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Figure Pack 1 of 2

SW: The Force Unleashed
by Artemis

The Force Unleashed again? It's been a while since the game came out, after all - then again, there is a sequel on the way (evidently starring a clone, lame - would it kill Lucasarts to decide whether they want to use a guy again before killing him off?), and for another thing, when has Star Wars ever been reluctant to keep making action figures? The Force Unleashed Figure Packs - this and in another five-figure box - are Toys Я Us exclusives, but since TRU has stores this side of the Pacific, at least that doesn't translate to "frak you, rest of the world". Not naming any names, Wal*Mart.

Galen Marek is the secret apprentice of Darth Vader and the son of Jedi. He is taken by the Sith Lord during the Great Jedi Purge and given the codename Starkiller. Vader trains him in the ways of the Force and promises to reward him with great power.

Galen's been spotlighted here on OAFE before, so there's no need to recap his history and place in the Star Wars universe (since pointing to another review is a lot easier than looking it up myself); this is a new figure though, capturing young Galen's Final Fantasy VII phase, when he dressed as much like Vincent Valentine as he thought he could get away with without Vader realizing what he was doing and kicking his arse (some more). Dominating the look are heavy tan-coloured wrappings, tied around his arms and legs and draped liberally around his shoulders, to the point where his head pokes out the top like a whack-a-mole risking a cautious peep.

The cosplay cape is removable, although you're as likely to accidentally pop his head off in the process of working it free - no matter, the balljoint neck lets it go right back on with no harm done. Beneath that he's got a basic black outfit, with a fairly staggering amount of belts wrapped around his mid-section, and both arms are sheathed in technological gauntlets (or cybernetics, given how easily Force-users lose their appendages). His head is essentially the same more-or-less Crashdown as earlier figures - very similar to the first of the "Vader's Secret Apprentice" set, but with a proper haircut.

His articulation is the usual high standard you get from Star Wars figures: balljoint neck, swivel/pin shoulders and elbows, swivel wrists and waist (hidden beneath one of the belts), peg hips, swivel/pin knees and ankles. Careful sculpting of the bulky wraps around his limbs keeps their joints relatively free to move. He's light on accessories, with just his lightsaber - similar to Vader's in hilt design - which fits somewhat loosely into his right hand; the left is a more open sculpt, incapable of holding anything.

Juno Eclipse is the Imperial captain of the Rogue Shadow. She is appointed by Darth Vader to pilot his new apprentice throughout the galaxy. Haunted by a tragic past, Eclipse serves the Empire loyally while secretly yearning for a new life.

Juno too has had her day on OAFE already - one of mine, in fact (distinguished mainly by me not knowing about Deena Shan, though in fairness, Deena's comic pack showed up here later than Juno) - so again, I get to skive off writing up the background portion of the review. This new figure is a simple uniform variant, showing Juno with her jacket undone to show off the modest cleavage which, indirectly, caused the downfall of the Empire.

In the manner of aspiring porn stars everywhere, Juno's the same as she was before, just with a new chest - alright, whole torso, which is more than wannabe Jenna Jamesons typically go for. The arms, legs and head are identical to the formal-uniform version seen before - her gloves even have the square panels on the backs, previously painted skin-tone to represent her light flying gloves. Her open jacket conforms very closely to her body - it's almost like the whole thing, jacket and undershirt, is all one piece, though since the jacket is jet black its outline isn't terribly obvious unless she's standing against a light background.

The paintwork is fairly crisp, with only very minor fuzziness along the strong contrast edge between her black jacket and skin tone - although I had the choice of several boxed sets, and picked the best, so your mileage may vary. With less chest space available, the rank insignia and those little silver cylinders (encryption thingies, or something of that nature, if I recall right) are reduced in size somewhat, with the effect that the red paint denoting the rank pips is a single stripe, rather than picking out each pip individually. She's still evidently a Fleet Admiral, by the way.

She has the same head as before - same hat, too - but with a new palette, using paler skin which meshes with her painted chest, less vividly blonde hair, and she's borrowed Deena's pale lipstick, in place of her violently pink original. It's still a good sculpt, and I find the new colours strike a better balance between the opposite extremes of cute and soldier.

With so much of her body recycled her articulation is unchanged, and again the Star Wars standard, the only difference being that her swivel waist is a bit lower down. The sculpt of the uniform hides the joints well at her knees and elbows - so well that it was only when I started moving her that I noticed she'd been packaged with her right leg turned sideways at the knee. Speaking of legs, a reminder: her hips are unusually outwardly angled for a Star Wars figure, giving her a wide stance. Besides her removable cap, she has a standard SMG-sized blaster.

Trained to survive the galaxy's most treacherous weather conditions, EVO troopers have enhanced armor that withstands extreme heat, acid rivers and lightning. Their FA-3 flechette launchers fire shards of metal capable of hitting multiple targets.

Okay, easiest review of the lot - this boy is the same EVO trooper we've seen twice before (once as reviewed by yo, once repackaged with a droid bit, the "body" of R4-D6). Same figure, same backpack, same teensy tiny blaster pistols, same big gun that isn't the FA-3 mentioned in the character bio. The only difference - and I suppose if you're one of those Stormtrooper collectors, it's a decent enough variant - is that excepting the dark silver techy add-ons, his armour is all white (no coloured shoulders and greaves), with a sand-coloured camo pattern all over it. The same colouration has been applied to the backpack, while the T-21 rifle has its strap unpainted, left black like the rest of the weapon.

