REVIEW: Beast Wars reissue Scorponok

What a time to be a collector, eh?

I say that all the time but honestly, has it ever been more true than right now? Especially if you are into Beast Wars, as so many Transformers fans currently seem to be.

After all, there’s a whole range of new toys still being pumped out across various individual lines, all bringing your favourite characters smack up-to-date with previously unseen levels of 1990s cartoon accuracy, not to mention a slew of supporting media, including cartoons and comics. Oh, and the beastly business is set to spin off into next year’s big-screen live-action film, too, as if the rest of it wasn’t already enough. Considering how controversial Beast Wars was in the eyes of many when it first arrived all those decades ago, that’s not a bad lot by any standard.

Then, of course, there’s the current crop of vintage reissues doing the rounds, some of which we’ve already taken a gander at on this blog. To say this is the cherry on top of an already very sugary situation would be an understatement, especially for those of us who just so happen to be getting back into the classic Beast Wars game at precisely the right time!

No word of a lie; I was all set to start looking into options for an original release of Scorponok here when this reissue was first announced, so the timing was undoubtedly fortuitous in my case! But given this design hails from 1996, how does it stack up after all these years, and can it seriously compete in a market where we also have a modern do-over of the same character?

OK, first things first, the beast mode presents as fabulously as ever, coming off as suitably creepy and surprisingly anatomically correct (at least as far as my knowledge goes; I confess to not being an arachnologist by trade). This may be a mould that is now twenty-six years old (whaaaat?), but it shows no signs of obvious age and looks pretty swish, all considered.

What’s new is the colour scheme, mind, as it extensively overhauls the classic release by giving Scorponok a more cartoon-accurate brownish-grey body in place of the original’s jet black. It makes this reissue feel very different, and honestly, I think it looks much better! The colour is rather unusual but is surprisingly striking in hand and certainly suits the mould.

Some of the other colours have been jazzed up a smidge too. The red appears somewhat more vibrant than I ever recall it being, although perhaps that’s just compared to the new lighter body colour. Conversely, I would swear the blue claws are a touch more muted now, but still, they look fab either way.

All the paint applications are expertly applied, with areas such as the face benefitting from crisp red eyes and the tail now boasting a more gorgeous gradient than ever before. I was sincerely quite blown away after unboxing this guy and checking him out for the first time in forever – he truly looks fantastic!

In terms of play value, it’s fair to say the beast mode isn’t necessarily the most articulated example ever, especially as the scorpion legs are all statically moulded in place. However, the arms make up for that quite a bit, with no less than five points of movement, not including the claws (more on those in a moment).

The mouth also opens, with points of movement at both the neck and jaw, and although it’s immediately apparent that the lower section is made up of a pair of robot heels, it still somehow works well enough. Overall, I find the design of the face to be something that I’ve perhaps taken for granted before, as though the new colour scheme somehow brings out the best of it.

Then we come to the main gimmicks on offer, with both claws providing different features. The right hides away a pair of missiles, which can be quickly (and rather eye-piercingly) launched by simply pressing on the top part of the pincer. It’s a not-entirely-unexpected solution but one that still delights – my son was especially thrilled watching the missiles whiz across the room and under the bed out of view!

The other claw then contains a miniature ‘cyber bee’ accessory, which is curled up and activated using a spring mechanism when kept in place. The bee is rather unostentatious, but the yellow paint adds a welcome pop of colour and the moulded face looks rather good, too.

I will say that I recall this gimmick being a bit precarious on my vintage copy of the toy, as though it was ever ready to spring off into your face at a moment’s notice. It never felt like it was coiled back and held in place as part of the claw particularly well, whereas here, it seems more solid and reliable. Bonus points for modern reissues, I suppose.

Finally, there is an articulated tail gimmick, whereby the stinger will thrust forward using a small lever on the rear. Without a doubt, this was the element that captured my son’s imagination the most – I was faux recovering from scorpion stings for the majority of the morning.

