REVIEW: TRANSFORMERS GENERATIONS TRU IMPORT EXCLUSIVE AUTOBOT SPRINGER
I have made no secret of the fact that my favorite incarnation of Transformers in recent years has been what is currently known as the Classics and later the Generations line. I've always preferred the "Generation One" universe to all other incarnations of Transformers (with Beast Wars being a close second), but the one down side to this is that most of the original toys simply weren't that well articulated in their humanoid robotic forms.
To a degree, this was understandable. The main feature of the Transformers was not their action figure appearance, but that they could be transformed from some other form -- a car, a plane, a tape player, whatever -- to a humanoid robot. The degree to which that humanoid robot could move once the transformation was completed was decidedly a secondary consideration, and design and engineering capabilities being what they were at the time, there just wasn't much that could be done.
Still, it was a bit of a disappointment to see these amazing characters walking, running, flying, whatever, in the animated series, in the comic book, and even on the package illustrations, and all the toy could really do was stand there and move its arms.
This disappointment, in my opinion, was compounded by succeeding generations of Transformers, starting with Beast Wars but continuing with many other concepts to this present day, that were fully articulated in their robotic forms. This was, I am sure, a result of design and manufacturing improvements, aided by computer design assistance, and as cool as many of these robots were -- they still weren't the originals.
Finally, a line called Transformers Classics emerged, and here were new, but still entirely recognizable, incarnations of the best-known, Generation One Transformers, who were finally given the articulation levels in their robotic forms that these legendary characters deserved.
Transformers Classics eventually became Transformers Generations, and then -- the line sort of got deprioritized in favor of three movie-based lines and a couple of animated series. I can understand the need to emphasize the Transformers currently being presented in the other forms of media. But there was still a lot of potential in a Generation One-based Classics/Generations line. Still, it seemed as though it just wasn't going to happen.
There has been an interesting development, however. It seems that the Generations line has continued -- just not in the United States. Transformers got their start in Japan, and have proven just as popular throughout the Asian market as they have in the United States and elsewhere. And in one of these markets, the Generations line, with characters distinctly from Generation One, including recognizable packaging, Hasbro logo and all, has continued.
And Toys "R" Us has decided to bring quite a few of them to the United States! This review will take a look at none other than SPRINGER (officially dubbed "Autobot Springer" on his package, but I'm not typing that through the whole review)!
Let's consider some of the history of the character of Springer, and then have a look at his newest toy incarnation.
In Generation One, Springer is a green-and-gray Autobot Triple Changer who can transform into both a Cybertronian car and a helicopter. So named for the massive leaping power in his legs, Springer is one of Rodimus Prime's inner circle. More laid back than many of his allies, he is nonetheless brave, loyal and always ready with a sharp quip in battle. He is optimistic and good humored.
In the Marvel U.K. comics, where he was most prominently featured, Springer was a member of Autobot Impactor's Wreckers team — added (with Broadside and Sandstorm) to the team to lend reinforcements for Operation: Volcano in the event that Ultra Magnus did not return in time from Earth. Operation: Volcano was aborted when the targeted Decepticons were recalled by Megatron, but a lone Decepticon named Macabre pressed on, attempting to assassinate Emirate Xaaron but killing Wrecker leader Impactor instead. With his dying words, Impactor appointed Springer leader of the Wreckers.
The Wreckers were soon in action alongside Magnus again, when Optimus Prime arrived on Cybertron and the Decepticons spread misinformation that he was one of their spies. The Wreckers hunted him down, only to realize he was the real Optimus when he insisted on getting medical attention for another wounded Autobot first. Springer accompanied Prime and Magnus to the Decepticon base to confront Megatron (who was in the throes of possession by Straxus), and was left counting the cost when Prime, Megatron and Magnus were all transported back to Earth.
Later, the team was sent to take down and retrieve Galvatron; the first clash was disastrous as the Wreckers found themselves battling him and Cyclonus and Scourge in a human city. The second clash occurred during the Time Wars, when the Wreckers and the Decepticon Mayhem Attack Squad teamed up and were jointly decimated in battle with Galvatron and Megatron. The few survivors, along with Skids, formed the renegade group known as the Survivors, of which Springer was the unofficial commander, and he found himself in an uneasy partnership with Carnivac. In order to save Carnivac from the second Mayhem incarnation led by Bludgeon, the Survivors joined the Autobot Earthforce.
