Transformers Universe: Optimus Primal by Hasbro

If you follow me on Twitter, then you know I was Tote Diving a bit last week, looking for stuff that I didn’t need to free up some space. It was largely unsuccessful, because most of the stuff went back into the tote, but I did find a few items that are going to be leaving my collection. One of them is Optimus Primal from the Transformers Universe line, and since I never reviewed him here, I thought I’d remedy that before he goes off to another home. Besides, there hasn’t been a lot of Transformers content around here lately, so I’ll take every chance I can get. So, let’s dial the Wayback Machine to 2003…

And here’s a really old picture of him in his box. Universe was a strange line, populated entirely by repaints of existing molds, sometimes introduced as new characters. The fiction for the line suggested that these were characters being pulled together from all ends of a Transformers Multiverse. In some cases it brought back toys that had been off the shelf for a while, like Primal here or the Machine Wars version of Starscream as King Atlas. It was a cool idea, and if Hasbro had stuck with using the older toys, it could have been something special. Unfortunately, it tended to favor repaints of a lot of recent releases, and as a result, I don’t think this line really reached its potential. Let’s start with Primal’s gorilla mode!

When it comes to Beast Wars, I was a big fan of the show but only dabbled in the toys. This is actually the first time I’ve owned this particular mold and I was pretty surprised by how much I liked the gorilla mode. Sure, it’s got lots of seams and exposed hinges, and stuff like that, but it’s still a decent looking and most of all fun toy. The sculpted fur is pretty well done and the face has a lot of personality, making Primal look like he’s about to put a Predacon’s head through the nearest wall.

This is a complete recolor of the original toy, so even the plastic used for his gorilla body is different. Here it’s more of a chocolate brown, where as I believe the original was darker brown. You also get some green in the upper arms and upper legs. The gray and white parts from the original toy have been replaced, and I think all in all this deco looks quite good. There are some areas of exposed yellow plastic, but they’re not very prominent, at least not in the gorilla mode.

There’s a lot more paint on the head and face this time around. What was orginally just a gray face, blue eyes, and white teeth has been jazzed up with some white and silver paint that starts around the eyes and runs up the top of his head and down the back. The red around the eyes is unevenly applied, I presume intentionally. He’s got yellow eyes, a tan mouth and nose, and white teeth. I like the paintwork here a lot, and I’d argue that it looks a lot cooler than the original, but given my druthers, I would have been just as happy if they offered this level of paint detail but kept the original deco.

Because the beast mode uses the robot arms as the beast arms and robot legs as the beast legs, you get the same level of articulation. Although in beast mode, Primal is mainly intended to be hunched over in a normal gorilla fashion. He does have a gimmick which allows him to pound his chest by working the rather enormous lever on his back. This action causes the arms to move in an alternating fashion. Fun, but probably not worth having to look at the ugly lever. Another cool gimmick is the ability to deploy a pair of shoulder mounted missile launchers with the press of a button located just above his ass. What can I say? There’s just something about a gorilla with hidden missile launchers that tickles me. Let’s move on to his robot mode…

Because the beast mode and robot mode share the same limbs, transforming this guy is pretty simple and from memory, it’s pretty accurate to the transforming animation on the show. I really dig the robot mode here, which is pretty well proportioned and just looks like a powerful bot. The deco remains largely the same, although you do get some more yellow in the legs. I like the hydraulic arms that come out of the legs and attach to the feet, and the way the gorilla mode’s upper arms fold out into shoulder armor is pretty rad as well. The blending of robot with organic curves and sculpted fur certainly makes for a rather distinctive look that only Beast Wars could pull off. About the only thing here I’m not overly fond of is the rather ugly chest piece. It’s cool how the gorilla head flips inward, but they really needed a plate or something to cover that shit up.

The head sculpt is not at all show accurate, but I do like it. It’s basically just a big-eyed Optimus Prime with a red “helmet” instead of a blue one. He has a rather exaggerated crest in the middle and his usual pair of ear headphones with antenna sticking up. The paint they used for the blue eyes looks great and manages to capture an illuminated look in the right light. The silver used for the mouth-plate is also quite striking. Of course, if you prefer your heroic Maximal leader to look like a goddamn monster… just flip the head around…

…and you get the Mutant Face. Now don’t get me wrong, this is a very cool looking sculpt, but this gimmick went nowhere in the toyline and I’m kind of surprised Hasbro left it on for this toy. Maybe it was just more bother to take it off. Funny, but as ugly as it is, it almost has a Bayformer quality about it. Let’s move on and check out some of Primal’s armaments.

