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Series: War for Cybertron: Kingdom
Allegiance: Maximal
Categories: Voyager
Year: 2020

Prelude: He is the Boss Monkey, the Big Bot, the chief of the Maximals. He is Optimus Primal, who is a Munkee, not a Trukk, and at a time when Transformers were all but dead and gone, he helped revitalize a dying franchise. There have been quite a few Optimus Primals over the years and now the Kingdom line brings him back in his original form. Can the modern figure match the epitome of mid-90s extreme toy engineering? We shall see. Let’s say go!

Robot Mode: Let’s start with comparing the robot mode to that of the 1996 Ultra-Class Optimus Primal. Being a Voyager-class figure the new one is naturally quite a bit smaller, but also looks more streamlined and has a closer resemblance to the TV character, too. Despite the size reduction, quite a few of the original toy’s gimmicks have successfully made the transition. Primal has shoulder guns, arm blasters, and his trusty swords. He is missing the mutant head gimmick and the skull-shaped morning star, but he can get the latter from Paleotrex, if you want it. The flying fist / chest-pounding gimmick of the original also didn’t make the cut, but I doubt anyone will really miss that.

Personally I would say that Kingdom Primal kept all the good parts of the original and left aside only those that most people don’t remember anyway (aka the gimmicks never seen on TV). Overall the robot mode is very nice, highly articulated, and the sculpting makes it look like the black parts are actually fur. Very nicely done. The figure can pose with the best of them, even has opening fists, and despite standing a head shorter than Masterpiece Optimus Primal, he doesn’t have to take much of a backseat to that much, much more expensive figure.

Just a few minor nitpicks: Primal has his usual shoulder cannons, which the instructions either have pointing straight up or forward. It is possible to fold them away completely, but you have to open up the entire torso in order to do that. Would have been nice if there had been an easier method of hiding those shoulder guns. And speaking of hiding: Primal’s swords look cool, but while he can clip them onto his back, there is no place to hide them like the original figure did. Then again, the Masterpiece didn’t manage that one, either. Finally, Primal has a bit of a backpack, which in itself isn’t bad. I do wish they had sculpted his flight jets into that backpack somehow. That is something the Masterpiece DID manage. Finally, there is a slight gap between the chest plate and the neck, but you barely notice that.

Nitpicking aside, this is a very good figure in robot mode, both by itself and as a homage to the 1996 original. While it isn’t quite as gimmick-laden, it has all the important things and looks great. This is the Boss Monkey, no doubt. Very good with only very minor point deduction.

Alternate Mode: Optimus Primal transforms into a gorilla (technically an ape, not a monkey). The transformation is nearly identical to that of the original figure. The main difference is that the gorilla head is inside the torso, not on the inside of the chest plate, but otherwise it’s basically the same. The gorilla hides most of Primal’s robot mode bits and what few you can see don’t really matter much. You can keep the robot swords clipped to his back in this mode, too, if you want. Again, no way to hide them inside.

The gorilla is also very nicely sculpted, retains almost the full articulation of the robot mode, and has a great face. You can either have him standing nearly upright or down on all fours. Funny side note: looking at the instruction sheet makes it look as if the ‘transformation’ between standing gorilla and down-on-all-fours gorilla is a highly complicated process. Rest easy, it really isn’t. You just fold the knees a bit differently, that’s all. Anyway, the gorilla looks good in either stance. Personally I like the standing mode a bit better, if only for the very nice ‘come-at-me’ pose you can put him in (see 17th picture in my gallery).

So bottom line: a very nice gorilla mode, too. Certainly an improvement over the original one in terms of articulation and detailing.

Remarks: When Kenner launched the Beast Wars toyline in 1996, Transformers was pretty much dead, so they knew that their good guy leader figure needed to knock it right out of the park. And boy did they succeed. The original Ultra-Class Optimus Primal was an incredible toy for its time and doesn’t need to take a backseat to most of today’s toys, either. If you don’t have it, Walmart is currently reissuing the original figures, so go and get one.

So how does Kingdom Primal measure up? Well, he does the smart thing, really, in keeping all the good parts of the original. The only real changes are those that result from 25 years of advancements in toy design, meaning a more detailed sculpt and slightly better articulation. Compared to the Masterpiece version I’m fully comfortable calling Kingdom Primal a ‘Masterpiece-Light’. Considering the price difference between the two figures, you certainly get more per dollar here. So bottom line: an excellent figure with only very minor flaws. Fully recommended unless you are absolutely not a fan of Beast Wars.

Rating: A-

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