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By Thomas Wheeler

I'm sure I've said this every time I've reviewed one of these toys, but one of the things that I am most pleased with in the Transformers toy universe these days is the Universe Classics line. Introduced as the Classics a couple of years ago, then put on hiatus for the sake of the live-action movie, the Classics were brought back as part of the Transformers Universe line for 2008, and I for one was sincerely pleased with their return, and I also hope that they are here to stay.

What we have in the Classics, in my opinion, is the original Transformers as they were always meant to be, at least as far as their robot modes are concerned. However massively cool the original Transformers Generation 1 concept may have been, and most of the toys, there was always one thing about the toys that kept me from fully embracing the concept -- more often than not, in their robot mode, they weren't articulated worth a darn, especially in the legs. Every media presence showed these very active robots... animated series, comic book, even the package art. But the toys, while they looked very cool in vehicle mode and did a nice and interesting transformation into robots -- just couldn't do that much in robot mode. That was just something of a deal-breaker for me as far as the toys were concerned.

However, I remained a fan of the concept, and certainly we are well past the years of unmovable robots, the occasional anniversary retrospective toy notwithstanding. Today's Transformers are as well-articulated in their robot forms!

One of the latest Classic releases as of this writing is SIDESWIPE, certainly a name long associated with the Transformers universe. He is an Autobot, and was among those first introduced in the line.

Sideswipe is described as a brave but often rash warrior. He is almost as skilled as his twin brother Sunstreaker in combat, but is less ruthless. He enjoys a good fight, but his impetuousness can often lead to his being injured.

In the original animated series, which many fans take as being more "canon" than the comic book, Sideswipe was part of the initial crew of Autobots aboard the Ark when it crash-landed on Earth four million years ago. He awakened along with his fellow Transformers in 1984, with both he and his brother being reformatted into Lamborghini sports cars. Sideswipe loaned Optimus Prime the use of his rocket pack when the Decepticons nearly escaped from Earth with a starship full of energon.

Sideswipe and Sunstreaker often operated together. When antimatter-fueled Decepticons attacked the Ark on one occasion in the episode "Roll for It", Sideswipe and Sunstreaker took to the air to battle with the incoming seeker jets, in a rambunctious, if ultimately ineffective, display of "jet judo."

When investigating tremors that were shaking the Autobot base, Wheeljack's scanner found some interesting objects inside a rock wall. Sideswipe, using his piston-like arms, helped Brawn removed the rock wall and found a cave full of dinosaur bones, the discovery of which would lead to the development of the Dinobots.

Towards the end of 1985, Sideswipe was a semi-regular in the series, and is among the team of five Autobots who disguised themselves as the Stunticons. Penetrating the Decepticons' camp, the Autobots ran into trouble when the real Stunticons arrived, trying to prove their identities by forming Menasor. With a combination of Windcharger's magnetic powers and Mirage's illusion-creating ability, the Autobots were able to appear as Menasor too, but the deception was soon revealed, though they were still able to thwart the Decepticons' plans.

Although Sideswipe did not appear in the animated Transformers movie, which had a rather high casualty count among early Transformers, and did not appear in the subsequent season, leading many to believe that he had been killed in the movie "off-screen" or some such, Sideswipe appears in the first two episodes of the Japanese series Transformers: Headmasters, participating with Ultra Magnus, the Trainbots, and Prowl on a shootout against the Triple Changers, Soundwave and Sixshot. During a segment of this intense shootout, Sideswipe manages to hit Frenzy and later, after foiling a new Decepticon assault, has also a line. So if one takes that as part of the overall contunity, Sideswipe did survive.

In the comics, In the original Marvel Transformers comics, Sideswipe's role was largely similar to that of the animated series, serving as a loyal warrior under Optimus Prime.

Sideswipe joined the list of the long-term injured during the Dinobot Hunt storyline. He was charged, along with Bluestreak and Huffer, with bringing in the powerful Dinobot, Grimlock. Unfortunately, the party found the mentally ill Grimlock locked in vicious combat with Sludge, who had been planted there by the Decepticons. Sideswipe was seriously injured while trying to contain the situation, but managed at least to put out a distress call, alerting Prowl and Optimus Prime.

He appeared to avoid deactivation by the Underbase powered Starscream, but he was not seen again after issue #50 of the U.S. comic.

He appeared again in the Generation 2 comics as part of a raiding party under Grimlock that was out-thought and captured by the forces of Jhiaxus. He was freed by Prime, and later appeared battling the Swarm. In Generation 2, Sideswipe's red and black color scheme was reversed, as it was for the Generation 2 toy of the time, and Sideswipe seemed to have picked up a much harsher and unpleasant personality somewhere along the way.

According to the Dreamwave comics history, before the war broke out between the Autobots and the Decepticons, Sideswipe was a merchant on Cybertron.

As a quick side-note toywise, Sideswipe is one of the scarcest of the Action Masters line. Not only was he a European exclusive, he was only available as a giveaway premium with a larger vehicle.

