. Fold the red segment that is attached to the wing up and angle the wings in a bit.
  7. Swing the robot legs out to the sides.
  8. Lift up the plate with the Autobot symbol on it, this is attached to an entire hinged mechanism which swings down.
  9. Rotate the upper body around so the legs now face forward.
  10. Swing the robot arms (which are propulsion units in beast mode) forward.
  11. Connect the two hip halves together, then swing the hinged section up and snap it into place against the upper body.
  12. At this point, the discs that launch from the beast mode mouth are exposed, there is a black panel behind that part, swing it up and down to cover the discs and reveal the robot head.
  13. Swing the tail down.
  14. On each lower arm, the bottom half flips down. Flip those sections down and then rotate the fist inside so it points out, then replace the piece.
  15. Place each weapon in Depth Charge's hands.

Robot Mode:
Depth Charge's robot mode puts several parts out in the open that are partially hidden or hard to see in beast mode. However, the color scheme has remained largely intact. His head, hips, lowe arms and knees are all the same light beige as the wings and shark gun. His upper arms andupper legs are both dark red (the same shade that is on the wings) and his chest, feet, knees and the lower portion of his shoulders are all dark green (the same shade as the tail in beast mode). The hands and armor on the legs are dark brown (covering dark red parts).

The color consistancy between modes is very much welcome, and it looks fantastic as well. Since the wings make up a significant visual component of the robot mode, the consistancy is also crucial to keep the toy from looking too busy.

Not counting his wings, but counting his feet and heel pieces, Depth charge has twenty points of articulation in this form. By today's standards (especially during the Armada phase) that seems like a lot, but this toy was made in a day and age when poseability was one of the most crucial elements of a figure. This level of poseability is great for some cool poses (and to a degree, play value).

Depth Charge's back may seem oddly designed and unnecesarily back heavy, so much so that he needs his tail to support him. However, what this does (aside from become part of the beast mode) is act as a handle for you to fire the discs from his chest. As a play feature, it's kind of cool since you don't mind up obscuring the front of the figure in any way to activate the feature. It is interesting to note here that the discs have been retooled for this release. Instead of thinner edges with two notches (which Beast Wars Depth Charge had), these discs have a ronded, thicker edge, presumably to make their impact softer (safety standards again). Since they no longer have notches in them, the compartment which holds them in Depth Charge's chest no longer has small tabs where the notches would fit into.

In this form, there may have been an alternate reason for making the shark gun's tail able to turn. With the original Depth Charge, the lower rear fin on the gun made it difficult for Depth Charge to properly hold the gun straight. However, now that the back can turn, he can hold it straight without any problem at all.

Another retooling worth mentioning is the point where the tail/sword attaches to the base of the tail. Two notches have been added that help the sword slide out. In the original Depth Charge, there were no such notches, so it was harder to get that piece out. This is a minor change, but an important one.

Unfortunately, Depth Charge did not go through the redeco/re-release stage without a couple problems popping up. First, the part where the robot head is attached to seems to have difficulty snapping down completely. If you look at it carefully, it is still raised ever so slightly. From a distance (meaning a foot or more), it doesn't really affect the look of the toy. However, when you look at it up close it's a bit annoying - but not overly so. Also, there's an oddity with the fists. The left fist hole is too big to hold the gun firmly, but it does hold the sword/tail weapon just fine. Meanwhile, the right fist holds the gun nice and snug. This can be due to mold degradation or the way the original Depth Charge's fists were painted as opposed to this one. A minor concern, but a good one to be aware of.

Despite the problems mentioned above, this is still one of the nicest redecos to come out of the Universe line yet, and none of these small defects really make the toy useless. It's still fun to play with and looks fantastic. Those are thumbs up marks in my book.

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