Cliffbee.com: Masterpiece Starscream Toy Review

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Individual Review




Name: Starscream
Series: Masterpiece
Allegiance: Decepticon
Function: Air Commander
Alternate Mode: F-15 Eagle Fighter Jet



FIGHTER MODE
Height: 10cm Length: 33cm Width: 22cm

   A green (yes, that's right, green) F-15 Eagle with a colourless clear canopy, red and white lines on the wings, various black markings here and there, white missile tips, silver engine covers and lead coloured thrusters. The colours are quite close to those on an an F-15 - but they're not Starscream. I don't mind re-interpretations of characters, but with Thundercracker and Skywarp sharing the concept, when Starscream gets redone, he needs to be grey. Not that the other two are green either, but it's one of his defining characteristics. The colouring is itself nice enough, mind you, so if you're buying this toy for the F-15 aspect rather than as a fantastically accurate G1 Starscream (which is the idea of Masterpiece), the green might be okay. I want my Starscreams grey and my seekers discernible from each other, however.

   Colour aside, this is a great F-15, with every seam, every aviation light, every aspect, taken care of. There's a single black seat inside the cockpit with brown "padding" - and Starscream even comes with a tiny Dr Archeville figure, which is a tiny green humanoid with a while painted coat. Granted he has a green head, but I appreciate the fact that he has been included. You can choose from more traditional seeker style missiles underwing or go for a more F-15 like missilerack. It's nice that while the focus is on making this a realistic jet, the designer has included fan-oriented aspects like the Dr Archeville figure and the choice of missiles. There's also a small bracket which can clip underneath the nose, specifically designed to hold Masterpiece Convoy's included Megatron gun - which is a great idea.

   For all the accessories, I'm not that happy with this mode, from a Transformer fan point of view. Yes, the colouring has a lot to do with that. He does come with a stand that allows this mode to fly, and bears a Decepticon symbol on it - along with a sticker sheet of various Transformers and aviation related stickers for you to customise the plane, but in these colours Starscream feels more like a model plane than, well, Starscream. The inclusion of the stand, as well as the grade of plastic used, really put this toy into display model territory more than Transformer territory.

   There are some great plane aspects - I won't call them play value since the plastic's too fragile for that - but display options. You can pull the nosecone forward and swing it to the starboard, revealing a radar array while the landing gear all retracts under panelling, leaving a smooth surface. Other than some red chest pieces, the underside doesn't show much that's not plane like - again emphasising the designer's focus on this toy as a display piece. Still, the almost flawless underside is still something I admire - few Transformers manage what Starscream does here. The thrusters are actually on ball joints, the flaps on each wing fold down and there's a lift up panel on the fuselage for extra braking - suggesting this particular F-15 would be assigned to an aircraft carrier (not something F-15s are built for, I should point out).

   My feelings about this plane are mixed. It's detailed, has a lot of options and is well focused. Having said that it just doesn't feel like Starscream - which really bothers me as a Transformer fan. Sure, it's a great display piece if you're an aircraft enthusiast, but I don't have any interest in models - and that's where the design focus is here. Sure, Starscream's traditional colours aren't realistic, but then so are F-15s that don't need pilots. The weak plastic here is my other major concern - but I'll cover than when talking about the transformation.

TRANSFORMATION TO ROBOT MODE

   Complex and fiddly, with many small joints relying on small pieces of plastic. Many of the joints are quite tight, whilst - as I mentioned - the plastic isn't exactly the most durable. The fact is that this toy isn't designed to be transformed often - it can transform for display purposes, but isn't really able to stand up to play. The plastic used here a type normally used on model kits. It's meant to be fairly easy to break, so that the pieces can be broken off the sprews. Which is fine when you're assembling a replica battleship for the mantlepiece, but not so good in a toyline that's based on moving stuff around regularly.

   Essentially the scheme is the same as that of the original, with several minor changes to improve the shape in both modes. The tails end up hanging off his hips as kibble, which is the main change here.



ROBOT MODE
Height: 25cm Width: 21cm

   A big green seeker which vaguely resembles Starscream. The chest panels are red, the canopy transparent, the feet silver and the forearms are blue. The head is black with a charcoal face and red eyes. Again there's too much green on a character than doesn't have green as a defining colour, whilst there's not enough red - the insides of the air intakes are red but not the intakes themselves - nor enough blue. Why are his feet silver? The face is also quite dark, and while it's a well sculpted seeker face, the colour suits Dirge or Ramjet, not Starscream. To be honest, the green, red and blue don't gel and both the red and blue are far too dark for Starscream anyway. It's just an ugly colour scheme that still doesn't really look like Starscream, despite some misguided colour splashes.

   Colours aside the transformation does a great job of turning a realistic F-15 into a classic seeker robot. The air intakes, missile launchers, canopy and wings are all there - even down to the pointy wingtips they had in the cartoon. The head sculpt is great, and you can even swap out the regular face for one with a smirk on it. The missiles do look like the blasters Starscream wore in the cartoon, although they don't fire.

   The poseability is fairly limited, really. The arms are quite poseable, and he can again hold the Megatron gun (in his hand this time). Sadly the legs are far from stable, since those big kibbly things hanging off the hips take away the tailfins that the seekers used as heelspurs. And there are no heelspurs this time around. The first night I got this toy, I stood him up and after an hour or so, it randomly fell over, and some of the brittle plastic actually snapped. I really don't see a compelling reason why this toy doesn't deserve heelspurs. Sure he has a stand - which can again be used here - but as an action figure, Transformers should be able to stand on their own. So the poseability in his legs is basically wasted.

   The kibbly panels hanging off his hips reach maybe half way down his shins - they're not insignificant. They're nowhere for them to go - they're designed to sweep back, in the vain hope you wont see them. Not only does this rob Starscream of the heelspurs he needs, it shifts weight to the rear - which is counter-productive - and hurts the display value the designer cared so much about.

   There are positives here such as the two facial expressions, the poseable hands and the missile racks hidden within his chest. For the most part, the design really does a great job of capturing the animated shape of Starscream (hip kibble aside). But he's not really playable at all, the plastic is too brittle for that. The colours are awful, since they're trying to impose some - but not - all of Starscream's traditional colours onto the green base. Overall, I think this robot mode fails where the jet still managed to succeed - it does not display well at all, and that's really what this toy is designed to do.

VARIATIONS

   Hasbro produced a later toy in Starscream's _actual_ colours, using a sturdier plastic. Masterpiece Thundercracker and Skywarp are repaints of Starscream.

OVERALL

   As much as I appreciate the detailing on this toy - especially the jet mode - and admire how well put together the transformation is, I hate this toy. The green _really_ doesn't work on Starscream, and as I mentioned when you have three classic characters sharing a mould, tributes _need_ to keep the colours. The transformation itself is quite complex, and if the joints were a little looser and the plastic more durable, I'd say it's a good transformation. The robot mode does an awful job of dealing with the tailfins, but otherwise it's actually quite well constructed. With ugly colours that are still not Starscream, no heelspurs and fragile plastic, this is not a robot mode I think much of. I don't agree with the designer's choice of making this toy all about display value - because that has resulted in a colour scheme and grade of plastic that largely ruins what should have been a good toy. If you want a Masterpiece Starscream, buy Hasbro's version, because this toy is not worth the Japanese retail price, let alone secondary market prices - if you like the idea of the plane mode, go buy a model F-15 instead - 3/10

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