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Series: Generation 1
Allegiance: Autobot
Categories: Pretender
Year: 1988

Prelude: Quite a few people remember the Pretenders, generally regarded as one of the worst gimmicks ever created during the original Transformers toyline. A few Pretender characters became famous due to comics and Japanese cartoons, but have you ever heard of Splashdown? No? Well, no need to feel bad about it, almost no one remembers him. Which is kind of sad, given that he wears a huge shark on his chest. So, suit up in your Pretender shell, grab your easy-to-lose extra parts, and yell “Pretendaaaa!” at the top of your voice. Let’s say go!

Robot Mode: The early Pretenders always appeared in teams of three and for that first year, it was always a combination of land-, sea-, and air-based warriors. Splashdown is, naturally, the sea-based warrior of his team, as is evident by the shark-grin on his Pretender shell’s chest. While his shell is the same kind of futuristic space armor thing that most of the Autobot Pretenders have, the shark motive, his harpoon-like gun, and the helmet both give him a nautical flair, which I like quite a bit. Apart from that, though, it’s a standard Pretender shell. Immobile except for the rotating shoulders and quite a few extra parts, including a removable helmet and belt. Unlike the first wave of Pretenders, Splashdown and his mates have full human heads under their helmets, not just the upper part, though paint wear is a problem here is as well, of course.

Once you crack open the shell, you have an inner robot, of course. Like most of the early Pretenders, he is very lean, looking almost skeleton-like, and has almost no visible altmode parts to tell you what he might transform into. That said, Splashdown is a pretty amazing figure for a G1 robot. Not only does he look like the quintessential generic Autobot in my mind, he is also one of the best-articulated G1 robots I have ever seen. The robot can turn his head, the arms move up/down and sideways, he can twist at the hip, bend his knees, and his moveable feet as well. Very bendy for a toy from 1988.

Splashdown comes with a red gun and can also attach the larger black rifle from his Pretender shell onto his arm. The only weapon he cannot use is the spear, that’s solely reserved for the shell. Overall, though, I really like Splashdown. He looks great as a robot and his articulation is top notch for the time. So bottom line: a pretty cool robot and a Pretender shell with a shark grin on its chest. What more do you need?

Alternate Mode: The big weakness of the Pretenders are always the alternate modes. Given the requirements of the robot fitting into a shell, there isn’t really a lot of room for exciting transformations. Like most of his peers, Splashdown folds in half, attaches some extra parts (the small shield the Pretender shell wears on its arm and the red gun), and you have something that is apparently supposed to be a hovercraft (the sea motive again). All I can say is, it’s not the worst Pretender alternate mode, but that is a pretty low bar. Still, probably a better naval mode than that of Quickswitch or Waverider.

Remarks: The Pretenders as a gimmick were an interesting idea, sure, but the execution with late-80s toy design technology leaves a lot to be desired. Plus there were like 40 of these dudes spread out over two years, which was way too much for a gimmick no one was really all that excited about. Interestingly the second wave of Autobot Pretenders in 1988 are probably the least well-known of the entire bunch. Who really remembers Splashdown, Sky High, or Groundbreaker?

When my buddy Jörg lent me what amounts to nearly his entire Pretender collection, I did not expect to feel really excited about any of them, but Splashdown surprised me in a positive way. Sure, the alternate mode is crap, no two ways about it. The robot is pretty good, though, and I like the design of the Pretender shell, too. Splashdown will never be anyone’s favorite G1 Transformer, of course, but among the Pretenders he, to me, stands out as one of the better ones. So bottom line: as good a toy as any Pretender is likely to be.

Rating: B-
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