Sunday, December 13, 2009

Psychometric nostalgia but not really: a not really review of Transformers Encore Generation 1 Optimus Prime for both collectors and non-collectors

(Psychometry is a psychic skill wherein one is able to sense the vibrations that are left on an object by somebody who has handled it, enabling the psychic to sense various details about the object's owner or most recent handler by simply touching the object)

For the longest time, I have wanted a G1 Optimus Prime, my own copy of the now-so iconic mold that has entertained kids until they were old enough to entertain their own kids by buying them their own toys, so they would leave those of their dad alone. Never mind which version it was: I can't afford the vintage one, and besides, I'm going to be playing with it anyway. The TFC (Transformers Collection) series version was wayyy too expensive (around 10-12k, to be exact) for my taste, and Hasbro's recently released 25th Anniversary Prime was fugly and getting lots of bad reviews, so in the end I decided on the most recent Japanese release, the Transformers Encore version: not too expensive (usually around 2.5-3k, but I got mine for 2k yay) and one of the more decent-looking versions nowadays.

Funny how toys have changed in the last twenty years, I say to myself as I look at the box's contents. Back then, you had to take time to clip stuff and stick stickers onto your Optimus Prime toy and its trailer before you could play with it properly, a pre-play stage of sorts where you could sort things out mentally before actually handling the toy the way it was supposed to be handled. Compare this with today's toys, where everything is practically ready to play with out of the box, hence the frustration of some kids and parents when they find out the toy was supposed to have a launching missile that they accidentally threw away with the box.

Of all the Optimus Primes designed and released through the years, Generation 1 Optimus Prime still probably has the best looking truck mode. Why? Simple: it was meant to look good as a truck more than anything else. Nowadays, designers try to make it look as both truck and robot. Even the Masterpiece version (the largest toy in the cabinet shot, Generation 1 Optimus is the truck on Masterpiece's back) pales in comparison of truck modes, and the Masterpiece toy, I will tell you, is anything but simple.

Transformation is as simple as it gets. Thanks to the lack of intricate joints to hide something as big as a fist in, you have to plug in two fists from the included extra parts in order to transform Optimus into robot mode. Somewhere, somebody is reading this now and wondering when exactly did he lose the fists of the Generation 1 Optimus Prime he had when he was little.

There are hinged joints on Optimus' shoulders, elbows, hips and knees. By today's standards, articulation like this would only count as decent if it were on a figure less than a third of its size. The head can't even move from side to side. Sure, you can place him into an 'I am raising my gun because I am the leader of the Autobots and I want all Autobots to transform and roll out!', but that's about it.

Oh yeah, and in case I forget to mention it: for all its simplicity, Generation 1 Optimus Prime still affords to have a decent amount of metal parts, specifically its legs and feet. You weigh him in your hand, and you know that you're holding a good, weighty toy. Nowadays, even the Japanese, the genius toy makers that they are, hesitate to use metal as generously, due to its heaviness and because, well, it's just a lot more expensive to incorporate into toys nowadays. And this is why chromed plastic is so popular nowadays.

As I transform Optimus into robot mode and back into a truck for the third time before typing this and going to sleep, I get a weird feeling, something I can only describe as akin to a mix of psychometry (which is impossible since this toy is brand new) and nostalgia (which is impossible since I have never owned a Generation 1 Optimus Prime toy before this). It's somewhat an endearing look, the way a mother looks at her son, as she both savors the present moment and looks back as the time he allowed her to carry him in her arms: a look at a past time when toys that could both transform and actually move their arms after being transformed were the coolest thing ever, when oh-so-durable metal was a staple for toys, when nobody cared for such alien concepts as 'poseability' and 'show-accuracy', when toys felt more like toys when you held them with both hands (and needed more care as well, lest you lose a fist).

Don't lose a fist.

posted by Ocnarf @ 10:21 PM   3 have spoken