Thursday, June 30, 2005

Like a Kid in a Candy Store

For as long as I can remember, I've always enjoyed that moment when I can see new Transformers on the shelf for the first time. Although some of the surprise has admittedly been blunted by the knowledge gained on the Internet, almost ensuring that very few new arrivals come as a complete surprise, there's still a feeling of sheer joy that washes over me when I finally see firsthand a toy shelf filled with new Transformers. I then spend several minutes going over the new packaging, looking at each of the new characters, reading the profiles (which have finally been returned to the packaging itself, rather than being available only on the Hasbro website, I'm very pleased to say), and deciding which toys I will want to save up my money for (ironically, a necessity that seems little different now than it did when I was a child).

Yesterday, I was arriving home later than usual from what seemed to be an unusually long day at work (for no good reason, as it wasn't that difficult of a day, and I actually left the office at my usual time). After stopping by Target and Wal-Mart and seeing nothing new, I arrived at the Toys R Us just a few blocks away from my home. And there they were! A large assortment of the new Transformers: Cybertron toys! While I could not find any of the cheapest toys (which usually retail at about $7), I think the entirety of what was intended for the first wave was otherwise totally intact on the shelf, including the impressive Supreme (read: $50 or so) Starscream toy, which I must admit looks a lot better in person than I expected it to, although $50 is more than I'm generally willing to spend on a Transformer. (To give some perspective, I waited to get Unicron, arguably the most long-awaited Transformer of all time at that point, until the price had dropped from $50 to about $20. And I didn't buy the $75 "20th Anniversary Prime" at all, but finally got it as a free gift for joining some music clubs. I'm a bit of a cheapskate, I admit.) My favorite toy in this first wave of new Transformers is Vector Prime (who looks to retail at about $20), although I can start to see why so many of the message board folks were complaining about the lack of paint applications when compared to the Japanese version (if you see one in stores, just look at the picture on the back of the package and compare it to the actual toy inside). I expect that I will still pick this one up, but I may wait to see if the rumored Vector Prime/Starscream 2-pack (including Starscream in a smaller, more manageable size) actually comes out. There are hopes that such a pack might restore the missing paint applications, but I wouldn't hold my breath. However, the price per Transformer in such a 2-pack would definitely be better.

In parting, a word about paint applications. This kind of thing tends to spark heated debate about how Hasbro doesn't care about its fans, and that Takara does everything much better (or occasionally vice-versa, but not usually). I expect Hasbro has very good reasons for their actions, but I really would like to hear what they are. The amount of money saved by not using paint applications would most likely be negligible, so I'm not convinced that economics were the reason in this case. But if not money, what?

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