Friday 13 December 2013

Transformers MP-11 Masterpiece Starscream Reissue Review

I will get an apology in now - this is going to be a very long review. I was going to save it until after Christmas, when I will have small light tent which should really improve the quality of the photo's I take.
The Nexus 4's camera is fantastic in glorious sunlight, but anything less and it struggles. However, being as I injured my knee playing football and am pretty bored, I decided to pass the time by reviewing this guy.

MP-11 was released at some point back in 2012, and at the time I seem to remember it being a divisive figure. It was a remold of the Masterpiece Seeker toy but with a raft of improvements that made it more cartoon accurate, and made for a better figure.

However, these changes removed the much maligned hip kibble and also made it slightly less accurate to a real world F-15 Eagle jet fighter.

Obviously, that mold has its fans but I am not one of them. First off, the hip kibble looked horrible, and it was a nightmare to Transform at times. I only had the Hasbro Skywarp release, but it felt like such a low quality figure, being fragile and cheap feeling. 

So when MP 11 came out, I was far more impressed whilst other people were underwhelmed being as they owned a version of the mold several times over - people don't like to pay to replace expensive things.

Initially I skipped it as I my previous interaction with the Masterpiece Seeker mold was not great - but its price soon sky rocketed on the secondary market and everyone who skipped it soon came to regret it.

A year and half went by, and out of the blue Takara announced a limited reissue which sent people crazy, and scrambling to get a pre-order in, which proved handy when rumours circulated that Takara had cut its production by up to 50%!

So now I have the figure, does it really improve up the previous mold?

Hit "READ FULL REVIEW" below, to see the full review, after the jump

Alt Mode

Starscream transforms into a stunning looking F-15 Eagle fighter jet. As a child of the 1980's, this is and will always be my favourite plane.

It looks fantastic, and screams (sorry) everyones favourite conniving Decepticon Air Commander. The details from the original toy and cartoon model are faithfully recreated here, with a really nice shade of grey that looks like his animation model and those blue tail fins with that red "F" patter covering them, as well as some red from his vents and stripes on his wing. Just a beautiful sight to behold.

What is striking is how simple it is. I don't mean that in a negative way, what I mean by simple is that the design is very clean. The designers have resisted the urge to cover Starscream in decals or hyper detailing. 
This results in a very clean looking jet mode, and in my opinion its all the better for it.

You can see it best from above, it has just the right amount of detailing - no unwanted extras. If you look at some of the previous versions of this mold, they have extra real world details that push it away from being a design unique to the character and more into being a recreation of something. The Takara release of Starscream was a greenish tint, and decals to fit a specific real life version of the jet - but lets be honest Starscream is not green. Then Hasbro released the mold, in more traditional colours, however they made Starscream a bright white, instead of the grey of his original toy, and also covered him in weathering effects that did not appeal to me.

This is what I wanted from my Masterpiece Transformers, for them to look like they do in the cartoon series.

We are talking about robot's in disguise, obviously, so it makes sense for them to completely copy real world craft - but it just robs them of a bit of character for me.

A lot of people prefer that though, so each to their own. But I like to go with the fiction from the cartoon, that Teletraan 1 rebuilt the Transformers all based on craft that most resembled their body types on Cybertron. It was the only way my young brain, could reconcile why they all looked the same on Cybertron as they did when they were rebuilt on Earth.

I know a lot of people want the Cybertronian robot modes to look very different, and reflect that they are not from earth, but not for me!

Tin hat...ON!

There are a lot of complaints that the jet mode does not look as accurate as it did previously, but look at that image above - it is still gorgeous. I honestly think it has gained from losing the chunky tank/scabbards on the sides. 
You end up with a slimmer, smoother looking jet mode, and one that looks like its flown right out of the cartoon series.

One interesting change, is that it has lost the missiles under the wing, replacing them with the Null Rays which are now permanently attached to the figure. Again, personally I much prefer this as it fits my perfect image of Starscream from the cartoon, but I know some people were unhappy, and it would have been nice for them to include the missiles as an option.

The quality of the design continues to the rear of the jet, where the thrusters are beautifully detailed, again with just the right amount of detailing, no added weathering or anything like that. They are also adjustable, in that you can mode them around. Its not really needed, but its a nice extra touch and the designers went even further.

if you flip up the panels behind the thrusters, it reveals some extra detailing. What this is handy, is that in robot mode these sections flip out and form heel spurs to give Starscream stability. The designers could have not bothered to give these bits detail for the jet mode, as you only see them if you open those panels up, but they went that extra mile - as they seem to do on the Masterpiece releases.

I think the original MP Seeker mold also had these features, but my memory is pretty hazy, and mostly negative when it comes to that figure!

