Just yesterday I published a review of the new reissue Beast Wars Ultra Optimus Primal toy from 1996, in which I found it to be a nostalgia-fueled trip down memory lane but also a lovingly-reproduced, action-stuffed figure of the ages that somehow still packs a punch even today. Well, as if it couldn’t get any better, now we have another release to take a look at.
And I say that fully in the knowledge that I’m kind of giving away the final verdict on this one before we’ve even really started, but ah well. When you have toys as nice as this brought back in such fine form, who wants to be all mysterious about it, eh? After all, just get another whiff of those boxes!
This is everything. pic.twitter.com/xsk795hhoH
— Sixo (@SixoTF) January 25, 2022
Seriously, how great is that? Again, it would have been one thing to have these new reissues emerge with a modern spin on the packaging but to see the original red reptilian theme with the classic green logo on the front is the icing on the cake. There’s clearly a whole lot of love poured into these re-releases and it shows right from the first moment you clap eyes on the cardboard.
That the product itself comes out looking as great as it does should perhaps be of little surprise then, although as we acknowledged with Optimus, that isn’t necessarily a given. After all, there have been plenty of examples of Transformers reissues from over the years that felt like pale imitations of their predecessors, whether that was because of mould degradation, cost-cutting or simple shoddy work. Fortunately, this guy easily proves that Primal wasn’t a fluke, as he looks and feels marvellous.
It’s surprising to me that as a child of the ’80s, there are still few things that feel quite as intensely nostalgic as the sight of this sizeable purple T Rex form, to the point where even though it’s not quite a dead ringer for the accompanying Mainframe animation, it’s still hard to see it in hand without instantly imagining David Kaye’s dulcet tones ringing through your ears.
Besides, 26 years on, I feel like we’ve moved past the need to scrutinise these original toys based on how animation accurate they are. Sure, that was a relevant part of the conversation back in the day but now there are numerous other Megatron toys that do that particular requirement better (not least of which is the incredible-looking MP-43, of course), leaving this classic release to be assessed more on its own merit as a quality action figure as opposed to a representation of its own supporting media.
On that basis, let’s be fair and say that this thing rocks. Hard. Even at the time, I remember it being a bit of a revelation for its depiction of the more modern T Rex form (a far cry from the lumbering upright Grimlock I was used to from just a decade prior) but I’d argue that it doesn’t look any less fresh today. For one thing, it’s exceptionally cohesive and solid, with nary a whiff of robot mode kibble to be found anywhere and all of the seams and panels are remarkably well hidden to boot. In that regard, I think it’s not only one of the most successful Beast-era toys of the time, but even gives more modern takes a run for their money.
Then there’s the colour scheme, somehow pushing the idea of a pondering purple predator so far past the point of preposterousness that it comes out the other side looking amazing. This reissue has dialled up the saturation a notch too, by my estimation, which along with the striking green paint over his top half (not the mention the well-faded yellow belly) all looks really quite stunning in hand.
That’s set off nicely with some sharp and well-applied paint applications on areas such as the face, with the red eyes remaining as a holdover of the original toy despite other releases in this line opting for something a little more ‘realistic’ (do we know that dinosaurs didn’t have solid red eyes? I’m just guessing here!). The teeth are also very nicely done, although sadly I did notice a couple of small scuffs on my copy, which is unfortunate if not exactly the end of the world.
This mode is largely quite static, with the only major source of poseability being the ball-jointed arms, but naturally, you can open the mouth to make him roar, in this case also revealing this mode’s main gimmick. Yes, in a bit of a painfully 1990s’ turn, there’s a water pistol feature contained within, meaning that if you fill up the small red tank and pop it back in place, pulling back on the head will activate a squirting attack. It’s a bit of a laugh despite being quite exceptionally naff, although as I’m not in the business of getting my toys wet these days, I think I’ll give it a miss! I will say that my son will go nuts for it though!
Otherwise, there’s really not much to grumble about here! If I was being really critical, I’d mention that the screw holes on the right side of the toy are rather unsightly and unfortunate but really, that’s a nitpick. Besides, there’s just so much to admire and adore about this guy!
