Release Year: February 2004
Retailer: Wal-Mart Exclusive
Transformation Difficulty Level: 3 (Advanced)
Accessories: Missiles x 2 for Thrust, Missile x 1 for Inferno
In March of 2004, Wal-Mart stores made Transformers a "featured line" in their stores. As part of this
promotion, Hasbro created several redecos of previously released toys as Wal-Mart exclusives. One of these exclusive toys was actually a combination of two different Armada toys in new colors. First, the
Thrust figure was taken along with his Mini-Con Inferno and given a new identity: Sunstorm (more on that in a bit). Then, to make the price point a bit higher on the toy, Hasbro added in a redeco of the Street Action Team. Curiously enough, the Street Action Team retained their identities, but they were paired up with a Decepticon. Of course, this being a character from an alternate universe and all, this Perceptor could be a servant of Sunstorm. That's the great thing about Universe isn't it? Anything goes.
So who's this Sunstorm guy? Well, a couple years back, the Japanese store E-Hobby released two redecos of G1 toys as new characters. One was G1 Grapple as "Hauler", and the other was the standard Decepticon Jet (the same mold used for Skywarp, Starscream and Thundercracker) in bright orange colors. This was a reference to a scene in Generation One's TV Show where one of the jets was colored orange. You can see the Decepticon in question in the background here. This color scheme was bold and a bordered a bit on the absurd, but he quickly became popular among Transformers fans. This toy is a direct homage to that.
This review will focus on the changes made to these toys. I suggest reading (or at least skimming) these reviews
Grindor screams "Military Issue Skateboard" to me. All his dark blue parts have been replaced with dark green parts which make him look a bit more like a vehicle for transport instead of a kid's plaything. Of course, he's still a skateboard, so that doesn't make much sense. Anyhow, silver details keep this toy from looking totally plain. In the skateboard mode, the rockets at the back and the cross hatched sections in the front are both silver. The light blue parts remain the same color as the original Grindor.
In robot form, the green seems a little less odd since his robot mode looks nothing like a skateboard. The shoulder guards are black and the robot head and upper body are dark green. Silver paint is used for the mid section and face. Grindor's robot mode looks a lot better than the skateboard mode. The
silver contrasts nicely against the green, bringing some needed brightness to the toy.
Of the three team members, High Wire has been changed the least. His colors all remain the same from the Armada version except for Perceptor's head, which as been redone in dark green with silver details (matching up with Grindor's colors).
Oddly, the arms on the High Wire that came in my set were put on backwards. This isn't really noticable unless you really stare at the package when you get it or once you transform the little guy. It's no big deal to pop the arms off and swap them since they're on ball joints.
Sureshock's color changes are perhaps the nicest ones in the set. All his orange has been replaced by black. The light blue parts from the original remain, and the seat is a dark green color (but different than Grindor's). The wheel mechanisms and tailpipe are painted silver, and the headlights are still yellow.
In robot mode, Sureshock's central body is black and his face is painted the same green as the seat. The eyes are dots of yellow, which somehow look really creepy against the dark green. If the intent was to make a "dark eeeevil" version of the Street Action Team, the designers succeeded with Sureshock by a mile.
Perceptor's new look is darker than his original appearance. With the elimination of the blue and orange, he looks a lot more like some military robot rather than a light hearted, "cutesy" robot that we all know and love from the Armada TV Show. The robot head is dark green with silver details for his brow and face. The eyes are still blue, but they seem a tad darker than the blue used on the Armada Perceptor.
The upper body (which is mostly comprised of Grindor parts) is a mix of black, dark green and light blue. The light blue is the same color used on Armada Perceptor. The lower arms and chest are dark green with silver details. The silver color actually looks pretty nice against the dark green since it is used sparingly. It also enhances his look as military equipment rather than "street equipment".
Since the legs are a rather large part of the body, having them black really promotes this "dark" image for this incarnation of the character.
While I like the dark green and black colors on this Perceptor, it may have been a good idea to use a color besides the original's light blue. It looks a bit out of place, but it's hardly a horrible color scheme. It seems the designers wanted to go for the antithesis of the Armada Street Action Team, and to that end, they succeeded.
Inferno offers a sharp contrast to Sunstorm despite being color coordinated with him. Inferno has the white and orange colors so prevelant on Sunstorm, but his primary color is black, with silver paint for his windows. Even in robot mode, his upper legs and Mini-Con Powerlinx point are the only orange parts heavily visible. His face and the area under his Powerlinx point are both painted dark blue. When attached to Sunstorm, he looks great, and on his own he's different enough from the other versions of Inferno that he's nice and distinct. A nice redeco on the little guy.
With Sunstorm, it's all about being bright and loud. To that end, Sunstorm is basically comprised of four colors: light orange, orange, white and some black for detailing. What comes together is a color scheme so absurd - it's cool. The jet is mostly light orange, with darker orange filling in details previous versions of this toy had used black for such as the patterns going from the middle of the jet out to the wings. The missile launchers and landing gear are also orange. The front intake vents and some of the rear (like the platform for Inferno) are white. The Decepticon symbol on the right wing is painted really nicely. Rather than just throwing a blotch of purple paint on it, the raised parts of the symbol are painted purple, leaving gaps like the "eyes" the color of the wings.
There is some black tossed in, and I think it was a smart move. The black is used for smaller details like the fan at the center, the edges of the wings and rear fins. The black offers just enough of a dark color to keep the color scheme from being overwhelming. Also, the cockpit is painted light gray, so that helps as well.
In this mode, there doesn't seem to be any mold degradation. Inferno still attaches just fine to the jet and the missiles launch just fine.
The brightness continues in robot mode. Sunstorm's head, upper body, arms and feet are all mostly white (with some detailing). The face is painted gray with red eyes (nice touch). The central piece which runs down the center of the upper body is orange, as is his Powerlink port on his chest. The small mechanical detail on the right side of his chest is black, but the dot on it is painted orange (nice consistancy there).
The shoulders, like other versions of this toy, are white, and the Decepticon symbols are painted purple, but only on the raised parts, so they look great. The arm joint/elbow section is black and the lower arms are white with black detailing on the sides. I kind of wish they had gone the extra mile and tossed in some orange/yellowish "burn" paint details on the thrusters/fists, but considering this was a quick job for a store exclusive, I guess we can only expect so much.
The lower body is almost all orange. The waist and upper legs are orange while the lower legs are light orange with orange details painted on.
Unfortunately, when you use a mold enough, some signs of its aging begin to show. The legs on the Sunstorm I purchased are a lot more loose than the ones on any previous incarnation of this toy that I own. Also, when you flip the nosecone on the head back, mine has a tendency to bounce back forward, partially obscuring the top part of his head. After a few tries you can get it in the proper position, but I've never had this problem with previous versions of this toy. Most likely there is some bad flash bits inside the head mechanism, and this may or may not be a problem for all Universe Sunstorms out there.
With the slight mold degradation, odd Street Action Team colors and a rather hefty price tag of $18-19.00, it's hard to recommend this set wholeheartedly. Technically, if you figure an average price of $9.99 for a deluxe toy (Thrust and Inferno), and the typical price of a Mini-Con team ($6.99) and the fact that they're saving money by not having any R & D and by bundling them together in one package, the price really should have been more around $15-17.00.
If you're a hardcore collector, it's worthwhile especially considering its exclusive status. However, the casual collector may want to pass. Personally, I'm rather tickled to see that a Japanese character has made the crossover from Japan into Hasbro's "mainstream" line, but I do recognize that this color scheme is one of those you either love or hate. Recommended, but with reservations.