Starscream, Sunstorm, Thundercracker, and Acid Storm
Packaging & Extras: Takara releases (3.5/5)
Takara released Starscream (MP11) and Sunstorm (MP11s) in a box that is shorter, thicker, and wider than the original MP-3, MP-6, and MP-7 releases. Unlike the original releases, the toy now comes shipped in bot mode. I’ve scored this release less than the earlier releases because the toy no longer comes with a display stand or missiles but instead comes with a coronation get-up. Here’s what’s in the box:
1) Crown (Gold for Starscream, Purple for Sunstorm)
2) 2x Shoulder pads (metallic coated for Sunstorm)
3) Cape (with extension and pivot gimmicks)
4) Pilot (Transparent blue for Starscream, silver for Sunstorm)
5) 2x Null Rays
7) Bio card
Opening this box and expecting a big improvement over MP-3 had me set up for immediate let down. The newer toy comes with some extras that only work in bot mode and even then, most people probably won’t use them. While MP-3,6,7 practically needed the display stand for bot mode due to its inability to stand in all but a couple positions, it was useful for both modes and undoubtedly got more use the coronation get up will.
Packaging & Extras: Hasbro releases (3-4/5)
Hasbro first released Masterpiece Thundercracker what was, at the time, its standard transparent plastic box. This release is on the low range of the score above because the packaging does one thing well (show you what you’re buying) and everything else miserably. It’s no doubt that lots of yellowed Thundercrackers will be circulating a few years from now. If you’re someone who buys their toy with some expectation of handling them you’ll quickly feel as though you’ve slipped into some bondage fetish nightmare when you have to start unbinding the figure. No, Thundercracker doesn’t have a gag ball, but you’ll get the feeling he must have spit that out just before you were able to cut open the exterior tape of the box and start unwinding his odd recycled paper-like pseudo twist ties. Acid Storm and Sunstorm, on the other hand, come in an attractive box that’s much more reminiscent of Takara’s efforts. Whereas Thundercracker is packaged in bot mode standing atop his hidden display stand, Acid Storm and Sunstorm are packaged in fighter mode so the box is much bigger. All toys have the following goodies inside:
1) Display stand (with character name painted on) and connecting arm
3) Pilot figure (Silver for Thundercracker, green for Acid Storm, yellow for Sunstorm)
4) Hook for Megatron gun to be attached to nose (Megatron not included)
5) 2x Null Rays
Hasbro gives you everything you got with the original seeker releases. Again, I was hoping for something more but perhaps I shouldn’t have been. Hasbro hasn’t issued Starscream or Skywarp yet in the new mold so they haven’t asked me to double-dip so it kind of makes sense they just keep throwing in the same extras. I will say the inclusion of the stand is fairly humorous since the new mold removes eliminates the chest connector from the seeker which makes it so the stand only barely works with the toy after a lot of patience and concern you’re going to break something. The instructions included with Thundercracker show the old mold and the instructions included with Acid Storm and Sunstorm show the new mold for transformation but then mysteriously show the old mold for ‘how to use the stand’.
Charm & collectability (4/5)
Originally released in March 2012 for 13,000 Yen, Starscream quickly sold out and has become a hot collector’s item. His paint scheme is much more accurate than MP-3 and looks a little slicker than the Hasbro and USA release versions of MP-3. The MP-11 mold has been used to make the following toys so far:
1) Takara MP-11 Starscream (March 2012, 13,000 Yen)
2) Takara MP-11S Sunstorm (August 2012, 13,000 Yen, Amazon Japan Exclusive)
3) Hasbro Thundercracker (August 2012, $75 TRU Exclusive)
4) Hasbro MP-1 Acid Storm (July 18, 2013, $75 TRU Exclusive)
5) Hasbro MP-5 Sunstorm (July 23,2015, $75 TRU Exclusive)
Sculpt, detail, and paint: (8/10)
Unlike the first blue/gray green version of Starscream, Takara really nailed the color/paint this time. Hasbro’s Thundercracker similarly eschews the efforts to be militaristic/realistic in favor of looking more like the cartoon. Sunstorm and Acid Storm will either look like creative and fun takes on background characters or garish nightmares depending on your taste. Kawamori’s experiment with converting the seekers to an F-15E is over and their F-15C appearance has been restored. This is a good thing in that the toys now look more like how you’d remember them from the show in fighter mode but also a bad thing in that the early seeker molds were a more convincing jet. Along that same line of thought, all the ‘no step’ and similar painted on detail from the first mold that helped it look like a higher-end effort to emulate actual fighter planes are gone so the toy can look more cartoony. The removal of the hip and head/intake kibble makes bot mode look much better and agrees more to the original art. The arms are likewise improved to no longer have the additional thickness from their housing in fighter mode. The head is larger which might just be the biggest improvement. A little paint application to the engine detail on the inside of the legs and within the engine compartments would have been a welcome addition. Any Macross collector will get a good chuckle out of how bad the pilot figures look but I suppose they should get a bit of a pass since they’d just be holograms. The missiles in the chest still just look like (and are) painted circles except on Hasbro’s Sunstorm where they didn’t even bother. They’ve added big knee caps but they may have gone a little too far. Looking at the bottom of the craft it looks like they gave up after the waist. Everything looks very bulky. The atrocious rear landing gears now have more space and should have been improved but they’re just as pathetic as ever. The adherence to “perfect transformation” was taken a little far with the null rays that feature an arm that reaches out to the position on the wing and looks a little awkward. Some random notes:
1) Inconsistent Decepticon logos: Takara has been consistent showing a nose Decepticon logo in the opposite direction of the wing logos. Hasbro skips the nose logo entirely and had the logo chin forward on the Thundercracker and Acid Storm releases but then flipped them in the Takara direction for the Sunstorm release.
