"Transformers Energon" Optimus Prime Toy Review


"Energon" Logo

General Information:
Release Year: November 2003
Retailer: General Release (Toys 'R' Us, Kay Bee, Wal-Mart etc.)
Price: $39.99 (Depending on Retailer)
Transformation Difficulty Level: 4
Accessories: Trailer, Missile launcher, Missile, OP1 Fire Truck, OP2 Helicopter, OP3 Drill & OP4 Submarine


For the first time since Generation Two, the name Optimus Prime is carrying over from the previous year's main line into the next; and representing the same character at the same time. One could easily argue that this is the most "different" Optimus Prime in terms of design since Prime was a fire truck instead of a tractor trailer (or if you want to go back a bit, a race car instead of a truck). While this Optimus is a truck, the design principles are new and interesting.

OP Vehicles:
Energon Optimus Prime comes with four smaller vehicles, each serving a unique purpose. They are:

  • OP1: A fire truck
  • OP2: A helicoptor
  • OP3: A drill tank
  • OP4: A submarine

Each vehicle is a triple changer. Aside form being vehicles, each can transform into an arm or a leg for Optimus Prime's "super" mode.

OP1 is a futuristic fire truck. Early pictures of this vehicle did not seem to show much detail, but an up close examination reveals that there is quite a bit of detail on this vehicle. OP1's primary detailing can be found on the sides of the vehicle. There you'll find details such as vents, control panels, tubes and small step ladders all sculpted into the sides. On the top of the vehicle you'll find a small radar dish on either side.

What I found to be a relief is that this vehicle isn't just a solid piece of plastic with cheap rolling wheels on the bottom. In fact, this vehicle has moving parts and is a fun toy in its own right. The ladder on the top can be moved up and down on a hinge, and it extends! On the front is a dual barrelled cannon that can move from side to side.

OP1 is mostly orange with white paint on the sides for detail. His ladder and the windows of the driver's area are dark gray. On the packaging, OP1 is shown as a red fire truck, which honestly I would have preferred.

Transformation to Arm:

  1. Swing the sides of the driver's section back.
  2. Swing the front of the driver's section up. This reveals the robot fist.
  3. Swing up the front section and then tuck the front flap of the driver's section in and then swing the front section back, this gets the flap out of the way.
  4. Hold the rear of the vehicle and then swing the front of the vehicle down.

OP1 Arm:
OP1 is one of the two OP components that forms an arm that actually has a fist. The fist is sculpted with the thumb in the middle of the fist. This allows you to make him the right or left arm of Optimus Prime. The words "OP 1" are written in big black letters on either side with two stripes inside an angled shape. This would appear to be a homage to the Generation One Optimus Prime, who had long stripes running along the sides of his trailer in a similar shape. These look nice as shoulder pieces, and having the fist allows you to give him weapons such as the missile launcher included with the toy or Omnicon weapons.

Transformation to Leg:

  1. Hold on to the front of the vehicle, and swing the back up.

OP1 Leg:
OP1 looks really nice as a leg. The ladder running down the front looks nice and high tech while the dual barrelled cannons pointing forward give Prime an additional weapon when connected to this vehicle. I also like how flat and rectangular the bottom of this form is, giving Prime a good measure of stability. You can even point the ladder forward as an extra weapon (it has nozzles in the front).

OP1 is a pleasant surprise, and looks great in all its forms.

OP2 is a heavy duty helicopter. It seems to be more of a heavy carrier copter than a fighting vehicle. Some of the detail on OP2 is almost exactly like those on OP1. He has a similarly shaped/built rear section with the letters and numbers "OP 2" on the sides in the same pattern described for OP1. Underneath that are two skis, presumably landing gear. The tail has two small fins on it and what appears to be a blaster sculpted into the top. The sides from the middle to the front look like one large passenger section, with a cargo container underneath. OP2's helicopter blades do spin, but you have to be sure to have the tail swung back or they will get stuck up against the tail.

OP2 is mostly white, with black used for filling out details. This is a rather plain color scheme, and I imagine it was deliberately done this way to keep it from clashing with the main Optimus Prime body or the other 3 "OPs".

