Last week I happened to mention the Ultra Magnus/Skywarp 2-pack when doing my feature of Generations Thundercracker. I know that about three years ago I looked at that Skywarp when doing a feature on the Classics-style Seekers, but looking back through my Index I realized that Ultra Magnus never got the spotlight on FFZ, so let’s amend that today because despite being a rather uninspired repaint, he’s a rather interesting release to talk about.
If there was any logic behind Hasbro pairing up Skywarp and Ultra Magnus in the Classics line, I have no idea what it was. I don’t recall ever reading about any great rivalry between the characters. Nonetheless, it sure did piss off a lot of fans. First off, it was a Target exclusive which meant that for some people it was difficult to get. Some people, but not for me. My Target had half an endcap full of these sets on clearance when I bought mine, and even at that point I don’t ever remember seeing them in the aisle for regular price. I tend to find Target exclusives a lot more often than Walmart releases, which I have no hope of finding at all. Nonetheless, the exclusivity of the release was a sticking point with fans who desperately wanted the next Decepticon Seeker Jet in the line. Of course, what also stuck in many a collectors’ craw was having to pay for a white repaint of Optimus Prime in order to get him. You see, a little something called Parallax City Commander didn’t even exist yet, and collectors couldn’t help but question why this wasn’t a Skywarp and Thundercracker 2-pack. And it’s still a good question. Even at a clearance price, I still felt like a sucker as I paid for the set for the sole purpose of getting Skywarp.
Obviously there’s history and tradition behind painting Optimus white and calling him Ultra Magnus, but that’s only because the original G1 toy used Prime’s cab as a basis to build a very different figure. Did anyone actually play with Ultra Magnus as a white cab alone? I sure didn’t. As a result just releasing a white repaint of Prime with no extra parts always seemed like the height of laziness, and yet that hasn’t stopped Hasbro and Takara from doing it. Before Fansproject came along and unlocked the true potential of this figure, I don’t know anybody that actually wanted it… let alone me! But then again, I have a love-hate relationship with this mold to begin with. I’m not going to rehash a lot of that here, so feel free to jump back to my original feature of Classics Optimus Prime if you want the full poop.
I can’t deny that Magnus looks good in his truck mode. The white, silver and blue motif looks particularly nice on the toy and he really is just begging for a car carrier trailer on the back to drive the homage home. What’s more the white plastic that Hasbro used here is just fantastic. It holds a vibrant color and doesn’t feel at all cheap like some of the stuff they’ve been using lately. He comes with the same removable cap that converts into a large gun and the same set of exhaust pipes that convert into his rifle. The only thing really missing here is an Autobot symbol. I like my Autobots to show their insignia when in vehicle mode and like Optimus, Magnus here only sports a rub sign.
It’s the robot mode where this figure starts to bother me. It’s so damn close to being great, but I can never get past the huge plates hanging off his arms. Even the way the lower torso is faked out doesn’t bother me at all. But it’s a moot point here, because we’re still just talking about a white Optimus Prime and not Ultra Magnus. Once again, the coloring on the figure looks great, I like the Autobot insignia stamped on the shoulders, but it’s just not Ultra Magnus. Hasbro might as well have just called this Arctic Attack Optimus Prime. Or how about write a bio on the back about how after Prime died he came back as “Optimus the White.” Oh wait, that was Gandalf in Lord of the Rings. Screw it, it still would have been a better justification than just calling this Ultra Magnus.
Nope, Hasbro didn’t even pony up for a new head. I can’t help but wonder if I would have received this figure a little better with a G1 style Magnus head and maybe a little tweaking to the cap on the top of the cab. Just something to show that they made an effort at passing the figure off as Ultra Magnus. Anything would have helped.
Of course, the true irony is that this unwanted figure became the hottest commodity around once Fansproject released the Parallax kit that turned him into a proper Ultra Magnus. At that point a figure that you couldn’t give away started commanding crazy prices on The Ebays. I’m sure plenty of collectors took their Skywarps and dumped this guy only to regret it later.
I should point out that Magnus here is the only Classics figure that I do not display. He is by no means an unattractive figure, but as a character he just has no place in my display. He sits in a drawer waiting for the day that I may be impulsive enough to buy the upgrade kit for him. Alas, with the crazy prices of that kit, that’s not likely to happen unless Fansproject ever does another run of it. And now with Takara announcing a new Masterpiece Ultra Magnus, one that won’t be a mere repaint, I’m more interest in saving my pennies to see what that’s going to look like. In the end, this guy is probably going to find himself up on the chopping block. Right now the only thing that’s saving him is that he doesn’t take up much room.