Distrusting clone troopers, Jedi General Rahm Kota builds his own militia of soldiers, mercenaries and even Separatist prisoners-of-war. Along with the general, the militia troopers survive the Clone Wars and launch attacks on the Empire.

We've seen Rahm Kota - aka Samurai Jedi, or "on second thought, let's not use Qui-Gon's ghost" - on OAFE before, though in miniature (even by 3¾" standards), but his rag-tag army is a new one. What is it with the Jedi Order not really paying attention to their members creating their own armies? That's what got them into the whole Clone Wars mess (well, that and Mace Windu being a moron), you'd think after that they'd clamp down on this sort of thing. Perhaps the right to build your own army is enshrined in the Jedi constitution and no one can get rid of it, like how Americans keep insisting they need the freedom to accidentally shoot each other just in case the British try to take the place back. [WOO! Sekund uhmendmunt rools! --ed.]

Anyway, Mr. Unnamed Militia Guy (let's call him Greg) is an interesting figure, since he's not a Jedi/Sith or a storm/clonetrooper - Star Wars has more than most of the little guys included in its action figure range, but it's always good to see another, since it's the sort of thing that makes the galaxy seem like a bigger and more interesting place. There's more than a little proto-Rebel soldier in Greg's design, with his lightweight, comfy uniform (compared to stormtrooper armour, anyway) and his big bowl helmet, similar to those worn by the poor suckers on the Tantive IV at the beginning of it all - indeed, he'd fit right into the Alliance's random-assortment ranks, and probably did, if he lived long enough.

With a dull brown/off-white colour scheme, Greg is an unassuming fellow, standing out mainly due to his helmet, and the weird exoskeletal thingies on his arms - the right extends over his elbow, while the left is missing the arrowhead part, and ends on his forearm. The helmet is removable, of course, slipping off without any major resistance, though when it's in place the chin strap holds it quite steady. The orange visor is presumably part of a (non-functional) retracting facemask, since it doesn't cover the eyes as is, and the chin strap prevents the helmet from being tilted forward to make proper use of it. There are a couple of flecks of grey paint on the visor - the helmet is cast in clear orange, and painted over the top - but they may be intentional, to represent wear and tear damage; they certainly don't look bad.

With his brain bucket off, Greg's still a nondescript-looking fellow - his tanned skin tone and black hair give him a bit of a South American look (or whatever the Star Wars equivalent is), but he's generic enough not to stand out from any crowd. His articulation is the Star Wars standard, with one exception: no ankles, which is a bit of a drawback for wide stances.

It's doubly a shame, because he'd really need a wide stance to wield his accessory, at least without toppling over - I haven't been able to get him to point it level at all, and by the size of the massive multi-barrel cannon, those things on his arms had better be augmenting his strength to carry it, let alone fire. It's a good sculpt, with clean grey paint over the black plastic, but curious to look at - the way the handle's attached, it seems to be a shoulder-fired weapon, but there's nothing in the way of moulding to let it sit on Greg's shoulder, or even a second handle to keep it steady; it looks like he's just cut it off a tank and stuck a trigger on. The backpack is also removable (and swappable with the EVO backpack, if you ignore the colours), but the back is flattened to accommodate it, and the figure doesn't look great from behind without it.

These Imperial shock troopers receive advanced training in stealth tactics and combat techniques. They truly are shadows, blending in with such skill that their targets never know that these covert spies were ever present.

"Shadow Stormtrooper" sounds pretty badass, doesn't it? It certainly suggests that you're going to have to do more than fire a blaster vaguely in their direction to get rid of them. Unfortunately, that impression of badassitude was the last thing that went right for this poor guy. Rather than turning up looking all malevolent in black stormtrooper armour (which admittedly has been done before), Shadow Boy is stuck looking like an unsightly jelly baby, as a result of an ill-considered attempt to represent his personal cloaking device. Sure, stormtroopers who can vanish are nasty - action figures who can vanish are just impossible (unless they're from Mattel, who manage to pull the trick somewhere between factory and store shelves with depressing regularity). With Star Wars figures being so complex for their size to boot, there's almost no part of the little guy that you can actually see through - mostly it's just a confused impression of blue-grey shiny gel and internal joints.

Adding insult to injury, he's got some blue paint apps that, had the invisibility effect worked properly, would have derailed it anyway. On the forearms, the blue works - it's applied to the back, so from the front it gives the forearms a ghostly tinge of colour (aside from making the internal peg of the wrist joint more obvious). Everywhere else - cheeks, stomach, and ankles - it's like he's just been painted blue, or perhaps suffering from the ghostly off-colour version of an uncontrollable blush. These guys are frequently the mooks of the even-more-elite Shadow Guard, but put together, they wouldn't be so much henchmen as embarrassments.

Being just a standard stormtrooper cast in clear goop and painted badly, at least there's nothing to complain about with articulation - all the standard joints are there, all in good working order. On the subject of joints though, the left hip seems to be badly assembled - the thigh doesn't sit as close to the waist as it should, meaning he's got one leg too long. The poor guy just can't catch a break, can he? He gets his own clear-plastic version of the usual blaster - same mold as Juno's - but by this point, there's little for him to do with it besides put it to his head and hope his next life will be better.

So, it's more or less four out of five: Galen's good, Juno's good, the EVO trooper is good (if you haven't already got it, or don't mind having another with different paint), and Greg is good. Admittedly buying the whole lot just for Juno is a bit over the top, but that's why I'm a sad obsessed collector and you have more disposable income left than I do; on the whole, even the unfortunate Shadow Stormtrooper can't drag the set down.

-- 06/26/10

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