Hasbro Unboxing Event (2020)
Transformers unboxing events started in 2018 where fans would gather off-site from New York Comic-Con to get a first hand look at upcoming Transformers products. In past years this took on the form of a gathering of fans from web sites, Youtube channels and more. However, in 2020 we find ourselves in the midst of a pandemic which has forced most meetings to become virtual for safety reasons. That means this year's "unboxing" event was also virtual, held over Zoom Conferencing. The featured product? The entire first wave of War for Cybertron: Kingdom figures! The box of toys was shipped to several venues ahead of the event, so there were several days where I had to ignore these figures, and believe me that was a challenge.
War for Cybertron: Kingdom blends characters from G1 and Beast Wars, offering something different than the vehicle-machine-centric lines that have dominated Generations the past few years. Having been involved deeply with Beast Wars in the 90's, having the line become a prominent part of the Generations line brings me a special kind of joy and it was very exciting to finally see these figures in person!
On hand from the Hasbro side were several members of the Transformers team. They included Ben Montano, Rachel Fleming, Ran Sun, Leonard Panzica and Mark Maher. From the media side folks from Transformers mainstays including Seibertron.com, TFW2005.com, TFU.info and Radio Free Cybertron were on hand as well. Hasbro guided us in terms of which items to open and when. As we opened toys we would offer feedback and questions about the items. There were a lot of compliments all around for the Kingdom toys. Kingdom is notable for being the line where long time Senior Design Manager on Transformers departed (joining the Power Rangers team). Taking over is Leonard Panzica and his team, most of whom have had past Transformers experience on lines such as Dark of the Moon and Prime.
I do plan to write BWTF-style reviews for these figures in the coming weeks, but for now I wanted to give you my initial impressions as I opened the boxes. Speaking of which, a lot of love went into the packaging for Kingdom. Each outer box has a large section filled with artwork featuring the character in both modes, which is quite unusual for the Transformers line. A small window shows part of the toy inside. This is partly due to Hasbro's commitment to lowering the amount of plastic they use in their packaging. The window does have a small plastic window over it, but it is significantly less plastic than they used before. In a move that really put a smile on my face one of the flaps on the boxes have a new version of the classic Beast Wars "eye" with an Easter Egg on the eye that you'll see if you stare long enough!
Inside the boxes each figure is attached to a cardboard insert. The cardboard inserts themselves are based on the colors and designs of the Golden Disks from Beast Wars. Attached to the inserts are small cards with a Golden Disk on one side and a sticker. These generally feature characters such as Optimus Prime. This is a sort of a continuation of the concept of including cards with toys that was executed during the Prime Wars Trilogy. These are great little "value adds" for the overall package.
The Core Class is a new class introduced in Kingdom. Think of it like a sized down Legends Class but at the $9.99 USD price point. That said, the smaller size does not mean these are simple Authentics style toys. I was very impressed at the level of sculpting and complexity Hasbro worked into such small figures. The Fossilizer Vertebreak for instance has a lot of intricate details since she (yes, she) represents a skeleton. All the grooves and lines of the bones amount to a very complex sculpt. On the other side of the spectrum is Rattrap, who has some great organic details including fur. His transformation is way more involved than I had expected. I actually had to look at the instructions to transform him (a theme that would recur for other figures).
Some may be wondering about the Optimus Prime in the assortment. First, I'll say it is a really nice looking and fun figure. I think it is totally worthy of any fan's collection. What it also does is give fans a chance to own an Optimus Prime in the Generations style at a lower price point than say, a Leader or Voyager Class. For those curious, Earthrise Optimus Prime is being repackaged for Kingdom.