You can still activate the shoulder launchers in robot mode and this is still my favorite thing about this figure. Those babies must really come in handy in a fight. Want more missiles?

You got it! Primal’s left hand splits open to reveal two more missile-spitters. The only downside here is that you have to load them up after you deploy them, so if you want Primal to be a fast draw with these weapons, you’ll have to rely on your imagination. Still, plenty cool though! And hey, missiles are all well and good, but sometimes you want a weapon with a little personality. Something that really personifies a heroic Maximal Leader…

…like a goddamn skull mace hidden in your right arm. Holy Primus, what were these people thinking? This has got to be one of the most bizarre weapons I’ve seen on a Transformer. It’s certainly rather uncharacteristic for the Primal I know. How about some swords?

Primal also comes with these curved swords, which I guess are a little more nobler than bashing someone’s head in with a skull at the end of a rope. Here’s where I point out that the missiles, swords, and the handle for the flail are all cast in a rather obnoxious yellow plastic. It wouldn’t be my first choice, but Hasbro used a lot of crazy colors in this line, making some of these repaints a little over the top.

Optimus Primal is an excellent toy and this Universe repaint is pretty solid, but he’s one of those figures that just doesn’t fit in my collection any more. Over the years, I’ve parted ways with all my favorite Beast Wars figures, like Inferno and Megatron. Even the Generations versions of the Beast Wars characters didn’t hang out in my collection that long. And so too, it’s time for Primal to move on to a new home. It’s the circle of collecting life and his sacrifice will make room for more Transformers. Assuming I actually find any of the newer Power of the Primes figures around here, because they sure are going for some crazy prices on Amazon right now.

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Transformers Universe: Tankor by Hasbro

I had planned on keeping the Robots in Disguise thing going for Transformers Thursday, but I ran a little light on time this week, so instead I dug around in one of my drawers for a quick suitable substitute. Today we’re revisiting Hasbro’s Universe line. Not Universe 2.0, mind you, but the one that came before that. The one that consisted mostly of questionable repaints of a lot of toys few collectors ever wanted to see again. One of those releases came to us from the pages of Beast Machines and it was a boxed set of Tankor and Obsidian repaints. I have no idea what happened to the Obsidian figure (no great loss!) but the Tankor mold has always been one of my favorites. I looked at the Beast Machines version on FFZ a long while ago, so let’s see how Universe treated him.

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Why do I love Tankor so much? Because he’s a kick ass Cybertronian tank and for unknown reasons that may have little to do with his configuration, his turret and cannon remind me of the tanks from the original Tron. I dig his four sets of treads, all brimming with sculpted detail, his front capture claw, and the Cylon-like visor and grill on the front of the turret. He just looks all sorts of mean and nasty. It’s a fantastic design, which was obviously the result of a lot of love. Of course, the turret turns and the cannon can raise and lower and it also fires a missile that is sculpted to look like an energy blast.

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Tankor had a pretty wild paint scheme to begin with, so his Universe counterpart isn’t too bad off. The green is a slightly different shade, the grey and red has been replaced with a weird tan, and he has some crazy purple and silver splotches that I like to think of as some kind of energon damage. All the great striping and chevrons that were on the original toy’s fenders are still here, the pallet has just been changed up a bit. And yes, if you’re wondering, the hatch that opened to reveal his Predacon spark crystal on the original toy, now opens to reveal a painted Decepticon insignia. Cool!

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Transforming Tankor into robot mode is both simple and clever. His legs do a cool flip to wind up on the other side of his torso and the translucent red plates wind up as armor for his arms and shoulders. As a robot, Tankor’s design is just as grizzly and warlike. His huge, bulky arms have built in saw blades and his hands are serrated lobster claws of death. You do not want a hug from Tankor. It’ll f’ck you up! The deco remains about the same as when he’s in tank mode with the tan replacing the grey and some gold detailing on his chest rather than the yellow from the Beast Machines figure. I can’t say I like it better than the original toy, but it’s cool that it makes him unique amidst my little army of Tankors.

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The head sculpt is fantastic! Tankor sports a deep set visor with light piping that reveals a single Cylon eye and if you move his head it seems to travel from one side to the other. He also has a giant bear trap of a jaw that is articulated. Mounted on his left shoulder is his enormous cannon, proving that he doesn’t lose any firepower no matter which mode you find him in.

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And so in the end, Tankor didn’t do too badly at the hands of the crazed colorists in charge of the Universe line. It’s not an improvement, but like I said, having one uniquely colored Tankor gives me a commander for my drones, and that’s cool. I will, however, concede that this release was a wasted opportunity for a better repaint. I would absolutely love to get this guy in traditional black and purple Decepticon colors, or maybe just black and steel grey. But truth be told, I love Tankor no matter what color he is, and I try not to think about how sad it is that he’s a perverted reincarnation of poor, noble Rhinox.

