|Darth Vader Review Capsule|
|Darth Vader is one of the very first Star Wars Transformers, a line of toys that combines the characters and vehicles from one popular franchise and mashes them with gimmicks from another. The vehicle is similar in size to various Action Fleet toys, with a robot mode that towers over some much more expensive Transformers. It's nicely poseable, but still looks awkward. Still, for the size, quality, and fun factor, it's hard to turn down. Entertainment Earth review sample, otherwise $15-$20.|
In 2005, we were informed under pain of death that Star Wars Transformers were coming-- and this is the first one we saw.
The toy offers quite the robust package. With a fairly fancy $15 packaged figure, you get a spinning "try me" piece that shows the two modes. Inside the box, you get two lightsabers which act as projectiles and melee weapons and a removable, somewhat articulated pilot mini Darth Vader figure. Keep in mind that Action Fleet ships were the same size and didn't turn into robots.
Standing at just under 8-inches tall, this is a surprisingly big toy. He's a little spindly in places but overall, he's no shorty.
In robot mode, Transformers typically have bits and pieces hanging off of them of their alternate mode affectionately referred to as "kibble." The line Beast Wars Neo was legendary for its kibble, but subsequent lines were better at integrating all the pieces. This one is a bit of a mix, as there are a number of pieces that are unquestionably just hunks of TIE Fighter hanging off of a strangely proportioned Darth Vader figure. The first thing you may notice (and to many, it's a dealbreaker) is a chunk of wing hanging on his arm. The good news is that both wings are fully removable from the vehicle or figure, one of which can be reshaped as a cape, while the other can be a sort of shield. The missile launchers remain on the wrists, which is a big plus-- in theory. They fire backwards from the perspective of robot mode, so your Vader-bot 5000 here can't fire lightsabers out of his wrists at Autobot armies. He can, however, shoot backward.
As with most toys, a lot of the personality is derived from the head-- which, in this case, is really just a big typical Vader head. There's nothing especially exaggerated or stylized here, it's just a Vader head on a Vader-esque robot. As you can see from the images, from the front, this more or less works-- it's hardly a perfect Darth Vader figure, but we believe you'll find it fun enough for most needs. Most of the major Vader details are here, ranging from the chest control panel to the black and silver panels on his neck area. (Although the head does sit a little high.)
When it comes to articulation, this guy puts most Transformers to shame. He's got multiple knee joints, universal hip joints, great shoulder, wrist, and elbow articulation, limited toe articulation, and even neck articulation. There's no waist, though, but that's not entirely uncommon on Transformers. So if you're hoping to complain about these toys being unposeable bricks, well, we're sorry to report that isn't a fair representation of them.
As the idea here seems to be that this is a giant transforming Darth Vader robot-- not the Dark Lord himself with amazing Transforming action-- we have to give it points. It took a complicated design and made a nice looking toy out of it, and there's enough moving parts here to make it seem good. It's fairly sturdy and stable, and while the wings hang off the bot, well, they have to go somewhere.
The first-ever TIE Advanced transforming toy made by anyone, anywhere, as far as we know-- score one for a unique alt mode. But is the vehicle mode cool in and of itself?
Yes. At first glance, this is pretty similar to an Action Fleet Darth Vader's TIE Fighter. This is a good thing, as it means it's a good size and that it looks like a vehicle, not like Darth Vader transmogrified into some half-vehicle half-Sith Lord hybrid. Although when you take a closer look, that's exactly what it looks like. On the bottom of the window, you can make out the distinctive markings of Vader's shoulder armor, and there's some black on the pylons. But beyond that? This thing is a damn fine TIE Fighter toy.
Twin rocket launchers are on the underside of each wing, allowing the storage of both lightsabers. Or, if you're so inclined, you can shoot them out of there, and as far as spring-loaded weapons go these are pretty good. (They're not Attacktix-quality, but few things are.) The vehicle mode can also seat the tiny Darth Vader figure, but not especially well-- it seems the cockpit area was mostly created to hold the figure while in robot mode. A shame, but still, you can make him fit if you try.
The solar panels and most of the details are perfect, it seems that the design mandate was "make a robot out of this vehicle" and not vice-versa. The end result is quite striking and mostly fun to play with, except when the "cape" panel pops apart. You can fit it right back together again, though, and if nothing else it's fun simulated battle damage.
Sensibly, Darth Vader includes his trademark lightsaber. More surprisingly, he includes two. Also included is a mini pilot figure.
The lightsabers play off of a design concept we first saw as a toy in 1998 as part of the final pre-Episode I waves of action figures. There was an R2-D2 where they made a launching lightsaber in which it could snap into place and be spring-loader-launched a few inches in the air. This is a lot like that, only more refined, no doubt because of its larger size. Both sabers do feel short for this rather large figure, and we're quite disappointed you can't fire these forward from his wrist gauntlets in robot mode. Still, the sculpting is great, and odds are some fans will look at this and not realize they're also meant to be firing projectiles at first.
The mini Darth Vader figure looks like an Action Fleet pilot and has about the same articulation. A single "leg" and moving arms, and paint best described as "good enough." For the size, I could ask for no better. Due to the toy's transformation, he is able to sit in the toy while it's in robot mode, but we're having issues getting him to fit while it's in vehicle mode. Which sucks, as if we had to pick, we'd rather have a vehicle pilot.
Packaging, Tech Specs, & Co-Sells
This toy came packaged in the first style Star Wars Transformers packaging in a big black cardback. We assume there will be a second style later.
Mr. Vader's bio reads as follows:
"As a sinister Lord of the Sith, Darth Vader is on a mission to crush the Rebellion and bring young Luke Skywalker before the Emperor. Using the power of the dark side, Vader changes into his advanced TIE Fighter mode and combs the galaxy for Skywalker, destroying all Rebel ships, pirate fleets and asteroids that get in his way."
This bio is notable as it describes the vehicle itself as the character, when there's a tiny figure included which, it would seem, is piloting a mech based on the character's design. As the packaging describes the included mini figure as a "pilot figure," we assume that the bio and the rest of the packaging were not made during the same round of approvals.
Darth Vader initially shipped in Wave 1 alongside Obi-Wan Kenobi/Jedi Starfighter and General Grievous/Wheelbike. He's scheduled to ship again in Wave 2 with Boba Fett, Darth Maul, and Anakin Skywalker.
When everybody heard "Star Wars Transformers," people were thinking Starscream as an X-wing or Unicron as the Death Star. This wasn't what most fans were expecting, and they don't fit the typical Transformers aesthetic. This aside, we totally dig this one for what it is-- a goofy toy made for kids (and some collectors) that's fun to transform and play with. For the money, we fully expect pretty much everybody reading this to track down at least one of these toys, but you never know if it'll appeal to you. Unless, of course, you buy one, which at the going rate, you probably should.
Reviewed and photographed by Adam Pawlus
Sample obtained from Entertainment Earth in December, 2005
Reviewed on January 6, 2006.