I really like the color schemes on these guys. At first I thought they were kind of bland (except for some paint operations, Axer is almost completely black) but after comparing them to the G2 incarnations, I think I like the new ones better. Even the sparse amount of red on Road Pig in vehicle mode, for instance, is almost intrusively colorful by comparison. The paint operations on both toys is really what sets them apart, though. They make the G2 toys look like cheap knockoffs.
(This is very troublesome for me. I love G2 with a passion, but I'm also extremely fond of RiD. I absolutely hate having to suggest that *any* G2 toy could be inferior to anything else. It's like having to choose which of my children I love more, or something.)
Anyway, I dug up some photos of the Microman toys (the ones that came out a couple of years ago), because I'd fully expected these guys to basically be modified versions of those. I was pretty surprised to find that those toys basically had nothing to do with these. I'm especially impressed, then, that Hasbro actually came up with all these loverly paint applications on their own, and weren't just copying some version of the toy that Takara innovated. (I do think that they're taking their cue from Takara's approach to the other CR/RiD toys, but you still have to give them a little credit here.)
(You know what looks *really* impressive, though? G2 Laser Cycle Soundwave. For some reason, I never noticed this before now, but the entire lower half of his motorcycle mode is vacuum metalized. Aw, why didn't they release this toy? A thing of beauty, it is...)
Anyway, I was especially impressed with Sideways in this regard, since he's got many, many new paint operations, inside and out. Amazingly, even though yellow makes up easily half his color scheme, not a single part of him is yellow plastic. (This also means that the paint could potentially scrape off the knob on his forearm that holds his saber weapon, just as a warning.) I really like the way the yellow brings out the detailing on his legs, too. It's a very TRON look. :)
As is par for the course, there were some mold changes made to the toys. Now, I'm not sure how many of these changes were present on Takara's Microman versions and how many, if any, were changes exclusive to RiD. If someone has the Microman cycles and wouldn't mind checking their toys to confirm some of these changes, I'd appreciate it.
The biggest change, of course, is the handlebars. For those who don't own the G2 version, both of these guys originally had handles with brakes on the grip, but the brakes were removed for the Microman toys so that the figurines they came with could actually grasp the handlebars. The handles themselves are slightly larger than the ones on the G2 toys. Also, the connector pegs that hold his legs together in vehicle mode are longer.
One other change that they made, which I think is really neat, is a slight bump on the butt-end of the saber weapon. Its purpose is to catch the light from the LED bulb more effectively, channeling it through the saber weapon more efficiently, instead of letting the light leak out the sides like it does on the G2 version. I heartily approve! The LED light itself also seems much brighter. (I noticed this on the AotC R2-D2, too. I guess there's been some recent technological improvement to these things, since I can't remember the last time I had a toy with a bulb this bright.) The only other change I could find is that the tiny "bolt" holding his buzzsaw blade in place is missing. I can't imagine why they remolded *that.*
Again, he's got the new handlebar design. Earlier today, I put Road Pig on top of Axer and had Road Rocket riding Sideways. (But then I fixed it so he was facing forward. Um, anyway.) Neither setup works especially well, though, since both of them have pretty bad leg designs in robot mode, and were never designed to ride vehicles. I bet some of the Action Masters would work really well, though (their fists aren't pointing in the right direction to graps the handles, unfortunately). Sideways on Axer seems to work really well, though.
One change which I think is really interesting is that they retooled Axer's upper legs so that each one is two pieces now, held together with two screws. Road Pig's upper legs were originally a single piece, with a block of plastic sticking out from the inside of the thighs in the same place that the two pieces of plastic meet on the RiD version. I assume this plastic block was necessary to keep the plastic from breaking, but it also hindered his leg movement a little. You can't swing the legs backwards on Road Pig quite as far as you can on Axer, and I'm *guessing* that's why they made this change. His upper thighs (which are dark blue, the only part of Axer besides the saber weapon that's not black) also might be made from a different grade of plastic, to keep the socket from cracking the way it did on my Road Pig.
Oh, and remember that warning I posted about Axer's legs? Forget about it. They fixed that problem, too. Originally, Road Pig's upper knee joints were *really* tight, making horrible, painful clicking sounds until the tabs causing the ratcheting effect broke off. Axer does *not* have this problem. The lower knee joints still make a pretty loud clicky sound, but as far as I can tell, that joint is a lot more stable. So, to those of you who were resigned to never transforming your Axer toy, I wouldn't worry about it. This version doesn't have to be an Action Master just because the last one was. :)
Finally, there's a change which I can only assume is a Hasbro artifact, since it's got to do directly with how the toys were packaged for RiD. Road Pig's electronic gimmick was designed so that you pressed the button on the top of his motorcycle mode, and pressed the wheel on his back in robot mode. (Road Rocket and Laser Optimus Prime were the only "Laser" toys who only had one way of operating the electronics.) For RiD Axer, they added a new plastic bar underneath the screw that holds his windshield in place, enabling you to use the motorcycle-mode button in robot mode, too. You can't operate Road Pig's lights by pressing on his chest the way you can with Axer; an artifact of this change is that Axer's chest also juts out a bit more in robot mode. Like I said, I think Hasbro made this change so that they could play up the "Try Me!" feature in the packaging.
Is Sideways meant to be a previous character? The bit in his tech specs about his motorcycle mode being "newly adopted" suggests that it's a new form for an older character, though I suppose it could just mean that he took an Earth form after arriving from Cybertron, the same way Skid-Z did. (And the same way Ultra Magnus did not. Heh.) For some reason he reminds me of Mirage. The reference to him being ninja-like could be an homage to his Machine Wars tech specs quote (you could even say that he took on the ninja traits and adopted the buzzsaw weapon as a counter-measure after his encounter with Nightbird), and he shares Mirage's urges to return to Cybertron. It seems silly to introduce yet *another* version of Mirage, though, especially since there's already one in the RiD line. I'm open to other ideas. (Derik?)
Bringing back Axer was a pretty neat idea, even though I doubt the original character transformed into a motorcycle himself. (I'd take Axer any day, though, if the alternatives are getting an RiD version of Wreck-Gar or Vroom. Ugh.) The only thing that bugs me is that they also lifted his equipment manifest directly, even though the toy isn't equipped with anything that even *remotely* resembles proton missiles or a quadrophonic sonic blaster. (The original Axer came with a four-barreled gun, and his bike had missiles that attached to the side car.) I guess we'll have to file this under "concealed weaponry" along with TM2 Prowl's acid pellets, eh?
(Side note: How do you make pellets that can resist being deteriorated by the acid they contain, and yet are fragile enough to release the acid on impact?) Anyway, these are cool toys. They're not traditional Wal-Mart exclusives, in that they don't have the Wal-Mart logo on the packaging like Transmetal Rattrap II and Tripredacus Agent. The fact that the packaging's all in English suggests that Hasbro was shopping for *someone* to carry this as a U.S. exclusive, though.
Zobovor, notes that the instructions were printed in Decepticon purple. It would have been nice if they used red highlights for Sideways' instructions and kept the purple for Axer, but I guess that's a bit much to expect.