Superlink Toy Reviews: Sprang

in 2004, Action Figure Review, Autobot, Generation One, Superlink

Transformers Superlink

General Information:
Release Year: August 2004
Retailer: Japanese exclusive
Price: $40 (Depending on Import Retailer, purchased at Image Anime)
Accessories: Missiles x 4, Helicopter blade/weapon, Blade weapon base, Artillery unit


Tech Specs*
"No young gun's gonna outshoot me!!"
Veteran Cybertron warrior who came rushing from Seibertron along with Overdrive and Wheeljack. Has made it through countless fierce battles in the past, and his daring fighting style has earned the respect of Grand Convoy and many other Cybertrons.

Strength: 8 Intelligence: 10 Speed: 9 Endurance: 9
Rank: 8 Courage: 10 Firepower: 9 Skill: 8

*Tech Specs translated by Doug Dlin.

Normally I wind up reviewing US releases of toys first and then reviewing their Japanese counterparts. However, distribution of Transformers has been spotty in my area as of late, and thus I have yet to see Bulkhead (Sprang's US counterpart) anywhere in my area. Sprang however is very easy to find and thus he gets reviewed first.

Sprang (or Sprung depending on your preference of translation) was the Japanese name for the G1 character Springer. This is no accident as Sprang is a homage to that character.

Vehicle Mode:
Sprang's vehicle mode is a helicopter, which was one of G1 Springer's forms. Taking the homage one step further, his primary colors are green and grey, and he has a rectangular piece at the front of the vehicle mode that is colored yellow. All these details are similar to details found on G1 Springer.

However, that is where the similarities end. There's a lot more going on with this design than a mere copy of Springer. First off, Sprang is much bigger, measuring about 9.4 inches (roughly 24 centimeters) from front to back. He is choc full of parts and details. Starting at the front you have two sensor pods mounted on the front. The cockpit has translucent plastic letting you see the seat inside. The sides angle back towards the center, which is the widest part of the vehicle. On the top are two guns (obviously the robot arms) and underneath those are two missiles on either side. Then of course there is the tail, which has nice line details angling back.

In these larger details are smaller, more subtle ones. The robot arm/guns have nice multi-layered details. The section near the rotor engine has some nice tech detail. Even the helicopter blades themselves have cool serrated details worked into them.

The color combination here is rather simple. The basic colors used are green, dark green, translucent blue, dark orange, black and yellow. While it may sound like green is rather garish color for any vehicle, it works here because it is not used too much. The middle section is green, but has black and orange parts breaking the green up. The back is dark green, so it gives some subtle contrast. The yellow details are found on the rotor engine and on the front, that's it. Any more and there is chance it could have been overwhelming. Rather than looking to bright, the colors look just right.

Functionally speaking, there is quite a bit you can do with Sprang. The most obvious are the missile launchers, each with individual launching buttons. What is nice is that these missiles are long enough to satisfy safety laws, but at the same time since most of the missile is housed in the launchers they look nice. A really cool feature involves the helicopter blades. Hold on to the tail piece and pull the rear landing gear back (like a trigger) and the blades spin! I was really surprised by this feature since most Transformers helicopters don't have anything like this. On top of all this you have four holes to attach Energon weapons, two in the front and two on the tail piece. What I like about the ones on the tail is that they allow you to have weapons facing back or down, defending a potentially vulnerable position on the vehicle. Not stopping there, the designers added a Mini-Con Powerlinx peg onto the very end of the tail. All in all, this gives a really good chunk of play value to the copter.

Even with all that fun, there is more to this vehicle. Sprang comes with an extra piece, an artillery unit that gives him added flying and fighting power in vehicle mode! This piece is basically a pair of huge booster rockets and two machine guns in the front. It attaches to Sprang via two pegs, which turns him into one mean looking piece of hardware!

Although it's an accessory, the artillery unit isn't just some plain piece of plastic. The boosters on either side have a great multi-layered look, with curved pieces overlapping others. The guns are really nice with holes along the gun barrels and tech details on the sides. The main body of the unit has some asymmetrical designs on top, with one side having a crosshatch detail while the other has circles and rectangles etched into the design.

The unit is mostly dark grey blue. Black is used on the guns and on smaller pieces such as the rear thrusters. Silver, orange and green are used for paint detailing along the length of the unit, including on the boosters and central body.

Overall this is one fun and really cool vehicle mode. The homage is easy to pick up on, but not overwhelming. Well done.

