Size Class: Masterpiece
Year of release: 2013
And so I finally get to review my greatest find from the trip to the UK (both in terms of size and coolness) – Masterpiece Soundwave. What’s funny is the fact I didn’t manage to grab it during the LCC or even anywhere in London (and we did visit some toy stores while there). No, this neat set is a souvenir from our bonus side trip to Wales. You see, me and rehael went to the country of almost-never-ending rain, beaches swept with hurricane-like winds and giant lunch snack sets listed as ‘tea’ in the menus to visit a pair of our dear friends. And there, apart from many awesome views of the fantastic Welsh coast (no irony here, I totally recommend you all to go there!), we were exposed to a local Toys”R”Us store that turned out to be at least four times larger than the ones back home (sigh!). The product assortment obviously also proved to offer a lot and thus I faced the challenge to add a giant box to the already extra-filled suitcase. I failed miserably and was forced to ditch the box. Of course the vicious Fate never sleeps! Remember how I mentioned that I don’t care much for packaging? Well this one was really special – to the point of me wanting to show it in the review – and this is the one that I had to leave behind! I salvaged what I could by taking few lousy photos at my hotel room (please forgive me the quality of those) and asking rehael to photograph some details as well. So, unusually for this site, let’s start with pictures of the box!
As you can see, the box is covered with beautiful details and given extra size not justified by the sheer bulk of its contents. The reason for that seems to be the aim of putting across the message of something special – and that in my opinion is fully understandable. This brings us to the title of the review. Yes, this is Hasbro’s version of MP Soundwave which means that the big Transformer comes with five small buddies (as opposed to only one in Takara’s version), namely his transforming cassette partners. In theory I could treat each of them as a separate figure, but that would make me produce a series of small and highly inter-dependent reviews, so I decided to make it mainly about Soundwave with his little minions treated as… elaborate accessories. This also fits the concept of Masterpiece series, which aims not only at making the Transformers figure very true to their cartoon/comics images, but also at very high quality – ranging from the design to the accompanying accessories.
But enough about the packaging, let’s get to the good stuff at last. As usual, the alt mode first. Since this is G1 version of Soundwave, he comes in the form of something that might be unfamiliar for younger readers: a portable cassette player.
It’s funny how the creators of Transformers drove themselves into a corner with this character. Who knew his alt mode would age so badly in such a short time. And while there’s nothing strange in an older model of a car in the streets, a Decepticon trying to disguise as a Walkman would nowadays draw more attention than he intended. I like how IDW ducked this blow in their re-imagined plot for Transformers origins by making Soundwave stuck in a stasis state for few dozen years, so he could both retain his classic alt mode and appear in modern times. But apart from that it’s even hard to think of a way to modernize Decepticon communications officer without depriving him of that signature audio device form. Hell, even a Discman is already terribly outdated so where to go from there? An mp3 player? An iPod? A data cube reader? Yes, there was an attempt at the first one and the FoC version kinda deals with the last concept and there is even a 3rd Party not-Soundwave that transforms into a micro cassette recorder, but let’s be honest, none of these works too well, especially concerning the little guys. Soundwave’s partners are and should be cassettes and I am definitely willing to look past the issue of the alt mode being outdated if I am given the familiar and beloved look in return.
Soundwave looks like an older larger version of a Walkman. I had one of these myself and I remember eventually replacing him with a newer model that was much thinner and lighter. But yeah, this thing is huge and sturdy, with large clickable buttons next to a red LED on the front and whole sets of various ports and sockets on the sides.
Even the inside of the cassette-holding area features nice details.
I must admit the alt mode embodies the intended look perfectly, to the point of actually making one believe that this is an artifact from the 80s. That is, until you look at the back.
It looks… strange. I mean it’s not very bad, just… odd. It looks like some kind of machinery all right, just not something as ordinary as a cassette player. There are too many gaps and uneven shapes here. The middle section resembles the battery-holding area that the original G1 Soundwave had, but as can be seen this guy’s weapons are not hidden inside but instead placed on the outside, adding more flaws with their cylindrical shape to the concept of a Walkman’s smooth back. Can’t have it all I guess, but I must admit I’m amused with the fact that the old figure managed it better. Speaking of the G1 version…
Here is a comparison of the old and the new. A quick explanation: I managed to buy the G1 figure years ago from a friend who got it from some guy that was out classmate in primary school who got it from Primus knows who. The toy surely went through a lot before it got to me and, since I’ve never been even remotely skilled in the customizing department, I didn’t even attempt to repair it, so it remains in a heavily used state. It’s not very bad considering the age and a number of owners, it just suffers from loose joints and the issue painfully visible here: the head being permanently glued in place, which makes it impossible to hide in alt mode. And thus we get a Walkman with a head. What can you do, I’ll roll with that for the sake of this review. After that the old guy is going for sale anyway (I kept him on my shelf waiting for a worthy replacement driven by sentiment for the character).
