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Darth Vader's Secret Apprentice

SW: The Force Unleashed
by yo go re

In 1996, Lucasfilm warmed up audiences for the pending Special Edition rerelease of the original trilogy by creating the so-called "interquel" Shadows of the Empire. There was a huge multimedia push, everything you'd expect to see from a movie tie-in... just not the movie. They did it again in 2003 with The Clone Wars, though that one at least had the benefit of Genndy Tartakovsky's outstanding animated series. Now they're at it again, hyping the new Force Unleashed video game.

Set in the dark times between the fall of the Republic and the rise of the Rebellion, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed video game explores the aftermath of Order 66 and the continued evolution of Darth Vader. The son of a fallen Jedi is abducted by Vader to be his secret apprentice. As a young adult, the apprentice must choose his destiny: join Lord Vader and wipe out the remaining Jedi, or become a noble Jedi and bring hope to the galaxy!

The early images of the game looked entirely badass, and the story was the canonical bridge between the prequels and the original trilogy. Still, some fans were dreading the project, feeling that it was rewriting history or that the main character was ridiculously overpowered. Eh, whatever; the game still looked fun, and we were getting a whole slew of new, interesting characters, like this Evolutions set of Vader's Secret Apprentice.

Vader raised the boy in an actively disinterested manner, rarely talking to him and only stopping by to engage him in fierce duels. The boy was raised not knowing his own name, answering only to his codename: Starkiller. Cute, huh? The original working name for Luke Skywalker gets resurrected for use as someone who views Darth Vader as a father figure? That's some Grade-A fanwink, right there.

Starkiller is seen here as he appears about a third of the way into the game, after he's discovered and followed by Palpatine's spies. His uniform is tattered and shredded, and he has bloody bandages wrapped around his midsection. You can really tell he's been through hell. Articulation is plentiful, with balljoints at the neck, shoulders, elbows, knees and ankles, plus pegs for the waist, wrists and hips.

The character is portrayed in the game by Sam Witwer: Battlestar Galactica's Lt. Crashdown. He not only voices Starkiller, but his face and expressions were also used to model the digital character. The likeness isn't dead-on, but it is close - especially when you consider how rough Starkiller's had it recently. There are even a few scars sculpted (not painted) on the side of his head. The hair is a bit too shaggy, but that's it.

Starkiller's accessories include a red lightsaber and three purple Force... energy... things. It's not Force lightning, it's just kind of... ripples. Distortions. It's pure Force, swirling around him. There are three pieces of increasing size, and you can clip them onto his limbs as you like. The lightsaber has a small flare at the base, just it should, and he can hold it in the appropriate stupid upside down grip - it's apparently called "Shien," but it looks like the Star Wars version of holding your gun sideways to fire it.

During the course of the game, Galen (he learned his true name while on Kashyyyk: Galen Marek) dons the outfit of a Jedi Knight. Is it a ruse? Is it legitimate? We're not telling; go play the game. Well, either that or go watch all the cutscenes on YouTube, that's what I did. The storyline really is worth watching, not just reading spoilers about.

Anyway, Galen's robes aren't the generic off-the-rack brown affairs the Jedi gave all their initiates. No, these are apparently "Jedi Adventure Robes," which kind of make him look like Altair from Assassin's Creed. He's got a big white hood, and a white cloth skirt hanging below his belt. The over-robe is brown, and the wraps around his waist are cream and gray. He has large cloth flaps trailing off his wrists, for some reason.

Jedi Knight Galen mostly has the same articulation as the Starkiller figure did, but his elbows are pegs instead of balljoints - you know, those annoying 45° swivels. His hood can be removed, revealing a face that's closer to the digital model than the previous figure's - and he has the right haircut, too. Though both their heads are ball-and-socket joints, the necks are differently sized, so don't plan on swapping them.

Having lost his lightsaber previously, Galen is wielding a new model, with a green blade. Though his "heroic" blade is blue through most of its use, it was in fact green when he got it: he changed the control crystal along the way. The blade isn't removable, but the set does include a powered-off version that can be tucked into his belt.

Finally, we have the Sith Lord figure. Since Starkiller wasn't still running around by the time of the original trilogy, it's not much of a spoiler to reveal this figue is based on an alternate ending in which you kill and replace Vader. Our boy Galen obviously didn't come out too well in the fight, since his flesh is an ashen gray and you can see into his right forearm; the bone is gone, and his skin seems to have been wrapped around a metal replacement. He has spikes on his fingers, and a tattoo on his right arm.

The outfit - officially "Sith Stalker Armor" - has a long black skirt, several belts, and what appear to be metal bands around the ribs. He has armor over one shoulder and a maroon shirt beneath it all. Eight lightsabers hang from his belt, including his old one, one he took from a Jedi he killed, half of Darth Maul's, Darth Vader's and several others you have to be a bigger nerd than I am to recognize. The paint is sloppy, and only the outside halves got any attention.

Darth... uh, Whoever is wearing a full-head mask, suggesting Galen's prettyboy looks are yesterday's news. Though apparently the reconstruction process was a long one, if his waist-length ponytail is any indication. The mask looks like a cross between Darth Revan and Boushh, of all things. Articulation is just as plentiful on this guy as on his brothers - he gets the balljointed elbows, but his "wrist" swivels are actually high on the forearm.

Sith Lord Starkiller's lightsaber is the distinct four-pronged number that's become associated with Force Unleashed. It has a red blade, of course, and again, there's a plain hilt thatcan plug onto his belt. Well, actually both the on and off hilts have the plug that would allow them to hang there, but the ignited one makes no sense.

Now, here's the thing about this set: none of the costumes are accurate to what is shown in the game. Oh, they're close, but there are distinct differences. Why? Because it takes longer to make an action figure than it does to finalize a video game characters's render, so unless your toy begins production after the game ships, there's always a danger it will be out-dated by the time it arrives. You know, just like doing toys based on a movie. So Hasbro did their best, but if you're desperate for 100% game-accurate looks, you're going to be disappointed.

But that doesn't mean the toys aren't good. All three are well made, and they look really nice. No, they don't match the game, but they get the idea across and are a unique addition to your Star Wars universe.


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