Transformers Universe: King Atlas by Hasbro

I’m really trying to commit to featuring at least one Toy Closet Find each week, but I don’t want to confine it to one specific day. So today’s bit of random rummaging will take us into the realm of Transformers. It’s actually not so random, as I was thinking about how badly I want the rest of my TFC Uranos figures and that got me hankering to do a feature an Autobot jet. Before Transformers Universe became part of the Classics/Generations continuity, it existed as a weird composite line of toys that promised to draw from all corners of the Transformers mythos and introduce us to new versions of characters. In theory, it sounded promising, as Hasbro suggested that it would reintroduce old and uncommon molds to the toy shelves. In practice, it was more about awful repaints of toys we were already tired of seeing on the pegs and shelves. There were, however, some bright spots to the line. Is the subject of today’s feature is one of them? Well, that’s debatable.

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Once upon a time I had a huge collection of G1 Transformers. It all eventually went out the door to help bankroll the startup costs of my business. It was a pretty standard collection, although it did occasionally stray into some uncommon corners of the Transformers world. One of those more uncommon pieces I had was a boxed Dai Atlas from Transformers: The Zone. I only bring it up now, because of how amazed and impressed I was that Hasbro actually released an homage to a toy that few mainstream TF collectors would even know about. And that brings us to today’s look at King Atlas, a repaint of the Starscream toy featured in Machine Wars, which in turn was a repaint of Skyquake. I can’t decide whether I hate this toy or love it. Maybe by the end of the feature, I’ll have worked it out.

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Atlas’ alt mode is a gloriously huge bomber jet. It’s a friggin epic toy of an aircraft that looks like it’s designed solely to fly over your country and seriously f’ck your shit up. I don’t imagine it’s based on any real world aircraft, as it looks like a patchwork monstrosity of flying military hardware… but in a good way! Seriously, this thing looks like hate with wings… and bombs. One of the things I dig most about the aircraft mode is that it blurs the line of realism just enough that I could probably believe this is some kind of old Cybertronian mode. King Atlas comes with six yellow bombs that peg in around the aircraft. This mold was always a cool looking toy, even back in the Machine Wars era, but to see it released as an Autobot gives me a strange sense or ironic satisfaction. No part of this warplane looks like it should be a traditional Autobot, so I’ve always counted him among my Wreckers.

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While it’s hard to argue with the black Decepticon coloring of the original Starscream toy, I really like what Hasbro did to this when rebranding it as an Autobot. The bulk of the aircraft is white, but there’s a very cool paint wash that gives it a grungy grey finish. When Hasbro attempts paint washes, they usually fail horribly, but this is a case where it really worked out amazingly well. He’s got yellow stripes on the sides that give him a bit of a Y-Wing vibe, red striping on the wings, and blue rear wings. Toss in some black and you’ve got a distinctive looking deco. The Autobot emblems on the wings are painted on and they look nice and sharp.

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Besides just looking cool while parked on my shelf, King Atlas’ jet mode has a couple of interesting play features. One is the range finder in the back. You can flip a switch and put the rear thruster up to your eyeball and the mirror gives you an image of what’s below the toy, so you can target your bombing runs! You can also load the bombs into the cylinders in his wings and rotate the lever so Atlas can carpet bomb Decepticon fools below him. Finally, there’s a lever on his back that can open all the black hatches on his dorsal side to reveal translucent red panels. I never knew what the purpose of this feature was, but it’s still kind of cool. Ok, enough gushing about Atlas’ jet mode… let’s transform him and see what his bot mode is all about.

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Wow! If you haven’t been around vintage Transformers in a while, this guy will come as a bit of a shock. Sure, as a 90’s toy he’s not exactly vintage, but he has a lot more in common with that era than the modern toys. It’s a perfect example of just how much the subsequent Beast Wars era revolutionized Transformers toys with their introduction of ball joints and actual articulation. King Atlas features a pretty simple transformation and the end result is a brick of a toy (his only articulation is in his shoulders) with a ton of kibble, not least of which is the huge range finder hanging off his back!

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He’s also an unbelievably Japanese looking robot. I know, all Transformers are Japanese, but this guy seriously looks like he’s got more in common with a Chogokin or Gundam… particularly in the head sculpt, which is straight off the original Skyquake release. I think it’s a combination of the large horns, the crest, and the weird mouth plate. The asymmetrical split of the nosecone on the legs bugs me (did I mention I’m borderline OCD?), and look at those tiny feet! Why even bother? Also noteworthy is that he has two heel spurs that fold out the back to keep that huge range finder on his back from dragging him backwards. Is this the first example of a Transformer with heel spurs? Probably not, but it’s the earliest one I can think of. Oh yeah, you can also open up his chest and store his bombs in there. That’s pretty cool.

