Transformers Vintage G1 Cassette 3-Pack Toy Review

in 2019, Action Figure Review, Generation One, Generation One (Vintage G1), Hasbro Pulse

Generation One Vintage G1 Reissues

General Information:
Price: $34.99
Retailer: Hasbro Pulse Exclusive
Release Date: September 2019
Accessories: Laser Blasters x 2 (Gurafi), Fire Blaster Cannons x 2 (Noizu), Blasters x 2 (Frenzy)

Vintage G1 Mini-Cassettes 3-Pack

Official Photos above and text in italics below are from Hasbro Pulse:
Experience the figures that started it all. These Transformers: Vintage G1 Mini-Cassette 3-Pack figures are designed like the original G1 versions -- including figure styling, packaging, and art inspired by the 1987 G1 releases, plus classic tech specs and accessories. (Re)start a vintage Transformers collection with these Noizu, Gurafi, and Decepticon Frenzy figures. Decepticon Frenzy craves spreading fear and destruction. Can roll his drums to produce high-pitch sound of 200db.

Gurafi is the calmest of his teammates. Beak can tear through 5 cm of steel and has low-powered laser that blinds enemies. Noizu is the most violent of the Dinocassettes. Crumbles steel reinforced bridge supports in a single blow. Noizu and Gurafi combine to form Decibel. Clip out and save the on-box tech specs to share, then see how this figure stacks up against other heroic Autobots and evil Decepticons (each sold separately).

Includes: 3 figures, 6 accessories, and instructions.

  • The Vintage G1 Mini-Cassettes 3-Pack features figures inspired by the 1987 G1 releases of Noizu, Gurafi, and Decepticon Frenzy figures
  • Fans can imagine Autobot Dinocassettes Noizu and Gurafi teaming up to take on the evil Decepticon Frenzy in an epic mini-cassette battle!
  • Autobot Dinocassettes Noizu and Gurafi figures combine to form the powerful and quick Decibel
  • Inspired by the original G1 packaging, this 3-pack features the original G1 Transformers logo, character art, and classic Autobots versus Decepticon battle scene.
  • Complete tech specs for all three figures are included on the pack in the classic G1 style fans know and love. Compare figures’ strength, speed, firepower, and more.
  • Ages 6 and up

As of 2019, Transformers will be thirty five years old, making it one of the longest, continuously running action figure toy lines on the market. Of course, as time passes, so does the potential for nostalgia, especially for the original series that started the toy line. Enter the Vintage G1 sub-line of figures. This series originally came out as a series of Walmart exclusives. However, at one time Hasbro was planning some Vintage G1 releases for the HasCon 2019 convention. The figures chosen were the Japanese exclusive dino cassettes Gurafi and Noizu along with Frenzy. Since that convention never happened, Hasbro decided to use its online Hasbro Pulse shop as the avenue to release these figures.

Gurafi and Noizu are both toys that achieved near mythological status among Transformers fans over the years. These were two dinosaur cassettes only released in Japan. Following the model set down by figures like Grand Slam and Raindance, these two figures each had an individual transformation and the ability to combine into one robot. For a long time these figures commanded hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of dollars on the secondary market with many fans believing they never stood a chance at being reissued. Now here we are many years later with these figures having finally been sold outside Japan. That said, this release did not last very long. Hasbro Pulse sold out of this set within a week or so of posting it online, with no word on whether it will be restocked or not. At the time of this writing, it is very possible that Gurafi and Noizu will once again enter the realm of being a "secondary market only" set once again.

Packaging:
Gurafi, Noizu and Frenzy are all packaged on an unusual card design. Similar to the G1 cassette two packs, Gurafi and Noizu are packaged on one card. Each Autobot is in cassette mode in one bubble with a separate bubble above them containing their weapons. Attached to that card is another one (with an indentation between them) featuring Frenzy, also packaged in cassette mode with his weapons above him. The cards feature the classic G1 grid background complete with beautiful color gradients in the background and the blocky, retro Transformers logo on top. Hasbro also went the extra mile and cleane dup the original G1 character art for both Gurafi and Noizu to put on their side of the card while Frenzy's artwork is featured on the other.

