"Transformers Universe" Optimus Primal Toy Review

General Information:
Release Year: July 2003
Retailer: General (Target, Toys R Us, Kay Bee etc.)
Price: $19.99
Accessories: Missiles x 4, Mace, Swords x 2

Every Transformers line needs its lead hero. For Transformers Universe, Hasbro resisted the urge to make that hero Optimus Prime as one would expect (although an Optimus Prime is due for the line, but he doesn't appear to be the central lead). Rather, they took a character who has had over five years of
screen time via his role in Beast Wars, Beast Machines and a cameo in the Beast Wars the Second movie: Optimus Primal. Usually for redecos I just tell readers to read the last review of a toy that I wrote and I just yap about colors, but in this case, it's been years since I reviewed this toy, so I'm going to start from scratch and do a full review of this toy keeping its previous releases in mind.

Beast Mode:
In beast mode, Optimus Primal is a gorilla. The exact type is a bit hard to pin down since he's not 100% accurate to any particular breed, but some have speculated he might be a silverback gorilla. That seems about right, you can see a picture of one here. Whereas the original version of this toy attempted to use black and grays to resemble the real life animal, Hasbro has opted for more fantastic colors for this release. For Universe, the Transformer alt modes are more about functionality in combat than any notion of "robots in disguise", so the color scheme works well. So what is the color scheme?

Primal's primary color is a dark red. This takes the place of the black on the original, taking up the head, upper arms, back and lower legs. A brighter (but still subdued) red is used for the lower arms while green can be found on his upper legs. Black is used for certain body parts such as the ears, fists and feet. A really nice streak of metallic silver paint outlined by red/orange runs from his face down to the top of his back. This is meant
to represent the Energon energy coming out of him, a detail which many Universe toys such as Silverbolt have.

In terms of sculpt, this was always meant to portray a part organic Transformer. The head is sculpted with many of the features of the silverback gorilla including the high sloped forehead, the rather wide nose and mouth. Primal's expression is not a happy one, looking like he's ready to charge into battle. On every major body part you'll find fur patterns sculpted into the toy. There are also some finer details such as ears and fingernails etched into his feet. While certainly not a "perfect" gorilla, one has to keep in mind that this was one of Hasbro's first attempts at a realistic looking beast, not just a mechanical 'bot that somewhat resembled an animal. In that respect, the sculpt is quite good, if only a tiny bit dated now.

In this mode, Primal has ten points of articulation. Those points allow you to utilize an action feature on the toy. Curve his arms and stand him up so his fists are near and against his chest, then move the lever on his back up and down and you have a "chest thumping" action. While perhaps not the most dignified thing for a leader to do, it's something that added some action and personality to the beast mode, and yes, it is something Primal did in the series as well.

Transformation to Robot Mode:

  1. Straighten out the legs.
  2. Flip the black gorilla feet pieces.
  3. Pull down the green pieces to reveal the robot feet.
  4. Rotate the lower body around.
  5. Swing the dark red upper arm covers up to reveal the robot arms.
  6. Pull the front section of the gorilla face forward, and flip the face piece itself to reveal the robot chest. Swing the entire piece down to form the robot chest.
  7. Pushing the black button on his back will swing the right and left sides of the back up to reveal his missile launchers and swords, which you can detach and place in his hand.

Robot Mode:
It has often been my speculation that when Hasbro originally conceived of Optimus Primal, they meant for him to be the "next" version of Optimus Prime. While later Primal toys would begin to shy away from the look of Optimus Prime a bit, this Optimus Primal's face is definitely a "Prime" face. Whereas the animators of the Beast Wars television show felt it appropriate to give Primal a mouth, the toy itself never had one. Primal's next version, Transmetal Optimus Primal was the first with a nicely defined mouth, the basic sized "bat" Optimus Primal had what could have been a mouth, but it really wasn't well defined. Also, between the shape of the head, the antennae on the sides of his head and the crest at the top, this was undoubtedly an Optimus Prime face. One big difference is the "Mutant Head" (as they were referred to in Beast Wars). Turn the head around and you'll find an insectoid like face. These were originally intended to be "battle helmets" for the Beast Wars characters, but due to CGI/budgetary limitations, they were never used on the show. You can also move the antennae down and then flip the mutant head up to give it "mandibles", a very interesting looking face that looks quite scary!

Head design aside, the rest of Optimus Primal is distinctively original (for the time at least). Now in robot mode, Optimus Primal adds the "techno" to "techno-organic". His upper arms, upper legs, chest and feet all betray the robot within. While Primal's parts are indeed technological in nature, they are still sculpted very much in an organic style. His upper arms have line and sculpte details that look mechanical, but the parts are shaped like muscles. The same can be said for the upper legs, which have a solid, smooth mechanical appearance, but are shaped like muscles more than blocky parts. The same can be said for the feet, which come to a point at the end rather than being rectangles or squares. A nice added detail is a rod attached to the foot that looks like a piston. For additional "tech" detail, you can activate Primal's missile launchers, which are themselves mechanical looking, including a neat tube design. The chamber where his swords are stored is also very tech, including beveled surfaces and tubes sticking out.

Optimus Primal has twelve points of articulation. While this may not sound like a mind bending amount, keep in mind that this toy came out following the G1/G2 era that (with a few exceptions) was not known for poseability. This also allows a lot of dynamic movement and posing, and with such a nicely done sculpt, it adds a lot to the toy's playability and appearance.

Speaking of playability, Optimus Primal is not all about sculpt and looks. At the time, he was the largest price point for the line, so he was packed
with fun features.

  • The aforementioned missile launchers look great over his shoulders. Fire the missiles by pressing the black buttons at the base of the launchers.
  • Flip up the panel on Primal's left, lower arm and another missile launcher flips out. These use the same missiles that the shoulder launchers do.
  • Flip open the panel on his right, lower arm and you'll find a skull shaped mace weapon, which looks fierce!
  • The aforementioned swords can be placed into his hands. You can use the lever on his back to move his hands as if he were fighting with the swords.
    The switches on the upper arms control how the arms move. If moved up, the lower arms move from side to side, if moved down, the entire arm swings out to the side and down.

The upper arms, upper legs and feet are all molded in green plastic with yellow details. The robot head is mostly red, with silver details and blue eyes. The "Mutant Head" is molded in yellow plastic, but the face is painted black. On Optimus' left upper arm you'll find a large Autobot symbol, which looks nice contrasted against the dark green of the arm section.

I've always felt this was one of the best toys to come out of the Beast Wars line. It's fun to play with, has plenty of features and it looks cool. Granted, you are paying $20 for a redeco with no significant retooling, so whether or not you want to purchase this depends on how much of a completist you are or whether you even like the Transformers Universe concept. Either way, I highly recommend this toy.

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