The first wave of Deluxe Class figures offers a really diverse assortment of figures that represent the G1/Beast Wars mash up theme very well. The figures included in the assortment are Blackarachnia, Cheetor, Paleotrex and Warpath. Blackarachnia and Cheetor of course represent "classic" Beast Wars while Warpath is the G1 representation in the assortment. Paleotrex is Beast Wars in theme, but he is a new type of Transformer representing the "Fossilizer" technology. This is the successor to Weaponizers and Modulators. Here is the official text about Fossilizers:
With the ancient and highly advanced F.O.S.S.I.L. (Fossilized Osteo-Skeletal Shield Integration Loadout) technology, Fossilizer bots, infused with primordial energy, break apart to weaponize their allies. The bone pieces of this Paleotrex figure break apart and attach to other figures.
Blackarachnia and Cheetor are fantastic. Both characters have been done before of course, but these two look a lot like their Beast Wars cartoon counterparts. It amazes me how Blackarachnia is able to go from a humanoid form into (essentially) a ball with spider legs. You may think you know exactly how she transforms, but there are definitely a couple steps that forced me to look at the instructions. The same can be said for Cheetor. One of the most difficult design challenges is turning his humanoid form into a lithe cheetah, but this time the designers have really nailed the cheetah mode without creating a bizarre robot mode. My only regret is that Cheetor does not have any blaster weapons. Instead, he has the "tail whip" weapon inspired by his Transmetal form. I really hope that his "gut gun" may appear in the future somewhere.
Warpath is awesome. I feel like all the other Warpath toys we have gotten over the years were leading up to this one. While the Warpath from 2011 is a fan favorite, this one takes the aesthetics of the G1 cartoon, adds some details and makes them into a Deluxe Class figure. For those wondering, Warpath does indeed size up to a true Deluxe Class instead of being a smaller Deluxe Class with accessories like Earthrise Cliffjumper.
Finally, Paleotrex is a really weird and funky figure. This one will likely be divisive, with some fans loving him while others won't want to bother with him. Like the Weaponizers and Modulators before him, this figure essentially breaks apart as part of the transformation from beast to robot. The individual parts can then be broken up to form weaponry. Perhaps the most fun part of this is the robot head, which has a helmet that folds down to form a design based on the mace weapon included with Beast Wars Optimus Primal's Ultra Class figure! I love Easter Eggs like this and was very happy to see one incorporated into this line.
The Voyager Class represents the G1 and Beast Wars aspects of the line very well. Cyclonus represents G1 in this assortment. Universe 2.0 already gave fans a pretty amazing Cyclonus figure, but this modern day interpretation of the character is great! As a Voyager, he has the imposing size that you'd expect from the character. He also features a very animation accurate robot and vehicle mode. The transformation is complex and fun. His deco leans towards the lighter animation colors, giving him more lavender than purple. There was some chatter during the unboxing event about giving him a purple/lavender deco in the future, perhaps as Cyclonus' "Armada".
On the Beast Wars side we have the leader of the Maximals himself, Optimus Primal! This figure knocked my socks off. The robot mode looks like the animation model jumped off the screen but then somehow gained a ton of details along the way. The sculpted fur on the figure looks amazing and the inclusion of his iconic swords, arm blasters and shoulder cannons really give the figure a lot of play value. His beast mode looks more "King Kong" inspired than the CG model from the TV show. This is easily one of my favorite figures in this line so far.
Hasbro was kind enough to provide us with Beast Wars Megatron and the repack of Earthrise Optimus Prime in Kingdom packaging, but I only opened Megatron since I already have Earthrise Optimus open. I know this may be premature to say, but Megatron may wind up being one of my favorite figures from Kingdom. His robot mode is heavily based on the CG model from the TV show. He is full of details and deco down to a Predacon symbol on the crest on his head! The beast mode is a very "Jurassic Park" style T-Rex form with amazing details on the "skin" and gorgeous deco running along the back and underbelly of the T-Rex mode. The transformation is complex, making this figure a "mini-Masterpiece" in my eyes.
While there is a certain energy to having such an unboxing event in person, this was a great way to do it given current realities. BWTF thanks Hasbro for the action figures and for putting together such a fantastic event!