Generation 1 Transformers are all the rage, and they have been for some time. Does that automatically mean that it’s exactly what the Transformers toy collecting community want Hasbro and Takara to continually base their newest toys on? Not exactly, but with Combiner Wars, Titans Return, War For Cybertron: Siege and Earthrise – not to mention Masterpiece – it’s been quite a focus for the official output across recent years. One of the most surprising developments has been the exclusive G1 reissue selection that Walmart launched in June 2018. It started with Hot Rod, Bumblebee, Swerve, Tailgate and Outback, expanding to include a Devastator giftset and Starscream, initially.
Reissue G1 Transformers are not an especially fresh thing for collectors, seeing as how the actual reissue era started in 2000 and continues now in 2020 with its latest incarnation. Believe it or not, this reissue Generation 1 era has now lasted longer than the vintage Generation 1 era did (1984 to 1993)! Admittedly, there have been breaks during that time, and one reissue series tends to vary from the last in some way. For example, the early 2000s TFCollection ‘book style’ reissues from Takara were quite a different animal to the Hasbro Platinum Edition sets that came out a few years back in Toys ‘R’ Us. Similarly, E-Hobby exclusive repaints of Diaclone and Micro Change Series rarities don’t have a great deal in common with G1/Bayverse Prime or Megatron Chronicles 2-packs etc. What makes the Walmart exclusive reissues interesting is that they seem to be trying to replicate the nostalgia of the original Hasbro Transformers releases in the most accurate – or unoriginal – fashion, depending on your perspective!
Nostalgia and homages to G1 have certainly become less subtle over the years. The odd nod has evolved to become a full-on checklist of re-imaginings in the Generations lines, and the Walmart reissues have gone as far as replicating the full look of the original vintage Hasbro Transformers packaging from the 1980s, something none of the previous reissues have done. There were vintage Takara-style packages, though. As a collector of G1 who cannot really afford to go after MISB – or sometimes even MIB unused – vintage figures, these Walmart reissues absolutely work for me in that I can own perfect sealed toys at a fraction of the cost, and for the most part they look like the originals. Packaging and all.
Of course, credit should be given where it is due, and suggesting that the Walmart reissues are unoriginal, slavish releases would be doing them a disservice. Take the Optimus Prime reissue above, missing its trailer. It has been released in the original Hasbro-style box, but it’s a tiny thing due to the lack of his command centre/trailer. He also now sports the longer smokestacks not seen on previous Hasbro reissues of Prime. What really tickled me, though, was that it is the very first occasion where a modern reissue of Optimus Prime has featured Jeffrey Mangiat’s original Optimus Prime artwork. Previous versions have used Takara’s original Convoy artwork that is subtly – but noticeably – different. That, and the novelty of a G1 vintage-style boxed Prime cab made this an essential purchase for me. Incidentally, Takara have just released their own version of the Prime cab G1 with vintage packaging, and it features the Convoy art, meaning they’d look pretty snazzy side-by-side!
The quirky releases didn’t stop there. Remember the previously-exclusive Dinocassette reissues we got as part of the Bumblebee movie “Retro Rock Garage” 3-pack releases? Well, Hasbro then went ahead and made Gurafi and Noizu available in the above 3-pack with variant Frenzy! Here’s a snippet from TFWiki explaining how it was released, because this was not a Walmart exclusive:
“This set was revealed when it went up for preorder on Hasbro Pulse on the first day of San Diego Comic-Con 2019… despite not being announced at the show at all. This set was also available at general retail in Hong Kong. It was originally intended to be a HasCon 2019 exclusive, but was shuffled to Pulse following the convention’s indefinite hiatus.”
As beautiful as it is to see these Takara cassettes on vintage-style Hasbro cards, quite why they felt the need to tag Frenzy onto it, and then print the tech specs etc on the wrong card backs for each set, is beyond me. Sadly, like the incorrectly-moulded Dairu and Zauru sets and backwards-inserted Hot Rods, it seems these reissues are not above quality control gaffes. I’m not complaining, though, I’d rather have these releases than not!
And, you cannot have cassettes without Soundwave. He, too, was reissued in the vintage Hasbro packaging along with Buzzsaw and two of the original cassette 2-packs. They are just so beautiful to look at in this condition. This isn’t the first time, though, that Laserbeak’s chrome weapons have been neutered; earlier Hasbro reissues had also gone this route. 2018’s Walmart Starscream still has his rocking great safety missiles too, lest we forget. At this point, I was collecting these to just have them in this packaging in mint condition, so I did not care about these small moulding differences as the plan was to keep them sealed. In the case of Soundwave, he was great value for money. Prime being $50 without a trailer, initially, put many people off. Later 50% discounts at Walmart undoubtedly helped him into a few more collections.
There were also two fan polls run by Hasbro to determine who should get a reissue release in 2020. Skywarp, Thundercracker and Perceptor all lost out to Blaster and Astrotrain, the latter of which has just started to hit North American retail. The question was, which Astrotrain would we get? We’ve had the black/white Takara-originating Astrotrain from both Takara and Hasbro previously. We’ve had an extremely rare E-Hobby release of the prototype/anime colours Astrotrain, as well as the Platinum Edition orange/white release Astrotrain. The only colour of Astrotrain never to be reissued was the original Hasbro colours release that’s not particularly tough to find, but a monster to get in perfect mint condition.
His box artwork remains as misleading as ever, but it’s genuinely nice to see Astrotrain released in his common original colours again. Hopefully the mould is still in good shape, too. You might notice that his insert bubble angle is not perfectly horizontal like the vintage release, but there’s enough nostalgia and throwback in that release to work for the likes of me. If I can live with a lack of styro and still feel as though I have a vintage Toys’R’Us shelf on the go in my collection, a jaunty bubble angle won’t phase me. It’s not cheap at $50, and I know there will be some disappointed collectors who wanted the cartoon/proto colours for this release, but re-creating the original Hasbro line of toys does seem to be the priority for the Walmart reissues.
Overall, I really like what this latest incarnation of G1 reissues is offering. On the one hand it’s probably the least imaginative of all the reissue lines we’ve gotten, but in the case of Astrotrain and the gorgeous Devastator giftset box, there’s value in it. The fact that the original Hasbro packaging had never been fully re-created meant it was a gap worth exploring, and I still maintain that opinion. The cab-only release for Optimus Prime with his original Hasbro artwork, the Japanese Dinocassettes on Hasbro cards, vintage-style carded minibots and Decepticon cassettes…these are all good ingredients and keep this wave of reissues interesting, novel and varied. The fact that it keeps us guessing is a positive thing. As a result, I’m thoroughly looking forward to what the rest of 2020 brings in terms of Walmart and Hasbro Pulse reissue Generation 1 Transformers!
All the best