Retro Review: Transformers Robots in Disguise (2001) Sideways vs. Axer

Up until now, the majority of my reviews have been on current toys: the stuff that’s out on the shelves right now (or at least at the time the review was written). Obviously, these kinds of reviews are probably going to be the most helpful for people, as people are generally more interested in current toys than old ones. However, Transformers is a toyline that has been running for 31 years and counting. Even I have only been alive for nearly 2/3 of that time, and I’ve only been collecting for barely 1/3 of it. There have been hundreds of transforming robot toys from the past few decades; some of them are awesome, some of them are horrible, but all of them are part of Transformers history.

With that in mind, I’m going to start reviewing some older Transformers figures that have found their way into my collection. I’m hoping to go for the obscure side of things, shedding some light on figures you may not even know existed. Some of these toys will be figures that I grew up with, and many will predate me. For the first of these Retro Reviews, I’m taking a look at a flea market find I picked up just this month: from the 2001 Robots in Disguise line, we have the two-wheeled two-pack of Sideways vs. Axer.


Vehicle Modes

As you can see, this is a two-pack of dueling motorcycles, with Sideways as the yellow and black Autobot bike and Axer as the black and gold Decepticon cycle. For a bit of background, these fellows were released in the 2001 Robots in Disguise line, a toyline notorious for being 80% repaints. As such, these two are actually redecoes of the 1995 Laser Cycles from G2: Road Rocket and Road Pig. This is an important detail to keep in mind as we take a closer look at these guys; a lot of RID toys hold up pretty well today in terms of articulation and aesthetics. These guys… well, we’ll see.


Sideways (no relation (probably)) is, according to TFWiki, a Yamaha GTS1000A racing motorcycle. I looked up an image of said motorcycle to see how accurate it is, and I then realized that I am very much not a motorcycle guy, so it pretty much looks the same as any other racing motorcycle. Anyway, I’m pretty sure the actual motorcycle doesn’t have a rubber wire sticking out of the side. That’s for the primary gimmick of the Laser Cycles, which we’ll get to later. For now, you can press a little grey button just behind the dashboard (is that what they’re called on motorcycles?), which makes his conspicuously-translucent rear axle glow red. Hmm…


Accuracy aside (and who really cares?), Sideways is a pretty slick-looking bike, with no robot mode kibble to speak of and what look to be pretty decent proportions. He also has a bit of a kickstand on his underside, which is always helpful. He’s a little sparse in the way of paint applications (I feel like he’s really missing a taillight), but it’s not too bad. Sideways is probably one of the nicest Transformers motorcycles I’ve handled.


Axer’s (apparently it’s the G1 guy) vehicle mode seems to favor style and looks over speed, taking the form of what is supposed to be a Harley-Davidson Electra Glide. The proportions seem a tad off, with the wheels being a bit too small and the front area thing being a bit too big, especially the windshield. Still, the gold-on-black colors look pretty sweet, though the bits of navy blue seem a tad out of place. He has a kickstand part similar to Sideways, but it’s a bit loose and has a hard time supporting the weight of the toy itself. 


I can’t say Axer is quite as visually impressive as Sideways, but maybe that’s just my own motorcycle bias leaking through. If nothing else, his Laser Cycle gimmick is a bit less obvious, with the translucent bit forming a tailpipe and the wire keeping close to to the core of the bike (though you can tuck it between his robot mode arms to keep it out of sight, if you prefer). I’d say you can press a similar button on Axer to make his tailpipe glow red, but the LED on mine is incredibly weak, so it doesn’t really work. Bummer, man. 


When it comes to Transformers what are motorcycles, one of the first things I do is to find them a suitable driver. These guys are roughly Scout-sized, so the closest fit that I could find would be 3.75″ figures, such as Star Wars or Marvel Universe. Captain Fordo seems an almost perfect partner for Sideways, though he is a bit big to look 100% in scale.


I took way too many pictures of these two together. Happy coincidence: Sideways’ (and, by extension, Axer’s) fistholes just happen to be the proper size for Tamashii stand pegs, and one of the former’s fists ends up at the bottom of his motorcycle mode. Hooray for semi-standardized peg sizes!


Axer, on the other hand, was a bit harder to cram a rider onto, just due to the odd shape of his motorcycle. I went through a ton of figures, but the most flexible was the commando droid, and even he looks a bit off (and has a hard time holding the handlebars, but that’s more the droid’s fault for not having proper hands). Damn it Axer, be more rider-friendly!


Robot Modes

Starting this time with Axer, the robot modes are what really betray the age of these toys. Right off the bat, his proportions just scream 90’s Transformer, with weirdly-crooked, barely articulated legs, spindly ball-jointed arms, and a very generic headsculpt. None of this is necessarily a negative, however; he definitely has a sort of charm to him. 


His colors (or, I guess, lack thereof) and nondescript plated face give him a sort of ninja vibe, or at least some kind of stealth operator. His milky-white eyes pipe light extremely well, and it looks great against his all-black face. They aren’t the most imaginative colors, but Axer makes them work. It helps that since his body is a sea of darkness, a lot of the more awkward bits of his robot mode are obscured. His huge motorcycle front chest and glass crotchplate just look weird, though.


Now, honestly, if you were expecting anything impressive out of the articulation section by now, you should really take a step back and examine yourself. Axer has ball-jointed hips, shoulders, and elbows, and a swivel neck. That’s it. Okay, technically he has joints in his legs, but none of them really function as anything resembling a knee. This lack of leg articulation coupled with his awkwardly-shaped feet make Axer a real pain to stand, let alone pose. If you get creative, though, you can make it work.


A stand really helps, too. Props to Axer for being able to actually look dynamic, though! I never knew he had it in him.


Moving on to Sideways, who boasts a much more proportional and normal-looking robot mode. Well, as “normal” as one can look when one has enormous wheels just sticking off of one’s shoulders. I wouldn’t call him visually impressive, but I think he looks pretty cool. Oddly enough, while I loved the ninja-like headsculpt on Axer, I think it does Sideways a disservice, as it very much gets lost with his yellow chest and high-set backpack, which also often obstructs the lightpiping. And since you can’t really see it, his headsculpt is a bit more hood-like than Axer’s.


Despite appearances and a higher numerical amount of joints, Sideways’ articulation really isn’t all that much more impressive than Axer’s. He has balljointed elbows, shoulders, hips, and knees, but the knees are so high up his leg that they’re practically useless. His shoulders are equally dysfunctional, as all his kibble prevents his arms from achieving any outward motion. On the other hand, he does have a waist rotation, and you can detach his torso from his backpack to give him something that kind of resembles an ab crunch. It’s not much, but it’s something!


Here’s this odd duo once more as a size comparison, showing that Sideways (and Axer) are about the same height as 3.75″ figures in robot mode. Something about this dynamic gives me a serious Auto Vajin vibe.



Sideways and Axer are an interesting throwback to the waning years of the G2 toyline, when LEDs were all the rage and ball joints were just being implemented (and not yet in the most effective of ways). Compared to their original molds, the predominantly-black RID duo are a bit more dull in their color schemes, but I think that works to their advantage. The Laser Cycles were advertised as ninjas, but these guys really look like robot ninjas. Are these good toys? It depends on how you look at it. They’re not super posable or particularly impressive in terms of engineering, but they are pretty fun and they have some really nice motorcycle modes, Sideways in particular. If you can find these guys for a decent price ($20 max), I’d say pick them up, especially if you’ve never handled a toy from the G2 era. My, how far we’ve come.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: