Tuesday, 25 August 2015

A Concise Review of Machine Wars Thundercracker In 500 Words Or Less

Pricepoint/Vintage: Basic, 1996.
Modes: Robot and Dassault Rafale Jet.
Transformation Style: Spring-loaded flipchanger.
Play Patterns: Robot and aircraft, 3mm weaponry.
Points of interest: A toy intended for the cancelled Generation 2 line, resurrected for the ill-famed Machine Wars.

The Good
Thundercracker is surprisingly comprehensive for a toy of his stature, featuring elements often omitted from his modern equivalents. The jet mode has three points of foldable landing gear, weapon storage, and a separate grey plastic for the cockpit. His robot mode has an entirely reasonable eight balljoints, a gun, a what may be considered a classically Decepticon appearance. The sculpt also has a lot in the way of panel lines, backed up by stickers and paint. The spring-loaded transformation is also effective and inoffensive. There's a general feeling of competency here, and shows how much G2 got right.

The Bad
G2 also got some things wrong, and this toy didn't learn the lessons. As you can tell from the pictures, this toy looks sweet FA like Thundercracker, and continues the G2 tradition of ugly colour schemes. He resembles a knock-off, and while I'm all for the seekers being different, this is not an improvement. Most of the colour comes from the plastic, which in not ideal as the grey ends up neutering a light-piping gimmick. The flipchanging meanwhile is reliant on the friction in limb joints rather locking in somehow, which is less than ideal. He's a bit floppy in jet mode if you don't align things correctly, and the balljoints are easily detached.

The Mediocre
Like many jetformers, Thundercracker suffers from having a messy undercarriage, and less commonly, no neck joint. Both of these stem from the transformation, and are forgiveable under the circumstances. The ability to store his gun in his calves is also a little unrefined. You have to split it half, and while one pegs in, the other you have to just jam in there. It holds, but make sure the example you buy has both bits.

The Alternatives
This mould was used five times over the years, mainly in association with Japanese continuities or Beast Wars spin-offs, and in one notable case, a pre-Earth Waspinator. If the colours don't appeal, other options exist, but prices vary. If all you want is a good jetformer of similar origins, consider a Cyberjet, which are even more numerous, and largely better. There's also the Botcon 2013 re-imagining of this toy, and nearly every other version of Thundercracker.

The Verdict
While ugly, Thundercracker ticks a lot of boxes, and represents a baseline for similar toys. If a scout, legend, basic or whatever has the same strengths as this, its a good toy in my eyes. Or a least, a competent one. Something that grows on you. However, the flipchanging ends up being a net negative, and the paintjob is not easy on the eye. If you can get past either, take a chance.

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