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Every now and again, I cull some Transformers out of my collection. The ones I sell or trade off are usually recolors of duplicate molds, or just figures that I bought back when I was a completest and don’t want anymore. It’s always surprising to me that King Atlas here survives the cut every time. A lot of it probably has to do with his bitchin’ jet mode, but there’s also something about his robot mode that makes me keep him around. He’s just such a weird and unique looking piece that I can’t help but hang on to him.

Transformers Universe: Whirl by Hasbro

Back before Universe became the new Classics, which has since become Generations, the Universe brand was a sub-line of mostly horrible repaints of a lot of Transformers molds that we could probably have done without seeing again so soon. Don’t get me wrong, every now and then a gem from yesteryear showed up in one of these boxes, but for every one of those there were at least a couple of RiD orBeast Machines toys that should have stayed buried a little while longer. Some of the more interesting Universe toys, at least to me, stretched all the way back to the Machine Wars figures, and that’s where we get today’s Transformer chopper, Whirl.


The Whirl mold was originally released as Machine Wars Sandstorm. This new Universe version was one of the few examples where theUniverse paintjob was not worse than the original. He’s generally got a blue camo motif with some nice looking yellow translucent parts for the cockpit and the blades. His alt mode is rather distinctive, as he has twin tail booms, landing skids and some pretty good sized missile launchers on his broadsides, which can deploy outwards. There really aren’t any play features on the chopper mode, although the missile launchers have hair triggers and they really fly pretty far. There’s not a lot of clearance between the rotors and the tail fin and the rotors on my toy have already started to droop so that they don’t clear the fin anymore.

The Machine Wars toys have a lot more in common with late G1 figures than anything else. That’s a good thing if you’re after some nostalgia, but if you’re used to the complexity and high level of articulation in today’s Transformers, than Whirl is going to seem pretty prehistoric to you. His transformation is simple yet satisfying. His robot mode is pretty decent looking and his missile launchers come off to become his hand guns. The only thing about Whirl’s bot mode that really bothers me is the opening in front of his head that leads into his cockpit.

Pretty much all of Whirl’s articulation comes from his transformation process. His shoulders have lateral movement, but cannot even rotate, although he does have hinged elbows. His legs rotate front and back at the hips and his knees bend forward and back. That’s it, folks, his head doesn’t even turn!

The Machine Wars toys were my favorite part of the Universe line up. They were new to me because I was on a Transformers hiatus while these toys were originally on the shelves and the Universe repaints gave me a chance to rediscover them. They’re not for everyone, and Whirl really isn’t the most fun Transformer out there, but if you have an open mind and want a nice piece of Transformers history to display on your shelf, you could do worse than hunting him down.

Transformers Universe: Constructicon Devastator by Hasbro

I’m going through combiner withdrawl as I await the new Power Core figures to hit the brick-and-mortar stores near me. So, in the meantime, I delved into my Transformer totes to find a combiner of old to look at. Ok, so he’s not that old. This version of the Constructicons is based on four molds originally created for the Robots in Disguise line of Transformers back around 2000. They were originally Autobots, but Hasbro used the Universe line to bring them back in 2006, recolored them in G1 Constructicon colors and viola, we have a pretty cool homage to the original Decepticon gestalt team, albeit with two robots less.

I’ve long since discarded the packaging on these, but they came in two sets of two figures each. One set included Bonecrusher (the bulldozer), and Scavenger (the backhoe) and the other included Hightower (the crane) and Long Haul (the dumptruck). They came packaged in simple window boxes with the figures mounted in their construction vehicle modes. These sets were also Target exclusives and the Targets in my neck of the woods had a ridiculous number of them available. Even when they hit final markdown on clearance it seemed like there was still an entire endcap left.




The vehicle modes are all very solid and about the size of current Deluxe class figures. Back in the Robots in Disguise line, the original issues of these molds were sold at the Deluxe class price point. They all have the distintive G1 Constructicon color combo of lime green and purple. Although Scavenger stands out a bit as having a lot more purple than green, and I would have rather Long Haul’s dump bed be green as well, but on the whole the homage works.

Two of the vehicles have some articulation. Scavenger’s scoop is hinged and can rotate a bit. Hightower has the best feature of the bunch, as his crane can convert into a laser cannon.

