Cliffbee.com: Classics Astrotrain Toy Review

Toy Reviews
Individual Review




Name: Astrotrain
Series: Classics
Allegiance: Decepticon
Function: Psy-Ops Warrior
Alternate Mode: Space Shuttle & Bullet Train



SHUTTLE MODE
Height: 6.5cm Length: 14.5cm Width: 11cm

   A white shuttle with black wings and skirting, Astrotrain has gold cockpit windows. These aspects are not dissimilar to an actual NASA space shuttle, although there are quite a few differences. The tail is smaller than it should be, perhaps more significantly there's considerable kibble around it - mostly white but some purple and gold painted robot mode aspects. There are blocks on either side of the rear fuselage - over the wings - which are predominantly white with black stripes on top along with red and purple stripes on the side. These blocks are fairly easy to recognise as the halves of the front of the train mode, but they still look better than the kibble on top. The overall colour scheme is a mixture between the actual shuttle colours and those of the original Astrotrain. In this mode the colours line up more to NASA's version than the 1985 interpretation of Astrotrain, which I appreciate. There's a rubsign on the starboard side of the fuselage, towards the front of the cargo bay doors.

   As I've already mentioned, there are quite a few physical departures from the normal space shuttle shape. The wings are essentially standard, although there are wheels underneath the wingtips and windows hidden in the dark colours on top. The front of the ship is pretty accurate while the rear end also works well - with the three thrusters typical of a shuttle. Astrotrain will happily stand upright on these thrusters, I get the feeling this is no accident. The slices of train on either side of the fuselage resemble rocket boosters, and this works well if you do stand him up in "launch" position. Okay, they're not designed to look like rocket boosters, but the colours used and general fit (which hides the wheels underneath) allows them to look like add ons to the fuselage rather than just kibble. In truth the overall shape is actually close to a space shuttle than the original Astrotrain - especially the front half, but the departures are more prominent here.

   There are three white plastic wheels underneath, one under the nose and two under the mid wings. All roll fairly well, and the front wheel is actually two wheels right next to one another. There's a slot underneath into which you can plug his purple handgun. This gun can swing out to the sides, which looks a little silly but gives him a positionable weapon nonetheless. I love the look of Astrotrain standing upright, ready to launch, since it makes much better use of the blocks on either side. The shuttle holds together fairly well, and feels quite solid - not always the case with Triple Changer vehicle modes.

   This is the better of Astrotrain's two vehicle modes - by some distance. Hasbro's promo pictures only feature this vehicle mode, and he comes packaged as a shuttle. So it's not the best shuttle ever - and I do prefer the original Astrotrain's shuttle mode - but considering the kibble we have to endure here, Astrotrain works fairly well. The colour scheme is good and the paint job does a good job of minimising the impact of visible train aspects.

TRANSFORMATION TO TRAIN MODE

   Detach the gun underneath, fold away the front wheels. Rotate the tailfin through 180, split and lay the halves flat. Detach the wings from underneath, swing under the nose, fold the wings themselves up around the nose, pivot the thrusters around and fold in front of the nose. Unclip the "boosters", swing around to the back the shuttle and rotate. Bring the halves together to form the front of the Shinkansen, flip Astrotrain over and reattach the gun on top, near the back.

TRAIN MODE
Height: 6cm Length: 22.5cm Width: 4.5cm

   A white Shinkansen (bullet train) with a black roof and purple stripes running down the sides, containing black passenger windows. There's a red pinstripe above the windows, rounding out the colours. That sums up the front half, anyway. The back half is little more than a folded up shuttle, sadly. It's white with the black towards the top and the wings folded over the top. Those windows nestled into the wings sit on the side, but do a very poor job of selling the back half of this as a train. Again the colours are generally more realistic than those of the original Astrotrain, although with half a shuttle on the back the overall colour scheme is rather disjointed.

   The end result is a pretty unimpressive train mode - despite the front half actually being quite well done. It's true that this Astrotrain relies less on panels than the original, but at this size point the end result is that one mode ends up being compromised. Frankly, while the sculpt on the front half is good, the back half is messy enough to ruin this mode. Even the top section is a functional plate rather than the top of a train.

   There are two pairs of white plastic wheels underneath the front, roughly in a bogie configuration, and a single pair at the back - those wheels which were under the wingtips in shuttle mode. The moulded wheels on top of the shuttle now sit underneath the middle of the train - but they don't scale with either the other wheels or the train itself. The hole that allows us to plug the gun into the underside of the shuttle is now on top of the back of the train, allowing you to mount Astrotrain's gun on top.

