Wednesday, 3 January 2018

RRCo. Reviews: MP-39 Sunstreaker

 - Dorian MacQuarrie

It's not often that we review things in the traditional sense at RRCo. but sometimes a toy comes along who demands the attention. With that in mind let's go for a spin with MP-39 Sunstreaker.  

MP-39 Sunstreaker, the toy which was both never going to happen but also completely, inevitably, was going to happen. It has been many years since his brother Sideswipe was released and while time has been very kind to the MP-12 mould, Takara and their design department have not. The face of Masterpiece Transformers has changed from a shiny example of robotic perfection to something a bit more grey, a little bit disturbing in some cases but somehow still very attractive. 

I've waxed lyrical about the MP line numerous times and with every post I end up writing about the subject, my opinion is compromised shifts ever more into a stable, more accepting position. I'm still not fully supportive of cartoon focused Masterpiece toys but the quality of toys we have seen to achieve this goal is astounding. Now, I am aware that we could have still had this quality of toy but with the earlier MP aesthetic but I'll casually ignore that thought and press ahead.......

Masterpiece Sunstreaker is a wonder to behold. My initial reaction upon opening the box and seeing that sleek, sexy alt mode was pure elation. It has been a while since I experienced such an initial excitement at opening a Masterpiece car as many of my recent purchases consisted of Diaclone repaints and as amazing as they might be, it isn't the same as a whole new mould.

From the opening hood and doors and on to the chrome intakes, the attention to detail is stunning and harkens back to the Diaclone line itself in representing a thoroughly convincing alternate mode. 

Of course there is the option to display him in a more real-world accurate manner. The mechanism to achieve this is fairly ingenious but I can't say I'll ever display Sunstreaker this way, on the times when I do indeed have him displayed in alt mode (we all like to have an alt mode party sometimes right?). Put him alongside Sideswipe and the magic is complete. Finally, after five years we have this dynamic duo in official Masterpiece form! 

Before we even get into the robot mode (and thus the transformation, oh boy oh boy), the alt mode, as is now the norm for toys of the Masterpiece line, is covered in paint. Hard wearing, glossy, luscious paint. Sunstreaker practically glows a rich golden yellow, something which could never have been achieved with base plastic and this just adds to that initial awe upon opening the box. 

So about that transformation process..........

This is really where the differences between Sunstreaker, the most recent car-bot and Sideswipe, the first, become apparent. Actually, the qualitative differences start a moment before this as the second you pick up Sunstreaker it becomes very apparent that he weighs much more than Sideswipe due to so many more parts being packed into that alt. mode.  

Weight aside... where Sideswipe had a fairly traditional transformation scheme with a few neat tricks, Sunstreaker pulls out all the stops, with bells, whistles and extra panels to boot. The first run through, while not difficult or complex, definitely took a bit of time. Maybe I was hesitant to scratch the paint (which has held up after several transformations) or maybe it was just the experience of a completely new toy as I had sworn off watching any video reviews beforehand, but still, I took my time and was careful with every port, peg and panel. Maybe I just wanted to savour the whole experience and not rush things as it's not often I get my grubby hands on a toy at the actual time of release

The legs are fairly straight forward and the outward swing from the body of the car is quite a graceful movement before all the tidying up of the inner legs occurs. The feet are surprisingly simple and I love how they look in bot mode for such an iconic design element. 

Moving up to the torso, it should be a simple matter of rotating the windscreen to the back and flipping the chest over but alas, here is where we get into the few issues of this toy. The clearances allowed at every stage of this process are minimal. Were it not for the pieces involved being either clear plastic and/or painted I would feel pretty comfortable allowing them to clash and rub against each other. It is definitely the most nail biting part of the whole transformation. 

The arms thankfully, return us to the land of elegant efficiency with minimal fuss and some very nice tidying up taking place along the elbows. As for the head, it simply slides up and into place, revealing that handsome mug of Sunstreaker. 

The final piece of the transformation and probably the most fiddly (not to be confused with the most nerve-shredding mentioned previously) is the backpack. Lots of small painted parts with tight tolerances and small clearances. It's a fairly simple set of motions but I still find myself double checking to make sure everything is perfectly in place rather than relying on them to naturally fall into their designated positions of their own accord as the layers of Sunstreaker's backpack come together.

There is one more moment of nail-biting as you rotate the backpack around on what honestly feels like too-soft a piece of plastic but maybe this was intentionally used to allow a measure of flex. The very final step is the satisfying CLICK of hooking the backpack into place for maximum solidity. 

The overall motions of Sunstreaker's transformation are fairly simple, fold out the legs, pull down the arms and tidy up the backpack but there is so much more going on with every step. Initially it felt a little laborious but it's now something I really enjoy if maybe not to the same tactile degree as Ironhide or Inferno. There is less of a 'Masterpiece moment' with Sunstreaker as with the two just mentioned and I'd even say the most impressive piece of engineering is flipping the intakes back and forth but even that is met with small clearances and a lack of fluidity.

Once you have successfully navigated the transformation process you will be met with one gorgeous robot (robots can be gorgeous right?). Where Sunstreaker really succeeds is in the initial impression. From the silhouette, to the shining paint work and finally to the chest panel and headsculpt, he looks incredible. Screen accurate and quite critically, very well proportioned. But regrettably, when you look a little closer things begin to unravel somewhat. I find that there are just too many panels, hinges and separate parts on display to capture that true cartoon likeness seen by other recent Masterpiece toys. While this isn't something I necessarily lament, it feels like there could have been steps taken to tidy up some of these panel-puzzles if they could have diverged a little from the source material. 

My final criticism is the backpack. It is indeed a mighty rucksack intended for a weekend camping in the hills but honestly, in hand, it's not that bad. I don't think it's necessarily the size of the backpack which is jarring but more how much it feels juxtaposed against the sleek proportions of Sunstreaker. From some angles the figure's frame feels too small to accommodate the backpack as successfully as I would like. 

Beyond these minor issues, I think the figure is massive success. 

Keeping in line with recent releases, Sunstreaker comes with all the added articulation you would expect. From the wrist swivels allowing for more accurate gun-holding and hands-on-hip poses to the lovely double knees, double elbows, ab-crunch and shoulder joints, Sunstreaker is packed to the cyber-gills with joints aplenty. This is where, as said in a previous article, the Masterpiece line is headed and I am fully on-board. 

In the pictures for this article, I opted for more dynamic yet tighter and more expressive poses which made use of whatever head tilts, shoulder-joints and wrist swivels available. My photography game is still on Beginner mode so I hope this comes across. 

With every subsequent release I find myself treading further into this world of 'cartoon accuracy' but I can't help myself! Every dissenting notion I have had is swept aside by the in-hand experience. The dark greys replacing full black? Love it. The silver/grey paint used for the faces? Love it. The only aesthetic criticism I have for Sunstreaker is his chest. I dearly wish there was a more toy-styled display option with less of the faux hood and shrunken windows and something approaching a middle ground between this and what we saw on Omnigonix's Spinout but still, it looks great and does the job as intended. 

I'll close with this... when put aside Sideswipe exclusively, I think the time between their releases is evident. The aesthetic has changed and try as you might, squint as much as you want, the truth is Sunstreaker and Sideswipe do not go together as seamlessly as when put alongside other releases from their respective times. The solution to this is of course, for Takara to release a new Sideswipe mould altogether and not just a repaint. In the meantime, as long as you display your toys with a mind towards this shifting aesthetic, Sunstreaker can fit in to a larger group display, just fine.

Oh yeah and he also comes with this dumb mask.....

Until next time, keep it #Refined. 

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