(originally published on May 3, 2011)
Most people remember Go-Bots as being the Transformer's stupid cousin. Most people who do are probably themselves, somebody else's stupid cousin (who says this blog's not edgy?)! After years of waiting, Hanna-Barbera's fantastic adventure, sci-fi show that was a mega-hit in the 80's is finally coming home to own on Digital Video Disc (and you know I'm excited when I spell out DVD)! The series is being released on May 17th as a manufacture-on-demand product by the Warner Archive collection, and will contain the show's pilot, a five-episode mini-series which can be had for an estimated cost of $14.95.
Critically speaking, I will admit that Go-Bots is not as challenging (pun intended) as Transformers, nor is the animation as dynamic, but where it fails on those points, it makes up for it in consistency. I'm not going to nitpick Transformers. It's one of the greatest animated shows of all time, but all that said and done, it's not fair to point out what it did better than Go-Bots without pointing in kind how Go-Bots actually outshined it.
Like Transformers, Challenge of the Go-Bots featured a group of Robotic beings (well, in Go-Bots they're actually Cyborgs, but I'm not going into all that now) that are divided into two camps: the evil Renegades and the valiant Guardians! They originate the planet of Gobotron which has one of the coolest designs of any alien world I've ever seen!
As would be expected, eventually both Guardian and Renegade alike end up on earth where they adapt their robot bodies to transfor, er, I mean convert (yeah, they call it converting in this show. Biiiiiig difference than transforming) into earth vehicles and from there they go to war.
Go-Bots does offer somethings you don't find in Transformers though. For one, the Guardians are obligated to work with the human military, partly with the aid of General Newcastle and partly through their 3 human liaisons: Nick, Mac, and A.J. This is the first point that goes to Go-Bots. Unlike the Autobots whose companions never have any real reason to hang out with them when they should be out earning a living, the Guardians' companions are there because it's there job. Not only that, but the story had better direction from the start. The series suffers through far fewer plot holes than Transformers did and while the animation is less eye-catching it is more consistent with visual less goofs and virtually no choppy animation. And honestly, for a Hanna-Barbara cartoon the series was surprisingly mature. The first five episodes deal with issues of the Cold War and encourage American and Soviet cooperation.
I'm not going to sell this as the greatest show ever made, but it is good and much better than its been made out to be. It's biggest sin has been living in the shadow of Optimus Prime, but if taken on its own terms and for its own merits, Challenge of the Go-Bots is not only fun, but actually can be quite exhilarating if you catch it at the right moment.