Laser Prime 3.0on January 20, 2011 at 11:04 am
When I was in high school, Generation 2 Laser Optimus Prime was the fucking bomb. It was seriously the best Transformers toy ever, hands down. I wasn’t alone in this assessment: in the Nineties the annual online Transformers fandom awards gave Laser Prime the #1 spot on the ”Best Toy Friggin’ Ever” poll for years and years after his release. The only thing that knocked it from its lofty perch was the arrival of Masterpiece Optimus Prime.
What granted the toy immortal status was the context of its birth. Laser Prime came out late in Generation 2, just as Hasbro decided, hey, maybe we should, y’know, give these guys some, like, knees and elbows or something. Laser Prime was the highest-priced item that year, so what he gave us was a very sizeable, very poseable, very electronic Optimus Prime who not only came with one of the best missile-launching and disc-shooting trailer bases ever, but he also rocked the fucking sword. (Which, in theory, would light up along with the rest of his electronics if plugged into his fist.) Laser Optimus Prime was fucking badass, and he was the most fucking badass Generation 1/2 Optimus Prime toy for a friggin’ decade.
Some people prefer the mold in his “Black Convoy”/Scourge colors from Robots in Disguise. (Who inspired a tiny Spy Changer version of the toy that later got redecoed as Optimus Prime in a “Circle of Life” sort of way.) Me, I go for e-Hobby’s Laser Ultra Magnus, who you see accompanying this blog’s subject in the photos here. And I still love that toy. So It was hard to imagine what a newer version could bring to the table. Wasn’t the original Laser Prime mold good enough? Was it that dated? Could it be improved on 15 years later?
So here’s Reveal the Shield Optimus Prime, who’s an homage to ol’ Laser Prime. He’s just a Deluxe Class toy, compared to the, uh, whatever large undefined size class original Laser Prime was. So, yeah, RtS Prime is pretty tiny. He’s even pretty tiny by modern Deluxe Class toy standards. He’s shoulder-height with Generations Thunderwing and Classics Bumblebee, which makes him one of the shortest Deluxes ever. It makes me wonder what about his construction made it too costly to make him bigger. Bumblebee came with that sizable transforming jetski/trailer accessory, so that’s a conservation of mass. Thunderwing is mostly wing, and so he’s about as big as he can get and still fit into the bubble packaging. With RtS Prime, though, I’m not so sure. He feels like he has a lot less mass than, say, Drift or Straxus, both of whom tower over him and come with more accessories.
Might it be his complexity? I’m not talking really about his transformation, which is indeed much more complex than the original Laser Prime’s. I’m thinking more of the extravagant series of lightpiping that runs through the top half of his body. His shoulders, torso, and head are all full of translucent orange plastic, and so when you put him up against a light, he glows through all these sculpted cracklines. It’s pretty neat. (And was probably intended as a replacement for the original version’s electronic lights.)
But let’s get back to his transformation. One thing that this toy definitely improves on versus the original is the vehicle mode. While Laser Prime’s back end was unmistakably a pair of robot legs pegged together, RtS Prime’s vehicle mode tries to make that back end look like an actual truck back end. This means some liberties have to be taken with Optimus Prime’s legs, and those liberties were definitely taken, with some very compelling results. There’s a series of flip-over panels that move out of the way from truck to robot mode so that you can compress the wheels into the insides of the thighs and shins. This is necessary because, like a real semi, he’s got those double-wheels, and double-wheels are wide!
I also appreciate how the windows of the vehicle become the chest of the robot. Original Laser Prime had vestigial chest windows, which looked nice but were a real cheat, but RtS Prime says fuck that shit and goes the extra mile of moving the chest windows down into the robot mode. And they even paint them silver so that they call back to Laser Prime’s chest color. (That is super appreciated. If they’d done his chest up in traditional red, it wouldn’t feel much like Laser Prime at all.)
When you fold the side windows in so that his shoulder jointings have a place to go, they press up against the insides of his chest window. Why? ’Cuz there’s a Matrix sculpted on the facing side of those window panels. Oh fuck yeah. And in an undocumented feature, when you compress the remaining vehicle kibble into his backpack, there’s a large slot there for his sword to stow. His sword which transforms into the trailer hitch. (Not nearly enough Optimus Primes have actual trailer hitches, instead of the usual humdrum peg and peg-hole.)
I’m not sure where I stand on RtS Prime’s poseability versus the original’s. In theory, he has the original’s joints and more. In theory, he adds very-helpful ankle articulation to the pile. His head is perched high on a ball joint. And his additional wrist articulation allows him to, at long last, hold his sword double-fisted style. But a lot of the rest of his articulation is hindered by the sculpt. His waist could turn more than a few degrees to each side if his backpack didn’t get in the way. His elbows don’t quite bend 90 degrees. And the admittedly nifty collapsible leg wheels keep his knees from bending much.
So RtS Prime is something of a mixed bag. Whether he skews awesome or meh depends on how you prioritize his shortcomings and improvements. Plus he has some pretty big shoes to fill… literally. What with being tiny. And, hey, let’s be real, here. Laser Prime was the most awesome toy of his decade. If he came out today, he wouldn’t be so legendary. …which is just about where RtS Prime stands.