Pros: the return to car robots
Cons: he's still got to fight against animals
Come on, baby, light my fire.
Optimus Prime is the wise and courageous leader of the Autobots. He loves all creatures and will fight with every last spark of his energy to defend the planet Earth and all its inhabitants from Megatron and his evil plan of conquest and destruction. He dreams of a lasting peace on the planet and in the universe. He has battled the Predacons many times and saved countless lives. His ferocity is legendary--his anger against injustice blazes like a six-alarm fire within him.
I cannot stress enough how happy I am to see the Transformers line returning to its vehicular roots. For far too long the Robots in Disguise have been disguising themselves as other vaguely animal-shaped robots; in truth, not much of a disguise. However, in Japan, the Transformers have been kickin' it old school for some time now: while the villains continue to delude themselves into thinking that a flying shark with missile launcher eyes or a six-foot frog with a robot's head between its legs is a wonderfully inconspicuous way to plan the overthrow of humanity, the good old Autobots are, well, good old Autobots; Sideswipe is a race car, Brawn is a ute, Prowl is a sporty police car, and Prime is a big honkin' truck; heck, all we're missing is Bumblebee as a new Beetle.
The "Robots in Disguise" cartoon that's been airing in Japan for a while now is finally being imported to the US, and the toys are following close behind, which is why the robot formerly known as Super Fire Convoy in Japan is now available (with nothing more than a few minimal paint changes) on North American toy store shelves as Optimus Prime.
To be sure, Prime has evolved with the passage of time. Gone is the lumbering eighteen-wheeler of the 80s, replaced with a powerful fire engine; a ladder truck, to be precise. There's a bit of kibble (the left over bits in one form that obviously belong to the other) in the presence of a giant robotic head near the rear of the truck, but otherwise both forms are excellent representations. You can even sound the siren and flash the lights with the push of a button (and the addition of two AAA batteries which are, to the relief of parents everywhere I'm sure, not included). The vehicle form is almost a foot long, from bumper to bumper.
One of the running jokes about the original Prime was that his trailer disappeared when he transformed to his robot mode, and the updated version is no different. Just take a look at this comparison:
Original: robot was formed from the cab of the semi
Updated: robot is formed from the front half of the truck
Original: trailer became a battle platform
Updated: back half of the truck becomes a battle platform
Original: the battle platform really looked kinda silly was better served by staying as the trailer
Updated: not quite. Keep reading
This new edition of Optimus has three robot forms: the standard, which we'll be discussing later, is a nice update of the classic Optimus' look; add a few pieces of the battle platform as rocket launchers on his shoulders, and you've created the Mega mode; completely dismantle the base and wrap all the pieces around Optimus, and you now have the towering (he's a 12 inches tall) Ultimate mode, which is the one pictured on the figure's packaging. If you also purchase the Ultra Magnus toy (he's a car carrier), you can combine the two figures to create Omega Prime (God Fire Convoy in Japan), a massive machine that dwarfs all others.
Now, as I said before, Optimus Prime's standard robot form is a nice update of the classic look. In the 80s version, the cab of the truck formed Prime's torso--the divided windshield was his chest, the grill his abdomen, and his hands came out of the headlights. In the new version, the cab of the vehicle splits to become Prime's feet, but his torso has the same general appearance as his twenty-year predecessor--blue panels against the red body delineate his chest, and silver details cover his abdomen. Put the two Primes together, and yes, you'll be able to tell that these two characters are indeed related, which really shows that the designers put some thought into the creation of the updated version; while Old Prime's look was mandated by the way he transformed, the New Prime's torso isn't even remotely visible in his vehicle state--it folds away deep inside the cab--so the fact that the design is similar is just a nod to the series' history and to the fans.
While there are points of movement all over the figure to allow for various transformations, there are 22 points of usable articulation in his robot form--neck, two joints in each shoulder, the bicep, elbow, wrist, waist, two joints in each of the hips and knees, and ball-and-socket ankles. So we're getting the design sensibility of the classic Transformers with the articulation of the Beast Machines; together, a great combination.
Transformation: This is a level 4, "Expert" conversion mainly, I believe, for the various ways to use the pieces of the battle platform, since the transformation of Prime himself is quite easy: fold the cab down to the front and split it in half to form legs, then flip his feet down and out from the cab's interior; rotate his arms forward, and slide his hands out of his forearms; push his torso down to his waist to reveal his head, and you're finished. Simple. The rear of the truck, however, is comprised of seven smaller pieces that get rearranged and shuffled around quite a bit as you move through the various forms of the truck, robot, and base. However, the instructions are clear, and once you've made the switch a few times, you'll be able to see how things are supposed to fit together.
As a child of the 80s, I was never happy with the animalistic versions of the Transformers that have been the standard for the past few years; I missed the vehicles. So now that the Robots in Disguise are rolling out again, I look forward to more offerings along these lines.