The Unicron Trilogy is a sub-division of the overall Transformers franchise that refers to the following series (English title first, Japanese title in brackets):
- Transformers: Armada (Transformers: Micron Legend)
- Transformers: Energon (Transformers: Super Link)
- Transformers: Cybertron (Transformers: Galaxy Force)
The name comes from the Transformers: Generation 1 villain introduced in the animated movie, which was the first time the character had been adapted for a new television series. Each series in the Unicron Trilogy dealt with the classic Transformers lore of the war between the Autobots and Decepticons, modified for a modern audience. It began with the introduction of the Mini-Cons: smaller Transformers (less than human-sized) that can combine with the larger robots to give them powerful upgrades. The story of their origin and the war to claim their power leads into the introduction of Unicron himself. Energon and Cybertron continued after Unicron's initial defeat with additional problems that arise that could lead to the destruction of Cybertron.
Cybertron the toy line (and thus the gimmicks and preliminary story) was developed by Hasbro to be a continuation of Armada and Energon, but when the anime was developed, it was made as a different continuity line altogether (direct references are made between Armada and Energon, while Cybertron is a little bit more vague about it). The English dub of Cybertron gave it stronger ties as per Hasbro's intention. After some time of contradictory statements, Cybertron was eventually retconned by the Japanese fiction itself.
Because Armada is what kicked off the trilogy, some people refer to it synonymously with that series.
- Animal Mecha: Transformers: Armada only has Laserbeak, but Energon has a different take: The only animal-based bots are the Terrorcons, just sentient enough to take orders. There are hordes of them in each variety, and they are able to eat raw energon and form Energon Stars, this show's version of usable, processed energon. And then there's giant-even-by-Transformer-standard Scorponok, technically a Terrorcon but quite smarter. Cybertron's got a planet full of them, the Cybertronian colony Jungle Planet's inhabitants are all beast-bots.
- Apocalypse Wow: Unicron generates sort of a suction that causes a planet to be torn apart as it's pulled toward him. By the time it reaches him, the planet is in chunks small enough to be pulled inside the (relatively) small circle on his body.
- Art-Shifted Sequel: Transformers: Armada was animated entirely in 2D, while Transformers: Energon made use of cel-shaded CG for the transformers themselves (occasionally switching to 2D or ditching the cel-shading for a few memorable scenes) and 2D for everything else. Transformers: Cybertron did the same but ditched the cell shading entirely.
- Decomposite Character: In most continuities, Hot Rod takes up the name Rodimus or Rodimus Prime as he matures. Here, they're separate characters (with Hot Rod being renamed "Hot Shot" in the American dubs as well as in the original Japanese version of Energon,the only part of the trilogy in which Rodimus appears). They even develop an Intergenerational Friendship and learn to combine into one bot.
- Fusion Dance: Optimus Prime was able to combine with at least two separate Autobots in each series.
- Intelligible Unintelligible: The Mini-Cons initially speak in beeps, (which the humans can somehow understand), although they later learn human language.
- Lost in Translation:
- myriad trademark issues and an attempt to preserve existing trademarks, a lot of characters got a Dub Name Change. This meant a lot of characters who are obviously meant to be Continuity Nods to characters from prior shows getting the homage somewhat garbled. For instance, the guy named "Wheeljack" in the Japanese version and clearly intended to be a design homage to the original Wheeljack got renamed as "Downshift." Due to
- A particularly wonky one is the case of Megatron. In the original dub of Transformers: Armada, he was initially named Megatron, and then got an upgrade consisting of a snazzy new color scheme (which the toy labeled as "Megatron Super Mode"). Then in Transformers: Energon, he got a new body which was rather clearly based on Galvatron's design in The Transformers: The Movie, not to mention the circumstances in general being very Galvatron-esque. So, naturally, he started calling himself Galvatron from that point on. In the dub, though, they decided to have him calling himself Galvatron after he got those new colors in Armada... and then named his form in Energon "Megatron", which didn't make a whole lot of sense either out-of-universe (why is this guy who is clearly designed after Galvatron named Megatron?) or in (why did he go back to being named Megatron?). It only got weirder when he got a similar Palette Swap later in Energon—in the original, he starts calling himself Galvatron General, but in the dub, he... goes back to calling himself Galvatron. Consequently, what was a fairly straightforward homage turned into Megatron apparently alternating between names whenever he got upgraded.
- Unstoppable Rage: Starscream gets a couple of these. The first time occurred in Transformers: Armada after learning that Megatron was plotting to terminate him and replace him with Thrust as the deception's second in command. He got pissed off, powered up, and defeated most of the other Decepticons and defect to the Autobots (for a while). 20 years later in Transformers: Cybertron, he does it again, this time, to the Autobots. He had just betrayed Megatron (again) and has finally obtained an army of his own. What does he do when the Autobots came for the Cyber Planet Keys and the Omega Lock? He goes on a foe-charging attack and defeated and/or almost killed several Autobots.
- Writing Around Trademarks: Megatron kept renaming himself to Galvatron and back so Hasbro could keep both names in active use. Similarly, new characters often have the same names as completely unrelated older characters just so Hasbro can have a claim to the name—Armada Perceptor had nothing whatsoever to do with Generation One Perceptor, but he helped hold on to the trademark until Hasbro decided years later to make a new Perceptor toy.