Tuesday, October 09, 2007
Ok, so I've been using my recent birthday as a pretty good excuse to get myself some transformers that I might not normally have gotten. Knowing full well that my family wasn't likely to get me any (not that I had asked for any) and that most stores had little to offer (literally), I ventured again into eBay and Hasbro Toy Shop to satisfy my Transformer birthday wishes. All told, here's what I've gotten in the mail over the past two weeks or so:
2004 Botcon Megazarak
Robot Masters Rijie (Mirage)
Robot Masters R-Blade (Jetfire)
Real Gear Wire Tap
Real Gear Night Beat
Real Gear High Score
Real Gear Meantime
2007 Botcon Springer
Star Wars TF Death Star/Darth Vader
So...yeah. Quite a few. What I want to write about at the moment is the Darth Vader/Death Star transformer:
First off, the Star Wars Transformers line isn't known as a fan favorite. It should be; the main idea is to take Star Wars vehicle and have htem transform into mech/robot versions of their pilot (they do come with little pilot figures, too). So, solid idea, but what's lacking is the execution. While there have been some pretty good SWTFs, few fans would say that any of them match the quality of a mainline Transformer (such as from the Cybertron, Classics, or Movie lines) and they're pretty much right in that statement. The SWTFs are enjoyable toys, but most of them are basically Star Wars vehicles first and robots second. Many of them have robot/mech modes that are fragile, have limited articulation, have an excess of rubbery plastic parts, etc. So, with that background knowledge, earlier this year the fans out of no where find out that the SWTF line is going to make its biggest and most expensive toy yet: a Death Star that transforms into Darth Vader. Once pics showed up, it turned out that the toy might actually be as cool as the idea itself would seem to be. And now that I have it in hand (at 25% off and free shipping, thanks to HTS!), I can tell you that this toy is far and away the best of the SWTF line, and likely one of the best Transformers of the year. Why? Well. read on:
Ok, so this third SWTF Darth Vader (there have been two previous Vader TFs) happens to turn into a little something you may have heard of called the Death Star. For a TF collector, this means that this Darth Vader is now the third "planet" transformer that has been released, the other two being Armada's 2003 Unicron and Cybertron's 2006 Primus. After Primus was released, I'm pretty sure no one expected another planetformer to be released, because as far as TF planet characters go, Primus and Unicron are it. However, Hasbro found a way with their SWTF line, and I'm glad they did. The Death Star mode is excellent - compared to Unicron and even Primus, it's a near perfet sphere. This also means that it is relatively featureless, but if you've seen the Star Wars movies then you know that's how the Death Star is supposed to appear - very clean lines, very spartan. Of course, there is one major surface feature on the Death Star, and that's the superlaser cannon, the one that blows planets apart. It is of course present and accounted for here on the toy version. This feature of the toy also sports some pretty serious electronic effects, but I'll address those later. One nice addition to the Death Star mode is the presence of little pop-out "landing gear." Now, in the movies, the Death Star of course didn't land on any thing because it was so huge, but I'm glad that it can sit on my desk on not roll around. Primus's planet mode had little support legs too, but the Death Star improves upon them by making them retractable, so that you can have that "perfect sphere" appearance. Frankly, there isn't much more to say about the Death Star mode, other than it holds together much better than you think a jigsaw sphere would. It's rock solid.
Now, mech/robot mode: Of course, this toy isn't supposed to represent Darth Vader himself (the little "pilot" figurene has that role covered), but rather a giant robot made in his image, much like the first two SWTF Vader toys. This one comes much closer to capturing his character, though - almost completely black with grey armor, you know this is Vader. However, the proprtions of this figure really make it look more like a "normal" transformer than the other SWTF versions - the head is relatively small, the fists and boots are huge, and there's more than a passing resemblence to the Primus toy, what with the "wings" and all. Vader also comes with two weapons: his trademark lightsaber and a pistol-like blaster that fires a green energy missile (this same weapon is formed from the Death Star's superlaser weapon). Another major accessory is Vader's cape - the first time I can remember a transformer coming with something made of cloth! He looks just fine without the cape, for those not interested. There are only a few things keeping Vader's bot mode from being pretty much perfect:
1. Limited knee articulation. While Vader's knees can bend quite a distance in the wrong direction to allow him to transform, they can only bend about two clicks in the right direction thanks to some of the planet mode kibble on his calves. Which sucks, because his jointing otherwise is great.
2. Lack of paint apps. Vader's robot mode is approriately mostl black (some flat black and some with metal flake), but he could use a few more silver paint apps, especially on his upper arms and upper legs. This can be easily fixed with a paint pen, however.
Ok, know to cover the electronics and transformation:
In short, Vader has the best use of electronics I've ever seen in a transformer. He's got a total of 5 LEDs and a variety of very accurate-sounding voice clips and sound effects. Here's how is shakes out: four of the LEDs are green and they are located in he chest, which ends up behind the superlaser in the Death Star mode. One is in the center, whereas the other three are arranged cirularly around it. When a small button on Vader's lower abdomen is pressed, these four lights will blink as Vader says something (and he also does his trademark mechanical breathing after nearly all of the quotes). These same LEDs will light up in a certain sequence if the small button on Vader's back is pressed, although this is meant to represent the superlaser firing and therefore is mainly designed to be used in Death Star mode. The fifth LED is red and is hidden in Vader's right fist. Vader's Lightsaber is translucent and if inserted into the fist, it will activate the led and some great lightsaber sound effects. There is also a button on the right forearm that will produce some sounds if you do not wish to continually be pressing the sword into the fist.
The transformation from Death Star to Darth Vader is pretty simple and intuitive, but many folks may have a more difficult time getting back to the Death Star from the mech mode. While I admit that it is not an easy or quick transformation, it is not an impossible one or even overly complicated (such as MP-05 Megatron's). It's pretty obvious which panels go where, like a simple jigsaw puzzle. The real difficulty lies in the fact that some of the panels are hard to connect to others if those others are already locked into place. However, once you've got it figured out, it's a very satisfying transformation that yields the best planet mode yet.
Ok, so that's most of the stuff you need to know about Vader. Yes, there are some extra accessories (3 Stormtrooper "pliots", three semi-transforming TIE fighter "minicons") and some fantastic packaging, but the real deal here is the figure itself. Not only does it outshine any of the other SWTFs, but it's also the best of the three planet-style transformer toys and has the best use of electronics in any Transformer I have (except maybe Overload's transformation sound effect!). Why this figure hasn't gotten more press, I don't know. But if you or either a transformer fan, a Star Wars fan, or just like cool toys/sci-fi stuff, then get this toy. It's an instant classic.