This toy is not as bad as everyone says. I feel like, beyond simply being under-rated, this figure has changed with a modern perspective. It's sixteen years old now, and so much has changed about Transformers as a brand. When this figure came out it was met with mixed opinions, largely negative, but how does it stack up today when Transformers toys are so different in terms of not only design, but quality and design philosophies. Traveling back to 2004, and Energon was a... weird take of Transformers. Aside form the infamously shitty TV show, things were setting up for how the brand would evolve. Armada had just ended, the first TF series to be a complete return to vehicle modes across the board. Not a hair nor scale in sight. It was, ostensibly, an even more true-to-G1 series than RID before it, with Optimus and Megatron fully reinvented along with Autobots and Decepticons as the two main factions. Energon, being a direct sequel, followed mostly the same characters, and so Optimus Prime is back, and this time as the cabover truck he was in G1... kinda? Optimus (or specifically Grand Convoy in this review) is a microcosm of Energon IMO. Everything right and wrong with the line, and it starts with the truck. Energon is loaded with G1 references, only outdone by Animated four years later for shear number of throwbacks, and so Optimus drops the "long nose" rolling sledgehammer that was his Armada truck in favour of something more G1. That said the resemblance is negligible, and the actual look is further questioned, especially from behind. Let's get the good out of the way: it's a cool idea. It looks like if the same company that produced Armada Prime's alt mode had a line of cabovers. It's chunky, rugged, and on the Japanese version excellently coloured. Hasbro's Energon Optimus was a perplexing mixed of washed out colours. Sandy blue replaces both the rich cobalt plastic and painted details of Grand Convoy, while the flat gunmetal found on the rims and fuel tanks replaced the gorgeous chrome on the bumper and grill. (the best place for chrome on a truck!) The chrome I get, but why ditch the vivid dark blue for borderline grey sand-blue I'll never get. Otherwise the colours are smart and unique, favouring black and white over his traditional red. A wise move if you ask me, as shown by the Platinum series redeco of this toy in slavish (and garish) G1 colours. The bad materializes in the form of the rear. The arms, while seemingly intended to be some kind of support struts from the rear end, really just look like arms. The colouring I was just complimenting doesn't help, as they really stand out against the black. The wheel base is also very wide, sitting right off of the main cab body. Not necessarily a bad look for a truck, but it all contributes to the feeling that there's ulterior motives at play. (which there are of course, being a Transformer) Granted at this point in the fiction the Transformers were no longer in disguise, but still. I get the intent behind the alt mode, and I like it more than I don't, but we're already seeing the compromises made for other features which I'll expound upon when relevant. The gun also stores, in a rather simple and utilitarian way, on the back just ahead of the trailer hitch. It's got it's own little bracket mount and everything, so it's not just pegged into a random hole and called "storage." Still, it's not my preferred method of putting the weapons when not in use. Beyond that the cab features some nice detail as was typical of these old toys. While the parts may be simple, they're always nicely sculpted. He also features the standard Energon detail of a Spark Crystal, a (criminally) under-rated detail IMO. I loved them in Beast Wars, and really liked them in Energon, and as with almost every Energon Autobot and Decepticon (Jetfire omae...) you can affix a useless-but-pretty Energon Chip to it. As a kid I thought this was cool, as an adult I think it's nigh-pointless, but it's a thing. Optimus also features, perplexingly, some kind of radar dish on top of the cab. Obviously this will become the super mode helmet, yet I find it odd that each of his components feature that very obvious radar detail. Optimus has one, the trailer has one, and each drone features two, identically sculpted across all four. I believe it's a subtle way of implying the link between them all, and enforces their unique role as remote drones rather than purely autonomous machines or regular vehicles. The trailer is an odd one. Far removed from either G1 or Armada Optimus's lengthy boxes on wheels, this is... well, a slanted box on wheels. I really like the shape, feeling like that classic retro idea of futuristic machinery, and creates