The lights are on
I grew up thinking Transformers were super stupid. My older brother was into them, but I was too young to figure out the toys’ puzzling transformations and stuck to my Ninja Turtles. Time passed and I never understood the nostalgic reverence with which Transformers fans regard the series. Michael Bay’s blockbuster was entertaining, but I thought the idea of intergalactic robots that turn into earth vehicles was idiotic. Then I sat down for a demonstration of High Moon Studio’s Transformers: Fall of Cybertron at E3 2012, and it sparked something in me I couldn’t have predicted.
The demo was headed by director Matt “Tieg” Tieger, a passionate and personable Transformers nerd I recognized from video interviews on our War for Cybertron and Fall of Cybertron hubs. I also remembered his name from both of our cover stories for High Moon’s games. I remember reading our stories and being impressed by the amount of enthusiasm and loyalty that Tieg and the other developers had for the Transformers brand. The screenshots looked great and the gameplay sounded solid, though my lack of Transformers appreciation held me back from playing War for Cybertron.
My hesitation to play the games had to be shelved when I was sat down in a dark room with the creators. They introduced me to a robotic T-Rex named Grimlock. Tieg chuckled a bit as he introduced the fire-breathing, tail-swiping character. He seemed aware of how ridiculous the concept was, which I appreciated as an outsider. Transformers fans had always been no-nonsense defenders of Hasbro lore in my mind’s eye, but I saw something different during that demo that made me curious.
The powerful Dinobots piqued my curiosity, but the real slam dunk occurred when I got my hands on the game. I played a section starring Vortex, a Combaticon that turns into a helicopter and a jet in Fall of Cybertron. His section of the game allows you to hover above groups of Autobots and fire missiles or transform into a robot for some visceral melee combat. By the time I was finished speeding out of an exploding Autobot base in Vortex’s jet form, I was sold.
After returning to the Game Informer office following E3 I immediately checked out Transformers: War for Cybertron from the vault. I popped the game in and was immediately impressed by the graphical polish, explosive setpieces, and transformation abilities. War for Cybertron carries a pretty serious overall tone, but I picked up on the goofiness lurking beneath. I was in the mood for goofy, and decided it was time to experience the origin of the goofy transforming-robot dynasty.
So I booted up Netflix Instant and crossed my fingers that the original 1980s cartoon series was on there. It was (and still is, so watch it). The show immediately explained the origin of the Transformers. Turns out they weren’t Earth vehicles to begin with, but used our cars and planes and blueprints to rebuild themselves after crash-landing. I continued watching the show while playing through War for Cybertron, which helped me appreciate both versions more. Watching Starscream’s constant attempts to usurp Megatron in the show made seeing nods to this in the game more meaningful and hilarious.
While I now appreciate the fundamentally awesome premise of robots that turn into trucks and jets and shoot lasers at each other, I really love The Transformers cartoon for how absurd it gets:
I finished most of the first-generation The Transformers cartoons by the time Transformers: Fall of Cybertron came out. Having seen the majority of the classic series made returning to High Moon’s universe even more meaningful. The beginning sequence involving the Ark’s escape from Cybertron carried more weight because I was educated about these robots’ origin. Starscream’s coronation, rise to power, and eventual humbling at the hands of Megatron was more enjoyable because I’d seen all their hijinks. All this newfound Transformers appreciation combined with the strides High Moon made in terms of pacing and gunplay resulted in a wonderful experience.
Meanwhile, I had been talking with other Transformers nerds at the Game Informer office like Matt Miller and Andrew Reiner. These lore-masters were always eager to answer my questions about the befuddling story or find out what happened in the last episode I watched. We chatted about multiple elements of the show, but one thing rang loud in every conversation: “You gotta watch the 1986 animated film.” Both Miller and Reiner spoke breathlessly about how impactful this movie was on their young minds. I felt like my time with High Moon’s Transfomers games and the original series was building to the film.
I finally watched The Transformers: The Movie animated film a couple of weeks ago. A handful of fellow coworkers and I assembled to watch it as a capstone for my inauguration into the series. I had been regaling them with stories of how ludicrous the 1980s cartoon is, and they were eager to have some beers and laugh along with me. But amidst the chuckles and confusion there was genuine disbelief on my part. Hasbro wanted to get a new line of Transformers toys in kids’ hands, and that meant clearing out the old line. The Transformers film unceremoniously kills off a huge portion of the robots that had grown on me over the months, and it was surreal watching them go.
I feel like I’ve consumed enough Transformers over the past year to confidently say I’m a fan of the series. I don’t have the nostalgia everyone else does, nor have I seen the Michael Bay sequels, but I love the quirky, self-aware vibe the series still exudes. I’ve dabbled in the new Transformers: Prime show and watched a couple episodes of Beast Wars, but I’m happy I gave the original robots in disguise another chance. I just took a strange route to get there.
Email the author Tim Turi, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.
i love transformers.. i love them.. i love them.. i love them!.. however ive experimented and found out one thing.. chicks and transformers are incompatible.. despite seeing all the films, owning both games.. my gal still has zero love for transformers!.. i even got her an Arcee model.. she still just doesnt get it and goes off about the movies! im even advising her Mark Walberg will be in the new trilogy! want to know her response? ..
How come JEM isnt getting any renewals or she-ra.. i told her.. just wait till paul ws anderson and mila finish up with RE-6.. then we can talk.
I grew up on G1, so I definitely have that nostalgia. I saw the Movie (1986) in theaters (3 or 4 times, at least - my parents wouldn't take me any more after that). In fact, Transformers: The Movie is in my opinion one of the greatest things ever made by humankind. It also has the greatest soundtrack in movie history.
I've seen every Transformers series yet released, with the exception of Transformers: Zone (Japan only, though I watched Master Force & Victory about 10 years ago) & Seasons 2+ on Transformers Animated (just never got around to watching the rest of it - not a fan of the art style).
I have been extremely surprised by Transformers Prime. I really don't care for the live-action style designs(we shall not speak of the vile abomination that is the live-action movies), but the story & voice-acting have been fantastic. Prime has a definite G1 feel (greatly aided by the return of the incomparable Frank Welker as Megatron), but with more modern & mature storytelling.
I was also turned nto a transformers fan, albeit by High Moon's War For Cybertron.
Don't bother watching anymore of the Bayformers, or probably Prime. You've got yourself mostly all of the good that there is in the Transformers universe with G1, the High Moon games, and Beast Wars/Beast Machines :)
I still don't know much about the franchise (and I don't count Michael Bay's films for anything) but I really did enjoy both games by High Moon. Great games for any fan of sci-fi action.
High Moon Studio's games also sold me on The Transformers as great video games from a franchise that I had not previously latched onto. Seamlessly transforming from robots to vehicles is fantastic gameplay. However, I would advise you not to watch Michael Bay's movie sequels. The initial movie captured that serious but goofy narrative well but the follow ups emulated the worst aspects of the original's 1980's cash grab.
Man, a lot of you guys act like you know nothing about life. Isn't it safe to say that the reason Megatron kept Starscream around is because he is a dangerous threat to Megatron's command when left unchecked?! "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer".
When Starscream was cast out of the Decepticons, he went and created the Combaticons, remember? Didn't he also setup the Triplechangers to take over the Decepticons?! My memory is hazy on that one and I may be wrong.
The botton line is...DON'T LEAVE A WARRIOR LIKE STARSCREAM UNATTENDED UNTIL YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN YOU NO LONGER REQUIRE HIS SERVICES!!!
R.I.P. Chris Latta.