2) Of all the new seeker toys, only Starscream has a painted nose radar array. Only Hasbro’s Acid Storm has silver paint behind the air brake.
3) The head mold is the same for all seekers but Acid Storm has green eyes where the rest have red (a very simple and smart switch in my humble opinion). Starscream has a gunmetal gray face while the rest of the seekers have a more silver face that’s easier to see.
This toy features a few small improvements over the MP-3 that go a long way to making it a more enjoyable item to handle. You still get the following design elements from the MP-3:
1) Integrated landing gear
2) Integrated nose radar
3) Opening cockpit
5) Articulated thrusters
6) Articulated wing flaps (more in the elevating than descent direction)
7) Flip-up panels to display engine detail
8) The chest intakes flip up to reveal missiles
9) There’s a piston gimmick in the elbow
We have lost the ability to spin the face around and reveal a smirking/winking/yelling face. You also get a few less desirable design elements that have been unaddressed since MP-3:
1) Front landing gear does not lock in the extended position (so it collapses inadvertently although generally it’s tight enough that it’s not a pressing concern)
2) Rear landing gears are laughably small and allow the toy to sit on the door to the bay rather than the wheel
3) Fuselage doesn’t lock well enough into place and unhinges during handling
4) Nosecone doesn’t lock well enough into place and unhinges during handling
5) Front canopy plastic doesn’t lock down in seated position allowing it to be moved to the wrong position during handling
6) Undersized pilot in proportion to the cockpit (he moves around during handling)
7) Upper body does not lock in slid down position so it often rides up during handling creating a gap between the intakes and chest.
Fortunately the biggest issue with MP-3 has been addressed, that was the near inability for the toy to stand in bot mode. Design improvements are:
1) MP-3 hip kibble has been moved to the legs with a sliding mechanism
2) Intake kibble has been moved to the wings/eliminated
3) Engine detail now flips down to form a third prong so the toy can stand in bot mode
4) The front toe has been modified to be blockier which also helps with standing (and G1 appearance)
5) The sides of the head can now be recessed during transformation allowing the head to be much larger and better proportioned.
In some ways it seems like Takara just threw out the changes Kawamori had made to the original prototype. Interestingly enough, the original mold toys were meant to work with a coronation set that never materialized (first party at least). Unfortunately the coronation gear provided with these releases won’t fit on the older seeker releases, the crown will be loose, the cape will hit the intake kibble (though you can remove that kibble), and the shoulder parts aren’t wide enough. .
Durability & Build: (7/10)
Transformation has been improved to rely less on thin plastic parts locked together. The removal of the hip and intake kibble seems to go a long way in making the whole transformation feel smoother. Hopefully the easier transformation leads to less stress marks or completely broken bits. On the down side, the plastic looks VERY cheap. Upon close inspection you’ll see swirls within the cheap plastic and it’s a major let down. Looking cheap isn’t necessarily a durability sin if there’s no breakages reported but it’s something to be aware of. Also, as mentioned in my transformation guide, the hinges for the wings folding over can be very hard to move so the wing can inadvertently be disconnected. This is only a nuisance usually as you just need to press the metal rod back into its clips. Speaking of metal, the arm that connects the nosecone to the fuselage is painted metal. Unfortunately, on my Acid Storm toy the connection is so tight that when I rotated the nosecone down for the first time it sheered some of the paint off. This isn’t a huge deal as that part of the connector is hidden in both modes but it’s definitely something to watch out for if you’re someone who only wants their toys as good as new.
As I’ve already mentioned, the toy can now stand easily on its own. The articulation overall is pretty good although many joints have limited range and range of motion is further inhibited if you want to use the coronation gear. The cape has ball joints but unfortunately there’s almost no resistance to them and the cape is quite heavy so if you want to have fun making it look like Takara Sunstorm and/or Starscream are charging forward then you’re going to have to prop the capes up against something (I propped them up against Acid Storm and Thundercracker in the pic below). For something labeled “Masterpiece” I’m just a tad let down by the range of motion of many of the joints but there’s no question that the new mold’s lower half is a big improvement over the old mold.
Total Score: (38-39/50)
It’s probably safe to say that right now, Takara’s Starscream would be the most desirable of the new mold seekers (although I really liked Thundercracker). I would like to believe that a third mold for the seekers can’t be too far off in the future and perhaps that’s part of the reason why Hasbro hasn’t bothered to release Starscream in the states. Then again, if Hasbro did think we’d be getting new seekers, it’d be a really strange choice to start their new masterpiece line with Acid Storm and then double-down with MP-05 Sunstorm. If you’re a huge fan of transforming jets with a preference toward realistic looking fighters than you may want to steer toward the old molds. If bot mode or cartoon accuracy is your thing there’s no question, the new molds are a sizable improvement. At $75 the Hasbro releases represent a pretty nice bang for your buck. The toys are 32CM long in vehicle mode and 23CM tall in bot mode so they will have a nice presence on your shelf.
Original Post: August 17, 2013
Note: This review has been updated on 7/28/2014 to include information relating to Hasbro’s MP-05 Sunstorm