Transformation to Arm:

  1. Fold the helicopter blades together.
  2. Swing the rear tail section forward.
  3. Swing the side pieces of the front of the helicopter to the sides.
  4. Swing up the front part of the pilot's section to reveal the robot fist.
  5. Hold on to the front of the vehicle and swing the back section up to form the shoulder section.

OP2 Arm:
OP2, along with OP1 are the only vehicles in this team that actually become arms with fists. This gives him the ability to wield weapons such as the Energon Saber or the ones that the Omnicons come with. Both sides of the arm match, so you can reverse the arm to make it the right or left. Interestingly enough, the parts revealed from the sides of the pilot's section are painted dark blue, which is more of a "Prime" color, it would have been neat to see a bit more detailing using that color.

Transformation to Leg:

  1. Swing the tail section forward.
  2. Fold the blade halves together, and then set them inside the tail piece so they stay in place.
  3. Hold on to the back portion of OP2 and then swing the front up.

OP2 Leg:
Because of the bullet like shape of the middle to front section of OP2, you would almost think that this leg was formed from a train and not a helicopter. The gray helicopter blades running up the middle of the leg give a nice color break from the black and white colors. The bottom of the foot is almost oval shaped, but it is wide enough that it lends a lot of support when combined with Optimus. OP2 looks good as a leg, but I prefer him as an arm.

OP3 is a drill tank. It probably has one of the nicest decos of the four OP vehicles. The primary color is a dark beige. Black is used for details such as the sides of the treads and the front of the drill itself. What's really nice is the spray op used on the drill. It makes it look like the front of the drill has been used a lot, and that the wear and tear on it stretches to the back. The cockpit window is painted metallic copper, which is a nice contrast against the beige. OP3 has the same angled stripe pattern as the other OP vehicles. He also has the letters and number "OP 3" painted on the sides.

In terms of sculpt, OP3 definitely looks like a high tech machine made up of gears, tubes and more. He has the same radar dishes as OP1 and 2 on the top of the vehicle form. The drill bit itself is very detailed. Rather than using the typical corkscrew detailing, this drill bit has blades on it, and four smaller bits at the base. There's no doubt that OP3 is one rough and tumble vehicle. If you roll the vehicle along, the drill turns thanks to a gear on the bottom. This works well and the gear doesn't get stuck or anything (which gears sometimes do). A neat little feature.

Transformation to Arm:

  1. Lift up the cockpit piece.
  2. Hold on to the front of the vehicle, and swing the back section up to form the robot shoulder.
  3. Flip the cockpit piece down.

OP3 Arm:
OP3 is different than OP1 and 2 in that he has no fist in this form. Rather, the hand is substituted with the drill. While this increases his damage potential quite a bit, it's sort of a shame that Powerlinx pegs or holes to attach weapons weren't put on him. The area around the base of the drill would have been a perfect place for that.

Transformation to Leg:

  1. Lift up the small cockpit piece.
  2. Swing the drill portion of the vehicle up.

OP3 Leg:
OP3 makes a much better leg than an arm. He still retains his destructive potential thanks to the drill, and since with combining robots, feet are basically in the eye of the beholder, he doesn't seem like he's missing anything as he does when he's in arm mode.

OP4 is a submarine, completing Prime's complement of land, sea and air vehicles in Energon. His primary color is dark blue, with white and silver for detailing. The silver is nicely used on the top and underside of the sub, and the design the white, painted portion forms is really nice and streamlined.

OP4 has many similar features to the other OP vehicles. The back portion is the same general shape, with the double lined designs. On the top are two radar dishes of the same design as those on OP1, 2 and 3. The similarities end there however. The front is oval shaped, but rather flat instead of being a full nose. Above that is the control tower of the sub. On the sides are torpedo tubes and other neat details. The lower portion of OP4 appears to be a big engine complete with propellers and huge vents.

While OP4 looks cool, he has no action feature like the other OP units. Turning propellers or even a firing missile would have been nice.