a great look having this big trapezoid being towed by this little fist of a truck. I especially like, for reasons I'm not even certain I know why, how far forward the wheels are. It just makes me think of the ridiculous yet amazing retro-future alt modes of 86, such as Rodimus Prime's space-truck mode. It's got great, understated tech detail and two pieces in the rear I thought for sure were stabilizers, but can't actually fold down. They might be guns? More implied communication systems? The trailer's big trick is, of course, the deployment of the aforementioned Drones. The whole shebang tips forward, supported by a big rear strut, and the intent behind the slanted design becomes obvious: three of the four drones deploy via trapdoors and ramps with the help of small sliding mechanisms in lieu of stuffing your fingers in the cramped confines. The only exception is Copter 2 (or OP 2, which is weird because "OP" has no significance in Japan considering the character is named Convoy) who gets a little fold down landing pad and no method of fingerless deployment. Pardon the blurry pic, camera died right as I was finishing this photoshoot and I guess didn't focus in time. The four drones are colour-coded and number one to four. A fire truck with extending ladder and swiveling water (or blaster) turret, the helicopter I mentioned before which unfolds and features your standard free-spinning main rotor, a drill with a pleasantly geared spinning bit, and a submarine with opening capture claws. (a theme on combining subs I find. Ever heard of Daibouken?) The fire engine is the best in terms of functionality, followed by the drill and helicopter. The submarine doesn't do anything, and whereas the copter at least gets an unfolding tail, the sub is very boxy and lacks the tapering to the back a sub should have. Only other thing of note is that compared to the American version the drones are all much more vivid. In particular subby gets a much nicer blue, and the drill swaps a dirt-crusted black tip for a paint-scraped silver tip. The trailer serves no other purpose besides storage, but at least it still looks nice. Optimus' robot mode is where we really see the point of contention. Again, let's look at the good: the colours are spot-on, rich and vibrant and very unique. The sculpted details continue to impress, again reflecting the design sensibilities of the time with an emphasis on surface detail to really get across the "robot" aspect. The articulation is pretty good, featuring outward and forward hips and shoulders, just below ninety degree bends at the knees and elbows, and a swivel neck. The feet are also rigid enough on their joints to allow for adjusted footing, super useful in posing. But then you look at the robot as a whole. Compromise. That is the key word. The intention behind Prime's robot mode is sound, but much like the alt mode I can almost reverse-engineer the thought process that created such a portly-looking gentleman. First is the arms: they're undersized in order to fit smoothly into the drones. Likewise the lower legs are quite thin compared to the chunky thighs, and everything is thin compared to that torso, and no, things do not get better from the back: See, Optimus Prime features electronics. Electronics that were (mostly) excised from Grand Convoy. (Convoy retains the chest light) IMO this was a net gain, as I'll explain later, but unfortunate it did not undo the damage. See, Optimus' lower back is essentially one giant box featuring the battery compartment and speaker. This is why the arms are so exposed in truck mode, because there's nowhere else for them to go. Likewise the massive, unmodified rear of the truck has no choice but to sit over said box. If the electronics weren't part of the design I could easily see the arms folding down against the truck much more convincingly, and likewise the rear wheels assembly could've maybe folded up into a better backpack. The fact that all this is forced to hang around his already fat ass area doesn't help, but even things like the oversized bumper and wheel wells create the illusion of wide hips and a hanging belly. But it is an illusion. The core robot figure beneath the kibble is evident, and helped by the colour choices which guide your eyes away from the chunk and up towards the chest (see the previously mentioned Platinum recolour for an example of what a less thoughtful deco does to this toy's proportions) but there's no denying the shear mass collecting around the one part of the body it shouldn't on a super robot. However, there is some minor pay off. Like Voltron and too many Megazords to count, Optimus can (of course) combine with his little vehicle pets and form a larger