Written/Created by: Matt
Posted on 9.03.03.

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Just before the Autobots, Takara made a buncha transforming robot watches.

Well, he's here. Unicron. Thrown into the Armada mix with his own big storyline in what has to be considered a concession for those long-standing Transformers fans who caught the flick in '87, toy lovers worldwide have been pining for this figure's creation for well over a decade. With the exception of a "real" Star Wars' Death Star, I can think of no other plaything more universally thought of as "must be made." Lo and behold, it's finally here, with a price tag of...fifty bucks.

Fiddy bucks seemed like such a good deal when Atari was peddling their "Fun In Back!" shit, but it'll probably scare off a number of Transy fans. Is Unicron worth it? Depends, really. If you're going around dropping thirty bucks on those classic re-releases of Thundercracker and friends, the extra two-oh is well spent. If you're the type who typically employs a "no action figures over 10.00" rule, not even the planet-smashing Unicron will be enough to sway your formula. That's one of the questions that pops up most, but the other one has fans wondering just how big this guy really is. He is big, but Uni's not the "biggest."

If you're swarmed with silly TF knowledge, Unicron is roughly the size of Scorponok, a Decepticon figure/playset that arrived very late during the original line. Fortress Maximus, the Autobots' "version" of Scorponok, dwarfs Unicron by a huge margin. Still, when compared to his new colleagues in the Armada line, Unicron stands the tallest. And hey, even if he's not the largest transforming robot toy in history, he's the only one this big with a chest that pisses missiles. Since it's such a heralded toy that's made even the most casual fan think about opening their wallet, today's article provides a super mega ultra triple somersault review of Toys R' Us' latest flavor of the month. First, let's examine the history...

Over the years, there's been a few different prototypes for would-be forthcoming Unicron figures, but the deals never came to fruition. The transformation intricacies and sheer size of these protos kept them off the market. In short, to make such a figure would create the need to charge customers far more than they were willing to spend on a Transformers toy. Today, Hasbro deals with materials better suited and much cheaper for the task, and though the new Unicron doesn't pack the "HOLY CRAP THAT'S BIG" punch as some of the prototypes, it's still a reason to celebrate. For everyone who complains about the ongoing retro-resurgence shitting all over their cherished childhood glories, remember: without it, you wouldn't have your stupid Unicron.

Yes, this is the character who served as main villain in Transformers: The Movie -- the big dick who ate planets and who turned Megatron into Galvatron. Orson Wells supplied the voice in what'd end up being his last role cause he died died died, and even if the movie incited a slow-moving black plague death on the franchise with killed-off popular characters and a slew of shitty post-movie cartoons, it's still a perfectly watchable flick that -- because of DVD releases and whatnot -- did more to keep the series in our minds than all of the later "TF spinoff" shows combined. As derivative as Unicron was to anyone who'd seen their fair share of toons and sci-fi, he was more than adequate as the movie's supreme villain. Almost twenty years later, we can finally play with the guy.

There's the back of the box. See how much they crammed onto it? Fifty bucks well spent! By the way, clicking on any of the pictures in this article will take you to super-sized versions of 'em. So, if anyone was planning to play "count the missiles" or some shit, I've provided an easier avenue.

To open to not to open? It's the question that's plagued millions for years. Some say you should open your toys, others say that this ruins their collectible value. I say that some stuff just looks better in the box, regardless of what it's worth. In Unicron's case, you're just cheating yourself. The robot mode looks cool, but the experience wouldn't be all it could unless you checked out the thing's planet mode. Don't be a Matrix choker like Ultra Magnus. Open it, dammit. Open Unicron.

Prepare to meet thine holiest thou art them there action figures. For those curious about the figure's allure, this is actually the only Armada toy I've shelled out cash for. True, maybe I shouldn't be spending money on Armada toys anyway, but this junk's tax deductible for me, so there. I've admired some aspects of the series from afar, and hated others, but Unicron's the only one that's made me turn from spectator to purveyor. Course, now that I made the decision to buy and open Unicron, I had to endure the same unmentioned torment of all of his other masters. I had to remove twenty-six twisty-ties from the damn thing. TWENTY-SIX.

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See? See?! Twenty-six twisty-tie things. Not just regular twisty-ties, mind you -- the kind reinforced by hard plastic strips that also need to be removed. Getting Unicron out of his box is on a toughness scale similar to that of a Rubik's Cube, but let's face it, the rewards are brighter. A few matched up color patterns versus a giant, planet-smashing doom robot that eats his victims? I sat, twiddling my fingers in a fiery fit of twisty-tie untwisting-tying, and four hours later, I was ready to make Unicron work his magic.

