If you haven't already by now, do yourself a favor and check out some of the pictures at http://www.bwtf.com/armada. Personally, I'm impressed in some ways, disappointed in others. Looking through the newsgroup traffic, there's a lot of people out there who share my views, and a lot more who haul off on rants about how all the new stuff sucks based on a little real information or personal experience.

If you ask me, I think it's just a matter of hype building peoples' expectations up to an impossible standard, not to mention the old adage of 'you can't please all the people all the time'. I fully believe that you could create a Transformer line with a perfect mix of classic, new, and fan-favorite characters, all evocative of their classic designs but also improved and updated in amazing ways, with solid durability and great poseability, exciting and fun gimmicks that don't take anything away from the rest of the toy, that take out the garbage and wash your car, and lots of fans will still tell us how cruddy they are and how Hasbro is flushing the Transformer name down the toilet, without even caring to examine the new toys or media with a fresh eye. It was the same thing when Beast Wars first came out. It was the same thing when Beast Machines came out. Beast Machines is hardly my favorite thing as a whole line, but some of my favorite toys are ones from Beast Machines. I've seen plenty of Transformer toys that I liked or disliked when I saw preview photos online, only to have my opinion change when I actually got to see or touch the actual article.

The first thing I can say about Transformers Armada is that in many ways it's very different from the toys that came before it. Armada has a strong reliance on a gimmick concept. They combine the action and electronic features with a little touch of almost every 'Master' concept the Transformer line ever had, in the form of the Minicons. Minicons are tiny Transformers, about two inches tall or less in robot form, similar in look to the Micromasters, but they can also plug into the larger Autobots and Decepticons to unlock or activate features (similar to Powermasters) or just hook on to add to the larger bot's body or weaponry (similar to Headmasters and Targetmasters). It's an interesting concept that sounds great, but doesn't always look great. It looks rather silly to me to see a large tank with a smaller tank attached to it (and a tiny jet, or a scooter). Even so, the Minicons are fun little toys even without interaction with the larger ones, especially if you enjoy small toys like the Mini-cars, cassettes, and Micromasters. Another surprising aspect of this line is the amount of forethought that seems to be put into it. Toys such as Cyclonus and Optimus Prime show signs of features that only become apparrent when they interact with toys that were (or will be) released later, and who knows what extra gimmicks might appear later that aren't apparent on the current toys? I'm excited to think about it.

The new Autobots and Decepticons are where the differences between Armada and what has come before are most obvious. In lines like Beast Wars, Beast Machines, and Robots in Disguise, it was usually a given that the toy was quite articulated and posable, usually with many ball-and-socket joints with a wide range of motion. Armada toys, while not unposable 'bricks' by any stretch, are definitely a step down for those used to the wider range of motion found in the previous lines, with limbs often rotating along only one axis, sometimes not a very useful one. In many ways, these toys remind me of latter-day G1 or earlier G2 toys, though I'd be hard pressed to say that's a compliment. Another thing of note is that the Armada toys are usually much simpler to transform than your average Beast Wars toy. I'd assume this was done for the benefit of the kids. I know toys like Transmetal-2 Megatron or Sideburn from Robots in Disguise are challenging, or even nightmarish to transform for adults, and I can only imagine how someone like my baby sister Tabitha, not blessed with much patience or finesse, feels about them. These simpler designs seem to lend themselves to a bit more solid durability too, for the kids who like to smash their toys into each other (again like Tabitha). I definitely have nothing against simpler designs, as long as they are done well. The first Armada toys so far have been a bit of a mixed bag, though hardly any toyline made its best impression with the first toys they put out.

I have one final note regarding these toys. All the toys, Autobots, Decepticons, and Minicons have their faction symbol sculpted on them as a raised design. At one time, I would have thought this was the best thing in the world, before the Robots in Disguise line came along, with their nicely painted Autobot and Decepticon symbols, which look so much nicer to me than the Armada symbols, which are sculpted and painted in a solid shape with no detail. Just a personal opinion.

Reviews of Transformers Armada toys

Starting in 2003, Transformers Armada will be coming to Japan, under the title "Legend of Micron" or something similar. I'm surprised to see that their version will have almost more reused names than the American version. Demolishor will be called 'Ironhide', Red Alert will be 'Ratchet', and the Minicon scooter will be 'Arcee'. I suppose that almost makes sense, as it is the girl's scooter.
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