Issue #279 of the Marvel U.K. Transformers comic featured a story called "Divide and Conquer!" where Soundwave lead the bulk of the Decepticon forces on Earth against the Autobot Earthforce headquarters while Starscream attacked an oil tanker. Sent into battle by Prowl, the Dinobots routed the main Decepticon forces while Springer lead the Autobot Survivors, Broadside, Inferno, Skids, and Carnivac to defeat Starscream.
Springer made several appearances in the post-2006 comics, due to his being part of the animated movie cast, and he had a brief appearance in Generation 2.
In the original animated series, Springer is characterized as an affable tough guy, possibly making him a replacement for Ironhide, who was killed in The Transformers: The Movie. Later, Springer develops an attachment to female Autobot Arcee.
Springer was the first Autobot Triple Changer to be featured in the show, soon followed by Sandstorm and Broadside. However, in contrast to the series up to that point, the three Autobot Triple Changers were not featured together as a team. Rather Springer appeared usually with Ultra Magnus, Kup, Rodimus Prime, Blurr and or Arcee as he did in the film. Springer was also identified as Rodimus's first choice as heir to the Matrix in "Five Faces of Darkness". Following the season's five part introduction, Springer would appear multiple times.
In "Dark Awakenings", he is among the crew that accompanies zombie Optimus Prime to avenge the "deaths" of Arcee, Rodimus, Ultra Magnus and Kup. Springer would appear briefly in "Forever is a Long Time Coming", after which taking a hiatus from the series for several episodes, reappearing in "Fight or Flee". In "Dweller in the Depths", we see Springer turned into an energy vampire by transorganic creatures made by the Quintessons. Following this episode Springer would get a starring role in "Nightmare Planet". In this episode, both Springer and Predacon leader Razorclaw are caught up in a manifestation of Daniel Witwicky's nightmares. Springer finds himself rescuing a young damsel in a castle from a fire breathing dragon.
In the episode "Only Human", Ultra Magnus, Springer, Rodimus Prime and Arcee were captured and found their minds transferred into human-mimicking "synthoid" bodies by the human crime lord Victor Drath and the ex-terrorist Old Snake -- a.k.a. Cobra Commander from G.I. Joe.
Following his brief appearance in "Call of the Primitives", Springer would make his final appearance in "Burden Hardest to Bear", in which he attempts to encourage Hot Rod to reclaim the Matrix from Scourge. Springer was neither killed nor injured in this episode or "The Return of Optimus Prime". As such, his fate and whereabouts at the end of the series remain unknown.
Springer would appear in the Japanese series Headmasters alongside the Autobot Triple Changers in the first episode entitled "Four Warriors Come out of the Sky".
Springer has continued to appear in the comics. Springer made his first IDW Publishing appearance in The Transformers: Stormbringer. As in other continuities, Springer leads the Wreckers: a commando team sent in to the most hopeless situations in order to cause maximum casualties for the enemy before the Autobots pull out. Like the cartoon, he is an affable tough guy (albeit a more vicious and hard-bitten one), and is on friendly terms with Optimus Prime. He has also appeared in several of the "Transformers: Spotlight" comics.
He has had several toy incarnations over the years, although only the first one was a Triple-Changer. He was likely among those character slated for a continuation of the Action Masters line. Had that line continued, it would have emphasized characters who debuted in the animated movie.
So, how's the toy? Very nicely done, really. Technically, it's a recoloration of a character named Tomahawk, who was part of the post-movie "Hunt for the Decepticons" line, so in robot mode, Springer looks a little more like he's from one of the live-action movies, and as such perhaps isn't quite as good a fit in the Generations line as some other characters, but I've always liked Springer, so I'm willing to accommodate that as much as possible.
In vehicle mode, which is how Springer comes packaged, he's a fancy but realistic attack helicopter, about 6-1/2" in length. He's mostly gray with some yellow and, of course, bright green trim.
This was the other thing that surprised me about Springer. Honestly, I expected a lot more green. However, my memories of Springer are mostly from the animated series, and as a friend of mine, who is far more of a Transformers expert than I am, pointed out, the animated series emphasized the green a lot more than the original Triple-Changers toy, which had a lot more gray on it. This makes sense, as I'm sure the animated series wanted to present the characters as colorfully as possible. Obviously the new toy is basing its color palette, and percentages, more on the original toy than on the cartoon.
In helicopter mode, Sprinter has a couple of missile launchers underneath a couple of wings that extend outward from the main body of the copter. I advise you to stash the two missiles in a safe place. They don't stay put all that well on their own unless they're locked into place -- and I've never entirely trusted those springs.
