Transfromers: Generation 1 vs. Fall of Cybertron

Transformers Fall of Cybertron has been out long enough for me to compose this piece. I wanted to take my time with this game and take in everything it had to offer. I actually refused to review the game for this very reason (me being biased when it comes to Transformers was surprisingly never an issue). I need not remind you of just how big of a transformer connoisseur I am and, because of this, I wanted to take a look at just how well High Moon Studios represented these classic bots. This being their second attempt at bringing the denizens of Cybertron to current generation consoles and adding some very popular characters, I feel that this would be the perfect time.

It would take a long time to analyze every character; this is why I decided to look at the major players, both new and old to this budding franchise. First up, is of course, Optimus Prime.

Optimus Prime, in the original cartoon, was courageous, compassionate, a great warrior, and was surprisingly quite humorous at times. Whether joking with the Autobots or insulting the Decepticons during a fire fight, Optimus seemed almost to not take Megatron’s evil schemes very seriously. Of course when Megatron destroyed the Autobot City on Earth and killed a lot of Autobots in the process, the kid gloves came off. That was part of the charm of the old show; it was fun even though, when you think about it, an evil army of giant alien robots trying to strip mine your planet is pretty scary.

High Moon Studios’ version of Optimus Prime stacks up pretty well. Self-sacrificing, the mightiest of bots, and as kind as they come; really the only thing missing is the light hearted humor. To be honest, I shouldn’t say that because the writers did a good job of adding a little bit of the comedy charm while keeping the game serious, gritty, and much more mature. I also have to give them extreme credit for keeping the legendary Peter Cullen as his voice actor. While it’s true Mr. Cullen has lost a bit of that magic that he used to bring the character to life, I can’t see anyone else voicing this incarnation of Optimus Prime. We all get old, it’s a fact of life, and I sure as hell won’t hold that against the man.

Like light and dark, you can’t have Optimus without Megatron.

I love the Decepticons; I find that they have far more interesting personalities than the Autobots. In the original show, the Decepticons were basically the town bullies and I loved that about them. I have to admit, I hate that they have become marauding death machines, as portrayed in the Michael Bay movies. Even Megatron himself, at times, seemed more of an annoyance than a global threat, even though he was. Again, even he would take time in battle to banter and insult. He knew how important the other ‘Cons were but wouldn’t put up with insubordination. He was an 80’s villain to the very core.

Now a days, seeing as how the Transformers have matured quite a bit, Megatron has become cold, unmoving, and cruel. I really don’t see High Moon Studios’ version of Megatron as the one I grew up with. Instead he is just one of many copies of the original like Bay’s Megatron or the ones portrayed in Armada, Robots in Disguise, and the like. Unlike the treatment given to Optimus, Megatron’s master of a voice actor, Frank Welker, did not reprise the role. I have very similar opinions on Mr. Welker returning as Megatron like Mr. Cullen with Optimus. While the voice is there, the magic isn’t and I see age as the main culprit. While Mr. Welker does a fantastic job in the newest cartoon, Transformers Prime, his voice would not fit this new Megatron at all.

New to Fall of Cybertron is the Autobot sub-group known as the Dinobots. These bots are some of, if not the most, popular characters in the entire history of Transformers. Fire breathing robot dinosaurs, how can you not like them?

When they first appeared in the 80’s, Grimlock and his gang became instant favorites. Being created on Earth, the Dinobots lacked smarts but did their extinct ancestors proud with immense power and intimidating size, even by Transformer standards. Starting with only three, the Autobots felt that the Dinobots were great allies and produced two more. With only five members, it was clear that the Dinobots were more than enough to thwart any number of Decepticons. Good thing for Megatron they weren’t in every episode!

In the old Marvel comics, the Dinobots were just ordinary Autobots who adopted different Earth modes than the rest. This concept was also adopted by High Moon Studios… Sort of. Now when it comes to Comics vs. Cartoon, things get messy. There were certain things that the comic did better and then there were things the show did better. I loved the Dinobots and accepted both origin stories. The Cybertronian beginning makes much more sense but the Earth origin gave the Dinobots their trademark speech patterns which added to their character.

While it’s really hard to screw up giant robot dinosaurs, High Moon Studios kind of dropped the ball. Once more, voice acting veteran Gregg Berger, returned to voice Grimlock as he had in the 80’s. I firmly believe that the fault here lies with the voice director. While there were times when I said, “Now that’s the Grimlock I remember”, there were far more times I lamented what could have been. Very rarely, if ever, did the words “Me, Grimlock…” come up and if they did, the right inflection was not used for the character. Why hire the original voice actor if you’re just going to tell him to do it differently? Grimlock aside, when did Swoop move to Cybertron from New York? Whoever felt that accent was a good idea should have been fired on the spot!

I’ll finish this up with the newest sub-group of Decepticon to appear: the Insecticons. Early on before the game’s release, I was aware of the name changes two of the three went through. I one day hope to find the true reason they were changed but my speculation is leaning toward the names Bombshell and Shrapnel being too violent. The only other reason would be trademarks. It wasn’t until recently Hasbro was able to secure the name Shockwave once more.

The 80’s Insecticons were awesome! Bombshell could control people and transformers, Shrapnel could harness lightning and create clones, and Kickback was just one tough dude. Like their Earth form counterparts, the Insecticons spent most of their time devouring anything in their path as large swarms which made them extremely formidable. Similar to the Dinobots, the Insecticons had a unique voice pattern such as repeating the last word they spoke. It was a very eerie and un-nerving habit.

High Moon Studios definitely made the Insecticons look cool, but that’s about it. Bombshell, or Hardshell as he was renamed only had a minor part and really shared nothing with his 80’s self. Kickback had a similar attitude as his past self but seemed more like an annoying, rotten kid. Like Grimlock, the voice directing here took a dive as Kickback’s repeating speech was more mocking and deliberate instead of being alien yet insectoid. Shrapnel… uhhh, I mean Sharpshot, was the only Insecticon that fit the part. I always found him the most sinister and just downright creepy. The voice used, and even voice direction was fitting and very reminiscent of the original.

I could go on for quite some time about who they got right and who didn’t fit the bill but instead I’ll sum it up and say for the most part, High Moon Studios was on target. All of this stems from the Transformer fan in me. As a gamer, even though it could have been longer, Fall of Cybertron was awesome! Even though this is supposed to be the same story with the same characters I grew up with, I will still look at these games and the original cartoon as two separate entities. I really appreciate the developer for putting in as much detail as they did and let’s be honest, with something as old and loved as Transformers, not everyone is going to be happy with everything. Luckily this is one of those times where the pros outweigh the cons and fans and gamers alike can enjoy this title. Can’t wait to see what comes next!