Mini-reviews: Beast Wars/Beast Machines

This page features reviews for toys released in the following Transformer toylines: Beast Wars, Beast Machines, Beast Wars II, Beast Wars Neo, Beast Wars Returns, and Beast Wars 10th Anniversary.


-Inferno
Faction: Predacon
Toyline: Beast Wars
Class: Mega
Release: Sometime in 1997
Acquired: Ebay
Accessories: 2 leg missiles, 1 missile launcher, 1 mandible/claw weapon
Strongest mode: Ant.
- Inferno is simply a pretty cool toy. There are a lot of BW Predacon insect toys out there, but Inferno is easily one of the best; really, he's one of the best insectoid TFs, period. Transforming into an awesomely huge fire ant (most of which is made of this great translucent red plastic embedded with metal flake), this toy doesn't sacrifice much in either mode. I mean, the ant pretty much looks like an ant, unlike a lot of the other insect BW toys, but the robot mode is just fine too. He's got the standard BW articulation, and his gimmicks manage to be fun without really getting in the way. The changing of the abdomen into the jetpack in particular is fantastic, but the way the missile launcher can be slid to open the ant's mandibles (in any mode) is not to be overlooked. About the only things I don't care for on this guy are A) the fact that the missiles form part of his legs and therefore could get easily lost and B) the head movement is somewhat restricted due to the molding of both the head and the "collar" made of the rear of the ant's head. Still, one of the best BW toys. He didn't really need a BWX update.

-Transmetal Tarantulus (TRU exclusive repaint)
Faction: Predacon
Toyline: Beast Wars
Class: Deluxe
Release: Sometime in 1999
Acquired: Ebay
Accessories: Wheel/buzzsaw weapon
Strongest mode: Robot.
- One of the problems I had with the Beast Wars line, at least in its Transmetal and TM II phases, was that there were a lot of, not exactly bad, but still unappealing color schemes. One such color scheme belonged to Tarantulus (to use his BWX name that actually looks like a real name) when he got the Transmetal upgrade. Thankfully, Hasbro decided to repaint him in colors that were much more unified and evocative of his character, and we got Steel Tech Tarantulus. Instead of random purples, oranges, neon green, and blues, we got a cohesive and creepy black, grey, and silver scheme with touches of red and neon green. The mold itself is pretty great, too, a bit better than his original toy, although the Transmetal "motorcycle" mode is the opposite of impressive. At least it makes good use of his saw weapon as a wheel. This is one of the stronger Predacon releases from the Transmetal era, and one of the best spider transformers yet released, even if it doesn't deal with the limb transformation as creatively as later releases like Beast Machines Blackarachnia.

-Waspinator
Faction: Predacon
Toyline: BWX
Class: Deluxe
Release: Spring 2006
Acquired: Target
Accessories: Stinger/gun, 2 missiles, Transmutate's head
Strongest mode: Robot.
- Released as part of the 10th anniversary celebration for Beast Wars, Waspinator is not a straight-up reissue. One of the cool things about the BWX line was the the toys were repainted to look more show accurate (or, at least, that was the intention). Waspinator is one of the most obvious beneficiaries of this makeover, as the various grey parts that made the original toy so different-looking from the show depiction are now cast in a light metallic green that really ties his color scheme together. He also has a lot more paint on his head to make it look as much like the show as it could (ideally, he would have gotten a head remold like Primal and Megatron). However, his wasp mode is were the repainting (literally) really shines. The insect's exoskeleton parts are painted in a wonderfully metallic green paint that almost looks like real chitin. Also, his blue eyes have an iridescent effect that brings out other colors when light hits them the right way. It's one of the rare instances where I'd call a transformer paint job "beautiful," he looks like a real insect. While not as super-accurate as the Japanese Telemocha repaint, BWX Waspinator has the advantage of being cheaper and (at the time) available as a mass-retail release. And, of course, he includes the head piece for the Transumate build-a-figure, a relative rarity among transformers toys; so you can't complete "her" without BWX Waspinator. In summary, I'm glad I have him, despite the original release being one of the few original BW toys I bought back in the 90s.    

-Transmetal II Megatron
Faction: Predacon
Toyline: Beast Wars
Class: Ultra
Release: Sometime in 1999
Acquired: Ebay
Accessories: 3 missiles
Strongest mode: Robot & dragon

 - Megatron is a beautiful toy. Liberally covered in red chrome and having translucent orange wings, he is a sight to behold. Based on his appearance at the end of the Beast wars cartoon, Megatron has been upgraded into a dragon thanks to a combination of alien science, lava (?!), and the original, G1 Megatron's evil spark. His dragon mode looks great and quite evil. The head is an interesting mix of both European and Asian dragon elements, while the rest of the body is straight-up European, giving him a unique look I've not really seen in any other dragon design, transformer or otherwise. His movement is pretty good, as is normal for BW toys, and he's full of gimmicks. First, his neck has a flexible core which can be manipulated by a lever. Pressing the horns down causes his upper and lower jaws to open, which reveals his mouth-mounted missile launcher. Another lever on his back causes his wings to unfurl, although true flapping has to be done manually. He also has a missile launcher at the base of his tail, which is more for use in bot mode. Unlike most Transmetals II, but like most original Transmetals, Megatron has a "3rd" semi-vehicular mode - wheels and jets fold out of the legs, the dragon's neck straightens out (as do the wings), and you get a sort of aircraft mode, though I've seen it described as a dragster mode, too - I suppose as a play on the name of the beast mode. The robot mode is also great. The initial appearance is a bit odd, as the coloring makes it appear as Megatron in a dragon costume - his head isn't red like most of his body and is mostly covered by a sort of helmet formed from the base of the tail. That one missile launcher sits atop the helmet, and the other two missiles can be stored in the wings. His chest is dominated by what would have been a cockpit for a small figure to represent Megatron's spark, but it sits empty. I just imagine it as a special spark chamber to accommodate the second spark residing within Megatron. Also, his arm asymmetry is reversed from his original purple T-rex form - this time, the dragon's head forms the left arm, rather than the right. This toy is actually one of two to showcase Megatron's dragon form - the other being his smaller Beast machines toy - and this is easily the better of the two (go for RiD Megatron Megabolt if you want a Beast Machines Megatron toy). Also, compared to the original Transmetal toy, this Transmetal II doesn't use any plastic that's degraded since the late 90s, and is much cheaper and easier to acquire than the non-degrading Japanese Metals Megatron, to boot. If you can get him, do it. He's a great visual addition to your collection.