The single carded Frenzy may seem like a bit of an anomaly, especially with the Laserbeak/Frenzy Vintage G1 reissues in stores at the same time as this release. However, this version actually has slightly different deco than that release (more below). Also, a single carded Frenzy was released in the mid-80's in Japan. This is a bit of a homage to that even though the packaging design is different.

The back of the packaging features tech specs which have only been printed in English. This is likely due to this having been intended as a HasCon excluisve and being limited to Hasbro Pulse, thus eliminating much of the international market from consideration when developing the cards. Instructions for each cassette are also printed on the back, though there are none for combining Gurafi and Noizu despite the tech specs calling out that ability. The 1984 "battle scene" artwork is used on Frenzy's side of the card and the "Robot Points" square has been replaced with an Autobot symbol and the "Authentic Transformers" text. In another wonderfully retro touch, the Hasbro logo used in the corner is the logo used in the 1980's.

As with most of the Vintage G1 packaging so far this set is beautiful. Now, personally I would have loved it if Hasbro had reproduced the box packaging used in Japan for all three figures, but I can understand the potential cost issues involved so these are fine by me.

Frenzy Review

Cassette Mode:
Frenzy's alt-mode is a micro-cassette. Though not exactly popular nowadays, back in the 80's and 90's micro-cassette recorders were fairly commonplace, making this a good "disguise" for a sneaky Decepticon! This mode is rectangular in shape with two holes representing where the spools for the cassette tape would wind around. Each of the spools has a series of small indentations that are similar to what you would find on a real life cassette. One side features of a lot of the robot mode details and the other is more smooth as it was designed to accomodate a series of stickers that would give the illusion of a "real" cassette tape.

For those wondering, Hasbro did not simply take the G1 tooling and fire it up again. In 2009 when this sculpt was reissued as part of Takara Tomy's Encore line, fans speculated that the tooling had been cleaned up and fixed up for that release. It is possible that this figure used that same tooling, though it lacks the "Tomy 2009" copyright information that was found on the Encore release.

Frenzy is cast in two shades of blue plastic with several parts made up of die-cast metal (all visible if you look at the top edge of the cassette). On the side with the robot details you will see several painted gold details (instead of the vacuum metallized gold found on the G1 toy) and a Decepticon symbol sticker. On the other side are stickers that include the "tape spools" inside a faux "window" and the alpha numeric "MC 60", which refers to this being a Micro Cassette with 60 minutes of storage space. The top corner also features the letter "A", indicating this is the "A" side of the cassette. On top of these stickers is the Vintage G1 style heat sensitive symbol.

In this mode, Frenzy can fit into the various Soundwave and/or Soundblaster figures that have come out over the years. You can also attach the weapons to the cassette in this mode (which I used to imagine as some type of gun emplacement when I was a kid).

Transformation to Robot Mode:

  1. Swing the sides of the cassette out and down to begin forming the robot legs.
  2. Rotate the legs so the feet point in the same direction as the robot torso (the darker blue side without all the stickers).
  3. Slide the feet out.
  4. Pull the robot arms out from the top edge of the cassette and swing them down to the sides.
  5. The weapons can be attacked to the arms or the back of the robot mode.

Robot Mode:
As a kid I always loved the look of the Frenzy/Rumble robot design. The head was distinctive with its crest/mohawk and panels on the sides. The visor eyes and stern expression on the face gave them a very serious, almost scary look. The various details sculpted into the torso reminded you of the alien technology behind this design while the cassette "spools" still received a bit of a shout out on the chest. To this day the design of Frenzy holds up and would look right at home on your Generations shelf.