Transformation to Arm:

  1. Hold on to the front of the vehicle and swing up the back portion.

OP4 Arm:
OP4 is the intermediary type of arm between the regular, fist bearing OP1 and 2 and the non-handed OP3. Instead of a fist or a drill, OP4 has a claw. But an oddly sculpted one at that. Each claw half has three fingers sculpted into it, so it looks like he actually has some odd six fingered hand with three fingers on top and three on the bottom. The problem here is, the claw can't really do anything. One of the strengths of the Energon line is the ability to have weaponry from various toys in Energon (and Armada) interact with other figures. The designers could have easily put a regular fist here that turned at the wrist so you could adjust its position for transformation. Granted, the screw holes on OP4 does fit Prime's gun, but it's a very tight fit. As it is, the claw doesn't look particulary good, and it adds little play value.

Transformation to Leg:

  1. Hold on to the rear of the vehicle and flip the front, oval portion up.

OP4 Leg:
Whereas OP4 really isn't the best arm, he makes a fine leg. Partially I like him as a leg because he is blue, looking more like the classic Prime's legs did than any of the other team members. Also, the foot portion here is nice and sleek with the rounded part in the front, and it's nice and wide so it supports the figure nicely.

Optimus Prime (Vehicle Mode):
In vehicle mode, Optimus Prime is a futuristic tractor trailer truck. As with other Energon figures, this Prime has influences from Transformers of previous lines. The cab of this vehicle mode may give you a slight sense of deja vu if you're a long time collector. In fact, the front does hold some resemblance to the cab of the Autobot Thunderclash (who would later go on to be given a new deco as Machine Wars Optimus Prime). This is primarily in the shape of the section with the windows. The rest of this form can be seen as an updated version of the Generation One Optimus Prime. The cab is mostly rectangular (rather than square). There are lights and blowhorns on the top edge above the windows. Like G1 Prime, he has two fuel tanks, one on each side on the parts that will become his legs.

Despite the similarities to previous generations of Primes, this one has quite a few details and design aspects all his own. First, you'll notice the wheels are very large in proportion to the rest of the cab. Neat details include: the armor on top of the front grille, the ladder details on the sides and the small mechanical details. On the right side, Prime has a large, sculpted Autobot symbol, on the left he has an Autobot Spark Crystal.

An interesting design choice is the placement of the robot arms in this form. In almost every Optimus Prime truck toy ever made, the arms are made to tuck out of the way somewhere. Here however they stick out the back of the cab at an angle and rest on two angled bases. To be honest, I'm of two minds on this design choice. My initial reactions were that the designers were being lazy and just wanted to do something with the arms without finding a way to meld them into the central cab form. However, upon seeing this up close, it looks like the arms are meant to be some form of futuristic, armored piston - perhaps meant to allude to a mechanism that connects the cab to the trailer. Either way you look at it, it's an interesting design choice.

On the top of the cab, towards the back is a winged piece with cannons on it. This will eventually become the "helmet" for the super form of Prime. I would have preferred they found a way to just tuck this piece away better. The piece just looks a bit out of place, but given the design, it probably would have caused quite a bit of redesigning to do so.

Optimus is mostly dark blue in this form. The blue is a bold choice as it is much darker than the blue used on previous Primes. Red is used on the parts that become his arms, the right side Autobot symbol and a bit on the top and sides. Interestingly, Hasbro decided to make the front portion (around the front windows) white. I guess this helps break the monotony of the red, but I think most fans are quite aware that Prime should have a lot of red. Indeed, early reports indicate the Japanese version of this toy will have red in the front instead of white. It will be interesting to see what the final animation models look like to see if they match this toy. Silver is used liberally on the front grille/armor section and on the fuel tanks on each side of the cab. The windows and headlights on the cab are painted metallic blue, which looks really nice. A bit of yellow is used for what looks like an extra set of lights sculpted right under the front windows.

Prime's cab can accommodate both Mini-Cons and Energon weapons. His missile launcher can attach either to the hole on the top of the cab (the back of the robot head, really) for a nice, forward firing weapon. Also, you can store the gun away at the back of the cab, where there's a hole on the right side and a base to rest the barrel of the gun onto. On either side of the cab, under the Autobot symbols, you will find a Mini-Con Powerlinx point. Since some of the Energon weapons have Powerlinx points that will fit right onto these pegs, you're not limited to just attaching Mini-Cons.

