I’ve only reviewed one Transformer this year, as it’s a movie year. Why? Let me quote my Dark of the Moon Shockwave review: “I find the movie toys in general to be unimpressive, ugly, and ridiculously difficult to transform. So when the release date for the Transformers for the new movie came May 16th, I was determined not to buy any.” I ended up buying Shockwave because he was and still is ridiculously cool, but was certain I wouldn’t buy any more movie toys. 6 months later, I own my second DOTM Transformer. Is it because I was surprised by how much I loved the movie and I had a burning desire for a character from it? Well, no–it’s because they finally did a movie toy that’s a Beast Wars homage…
It takes something really extraordinary to get me to purchase a movie-style Transformer toy. I hated Revenge of the Fallen, and I didn’t enjoy Dark of the Moon very much either. And though I loved the original movie, I hate the aesthetic of the movie Transformers in general and found the Revenge of the Fallen toys exceptionally difficult to transform. So it was unlikely I’d be purchasing anything from the Dark of the Moon line beyond the lone Shockwave I bought in May. But that was before Hasbro released Darksteel, who is a rare Beast Wars homage to Quickstrike, the Predacon Fuzor.
For those not familiar, Quickstrike was a freaked-out scorpion with a cobra head on his stinger tail from Season 2 of Beast Wars. He was the first Predacon Fuzor toy released, and the only one featured in the cartoon. Quickstrike was particularly endearing for his crazed, violent personality and cowboy accented speech patterns. Quickstrike was the kind of robot who’d say things like “Howdy” and “Tarnation”. Sound crazy awesome? He was. So for pure character selection for an homage, Hasbro gets a monumental thumbs-up.
Darksteel is primarily a repaint of DOTM Sideswipe, but with three very important retooled pieces. First, his robot head is all-new and resembles a serpent head. Secondly, the two Mechtech weapons he’s inherited from DOTM Starscream have been remolded to make them extra-special. One of the weapons has been remolded to look like cobra fangs, while the other is a cannon that has a bladed ends that has been remolded angularly in order to simulate a scorpion tail. These changes, combined with Sideswipe’s original sword-attachments on his arms, give Darksteel a sharp, predatory look that gives him the feel of the cobra/scorpion Quickstrike.
If anyone had told me that a Corvette Stingray convertible would work as an alt-mode for a Quickstrike homage, I’d have laughed in their face. But it turns out it not only works, but looks phenomenal. Darksteel has a ton more style than Sideswipe or any of the other Sideswipe repaints, and his “beast” weapons mounted on the doors make Darksteel look deadly rather than goofy.
The movie-verse is a much darker and realistic place than the Beast Wars universe, so Darksteel’s paint colors are all more pragmatic than Quickstrike’s. Where Quickstrike was transparent yellow and metallic green, Darksteel is a mustard gold and a dark teal. The dark brown of Quickstrike has been darkened greatly into a near-black dark chocolate color, which is much more feasible for a sports car. I’ve heard some people complain that Darksteel’s colors don’t more closely match Quickstrike’s, but the likeness is absolutely there and I see the colors as totally movie-esque and acceptable.If Quickstrike existed in the Michael Bay Transformers universe, these are the colors he’d be.
I mentioned earlier that I hate a horrible time transforming many of the Revenge of the Fallen toys, and I wasn’t exaggerating. After transforming Human Alliance Skids for the first time to robot mode, I never succeeded in getting him back into Chevy Spark mode ever. Various other ROTF toys gave me nightmares and are laying in a box somewhere half-transformed and never to be played with again. So it’s with great shock and joy that I discovered the ease at which DOTM Darksteel could be transformed. With the instructions, I transformed him from sports car to robot in about 2 minutes. Without instructions, I was able to transform him back to vehicle mode in about 3 minutes, and then had the transformation mastered. Yes, Darksteel is that easy to transform, and I love it. I like being able to transform my Transformers quickly and without frustration, so I’m thrilled what a simple transformation Darksteel has.
As much as I love the novelty of the “Cybertronian sword”, it doesn’t work very well at all. In order to get the Mechtech blaster to go into sword mode, you need to plug the other claw-like sword into the slots on the back of the blaster. This will make the Mechtech blaster expand into sword mode, but the combined Cybertronian sword is incredibly unstable and it wants to reject the other sword and convert back into blaster mode at the slightest touch–or breath. I looked for a way to lock it into place, but there just doesn’t seem to be any. Since the Cybertronian sword is the main gimmick of this toy in both robot and car mode, it’s a crippling disappointment that it’s difficult if not impossible to keep it in this form for play and diorama-building. I couldn’t even get the dramatic photos I wanted with the Cybertronian sword because it kept snapping back into its blaster form before I could take the picture. I didn’t mind the Mechtech gimmick in Shockwave once I learned how to lock it, but it grates on my nerves a ton in this case. Even when you can get the combined-form sword to stay together, it’s way too large and unwieldly for Darksteel to use it, as the weapon was originally designed for Starscream, who can better utilize it.
As far as the Darksteel robot goes, he also has some annoying flaws. Like the Sideswipe mold this reuses, Darksteel is covered in car kibble in his robot mode. It looks to me Hasbro could have easily designed his car roof and trunk to better fold up, but they just didn’t. Darksteel doesn’t quite look like a “shellformer”, but all the car kibble on his back certainly doesn’t do him any favors. There are also several areas on Darksteel where paint has either been unevenly applied or just not applied at all, and it does lower the aesthetic value of the toy.
The other thing main thing I dislike about Darksteel is his feet. Considering that Quickstrike’s feet consisted of two flattened giant scorpion claws, you’d think his feet as Darksteel would have to be an improvement. But that’s just not the case. Being a modified Sideswipe, Darksteel has the same wheels with stubby foot stabilizers as Sideswipe did. This results in Darksteel’s stance being very unstable, and creates a lot of difficulty getting him into just the pose you want without him toppling over. And while the “roller skates” grew on me in the movies for Sideswipe, they look silly and seem out-of-place on a “traditionalist” ruthless warrior like Quickstrike.
Darksteel was released back in October, but has been frustratingly difficult to find thus far. In fact, I’ve never seen him at retail and only seen one of the new figures he’s shipping with (Armored Topspin) on pegs once.
BigBadToyStore doesn’t have Darksteel available alone, but does have a set of 3 available with Darksteel, Air Raid and Armored Topspin for $64.99.
CMDStore just received their shipment of this wave, and they presently have Darksteel available individually for $24.95, which is more than you’d pay at retail for him, but also the only online store I could find stocking him individually online.
Overall: Darksteel is an impressive albeit imperfect Transformer. I like him worlds better than I did the deluxe ROTF Transformers that I had, as Darksteel is superior in ease of transformation, sculpting, creativity, and sheer coolness. At the same time, Darksteel is still lacking in several areas: his paint isn’t perfect, he can’t hold his combined-form weapon well at all, he has way too much car kibble showing in his robot form, and his “roller skate” feet look dumb for this character. The character selection is absolutely outstanding and to be commended, and Hasbro really did put a lot of effort into making this retooled Sideswipe feel fresh and new, and as a result the positives outweigh the flaws in my book. I give this guy a recommend to Transformers fans, and an unquestionable recommendation to Beast Wars fans. Both for a retool and for a movie toy, Darksteel delivers.