Friday, October 23, 2009

Weekly Transformers Feature: Universe Sharkticon

In the past, I've said that the original Universe line was a line consisting entirely of recolors of previously existing toys.  That's not quite true.  However, the exception to that rule is not, as one might expect, toys with new molds, but rather, previously existing toys being carried over and reissued with no changes whatsoever!

In 2005, as the original Universe line was dying down, several waves of such "unchanged" toys were released under the Universe banner to various store chains, notably KB Toys and discount chains like Big Lots.  These had been released previously under either the Energon or Cybertron lines.  Sharkticon, for example, was an Energon toy "repackaged" (a misnomer I'll get to later) for Universe.

Energon had the at-the-time unique distinction of releasing several toys with names that homaged Generation One characters, but with vehicle modes that only loosely homaged their namesakes.  In Sharkticon's example, although the Generation One version did indeed turn into a shark-like mechanical monster, the Energon/Universe version only vaguely looks shark-like, but is not, in fact, a creature at all.  Rather, it turns into some kind of "Cybertronian submarine."  However, there does seem to be some miscommunication between the toy designers and the people who write the bios.  Sharkticon's official bio mentions "jaws," which the toy utterly lacks.

While Autobots in the Energon line all tended to have some kind of "combining" feature, Decepticons in the line were all given "Hyper Modes" with enhanced weaponry.  These extra weapons could be deployed in either mode.  I actually consider Sharkticon one of the more successful attempts at incorporating this gimmick without actually getting in the way of the rest of the toy.

Toys that are reissued like this in a comparatively short time after their original release (as opposed to, say, the Generation One re-releases of the past several years) are sometimes referred to as "repackaged."  This term is more than a little misleading, because it conveys the idea that Hasbro took a bunch of toys (presumably, ones that stores couldn't sell during the toys' original release) out of their original packages, created new packages, put the toys in those packages, and then sent them back out to stores.  If one takes the time to think about the amount of effort and expense this implies, it is naturally demonstrated to be a ludicrous notion.  I'm not sure what other term to suggest, though.  "Reissue" already conveys something rather different (toys that haven't been around for a good long time, finally being reintroduced to the market).  So, I expect "repackaged" is going to be used for a while longer, yet.

Incidentally, these Universe versions still show up at Big Lots from time to time.  Now that the Christmas holidays are just around the corner, I see that they've unloaded a bunch from their warehouses yet again, so if Sharkticon appeals to you, feel free to head down and see if you can find it!

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