Transformation to Robot Mode:

  1. Although you don't have to, I recommend removing the missiles from the launchers before transforming so they don't wind up shooting and getting lost by accident.
  2. Fold two of the helicopter blades together on each side and then detach them from the rotor engine.
  3. Pull back on the rear landing gear trigger and pull the rotor engine piece out. Flip out the peg on the engine and attach the blades.
  4. On either side of the cockpit's middle section, flip up the grey panels.
  5. Fold down the front black piece of the copter (they are connected to the grey side pieces). These are the robot legs.
  6. Rotate the grey sections of the robot legs so the orange parts face back.
  7. Flip up the black pieces on the legs to form the robot feet.
  8. Rotate the top half of the helicopter around so the feet and the nose of the cockpit point the same way.
  9. Swing the top half of the helicoptor back.
  10. Flip the missile launchers around so they point forward.
  11. Swing the cockpit piece down a bit.
  12. Push the robot head out and fold the yellow cockpit nose in.
  13. Swing the cockpit piece all the way down.
  14. Fold the two grey panels back.
  15. Fold the arm pieces down.
  16. On each lower arm, flip the panels out and rotate the fists outward, then close the panels.
  17. Attach the rotor weapon to one of his hands.

Transformation of Artillery Unit to Walker Mode*:

  1. Rotate the boosters so the green parts face down.
  2. Pull them out to the sides.
  3. Fold out each of the four green pieces on the boosters to form the feet.
  4. Position the legs as desired to stand the walker.

*Artillery Unit and Walker Mode are terms I'm using, not officially translated terms.

Robot Mode:
While Sprang's vehicle mode definitely held a good "homage" design, the robot mode is much more original. Some discussion has gone on amongst fans regarding the head design being a homage of some sort. Some have pointed to his curved "brow" piece that ends up in points on the sides as being very similar to G1 Springer's head design. Others have said it's actually a homage to the "bearded" Transformers of the past such as Alpha Trion. Still, another theory I've heard brought up is that it isn't a Transformers homage at all but a G.I. Joe homage, specifically to helicopter pilot "Wild Bill" (the glasses, the mustache, his alt form being a helicopter). The funny part is, I can see where all these arguments are coming from. I don't believe any one is absolutely right, but nor do I dismiss any of them. I think it's kind of wild that Energon has reached a point where homages have become so rampant, people are seeing them left and right.

There is however, little doubt in my mind that Sprang has an awesome robot mode. It is lean, well proportioned and posable. He really doesn't have a ton of smaller details, but it works since he does have some. The head design is really nice. Even though he has a blue visor for instance, he has eyes underneath them. He definitely has a "mustache" (which fits his personality as being an older Transformer). A sculpted Autobot symbol can be found on his chest, a feature I am glad to see being present on most Transformers nowadays. His shoulders, waist and upper legs all have smaller etched lines and shapes on them, giving them some texture.

One thing I do like about this design is that it gets a bit away from the "Ironhide/Kup" mentality where just because a Transformer is old, he has to also have a run down, antiquated design. His legs are really sculpted nicely, with high knee armor and angled shapes, there are definite shades of Gundam leg design at work here. His shoulders are broad, giving the upper body a look of strength. I also like the missile launchers being on his hips. Not only does it look cool, but it frees up his hands to hold Energon weapons (or various incarnations of the Skyboom shield or Star Saber)!

Sprang's deco remains consistent between the vehicle mode and this mode. A lot more grey shows up on the waist and the legs which helps offer a subdued contrast against the green that makes up most of the upper body. Orange can be found on the shoulders, face and knees, giving a nice color on another part of the color spectrum.

Sprang is well armed in this mode, even without extra Energon weapons. As I mentioned earlier, his missile launchers wind up on his hips, two on each side. His rotor weapon can still spin in this form. Just press the black button on the top and the blades spin as weapons (or a shield if you want to get inventive). On top of all this, if you want to attach Energon weapons to him, you can. Both legs have one hole for Energon weapons.

Unlike his G1 predecessor, Sprang has twenty points of articulation in this mode. This holds a large portion of the appeal of this mode. Not only does it look great, but it has wonderful posability. As this line goes on, I am really appreciating the use of ratchet joints and double joints. While old fashioned ball joints are fantastic for certain
things, the ratchet joints are much more stable and solid, and Sprang relies on them.

The Walker Unit is a cool little toy. Inspired by Robocop nemesis ED-209, this unit is basically a walking pair of blasters. What's neat is that the two pegs that attach it to Sprang's vehicle mode can also be used to attach Energon weapons. Also amazing: the unit is an accessory, but by itself has ten points of articulation, and that's not counting the "toes" on each foot!

Like fellow Autobot Landmine, Sprang can combine with the additional parts included with the figure. In this case, it's simple. The two long tabs on the Walker Unit can attach to the open part of the helicopter on Sprang's back. The result is that he gets four more barrels of firepower. By coincidence, the holes on the top of each cannon of the back pack can fit Energon weapons, upping the amount of firepower this guy can bring to battle!

Final Thoughts:
Before I go nuts recommending this guy, there is one important thing to keep in mind: for this release Takara stripped the toy of its soundbox. There are no electronics here. So yes, the figure itself is highly recommended and top notch, but the removal of the sound box is a significant reduction in the toy's quality compared to the US version. Other than that, this is an excellent figure with wonderful design and engineering. I do recommend it, but you may want to wait for the domestic version (domestic meaning not in Japan), Bulkhead to get more bang for your buck.