robot. Immediately the compromises in proportions become obvious: Optimus' torso and thighs are not that of a standard Transformer, but meant for someone much larger. If you cut off your limbs at the shoulders and knees and stuck the infant equivalents in their place you'd look pretty weird, too. But united the sizes of everything fall into place... mostly. His head is very obviously a smaller head in a helmet, rather than the all new head previous super mode Prime's used for proportional adjustment. This is a very Japanese super-mecha trope, giving the illusion of a smaller character armouring-up. The downside is it looks like a smaller dude in armour, but that's only a knock if you prefer your super modes looking more like larger, normal Transformers. This toy was heavily derided for this combination. The simplistic connection and assembly of the drones combined with the unique colours recalled non-sentient mecha combiners like the ones I mentioned. However these days random colour combos and drone combiners are fairly commonplace, being the entire basis for Combiner Wars and the Power Core Combiners line before it. Optimus certainly does it better than the latter, with each drone making a convincing limb. I'm particularly fond of the drill as an arm and the copter as a leg. The fire truck and copter both make "normal" arms, but unlike the truck the copter's panels don't fold away as neatly, and the Murasame Sword blades spin freely as in drone form which is annoying. In leg mode, however, neither problems exist, and the drill just looks so badass as an arm. The Submarine is the odd one out, destined to be a leg, as its arm configuration does nothing of note. Perhaps if the claws could extend, or better yet attached to a retractable string, it'd give the unit more purpose in limb and drone modes. His chest also opens up for this mode, showing off some silver paint and, in the case of the Japanese version, more lovely chrome encompassing a great central chest detail that homages the Matrix in a subtle but awesome way. Pleasantly, he gains forearm swivels in this form, giving him the exact same articulation points as Energon Megatron. Speaking of, one interesting thing of note: standard Optimus is scaled to square off against Superlink Galvatron, while super-mode(s) Optimus is eye-to-eye with Energon Megatron. I guess Hasbro wanted the two leaders to be on equal footing whilst at full power? Also holy shit are these toys big, they hardly fit in my light box. So that's everything Optimus himself is capable of right out of the box, but we're obviously not done yet. The base Optimus may have once been cited by many as the worst Optimus toy of the time, but he's capable of joining with fellow Autobot Wing Saber to be, in my honest opinion, the coolest combined Optimus Prime toy ever. He surpasses the God-tier Omega Prime from RID, but the two are in a class all their own. No Prime since has featured a combination that felt so perfectly formed, and to Grand Convoy's credit does so far more succinctly than his RID peers. (albeit far more compromised in their component parts compared to those toys) Brief note on Wing Saber himself: he's a brick. A gorgeous, dynamic-looking brick that exudes badassery, but the dude is one big accessory for Prime and everyone knows it. I've always had an affinity for characters that exist almost solely as power-ups for their leaders: RID Ultra Magnus, Armada Jetfire and Tidal Wave, Energon Wing Saber, ROTF Jetfire, etc. The whole bit of two robots combining together is just so awesome to me, especially since it usually produces such unique combinations and character designs. But unlike RID Magnus who features plenty of articulation, Wing Saber really does not function as a standalone toy. He's barely worth reviewing due to his lack of... anything. You can cheese some added posability using joints for the combined modes, but it's pretty limited. His elbows don't even bend that far. (the right way that is) He does have a pretty great transformation left over from the combination where his entire body converts symmetrically, right down to the head splitting down the center, but the alt mode is not only too wide to fit in my light box, but not nearly as dynamic as the robot mode. Back to Optimus himself and the fun doesn't stop. Wing Saber's four main components can be swapped, just like Prime's own drones, to a new configuration. "Fight Mode," as opposed to the previous "Flight Mode" (har har) trades Yuusha for Gundamu. He's far more understated, but just as stylish, and the blue arms genuinely look fantastic despite being primarily meant to be legs. Just because Wing Saber was a featureless brick doesn't meant he lacked