THESE EVIL DECEPTICONS FOOL YOU AS CASSETTES.
Together with the Decepticon planes Starscream, Thundercracker, and Skywarp, these four cassettes formed the backbone of the Decepticon forces in 1984. Today we’re looking at the 2019 Hasbro reissues of these toys.
While the Autobots’ lowest price point members were packaged individually, the cassettes came in two-packs like this. Hasbro’s 2019 reissues of the G1 cassettes faithfully reproduces the style of the 1980s packaging, with the figures packaged in cassette mode and their weaponry stored in separate blisters.
The cassette molds came from the Takara Microman Microchange assortment, where they were individually sold. The humanoid cassette was known as “Micross” and the condor was…well, “Condor.” The latter name was also used for Laserbeak in Japan.
The package artwork for these two figures derives from the Microchange line as well.
The card back just barely has enough room to squeeze in bio cards for the two characters and brief transformation instructions. This is also accurate to the 1980s packaging – unlike the larger, boxed figures, it didn’t feature the gorgeous painted mural of characters fighting in space.
The main difference between this packaging and the vintage is in the instructional illustrations (they are photographs on the original) and the duo-lingual bio cards.
Frenzy/Laserbeak Cassette Mode
The cassette mode is accurate to the size of a real micro-cassette, and the details on the front are created by foil stickers.
Unfortunately the sticker material used on the 2019 reissues isn’t the best quality. It’s very thin and very reflective. It’s the main weak point of these editions.
Also worth noting: the white trademark and factory markings on Frenzy are not present on the original toy, so it looks overall a little cleaner.
The backs of the cassette modes reveal most of the robot mode details.
Shown: 1984 mini-vehicle Cliffjumper.
The cassettes are roughly the same mass as the Autobot mini-vehicles.
Shown: MP-16 Frenzy; MP-13 Condor.
The Masterpiece cassettes were again sized as realistic micro-cassettes, which makes them roughly the same size as the originals.
All of these cassettes can fit into Soundwave’s chest compartment, which I went over in his review.
Frenzy/Laserbeak Robot Modes
Frenzy transforms by unfolding his arms, swinging down his legs, and pushing out his feet. When his arms unfold, his head pops up on a spring. This is a fun feature, but I’ve seen some busted old Frenzys with worn-out springs, so watch out for that if you’re buying one.
Laserbeak is identical to Buzzsaw except for the red body and slightly different decals.
Both figures have die-cast metal in their construction. In Frenzy’s case, it’s his feet as well as the joints inside his elbows and shoulders. Laserbeak’s entire back piece is metal.
Both figures come with a pair of chrome accessories that attach in robot mode, and they really don’t feel complete without them. Laserbeak’s adds cannons, intake vents, fins, and thrusters, while Frenzy gets two guns with wings and jet boosters.
Frenzy’s accessories can function either as handheld weapons or as a jetpack. I love the wings and the nozzles on the bottom. There’s a wacky moment in a cartoon episode where he shoots a rocket out of one of the nozzles. I’m not sure why this tends to stick in my mind.
I love Frenzy’s head sculpt. Unlike some other G1 reissues, the mold quality here is fantastic and doesn’t feel soft.
The foil stickers on the arms are very prone to peeling up on this edition. The gold details on the torso, fortunately, are painted on.
Frenzy’s guns can tab onto his forearms, giving his accessories more versatility than the other cassettes. He can move at the shoulders, elbows, hips (lateral only), and “knees,” all due to the transformation.
It’s not exactly clear to me whether his “neutral” pose should be with upper arms sticking straight out like this photo, or pointing down like in the first robot mode shots above. I tend to find it looks more natural like this.
I went over Laserbeak’s articulation over in Buzzsaw’s review.
Shown: Encore Thundercracker.
In robot mode, both of these cassettes are among the smallest Decepticon figures from 1984, but the added weapon accessories make them feel more threatening than the similarly sized Autobot mini-vehicles.
Because of their similar scale, the MP cassettes act as direct refinements of the G1 designs, and remain some of my very favorite of the whole MP toyline. It’s especially impressive how MP Laserbeak’s engines are now incorporated into his transformation.
Of note here is that rather than simply recoloring the Microchange Micross art for Rumble (as they did for Frenzy), Hasbro chose to commission new, Transformers-original artwork for him. It’s a few grades below the other cassette artwork in quality, but I still love it.
