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Jedi Starfighter/Ahsoka Tano

Star Wars Transformers
by yo go re

Star Wars Transformers may seem an odd (if cool) idea at first, but Star Wars has got it all covered in merchandise, really. It practically created the 3¾" figure market (which it still owns pretty thoroughly - even with GI Joe being known for the same size, it's still common to hear "Star Wars scale figures"), Star Wars Lego has just celebrated its 10th anniversary, there are more than a few Mr. Potato Head characters from the galaxy far far away, and thanks to Robot Chicken we've even got My Little Tauntaun. All that's really left to do is wrap up the tween girls' market with Star Slutz or something and it's job done.

Ahsoka Tano pilots a starfighter on a secret mission during the Clone Wars. The young Padawan arrives at a remote planet where a droid factory is building hundreds of new battle droids. Ahsoka changes her starfighter into a powerful mech that demolishes the factory and the droids!

Let's face it, it wouldn't be the silliest thing that's ever happened in Star Wars - not like, for instance, an army of Stormtroopers being defeated by stone-age teddy bears. And indeed this is one case where Star Wars and Transformers are very much in parallel: there aren't a lot of women around either of them, which is why this is the first ever female in the line. 'Soka might not be everyone's first choice, but since her personal ride - a Delta-7B Aethersprite starfighter - is identical bar the paint job to everyone else's Jedi fighter, you can see how making a toy of her looked attractive to Hasbro.

Since it's really the vehicle mode driving the toy's design, the Snipfighter is a pretty credible model in its own right - sure there's the odd seam where a seam shouldn't be (and admittedly the very tip of the nose - which splits in half to form the feet - doesn't always line up perfectly), but by and large it's not a whole lot different from what you'd expect from a non-transforming Star Wars vehicle, apart from the reduced scale. Ahsoka's fighter echoes her costume in its palette, with a rich earthy terracotta being the main colour, with cream-white as the contrast, and forming the Jedi Order star over the center of the fuselage. There are minor highlights in lime green - a bit garish, but not overly so with the brown and white so stark and low on vivid colour - and compared to the Clone Wars CGI model, the only real variation here is that the terracotta is a touch darker; I'd guess that someone at Hasbro forgot you need to paint miniature vehicles a shade lighter than they should be to fake scale.

Besides the basic arrowhead-shaped fighter - an early pre-echo of the later Star Destroyer hull designs - the vehicle also includes a detachable hyperdrive ring, with two bulky engines, and paint to match the fighter's own colour scheme. The nose of the fighter slips snugly into the ring's central clasp, which holds it quite securely. Unlike the real thing, the Transformer version has big chunky missile heads sticking out of the front of the engines - they're spring-loaded, of course.

Transformation is somewhat involved, but no real challenge - the instructions could be a touch more helpful at a couple of points, but they offer enough that the process is easy to master just by observation and guesswork, mostly. The fighter's nose and forward flanks splits in half and rotates 180° to become the feet and legs, while the inner nose and "wings" fold up and down, locking together behind the robot's back. The engines form the shoulders, with the arms unfolding from their hiding place inside the fighter's body, and the rear of the cockpit flips open to reveal the head.

For a Transformer designed around its altmode, Ahsoka Robo isn't too bad in humanoid form - sure there's the back-mounted kibble, but let's be honest, we've seen plenty worse on real Transformers that didn't sacrifice so much to their altmode. From the neck down she's rather genderless - to be expected in a repaint of a male robot - but again that's nothing new for the robots in disguise, and aside from the cockpit forming the torso, she does come out with a rather slim physique. So far as her "costume" goes there's no effort at her bare midriff, but the arms do reveal some lighter orange, matching Ahsoka's skin colour.

Her head is easily recognizable, but cleverly restyled to match the mechanical body - the basic shape of the face and the key details are all present, but the lekku and montrals (the tentacles) are angular, with ribbed sections on the lekku, and 'Soka's white facial markings have become silver machinery bits. Her eyes are as large as always, but now they're pure blue rather than detailed - the overall effect, along with the comparatively large, tall body - is of an older version of Ahsoka, as well as being robotic.

The hyperdrive ring attaches to the back-mounted kibble - the instructions are a bit vague on how exactly, but after a couple of tries you'll see how - forming a kind of combination jetpack and stand. The ring itself - both halves of which are packaged separately - loses its upper half, which plugs vertically into the clasp instead, forming a curved tripod leg that does a pretty good job of supporting the figure. The engines and the remaining ring half rotate around - the joints have a full 360° range (although of course the ring will hit the back of her head eventually) but 45° seems to be the best option; Hasbro's publicity photos go for horizontal, but that looks a bit rubbish.

Robo's articulation is pretty standard for today's Transformers at her size, about 6½" tall: swivel neck, limited swivel/pin shoulders, swivel biceps, double pin elbows, swivel wrists, swivel/pin hips and knees, and double pin ankles (tilt and twist). The swivel waist used during transformation is unfortunately immobilized by the back-kibble locking together, and the swivel component of the shoulders requires the whole engines to be turned - it doesn't look bad, really, but it's worth noting aesthetically. Overall, a balljoint neck would've been nice, but otherwise she's a good effort.

The twin missiles, once extracted from the hyperdrive engines, form a pair of lightsabers - they're identical, and obviously modelled on Ahsoka's regular-sized saber, although in robo-missile-saber form the blades are shorter relative to the hilt, and the "pommel" on the end of the hilt is flatter. The sabers fit into the robot's hands, but very tightly - in fact, both thumbs have had the paint rubbed off their tips just from having the sabers put in and removed a grand total of twice. So far as paint damage goes it's a pretty innocuous spot, but it's a peeve nonetheless; fortunately neither the hands nor the sabers are fragile, so at least breakage shouldn't be a problem.

These Star Wars Transformers used to come with little figures of their pilots, apparently to remind kids that they were piloted mechs resembling their pilots, not actually said pilots in giant robot form. That's been discontinued though - evidently Hasbro decided kids would know the difference on their own (more likely, kids just don't care - I mean, what's the problem with just re-imagining the Star Wars saga in Transformer form completely?) and cut costs by skipping the figures and, in this case, gluing the cockpit shut. So there's no little Ahsoka, but let's face it, those figures weren't much to write home about anyway.

Honestly, I didn't expect to think much of this - from what I'd seen of the range before, while the altmodes were admirable, the leftover kibble mucked up the robot modes, and the efforts to make a robot look like a human character seemed half-hearted. But I've changed my tune, at least where Ahsoka is concerned: the kibble doesn't bother me as much as I thought it would, the head kind of works with the body (I credit the robotic lekku, mainly), and as a robot she's a fairly capable toy. I don't know of any plans for more women - another Aethersprite repaint for Aayla Secura would be simple, but the notion of Asajj Ventress and that squid ship she used in the movie is cool - but if any show up, I'll definitely consider getting them.

-- 09/27/09

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