This mode mostly shows off the dark blue plastic with some lighter blue plastic sticking out on parts such as the biceps and lower legs. The biggest difference between this release of Frenzy and others is the head deco. The dot above Frenzy's eyes is painted red and his eyes are unpainted (while the rest of the face is silver). I cannot help but think this is a reference to something obscure from G1 lore but I confess to having a hard time thinking of what that could be. Regardless, this helps distinguish this version of Frenzy from his Walmart exclusive Vintage G1 counterpart. The torso features gold paint on several parts. As mentioned above, in G1 these were vacuum metallized, but I am okay with the gold paint as the vac metal had a tendency to wear off. Stickers are used for detailing on the biceps, forearms and lower legs. For those looking to distinguish this figure from previous releases, the stickers used on this figure use reflective foil versus the G1 releases which used a more flat metallic sticker background.

There are twelve points of articulation on this figure, which makes it one of the most articulated figures of that era. This includes four points in each arm and two in each leg. You can attach the weapons to his back as a sort of rocket pack or slide them over each forearm.

Gurafi

Cassette Mode:
Gurafi (aka Graphy) is the same basic size and shape of Cassette-bots that came before him such as Frenzy. Like the previous cassettes, one side leans into the cassette details while the other has more mechanical looking details that call back to Gurafi himself! One side is mostly flat to accomodate stickers (more on that in a bit). The other side has a bunch of line details and even some pistons.

When compared to the original Gurafi, there are some notable differences. First, the pins that hold the lower parts of the cassette together are flat on this new version whereas on the original they are curved. Also, the grooves that form the various mechanical details on the back of the cassette are notably wider on this new version. There are also some interesting detail differences, suggesting this figure is reverse engineered from an existing Gurafi toy. On the original, there are a series of circles on the "B" side of the cassette that are not present on the Vintage G1 release. Also, there are some pill shaped details on the Vintage G1 version of the figure that are actually more angled and rectangular on the original. Perhaps the most significant change is the loss of the "Takara '87" copyright. On the original Gurafi this is sculpted into the front of the cassette. On this new version that area is smooth.

Gurafi is cast in red and black plastic. The "A" side of the cassette features silver and black stickers with red letters and numbers on them. Like Frenzy, the stickers indicate this is the "A" side. It also shows the text "MC 60" indicating it is a micro cassette with 60 minutes of storage. It also says "Metal Position", text that can be found on many of the 1984 cassettes. The stickers in the middle have lines and numbers on them, which on real cassettes were used to give you an idea of just where in the tape you were time-wise. Interestingly, the stickers on the Vintage G1 version go all the way to th eedge of the cassette while the original G1 version had stickers that stopped short of the edge, leaving a bit of a red border.

Truth be told a lot of these differences are so minor most fans would not even notice unless you had the original Gurafi right next to the new one and stared at them like I did. Overall the cassette mode looks great and yes, you can fit him inside Blaster's chest compartment!

Transformation to Beast Mode:

  1. Swing the sides of the cassette out.
  2. On the end of each wing, swing out the section with the weapons port.
  3. Swing the beast mode feet on the bottom of the cassette forward.
  4. Swing the robot head up and forward.
  5. Attach the weapons to the wings.

Beast Mode:
Gurafi is a robotic Pteranodon in beast mode. He has wings, small feet and a head with a long beak and a crest that extends back. If you're thinking his wings are a bit chunky, you're not wrong, but hey, it was a different time and we were willing to accept chunky wings! In all seriousness, the mode looks cool and the proportions make it look vaguely alien despite its Earth-based inspiration.

Aside from the details I went over in the cassette mode review, there are two key differences between the original Gurafi and this new one. There are grooves on the sides of the head that are actually deeper cut on the G1 version versus this one. On top of that, if you take a look inside the slot left uncovered by moving the beast mode head you will see "Hasbro SA © TOMY VIETNAM". On the G1 version this area is flat. These differences are minor and in no way ruin the look or feel of the figure. Indeed, this gives fans a nice, concrete way of telling the reissue apart from its G1 ancestor.