A few straightforward twists and turns later and Scorponok is in robot mode, looking every bit as I remember him from the original release of this mould but perhaps only vaguely like we’ve become accustomed to him appearing on the back of the ’90s cartoon. Despite the snazzy new colour scheme, collectors who demand animation accuracy may not be convinced, but for the rest of us, this lad has never looked better.

I suppose, in fairness, he was one of the less-overhauled designs when it came time for the animators to work their magic, but still, the proportions are noticeably more extreme than anything we’ve seen on screen, for one thing. Those claws are significantly oversized, but they still look incredible on this toy all the same.

One element that can’t be ignored is the tail, which juts out at almost a perfect ninety-degree angle from the backpack to make Scorponok a considerable pain for anyone attempting to store him neatly in a display. It does look a little silly, especially by modern standards, and no doubt would have benefitted from being able to lock the stinging mechanism into the more upright position to lessen the impact somehow.

Still, overall this toy is looking pretty sharp, all told, with the colours once again proving a bit hit in robot mode and the sculpt looking as good as ever. Scorponok is also noticeably solid and stable, considering I don’t recall the same of my vintage specimen after so many years, and surprisingly poseable given how mahoosive those claws are.

Turning attention to the face sculpt, you can see where the animators took their inspiration, but this is a fair departure from the noggin now more commonly associated with the character. Still, I really like this take, especially as the helmet’s shape and the single flat visor remind me of a medieval knight of some sort. The shouty expression is one that I think may take some getting used to for newbies, but after all these years, I can’t help but celebrate it.

Should you prefer (and I do, personally), the toy retains the classic ‘mutant mask’ gimmick found on the very earliest Beast Wars releases from the nineties. In this case, you simply flip the sides of the head forward to create a battle mask of sorts, which is not only one of the most effective solutions for this feature on any toy from the time but also results in a superior appearance, in my book.

Seriously, I always preferred this mask as the default look for this toy, despite it being a further departure from what became his cartoon image. The bold green eyes look fantastic, and I love the little red tubes running down to the sides to what appears to be some sort of vent at the front. It gives the figure a tremendous amount of personality and certainly ranks as one of my favourite examples of the gimmick from the Beast Wars line.

In fact, Scorponok’s robot form is loaded with lush detail wherever you look. The robotic wires and pumping pecs moulded into the main body all work well, but to my eye, it’s clever touches such as the scorpion legs forming a kind of ribcage around the sides that really bring it home. Top drawer stuff.

Perhaps my only real grumble is the all-too-obvious presence of screws in the front of the shoulders, something which can’t help but interrupt the otherwise seamless appearance. I suppose they had to be more visible in beast or robot mode, but given a choice, I think I would have preferred the alternative.

That aside, I’ve been quite struck by how much I’ve enjoyed checking this mould out all over again. As I mentioned, I already considered myself on the hook for a vintage version as things were, but honestly, it still felt reasonably low down my priority list. With so many awesome toys out there, I didn’t consider my memories of the design powerful enough to really warrant making it a necessity in the near future.

It’s terrific to be able to type up just what a tantalising time it’s all been then, as if anything, it’s left me wanting to track down other takes on this mould with greater haste. Some of those are much less easy to come across than this guy, but he certainly whets the appetite for now.

He also looks nothing but superb standing next to other Beast Wars reissues, even if he and Megatron are the sole members of the re-released Predacon line-up thus far. Still, with Terrorsaur on the way, it seems this terrific line will continue to pump out the delights for the foreseeable future.

Good thing, too, as honestly, there has never been a better time to be a Beast Wars fan.

WHAT’S HOT? A fantastic vintage design, done well with superb quality and a great new colour scheme.

WHAT’S NOT? The tail juts out a fair bit in robot mode and the obvious screws in the shoulders are a turn-off.  

TTFN

About Sixo

Transformers collector from the UK, collecting vintage G1/G2, CR/RID, UT & Masterpiece/3P. Find me at twitter.com/SixoTF or on YouTube at youtube.com/SixoTF

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