Sunday, September 9, 2012

Transformers - Masterpiece Thundercracker Toys R Us Exclusive

Finally, after way longer than it should have taken, Hasbro has completed the Decepticon Seeker trifecta.  But unlike the Walmart-exclusive Starscream and Skywarp of years past, this one's a Toys R Us exclusive.  And there's one other major difference that is sure to drive collectors mad.  Or be cause for praise, depending on your point of view.  Read on to find out.

Hasbro, being constantly a step or two behind Takara when it comes to the Masterpiece line, gave us the first two Seekers in the form of Starscream and Skywarp several years ago, and then, despite the expectations from collectors that Thundercracker would follow suit, just stopped.  Now we get Thundercracker as a TRU release.  But here's the kicker:  He's on the new MP-11 body, which was modified pretty significantly from the original MP Seeker body used for the US Starscream and Skywarp releases.

That means, if you're a US release-only Masterpiece collector, Thundercracker won't match the design aesthetic of you Screamer and Warper.  Some collectors may not care much about that, but I'd be willing to be it drives more crazy.

If you're not a US-only collector, and a Seeker fan, then chances are you already completed your Seeker team with either all or some of the Takara releases.  Or maybe, as in my case, you were a big fan of the MP-11 mold and sold all your older Seekers when it came out, in the hopes that Thundercracker and Skywarp would eventually also see release on that body.  Well in that case, here's your second step in that direction.  Now I'm just waiting for Skywarp on this body from either Takara or Hasbro.  My money is on Takara getting to it first.

The packaging is similar to that used on the Walmart Seeker releases.  It looks alright, but I prefer the nicer black boxes used in the Takara releases.  This version is basically all bubble, which gives you some great visibility of the figure inside, but it doesn't manage to conjure that "premium" feel that the Takara versions have.  Regardless, the packaging is nice enough to leave the figure inside for display if you so choose.

The figure is identical to the MP-11 release, including the modified legs, guns, feet and head that made MP-11 the superior version of Screamer, in my opinion.  Only this one is painted blue, obviously.  Articulation and transformation remain identical to MP-11 as well.

The deco is pretty nicely done on this release, including a few little easter eggs, like "tattoos" of G1 Reflector on each shoulder that show on the fuselage in jet mode, and a silhouette of Thundercracker holding Soundwave in alt mode with the phrase "Sonic Boom" painted on the tail fins.  There all also two different names under the canopy, one on each side.  My understanding is that these are the names of two of the Hasbro designers.  In addition to the fact that Thundercracker now has a tattoo addiction, his other deco is well applied, with no visible mistakes or defects that I could find.  The blue is a nice shade, not too light, not too dark.  The red and white racing stripes are also well applied, as are the details painted on top of the air intakes.  The Decepticon logos on the wings also look great, being done in metallic purple and lined in silver. Well done deco worth of the Masterpiece title.

As for accessories, luckily this release doesn't include the coronation gear from MP-11 and instead opts for the gear from the previous Seekers.  The stand, which wasn't included with MP-11, made me realize how much I wish I had kept the one from my old Walmart Starscream to use with MP-11 (anyone got one they want to sell?).  It can be switched around for use with Thundercracker in both bot and alt modes, and features his name stamped in silver with a metallic purple Decepticon badge.  The figure doesn't need the figure to stand on his own anymore, thanks to the newly developed heels that MP-11 introduced, but it's still nice to have it for him to hover on.

In addition to the stand, Thundercracker includes his pilot, puzzlingly molded in chrome.  Not sure what that's all about, but ok.  Doesn't look bad.  He also includes the little removable clip that can be used to hold the Megatron in gun form that came with the original Masterpiece Optimus Primes.  This piece can be neatly stored by plugging it into the underside of the stand when you don't want to use it.  Lastly, and most strangely, Thundercracker includes removable missile racks.  These were originally included with the original Seeker mold and were intended to be used in alt mode, but considering that this new mold has the guns permanently attached, plugging the missiles in is a little awkward.  But hey at least it's an option.  Options are good.  Over all, it's a good assortment of accessories.

Like I mentioned, transformation is identical to MP-11, but apparently nobody told Hasbro that, because the instructions included are for the older Seeker mold, and don't account for the changes in transformation.  So if you've never transformed MP-11, there might be a few steps that make you scratch your head for a moment until you figure it out on your own.  Not a big deal, but it just kind of shows the lack of attention to detail that Hasbro demonstrates sometimes.  The instructions also reference the switchable face of the old mold, which is not present in the new head sculpt.  This may confuse some people as well.

I do find it a little odd that Hasbro chose to release Thundercracker on this sculpt before doing a domestic release of MP-11, especially considering how long it's been since the Walmart Starscream came out, and how hard that one was for a lot of collectors to find, but I guess Hasbro deserves credit for sticking with it and completing the main three Seekers before beginning to revisit them.  I just think it would look really odd to have a mixture of the old and new sculpts displayed together, but I guess that's my OCD showing.

The overall quality of this release is pretty impressive, and several of the moving mechanisms used during transformation even feel more sturdy than in my MP-11.  If you're a fan of the MP-11 mold, and would like to eventually have the big-three Seekers using identical molds, you'll want to pick this guy up.  And now we just have to wait for Hasbro or Takara to do a Skywarp on this sculpt.  Masterpiece Thundercracker is hitting Toys R Stores now for $69.99.