Dark of the Moon Darksteel Toy Review

in 2011, Action Figure Review, Beast Wars, Dark of the Moon, Decepticon, Deluxe, MechTech

Dark of the Moon

General Information:
Release Date: October 2011
Price Point: $12.99 (varies depending on retailer)
Retailer: General (Toys R Us, Target, Wal-Mart etc.)
Accessories: Blaster Cannon/Sword, Targeting Scope/Blade weapon

Images:

*Images and text in italics from The Official Transformers web site:
DARKSTEEL is a traditionalist. As a student of the most respected DECEPTICON warrior on CYBERTRON, he learned there is no substitute for a razor-sharp blade and clever mind. Blasters and cannons get the job done, but may fail in the heat of battle. The blade never falters! It's an AUTOBOT-DECEPTICON smackdown, and you've got the ultimate warrior for evil with your DARKSTEEL figure! In robot mode, this figure has the blaster he needs to take on all comers. But when you convert him to CORVETTE STINGRAY concept vehicle mode, his blaster converts to a Cybertronian sword! Keep converting him back and forth so he can handle whatever his enemies throw at him! Figure comes with blaster accessory. Ages 5 and up.

Redecos are one of the ways that any toy company helps recouperate the cost of investment into developing a new sculpt and set of tooling to create an action figure. Fans have come to expect torrents of redecos whenever a Transformers live action movie is released and "Dark of the Moon" has met this expectation. One of the more unexpected and interesting redecos is actually a redeco/retool called Darksteel. This Decepticon did not appear in the film but fans were anticpating his release for a while now thanks to his deco (which serves as a homage to another character from the past) and a new head sculpt.

Darksteel is a redeco/retool of the "Dark of the Moon" Sideswipe. For details on the sculpt itself, check out that review. This review will focus on the changes made to the sculpt for this release.

Mech Tech Weapons:
Darksteel is equipped with two Mech Tech weapons. They are both modified and repainted versions of the weapons that were included with Deluxe Starscream.

One of the weapons is a blaster with a single blade in it. In its default mode, it looks very much like the same weapon that came with Starscream. However, when you push the targeting scope forward, the blade swings out and you see that it is a curved blade now instead of a more straight blade like Starscream's. Most of this weapon is a dark brown color, with the targeting scope, weapon barrel and blade cast in a turquoise color. The photography on the packaging shows that the blade is painted orange, but it's not painted at all on the final product.

The other weapon has been modified in a similar manner to the other weapon. The blade is now curved at the end, looking like a claw. There are two blades on this weapon and one barrel that looks like it's from a machine gun. Most of the weapon is dark brown, with the barrel and targeting scope section cast in turquoise. In this case, the blades are painted orange. This weapon doesn't transform, but instead attaches to the larger weapon to form a staff weapon.

I really like the way these weapons were modified for this release. The changes are subtle, yet they really make these weapons distinctive from their predecessors. Also, as you'll see in the robot mode review, they serve a homage purpose as well.

Vehicle Mode:
One of the appealing things about Darksteel is that often time the licensed vehicles in Transformers movie toy lines don't get redecos as characters other than the original characters that appeared on screen (as evidenced by how many dozens of Bumblebees there are versus say, Cliffjumpers). The fact that he is a new character and not some other version of Sideswipe is really cool right off the bat.

In this mode, there are no major sculpt changes. However, since he comes with different weapons, the optimal way to attach his weapons are on the sides of his doors, though the Mech Tech attachment point is still present near the spoiler to attach an additional weapon.

The dull grey color from Sideswipe has been replaced with a metallic dark brown, like the one on the weapons. This makes up most of the vehicle form, but he also has black plastic making up his wheels and translucent orange for the windshield. The rear lights are also cast in translucent red. His dashboard is cast in mustard yellow, contrasting nicely with the dark brown color that surrounds it. Paint details are done in metallic green and silver. The silver is used to paint the sidies of the wheels while the metallic green forms flame patterns on the hood and the sides of the vehicle. It's a very nice and sleek pattern and looks great.

I recall not being super thrilled with Sidewipe's vehicle mode, and honestly part of that wsa a reaction to its extremely dull color scheme. This time out however, the sculpt has a really nice assortment of colors and using metallic shades adds a visual element to the vehicle it would not have otherwise.

