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Series: Fans Hobby
Allegiance: Autobot
Year: 2021

Prelude: Hi, my name is Phil, and I wanna tell you about the Transformers, mechanical beings from another world. There’s the Autobots, the good guys, and they’re led by a guy called Optimus Prime. And this figure here is not him, not legally at least. While he is clearly meant to be Armada Optimus Prime, he is called Naval Commander instead (Naval, Armada, get it?) and hails from third party company Fans Hobby. Many thanks to my buddy Fuchs Geronimo, who has loaned me this figure for a review. Is he worth his high price tag? We shall find out. Let’s say go!

Robot Mode: Armada Optimus Prime was not the first Optimus Prime figure to deviate from the classic Optimus Prime design (that honor actually goes to Combat Hero Optimus, I believe), but he might be the most well-known. Instead of the classic truck window chest plate, Naval Commander has the grill of the truck as his chest. His lower body is classic Optimus (blue legs with tires on them), but his shoulder design is also different (tires there as well) and he has the exhaust pipes as guns on his forearms instead of on his shoulders. I must say I always liked the design of Armada Prime, though Naval Commander looks quite a bit slimmer than the Hasbro version. Not sure whether that’s better or worse, just different.

In terms of articulation Naval Commander leaves little to be desired. He has articulated hands and a full range of movement, including double elbow joints and poseable feet. He can even do that pose Armada Optimus pulled quite a few times, where he clasped his hands in front of his body to launch some kind of energy attack. One thing that is a bit weird here, though: the waist swivel. He has one, but it needs to be unblocked by pulling out tiny levers (see 12th picture). It’s not a big deal, but kind of bothersome, especially if you have big fingers and short nails.

Like most Optimus Prime figures Naval Commander also has a Matrix in his chest. For some reason the chest plate that hides it is not on a hinge, though, but rather attached by two plastic chains. This is due to the transformation into super mode, but it still seems a weird design choice and I am somewhat worried about the long-term stability of those white chains. The Matrix behind the plate is the same one Armada Optimus has in his chest, but here it can be removed and held in hand. If you want to give Naval Commander more weapons than his arm guns, he can easily hold the big rifle meant for his super mode. Even if you shorten the barrel, though, it does seem a bit too large for him.

Overall I like this figure, but for one thing I think the shoulders are a bit too narrow, and then there is that plate behind his head (the folded-together truck hood), which keeps riding up whenever you pose the figure. Again, not a big thing, but a bit bothersome regardless. So bottom line: a great-looking figure of one of my favorite Optimus Prime designs, but with some minor things that bug me a bit.

Vehicle Mode: Naturally Naval Commander transforms into a truck. Despite being taller than Armada Optimus in robot mode, the two trucks are almost the same size. I find it a bit weird that the truck’s windshield has these techno-lines on it. I get why it cannot be transparent (the super mode head is in there), but a non-transparent windshield would have looked better in my opinion.

The truck comes with a trailer, of course, that strongly resembles the somewhat weird contraption Armada Optimus pulled. It’s partially a normal trailer, but has these big blue boxes on the side and missile launchers near the front. Also, tank tracks instead of wheels on the truck. Anyway, the trailer is a trailer, little more I can say here. The big rifle of the super mode can be stored underneath or be mounted on top, the missile launchers can move around and fire, and you can unplug the blue boxes from the sides. They are big enough to store most Minicon cars inside them. You can also unfold the panels from the rear portion of the trailer for an ‘extended truck mode’, not sure what that is. So bottom line, a decent truck mode, but nothing to write home about.

Base Mode: If a Transformer comes with a trailer, it usually becomes some sort of base. Especially when the Transformer is a version of Optimus Prime. Now Armada Optimus Prime’s trailer base mode was always somewhat unique in never even attempting to hide the legs of the super mode and Naval Commander does not try it, either. So you basically end up with a three-level platform that has two big legs stretched out in front of it. The legs contain gun turrets that can be elevated and turn, so there is that at least. The base mode is designed to work with the Armada Minicons and it works pretty well in that regard.