-Tankor
Faction: Vehicon
Toyline: Beast Machines
Class: Mega
Release: Sometime in 1999 (Fall?)
Acquired: Brian's Toys, I think? Online retailer.
Accessories: 1 missile
Strongest mode: Both.
- Tankor here is a bit of a sleeper hit. Like many early Beast Machines toys (mostly of the main cast, of course), his toy design seems only tangentially related to his show design, but it doesn't stop it from being a great Transformer toy. Tankor was the general for the tank-mode Vehicons, and it was later revealed that he actually possessed the spark of Rhinox. Needless to say, he didn't bear much resemblance, visually or in character, to his original heroic incarnation, but that was the point. Now a supposedly mindless drone commander, Tankor said little and destroyed much. His toy certainly seems capable of doing so. The tank mode is fairly monolithic, basically like a slab of treads and armor topped by a menacing, visored tank turret (almost all vehicons had facial features in alt mode). A fun feature of the tank mode is that, by turning the jet exhaust (yep, he's got that), the turret turns. Moreover, by folding down a panel at the back of the turret, you can activate light piping that suggests a cyclopic eye in the visor, which scans back and forth as you turn the exhaust. It's one of the most inspired uses of light piping ever used with a transformer. One knock against the tank mode is that it's somewhat unstable, and activating the second major gimmick - shifting some armor panels to reveal the wheel-powered buzzsaws - really makes things pretty shaky. Still, it looks cool and the spinning blades, vac-metallized spin well and look great doing so, ready to tear up some technorganic flesh (sorry). In robot mode, Tankor is still pretty blocky looking. Now the cannon is found over his left shoulder. The saw gimmicks are retained in what are now his arms, and his head has a similar eye-scanning gimmick to the tank turret (now his backpack). The head also features a moving jaw, which serves to separate the head design of this toy further from the show look. His hands are clamp-like claws, and his jet exahust nozzle becomes a sort-of jetpack. One thing I dislike about this toy's bot mode are the relatively small shoulders - they detract from the overall "powerhouse" look they were going for that the show design retains. Of course, he also doesn't have his tank tread legs on this toy, but I didn't really mind. I would have appreciated if they had given him ankle articulation, though. He also has "Scourge-bows" where he can only do "curls" with his elbow articulation. In spite of these shortcomings, I still really like the bot mode. It's fun to play with, looks powerful, and has a great color scheme (again, not show-accurate, but great looking). While the smaller (basic) Tank Drone mold has a much closer resemblance to Tankor's show appearance (and the Japanese release, which I have, really took that to the next level with a very accurate deco), this toy is still worth owning. I like to think of it as a larger, upgraded body for Tankor that was used...off-screen, I guess. Also, plugging this here just like I did on the Allspark - the TFCC really needs to repaint this as Shockwave as one of next year's exclusive's. It'd work really well.

-Motorcycle Drone
Faction: Vehicon
Toyline: Beast Machines
Class: Basic
Release: Sometime in 2001
Acquired: Ebay (late 2009)
Accessories: 2 exhaust blasts/missiles
Strongest mode: Both
-Ah, vehicons. Gotta love 'em. This particular vehicon is, officially, a sparkless drone - the kind lead by vehicon general Thrust - but, as most people know by now, actually does a much better job of looking like Thrust than his own deluxe-class toy does. This is largely due to the much more-accurate mold design, supposedly because deluxe-class Thrust's toy was designed before the show designs were finalized. A common problem for a lot of BM characters, it doesn't matter much for Thrust/Motorcycle Drone, as in their color schemes are so alike that if you were presented with this toy and told it was Thrust, you'd believe it. As for the toy itself, it's really grown on me in the past few years as one of the best (of many) basic/scout class motorcycle transformers. No, it's not a realistic motorcycle by any means - it even dispenses with the notion of "robots in diguise" completely by having the character's head plainly part of the vehicle mode. This was a standard feature of most vehicon toys - either the robot head was usable in vehicle mode or had some substitute head (like Mega Tankor's turret). Unless such features just really keep you from enjoying TFs, the bike is just a cool design. the main body of the bike is very futuristic, with one of my favorite parts being the rear wheel that has no hub, but rather spins around the "rim," much like Cybertron Ransack's front wheel - very Tron-like! The section for the front wheel is also cool, making the drone look like a chopper. Of course, the bike also has its huge exhaust pipes, which are clearly also intended to be jet engines to make this sleek bike even faster, and help it live up to Thrust's name.