All of these figures are pretty easy to convert and considering they are combiners their robot forms are mostly solid. Long Haul and Hightower share a very similar body design, especially on the legs and arms, but there are enough little changes to make them fairly unique figures. It’s kind of unfortunate that Long Haul’s big Decepticon chest emblem is upside down when he’s in robot form. High Tower’s crane can be converted into the laser cannon and positioned over his head for a little added firepower.

Bonecrusher is the runt of the litter. He’s small, but a very cool little robot, and at least his Decepticon chest insignia is facing the right way. The scoops on his shoulders are a bit obtrusive, but apart from that he looks great. I really dig his headsculpt too.

Scavenger is the black sheep of the family. Or is that purple sheep? Besides his color being at odds with the others, his robot mode has two serious issues: His arms. Not only do they look like ridiculous Popeye arms, but their articulation is useless. It’s a shame because the rest of this figure is fairly solid.

Obviously the real draw here is that these guys can merge to form Devastator. It’s a pretty unique combiner system, as there are only four robots. There are several ways to make the combination, but I stick with my favorite that uses Long Haul and Hightower as the legs, Bonecrusher as the front of the torso and Scavenger as the back and arms. The only hard part involved in the combination is getting Scavenger just right since nothing on him really pegs together for his Devastator mode. On the flipside, thanks to a really clever three way locking point, the combined figure holds together really well and the Devastator color scheme looks so much better than the original colors of these figures when they were originally released as part of Robots in Disguise.

I have no idea how much these figures go for nowadays, but I can’t imagine it’s all that much. These molds never seemed to be all that popular with fans and if the Targets in my area are any indication, Hasbro overproduced the hell out of these figures. Personally, I love this set. It’s a perfect example of a recolor homage improving the original figures to the extreme. This Target set was also way better than the Walmart exclusvie of these figures, which had them all painted yellow with silver energon patterns.

Transformers Universe: Micromaster Constructicons by Hasbro

I really dig small Transformers. I was hooked on the Mini-cons like crack and their spiritual predecessors, the Micromasters were just as awesome. Yeah, these figures are really simple, but they’re so highly collectible, I can’t help but have totes full of the little buggers. My favorite of all the little guys were the combiners. And since Devastator has always been my favorite combiner, there was never any doubt that I would have to pick up the Micromaster version of him put out by Takara a while back as Sixbuilder.

Of course, the original Sixbuilder didn’t come standard in the iconic green and purple Devastator colors, but rather each of the six figures were available in these colors as chase figures. If you were in Japan, it was probably a maddening prospect to get them all, since these figures were blind packaged. In other words, you bought the little box and had no idea who was inside until you got him open. I was lucky enough to find an auction a while back that was selling a whole case of them, which guaranteed at least one of each chase figure.

Later, these figures were released in the US under the Transformers Universe moniker. They were carded similar to basic class figures and were KBToys exclusives. That meant that you were probably better off flying to Japan and trying your luck with the blind packaging, then finding them in the US. Back in my golden age of toy hunting, I actually once spotted three or four of them hanging on the pegs of a KBToys Outlet store, but never the whole set.

Unlike the original Constructicons, which were a team of five, there were six of thee guys, hense the name Sixbuilder. The figures consisted of Hightower, the boom crane. Quickmix, the cement mixer. Bonecrusher, the bullsozer. Long Haul, the dump truck. Scavenger, the steam shovel. And Buckethead, the earth mover. Obviously, Hasbro lost some of the trademarks of the original names over the years and had to get creative. Plus, these were the names of the American figures. With names like Crush Bull and Gran Arm, I’m not even going to go into the Japanese names.

Naturally, the figures are simple to transform, but there’s still a really nice amount of detail on them, both in robot and vehicle form. They all roll nicely in vehicle form and many of them have moving parts like Hightower’s crane or Buckethead’s scoop. They all have tiny stamped Decepticon logos, their little faces are even painted, and in many cases, their articulation isn’t much worse than the original G1 figures.

Like the original Constructicons, these guys rely on a number of add-on parts to complete their gestalt form. Each figure came with one of these pieces and consisted of a frame for his torso and pelvis, two feet, two hands, a head and a gun. The cool thing about these little Constructions is that their spare parts, when not being used to form Devastator, can be used to build an attack jet that one of the robots can ride in.

I have no idea what the Takara figures sell for nowadays, but you can usually find a set of the US ones on Ebay in the $50 range. Its a fair amount of money for such small and simple toys, but if you happen to be a MOC collector, that would be the best way to go. I’ve never owned the US set, but I have to admit they do look fantastic in their packaging. Either way, these are great little figures and well worth tracking down, especially if you are a Devastator nut like myself.