engineering, and his components brilliantly convert into opposite and convincing limbs, though Prime does have "why God whyyyy" hands now, it's easy to forgive due to them being more clamp-like. Flight Mode may look better, but Fight Mode is more fun to transform into, due to how much flipped and twisting everything does. It's so much fun switching between the two, and you get fantastic results either way. Fight Mode didn't need to exist, no other Optimus combination features an alternate form like this, but it's like the designers realized the compromises that were needed to be made anyway, and went the extra mile to give Wing Saber some extra value. Even Omega Prime can't pull that off. Remember when I said Optimus is a Microcosm of Energon as a toyline? I mean that. Every facet of the toys is represented in him, positive and negative, even if he himself is neither the best nor the worst. While quaint by today's standards, back in 2004 this was an exceedingly G1-looking Optimus (at least until MP-01) homage. He features good-but-not-great articulation with lots of clicky ratchets that makes him feel like a more posable Sentai DX mecha. (That is a compliment, I assure you) He combines fantastically with his drones or Wing Saber (Omega Supreme, not so much) and has that quality paint and plastic that holds up over a decade and a half later. But he's compromised, badly. Proportionally the base robot is fucked, and it's almost all down to the electronics. Figures like this are why fans hate lights and sounds. Without it he wouldn't have so much junk in the trunk, and possibly hid the arms better in alt mode and the wheels better in robot mode. Still, the combined modes pay off, so it's not like the compromises were wasted, but IMO they were unnecessary. Grand Convoy, lacking the speaker, is a bit lighter than Optimus Prime, meaning superior balance overall. (especially helpful for Flight Mode) They don't make 'em like this anymore, and I consider that more of a loss than a gain. Intrusive gimmicks aside, there's a heft and quality abound in this toy. And even aside from that, the gimmicks are... fun. Combining and transforming him is a blast, there's so much play value in this package, and nothing feels really "wasted" except possibly the trailer's lack of functionality without drones. Yet overall, along with so many toys from the UT, the immense success of the era is proven in spite of the widely cynical attitude by older fans. It's not unprecedented, but it's almost puzzling why a toy with this much going for it would be downright hated by some. Compared to the mainline TF toys today and Grand Convoy is incredible. Not since Animated have we had toys that balanced gimmicks, quality and posability along with aesthetics, and not since the UT have we seen this balance on such a scale. Grand Convoy's successor, Galaxy Convoy, would even take the lessons learned form this toy and produce an even more dynamic super robot from the get-go. (albeit with far less impressive combinations with his fellow Autobots) I'm saddened that didn't persist, but with the Live-action movies going for gritty realism, TFA going for bombastic style, and Generations existing as a vehicle nearly-exclusively for updates towards G1 characters, the Unicron Trilogy was the last time we saw Transformer really revel in this sort of "be as much of a toy as you can possibly be" antics. Heft, gimmicks, and style all rolled into one. Much like Grand Convoy himself it wasn't perfect, but it manages to stand the test of time despite being undoubtedly dated. Bonus bit of info: I read on TFWiki that the toy had a lot of oddities, especially compared to the TV show's CGI model. Namely the show has explicit double-joints in the elbows and knees placed far higher on the leg. Sure enough I cracked this expensive vintage toy open just to see for myself, and while the arms are pinned on the sliding fist joint and thus impossible to disassemble without getting that out, I was able to confirm a visible joint inside, and take the legs apart for clear confirmation: So yeah, seems his thunder-thighs were instead meant to be thunder-calves. I can see the extra knees being cut either for costs or because three joints right above one another would've been too much movement to support the combined mode. Not sure why the arms had their lower joint nerfed, but combined with the exceedingly tight elbow ratchet perhaps at one point they were designed to endure more weight than what was finally decided upon? (the combined mode arms actually connect at the shoulders, so the forearms do nothing to hold it together) BTW, when switching these guys around, I stopped at this: "Mom says it's my turn in the Super Energon."