Also, obviously, in helicopter mode, Springer's top rotors turn, but they don't do so all the freely. They're a part of his transformation, as well, so I suppose this wasn't all that feasible.
Let's consider Springer's transformation into robot mode.
And, sure enough, the first thing you do is fold the rotors against each other so that they form a sort of "V".
Next, fold down the underbody of the helicopter. This will eventually form Springer's legs. Then split the tail section and rotate it forward, using the hinges just behind the yellow jet intakes on the green portions to do this. The graphic instructions aren't quite as clear on this as one might wish.
Now, fold down the front of the copter, and open the canopy. Next, fold down the feet from what has become the fronts of the legs, and then adjust the feet so that the gray sections are pointing backwards.
Then, fold the legs back, and bring the front of the copter and the canopy all the way down, and raise Spinger's head. Finally, rotate the arms back (watch out for the rotors), then down, and flip the tail panels back to reveal the hands. And you have completed Springer's transformation! The figure comes with a green-handled sword to use when in robot mode, although his missile launchers are still apparent near his shoulders.
So, how does Springer look in robot mode? Well -- not bad, really, but as I said earlier, an awful lot of this Tomahawk movie-inspired figure comes through.
The head, which is really the only entirely new piece on the toy, is entirely Springer. It looks just like he did in the animated series. It's an appropriate shade of light green, with a silver face, and blue eyes. The back of the head has been molded in transparent blue plastic, so that when light hits the head from behind, his eyes seem to glow.
The rest of the body -- well, okay. It's not unheard of for a Transformer to get an overhaul that might modify his appearance. In fact it was rather common in Beast Wars. So let's say that's what happened to Springer here. And in fairness, he does look different enough from Tomahawk from a color standpoint, as Tomahawk was mostly black with some dark pewter trim.
Also in fairness, if I worry about Springer looking too different from his Classic mode, then all I have to do is think about that Classics Megatron figure, which -- okay, I know they couldn't reproduce Megatron's original realistic-pistol mode and get away with it in this day and age, but I still say that the Classics version looked like a cross between a Nerf Blaster and a Super Soaker...
So, I can put up with Springer. In robot mode, he has more green evident on him, but I still might liked to have seen a bit more. Along with his head, his missile launchers and his shoulders are bright green, and most of his legs are a darker shade of green. Except for some yellow trim here and there, the rest of his body is a couple of shared of gray and a bit of black.
Perhaps the oddest feature of Springer is his lower legs and feet. There's this extra backwards knee joint, not quite at the ankles, and Springer's feet have this sort of two toes forward, one toe back thing going on. It's almost as though Springer has some sort of robotic bird's feet, especially with that second knee joint.
However, the figure stands well, and certainly poses well. The only other structural oddity from an appearance standpoint is a rather narrow waist. But perhaps I'm being a little too nit-picky at this point. I really am sincerely delighted to be able to add Springer to my Classics/Generations collection.
Paint work on the figure is excellent. Check out the neat diagonal stripes on the wings with the missile launchers. The yellow trim on his body is very well done, as is some metallic gold trim here and there. Really, the precision on the painted detail is truly superb.
So is Springer's articulation. He is poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles.
His package card describes him thusly: Whenever danger strikes, Autobot Springer is there to strike back. He leaps into action at a moment's notice, never caring for his own safety as long as there are others to protect. His heroic nature is backed up by incredible fighting skills and the inborn ability to lead.
Interesting, that comment about "leaping" into action, a nice nod to how he got his name, as well as the comment about his ability to lead, acknowledging his leadership of the group known as the Wreckers.
His various power rankings are as follows. He gets a "10" in Strength -- just in case anybody teases him about those bird legs; a "9" in Endurance and Courage, "8" in Intelligence and Speed, and "7" in Rank, Fireblast, and Skill. That's impressive across the board. No really low numbers here.
So, what's my final word? I'm truly pleased to see the Generation One-based Transformers Generations return, even as Toys "R" Us imported exclusives. I hope it's the start of a trend, or maybe even a full return of these original Transformers in these new modern forms. There's still plenty of characters that can -- and should -- be done. In the meantime, I'm pleased we have these. Springer is certainly a well-known Autobot, and certainly this is an excellent figure, if a somewhat unusual rendition of him given the source material. Still, I'm very glad to have him, and I sincerely believe that any longtime Transformers fan will feel the same way.
The TRANSFORMERS GENERATIONS figure of AUTOBOT SPRINGER, part of the import series offered by Toys "R" Us, definitely has my highest recommendation!