Sunday, February 19, 2012

Transformers Dark of the Moon: Ark and Roller

Presenting from the Transformers Dark of the Moon Toy Line, the Autobot's Ark with the Autobot Roller.

If you've watched the movie, then you've seen the DOTM Ark as the vehicle used by Sentinel Prime to break free of Cybertron. The Ark was damaged and drifted for ages before crashing into the moon. The discovery of the Ark by the original Apollo 11 team helped kick off the creation of Sector 7. The Decepticons eventually found the wreckage of the Ark and made off with hundreds of Space Bridge Pillars except for five Space Bridge Pillars and the Control Rod which were locked away with Sentinel Prime in the vault.

I've actually had the DOTM Ark for some time - all the way before Christmas where it's retail price dropped from over PhP 1,5000 (US$ 34) to PhP 700 (US$ 15) to PhP 500 (US$ 11.36) which it still retails for today in practically all Toy Kingdom and Toy's R' Us stores here in the Philippines. Kinda makes me feel sorry though for whoever bought him for PhP 700 because it was only at that price for a week before dropping to PhP 500.

I have wanted one ever since the previews for the DOTM Toy Line started appearing. But I always assumed - well, dreamed - that it would be bigger. So I was disappointed with the reality that it was meant for Legends Class Transformers and left it on the shelves. But when the price dropped to such a low, I had to grab it.

The DOTM Ark's blister card doesn't say much about the Ark itself - other than "Spaceship converts to Battle-Ready Space Station" with the traditional "Lights and Sounds, Firing Missiles" and that it "Works with Cyberverse figures" The blister card actually provides more information about the Autobot Roller "Autobot Roller is the pilot of the mighty Starhip that at one time was the flagship of the Autobot Fleet. Together they protect the vast expanse of outer space from the Decepticon threat."

What's to like about the DOTM Ark?

I just want to begin by saying that no way is the DOTM Ark a flagship! It's not designed to be a Command and Control (C&C) ship, nor is it designed to be something that would survive sustained combat. It also appears to have limited firepower and maneuverability.

Even when blown up to accommodate 350 Autobots (Which is suggested in the Ark's wiki) at best this is a Gunship or a Blockade Runner.

My argument towards this is the squat/short body of the DOTM Ark. There comes a point where in ship design you have to choose between fuel, speed, maneuverability and firepower. The compact body of the DOTM Ark suggests simply that it does not have the capacity for all four and compromises have to be made.

So what do we know about the ARK? We know it has the power to break planetary orbit with four huge engines, so fuel and speed are not compromised. We've seen it fly - note in a relative straight line so maneuverability is compromised and that explained why it needed the rear gunners to deal with threats that it could not out-pace or out-fly.

My assumption is that it drops energy consuming shields in favor of heavy armor so there really isn't much for weapons unless they were ballistic in nature  - not gauss cannons but probably mini, light, medium and heavy autocannons.

But he does have energy weapons up front - which is evident when you press the little button on the rear port (left) side of the main cockpit that activates the DOTM Ark's lights and sounds on the clear plastic pieces on the front lower part of the cockpit. My guess is that the ARK does have some semblance of forward shields and that the four prongs in front of the ARK are shield projectors. Given the power requirements of the ship, it probably alternates the shields with its laser batteries.

So tactically it's a gunship or a blockade runner. It's designed to be pointed in a specific direction, launched and keep firing at whatever is in front of it to get through which is exactly what it did in Transformers DOTM.

Do you know who would love to fly a gunship/blockade runner? A Mandalorian!

He fits in there quite nicely. I'm quite fond of the noise the DOTM Ark makes when you let someone sit in the cockpit. The actual "seat" is a slightly elevated trap door that sits on a trigger mechanism. With no additional weight, the mechanism is not triggered, but the slightest weight starts an engine start-up and humming noise that goes on for quite a while. In fact if you leave an Autobot inside and wait for the sound to stop, every now and then the engine noise would just start up because of the weight on the trigger mechanism - so it's not recommended that you leave an Autobot inside the cockpit as it will drain the batteries. 

Pulling the DOTM Ark open by the two side panels transforms the ARK into a Space Station with a Transforming sound effect.

Simply pull down the two panels from each side after that; re-position the pop out cannons from the rear of the Ark; lift up the five pillars in the vault and the medical service table; fold-out the forward ramp; and pull down the command seat from the top and you're done. Here's your Space Station.

I have to say I like the detailing that went into the DOTM Ark's space station mode. It fits in perfectly with the overall theme of the Transformers movie series. Here're some photos of the various parts of the station using the Autobot Roller with the help of the Targetroids Optiam and Megashoton:  

The Medical table where Prime dies and turns over the Matrix of Leadership. For some strange reason, that medical arm will not pivot up. Just side-to-side. 

The Command Deck and the Rotating front-gun - the front gun lights up when you press that little gold button in front of it. 
I'm not really a big fan of the holding cell which is spring spring loaded to keep it shut. You don't honestly believe that will hold Megatron do you?

Here's the vault that held the remaining five Space Bridge Pillars - these have to be folded down when you transform the DOTM Ark back to space-ship mode. I like to think of it as the communications station where Prime's holographic image is transmitted across the galaxy.

But I'm particularly fond of the front launch bay. Put an Autobot on the ramp and push the little switch on the left towards you. This activates a ramp up energy buildup and lights. When it reaches it's crescendo, push the switch the other way and the level mechanism is triggered launching the Autobot forward accompanied by a launching sound and lights. 

The Autobot Roller is a very simple Legends Class Transformer - which has quite nice detailing and average articulation. My only real beef with him is that, when transformed, into moon buggy mode, his arm cannot move up. What you see is the maximum elevation that you can get out of his probe arm.

What's not to like about the DOTM ARK?

I have a few problems with the DOTM Ark other than the wistful hope that it would be big enough for larger Transformers. First up is the bottom of the craft. It looks like Hasbro either was cutting cost or that the Ark was launched incomplete from the dry-docks.

I mean you can see the locks where the plastic panels would have been riveted in, but no. No panels. It makes absolutely no sense to leave the toy incomplete and frankly it cheapened the product.

If you have spare plastic, fill it up.

Another sign that Hasbro was cutting costs in the creation of the Ark is the fact that the packaging clearly says "Firing Missiles" Only one missile launcher in the front bay works - the port side one - as you can see from the photo below, only one of the launchers has a trigger. You fire one, then transfer the rocket from the starboard side to fire again. It makes no sense to scrimp on a simple spring loaded firing mechanism.

All in all, it's still a great toy. And for PhP 500? If you're a serious collector, you'll one day, when you're old and gray and looking through your collection, regret it for not getting it. Then you'll trawl through E-bay where you'll find that it already cost five times that price. So get it today while supplies last.

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