Transformation to Robot Mode:

  1. Detach the weapons if attached and set them aside for now.
  2. Swing the lower halves of the car doors down.
  3. Swing the panels that form the top halves of the doors out.
  4. Rotate the sections with the rear vehicle lights up.
  5. Swing the rear wheels in to begin forming the robot legs.
  6. On each robot foot, rotate the rear lights panel to face front and the heel piece to swing back.
  7. Flip the vehicle over and you'll find the robot arms under the hood. Swing them down, and then out to the sides.
  8. On each robot arm, swing out the fists.
  9. Lift the middle panel that has the grille and hood section and swing it back.
  10. Swing the waist panel under the front of the car up.
  11. Swing the front section of the car down to form the robot chest.
  12. Swing the side panels (with the top halves of the car doors) to the back.
  13. Swing up the rear panel of the vehicle mode including the exhaust pipes.
  14. Straighten out the robot arms.
  15. The Mech Tech weapons can be held in Darksteel's hands.

It should be noted that there is an optional transformation scheme where you can swing the doors up and have them out to the sides behind his shoulders. This gives Darksteel a much bigger appearance from the front and it shows off the details on his door panels in robot mode.

Robot Mode:
So I've been a bit cheeky up to this point about just what Darksteel is a homage to. For this particular homage, we have to go back in time to the late 90's during the "Beast" era of Transformers. A sub-group of "Beast Wars Transformers" were "Fuzors", characters who transformed from a robot to a beast mode that combined elements of two animals. One of the Predacons in the Beast Wars series was Quickstrike, a nasty guy who transformed into a scorpion/cobra combination. It is this character that Darksteel pays homage to.

I'll be the first to say that if you told me "We're talking an animal character and using a Corvette based Transformer to do a homage" I would have been skeptical, but now that I'm actually looking at one, I have to admit to being quite impressed! Those of you who read my Sideswipe review know that I really had nothing against the sculpt per se, it's just that nothing particularly interesting was done with the character on a design or visual level. This time out, the sculpt has been treated with the respect it deserves.

So how was this pulled off? First, let's start with a whole new head sculpt. Instead of Sideswipe's head, Darksteel gets his very own head sculpt! This head is designed with a cobra in mind. The large, creepy looking eyes are reminscent of the (supposedly) "hypnotic" eyes of a cobra. On either side of the helmet are designs that flare out to the sides, reminscent of the hood on a cobra. Finally, his mouthplate looks like it has two giant fangs sculpted into it. This is a really awesome head sculpt. Many of the movie based figures have "beast based" elements to their design, but this is one of the most unique as it doesn't use a bird or an insect as its design inspiration.

Next up, the deco. All the colors indicated in the vehicle mode are present here as well, but much more so. His side chest panels, swords and most of his legs are cast in dark metallic brown. His forearms, lower legs and most of his torso are cast in gold plastic. Black is distributed throughout the body in smaller pieces such as his upper arms, fists and knee joints. Paint applications are done in the same metallic green color seen in vehicle mode as well as the addition of gold paint on the chest. The green paint is distributed throughout the robot form. There's some on the head, a bit on his torso and on the legs. The key here is that each of these colors were primary colors of Quickstrike from Beast Wars, and to anyone familiar with that character, the homage is striking when you finally see this figure fully transformed. This visual is enhanced even more if you swing the door panels from the vehicle out to the sides to show more of the metallic green color. On pure aesthetic level, the metallic green and gold colors really pop when contrasting against the dark brown color.

There is one final touch to this figure that solidifies the homage to Quickstrike. When you attach the weapons to Darksteel's hands, you'll note the curved blades on the weapons wind up looking almost like claws. That was the intent I'm sure as Quickstrike had claws in his beast mode. Sure you lose this effect once you combine the weapons, but I think it's super cool that this element was thought of at all instead of just repackaging existing Mech Tech weapons unchanged.

All of Darksteel's joints are tight and the weapons fit in his hands without a problem. I don't see any issues with the sculpt or tooling in this mode.

Final Thoughts:
In general, it is very uncommon for a redeco/retool of a Transformer to be cooler than the figure it was based on, but this is one such case. While I was lukewarm (at best) on Sideswipe, this version of the sculpt does what it should. It has a well thought out and executed deco scheme, an interesting head sculpt and weapons that jive with the character in some way. This is easily one of my favorite deluxe figures in the "Dark of the Moon" line so far. Highly recommended!