Much as fans of... certain companies like to tear down Hasbro at every turn, they really do a good job with their figures. They deliver figures with lots of detail and playability, and have them better at 3¾" than most companies do at twice that size. Their only problem was distribution: getting the figures into the hands of fans was a real chore, between scalpers who'd buy anything and stores reluctant to be buried under unsellable characters.
Lately, though, they've really turned that around.
The ultimate supercommandos, the ARC (Advanced Recon Commando) troopers are clones who were personally trained by Jango Fett. Only a select number of ARC troopers were bred and trained before Jango's untimely demise at the Battle of Geonosis. Activated shortly after the start of the Clone Wars, ARC troopers are used for only the most dangerous missions in which a substantial amount of independent thought and iniative is required. They are equipped with highly advanced clone trooper armor and formidable heavy weaponry. Whether they are fighting on their own or at the side of the Jedi, the ARC troopers are a symbol of the Republic's military superiority over the droid armies of the Confederacy.
In terms of the original trilogy, I was never really interested in the generic Stormtroopers: I liked the more unique armor of the Sand, Snow and Scout troops. The same holds true for their stylistic ancestors, the Clone Troopers. Still, a colored stripe is not enough of a change for me - I want something a little more involved. That's why I was drawn to the ARC Trooper.
There are two figures of the ARC Trooper available - one in the regular, realistic style that will blend in with all your other Star Wars figures, the other in Genndy Tartakovsky's animated style as seen on the show. They were released quite a bit apart, but they still make for an interesting comparison.
Seeing the two versions next to one another is really something. The ARC Trooper's gear is obviously based on the clones' Mandalorian-inspired armor, but he's much more unique. Like various specialized clone officers, he's got a bit of color setting him apart: in his case, a bluish-gray stripe running down his arms and matching accents on his helmet, which also has a moving viewpiece.
On the Trooper's left forearms is a control pad of some sort,
and he's wearing a Sandtrooper-style grey pauldron on his left shoulder. At his waist is a blue skirt, and he's got a nice big blaster rifle. There's a variant ARC out there, based on a production change, that has red elements instead of blue. All together, the ARC Trooper has a very nice appearance, but that look is the figure's only draw.
To begin with, the sculpt is less than impressive. The ARC is posed with his feet (which are too small in proportion to the rest of his body) splayed outward, giving him a very awkward stance. The skirt helps to hide this, but not entirely. With articulation at the hips, waist, shoulders, elbows and neck, the figure sounds like it's quite poseable; however, the use of peg joints at the elbows severely limits the usefulness of the movement - really, all this "commando" can do is stand around with his gun down at his side. Sure, he looks impressive, but he's not fun to play with.
Obviously, the animated version is not as detailed as his "real" brother - he's got the sleek lines of the cartoon, though on a Clone Trooper, it's almost hard to tell the difference. One of the more noticeable changes is all the extra bits he wears over his armor are solid, molded pieces of the body, rather than removeable.
He may not be able
to take his skirt off, but the animated ARC Trooper has better weaponry: instead of one giant gun, he has two normal blaster rifles, and working holsters for each of them. Yes, working holsters are always cool, but they're even better on a simplified figure like this. You expect things to be toned down, but this is a step up.
The helmet is a bit shorter and wider here, and the crest on the top is taller. Despite that, the "Clone Trooper" look is maintained nicely. The articulation is short, with just a balljointed head, swivel shoulders and a swivel waist, but is that really such a problem? The sculpt is much more dynamic on this figure than the realistic one, and you can get a surprising amount of gestures out of those elbowless arms.
The Clone Wars is the biggest Star Wars non-movie multi-media push since 1996's Shadows of the Empire. The cartoon is great fun (if frustratingly brief) and the toys are decent - the realistic ARC Trooper is at the low end of the spectrum, a figure better left on the shelves, but the animated version deserves your consideration.