 The jet mode is actually loaded with features when you start to play with it. Not only do you have the above mentioned thrusters, there is landing gear that can be deployed (the way it stores under the nose being particularly impressive, an air break that can be positioned (no idea why though?) and articulated flaps on the wings (these come into player later for robot mode).

The nosecone of the jet mode also folds open, to reveal a radar array. Its nicely painted silver, but its one of those things that again is curious as to why they included it - another case of the designers just going an extra mile? Its here though, I run into my first and ugliest QC issue with the toy.
If you look at the picture of the nose cone above, you can see where its opened, the edge on the rubber tip is a bit mangled and rough. Its not too noticeable when closed, but its still annoying. Its hard to see how it could have occurred anywhere other than during manufacture either, as it goes round the whole cone, which only sits against the other side.

The cockpit opens, and there are seats for to put the little holo-pilot in, and as you can see above - when taking the photo's I had forgotten to take him out of the box. You are not missing anything, he is just like a little fox's clear mint, or toothpaste, with a brilliant clear blue colour.
Just looking at it makes me want to brush my teeth.
What is different, is that it looks like an actual pilot, rather than the little Dr Arkeville that came with all the previous MP Seekers.

The underside of the jet suffers from classic "robot hanging off of the bottom of a jet" syndrome. However, here I don't think its so bad. Everything closes up and folds away, so it looks very smooth and clean.

I love the jet mode, and if I had enough money I would buy a second to permanently display in this mode. Its not that it recreates an accurate real world fighter jet, its that it manages to completely capture Starscream. The changes made are perfect for my tastes, and it now looks like Starscream has flown out of the TV set - which is what I want from my Masterpiece figures.

Robot Mode

Oh Takara, well played, well played indeed you glorious people!

I would talk about the transformation, but it is exactly the same as the previous mold. Okay I say that, but its not technically true. as the scabbards are no longer present so the tail fins slide up and stay attached to his lower legs which matches the original prototype design of the figure. The Null Rays are no longer removed for transformation. The first time you transform it, the Null Ray motion feels completely counter-intuitive, but it actually makes sense the more you do it, -its just very weird at first.

I want to say robot mode is where Starscream really shines, but his alt mode is so strong it seems harsh to say that - but his robot mode takes it to another level. Excuse the hyperbole.

This is Starscream. That might sound silly to say, but the previous iterations never quite felt like Starscream to me. Whether he was green, white or clear - it never quite captured his essence. The colours are perfect, there is no massive hip kibble or extra intakes attached to the vents on his shoulders.

He looks sleek and as Starscream should.

The robot mode just looks uncluttered and smooth, but that does not mean there is a lack of detailing. Again, the philosophy of sticking to the cartoon model really works in its favour, whilst a few extra additions such as the turbines in his chest, add a lot to the look. 

Even the front of the lower legs have been remolded to be flatter than the previous mold, where they were rounded off. This carries on to the feet, which now is a flat, straight piece and does not look like a hoof or something.

The tail fins being on the lower legs also gives Starscream extra stability, which was a massive problem for all previous versions Masterpiece Seeker figures.

The quality of this feels so much better than the Hasbro Skywarp I had, but then that could be just a Takara/Hasbro difference. The plastic is nice, and does not feel cheap, hollow or light - it feels like a quality figure.

Skywarp always felt like he was on the verge of collapsing or would fall apart if I looked at him funny, so its nice to be able to handle the mold without that fear and sense of trepidation.

The head has also been completely remolded. The sides squeeze in during the transformation (which means getting his head folded away lots easier), and the rotating face gimmick is gone. That does not bother me, as I did not really use it, however the face now has a more neutral expression.
This is probably just me, putting Starscreams character over it, but I swear it has the slightest beginnings of a smirk?

I personally like this head, but the face is very dark and I know there are people who prefer to replace it with the original head.

There is one aspect here that I am not fond of though, and that is the neck - which also was a problem for me on the original release. The grey section sits noticeably higher than it does on his animation model, with it sitting above his intakes, whereas in the cartoon its lower or at the same level.

But that is a tiny issue, and does not detract from the figure - I feel bad for even mentioning it!

There are extra features in this mode too, none that are too intrusive. His chest pieces still open to reveal lots of missiles, although with them being painted a flat white they don't really look like missiles - just white dots. But if these were in the cartoon, its how they would have been drawn so fair enough.

The wings are also articulated. As part of the transformation, the wing flaps fold down to give him a more traditional, and cooler look. The wings also pivot, so you can pull them out and pivot them upwards to give him a more stylised look, and also give him more clearance for articulation.
My own preference is to have them pushed in flat, so they look more traditional, and also you don't get great gaping holes either side of the figure.

Articulation is also excellent, nothing is lost or gained from the original mold as far as I can tell. At a push, you could say the new Null Rays allow for a bit more articulation there - but that's a bout it.

