Armada Toy Reviews: Thundercracker

in 2003, Action Figure Review, Armada, Decepticon, Generation One, Seeker

Armada

General Information:
Price Point: Max-con
Retailer: General (K-Mart, Toys R Us, Wal-Mart etc.)
Release Date: March 2003
Transformation Difficulty Level: 3 (Advanced)
Accessories: Zapmaster Mini-Con figure, Two missiles, Sword/Wing tip

It's rare when a redeco actually causes quite a stir of excitement among fans. Most of the time fans just see redecos as something they're being forced to buy as completists or something they want to ignore because it's "just a redeco". However, now and then, the makers of Transformers will surprise us with a redeco that is not some random reapplying of colors onto an existing mold. Thundercracker falls squarely into this category.

As anyone can tell by looking at the pictures above, Thundercracker's deco is highly influenced by the original Generation One toy of the same name, as well as the cartoon character from the Generation One cartoon show. This review will cover the changes made to the toy for this release. For more detailed information on the toy, please read Starscream's review.

There is also an interesting tale behind just who Thundercracker is. Hasbro originally intended him to be a new character, separate from Starscream. However, the animation company decided to turn Thundercracker into a "powered up" version of Starscream (no explanation how yet).

Zapmaster Review

Vehicle Mode:
In vehicle mode, Zapmaster pretty much has a one to one color replacement. The red parts of Swindle are now silver, the black parts all remain black and the front section is blue instead of black. It's not the greatest deco of all time, but it is only meant to work with Thundercracker, so it works in that respect. Of the two, I prefer Swindle's colors, but that's just me.

Robot Mode:
In robot mode, the only part that shows new coloring is the robot head. Unlike Swindle, Zapmaster's head/turbine section is black and the face is silver instead of red. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the Zapmaster mold was enlarged slightly where the face is concerned. If you look carefully at both side by side, Zapmaster's mouthplate seems slightly bigger than Swindle's. Granted, this may be an illusion due to the brighter silver color, but on mine at least, it seems that the mouth "lines" are longer on Zapmaster.

Thundercracker Review

Vehicle Mode:
Rather than do a simple one to one replacement of colors, Thundercracker has a distinct pattern
different than Starscream's. His primary color is blue, with red striping running along various parts of the jet. This is largely influenced by the original Thundercracker, who was mostly blue and had red lines running along the edges of his wings and rear fins. Like the G1 version, Armada Thundercracker has a red stripe pattern running from the front of the wings to the ends. On the rear fins (which are horizontal on this new modern day seeker) the edges from the front to the sides are red (as opposed to Starscream's whose trim ran from the back edge of the fin to to the middle section).

The turbines on the front (where the cannons come down) are silver and the cannon barrels themselves are blue (without a stripe running in the middle like Starscream's cannons have). The Decepticon symbols on the wings are painted a slightly brighter shade of purple than those on Starscream. In another nice piece of color coordination with his G1 counterpart, Armada Thundercracker's cockpit is colored yellow, which is the same color that the G1 Thundercracker's cockpit was (albeit in translucent plastic).

Thundercracker has the same sound chip as Starscream, so all his sounds are the same. Zapmaster interacts the same way, either deploying the cannons from the rear or being launched from the underside of the cockpit.

Robot Mode:
In robot mode, Thundercracker reveals a lot more silver color mostly on his upper arms, upper legs and feet. This falls into the "homage" scheme again as the original Thundercracker also had much more silver in robot mode than in vehicle mode.

One debate that has gone on in the fan community is about Thundercracker's face. Apparantly there are two variants on his face. One face is exactly like Starscream's, with a smirk and dimple. Another has no smirk, the dimple is gone and the face is only slightly smiling. A reported third variant has no smirk, smile or anything - just a straight line for a rather
grim look. While I acknowledge the existence of these variants, the oddity here is that Hasbro never ordered such a variant to be created at the factory level, so whether the factory itself decided to change the mold or not may remain a mystery forever.

Unfortunately, one change that wasn't made has to do with the fists. When you place a Star Saber or a sword into the fists, they have a tendency to show stress marks. Hasbro engineers were not aware of this until Thundercracker was released, but they know now, and we fans can only pray they'll catch this problem in time for the release of Skywarp.

Zapmaster can activate the missile launchers in this mode as well, and the missiles are silver this time instead of
red.

Thundercracker is a wonderful piece of redeco synergy. He combines elements from the Generation One toy combined with the styling that has evolutionized over the years based on the Starscream/Thundercracker/Skywarp G1 cartoon model. This process has, in effect, brought fans a very refined redeco, and that scores high points in my book. As usual, I'll say if you're not into redecos, then you can skip this toy. For everyone else, it's recommended.