"Alternators" Optimus Prime Toy Review


General Information:
Release Year: May 2006
Retailer: General Release (Toys 'R' Us, Kay Bee, Wal-Mart etc.)
Price: $19.99 (Depending on Retailer)
Accessories: Engine/weapon

Since the start of the Binaltech/Alternators toy lines Transformers fans have wondered what form Optimus Prime would take. Most fans generally accepted Masterpiece Convoy (and his US release, 20th Anniversary Optimus Prime) as the "unofficial" Binaltech/Alternators version of the Autobot/Cybertron commander. However, May 2006 has offered a solid answer at last.

It was explained at Botcon 2005 that this vehicle form was given to the character of Optimus Prime through a joint agreement between Hasbro and Takara since they needed a character who could be marketed in both countries with a fair bit of popularity. However, its release in Japan has been a sordid affair. A combination of factors including Takara's recent merger with Tomy and the lackluster performance of the Galaxy Force toy line caused Takara to waffle on how this figure was to be released in Japan. For a time Takara considered releasing the figure as Ginrai, the Masterforce character who bore a remarkable resemblance to G1 Optimus Prime (in the US, we knew him as Powermaster Optimus Prime). However, recent plans have been made to release him for the Binaltech line as Convoy, giving him the name he was meant to have.

Vehicle Mode:
Optimus Prime (appropriately) takes on the form of the first truck in the Alternators toy line. Representing a relative of the Dodge Viper vehicle already used for characters such as Side Swipe and Sunstreaker, Optimus is a Dodge Ram SRT10 pickup truck. This truck is set apart from its fellow Ram vehicles by being the only pickup truck in the line powered by the Dodge Viper V10 engine.

Whenever Optimus Prime has been given a truck form, it generally leans towards being a semi/tractor trailer type vehicle. However, being a pickup truck works just as well. The beauty of the Ram SRT10 is that it not only uses the engine of a Dodge Viper sports car, but it also seeks to emulate the sleek appearance of that car as well. There are few hard angles on the vehicle. Front front to back this is one sleek looking vehicle. A lot of the visual appeal rests in the front grille which is rounded at the edges, and the front fender which does the same. The vehicle lines slope upward until the center. where it drops down and straightens out at a sharp angle into the back flatbed section. To add more sporty flair to the vehicle, the rear section has a curved spoiler mounted over the rear tailgate.

While its general shape is awesome, this would not be a good Alternator without an excellent level of detail. In terms of interior design, the figure designers really did their best to give fans a true representation of the real life vehicle's interior. The dashboard replicates the real life version down to the stick on the gear shift on the left and the air vents to the right. The seats are replicas of the real life ones which come out at the sides a bit. On another interior note, I was very amused to see even cup holder slots were replicated. Small details like that may seem insignificant, but with a figure that is supposed to replicate a real life vehicle they are critical. Open up the hood and you'll find the distinctive looking Viper engine painted in silver. On either side of the engine is the "Viper" logo sculpted into the engine.

The wheel covers replicate the covers used on the real life Ram SRT10 covers with their five distinct sections and bolts. The front grille is divided up into four sections, and each is actually sculpted, not a sticker or a detail painted in. The headlights are very well detailed as well. The sideview mirrors have the silver reflective material on them that gives them the appearance of real mirrors. The interior of the flat storage area has several grooved lines. The rear section has rear lights and even a "handle" in the center where you would pull to bring the tailgate down. Two exhaust pipes are found on the right side. The word "Dodge" is sculpted into the left half of the tailgate panel with the word "SRT10" sculpted into the right side.

In terms of deco, a rather interesting synergy occurred by choosing the SRT10 as Optimus Prime's vehicle mode. Typically the Dodge Viper is associated with the color red, and Optimus Prime shares that association as well. The primary color of this vehicle is red. Black is used for sections such as the inside of the fender, the interior and the storage area in the back. Silver is used for words ranging from the "RAM SRT10" logo on the doors to the sculpted letters on the back panel. A bit of white is used for the license plate, which has an Autobot symbol on the left and the word "Prime" on the right. Above that (in a script font) is "California" written in red. This practice began with a previous Alternators release, Ricochet. It is nice to see this continuing. It adds a touch of both realism and personality to the figure that is most welcome.

Like all Alternators, there is a mechanism to have the two front wheels move in tandem. On this figure it is done through a magnet connected to each wheel connected to a central bar that moves back and forth. The wheels do move together, but not to the extreme angle that most Alternators do.