Oh wait, no I wasn't. I still had to transform him and stuff.

Alright, I'm never been particularly skilled with making these kinds of toys do their tricks, but Unicron is especially tough. The robot mode isn't too much of a problem, but to turn him into a planet takes the finesse of Data and the patience of the Karate Kid guy who looks like that mogwai salesman. Seriously, it's not easy. If you consider the toy's target demographic, people much younger than myself -- it might seem a little too hard. The instruction sheet, which is so in-depth and never-ending that it's literally poster-sized, isn't much help. They give you all of the necessary directions, but in ways so vague that you'll swear Hasbro hates you and people of far different denominations cause everything is written in seventeen languages, all jumbled together like so many post-fire lawn chairs and plastic flamingos. No, it's somehow worse than that -- there's few actual "words" on the instructions. They just put ten thousand drawings of the figure with nondescript arrows pointing in very general directions, and somehow, you've gotta interpret what it means. After a gazillion tries, I finally mastered his mode transformations. To Hasbro's credit, this thing is well-built -- with the way I was handling Unicron at the peak of my frustration, I firmly expected to break a few of the pieces. None did. Unicron, fittingly, is indestructible. And pretty heavy! Whoo!

First, let's examine his robot mode. As a character, Unicron always seemed a lot more vulnerable in that way. You can't blame him for transforming into it, though. If you were a big killer planet that had the ability to morph into a gigantic robot with devil horns, you'd make the swap too, regardless of the consequences. Devil horns should never be hidden, especially when they're like, what, 400 feet tall? Go Uni go.

There he is, bigger than Jesus. He looks nice enough doing absolutely nothing, but the Unicron figure arrives with oodles of gimmicks and action features to make kids and fanboys alike salivate. Let's check 'em out...

Each of his feet have these half-discs attached, and they're not just for style points. With a total of six spring-loaded firing missiles, Unicron the only guy around capable of blowing up a galaxy with his legs. The missiles work surprisingly well -- to the point where I'd be surprised if some lawsuit isn't eventually filed after a kid shoots out his sister's eye. You know the story with that old "rocket firing" Boba Fett action figure? You know what he looks like, but the original version shared a similar feature. Kenner canned it for working "too well," but I can't imagine Unicron's launchers firing with any less viciousness. Not that I'm complaining -- it's fun aiming at the cats. At the cats' eyes. I love Unicron.

Oh, scroll up to that big robot picture above again -- see the little orb thing in Unicron's left hand? That's his "minicon," named "Dead End." I don't watch Armada, so I can't tell you his origin story. The orb turns into a robot though, and that's all that matters...

Look! Dead End! Just a little black robot dude, impressively carrying a gun almost the length of his entire widdle orby body. Apparently, these minicons play a huge role on the show, and though the toy comes with a small comic book that'd presumably explain the whole deal, I can't bring myself to read it because it's not on a computer monitor. At least I'm being honest. From what I gather, they're some kind of weird power sources that all of the Autobots and Decepticons hunt and hoard like wolves. Unicron is no exception -- given the toy's features, it seems like his major goal this time around is to collect as many minicons as possible. Just like the kids! Unicron is just like the kids! You know, it's hard to look at the almighty Optimus in the same way after spending some time with this guy. I mean, Prime's great and all, a true hero, but how in God's name is he supposed to stack up against something like Unicron?

Unicron: Hi, Prime. I'm Unicron. I'm a robot the size of a planet, and you guessed it, I also turn into a planet. Completing this holy trilogy, I eat other planets.

Optimus: Hi Unicron. I turn into a red truck.

It just doesn't wash. I don't care how many times the guy gets beat up on the new show, or how many times I watch the Autobots break through his eyes in the ol' movie. In a one-on-on battle, I can't see any other transforming robot making it past the first round with Unicron. Except that maid thing from Spaceballs, but I'm not sure if she counts. Of Unicron's two modes, I'm digging this robot shit a lot more. It's partly because of the planet mode's smaller scale, but mostly because the robot mode lights up and has an exploding ribcage. Can't beat that with a stick, or even a planet mode. Take a look...

When you stick Dead End (or any other applicable minicon) into a little peg on Unicron's back, his entire chest explodes and fires a yellow missile halfway across the city. It's even set to the score of Unicron's meaty parts making weird "winding" noises, so obviously, few will be able to resist a feature like this. I've seen lots of shooting missiles, but again, nothing like the ones Unicron's got. Even those old G.I. Joe vehicles with the 72,000 nukes didn't pack a wallop like these, but even if they did, Unicron's chest missile would still win the war. Why? His damn eyes light up when he's on the attack...

