Name: Darth Vader
Series: Star Wars Transformers
Allegiance: The Galactic Empire
Function: Sith Lord
Alternate Mode: TIE Fighter Advanced
Before I dive right in, I want to comment a little on the Star Wars Transformers line. This is the first true crossover subgroup we've seen - Animorphs don't really count since they were really just organic figures with the Transformers name slapped on to try sell more toys. The packaging seems to suggest that this line is being aimed more at Star Wars fans than fans of Transformers - and there's no hint of Autobot or Decepticon logos anywhere on Vader's card and the toys don't seem to be very Transformer-like overall. The more organic characters in the line seem to have rather mecha-like humanoid modes, which is a large part of why I chose Vader as a sample of this line. I don't plan to grab the set, but as something of a Star Wars fan (the movies, not the toyline), I figured I should take a look.
TIE FIGHTER MODE
Height: 7cm Length: 12.5cm Width: 11cm
A gunmetal blue TIE Fighter Advanced with black wing panels and a clear colourless cockpit window. For those who don't know the Star Wars vernacular, this is the special TIE Fighter that Darth Vader used in A New Hope. I'll freely admit I didn't know the name of this vehicle before I got this toy, but I did know the vehicle and considering it transforms, this is a fairly good replica. The colours look nice, and while the blue is darker than in the movie, the overall look is convincing enough.
From a Transformers point of view, this is a pretty good fantasy plane mode, with good detailing on this mode, a solid central block and well formed wing panels. It doesn't really look Earthen or Cybertronian, though - to be fair it's not trying to be. The problem is that the Star Wars mythos is so well known that despite being a good ship mode, it just doesn't _belong_ alongside other Transformers, but that's the fault of the line rather than of this toy.
The cockpit roof opens to reveal an actual cockpit, into which a little Darth Vader figure that comes with this TIE Fighter can fit. This figure is (of course) black, and has some appropriate silver and red paint on the torso. It can fold in the middle to sit down and the arms swing as one. It has a little stand built into its feet, so stability isn't an issue.
According to the blurb, Vader uses The Force to morph his TIE Fighter mode. If that's the case, why does he need a pilot in his own visage? Sounds like the Marketing department ignored internal memos - it makes a lot more sense for the vehicle to be a mecha piloted by Vader himself, which is how I'm viewing it.
This TIE Fighter comes with two red Light Sabres, which plug into launchers underneath the wing support struts, and double as missiles. They'll fire across the room as I inadvertently discovered earlier today. The trailing red light beam actually works, and makes the missiles look quite cool, even if TIE Fighters usually shoot laser blasts rather than missiles.
While the value of this distinct vehicle mode as a Transformer is questionable, it's a pretty good TIE Fighter and nice ship mode in it's own right. The missile launchers are cool, and the fact it comes with a little pilot is a nice bonus. The baggage of crossing over two concepts does hold it back a little, but if you can ignore preconceptions and look at this toy in isolation, you'll enjoy this ship mode.
TRANSFORMATION TO ROBOT MODE
Remove the pilot figure and wing panels, setting them aside - you'll probably want to detach the missiles also. Unclip the black missile launchers to form forearms, slide out the fists. Pull down the legs from underneath, rotate the boots and flip out the feet. Fold back the waist panels and fold _forward_ the side panels. Open the cockpit, fold out the mecha head and stow the pilot inside - he'll sit loose now rather than fitting snugly. Attach the left wing to the left elbow as a shield and attach the right wing to the back as a sort of cape, splitting the lower panels to give the cape some flow. Rotate the fists, place one Light Sabre in each hand.
Height: 19cm Width: 12cm
Predominantly black, as you'd expect, with some residual gunmetal blue, notably on the sides of the torso, and some silver paint applications along with various colours on the life support panel on the centre of the torso. Again this is a pretty good facsimile of Darth Vader, although the gunmetal blue breaks things up a fair bit, and the shield on the left arm doesn't quite belong. The colours work fairly well overall, especially considering this figure converts into a vehicle with very little black on it.
While it's not perfect, I'm fairly happy with this figure as a Darth Vader. They've nailed the head and the wing on his back does a fairly good job of doubling as the cape, despite only coming down to his knees. The legs and forearms are blockier than they should be, but then I can live with that in this case. The torso is very well done other than the blue sideplates, the shoulders are slightly lower and wider than they should be since they double as the attachments for the wings. The Light Sabres are pretty good - he should only have one Light Sabre, but you can always leave one aside if you prefer.
There aren't any gimmicks in this mode, which is a good thing since it leaves the figure to be Darth Vader without added distraction. The poseability is fairly good though, with a head that turns, shoulders, elbows and wrists that all rotate while the shoulders can lift out and the elbows can bend. His knees and hips are compound joints, giving Darth Vader good leg articulation. He lacks heelspurs, and this does limit the stable legs poses. The lack of heelspurs is my biggest complaint about this mode - it wouldn't have been to tricky to fit something in, and it would have given this robot mode a lot more play value.
The Light Sabres don't light up or anything, but they're transparent which is enough at this size. While Vader's unable to hold both in one fist a la Darth Maul, they'll sit firmly in either fist, without the loose fit we often see in Transformer swords.
As Darth Vader figures go this is a flawed visage, but conisdering it turns into a TIE Fighter, it's a damn fine effort. The poseability is okay and the character unmistakable. Heelspurs would have been nice, which is my main complaint here. There are some proportion problems, and some kibble, the result of trying to fit two diverse forms into one toy. As with the vehicle mode, this is very much not a Transformers figure - even less so, in fact, but is again fairly good on it's own.
None that I'm aware of.
A difficult concept to pull off, but Darth Vader transforming into a TIE Fighter Advanced works surprisingly well. It's by no means perfect, but manages to do what it set out to, which is admirable. The marketing is a little muddled, making the nifty little Darth Vader pilot somewhat perplexing, which is a bit of a shame. The line is being aimed at Star Wars fans moreso than Transformers fan - and I can only speak as one of the latter. This figure doesn't feel like a Transformer in the way it looks, although the engineering is typical of the line. Strong engineering isn't quite enough to make this Star Wars figure a good Transformer, although on it's own merits I'm happy with this toy for what it is - 7/10