Cliffbee.com: Death Star Darth Vader Toy Review

Toy Reviews
Individual Review




Name: Darth Vader
Series: Star Wars Transformers
Allegiance: Galactic Empire
Alternate Mode: Death Star



DEATH STAR MODE
Diameter: 15.5cm, Height (with feet): 17cm

   A grey sphere with a spattering of while depressed areas and some raised darker grey areas, the Death Star has various canyons (depressed detailing) and a white, major, equatorial canyon. There's a crater on the northern hemisphere with black lines surrounding a transparent yellow missile tip, representing the death ray. There are four retractable dark grey feet around the south pole. It's a simple colour scheme for a fairly simple concept. I appreciate the fact that the designer has done this - the Death Star was a giant grey planet and this is a grey planet.

   Hasbro seem to be getting the hang of transforming planets. Unicron was a pretty messy spheroid, Primus is a better example, the Death Star, other than the removable missile and retractable legs, is a great sphere. While it might be a mass of panels, the fact is that this planet is planet shaped, and there's no flattening out or anything like that. This is in keeping with the attention paid to the SWTF alternate modes, even if this mode is by definition fairly simple.

   There is play value here. If you open the hatches at the north pole, you can push on the concealed robot head, which fires the missile. There's a subtle black button on the "back", just north of the equator. Pressing it activates the electronics, which cycles between two effects. The first is a series of tones which build up to a firing sequence, followed by two Darth Vader mask breaths. A series of three green LEDs light up the (until now) black areas around the missile, which itself lights up green at the end. The second effect is the voice of Darth Vader saying, "You may fire, when ready!" followed by three blasts and then an explosion - all the LEDS light up while the sounds are emitted. This one is also followed by two breaths. Pressing the button twice rapidly will repeat the previously played sound, so you can skip one if you wish. As mentioned, you have the option of folding out the feet.

   There are three hatches on the "back", the central one opens allowing you to replace his (included) 3xAAA batteries while the outer ones stow his bundled mini Tie-Fighters and the robot mode cape. The Tie-Fighters are an interesting addition, and would compliment this mode really well if they were in scale - it's a planet, after all - and if they were solidly built. They're well sculpted but the wings detach too easily, and they're packed in the box with the wings at 90 from the correct position. The cockpits are painted grey and the wing panels black. The Tie-Fighters transform, sort of, with little red and silver heads popping up from the cabin and they have small guns underneath - they form droids. I would have preferred them to be completely static and more solid, but I do appreciate the effort nonetheless.

   Okay, so the Tie-Fighters are forgettable, but they've finally made a credible Transformer planet, and it's one which can please the sci-fi fan in me, to boot. The shape is excellent, the sculpt is simple yet logical and the colours suitably sedate. The legs are good and the electronics add some play value without really getting into the way. While I can see why Hasbro didn't want to package the toy in this mode, it's an excellent Death Star.

TRANSFORMATION TO ROBOT MODE

   Forget it, I'm not going through this one. It unfolds and unpanels to form Darth Vader. Essentially the head is at the north pole, the region around the crater is his legs - folded onto the chest, and the southpole becomes a backplate. With a whole lot of panel movement.



ROBOT MODE
Height: 28.5cm Width: 26cm

   A chunky black robot with a whole bunch of grey curved panelling around the edges, Darth Vader has a silver belt buckle, red eyes and some minor silver details here and there. The grey includes shoulderpads, panels on the outsides of his boots, knees, forearms and wing panels behind his shoulders. There's more on the back, not really getting involved here. There are transparent red doors on his shins and on the "wings", but this figure is all about black - as it should be.

   There are some deviations from what Darth Vader should look like. The panelling is obviously one, as are the red panels on the boots. His head is quite small, the big imposing Darth Vader helmet is a smaller, Transformer-proportioned head, rather than the helmet over a (proportionally larger) human head. The electronics are on his chest, so the life support panel is absent. Still, this is quite obviously Darth Vader. The face is spot on while the black and general sculpt fits, especially the glove-like fists.

   There are actually two different electronic gimmicks available here. Pressing a button on his right forearm causes a red LED buried within the right fist to flash while his chest emits a crashing sort of sound. This gimmick relies on Vader's tall red light sabre being in that hand, and frankly the sound is poor. The other gimmick is a set of five Darth Vader phrases (again, there's not James Earl Jones) activated by a silver button on his waist. As with those of the Death Star mode, you can skip through by pressing the button repeatedly. Starting from... where I am in that cycle, the phrases are, "The circle is now complete", "The force is strong with you", " I find your lack of faith disturbing", "Join me on the dark side" and "The rebels must not escape". All are accompanied by flashing green LEDs - the same four that were underneath the crater are now central on his chest - and followed by two Vader breaths. The breathing gets a little repetitive, but I still appreciate the soundset because they _suit_ the toy Unlike so many generic sounds shoehorned into Transformers, the strong links to the character mean these sounds actually augment the Transformer.

   I generally don't think much of the little figurines that come with most Star Wars Transformers, but I have to admit I like the fact that this relatively massive toy comes with four. The three Stormtroopers are generic - but then they're meant to be. It's a shame that if you want to stow all four figures, you're forced to put at least one white Stormtrooper inside the legs, since they're visible and don't look so good against the black background, but the mini Vader blends in well. The four figures really gives this toy a playset feel - which I think helps make it feel like the landmark toy it's meant to be. The Tie-Fighters don't really belong in this mode, although you do have the option of deploying them if you like.

   The scale accessories are mixed. The cape, which plugs in behind his head, drapes down covering much of the backpack. It's not as wide as I'd like but it's still visible from the front. The light sabre is different from the standard light sabre mould of other SWTFs - because it's just so much bigger. There's more detail to it, which is understandable. The left hand weapon is a black launcher containing that green missile. Which is a dubious weapon for a Jedi (well, Sith, but you get the idea) - however they needed to do something with it in this mode.

   The poseability here is decent, considering how much weight hangs off the back. The head and waist both turn while his shoulders wing and lift out to the side (to an extent - the panels around his arms limit this). The elbows bend and rotate while the wrists also rotate. His hips swing and lift out to the sides while the knees rotate and bend - although the panelling behind them allows a bend of only about 15. The ankles allow some foot poseability, and there are heelspurs on the back - which are grey panels - but the feet aren't strong enough to anchor many leg poses. The end result is a fairly poseable upper body and static legs which can't take advantage of their articulation.

   A pretty good robot mode, all things considered. There's some good play value here - the electronics add something, he can hold four figures and the upper body is poseable. Sure, the head is small, but it's very much within the acceptable range for a mech. The grey kibble manages to stay on the periphery, so it doesn't get in the way of a figure than is very distinctly the black Darth Vader.

VARIATIONS

   None that I'm aware of.

OVERALL

   A good toy, if an expensive one. The Death Star mode is simple but still considered, with a great sculpt and a wonderful shape. I'm really pleased with the progress Hasbro are making on spherical Transformers. Sure, the transformation relies very heavily on panels, but that was always going to be the case when moving between a grey planet mode and a black robot mode. The robot mode handles the panelling very well, gives us some nice play value and really does a good job of being Darth Vader, despite some changes to the visage. The electronics are well above the level Hasbro usually produce, and this figure is large enough to include them without an awkward electronics block getting in the way of the Transformer. Recommended for fans of the idea (or the SWTF line) if you have the means - 8/10

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