The fingers are all articulated at the knuckle, whilst only the thumb and fore finger are separate, with the other 3 all being attached together. Finger articulation allows him to produce some classic Starscream pointy poses, and it helps to make the figure even more expressive.

Leg articulation is good, though as his upper body is heavy, he can fall over if not steadily balanced. The head is on a ball joint, allowing for plenty of sly looking, cocked head poses.

Accessory wise, this is where the largest difference is felt versus the old mode. The stand, extra missiles, and mini Dr Arkeville are all gone, but in their place we an Aquafresh holo-pilot, and the Coronation Kit!

Yes, you get the cape, shoulder pads and crown that Starscream wore so briefly in one of 1986's Transformers the Movies most memorable scenes - now all we need is a Masterpiece Galvatron and Constructicons that come with trumpets.

As far as I remember, the Coronation Kit was originally designed to go on the previous mold - but never made it out. I am sure there even slots on the arms for it, but may well be wrong.

The level of detailing is, again perfect. Takara resisted the urge to add extra details, and instead copied it exactly as it appeared in the movie - and it looks awesome. The shoulder pads don't really hinder articulation, with the exception of the Null Ray, as it has to be moved is you move the arms up far enough.
There are clips inside, that slide into holes on the Starscreams shoulders, and this allows the shoulder pieces to move on a joint to make sure they are poseable when the arm is posed.
They have thought have everything!

There is some nice shiny gold paint added, to match the crown. Its strange, but the pattern of those gold streaks, has always reminded me of the F pattern on his tail fins.

The crown looks exactly like it did in the movie, and also how we have seen it in every comic series since that has felt a compulsive need to reference this scene - but it looks great.

It to be gold chromed, which kind of worries me in regards to wear and tear. I am not planning to throw it off a cliff or anything, but chrome has a knack for flaking, so I may get that put away in the box asap. 

Parts of it are painted red, to match the red Jewell section from the movie - and it looks spot on for something Galvatron would crush with his foot. It fits nice and securely over his head, but its not tight that you have to apply any force when removing it.

The cape is the big thing here though, and I mean physically big. It is not made from cloth, but instead its molded from nice strong plastic and has lots of nice ruffles and creases in it. 

Attaching it very simple, it just slides over the air brake on his back. Nothing snaps or tabs in, but it holds perfectly and you can see the shape is very specifically designed for this.
It is a very good, solid design and the colour is a nice shade of pink - makes you wonder why Starscream wanted a pink cape though!

What makes it even more crazy is that it is articulated.

I am sure this has been done before, probably in the world of Macross or Gundam or other crazy Japanese toy lines - but its a new one on me.

There are hinges in the middle of the cape, that allow you to pull it outwards, and this scared me a little. Not because it felt like it would break, but because it makes a scary, loud cracking noise. I thought I had broken it, but looking at it, there's no cracks or anything so it appears to be fine.
Also, the noise seems to have lessened to more I have used it, so maybe it just needed moving a little.

Just to add to the madness, the cape is also on ball joints and also a separate hinge, so you can pivot it sideways, or forwards and backwards. You get a very good range of motion of a heavy plastic cape, and can pull of some wonderfully dramatic poses with it.

One problem is, due to the weight of the cape, it can often slide back down if you have have it too far upwards - but its a minor gripe.

I currently have Starscream displayed with the Coronation Kit attached, but I don't plan on having it like that for much longer. Its a very nice extra, and I love that they included it, but I prefer him without, scheming to be the king - rather than being the king.

When the re-release was announced, I was so happy to have another chance to get this figure. Its long been a source of regret that I passed on it, when I saw it for £120. Now I have him in hand, he is actually way better than I expected and encapsulates everything I love about the current direction of the Masterpiece line. Cartoon accuracy, great engineering, with little extra added bonuses that call back to a particular moment in that series.

If you have not already bought it, and want to, then its probably already going to cost you a lot of money on the secondary market. But I would say its probably worth it, as I can't see Hasbro releasing it with this deco, or even just as Starscream. 

But if they ever do, I will definitely pick up a second. This figure is amazing, buy it, buy it now.

Follow my rambles on Twitter @Incapable_Hulk


  1. I have the MP-11 mold of Masterpiece Thundercracker which I believe was released before MP-11 Starscream and I love it! Although I think the design is meant to be a mixture of both the cartoon & G1 figures cause when you look at Thundercracker in jet mode, he looks like the original G1 figure with the extra artwork above his air intakes and his black nosecone but when he u transform him into his robot mode, that's when the cartoon version really comes out :) I don't regret buying MP-11 Thundercracker at all & soon MP-11 Starscream will join him as he will soon be in my collection too! :)