Following up on yesterday’s review of the outstanding Transformers Prime Wheeljack (and my previous reviews of First Edition Arcee, Starscream, and Bumblebee), today I have one of the most anticipated characters in the Prime line: Soundwave. Among the most popular and important Decepticons, Soundwave is always at Megatron’s side and is Megatron’s second-most loyal follower ever (Sorry Soundwave, Animated Lugnut’s zealous loyalty has you beat). Soundwave has had quite a few toys over the years, ranging in quality from the iconic G1 cassette player to the fairly lame Revenge of the Fallen satellite toy. Impressions I’ve heard about this Soundwave had been mixed, but I was hoping for the best. Unfortunately, despite the wicked-cool character design for Transformers Prime Soundwave, I have to contribute another negative review into the fray…
Soundwave in Transformers Prime is a little different from every other iteration of Soundwave ever in that he doesn’t talk. He just plays voice recordings of others speaking and intercepted transmissions. Think movie Bumblebee, but with a dark twist. It’s a change that’s taken some getting used to, especially since Soundwave’s G1 voice is one of the most well-known and memorable voices in Transformers history.
I’m totally enamored with the Transformers Prime Soundwave character design, which perfectly complements his new demeanor. He’s sleek and futuristic, yet spindly and rather creepy at the same time. Sculpting-wise, this figure does a very solid job of capturing the visual aesthetic of the design. The sculpt for this figure is superb, and I really don’t have anything to complain about with it. In addition, The blue plastic with metallic flakes that Soundwave is molded in has a great appearance up-close that’s very difficult to capture in photos. The plastic adds a bit of texturing that really helps add appeal to what’s otherwise an under-detailed toy.
The one thing that’s really set Soundwave apart from all his Decepticon brethren over the last three decades is his unique ability to deploy an army of smaller minions. In G1 they were just called cassettes, but in Transformers Prime Laserbeak is considered a Minicon. (I love that Transformers Armada’s ‘minicon’ term has become such a major part of Transformers lore, by the way!)
The way that this Soundwave toy deploys Laserbeak is actually really cool and innovative. Laserbeak is stored as part of Soundwave’s chest in robot mode or docked on him in vehicle mode, and can be easily released in either mode. Laserbeak coming out of Soundwave’s chest is a feel-good throwback to G1, and I thought the idea of him being part of Soundwave in both forms was really fun and interesting. (Though my favorite Laserbeak ever is still the Animated one where his alt mode is an electric guitar, but I digress.)
The choice of vehicle mode for Soundwave is inspired. Soundwave turns into an aerial reconnaissance drone this time out, allowing him to spy and relay communications from a safe distance. I love that Soundwave almost always has a passive alt-mode, and this one doesn’t keep him as removed from the action as his satellite mode in Revenge of the Fallen. Laserbeak can dock underneath in this mode or be deployed separately, reminding me a bit of the G2 Dreadwing/Smokescreen combination (but much less purple and teal). The transformation is incredibly quick and easy, and you can switch Soundwave from one mode to another in under a minute with no problems. It’s so easy, even I can do it without cursing up a storm!
Finally, I have to say I really love the packaging for these Transformers Prime toys. The inclusion of the tech specs on the side of the bubble is a treat, and the character-specific cardback artwork is vibrant and eye-catching. The First Edition Deluxe figures had packaging that was acceptable, but this packaging is a whole lot nicer.
The packaging art for Soundwave looks absolutely incredible. The neon-glowing conduits accent the eery sound wave on his faceplate, and the whole thing just looks glorious. Unfortunately, almost none of those amazing details carry over to this toy. Soundwave’s faceplate has absolutely no detail of any kind painted onto it, leaving his “face” dull and expressionless. Furthermore, only a few of the power conduits on his body have been painted at all, resulting in the figure being overwhelmingly the same color as the plastic. There’s no comparison between the packaging picture of the character. which is visually striking, and the actual toy, which looks drab and boring. I’ve seen deluxe-class Transformers over the last few years with a plethora of details that go far beyond what we get on Soundwave, and the whole toy suffers for not having those extensive details.