The MP version is visibly larger than the G1 one, but apart from that they are almost identical, with some tweaks on MP’s side. And the senior even wins in stickers department (but I think there is already a dedicated set of labels released by some 3rd Party company). Seeing this I once again realize what a great toy the original Soundwave was. There was hardly a Transformer figure in the 80s that could compete with his design.
Of course both Soundwaves feature the ability to hold a cassette inside. And even though the MP is of the size of an actual Walkman and probably a real-sized cassette could fit inside him, the designers decided to honor the past and went with the same scale as the old guy’s partners.
A comparison of the red cassette that I got along with the G1 Soundwave and Laserbeak that accompanied the MP one. I wrote ‘red cassette’ because I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be Laserbeak or Buzzsaw – it has one side red and the other yellow so I guess it’s Buzzsaw after all but never mind. What matters is we got two cassettes of the same size so I bet you know where I’m going with this…
Yes, Soundwaves can swap and everything fits nice and snugly in both cases. And this applies to all Decepticon cassettes…
…of which I have a share. On the left are five ‘accessories’ from the Masterpiece set and on the right there is the G1 Buzzsaw (I think) that I got with the old big guy, G1 Frenzy and Ratbat that I miraculously managed to find here in retail in the early 90s and the alien-looking thingie that barely pulls off the cassette-like shape is Ravage that came along with Universe Hound.
Ok, now a quick look at all the accessories that filled MP Soundwave’s gigantic box.
Unicron’s horns, that’s quite a stack! I’ll address most of them later on, for now let me just direct your attention to the fact that each cassette has its own tiny holding case. Sure, those probably are regular mini cassette cases that cost close to nothing, but it still remains a very nice touch. And yes, the gun in the front is Megatron’s alt mode. Anyway, on to the robot form!
…and comparison with the ancestor at the same time. Again: apart from the size the new guy is immediately recognizable as the same character. He also perfects the old figure design by smoothing the overall shapes and proportions to represent the classic look even better.
Quick peek at the back reveals more of the same trend: taking the classic look and improving it by adding nice details and design tweaks. And to further show the level of improvement a posability test:
MP Soundwave is no ninja but he can pull off a number of satisfying poses. Including gesticulation.
Masterpiece series figures are known for their palm articulation and Soundwave is no different: his thumb is stuck in a universal gripping position (which sadly doesn’t allow for a thumbs-up gesture, do join me in a loud ‘Aww!’), but all other fingers can move, with the index one being separate. I wonder if the recurring motif of other digits being connected (sometimes in two pairs) results from the designers disliking the idea of seeing their creation showing a certain single finger in online pictures… Well, I surely don’t miss it and as for using the index finger…
It allows for this classic ‘Tape! Attack!’ pose.
The palm is also handy for holding Soundwave’s signature weapon – both thanks to firm grip of the fingers and a designated cavity on the inside of the palm. The gun itself has an interesting design, featuring a bit of transformation itself.
Remember seeing it attached to the back of the alt mode looking like a simple cylinder? Well, this is how it becomes a weapon – no parts re-attachment needed. The next accessory is…
…a mini holo-projector that in the show Soundwave produced out of his hand in place of the palm in order to display espionage data collected by his cassettes. Here you just hide the palm (either one, they are both retracted in the regular transformation process anyway) and attach the projector.
Remember how in the cartoon Soundwave used to produce empty energon cubes out of his chest that Decepticons then filled with energy somehow illegally harvested or stolen from humans? That’s another scene that you can recreate with your MP figure. First the mesh facet is visible and then…
…the whole cube appears. And yes, I know what you’re thinking – this doesn’t look too good. For some reason they decided to go with a plain clear plastic for this cube instead of something actually resembling the energon design from the show. I just use this thing as a storage container for small accessories and if you want a more adequate replacement you can buy improved ones already made by Takara.
And now on to the most eye-catching accessory – Megatron.
To be exact this is just a representation of Megatron’s alt mode. I remember when I first told my Wife about the whole concept of a Transformer changing into a gun (I was considering buying MP Megatron by that time but decided against it in the end). She was extremely amused and mocked my childhood’s third most favorite villain (the first two being Darth Vader and Cobra Commander) by describing her vision of the Decepticon leader lying on the ground in his alt mode in the middle of a battle and shouting ‘Hey guys, over here, somebody pick me up and aim at them blasted Autobots!’. Ironically, she wasn’t that far from the truth. Sure, Megs always chose the right moment and immediately after transformation somehow jumped into another Decepticon’s hand himself, but he did require assistance in being used as a weapon in his gun mode.
