"Generations" Sky Shadow Toy Review


General Information:
Release Date: December 2011
Price Point: $12.99 (depending on retailer)
Retailer: General (Toys R Us, Target, Wal-Mart etc.)
Accessories: Missiles x 2, Missile launchers x 2, Drone

*Images with asterisks and text below in italics from The Official Transformers web site:
Don’t mess with SKY SHADOW – he’s one of the most foul, dark-hearted DECEPTICONS in the galaxy. He takes no prisoners and always finds his target. Even the evil MEGATRON shudders when he hears the whine of jet engines in the distance, for it may be SKY SHADOW coming for him!

Your terrifying SKY SHADOW figure has all the weapons he needs to wreak havoc in battle! In fighter jet mode, his detachable recon drone can gather the intelligence he needs to make him a big problem for his AUTOBOT enemies. Convert him to robot mode so he can fire his launching missiles! Keep converting him from robot to vehicle mode and back so he can handle whatever his enemies throw at him! Includes figure and 2 missiles. Ages 5 and up.

Transformers fans are very used to seeing figures being given new decos and sometimes new parts as alternative characters. This has been a common practice since the days of Generation One and continues until this day. In the past however, whenever new parts were needed they would be created for that particular release. It was revealed a couple of years ago that Hasbro and Takara/Tomy had begun to adopt the approach of creating alternative head sculpts for several of their figures ahead of time in anticipation of releasing those figures with new heads and decos. This is critical to making money back on the investment that goes into the development of a sculpt and creation of its tooling.

Many of these "alternate heads" began to appear on instruction booklets for toy releases in 2010. One of these releases was Thunderwing. This Generations version of the G1 Pretender Decepticon was released with instructions that showed an alternate head that long time fans recognized instantly. With its high horns the head belonged to none other than Black Shadow, another Decepticon from G1. Not only is this a highly prized character among collectors due to his rarity (he was only released in Japan and has never been reissued) but history was repeating itself. You see, G1 Black Shadow was himself a redeco/retool of the G1 Thunderwing mold, making this figure release very appropriate.

For reasons most likely related to trademarks, Hasbro could not use the name "Black Shadow" (though reports indicate he rings up with that name at Wal-Mart stores) so a name they did have the trademark for was substituted instead: Sky Shadow.

This review will focus on the changes made to the figure for this release. Check out my Thunderwing review for more details on the figure's functionality and sculpt.

Vehicle Mode:
Like his G1 counterpart, Sky Shadow is a jet in vehicle mode. While there was retooling done between G1 Thunderwing and Black Shadow, none of it was particularly apparent in their respective vehicle modes. The same can be said here, at least from the top view. From that perspective, both vehicles are almost identical. If you flip the vehicle over, you'll see the aforementioned "horns" sticking out from the robot chest piece and you'll also note the center of the chest looks different than Thunerwing's equivalent area. I'll go over these in more detail in the robot mode review.

True to his name and G1 namesake, Sky Shadow's primary plastic color is black. In addition there are silver, grey and gold parts. His cockpit and parts of the Aerial Drone are cast in translucent red that works very nicely with the black plastic. The silver and grey parts are more easily seen if you flip the figure over. His rear thrusters are metallic silver while the robot arms (which are quite obvious here) are grey. The gold parts are few but present. His landing gear wheels and some of his hinge joints are gold plastic.

Sky Shadow's paint decos are primarily done in red, silver, gold and white. In terms of the top part of the vehicle,he has V shaped red patterns on his wings, outlined by silver. On his nosecone and fins there are red details on the edges. Around the edge of the cockpit are silver patterns with jagged edges in the front and a point on the back. These patterns are inspired by similar designs on G1 Black Shadow and the homage is clear. Red, silver and black also happens to be one of my favorite color combinations for robots, so I really love the look of this vehicle mode.

The two primary weapons in this form are silver missile launchers with translucent red missiles. The design of the weapons has not changed from the Thunderwing version of this sculpt. They still attach via a peg to the underside of each wing. Each fires a missile by pressing the trigger and there are bars on the weapon for "C Clip" weapons to attach to it. On the front of the vehicle, the end of the nosecone can detach to form an Aerial Drone. The Drone is cast in black plastic with some translucent red in the front and red painted on the edges.

Transformation to Robot Mode:

  1. Detach the missile launchers and set them aside for now.
  2. Swing the vertical fins down.
  3. Swing the wings outward on their hinges.
  4. Swing the rear wing section forward.
  5. Swing the nosecone section back on top of the wing section.
  6. Flip the vehicle over and swing the lower legs back.
  7. Swing the chest plate piece covering the robot head down.
  8. Raise the chest/waist section up.
  9. Swing the waist/leg section out and straighten out the legs.
  10. Swing each half of the feet out.
  11. Swing the chest/waist plate back into place.
  12. You can attach the missile launchers in the fists or on his wings for storage.

Robot Mode:
Sky Shadow's robot mode features two pieces that differ from Thunderwing. First is the head sculpt, which is brand new. This head sculpt is based on the G1 Pretender shell design, featuring a helmet with a central crest and a robot face with two eyes a nose and a mouth. On the sides of the helmet section are two large and flat horns that extend up above the helmet itself. The head sculpt appears to be a bit more complex than his G1 counterpart. His face design has layers to it, with the eyes on one level and the area around his mouth slightly raised and a prominent chin piece at the bottom of the face. It's a really nice sculpting job and looks great. Interestingly, due to the way the neck joint is designed, when you turn Sky Shadow's head from side to side, he winds up looking up slightly at an angle instead of just looking to the side. Personally I think this gives the figure some extra character, but others may not like it as much as I do.

The other piece redone for this release is the piece that makes up the middle of the robot chest. To match up with G1 Black Shadow's appearance, this piece has several mechanical details inside of it including a horizontal bar on top, a tube that curves from the lower right side to the upper left and a circlular design underneath that. This piece extends down to the middle of his body where there are now overlapping panels instead of the smoother design used on Thunderwing. Sure a new head sculpt is always welcome, but a new chest piece in addition to that? This is a really welcome surprise that looks fantastic!

Like the vehicle mode, a large portion of the robot mode is made up of black plastic, but this time out it shares the proverbial stage with grey plastic. You'll find the grey plastic on the arms and hip armor. Metallic silver plastic is used for his thighs and feet. Again, many of these designs are directly inspired by decos on the original Black Shadow Pretender shell, which this robot mode is meant to emulate. His eyes are molded in translucent red plastic, allowing for some nice light piping.

Paint applications use many of the same colors from the vehicle mode. Silver is heavily used. You'll find it on his horns, face and chest. You'll find red used just as much (if not more) on his chest and waist area. A color used mostly for the robot mode is white, which appears right under his chest and on his legs. A bit of gold is used for the horizontal bar on the new chest piece and a small purple Decepticon symbol is on the lower part of his chest. Overall the paint job completes what is a beautiful example of a redeco and pays proper homage to G1 Black Shadow.

All of Sky Shadow's joints are tight and his weapons still connect together without a problem. The Drone also snaps on very securely, so no worries about mold reuse issues here!

Final Thoughts:
Fans have seen me use this phrase before but what the heck, I'll do it again: this figure is a fantastic example of how to do a redeco. A new head, a great deco and a wonderful G1 homage all rolled up into one figure? This one's a no brainer, highly recommended!

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