Bottom line: the base mode is better than that of the original Hasbro toy, but that is a pretty low bar. So while this base mode is okay and somewhat fun, I could easily have done without it.

Partner: Most Armada figures came with a Minicon partner and Optimus Prime had Sparkplug, a little yellow sports car (no, it’s not Bumblebee!). The little robot is somewhat bigger in robot mode than the original Sparkplug, also slimmer and better articulated. He also has grooves in his little hands that enable him to hold Optimus’ Matrix, like he did in the cartoon to help resurrect his dead leader. Like the original figure he has a Minicon port on the underside of his car mode and can plug into Optimus’ butt or onto the sides of the trailer. So bottom line here: a nice little support robot.

Super Mode: Now we finally arrive at the super mode. While Optimus combining with his trailer into a super mode was not a new thing even back in 2002, Armada Optimus did it in a very unique manner. The smaller robot becomes the upper body, the trailer becomes the lower body. The original toy did a great job look-wise, but sadly the resulting robot was completely immobile from the waist down and carried a huge backpack, too.

Naval Commander really does a great job improving on that figure here. The super mode’s legs are actual legs. They can move, they can bend, they can kick, the whole thing. The figure has a very stable stance and the big feet have ankle tilts and moving toes, too. The super mode retains a full range of movement, including a waist swivel and fully articulated hands. Instead of the original’s huge backpack, Naval Commander instead has two large and two small panels hanging off his waist like a kind of armored skirt. All the panels are on hinges and can easily be moved out of the way for posing. The bigger panels on the back can even swivel up to become wings if you are so inclined and the missile launchers from the truck mode can be deployed from them, too.

The blue boxes on the legs can flip up their side panels to become (non-firing) missile launchers as well, which can also be mounted on the shoulders. The figure also comes with replacement ‘ear wings’ for the head and a different set of eyes, too.

A few small things to complain about, though: one, you are supposed to lock the shoulders to the back by sliding out tiny little tabs. This is almost impossible to accomplish, though, unless you make use of tweezers or have someone with very, very tiny fingers close by to help. It’s also entirely superfluous, as the smaller robot’s arms lock the shoulders into place just fine. Also, there is the chest plate. Now quite a few early versions of this figure had severe quality issues there. None are to be found here, but the assembly of the chest plate relies on four truly tiny tabs to hold everything in place (see 58th picture) and I am not sure how long they will last if you keep transforming this guy back and forth. The same holds true for the tiny pegs where the upper body tabs into the lower body (see 57th picture). It holds together well, no complaints, but I am not sure how many times you can plug it in and pull it back out before those little things are done.

So bottom line for the super mode: superb! I love it and if I do decide to get this figure, it will definitely this mode I will display it in. Great look, great articulation, great detailing, the full package. Again, though, a few tiny little things (literally in this case) that bug me a bit.

Remarks: Transformers Armada was something of a milestone in Transformers history, as it shifted the aesthetic away from the organic designs of the Beast Wars era and back towards the clunkier vehicle designs of the 80s. It was also the most successful Transformers toy line at the time (until the first movie toy line came around in 2007) and spawned two sequel series. Optimus Prime did the usual Optimus Prime things in the cartoon (lead, sacrifice himself, be resurrected, final fight with Megatron, the works), but the Armada design remains one of my favorites to this day.

Fans Hobby Naval Commander had a bit of a bad start, as quite a few of the early figures had quality issues, especially regarding the super mode chest plate. The one I have reviewed here showed no such issues, though given some of the design choices, I am a bit pessimistic regarding the long-term health of this toy. Those issues aside, let’s look at our final verdict. The small robot is good, though short of excellent. The base mode is nice, though I would not have needed it. The toy truly shines in super mode, which takes everything that was great about the original figure and gave it proper proportions, articulation, and detailing.

So bottom line: an excellent figure with a few weird design choices and a number of small things that bug me. Given the price tag, those things keep me from giving it an A-rating. Still, at this point I am seriously considering getting him for myself, too. Recommended to fans of the Unicron Trilogy and cool Optimus Prime figures who don’t mind the price tag and don’t plan on transforming him back and forth all the time.

Rating: B+

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