   This is his weakest mode and it's easy to see why Hasbro's promo pictures of Astrotrain don't feature it at all. The front is nice enough - but the back is such a mess than it ends up being half a Shinkansen and half a folded-up shuttle. The play value is minimal, nowhere near enough to save this mode.

TRANSFORMATION TO ROBOT MODE (from shuttle mode)

   Detach the gun underneath, split and lay the halves of the tailfin flat. Fold back the thrusters, detach the wings from underneath, allowing you to open the bottom and flip out the head. Close the bottom, reattach the wings and spin the thrusters against the wingplate. Unclip the boosters, which will become his arms. Extend the front section which will become the legs. Split the legs, fold up the upper cockpit halves to form his feet, fold the base of the nose up onto the outsides of the ankles. Lift up the shoulderpads, slide out the sides of the train nose to reveal the robot forearms. Lastly, place the gun in either hand.

ROBOT MODE
Height: 14cm Width: 11cm

   A predominantly white robot with black shoulderpads, purple upper arms and a silver face. There are some red, gold and purple painted details - the opened out tailfin forms a red and purple chestplate, the kneecaps are purple and there are gold aspects here and there. The black underside of the shuttle nose sits on the outsides of his ankles and the rubsign is now sideways on his right shin. While the colours aren't quite the same as in G1, the basic colour map is quite similar, ensuring that this robot mode looks like that of the original. The colours work very well in this mode - the purple and red of the train work well alongside the black of the shuttle, rather than competing as in the vehicle modes.

   Astrotrain basically follows the pattern of the original, although there are a few changes and improvements. The legs, wings are torso are largely the same while the feet are bigger and the thighs are longer (a definite improvement). The arms are different, and like the thighs, are much longer. The longer arms themselves are a nice enhancement, as are the shoulderpads. The head looks quite similar, but is slightly bigger and sits further forward, making Astrotrain's robot mode far more natural looking. While there are significant flaws introduced into the train mode and a few setbacks in the shuttle mode (more a change of focus than a regression), this is the mode that gained the most from a redesign of the character. Probably the only added drawback relates the to front of the train, which sits on the outside of the forearms and looks a little awkward. On my Astrotrain at least, the half on the right arm doesn't like staying deployed - I find I have to attach to gun to jam it open.

   The poseability is a vast improvement, which I guess is to be expected. The head turns, the shoulders and elbows are ball jointed while the shoulderpads can tilt up and down. Both the knees are hips are hinged with rotators while the feet can swing down and the heelspurs swing up _and_ down. The heelspurs are clever- they're actually the stowable front wheels of the shuttle, making double use of the hinge. The backplate (which holds the wings) does get in the way of a few poses but generally the poseability here is good - and easily better than G1 Astrotrain's (one of the first Transformers to feature ball joints, actually). The gun is a long purple affair, fundamentally similar to its 1985 equivalent. The post for attachment to shuttle mode sits on one side, as a result it works better in his right hand than left - though he can hold the gun in either hand.

   The clear winner in this revision, Astrotrain's robot mode is not only the focus of this toy but the closest match to the original. Granted the colours are quite different (well, closer to the Takara reissue), but the layout matches the original closely. The play value is good and the proportions work well. There's not much kibble here - most of the extras are well worked into the robot, save for the forearm-mounted train nose. While the triple changer concept is obviously the headlining feature of the toy, the robot mode is the real star.

VARIATIONS

   Takara's Henkei version is done in mid grey rather than white, to resemble Astrotrain as seen in the cartoon.

OVERALL

   One of the weaker Classics toys, Astrotrain nevertheless has his highlights. The train mode - which represents the biggest departure from the original toy - is quite frankly a mess. The shuttle mode is more realistic but also sports more kibble. The robot mode is very good and it's clearly the mode the designer has focused on. The switch from grey to white works well for the shuttle mode (and the train mode - in theory at least), although some may have preferred to see grey retained. This toy has tried to move away from the panelling so common in the original Triple Changers - but in reality Astrotrain needed more panelling to work at this size. I would have preferred to see him done as a Mega (or "Voyager" as the box calls it), but still enjoy two of the three modes. Whilst I'd recommend most other Classics first, Astrotrain does represent the first attempt at a realistic Triple Changer in a while - 6/10

"Transformers" and other indica trademarks of Hasbro and/or Takara.