As far as pilot episodes go, this was by far the best one out of the crop of new cartoons that debuted around this time (The Thundercats pilot which aired 4 months after this ripped off several elements from it). Right off the bat the show featured great plot elements, excellent music, strong character development for several of the Transformers on each side, and great animation (with plenty of noticeable flubs but we can overlook that). The plot was unique and imaginative with a planet controlled by sentient robots, dying of energy starvation, forcing the warring factions of the planet to seek new energy sources or risk losing everything. 10 years after the energy crisis in America, dare I say that the writers may be trying to send a message? As most of the episodes are morality plays in some way, shape or form, I would have to say that this is their message and becomes a running theme, especially throughout the first season of the show.
With some bad dialogue especially during the fight scenes, having good music is key to counteracting some of that stupidity, and Transformers has some of the best cartoon music of the era, if not the best. Especially good is the music usually associated with Cybertron, and also the crescendo-filled battle music that fills each of their missions with urgency. It is definitely ridiculous to give an oration before blowing your enemies away, giving them time to protect themselves, but hey, it's a cartoon.
Character development isn't always a strong point for cartoons, but they managed to squeeze quite a bit into the first 30 minutes. As my name suggests, my favorite character is Soundwave for being the evil Intelligence Officer. He is truly Megatron's right-hand man unlike the traitorous Starscream whose true colors we get to see early on as well. The powerful leadership styles of Prime and Megatron are showcased early-on and lay a great base for things to come. Bumblebee is developed as well which is incredibly important as his relationship with Spike Witwicky is a key element in the series.
The animation from Toei Studios was inventive in its design, but flawed in its execution. The change from Cybertronian to Earth technology as a basis for their transformations was well done and all of the designs were fantastic (they had to sell toys, right?). Many mistakes can be seen, however, especially in the Rhino DVD release of the series. Still this is a minor point when compared with the reasons people love Transformers in the first place.
All in all, a great start to a great series.