This mode mostly shows off red plastic, but we get to see a bit more of the black plastic via the neck and "arms". The eyes are painted yellow and the chest has a heat sensitive symbol on it. This is the "new style" of symbol developed for Vintage G1 with the more pronounced chin and less color variations when heat is applied.

If you want to be generous, there are six points of articulation on this figure. This includes two on the wings, the feet being able to move in and out and the neck (which has two points). The weapons attach to the wings and look like wind up shooting out to the sides. There's no way to really point them forward. In an interesting note, while the weapons fit nice and snug on the Vintage G1 Gurafi, when I tried to attach them to the G1 version the fit was too tight so they would not go all the way in.

Noizu

Cassette Mode:
Noizu (aka Noise) is designed in such a way that his alt-mode is kind of given away from the get go. From the front or back you can clearly see his T-Rex (or possibly Allosaurus) style head and arms. That said, he still has the "A" and "B" side divisions like other cassette-bots. The "A" side is focused on looking as much like a "real" cassette as possible while the back side has all sorts of mechanical looking details. These details include pistons, possibly wires and several grooves and lines adding some greebles to the back. Sure a lot of the details give away the game but just condensing a dinosaur into a cassette is a fun concept that I have always found appealing.

Like Gurafi, there are some key differences between the G1 Noizu figure and this new Vintage G1 version. Like Gurafi, the pins that hold parts in place on G1 Noizu are curved on top while the Vintage G1 version have flat tops. Another difference is the removal of the copyright information. On G1 Noizu "© Takara '87" sculpted into the lower edge of side "A" of the cassette. On the Vintage G1 figure this area is smooth with no copyright information. Looking at the "B" side, a lot of the mechanical details are a bit less sharply defined than the original. Perhaps the easiest example to see is a triangle that looks really sharp on the original while the edges on the Vintage G1 version are a tad dull. Again, this is a lot of nitpicking mostly in the name of posterity. Fact is, the cassette mode looks great (dino head and all).

Noizu is cast in light blue plastic. I believe my G1 Noizu has discolored a bit over the years, but it looks noticably darker but it is possible in 1987 it was the same light blue as this new version. The "A" side features several red, black and silver stickers complete with the "A", "MC 60" and "Metal Position" text fans have come to expect on these cassette-bots. The heat sensitive Autobot symbol is attached to the left side of the cassette (assuming you are facing side "A"). Interestingly, like Gurafi the stickers on this figure reach all the way to the edges while on G1 Noizu the stickers only came close to the edge leaving a blue "border" of color. On both sides of this mode you can see Noizu's red beast mode eyes, but we'll just pretend we don't see those, shall we?

Transformation Beast Mode:

  1. Swing the bottom of the cassette down.
  2. Swing the half of the cassette with the dinosaur head on it back so it is up against the other half.
  3. Swing the tail halves all the way back.
  4. Swing the dinosaur arms down.
  5. Swing the dinosaur head forward.
  6. Attach the weapons to to the sides.

Beast Mode:
Noizu is a T-rex or Allosaurus type dinosaur in this mode. In keeping with the 80's understanding of dinosaurs, Noizu is positioned in an upright position rather than the more modern "horizontal" position. The head has narrow eyes and teeth sculpted into the mouth. There is a claw sculpted into each arm at the ends. The rest of the figure relies on mechanical detailing such as the aforementioned pistons and greebles.

When comparing the G1 and Vintage G1 versions of the figure, there are no further differences in this mode beyond the ones mentioned above.

There are four points of articulation in this mode: the head and the arms. The animal-based cassette-bots were never paragons of articulated figures so this is not a big deal at all. With the weapons attached it is not a huge leap of imagination to think about Noizu charging across the battlefield blasting away!

