"Energon" Signal Flare Toy Review


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General Information:
Release Year: February 2004
Retailer: General Release (Toys 'R' Us, Kay Bee, Wal-Mart etc.)
Price: $6.99 (Depending on Retailer)
Transformation Difficulty Level: 2
Accessories: Disc, Shield halves x 2

Someone on the Transformers design team must have recently had a Godzilla movie marathon. Following on the heels of Cruellock, Energon has produced yet another figure which has roots in Godzilla movies. Often, when Godzilla would come stomping into town, military vehicles are deployed to fight him. One type of vehicle is known as the Maser Tank, you can see one of the variants of it here at Toho Kingdom. I am now expecting King Ghidorah as a Decepticon to be made, stat!

Vehicle Mode:
Signal Flare's vehicle mode is indeed more than meets the eye. With his name and that big dish at the end of his cannon, you'd think he was some type of communications truck. But in reality, his vehicle form is a powerful weapon mounted on a mobile unit. If you've seen enough Godzilla flicks, you can imagine electricity/power coursing through the cannon and firing out from the disc at the end. It's a very dramatic effect on screen, and it's neat to have a little Transformer who is meant to represent such a powerful weapon.

Signal Flare's design is true to form. The cannon has a huge disc at the end, which is a trademark of the Maser cannon. The barrel it is connected to has a section where four beams are sculpted around a hollow area. This seems very much like the parts that light up when a Maser cannon fires as you can see in this shot of a Maser cannon firing at night (again, courtesy of Toho Kingdom). The base of the cannon has two large panels attached to it, and what they do is anyone's guess. Power distributors? Something used to control the flow of power from the main vehicle to the cannon? Who knows? That's one of the fun parts of these toys.

The lower portion is basically designed just to carry the cannon. The front has a driver's area, and two wheels on each side. The back has false treads with wheels on the underside to allow the vehicle to roll.

What's really neat is that if you turn the cannon around on its base, the cannon itself turns, spinning the disc at the end (albeit slowly) in the process. This looks really neat when you do it, and gives a neat extra touch to the vehicle.

In terms of color scheme, I can't get the G1 Autobot Rotorstorm out of my head when I look at this guy. Like Rotorstorm, he is mostly blue with translucent red plastic used for parts like windows and parts of the weapon. But that may just be the G1 guy in me reaching for a connection that isn't there. Anyhow, there are a couple nice paint applications in this form as well. The treads have a nice dark wash on them to make them look a bit more used and worn. On the cannon itself there are dark orange stripes that could be meant to resemble power coursing through the cannon. Small bits of silver and gold are used for detailing as well, and will appear more in the robot mode.

Transformation to Robot Mode:

  1. Detach the disc, side panels and Energon Star if they are attached.
  2. Swing the brown pieces with the headlights forward.
  3. Move the sides of the vehicle out a bit, and then swing them down.
  4. Swivel the brown, back piece with the robot arm on it around so that the cannon is on the left side (with the Autobot symbol facing you).
  5. Push the central section down to reveal the robot head and form the robot upper body.
  6. Swing the robot arm with the fist completely to the right.
  7. Rotate the legs around at the hips so the translucent red parts are facing front.
  8. Swing the light blue leg pieces up.
  9. The two panels can be put together to form a shield. The disc can be placed back on the cannon/arm.

Robot Mode:
Signal Flare is a bit different than many other Enegon figures in robot mode. He's not really a homage to anyone and he's a very basic looking robot. The robot face has a nice sculpt. The thing is, I can't look at it without being reminded of Battlestar Galactica Cylons. Mind you, this is a good thing as I love the head designs of Cylons. He has a crest on his head (albeit, much more subdued than a Cylon's), red visor eyes (okay, Cylons really had a red dot going back and forth on a black visor) and an indentation on the mouthplate with horizontal lines in it. I'm not saying Hasbro or Takara intended this, it's just a quirky way I look at the head design.

The upper body and legs are very basic, comprised mostly of rectangles and triangular shapes. There are some neat little designs like vents on the top of the chest and line designs near the Autobot symbol. The cannon arm is neat, giving him the powerful appearance his vehicle mode has in robot mode. His other arm is a regular robot arm, which I'm thankful for since it allows him to hold his Energon Shield.

Color-wise, Signal Flare still reminds me of Rotorstorm. His main body is light blue with gold and silver details. His upper legs, shield, Enegon Star and Disc are all molded in a light, translucent red plastic (lighter than the ones on fellow Omnicons Skyblast and Strongarm). On the sid eof his lower, left arm is a patch of silver with the Autobot symbol painted on. I thought this was a decal at first, but it's really painted on and looks nice.

In this form, if you move Signal Flare's arm around, it still turns the cannon barrel. I was happy to see that all of Signal Flare's Energon weapons/parts have uses beyond just being a disc and a shield. The panels each have Mini-Con Powerlinx points on the underside, so you can plug them onto a larger Energon figure, and hook Mini-Cons up to the panels themselves! Also, the part of the disc which attaches to the cannon is a Powerlinx point too, so you can use it to activate Powerlinx features on Armada figures or just attach it to any Energon or Armada figure with the appropriate peg. Want more fun? You can attach the two shield halves together and then attach the disc to them to form a spinning blade weapon! In fact, if you look at the sculpted details on the spinning disc, they look like saw blades! They parts can also attach to the pegs and holes on his arm so you can put the disc on the back of his arm like some type of mobile radar unit. The key here is using your imagination.

Signal Flare has nine points of articulation in this form. While not revolutionary, it's still quite an impressive number for a toy this size with a "gimmick" built into its arm.

Signal Flare actually struck me as kind of doofy looking when I saw the first preview pictures. But now that I've played with him in person, I can vouch for him being a neat little Omnicon. Not quite as cool as Strongarm or Skyblast, but he's still neat. Recommended.

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