"Alternators" Meister Toy Review


General Information:
Release Year: November 2004
Retailer: General Release (Toys 'R' Us, Kay Bee, Wal-Mart etc.)
Price: $19.99 (Depending on Retailer)
Accessories: Muffler Block/Gun

Alternators Meister is the US release of the sculpt used for Binaltech Meister. Most fans will recognize the name "Meister" as the Japanese G1 name for the character we knew in the US as Jazz. In recent times any use of the Jazz name has had to utilize the "Autobot" title in front of it (effectively making the name "Autobot Jazz") because of legal issues. However, in this release there were more than just simple issues of Hasbro trademark at stake. Instead, Hasbro had to take into account the trademark issues with Mazda's brand as well. Ultimately name "Autobot Jazz" was not going to work here, so they fell back on the Japanese name.

This cross pollination of sorts is interesting, and is indicative of the high level of interaction between Takara and Hasbro. Granted this has always existed, but rarely does it come out in such an obvious form as this.

This review will focus on the changes made to this toy for this release. For a more detailed review of the mechanics of the toy, please read Binaltech Meister's review.

Vehicle Mode:
Meister is a Mazda RX8, one of the latest versions of their popular RX line. Its sleek lines and curves make it quite an attractive vehicle, and a very good choice for a character with style like Meister.

As with all Alternators releases, Hasbro has replaced all the die cast metal parts from the Binaltech version with plastic parts. Rubber tires remain however.

Part of the idea for Alternators and Binaltech are to remain as faithful to the real life vehicles as possible. This also appears to include taking geography into account. The Binaltech version of Meister has its steering wheel set to the right side of the dashboard. The Alternators version has the steering wheel on the left making the two distinct from each other in a very obvious way.

Another design feature which differs between the two involves the mechanism which allows both front wheels to move in tandem. Whereas the Binaltech version uses magnets like the other Binaltech releases, Alternators Meister uses small cones which fit into a notch on a bar that moves the two wheels together. Personally I don't like this too much. I imagine there were cost issues involved in using magnets, but they affect of the appearance of the toy in robot mode.

While both versions of Meister represent the white version of the real life vehicle, there are distinct differences in the color. The Alternators Meister is a flat, white plastic color. This looks nice and rather true to the real life car. However, if you compare the color to the Binaltech version, you'll find that the Binaltech version is actually an off white, pearl-like color. The Binaltech version also proves to be slightly more accurate to the real life vehicle in that its side mirrors have white painted on to the top sections. This photo of the RX8 from Mazda USA's web site shows that this white is a detail found on the real car itself. On the Alternators version, it is missing.

Sadly, another detail present on the Binaltech version is missing in the Alternators version as well. On the side mirrors, the Binaltech Meister has reflective silver material to simulate the mirrors. However, on Alternators Meister, there is no reflective material, not even silver paint. Just black, with an outline showing where the mirror would clearly be. This really compounds the other items noted above as noticable cost cutting measures on Hasbro's side. They are rather unfortunate because with a line like Alternators, which touts detail as one of its selling points, such small things count for a lot.

Another difference between the two is the steering wheel. Like many Alternators, the steerring wheel has been made out of a more flexible rubber than the stiff plastic of the Binaltech. This is actually a move I favor because it allows for less potential breakage in the toy during transformation, especially if you forget to push the steering wheel down.

Robot Mode:
In robot mode, the Binaltech and Alternators versions of Meister are virtually identical. Aside from the white on the car parts differing (as noted in the vehicle mode review), the regular robot parts such as arms and legs are the same shade of white. In this form however you do notice the huge change between the magnetic mechanism and the "cone" mechanism noted in the vehicle mode review as these small cones stick out from the sides of the shoulders.

While I had many reservations about the vehicle mode, in robot mode I have to admit that the toy looks pretty much every bit as good as his Binaltech counterpart.

Final Thoughts:
I am disappointed that the Alternator differs from the Binaltech version in so many cost-saving ways in vehicle mode. However, those small details do not outweigh the $30 or so extra dollars it would cost you on average to buy a Binaltech Meister. For a substitute, this is a good toy. And overall, it is fun to play with and looks great. Still, a nit picking fan such as myself is a bit disappointed with the final execution.

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