Where Transformers had giant robots coming to Earth to fight the evil Decepticons, Gobots's Guardians are here to stop the Renegades. Instead of coming from Cybertron, these transforming heroes come from Gobotron. One difference I found interesting was the fact that Transformers seemed to have a rather large cast of both good guys and bad guys, while Gobots sticks to a rather small number of core robots on both sides and each episode tends to swap out a character for a recurring guest spot.
The main cast of Guardians consists of Leader-1, Scooter and Turbo with characters like Rest-Q and the female Gobots Path Finder and Small Foot as some of the guest characters. Meanwhile, the Renegades primarily contained Cy-Kill, Crasher and Cop-Tur with others like Creeper-Creeper, Snoop and Pincher occasionally filling out their ranks.
This Volume 1 release contains 30 episodes that pit the two sides against each other with the human race caught in between. While most episodes are formulaic, there are a few that really stood out for one reason or another. In one, the Guardians return to Gobotron and we learn that there is a dark underbelly to the planet where most Gobots fear to tread. When several allies are captured, we learn that Cy-Kill's origins have him being brought up in this seedy part of the planet, while another episode has humans creating a robot whose logic circuits go crazy and he decides to destroy all organic life. Cy-Kill convinces the robot to join forces with the Renegades, but when it's revealed that Gobots aren't pure machine (like their Transformer counterparts), but are actually organic brains in transforming robots, the new ally has a mental breakdown. Other episodes include one where Scooter (Frank Welker) replaces his holographic projectors with guns, and one where Turbo is trashed and reconstructed by some local grease monkeys.
In the Hanna Barbera tradition, the animation isn't the most detailed, but unlike Transformers, Challenge of the Gobots actually shows the cartoon characters transforming the same way the toys do ... then again, the mechanics for converting the toys between robot and vehicle were always much simpler and generally required little more than standing the car up and pulling out the arms or twisting a couple of appendages a certain way. So while this is a notable difference between the cartoon series, it more or less shows off the simplistic nature of the corresponding toys.
Challenge of the Gobots: The Series: Volume 1 is by no means a masterful piece of animation. The plots are fairly shallow and predictable, with more holes than Sam Beckett's memory, but if you want to grab a bit of 80's history, then this is one of those pieces that hasn't been available before now.
Like several other releases we've reviewed by Warner Archives, Challenge of the Gobots: The Series: Volume 1 is an on demand product, meaning that Warner Brothers doesn't make the disc until you ask for it, so don't expect to see this particular DVD set in stores. Instead, use the link below to pick up your piece of 80's nostalgia.