See? Light-up eyes. Beautiful, glowing eyes. They're almost haunting, and would be if Unicron was a real boy and not an action figure. Hooowah! Hoowah hoowah. The picture above also provides a good close-up of his head, and as you can see, time's been kind to the guy. They didn't make too many unnecessary upgrades to his original look, and while he doesn't quite have the same "grainy appeal" as the movie version, he technically shouldn't. Remember, this is the Armada version. Friggin' Armada.

The eyes aren't the only Unicron body parts capable of lighting up a small, enclosed area. That hand does it too! That miraculous hand!

You have no idea how many tries it took for me to get that picture. The lights aren't static -- they flash on and off a few times before fading away into oblivion. The picture shown above was the final of 6,245 takes. Between camera batteries and the price of the toy, Unicron cost me ten thousand dollars. Batteries around here are really expensive.

And that's the robot mode. The "first" mode. I'd like to say that we could end things here, part ways, go about our business, never speak again, blah blah. But, we can't. Not until we've seen his planet mode. It's at this precise moment that I'm admitting to my own personal boredom with regard to writing about a Unicron toy, and apologize in advance for anything that slurs out of my hands in these final paragraphs. Unicron deserves better coverage.

If I thought getting Unicron finalized into his halfway pre-made robot mode was a chore, boy was I in for a good time turning him into a planet! To give you an idea of how long it took, this article was meant to go up yesterday. Now, admittedly, it'll get easier over time. Once you decipher the hidden codes in that instruction manual, your own memory will negate the need to seek out its ungodly hieroglyphics ever, ever again. If you don't have a great memory, don't worry, you'll still remember the steps. Trust me, to avoid the risk of having to read through that esoteric backwards Unicron poster on another day, you'll subconsciously force your brain to rev your memory powers up to levels never previously experienced. Because of this awesome, God-given loophole, the only thing more burned into my memory banks than Unicron's directions is the god damned "Big Mac, McDLT, A Quarter Pound With Some Cheese..." McDonald's song.

After several long breaths and enough cigarettes to tar a minority in the English nations of yesteryear, I finally got the planet thingy together. Life still didn't have meaning, but at least it wasn't being spent yelling "FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU" at a toy anymore. As young Jake Lloyd once said under the enlightening direction of George Lucas, "yippee!"

The planet mode probably isn't as big as some would've liked, but when I first heard about this upcoming new figure, I never would've imagined that they could pull off the likeness so well. I was sure we'd get a Unicron with his especially "tough" parts amazingly out of scale when compared to his other parts, and while not perfect, you can't ask for much more. Even with the snap-on "rings," the thing is pretty sturdy and won't fall to pieces just at the touch. You'd have to drop it or something first. Course, having gone through what I did to get Uni-Uni to this point, I don't think he'll be seeing that neat robot mode anytime soon. Moreover, ever again. Hope you like having your head twisted around and shoved into your crotch, Unicron, because you're staying that way.

There's a closer look, and here's an even closer one. See that zigzagged thing? That's how Unicron bites planets. Or maybe how they pass through...can't really remember. Notice Dead End? There's like seventeen thousand little pegs on Unicron -- you can stick the guy anywhere. Actually, you're supposed to collect and affix an assortment of minicons onto Unicron's planetary offense strategy, a feat gloriously illustrated on the box. I've gotta admit, the sight of Unicron with those baby bots all over him is perhaps impressive enough to persuade me into buying more Armada toys. Hasbro knows what they're doing. That's why they stopped calling themselves "HasKen" after buying out Kenner. They knew it sounded stupid.

All in all, I'm pretty happy with it. The figure's a great "guilty pleasure" for Transformers fans who don't usually get into this whole toy-buying bit. Is it fifty bucks worth of cool? Well, it's definitely forty bucks worth. That the last ten dollars is what you need to consider. How much is that ten dollars worth to you? HOW MUCH? Think about it, but not for too long -- this thing ain't really flying out of the stores, but it's not the kind of figure that's going to be too overstocked. There just ain't enough shelf space for a ton of unsold Unicrons. You can pick him up at the usual online retailers, but I'd recommend skipping that and heading to the stores yourself. You'll save on shipping, and if you're really lucky, you'll get to snatch up Unicron just before a six-year-old does, making you feel like an old amoral loser who sucks the joy from little kids to satiate desires that were altogether too embarrassing to begin with. Not that this happened to me or anything. Unicron's a nice one -- A+.



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