Yeah, it’s considered sacrilege to make this statement, but I stand by it. In the 1980’s, I hated Transformers. Nowadays, outside of Beast Wars, I still hate Transformers. Even as a kid I always felt Gobots did a number of things better with a similar premise — all which Beast Wars eventually did as well, more or less.
1) Each Gobot had a unique appearance.
Every review of the Transformers movies brings up the problem with the robots being virtually indistinguishable from one another. It always makes me laugh because I had the same problem in the 80’s: many Transformers were palette-swaps of one another. Most of them weren’t, but even the “unique” ones were so similar-looking, that even now I could count the Autobots and Decepticons that’re recognizable to me on one hand. Gobots never had this problem: every character had a distinct look that made them memorable for a kid, something Transformers never tried until the 3D era. There were two spiders in Beast Wars, but you couldn’t possibly mix them up. Star Scream was one of what, nine identical asshole jets?
2) Gobots transformations were true to the toys.
In the cartoon, Transformers more-or-less magically morphed between robot mode and vehicle mode. In the Gobots cartoon, the robots were modeled after the toys so closely that they transformed just like their toy counterparts — very cool in an era when the toys often only vaguely resembled their animated incarnations. It made the show feel more authentic, as if the same people were behind both products.
3) The origin story of Gobots is more twisted and badass.
Transformers are sentient machines from a mechanical planet, who disguise themselves as vehicles so they can blend in on earth (y’know, where they’re constantly fighting out in the open). Gobots were flesh and blood once, but were so bent on ensuring their enemy’s destruction, that both sides had their brains implanted in immortal robot bodies so they could continue to fight, from planet to planet if necessary. Holy shit, man.
4) Gobots support equal rights better.
Can anyone other than hardcore unhealthily-obsessed fans name a female Transformer other than Arcee and Black Arachnia? At a glance it seems like there weren’t any female Transformers who were worth a shit until Beast Wars. Maybe there have been more since Black Arachnia, but let’s focus on the cartoons from the 80’s, since the focus here is what I grew up with. Watch 3 random episodes of the original Transformers cartoon and you might see Arcee, either in the background or maybe-possibly doing something proactive. Do the same with Gobots, and 3 out of 3 episodes will prominently feature Crasher, Cy-kill’s female lieutenant, as she commands the troops or ruins somebody’s shit while laughing like a maniac. You’re likely to see some heroic female ‘bots from time to time as well (and they looked just as clunky as the male ‘bots, which a commenter kindly reminded me of).
Skids and Mudflap would never appear in a modern Gobots movie, I’ll say that much. Which reminds me…
5) Gobots has no overrated movies.
It blows my mind that the Transformers movie from the 80’s is regarded as some sort of nostalgic Holy Grail. Yeah, it’s better than the terrible G.I. Joe movie from the same era. Yeah, it’s leagues better than the godawful Michael Bay movies. But it’s still shit, even for kids’ entertainment. I won’t say that the Gobots movie is superior…Actually, hell with it, I will say it’s superior: the plot isn’t as convoluted; it doesn’t use annoyingly out-of-place pop music for the soundtrack; and above all, it doesn’t try to be anything more pretentious than a movie for entertaining kids — one which doesn’t carry a supremely undeserved reputation-of-awesomeness like the Transformers movie does. Oh yeah, and did I mention that the Go-Bots movie doesn’t kill all the main characters within the first ten minutes?
In the end, I suppose I’m glad that Gobots didn’t survive the 80’s to be molested by brainless, talentless, immature denizens of Hollywood and reduced to a terrible mockery of what it once was. As much as I diss Transformers, the travesty that franchise has become still makes me a little sad. Then again, kids eat it up like candy, just like my generation did the “infinitely superior” animated movie in the 1980’s, so what does that tell ya?