And in most cases the shooter firing Megatron (that sounds weird) was either Starscream or Soundwave, which explains this particular accessory being added here. And though I don’t have the Masterpiece version of Starscream, I do have his mold…
…namely MP Skywarp, so here he is wielding Megatron himself, with loyal Soundwave making sure his great leader isn’t abused in any way.
All right, time to introduce the main tray of treats from the accessories department – those that in any other case would be considered the subject of the review themselves – the cassettes. And there sure are many of those.
Not that many!! Those are all that I have (and a little extra that I will cover in another review).
Aah, that’s more like it. Those guys came in this set. Let’s go over the molds, starting with the birds.
Laserbeak and Buzzsaw come in red and yellow and this time there’s no doubt which is which as their color theme is consistent on both sides.
Sadly my G1 Buzzsaw (?) doesn’t have his engines/cannons anymore as one of the former owners lost them. Now this wouldn’t happen to the new birdies as all their parts are permanently attached and neatly fold inside during transformation. The wings have one extra joint added but overall the new guys don’t stand out that much from the aerial reconnaissance veteran.
The neck is articulated, just like the G1 version’s was (which I can’t show properly as my old bird’s head barely stays in place due to extremely loose joints), but the Decepticon logo is no longer on top of it due to a special little feature.
A tiny camera rises up from the inside which the birds (well, mostly Laserbeak) used to secretly record Autobots’ activity in the show. Another nice nod to the fans, mostly appreciated. And speaking of familiar images from the cartoon…
Ok, those who pose their MP Soundwave and Laserbeak like that and don’t produce a fake mechanical voice shouting ‘Laserbeak, repoooort!’ are no real fans of G1 Transformers era, I tell you that! It’s worth mentioning that Soundwave has dedicated edgings on his forearms that match the soles of cassette-birds’ feet. You can see the edging on his right arm as well. And yes, this means…
…that he can hold them both at once. Sweet!
Ravage is… just what one expects from a Masterpiece accessory-robot: a mechanical panther with articulated paws but only one swivel joint at the base of the neck (so he can raise and lower his head but not turn it or do anything with the jaws). I never had the G1 version so I can only compare him to his Universe counterpart.
He resembles the slightly older Ravage, adding details whenever necessary (the rockets!!) to look more show-accurate and mending the issue of the tail growing out of the great cat’s back.
Also, there is this thing with his rumored alternative form…
Ok, the instructions hint this mid-form during transformation but don’t have the balls to clearly name it and… I can’t really blame them. I think it’s supposed to be a kind of… flight mode? I dunno really, some people on the net say it’s intended, others deny it. I’ll just leave it there – you saw the image, let’s move on.
Frenzy and Rumble are definitely the most interesting among the Decepticon cassettes that came with MP Soundwave. I can safely say they don’t feel like accessories at all and I would be fully satisfied if I got them as stand-alone product.
The crazy lil’ brothers are perfectly designed to represent their cartoon/comics form, feature great vibrant paint-job and have fantastic range of articulation for such small figures. And they come with accessories.
Their laser guns are the only cassette-mounted weapons that actually detach from the robots’ bodies – in order for them to be able to wield those. This also means that they are not retracted inside during transformation so you are left with ‘spare parts’ when these guys are in alt mode, just like in the case of G1 version. It’s a bummer but there is a kind of solution.
They both come with extra accessories that can hold their laser cannons inside, making it a bit less easy to lose. But of course there’s more!
Those tubes can be attached to a special holder that mounted on the robot’s back creates a powerful backpack, ideal for insane little troublemakers like this duo. And do I really need to say there’s still more…
Yes, they both can take the form that Rumble was famous for in the show: turning arms into pile drivers and raining mayhem by destroying the very ground they stand on. Did I mention their insanity?
While I always appreciated the creativity of the G1 form of these guys I must admit I see great improvement here. Just look at 30 years of toy-making technology – from an old skillful design to a modern one.
And that’s it for the accessories. Quite a choice, isn’t it?
I consider myself lucky for finding this great set in Welsh TRU, especially considering the facts that: a. I was convinced my shopping was over after I left the LCC and b. I was actually planning on getting the Takara version of MP Soundwave (with Laserbeak alone) from a local collector who was selling his, but decided to wait in hope of finding one in London. Wales truly delivered big on this one! Yay for the Welsh! If only they used more vowels in their language…
And as for the Hasbro set’s line-up, if I were to come up with a downside I guess the only thing would be: I want a Ratbat! I know that including double cassette-bird mold and double cassette-robot mold makes perfect sense in terms of G1 continuity, but I’d gladly ditch Buzzsaw to get me a modern version of the space bat. But, since he only comes in a set with a repainted Soundwave, I have to settle with the G1 figure… for now. Luckily he is both nicely designed and in pretty good shape for his age, so I am not going to let him go anytime soon.