I guess I’m really pleased that Hasbro opted to reissue both of these figures at the same time, as in many ways they make a fantastic double set. I always thought the visual of a sizeable gorilla vs a T Rex was very cool (and kind of timeless, in its way), so the chance to appreciate them head on together yet again is just wonderful.
After all, modern toys may be blessed with more articulation or more polished engineering – that’s sort of par for the course when assessing vintage moulds – but these two boast such an indelible amount of charm that you can’t help but instantly fall in love with them all over again!
Even if you are coming to these guys without the undeniable influence of rose-tinted nostalgia glasses, I still think there’s tons to appreciate about these beast modes for first-timers. They may be part of history, but they’ve stood the test of time, regardless.
For me though, it’s fabulous to finally have the original T Rex Megatron back in my grasp, and he’s taking his rightful place next to the vintage copies of his later beast forms. That’s quite the line-up, and it feels like thus far at least, this reissue has scratched my itch in terms of adding this first mould back to my collection.
Of course, there’s more to assess with the robot mode yet, although the process of getting him transformed up remains as enjoyable as ever! I can easily recall being quite wowed by how unique this conversion was when I first discovered this figure and it’s safe to say it hasn’t lost any of its chunky, asymmetric appeal, despite newer toys having replicated it in the years since.
I’m a particular fan of the simple but effective manner in how the halves of the dino’ body split and fold round to form the backpack, although surely it’s the chest twist that remains the most memorable element of all. Looking at this thing with fresh eyes all this time later, it’s remarkable to me now how clever so much of the engineering here actually is, as the manner in which that top half tucks into place, not to mention the arms contort into position, is just poetry in motion. You almost don’t notice it because of how effective and graceful it is with but a few clicks, but if anything, that makes it all the more impressive!
The robot form you’re left with is a very imposing affair, although one that I can recall being a bit taken aback by when the toy was newly-released! The tail and the head acting as his arms and hands was certainly ‘a look’ that took some getting used to, although it’s funny to think that now it’s become so familiar that you almost don’t question it, even on this initial toy.
Of course, the ’90s cartoon (and therefore subsequent plastic attempts at this character) would attempt to show that Megatron actually did have traditional hands and that he was essentially wearing the dino’ bits like a pair of bizarre boxing gloves, but there’s none of that evident here. This toy goes balls deep with how ridiculous it all is and for that, I admire it. Commitment to the concept, and all that.
The tail arm features the first of many gimmicks on offer here, as it can spring forward in a sort-of attack motion, the claw snapping as it goes. It’s re-activated by a small lever on the elbow, which sends the whole tail section lurching back and forth as you pump it. Yes, it’s every bit as silly as it sounds!
That doesn’t mean that you can’t simply clip the claw piece back into place should you wish, even if the process of doing so is actually a bit of a fudge. Left to its own devices, the tail will sit in a semi-extended position, but by folding in the flaps on either side of the arm, you can hold it well enough in a retracted state to better resemble a more typically-proportioned appendage! It’s not a perfect solution as some way of properly clipping the mechanism in place would have been preferable, but it works well enough.
You can then get a surprising amount of articulation out of the arm as is, including the claw itself, which functions with a very clicky ratchet on account of the mechanism needed for the gimmick to work. Again, it may be all a bit bizarre, but boy, does it look quite menacing in its way!
That leaves the other arm as the dino’ head, which naturally retains the water-quirting gimmick from the beast mode. Again, this arm possesses a lot more movement than you might first imagine, being capable of twisting into any number of poses. Of particular note is a rotating joint within the arm which allows the head to be positioned the ‘correct’ way up, something that I was amazed to see missing in the recent Kingdom version of this design.
I’ve no doubt that the arms will make or break this figure by most people’s estimations. If you look at this now and think it’s all a bit too much for your tastes then I somehow doubt that a deeper exploration of the toy’s merits will change your mind, as the unique aesthetic is sort of inherent to everything going on here! However, if the notion of either end of a dinosaur being used as mittens is for you then I reckon you’re onto a winner.