The trailer that Optimus has is one of the most unusual in the lineage of Optimus Prime toys. First, it's shape is not rectangular or square. What we have here folks, is a big Parallelogram. The trailer is designed to accommodate the four OP vehicles, each has its own distinct compartment in the trailer. The doors to each section are marked off with the "1, 2, 3 or 4" designations that tell you which vehicle belongs in which slot.

Staying true to G1 Prime's color conventions, the trailer is mostly gray. The top (where the doors to each chamber are) is made up of four black doors. Originally, the prototypes of Prime showed each "OP" word painted in silver, but the final product has them flat black. On the sides of the trailer, you'll find a bit of gold on the top edges. The biggest painted detail is the back of the trailer, where a huge Autobot symbol is painted. I would dare say this is probably one of the biggest Autobot symbols put on an Autobot toy in a very long time.

Early pictures of this trailer simply could not do it justice. There are a lot of nicely sculpted details on the sides and back of the trailer that are very difficult to catch on film, and then put on a web site with any sort of clarity. The details range from beveled details, lines at sharp angles and cross hatching.

The trailer has a radar dish at the end. It can move up and down on a hinge, and adds a bit of detail and imagined functionality to the trailer. One can easily imagine this is how Prime stays in touch with his OP units over a long distance. The trailer also has two Mini-Con Powerlinx pegs. Of course, since some Energon figure weapons have Powerlinx points, you can attach those to the trailer as well. I would have liked to see a couple more of these pegs, but the trade-off would be losing some of the visual appeal with pegs sticking out the sides.

At first, my reactions to this Prime's vehicle mode were quite negative. But upon getting the toy and seeing everything together in front of me, I realize that the designers were going for something that was both a homage to the previous Primes, but also a radical new design. In a way, with the trailer attached, Prime looks more like a unified vehicle rather than one piece towing another. I give the designers lots of points for being bold in their design direction.

Transformation of Cab to Robot Mode:

  1. Detach the cab from the trailer.
  2. Detach the missile launcher from the cab (if attached).
  3. Flip up the blue piece in the middle of the cab's top portion to reveal the robot head.
  4. Swing the robot arms forward, slide the fists out using the white tabs.
  5. Swing the lower portion of the cab forward to reveal the robot legs.
  6. On each robot leg, flip out the gray foot and heel pieces.
  7. Fold the rear wheel portions against the back of the robot.
  8. Place the missile launcher in one of Prime's hands.

Transformation of Trailer to Base Mode:

  1. Flip the supports/weapons on either side of the trailer back.
  2. Open the black, side panel where OP2 resides.
  3. Stand the trailer on the front piece (so the big Autobot symbol points up to the sky).
  4. Position the radar dish as desired.

Robot Mode:
The first time I saw pictures of this robot mode, I was (to say the least) underwhelmed. I kept thinking "Why in Primus' name is Prime so tubby?!". However, now having the toy in front of me, there is a sense of relief. Yes, Prime is still tubby, but not quite as tubby as I originally feared. Basically, this is not a toy that photographs well. They say movie cameras put ten pounds on actors, and in this case, it feel like cameras make this Prime's main body look a lot wider and bigger than it really is.

In this form, Optimus has almost all the classic "Prime" characteristics. His chest has the two windows (and they're not "simulated" windows like on Laser Optimus Prime), he has the familiar face with a crest and antennae along with blue legs with the fuel tanks on the thighs. In general terms, there is no way you can look at this toy and not know it's Optimus Prime.

That being said, there are a couple of features which may throw some fans off a bit. First and foremost: the mouth. Optimus Prime has a mouth within a mouthplate, basically a nod to the Beast Wars Optimus Primal television show design. Indeed, if this was Optimus Primal, I'd say it looked great. But just knowing this is Optimus Prime kind of makes the mouth kind of hard to see as being "right". The last time Optimus Prime had a "mouth" in the toy he was a redeco of another character altogether (the Thunderclash to Machine Wars Prime redeco), so you could excuse that. I guess one can take this two ways. 1) It's a neat little design homage to Primal or 2) Nice homage, but it's not the best choice for Prime. Interestingly enough, Hasbro has stated on web site that they intend to change the mouth eventually to reflect the animation, which seems to indicate we may get a "closed mouth" Prime somewhere down the road.

