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Transformers: robots in disguise. Everyone knows that, right? But what did those robots disguise themselves as? Cars, cassette players, aeroplanes, cassette tapes, more cars, trucks, a gun, trains, tanks, some more cassettes. Pretty standard 1980s fare until the same robots started transforming into gigantic mechanical dinosaurs and almighty great insects, multi-mouthed fire-coughing monsters, and futuristic vehicles that made them about as able to hide in plain sight as a rhubarb-and-custard-coloured Manchester City away shirt in a branch of JD Sports.
I always sort of wondered: why didn't they just become fridges, and toasters, and televisions. And, eventually, some did - but I guess fridges and toasters and televisions aren't as much fun for kids to play with as guns and cars and... cassette players. Then in the 2007 Transformers movie - the first live-action one, i.e. the only that wasn't a total disaster until Bumblebee came along - a boxed Xbox 360 becomes electrified with the power of life-giving AllSpark, and it transforms into an itty-bitty robot. It's tossed out of the picture before we get to see it properly, only getting a glimpse of some mean, wanna-pound-me-a-human arms, but nevertheless: a games console that becomes a robot, eh?
Well, in 2014, someone - that 'someone' being a team of people at Japanese Transformers manufacturer Takara - decided to create a robot that disguises itself as a video games console. And the result is what you see here: Megatron, leader of the (evil) Decepticons, who's able to shift and twist into the boxy dimensions of a perfectly proportioned, original model SEGA Mega Drive. The large, golden "16-Bit" lettering across his belly is something of a giveaway, isn't it?
And you know, it works, doesn't it? So the robot mode is barely Megatron as old-school fans of all things Transformers know him - his bucket-bonce head's there or thereabouts, and he has a big ol' gun, kinda, on his arm, albeit one that looks more like a USB about to upload a virus than an Autobot-slaying fusion cannon - but that Mega Drive mode is delicious. (Please note that I got it looking a lot more lined-up after the photo below was taken.) And it's not simply the console that Takara delivered, either. A couple of wing-like appendages on Megatron's back can be removed and combined to create a Mega Drive control pad - with a 'working d-pad and A, B and C buttons - and there's a Sonic the Hedgehog cartridge to slot into his chest, too.
Beautiful stuff - and the more you look at it, the more you realise how the Takara engineers went to town to make this officially licensed 'con as close to the real-deal Mega Drive as possible (assuming you can line him all up, because there's a lot of lining him up). Flip the console mode over and there's markings for air vents and screw holes, slightly raised feet, and even sculpting for the expansion slot - no Mega CD Soundwave is available for him to plug into, sadly, or a 32X Starscream to awkwardly mount him. On the top, the on/off switch, reset button and volume control are meticulously recreated, although none of them move, and there's a tiny indentation for where the headphone socket would be.
I don't have an original Mega Drive conveniently to hand anymore, but as you can see in the photo below, the Megatron Mega Drive looks absolutely fantastic when you compare it to SEGA's 2019-released Mega Drive Mini (our review). All the proportions are bang-on - so much so that you can forgive the wobbliness and fiddliness that is the robot mode. Seriously, just getting Megs to stand straight can be a challenge, as he pairs a top-heavy design with ridiculously small feet and heel spurs that, basically, do nothing.
But what's a Megatron without an Optimus Prime to get really, incredibly furious at? And Takara delivered a second console-former in 2015 when PlayStation Prime joined his nemesis on store shelves. Look at his PS1 mode, up there - again, sat beside 2018's PlayStation Classic because I've not got a full-sized model lying around. So cute, and so complete-looking, with a removable memory card and a controller that splits in two to become... under-arm guns? I've no idea. They plug into his forearms, maybe just as a means of storage? Who can say for sure - but at least the designers through to give the pad a home in robot mode.
And as you can see, just like the Mega(Drive)tron, Prime is somewhat ungainly as a humanoid 'bot, lacking the trademark chunkiness he has when he's rolling around in a Freightliner semi-truck alt-mode. He's also not really sporting much in the way of Prime-defining features - his head does the business, and his hands and feet are the right colours. Those yellow crotch highlights are cartoon accurate, but the rest? He's a PlayStation - it's hard to be anything else but a big grey slab of plastic.
Nevertheless, while these famous Transformers are pretty far away from their more-traditional guises - modern mainline versions of both characters included in the photos for comparisons - they're still clearly the icons they're sold as. Twice over, in fact, given the immortal status of Sony's debut console and SEGA's 16-bit success story. They're utterly ridiculous, kind of awful in their robot modes (really, come on, let's be honest, they're bad), and they flop around like marionettes a few digits short of a convincing performance. So loose, so ready to take a dramatic nosedive off any display shelf. And yet, I love them. And I'm absolutely blown away to be holding them, too. So let's briefly, finally, get into that.
You might be wondering why I'm highlighting these toys so many years after their release. Well, ever since I knew of their existence, I've wanted them - they're the perfect crossroads of my personal and professional interests (ICYMI, I've written about Transformers on this site before, and no doubt will do so again). Gaming and Transformers? Brilliant. But they're so expensive on ebay, with Prime around the £150 mark and Megatron more like a hundred quid more (apologies to anyone seeing these for the first time and thinking: I want that).
However, out of the blue, a chap I know through Twitter but have never met IRL asks, "Do you want these?" Yes, my man, absolutely I do, thank you. What a wonderful thing to happen, a bolt of good vibes and pure human kindness in a time of abject misery rampaging through the nightly news. You absolutely love to see it.
So a big thanks goes to Transformers-reviewing YouTuber Thew Adams, who spied these 'bots on his shelf, somehow remembered me tweeting about how I'd love to get my hands on them, and sent them my way. Just, wow. Sir, I thank you. And if you want to see Thew talk about this very Megatron (with bonus Prime comparisons), check out his review below. Then go give his other videos your eyeballs because they are officially, IMO, thoroughly good-times, all-smiles and unfalteringly uplifting robot content. The kind of vibes we all need, right now.
Featured Image Credit: Hasbro/Takara, Sunbow Productions, Marvel Productions
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