There are more gimmicks, mind, such as the sizeable disc-shaped hip pads that can be rotated forward to reveal a pair of hidden hook-shaped missiles. These are spring-loaded and will fire at the push of a button, in stark contrast to how the Kingdom Megatron re-do went for the more serious approach of having moulded guns in their place. Again, it’s all part of the goofy charm.
Then there’s the mutant mask, a feature found on all year 1 Beast Wars toys above the Basic assortment, and one that seems a little out there in the context of history now! In this case, the two ‘wings’ on either side of the head flip forward to create a singular helmet-styled mask over Megatron’s head, giving him a very different look in the process. It’s a straightforward thing but creates quite the effect.
As I mentioned with Optimus Primal, I think the mutant masks were a bit inconsistent when judging how successful they were over the entire range of toys but, at least in this instance, it looks good and works well. I suppose the one thing that always bugged me about this example back in the day was that when it’s not being used, the halves of the mask make Megatron’s head look decidedly less like the cartoon as a result.
Again, that’s a consideration I no longer find myself caring about with this toy, as if I really want to go the animation accurate route I have other options for it, but if it is something that still bothers you then you can always just unclip the mask halves for a more streamlined look. Bizarrely, whilst I used to do this with my vintage copy all the time, I now think it appears oddly unfinished somehow!
Speaking of the head, I also want to acknowledge how hard that face sculpt hits, even after all these years! The gnashing teeth look was also something about this toy that took a while to get accustomed to at the time but now I find myself wishing that more modern designs had as much personality as this. It looks especially great with the new colour scheme, in my opinion – the purple and red having both been dialled up to the nines for a very bold look
Of course, the biggest change here is the helmet, which is now a shocking black as opposed to the original’s silver. It’s the most significant change to this release vs the ’90s version (with the rest of the colours being the same, just a lot more vibrant!) and it’s hard to understate what a difference it makes to the overall figure. You could suppose that it’s an attempt to make Megatron a touch more accurate to his classic animation portrayal but even then, it’s not exact. Regardless, I’ve little doubt that some would have preferred the vintage silver colour instead but I have to say, I love this update myself.
The darker colour and new helmet all add up to make Megatron seem supremely menacing, such that, dare I say it, I’m actually now happy I own this thing in place of having had the chance to locate a vintage copy for my collection. Part of me feels like that’s a little sacrilegious although I equally have no idea why – it’s a gorgeous toy no matter the colour scheme but still, it’s great to see it shown off at its best.
After all, I already own the Beast Machines T Wrecks version, so between that and the original 1996 figure, it’s not like I’m unfamiliar with the design. So to say that I’ve been genuinely wowed with how amazing the reissue appears in hand should tell you something!
Again, it’s also a fabulous addition to my Beast Wars Megatron ranks, taking a well-deserved spot next to the Transmetal and Transmetal 2 figures and ably completing this awesome trio of toys. Few characters can claim to have been so well-served in such a short space of release time as this guy, and here’s the proof!
The reissue even stands up nicely next to some of the more elaborate Beast-era bad guy leaders, including the likes of Beast Wars II Galvatron and Neo’s Magmatron. It would be fantastic to see some of these toys given the reissue treatment at some point too but hey, I’ll take what I can get for now!
Really though, the biggest test is seeing these two incredible reissue figures face-to-face, as it’s the ultimate sign that Hasbro has really delivered in this case. Few sights can hit that acute sense of ’90s nostalgia like this, although again, even if you have no prior knowledge of these toys then I would suggest there’s a lot to enjoy here.
After all, Beast Wars may have moved on a bit now, the characters having been revamped with more modern bells and whistles in the years since, but there remains a somewhat timeless quality to these designs that means they’ll never go out of style, no matter how gimmicky stuff like a water pistol tongue might be!
As it turns out, the Beast Wars are far from over. They live on in the hearts of those who enjoyed these toys at the time, which now deserve to find a whole new audience to love them today.
WHAT’S HOT? A classic toy design, done brilliant well in reissue format. Yesss.
WHAT’S NOT? The dino’ teeth have a couple of small chips on my copy.