So, how's the new Classics toy? Very impressive. Not surprisingly, and not inappropriate, the toy uses the same basic body molds as the recently-released Sunstreaker. The main difference, obviously, is the color. Sunstreaker is primarily yellow. Sideswipe is red. Additionally, one minor oddity with Sunstreaker is not a factor here.

If anyone had a complaint about Sunstreaker, it was that the car's "roof" was molded in a semi-translucent black, on behalf of the windows, and then painted yellow. The problem here was that the roof had a ridged pattern in it, and painting a lighter color, especially yellow for some reason, in my own experience, over a darker color such as black, is going to result in the yellow looking rather watered down. Unfortunately, this did happen with Sunstreaker to some degree. I don't agree with the level to which some people have griped about this, but I can see what they're talking about.

Fortunately on Sideswipe, this isn't nearly as much of an issue. The red takes to the roof section and the ridges much better than the yellow.

In car mode, Sideswipe is a very sporty-looking car, mostly red, with a fancy black stripe on either side that arcs over the rear wheel. His headlight areas have been painted silver, and then had clear plastic installed over them, giving his headlights a very authentic look. His rear license plate reads "SWIPE". He has what appears to be an engine on his roof. Despite the odd location, it certainly looks powerful. He's about 5" in length.

As to his transformation. It proceeds as follows: The first listed step on the instructions is to remove the weapon from underneath the chassis, but since it's packaged separately, that's not really necessary. But, at least you know where to stash it if you decide to put him back into car mode. Me -- once they're in robot mode they stay that way.

Next, pop the engine off the roof. Then open the side doors a bit (a bigger pain in the neck than it sounds like), and split the rear of the car and move it along the sides. That one's relatively easy.

Now, rotate the entire rear half of the car over 180 degrees, and split it open. This creates the robot's legs. Next, flip down the feet, rotate each lower leg inwards 90 degrees, and pivot the feet outwards again. You've essentially created and completed the legs.

Next, slide up the front half of the car, and rotate the arms open. I know that's not much of an explanation, but I don't know how else to put it. And believe me, it's not easy. The front wheels do a nice job of getting in the way, and there's more articulation points than you can readily determine what to do with.

At this point, flip up the front grill, and fold down the upper body. Finally, you get a look at an Autobot insignia. Bet you were wondering where it was right? Swing the arms down and around, and try to get them to look as even to each other as possible. There's an articulation joint attached to the respective axles that can help with this.

Then, turn the upper body around 180 degrees so it's facing the same way as legs, swivel the roof around 180 degrees to raise Sideswipe's head, and snap the engine onto the back, the former roof, of the car. Your Sideswipe is now in full robot mode.

Now, here's what's interesting -- he doesn't look exactly like Sunstreaker, even though he's derived from the same molds. They do have different heads, but that's not the only alteration, and the other main difference is in the transformation of the torso. On Sunstreaker, you DON'T pivot the torso around. This makes the roof of the car the robot's chest, and the hood of the car the robot's back.

Sideswipe is just the opposite -- you DO pivot the torso around, so the roof of the car is the robot's back, and the hood is the chest. I suppose it would be mostly possible to have Sideswipe and Sunstreaker look pretty much identical if you wanted to, but there might be an issue with the placement of their left and right hands in that case. Not sure. Not going to mess with it, either. I was actually very pleased with this particular alteration, since it does make the two robots look quite different in their robot forms.

In robot mode, Sideswipe has a fair amount of white to his body, mostly the arms and legs. This is well in keeping with the character as he has been known. There are two little pieces of transparent blue plastic attached to his upper legs. A nice little bit of extra trim detail, and very nicely done. Takara/Tomy continues to design excellent Transformers for Hasbro.

In robot mode, Sideswipe stands just a little under 6" in height, a good size for a Classics Transformers. He is fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows, wrists, waist, legs, knees, and ankles, with various arm and leg swivels as well. This is how the Transformers should be, and one of the reasons I really like this line.

Sideswipe's character profile on his package card reads as follows: Sideswipe is a natural-born fighter. He's had little formal training in the arts of war, yet he has an instinctive nature that makes him one of the most dangerous warriors among the Autobots. He is not as self-centered or cold-blooded as his brother Sunstreaker, but the two are nonetheless close. When they fight side by side, they are truly a force to be reckoned with.

That's a pretty good description of Sideswipe, really -- not a bad one for Sunstreaker, either.

Sideswipe's various power rankings on the package give him a 10 in Courage, a 7 for Strength, Intelligence, Speed, and Endurance, a 6 in Skill, a 5 in Rank, and a 3 in Fireblast. Comes up a little short there somehow.

So, what's my final word here? Hey, I'm really enjoying these Transformers Universe Classics, and I wish the line many years of good health and significant presence in the toy aisles. This is the best of both worlds, really -- Classic Transformers characters pretty much right out of their original Generation One incarnations, given the poseability in their humanoid robot forms that one wishes they always sort of had, and finally do. There's nothing at all to complain about there, and certainly Sideswipe is among those well-known and well-remembered characters.

The TRANSFORMERS UNIVERSE CLASSICS SIDESWIPE definitely has my enthusiastic recommendation! No longtime Transformers fan should miss out on him!