Cliffbee.com: Jetfire Toy Review

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Individual Review




Name: Jetfire
Series: Generation 1
Allegiance: Autobot
Function: Aerospace Commander
Alternate Mode: Valkyrie



VALKYRIE MODE
Height: 10cm Length: 26cm Width: 13.5cm, 24 with wings out

   A large white Valkyrie fighter with red on the nose, around the canopy and on the tailfins and wings, Jetfire has some black here and there. The canopy is made of a smoky transparent plastic and there are white seats moulded inside, one behind the other. There are three unpainted die cast wheels underneath, rounding out a fairly simply colour scheme. While it's a straightforward colour scheme, white and red usually works fairly well and this is the case here. The black details keep things interesting, making sure we don't get too many big white slabs. Rounding out the impressive look of the toy, Jetfire sports a giant Autobot logo sticker on his nose.

   There's a lot of die cast metal here, aside from the already mentioned undercarriage. Most of the Valkyrie mode is plastic, but you can feel the die cast in it's weight. There are two unpainted die cast supports on either side of the cockpit and some white die cast panels adjoining his thrusters.

   At this scale it's not unreasonable to expect a detailed toy, and while some later toys might disappoint on this front (some Beast Machines toys in particular), Jetfire has a lot of small detailed stickers, jet seams and panels. Most surfaces are aerodynamic, with only the wings and tailfins flat (since they need to stow). Even the front wheel gets in on the act, with a dummy suspension system!

   The play value here is impressive. Aside from functional swing wings, Jetfire's tail folds up allowing you to attach his red extras thrusters on top. You can stow the undercarriage and still lay him flat on a table, and all three wheels are spring loaded, pressing buttons releases the mechanisms. And then there's the Gerwalk mode that Valkyries have - basically this toy is designed so that you can fold down the legs and reveal the arms, allowing for mid-flight combat.

   Before I go any further I should explain what a Valkyrie actually is. Simply put, they're combat jets from Macross/Robotech (Japanese/US cartoon). This anime is set in space, so a Valkyrie isn't exactly an Earthen jet, although they're piloted by humans. The premise was that the jets could transform into giant robots (controlled by their pilots), which made the Valkyrie an obvious candidate for Hasbro's Transformers line. Of existing fighters, it's closest to an F-14 (thanks to Andrew Walker for this info).

   Probably the only possible shortcoming of this jet mode then is that it's not a realistic jet - at this stage the vast majority of the vehicular Transformers were realistic vehicles (the Jumpstarters, Whirl and Roadbuster the other exceptions). Whether or not you consider this a shortcoming depends on what you expect from your Transformers. Personally I'm not bothered by the lack of realism here since the level of detail is great and the colours well done.

   A very good jet mode with a smart colour scheme, lots of play value and some great detailing. It overwhelms most other Transformers of the time, and is heavier than most of them, which I suppose inhibits the potential play value a little, but on it's own this is a very good jet, to the point where even now twenty years later no plane Transformer has reached the same level.

TRANSFORMATION TO ROBOT MODE

   Retract the landing gear, swing out the legs from underneath, with the thighs on either side of the cockpit, which will become the thighs. Swing out the arms from underneath the wings, slide down the chestplate and fold the wings and tail down to become his back, at the same time lift the head through the gap between his shoulders. Slide out his fists and rotate the forearms, lift up his antennae and spread his feet and heelspurs. Give Jetfire his gun.

ROBOT MODE
Height: 25cm Width: 13cm

   Again white with black highlights and red here and there, including the armour on his elbows and the outsides of his shins. The feet and antennae are the most prominent black pieces, while the groin is the most prominent permanently attached red piece. The gun is black and there's a big Autobot logo on his groin. The wings are out of sight on his backpack, which is snug against his back. The face is a very simple white affair with a red eyestrip. This colour scheme again works visually but it bugs me that it _really_ doesn't match Skyfire's robot mode from the cartoon (something the jet mode vaguely manages). Ok, so the toy came first and the cartoon came along second, but cartoon-centric fans will find this robot mode incongruous, even if aesthetically it's pretty well done.

   A quick run down of the die cast on the toy: inner shins, insides of his thighs (unpainted), shoulderblades (unpainted), internal connections in his shoulders (the main hinges that attach his arms) and the three landing wheels. The legs themselves contain enough metal to make sure Jetfire is a heavy toy, yet none of the metal is in itself terribly prominent.

   There's a total of thirteen meaningful points of articulation, which is simply phenomenal for a 1985 Transformer. His neck turns, the shoulders and elbows rotate while there are hinges below the shoulders (allowing the arms to lift out to the sides) and hinges just below the elbows themselves which function as part of compound elbow joints. The hips and knees bend and the collapsable feet and heelspur (which are geared together) can bring the count up to fifteen, even if their contribution to leg posing is more incidental than robot mode poseability as such. Granted, this poseability falls short of that of some Beast era toys, but considering the advances in toy technology, I wouldn't call it a fair comparison.

   Adding to the play value here is the armour, which can attach on his backpack, shins and elbows. I'd recommend leaving it permanently attached, since he looks a little spindly without it. It's nice we have the option, and while the armour means there are lots of pieces that can be lost, there's no keystone accessory (such as Shockwave's silencer to worry about - an incomplete Jetfire is still a functional Transformer.

   It's always bugged me that this toy was such a poor match for the show character Skyfire, and it's more of an issue in the robot mode than the plane mode. The reason for this is that when Hasbro bought the license for the Valkyrie from Bandai they weren't able to produce an animated version of Jetfire. Skyfire is the compromise between keeping the license terms and advertising the toy in the Sunbow cartoon. So Skyfire is technically the mismatch. Nonetheless I've never liked the look of this robot mode compared to Skyfire. I like the blue on Skyfire, and miss it here. Mind you, I seem to be in a minority here - Jetfire isn't cheap on the secondary market and is a toy most Transfans would love to own. Granted, part of the reason for the price is that Macross fans bought up Jetfire in the 1980s, since no transforming Valkyries were sold in the Anglophone markets. The stylish is also clearly different to Takara's own designs, something that doesn't quite sit right with me, although this is not really the fault of the toy, and I wouldn't call it a fault.

   Ignoring cartoon issues, this is a very good robot mode. The poseability is well and truly above that of other Transformers of the time, the colour scheme is simple and well done and the profusion of die cast metal give Jetfire a solid feel. The styling is clearly different to Takara's usual fare, so Jetfire looks a little awkward amongst other Transformers of the time (and he towers over everyone except Blaster and Omega Supreme). If you're after Jetfire for cartoon nostalgia, this robot mode might disappoint you, although that's not really the fault of this toy.

VARIATIONS

   Lots. For whatever reason, Jetfire saw lots of tweaking during his production, most of what was minor mould tweaking. Some versions of the toy actually had macross logos painted on the wings. The character was revisited in G2 as a Cyberjet.

OVERALL

   The engineering and attention to detail on Jetfire is far ahead of most Transformers of the time - in fact it wasn't until Binaltech 18 years later that this guy was trumped. With lots of die-cast, oodles of play value and appeal for macross fans, there are a lot of reasons to like this toy. The only real negative here is how badly this toy matches Skyfire in the cartoon - Cartoon-centric fans will find this a poor representation of the cartoon character. For that reason (as well as my own preference for Takara's design over Bandai), I don't really like Jetfire much. On it's own merits, this is a very good toy and if you can see past the cartoon issues, I'd definitely recommend Jetfire to G1 fans - 9.5/10

I originally posted this review on 2 April. Here's the 1 April edition!

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