Optimus has few color surprises in this form. Almost everything visible here carries over from the vehicle mode except for his head, feet and hands. The hands are blue, which looks nice against the red arms. The feet are dark gray pieces, and the head is a mixture of blue, with silver for the crest and mouth area. His eyes are yellow, like the lights on his chest. Color-wise, everything works nicely. Even though his chest is white, there is enough white on other parts of him such as the shoulders and gun to balance it out.

Sculpt-wise, there's actually quite a bit of detail here where parts could have been left rather plain. On both his arms and legs, you'll find lots of line detail that could have easily been left out. This is especially evident on the legs where the details are not only sculpted in, but there are layers to the legs, giving the impression of armor on top of something underneath.

Optimus has eleven points of articulation, which is quite a bit by standards set within the past year by Armada. These are mostly focused in the arms and legs as the waist really can't move by design. Still, the range of motion is good, and offers plenty of play value and the ability to pose the figure.

Of course, what $40 price point toy would be complete without some noise? Optimus has five different sounds you can activate from the cab. On the back of the cab, you'll see a switch with the numbers one through four. Pushing the button above the switch activates different sounds. Each number aligns with the OP Unit of that number, so you wind up with sounds for OP1 (a fire engine horn), OP2 (helicopter blades moving), OP3 (drilling sounds) and OP4 (submarine underwater noises). The fifth sound you can activate is a sort of explosive noise activated by a small button on the left side of the body where the cab door would be. I'm not 100% sure what this noise is, but it does play more of a role in the super form.

The bottom line is that Prime looks tubby because so much junk is concentrated on the center of the body. But one has to keep in mind that this is meant to be the center part of a larger form, and thus it's going to have some extra mass to it. Overall this robot mode looks cool and more importantly, is fun to play with.

Trailer Base:
One of my friends said it best when he looked at the trailer base and said "It looks like a futuristic office building". In fact, that's exactly what it looks like, an oddly shaped office building with a helipad. Of course, in essence the base mode is just the trailer on one side with a couple parts moved. Each door can swing open to reveal the vehicle inside, and tabs on the side allow you to slide the vehicles out. It would have been neater had the doors opened to form ramps, but the functionality here works out fine. With the big Autobot symbol on top, it looks like there are really two landing pads here, and one can easily imagine Mini-Cons hanging out on here (and you can still use the Powerlinx points). While certainly not my favorite of the Optimus Prime trailer bases, it definitely has a unique and campy appeal.

Transformation to Super Mode:
Since I already described the OP Unit transforms above, it's simple from that point on starting with the cab in robot mode.:

  1. Remove any weapons Optimus may be carrying.
  2. Push in the robot fists and swing the arms out to the sides.
  3. Fold the feet and heel pieces up.
  4. Fold the helmet hanging behind Prime's head over it, making sure the antannae point upward.
  5. Attach OP Units as you see fit. Each OP Unit has a big hole in the back that allows it to connect to Prime's arms or legs.
  6. The missile launcher can attach to the fists of OP1 or 2. Otherwise you can attach it to the back of the robot.
  7. Flip the chest pieces open and swing them to the sides.

Super Robot Mode:
Optimus Prime is somewhat unique in the world of recent Transformers toys. Although he does have a common enough "combiner" type transform, it is one that can only be done in one way. Rather, each of his OP Units can form either an arm or a leg of this form. The pros and cons of each OP Unit are already discussed above.

As a combined unit, a lot of Optimus' aforementioned "tubbiness" disappears, and it becomes obvious that his central body was bulked up to make him look proportioned in this combined form. Knowing this helps a lot to accept the bulkiness of the cab's main body, and explains some of the odd proportions such as the thick thighs but skinny lower legs of the cab mode in robot form.

Optimus has a definite Megazord/Power Ranger/Voltron type vibe to him. Unlike most Transformers who combine with other vehicles, these vehicles are only meant to be arms or legs in their alternate forms, with no robot modes. Even Armada's Tidal Wave had a robot mode, and he also became a vehicle and armor to combine with Galvatron.