Rumble/Ravage Cassette Mode
Rumble is exactly the same as Frenzy in everything but color.
Ravage is totally unique and was never recolored during the original G1 line. He’s also unique in that his cassette mode details are tampographs rather than stickers, and this seems to be consistent across every reissue. It’s a curious difference and I wonder why Ravage got this treatment but not the other cassettes.
By the way, since the last time I wrote about cassettes, I learned that “metal position” was a real-life term that referred to the composition of the ribbon inside the tape.
The “MC” on these guys probably stood for “Microcassette,” but it could also be a cheeky reference to “Microchange.”
Just like the rest of these, the backs of the cassette modes are clearly folded-up robots, although Ravage’s black color scheme makes his disguise work just a bit better.
Shown: MP-15 Rumble; MP-15 Jaguar.
Rumble in cassette mode has my favorite color scheme out of all of these guys. The blue, silver, and red look great together. It photographs a little better on the MP toy since the paint applications aren’t reflecting all the light.
Rumble/Ravage Robot Modes
Naturally, Rumble’s conversion is identical to Frenzy’s.
Ravage unfolds in a very simplistic manner. His tail slots into a groove under his chin, which I always thought was a cool detail.
Ravage has die-cast metal parts in all four of his legs, as well as in the discs that hold his legs on. Although he looks precariously balanced, a Ravage in good condition can easily stand up on his tiny feet.
Rumble comes with the same pair of chrome guns/engines as his bro.
Ravage includes a pair of rockets which also adds wings and either scopes or cannons.
Ravage deserves special notice for his articulation – many iterations of the character have been released since 1984 and quite a few of them are actually less poseable than the original!
He has three joints each in all four legs, as well as one joint each at the tail and neck. It’s all due to how he transforms, but it results in one of the most expressive toys in the whole G1 range.
He can assume some very convincing cat-like poses, certainly far more convincing than the majority of feline Transformers I’ve handled.
He’s even one of the few G1 toys who can more or less pose exactly like his package artwork!
Even MP Ravage doesn’t represent a total improvement over the original. Sure, his rockets are now incorporated into the transformation, but his dimensions don’t feel quite right compared to the elegant original.
Both Rumble and Frenzy, in their character bios, were given abilities tied to the “drums” in their chests, with the idea that they spin their tape spools to produce sonic energy with different effects. Frenzy’s high-frequency waves cause confusion and terror in other beings, while Rumble’s low-frequency waves affect the ground below him, destabilizing structures or causing minor earthquakes.
Somewhere along the way, the idea of these abilities being tied to their tape modes got lost. The cartoon version of Rumble instead uses a pair of giant piledrivers, and his arms simply morph into these shapes when he decides to use them. A toy obviously can’t do this, so the MP versions introduced a pair of accessories for each cassette that attach to their arms. It’s a fun feature.
As to why Frenzy has them too, well, for some reason cartoon Frenzy – when he did manage to show up on screen – sounded and acted exactly like Rumble, down to having an identical pair of pile drivers. For whatever reason, his sonic screaming ability was almost never shown in fiction.
Much like the Autobot mini-vehicles, the cassettes represent some of the very earliest G1 toys I was able to experience. They didn’t get reissues in G2, but I was able to hunt down Ravage, Rumble, and Laserbeak at Botcons in the early 2000s, and I had a (very good quality) bootleg of Ravage. I replaced most of these old, ailing copies in 2019 with these new reissues.
I also appreciate that Hasbro went a long way to give these small, cheap toys distinct personalities and roles in the Decepticon army. Ravage is quiet and cunning; Laserbeak is arrogant but cowardly; Rumble has a superiority complex; and Frenzy is unhinged. Laserbeak and Ravage are perfect for sending on recon missions to the Autobot base, while the two humanoids work well as skirmishers, or even major threats if you play up their special abilities.
The cartoons painted the animal Decepticons as voiceless beasts, but I always had them talking like the other Decepticons, and the Marvel comics depicted it this way as well.
And the toys themselves are great fun, too. All of them are highly articulated for G1 figures. They can be a bit of a letdown if you find ones with weak joints or missing pieces, but they aren’t as easily breakable as some other early G1 toys, and they’re full of the chrome and die-cast that early G1 collectors love. Not to mention the fun interactivity with Soundwave. They’re just good toys, and I’m glad Hasbro gave everyone another shot at collecting them in 2019.