But hey, I dived so deep into the appetizers that I almost forgot what’s the main course of this feast. I think Soundwave deserves a bit more attention, perhaps a comparison or two?
Here are the three Masterpiece Transformers that I have. Soundwave continues the tradition of the larger MP size so he fits perfectly among Skywarp and Rodimus. I mention this because nowadays one can be no longer sure of the scale even when the MP series is considered. I’m not saying I hate the new smaller Autobots (and I plan to grab one of them if I have the chance), but seeing them in pictures next to Classics Deluxes (and almost fitting in) makes me frown. However there’s no need for that when Soundwave comes in play. Look how he towers over Classics Optimus of Voyager Class and FoC Starscream (a Deluxe).
And since handling this set is so much fun and it’s nearly Christmas time when I’m writing this text…
I know, I know. Sorry for that. It’s just that funny feeling I had while posing all those old and new Soundwave-related figures – as if it were a family clan of sorts, with the G1 grandpa, young and powerful MP warrior and a bunch of cousins and kids, including a grumpy old bat and crazy hotheaded twins.
And that about sums up how I feel about Masterpiece Soundwave – familiar. He is one of my three most favorite Decepticons (along with Starscream and Scorponok) and the only one of those that I managed to get a hold of in toy form in the G1 era – which means during my childhood, when I actually played with toys. So of course there’s this strong feeling of nostalgia and sentiment for me here, but I also try my best to look at this figure from a collector’s point of view.
The Masterpiece series usually delivers big time for those who seek creatively designed representations of the classic characters in large scale (well, larger than Deluxes and Voyagers that are the most commonly collected Transformers figures). However, the MPs are not equal in terms of… performance, so to say. I mean, they always look great in both of their forms on the shelf, but not every figure is easy to pose or even move around. For example, for me MP Skywarp is incredible in terms of design, I just can’t feast my eyes enough when I admire him on display and I am more than happy to have this masterpiece in my collection (what a neat present a wife can give her husband for 30th birthday, isn’t it?). Regardless of all that, I always approach with hesitance and utmost delicacy when I am to move him more than just in order to rearrange figures on my shelf. Using him in this review proved… maybe not a pain but surely a challenge. He is so very much not a toy, he is the very representation of the concept of a collector’s item, not to be handed to kids. He is fragile and not as in ready to break but as in… not cooperating. He is just meant to be put in a chosen position and admired without being moved around a lot, and special care is always advised. Soundwave, on the other hand, is so sturdy and blocky and all his joints feel so solid that I can imagine letting a kid (a semi-responsible one) handle him for a while. There’s nothing here that feels easily breakable. He is like a human grunt compared to an elvish archer – he has much less finesse about him but that precisely hits the spot when this specific character is considered.
This figure is simply the perfect G1 Soundwave in toy form and I declare it as a devoted Soundwave fan. Could it be done better (and maybe in smaller scale)? Who knows, one can only hope as more and more challenges of this kind are being accepted and beat almost every month (I am looking at you, 3rd Parties!), but I can safely say it hasn’t been done so far. And when you consider all those tiny but heartwarming features bringing you directly back to the classic stories… Yes, I know, I am babbling about nostalgia again, but let’s be honest – this is a large portion of what this series is about. Yes, definitely: at this moment Masterpiece Soundwave is the proudest heir of the G1 legacy – where the 80s’ toy set standards high, the 2013 figure raised them much higher.
Also, I highly recommend picking up the Hasbro’s set, unless you just don’t care about the cassettes at all. But that would be strange if you like Soundwave enough to consider getting a Masterpiece version of him, right?
Strong and weak points:
+ perfectly translated character’s look from the show/comic books
+ an extremely wide range of accessories including five friggin’ transforming cassettes
+ two of friggin’ transforming cassettes are darn good figures themselves, with their own set of friggin’ accessories
+ full compatibility with G1 cassettes, both ways
+ many throwbacks to the tv series, most of them implemented as usable features
+ good articulation allowing for posability sufficient for a non-martial-arts character
+ partially posable fingers providing additional palm gesticulation
+ very good overall quality
+ solid construction, to the point of merging the concepts of a collectible figure and a toy
– no Ratbat in this set!
– the thumbs don’t move
– the cassette player’s form is not perfect (in the back part) which ruins the illusion of the alt mode a bit
Who will like it:
those who love Soundwave and/or the whole G1 era; those who want an improved modern version of the character in figure form; those who want a welcoming and approachable sturdy Masterpiece Transformer
Who won’t like it:
I guess those who don’t like Soundwave or G1 designs or Transformers in general… or even any figures or toys… and wandered here by mistake searching for porn? everybody else: go get your MP Soundwave today!
Do these MP transformers have metal joints?