The result is a toy that requires a bit of mental flexibility for Transformers fans to fully accept. Not only is this a rather different type of Transformer, but it's also the iconic Optimus Prime, who many fans have pegged as a simple "cab becomes robot, maybe the trailer combines with it" toy type.

The key to this toy (in my opinion) is that it's fun. With each part able to create an arm or leg, it gives fans lots of combination possibilities, and you can imagine each part giving Prime different functions as he separates and recombines. Need to dig? He'll use OP3 as an arm! Need to fly faster? Put OP2 as an arm! The possibilities are endless (okay, not really, but there are more than say, two).

While my pictures above show a couple different combinations, undoubtedly my favorite s the combination of having OP1 and 2 as the arms. Since they have fists that can hold Mini-Con or Energon weapons, they help maximize the play value of the toy. The only thing which takes a bit of getting used to is having OP3 as one of the legs. He's the only OP Unit without a really super flat and wide foot, so you may have to reposition him a bit now and then depending on the surface you have Prime on.

In terms of appearance, Optimus is anything but plain. What helps here is that two of the parts (OP2 and 4) are colors (or shades of colors) that can be found on the main cab body, so they integrate rather easily. OP1 unfortunately was changed from the original red color to orange. While as a stand alone toy that color is fine, it would have integrated a lot better with the main form had it been red. As for OP3, its colors are appropriate since it is a drilling "Earthy" machine, so its color needs to reflect that, and the color is neutral enough that it doesn't overwhelm the rest of the form.

With Optimus' chest open, we get to see a world of new detail. It has become a habit to basicall associate any chamber within an Optimus' chest as a Matrix chamber, but seeing as how Optimus didn't have the Matrix by the end of Armada, it's kind of hard to say whether or not this is in fact a Matrix chamber, or Prime's version of an Energon chamber etc. Time will tell. For now, just let your collective imaginations roam. The chamber is very nicely sculpted, with three distinct "levels". There is a base level which stretches from one end of the chest to the other. Then inside that are two smaller side sections (which remind me of Matrix handles, down to five holes etched into either side where "fingers" would theoretically fit). Then there's a central section which one can think of as the Matrix storage section. There are a nice series of sculpted rectangles that lead into the center which itself has lines going out in a starburst type pattern. At the very center is a red LED that lights up when you press the button on the left side of the cab section. This also activates his "Power up" type sound. You don't actually have to flip the left chest panel/door back every time to press this button, just press the door gently against the main body and it will come in contact with the button. The chest section is painted silver except for two small sections near the "Matrix handles" which are yellow instead.

The other part of the Super Robot form that is not used in other forms is the helmet that fits over Optimus head. Designed to look like a powered up version of the cab's robot head, it borrows elements from previous Optimus toys. The biggest homage here are the two cannons on either side of his head. These come straight from the Super form of Powermaster Optimus Prime. Then the antannae on either side are angled at the end, ending in a sharp edge (not sharp enough to hurt anyone, don't worry parents) which is reminiscent of Optimus Primal's antennae as they were shown in the TV Show. The rest of the head such as the crest in the center are taken straight from the classic Prime's head. The face is still the same from the cab mode's robot mode, which is kind of disappointing. While it works out to a degree, it still looks like a small Prime head with a big, big helmet on. It would have been really cool had there been some type of faceplate that slid down to cover the smaller Prime head. But it's hardly a fatal flaw. The helmet section rests on a hinge to swing over the head, but there is an additional joint which allows the robot head to look from side to side. Kudos to Hasbro for thinking of adding that there so he's not stuck looking straight forward all the time.

Optimus has fourteen points of articulation in this mode, which is actually pretty incredible for a combined form Transformer such as this. His legs can even swing out to the sides a bit thanks to the front tires of the cab section being able to swing out a tad.

In the final analysis, this toy is one that you literally need to have in your hands to appreciate. Pictures don't do it justice (even the official Hasbro ones), and the early pictures of the "tubby" cab mode didn't help either. Yes this guy is a bit big, but there's a reason for it. It is also crucial to note that even though he's a combiner, parts don't go falling off all over the place as you pose and fiddle with it. That combined with the homages, fun factor and electronics give you one package I happily, highly recommend.

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