Decibel

Transformation to Decibel (Starting in cassette mode)

  1. Starting with Gurafi, swing each wing piece down to begin forming the legs.
  2. Swing out the ends of each wing piece to form Decibel's heels.
  3. Swing out each foot piece on Decibel's feet.
  4. Rotate the legs around so the black foot pieces point in the same direction as the heat sensitive symbol.
  5. On Noizu, swing out the rectangular piece above the dinosaur head to reveal Decibel's head.
  6. Swing the section with Decibel's head up over the other half of the cassette.
  7. Swing out the panels on the front and back of the cassette with the tail halves on them.
  8. Connect Noizu to Gurafi using the peg on Noizu and the port on the bottom of Gurafi's beast mode head.
  9. Attach Noizu's weapons to the ports on either side of Decibel's head.
  10. Attach Gurafi's weapons to the ankles.

Decibel is the combined form of Gurafi and Noizu. Unlike other cassette-bot combiners such as Slamdance, the two do not connect on top of one another to form the combined robot. Instead, with Noizu connected to the back of Gurafi, the robot winds up looking a bit odd. The intention is to have Gurafi's body forming the torso of Decibel, but in actuality it looks more like Noizu is hiding behind Gurafi. That said, there are some cool elements to the design. Noizu's tail halves form the arms and the designers made sure to sculpt fists into the ends (though they look almost like elongated claw hands). The robot head is very blocky, looking reminiscent of G1 Bonecrusher's head complete with a flat panel on top, visor eyes and a small mouth piece. It is not a bad looking robot if you kind of tilt your head and wink your eye, but it does not quite come together as well as other cassette combiners do.

In terms of tooling differences from the original, there are a couple key differences. First, all the sculpted details are much sharper and defined on the original Decibel. Also, on the original Decibel there are sections on the Noizu portion of the chest with vertical bars on either side. On the Vintage G1 version this bar is missing. Instead there are flat sections with copyright information on them.

The newly revealed parts in this mode include the head, arms and feet but there are no huge surprises. Color-wise the only real new detail is silver on the head. The heat sensitive symbol from Noizu winds up right in front of the head, which is kind of funny because the symbol on Gurafi is right on the torso so he winds up having two symbols showing very close to one another.

There are two points of articulation on this figure: the arms. However, it is not particularly meaningful articulation as they just swing out to the sides and back down.

Unfortunately there is one design flaw with this figure. The section with Decibel's head is a tad heavy, so it pulls on Gurafi's beast mode head. On my copy of this set, the hinge that supports Gurafi's neck is not strong enough to hold the Noizu section with Decibel's head up, so the entire Noizu part winds up flopping backwards when you try to stand this figure up. I wound up popping Gurafi's neck/head piece off, applying some clear nail polish to the joint and reattaching it for a stronger grip. This did the trick for me, but I do advise being very careful about taking your figures apart to "fix". I have not read many stories of rampant "Noizu flopping" so I am not sure how widespread this problem is, but it is something to keep in mind.

Final Thoughts:
It is absolutely extraordinary that this set even exists. For the longest time adding Gurafi and Noizu to your collection was only a pipe dream, but thanks to this set that dream became a reality for many fans. That said, the initial Hasbro Pulse supply of these three sold out quick, and there is no word if any restock is ever going to happen so once again Gurafi and Noizu are relegated to the realm of the secondary market. That said, it will still cost you far less than $500+ to own the pair (and Frenzy too!). Recommended if you find it at a reasonable price (read: under $100 USD).

Pros:

  • First release of Gurafi and Noizu outside of Japan.
  • Beautiful packaging.
  • Construction feels solid (the issue with Gurafi's neck/head in Decibel mode aside).
  • Nice deco/stickers on both figures.
  • Fun play value.

Cons:

  • The Gurafi neck/head issue is one I hope is not widespread. If it is this will frustrate many fans (before they add polish or something else to tighten up the hinge).
  • Currently sold out on Hasbro Pulse, so you will have to chase this item down on the secondary market.