Soundwave is undersized in robot mode, which takes away quite a bit of the intimidation factor of the character. Soundwave is a decent size in his alt-mode, but unfortunately he’s a character most people are going to want kept in robot mode. I never got the sense watching the show that Arcee of all bots should tower over Soundwave. This is a case where I would have much rather had a properly-sized robot mode that turned into something undersized instead of the other way around.
The articulation on Soundwave is surprisingly limited and bad. Soundwave’s head is restricted by his backpack and its spring-loaded nature, and you really can’t move it much at all. His actual hands look like they should at least swivel, but they’re not articulated at all. As a result, even though the wings look seamless when fully-extended in vehicle mode, he ends up looking ridiculous because of the immovable hands sticking out of the wings if you extend them in this manner. When the wings aren’t extended all the way, it doesn’t look quite right either. I’m not sure what Hasbro’s intent was here, to be honest.
The loudest complaint about Soundwave, though, has to do with his horrible knee articulation. You can only bend his knees about 60 degrees, which is a huge impediment to getting this figure into all the poses you may desire.
Even Laserbeak disappoints me. While I’m glad that we get him at all, even as a freebie bonus Laserbeak is basically just an indiscernible jumble of parts. When he’s perched on Soundwave’s arm your brain can make out that it’s Laserbeak because your brain associates him with being posed on Soundwave’s arm–but if you found or saw this “figure” anywhere else without already knowing for absolute certain it was supposed to be Laserbeak, you wouldn’t have the slightest clue. If it wasn’t for the positioning of the peg to insert into Soundwave’s arm, I wouldn’t even have a clue which side was his front and which was his rear. I don’t expect Hasbro to give us extra Targetmasters or anything like Takara is doing with these, but seeing as how Soundwave includes no weapons or accessories of any kind besides Laserbeak, I wish Laserbeak was a little nicer.
Some genius at Hasbro made the brilliant deduction that what the world needs is more Bumblebees to throw on top of the mountain of Bumblebees already stacked up in every toy store in America, so Bumblebee is heavy-packed at 3-per-case while Soundwave is packed at just 1-per-case and impossible to find at retail for many collectors. Smooth move, Hasbro.
“Where Can I Buy It?!
Soundwave is shipping shortpacked at one-per-case in the Series 1 Deluxe Revealers assortment of Transformers Prime toys. Hasbro decided to heavy-pack Bumblebee, who no one wants, and consequently it’s difficult to find every other character with Bumblebee clogging the pegs. My local Toys R Us has been selling the Transformers Prime toys for $14.99 plus tax, although I’ve only seen one Soundwave there. For online options:
If you can’t find Soundwave for a good price at any web stores (as he’s been selling out frequently), your best bet may be trying to score a good deal for him on ebay. You can check out the current listings for Transformers Prime Soundwave on ebay directly by clicking here!
Amazon has Transformers Prime Soundwave available from a variety of sellers with free shipping, although the stock status and prices are changing frequently.
BigBadToyStore has the Deluxe Series 1 set of 4 with Soundwave, Bumblebee, Cliffjumper, and Wheeljack for $64.99, as well as having every other Deluxe Transformers Prime available for order including Arcee and Ratchet.
Overall: I’m sure a lot of people are going to lynch me for this, but I’m not giving this Soundwave a grade that’s anything above average. The robot mode design is undeniably cool and I love the concept of how Laserbeak disengages from Soundwave, but this toy has way too many flaws to earn a higher grade than he does. Soundwave is too small, has no true weapon, is lacking in paint detail, features horrid head and leg/knee articulation, and an awkward wing design in vehicle mode. Laserbeak is a fun add-in, but he’s also an amorphous mess. And the awful distribution plan on Soundwave is the icing on the cake. If this toy was not Soundwave, I honestly don’t believe anyone would be jumping to defend it. I’ve seen Hasbro produce deluxe-level Transformers in the last half a decade that absolutely blow this toy out of the water–Soundwave is just not all that good. Soundwave is an integral character in the Transformers mythos and it doesn’t look like we’re getting another this year, so I expect most Transformers Prime fans to purchase him anyway. But don’t get your hopes up–he’s merely average as a toy, nothing more.