Despite all the gushing I've done above about this vehicle form, I have found one severe flaw. As usual, I will preface the following by saying that I have not heard this flaw in other Alternators Optimus Prime toys. For some reason, the hood piece does not properly close. I fiddled with this for hours on and off, down to looking at the instructions repeatedly. I had every part transformed properly, but no matter what the hood piece sticks up a bit. I speculate this may only be a flaw in the early run of this figure, and perhaps later runs will not have this problem. Still, for the normally high-quality Alternators, this is disturbing.

Transformation to Robot Mode:

  1. Lift the hood and remove the engine. Swing the sides forward, swing the handle down and then collapse each half to form the gun.
  2. Split the fender section in half and swing the halves out.
  3. Pull the rear of the vehicle back, extending the length of the figure.
  4. Open the vehicle doors.
  5. Flip the vehicle over and separate the black bars connected to the robot arms from the central section of the vehicle.
  6. Swing the robot arms out.
  7. Rotate the seats around and fold them down.
  8. Fold the center seat down.
  9. Swing the steering wheel down.
  10. On each leg, swing up the top and bottom panels and rotate the pieces around.
  11. Swing the robot feet out and then swing the panels from the previous step into place.
  12. Swing the robot arms out to the sides.
  13. Turn the robot head around.
  14. Swing down the front section of the vehicle.
  15. Push the two front wheels together so they rest right up against the center body piece.
  16. Swing the front grille piece connected to the hood cover out to form the waist piece.
  17. Rotate the two fender pieces down.
  18. Swing the central connection piece up against the vehicle's roof piece and swing it against the back.
  19. Place the gun in one of his fists.

Robot Mode:
Due to some of the mystery surrounding just which character would become the SRT10 (at one time it was rumored to be Ironhide), many wondered how "Prime-like" this figure would be. Certainly the head sculpt was a no brainer. However, the sculpting of key parts on this figure distinctly make it an Optimus Prime.

The head sculpt for this figure gives some indication that at one time it could have been marketed as Ginrai. The head is the standard Optimus Prime head with the central crest, mouthplate and antennae on the side. However, it also has two barrels on each side of the head which are designs that harken back to the design of Super Ginrai's head. The lower arms have a trapezoid chape followed by two thin rectangular lines. Various versions of Optimus Prime have had similar details, but sometimes with a triangle in place of the trapezoid. The waist section also has four elongated trapezoids on it that resemble similar details on the waist piece of other Optimus Primes (which you can see in this picture). The detailed panels on the front of the legs are distinctly designed to be Prime's legs. The top has eight sided section that is roughly equivalent to where the knees would be. The lower section has three horizontal lined sections representing the vents often found on representations of G1 Prime. You can see the typical look of G1 Prime's legs in this photo. Each of these sections are highly detailed, with many layers of and intricate lines.

Homage details are not all this figure is about. There are original details as well. The shoulder pieces are interesting, with some nice front-facing tech details whose curves match those of the inner shoulders. On the legs the sections in between the top and bottom have angled tubes and line details. The inside of the legs have several layers of details including tubing, hydraultics and cross hatching. The insides of his arms have tube like details as well.

While Optimus Prime's weapon is formed from his engine, I was pleased to see the design is not just a flat engine with barrels. by having the engine fold together to form an actual barrel, it looks like a real weapon with a scope no less (thanks to the hinge in the middle of the engine). Optimus has twenty four points of articulation. This is distributed fairly evenly. Each arm alone has eight points of articulation.

As one would expect, the colors blue and silver are added into the mix in this form. His fists and head are cast in blue plastic. The arm joints and most of the legs are cast in black. Blue paint is used on the legs for detailing. The robot head has silver detailing for the mouthplate, nose and crest and light blue for the eyes. Silver is also found on the upper legs near the hips. It is a very simple color scheme, yet for the character involved it works perfectly fine. The only portions I would add any details to would be the inner legs and maybe the front of the legs. Even then the details would be minor such as dry brushing.

Final Thoughts:
Optimus Prime is a nicely sculpted figure with fantastic detail and posability. He certainly pays proper homage to the original Optimus Prime (and many of the toys that followed). I definitely recommend the toy, but I can't say "highly" because of the hood issue. Again, it could just be mine but it is something for anyone purchasing this figure to keep in mind.

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